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would tell mamma in the morning. The result


of mamma's being told was that the doctor was
sent for, to whom Winny, in reply to his first
question, expressed her urgent desire to go
home immediately. She had become nervously
anxious to start off without delay. The doctor
was perplexed, for he could not consent.

' I would give you leave to go if the weather
were not so bad, and threatening to become
worse,' said he soothingly ; but he told Mrs
Peregrine-Hart that, under any circumstances,
she was quite unfit to travel. And, in fact, she
had to succumb to a sharp attack of inflam-
mation, and to see her pretty white neck spoiled
by the "very sharp remedies necessary to re-
duce it.

Miss Denham who was visiting in the neigh-
bourhood rode over to see her, and, as a dis-
passionate student of human nature, begged to
be informed how she liked pain.

' I don't like it at all. Georgie, will those
horrid leech-bites show ? ' asked vanity.

* Those horrid leech-bites will show till the
day of your death,' was the amateur physician's
uncompromising reply.


Winny was silent — whether reflecting on the
disastrous permanence of leech-bites or on the
day of her death was not apparent.

Georgie beheld her with sorrowful philoso-
phy : * You are all eyes, Winny. More inter-
esting but less beautiful/ said she.

* I wish I were at home/ said Winny.
Georme kissed her, and said nothino-.

During three days of summer in advance
that April by special favour granted her, Winny
Hesketh was taken home to her mother — a
diminished bundle of dependent weakness, very
touching, indeed, to the few people who loved
her. For a good thing, as it happened, Mrs
Hesketh's apartments had just been vacated by
two ladies who had occupied them through the
winter, and Winny was installed in the parlour
upstairs — where all her friends one after the
other came to look at her.

Said Mr Anderson, still a bachelor, but grow-
ing fat and lazy : ' W^hy, Miss Winifred, what
has become of your high spirit, that you have
let yourself fall away to nothing like this ? ' He
offered to play her some music, but she said,


she did not like noises — It was rude and cross,
but, somehow, she could not help being dis-
agreeable to Mr Anderson.

Said Miss Baxter : ' How Is this, Winny, my
dear ? We hoped you would live to close all our
eyes.' To which Winny answered : ' And now,
don't you think I shall ?' Miss Baxter replied,
* That must be as God wills. You have youth
on your side.'

Mildred Jarvis came all the long journey
from Southmead, forsaking baby for an entire
day, and bringing Winny a soft warm, white
Shetland shawl to wrap her in, like a fleecy
cloud, and she was lovely so. She had not
much news— Mr Melhulsh was going to marry
Bella at Cranby, and that was all. She did not
mention Mr Durant, whose name Winny
longed to hear.

Miss Denham, lately returned to Gotham
and her various pursuits, paid daily visits to
Gastle Green, and was always amusing. Her
favourite hour was the dusk of the evening.
She had not confessed her critical state of pro-
bation to her friend, nor did she confess It now,


and Winny never suspected her of such a
secret. They talked of books, and Georgia
entered into poHtics and social questions, as
contemporary history. She wrote now for more
than one periodical. Winny wanted to know
what she wrote about, but Georgie answered
that the subjects were not in her way, and
Winny refrained from inquiry. But it was
understood that Georgie had outstept her
success by far. Winny 's works showed in
their exact proportions ; Georgie's loomed
large and imposing through the atmosphere of
mystery in which she enveloped her transac-
tions. Winny s, however, seemed to be the
better paid.

The literary second string to her bow that
she used to harp on hopefully, bore the strain
of this bad time well enough. Mr Peregrine-
Hart was not rich, but if any dependent fell ill
in his service, he saw that unlucky person
through it, and defrayed the doctor's bill ; and
when Winny was sent home her condition was
not such as to necessitate constant medical
advice, unless it be taken as a luxury. Mrs


