Read Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife Part 51

Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife is a web novel completed by Charlotte M. Yonge.
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Read WebNovel Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife Part 51

Unschooled affections, strong and wild, Have been my playmates from a child, And strengthening in the breast unseen, Poisoned the fount within.

–Thoughts in Past Years

The morning of the next day had been fine, and was spent in shooting by Arthur and Mr. Fotheringham; but the latter came home in time to ride with John, to make a call on some old friends, far beyond what had long been John’s distance.

The afternoon closed in a violent storm of wind and rain, which drove Arthur indoors, and compelled Violet to resort for exercise to the gallery, where she paced up and down with Johnnie in her arms, watching for the return of the others, as each turn brought her to the end window. As Lord Martindale came up-stairs, he paused at the sight of the slender young figure–her head bent over her little one. Perhaps he was thinking what might have been, if his own children had ever been as much to their mother; for when Violet turned towards him he sighed, as he roused himself, and asked whether she saw John coming. Then joining her, he looked at his grandson, saying, ‘He is improving very fast. How like you he grows!’

‘Poor little fellow, he was not at all well yesterday, and I began to think of asking whether I should send for Mr. Legh.’

‘Whatever you do, beware of doctoring!’ was Lord Martindale’s rather hasty answer. ‘Of doctoring and governessing!–I have seen enough of it, and I resolved my two youngest should run wholesomely wild, never be dosed, and never learn a lesson till they were six years old.’

‘But this poor little man is really delicate, and I have no experience,’

pleaded Violet.

‘Depend upon it, my dear,’ said Lord Martindale, with sorrowful emotion in his voice, as he saw the little fair head resting caressingly on her neck, ‘you are doing more for him than all the physicians in England.

You must not tease him and yourself with fretting and anxiety.’

‘I know it is my duty not to be over-anxious,’ said Violet, with her heart full, as she clasped her hands close round her tiny treasure.

‘You must not,’ said his grandfather. ‘It was the notion that mine could never have enough teaching or doctoring-as if that was what they wanted!

Some system or other was always being tried on them, and they were never left to healthy action of mind or body, till the end was that I lost my two pretty little girls! And poor John, I never saw a more wretched-looking child than he was when I took him to Dr.–.’

‘And what was his advice?’

‘His advice was this. “Throw away lessons and physic. Give him other children to play with, make him wear a brown holland pinafore, and let him grope in the dirt.” I believe it saved his life! I begged Mrs.

Fotheringham to let him do just like her children, little thinking what was to come of that.’ Then catching himself up, as if fearing to give Violet pain, ‘Not that I should have regretted that connection. She was all that could be wished, and I judged by personal merits.’ He hesitated, but spoke warmly, as if applying the words to Violet. ‘Their youth was my only objection from the first. Nothing would have rejoiced me more than their marriage.’

‘O, yes,’ said Violet, ‘he says so much of your kindness.’ She feared she had said too much, but Lord Martindale caught at her words. ‘Has he ever adverted to that affair!’

‘Sometimes,’ said Violet, shyly.

‘What! Actually spoken of poor Helen! I am heartily glad to hear it. How is he bearing it? Does he speak calmly?’

‘Yes, calmly and cheerfully, as if he liked to dwell on the thought.’

Lord Martindale laid his hand on her arm, and said, gratefully, ‘You have done him a great deal of good.’

Seldom had she been more gratified, but at that moment a dripping figure burst on them, and Theodora’s voice impetuously exclaimed, ‘Violet!

you must know something of babies! What shall I do for the child at the lodge? She will die if something is not done quickly.’

She was in an agony of breathless agitation; the motherless baby at the lodge had been taken violently ill, the parish doctor was not at home, and she feared that Mr. Legh could not arrive from Whitford in time!

Violet shared in her distress, and gathering from her description that it might be such an attack as Johnnie’s at Ventnor, longed to be on the spot, and tried to believe the rain lessening enough for her to go.

Theodora seized on her proposal, but Lord Martindale interfered. ‘How can you be so thoughtless?’ said he, in a far more decided manner than usual.

‘The child’s life depends on it!’ said Theodora, vehemently.

