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so often morally do, our own best friend's guiding fingers, from not understanding even their real motives of goodwill towards us."
“ And I am afraid his best Rectory friend only laughed at bim, whilst she was bandaging his fingers with all the deftness of a S. John Ambulance Honour-Class Woman, and making my poor Maggie weep tears over her own ignorant helplessness.”
Kathleen smiled; You see, Freda had not seen the rescue ; if she bad even she would never have written that nasty little doggrel epigram! but I know really she, we were all as pleased and proud of Frank as if he had been our brother too! Duty'-duty,'” she repeated, dreamily,
at any cost of moral or physical consequences ?' isn't that just the watchword Arthur acted upon last year, and made poor papa so angry, and half broke Dulcie's heart. If he'd only just taken priest's orders, and said nothing—"
Hush, hush ! my little girl, you are talking now of what you do not understand,” said her host gravely, “no more than you can understand all your poor father's grief, and real room for displeasure as well as disappointment in the matter. It is not for you or me to judge either him or Arthur—but,"
Oh, yes, and that was not the first thing !" Kathleen went on dreamily thinking aloud," it was not 'duty' that had made him idle away his time at Oxford, and run into debt, and—”
“ Is it' duty' that now makes you recapitulate your brother's youthful errors ? Thank God he has a good heart and generous nature, and I hope will yet atone, and well atone, for them.”
“No, it is not duty,” pursued Kathleen gently, and Sir Charles began to understand how the governess whom his Rectory goddaughter had once shared with his own real daughter had pronounced the seemingly docile Kathleen extremely obstinate,' “but interest-great interest,--and not that I do not love him.”
Her host was not sorry that the house was reached, and that after all his wife, having been landed with some of her elder guests nearer home, was waiting to receive them and carried Kathleen off at once to rest and refresh herself a little before the late dinner.
The others came in gradually ; happy young voices were heard floating in at the library window where the Squire and his sixty-yearslong playmate, and thirty-years-long rector, were resting in two familiar easy leather chairs, feeling themselves old men at last, and yet young enough to be hungry after so much outing.
“This is just the country life I love," murmured the Squire, “the house full of fond children, faithful friends, and happy lads and maidens. Goodly heritages have yours and mine been, Erle, all the days of our lives !” There was a pause, perhaps the Rector's heart too full to speak. “There's the gong! and no unwelcome sound!” and Sir Charles rose and led the way to the general summer sitting-room.
An hour later Kathleen was standing, in her pale blue dress, against a dark sage curtain, the lamp arranged, all unknown by her, by Frank Wollaston and Julius Denny so as to fall in soft artistic lights and shadows upon her yellow hair, long slender limbs, fair dainty arms, and cunning fingers, playing from memory the sweet old English airs of which her hostess was most fond : almost unconsciously to herself, in the silence of the otherwise darkened room, she began to sing, “ Home, sweet home !" as she began this air with its not very satisfactory words out of the almost forgotten opera, “ Clari”—but its own strains tell its tale; and Dulcie, had she been there, could hardly have borne that song sung by that singer. On that evening of all other evenings after the previous night's conversation with her father, had she been one of its entranced auditors, tears must have come beyond the lids within which the also easily musically touched souls, but welltrained bodies, of Sir Charles and his daughter-in-law were keeping them. Julius and Frank from their dim corner were gazing on the enwrapt singer as on a picture,—" Draw her so, just so !” whispered the one to the other; as the crooning, faint, pathetic vocal tones sank for a few minutes into perfect silence, followed by one soft dying sweep of the bow. Then a sharp chord, a short unfamiliar prelude played con resoluzione, an unknown ballad air,—and Kathleen looked and sang with strange intensity if with her usual soft distinctness,
“ I slept-and dreamt that life was Beauty;
I woke—and found that life was Duty;"'
and she stepped down, laid by her violin, and took the low luxurious seat from which she had risen to play, as if nothing had meanwhile happened at all.
It was rather a rough awakening to the every-day aspects of life. Her hostess said " Thank you,” and then after a little pause, “ will you turn up the other lamps, Francis ?-thank you,—oh, not quite so
“Why not? hasn't Kathleen brought us back from a Jessica and
Lorenzo kind of soft moonlit fragrant atmosphere of the poets, to this glaring, hateful, gas-lighted, asphalted, water-laid-on, modern everyday world, with a merciless vengeance! I believe you did it on purpose, you little wretch !-witch, I beg your pardon, only a woman could have been so cruel, so— continued the young man, making his way towards the sister-like playmate of his youth.
Don't get upon one of your art discussions, Francis, but see about the wagonette for us with your mother's permission,” said Mr. Erle, "past eleven, and—”
Whilst Sir Charles looked across to Kathleen and gently patted the seat beside himself, and she moved towards it. “Well, little goddaughter!” he said, patting her hand, and looking into her face.
