Herman Ludolphus Prior.

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" Queen Elizabeth ! " I echoed again.
My visitor blushed like a schoolboy. "I beg
your pardon," he said, " I get carried away by a
train of thought, and forget where I am. But about
this matter ; about Helen : you think I should
probably be accepted ? "

" Indeed, Mr. Fortescue," I said, " you must
draw your own conclusions as to that. I have no
vocation to speak either way."

"You think," he continued, " Helen has no ...
no feeling of ... of ... incompatibility ? no
question whether I should make her happy ? That she
has no ... no ... fear of me? You think there
is no reason why, for her own sake, I should not
make her my wife ? You think I shall be doing


right to seek it ? " He hurried all these sentences
together with a thick utterance very unusual to

"In plain words then, Mr. Fortescue, I think
that, after what has passed, you would be doing very
wrong not to seek to do so."

" Yes," he said, very slowly and absently again.
" Yes ; if I only dare. You think as I do. And
who would wrong Helen, or could do it ? But the
greater wrong, that is the question. You are a
stranger to Hastings, Miss Secretan," he continued,
after a minute's pause.

11 1 first set foot in it when, I came here as
governess, two months since."

" Yes," he said again, with the same slowness
and dejected accent. " You sketch ? or botanize ?
Ah ! probably you have not the leisure now : I ought
to have thought of that. Pray forgive me."

" I am by no means unduly worked," I replied .
"I neither sketch nor botanize; but we get many
rambles, and I have some alone. I love these hills
and copses : the farms that stud every rising ground ;
the red tile of the conical hop kilns ; the cliffs and
dingles ; the sea, sparkling like eyes in every picture.


I love dearly the East Cliff above us here ; with the
gorse upon it."

" You often walk there ? "

" I often get a run before breakfast. Or I take
my book there of an afternoon, when lessons are
over, and I am not wanted. The air is scented ;
the eye sates itself with beauty."

" Sates ! Ah ! how quickly," said Mr. Fortescue.
'* Unless indeed you establish an affinity, and then
satiety is unknown. Why is it, Miss Secretan, that
of a dozen scenes equally lovely, we in fact love one and
not the eleven others? Just as roof and gallery
vibrate to one chord of the organ, while they remain
stark and rigid as iron when any other notes are
touched. We gaze, and find ourselves instantly in
rapport with the object. We have gazed on a hun-
dred like it and felt nothing. This one fascinates us.
In dreams we see the loved features ; in death they
haunt us; they are ourselves and our inner self;
they become our type -form of excellence ; they are
imperishable, unchanging, ever young, while we
lapse into sere and morose age."

" Do you think of antipathies in the same way ? "
I asked.


" Do I not ? The tyrant in the Roman epic
bound living bodies with the dead. But what worse
torment to be bound for life to something which our
nature rejects ; something against which it has
warned us by dislike, by fear, by mistrust ; and yet
warned in vain ! Such fatal unions have taken
place." He spoke almost with a shudder.

" Antipathies may be conquered," I said.

" They may be disregarded : I have just said so, '
but conquered ! impossible. They are elementary
principles, causative of our being, re-appearing in
greater force when we believe them subdued. What
is born of man's passion is subject to caprice and
change, as man himself is. Jealousy, ambition,
hatred, may soften down or pass into their oppo-
sites ; at latest, they die with us. But an antipathy
is something welded into our nature, an instinct, an
integral part of us. How should it be otherwise ?
Sympathies and antipathies both are not ideas but
facts ; the facts of a previous existence forming the
conditions of those which follow it. But really,
Miss Secretau, I did not mean to talk metaphysics."

" They do not weary me," I said. " I have been
wearied with small talk often enough. It is painful


to feel one's thoughts meandering over a sandy
waste, in which there is neither landmark nor oasis.
I would sooner toil after some thought, even if I
failed to overtake it."

" But I have wasted a fine afternoon for you
into the bargain. You might have been on your
favourite East Cliff. And now your chance is gone,
for I hear Louisa's voice in the shrubbery. You can
forgive me ? "

" Very readily," I said.

In a few minutes Mr. Fortescue had joined Helen
in the drawing-room.



MY conversation with Mr. Fortescue was followed, a
few days later, by a disaster in our usually unevent-
ful home life. Let it stand on the threshold of the
more continuous narration I now propose.

