― 269 ―


The Wedding Head-Dress.


Isabel was surprised to find how comparatively little Lynch's escape irritated her father. Perhaps he was glad at heart to be relieved from seeing a man he so much disliked, and knew he had not always treated justly. Or perhaps more pressing troubles occupied him; altogether he was much calmer and quieter, though grave. Little things did not vex him, and his voice took a lower tone. He visited all the outlying huts and the land in process of clearing, leaving orders and noting progress. He made his boys drive in all the horses, and looked them over carefully. He also spent some time in arranging his papers, some of which he was to take to Sydney. Some letters were missing likely to be of consequence, and he allowed Isabel and even Miss Terry to help him in the search. Mrs. Lang was energetically busy in looking out his shirts and darning imaginary thin places in his socks. She also baked a very large stock of ginger-nuts, which used to be a favourite indulgence of his, and no one reminded her that it was too hot weather for such a compound, for every one felt it best that she should be occupied. One day—it was the day before that on which Mr. Herbert started for his station—Mr. Lang noticed that his darling Issy was paler than she ought to be. He spoke of it, and asked if she had been over-working herself. When she denied it, laughingly, he whispered—'No fretting, is it?’ And she was provoked with herself for being silly enough to blush so deeply that he could not help observing it.

  ― 270 ―

‘What!—after all, Issy? O, fie, fie!’

‘No, daddy, indeed, indeed you are wrong! Do you know, I can't understand why I am so very glad as I am? It only shows me what a blessing it is things were so ordained.’

‘But you can't tell me you are not fretting, child, about something?’

‘Yes; but there are many things rather ‘fretty’ just now, you see. What is the matter with the Jollys? Not one of them has been here for such a time—I don't like it! They mustn't cut us! Then about—Kate. I am rather fidgety about that; and I don't like my daddy's going to Sydney alone on this errand—and then . . . But I am not ill—a ride will make me all right.’

‘Then take a ride; Willy and Jem can go.’

‘I will,’ she answered, readily; ‘I want to go and see how Kate goes on; and I'll be back again for dinner.’

So Isabel and her brothers went to Vine Lodge, and found Kate looking quite at home and very happy with her friend. Isabel was further relieved by hearing there that Tom Jolly was away at Mr. Henley's new station, and Amelia staying in Sydney.

‘Do you know anything of the Herberts?’ she asked, in a careless tone, presently.

‘No. Don't you? Do you mean he has not been every day to Langville?’ said Mrs. Vesey, with an emphasis Isabel did not like. She wondered if Kate had told her friend the news of Miss Terry—she didn't like to take if for granted.

‘I have a book here which I must return. I have a great mind to ride round by the Settlement with it,’ said Isabel, speaking to Kate.

‘If it is for Mr. Herbert, we are sending a man there this very afternoon. He will be happy to convey your parcel.’

And Mrs. Vesey, raising her glass, gave a meaning glance and smile at Kate. Isabel saw it too, and drew up a little.

‘Thank you, but——’

‘You had rather take it yourself? Well, it is a satisfaction to put a thing into the owner's hands, I grant, and not having seen him for so very long—for two days, I think you said?—I dare say you are anxious to——’

‘No—not that! And I shall be very glad if you will let your man take it. But, Kate, can you give me some paper?’

Isabel spoke haughtily—she meant to be cold—and was offended.

‘Here!’ said Mrs. Vesey, presently, while Isabel looked over Kate's shoulder, searching her blotting-book for a sheet large enough. ‘See, Miss Isabel Lang! I have tied it up—I flatter myself on having

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parcel-tying fingers! Quite a gift! It ‘comes'—no practice or study will do it. I abhor a clumsy home-tied parcel. It is like a sloven of a woman, down at heels, and out at elbows. But please direct it yourself. That will explain matters. A nice little corner for your love, you see. You look shocked! Is it possible! Now, I should have said it was quite right and natural to put ‘with I. Lang's love,’ or even ‘kind love.’ I declare I should say so myself. No—‘regards’ would be the right term for me. But you must put love, or he will come cantering up your road in a grand taking, to know the meaning of it.’

‘There!’ said Isabel, having hastily scribbled the direction in her worst writing, and not deigning to notice Mrs. Vesey's jokes. ‘Dont forget it, Kate.’


