proud of? But it was Hugh who had died; and it was
a kind of comfort to feel that he at least, though they
said he had few advantages, had left one faithful woman
behind him to keep his grave green for ever.
The morning passed, however, though it was a long
morning-, and Mary looked into all the cabinets of coins
and precious engraved gems, and rare things of all
sorts, with a most divided attention and wandering
mind — thinking where were the children? were they
out-of-doors? were they in any trouble? for the un-
earthly quietness in the house seemed to her experienced
mother's ear to bode harm of some kind — either ill-
ness or mischief, and most likely the last. As for Mr.
Ochterlony, it never occurred to him that his sister-in-
law, while he was showing her his collections, should
not be as indifferent as he was to any vulgar outside
influence. "We shall not be disturbed," he said, with a
calm reassuring smile, when he saw her glance at the
door; "Mrs. Gilsland knows better," and he drew out
another drawer of coins as he spoke. Poor Mary began
to tremble, but the same sense of duty which made her
husband stand to be shot at, kept her at her post. She
went through with it like a martyr, without flinching,
though longing, yearning, dying to get free. If she
were but in that cottage, looking after her little boys'
dinner, and hearing their voices as they played at the
door — their servant and her own mistress, instead of
the helpless slave of courtesy, and interest, and her
position, looking at Francis Ochterlony's curiosities!
When she escaped at last, Mary found that indeed her
fears had not been without foundation. There had been
some small breakages, and some small quarrels in the
MADONNA MARY. 151
nursery, where Hiigli and Islay had been engaged in
single combat, and where baby AVilfrid had joined in
Avith impartial kicks and scratches, to the confusion of
both combatants : all which alarming events the frightened
ayah had been too weak-minded and helpless to prevent.
And, by way of keeping them qniet, that bewildered
woman had taken down a beautiful Indian canoe, which
stood on a bracket in the corridor, and the boys, as
was natural, with true scientific inquisitiveness had
made researches into its constitution, such as horrified
their mother. Mary was so cowardly as to put the
l)oat together again with her own hands, and put it
back on its bracket, and say nothing about it, with
devout hopes that nobody would find it oixt — which,
to be sure, was a terrible example to set before children.
She breathed freely for the first time when she got
them out — out of Earlston — out of Earlston grounds
— to the hill-side, where, though everything was grey,
the turf had a certain greenness, and the sky a certain
lilueness, and the sun shone warm, and nameless little
English wild flowers were to be found among the grass;
nameless things, too insignificant for anything but a
botanist to classify, and Mrs. Ochterlony was no botanist.
She put down Wilfrid on the grass, and sat by him,
and watched for a little the three joyful unthinking
creatures, harmonized without knowing it by their
mother's presence, rolling about in an unaccustomed
ecstacy upon the English grass; and then Mary went
back, without being quite aware of it, into the darker
world of her own mind, and leant her head upon her
hands and began to think.
She had a great deal to think about. She had come
home obeying the first impulse, which suggested that
152 MADONNA MARY.
a woman left alone in the world should pnt herself
under the guidance and protection of "her friends:"
and, in the first stupor of grief, it was a kind of con-
solation to think that she had still somebody belonging
to her, and could put off those final arrangements for
herself and by herself which one time or other must be
made. When she decided iipon this, Mary did not
realize the idea of giving offence to Aunt Agatha by
accej^ting Francis Ochterlony's invitation, nor of finding
herself at Earlston in the strange nondescript position
— something less than a member of the family, some-
thing more than a visitor — which she at present oc-
cupied. Her brother-in-law was very kind, but he did
not know what to do with her-, and her brother-in-law's
household was very doubtful and uneasy, with a certain
alarmed and suspicious sense that it might be a new
and permanent mistress who had thus come in upon
them — an idea which it was not to be exj)ected that
Mrs. Gilsland, who had been in authority so long,
should take kindly to. And then it was hard for Mary
to live in a house where her children were simply
tolerated, and in constant danger of doing inestimable
mischief. She sat upon the grey hill-side, and thought
over it till her head ached. Oh, for that wayside cot-
tage Avith the blazing fire! but Mrs. Ochterlony had no
such refuge. She had come to Earlston of her own
will, and she could not fly away again at once to
affront and oflPend the only relation who might be of
service to her boys — which was, no doubt, a sadly
mercenary view to take of the subject. She stayed
beside her children all day, feeling like a prisoner,
afraid to move or to do anything, afi-aid to let the boys
play or give scope to their limbs and voice. And then
MADONNA MARY. 153
Hugh, tbougli be was not old enougli to sympathize
with her, was old enough to put terrible questions.
