Imagens da página

charms, for pain had sharpened the delicate features which Lawrence had delighted to depict, and long ill health had chased every shade of colour from her cheek. But the full small lips were red as ever, the brown eyes as clear and sensible and bright, and the brown hair still fell as of old on either side of the pale oval face in rough rippling bands. The charming sen. sible

eyes, and pleasant characteristic hair were still in full beauty.

It was strange, but not stranger than the habits of the slight sorely-tried woman, whose beauty they were. Twenty years bad she endured incessant returns, more or less sharp, of an illness through the first attack of which her physician had never expected her to struggle. Hundreds, with half her excuse, would have become confirmed invalids from that first convalescence. Not so Mrs. Wynne. When any one else would have been in bed she was on the sofa ; when any one else would have been on the sofa she was in her upstairs sitting room giving her household orders and hearing her children's lessons; and when any one else would have thought themselves but just justified in doing that, Mrs. Wynne was up and about, superintending her large household far more effectively and minutely than half the mothers and mistresses who scarcely know a day's sickness. She was down to the eight o'clock breakfast, saw her boys off to the grammar school, walked a quarter or half a mile (as her powers might be) with her husband towards the Ford Marsh Station ; and then came in to inspect the larder and to give orders to the cook personally, to rest twenty minutes and take the lessons of those of her ten children who were not old enough to go to school or be under the governess, till twelve. But this is a long digression.

“You forget,” Mrs. Wynne continued, with her bright smile, "I can turn the tables to-day. How has your head been por


very fair.”


to-day pa

6. The headache not gone ?”
“No, but it will be to-morrow,

I dare “ It ought to have been gone long ago. Were you honest, Paul, in saying you could go to business

Quite, mother. Business does not hurt me one bit. It was the hot walk across the Marshes that brought it back-nothing more."

Ah! we can prevent that to-morrow : you shall drive me into town.”

“ Are you going ?"

“Yes; it is Laura's birthday and an old promise. We are to go to the Pantheon and where not." “ It will be too much for


mother." “ Paul, if you say that again I will let go your arm and creep to the house as I can !-Gordon is to come too and we mean to have a very happy day; I shall feel quite a young woman again going about with that boy and girl.”

In the twilight, but for her slow creeping steps, anyone

would have taken her for a young woman then. Her thick hair still drawn tight off her face and put round in a plain twist behind, the fawn-coloured silk dress falling in such easy graceful folds from the upright figure ; the throat and hands so slender, white, and delicate; no further ornament than a gold chain with the little Geneva watch, (which had never yet been in a watchmaker's hands except to be cleaned) a wedding present from her husband, relieving the quiet sombre bue of her dress, except indeed the spotless white of the delicate lace sleeves and collar. Paul never looked at his mother without thinking of that hackneyed line, “When unadorned, adorned the most." Paul was turning his steps towards the drawing-room. “No, schoolroom first," she said, and on they went.

“ David !”
“ Yes, mother."
“ Has not Will told

you to fetch in your books ?” “ Yes," was the quickly-sullen response.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“Then go at once, and don't let me have to speak about them again."

"Now, Paul," she added rather faintly, “The drawing-room sofa as fast as we can.

She was soon upon it, Paul on a chair by her side. One by one the others came in. Henrietta, Mr. Cradock, and Hargrave turned to the piano; Mr. Wynne drew his armchair to its usual station by the table, the soft mellow light of the lamp shedding a pleasant glow on his bald anxious forehead: but before settling himself to his hour's evening reading, he went to his wife's sofa. • You are tired, my love ?"

Only resting in preparation for to-morrow," she answered, smiling fondly, and stroking with her slender fingers the hand she had taken in hers. The hand and brow of the mother of those ten children still was white and smooth, when those of the father had been wrinkled and furrowed many a year. All honour to the brow and hand which had won such honestlyearned maintenance for so large a family: for little of Harry Wynne's £100,000 had fallen to the share of the youngest of the eight children of his selfish extravagant son.

When her husband was gone, and Gordon had come in to beg for half-an-hour's grace and obtained it, Mrs. Wynne turned her eyes to the piano. There was a pretty group round it. Henrietta, bright, gay, and goodhumoured, was laughing and joking with her brothers, or talking brightly to grave George Cradock, who might be forgiven for looking as if he thought the jests and raillery passing between Hargrave and his future wife a great waste of voice that could sing 80. sweetly as Hetty's, more especially when Kathleen Mavourneen (ten years newer then than now) was open before her, and he had five minutes ago begged her to sing it. At last he repeated bis request.

“Oh yes, I will, Mr. Cradock, but you know you can hear me all day long, and the boys only in the

evening, so you won't mind my singing what they want first. What is it to be, Harvey, Jeannette and Jeannot,' or · Mourir pour la patrie ??”

Mr. Cradock moved off quietly, and stood at a little distance folding his arms, a smile of conscious strength upon

bis mouth. Mrs. Wynne had been watching the little scene with her bright all-comprehending eyes. She smiled and turned to Paul.

Hetty is a silly girl," she said fondly. “Why ?"

“ This is all very well now, but she will be repaid for every one of these—these pretty insults hereafter. See !"

Paul's eyes followed his mother's to the quiet unperturbed face of his future brother-in-law, and saw with her that he was so secure in his own greater dignity of mind and greater strength of will that what many a man in his place would have resented, harmed him not, only amused him.

“ Poor Hetty!" .“Why, mother ?"

“I am so glad to see her so gay and happy again, that is all. She was in tears this morning because I begged her father not to advance her allowance, but let her suffer for her extravagance. She is a month and more from quarter day, and has but one and sevenpence halfpenny to carry her through. There must be shameful mismanagement somewhere, but I could not scold her as I had intended to do, she amused me so by saying, it was such expensive work to be engaged that she should be quite glad when she was married.'"

Paul laughed too. “What a funny girl she is, mother, not a bit like you."

“None the worse for that, my boy,” answered Mrs. Wynne, a little gravely, “perhaps she will make none the worse wife for taking things a little more easily than her bustling mother."



" Phyllis is my only joy,

Fickle as the winds and seas,
Sometimes forward, sometimes coy,

Yet she never fails to please.”

THE large party at Ford House met punctually at eight in the dining-room the next morning. Mr. Wynne led the prayers for the day. Then after a minute's quiet, his wife took her place at the tea-tray, and the clatter, and noise, and laughing began, which is to be expected when two of the party are eating almost against time, having a mile to walk to catch the London train ; three others of the number are schoolboys who mean to enjoy some minutes in the playground before school begins, and all the rest more or less young, gay, and happy.

Mrs. Wynne pouring out cup after cup with swift neat hands, found time for some pleasant word to all around her. Her husband could be with his children little more than half-an-hour before his long day's work began, and at least should look back upon nothing but brightness and unanimity in his home, if these advantages could not exactly be combined with those of peace and quiet. These he found in the evening, which he and his wife often spent as much apart as if they had had no children at all.

"Time to be going, Paul," said Mr. Wynne, the first to move.

« AnteriorContinuar »