Jean Ingelow.

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Grand's white head came in the way as he advanced to meet her and take
her hand, bowing low with old-fashioned formality and courtesy. Several
other people followed and claimed her acquaintance, so that they were
closed in for the moment. Then he felt that now was the time for him to
come forward, which he did, and as the others parted again to let Grand
take her to a seat, they met face to face.

"Ah, Valentine," she said, so quietly, with such an unexcited air; she
gave him her hand for a moment, and it was over. Then he shook hands
with his brother, their eyes met, and though both tried hard to be
grave, neither could forbear to smile furtively; but Giles was much the
more embarrassed of the two.

During dinner, though Valentine talked and laughed, he could not help
stealing a minute now and then to gaze at the bride, till John, darting
a sudden look at him, brought him to his senses; but he cogitated about
her, though he did not repeat the offence. "Is it lilac, or grey, or
what, that she has on? That pale stuff must be satin, for it shines. Oh,
meant for mourning perhaps. How wonderfully silent Giles is! How quiet
they both are!"

This observation he made to himself several times during the evening,
catching the words of one and the other whatever part of the room he was
in, almost as distinctly as they did themselves; but he only looked
once at Dorothea, when something made him feel or think that she had
drawn her glove off. His eyes wandered then to her hand. Yes, it was
so - there was the wedding ring.

With what difficulty, with what disgrace he had contrived to escape from
marrying this young woman! His eyes 'wandered round the room. Just so
she would have looked, and every one else would have looked, if this
wedding dinner had been made for _his_ bride, but he would not have been
sitting up in the corner with three girls about him, laughing and making
laugh. No, and he would not have stood rather remote from her, as Giles
did. He thought he would have been proudly at her side. Oh, how could he
have been such a fool? how could he? how could he?

"She would have loved me just as well, just so she would have lifted up
her face, as she does now, and turned towards me." - No! The bride and
her husband looked at one another for an instant, and in one beat of the
heart he knew not only that no such look had ever been in her eyes for
him, but he felt before he had time to reason his conviction down, that
in all likelihood there never would have been. Then, when he found that
Dorothea seemed scarcely aware of his presence, he determined to return
the compliment, got excited, and was the life and soul of the younger
part of the company. So that when the guests dispersed, many were the
remarks they made about it.

"Well, young Mortimer need not have been quite so determined to show his
brother how delighted he was not to be standing in his shoes." "Do you
think Brandon married her out of pity?" "She is a sweet young creature.
I never saw newly-married people take so little notice of one another.
It must have been a trial to her to meet young Mortimer again, for no
doubt she was attached to him."

A quarter of an hour after the bride had taken her leave, and when all
the other guests were gone, Valentine went into the hall, feeling very
angry with himself for having forgotten that, as he was now a member of
her host's family, he might with propriety have seen Dorothea into the
carriage. "This," he thought, "shall not occur again."

The hall doors were open, servants stood about as if waiting still. He
saw a man's figure. Some one, beyond the stream of lamplight which came
from the house, stood on the gravel, where through a window he could
command a view of the staircase.

It was little past eleven, the moon was up, and as the longest day was
at hand, twilight was hardly over, and only one star here and there hung
out of the heavens.

"Why, that is Giles," thought Valentine. "Strange! he cannot have sent
Dorothea home alone, surely."

Giles approached the steps, and Valentine, following the direction of
his eyes, saw a slender figure descending the stairs.

Dorothea! She was divested now of the shimmering satin and all her
bridal splendour. How sweet and girlish she looked in this more simple
array! Evidently they were going to walk home through the woods and
lanes, see glow-worms and smell the hedge roses. For an instant
Valentine was on the point of proposing to accompany them part of the
way, but recollected himself just in time to withdraw into the shadow
made by a stand of greenhouse plants, and from thence see Giles come up
the steps, take the delicate ungloved hand and lay it on his arm, while
the hall doors were closed behind them.

Adam and Eve were returning to Paradise on foot. The world was quite a
new world. They wanted to see what it was like by moonlight, now they
were married.