"Why shouldn't we make a noise?" the child said; "is
my uncle a king, mamma, that we must not disturb
him? Papa never used to mind." Mary sent her boy
back to his play when he said this, with a sharp im-
patience which he could not itnderstand. Ah, how
different it was! and how stinging the pain that went
to her heart at that suggestion. But then little Hugh,
thank heaven, knew no better. Even the Hindoo
woman, who had been a faithful woman in her way,
but who was going back again with another family
bound for India, began to make preparations for her
departure; and, after that, Mrs. Ochterlony's position
would be still more difficult. This Avas how the first
day at Earlston — the first day at home, as the chil-
dren said — passed over Mary. It was, perhaps, of
all other trials, the one most calculated to take from
her any strength she might have left. And after all
this she had to dress at seven o'clock, and leave her
little boys in the big dark nursery, and go down to
keep her brother-in-law company at dinner, to hear
him talk of the Farnese Hercules, and of his collec-
tions, and travels, and, perhaps, of the "few advantages"
his poor brotlier had had: which for a woman of a high
spirit and independent character, and profound loyal
love for the dead, was a very hard ordeal to bear.
The dinner, however, went over very fairly. Mr.
Ochterlony was the soul of politeness, and, besides, he
was pleased with his sister-in-law. She knew nothing
about Art; but then, she had been long in India, Jind
was a woman, and it was not to be wondered at. He
meant no harm when he spoke about poor Hugh's few
154 MADONNA MARY.
advantages. He knew tliat he had a sensible woman
to deal with, and of course grief and that sort of thing
cannot last for ever; and, on the whole, Mr. Ochterlony
saw no reason why he should not speak quite freely of
his brother Hugh; and lament his want of proper
training. She must have known that as well as he
did. And, to tell the truth, he had forgotten about the
children. He made himself very agreeable, and even
went so far as to say that it was very pleasant to be
able to talk over these matters with somebody who
understood him. Mary sat waiting with a mixture of
fright and expectation for the appearance of the children,
who the housekeeper said were to come down to dessert;
but they did not come, and nothing was said about
them; and Mr. Ochterlony was fond of foreign habits,
and took very little wine, and accompanied his sister-
in-law upstairs when she left the table. He came with
her in that troixblesome French way with which Mary
was not even acquainted, and made it impossible for
her to hurry through the long passages to the nursery,
and see what her forlorn little boys were about. What
could they be doing all this time, lost at the other end
of the great house where she could not even hear their
voices, nor that soft habitual nursery hum which was
a necessary accompaniment to her life? She had to
sit down in a kind of despair and talk to Mr. Ochter-
lony, who took a seat beside her, and was very friendly.
The summer evening had begun to decline, and- it was
at this meditative moment that the master of Earlston
liked to sit and contemplate his Psyche and his Venus,
and call a stranger's attention to their beauties, and
tell pleasant anecdotes about how he picked them up.
Mrs, Ochterlony sat by her brother-in-law's side, and
MADONNA MARY. 155
listeued to his talk about Art with her ear strained to
the most intense attention, prepared at any moment to
hear a shriek from the outraged housekeeper, or a
howl of unanimous Avoe from three culpable and ter-
rified voices. There Avas something comic in the situa-
tion, but Mary's attention was not sufficiently dis-
engaged to be amused.
"I have long wished to have some information
about Indian Ai-t," said Mr. Ochterlony. "I should be
glad to know what an intelligent observer like your-
self, with some practical knowledge, thought of my
theory. My idea is — But I am afraid you have a
headache? I hope you have all the attention you re-
([uire, and are comfortable? It would give me great
])ain to think that you were not perfectly comfortable.
You must not feel the least hesitation in telling me — "
"Oh no, we have everything," said Mary. She
thought she heard something outside like little steps
and distant voices, and her heart began to beat. But
as for her companion, he was not thinking about such
"I hope so," said Mr. Ochterlony; and then he
looked at his Psyche with the lingering look of a con-
noisseur, dwelling lovingly upon her marble beauty.
