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us to consult you about our future Mrs. Knightly for that excursion residence. We shall live here, Mrs. which had been first spoken of at Knightly, here, in this house, which Mrs. Vining's dangerous little dinner. will be Rupert's on the day he mar Colonel Crofton had been the ries me.'
moving spring of everything. He ‘And very kind it is of Lord Clif had made himself invaluable. The ford, I'm sure,' said Mrs. Knightly day had been suggested by him, blandly, for Georgie had frightened though I have said Mrs. Knightly her a little; but not more than any selected it; so she did, nominally, parent would do for a child. Your but Colonel Crofton had instructed papa isn't in, is he, dear? or I'd go her, although she was scarcely aware and tell him how pleased 1 am; of it. He had himself indited the we're kindred spirits in fact. I directions to Mr. Hart which made always used to say to dear Mr. the latter determine to excel himself, Knightly, fathers can't do too much and give them the room with the for their children.
large balcony facing the Royal Hos"They cannot, indeed, Mrs. Knight- pital, as the river was not quite all ly,' replied Georgie; ‘for we know, that could have been wished. Colonel don't we, that the children very Crofton had graciously allowed the frequently go to the wall when their Vinings to be asked to join them, fathers no longer live to take care of because he wanted Harry to drive them? No; papa is not at home; him down, and because Mrs. Vining, it's a great pity, as he would, of an unconscious ally, might be useful course, be happier if he knew that to him while they were there. But you approved so heartily of what he with the exception of the Vinings has done; however I will be sure to (and himself, he observed parentell him.'
thetically) the party was strictly a My dear,' she said afterwards, in family one. talking to Gussie about it, ' papa Rupert was married. Georgie was was in his study the whole time, Mrs. Knightly now; and they were but something about the Channel away in Paris with Frank Tollefleet, or iron-clad ships, or manning mache, who had only been too glad the navy, that he'd seen in the to join Gussie's pet brother-to the “Times” that morning, had put him great relief of Colonel Crofton. He out dreadfully, and if your mamma could not depend upon himself to do had gone obtusely congratulating a decidedly base and mean thing him and herself on being kindred immediately under Georgie's eyes. spirits, I really believe he would So the party was not a large onehave blown her up, as he calls it; Mrs. Knightly, her two daughters, and, Gussie, I'm not sure that it Gerald, the Vinings, and himself. would not have served her right. The Knightlys reached the TraShe sympathize with papa, indeed! falgar first; for the Knightly horses Nonsense.'
were fleet and strong; besides, Mrs. Vining was rarely ready at the ap
pointed time; therefore the graceful CHAPTER VII.
britzka had drawn up, to the admi
ration of numbers of old pensioners MRS. KNIGHTLY PARTAKES OF WHITE
and small boys, some time before BAIT AND OTHER DELICACIES.
there appeared the dashing mailThere was a fiery heat in the air, phaeton in which Colonel Crofton and the languid wind, when it could came, but did not mean to return. be caught, warmed more than it re- Three prettier women had never freshed. The heat came throbbing stood upon that balcony, which has down in fierce waves upon the heads held so many pretty women, than the of all who had rashly ventured out three—the mother and her daughters from beneath the sheltering roof. — who stood there under that sumIt was the day of all others to make mer sun, waiting the arrival of the thoughts of Greenwich, of dining by mail-phaeton. Mrs. Knightly's were the river, acceptable; and fortu- autumnal charms, or rather Indiannately it was the very day selected by summer-second summer charms.
She was a woman who united a fragile appearance and tender, delicate tints, with the most perfect health and the hardest of constitutions. There is an old Eastern Counties phrase that is often used with reference to people who preserve an appearance of health, who hang out flags of salubrity in their cheeks, when they are, in truth, far from being robust: 'He is ill,' they say, but his looks don't pity him.' Now Mrs. Knightly's looks did pity her immensely. This hysterical, delicate woman, who had kept up a running account with a doctor from the time she was sixteen-which fact alone proves her strength-was in reality very tough indeed. Hers was the class of beauty that ill-health would have utterly destroyed; a headache would have diminished her bloom in half an hour, and a serious indisposition have ruined it for ever. But she never had either one or the other; and in this her second summer the rose bloomed brightly as of yore.
