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"You are unfair in pressing such an invitation on me," was my rejoinder.
"It is you, not I, who are unfair," he exclaimed. "You are as cynical as a poem by Swift, and will make no allowance for human infirmities which men call passions. I am a father, Maggie, and want to have my child with me."
"A reasonable and natural desire."
"But, though selfish, I am not cruel. I will not allow the little pet to come to me unless he can be properly attended to. But if you came with him he could live with me. I could then enjoy, not only the kisses of my boy, but the society of my sister."
"If I were your sister I should not be so resolute in my refusal. But there this conversation must end. When will you be down again?"
Shortly. Have you any of the money left I gave you ?"
"Certainly I have. Lorton has its failings, but extravagance is not one. I have yet to learn the art, even with the charge of a baby, to spend fifty pounds in so short a time."
"I meant," he said, "to open a banking account for you here. But I have changed my mind. I shall do nothing of the sort. I think I shall even refuse to supply you with money. I shall starve you into compliance with my wishes.'
We were standing in the hall. I met his gaze as I spoke, and there was something in it that dyed my cheeks crimson. Annoyed, irritated with myself for a display of feeling for which there was no substantial cause whatever, I took his hand, shook it, and muttering good-bye, almost ran away. Halfway up the stairs I heard the hall-door bang, and knew that he was gone.
What had I done? I had twice confounded my first confusion by my abrupt leave-taking. And what brought the blood to my cheek? What construction would he place upon my obvious embarrassment? I pressed my hand to my forehead and felt it very hot. I peered into a looking-glass, and saw a heightened colour on my face and a wild unnatural brilliancy in my eyes.
Yet what was I to care for any impression my appearance or my conduct might make upon him? What was this man to me? I pressed my hands tightly across my questioning heart, as if I wanted to suppress, to stifle, the reply that I knew would be vouchsafed to my
Major Rivers did not visit Lorton again for some time. During the interval of his absence I received several letters from him, but in one only did he allude to my living at Newtown. As yet my aunt had received no letter from George. The eagerness with which she awaited the arrival of the post, and the disappointment which followed its
visits or its absence, were of the most strained and painful kind. In vain I endeavoured to show her that by no possibility could she hope to hear from George under six or eight months; to her the laws of geography were neutralised by affection, and she computed, not by distance, but by desire.
Baby, who at the commencement seemed born to astonish time by defying its influence, eventually yielded and grew. But as I got to know more of it, I became more apprehensive of the insecurity of its life. A hint indeed had been given me by the doctor who had vaccinated him; I was enjoined by him to exercise the utmost vigilance against every contingency of illness. I hardly needed the precaution. Nothing was plainer than that the little fellow's constitution rested on a most infirm and precarious basis. I judged that the least attack might prove fatal to him, and devoted my whole attention to seeing that he was properly attended and rightly fed. In justice to the little French nurse, however, I must confess that her own excitable devotion rendered my own care almost supererogatory.
A TALE IN THREE PARTS.
BY RHODA BROUGHTON,
66 AUTHOR OF COMETH UP AS A FLOWER," ETC.
WHAT JEMIMA SAYS.
FI imagine that Lenore's composed cheerfulness and equable serenity are the result of a strain so strong, as to be unable to be kept up beyond one evening, I am mistaken. I find her the same the next morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that. She talks more than usual: ordinarily indeed, she is too lazy to take the trouble of talking merely for the sake of contributing her share to the general stock that forms family conversation, but now she talks resolutely to any one who will talk to her. She lounges away less time than usual in her own room; always she is to be seen in the general sitting-rooms, by all comers and goers, working and reading tranquilly. She drives out with Sylvia to pay morning calls; she walks out with me into the village, carrying broth and jelly. Sometimes I try to surprise her face off guard, to see her features fall into the haggard lines of hopeless angry grief in which I saw them so lately; but I fail; her face seems to be never in dishabille. She actually plays with the children!-gambols which, I confess, remind me of the millennium, when, we are told, the weaned child shall play on the cockatrice's den. On the third day, I am sitting pondering these things in the drawing-room, which Lenore has just left with a light and buoyant tread. Sylvia, with one of her spasmodic fits of maternity upon her, is trying, with alternate peevish coaxings and caressing abuse, to lead, or rather push, pull, and mildly flagellate her offspring along the rosy path of learning. In this case, it is theological
learning, as represented by the 'Peep of Day.' Bobby is leaning against her knee, while in the corner-why such peculiar ignominy should attach to the corners of a room tradition saith not-stands Tommy, committing to memory these soothing lines
"Now if I fight
And scratch and bite,
Where I shall go."
