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and so Rupert Knightly felt, and so his sister Augusta felt for him.
And now Rupert Knightly, glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece-a clock on which gilt and enamelled Cupids chased winged and jewelled hours-said,
‘By Jove! twenty minutes to eight! Gerald can't be coming by that train; we had better go and dine.'
They went into the long, lofty dining-room, those two sisters and their brother, and choked back their tears, as Rupert said grace as master in that place for the first time-in that room where their father had been genial, happy, and hearty but the other day. His portrait hung on the wall opposite to Florencethe portrait of a fine, hale, handsome old man--and seemed to smile kindly down upon them. The dinner was irreproachable, and Thomas and Burton, the butler, waited as severely as ever; but what a farce that pretence of eating appeared to the grief-stricken children who were mourning a father.
"Will you come back to the draw ing-room with us, Rupert ?' Augusta asked, as she was leading the way out, when their stately meal was over.
'I shall come to you directly, Gussie. I wish one of you would just run up to my mother. I don't like the idea of her being up there without any one of us, crying and sobbing herself frantic.
I'll go up, but I don't think it's much use, Rupert,' answered Augusta, sadly. We have tried, both of us, so many times to-day, and it only makes her worse. I do so dread the idea of bringing on hysterics again.'
For mercy's sake, don't do that, Gussie!-but go up. That maid of my mother's encourages anything of the sort, I know, and whines and howls herself at such a rate that I'm sure she must upset my mother terribly,' he added to Florence, as his eldest sister left the room on her un promising mission.
* Baines has been a great comfort to mamma all through this trying time, dear Rupert,' said Florence, rather reproachfully. Mamma's
nerves are weak at any time, and they are so shattered now that no one could have soothed her like Baines.'
'It seems to me that we could have done it better, Floy, if that wretched Baines had not kept the door closed on us. Well, Gussie ?
Miss Knightly had evidently been unsuccessful. 'Mamma says she would rather be alone, Rupert, till Gerald comes. I want her to go to bed early, and not see Gerald till tomorrow morning; but she says she shall sit up all night if he doesn't come. We shall only be too glad to have you, dear, when you are tired of being alone.'
The girls walked away to the drawing-room, Rupert sat alone over his wine, but not drinking it. The desolate widow lay on her couch upstairs. The domestics muttered in the servants' hall about the strangeness of that will, which, as they said, had left Mr. Rupert and Mr. Gerald nothing but beggars; and so for many hours there was silence in this stately mansion in Piccadilly. Still the hours went by, and Gerald did not come.
Who Gerald was, and why he had not been there, shall be told in the next chapter. In this I will only state that at about eleven a cab dashed up to the door; there was a violent knock, and a rush of fresh air into the hall. The sisters had only time to exclaim hurriedly, 'It's Gerald !' when he was before them.
THERE. The golden bowl was broken now, and the silver cord loosed, and the light of the lamp that had burned so brightly was quenched-gone out for ever; and only the other day he had been alive, well, amongst them all, so short a time since; and now the last had come; the handful of earth had been thrown-' dust to dust, ashes to ashes -and it was all over.
But it had been very sudden. There is no doubt about it: sudden death, though a thing that some few may individually pray for, if wo
can hope humbly that it finds us buried without Gerald knowing prepared, is very awful to the sur- anything about it. They had that vivors. That seeing a loved one morning received a note from him fade away, slowly and surely, may -or rather Rupert had-directed rend and tear our hearts, and cause to him at his own chambers, stating our spirits to sink lower, lower his intention of being home that every day with the sickening know- night; and now this was the news ledge of what it is all coming to; but they had to give him. No wonder in that case there is not the fierce, they said, “Poor Gerald ! for gay, unexpected pain. We are not and dashing, and reckless as he was, cruelly frightened as well as cruelly Gerald Knightly was a loving, tenhurt. Mr. Knightly's death had der, affectionate son. He would be been sudden-terribly sudden. He sorry enough now that he had had bidden guests to his table; said all that about Woolwich, and welcomed them there warmly, and made his father think him discondied while they were sitting around tented. To say the truth, Woolit. His wife and children had seen wich is not the one spot under the him last playing the part of the sun that is most desirable. His kind, genial host-a part he was sisters, in trying to reconcile him to ever playing-and soon they were the hard fate of being other than a summoned back, by cries of horror, Guardsman, had said, “And then, to the room where he lay a ghastly Gerald, there are the Artillery balls corpse. It had been sudden and concerts !' But Gerald's posiawfully sudden. No time to bless tion was unassailable. 'I could take either wife or child, but time to you to them just as well without clasp Rupert's hand in one loving being fastened down there on duty,' clasp before the spirit fled. He had he had replied. He had liked time to give that assurance of love Woolwich very well when he had to the son who was there, but none gone there first, a young ensign: to say one loving word about the this was another grievance-he beson who was away-about the son longed to an infantry regiment. He he had parted with in anger. And had been satisfied with the life at this was why his sister had said Woolwich, and the soirées at the that she dreaded the meeting with Royal Hospital, Greenwich-where poor Gerald.
