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“ Ah! what a wondrous thing it is
To note how many wheels of toil
“Did you see the critique on the Royal Academy ca Saturday P" Paul asked the following Monday morning at breakfast.
“ No, is it favourable ? We ought to be going.” “Well, why not to-day, my dear ?” said Mr. Wynne.
“I am quite ready," answered his wife ; "that is if the young people like it. What do you say, Isabella ?”
“Oh, of all things, aunt."
“Well then, my dear, let James drive you and the two girls up directly after an early luncheon, and I'll send Paul to fetch you home again."
The bright sparkle of one pair of young eyes of the party did not escape Mr. Wynne. " I tell
you what, Paul,” he said kindly, as he and his son started for town, “the sooner you're married the better. I see I shall have no use of a certain clerk of mine till that event has taken place."
“ Isabella heard from her mother last t," answered Paul, desperately hot, but speaking as composedly as he could manage to speak; “and she seems
to take its being this summer as a matter of course ; and after your kind off—"
“ Pooh! pooh! Well, let it be this summer, June, if like. Does Mme. St. Croix mean to assist ?”
They talk of coming to town next week, and have taken a house in Portland Place for a couple of months I believe, and Isabella is to join them as soon as they come.”
Clenching the nail on the head at once, eh ?" answered Mr. Wynne contemptuously: "a handsome, good-hearted, but scheming woman Isabella Simpson always was ; how such a noble-hearted, single-minded man as St. John Kelso was ever caught by her I can't imagine. And now there's that poor boy at Woolwich running to waste ; I did say I'd never have him near us again ; but I believe we must; can't fling the poor fellow wholly on those Simpsons."
Meanwhile the Academy expedition was being discussed at home.
“You see, mamma, if we go in the pony carriage, only one of us can go, and I am sure Elizabeth would enjoy it more than myself," said Barbara, as she and her mother were left alone in the parlour.
“But she can see it another time, and Paul won't like it at all if he have not you to poke about with him everywhere."
Barbara smiled calmly, almost sweetly.
“Ah, my dear, for the moment I forgot. Barbara, I must say one thing, you have nobly concealed the pang
all this must have cost you. Paul and Isabella are as happy and free before
had never been more to him than Elizabeth ; the idea that their love can hurt you never seems to enter their heads. They could not consciously or unconsciously pay you a greater compliment."
"Oh, mamma," said Barbara distressed, "you would not say so if you
knew how I sometimes feel,-as if I could not bear it. But of course,” she added, recovering herself, "one can bear it, and I am very glad that Paul is likely to be so very happy."
you as if
“She is a good, honest-hearted, winning little thing, but capable of improvement; and that marriage with such a man as Paul will do for her.”
“I am sure I do not know what fault to find with her," said Barbara warmly, "except-"
Except what ?” as she hesitated. “ That she talks a little too much; but that is only my love of silence coming out."
“ Her mother has a little spoilt her, just a little, she could not do more to St. John's child ; I am sure there is her father's good heart and good principle un. der all that incessant surface happiness, and Paul will insensibly bring these out. But now about the Academy; I still think, my dear, you had better go, you and I will enjoy the pictures together."
“ Thank you ; but, mamma, I was thinking,—would you mind Elizabeth and myself going up by train ?”
“I should scarcely like it by yourselves—but why ?
“I should so like little Amy Brown to go, it would be such a treat to her; you can't think how nicely she draws, and, little as she is, how much she knows about painting.”
“Well, let me see, -" and Mrs. Wynne thought: “shall we ask Miss Barnard to give Laura a holiday, and to go
and Elizabeth ?” “Oh, yes," cried Barbara eagerly," she would enjoy it so much." “Well
, then, you will undertake to ask little Amy. We must lunch at twelve and start at half-past, remember ; but stay, can I leave the boys without either you or myself ?”
“ There is only Will and David now, mamma.'
“No!" and Mrs. Wynne sighed. “My love," she said looking up a minute after, “how true it is the fashion of this world passeth away;' I never felt it as I do now that one child after another is in one way or another going from us; I cannot bear the sight of the schoolroom now.”
“ We shall have them all at Midsummer, Hetty and Frank even.”
“Yes. Well, then, you will go to Mrs. Brown's or send a note ? We will call for Amy, you know; but would she not like a sister with her ?"
“Oh yes, mamma, Frances ; I can't bear always missing her out, only—"
“ Now, Barbara, finish that sentence, please,” said Mrs. Wynne with a smile.
“I was afraid of encroaching."
“ Afraid ! encroach! Ah, Barbara, in another year see if I will tolerate such words ! A very happy party you and your young people will be; as for Elizabeth, I think I shall leave her at home with the boys."
mamma.' " It will do her good to have to be head, and be active and practical, and she must learn to take your place.”
Mamma, even Laura could do that," answered Barbara sadly.
Mrs. Wynne would not notice her tone. “Well, I don't like to disappoint her either, but I was thinking, my dear, if you could manage next week when Isabella is gone, to read anything you like with her regularly every morning."
“Oh, mamma, she hasn't given up reading at all; I believe she is over Tasso in he next room
“Well, do that or something else with her, your practical utilitarian mind will do her good."
Barbara made a dissentient gesture.
“And her pure, earnest mind do the same by you. I hope you won't dislike it very much, but if left alone now out of the schoolroom, good and dear as she is, I a little dread her becoming dreamy and unpractical; she scarcely recognizes that almost every duty in this world is active. Now I feel sure that at the Academy she will be standing wrapt before the PreRaphaelites, whose frequent want of reality and truth
fulness I so dislike!” And Mrs. Wynne, with a smile, hurried off to her own household duties.
Barbara ran up stairs, put on her bonnet, and hastened to Mrs. Brown's, the look of incredulous delight on the two girls' faces being not the least of her many pleasures that day.
Isabella as soon as she heard of the enlargement of the plan, begged to give up the pony carriage, and join the railway party; in order as she openly owned, that the two little sisters might have the pleasure of riding together.
Punctually at balf-past twelve, Mrs. Wynne started; Barbara at the last minute, throwing in a shawl “ for Amy's use coming back if not now."
The two girls did not keep her a minute waiting, and in neat straw bonnets, and clean print frocks, were soon as happy as they were shy, in the back seat of the Ford House pony carriage, whilst Miss Barnard, Isabella, Barbara, and Elizabeth, were walking across the meadows to the station, a most merry party.
Very tolerably punctually at a quarter-past two, all met in the octagon room as agreed, and thence proceeded to begin at number one. Barbara with a little girl's hand tight round each of hers, Isabella, who loved children dearly, and loved Barbara little less, with them.
At half-past three, Paul was to be in his turn at the place of meeting, and there as the time drew near, Mrs. Wynne and Isabella withdrew; whilst Barbara, who was rather weary of her charges, and thought that they must be the same of her, leaving them to go where they liked in the one room in which they were, sought out Miss Barnard, than whom next to Paul there was no one she so thoroughly enjoyed having for a companion. And her former governess' sensible, well-informed, and yet enthusiastic admirations and aversions, were doubly pleasant after Frances and Amy's timid first “no's" and "yes’s," and later childish remarks.