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- Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 6/144 -
Neither understanding nor heeding all this, Violet interrupted by gasping out, 'Oh! I am so grieved.'
'Grieved!--say that again. Grieved to be Mrs. Arthur Martindale?'
'O no, no; but--'
'Grieved to have found such a fool as to risk everything, and run counter to all his friends for the sake of that silly little ungrateful face?'
She was coaxed out of vexation for the present; but she awoke the next morning with a feeling of culpability and dread of all the Martindale family.
John could not understand her altered manner and the timid bashfulness, greater than even at their first meeting. In fact, the history of his grief inspired her with a sort of reverential compassion for him, and the perception of the terms on which she stood, made her laugh of yesterday seem to her such unbecoming levity, that upon it she concentrated all her vague feelings of contrition.
When he came as before, to borrow some ink, as she gave it to him her hand shook, and her colour rose. After standing musing a little while, she said, mournfully, 'I am very sorry!'
'What is the matter?' said he, kindly.
'I am so vexed at what I did yesterday!'
'What do you mean?'
'For laughing,' said she, in a tone of distress. 'Indeed, indeed, I did not know,' and though she averted her face, he saw that the crimson had spread to her neck. He did not at once reply, and she went on incoherently. 'I did not know--I could not guess. Of course--I wondered at it all. I knew I was not fit--but they never told me--O, I am so much grieved.'
Most soothingly did John say, coming towards her, 'No, no, you need not distress yourself. No one can blame you.'
'But Lord Martindale'--she murmured.
'He will look on you like a daughter. I know I may promise you that. Yes, indeed, I have no doubt of it, my dear little sister,' he repeated, as she looked earnestly at him. 'I have told him how entirely you deserve his kindness and affection, and Arthur has written, such a letter as will be sure to bring his forgiveness.'
'Ah!' said Violet, 'it is all for my sake. No wonder they should be angry.'
'Don't fancy that any one is angry with you. We all know that you were ignorant how matters stood.'
'But I should have done the same if I had known. I could not have helped it,' said Violet.
'I know,' said John, 'no one could expect it of you. Arthur told me at once that you were free from any shadow of blame, and no one thinks of imputing any.'
'But are they very much displeased?' said poor Violet.
'Of course,' said John, after a little consideration, 'it was a shock to hear of such an important step being taken without my father's knowledge; but he is very anxious there should be no estrangement, and I am sure he will behave as if things had gone on in the usual course. You may have great confidence in his kindness, Violet.'
She was somewhat reassured, and presently went on--'I don't wonder they are vexed. I know how much beneath him I am, but I could not help that. Oh! I wish Matilda was here to tell me how to behave, that every one may not be ashamed of me and angry with him.'
'Don't be frightened' said John, 'you have pleased two of the family already; you know, and depend upon it, you will make them all like you in time as much as I do.'
'If YOU can overlook that laugh!' said Violet.
'I could say I liked you the better for it,' said John, pleasantly; 'only I don't know whether it would be a safe precedent. It has made us feel well acquainted, I hope. Don't make a stranger of me,' he continued, 'don't forget that we are brother and sister.
'I'm sure,'--and she broke off, unable to express herself; then added, 'Lady Martindale! I was frightened before at the thought of her, but it is much worse now.'
'You must not frighten yourself. You will find out how kind she is when you come to know her, and soon get over your first strangeness and shyness.'
'And there is your sister,' said Violet; 'Theodora--I do long to see her. Is she most like you or your brother?'
'Remarkably like him. She always makes children very fond of her,' he added, pausing to find something safe and yet encouraging; 'but I don't know half as much of her as Arthur does. We have not been as much together as I could wish.'
'I see now why she never wrote,' said Violet, with some shame, and yet glad to have it accounted for. 'But she will be sure to help me, and tell me how to behave. She will want them to be able to bear me for his sake.'
Without much reply, he applied himself to his letter, feeling that he could hardly give an impartial judgment. It had been a great effort to come to visit the bridal pair, but he found himself rewarded in a way he had not expected by the new pleasure given him by her engaging ways, her freshness and artlessness rousing him from long-continued depression of spirits.
After some pondering, she suddenly looked up, and exclaimed, 'Well, I'll try!'
'Try what, Violet!'
'I'll try to do my very best!' said she, cheerfully, though the tears still were in her eyes. 'I know I shall make mistakes, and I can never be like a great lady; but I'll do the best I can, if they will only bear with me, and not be angry with him.'
'I am sure you will do well, with such resolutions.'
'One thing I am glad of,' added she, 'that we came here just now. That old cathedral! I did not think much before--it was all strange and new, and I was too happy. But I shall never be so thoughtless now--or if I am! O, I know,' she exclaimed, with renewed energy, 'I'll buy one of those pretty white cups with views of the cathedral on them. Did you not see them in the shop-window? That will put me in mind if I am going to be careless of all my resolutions.'
'Resolutions so made are likely to be kept,' said John, and she presently left the room, recollecting that her store of biscuits needed replenishing before luncheon. She was putting on her bonnet to go to order them, when a doubt seized her whether she was transgressing the dignities of the Honourable Mrs. Martindale. Matilda had lectured against vulgarity when Arthur had warned her against ultra-gentility, and she wavered, till finding there was no one to send, her good sense settled the question. She walked along, feeling the cares and troubles of life arising on her, and thinking she should never again be gay and thoughtless, when she suddenly heard her husband's voice--'Ha! whither away so fast!' and he and Captain Fitzhugh overtook her.
'I was going into the town on an errand.'
'Just the moment I wanted you. There's a cricket match in the College Meads. Come along.'
And with her arm in his, Violet's clouds vanished, and she had no recollection of anxieties or vexations. The summer sky was overhead, the river shone blue and bright, the meadows smiled in verdure, the whole scene was full of animation, and the game, of which she knew nothing, was made charming by Arthur's explanations. Nearly an hour had passed before she bethought herself of suggesting it was almost time to go home.
'Presently,' said Arthur, 'let us see this fellow out.'
Another ten minutes. 'Would you look at your watch please? There's your brother waiting for his luncheon.'
'O, ay, 'tis nearly time,' and he was again absorbed. She thought he would not be pleased if she went home alone, nor was she sure of the way; so she waited in much annoyance, till at length he said, 'Now, Violet,' and they walked briskly home, all that she had endured passing entirely out of her mind.
She rejoiced to find Mr. Martindale unconscious that it was not far from two o'clock. He said he had been glad of time to finish his letters, and Arthur, as his eye fell on one of them, asked, 'What is Percy doing now?'
'He has been in Anatolia, going over some of the places we saw together. He has made some discoveries about the Crusades, and is thinking of publishing some of his theories.'
'Did I not hear of his writing something before this?'
'Yes; he sent some curious histories of the eastern Jews to some magazine. They are to be published separately, as they have been very successful; but I am glad this book is to be what he calls "self- contained." He is too good to be wasted upon periodicals.'
Violet, curious to know who was this literary correspondent, glanced at the letter, and read the address, to 'Antony Percival Fotheringham, Esquire, British Embassy, Constantinople.' She started to find it was the surname of that lost betrothed of whom she thought with an undefinable reverent pity.
All speculations were put to flight, however, by the entrance of the luncheon tray, containing nothing but slices of cold mutton and bread and butter. With a grievous look of dismay, and lamentable exclamation, she began to pour out explanations and apologies, but the gentlemen seemed too intent on conversing about Mr. Fotheringham either
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