Valentine walked disconsolately up the stairs, and there at the head of
them, through a wide-open door, he saw a maid. The pale splendours of
Dorothea's gown were lying over her arm, and she was putting gold and
pearls into a case. He darted past as quickly as he could, so glad to
get out of sight, lest she should recognise him, for he shrewdly
suspected that this was the same person who had been sent with Dorothea
to Wigfield, when she first went there - one Mrs. Brand. So, in fact, it
was; her husband was dead, she no longer sailed in old Captain Rollings
yacht, and Brandon had invited her to come and stay in the house a
while, and see her young lady again.

How glad he was to get away and shelter himself in his own room! - an
uncomfortable sensation this for a fine young man. "What should I have
done but for Grand and John?" was his thought. Grand and John were very
considerate the next day. In the first place, Grand scarcely mentioned
the bride during breakfast; in fact, so far as appeared, he had
forgotten the party altogether. John was also considerate, gave
Valentine plenty to do, and in a way that made him feel the yoke, took
him in hand and saw that he did it.

It is often a great comfort to be well governed. John had a talent for
government, and under his dominion Valentine had the pleasure of
feeling, for the first time in his life, that he had certain things to
do which must and should be done, after which he had a full right to
occupy himself as he pleased.



"Learn now for all
That I, which know my heart, do here pronounce
By the very truth of it, I care not for you." - _Cymbeline._

"John," said Valentine, ten days after this dinner party, "you have not
called on D. yet, nor have I."

"No," John answered, observing his wish, "and it might not be a bad plan
for us to go together."

"Thank you, and if you would add the twins to - to make the thing easier
and less formal."

"Nonsense," said John; "but yes, I'll take some of the children, for of
course you feel awkward." He did not add, "You should not have made such
a fool of yourself," lest Valentine should answer, "I devoutly wish I
had not;" but he went on, "And why don't you say Dorothea, instead of
using a nickname?"

"I always used to call her D.," said Valentine.

"All the more reason why you should not now," answered John.

And Valentine murmured to himself -

"'These strong Egyptian fetters I must break, or lose myself in dotage'
(_Antony and Cleopatra_)" This he added from old habit. "I'll quote
everything I can think of to D., just to make her think I have forgotten
her wish that I should leave off quoting; and if that is not doing my
duty by St. George, I should like to know what is. Only that might put
it into his head to quote too, and perhaps he might have the best of it.
I fancy I hear him saying, 'Art thou learned?' I, as William, answer,
'No, sir.' 'Then learn this of me,' he makes reply, 'to have is to have;
for all your writers do consent that _ipse_ is he. Now you are not
_ipse_, for I am he. He, sir, that hath married this woman. Therefore,
you clown, abandon, which is - ,' &c., &c. What a fool I am!"

John, adding the twins and little Bertram to the party, drove over on a
Saturday afternoon, finding no one at home but Mrs. Henfrey.

"St. George," she said, "has taken to regular work, and sits at his desk
all the morning, and for an hour or two in the afternoon, excepting on
Saturday, when he gives himself a half-holiday, as if he was a

"And where was he now?" John asked.

"Somewhere about the place with Dorothea; he had been grubbing up the
roots of the trees in a corner of the little wood at all leisure times;
he thought of turning it into a vegetable garden."

"Why, we always had more vegetables than we could use," exclaimed
Valentine, "and we were three times as large a family."

"Very true, my dear, but they are full of schemes - going to grow some
vegetables, I think, and flowers, for one of the county hospitals. It
would not be like him, you know, to go on as other people do."

"No," Valentine answered. "And he always loved a little hard work out of
doors; he is wise to take it now, or he would soon get tired of stopping
peaceably at home, playing Benedict in this dull place."

The children were then sent out to find where the young wife was, and
come and report to their father, telling her that he would pay his call
out of doors.

"And so you are still here, sister," observed Valentine, willing to
change the subject, for he had been rather disconcerted by a quiet
smile with which she had heard his last speech.

"Yes, my dear, the fact is, they won't let me go."

"Ah, indeed?"

"Of course I never thought they would want me. And the morning after
they came home I mentioned that I had been looking out for a house - that
small house that I consulted John about, and, in fact, took."