The relations between Mr. Fortescue and Helen
Armitage did not seem to advance towards maturity ;
but they had not retrograded. The position could
not of course have subsisted had Helen had any
proper guardian. But Mr. Arniitage was wholly
withdrawn from the scene ; and his wife was pleased
with any arrangement which occupied Helen's atten-
tion elsewhere ; still more so, if it was likely to
cause her step-daughter embarrassment. As to
Helen herself, the intimacy had come about so gra-
dually that it was hardly possible for her to make
any change. Had she withdrawn from Mr. For-


tescue's society she must have assigned some reason ;
and how was she to give any ? The helle of a Lon-
don season or two can manage such matters perfectly,
even without the assistance of older heads. She
can regulate to a nicety the distance at which atten-
tions must be kept to ensure them ripening into
the necessary conditions of an " offer." But how
was an unsophisticated girl of eighteen to do this ?
One too who cared nothing for the offer as such, but
did care, heart and soul, for the man she loved ?

So the old routine went on ; the music, the
poetry readings, the strolls on the lawn, and, now
and then, walks or excursions to more distant points.
These latter indeed Helen had succeeded in making
less frequent than formerly ; there was usually now
some producible excuse ; time pressed, or rain
threatened, or the like. It need not be added that
such outings were always, now as heretofore, made
in company.

Usually, the "gooseberry" selected was Fred.
Not from any special aptitude in that young "cub,"
as Charles called him, for such an occupation, but
because he was commonly the only person available.
The seniors were out of the question : Florence and


Louisa always with me at lessons; and Charles
nobody knew where. So Fred, as the residuum of
Harcourt Villa, was installed in the post of delicacy.

On a certain September afternoon one of these
walks came off. Fred officiated as usual ; but the
party received an accession in myself, by express
desire of those principally interested, and with my
own hearty concurrence. There was a fascination
for me in all that related to Mr. Fortescue ; pain-
ful and unaccountable, but one which I found it
impossible to resist. Then, I was very honestly
concerned on Helen's account ; anxious, if possible,
to play the elder sister's part, and make a dexterous
use of any opportunities which might bring about
the long-delayed proposal. So I went, nothing loth.

It was fated however that neither of my objects
in the walk should be realised. Mr. Fortescue's
conversation was naturally engrossed by Helen, by
whose side he walked, leaving Fred and myself to
follow at a respectful distance in the rear. On the
other hand, all attempts at improving this circum-
stance so as to give my other companions the chance
which it was to be presumed they desired was frus-
trated by the engaging Fred.


Very creditably did that young ruffian discharge
his trust; so far as extended to prohibiting any
amatory passages, had such been forthcoming, in
excess of the strictest propriety. "Was it suggested
that he should execute on the beach such engineering
works, docks, sluices and the like, as the youthful
mind usually delights in, I assisting in a general
capacity ? No, Fred didn't like digging to-day. His
gentle breast was intent on climbing in and out of
the boat, under the lee of which I had established
the lovers, if such they might be termed, to their
entire satisfaction. Well. We turned up one of
the green Sussex lanes, away from the sea. Did
Fred see that pretty, pretty butterfly by the hedge ?
He might catch it with his cap, if he ran fast enough.
No. Fred was used up; blase; had no relish for
active exertion this afternoon. And so on.

At length a farm was reached, perched on the
edge of a charming wooded dingle. Wouldn't dear
Fred sit with the farmer's wife, and have some nice
new milk from the colley cow, while sister Helen
and Mr. Fortessue walked on to see the view ? To
my great delight, Fred did fall in with this arrange-
ment, and sat himself down in the kitchen.


The success however was short-lived. Whether
the view was of any special excellence, or whether it
consisted of anything at all beyond a turnip-field, I
am not prepared to say. At any rate, the inamorati
were doomed not to see it. As they climbed a
knoll above the farm, their steps were arrested by a
vehement yell : which at the same time brought
Mrs. Bridgeman and myself from an adjoining
paddock, where we had been superintending the

On entering the kitchen, the folio wing state of
facts disclosed itself. On a shelf at some height
above the dresser stood a row of preserves ; "jams."
Fred could not read ; but at his period of life a
white gallipot was phonetic without the aid of
Cadmus. And as boys have pilfered sweets from
Cupid downwards, and as, in this case, there was a
chair handy to the dresser, it resulted, naturally
enough, that Fred climbed on the latter, and
reached out on tiptoe for the jams. The attempt
was less successful than it deserved to be. He did
not hook himself under the chin, like another friend
of our childhood. But he did lose his balance, and
come to the stone floor backwards, his arm saving


his head; and itself receiving, as the result of this
attention, a compound fracture at the wrist.

