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3. CHAPTER III.

LANGVILLE.

note

Langville was a new stone house, with a handsome suite of sitting rooms, and every other convenience, including a wide verandah round three sides of the building. The original dwelling was still left standing, half buried in creepers, and was now used for a school-room and spare bedrooms. From the drawing-room windows were seen the farm buildings, forming quite a little village of huts, with a horse-mill, a forge, and a wheelwright's shed, the overseer's cottage, extensive fowl-houses, a good water-hole and stock-yard, all of which Mr. Lang was justly proud of. The road leading up to the house was worse than even the usual average of colonial roads, full of holes and stumps, and Mr. Herbert never failed to remark on this inconsistency every time he went there.

‘Your road is not improved,’ said he to the Miss Langs, as he gave his horse to the servant.

‘Quite good enough,’ said Isabel; ‘a friend is not worth having who fears to encounter a rough road: you must confess there is a beautiful view. I don't believe you have seen anything so pretty in your journey as those hills.’

She pointed to where the morning mist was clearing away from the distant country, and range beyond range looked deeply blue. Then laughing, she said it was all envy that made Mr. Herbert find fault.

‘That view is very fine, certainly,’ said Mr. Herbert; ‘but look there;’ he pointed to the bush at the side of the house, a forest of dead trees,


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looking like grim ghosts—tall, straight, and white. They had been ‘barked'—that is, killed by cutting away lines of bark, and when dry and dead enough, they were to be set fire to, a short way of clearing ground when labour is scarce.

‘That is enough to spoil any view,’ said Mr. Herbert; ‘but have you been industrious at sketching since I left? Come, where are your views of Darling harbour, and the north shore?’ said he to Isabel.

‘I have none. I have been busy reading lately. I really have not touched a pencil since you left——’

‘What have you been reading? have you subscribed to the library in Sydney?’

‘No; but I have been reading, and reading grave books, too. What do you say to this, and this,’ said she, as they entered the sitting-room, and she pointed to some books on the table.

Mr. Herbert opened them, turned over the leaves, and then looked at the title-page, but said nothing.

‘Ah, Mr. Herbert! very kind of you, I am sure, to come so soon. Wont you step into the other room,’ said Mrs. Lang, who now came in. ‘Looking at the books? you always are fond of books, and so is Issy, I assure you. Mr. Farrant is kind enough to supply her. A very nice young man that is. Issy, my dear, you should cover those books, they are so well bound.’

‘Yes, mamma,’ Isabel answered, while it was evident from the sparkle of fun which rippled all over her face as she glanced at Mr. Herbert, that some joke was coming.

‘Well? What is it? Speak out Issy,’ he said, coming to her side, though there was a little suppressed irritation or annoyance in his manner.

‘Oh, nothing! Only what did that elongation of the lip mean, just now? Are not the books good and desirable?’

‘Good, and desirable, so far as I know. I don't profess to have read all. But of course, of course——’ his words rolled out more rapidly, and the head went up with great effect.

‘Of course, the clergyman of the parish is, or should be, the best judge of that,’ she put in promptly, and looking again very demure and as amiable as possible.

‘Oh!’ said Kate. ‘Mr. Herbert, you have yet to learn what an authority this is come to be. Issy swears by Mr. Farrant in everything.’

To his quick and keen look of question at these words, Isabel answered, without raising her eyes, ‘It is my character. I must obey some one, and I have been so strictly drilled into following advice, that—that, while one adviser was so busy counting fleeces, I was forced to hang


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myself on to another. At all events, a legitimate one, isn't he, Mr. Herbert?’

‘Legitimate! Of course you are free to do as you like. Reading is, as I have often told you, very desirable. I should say indispensable for a gentlewoman. But, if my memory holds right, you never cared much for it.’

‘I am learning now! I feel a very keen desire for knowledge. You see, an introduction to the great world, meeting all the élite in Sydney, shamed my ignorance. I longed to hide myself. Directly I came home I set myself to learn, and remembered your own words.’

There was something indescribable in the manner and look, as she said this. The comic affectation of a primness, not naturally hers, and yet under all the joke and fun, a touch of heart in her eyes, as she glanced at him, as if to say, ‘don't be angry with me.’