Mrs. Henfrey was hardly ever known to launch into narration. She almost
always broke up her remarks by appeals to one and another of her
listeners, and she now did not go on till John had made the admission
that she had consulted him. She then proceeded with all deliberation -

"But you should have seen how vexed St. George looked. He had no idea,
he said, that I should ever think of leaving him; and, indeed, I may
mention to you in confidence, both of you, that he always drew for me
what money I said was wanted for the bills, and he no more thought of
looking at my housekeeping books than my father did."

"Really," said Valentine.

He was quite aware of this, to him, insignificant fact, but to have said
more would only have put her out, and he wanted her to talk just then.

"And so," she continued slowly, "I said to him, I said, 'My dear Giles,
I have had a pleasant home in this house, many, many years, indeed, ever
since you were a child; but it is my opinion (and you will find it is
the general opinion) that every young wife should have her house to
herself.' I did not doubt at all that this was her opinion too, only I
considered that as he had spoken so plainly, she might not like to say

"No, very likely not," said John, when she stopped, as if stranded, till
somebody helped her on with a remark.

"You are quite right, John, any one might have thought so; but in a
minute or two. 'Well,' said St. George, 'this is rather a blow;' and
what does that pretty creature do but come and sit by me, and begin to
coax me. 'She wanted me so much, and it would be so kind if I would but
stop and do as I always had done, and she would be so careful to please
me, and she had always thought the house was so beautifully managed, and
everything in such order, and so regular.'"

"So it is," Valentine put in. "She is quite right there."

"'And she didn't know how to order the dinner,' she said; and so she
went on, till I said, 'Well, my dears, I don't wish that there should be
any mistake about this for want of a little plain speaking.'"

"Well?" said John, when she came to a dead stop.

"And she said, 'You love St. George, don't you, just as much as if he
was related to you?' 'How can any one help loving him?' 'And I know if
you leave us he won't be half so comfortable. And nobody should ever
interfere with you,' So I said I would keep their house for them, and
you may suppose how glad I was to say it, for I'm like a cat, exactly
like a cat - I don't like to leave a place that I am used to, and it
would have been difficult for her to manage."

"Yes, very."

"I had often been thinking, when I supposed I had to go, that she would
never remember to see that the table-linen was all used in its proper
turn, and to have the winter curtains changed for white ones before the
sun faded them."

"You're such a comfortable, dear thing to live with," observed
Valentine, now the narrative was over. "Everybody likes you, you know."

Mrs. Henfrey smiled complacently, accepting the compliment. She was, to
all strangers, an absolutely uninteresting woman; but her family knew
her merits, and Giles and Valentine were both particularly alive to

"And so here I am," continued 'sister,' "but it is a pity for poor
Emily, for she wanted me to live in that house, you know, John, with

"But I thought old Walker was devoted to her," said John.

"So he was, my dear, so long as her boy was with her; but now she is
nobody, and I am told he shows a willingness to let her go, which is
almost like dismissing her."

"I hope she will not get my old woman away to live with her," thought
John, with a sudden start. "I don't know what I may be driven to, if she
does. I shall have to turn out of my own house, or take the Golden Head
into it by way of protection. No, not that! I'll play the man. But," he
thought, continuing his cogitations, "Emily is too young and attractive
to live alone, and what so natural as that she should ask her old aunt
to come to her?"

John was still deeply cogitating on this knotty point when the children
came back, and conducted him and Valentine to the place where Brandon
was at work, and Dorothea sitting near him on a tree-stump knitting.

None of the party ever forgot that afternoon, but each remembered it as
an appeal to his own particular circumstances. Brandon was deep in the
contentment of a great wish fulfilled. The newly-perfected life was
fresh and sweet, and something of reserve in the character and manners
of his wife seemed to restrain him from using up the charm of it too
fast. His restless and passionate nature was at once satisfied and kept
in check by the freshness and moderation of hers. She received his
devotion very quietly, made no demonstrations, but grew to him, laid up
his confidences in her heart, and let him discover - though she never
said it - that all the rest of the world was becoming as nothing for his
sake. Accordingly it did not occur to him, excepting on Valentine's own
account, to consider how he might feel during this interview. He
noticed that he was a little sulky and perhaps rather out of
countenance; he did not wonder at these things; but being absolutely
secure of his wife's love, he never even said to himself how impossible
it was that her affection should revert to Valentine; but this was for
the simple reason that he had never thought about that matter at all. He
talked to Valentine on indifferent subjects, and felt that he should be
glad when he had got over the awkwardness he was then evidently
enduring, for they had been accustomed, far more than most brothers, to
live together on terms of familiar intimacy, and only one of them at
present was aware that this could never be again.