Now and again, as the thought of the gloomy regions whither his iniquities are hurrying him comes home to his mind, he blubbers suppressedly. What amplest enlargement on the horrors of hell could equal that portentous hint ?--
"Full well I know
Where I shall go!"
Sylvia to Bobby: "Has God been kind to dogs?"
His round eyes are fixed on Toby the pug, basking in the fire warmth, and chasing the lively flea through the preserves of his soft fawn hind-quarters, and his mind is wandering from the typical dog of the fable to the actual dog of real life.
"Is the dog's body like yours?"
Bobby (thinking it safe to stick to the affirmative): "Yes."
"The dog's body like yours! What are you thinking of, child? Are you covered all over with black hair, and have you got a big bushy tail?" Bobby glances down uncertainly at his small person, but seeing no caudal appendage, shakes his head.
"Are the chicken's legs like yours?"
Mis. Prodgers is reduced to answering herself from the enlightened page before her: "No, the chicken has very thin dark legs.”
Bobby does not appear sufficiently impressed with gratitude for the essential difference between his own fat chubby supporters and those of the benighted chicken. He is still watching Toby, who has abandoned the flea chase, and runs barking towards the door. "Mother, dear, there is a ring at the door bell."
Prospect of emancipation, and consequent elation of tone. "Nonsense, darling; attend to your lesson. Has the pig a Whether the next word was soul or tail, gizzard or imagination, transpires not.
"But there was, really, mother. I hear Morris going to open the hall door."
Mrs. Prodgers listens. "So there is!"
She jumps up hastily, while the 'Peep of Day,' with all its mingled treasures of piety and natural history, rolls unregarded on the floor, as she stands before the pier-glass, tweaking the black ribbon bow that ornaments her head, and smoothing away the hair behind her ears. By the time the butler's solid footstep is heard nearing the room she is à quatre épingles. The door opens: "Mr. Scrope." My mouth opens too; my jaw falls. The stocking I am knitting tumbles into my lap. "Charlie !" cries Sylvia, with a little scream, half real, half affected, of surprise, running forward, with her hands clasped.
Mr. Scrope enters, looking rather sheepish and somewhat disheveled. There are black marks under his eyes; his yellow curls are tossed and dim; he looks unslept and night-traveled.
"You did not expect to see me, did you?" he says, with a rather embarrassed laugh. "Thought you had got me clear off-that you were rid of me at last? But you see I have turned up again, like a bad sixpence."
"It is a surprise, of course," answers Sylvia, looking modestly down, and fondling Bobby; "but-but quite a pleasant one.
We were getting to hate each other, as only two sisters tête à tête can; were not we, Jemima ?"
His face falls.
Nobody explains: I, from malice, Sylvia from pre-occupation.
"The fact is," continues Scrope, seeing that some explanation is looked for from him, "that I—that I thought-in fact, I found that I could get away for a day or two, so I thought I would run down and look you all up."
Why did not you telegraph? Why not write? I would have sent to meet you?" asks Sylvia, raising her bashful eyes. "What scatterbrained things men are!"
He does not heed her; his eyes are wandering round the room. "Are you looking for Lenore ?" I ask, in a matter-of-fact voice. "She is in the library, writing letters. I will tell her you are here." "Do not," he cries, eagerly, almost pushing me back into my chair. "I will not give you the trouble; I will go and find her myself."
"How very extraordinary!" says Sylvia, as the door closes upon him, smiling consciously, and leaning her elbow on the mantlepiece. "What can have brought him back? I have not the least idea; have you, Jemima? Poor, dear old boy, how pale he looked! I was so glad you were in the room. By-the-by, did I get very red? I felt as if I were turning all the colours of the rainbow."
I do not know; I dare say."
"Be sure you do not leave me alone in the room with him," she continues volubly. "I shall always keep the children with me; there are no better chaperones in the world than children."