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- Beechcroft at Rockstone - 74/74 -

back Maura. Mrs. White had declared that she must remain to supply the place of her sister. She was nearly fifteen years old, and already pretty well advanced in her studies, she would pick up foreign languages, the chaplain would teach her when at Rocca Marina, and music and drawing would be attainable in the spring at Florence. Moreover, Mr. White promised to regard her as a daughter.

Another point was settled. Alexis had worked in earnest for eight months, and had convinced himself that the marble works were not his vocation, though he had acquitted himself well enough to induce Mr. White to offer him a share in the business, and he would have accepted it if needful. He had, however, made up his mind to endeavour to obtain a scholarship at Oxford, and Captain Henderson promised that whether successful in this or not, he should be enabled to keep his terms there. Mr. White could not understand how a man could prefer being a poor curate to being a rich quarrymaster, but his wife and the two sisters had influence enough to prevent him from being offended, and this was the easier, because Theodore had tastes and abilities that made it likely that he would be thoroughly available at the works.

What shall be said of the return to Rockstone? Mr. Flight came home first, then, after many happy days of appreciative sightseeing, Aunt Jane and Gillian. They had not been ashamed of being British spinsters with guide-books in their hands; nor, on the other hand, had they been obliged to see what they did not care about, and Mr. White had put them in the way of the best mode of seeing what they cared about; and above all, the vicissitudes of travel, even in easy- going modern fashion, had made them one with each other according to Jane's best hopes. It was declared that the aunt looked five years younger for such recreation as she had never known before, and she set to work with double energy.

When, in May, Captain and Mrs. Henderson took possession of the pretty house that had been fitted up for them, though Miss Mellon might whisper to a few that she had only been one of the mosaic hands, there was not much inclination to attend to the story among the society to which Lady Merrifield introduced her. These acquaintances would gladly have seen more of her than she had time to give them, between family claims and home cares, her attention to the artistic side of the business, for which she had not studied in vain, and her personal and individual care for the young women concerned therein. For years to come, even, it was likely that visitors to Rockstone would ask one another if they had seen that remarkably beautiful Mrs. Henderson.

Mrs. White, reigning there in the summer, in her fine house and gardens, though handsome as ever, had the good sense to resign the palm of beauty, and be gratified with the admiration for one whom she accepted as a protegee and appendage, whose praise reflected upon herself. And Cliff House under the new regime was a power in Rockstone, with its garden-parties, drawing-room meetings on behalf of everything good and desirable, its general superintendence and promotion of all that could aid in the welfare of the place. There was general rejoicing when it was occupied.

Adeline, in better health than she had enjoyed since her early girlhood, and feeling her consequence both in Italy and at Rockstone, was often radiant, always kind and friendly and ready with patronage and assistance. Her sisters wondered at times how absolute her happiness was; they sometimes thought she said too much about it, and about her dear husband's indulgence, in her letters, to be quite satisfactory; and when she came to Rockstone there was an effusiveness of affection towards her family, an unwillingness to spare her sisters or nieces from her side, an earnest desire to take one back to Italy with her, that betrayed something lacking in companionship. Jane detected likewise such as the idolising husband felt this attachment a little over much.

It was not quite possible to feel him one with her family, or make him feel himself one. He would always be 'company' with them. He had indeed been invited to Beechcroft Court, but it was plain that the visit had been stiff and wearisome to both parties, even more so than that to Rotherwood, where there was no reason to look for much familiarity.

In the same way, to Reginald Mohun, who had been obliged to retire as full Colonel, Mr. White was so absolutely distasteful that it was his sister's continual fear that he would encourage the young people's surreptitious jokes about their marble uncle. Sir Jasper, always feeling accountable for having given the first sanction, did his best for the brother-in-law; but in spite of regard, there was no getting over the uncongeniality that would always be the drop in Adeline's cup. The perfect ease and confidence of family intercourse would alter on his entrance!

Nobody got on with him so well as Captain Harry May. For I do not speak to that dull elf who cannot figure to himself the great family meeting that came to pass when the colonists came home---how sweet and matronly 'Aunt Phyllis' looked, how fresh and bright her daughters were, and how surprised Valetta was to find them as well instructed and civilised as herself, though she did not like Primrose, expect to see them tattooed. One of the party was no other than Dolores Mohun. She had been very happy with her father for three years. They had been at Kotorua at the time of the earthquake, and Dolores had acquired much credit for her reasonableness and self-possession, but there had been also a young lady, not much above her own age, who had needed protection and comfort, and the acquaintance there begun had ended in her father deciding on a marriage with a pretty gentle creature as unlike the wife of his youth as could be imagined.

Dolores had behaved very well, as her Aunt Phyllis warmly testified, but it was a relief to all parties when the proposal was made that, immediately after the wedding, she should go home under her aunt's escort to finish her education. She had learnt to love and trust Aunt Phyllis; but to be once more with Aunt Lily and Mysie was the greatest peace and bliss she could conceive. And she was a very different being from the angular defiant girl of those days which seemed so long ago.

There is no need to say more at present of these old friends. There is no material for narrative in describing how the 'calm decay' of Dr. May in old age was cheered by the presence of his sailor son, nor in the scenes where the brothers, sisters, and friends exchanged happy recollections, brightened each other's lives with affection and stimulated one another in serving God in their generation.


Beechcroft at Rockstone - 74/74

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