he invariably played a very proGerald Knightly was a younger minent part--for a time, until he son; consequently his father had had stepped over the heads of men decided that it behoved him to who might easily have been his make him something or other; grandfathers, and was hailed by the so he put him into the army, a world at large as Captain Knightly, profession entirely after Gerald's and pronounced by his sisters to be eart. But for the last year or two the handsomest man they ever saw. erald had got into the habit of And then he began to look upon his espising himself because he was in lot as hard, very hard indeed, and
-th, quartered at Woolwich, upon himself as entirely thrown tead of being in the Guards, away. So luis claims had grown quartered at Knightsbridge, with more urgent lately, and had re
asional duty at Windsor. He sulted in a coolness with the father, th his father, if he would supply who had refused to meet them.
minds, he would himself soon And now that father lay cold and age the matter. But as Mr. dead in his narrow tomb, and poor htly did not see things in the Gerald was still unconscious of the
light, and refused to advance fact. necessary funds, after many He came rushing into the room Heations had been made to him, where his two sisters stood waiting
had grown heated and angry, to receive him. Augusta, calm and had gone off to the Continent, graceful as ever, but showing in the ut leaving a proper course of swelling veins which marbled the Sses. So it had come to pass back of the little white hand she His father had died and been pressed on the edge of a table, and
Gerald had grow and had gone oil
without leay addresses. that his fati
in the deeper paleness which overspread her face, how great was the excitement under which she laboured. Florence bent forward in a drooping attitude, clasping and unclasping her hands in a passionate manner.
What's the matter, Gussie ? Burton keeps on shaking his head and saying nothing ; what-
He stopped suddenly. His eyes fell on their black dresses, on their grief-stricken faces; and in a stunned, dazed manner he sat down and looked at them hopelessly, speechlessly.
· Papa ! poor papa! Oh, Gerald ! from Florence, and, 'Be calm, dearest Gerald; we have suffered a terrible loss, and we must all help one another to bear it,' from Augusta told him all. Still he sat there, with his face buried in his hands, till Rupert came in and laid his hand on his shoulder.
"My dear boy, my dear Gerald, I would have spared you this shock at any cost; bear up, old fellow; just think of these girls.'
Gerald wrung his brother's hand.
"Was it,' he began hoarsely, 'anything that could-am I the cause in any way —~-?'
He ceased, and Rupert answered with a prompt, sympathising eagerness that went straight to Gerald's heart, There was no apparent cause
-a spasm of the heart, Holford says; he was well, happy, hearty one minute, the next he was dead.
• Then he—my father-sent no word of forgiving love to me, Ru
sisters, he went away up to his mother's room.
It was still early in the summer season; but sorrow is always chilly. The suddenly bereft wife lay upon a luxurious couch, wrapped up in cashmeres, in that boudoir which Martin and Graham had fitted up for her afresh, under her thoughtful, loving husband's directions, but a month ago. She lay before a blazing fire; moaning at intervals, and with crimson cheeks and burning hands, complaining of the cold.