Warratah Brush.

From I. L., with thanks.

Mrs. Vesey shrugged her shoulders as she read it aloud, saying—'Cold, freezing! Ah, you are so very proper—quite prudish—though people do call you . . . Tell Henry to put this into the basket he is to carry to Mr. Herbert,’ she said, giving the parcel to a servant who answered her summons, made by striking a glass with her thimble.

‘What do people say I am, Mrs. Vesey?’ said Isabel, having told Willie to fetch her horse.

‘O, best not repeat these things! It gives a different, and often a wrong impression.’

‘But I want to know. Please to tell me.’

‘Well—it is nothing! Only I have heard people say you were a ‘fast’ girl—and inclined to rebel against all rules of decorum, and so on.’

‘Who are the people, Mrs. Vesey?’

‘I can't pretend to specify; several!’

‘Our society is so small, it is easy to distinguish. Was it your husband, or was it Mr. Farrant?’

‘I was not thinking of either of them. Certainly I have heard Mr. Herbert say something of the kind and regret it too, quite in a kind and friendly, almost fatherly way; Dr. Marsh, too!’

‘Thank you! Now, here are the boys! Any message home, Kate? Good-bye!’ and she was soon off, and riding so fast that her brothers exclaimed, and, for a wonder, begged for a little breathing time.

Isabel was generally chatty and cheerful with the boys, and

  ― 272 ―
consequently a great favourite. To-day she was silent all the way. She did not like Mrs. Vesey's looks or tone of voice when speaking of Mr. Herbert. She resented it as impertinent.

Yet, why—what was it? If it had not been for her disagreeable remarks, she would have added something to the bare direction; at all events, it would have been, as always before, with her ‘love.’ She wished she had not sent the book by their man at all.

And what had kept him from coming again, as he had so distinctly said he should do? And what made her so peculiarly anxious about this one visit? Was it his hints and allusions about wanting to speak quietly to her? What was there to say, now Miss Terry's affair had been duly discussed? Above all, what was the meaning of his look when he held her hand and so earnestly bade her good-bye? It could be no bad news, no subject for his sympathy and needing preparation to bear it. Whatever it was, it looked like joy to him.

She had hardly ever,—perhaps never, seen him so moved. Again and again she thought of it, and recalled each expression, every word and tone, and, contrary to her usual habit, weighed and measured and mused over it. She had looked with such great, such almost bounding joy, to seeing him again, mixed with a shy feeling too, which brought the colour to her face even in thinking of it. Then, as the first day came and went and he did not appear, she found herself pausing at night before going to bed, to think of it again, to see if she had invented, or made something out of nothing. No; she could see it again—that look! She could feel the pressure of his hand. It was something close to his heart, something precious which he would not risk exposing to her perverse moods, but kept back and withheld, in a grave, wistful impatience, till he felt the right moment was come. ‘It was nice of him,’ she thought. It pleased and excited her in an extraordinary way, considering how much there was to think of about her father's affairs. This was a little secret hoard which she kept hidden, but peeped at every now and then, and grew strangely eager to come face to face with. ‘Surely to-day he will be here!’ But the to-day passed into yesterday, and Mr. Herbert came not, and so it was with another day. And then Isabel grew troubled, and her face showed it. The ride had not worked its promised cure either; but, luckily, Mr. Lang took it for granted that all was right and made no remark. They had a quiet and silent dinner. Mr. Lang drinking wine with his wife and his daughter, one after the other, and expressing regret that Kate was away. It took them all by surprise when just before tea Kate herself rushed into the room, rather excited and out of breath. After kissing all round, she

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explained that Mrs. Vesey was obliged to go to the Budds, and she had proposed dropping Kate at the bottom of the hill by the gates, and picking her up again in the same spot to-morrow morning. ‘I was glad to come back and say good-bye to papa. Isn't it fun?’

‘It does you credit, Katie girl! Come here and kiss me! I was wishing to see your pretty face too. Can't help believing I am on some long journey, though I haven't been accustomed to make much of a ride to Sydney either. But the errand, I suppose, stretches the distance—and somehow—I wish I was home again, girl!’

Mrs. Lang expressed great pleasure in Kate's ‘pretty attention’ to her father, and her kind, affectionate feelings. Kate's coming inspired a little more spirit and her reception gratified her. It was no bad specimen of a family group, bound together by affection, and drawn all the closer under pressure of a threatened calamity.

