« VorigeDoorgaan »
been spent and wasted long ago; and come to look at the sleeping beauty, now it only lives upon its own strength without in the least disturbing her and essence, devouring its resources lingering slumbers; and Zaidee is too and itself. She is very harmless and much a child to be roused as she was. silent in her solitude, her voice is From whence is to come her waking never heard in the house, and no one kiss? is reminded, by outward intrusion, “ Minnie, when you go to Charthat the stranger is here. All un- lotte's to-morrow, you must take aware of how she embarrasses Mrs Miss Francis with you; and let your Disbrowe-unsuspicious of Minnie's sister know that I particularly wish malicious wondering of Mrs Ed- her to write to Mrs Green. Persuade ward's comments of all the hard Charlotte to write at once, and bring inuendoes levelled at mamma on ac- me the letter home with you, Minnie; count of her - unsuspicious of the we must apply to her friends, and have practical jokes of Buttons—the curio- her taken home," says Mrs Disbrowe; sity in the kitchen- the triumph of and if you look closely, you will see the nursery--Zaidee sits hour by hour that Zaidee has brought a permanent alone, and weaves her life into her wrinkle to the comely forehead of dreams. She never feels herself ne- mamma. “It is quite out of the quesglected, never is aware of any injury, tion. We cannot go on in this way; nor is aware either in her girlish and yet, the poor child !" heedlessness that she is out of place "I don't call her a poor child. I and a burden; so much a child's think she is very well off," said saucy mind is the mind of Zaidee, that it has Minnie. “If all the people that do room for no complication of ideas. plain-sewing had as much for it"With devotion and ardour, which is “Be silent, Minnie!" cried Mrs more than conscientiousness, she Disbrowe angrily, and with a glow of labours at her work, and while she displeasure on her cheek. Feeling does that, thinks no barm to give her herself guilty, Mrs Disbrowe was thoughts full sway, and deliver up her more than usually impatient of critiwhole being into them-and this is cism. how she lives.
“And why am I to take her to Malice and embarrassment, wonder Charlotte's?" continued the young and inquiry, would soon be at an end lady—“in her brown frock and her if this continued; for already, when straw bonnet! She is not fit to go Christmas is come and gone, when with me." the Covent Garden bouquet on the "She is to go with you notwithdrawing-room table shows its first standing," said Mrs Disbrowe quickly; snowdrop, and the early crocuses just " and unless you change your manthrust their green spikes through the ners, Minnie, you will never look so soil of Aunt Vivian's flower-garden at much like a lady as poor Miss Francis home, the air grows heavy and stag- does. I wish her to go with you tonant in the scene of Zaidee's toil. It morrow. She shall not remain with weighs upon her, as the charmed air us, if I can find another shelter for might have weighed upon the be- her ; but she must not get sick and witched princess of the fairy tale, ere be laid up in the mean time, if I can she sank to her sleep of centuries; help it." and on Zaidee, too, there begins to Satisfied that she would carry this sink a heavy torpor--a heaviness from as the reason, Minnie hastened to anwhich only the touch of love can nounce her good fortune to Miss wake her up.
Francis. The little fire in the spare Where is this touch to come from? room was very smoky - the great Words of kindness are said to her work-basket was quite full-the air sometimes ; she is never ill-treated. was heavy and close, yet chilled and As the world goes, she has been full of the foggy baze in the atmostrangely fortunate in finding such a sphere without; and beyond these home; but love is not near the poor cold white hangings, which looked so child. Curiosity and wonder" all smoked and dingy, sat Zaidee, in her agape, and even a degree of equable half trance of silence, working at her interest and kindness, might have plain-sewing. Minnie Disbrowe, burst
ing in out of breath, was chilled into that the Disbrowcs, all and sundry, composure in a moment.
wished her away. "Miss Francis ! mamma says you « Well, if mamma likes—" said are not to get sick, and be laid up. Minnie, shrugging ber shoulders ; but You are to go with me to my sister's even Minnie had not the heart to conto-morrow."
clude the sentence in presence of Zai"I would rather not indeed. I dee's wistful dreamy face, and unfaillike best to be at home," said ing industry. “You are to come Zaidee.
with me to-morrow," she continued, “ Home! Do you call this home?" "to do you good, I suppose. Mamma cried the refined Minnie." I am sure, said so. You had better make your if I was you, I would far rather go things look as well as possible, and back to my friends. I would do any- be ready to go." thing rather than stay here."
As it was a command, Zaidee reA slight shudder was all Zaidee's ceived it quietly as a necessity. She answer. She had a strange obtuse- had not been in the open air for days; ness in this one particular. Now that but Zaidee, fresh from the Cheshire she was busily employed, and work wilds, could scarcely recognise as open ing for them, it did not occur to her air the wintry fog of Bedford Place.
They set out together on the after- equally grim in its respectability; but noon of the following day, wbich, as within, by dint of new carpets, new it happened, was a cheerful bracing paper, and new gilding, liberally disafternoon, with a red sun, bearing played in the shape of picture-frames, down towards the stack of houses a new maid-servant, in smiles and which formed “the west" to Bedford blue ribbons (Mr Edward LancasPlace, and breaking up the grey haze, ter having a prejudice against Butafter a fantastic fashion, pleasant to tons), and a general newness and see. Zaidee's wandering eyes sought brightness of atmosphere, this habiout this stream of ruddy light, which, tation looked gayer and more cheerwith the slight fog to aid it, made ful than the original Bedford Place. these streets and squares almost pic- Charlotte's drawing-room was not turesque, and did not perceive the drab either ; there were no blinds mortification and displeasure of Miss half-way down the windows. The Minnie, who had herself unwillingly new paper was a bewilderment of assumed a brown frock and bonnet roses and myrtles, the new carpet a not a very great deal better than Zai- thicket of flowers; and in the grate dee's, but pronounced by mamma burned a riotous fire, such as would " quite good enough" for a visit to have broken Mrs Disbrowe's rest with Charlotte. It had been Minnie's in- visions of blazing chimneys, fire-entention to mark the difference between gines, and fines. By-and-by, when her own rank and her companion's, the nursery, which at present is only to the most cursory observer, by mak- an unfurnished room up-stairs, comes ing herself very fine to-day; but, alas, to be as full as the nursery at home, that inexorable mamma! As it hap. and when all these gay embellishpened, however, Minnie's sulkinessments are toned down into the grey was sadly lost on Zaidee, who had not of years, Mrs Edward Lancaster will the smallest desire to be enlightened be a thrifty housewife, as careful a by her conversation; and who, indeed, manager as mamma; but at present, enveloped in her own magical atmo. at its first offset, there is a certain air sphere, was not at all aware that there of lavishness, of profusion-to tell the had been nothing said between them truth, though Mrs Edward is Mrs Dis. till they arrived at Charlotte's door. browe's daughter of extravagance
The house of Mrs Edward Lancas- about the house. Mrs Edward spends ter was a fac-simile of her mother's ; a poor man's income in gloves and a tall house, equally commodious, ribbons, there being no overseeing eye equally genteel, and out of doors to veto the expenditure ; and the ser
vants in the kitchen scorn to be be the open door, and Zaidee, like a shahind their mistress; while hosts of dow, follows after, Charlotte raises pretty nick-nackeries find their way, her head to nod at them, and goes on day by day, into the bright new draw. with her conversation. Minnie, for ing-room, to the much adornment of her part, pansing to look round the the same. The young master of the room to see who is in it, condescendhouse begins to look with dismay at ingly addresses the old lady, “How his cheque-book, and to be rather do you do, Mrs Lancaster ?" in passdoubtful of the truth of the often- ing, and immediately darts upon a repeated declaration, that it is only great china jar opposite, without givthis once." Take comfort, bride- ing Mrs Lancaster the trouble to angroom ; it is only this once: when she swer her question. has her first fit of glorious indepen. “Oh, Charlotte, where did you get dence over, and no longer plays at this?” cried Minnie londly. "I don't housekeeping, Mrs Disbrowe's daugh- like it-it's ugly; you always had such ter will prove her parentage, and be bad taste. Why, there's beetles on the thriftiest wife that ever fell to the it! I would throw it out of the winlot of man. But so far it must be dow if it were mine." conceded, there is no thrift in the new Now Charlotte had already been establishment, and the house has a provoked this morning by finding her great "way" upon it, like the young latest purchase not at all admired by gay unconcerned mistress of the same. Edward, and was quite disposed to
Charlotte is lying back in her easy- bestow opon Minnie the full weight of chair, holding up her hands before her her displeasure towards both. as she works at some bit of netting; “Let my china alone, will you ? " and the young lady's ample draperies exclaimed Charlotte. “You provokspread out, and her ribbons constant- ing little thing, what do you mean ly in motion, as she moves in her chair poking about into every corner? I in her careless fashion, give what a don't buy my furniture to please you. painter would call “breadth of effect" Do you hear? You shan't do what to this animated picture. Her friend you like in my house as you do at Helen Maurice sits by the table near home." Mrs Edward, and the drawing-room “I just wish mamma heard you," door being open, you may hear those said Minnie spitefully. loud young ringing voices, what they It was a wish in which Mrs Edward say, and how they laugb, and how did not concur; for she had not the perfectly without restraint they are, slightest desire, married lady though when you are still at the foot of the she was, to encounter the displeasure stair. Also, on a showy little couch of mamma. The elder Mrs Lancaster near the fire sits a very upright lady looked on very grimly during this lovin widow's weeds, with a large muffing sisterly salutation. She was not on her lap, and an immense boa on Edward's mother, but only his father's her shoulders. Her crape veil, put widow-a very kind friend to him, back from her face, shows you a large and counting herself to have some pale countenance, with considerable motherly rights, in consequence of force in its lines, but, it must be coul- many years' guardianship-a claim fessed, at this present moment some- which Edward himself allowed very what of a sour aspect. As the young cordially, but which Mrs Edward bad ladies talk, the old lady's blue eye pleasure in defying. The old lady's sometimes kindles into grim amuse- eyes and ears were extremely vigilant ment; but in general it is apparent when she visited her stepson's wife. that she is neglected, and that she It was astonishing what a clear perfeels herself so.
ception she had already of all CharTo this scene the two girls enter lotte's shortcomings, and how sho unannounced-no formal introduction overlooked her good qualities altobeing necessary to Mrs Edward's sis- gether. There was no love lost be. ter, even in the punctilious judgment tween these two ladies. Charlotte of the waiting-maid, who is a very had a pleasure in making Mrs Lannew broom, and piques herself on do- caster feel uncomfortable and ont of ing her duty. As Minnie bursts in at place in her gay new drawing-room
among her young friends; and Mrs tion is sometimes a marvellous incenLancaster had a pleasure in coming tive to benevolence, and no one could to feel herself slighted and injured by doubt that Mrs Lancaster was bene. the gay, foolish, extravagant wife, volent. She beckoned Zaidee to her, whose love of company and dress and gave her a share of her sofa, and then careless housekeeping would ruin Ed- began to question the incommunicaward. So the old lady sat very up- tive girl. What was curiosity at first right and solemn, an image of silent rapidly ripened into interest. Zaidee's disapproval, on the pretty little couch answers were so very brief, that they made to be lounged on, and listened suggested question after question. She to their loud laughing discussions of came from the country-she was an last night's concert, of who was there, orphan-she did not wish to go home and how poor the music always was, -she was not Mrs Disbrowo's goverand how one and another threatened ness-no, she was not good enough to give them up, they were so stupid. for that-she could only read and All this was extremely edifying to old write a little herself, and was not able Mrs Lancaster, whose own dissipation to teach the children-she did Mrs was limited to the May meetings in Disbrowe's sewing now, and Mrs DisExeter Hall; yet she came; for human browe was very kind to her—that was nature, whose wiles this good lady all. By the time she knew so much, was skilled in, was as perverse in Mrs Lancaster greatly wished to hear her owu breast as in another's, and more. The old lady surely did not her favourite aversion was Edward's want Zaidee to complain to her; but wife.
she would have been very well satisPerhaps it might have been the fied to hear a few more details of same, in some degree, whoever Ed. Mrs Disbrowe's household, and to ward's wife had been ; but the present ascertain if this dependant was conpossessor of that dignity by no means tent. thought it worth her while to conci. "I don't think you are well, my liate. While old Mrs Lancaster sat poor child. Does Mrs Disbrowe alstiffly on the couch, Charlotte reclined low you to go out?" asked Mrs Lanin the easy-chair. Charlotte was ex- caster. uberant in embraces, in “ dears," and " I would rather not," said Zaidee. " loves," to her other visitors; all the “I do not like to be out. I always while observing the old lady as the ask leave to stay at home." old lady observed her.
" Is it Bedford Place you call Zaidee, who had come into the room home?” said the questioner. behind Minnie, stood by the door; Zaidee looked up for an instant into nobody yet had taken any notice of her face. “I have no other home her; she was left to find a seat and a now. I am very glad to be there," welcome for herself; but while she said this poor child, whom nobody stood there, she had the fortune to could persuade into believing herself catch the eye of Mrs Lancaster. Now, ill-used. The old lady was melted ; Zaidee was neither gay nor fair ; if, she almost forgave Mrs Disbrowe for three months ago, you were held in being the mother of Edward's wife. doubt whetber this brown girl was to But she did more than that she ripen into a famous beauty, or sink asked Mrs Edward to spare Miss into dark-complexioned homeliness, Francis, to take an airing with her in the chances were very much against that plain handsome brougham of hers the former hypothesis now. What which stood at the door. Mrs Edward Mrs Lancaster saw in her was a very opened her eyes, but had no objection. plain girl, very plainly dressed, and Zaidee obeyed the old lady passively, still more visibly dropped by her com- and followed her, to the consternation panions than she herself was. The of Minnie. But the poor girl herself old lady's countenance brightened was not astonished; in her torpor and immediately; she recognised the poor silent heaviness, it seemed as if she little governess, of whom she bad could no longer do anything but heard Mrs Edward speak. Opposi- obey.
CHAPTER XV.-A FRIEND.
It was not till seated in Mrs Lan- do embroidery, nor anything, like what caster's brougham, with Mrs Lancas- they used to do at home." ter's broad crapes pressing upon her "And would you not rather be at modest brown dress, and Mrs Lan- home than here, among strangers ?” caster's furs warming the confined asked Mrs Lancaster. atmosphere of the close little carriage, Zaidee started with a thrill of terwhich forthwith began to trundle ror. “No, no," she said hurriedly, leisurely toward the Park, that Zaidee “I cannot go home. I did not mean awoke from the quiet haze in which to speak of it again." she had answered what was asked, “Tell me where it was and all and done what was commanded her. about it, my poor child," said her It might be the widow's cap which questioner persuasively. recalled Aunt Vivian-though this It was seldom that Zaidee, whose tall lady, so far as bulk went, would ideas were always striking off at a have made two Aunt Vivians, and tangent, permitted herself to be thus was very unlike the fairy godmother; brought to bay. Perceiving it, howor perhaps the sober opulence of Mrs ever, she was too brave to escape; Lancaster's equipage and dress re- she looked up with open eyes to the minded Zaidee, more than Bedford old lady's face. Place did, of the exuberant comforts "My father and my mother are of home. Whatever the cause was, dead. My mother was a Greek, and she was roused into warmer life-her my father was a traveller, far away. thoughts lay dormant for a little, her I have been alone all my life; I bave eyes took unconscious inventory of no home," said Zaidee steadily. “I the things about her-the torpor was am glad to be with Mrs Disbrowe; I shaken for the moment, and Zaidee have no one to go to but her." looked forth again through the mist “But do you know they do not of her own dreams.
wish you to remain with them ? "And so you say Mrs Disbrowe is What will you do then?" asked Mrs kind ? I suppose you are very useful Lancaster. to her," said Mrs Lancaster, with a “I will ask Mrs Disbrowe again to “humph !" in her own mind over the let me stay," said Zaidee very simply. disinterestedness of Mrs Disbrowe. She was not to be reached on the side
“I thought I might be of use when of pride. I came," said Zaidee, though I know « My poor child," said her new so very little; but I could not teach friend, whose kindness at the present the children—I was not able --- and moment was more in intention than that was why I got the sewing to do. effect, “Mrs Disbrowe has a great No; I am not of much use; I can many children: I have heard them only sew."
speak of you often; they want their 6 You told me before that you knew mother to send you home to your very little," said her new friend; friends; they think you a burden. “ young ladies very seldom say so. You would not like to feel yourself a Tell me what very little' means,” burden, should you?”
“I can only read, and write—but Zaidee's brown face grew very pale not very well," said Zaidee. “I - so pale that the well-intentioned cannot play, nor draw, nor do any- lady beside ber hastily drew her thing."
smelling - bottle from the depths of “Escept Mrs Disbrowe's sewing," her muff. "It is not wbat I like," said Mrs Lancaster, with involuntary said Zaidee; “I would like if God satire.
would please to let me die—but He The pale brown face beside her never has heard me yet; and I am lighted up a little. " Yes," said afraid it would not be right to do it Zaidee, with a sigh of satisfaction, of myself.” “that is something still ; but, after “To do what, child ?" cried Mrs all, it is only plain sewing. I cannot Lancaster, with a little scream.