He never could resist her when in this mood, and coming quite close to her now, and looking her straight in the face, he said—

‘You remembered my words? Well, Issy, for that—in that you did think of an old friend in his forced absence, and were not wholly taken up with new admirers, I shall strive to forget certain reports I have heard. Give me your hand, child. Is it as it was? I mean, no one has come between and cast me into outer darkness?’

‘Indeed, no! No!’ she said heartily, and giving him her hand, which he clasped between both his own, and finally, not letting it go, he drew it on his arm; when they were summoned to breakfast.

‘But these reports?’ he began, as they went in after the others.

‘About failures, bankruptcies, and so on?’ she asked saucily.

‘No; I speak of reports nearer home, about you, and this district. Did you like your gaiety in Sydney?’

‘Pretty well. It was pleasant to see Kate so admired, though, to be sure, I did get sleepy and tired of sitting out, and being so silent.’

‘Why silent?’

‘Because I had no one to speak to! Kate was sought by every one, but I, poor I, had to look on, and behave ‘pretty’.’

‘Ah! you don't mean that you were overlooked, that you received no attention?’

‘Very little. But it didn't break my heart, as you see.’

‘It is not what I heard. My information was quite different. I expected to find you ‘set up,’ and too proud to speak to me. I was so impatient at being detained up yonder! Really I was uneasy as to what change was coming to the wild little girl I left here.’

‘Afraid lest your office should be taken from you?’




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‘What office?’

‘I mean of critic, fault-finder, advice-giver.’

‘To whom?’

‘Oh, as if you didn't know! As if I didn't feel very like a fish out of water, when I had not you to give me weighty and grave advice!’

‘Can I do nothing but advise and find fault? If so, you can't be very rejoiced at my return!’

‘And who said I was?’

‘You are not, then?’

‘Now, don't be disagreeable, Mr. Herbert! Don't begin quarrelling just yet. I am hungry, and here is breakfast ready.’

Mr. Lang, followed by his two boys, joined them presently. ‘Sorry to be late, but I was detained. We've put Venn into the store, and I had to give him a few instructions.’

‘Venn! what is he promoted for?’ said Mr. Herbert.

‘Why, he's a clever chap, sharp as a needle, and if I make it his interest to serve me, I shall reap the benefit. There's not a cleverer fellow among my men.’

‘Nor one with a worse character,’ observed Mr. Herbert, gravely.

‘I can't say much for his morality, certainly,’ said Mr. Lang; ‘but that's nothing to me. He is assigned to me, and I must make the best of him. He has been very sharp about my stray cattle, so I wish to reward him. He knows he can't cheat me in the store.’

‘But will every one else,’ Mr. Herbert said, somewhat sotto voce; then louder, he added—'You don't mean to say you have put such a man over the others? Why, it is offering a premium to vice. Such a person ought to be discouraged in every way, instead of being rewarded.’

‘Oh, I leave that to Mr. Farrant, it is not my business, and I should like to see if any man here would do otherwise. If I choose to patronize a clever man, although he is a convict, I should like to know who is to prevent me.’

Mr. Herbert made no answer, but eatnote his breakfast in silence. Mr. Lang was ruffled, and found fault with the coffee and the toast.

‘Where are the little ones, and where's Miss Terry?’ he asked.

‘They are in the school-room, Mr. Lang,’ said his wife. ‘It is more convenient for them to breakfast there, and they can begin their studies so much sooner.’

‘Studies indeed! let them learn to boil coffee! I take it that is a far more creditable and more useful thing to know than ‘studies!’ Isn't it so, Mr. Herbert? A man wants a wife who can give him a comfortable meal, and I assure you, when I first married, and when we lived in that little


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cottage, Mrs. Lang made better coffee than I ever get now-a-days; the kitchen was close by, and she boiled it herself.’

‘Well, papa, I can assure you mamma made this herself, and it is your fault for staying so long that it is cold,’ said Isabel. ‘But I will get some hot for you.’

‘I beg pardon, Mrs. Lang. No offence, I hope?’ said Mr. Lang, recovering his good humour. ‘I am sure I didn't know you had been so notable of late.’