Valentine also never forgot, but often saw that picture again with the
fresh fulness of the leaves for a background to the girlish figure; and
the fair face so innocent and candid and so obviously content. She was
seated opposite to him, with Brandon on the grass close to her. In
general they addressed each other merely by the Christian name, but just
before John rose to take leave, Dorothea dropped her ball. It rolled a
little way, and pointing it out to Brandon with her long wooden
knitting-pin, she said, in a soft quiet tone, "Love, will you pick it
up?" and Valentine, who had overheard the little speech, was
inexpressibly hurt, almost indignant. He could not possibly have told
why, but he hoped she did not say that often, and when Brandon gave it
into her hand again, and said something to her that Valentine could not
hear, he felt almost as if he had been unkindly used, as if his feelings
had been insulted, and he vowed that it should be a long time before he
came to see them again.

"It won't do," he thought to himself. "I see this means a great deal
more than I ever thought it did. I thought Giles would be jealous, and I
should have to set things in a light that would satisfy him; but it is
I who am jealous, and he does not care what I feel at all. She is all I
could wish; but I don't know whether looking at her is most bitter or
most sweet."

As for John, he had walked down to the wood as usual, in full possession
of his present self, and as he supposed of his future intentions, and
yet, sitting opposite to these married lovers for a quarter of an hour,
wrought a certain change in him that nothing ever effaced. It was an
alien feeling to him to be overcome by a yearning discontent. Something
never yet fed and satisfied made its presence known to him. It was not
that sense which comes to all, sooner or later, that human life cannot
give us what we expected of it, but rather a passionate waking to the
certainty that he never even for one day had possessed what it might
have given. He had never been endowed for one day with any deep love,
with its keen perceptions and high companionship.

"Well, I suppose I didn't deserve it," he thought, half angrily, while
he tried to trample the feeling down and stifle it. But his keener
instincts soon rose up in him and let him know that he did deserve it.
It was very extraordinary that he had not won it - there were few men,
indeed, who deserved it half so well.

"But it's too late now," he chose to say to himself, as he drove home.
"It's not in my line either to go philandering after any woman. Besides,
I hate red hair. The next _Dissolution_ I'll stand for the borough of
Wigfield. Seven children to bring up, and one of them almost as big as
myself - what a fool I am! What can I have been thinking of?"

"What are you laughing at, papa?" said Barbara, who was sitting beside

"Not at you, my darling," he replied; "for you are something real."

For the next few weeks neither he nor Valentine saw much of Dorothea:
excepting at three or four dinners, they scarcely met at all. After this
came the Harrow holidays. Johnny came home, and with him the inevitable
Crayshaw. The latter was only to stay a week, and that week should have
been spent with Brandon, but the boys had begged hard to be together,
having developed a peculiar friendship for one another which seemed to
have been founded on many fights, in consequence of which they had been
strictly forbidden to meet.

This had taken place more than a year before, when Crayshaw, having been
invited by John to spend the holidays with his boy, the two had
quarrelled, and even fought, to such a degree that John at last in
despair had taken Johnnie over to his grandfather's house, with the
declaration that if he so much as spoke to Crayshaw again, or crossed
the wide brook that ran between the two houses, he would fine him
half-a-crown every time he did it.

"Ith all that hateful map," said young hopeful sulkily, when he was
borne off to his banishment.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," quoth his father. "I don't care
what it's about. You have no notion of hospitality. I won't have you
fight with your guest."

Crayshaw was in very weak health, but full of mischief and fun. For a
few days he seemed happy enough, then he flagged, and on the fifth
morning he laid half-a-crown beside John's plate at breakfast.

