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- Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 3/144 -


put a dog to sleep in, and when we got there we found the house turned out of window for a ball, all the partitions down on the first floor, and we driven into holes to be regaled with distant fiddle-squeak. So Fitzhugh's Irish blood was up for a dance, and I thought I might as well give in to it, for the floor shook so that there was no taking a cigar in peace. So you see the stars ordained it, and it is of no use making a row about one's destiny,' concluded Arthur, in a sleepy voice, ceasing to spin the chair.

'That was your first introduction?'

'Ay. After that, one was meeting the Mosses for ever; indeed, we had to call on the old fellow to get leave for fishing in that water of Lord St. Erme's. He has a very pretty sort of little place out of the town close to the park, and--and somehow the weather was too bright for any sport, and the stream led by their garden.'

'I perceive,' said John.

'Well, I saw I was in for it, and had nothing for it but to go through with it. Anything for a quiet life.'

'A new mode of securing it,' said John, indignant at his nonchalance.

'There you don't display your wonted sagacity,' returned Arthur coolly. 'You little know what I have gone through on your account. If you had been sound-winded, you would have saved me no end of persecution.'

'You have not avoided speculation as it is,' John could not help saying.

'I beg to observe that you are mistaken. Old Moss is as cunning a fox as ever lived; but I saw his game, and without my own good-will he might have whistled for me. I saw what he was up to, and let him know it, but as I was always determined that when I married it should be to please myself, not my aunt, I let things take their course and saved the row at home.'

'I am sure she knew nothing of this.'

'She? Bless you, poor child. She is as innocent as a lamb, and only thinks me all the heroes in the world.'

'She did not know my father was ignorant of it?'

'Not she. She does not know it to this day.' John sat thinking; Arthur twirled the chair, then said, 'That is the fact. I suppose my aunt had a nice story for you.'

'It agreed in the main with yours.'

'I was unlucky,' said Arthur, 'I meant to have brought her home before my aunt and Theodora had any news of it. I could have got round them that way, but somehow Theodora got scent of it, and wrote me a furious letter, full of denunciation--two of them--they hunted me everywhere, so I saw it was no use going there.'

'She is much hurt at your letter. I can see that she is, though she tries to hide her feelings. She was looking quite pale when we came home, and I can hardly bear to see the struggle to look composed when you are mentioned.'

This evidently produced some compunction, but Arthur tried to get rid of it. 'I am sure there was nothing to take to heart in it--was there, John?'

'I don't know. She had burnt it without letting any one see it; and it was only through my aunt that we learnt that she had received it.'

'Well! her temper is up, and I am sorry for it,' said Arthur. 'I forget what I said. I dare say it was no more than she deserved. I got one of these remonstrances of hers at Wrangerton, on the day before, and another followed me a couple of days after to Matlock, so I could not have that going on for ever, and wrote off to put a stop to it. But what does his lordship say?'

'Do you wish him to forgive or not?' said his brother, nearly out of patience.

'Of course--I knew he would, he can't leave us with nothing to live on. There's nothing to be done but to go through the forms, and I am quite ready. Come, what's the use of looking intensely disgusted? Now you have seen her, you don't expect me to profess that I am very sorry, and "will never do so no more."'

'I say nothing against her, but the way of doing it.'

'So much trouble saved. Besides, I tell you I am ready to make whatever apology my father likes for a preliminary.'

His brother looked vexed, and dropped the conversation, waiting to see more of the bride before he should form an opinion.

It was seeing rather than hearing, for she was in much awe of him, blushed more than she spoke, and seemed taken up by the fear of doing something inappropriate, constantly turning wistful inquiring looks towards her husband, to seek encouragement or direction, but it was a becoming confusion, and by no means lessened the favourable impression.

'The next morning Arthur was engaged, and left her to be the guide to the cathedral, whereat she looked shy and frightened, but Mr. Martindale set himself to re-assure her, and the polished gentleness of his manner soon succeeded.

They stood on the hill, overlooking the town and the vale of Itchen, winding away till lost between the green downs that arose behind their crested neighbour, St. Catherine's Hill, and in the valley beneath reposed the gray cathedral's lengthened nave and square tower, its lesser likeness, St. Cross, and the pinnacles of the College tower.

'A very pretty view,' said Mr. Martindale.

'The old buildings are very fine, but it is not like our own hills.'

'No, it is hard on Hampshire downs to compare them to Cumberland mountains.'

'But it is so sunny and beautiful,' said the bright young bride. 'See the sunshine on the green meadows, and the haymaking. Oh! I shall always love it.' John heard a great deal of happiness in those words. 'I never saw a cathedral before,' she added.

'Have you been over this one?'

'Yes, but it will be such a treat to go again. One can't take a quarter of it in at once.'

'No, it takes half a lifetime to learn a cathedral properly.'

'It is a wonderful thing,' she said, with the same serious face; then, changing her tone to one of eagerness, 'I want to find Bishop Fox's tomb, for he was a north-country bishop.'

John smiled. 'You are perfect in the cathedral history.'

'I bought a little book about it.'

Her knowledge was, he found, in a girlish state of keen interest, and not deficient, but what pleased him best was that, as they entered and stood at the west door, looking down the whole magnificent length of nave, choir, and chapel, the embowed roof high above, sustained on massive pillars, she uttered a low murmur of 'beautiful!' and there was a heart-felt expression of awe and reverence on her face, a look as of rapt thought, chased away in a moment by his eye, and giving place to quiet pensiveness. After the service they went over the building; but though eager for information, the gravity did not leave her, nor did she speak at once when they emerged into the Close.

'It is very impressive,' said John.

'I suppose you have seen a great many cathedrals?'

'Yes, many foreign ones, and a few English.'

'I wonder whether seeing many makes one feel the same as seeing one.'

'How do you mean?'

'I do not think I could ever care for another like this one.'

'As your first?'

'Yes; it has made me understand better what books say about churches, and their being like--'

'Like?'

She changed her sentence. 'It makes one think, and want to be good.'

'It is what all truly beautiful things should do' said John.

'Oh! I am glad you say so,' exclaimed Violet. 'It is like what Annette and I have wondered about--I mean why fine statues or pictures, or anything of that kind, should make one feel half sad and half thoughtful when one looks at them long.'

'Perhaps because it is a straining after the only true beauty.'

'I must tell Annette that. It was she that said it was so,' said Violet; 'and we wondered Greek statues gave one that feeling, but I see it must be the reason.'

'What statues have you seen?'

'Those at Wrangerton House. Lord St. Erme is always sending cases home, and it is such a festival day to go up and see them unpacked, and Caroline and Annette go and take drawings, and I like to wander about the rooms, and look at everything,' said Violet, growing talkative on the theme of home. 'There is one picture I like above all, but that is a sacred subject, so no wonder it should have that feeling in it.'

'What is it?'

'It is a Madonna,' she said, lowering her voice. 'A stiff old- fashioned one, in beautiful, bright, clear colouring. The Child is reaching out to embrace a little cross, and his Mother holds him towards it with such a sad but such a holy face, as if she foreboded all, and was ready to bear it.'

'Ah! that Ghirlandajo?'


Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 3/144

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