Before the breakfast party was dispersed, Mr. Farrant was announced. He came to beg Mr. Lang to ride with him, and settle the site for a school-house, and the three gentlemen went off together. In the mean time the ladies were discussing a proposed pic-nic.

‘We must ask the Budds, because they asked us, you know,’ said Mrs. Lang, counting the number of heads on her fingers. ‘And they will bring some of their children, they always do—so say four there.’

‘And the Jollys of course,’ said Isabel.

‘And three from Vine Lodge,’ said Kate.

‘Yes, my dear, and Captain Smith, and Mr. Farrant, and Dr. Marsh, and that's all, I believe,’ said the mother.

‘You've forgotten the Herberts,’ said Isabel.

‘Mr. Herbert is so grave, he is worse than ever; I can't bear him,’ said Kate.

‘Nor I either,’ said Mr. Lang, who came in at the window. ‘And what's more, I won't pay any civility to a man who sets up for a model. He had better be appointed governor here; he is full of new-fangled notions.’

‘He rides a good horse, at any rate,’ remarked Willie, a boy of fifteen.

‘I don't see that it is so very good, for my part, considering he keeps a man always rubbing him. Don't judge horses by a shining coat, my boy!’

Mr. Lang went away, and his wife ran after him to ask a question.

‘This wont do,’ said Isabel to her sister; ‘it will never do to leave out the Herberts; I must go after papa.’

‘O, why trouble yourself about it? That is the way with you, Issy, and you never leave papa alone about Venn. Why not let people take their own way? it is nothing to you.’

‘Nothing to me! it is a great deal to me what my father does, and he is only irritated just for the moment. He will, I know, see that it is right to invite the Herberts, and as to Venn, don't talk of it! To think of that man being our store-keeper, an upper servant, when we know what he is!’




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In the course of the day Isabel joined her father in a walk to one of his fields, and contrived to introduce the subject of the pic-nic, and urged the necessity of asking their old friends at Warratah Brush. She found, however, that it was a task of more difficulty than she had anticipated. The subject of the new bridge had been started during the morning, and Mr. Herbert had entirely disagreed with Mr. Lang about it. Mr. Lang was particularly sore at being opposed in anything he had in view, and was very angry with both Mr. Herbert and Mr. Farrant.

But Isabel was a favourite, and as she leant on his arm and talked, his angry mood passed away. He pointed to his crop of green barley with pleasure, and showed her where he meant to clear away the bush and make a vineyard. They mounted the hill, which commanded a view of the greatest part of the cultivated land, and on all sides almost as far as they could see it was Langville property. The new and pretty house just showed its white chimney-tops, the blacksmith's hammer was heard in the distance, and nearer at hand a sheep-bell told them that one of the numerous flocks was not far off.

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Lang, ‘ 'tis a nice spot, and it is a little improved since we came here. 'Twas thick forest then, and we lived in a slab cottage. Ah! there goes a wanga wanga pigeon, your mother would like some of those for dinner. I must send out the boys with the gun.’

The pleasant walk had its full effect on Mr. Lang, and his daughter gained her point.

‘Well, then, we may ask the Herberts, papa?’ said she, as she separated from him at the door.

‘Aye, aye, Issy, you women are all alike,’ and whistling a favourite tune he climbed the fence and proceeded to his farmyard.

Isabel reported her success to her mother and sister.

The former said, ‘Well, I think, my dears, it is best really to ask them. You know Mr. Herbert is quite the gentleman and very clever, and Mrs. Vesey thinks a great deal of this. I think the Herberts would be hurt, and justly so, if we overlooked them. I am sure I have always encouraged Mr. Herbert to come here; it is so good for young men to see society.’

‘Well, then, Kate,’ said her sister, rather impatiently, ‘we'll go to-morrow and ask them.’

‘We? I don't see why you say we, Issy, it is all your own doing.’

‘O, you are Miss Lang, you know; it will come better from you. However, if you don't like the ride, I'll go with Willie.’

‘O, do go, my dear Kate,’ said her mother.

And Kate, who liked being asked more than once, at last consented to accompany her brother and sister.




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Mr. Herbert and his sister were at breakfast the next morning when they heard merry voices and horses' feet pass the window.