A super-compound fracture, if there he such a


thing in medieal science. For when the Hastings
doctor arrived, he enumerated injuries enough to
exhaust the surgeon's vade mecum. There were two
bones, at least, broken ; lacerations and dislocations ;
and a severe " shock to the system " generally. It
would evidently be a long and tedious case. As
Charles said a few days later, when our first dismay
had subsided, "the doctor must have seen his way
to_a new gig-horse that afternoon."

I feel that I am writing rather heartlessly of this
occurrence. But the fact is, doting infatuation itself
could hardly have pitied Fred. He behaved like a
little demon. He bit and struggled ; tore with one
hand at the bandages, and kicked with both legs at
the doctor ; and eventually had to be pinned by main
force while the wounded member was being set.

It was not surprising that next day he should
have been in a high fever.

I ought to have mentioned that these surgical
manifestations took place at home. The farm was
at no great distance from Hastings ; and when the


accident occurred, Fred was caught up in the strong
arms of Mr. Forteseue, and carried in, tenderly, and
watchfully, Helen and myself following. There was
a large sofa in the schoolroom described in a previous
chapter ; and here, as the first place that offered, the
sufferer was placed until the doctor's arrivaj. Find-
ing the serious nature of the accident, and that
inflammation already threatened, the doctor decided
not to risk moving his patient up-stairs. A bed was
accordingly made up for Fred on the sofa, another
being arranged for the nurse Burgess, close at hand.
Slates and exercise-books migrated to a distant
quarter of the house, and the transformation of the
schoolroom into a sick chamber was a fait accompli.

Small and trivial matters these in themselves.
And yet, such as these have ere now been the pivot
incidents of an entire life !

Some days went on ; in fact, two or three weeks ;
and Fred was still unable to move. " A long and
tedious case," the doctor still said. "If the little
gentleman would only be patient, and believe that
his dear mamma was doing all she could to save him
pain ; and if he would be a good boy and take his
medicine and draughts and Mr. Sims was sure they


were very nice-tasted without coughing and scream-
ing : and would not fling himself about so much, and
be so passionate, he would very soon be quite well."
But these conditions of recovery were not for Fred.
Mr. Sims might as well have proposed to him a
pilgrimage on his knees to Loretto. He made very
slow progress indeed, if any ; and entirely through
his own fault.

Meanwhile, in the article of nurses, Fred was not
badly off. He had two. The night-nurse, was
Burgess ; occasionally relieved by Mrs. Armitage.
The day-nurse was of the ruder sex, Mr. Forte scue.

I was strangely impressed with the interest our
visitor now took in this ill-conditioned child, who was
the torment of the general household at the villa.
From the moment he had carried the boy home after
his accident, Mr. Fortescue showed him the devotion
of an elder brother. For hours together he would be
seated by the bedside, consoling, amusing, minister-
ing, forbearing; the latter, a function specially in
requisition ; womanly in his tenderness, grudging
the sufferer neither time nor pains. I was occasion-
ally in the room, either hunting for schoolroom
properties which had not been deported up-stairs, or


helping the general nursing in such degree as I
might. For Fred, for some reason, rather took to
me ; and, " cub "as he was, one could not wholly
shut up one's sympathies from him.

In fact, there were now times when he was so far
subdued by languor or pain as to become a present-
able individual ; with something of Florence's plain-
tive look in his face. At these periods, or during
intervals of repose, Mr. Fortescue would sit watching
him with the compassionate gaze of a Madonna. The
intellect of the brow shaped itself into an angelic
pity ; the eye was suffused with light, intense and
soft as the tints of an Autumn sunset. I know this
sounds romantic, but I am writing of real facts. In
no painting have I ever seen, in no dream have I ever
conjured up an image of such protecting love !