She had nearly left off shamming mourning now--this idolized wife, upon whom had been heaped by her dead husband every imaginable mark of love and confidence. Silvery grey predominated, to be sure. Her dress was a cloud-a cloud with fourteen small flounces on it, and her gloves were of the same hue; but the bonnet of black Maltese lace, to match the shawl which she wore like a Frenchwoman, had a crimson rose like a cockade on the outside of the brim to the left, and youthful buds of the same clustering upon her soft dusky hair. And the cameo brooch, and the bunch of charms, and the jewelled buckle which clasped her waist rather tightly-none of these looked like mourning.
They looked, however, as much like it as her face did; as her bright eyes, and softly smiling mouth, and dimpling cheeks. She had come there last to eat whitebait with the father of her children, with the husband, who was dead and nearly forgotten. And now, before the last word had been chiselled on the elaborate monument she had ordered to be raised to him, while he was fresh in the memory of a little
French poodle, who still would wait patiently and faithfully for hours at the door of the room from which his master would never again come forth, -she, the widow, was on the alert to catch the faintest sound of the wheels which were bearing towards her another man; and-alas for the daughter! - Florence's ears wero strained to catch the same sound.
Augusta, who had not cared very much how she looked, and Florence, who had cared very much indeed, had for once dressed alike. They had put on blue grenadines, covered with wonderful puffings, and pretty white hats with drooping white feathers, and bands of black Velvet round them.
Gerald from Woolwich, and the Vinings and Colonel Crofton from London, arrived at the same time; and then, as it was too early to dine, they decided to go into the Hospital and see the well-worn lions there.
Putting out of the question the Chapel, which is a gem, and the Painted Hall, which, in spite of its beauty, is a trial to every one who cares about pictures, the light being so ingeniously contrived, that, stand where you will, it does not fall upon a single painting; and the Charles's Ward, and the long, wonderfully clean dining-rooms, and the glass model of the battle of Trafalgar, where all the ships are blazing away fiercely in cotton-wool; putting all these, together with the beauty of form of the building as a whole, out of the question, the colour of it alone is worth going any distance to see it. The whole of the two blocks that face the river is of the uniform Danish crow tint-à deep, timepainted grey. It was in one of these blocks that Nell Gwynne had a suite of apartments; and here, so lately as 1853-4, might still be seen hanging from the wall 'the faded drapery which had once fluttered over her couch. Time's changes-how wonderful they are! This same room has seen many of them, from the day the foundress of the St. Alban's family rested there, when Charles held court at Greenwich, up to the present time, when it is the drawingroom of one of the private families residing there,
It was too hot on this especial July evening to stand outside on those bright yellow paths between the velvet-like plots of grass and admire the colour of the building As Colonel Crofton suggested, they could do that more comfortably from the Trafalgar balcony after dinner, when it was cool. So they went into the Painted Hall; and while Florence stood at the outer end, making a rapid sketch of the head of Vasco de Gama, and the others wandered about trying to make out what it was all about on the ceiling, Colonel Crofton and Mrs. Knightly went on into that little room at the top, where florid angels with stout wings are bearing aloft a gashed and pallid Nelson. When they came out and joined the rest of the party, Florence, who had learnt to study every look of Crofton's, saw that he wore a rather pleased and triumphant expression, while her mother looked pale and agitated, happy and uncomfortable all at once.
'He has spoken to mamma before he does to me,' she thought. 'How noble, how thoughtful, how like him!'
So he had, Florence, but not about what you suppose.
“And now let us go and dine ; I'm sure it must be time,' said Gerald, who had no thoughts of ideal heroes to nourish, while he sketched heads of very real ones, and who had not looked at the Immortality of Nelson' through rosy glasses.
Yes,' replied Colonel Crofton, 'we've seen everything that's worth seeing, and done everything that's worth doing, and now we'll go and dine.'
Ignorance was indeed bliss to Florence that night. How thoroughly she enjoyed the brown bread and butter and the little silver fish which have obtained for themselves such a name; and how thoroughly she enjoyed that hour or two on the balcony when dinner was over, and the delicate odour of coffee, mixed with the fragrant breath of some unexceptionable cigars, were stealing over her senses. Little steamers kept shooting up and down the river, with their star-like light at the bow. They had on board generally some painstaking musicians, who were
wafting abroad on the sleepy summer air their belief in the · Power of love,' and in the fact of Britannia being the pride of the ocean; and these airs mingled with the coining darkness, and with the incense of flowers and flattery from Colonel Crofton, who was by her side, and made an atmosphere of perfect happiness around her. Colonel Crofton gave them various historical details connected with the vast pile that loomed grandly before them; and he had the art of rendering his historical details other than dry, and at the same time imparting information. Mrs. Knightly's mistakes with reference to the present occupants of the building were rather humorous. Some fair young faces and graceful forms, habited in the orthodox costume of this period, appearing at a window in the eastern quarter of the Hospital, she, after looking at them through her opera-glass, expressed some little horror and some slight surprise at the nurses being so young and so gaily dressed. It was not until Colonel Crofton assured her that he was on visiting terms with some of the officers' families residing there that she could at all realize the fact of people being in society, and at the same time living in an hospital.