‘It is the Langs, Kate and Issy and William; what can they be come for, I wonder?’ said Miss Herbert.

Mr. Herbert rose, and on seeing Isabel jump from her horse and knock at the little verandah gate, he walked out. Willie rode round to the stock-yard to see the foals branded, and Kate began with—'Mr. Herbert, papa and mamma hope you will, you and your sister, I mean, join us in a pic-nic to the Sugar Loaf next week, and . . .’ here her horse fidgeted at the flies, and Isabel took up the speech—'and come the evening before, if you please; we can give you beds. The Veseys will be there, and perhaps the Jollys; we want you particularly to show us the way by the flats. And don't you think the gig can go? We want Miss Terry to come so much, and she won't ride, you know.’

‘Yes, a gig can go, or you can have our spring-cart; they must get out at the bridge, it would not be safe to go over that, I think.’

‘Well, then, you will come? Thursday week is the day. But you must come on Wednesday.’

‘I see my sister is settling it all with Kate,’ said Mr. Herbert, ‘so come and let me show you my favourite little filly, she is worth seeing!’

Isabel followed him to the stock-yard, where all the foals were collected.

‘I suppose that is Pearl,’ said she, pointing to a milk-white creature with slender legs.

‘Yes, there is Pearl, she is quite tame and gentle, she will make a beautiful lady's horse!’

‘How I should like to ride her,’ said Isabel.

‘Will you try? she is broken in. Let me put the side-saddle on.’

‘Yes do, Issy,’ said Willie. ‘I saw Jack riding her the other day, and he said she was quite gentle.’

Willie ran off for the saddle, and in a few minutes Pearl was caught, and Isabel seated on her back. She arched her neck and took a bound or two, but Mr. Herbert had hold of her, and Isabel was too good a horsewoman to feel the slightest fear.

‘Try her paces, Issy, round the paddock,’ said Willie.

He took down the slip-rail as he spoke, and Isabel put the beautiful creature into a canter, and was half round the paddock before Mr. Herbert and Willie had proceeded more than a few steps.

‘Doesn't she ride well, that's all,’ cried he, in boyish delight. ‘And that's a beauty, Mr. Herbert; how much would you take for her?’

Mr. Herbert did not answer—his sister called him, and he had to go


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back, and give a quick assent to the plan she was proposing for the pic-nic. Before he returned to the rail Isabel had stopped and was patting Pearl's neck and praising her.

‘Now try her walk,’ said Mr. Herbert, and he kept by her side. ‘Just come this way, and I will show you the site I have fixed on for a house,’ and he took down another slip-rail, and calling to Willie to put it up again, he led the way through the bush at the back of the house.

Willie did not care about the site, he went back to the stock-yard and talked to the stockman.

Kate seeing that her sister had gone off, accepted Miss Herbert's offer to look at her bees. The bee-house was at the bottom of a vine-walk in the garden. A low fence divided it from a crop of green barley, and this fence was one mass of passion-flower and the multiflora rose intermixed. Miss Herbert was fond of her garden and bees, and was proud to show them.

‘Look at this native fig-tree,’ said she, ‘isn't it a magnificent shrub? You don't know what pains and trouble I had to save it last summer in the drought! But now it repays me. It is such a rich dark green to rest one's eyes on after the blue gum-trees!’

‘How nice it must be to have so tidy a garden!’ said Kate. ‘We never can make anything grow, and papa will not have a proper garden made because of the expense and trouble.’

Miss Herbert laughed, and said it was absurd for Mr. Lang to talk of expense.

‘Now he had built such a fine house he ought to have a good garden, and also a good road up to his house.’

‘Very true, Miss Herbert. But times are very bad, and I assure you, papa is very uneasy. He almost thought we could not go to the Government Ball on the Queen's birthday.note But, however, mamma has managed it, so it is settled, luckily for us, for it would be so odd not to go, and Issy is to ‘come out’ regularly then. And we are to have new dresses. Only think of the Whites! They are so curious to know what we shall wear, and they have spread a report that papa has sent to England for pink satins! They only did that out of spite, they know it is not true. Mamma says simple dresses are the best, and Mrs. Vesey, who is going, and knows all about such things, is only going to wear white muslin.’