"I-am going to try to behave better to Dulcie !” said Kathleen, " to help her a little to bear Freda and Arthur and all,” with a sigh, as if this life of duty would be so dreary that she hardly now had courage to face it, -and if she fairly puzzled her fatherly sponsor by this first application of his little homily he felt sure the girl had a meaning, and asked not another question.
Meanwhile Dulcibella had long felt very anxious, and quite sick at heart, before, at half-past eleven, above the sweet and liquid notes of the familiar sounds of the many nightingales the wagonette wheels were heard in the distance; she put on her hat and went down the long winding drive to the gate, opened it for them, and could never tell any one for years what a revulsion to relief, that was from its very suddenness almost pain, it gave her to see neither more nor less than the true Rectory party in and on the carriage ; and her father actually driving.
“You, my dear!” he cried, as cheerily as he had greeted her nearly sixteen hours back, “thank you! has this sweet dewy evening tempted and kept you out as it has us four giddy young people ; but I've told them it must be the last of staying to these nine o'clock dinners.”
"Get in, Dulcie, you must be tired if you've been waiting about for us ever since the hour father said we should be back," said Kathleen, and she opened the wagonette door, and moved her violin
What tiny actions ; but the first fruit of a clear-sighted and deep resolve ; and not unappreciated although their motive never known.
"Hush, Kitty, you are stopping the nightingales !” said Freda,
imperiously, “even you cannot give us such sweet music as theirs is to-night," and she leant dreamily back again. But Dulcibella, five minutes ago, had felt with Mrs. Browning's Bianca, the dear old Brayscombe nightingales "sing through her head," and " torture and deride” the aching suspense and terror at her heart, in their sweet unchanged melodiousness of song.
“ These nightingales will sing me mad!
The nightingales, the nightingales !" sang Kathleen gently, as if reading her very heart, and only then sank into silence.
But she had only sung thus because she made it a rule never to let Freda speak, undefied, in that tone to herself unless it were too much trouble to
her. “ She really would become intolerable if I didn't,” she had once said simply to the Friedeswide-loyal and protesting Isabel.
A rose-bud set with little wilful thorns,
SATURDAY mornings from a little before ten to as much before one Mr. Erle was always accustomed to lock himself into his study in preparation for the morrow's work. And this morning Friedeswide and Kathleen followed his example in the old schoolroom, telling Rosina, Sarah's subordinate, that if any one called and asked for the young ladies she must say they were invisible, “ doing our lessons,” added Isa with her at times sober-sounding playfulness; and this message Rosina, who happened to answer the rectory bell, gave faithfully to Mr. Francis Wollaston and his companions the next day.
Take in my card, will you ?” said the former, by no means wishing to pay his devoirs only to "the old Miss Erles," as he was beginning, irreverently, to call Dulcibella and Amabel.
“Mesdemoiselles sont invisibles !' invisibles, monsieur,” said Rosina, returning after the few minutes' delay, during which Freda had been trying to perfect her French accent; are too busy with their lessons, sir, —”
“ Well, is Miss Erle at home and visible?” “I believe so, sir.”
And Dulcie and Amabel having been brought up in the more leisurely courtesy of an older generation, made Frank and Julius welcome; although both rather grudged this unexpected interruption to their preparation for their morrow's classes. And presently Isabel flitted in through the open window to their aid.
“ Still it was good of the two nice young fellows to come,” said Amy, looking, if unconsciously, as if she felt it still better of them to
“it is strange to think we were grown-up young ladies when they were still little boys in petticoats"
Oh, no, Amy,” said Dulcibella with a little laugh, “not Francis, poor Willie might have been,”—the youngest of the whole House family, now some time dead; and then both returned to their own work, nor did the whole party reassemble till the summer one o'clock dinner, when Kathleen said, asking permission but as a form,
“May I have Diamond, papa? I want to go into Hereford, and I should like it to be in time for the cathedral service-"
“A long time since I have been to that service myself,” replied her father; "will you drive me ? and then I can call on the Grants,—I was sorry to miss him on Thursday, he is hunting up a bit of etymology for me.”
“And I want, father, to go over the White House in the Close,where our great-grandfather lived, I mean." All smiled, poor old Nicholas Burridge was becoming a kind of “culte” to Kathleen. “I saw in the Hereford Times to-day there was to be a sale there on Monday, and the goods to be seen to-day. Whilst you are at the Grants—
“Nay, my dear, we will keep together, and call on the Grants after going to see poor old Witherby's goods; sixty years the old man had lived there, but I fear, if you expect to find such treasures as my father's maternal grandfather,--see I have learnt to proclaim the direct descent quite firmly,--left behind him, you are mistaken. The real value of every antiquity is too well known in these days, to every possessor and each possible seller and buyer, for any second Stradivarius to remain unknown.”
“ Still I shall like to go over the house,-and there is one lot, 132," pursued Kathleen, taking out her pocketbook, "called 'odd lot, in part old unbound music,' which I especially wish to look over at leisure."
“And it shall be at leisure, dear; I will not hurry you on to the Grants.”