Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- Hard Cash - 20/145 -
the true reason for her leaving him so abruptly "Even this dear slow Thing sees it," thought she. She must talk to Julia more seriously, and would go to the school at once. She went up-stairs, and put on her bonnet and shawl before the glass; then moulded on her gloves, and came down equipped. On the stairs was a large window, looking upon the open field; she naturally cast her eyes through it in the direction she was going, and what did she see but a young lady and gentleman coming slowly down the path towards the villa. Mrs. Dodd bit her lip with vexation, and looked keenly at them, to divine on what terms they were. And the more she looked the more uneasy she grew.
The head, the hand, the whole body of a sensitive young woman walking beside him she loves, betray her heart to experienced eyes watching unseen; and especially to female eyes. And why did Julia move so slowly, especially after that warning ? Why was her head averted from that encroaching boy, and herself so near him? Why not keep her distance, and look him full in the face? Mrs. Dodd's first impulse was that of leopardesses, lionesses, hens, and all the mothers in nature; to dart from her ambush and protect her young; but she controlled it by a strong effort; it seemed wiser to descry the truth, and then act with resolution: besides, the young people were now almost at the shrubbery; so the mischief if any, was done.
They entered the shrubbery.
To Mrs. Dodd's surprise and dismay, they did not come out this side so quickly. She darted her eye into the plantation; and lo! Alfred had seized the fatal opportunity foliage offers, even when thinnish: he held Julia's hand, and was pleading eagerly for something she seemed not disposed to grant; for she turned away and made an effort to leave him. But Mrs. Dodd, standing there quivering with maternal anxiety, and hot with shame, could not but doubt the sincerity of that graceful resistance. If she had been quite in earnest, Julia had fire enough in her to box the little wretch's ears. She ceased even to doubt, when she saw that her daughter's opposition ended in his getting hold of two hands instead of one, and devouring them with kisses, while Julia still drew her head and neck away, but the rest of her supple frame seemed to yield and incline, and draw softly towards her besieger by some irresistible spell.
"I can bear no more!" gasped Mrs. Dodd aloud, and turned to hasten and part them; but even as she curved her stately neck to go, she caught the lovers' parting; and a very pretty one too, if she could but have looked at it, as these things ought always to be looked at: artistically.
Julia's head and lovely throat, unable to draw the rest of her away, compromised: they turned, declined, drooped, and rested one half moment on her captor's shoulder, like a settling dove: the next, she scudded from him, and made for the house alone.
Mrs. Dodd, deeply indignant, but too wise to court a painful interview, with her own heart beating high, went into the drawing-room, and there sat down, to recover some little composure. But she was hardly seated when Julia's innocent voice was heard calling "Mamma, mamma!" and soon she came bounding into the drawing-room, brimful of good news, her cheeks as red as fire and her eyes wet with happy tears; and there confronted her mother, who had started up at her footstep, and now, with one hand nipping the back of the chair convulsively, stood lofty, looking strangely agitated and hostile.
The two ladies eyed one another, silent, yet expressive, like a picture facing a statue; but soon the colour died out of Julia's face as well, and she began to cower with vague fears before that stately figure, so gentle and placid usually, but now so discomposed and stern.
"Where have you been, Julia?"
"Only at the school," she faltered.
"Who was your companion home?"
"Oh, don't be angry with me! It was Alfred."
"Alfred! His Christian name! You try my patience too hard."
"Forgive me. I was not to blame this time, indeed! indeed! You frighten me. What will become of me? What have I done for my own mamma to look at me so?"
Mrs. Dodd groaned. "Was that young coquette I watched from my window the child I have reared ? No face on earth is to be trusted after this. 'What have you done' indeed? Only risked your own mother's esteem, and nearly broken her heart!" And with these words her own courage began to give way, and she sank into a chair with a deep sigh.
At this Julia screamed, and threw herself on her knees beside her, and cried "Kill me! oh, pray kill me! but don't drive me to despair with such cruel words and looks!" and fell to sobbing so wildly that Mrs. Dodd altered her tone with almost ludicrous rapidity. "There, do not terrify me with your impetuosity, after grieving me so. Be calm, child; let me see whether I cannot remedy your sad imprudence; and, that I may, pray tell me the whole truth. How did this come about?"
In reply to this question, which she somewhat mistook, Julia sobbed out, "He met me c-coming out of the school, and asked to s-see me home. I said 'No thank you,' because I th-thought of your warning. 'Oh yes!' said he, and _would_ walk with me, and keep saying he loved me. So, to stop him, I said, 'M-much ob-liged, but I was b-busy and had no time to flirt.' 'Nor have I the in-inclination,' said he. 'That is not what others say of you,' said I--you know what you t-told me, mamma--so at last he said d-did ever he ask any lady to be his wife? 'I suppose not,' said I, 'or you would be p-p-private property by now instead of p-public.'"