"You must have that practical acquaintance which,
after all, is the only thing of any use," he continued.
"My idea is — "
And it was at this moment that the door was thrown
open, and they all rushed in — all, beginning with
little Wilfrid, who had just commenced to walk, and
who came with a tottering dash, striking against a
pedestal in his way, and making its precious burden
tremble. Outside at tlie oncn door appeared for an
156 MADONNA MARY.
instant the ayah as she had set clown her charge, and
Mrs. Gilsland, gracious but formidable, in her rustling
gown, who had headed the procession. Poor woman,
she meant no harm, but it was not in the heart of
woman to believe that in the genial hour after dinner,
when all the inner and the ou.ter man was mollified
and comforted, the sight of three such "bonnie boys,"
all curled, brushed, and shining for the occasion, could
disturb Mr. Ochterlony. Baby Wilfrid dashed across
the room in a straight line with "flicherin' noise and
glee" to get to his mother, and the others followed,
not, however, without stoppages on the way. They
were bonnie boys — ■ brave, little, erect, clear-eyed
creatures, who had never known anything but love in
their lives, and feared not the face of man; and to
Mary, though she (|uaked and trembled, their sudden
appearance changed the face of everything, and made
the Earlstou drawing-room glorious. But the effect
was different upon Mr. Ochterlony, as might be sup-
"How do you do, my little man," said the discom-
fited uncle. "Oh, this is Hugh, is it? I think he is
like his father. I suppose you intend to send them to
school. Good heavens! my little fellow, take care!"
cried Mr. Ochterlony. The cause of this sudden anima-
tion was, that Hugh, naturally facing his uncle when
he was addressed by him, had leant upon the pillar on
which Psyche stood with her immortal lover. He had
put his arm round it with a vague sense of admiration,
and as he stood was, as Mary thought, a prettier sight
than even the lovely group above; but Mr. Ochterlony
could not be expected to be of Mary's mind.
"Come here, Hugh," said his mother, anxiously.
MADONNA MARV. 157
"You must not touch anything; your uncle will kindly
let you look at them, but you must not touch. It was
so different, you know, in our Indian house — and
then on board ship," said Mary, faltering. Islay, with
his big head tlu'own back a little, and his hands in his
little trousers pockets, was roving about all the while
in a manly way, inspecting everything, looking, as his
mother thought, for the most favourable opening for
mischief. AVhat was she to do? They might do more
damage in ten minutes than ten years of her little in-
come could set right. As for Mr. Ochterlony, though
he groaned in spirit, nothing could overcome his polite-
ness; he turned his back upon little Hugh, so that at
least he might not see what Avas going on, and resumed
the conversation with all the composure that he could
"You will send them to school of course," he said;
"we must inrpiirc for a good school for them. I don't
myself think that children can begin their education
too soon. I don't speak of the baby," said ]\Ir. Ochter-
lony, with a sigh. Tlie baby evidently was inevitable.
Mary had set him down at her feet, and he sat there
in a peaceable way, making no assault upon anything,
which was consolatory at least.
"They are so young," said Mary, tremulously.
"Yes, they are young, and it is all the better,"
said the uncle. His eye was upon Islay, who had
sprung upon a chair, and was riding and spurring it
with delightful energy. Naturally, it was a unique
rococo chair of the daintiest and most fantastic work-
manship, and the unhappy owner expected to see it
fall into sudden destruction before his eyes; but he
was lienumljcd by politeness and despair, and took no
158 MADONNA MARV.
notice. "There is nothing," said tlie poor man with
distracted attention, his eye npon Islay, his face turned
to his sister-in-Law, and horror in his heart, "like good
training begun early. For my part — "
"Oh, mamma, look here. How funny this is!"
cried little Hugh. When Mary turned sharply round
in despair, she found her hoy standing behind her with
a priceless Etruscan vase in his hand. He had just
taken it from the top of a low, carved bookcase, where
the companion vase still stood, and held it tilted up as
he might have held a drinking mug in the nursery.
"It's a fight," cried Hugh- "look mamma, how that
fellow is putting his lance into him. Isn't it jolly?
Why don't loe have some brown sort of jugs with
battles on them, like this?"