She looked too young-she was forty-seven or eight- to be the mother of those men and women down stairs; for hers was a lasting order of beauty. Rose was her name, and a rose she was, even now. Her husband had married her for her exceeding loveliness when she was sixteen, and idolized her for it up to the day of his death. She was a sweet woman, gentle and affectionate, and sensitively jealous. Mr. Knightly had worshipped and spoilt her with admirable constancy from the moment he first met her and found that her limpid hazel eyes brightened, and her rounded cheeks grew pinky at his approach. I have said that she was sweet, and gentle, and affectionate; but with all these good and charming qualities she was not a perfect woman by any means. She had a great weakness for being consulted on all occasions. Her husband had always found a pleasure in doing so; and it had ever been painful to her that the rest of the world-her worldwould not do likewise. Without knowing a note of music she would look poutingly hurt when her daughters would not ask for her suggestions as to turns and flourishes. She would have liked Rupert to consult her about his park hack, and Gerald about his book on the Derby; but they did not think of doing so; and this had been a crease in her roseleaf. Now—and this had been an alleviation of her woe-she would be of importance to them. They would owe the means of procuring their pleasures to her; so, surely, they would be asking her advice, and telling her all their plans. She adored her children; and
“My dear boy, do not be distressed at that; painful as it is, we are all in the same case; he had no time to speak to any of us : and I can assure you any little feeling of annoy. ance against you had passed away. He spoke of you two or three days before his death to me, and seemed to be looking forward to your return.'
There was consolation in the words ; they were intended to be consoling; and Gerald felt it to be due to his brother to acknowledge them as such.
• Thank you, Rupert,' he said simply, and then after kissing his
had such a sacrifice been demanded, that plump, fair-haired, limpid-eyed, middle-aged matron would have given her life for them; but for all that she did, even in these moments of her first agony, like the notion of their being utterly dependent upon her. It never once occurred to her that the arrangement might not be equally agreeable to them; for they -the sons especially—had always been unanimous in flattering and pleasing their pretty mother.
So now she lay upon her couch, with burning eyes and a racking headache, waiting for Gerald to come and say the same caressingly sympathetic things Rupert had said already. For the first time for many, many years she had cause to shed tears, and these unfrequent visitors had made her feverish and ill.
She, too, had talked it over with Baines, talked it over in the soulharrowing way some women love. Baines had acted as lay figure, and held up all the crape-covered skirts one after the other, before her weeping mistress, and together they had examined and cried over the length and texture of the 'weepers.' Mrs. Knightly truly mourned her husband's death, and she liked outward and visible signs of things. She even had serious thoughts, she told Baines, of leaving this, their old family mansion in Piccadilly, and going to live in Harley Street, because she had often noticed how many dowagers lived in Harley Street, and she thought it due to Baines's dear late master, &c. But Baines refused to fan the flame when it took this direction. Grief in moderation and within bounds was highly proper, and she felt it incumbent upon herself to go with her mistress to very great lengths; but not to such lengths as a removal to Harley Street. Baines had an eye to the future; and there was the steadiest of butlers—not to say the wealthiest --- living next door, who had been rather particular in his attentions of late. Baines did not doubt the strength of his attachment, but she felt that it would be as well not to test it too severely. So she said, when Mrs. Knightly spoke of migrating to Harley Street
'Ah! mum, take my word for it, when we come back from Warmingston next year, 'twill be to this house, and no Harley Streets; 't ain't likely- my gracious me, here's Captain Gerald !
The son was speedily clasped in the trembling, loving arms of the mother, who had been a silent witness of that last angry meeting with the dead husband and father; there was plenty to think about, and no need for words for a time. But Mrs. Knightly was soon able to speak as coherently as usual, and then she commenced detailing every little item connected with his father's sudden death and funeral, with that minuteness which is so exceedingly painful to men. Holding his hand firmly and tenderly, bedewing it with tears and covering it with kisses, the really loving mother succeeded in lacerating poor Gerald's heart terribly.
"You'll go into the Guards now, my darling boy, won't you?
'I don't know, mother; I hope so, but I must talk to Rupert about it.'
Talk to Rupert; why can't you. talk to me about it as well as to Rupert ? and you needn't say, you hope so but don't know; for I say you shall if you like.'