"What's this for?" asked John.

"Because it is not fair that he should be fined, and not I."

"Put it in the missionary box," said John, who knew very well that the
boys had been constructing a dam together all the previous day.

"It was about their possessions that they quarrelled," said Gladys in
giving an account of the matter afterwards. "They made a plan that they
would go into partnership, and conquer all the rest of the world; but
when they looked at the great map up in Parliament, and Johnnie found
how much the most he had got, he said Cray must annex Japan, or he
would not join. Cray said it was against his principles. So they
quarrelled, and fought once or twice; but perhaps it was just as well,
for you know the rest of the world would rather not be conquered. Then,
when they were fined for playing together, they did every day. They made
a splendid dam over the brook, which was very low; but one night came a
storm, father's meadows were flooded, they could not get the dam undone,
and some sheep were drowned. So they went to Grand, and begged him to
tell father, and get them off. They said it was a strange thing they
were never to be together, and neither of them had got a penny left. So
Grand got them forgiven, and we went all over the meadows for two or
three days in canoes and punts."

And now these two desirable inmates were to be together for a week. A
great deal can be done in a week, particularly by those who give their
minds to it because they know their time is short. That process called
turning the house out of windows took place when John was away. Aunt
Christie, who did not like boys, kept her distance, but Miss Crampton
being very much scandalized by the unusual noise, declared, on the
second morning of these holidays, that she should go up into Parliament,
and see what they were all about. Miss Crampton was not supposed ever to
go up into Parliament; it was a privileged place.

"Will the old girl really come, do you think?" exclaimed Crayshaw.

"She says she shall, as soon as she has done giving Janie her music
lesson," replied Barbara, who had rushed up the steep stairs to give
this message.

"Mon peruke!" exclaimed Johnnie looking round, "you'd better look out,
then, or vous l'attrapperais."

The walls were hung with pictures, maps, and caricatures; these last
were what had attracted Johnnie's eyes, and the girls began hastily to
cover them.

"It's very unkind of her," exclaimed Barbara. "Father never exactly
said that we were to have our own playroom to ourselves, but we know,
and she knows, that he meant it."

Then, after a good deal of whispering, giggling, and consulting among
the elder ones, the little boys were dismissed; and in the meantime Mr.
Nicholas Swan, who, standing on a ladder outside, was nailing the vines
(quite aware that the governess was going to have a reception which
might be called a warning never to come there any more), may or may not
have intended to make his work last as long as possible. At any rate, he
could with difficulty forbear from an occasional grin, while, with his
nails neatly arranged between his lips, he leisurely trained and pruned;
and when he was asked by the young people to bring them up some shavings
and a piece of wood, he went down to help in the mischief, whatever it
might be, with an alacrity ill suited to his years and gravity.

"Now, I'll tell you what, young gentlemen," he remarked, when,
ascending, he showed his honest face again, thrust in a log of wood, and
exhibited an armful of shavings, "I'm agreeable to anything but
gunpowder, or that there spark as comes cantering out o' your engine
with a crack. No, Miss Gladys, ex-cuse me, I don't give up these here
shavings till I know it's all right."

"Well, well, it _ith_ all right," exclaimed Johnnie, "we're not going to
do any harm! O Cray, he'th brought up a log ath big ath a fiddle. Quelle

"How lucky it is that she has never seen Cray!" exclaimed Barbara.
"Johnnie, do be calm; how are we to do it, if you laugh so? Now then,
you are to be attending to the electrifying machine."

"Swanny," asked Crayshaw, "have you got a pipe in your pocket? I want
one to lie on my desk."

"Well, now, to think o' your asking me such a question, just as if I was
ever _known_ to take so much as a whiff in working hours - no, not in
the tool-house, nor nowhere."

"But just feel. Come, you might."

"Well, now, this here is remarkable," exclaimed Swan, with a start as if
of great surprise, when, after feeling in several pockets, a pipe
appeared from the last one.

"Don't knock the ashes out."

"She's coming," said Swan, furtively glancing down, and then pretending

Online LibraryJean IngelowFated to Be Free → online text (page 16 of 36)