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- Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 20/144 -

She smiled, and said something about mamma. 'I don't say you will not make mistakes,' he continued, 'but they will be steps to learn by. Your allowance is not large. It seems only fair to tell you that it may not be sufficient. So, if you find the expenses exceed the week's portion, don't try to scramble on; it will only be discomfort at the time, and will lead to worse. Go boldly to Arthur, and make him attend; it is the only way to peace and security.'

'I see,' said Violet, thoughtfully. 'Oh, I hope I shall do right. One thing I should like. I mean, I thought one ought to set apart something for giving away.'

'That is one use in reserving something for yourself,' said John, in his kindest manner. 'Of the rest, you are only Arthur's steward.'

'Yes, I hope I shall manage well.'

'You will if you keep your present frame of mind.'

'But I am so young and ignorant. I did not think enough about it when I was married,' said Violet, sorrowfully, 'and how it seems all to come on me. To have all his comfort and the well-being of a whole house depending on such as I am.'

'I can only say one thing in answer, Violet, what I know was the best comfort to one who, without it, would have sunk under the weight of responsibility.' His whole countenance altered, his voice gave way, a distressing fit of coughing came on, the colour flushed into his face, and he pressed his hand on his chest. Violet was frightened, but it presently ceased, and after sitting for a few moments, exhausted, with his head resting on his hand, he took up the pencil, and wrote down-- 'As thy day, so shall thy strength be'--pushed it towards her, and slowly left the room.

Violet shed a few tears over the paper, and was the more grieved when she heard of his being confined to his room by pain in the side. She told Arthur what had passed. 'Ah! poor John,' he said, 'he never can speak of Helen, and any agitation that brings on that cough knocks him up for the rest of the day. So he has been trying to "insense" you, has he? Very good-natured of him.'

'I am so grieved. I was afraid it would be painful to him. But what was the responsibility he spoke of?'

'Looking after her grandfather, I suppose. He was imbecile all the latter part of his life. Poor John, they were both regularly sacrificed.'

John took the opportunity of a visit from his father that afternoon to tell him how much good sense and right feeling Violet had shown, and her reluctance to appropriate to herself what he had insisted on as absolutely necessary.

'That is only inexperience, poor girl,' said Lord Martindale. 'She does not know what she will want. If it is not confidential, I should like to know what she allows herself.'

John mentioned the sum.

'That is mere nonsense!' exclaimed his father. 'It is not half as much as Theodora has! And she living in London, and Arthur making such a point about her dress. I thought you knew better, John!'

'I knew it was very little, but when I considered the rest, I did not see how she could contrive to give herself more.'

'There must be some miscalculation,' said Lord Martindale. 'There is not the least occasion for her to be straitened. You thought yourself the allowance was ample.'

'That it is; but you know Arthur has been used to expensive habits.'

'More shame for him.'

'But one can hardly expect him to reduce at once. I do think he is sincere in his promises, but he will be careless, even in ordinary expenditure. I don't say this is what ought to be, but I fear it will be. All the prudence and self-denial must be upon her side.'

'And that from a girl of sixteen, universally admired! What a business it is! Not that I blame her, poor thing, but I don't see what is to become of them.'

The conversation was not without results. Lord Martindale, some little time after, put into Violet's hand an envelope, telling her she must apply the contents to her own use; and she was astounded at finding it a cheque for L100. He was going to London, with both his sons, to choose a house for Arthur, and to bid farewell to John, who was warned, by a few chilly days, to depart for a winter in Madeira.

Violet was, during her husband's absence, to be left at Rickworth; and in the last week she had several other presents, a splendid dressing- case from Lady Martindale, containing more implements than she knew how to use, also the print of Lalla Rookh; and even little Miss Piper had spent much time and trouble on a very ugly cushion. Theodora declared her present should be useful, and gave all the household linen, for the purpose of having it hemmed by her school-children;--and this, though she and Miss Piper sat up for three nights till one o'clock to hasten it, was so far from ready, that Captain and Mrs. Martindale would have begun the world without one table-cloth, if old Aunt Moss had not been hemming for them ever since the day of Arthur's proposal.

Theodora was weary and impatient of the conflict of influence, and glad to be left to her own pursuits, while she thought that, alone with Violet, Arthur must surely be brought to a sense of his mistake.