Hesketh asked Dr Archer to call, but when
Winny, as she was bidden by her mother, offered
him his guinea neatly folded in paper, he said :
' No, no,' and put it down on the table. He
was an old man now, and breaking up from
over-indulgence, but he had still the confidence
of the elder generation in Cotham when they
could find him sober, and could still afford to
be generous if he thought there was a need.
He often came in afterwards of a morning, and
would sit for an hour talking to Winny, who
appreciated his talk — he had seen and known
many people of distinction in the course of a
long life-time, and also he said encouraging
things to her about what she wrote, and did
not consider it beneath his notice. Winny had
discovered that it is by cultivated persons only
that cultivation is cared for. At Hauxwell she
would have won wider admiration if she could
have taken a fence cleverly on horseback ; and
amongst her old Cotham friends kitchen skill
would have been far higher commendation. Dr
Archer asked her one day if she had any rela-
tives in the south that she could visit for a


change — but Winny had none, except the
Clarksons at CHfton by Bristol, who were not
available, being perfect strangers ; and besides,
she said, she liked the quiet security and liberty
of home better than she should like any change,
at present. Yet she did look as if she wanted
some impetus from without. Her appearance
was extremely fragile and delicate, and she
made a very slow recovery, though her fairy-
money provided that she should miss nothing
that could help it on. Her mother had to be
thankful to Winny's scribbling now. The
spring was late and variable, and none of her
visitors flattered her that she would soon be
strong again. Only her mother, judging of her
by herself, refused to admit any fear that she
would decline into an invalid. And certainly,
Winny's own will was not that way bent.
When the sun shone on the meadows across
the river she longed to be out there ; but
Gotham was low and damp, and Georgie did
not hesitate to tell her that an hour's folly, a
ver)^ brief relapse, and she was gone from


sunny meadows for ever. She must have

Winny Hesketh continued a pale, pretty
picture of patience, sitting In Mr Nicholl's
chair, and wrapt In Mildred's white cloud of a
shawl until May days were nearly over. It
was about this time last year that her valen-
tine had come — she wondered often whether
she should have another such merry visitant
this. She had received but one letter from
Mr Durant during the past ten months, and
that one had followed Its predecessor at no
very long Interval. Since then there had
been silence. Winny often thought of him
with a serious, sad curiosity, but she was
chary of mentioning his name. Other people
seemed to have forgotten him — nearly two years
he had been absent from England. One day
when Georgle was especially benign, she asked
her, blushing consciously as she did so, whether
there was any news of late of that engineer,
her half quarter Scotch cousin, who had gone


exploring with other adventurers beyond the
confines of the known world in Asia.

' None, none, that I have heard of,' Georgie
said. ' But I will write to his sister Sidney,
and inquire for you.'

The answer Georgie got she did not com-
municate in full to Winny Hesketh ; she told
her no more than that all was supposed to
be well with all the party, since no rumour to
the contrary had reached their agents. (The
passage she suppressed was a casual mention
that Mr Durant was absent on a detached
service at the date of the engineer's letter to
his sister.) This satisfied Winny for a while.
And then came a piece of better cheer. She
began to take short walks with her mother
in the morning sun, and was slowly but surely
returning to the enjoyment of life again when
Georgie made her a delightful proposal.

' Listen, Winny, I have something worth
listening to,' she said, and Winny gave her
attention. ' I have to go to Paris for a week,
and then to Switzerland for the purpose of
finishing a task that I undertook two years ago.


This is the end of May. Before the end of
July my time is up. Papa leaves me absolutely
to my own discretion. Tom, who is too young
to be in the way, will go as escort. Will you
go with us, Winny ? I will undertake the
management of everything, of you too.'

* O Georgie, how I should enjoy it, if my
mother will consent ! ' cried Winny with rosy

* I knew you would — and it will quite set you
up again. You must talk to your mother, and
get Archer to recommend it. You have
superfluous cash, I know— what a rich young
woman you are, Winny ! '

When Georgie's proposal was communicated
to Mrs Hesketh, she agreed to it with the least
possible demur, and Dr Archer said it was the
very thing his patient needed. For reasons
unexplained the widow regarded Miss Denham
as a wise and accomplished woman of the world,
to whose care she might entrust her conva-
lescent daughter with the utmost confidence in
the results. Her confidence was not misplaced.
Georgie ruled and Winny obeyed — only by


docility on her part could peace be assured.
Georgie was very near fulfilling that ideal of
her sex described by Mons. la Bruyere, as a
fine woman with the qualities of an excellent




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Online LibraryHolme LeeThis work-a-day world (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 13)