‘Well, you are preparing in time, at any rate,’ said Miss Herbert, gathering flowers as she slowly walked on, and listened to Kate's chatter. ‘There are three months yet to the ball.’

‘Why, we do think of it, of course, there has been so much talk as to whether we go or not, and we lead such dull lives!’




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‘How very intimate you seem to be with Mrs. Vesey already,’ remarked Miss Herbert.

‘Yes, haven't we got on? And what a charming person she is! So clever and stylish and fashionable! By the way, I am so glad your brother is gone. I never dare talk before him!’

‘Indeed! you surprise me! Your sister does not appear to mind it.’

‘No, not at all. But they have always been such allies, you see. Issy rattles on a good deal with every one. Mamma says that it is a high time for her to remember she is a young lady, and grown up, and so on. Mr. Herbert is so accustomed to treat her as a child. That is the worst of going on for ever with the same people. There is poor Tom Jolly! I am sure I don't mean to be unkind; but really, if he expects that I can go on, being such particular friends now, he is wrong. It can't be! I tell Issy the same about your brother. You can't think,’ she went on, not waiting for any comment or answer, but changing the affected tone to one of more open self-content, ‘how much Issy was admired at Sydney! She was well dressed, and really looked very well. Here, you know, she has never been much thought of; but there she made quite an impression, I can tell you.’

‘In Sydney! I dare say. But if she doesn't learn a quieter manner she will find it will end there, with an impression, as you call it. Gentlemen may like to laugh and joke, but they would not like that manner in a wife.’

‘No; I often tell Issy so, and so does mamma. But papa never sees a fault in her. And Miss Terry makes so much of her. Somehow people don't seem to mind her way so much. Do you know—please don't tell any one, though—that Mr. Farrant admires Issy very much indeed. He is so very often at our house, and lends her books and all that. By the way, what will Mr. Herbert say to it, I wonder? But where are they gone? We ought to be on our way home.’

‘What can it be to my brother whether or no Mr. Farrant admires your sister?’ exclaimed Miss Herbert, with some indignation. ‘He has always looked upon her as a little girl—nothing more. He has been very kind, but I assure you, Kate, that——’

‘No, I know! Of course! I didn't mean anything. Why, he is quite like an uncle to Issy! But, dear Miss Herbert, let us go after them, please.’

Meanwhile, Mr. Herbert had been leading Pearl up the ascent, clearing a way through the scrub, or underwood, till he came to a small cleared piece of ground overlooking the cottage and settlement of huts.

‘This would be the place for a house,’ he said.

‘The Parsonage is the prettiest place here,’ Isabel answered.




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‘Not prettier than this might be, I am sure. I hear you have made a sketch of the Parsonage.’ And Mr. Herbert patted Pearl's neck.

‘Yes, for Mr. Farrant to send home. It is very nice having him—and then the Veseys. Weren't you surprised at all these changes?’

‘Yes. By the way, Isabel, I hope you are on our side about this bridge?’ Mr. Herbert presently said.

‘Indeed, I am on papa's side.’

‘What, if I prove to you that the other is the right line for the public? Come, listen to reason.’

‘I never could. My reasoning goes to make me follow papa.’

‘Absurd! Where would that take you if carried out? Women are all alike, I do believe!’

‘Yes—always right,’ she said, demurely.

‘Are you and I to quarrel, then, over this vexed question?’

‘You know best. I am full of peace, I assure you.’

‘Own that you think our view the right one, and I will excuse your perhaps natural wish to please your father.’

‘I can't own what I don't know.’

‘You ought to know—you ought to influence your father. What is your sense given you for? Isabel, I hoped great things——’

‘Hope told a flattering tale!note But, come, I will use my influence and use my sense. Mr. Herbert, do give up this once—just for the sake of peace.’

She put on her most loving manner, and touched his arm lightly with her whip.

‘Foolish girl!’ he laughed. ‘Seriously, though, I dread all this business. Why, no one with any reason can deny that Bengala Creek is the place for the bridge. The other road makes the way at least four miles longer.’

‘O dear! how I do wish there were no such things as bridges and all those dull things. I am so tired of the subject!’