Violet's heart bounded at the prospect of a renewal of the happy days at Winchester, and of a release from the restraint of Martindale, and the disappointment of making no friends with the family,--Mr. Martindale was the only one of them with whom she was sorry to part; and she had seen comparatively little of him. Indeed, when the three gentlemen set out, she thought so much of Arthur's being away for a week, that she could not care for John's voyage to Madeira, and looked preoccupied when he affectionately wished her good-bye, telling her to watch for him in the spring,--her house would be his first stage on his return. Then, as he saw her clinging to Arthur to the last moment, and coming down with him to the bottom of the long steps, he thought within himself, 'And by that time there will be some guessing how much strength and stability there is with all that sweetness, and she will have proved how much there is to trust to in his fondness!'

There was not much time for bewailing the departures before Emma Brandon came to claim her guest; and the drive was pleasant enough to make Violet shake off her depression, and fully enjoy the arrival at Rickworth, which now bore an aspect so much more interesting than on her former drive.

The wooded hills in the first flush of autumn beauty sloped softly down to the green meadows, and as the carriage crossed the solid-looking old stone bridge, Violet exclaimed with transport, at a glimpse she caught of a gray ruin--the old priory! She was so eager to see it that she and Emma left the carriage at the park gate, and walked thither at once.

Little of the building remained, only a few of the cloister arches, and the stumps of broken columns to mark the form of the chapel; but the arch of the west window was complete, and the wreaths of ivy hid its want of tracery, while a red Virginian creeper mantled the wall. All was calm and still, the greensward smooth and carefully mown, not a nettle or thistle visible, but the floriated crosses on the old stone coffin lids showing clearly above the level turf, shaded by a few fine old trees, while the river glided smoothly along under the broad floating water-lily leaves, and on its other side the green lawn was repeated, cattle quietly grazing on the rich pasture, shut in by the gently rising woods. The declining sun cast its long shadows, and all was peace,--the only sounds, the robin's note and the ripple of the stream.

Violet stood with her hands resting on Emma's arm, scarcely daring to break the silence. 'How lovely!' said she, after a long interval. 'O Emma, how fond you must be of this place!'

'Yes, it is beautiful,' said Emma, but with less satisfaction than Violet expected.

'It is worth all the gardens at Martindale.'

'To be sure it is,' said Emma, indignantly.

'It puts me in mind of St. Cross.'

'But St. Cross is alive, not a ruin,' said Emma, with a sigh, and she asked many questions about it, while showing Violet the chief points of interest, where the different buildings had been, and the tomb of Osyth, the last prioress. Her whole manner surprised Violet, there was a reverence as if they were actually within a church, and more melancholy than pleasure in the possession of what, nevertheless, the young heiress evidently loved with all her heart.

Turning away at length, they crossed the park, and passed through the garden, which was gay with flowers, though much less magnificent than Mr. Harrison's. Emma said, mamma was a great gardener, and accordingly they found her cutting off flowers past their prime. She gave Violet a bouquet of geranium and heliotrope, and conducted her to her room with that motherly kindness and solicitude so comfortable to a lonely guest in a strange house.

Not that the house could long seem strange to Violet. It was an atmosphere of ease, where she could move and speak without feeling on her good behaviour. Everything throughout was on an unpretending scale, full of comfort, and without display, with a regularity and punctuality that gave a feeling of repose.

Violet was much happier than she had thought possible without Arthur, though her pleasures were not such as to make a figure in history. There were talks and walks, drives and visits to the school, readings and discussions, and the being perfectly at home and caressed by mother and daughter. Lady Elizabeth had all the qualities that are better than intellect, and enough of that to enter into the pursuits of cleverer people. Emma had more ability, and so much enthusiasm, that it was well that it was chastened by her mother's sound sense, as well as kept under by her own timidity.

It was not till Violet was on the point of departure that she knew the secret of Emma's heart. The last Sunday evening before Arthur was to fetch her away, she begged to walk once more to the Priory, and have another look at it. 'I think,' said she, 'it will stay in my mind like Helvellyn in the distance.'

Emma smiled, and soon they stood in the mellow light of the setting

Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 20/144

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