By and by darkness fell upon everything, -as a feather is wafted downwards from an eagle in its flight,' softly, gradually, entirelyfell upon the mighty river, and upon that colossal pile, that best, noblest monument to the memory of Queen Mary, William the Third's consort, which rears itself on the banks of that river: and that wonderful little rattling noise had been made, which announces that it is sunset; and policemen had gone the rounds to clear out all the strangers from the Hospital. And as they had more than a seven-inile drive before them, it was time to think of starting for home.
So Florence tore herself away from the contemplation of swift-flowing river and time-honoured building, from thoughts of naval greatness and memories of the golden days of that Hospital which was once a palace, and blessed her mother for saying to Colonel Crofton
"You will return with us, I hope. want you both early to-morrow-I Mrs. Vining must not monopolize have something to tell you.' both our cavaliers.'
Florence blushed, and cast her That drive home was an hour in eyes down; and Augusta slightly paradise. The Old Kent Road may opened hers as she repliednot be every one's idea of paradise, ‘Oh! indeed, mamma, something but it was Florence's as she sat by to tell us, have you? Well, we will his side on that lovely summer even be sure to come. ing and heard her mother talking Gussie,' asked Florence, rather amiably to him. The only draw- piteously, as they were separating backs to this paradise were, that it at the door of the elder sister's room, would soon end for to-night, and 'Baines will remain with mamma, so that Gussie was not in an enjoyable she won't interrupt us; may I come frame of mind. Florence made the in and speak to you for a minute?' most magnanimous resolves relating “Yes, dear,' replied Gussie, rather to Gussie. When I am married, she wearily; though what can you have thought, I'll get him to talk mamma to say that won't keep till to-morover to let Gussie and Frank be as row? However, come in by all happy as I am myself.
means and-say it.' Then, as it grew later, the jewelled It was not an encouraging openpoints that came out in the sky ing, but it was enough for Florence, seemed less bright than her own who forthwith poured her tale of future-less bright than the fate love and hope into Augusta's cars. which was surely going to be hers. And you really care for Colonel Once the wife of this man, care, sor- Crofton, Floy?' she asked, when her row, doubt, difficulty, could never sister had brought her narrative to assail her again; and though the a conclusion. thought, “What wonder that he “Gussie, how would it be possible thinks me fair?' rose occasionally, to help it?' deep in her woman's heart, there 'Well, dear, I am not going to lurked another which took the form say anything about him, as you wish of a prayer-God make me worthier to marry him, it seems; only I hope, the love of such a heart as his!' if you do marry him, he'll make you
And so, while Florence dreamt happy. We shall do no good by away the time, and prayed to be talking about it to-night, Floy. Go rendered more worthy of him, her to bed, dear, and believe that, howmother sat pondering over the diffi- ever it may end, I shall only be culty there would be in communi- anxious that it may end happily for cating her plans to her children; you.' and Crofton thought gloomily, 'If Well, thought Augusta after FloGussie had but given me a third of rence had left her, as she won't be the love and devotion her mother happy without him, I hope mamma and sister so freely waste upon me, will let them marry. He's not the I should not have perjured myself man I should have selected to put in this way.
upon a pedestal and fall down and "Whoever made dining on white- worship; but Floy has done it, and bait at Greenwich an institution will break her heart if she's thwarted. deserves to be publicly thanked, I I dare say, after all, he's not all bad, think,' Florence said as they drew though he does pass off a screwed up at their own door ; 'it's the horse occasionally upon his friends; happiest day I ever spent in my he can't be, indeed, or Floy would life.'
not care for him. *And I have enjoyed it for the Long into the hours of that soft first time in my life,' replied Colonel summer night golden-haired, lightCrofton, as he held her hand for one hearted Florence sat finishing off moment in adieu.
that head of Vasco de Gama which 'I won't ask either of you tired she had commenced sketching that girls to come to my room to-night,' afternoon, in order that she might said Mrs. Knightly, as she kissed her have in her possession a perfect daughters on the landing, but I memento of that happiest of days.