‘Then let us change it. But some day I must try to convert you yet. I must not forget to show you a book of sketches I bought for you.’

‘For me?’

‘Yes—I filled it with studies of trees, and even huts. I thought you might like it. And I have some queer tales to tell about some of the scenes.’

‘It was very civil of you,’ she said, evidently pleased. ‘But don't expect a speech, for I am a bad hand at thanking.’

‘Never mind! But I shall claim my guerdon some day, remember. Let us take a turn this way. You are in no hurry, I hope, for I have a great deal


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to say.’

‘What is it?’

‘Ah—well! I hardly remember at this moment. Do you like Mrs. Vesey?’

‘Do I like her? Well—hem—can't say. She is immensely amusing and sharp. You have no idea how she cuts us all up, one after another—even you—your peculiarities don't escape her.’

‘Pleasant, certainly! but what are my peculiarities, as you are pleased to call them?’

‘O! I suppose you don't think yourself the least peculiar! O, no! Mr. Herbert is just like every one else. He never stands for ten minutes together staring into the air over his chin, or never sits silent during the whole of dinner, only vouchsafing a ‘Pshaw’ to express his utter contempt for all the party—he never——’

‘Come, come, Isabel—nonsense! besides, remember I have been many years in the Bush.’

‘Indeed! Are you so very sure you were better behaved before? Poor Bush! you have to bear the faults of a great many. What a wreck is here!—the once accomplished gentleman . . . . . . Oh dear me! who would come to the Bush?’

‘You are the most absurd girl I ever met with.’

‘No wonder! I was born and reared in the Bush!’

Mr. Herbert made no answer to this. Isabel was accustomed to his ‘silent fits,’ as she called them, and she wished to see how long it would last now. So she said nothing. When they reached the paddock, they saw Kate and Willie evidently looking for them.

‘Pleasant dreams to you, Mr. Herbert,’ said Isabel, laughing, and at the same time touching Pearl with her whip smartly, at which the spirited animal bounded forward, and before Mr. Herbert recovered from his surprise, Isabel had crossed the paddock, and was dismounted and laughing at her own feat, while Willie led Pearl back and called for his sister's pony. Before it was all settled, and while Kate was reminding Miss Herbert of the hour and the day fixed upon for their coming, Mr. Herbert came up, trying to look very grave and dignified, though somewhat out of breath.

‘Wait for the sketch-book. I will not be one moment.—I suppose Willie is to be trusted to carry it?’ said Mr. Herbert, producing a neatly folded parcel.

‘I will not trust him—give it to me, Mr. Herbert,’ said Isabel. ‘Thank you,’ she added; ‘you are an excellent man, notwithstanding all I said just now, and, if you are inclined to be sociable, you may as well ride to


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Langville this evening. You have not heard Miss Terry sing; and—and—it is very likely—not impossible—that Mr. Farrant will be there, and, if so, there will be duets. I think that even your fastidious taste would be pleased—Good bye!’ and she kissed her hand and cantered after her sister.

‘Issy, how could you ask him for this evening? I'm sure papa wont be over pleased,’ said Kate.

‘Never mind, Kate; papa will say nothing if there is music. I don't suppose he will really come, but I want to see him and Miss Terry together; and he is in such a very good humour—you need not be at all afraid of him to-day.’

There were visitors at Langville. Amelia Jolly and her brother were standing in the verandah when the Langs rode up to the house.

Amelia was rather older than either Kate or Isabel, a thoroughly good-humoured though plain girl, who thought Langville House and its inhabitants quite perfection. Her brother, a fine, well-grown young man, had been a devoted admirer of Kate's ever since he was a boy at the King's School, Paramatta.note It had been coquettishly encouraged by Kate, even though her head was turned at a ‘finishing’ school in Sydney, where she had been taught, among other accomplishments, to look upon herself as a beauty and a fortune, and with far higher pretensions than to be worshipped by Tom. Mrs. Lang had condescendingly allowed the ‘poor young man’ to come whenever he liked to Langville, because it was such an advantage to him to see a little society, and the Jollys were very worthy, good kind of people, and Amelia always properly sensible of Mrs. and the Miss Langs' kind notice. Mr. Lang liked the young man, and thought it all right that the young ones should enjoy themselves as they liked, though he said he wondered at Tom's taste; ‘Issy would make ten times as good a wife!’