"What is it? Let me see," cried Islay, and he
gave a flying leap, and brought the rococo chair down
on its back, where he remounted leisurely after he had
cast a glance at the brown sort of jug. "I don't think
it's worth looking at," said the four-year-old hero. Mrs.
Ochterlony heard her brother-in-law say, "Good
heavens!" again, and heard him groan as he turned
away his head. He could not forget that they were his
guests and his dead brother's children, and he could
not turn them out of the room or the house, as he was
tempted to do; but at the same time he turned away
that at least he might not see the full extent of the
ruin. As for Mary, she felt her own hand tremble as
she took the vase out of Hugh's careless grasp. She
was terrified to touch its brittle beauty, though she was
not so enthusiastic about it as, perhaps, she ought to
have been. And it was with a sudden impulse of des-
MADONNA MARV. 151)
pcratiou tliat she cauglit up her baby, antl lifted Islay
off the prostrate cliair.
"I hope you will excuse them," she said, all flushed
aud trembling. "They are so little, and they know no
better. But they must not stay here," and with that
poor Mary swept them out with her, making her way
painfully over the dangerous path, where snares and
perils lay on every side. She gave the astonished Islay
an involuntary "shake" as she dropped him in the
sombre corridor outside, and huri'ied along towards the
darkling nursery. The little flock of wicked black
sheep trotted by her side full of questions and surprise.
"Why are we coming away? What have we done?"
said Hugh. "Mamma! mamma! tell me!" and Islay
])ulled at her dress, and made more demonstratively
the same demand. What had they done? If Mr.
( )chterlony, left by himself in the drawing-room , could
but have answered the question! He was on his knees
beside his injured chair, examining its wounds, and as
full of tribulation as if those fantastic bits of tortured
Avood had been flesh-and-blood. And to tell the truth,
the misfortune was greater than if it had been flesh-and-
blood. If Islay Ochterlony's sturdy little legs had been
broken, there was a doctor in the parish qualified to a
certain extent to mend them. But who was there
among the Shap Fells, or within a hundred miles of
Earlston, who was qiialified to touch the delicate
members of a rococo chair? He gi'oaned over it as it
lay prostate, and would not be comforted. Children!
imps! come to be the torture of his life, as, no doubt,
ihey had been of poor Hugh's. What could Providence
be thinking of to send such reckless, heedless, irrespon-
sible creatures into the world? A vague notion that
160 MADONNA MARY.
their motlier "would whip them all round as soon as she
got them into the shelter of the nursery, gave Mr.
Ochterlony a certain consolation; but even that judicial
act, though a relief to injured feeling, would do nothing
for the fractured chair.
Mary, we regret to say, did not whip the boys
when she got into her own apartments. They deserved
it, no doubt, but she was only a weak woman. Instead
of that, she put her arms round the three, who were
much excited and full of wonder, and very restless in
her clasp, and cried — not much, but suddenly, in an
outburst of misery and desolation. After all, what was
the vase or the Psyche in comjiarison with the living
creatures thus banished to make place for them? which
was a reflection which some people may be far from
acquiescing in, but that came natural to her, being
their mother, and not in any special way interested in
art. She cried, but she only hugged her boys and
kissed them, and put them to bed, lingering that she
might not have to go downstairs again till the last
moment. When she went at last, and made Mr. Ochter-
lony's tea for him, that magnanimous man did not say
a word, and even accepted her apologies with a feeble
deprecation. He had put the wounded article away,
and made a sublime resolution to take no further notice.
"Poor thing, it is not her fault," he said to himself;
and, indeed, had begun to be sorry for Mary, and to
think Avhat a pity it was that a woman so unobjection-
able should have three such imps to keep her in hot
water. But he looked sad, as was natural. He
swallowed his tea with a sigh, and made mournful
cadences to every sentence he uttered. A man does
not easily get over such a shock; — it is different with
MADONNA MARY. 161
a frivolous and volatile woman, who may forget or
may dissimulate, and look as if she does not care-, but
a man is not so lightly moved or mended. If it had
been Islay's legs, as has been said, there was a doctor
within reach; but who in the north country could be
trusted so much as to look at the delicate limbs of a
The experience of this evening, though it was only
the second of her stay at Earlston, proved to Mary
that the visit she was paying to her brother-in-law
must be made as short as possible. She could not get
up and run away because Hugh had put an Etruscan
vase in danger, and Islay had broken his uncle's chair.
