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- Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 5/144 -

how to keep house, and I never could, for he was always coming to take me to walk in the park. And it all happened so fast, I had no time to understand it, nor to talk to mamma and Matilda. And then mamma cried so much! I don't feel to understand it now, but soon perhaps I shall have more quiet time. I should like to have waited till Lord Martindale came home, but they said that could not be, because his leave of absence would be over. I did wish very much though that Miss Martindale could have left her aunt to come to our wedding.'

John found reply so difficult, that he was glad to be interrupted by Arthur's return. He soon after set out to call upon Captain Fitzhugh, who had been at Wrangerton with Arthur.

From him more of the circumstances were gathered. Mr. Moss was the person universally given up to reprobation. 'A thorough schemer,' said the Irish captain. As to the Miss Mosses, they were lady-like girls, most of them pretty, and everywhere well spoken of. In fact, John suspected he had had a little flirtation on his own account with some of them, though he took credit to himself for having warned his friend to be careful. He ended with a warm-hearted speech, by no means displeasing to John, hoping he would make the best of it with Lord Martindale, for after all, she was as pretty a creature as could be seen, one that any man might be proud of for a daughter-in-law; and to his mind it was better than leaving the poor girl to break her heart after him when it had gone so far.

Arthur himself was in a more rational mood that evening. He had at first tried to hide his embarrassment by bravado; but he now changed his tone, and as soon as Violet had left the dining-room, began by an abrupt inquiry, 'What would you have me do?'

'Why don't you write to my father!'

Arthur writhed. 'I suppose it must come to that,' he said; 'but tell me first the state of things.'

'You could not expect that there would not be a good deal of indignation.'

'Ay, ay! How did you get the news? Did Theodora tell you?'

'No; there was a letter from Colonel Harrington; and at home they knew the circumstances pretty correctly through a cousin of Wingfield's, who has a curacy in that neighbourhood.'

'Oh! that was the way Theodora came by the news. I wish he had let alone telling her,--I could have managed her alone;--but there! it was not in human nature not to tell such a story, and it did not much matter how it was done. Well, and my aunt is furious, I suppose, but I'll take care of her and of my lady. I only want to know how my father takes it.'

'He cannot endure the notion of a family feud; but the first step must come from you.'

'Very well:--and so you came to set it going. It is very good-natured of you, John. I depended on you or Theodora for helping me through, but I did not think you would have come in this way. I am glad you have, for now you have seen her you can't say a word against it.'

'Against her, certainly not. I have made acquaintance with her this morning, and--and there is everything to interest one in her:' and then, as Arthur looked delighted, and was ready to break into a rhapsody--'Her simplicity especially. When you write you had better mention her entire ignorance of the want of sanction. I cannot think how she was kept in such unconsciousness.'

'She knows nothing of people's ways,' said Arthur. 'She knew you were all abroad, and her own family told her it was all right. Her father is a bit of a tyrant, and stopped the mother's mouth, I fancy, if she had any doubts. As to herself, it was much too pretty to see her so happy, to let her set up her little scruples. She did just as she was told, like a good child.'

'O Arthur! you have undertaken a great responsibility!' exclaimed John.

But Arthur, without seeming to heed, continued, 'So you see she is quite clear; but I'll write, and you shall see if it is not enough to satisfy my father, before he sets us going respectably.'

'I can't answer for anything of that sort.'

'Something he must do,' said Arthur, 'for my allowance is not enough to keep a cat; and as to the ninth part of old Moss's pickings and stealings, if I meant to dirty my fingers with it, it won't be to be come by till he is disposed of, and that won't be these thirty years.'

'Then, he let you marry without settling anything on her!'

'He was glad to have her off his hands on any terms. Besides, to tell you the truth, John, I am convinced he had no notion you would ever come home again. He knew I saw his game, and dreaded I should be off; so he and I were both of one mind, to have it over as soon as possible.'

'I only hope you will make her happy!' said John, earnestly.

'Happy!' exclaimed Arthur, surprised, 'small doubt of that! What should prevent me?'

'I think you will find you must make some sacrifices.'

'It all depends on my father,' said Arthur, a little crossly, and taking his writing-case from another table.

He was so well pleased with his performance that, as soon as he was alone with Violet, he began, 'There, I've done it! John said it could not be better, and after the impression you have made, no fear but he will pacify the great folks.'

She was perplexed. 'Who?' said she; 'not Lord and Lady Martindale? Oh! surely I have not done anything to displease them.'

'You must have been ingenious if you had.'

'Pray, do tell me! Why are they to be pacified? What is the matter? Do they think they shan't like me? Ought I to do anything?'

'My little bird, don't twitter so fast. You have asked a dozen questions in a breath.'

'I wish you would tell me what it means,' said Violet, imploringly.

'Well, I suppose you must know sooner or later. It only means that they are taken by surprise.'

Violet gazed at him in perplexity, then, with a dawning perception, 'Oh! surely you don't mean they did not approve of it.'

'Nobody asked them,' said Arthur, carelessly, then as she turned away, covering her face with her hands, 'But it is nothing to take to heart in that way. I am my own master, you know, you silly child, and you had plenty of consent, and all that sort of thing, to satisfy you, so you are quite out of the scrape.'

She scarcely seemed to hear.

'Come, come, Violet, this won't do,' he continued, putting his arm round her, and turning her towards him, while he pulled down her hands. 'This is pretty usage. You can't help it now if you would.'

'Oh! Mr. Martindale!'

'Ah! you don't know what I have saved you. I was not going to see all that pink paint worn off those cheeks, nor your life and my own wasted in waiting for them to bring their minds to it. I have seen enough of that. Poor John there--'

'How?--what?' said Violet, with alarmed curiosity.

'She died,' said Arthur.

'How long ago? What was her name?'

'Helen Fotheringham. She was our old parson's daughter. They waited eight years, and she died last summer. I see he wears his mourning still.'

Violet looked aghast, and spoke low. 'How very sad! Helen! That was the reason he looked up when he heard it was my name. Poor Mr. John Martindale! I saw the crape on his hat. Was that what made him so ill?'

'It nearly killed him last year, but he never had lungs good for anything. First, my aunt set my father against it, and when he gave in, she had a crabbed decrepit old grandfather, and between them they were the death of her, and almost of him. I never thought he would rally again.'

'Only last year?' exclaimed Violet. 'O dear! and there have I been telling him all about--about this spring. I would not have done it, if I had known. I thought he looked melancholy sometimes. Oh! I wish I had not.'

'You did, did you?' said Arthur, much amused. 'You chatterbox.'

'Oh! I am so sorry. I wish--'

'No, no, he only liked you the better for it. I assure you, Violet, he almost said so. Then that was what made him lay such stress on your being an innocent little victim.'

'Would you be so kind as to explain it to me?' said Violet, in such serious distress that he answered with less trifling than usual, 'There is nothing to tell. I knew how it would be if I asked leave, so I took it. That's all.'

'And--and surely they didn't know this at home?'

'The less said about that the better, Violet,' said Arthur. 'You are all right, you know, and in great favour with John. He can do anything with my father, and I have written. We shall be at home before the end of another month, and set going with a decent income in London. A house--where shall it be? Let me see, he can't give me less than L1000 a year, perhaps L1600. I vow I don't see why it should not be L2000. John wants no more than he has got, and will never marry now, and there is only Theodora. I was always my aunt's favourite, and if you mind what you are about we shall have our share of the old sugar-planter's hoards, better than the Barbuda property--all niggers and losses. I wash my hands of it, though by rights it should come to the second

Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 5/144

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