But Kate had lately received a great deal of attention from others, and Tom's blunt, honest manners failed to please her this morning. She gave him short answers, and retired to a sofa, where she whispered to the admiring Amelia an account of her visit to Sydney, and all the gaieties she had entered into. Isabel happened to be busy in the store-room, and poor Tom was driven to look over some of Mr. Farrant's books which lay on the table. At last, Willie came to his relief, and proposed a visit to the stock-yard. The guests were invited to remain the rest of the day, as a matter of course, and according to Isabel's prediction, Mr. Farrant made his appearance about tea-time.

He was a very constant visitor, always having a book to show, or a chant he wanted the young ladies to try, or some business on which to


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consult Mr. Lang.

‘Will you sing ‘Lilla's a Lady,’note Miss Lang?’ asked Tom.

Isabel laughed.

‘Miss Lang! do you hear, Kate? It isn't natural Tom, it wont do.’

Tom coloured up as he said something about ‘old friends, and Sydney, and taking a liberty,’ which no one heard so as to understand.

‘May I open the piano?’ he asked.

‘O yes, if you like, and Miss Terry will sing,’ said Kate.

‘Ah, but she is not ready—just that one song, Kate—I haven't heard it so long,’ he said, coming close to the back of her chair.

‘O, don't tease, Tom! I'm not going to sing to-night; and as to that song, I positively hate it. It is as old as the hills.’

Tom sighed but pressed no more.

‘Girls!’ said Mr. Lang, rousing up from a nap in his easy chair; ‘girls! what are you doing? What's the good of my buying a grand pianoforte, and paying such a long bill for teaching you to sing, Kate, if I am never to hear it? Come, Kate, bestir yourself!’

‘Papa!’ exclaimed Kate, ‘how you do talk! I am out of practice.’

‘Miss Terry will sing, papa,’ said Isabel, standing behind him and stroking his hair in a coaxing way.

‘Ah, she is very good-natured and never wants pressing, Issy. You may both take a leaf out of her book——’ but Isabel playfully put her hand before his mouth and said hush as the first chords were struck.

Presently Mr. Farrant's voice was heard, full, deep, and mellow, in ‘Comfort ye my people.’note

The talking and whispering was hushed, the little girls standing quite still, watching every turn in the singer's face with open-mouthed attention and wonder. The boys looked as if they thought it a bad substitute for their sisters' songs, but they sat very quiet for some time and then crept out of the room unobserved, to amuse themselves elsewhere. Song followed song. Miss Terry's voice was clear and sweet. Daylight had faded, and Mrs. Lang, in the middle of her assiduous beating time with her foot, had dropped into a sly nap, very comfortable and unseen. Kate was lounging back on the sofa by her friend Amelia, Tom taking quiet observations and looking a little unhappy. Mr. Lang, who really loved music, was listening with all his soul, while Isabel had ensconced herself behind his chair, and sitting on a low stool, had buried her face in her hands.

‘That is a great treat! Thank you, ma'am!’ said Mr. Lang, drawing a long breath, as candles were brought in. ‘Eh, Kate? What mamma—asleep? Aye, as sound as a top.—O no!—of course—I understand, only


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shutting her eyes as usual! Mrs. Lang never is guilty of a nap, eh, Issy? Issy!—where's the girl gone?’

‘Here, papa,’ she said, coming round.

‘Go and play a tune. You must not leave all the work to Miss Terry.’

‘O no, please! Nothing more after that. I can't, indeed, daddy!’

Mr. Lang left the room presently to give some forgotten orders, and Mr. Farrant pressed Isabel to take some part in a trio, which she declined. He spoke of his love for music, hoping he should not ‘bore’ them, and she answered, but in so low a voice that Kate said—

‘Why, I do believe you have been asleep, Issy! Have you?’

‘No. Yet I believe I have been half dreaming too. It is very odd, but that last song made me think of our walk on the north shore that night, by moonlight. Do you remember, Kate? Well, and it also reminded me of that priest—what was his name?’

