Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife is a Webnovel produced by Charlotte M. Yonge.
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‘My dear, she is a very nice amiable girl–just your own age, and admirably brought up.’
‘Granted,’ said Theodora.
‘I cannot see that Emma Brandon wants anything but style and confidence,’ proceeded Lady Martindale, ‘and that I believe to be entirely poor Lady Elizabeth’s fault for keeping her so much in retirement. That German finishing governess, Miss Ohnglaube, whom we were so sorry to lose, would have been the person to teach her a little freedom and readiness of manner. I wish we could have kept her a little longer.’
‘I told Lady Elizabeth about her,’ said Theodora; but Lady Martindale, without hearing, said she must go to her aunt, and renewing injunctions to Violet to be ready by three, left the room.
‘You did not astonish her weak mind with the ghost story?’ said Arthur.
‘With its cause.’
‘You would not have thought, Violet,’ continued Arthur, ‘that we had a ghost in the north wing.’
‘What was it?’ said Violet. ‘You don’t mean really?’
‘Only a Turk’s-head broom, with phosphorus eyes, and a sheet round the handle,’ said Theodora. ‘It had a grand effect when Arthur stood on the second landing-place, and raised it above the bal.u.s.ters–a sort of bodilessness rising from vacancy.’
‘Didn’t she faint?’ said Arthur.
‘No, I was afraid she would, and then it would have been all over with us; but I dragged her safe into the school-room, and there she was so hysterical that I nearly relented.’
‘Then was it all in play?’ said Violet.
‘In earnest,’ said Arthur. ‘It was the only way of getting quit of mademoiselle.’
‘That lady who used to talk metaphysics and sing!’ said John. ‘I remember the lamentations at her not choosing to remain. Why was she victimized?’
‘There was no help for it,’ said Theodora. ‘She considered the book of Genesis as a “sehr schone mythische Geschichte”, and called the Patriarchs the Hebrew Avatars.’
‘Theodora! You don’t mean it!’ exclaimed John.
‘I do, but I had my revenge, for, after the Turk’s-head adventure, she never slept without my Bible under her pillow. If by broad daylight she would have renounced the Avatar theory, I really would have forgiven her, for she was very good-natured, and she admired “the high Roman fashion” so much, I was half afraid she might follow it herself if we tormented her much more.’
‘But why keep it to yourself! I can hardly believe it possible! Why play these tricks instead of telling all?’
‘I did tell Aunt Nesbit, but Miss Ohnglaube was always reading Jean Paul with her and mamma; they were in raptures with her, and my aunt only said I was too well instructed to be misled.’
‘How old were you?’
‘It is beyond belief. Why could you not tell my father?’ said John.
‘I hardly saw him–I never spoke to him.’
‘Was not I at home!’
‘Yes, shut up in your room. I never thought of speaking to you. All I could do was to be as restive as possible, and when she did not care for that, there was nothing for it but playing on her German superst.i.tion.
So Arthur told her some awful stones about whipping blacks to death, and declared West Indian families were very apt to be haunted; but that it was a subject never to be mentioned to mamma nor my aunt.’
‘And having paved the way, we treated her to the Turk’s-head,’ concluded Arthur. ‘I would do it again to hear her sigh and scream, and see Theodora acting as coolly as if she was in daily intercourse with the defunct n.i.g.g.e.r. If mademoiselle had not been frightened out of her senses, her self-possession would have betrayed us.’
‘I could not act fright,’ said Theodora.
‘And this was the best plan you could devise for getting rid of an infidel governess!’ said John.
And as they dispersed, he stood looking after his sister, thinking that there was more excuse for her inconsistencies than he had yet afforded her, and that, in fact, she deserved credit for being what she was. His aunt had done even more harm than the ruin of his happiness.
Theodora triumphed, and carried Arthur off, but Violet found the reality of the expedition less formidable than the antic.i.p.ation. She knew her mother would have enjoyed seeing her well dressed, and setting forth in that style; the drive was agreeable, and Lady Martindale kind and gracious. Alone with her, she lost much of her dread, and felt better acquainted; but all froze up into coldness when they came home.
The ladies at Rickworth had not been at home; and as they did not arrive on the Wednesday till Violet had gone to dress, she had time to frighten herself by imagining an heiress on the pattern of Lady Martindale, and an earl’s daughter proportionably unapproachable. Her trepidation was increased by Arthur’s not coming in, though she heard guests arriving, and when at last he appeared, it was so late, that he desired her to go down and say he was ‘just ready.’
It was a serious thing to encounter alone that great saloon full of strangers, and with cheeks of the brightest carnation Violet glided in, and after delivering her message to Lord Martindale, was glad to find herself safely seated on an ottoman, whence she looked for the chief guests. In the distance, beside Lady Martindale, sat a quiet elderly lady in black; Theodora was paying a sort of scornful half-attention to a fine showy girl, who was talking rather affectedly; and, thought Violet, no one but an heiress could wear so many bracelets.
Her survey completed, she became conscious that a small, fair-haired, pale girl was sitting near her, looking so piteously shy and uncomfortable, that she felt bound to try and set her at ease, and ventured an observation on the weather. It was responded to, and something about the harvest followed; then, how pretty the country, and, thereupon, Violet said it only wanted mountains to be beautiful.
‘Ah! when one has once seen a mountain one cannot forget it.’
‘Never!’ said Violet. ‘I miss Helvellyn every morning when I look out of window.’
‘Do you know the Lake country?’ said the young lady.
‘My home–my old home–is within sight of the Westmoreland hills. Have you been there?’
‘Mamma and I once spent a month there, and enjoyed it exceedingly.’
‘Oh! and did you go up Helvellyn!’
‘Yes, that we did, in spite of the showers; and what a view we had!’
They were surprised to find that dinner had been announced. Violet was placed next to Mr. Martindale, and was able to ask the name of her new acquaintance.
‘Miss Brandon, you mean.’ ‘O no, not Miss Brandon, but that light pale girl in the lilac worked muslin, who was talking to me!’
‘I saw you talking to Miss Brandon.’
‘Could it be? She looked all astray and frightened, like me!’
‘That description answers to Emma Brandon,’ said John, smiling.
‘Who would have thought it! I should never have begun talking to her if I had guessed who she was. I only did it because she looked so uncomfortable. I hope it was not being forward.’
‘Not in the least. You know you are at home here,–it was a great kindness.’
‘Do you like her?’ said Violet.
‘I believe she is a very good kind of girl, and her mother is one of our oldest friends. They are very excellent sensible people, and do a great deal of good in their own parish.’
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