It was Mr. Ochterlony who was the injured party, and
he was magnanimously silent, saying nothing, and even
giving no intimation that the presence of these ob-
jectionable little visitors was not to be desired in the
drawing-room; and Mary had to stay and keep her
boys out of sight, and live consciously upon sufiFerauce,
in the nursery and her bedroom, until she could feel
warranted in taking leave of her brother-in-law, who,
without doubt, meant to be kind. It was a strange
sort of position, and strangely out of accord with her
character and habits. She had never been rich, nor
lived in such a great house, but she had always up to
this time been her own mistress — mistress of her
actions, free to do what she thought best, and to
manage her children according to her own wishes. Now
Madonmi Mmii. I. 11
162 MADONNA MARY.
she liad, to a certain extent, to submit to the house-
keeper, who changed their hours, and interfered with
their habits at her pleasure. The poor ayah went
weeping away, and nobody was to be had to replace
her except one of the Earlston maids, who naturally
was more under Mrs. Gilsland's authority than Mrs.
Ochterlony's; and to this girl Mary had to leave them
when she went down to the inevitable dinner which
had always to be eaten downstairs. She made several
attempts to consult her brother-in-law iipon her future,
but Mr. Ochterlony, though very polite, was not a
sympathetic listener. He had received the few details
which she had been moved at first, vrith restrained
tears, to give him about the Major, with a certain
restlessness which chilled Mary. He was sorry for his
brother-, but he was one of those men who do not care
to talk about dead people, and who think it best not to
revive and recall sorrow — which would be very true
and just if true sorrow had any occasion to be revived
and recalled; and her own arrangements were all more
or less connected with this (as IVIr. Ochterlony called
it) painful subject. And thus it was that her hesitating
efforts to make her position clear to him, and to get
any advice which he could give, was generally put
aside or swallowed up in some communication from the
Numismatic Society, or qiiestions which she could not
answer about Indian art.
"We must leave Earlston soon," Mrs. Ochterlony
took courage to say one day, when the housekeeper,
and the continued exclusion of the children, and her
own curious life on sufferance, had been too much for
her. "If you are at leisure, would you let me speak
to you about it? I have so little experience of any
MADONNA MARY. 1G3
thing but India — and 1 want to do what is best for
"Oh — ah — yes," said Mr. Ochterlony, "you
must send tliem to school. We must try and hear of
some good school for them. It is the only thing you
can do — "
"But they arc so young," said Mary. "At their
age they are surely best with their mother. Hugh is
only seven. If you could advise me where it would be
best to go — "
"Where it would be best to go!" said Mr. Ochter-
lony. He was a little surprised, and not quite pleased
for the moment. "I hope you do not find yourself un-
"Oh, no," said Mary, faltering-, "but — they are
very young and troublesome, and — I am sure they
must worry you. Such little children are best by
themselves," she said, trying to smile — and thus, by
chance, touched a chord of pity in her brother-in-law's
"Ah," he said, shaking his head, "I assure you I
feel the paiufulness of your position. If you had been
unencumbered, you might have looked forward to so
different a life; but with such a burden as these children,
and you so young still — "
"Burden?" said Maiy; and it may be supposed
how her eyes woke up, and what a colour came to her
cheek, and how her heart took to beating under her
crape. "You can't really think my children are a
burden to me? Ah! you don't know — I would not
care to live another day if I had not my boys."
And here, her nerves being weak with all she had
come through, hhe would have liked to cry — but did
164 XvIADONNA MARY.
not, the moment Leing unsuitable, and only sat facing
the virtuoso, all lighted up and glowing, brightened by
indignation, and surprise, and sudden excitement, to
something more like the former Mary than ever yet
had been seen underneath her widow's cap.
"Oh!" said Mr. Ochterlony. He could have under-
stood the excitement had it been about a Roman camp
or a newly-discovered statue-, but boys did not commend
themselves in the same way to his imagination. He
liked his sister-in-law, however, in his way. She was
a good listener, and pleasant to look at, and even
when she was unintelligible was never without grace,
or out of drawing, and he felt disposed even to take a
little trouble for her. "You must send them to school,"