Even the obdurate Fred gradually thawed under
his treatment, and began to evince some human
traits. He listened hungrily for Mr. Fortescue's
step ; would take food and medicine from no other
hand ; at times, when free from pain, would conde-
scend even to smile, and express his approbation of
things in general. Even lie felt the marvellous
tenderness of that eye; of that voice !


There were two other circumstances connected
with this sick-room period which must be touched
upon before closing the present chapter. The most
obvious was that Mr. Fortescue's nursing had the
effect of almost entirely separating him from Helen.
Not but that she would have been ready enough to
take her share of attendance ; but Mrs. Armitage's
dislike interposed. Any advances made by her for
this purpose were rudely rejected ; and as Fred
followed suit, hotly seconded by Burgess, Helen was,
at last, almost excluded from the room. At the very
time when every day promised to bring the avowal
which would have found so ready a response in her
own heart, Fred had come as a barrier between
them ! No more duets ; no more pleasant drives and
rambles. Even I saw more of Mr. Fortescue now
than Helen did !

I found it hard to understand such rare unselfish-
ness in a lover. And unquestionably, as it seemed
to me, Helen felt the same. A cloud had fallen on
her young life. It could not spoil, but it seemed,
naturally enough, to unsettle her. It darkened heart
and brain, like a shadow from the wing of some bird
of ill omen.

VOL. i. 6


This was the first noticeable matter arising out of
Mr. Fortescue's new avocation as nurse. I have said
that there was a second. It was something of which
I became now vaguely conscious in his manner to
myself. I do not think vanity ever ranked among
my sins. I knew that I was more than passably
good-looking ; it would have been affectation had I
pretended otherwise. But I do not think it ever
occurred to me to consider whether I was attracting
notice ; to set any particular store by the fact of
doing so ; still less, to lay myself out for the purpose.
The idea therefore that, when we chanced to be in
the sick-room together, Mr. Fortescue was honouring
me by bestowing upon me a good deal of quiet
observation, was not one which originated from
within. Nor, when I did corne to entertain it, did it
serve to feed any fumes of self-conceit in me. Had I
been vain, I might possibly have distorted this notice
into admiration. As things were, I called it by its
real name ; that which I have above given it. Obser-

A very singular, almost stealthy, kind of watching.
If our eyes accidentally met, his were at once with-
drawn, with the bashfulness of a schoolboy of seven-


teen. If my look was again directed elsewhere, his
would revert to me-. Female vision has a range
unaccounted for on optical principles ; and, avoiding
an actual collision of glances, I could see that the
gaze thus fixed upon me was steady, searching, and
comprehensive ; taking in my figure, my dress, the
motions of my hands ; I could almost have fancied,
my respiration and pulsation.

The scrutiny was a somewhat severe one. In any
other hands, it would have heen offensive ; but there
was something about Mr. Fortescue which made
offence impossible. Besides, it was coupled, not
only with the extreme gentleness of which I have
spoken, but with a kind of humble look ; something
more dejected than mere every-day melancholy, which
at once puzzled and interested me. Why was I thus
looked at ? What was he trying to discover ? Why
did he not, times out of number, when even his self-
imposed nurse-work was not required, join Helen at
the piano, as heretofore, instead of sitting in the
schoolroom to watch me ? Had he amused himself
with a passing flirtation there, I should' have under-
stood it better, although it would have been repelled
with becoming dignity. But there was no flirtation


ill that grave, earnest, introspection. The haunting
eye fixed upon me was that of a picture ; some face
of mournful beauty, seen in tapestry or on canvas,
moving where you go, turning where you turn, plead-
ing with the pathos of a dumb man's language of
signs. Straining, like the trance-bound, to convey
some thought, which the brain refuses to shape or
the tongue to utter !



CHARLES ABMITAGE was not to return to Harrow.
His name had been for some time entered at Balliol,
and lie was to have commenced residence there in
the October term now at hand. But a difficulty had
arisen about rooms, and the residence was deferred
to January. During this interval, Charles was to
read with Mr. Latrobe, half as tutor and half as
friend ; going daily for that purpose to the " Curate's
lodgings " already described. The preparation of
these lessons, or " lectures," as Charles, with some
suspicion of being " snobby," now began to call
them, of course went on at home.