‘Pshaw!’ said Lord Martindale, ‘Violet has her own life and her child’s to think of.’

‘Then you won’t come!’

‘I am afraid I ought not,’ said Violet, mournfully.

Theodora flung away in pa.s.sionate despair and contempt, and was rushing off, when Violet pursued her, and implored her to listen one moment, and she could not let go her last hope. Violet offered some medicine that had been prepared for Johnnie–which she was sure could at least do no harm, and she could give some advice. Perhaps she mingled it with too many excuses and lamentations at being forced to stay at home; at least, Theodora thought her fanciful, rejoicing in the self-importance of imaginary ill-health.

‘Why! there’s the carriage!’ she exclaimed, as it drove down the avenue.

‘Yes, it is gone for John,’ said Theodora, bluntly.

‘Where is he?’

‘At the Goldingsby turnpike. He took shelter there, and Percy came back to order the carriage to fetch him. Percy is gone on to Whitford for Mr.

Legh.’

‘What a pity! I could have gone to the lodge in the carriage.’

Theodora was provoked that her impatience had made her miss this chance: so, without answering, she ran down the steps, and was almost whirled along the avenue by the wild wind that roared in the branches, tearing the leaves from the trees, and whirling them round and round. She hardly felt it–her whole soul was set upon the little orphan; the misery of watching the suffering she could not relieve, joined with pa.s.sionate resentment at her father and sister-in-law, who she fancied made light of it. Only Mr. Fotheringham, when stopping at the lodge on his way, had shown what she thought tolerable humanity. He had shared her concern, consoled her despair, suggested asking counsel of Mrs. Martindale, and finally rode off five miles to Whitford in quest of the doctor.

Violet’s advice proved not to be despicable; the measures she recommended relieved the little one, and by the time Percy and the apothecary made their appearance, it was asleep on Theodora’s lap, and Mr. Legh p.r.o.nounced that it was in a fair way to do well. She wished she could have watched it all night, but it was late, and Mr. Fotheringham stood waiting at the door. So she laid it in the cradle, gave her directions to the old woman who had charge of it, and resumed her brown cloak and hood, in which she walked about in all weathers, without umbrella, for which, as for parasols, she had a supreme aversion.

Mr. Legh wished to prevail on her to let him drive her home, but she would not hear of it. Percy put up his umbrella, and offered to shelter her, but she held aloof.

‘No, no. Where did you get that elegant cotton machine?’

‘I borrowed it at the turnpike.’

‘And rode home with it on Arthur’s mare?’

‘Of course I did. I was not going to get wet through.’

‘But how did you get her to let you carry it. She objects to his taking out his handkerchief.’

‘I am not going to be beaten by a mare, and she soon found that out.’

‘What have you done with her?’

‘I took her home, and came back again. I wonder what Arthur will say to me for taking his gallant gray on to Whitford. I must get up a pathetic appeal to the feelings of a father!’

‘Well, I did not recollect you had the gray, or I would have told you to take my horse. However, there’s no harm done, and it saved time.’

‘Whoo–h!’ as the gust came roaring down furiously upon them, pelting fiercely with rain, flapping and tearing at Theodora’s cloak, like the wind in the fable, trying to whirl her off her feet, and making vehement efforts to wrench the umbrella out of Percy’s hand. A buffet with wind and weather was a frolic which she particularly enjoyed, running on before the blast, then turning round to walk backwards and recover breath to laugh at him toiling with the umbrella. Never had she looked brighter, her dark eyes, lately so sad and soft, now sparkling and dancing with mirth, her brown cheek glowing with fresh red from the rain and wind that had loosened her hair, and was sporting with a long black tress that streamed beyond her bonnet, and fluttered over her face–life, strength, and activity in every limb, and her countenance beaming with sportiveness and gaiety, the more charming because so uncommon. It was a rare chance to catch Theodora at play.

‘Ha! you’ll be beat! You will have to shut up the miserable invention unknown to our forefathers.’

‘Not I. I shall not give up the distinction between man and beast in the rain.’

‘Man! Why even ants carry parasols.’

———-

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