"Now there was a foolish speech; as much as to say nobody could resist him."
"W-wasn't it? And n-no more they could. You have no idea how he makes love; _so_ unladylike: keeps advancing and advancing, and never once retreats, nor even st-ops. 'But I ask _you_ to be my wife,' said he. Oh, mamma, I trembled so. Why did I tremble? I don't know. I made myself cold and haughty; 'I should make no reply to such ridiculous questions; say that to mamma, if you dare!' I said."
Mrs. Dodd bit her lip, and said, "Was there ever such simplicity?"
"Simple! Why that was my cunning. You are the only creature he is afraid of; so I thought to stop his mouth with you. But instead of that, my lord said calmly, 'That was understood; he loved me too well to steal me from her to whom he was indebted for me.' Oh, he has always an answer ready. And that makes him such a p-pest."
"It was an answer that did him credit."
"Dear mamma! now did it not? Then at parting he said he would come to-morrow, and ask you for my hand; but I must intercede with you first, or you would be sure to say 'No.' So I declined to interfere: 'W-w-what was it to me?' I said. He begged and prayed me: 'Was it likely you would give him such a treasure as Me unless I stood his friend?' (For the b-b-brazen Thing turns humble now and then.) And, oh, mamma, he did so implore me to pity him, and kept saying no man ever loved as he loved me, and with his begging and praying me so passionately--oh, so passionately--I felt something warm drop from his poor eyes on my hand. Oh! oh! oh! oh!--What could I do? And then, you know, I wanted to get away from him. So I am afraid I did just say 'Yes.' But only in a whisper. Mamma! my own, good, kind, darling mamma, have pity on him and on me; we love one another so."
A shower of tender tears gushed out in support of this appeal and in a moment she was caught up with Love's mighty arms, and her head laid on her mother's yearning bosom. No word was needed to reconcile these two.
After a long silence, Mrs. Dodd said this would be a warning never to judge her sweet child from a distance again, nor unheard. "And therefore," said she, "let me hear from your own lips how so serious an attachment could spring up. Why, it is scarcely a month since you were first introduced at that ball."
"Mamma," murmured Julia, hanging her head, "you are mistaken; we knew each other before."
Mrs. Dodd looked all astonishment.
"Now I _will_ ease my heart," said Julia, impetuously, addressing some invisible obstacle. "I tell you I am sick of having secrets from my own mother." And with this out it all came. She told the story of her heart better than I have; and, woman-like, dwelt on the depths of loyalty and delicate love she had read in Alfred's moonlit face that night at Henley. She said no eloquence could have touched her like it. "Mamma, something said to me, 'Ay, look at him well, for that is your husband to be.'" She even tried to solve the mystery of her _soi-disant_ sickness: "I was disturbed by a feeling so new and so powerful,* but, above all, by having a secret from you; the first--the last."
*Perhaps even this faint attempt at self-analysis was due to the influence of Dr. Whately. For, by nature, young ladies of this age seldom turn the eye inward.
"Well, darling, then why have a secret? Why not trust me, your friend as well as your mother?"
"Ah! why, indeed? I am a puzzle to myself. I wanted you to know, and yet I could not tell you. I kept giving you hints, and hoped so you would take them, and make me speak out. But when I tried to tell you plump, something kept pull--pull--pulling me inside, and I couldn't. Mark my words! some day it will turn out that I am neither more nor less than a fool."
Mrs. Dodd slighted this ingenious solution. She said, after a moment's reflection, that the fault of this misunderstanding lay between the two. "I remember now I have had many hints; my mind must surely have gone to sleep. I was a poor simple woman who thought her daughter was to be always a child. And you were very wrong to go and set a limit to your mother's love: there is none--none whatever." She added: "I must import a little prudence and respect for the world's opinion into this new connection; but whoever you love shall find no enemy in me."
Next day Alfred came to know his fate. He was received with ceremonious courtesy. At first he was a good deal embarrassed, but this was no sooner seen than it was relieved by Mrs. Dodd with tact and gentleness. When her turn came, she said, "Your papa? Of course you have communicated this step to him?"
Alfred looked a little confused, and said, "No: he left for London two days ago, as it happens."
"That is unfortunate," said Mrs. Dodd. "Your best plan would be to write to him at once. I need hardly tell you that we shall enter no family without an invitation from its head."
Previous Page Next Page
1 10 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 145
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything