"O Aunt Harry! it's my piece of rope."
"Your piece of rope, my dear?"
"Yes; I wanted a piece of rope; and this is it."
"That is not a piece of rope."
"Yes, it is; it is made of it. I could not think what it was made of; and now I see. Isn't it beautifully made? He has picked a piece of rope to pieces, and woven this chain of the threads; isn't it beautiful? And how kind! How kind he is."
"Who, Dolly? Who has done it?"
"Oh, the midshipman, Aunt Harry."
"The midshipman. What one? You didn't say anything about a midshipman."
"I saw him, though, and he said he would send me a piece of rope. I wanted a piece, Aunt Harry, to remember the ship by; and I could not break a bit off, though I tried; then he saw me trying, and it was just time to go, and he said he would get it and send it to me. I thought he had forgotten all about it; but here it is! I am so glad."
"My dear, do you call that a piece of rope?"
"Why, yes, Aunt Harry; it is woven out of a piece of rope. He has picked the rope apart and made this chain of the threads. I think he is very clever."
"Who, my dear? Who has done it, Dolly?"
"The midshipman, Aunt Harry."
"On the 'Achilles.' I saw him that day."
"Did you see only one midshipman?"
"No; I suppose I saw a good many. I didn't notice any but this one."
"And he noticed you, I suppose?"
"Yes, a little"—said Dolly.
"Did he notice nobody beside you?"
"I don't know, Aunt Harry. Not that time, for I was alone."
"Alone! Where were all the rest, and Mrs. Delancy?"
"Eating lunch in the captain's cabin."
"Did you have no lunch?"
"I had a biscuit one of the officers gave me."
"And have you got a note there from the midshipman?"
"Yes, Aunt Harry."
"What does he say?"
Dolly unfolded the note again and looked at it with great consideration; then handed it to Mrs. Eberstein. Mrs. Eberstein read aloud.
"Dec. 5, 18—
"Will Miss Dolly Copley please send a word to say that she has received her piece of cable safe? I thought she would like it best perhaps in a manufactured form; and I hope she will keep it to remember the 'Achilles' by, and also
"What's all that?" demanded Mr. Eberstein now from his writing-desk. Mrs. Eberstein bit her lips as she answered,
"Aunt Harry," said Dolly now doubtfully, "must I write an answer?"
"Edward," said Mrs. Eberstein, "shall I let this child write a note to a midshipman on board the 'Achilles'? What do you think? Come and counsel me."
Mr. Eberstein left his writing, informed himself of the circumstances, read "A. Crowninshield's" note, and gave his decision.
"The 'Achilles'? Oh yes, I know Captain Barbour very well. It's all right, I guess. I think Dolly had better write an answer, certainly."
So Dolly fetched her writing materials. Her aunt looked for some appeals for advice now on her part; but Dolly made none. She bent over her paper with an earnest face, a little flushed; but it seemed she was in no uncertainty what to say or how to say it. She did not offer to show her finished note to Mrs. Eberstein; I think it did not occur to her; but in the intensity of her concentration Dolly only thought of the person she was writing to and the occasion which made her write. Certainly she would have had no objection that anybody should see what she wrote. The simple words ran as follows:
"I have got the chain, and I think it is beautiful, and I am very much obliged to you. I mean to keep it and wear it as long as I live. You are very kind.
The note was closed and sent off; and with that Dolly dismissed the subject, so far at least as words were concerned; but Mrs. Eberstein watched her still for some time handling and examining the chain, passing it through her fingers, and regarding it with a serious face, and yet an expression in the eyes and on the lips that was almost equivalent to a smile.
"What are you going to do with it, Dolly?" Mrs. Eberstein asked at length, wishing to get into the child's thoughts.
"I'll keep it, Aunt Harry. And when I have anything to wear it with, I will wear it. When I am old enough, I mean."
"What did you do to that young fellow, to make him show you such an attention?"
"Do to him? I didn't do anything to him, Aunt Harry!"
"It was very kind of him, wasn't it?"
"Very kind. I guess he is kind," said Dolly.
"Maybe we shall see him again one of these days, and have a chance to thank him. The midshipmen get leave to come on shore now and then."
But no such chance offered. The "Achilles" sailed out of those waters, and her place in the river was empty.
END OF SCHOOL TERM.
Dolly's school life is not further of importance in this history; or no further than may serve to fill out the picture already given of herself. A few smooth and uneventful years followed that first coming to Philadelphia; not therefore unfruitful because uneventful; perhaps the very contrary. The little girl made her way among her fellow pupils and the teachers, the masters and mistresses, the studies and drills which busied them all, with a kind of sweet facility; such as is born everywhere, I suppose, of good will. Whoever got into scrapes, it was never Dolly Copley; whoever was chidden for imperfect recitations, such rebukes never fell on her; whoever might be suspected of mischief, such suspicion could not rest for a moment on the fair, frank little face and those grave brown eyes. The most unpopular mistress had a friend in Dolly; the most refractory school-girl owned to a certain influence which went forth from her; the most uncomfortable of her companions found soothing in her presence. People who are happy themselves can drop a good deal of oil on the creaking machinery around them, and love is the only manufactory where the oil is made.
With all this smooth going, it may be supposed that Dolly's progress in knowledge and accomplishments would be at least satisfactory; and it was more than that. She prospered in all she undertook. The teacher of mathematics said she had a good head for calculation; the French mistress declared nature had given her a good ear and accent; the dancing master found her agile and graceful as a young roe; the drawing master went beyond all these and averred that Miss Copley would distinguish him and herself. "She has an excellent manner of handling, madame," he said,—"and she has an eye for colour, and she will have a style that will be distinguished." Moreover, Dolly's voice was sweet and touching, and promised to be very effective.
So things went on at school; and at home each day bound faster the loving ties which united her with her kind protectors and relations. Every week grew and deepened the pleasure of the intercourse they held together. Those were happy years for all parties. Dolly had become rather more talkative, without being less of a bookworm. Vacations were sometimes spent with her mother and father, though not always, as the latter were sometimes travelling. Dolly missed nothing; Mrs. Eberstein's house had come to be a second home.
All this while the "Achilles" had never been heard of again in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia. Neither, though Dolly I am bound to say searched faithfully all the lists of ship's officers which were reported in any American ports, did she ever so much as see the name of A. Crowninshield. She always looked for it, wherever a chance of finding it might be; she never found it.
Such was the course of things, until Dolly had reached her seventeenth year and was half through it. Then, in the spring, long before school term ended, came a sudden summons for her. Mr. Copley had received the appointment of a consulship in London; he and his family were about to transfer themselves immediately to this new sphere of activity, and Dolly of course must go along. Her books were hastily fetched from school, her clothes packed up; and Dolly and her kind friends in Walnut Street sat together the last evening in a very subdued frame of mind.
"I don't see what your father wanted of a consulship, or anything else that would take him out of his country!" Mr. Eberstein uttered his rather grumbling complaint. "He has enough to satisfy a man without that."
"But what papa likes is precisely something to take him out of the country. He likes change"—said Dolly sorrowfully.
"He won't have much change as American Consul in London," Mr. Eberstein returned. "Business will pin him pretty close."
"I suppose it will be a change at first," said Dolly; "and then, when he gets tired of it, he will give it up, and take something else."
"And you, little Dolly, you are accordingly to be shoved out into the great, great world, long before you are ready for it."
"Is the world any bigger over there than it is on this side?" said Dolly, with a gleam of fun.
"Well, yes," said Mr. Eberstein. "Most people think so. And London is a good deal bigger than Philadelphia."
"The world is very much alike all over," remarked Mrs. Eberstein; "in one place a little more fascinating and dangerous, in another a little less."
"Will it be more or less, over there, for me, Aunt Harry?"
"It would be 'more' for you anywhere, Dolly, soon. Why you are between sixteen and seventeen; almost a woman!" Mrs. Eberstein said with a sigh.
"No, not yet, Aunt Harry. I'll be a girl yet awhile. I can be that in England, can't I, as well as here?"
"Better," said Mr. Eberstein.
"But the world, nevertheless, is a little bigger out there, Ned," his wife added.
"In what way, Aunt Harry? And what do you mean by the 'world' anyhow?"
"I mean what the Lord was speaking of, when He said to His disciples, 'If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.'"
"That means, bad people?"
"Some of them are by no means bad people. Some of them are delightful people."
"Then I do not quite understand, Aunt Harry. I thought it meant not only bad people, but gay people; pleasure lovers."
"Aren't you a lover of pleasure, Dolly?"
"Oh yes. But, Aunt Harry," Dolly said seriously, "I am not a 'lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.'"
"No, thanks to His goodness! However, Dolly, people may be just as worldly without seeking pleasures at all. It isn't that."
"What is it, then?"
"I don't know how to put it. Ned, can you?"
"Why, Hal," said Mr. Eberstein pondering, "it comes to about this, I reckon. There are just two kingdoms in the world, upon earth I mean."
"Yes. Well? I know there are two kingdoms, and no neutral ground. But what is the dividing line? That is what we want to know."
"If there is no neutral ground, it follows that the border line of one kingdom is the border line of the other. To go out of one, is to go into the other."
"Well? Yes. That's plain."
"Then it is simple enough. What belongs to Christ, or what is done for Him or in His service, belongs to His kingdom. Of course, what is not Christ's, nor is done for Him, nor in His service, belongs to the world."
There was a silence here of some duration; and then Dolly exclaimed, "I see it. I shall know now."
"How to do, Aunt Harry."
"How to do what?"
"Everything. I was thinking particularly just then"—Dolly hesitated.
"Yes, of what?"
"Of dressing myself."
"Dressing yourself, you chicken?"
"Yes, Aunt Harry. I see it. If I do not dress for Christ, I do it for the world."
"Don't go into another extreme now, Dolly."
"No, Aunt Harry. I cannot be wrong, can I, if I do it for Christ?"
"I wonder how many girls of sixteen in the country have such a thought? And I wonder, how long will you be able to keep it, Dolly?"
"Why not, Aunt Harry?"
"O child! because you have got to meet the world."
"What will the world do to me?" Dolly asked, half laughing in her simple ignorance.
"When I think what it will do to you, Dolly, I am ready to break my heart. It will tempt you, child. It will tempt you with beauty, and with pleasant things; pleasant things that look so harmless! and it will seek to persuade you with sweet voices and with voices of authority; and it will show you everybody going one way, and that not your way."
"But I will follow Christ, Aunt Hal."
"Then you will have to bear reproach."
"I would rather bear the world's reproach, than His."
"If you don't get over-persuaded, child, or deafened with the voices!"
"She will have to do like the little girl in the fairy tale," said Mr. Eberstein; "stuff cotton in her ears. The little girl in the fairy tale was going up a hill to get something at the top—what was she going for, that was at the top of the hill?"
"I know!" cried Dolly. "I remember. She was going for three things. The Singing bird and the Golden water, and—I forget what the third thing was."
"Well, you see what that means," Mr. Eberstein went on. "She was going up the hill for the Golden water at the top; and there were ten thousand voices in her ears tempting her to look round; and if she looked, she would be turned to stone. The road was lined with stones, which had once been pilgrims. You see, Dolly? Her only way was to stop her ears."
"I see, Uncle Ned."
"What shall Dolly stop her ears with?" asked Mrs. Eberstein.
"These words will do. 'Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.'"
There was little more talking, for as the evening drew on, the heaviness of the parting weighed too hard upon all hearts. The next day Dolly made the journey to Boston, and from there to her parents' house; and her childhood's days were over.
Dolly did not know that her childhood was over. Every pulse of her happy little heart said the contrary, when she found herself again among her old haunts and was going the rounds of them, the morning after her return home. She came in at last to her mother, flushed and warm.
"Mother, what are we going away for?" she began.
"Your father knows. I don't. Men never know when they are well off."
"I used to think so."
"Is it as pleasant in England as it is here?"
"Depends on where you are placed, I suppose, and how you are placed. How can I tell? I have never been in England."
"Mother, we have got the prettiest little calf in the barn that you ever saw."
"In the barn! A queer place for a calf to be, it seems to me."
"Yes, because they want to keep it from the cow. Johnson is going to rear it, he says. I am so glad it is not to be killed! It is spotted, mother; all red and white; and so prettily spotted!"
An inarticulate sound from Mrs. Copley, which might mean anything.
"And, mother, I have been getting the eggs. And Johnson has a hen setting. We shall have chickens pretty soon."
"Dolly Copley, how old are you?"
"Sixteen last Christmas, mother."
"And seventeen next Christmas."
"Yes, ma'am, but next Christmas is not come yet."
"Seems to me, it is near enough for you to be something besides a child."
"What's the harm, mother?"
"Harm?" said Mrs. Copley with a sharp accent; "why, when one has a woman's work to do, one had better be a woman to do it. How is a child to fill a woman's place?"
"I have only a child's place to fill, just now," said Dolly merrily. "I have no woman's work to do, mother."
"Yes, you have. You have got to go into society, and play your part in society, and be married by and by; and then you'll know that a woman's part isn't so easy to play."
Dolly looked grave.
"But we are going to England, mother; where we know nobody. I don't see how we are to go into much society."
"Do you suppose," said Mrs. Copley very irately, "that with your father's position his wife and daughter will not be visited and receive invitations? That is the one thing that reconciles me to going. We shall have a very different sort of society from what we have here. Why you will go to court, Dolly; you will be presented; and of course you will see nothing but people of the very best circles."
"I don't care about going to court."
"Why not? You are a goose; you know nothing about it. Why don't you want to go to court? Your father's daughter may, as well as some other people's. Why don't you care about it?"
"It would be a great deal of fuss; and no use."
"No use! Yes, it would; just the use I am telling you. It would introduce you to the best society."
"But I am not going to live in England all my life, mother."
"How do you know?" very sharply. "How do you know where you are going to live?"
"Why, father won't stay there always, will he?"
"I am sure I don't know what your father will take into his head. I may be called to end my days in Japan. But you—Look here; has your aunt made you as old-fashioned as she is herself?"
"I am sure I can't tell how! There are ever so many ways. There's the benevolent sort, and there's the devout sort, and there's the puritanical sort. Has she put it into your head that it is good to be a hermit and separate yourself from the rest of the world?"
Dolly laughed and denied that charge.
"She's a very good woman, I suppose; but she is ridiculous," Mrs. Copley went on. "Don't be ridiculous, whatever you are. You can't do any good to anybody by being ridiculous."
"But people may call things ridiculous, that are not ridiculous, mother."
"Don't let them call you ridiculous, then," said Mrs. Copley, chopping her words in the way people do when impatience has the management of them. "You had better not. The world is pretty apt to be right."
Dolly let the subject go, and let it go from her mind too; giving herself to the delights of her chickens, and the calf, and the nests of eggs in the hay mow. More than half the time she was dancing about out of doors; as gay as the daffodils that were just opening, as delicate as the Van Thol tulips that were taking on slender streaks and threads of carmine in their half transparent white petals, as sweet as the white hyacinth that was blooming in Mrs. Copley's window. Within the house Dolly displayed another character, and soon became indispensable to her mother. In all consultations of business, in emergencies of packing, in perplexities of arrangements, Dolly was ready with a sweet, clear common sense, loving hands of skill, and an imperturbable cheerfulness and patience. It was only a few weeks that the confusion lasted; during those weeks Mrs. Copley came to know what sort of a daughter she had. And even Mr. Copley began to divine it.
Mr. Copley has been no more than mentioned. He was a comely, intelligent, active, energetic man; a very good specimen of a typical Yankee who has enjoyed the advantages of education and society. He had plenty of common sense, acute business faculties, and genial manners; and so was generally a popular man among his compeers. His inherited family property made him more than independent; so his business dealings were entered into rather for amusement and to satisfy the inborn Yankee craving to be doing something, than for need or for gain. Mr. Copley laid no special value on money, beyond what went to make him comfortable. But he lacked any feeling for art, which might have made him a collector and connoisseur; he had no love for nature, which might have expended itself in grounds and gardens; he cared little for knowledge, except such as he could forthwith use. What was left to him but business? for he was not of those softly natures which sit down at home in the midst of their families and are content. However, Mr. Copley could value his home belongings, and had an eye to discern things.
He was watching Dolly, one day just before their departure, as she was busying herself with a bunch of violets; putting some of them in a glass, sticking some of them in her mother's hair, finally holding the bunch under her father's nose.
"Dolly," said her father, "I declare I don't know whether you are most of a child or a woman!"
"I suppose I can be both, father; can't I?"
"I don't know about that."
"So I tell her," said Mrs. Copley. "It's all very well as long as she is here; but I tell her she has got to give up being a child and playing with the chickens."
"Why must I?" said Dolly.
"You will find other playthings on the other side," said her father, fondly putting his arm round her and drawing her up to him.
"Will they be as good as chickens? What will they be?"
"Yes, there, 'what will they be,' she asks! I do believe that Dolly has no idea," Mrs. Copley remarked.
"She will find out soon enough," said Mr. Copley contentedly.
"What will they be, father?" Dolly repeated, making for the present a plaything of her father's head; for both her soft arms were around it, and she was touching first one side and then the other side with her own cheeks. Mr. Copley seemed to enjoy the play, for he gave himself up to it luxuriously and made no answer.
"Dolly has been long enough in Philadelphia," Mrs. Copley went on. "It is time she was away."
"So I think."
"Father," said Dolly now, "have I done with going to school?"
There ensued a debate upon this question; Dolly herself taking the negative and her mother the affirmative side. She wanted her daughter at home, she said.
"But not till I am fit to be at home, mother?"
"Fit? Why are you not fit?" said Mrs. Copley. "You know as much as I did when I was married; and I should think that would be enough. I do not see what girls want with so much crammed into their heads, nowadays! It does them no good, and it does nobody else any good."
"What do you think you want, Dolly, more than you have already?" her father asked.
"Why, father, I do not know anything. I have only begun things."
"Humph! Not know anything. I suppose you can read and write and cipher?"
"And you can play and sing," added Mrs. Copley.
"Very little, mother."
"And your drawings are beautiful."
"Oh, no, mother! That is one especial thing that I want to do better; a great deal better."
"I think they are good enough. And you have music enough. What's the use? When you are married you will give it all up."
"My music and my drawing, mother?"
"Yes. Every girl does."
"But I am not going to be married."
"Not just yet,"—said Mr. Copley, drawing the soft arms round his neck,—"not just yet, Dolly. But when a girl is known to have so much money as you will have, there are sure to be plenty of fellows after her. Somebody will catch you up, some of these days."
"Somebody who wants my money, father?"
"Everybody wants money"—Mr. Copley answered evasively.
"They would not come and tell you so, I suppose?"
"Not exactly. That isn't the game."
"Then they would pretend to like me, while they only wanted my money?"
"Mr. Copley, do you think what notions you are putting in Dolly's head? Don't you know yet, that whatever you put in Dolly's head, stays there?" Mrs. Copley objected.
"I like that," said Dolly's father. "Most girls' heads are like paper fly traps—won't hold anything but a fly. Dolly, in the pocket of my overcoat that hangs up in the hall, there is something that concerns you."
"Which pocket, father?"
"Ay, you've got your head on your shoulders! That's right. In the inner breast pocket, my dear. You'll find a small packet, tied up in paper."
Being brought and duly opened, Mr. Copley's fingers took out of a small paper box a yet smaller package in silk paper and handed it to Dolly. It was a pretty little gold watch.
"Why didn't you wait till you go to Geneva, Mr. Copley?" said his wife. "You could have got it cheaper and better there."
"How do you know, my dear, without knowing how much I paid for this, or how good it is? I am not going to Geneva, either. Well, Dolly?"
Dolly gave her father a mute kiss, which was expressive.
"You think it will do, then. What will you wear it on? I should have thought of that. You must have a chain."
"Oh, I have got a chain!" Dolly cried, and off she ran to fetch it. She came back presently with the little box which had been sent her from the "Achilles," and sat down by the lamp to put the watch on the chain. Her father's eye rested on her as she sat there, and well it might. The lamp-light fell among the light loose curls of brown hair, glanced from the white brow, showed the delicate flush with which delight had coloured her cheeks, and then lit up the little hands which were busy with gold and wreathen work of the cable chain. The eyes he could not see; the mouth, he thought, with its innocent half smile, was as sweet as a mouth could be. Mrs. Copley was looking that way too, but seeing somewhat else. Eyes do see in the same picture such different things.
"What have you got there, Dolly?"
"A chain, mother. I am so glad! I never could wear it, before. Now I am so glad."
"What is it?"
"A chain, mother," said Dolly, holding it up.
"What sort of a chain? Made of what?"
Dolly told her story. Mrs. Copley examined and wondered at the elegance of the work. Mr. Copley promised Dolly a chain of gold.
"I do not want it, father. I like this," said Dolly, putting the chain round her neck.
"Not better than a gold one?"
"Yes, father, I do."
"It reminds me of the time, and of the person that made it; and I like it for all that."
"Who was the person? what was his name?"
"A midshipman on the 'Achilles.' His name was Crowninshield."
"A good name," said Mr. Copley.
"Why that was five and a half years ago, child. Did he make such an impression on you? Where is he now?"
"I don't know."
"You have never seen him since?"
"Nor heard of him. I could not even find his name in any of the lists of officers of ships, that I saw sometimes in the paper."
"I'll look for it," said Mr. Copley.
But though he was as good as his word, he was no more successful than Dolly had been.
Mrs. Copley did not like London. So she declared after a stay of some months had given her, as she supposed, an opportunity of judging. The house they inhabited was not in a sufficiently fashionable quarter, she complained; and society did not seem to open its doors readily to the new American consul.
"I suppose, mother, we have not been here long enough. People do not know us."
"What do you call 'long enough'?" said Mrs. Copley with sharp emphasis. "And how are people to know us, if they do not come to see us? When people are strangers, is the very time to go and make their acquaintance; I should say."
"English nature likes to know people before it makes their acquaintance," Mr. Copley remarked. "I do not think you have any cause to find fault."
"No; you have all you want in the way of society, and you have no notion how it is with me. That is men's way. And what do you expect to do with Dolly, shut up in this smoky old street? You might think of Dolly."
"Dolly, dear," said her father, "are you getting smoked out, like your mother? Do you want to go with me and see the Bank of England to-day?"
Dolly made a joyful spring to kiss her thanks, and then flew off to get ready; but stopped at the door.
"Won't you go too, mother?"
"And tire myself to death? No, thank you, Dolly. I am not so young as I was once."
"You are a very young woman for your years, my dear," said Mr. Copley gallantly.
"But I should like to know, Frank," said Mrs. Copley, thawing a little, "what you do mean to do with Dolly?"
"Take her to see the Bank of England. It's a wonderful institution."
"You know what I mean, Frank. Don't run away from my question. You have society enough, I suppose, of the kind that suits you; but Dolly and I are alone, or as near as possible. What is to become of Dolly, shut up here in smoke and fog? You should think of Dolly. I can stand it for myself."
"There'll be no want of people to think of Dolly."
"If they could see her; but they don't see her. How are they to see her?"
"I'll get you a place down in the country, if you like; out of the smoke."
"I should like it very much. But that will not help Dolly."
"Yes, it will; help her to keep fresh. I'll get her a pony."
"Mr. Copley, you will not answer me! I am talking of Dolly's prospects. You do not seem to consider them."
"How old is Dolly?"
"Too young for prospects, my dear."
"Not too young for us to think about it, and take care that she does not miss them. Mr. Copley, do you know Dolly is very handsome?"
"She is better than that!" said Mr. Copley proudly. "I understand faces, if I don't prospects. There is not the like of Dolly to be seen in Hyde Park any day."
"Why don't you take her to ride in the Park then, and let her be seen?"
"Do you want her to marry an Englishman?"
Mrs. Copley was silent, and before she spoke again Dolly came in, ready for her expedition.
London was not quite to Dolly the disappointing thing her mother declared it. She was at an age to find pleasure in everything from which a fine sense could bring it out; and not being burdened with thoughts about "prospects," and finding her own and her mother's society always sufficient for herself, Dolly went gaily on from day to day, like a bee from flower to flower; sucking sweetness in each one. She had a large and insatiable appetite for the sight and knowledge of everything that was worth seeing or knowing; it followed, that London was to her a rich treasure field. She delighted in viewing it under its historical aspect; she would study out the associations and the chronicled events connected with a particular point; and then, with her mind and heart full of the subject, go some day to visit the place with her father. What pleasure she took in this way it is impossible to tell. Mr. Copley was excessively fond and proud of his daughter, even though her mother thought him so careless about her interests; his life was a busy one, but from time to time he would spare half a day to give to Dolly, and then they went sight-seeing together. Old houses, old gateways and courts, old corners and streets, where something had happened or somebody had lived that henceforth could never be forgotten, how Dolly studied them and hung about them! Mr. Copley himself cared for no historical associations, neither could he apprehend picturesque effects; what he did care for was Dolly; and for her sake he would linger hours, if need were, around some bit of old London; and find amusement enough the while in watching Dolly. Dolly studied like an antiquary, and dreamed like a romantic girl; and at the same time enjoyed fine effects with the true natural feeling of an artist; though Dolly was no artist. The sense had not been cultivated, but the feeling was born in her. So the British Museum was to her something quite beyond fairyland; a region of wonders, where past ages went by in procession; or better, stood still for her eyes to gaze upon them. The Tower was another place of indescribable fascination. How many visits they made to it I dare not say; Dolly never had enough; and her delight was so much of a feast to her father that he did not grudge the time nor mind what he would have called the dawdling. Indeed it was a sort of refuge to Mr. Copley, when business perplexities or iterations had fairly wearied him, which sometimes happened; then he would flee away from the dust and confusion of present life in the city and lose himself with Dolly in the cool shades of the past. That might seem dusty to him too; but there was always a fresh spring of life in his little daughter which made a green place for him wherever she happened to be. So Mr. Copley was as contented with the condition of things at this time as it was in his nature to feel. He had enough society, as his wife had stated; he had all he wanted in that line; he was just as well contented to keep Dolly for the present at home and to himself. He did not want her to be snapped up by somebody, he said; and if you don't mean to have a fire, you had best not leave matches lying about; a sentiment which Mrs. Copley received with great scorn.
It would have, so far, suited the views of both parents, to send Dolly to some first-rate boarding school for a year or two. Only, they could not do without her. She was the staple of Mrs. Copley's life, and the spice of life to her husband. Dolly was kept at home therefore, and furnished with masters in music and drawing, and at her pressing request, in languages also. And just because she made diligent, conscientious use of these advantages and worked hard most of the time, Dolly the more richly enjoyed an occasional half day of wandering about with her father. She came home from her visit to the Bank of England in high glee and with a brave appetite for her late luncheon.
"Well," said Mrs. Copley, watching her,—"now you have tired yourself out again; and for what?"
"O mother, it was a very great sight!" said Dolly. "I wish you had been along. I think it has given me the best notion of the greatness of England that I have got from anything yet."
"Money isn't everything," said Mrs. Copley scornfully. "I dare say we have just as good banks in America."
"Father says, there is nothing equal to it in the world."
"That is because your father is so taken with everything English. He'd be sure to say that. I don't know why a bank in America shouldn't be as good as a bank here, or anywhere."
"It isn't that, mother. A bank might be good, in one sense; but it could not be such a magnificent establishment as this, anywhere but in England."
"Oh, the abundance of wealth here, mother; and the scale of everything; and the superb order and system. English system is something beautiful." And Dolly went on to explain to her mother the arrangements of the bank, and in especial the order taken for the preservation and gradual destruction of the redeemed notes.
"I should like to know what is the use of such things as banks at all?" was Mrs. Copley's unsatisfied comment.
"Why mother? don't you know? they make business so much easier, and safer."
"I wish there was no such thing as banks, then."
"O mother! Why do you say that?"
"Then your father would maybe let business alone."
"But he is fond of business!"
"I don't think business is fond of him. He gets drawn into a speculation here and a speculation there, by some of these people he is always with; and some day he will do it once too often. He has enough for us all now; if he would only keep to his consul's business and let banks alone."
Mrs. Copley looked worried, and Dolly for a moment looked grave; but it was her mother's way to talk so.
"Why did he take the consulship?"
"Ask him! Because he would rather be a nobody in England than a somebody in America."
"Mother," said Dolly after a pause, "we have an invitation to dinner."
"Father and I."
"Not me!" cried Mrs. Copley. "You and your father, and not your father's wife!"
"I suppose the people do not know you, mother, nor know about you; that must be the reason."
"How do they know about you, pray?"
"They have seen me. At least one of them has; so father says."
"One of whom?"
"One of the family."
"What family is it?"
"A rich banker's family, father says. Mr. St. Leger."
"St. Leger. That is a good name here."
"They are very rich, father says, and have a beautiful place."
"Some miles out of London; a good many, I think."
"Where is your invitation?"
"Where?—Oh, it is not written. Mr. St. Leger asked father to come and bring me."
"And Mrs. St. Leger has sent you no invitation, then. Not even a card, Dolly?"
"Why no, mother. Was that necessary?"
"It would have been civil," said Mrs. Copley. "It is what she would have done to an Englishwoman. I suppose they think we don't know any better."
Dolly was silent, and Mrs. Copley presently went on.—"How can you go to dinner several miles away? You would have to come back in the night."
"Oh no; we could not do that. Mr. St. Leger asked us to stay over till next day."
"It is just like everything else in this miserable country!" Mrs. Copley exclaimed. "I wish I was at home!"
"Oh, why, mother? We shall go home by and by; why cannot you enjoy things, while we are here?"
"Enjoy what? Staying here in the house and seeing you and your father go off to dinners without me? At home I am Mrs. Copley, and it means something; here, it seems, I am Mr. Copley's housekeeper."
"But, mother, nobody meant any affront. And you will not see us go off and leave you; for I shall stay at home."
"Indeed you will do no such thing! I am not going to have you asked anywhere, really asked to a dinner, and not go. You shall go, Dolly. But I really think Mr. Copley might have managed to let the people know you had a mother somewhere. That's what he would have done, if it wasn't for business. It is business that swallows him up; and I don't know for my part what life is good for so. Once I had a husband. Now, I declare I haven't got anything but you, Dolly."
"Mother, you have me," said the girl, kissing her. And the caress was so sweet that it reminded Mrs. Copley how much that one word "Dolly" signified; and she was quiet. And when Mr. Copley came home, and the subject was discussed anew, she limited herself to inquiries about the family and questions concerning Dolly's dress, refraining from all complaints on her own score.
"St. Leger?" said Mr. Copley. "Who is he? He's a goodish old fellow; sharp as a hawk in business; but he's solid; solid as the Bank. That's all there is about him; he is of no great count, except for his money. He'll never set the Thames on fire. What did he ask us for?—Humph! Well—he and I have had a good deal to do with each other. And then—" Mr. Copley paused and his eyes involuntarily went over the table to his daughter. "Do you remember, Dolly, being in my office one day, a month ago or more, when Mr. St. Leger came in? he and his son?"
Dolly remembered nothing about it; remembered indeed being there, but not who came in.
"Well, they remember it," said Mr. Copley.
"Is it a good place for Dolly to go?"
"Dolly? Oh yes. Why not? They have a fine place out of town. Dolly will tell you about it when she has been there."
"And what must Dolly wear?" pursued Mrs. Copley.
"Wear? Oh, just what everybody wears. The regular thing, I suppose. Dolly may wear what she has a mind to."
"That is just what you know she cannot, Mr. Copley. At home she might; but these people here are so very particular."
"About dress? Not at all, my dear. English people let you go your own way in that as much as any people on the face of the earth. They do not care how you dress."
"They don't care, no," said Mrs. Copley; "they don't care if you went on your head; but all the same they judge you according to how you look and what you do. And us especially because we are foreigners. I don't want them to turn up their noses at Dolly because she is an American."
"I'd as lieve they did it for that as for anything," said Dolly laughing; "but I hope the people we are going to will know better."
"They will know better, there is no fear," answered her father.
The subject troubled Mrs. Copley's head, however, from that time till the day of the dinner; and even after Dolly and her father had driven off and were gone, she still debated with herself uneasily whether a darker dress would have done better, and whether Dolly ought to have had flowers in her hair, to make her very best impression upon her entertainers. For Dolly had elected to wear white, and would deck herself with no ornament at all, neither ribband nor flower. Mrs. Copley half grumbled, yet could not but allow to herself that there was nothing to wish for in the finished effect; and Dolly was allowed to depart; but as I said, after she was gone, Mrs. Copley went on troubling herself with doubts on the question.
No doubts troubled Dolly's mind during that drive, about dress or anything else. Her dress she had forgotten indeed; and the pain of leaving her mother at home was forced to give way before the multitude of new and pleasant impressions. That drive was pure enjoyment. The excitement and novelty of the occasion gave no doubt a spur to Dolly's spirits and quickened her perceptions; they were all alive, as the carriage rolled along over the smooth roads. What could be better than to drive so, on such an evening, through such a country? For the weather was perfect, the landscape exceedingly rich and fair, the vegetation in its glory. And the roads themselves were full of the most varied life, and offered to the little American girl a flashing, changing, very amusing and abundantly suggestive scene. Dolly's eyes were incessantly busy, yet her lips did not move unless to smile; and her father for a long time would not interrupt her meditations. Good that she should forget herself, he thought; if she were recalled to the practical present maybe she would grow nervous. That was the only thing Mr. Copley was afraid of. However, for him to keep absolute silence beyond a limited time was out of his nature.
"Are you happy, Dolly?" he asked her.
"Very happy, father! If only mother was with us."
"Ah, yes, it would have been rather pleasanter for you; but you must not mind that."
"I am afraid I do not mind it enough, I am so amused with everything. I cannot help it."
"That's right. Now, Dolly"
"I should like to know what you have been thinking of all this while. I have been watching the smiles coming and going."
"I do not know that I was thinking at all—until just now; just before you spoke."
"And of what then?"
"It came to me, I do not know why, a question. We have passed so many people who seemed as if they were enjoying themselves,—like me;—and so many pretty-looking places, where people might live happy, one would think; and the question somehow came to me, father, what I am going to do with my own life?"
"Do with it?" said Mr. Copley astonished; "why enjoy it, Dolly. Every day as much as to-day."
"But perhaps one cannot enjoy life always," said Dolly thoughtfully.
"All you can, then, dear; all you can. There is nothing to prevent your always enjoying it. You will have money enough; and that is the main thing. There is nothing to hinder your enjoying yourself."
"But, father, don't you think one ought to do more with one's life than that?"
"Yes; you'll marry one of these days, and so make somebody else enjoy himself."
"What would become of you and mother then?" asked Dolly shyly.
"We'd get along," said Mr. Copley. "What we care about, is to see you enjoy life, Dolly. Are you enjoying it now, puss?"
"Very much, father."
"Then so am I."
The carriage left the high road here, and Dolly's attention was again, seemingly, all bestowed on what she saw from its windows. Her father watched her, and could not observe that she was either timid or excited in the prospect of the new scenes upon which she was about to enter. Her big brown eyes were wide open, busy and interested, at the same time wholly self-forgetful. Self-forgetful they remained when arriving at the house, and when she was introduced to the family; and her manner consequently left nothing to be desired. Yet house and grounds and establishment were on a scale to which Dolly hitherto had been entirely unaccustomed.
There was a small dinner party gathered, and Dolly was taken in to table by young Mr. St. Leger, the son of their host. Dolly had seen this gentleman before, and so in this concourse of strangers she felt more at home with him than with anybody. Young Mr. St. Leger was a very handsome fellow; with regular features and soft, rather lazy, blue eyes, which, however, were not insipid. Dolly rather liked him; the expression of his features was gentle and good, so were his manners. He seemed well pleased with his choice of a companion, and did his best to make Dolly pleased also.
"You are new in this part of the world?" he remarked to her.
"I am new in any part of the world," said Dolly, dimpling, as she did when something struck her funnily. "I am not very old yet."
"No, I see," said her companion, laughing a little, though in some doubt whether he or she had made the fun. "How do you like us? Or haven't you been long enough here to judge?"
"I have been in England a good many months."
"Then is it a fair question?"
"All questions are fair," said Dolly. "I like some things here very much."
"I should be delighted to know what."
"I'll tell you," said Dolly's father, who sat opposite and had caught the question. "She likes an old suit of armour or a collection of old stones in the form of an arch or a gateway; and in the presence of the crown jewels she was almost as bad as that Scotch lady who worshipped the old Regalia of the northern kingdom. Only it was the antiquity that Dolly worshipped, you know; not the royalty."
"What is there in antiquity?" said Mr. St. Leger, turning his eyes again curiously to Dolly. "Old things were young once; how are they any better for being old?"
"Not any better; only more interesting."
"Pray tell me why."
"Think of what those old stones have seen."
"Pardon me; they have not seen anything."
"Think of the eyes that have seen them, then. Or stand before one of those old suits of armour in the Tower, and think where it has been. Think of the changes that have come; and what a strange witness it is for the things that were and have passed away."
"I am more interested in the present," said the young man. "I perceive you are romantic."
Dolly was silent. She thought one of those halls of old armour in the Tower was in its attractions very far beyond the present dinner table; although indeed this amused her. Presently her companion began again and gave her details about all the guests; who they were, and how they happened to be there; and then suddenly asked her if she had ever been to the races? Dolly inquired what races; and was informed that the Epsom races were just beginning. Would she like to go to them? was inquired eagerly.
Dolly had no idea what was the real character of the show she was asked about; and she answered in accordance with her general craving to see everything. Nevertheless she was somewhat surprised, when the gentlemen came up from dinner, to hear the proposition earnestly made; made by both Mr. and Mrs. St. Leger; that she and her father should go with them the next day to the Epsom races; and she was greatly astonished to hear her father agree to the proposal, although the acceptance of it involved the staying another day away from home and the sleeping a second night at the St. Leger place. But Dolly was not consulted. The family expressed their pleasure in undoubted terms, and young Mr. St. Leger's blue eyes had a gleam of satisfaction in them, as he assured Dolly that now they would "show her something of interest in the present."
Dolly was the youngest guest in the house, and by all rules the one entitled to least consideration; yet she went to sleep that night in a chamber the most superb she had ever inhabited in her life. She looked around her with wonder at the richness of every matter of detail, and a little private query how she, little Dolly Copley, came to be so lodged? Her mother would have no reason here to complain of want of due regard. And all the evening there had been no such complaint to make. People had been very kind, Dolly said to herself as she was falling asleep. But how could her father have consented to stay another day, for any races in the world—leaving her mother alone? But she could not help it; and no doubt the next day would be amusing; to-day had been amusing—and Dolly's thoughts went no further.
The next morning everybody drove or rode to the races. Dolly herself was taken by young Mr. St. Leger, along with one of his sisters, in an elegant little vehicle for which she knew no name. It was very comfortable, and they drove very fast—till the crowd hindered them, that is; and certainly Dolly was amused. All was novel and strange to her; the concourse, the equipages, the people, the horses, even before they arrived at the race grounds. There a good position was secured, and Dolly saw the whole of that day's performances. Mr. St. Leger attended to her unremittingly; he and his sister explained everything, and pointed out the people of mark within their range of vision; his blue eyes grew quite animated, and looked into Dolly's to see what they could find there, of response or otherwise. And Dolly's eyes were grave and wide-awake, intent, very busy, very lively, but how far they were brightened with pleasure he could not tell. They were bright, he saw that; fearless, pure, sweet eyes, that yet baffled him; no trace of self-consciousness or self-seeking was to be found in them; and young St. Leger stood a little in awe, as common men will, before a face so uncommon. He ventured no direct question for the satisfying of his curiosity until they had returned, and dinner was over. Indeed he did not venture it then; it was his father who asked it. He too had observed the simple, well-bred, lovely little maiden, and had a little curiosity on his own part.
"Well, Miss Copley—now you have seen Epsom, how do you like it?"
Dolly hesitated. "I have been very much interested, sir, thank you," she said gravely.
