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- Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 140/144 -
Yet, doubtless, he shall come To bind his full-ear'd sheaves, and bring The joyful harvest home.--Psalm 126. New Version
Business cares soon began. Arthur consented to allow his brother to lay his embarrassments before his father. 'Do as you please,' he said; 'but make him understand that I am not asking him to help me out of the scrape. He does all he can for me, and cannot afford more; or, if he could, Theodora ought to be thought of first. All I wish is, that something should be secured to Violet and the children, and that, if I don't get clear in my lifetime, these debts may not be left for Johnnie.
'That you may rely on,' said John. 'I wish I could help you; but there were many things at Barbuda that seemed so like fancies of my own, that I could not ask my father to pay for them, and I have not much at my disposal just now.'
'It is a good one to hear you apologizing to me!' said Arthur, laughing, but rather sadly, as John carried off the ominous pocket- book to the study, hoping to effect great things for his brother; and, as the best introduction, he began by producing the letter written at Christmas. Lord Martindale was touched by the commencement, but was presently lost in surprise on discovering Percy's advance.
'Why could he not have written to me? Did he think I was not ready to help my own son?'
'It was necessary to act without loss of time.'
'If it were necessary to pay down the sum, why not tell me of it, instead of letting poor Arthur give him a bond that is worth nothing?'
'I fancy, if he had any notion of regaining Theodora, he was unwilling you or she should know the extent of the obligation.'
'It is well I do know it. I thought it unsatisfactory to hear of no profit, after all the talk there has been about his books. I feared it was an empty trade: but this is something like. Five thousand! He is a clever fellow after all!'
'I hope he may soon double it,' said John, amused at this way of estimating Percy's powers.
'Well, it was a friendly act,' continued Lord Martindale. 'A little misjudged in the manner, perhaps; but if you had seen the state Arthur was in--'
'I should have forgiven Percy?' said John, with a slightly ironical smile, that made his father laugh.
'Not that I am blaming him,' he said; 'but it shall be paid him at once if it comes to selling Wyelands. You know one cannot be under an obligation of this sort to a lad whom one has seen grow up in the village.'
'Perhaps he wishes it to be considered as all in the family.'
'So it is. That is the worst of it. It is so much out of what he would have had with Theodora, and little enough there is for her. A dead loss! Could not Arthur have had more sense, at his age, and with all those children! What's all this?' reading on in dismay. 'Seven thousand more at least! I'll have nothing to do with it!'
An hour after, John came out into the verandah, where Percy was reading, and asked if he knew where Arthur was.
'He got into a ferment of anxiety, and Violet persuaded him to walk it off. He is gone out with Johnnie and Helen. Well, how has he fared?'
'Not as well as I could wish. My father will not do more towards the debts than paying you.'
'Ho! I hope he does not think I acted very impertinently towards him?' John laughed, and Percy continued,
'Seriously, I believe it is the impertinence hardest to forgive, and I shall be glad when the subject is done with. That will be so much off Arthur's mind.'
'I wish more was; but I had no idea that there was so little available money amongst us. All I can gain in his favour is, that the estate is to be charged with five hundred pounds a year for Violet in case of his death; and there's his five thousand pounds for the children; but, for the present debts, my father will only say that, perhaps he may help, if he sees that Arthur is exerting himself to economize and pay them off.'
'Quite as much as could reasonably be expected. The discipline will be very good for him.'
'If it does not kill him,' said John, sighing. 'My father does not realize the shock to his health. He is in the state now that I was in when we went abroad, and--'
'And I firmly believe that if you had had anything to do but nurse your cough, you would have been in much better health.'
'But it is not only for Arthur that I am troubled. What can be worse than economizing in London, in their position? What is to become of Violet, without carriage, without--'
Percy laughed. 'Without court-dresses and powdered footmen? No, no, John. Depend upon it, as long as Violet has her husband safe at home, she wants much fewer necessaries of life than you do.'
'Well, I will try to believe it right. I see it cannot be otherwise.'
Arthur was not of this mind. He was grateful for his father's forgiveness and assistance, and doubly so for the provision for his wife, hailing it as an unexpected and undeserved kindness. Lord Martindale was more pleased by his manner in their interview than ever he had been before. Still there were many difficulties: money was to be raised; and the choice between selling, mortgaging, or cutting down timber, seemed to go to Lord Martindale's heart. He had taken such pride in the well-doing of his estate! He wished to make further retrenchments in the stable and garden arrangements; but, as he told John, he knew not how to reduce the enormous expense of the latter without giving more pain to Lady Martindale than he could bear to inflict.
John offered to sound her, and discover whether the notion of dismissing Armstrong and his crew would be really so dreadful. He found that she winced at the mention of her orchids and ferns, they recalled the thought of her aunt's love for them, and she had not been in the conservatories for months. John said a word or two on the cost of keeping them up, and the need of prudence, with a view to providing for Arthur's children. It was the right chord. She looked up, puzzled: her mathematical knowledge had never descended to £.s.d.
'Is there a difficulty? I thought my dear aunt had settled all her property on dear little Johnnie.'
'Yes, but only when he comes to the title; and for the others there is absolutely nothing but Arthur's five thousand pounds to be divided among them all.'
'You don't say so, John? Poor little dears! there is scarcely more than a thousand a-piece. Surely, there is my own property--'
'I am sorry to say it was settled so as to go with the title. The only chance for them is what can be saved--'
'Save everything, then,' exclaimed Lady Martindale. 'I am sure I would give up anything, if I did but know what. We have not had leaders for a long time past, and Theodora's dumb boy does as well as the second footman; Standaloft left me because she could not bear to live in a cottage; Grimes suits me very well; and I do not think I could do quite without a maid.'
'No, indeed, my dear mother,' said John, smiling; 'that is the last thing to be thought of. All my father wished to know was, whether it would grieve you if we gave the care of the gardens to somewhat less of a first-rate genius?'
'Not in the least,' said Lady Martindale, emphatically. 'I shall never bear to return to those botanical pursuits. It was for her sake. Dear little Helen and the rest must be the first consideration. Look here! she really has a very good notion of drawing.'
John perceived that his mother was happier than she had ever been, in waiting upon the children, and enjoying the company of Violet, whose softness exactly suited her; while her decision was a comfortable support to one who had all her life been trained round a stake. They drove and walked together; and Lady Martindale, for the first time, was on foot in the pretty lanes of her own village; she had even stopped at cottage doors, when Violet had undertaken a message while Theodora was out with Percy, and one evening she appeared busy with a small lilac frock that Helen imagined herself to be making. Lady Martindale was much too busy with the four black-eyed living blossoms to set her heart on any griffin-headed or monkey-faced orchids; and her lord found that she was one of those who would least be sensible of his reductions. Theodora was continually surprised to see how much more successful than herself Violet was in interesting her, and keeping her cheerful. Perhaps it was owing to her own vehemence; but with the best intentions she had failed in producing anything like the present contentment. And, somehow, Lord and Lady Martindale seemed so much more at ease together, and to have so much more to say to each other, that their Cousin Hugh one day observed, it was their honeymoon.
'I say, John,' said Percy, one night, as they were walking to the vicarage, 'I wish you could find me something to do in the West Indies.'
'I should be very sorry to export you--'
'I must do something!' exclaimed Percy. 'I was thinking of emigration; but your sister could not go in the present state of things here; and she will not hear of my going and returning when I have built a nest for her.'
'No, indeed!' said John. 'Your powers were not given for the hewing
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