‘What, Father Mornay?’ said Kate; ‘what an idea! What connexion can Miss Terry's song possibly have with a moonlight night and a Roman Catholic priest?’ And Kate laughed.

‘My dear Isabel,’ put in her mother, ‘that is just one of your fastidious notions’ (Mrs. Lang always used the word fastidious for anything she was not able to express clearly), ‘which you and Mr. Herbert encourage each other in. It is foolish, my love, very. Besides, it is hardly right or safe to be in the habit of alluding to a Catholic priest so lightly. The less you have to do with them the better.’

‘O, dear mamma, I have nothing to do with them!’ cried Isabel, amused. ‘This Dr. Mornay we met one day at the Kearneys, at North Shore; and certainly it is very odd, I don't know that I have thought of him from that day to this, but Miss Terry's song brought him quite before me, his voice and his look and all.’

‘Is he handsome?’ half whispered Amelia Jolly, who had risen, saying she must prepare for her ride home. ‘Eh, Issy, is he handsome? because once I saw——’

What Miss Jolly saw did not transpire, for her brother interrupted her by urging expedition, and Kate offered to help her to dress, rather in a fit of perversity, and because poor Tom had come up in the last vain hope of having a few words.

Soon the sound of the horses' feet were heard clattering down the road. The rest of the party stood in the verandah looking at the brilliant, unspeakably calm light from the stars. Bats were whirling heavily in rapid flight around their heads. The clustering passion-flower waved gently to and fro. Mr. Farrant, Miss Terry, and Kate, went out to take a turn; Isabel remained where she was. It was very quiet. But the song


  ― 43 ―
echoed still in her ear. It was the first really good music she had ever heard. Something within was stirred—something she could not express weighed upon her, partly pain, partly pleasure. She strove to rally herself, feeling half ashamed at the new emotion; and, when presently her father came into the room, and finding no one there, stepped out to where she was, she put her arm into his, and stooping, kissed his hand.

‘What is it, child? What ails ye?’ he asked, struck with something unusual about his child.

‘Nothing! nothing at all, daddy! I have been thinking; that's all.’

‘Thinking, truly! Don't do it, Issy dear. Take my advice, and never be what you call ‘thinking.’ Action is the thing. Thinking is the ruin of half the men and three parts of the women.’

‘Is it? Well, but how can one help it, after hearing music?’

‘What has music to do with thinking, eh, girl? Bless you, music is the best of all things to set one off, lead one to battle or anything—just the contrary of ‘thinking.’ By the way—there has been a terrible row again about that girl, Nelly. It seems Venn is sweet upon her.’

‘Venn! O papa, don't let him have her!’

‘Why not? A capital good thing for her.’

‘I can't bear him. Besides, she is promised already.’

‘Gammon! Promised! She hasn't two ideas in her head, and yet for the sake of a pair of innocent blue eyes and a sweet voice, all the men in the place are making themselves fools about her! They say she ran away from her step-mother, and was found in Lynch's hut. The Macleans are furious.’

‘That woman does treat her miserably. I wish you would let Lynch marry her. He is very fond of her, papa.’

‘I'll grant no such a favour to him. He deserves a flogging at this moment, for an insolent, sulky brute as he is. Now, Issy, don't be encouraging such a notion, for I am poz—send for the girl, and tell her to be steady and marry Venn. It is the best thing she can do.’

So saying, they overtook the others, and Isabel was startled by one of her brothers jumping out upon her from a bush. Passing an arm round her waist, he, considering that he had been silent enough, began a whole string of stories of alarms about bushrangers and ghosts. Mr. Farrant entered pleasantly into the strain, and told his wonders too; till he laughingly declared, he must go at once, or he should be afraid to face his ride home. Offers to remain the night were pressed upon him, but he persisted in being obliged to go. Willie, charmed by his stories, was so polite as to fetch his horse, and then go a little way to open the gate for him. He returned rubbing his hands in glee.




  ― 44 ―

‘A jolly fellow, isn't he?’

‘O Willie!’ exclaimed his sisters, in horror at the epithet.

‘I wonder, does he come here courting?’ the boy said, which set Kate off; and brought upon himself a scolding from Isabel, and a gentle reprimand from Miss Terry. The prayer-bell ringing, they all went in by the window.

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