"But how do you like it? Did you enjoy it?"
Dolly hesitated again. Finally smiled and confessed. "I was sorry for the horses."
"Sorry for the horses!" her host repeated. "What for?"
"Yes, what for?" added the younger St. Leger. "They were not ill treated."
"No,—" said Dolly doubtfully, "perhaps not,—but they were running very hard, and for nothing."
"For nothing!" echoed Mr. St. Leger again. "It was for a good many thousand pounds. There's many a one was there to-day who wishes they had run for nothing!"
"But after all, that is for nothing," said Dolly. "It is no good to anybody."
"Except to those that win," said the old gentleman. "Except to those that win!" Probably he had won.
Dolly wanted to get out of the conversation. She made no answer. Another gentleman spoke up, and opined, were it not for the money won and lost, the whole thing would fail of its attraction. It would be no sport indeed, if the horses ran for nothing. "Do you have no races in—a—your country?" he asked Dolly.
Dolly believed so. She had never been present at them.
"Nothing like Epsom," said her father. "We shall have nothing to show like that for some time. But Dolly takes practical views. I saw her smiling out of the windows, as we drove along, coming here yesterday; and I asked her what she was thinking of? I expected to hear her say, the beauty of the plantations, or the richness of the country, or the elegance and variety of the equipages we passed. She answered me she was thinking what she should do with her life!"
There was a general gentle note of amusement audible through the room, but old Mr. St. Leger laughed out in a broad "ha, ha."
"What did you conclude, my dear?" said he. "What did you conclude? I am interested to know."
"I could not conclude then, sir," said Dolly, bearing the laugh very well, with a pretty little peach-blossom blush coming upon her cheeks.
"'Tisn't difficult to know," the old gentleman went on, not unkindly watching Dolly's face play. "There is one pretty certain lot for a pretty young woman. She will manage her household, take care of her husband, and bring up her children,—one of these days."
"That is not precisely the ambition of all pretty young women," remarked one of the party; while Mrs. St. Leger good humouredly drew Dolly down to a seat beside her and engrossed her attention.
"You meant the words perhaps in another sense, more practical, that your father did not think of. You were thinking maybe what profession you would follow?"
"I beg your pardon, ma'am!" said Dolly, quite perplexed now. "How do you mean, profession?"
"Yes; perhaps you were thinking of being a governess some day, or a teacher, or something of that sort; were you?"
Dolly's face dimpled all over in a way that seemed to young St. Leger the very prettiest, winningest, most uncommon loveliness that his eyes had ever been blessed with. Said eyes were inseparable from Dolly; he had no attention but for her looks and words; and his mother knew as much, while she too looked at the girl and waited for her answer.
"Oh no," Dolly said; "I was not thinking of any such thing. My father does not wish me to do anything of the kind."
"Then what did you mean, my dear?"
Dolly lifted a pair of sweet grave eyes to the face of her questioner; a full, rather bloated face, very florid; with an expression of eyes kindly indeed, but unresting, dissatisfied; or if that is too strong a word, not content. Dolly looked at all this and answered—
"I don't want to live merely to live, ma'am."
"Don't you? What more do you want? To live pleasantly, of course; for not to do that, is not what I call living."
"I was not thinking of pleasant living. But—I do not want my life to be like those horses running to-day," said Dolly smiling; "for nothing; of no use."
"Don't you think a woman is of use and fills her place, my dear, who looks after her household and attends to her family, and does her duty by society?"
"Yes," said Dolly hesitating,—"but that is not enough." The girl was thinking of her own mother at the moment.
"Not enough? Why, yes, it is enough. That is a woman's place and business. What else would you do?"
Dolly was in some embarrassment now. She must answer, for Mrs. St. Leger was waiting for it; but her answer could not be understood. Her eye took in again the rich appliances for present enjoyment which filled the room, above, below, and around her; and then she said, her eye coming back—
"I would like my life to be good for something that would not pass away."
"Not pass away? Why, everything passes away, my child" (and there came a sigh here),—"in time. The thing is to make the best of them while we have them."
Is that all? thought Dolly, as she noticed the untested, rather sad look of her hostess's face; and she wished she could say more, but she dared not. Then young Mr. St. Leger bent forward, and inquired what she could be thinking of that would not pass away? His mother saw the look with which his blue eyes sought the face of the little stranger; and turned away with another sigh, born half of sympathy with her boy's feeling and half of jealousy against the subject of it. Dolly saw the look too, but did not comprehend it. She simply wondered why these people put her through the catechism so?
"What could you be thinking of?" St. Leger repeated, sliding into the seat his mother had quitted.
"Don't you know anything that will last?" Dolly retorted.
"No," said the young man, laughing. "Do you? Except that I have heard that 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever.'"
This, which was a remarkable flight for St. Leger, was lost upon simple Dolly.
"Oh, I know that is true," she answered; "but that is just a way of speaking. It would not be a joy to me, if I had not something else to hold to. I am sorry for you."
"Really? I wish I could think that. It would be delightful to have you sorry for me."
"It would be much better not to need it."
"I don't know about that. Perhaps, if you were very sorry for me, you would try to teach me better."
"Perhaps; but I shall not have time. I suppose we shall go away very early in the morning."
"I should like to show you the gardens, first."
"Haven't we seen them?"
"Why, of course not. All that you have seen is a little shrubbery and a bit of the park. Suppose we go over the gardens in the morning?"
"I am sure we shall return home immediately after breakfast."
"Before breakfast then? Why not?"
This plan went into effect. It was an occasion of great pleasure to both parties. No better time could be for seeing the utmost beauty of the flowers; and Dolly wandered in what was to her a wilderness of an enchanted land. Breakfast was forgotten; and young St. Leger was so charmed with this perfectly fresh, simple, and lively nature, that he for his part was willing to forget it indefinitely. Dolly's utter delight, and her intelligent, quick apprehension, the sparkle in her eye, the happy colour in her cheeks, made her to his fancy the rarest thing he had ever seen. The gardener, who was summoned to give information of which his young master was not possessed, entertained quite the same opinion; and thanks to his admiring gratification Dolly went back to the house the possessor of a most superb bouquet, which he had cut for her and offered through Mr. St. Leger.
There were some significant half smiles around the breakfast table, as the young pair and the flowers made their appearance. St. Leger braved them; Dolly did not see them. Her sweet eyes were full of the blissful enchantment still. Immediately after breakfast, as she had said, her father took leave.
Mrs. Copley had awaited their coming in a mood half irritation, half gratification. The latter conquered when she saw Dolly.
"Now tell me all about it!" she said, before Dolly even could take off her bonnet.
"She went to the races," said Mr. Copley.
"That's a queer place for Dolly to go, Mr. Copley."
"Not at all. Everybody goes that can go."
"I think it's a queer place for young ladies to go," persisted the mother.
"It is a queer place enough for anybody, if you come to that; but no worse for them than for others; and it is they make the scene so pretty as it is."
"I can't imagine how there should be anything pretty in seeing horses run to death!" said Mrs. Copley.
"I just said it is the pretty girls that give the charm," said her husband. "Though I can see some beauty in a fine horse, and in good riding; and they understand riding, those Epsom jockeys."
"Jockeys!" his wife repeated. "I don't want to hear you talk about jockeys, Mr. Copley."
"I am not going to, my dear. I give up the field to Dolly."
"Mother, the first thing was the place. It is a most beautiful place."
"No, no, mother; Mr. St. Leger's place. 'The Peacocks,' they call it."
"What do they give it such a ridiculous name for?"
"I don't know. Perhaps they used to have a great many peacocks. But the place is the most beautiful place I ever saw. Mother, we were half an hour driving from the lodge at the park gate to the house."
"The road so bad?"
"So long, mother; think of it; half an hour through the park woods, until we carne out upon the great lawn dotted with the noblest trees you ever saw."
"Better than the trees in Boston common? I guess not," said Mrs. Copley.
"Those are good trees, mother, but nothing to these. These are just magnificent."
"I don't see why fine trees cannot grow as well on American ground as on English," said Mrs. Copley incredulously.
"Give them time enough," put in her husband.
"Yes. We are a new country, comparatively, my dear. These old oaks here have been growing for hundreds of years."
"And what should hinder them from growing hundreds of years over there? I suppose the ground is as old as England; if Columbus didn't discover it all at once."
"The ground," said Mr. Copley, eyeing the floor between his boots,—"yes, the ground; but it takes more than ground to make large trees. It takes good ground, and favouring climate, and culture; or at least to be let alone. Now we don't let things alone in America."
"I know you don't," said his wife. "Well, Dolly, go on with your story."
"Well, mother,—there were these grand old trees, and beautiful grass under them, and cattle here and there, and the house showing in the distance. I did not like the house so very much, when we came to it; it is not old; but it is exceedingly handsome, and most beautifully furnished. I never had such a room in my life, as I have slept in these two nights."
"And yet you don't like it!" put in Mr. Copley.
"I like it," said Dolly slowly. "I like all the comfort of it; but I don't think it is very pretty, father. It's very new."
"New!" said her father. "What's the harm of a thing's being new? And what is the charm of its being old?"
"I don't know," said Dolly thoughtfully; "but I like it. Then, mother, came the dinner; and the dinner was like the house."
"That don't tell me anything," exclaimed Mrs. Copley. "What was the house like?"
"Mother, you go first into a great hall, set all round with marble figures—statues—and with a heavy staircase going up at one side. It's all marble. But oh, the flower garden is lovely!"
"Well, tell me about the house," said Mrs. Copley. "And the dinner. Who was there?"
"I don't know," said Dolly; "quite a company. There were one or two foreign gentlemen; a count somebody and a baron somebody; there was an English judge, and his wife, and two or three other ladies and gentlemen."
"How did you like the gentlemen, Dolly?" her father asked here.
"I had hardly anything to do with them, except the two Mr. St. Legers."
"How did you like them? I suppose, on your principle, you would tell me that you liked the old one?"
"Never mind them," said Mrs. Copley; "go on about the dinner. What did you have?"
"Oh, everything, mother; and the most beautiful fruit at dessert; fruit from their own hothouses; and I saw the hothouses, afterwards. Most beautiful! the purple and white grapes were hanging in thick clusters all over the vines; and quantities of different sorts of pines were growing in another hothouse. I had a bunch of Frontignacs this morning before breakfast, father; and I never had grapes taste so good."
"Yes, you must have wanted something," said Mr. Copley; "wandering about among flowers and fruit till ten o'clock without anything to eat!"
"Poor Mr. St. Leger!" said Dolly. "But he was very kind. They were all very kind. If they only would not drink wine so!"
"Wine!" Mrs. Copley exclaimed.
"It was all dinner time; it began with the soup, and it did not end with the fruit, for the gentlemen sat on drinking after we had left them. And they had been drinking all dinner time; the decanters just went round and round."
"Nonsense, Dolly!" her father said; "you are unaccustomed to the world, that is all. There was none but the most moderate drinking."
"It was all dinner time, father."
"That is the custom of gentlemen here. It is always so. Tell your mother about the races."
"I don't like the races."
"Well, tell me what they were, at any rate," said Mrs. Copley. "It is the least you can do."
"I don't know how to tell you," said Dolly. "I will try. Imagine a great flat plain, mother, level as far as the eye can see. Imagine a straight line marked out, where the horses are to run; and at the end of it a post, which is the goal, and there is the judges' stand. All about this course, on both sides, that is towards the latter part of the course, fancy rows of carriages, drawn up as close as they can stand, the horses taken out; and on these carriages a crowd of people packed as thick as they can find room to sit and stand. They talk and laugh and discuss the horses. By and by you hear a cry that the horses have set off; and then everybody looks to see them coming, with all sorts of glasses and telescopes; and everybody is still, waiting and watching, until I suppose the horses get near enough for people to begin to judge how the race will turn out; and then begins the fearfullest uproar you ever heard, everybody betting and taking bets. Everybody seemed to be doing it, even ladies. And with the betting comes the shouting, and the cursing, and the cheering on this one and that one; it was a regular Babel. Even the ladies betted."
"Every one does it," said Mr. Copley.
"And the poor horses come running, and driven to run as hard as they can; beautiful horses too, some of them; running to decide all those bets! I don't think it is an amusement for civilised people."
"Why not?" said her father.
"It is barbarous. There is no sense in it. If the white horse beats the black, I'll pay you a thousand pounds; but if the black horse beats the white, you shall pay me two thousand. Is there any sense in that?"
"Some sense in a thousand pound."
"It is better not to lose, certainly."
"But somebody must lose. And people bet in a heat, before they know what they ought to say; and bet more than they have to spare; I saw it yesterday."
"You didn't bet, Mr. Copley?" said his wife.
"A trifle. My dear, when one is in Rome, one must do as the Romans do."
"Did you lose?"
"I gained, a matter of fifty pounds."
"Who did you gain it from, father?"
"Lawrence St. Leger."
"He has no right to bet with his father's money."
"Perhaps it is his own. I will give you twenty pound of it, Dolly, to do what you like with."
But Dolly would have none of it. If it was to be peace money, it made no peace with her.
A few months later than this, it happened one day that Mr. Copley was surprised in his office by a visit from young St. Leger. Mr. Copley was sitting at a table in his own private room. It was not what you would call a very comfortable room; rather bare and desolate looking; a carpet and some chairs and desks and a table being the only furniture. The table was heaped up with papers, and desks and floor alike testified to an amount of heterogeneous business. Busy the Consul undoubtedly was, writing and studying; nevertheless, he welcomed his visitor. The young man came in like an inhabitant of another world, as he was; in spotlessly neat attire, leisurely manner, and with his blue eyes sleepily nonchalant at the sight of all the stir of all the world. But they smiled at Mr. Copley.
"You seem to have your bands full," he remarked.
"Rather. Don't I? Awfully! Secretary taken sick—confoundedly inconvenient." Mr. Copley went on writing as he spoke.
"There are plenty of secretaries to be had."
"Yes, but I haven't got hold of 'em yet. What brings you here, Lawrence? Not business, I suppose?"
"Not business with the American Consul."
"No. I made out so much by myself. What is it? I see all's right with you, by your face."
"Thank you. Quite so. But you can't attend to me just now."
"Go ahead," said Mr. Copley, whose pen did not cease to scribble. "I can hear. No time for anything like the present minute. I've got this case by heart, and don't need to think about it. Go on, Lawrence. Has your father sent you to me?"
"Sit down, and tell me what I can do for you."
Mr. St. Leger sat down, but did not immediately comply with the rest of the invitation. He rested his elbow on the table, looked at Mr. Copley's pen for a few minutes, and said nothing; until Mr. Copley again glanced up at his face.
"I do not know that you can do anything for me," said the young man then; "only you can perhaps answer a question or two. Mr. Copley, would you like to have me for a son-in-law?"
"No," said the Consul shortly; "nor any other man. I'd as lieve have you as anybody, Lawrence."
"Thank you. I couldn't expect more. But you must allow somebody in that capacity, Mr. Copley."
"Must I? Depends on how much Dolly likes somebody."
"That is just what I want to find out about myself," said the young man eagerly. "Then you would not put any hindrance?"
"In the way of Dolly's happiness? Not if I know it. But that's got to be proved."
"You know, Mr. Copley, she would be happy with me."
"How do I know that? I know nothing of the kind. It all depends on Dolly, I tell you. What does she think about it?"
"That's just what I don't know and cannot find out. I have no chance. I cannot get sight of her."
"Her mother's sick, you see. It keeps Dolly at home."
"My mother has proposed several times to take Miss Copley out with her, and she will not go."
"She's very kind, and we are grateful; but Dolly won't leave her mother."
"So she says. Then how am I to see her, Mr. Copley? I can't expect her to like me if I never see her."
"I don't know, my boy. Wait till better times."
"Wait" is a word that lovers never want to hear; and Lawrence sat discontentedly watching the play of Mr. Copley's pen.
"You know it would be all right about the money," he said at length.
"Yes, yes; between your father and her father, I guess we could make it comfortable for you two. But the thing is all the while, what Dolly thinks of you."
"And how am I to find that out?"
"Can't tell, I declare. Unless you volunteer to become my secretary."
"Does your secretary live in your family?"
"Of course he does. One of us completely."
"Will you take me, Mr. Copley?"
"Yes, but you would never take the drudgery. It is not in your line."
"Try me," said the young man. "I'll take it at once. Will you have me, Mr. Copley? But she must not know what you take me for. I don't care for the drudgery. Will you let me come? On trial?"
"Why is the boy in earnest? This is Jacob and Rachel over again!"
"Not for seven years, I hope."
"No, I shall not stay in this old crib as long as that. The question will have to be decided sooner. We haven't so much time to spare as those old patriarchs. But Dolly must have time to make up her mind, if it takes seven years. She is a queer little piece, and usually has a mind of her own. About this affair she certainly will. I'll give Mrs. Copley a hint to keep quiet, and Dolly will never suspect anything."
Lawrence was so thoroughly in earnest that he insisted on going to work at once. And the next day he was introduced at the house and made at home there.
It was quite true that Mrs. Copley was unwell; the doctors were not yet agreed as to the cause. She was feeble and nervous and feverish, and Dolly's time was wholly devoted to her. In these circumstances St. Leger's coming into the family made a very pleasant change. Dolly wondered a little that the rich banker's son should care to do business in the American Consul's office; but she troubled her head little about it. What he did in the office was out of her sphere; at home, in the family, he was a great improvement on the former secretary. Mr. Barr, his predecessor, had been an awkward, angular, taciturn fourth person in the house; a machine of the pen; nothing more. Mr. St. Leger brought quite a new life into the family circle. It is true, he was himself no great talker; but his blue eyes were eloquent. They were beautiful eyes; and they spoke of kindness of heart, gentleness of disposition, and undoubted liking for his present companions. There was refinement too, and the habit of the world, and the power of comprehending at least what others spoke; and gentle as he was, there was also now and then a gleam which showed some fire and some persistent self-will; that amount of backbone without which a man's agreeable qualities go for nothing with women. It was pleasant, his respectful attention to Mrs. Copley; it was pleasant too the assistance he was to Mr. Copley's monologues; if he did not say a great deal himself, his blue eyes gave intelligent heed, and he could also now and then say a word in the right place. With Dolly he took very soon the familiar habit of a brother. She liked him, she liked to pour out his coffee for him, it amused her to hear her father talk to him, she was grateful for his kindness to her mother; and before long the words exchanged between themselves came in the easy, enjoyable tone of a thorough good understanding. I don't know but St. Leger would have liked a little more shyness on her part. Dolly was not given to shyness in any company; and as to being shy with him, she would as soon have thought of being on terms of ceremony with Berdan, the great hound that her father was so proud of. And poor St. Leger was more hopelessly in love every day. Dolly was so fresh and cool and sweet, as she came down to breakfast in her white wrapper; she was so despairingly careless and free; and at evening, dressed for dinner, she was so quiet and simple and graceful; it was another thing, he said to himself, seeing a girl in this way, from dancing with her in a cloud of lace and flowers in a crowded room, and talking conventional nothings. Now, on the contrary, he was always admiring Dolly's practical business ways; the quick eye and capable hand; the efficient attention she bestowed on the affairs of the household and gave to her father's and mother's comfort, and also not less to his own. And she was quaint; she moved curiosity. With all her beauty, she never seemed to think of her looks; and with all her spirit and sense, she never seemed to talk but when she had something to say; while yet, if anything in the conversation deserved it, it was worth while to catch the sparkle of Dolly's eye and see her face dimple. Nevertheless, she would often sit for a long time silent at the table, when others were talking, and remind nobody voluntarily of her presence.
Spring had come now, and London was filling; and Lawrence was hoping for some gaieties that would draw Dolly out into society, notwithstanding his secret confession about ball rooms. He wanted to see how she would bear the great world, how she would meet it; but still more he hoped to have some chance to make himself of importance to her. And then the doctors decided that Mrs. Copley must go into the country.
What was to be done? Mr. Copley could not quit London without giving up his office. To any distance Mrs. Copley could not go without him. The dilemma, which Lawrence at first had heard of with dismay, turned for his advantage; or he hoped so. His father owned a cottage in a pretty part of the country, not a great many miles from London, which cottage just then was untenanted. Mr. Copley could run down there any day (so could he); and Mrs. Copley would be in excellent air, with beautiful surroundings. This plan was agreed to, and Lawrence hurried away to make the needful arrangements with his father and at the cottage.
"Oh dear!" said Mrs. Copley, when all this was communicated to her,—"why can't we go home?"
"Father is not ready for that, mother," Dolly said somewhat sadly.
"Where is this place you are talking of?"
"Down in Berkshire. Mr. St. Leger says you will be sure to like it."
"Mr. St. Leger doesn't know everything. Is the house furnished?"
"I believe so. Oh, I hope it will be very pleasant, mother dear. It's a pretty place; and they say it will be very good for you."
"Who says so?"
"They don't know everything, either. I tell you what I believe would do me good, Dolly, only your father never wants what I want, unless he wants it at a different time; I should like to go travelling."
"Travelling!—Where?" Dolly exclaimed and inquired.
"Anywhere. I want a change. I am so tired of London, I could die! I have swallowed dust and fog enough to kill me. I should like to go where there is no dust. That would be a change. I should like to go to Venice."
"Venice! So should I," said Dolly in a changed tone. "Well, mother, we'll go down first to this cottage in the country—they say it's delightful there;—and then, if it does you good, you'll be well enough, and we will coax father to take us to Italy."
"I don't care about Italy. I only want to be quiet in Venice, where there are no carts or omnibusses. I don't believe this cottage will do me one bit of good."
"Mother, I guess it will. At any rate, I suppose we must try."
"I wish your father could have been contented at home, when he was well off. It's very unlucky he ever brought us here. I don't see what is to become of you, for my part."
Dolly suppressed a sigh at this point.
"You know what the Bible says, mother. 'All things shall work together for good, to them that love God.'"
"I don't want to hear that sort of talk, Dolly."
"Why not, mother?"
"It don't mean anything. I would rather have people show their religion in their lives, than hear them talk about it."
"But, mother, isn't there comfort in those words?"
"No. It ain't true."
"O mother! What isn't true?"
"That. There is a difference between things, and there is no use trying to make out they're all alike. Sour isn't sweet, and hard ain't soft. What's the use of talking as if it was? I always like to look at things just as they are."
"Now, don't talk, Dolly, but just tell me. What is the good of my getting sick just now? just now, when you ought to be going into company? And we have got to give up our house, and you and I go and bury ourselves down in some out-of-the-way place, and your father get along as he can; and how we shall get along without him to manage, I am sure I don't know."
"He will run down to see us often, mother."
"The master's eye wants to be all the while on the spot, if anything is to keep straight."
"But this is such a little spot; I think my eye can manage it."
"Then how are you going to take care of me?—if you are overseeing the place. And I don't believe my nerves are going to stand it, all alone down there. It'll be lonely. I'd rather hear the carts rattle. It's dreadful, to hear nothing."
"Well, we will try how it goes, mother; and if it does not go well, we will try somewhere else."
The house in town was given up, and Mr. Copley moved into lodgings. Some furniture and two servants were sent down to the cottage; but the very day when the ladies were to follow, Mr. Copley was taken possession of by some really important business. The secretary volunteered to supply his place; and in his company Mrs. Copley and Dolly made the little journey, one warm summer day.
Dolly had her own causes for anxiety, the weightier that they must be kept to herself. Nevertheless, the influence of sweet nature could not be withstood. The change from city streets and crowds to the green leafiness of June in the country, the quiet of unpaved roads, the deliciousness of the air full of scents from woodland and field, excited Dolly like champagne. Every nerve thrilled with delight; her eyes could not get enough, nor her lungs. And when they arrived at the cottage, Brierley Cottage it was called, she was filled with a glad surprise. It was no common, close, musty, uncomfortable little dwelling; but a roomy old house with plenty of space, dark oak wainscotings, casement windows with little diamond panes, and a wide porch covered with climbing roses and honeysuckle. These were in blossom now, and the air was perfumed with their incomparable sweetness. Round the house lay a small garden ground, which having been some time without care looked pretty wild.
Dolly uttered her delight as the party entered the porch. Mrs. Copley passed on silently, looking at everything with critical eyes.
"What a charming old house, mother! so airy and so old-fashioned, and everything so nice."
"I am afraid there is not much furniture in it," remarked the secretary.
"We don't want much, for two people," said Dolly gaily.
"But when your father brings a dinner party down," said Mrs. Copley; "how does he suppose we shall manage then? You must have chairs for people to sit on."
Dolly did not answer; it had struck her that her father had no intention of bringing dinner parties down, and that he had made his arrangements with an evident exclusion of any such idea. He had thought two women servants enough. For the rest, leaving parties out of consideration, the house had a rambling supply of old furniture, suiting it well enough; it looked pretty, and quaint, and cool; and Dolly for her part was well content.
They went over the place, taking a general survey; and then Mrs. Copley lay down on a lounge while supper was getting ready, and Dolly and Mr. St. Leger went out to the porch. Here, beyond the roses and honeysuckles, the eye found first the wild garden or pleasure ground. There was not much of it, and it was a mere tangle of what had once been pretty and sweet. It sloped, however, down to a little stream which formed the border of the property; and on the other side of this stream the ground rose in a grassy bank, set with most magnificent oaks and beeches. A little foot-bridge spanned the stream and made a picturesque point in the view, as a bridge always does. The sun was setting, throwing his light upon that grassy bank and playing in the branches of the great oaks and beeches. Dolly stood quite still, with her hands crossed upon her bosom, looking.
"The garden has had nothing done to it," said St. Leger. "That won't do. It's quite distressing."
"I suppose father never thought of engaging a gardener," said Dolly.
"We have gardeners to spare, I am sure, at home. I'll send over one to train those vines and put things in some shape. You'd find him useful, too, about the house. I'll send old Peters; he can come as well as not."
"Oh, thank you! But I don't know whether father would choose to afford a gardener," said Dolly low.
"He shall not afford it. I want him to come for my own comfort. You do not think I want your father to pay my gardener."
"You are very kind. What ground is that over there?"
"That? that is Brierley Park. It is a great place. The stream divides the park from this cottage ground."
"Can one go over the bridge?"
"Of course. The place is left to itself; nobody is at the house now."
"I suppose they like some other place better," said St. Leger, shrugging his shoulders. "You would like to go and see the house and the pictures. The next time I come down I'll take you there."
"Oh, thank you! And may I go over among those grand trees? may I walk there?"
"Walk there, or ride there; you may do what you like; nobody will hinder you. If you meet anybody that has a right to know, you can tell him who you are. But don't go to the house till I come to go with you."
"You are very good, Mr. St. Leger," said Dolly gratefully. But then, as if shy of what he might next say, she turned and went in to her mother. Dolly always kept Mr. St. Leger at a certain fine, insensible distance. He seemed to be very near; he was really very much at home in the family; nevertheless, an atmospheric wall, felt but not seen, divided him from Dolly. It was so invisible that it was unmanageable; it kept him at a distance.
IN THE PARK.
The next day was a delightful one in Dolly's experience. Mr. St. Leger went back to town early in the morning; and as soon as she was free of him, Dolly's delight began. She attended to her mother, and put her in comfort; next, she examined the house and its capabilities, and arranged the little household; and then she gave herself to the garden. It was an unmitigated wilderness. The roses had grown into irregular, wide-spreading shrubs, with waving, flaunting branches; yet sweet with their burden of blushing flowers. Lilac bushes had passed all bounds, and took up room most graspingly. Hawthorn and eglantine, roses of Sharon and stocky syringas, and other bushes and climbers, had entwined and confused their sprays and branches, till in places they formed an impenetrable mass. In other places, and even in the midst of this overgrown thicket, jessamine stars peeped out, lilies and violets grew half smothered, mignonette ran along where it could; even carnations and pinks were to be seen, in unhappy situations, and daisies and larkspur and scarlet geraniums, lupins and sweet peas, and I know not what more old-fashioned flowers, showed their fair faces here and there. It was bewildering, and beyond Dolly's powers to put in order. She wished for old Peter's arrival; and meantime cut and trimmed a little here and there, gathered a nosegay of wildering blossoms, considered what might be done, and lost herself in the sweet June day.
At last it was growing near lunch time, and she went in. Mrs. Copley was lying on an old-fashioned lounge; and the room where she lay was brown with old oak, quaint with its diamond-paned casement windows, and cool with a general effect of wooden floor and little furniture; while roses looked in at the open window, and the light was tempered by the dark panelling and low ceiling. Dolly gave an exclamation of delight.
"What is it?" said Mrs. Copley fretfully.
"Mother, this place is so lovely! and this room,—do you know how perfectly pretty it is?"
"It isn't half furnished. Not half."
"But it is furnished enough. There are only two of us; and certainly here are all the things that we want, and a great deal more than we want; and it is so pretty! so pretty!"
"How long do you suppose there are to be only two of us?"
"I don't know that, mother. Lawrence St. Leger is just gone, and I don't want him back, for my part. In fact, I don't believe we have dinner enough for three."
"That's another thing. Where are we going to get anything to eat?"
"Lunch will be ready in a minute, mother."
"What have we got?"
"What you like. Frizzled beef and chocolate."
"I like it,—but I don't suppose it is very nourishing. Where are we to get what we want, Dolly? how are we to get bread, and butter, and marketing?"
"There's a village half a mile off. And, here is lunch on the table. We shall not starve to-day."
Mrs. Copley liked her chocolate and found the bread good. Nevertheless, she presently began again.
"Are we to live here alone the rest of our lives, Dolly? or what do you suppose your father's idea is? It's a very lonesome place, seems to me."
"Why, mother, we came here to get you well; and it's enough to make anybody well. It is the loveliest place I have ever seen, I think. Mr. St. Leger's grand establishment is nothing to it."
"And what do you mean by what you said about Lawrence St. Leger? Are you glad to have even him go away?"
"Yes, mother, a little bit. He was rather in my way."
"In your way! that's very ungrateful. How was he in your way?"
"Somebody to attend to, and somebody to attend to me. I like to be let alone. By and by, when you are sleeping, I shall go over and explore the park."
"What I don't understand," said Mrs. Copley, recurring to her former theme, "is, why, if he wanted me to be in the country, your father did not take a nice house somewhere just a little way out of London,—there are plenty of such places,—and have things handsome; so that he could entertain company, and we could see somebody. We can have nobody here. It looks really quite like poor people."
"That isn't a very bad way to look," said Dolly calmly.
"Not? Like poor people?" cried Mrs. Copley. "Dolly, don't talk folly. Nobody likes that look, and you don't, either."
"I am not particularly afraid of it. But, mother, we do not want to entertain company while you are not well, you know."
"No; and so here you are shut up and seeing no creature. I wish we were at home!"
Dolly did not precisely wish that; not at least till she had had time to examine this new leaf of nature's book opened to her. And yet she sighed a response to her mother's words. It was all the response she made.
She was too tired with her unwonted gardening exertions to go further exploring that afternoon. It was not till a day or two later, when Dolly had become somewhat more acquainted with her new life and its conditions, that she crossed the bridge one fair, warm June evening, and set her hesitating steps upon what seemed to her a wonderful piece of ground. She entered it immediately upon crossing the bridge. The green glades of the park woods were before her; the old giants of the park trees stretched their great arms over her and shadowed her footsteps. Such mighty trees! their great stems stood as if they had been there for ever; the leafy crown of their heads was more majestic than any king's diadem, and gave its protecting shelter, each of them, to a wide domain of earth's minor growths. Underneath their branches the turf was all green and gold, for the slant sun rays came in there and gold was in the tree tops, some of the same gold; and the green shadows and the golden bands and flecks of light were all still. There was no stir of air that evening. Silence, the stillness and solitude of a woodland, were all around; the only house visible from here was the cottage Dolly had just quitted, with its rose-covered porch.
Dolly went a little way, and stood still to look and listen, then went on a few steps more. The scene had a sort of regal beauty, not like anything she had ever known in her life before, and belonging to something her life had never touched. For this was not a primeval forest; it was not forest at all; it was a lordly pleasure ground. A "pleasaunee," for somebody's delight; kept so. There was no ragged underbrush; there were no wildering bushes and briars; the green turf swept away out of sight under the great old trees clean and soft; and they, the oaks and beeches, stretching their arms abroad and standing in still beauty and majesty, seemed to say—"Yes, we belong to the family; we have stood by it for ages." Dolly could see no dead trees, nor fallen lumber of dry branches; the place was dressed, yet unadorned, except by its own magnificent features; so most simple, most lordly. The first impression almost took away Dolly's breath. She again went on, and again stood still, then went further; at last could go no further, and she sat down on the bank under the shadow of a great oak tree which had certainly seen centuries, and gave herself up to the scene and her thoughts. They did not fit, somehow, and took possession of her alternately. Sometimes her eyes filled with glad tears, at the wonderful loveliness and stateliness of nature around her; the sense of beauty overcame all other feelings; filling and satisfying and also concealing a certain promise. It was certainly the will of the Creator that all things should be thus perfect, harmonious, and fair. What was not, could be made so. But then again a shadow would come over this sunshine, as Dolly remembered the anxieties she had brought from home with her. She had meant to let herself look at them here, in solitude and quiet; could she do it, now she was here? But when, if not now? Gradually Dolly gave herself up to thinking, and forgot where she was, or more correctly, saw the objects around her only through a veil of her own thoughts.
She had several anxieties; she was obliged to confess it to herself unwillingly; for indeed anxiety was so new to Dolly that she had hardly entertained it in all her life before; and when it had knocked at her door, she had answered that it came to the wrong place. However, she could not but hear and heed the knock now; and she wanted to consider the matter calmly and see whether the unwelcome visitor must be really taken in, and lodged.
It was not her mother's condition. With the buoyancy of youth, and the inexperience, Dolly expected that Mrs. Copley would soon get well. Her trouble was about her father; and the worst thing about her mother's state of nervous weakness was, that she could not talk to her on the subject or get her help and co-operation. That is, if anything were to be attempted to be done in the matter.—That was another question she wanted to consider.
In the first place, she could not help seeing one thing; that Mr. Copley was not flush with money as he used to be; as he had always been, ever since Dolly could remember. It was wholly unlike him, to send her and her mother down to this cottage with a household of two women servants; barely enough for the work that was indispensably necessary. Evidently, Mr. Copley entertained no idea of showing hospitality here in the country, and Dolly thought he had been secretly glad to be relieved of the necessity of doing it in town. Very unlike him. It was unlike him, too, to content his pride with so meagre an establishment. Mr. Copley loved to handle money, always spent it with a lavish carelessness, and was rather fond of display. What had made this change? Dolly had felt the change in still other and lesser things. Money had not been immediately forthcoming when she asked for it lately to pay her mantua maker's bill; and she had noticed on several occasions that her father had taken a 'bus instead of a hansom, or even had chosen to walk. A dull doubt had been creeping over her, which now was no longer obscure, but plainly enough revealed; her father had lost money. How, and where?
Impossible to answer this question. But at the same time there floated before Dolly's mind two vague images; Epsom and betting,—and a green whist table at Mr. St. Leger's, with eager busy players seated round it. True, the Derby came but once a year; and true, she had always heard that whist was a very gentlemanly game and much money never lost at it. She repeated those facts to herself, over and over. Yet the images remained; they came before her again and again; her father betting eagerly in the crowd of betters on the race course, and the same beloved figure handling the cards opposite to his friend the banker, at the hospitable mansion of the latter. Who should be her guaranty, that a taste once formed, though so respectably, might not be indulged in other ways and companies not so irreproachable? The more Dolly allowed herself to think of it, the more the pain at her heart bit her. And another fear came to help the former, its fit and appropriate congener. With the image of Mr. St. Leger and his cards, rose up also the memory of Mr. St. Leger's decanters; and Dolly lowered her head once in a convulsion of fear. She found she could not bear the course of her thought; it must be interrupted; and she sprang up and hurried on up the bank under the great trees, telling herself that it was impossible; that anything so terrible could not happen to her; it was not to be even so much as thought of. She cast it away from her, and resolved that it could not be. As to the rest, she thought, poverty is not disgrace; she would not break her heart about that till she knew there was more reason.
So with flying foot she hastened forward, willing to put a forcible stop to thought by her quick motion and the new succession of objects before her eyes. Yet they were not very new for a while. The ground became level and the going grew easier; otherwise it was the same lovely park ground, the same wilderness of noble trees, a renewal of the same woodland views. Lovely green alleys or glades opened to right and left, bidding her to enter them; then as she went on the trees stood thicker again. The sun getting more low sent his beams more slant, gilding the sides of the great trunks, tipping the ends of branches with leafy glitter, laying lovely lines of light over the turf. Dolly wandered on and on, allured by the continual change and variety of lovely combination in which grass, trees, and sunlight played before her eyes. But after a while the beauty took a different cast. The old oaks and beeches ceased; she found herself among a lighter growth, of much younger trees, some of them very ornamental, and in the great diversity of kinds showing that they were a modern plantation. What a plantation it was! for Dolly could not seem to get to the end of it. She went fast; the afternoon was passing, and she was curious to see what would succeed to this young wood; though it is hardly right to call it a wood; the trees were not close to each other, but stood apart to give every one a fair chance for developing its own peculiar manner of growth. Some had reached a height and breadth of beauty already; some could be only beautiful at every stage of growth; very many of them were quite strange to Dolly; they were foreign trees, gathered from many quarters. She went on, until she began to think she must give it up and turn back; she was by this time far from home; but just then she saw that the plantation was coming to an end on that side; light was breaking through the branches. She pressed forward eagerly a few steps; and on a sudden stood still, almost with a cry of delight. The plantation did end there abruptly, and at the edge of it began a great stretch of level green, just spotted here and there with magnificent trees, singly or in groups. And at the further edge of this green plain, dressed, not hidden, by these intervening trees, rose a most beautiful building. It seemed to Dolly like a castle in a fairy tale, so bewitchingly lovely and stately it stood there, with the evening sunlight playing upon its turrets, and battlements, and all that grand sweep of lawn lying at its feet. This must be the "house" of which Lawrence had spoken; but surely it was rather a castle. The style was Gothic; the building stretched along the ground to a lordly extent for a "house," and yet in the light grace and adornment of its structure it hardly looked like anything so grim as a castle. The stillness was utter; some cattle under the trees on the lawn were the only living things to be seen.
Dolly could not satisfy herself with looking. This was something that she had read about and heard about; a real English baronial residence. But was it reality? it was so graceful, so noble, so wonderful. She must go a little nearer. Yet it was a good while before she could make up her mind to leave the spot where this exquisite view had first opened to her. She advanced then upon the lawn, going towards the house and scarce taking her eyes from it. There were no paths cut anywhere; it was no loss, for the greensward here was the perfection of English turf; soft and fine and thick and even. It was a pleasure to step on it; and Dolly stepped along, in a maze, caught in the meshes of the beauty around her, and giving herself up to it in willing captivity. But the lawn was enormously wider than she had supposed; her eye had not been able to measure distances on this green level; she had walked already a long way by the time she had got one-third of its breadth behind her. Still, Dolly did not much consider that; her eye was fixed on the house as she now drew nearer to it, busied in picking out the details; and she only now and then cast a glance to right or left of her, and never looked back. It did occur to her at last that she herself was like a mere little speck cast away in this ocean of green, toiling over it like an ant over a floor; and she hurried her steps, though she was beginning to be tired. Slowly, slowly she went; half of the breadth of lawn was behind her, and then three quarters; and the building was unfolding at least its external organisation to her curious eyes, and displaying some of its fine memberment and broken surface and the resulting lights and shadows. Dolly almost forgot her toil, wondering and delighted; though beginning also to question dimly with herself how she was ever to find her way home! Go back over all that ground she could not, she knew; as little could she have told where was the point at the edge of the lawn by which she had entered upon it. That way she could not go; she had a notion that at the house, or near it, she might find somebody to speak to from whom she could get directions as to some other way. So she pressed on, feeding her eyes as she approached it upon the details of the house.