Well, well, mother darling, all right, and now go to bed, will you? it's wrong to wear yourself out in this way.'
“I only waited up to see you, Gerald,' wept the poor lady.
I know it, mother, and I am only anxious to get you to take rest, because we can't, any of us, bear the thoughts of not having your face amongst us, or of seeing it wan and pale.
It's getting an old face, Gerald.'
Not a bit of it,' he interrupted fondly; it's as pretty a face still as either of your pretty daughters can boast. Good night, dear mother.'
Gerald loved his mother; but he felt, as he walked away along the corridor and down stairs, that those were not the attempts at consolation which would have best become him to offer to his widowed mother in these early days of her bereavement : but he also felt the words
and sentiments Suite1 the hear ', is always to please us, it must l in if they did not the ocean.
her own way, The sisters hail retiral to their Gerple!'s brow gTE V Tort dark. rooms, happier II V Gall was poor film has made a great come: anl the wo young men wilt mistake, kutiert; but it is a muistilho together in P eri's rulate into that her motherly and even woman'y the night, talking over he ovihis feelings will incince her at once to and îuture prospects.
rectis. Are the girls' fortunes asWhen dous L1 Irotar go dowil sure to them, or speciel? Ther to the ilall, Rupet?
were to have thimy thousand : I • T0-11 row or the next day, I hope they are, for Tolleche is not hope; but nothing lies he'll de- a fellow tu mury on an uncertai.ty', cidelly settleilas yet.'
or wait on the plasure of any Isole aviso l ein a few mother-in-law; and Gussie is very nionths, t'at is--to look out for a frond of hum. nice but somwh re har liraing- 'No; there's nothing settleil on ston, so as to be close to you and them. I've thought of Gussie too; George when she's out of tow; she's too proud to go to Tollemacha indeer I pose, as you'll be here', under other circunstances than he and G12-si will have it town house --and she too-believed to exist too, that my mother won't think it when le proposed to her. It's an worth her while to have any fixed unfortunate aflair altogether. residence in London; she can always It's the weakest thing my father be with one of you. You'll stanl ever did in his life,' said the young for Warmingston of course? It's & oficer, who had been half an hour shame to bother you about money before heutful of love and reverence matters, wit'ı such an expensive for both parents. My mother is affair as an election before you, but no more fit to have an atom of I hone you'll arrange that exchange power in her hands than that business for me, Rupert
poolle down there' (stirring up as My mother hasn't tol! you anys he spoke a curled white Frenci thing about the disposal of the gentleman with pink skin); “it was property then, Gerall ?
weak, very weak, of my father.' No; what is there to tell ?'
The only satisfactory thing is,' Rupurt had ris n and now siool said Rupert, ' that at all events niy leaning one shouler against the mother is fu too devote a mothermantelpicee, looking down into the has been far too loving and loved it handsome animatiil face of his wife, ever to contemplate matrimony brother.
again.' Only that every penny is left to · Heuvens! yes!' replied Gerall her; that Warmington is hers; this sternly; 'I never once thought 0. house hers; and that if Georgie (lisgrace in connection with her.' Clifford marries me now, I can give Grown-up) sons-and daughters too her no position. I am--we all are are generally inclined to take a -dependent on iny mother.'
very harsh view of thcir mothers By George, it's intolerable!' er marrying again. claimed the younger brother, start 'No, no, Rupert; not so baul as ing to his feet; 'I could have stood that; we need not fear her ever disit for myself-indeed I, as a younger gracing herself; and in spite of the son, always anticipated being de- doubt you have expressed, I do pendent on somebody or other—but firmly hope that when it's put before for you, Rupert! Oh, my mother her in a proper light, she will place must see at once-it must be repre- you in your right position without sented to her that this cannot be the least reservation. I understand If you are not put in possession of now why she said just now that I your rights, it will be a positive should be a Guardsman if I liked; injustice. I am convinced my mother but till you are all right, old fellow, will see things in a proper light. I shall accept nothing at her hands.'
'You surely know her well enough And then the two brothers shook to be convinced that, eager as she hands heartily and separated.