It resulted from this arrangement, as well as
from the substitution of the up-stairs schoolroom for
the thoroughfare of all nations we had previously
occupied, that we saw much less of Charles than


formerly. Sorely to the discontent of my two pupils.
Louisa lamented loud and openly ; for Charles's
incursions had been an agreeable interlude to lessons,
for which the young lady had no special liking.
Florence took the privation more silently, but I
could often see the disappointed look come into her
face, when Charles's voice and step were heard in the
distance, but failed to approach our retreat. Un-
consciously, but very closely, he had wound himself
into this child's gentle nature. Ah ! I could under-
stand how !

Things being thus, it will be comprehended that
Charles's appearance at the hall-door one afternoon,
just as we were starting for our routine walk, was
hailed with unqualified satisfaction. Still more so,
when he announced his ' intention of joining us.
"He had knocked off work for that day," he said;
" Latrobe was seedy. Where were we going ? White
Rock way ? Well, he didn't mind if he carne with
us some distance. What pace were we good for ? "

This was about three weeks after Fred's accident.
Time had run on into October.

"Stunning fine day, isn't it, Miss Secretan?"
said Charles, as we crossed the lawn. " I'm sorry


Latrobe has a headache for his own sake, but it's
awfully jolly getting out this afternoon. We were
to have gone in for conic sections ; and I hate conic

" ' Also globes and Euclid,' " I interposed.

" Ah ! I see, Miss Secretan ; you're quoting me
again ; you and Mr. Forte scue are not likely to forget
that. Well, ' them's my sentiments,' and I don't
care who knows it. I don't mind classics so much ;
I'm awfully fond of the Odyssey. I've been reading
it with Latrobe ; the part where Ulysses comes back
and gets all the suitors together at the top of the
hall, you know. And then he, and Telemachus, and
that other party, have a good practice at them with
the arrows. And the swineherd, too, Eumasus ; isn't
he jolly?"

" I'm afraid I don't know the Odyssey, Mr.

" What a fool I am ; I beg your pardon, Miss
Secretan. I don't know why it is, but there's some-
thing about you that always makes me talk to you as
if you were one of our fellows at Harrow."

" I suppose I ought to feel grateful for the com-
pliment," I replied.


" Well, it is a compliment, though. Don't you
know ! There are lots of girls that are very well to
dance with, and that sort of thing, but it's no use
talking to them. They don't care for anything except
dress and parties : not for anything really worth
talking about."

" I know you consider me very blue," I said.

" No, come now : that's just what I don't. If
you were that, you would be always showing off, and
going in for Celts and tertiary strata, and things. I
know what I did mean though, Miss Secretan, and
I'll tell you if you like. It is, that you are so jolly
unaffected. It isn't merely that you've got ideas '

" I hope so," I said.

" Oh ! you know what I mean ; understanding
one, and talking so cleverly and sensibly always.
But, as I say, it isn't this is the whole, or half of it.
It is that way you have of putting a fellow at his ease
directly. After the first five minutes, I could talk to
you as if I'd known you all my life. Which street
shall we go down, Flo' ? "

"Whichever you like, Charles," said the meek

" Oh ! Charles, Miss Secretan, please, "interposed


Louisa ; " let's go down High Street. There's some-
thing to see there."

" Yes," said Charles. " And the other street is
all hahbies and salt fish. I know, Louisa. That
young female always has her mental vision focussed
in the direction of the gay and heartless throng. I
say, that's a stunning tile you've got, my dear.
' Who's your hatter ? ' "

" Oh ! Charles, Mamma generally deals at Robin-
son's ; but she bought this at Miss Austin's in the
summer, because Robinson's disappointed her about
some trimming. And Miss Austin's is cheaper, and
so very pretty. I'm so glad you like it."

" Thank you, my dear : all serene. Do you think
your Mamma knows you're out ? "

"You needn't answer him, Louisa," I said ; "he
is only amusing himself at your expense. Do you
not think, Mr. Charles, that the habit of talking
' slang,' as I believe you call these highly technical
utterances, ought to be reprobated, both for speakers
and listeners ?"

" Oh yes, I know, Miss Secretan. ' To the
juniors 'ow 'urtful, to the seniors 'ow unpleasant.'
That's what old Rivers, who was rather weak in his


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Online LibraryHerman Ludolphus PriorSix months hence : being passages from the life of Maria (née) Secretan (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 15)