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- The Long Vacation - 3/58 -

Letters followed, and told how Robina had found her sobbing upon her brother Felix's grave. Her explanation was, that on the very night before her proposed betrothal, she had dreamt that she was drifting down the Ewe in the little boat Miss Ullin, and saw Felix under the willow-tree holding out his bared arms to her. She said, "Is that the scar of the scald?" and his only answer was the call "Angela! Angela!" and with the voice still sounding in her ears, she awoke, and determined instantly to obey the call, coming to her, as she felt, from another world. If it were only from her own conscience, still it was a cause of great thankfulness to her family, and she soon made herself very valuable at Vale Leston in a course of epidemics which ran through the village, and were in some cases very severe. The doctors declared that two of the little Vanderkists owed their lives to her unremitting care.

Her destiny seemed to be fixed, and she went off radiant to be trained at a London hospital as a nurse. Her faculty in that line was undoubted. All the men in her ward were devoted to her, and so were almost all the young doctors; but the matron did not like her, and at the end of the three years, an act of independent treatment of a patient caused a tremendous commotion, all the greater because many outsiders declared that she was right. But it almost led to a general expulsion of lady nurses.

Of course she had to retire, and happily for her, Mother Constance was just at that time sentenced by her rheumatism to spend the winter in a warm climate. She eagerly claimed Angela's tendance, and just at the end of the year there came an urgent request for a Sister from England to form a foundation in one of the new cities of Australia on the model of St. Faith's; and thither Mother Constance proceeded, with one Sister and Angela, who had thenceforth gone on so well and quietly that her family hoped the time for Angela's periodical breaking out had passed.

The ensuing years had been tranquil as to family events, though the various troubles and perplexities that fell on Clement were endless, both those parochial and ritualistic, and those connected with the Vanderkist affairs, where his sister did not spare him her murmurs. Fulbert's death in Australia was a blow both to Lancelot and to him, though they had never had much hope of seeing this brother again. He had left the proceeds of his sheep-farm between Lancelot, Bernard, and Angela.

Thus had passed about fourteen years since the death of Felix, when kind old Mr. Grinstead died suddenly at a public meeting, leaving his widow well endowed, and the possessor of her pretty home at Brompton. When, soon after the blow, her sisters took her to the home at Vale Leston, she had seemed oppressed by the full tide of young life overflowing there, and as if she again felt the full force of the early sorrow in the loss that she had once said made Vale Leston to her a desolation. On her return to Brompton, she had still been in a passive state, as though the taste of life had gone from her, and there was nothing to call forth her interest or energy. The first thing that roused her was the dangerous illness of her brother Clement, the result of blood-poisoning during a mission week in a pestilential locality, after a long course of family worries and overwork in his parish. Low, lingering fever had threatened every organ in turn, till in the early days of January, a fatal time in the family, he was almost despaired of. However, Dr. Brownlow and Lancelot Underwood had strength of mind to run the risk, with the earnest co-operation of Professor Tom May, of a removal to Brompton, where he immediately began to mend, so that he was in April decidedly convalescent, though with doubts as to a return to real health, nor had he yet gone beyond his dressing-room, since any exertion was liable to cause fainting.


The blessing of my later years Was with me when a boy.-—WORDSWORTH.

When Mrs. Grinstead, on her nephew's arm, came into her drawing-room after dinner, she was almost as much dismayed as pleased to find a long black figure in a capacious arm-chair by the fire.

"You adventurous person," she said, "how came you here?"

"I could not help it, with the prospect of Lancey boy," he said in smiling excuse, holding out a hand in greeting to Gerald, and thanking Anna, who brought a cushion.

"Hark! there he is!" and Gerald and Anna sprang forward, but were only in time to open the room door, when there was a double cry of greeting, not only of the slender, bright-eyed, still youthful- looking uncle, but of the pleasant face of his wife. She exclaimed as Lancelot hung over his brother—-

"Indeed, I would not have come but that I thought he was still in his room."

"That's a very bad compliment, Gertrude, when I have just made my escape."

"I shall be too much for you," said Gertrude. "Here, children, take me off somewhere."

"To have some dinner," said Geraldine, her hand on the bell.

"No, no, Marilda feasted me."

"Then don't go," entreated Clement. "It is a treat to look at you two sunny people."

"Let us efface ourselves, and be seen and not heard," returned Gertrude, sitting down between Gerald and Anna on a distant couch, whence she contemplated the trio-—Clement, of course, with the extreme pallor, languor, and emaciation of long illness, with a brow gaining in dignity and expression by the loss of hair, and with a look of weary, placid enjoyment as he listened to the talk of the other two; Lance with bright, sweet animation and cheeriness, still young-looking, though his hair too was scantier and his musical tones subdued; and Geraldine, pensive in eye and lip, but often sparkling up with flashes of her inborn playfulness, and, like Clement, resting in the sunshine diffused by Lance. This last was the editor and proprietor of the 'Pursuivant', an important local paper, and had come up on journalistic business as well as for the fete. Gertrude meantime had been choosing carpets and curtains.

"For," said Lance, with a smack of exultation, "we are actually going back to our old quarters over the shop."

"Oh!" A responsive sound of satisfaction from Geraldine.

"Nothing amiss?" asked Clement.

"Far from it. We let Marshlands to great advantage, and there are many reasons for the flitting. I ought to be at head-quarters, and besides there are the Sundays. We are too many now for picnicking in the class-room, or sponging on the rectory."

"And," said Gertrude, "I dare not put his small family in competition with his organ."

"Besides," said Lance, "the 'Pursuivant' is more exacting, and the printing Will Harewood's books has brought in more business—-"

"But how about space? We could squeeze, but can you?"

"We have devoured our two next-door neighbours. There's for you! You know Pratt the dentist had a swell hall-door and staircase, which we absorb, so we shall not eat in the back drawing-room, nor come up the flight which used to be so severe on you, Cherry."

"I can only remember the arms that helped me up. I have never left off dreaming of the dear old step springing up the stair after the day's work, and the whistle to Theodore."

"Ah, those were the jolly old days!" returned Lance, con amore.

"Unbroken," added Clement, in the same tone.

"Better than Vale Leston?" asked Gertrude.

"The five years there were, as Felix called those last hours of delight, halcyon days," said Geraldine; "but the real home was in the rough and the smooth, the contrivances, the achievements, the exultation at each step on the ladder, the flashes of Edgar, the crowded holiday times-—all happier than we knew! I hope your children will care as much."

"Vale Leston is their present paradise," said Gertrude. "You should see Master Felix's face at the least hope of a visit, and even little Fulbert talks about boat and fish."

"What have you done with the Lambs?" demanded Clement.

"They have outgrown the old place in every direction, and have got a spick-and-span chess-board of a villa out on the Minsterham road."

"They have not more children than you have."

"Five Lambkins to our four, besides Gussy and Killy," said Lance; "though A-—which is all that appears of the great Achilles' unlucky name—-is articled to Shapcote, and as for Gussy, or rather Mr. Tanneguy, he is my right hand."

"We thought him a nice sort of youth when he was improving himself in London," said Clement.

"You both were very good to him," said Lance, "and those three years were not wasted. He is a far better sub-editor and reporter than I was at his age, with his French wit and cleverness. The only fault I find with him is that he longs for plate-glass and flummery instead of old Froggatt's respectable panes."

"He has become the London assistant, who was our bugbear," said Geraldine.

"I don't know how we should get on without him since we made 'Pur' daily," said Lance.

"How old ambitions get realized!" said Geraldine.

"Does his mother endure the retail work, or has she not higher views

The Long Vacation - 3/58

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