‘Any commands for Sydney?’ inquired Mr. Lang, smiling. ‘Come, I am sure some things are wanted. Lots of white ribbon, white gloves, and so on—and who is to make the cake? Wont trust me to choose the finery—eh, Miss Terry?’

‘No, indeed, papa!’ said Kate; ‘who would?’

‘Ay, ay!’ he said, his eyes growing dim and soft, as, resting back in his chair, some recollection came over him, causing him to look at his wife, and then at Isabel.

‘Issy, my dear, what do you think was the prettiest and most becoming dress I ever saw for a bride?——ah! you wont guess—eh, Kitty?—Mrs. Lang, will she?’

‘A veil, of course,’ said Kate. ‘But what makes you think of this now?’

‘No! veil, no! nothing like it. Shall I tell, mamma?’ he said.

‘Yes, do! Kate, come and hear what mamma wore when she was married! We never heard—I never thought of asking, for my part.’

‘Ah! we are growing so learned now in these matters—eh, Miss Terry?’

‘I should like to be informed, sir; my experience is small.’

‘Would you fancy your mother, girls, going out of the beaten track entirely? By Jove, she was pretty enough to go her own way, too. A singular costume it was, pretty and simple. Kate, would you wear it? I bet ten pounds,—though, heaven knows, money is scarce—that neither one of you here would wear the like! Yet it was very pretty, and would look well in a picture.’

‘Yes, I would, if it was really simple and pretty,’ said Isabel.

‘And singular! That would settle it for you, Issy,’ Kate said, and

  ― 274 ―
got a pinch for her pains.

‘What was it, papa? I am curious.’

‘A straw bonnet—a broad hat?’ guessed Miss Terry and Kate.

Mrs. Lang smiled a little, and then held her handkerchief to her face.

‘What is the use of raking all that up, Mr. Lang?’

‘Now, mamma,—we must hear!’

‘Well,’ said Mr. Lang, ‘your mother was married in a—a—hang it! I never can remember that French name! In plain English—a night-cap!’



‘Some play on the word,’ suggested Miss Terry.

‘Not a bit of it. A night-cap!’ he repeated.

‘No! Mr. Lang! You always will persist in that mistake. It was not a cap at all, for I had none. It was a fine cambric pocket-handkerchief tied over my ears, gipsy fashion,’ said Mrs. Lang.

They all laughed and wondered. Mr. Lang laughed too, but in a subdued way. And again there was that rare, tender light in his eye, as if he was looking a long way back, and he sighed as he went on.

‘Night-cap or not, it was a substitute for one, and I say again, it was a becoming dress, too. Ay, girls, have ye never heard of the marriage bells we had,—the feast, the excursion or tour? There was the parson, and the Captain, the second mate, and, I think, three men besides, eh!—well, two and a boy—you're right, my dear. Said I, ‘Parson, have you a Common Prayer-Book or not?’ ‘Yes,’ he said; ‘but why, Willy?’ You see he was a friend of mine. ‘Well, find out the marriage service and join us. I can better take care of her as my wife; and if the worst comes, it will do no harm.’ So I fetched her out—we had got up a sort of rude shelter, with sails and so on, for her—all trembling was she, a poor, delicate, slight darling! So young and so pretty! Ah—well! And there was, as I said, our marriage peal—the dismal break of the waves on that wild shore; and as for rejoicing and feast—even as we sat we could hear the devilish infernal yells of those savages, and we knew the feast they were holding. So I held her up, and the parson married us then and there; and then we wrapped her in a large rough coat of one of the drowned men, and I carried her down to the boat, which all this time the men had got as ready as they could. We shoved off—seven souls, on a wild, stormy sea, with no compass, and only biscuit and rum for a few days, and the shouts of that crew reached us as we pulled on. By heaven! for many a night afterwards I awoke hearing that noise!—So that was your mother's and my wife's bridal

  ― 275 ―
dress, girls. A prettier one—one more to my mind—I never shall see. We reached shore, and we got married again, all in form, just to please your mother . . .’

‘It is no good to repeat and keep up that tale. I can't think why you told them,’ said Mrs. Lang. ‘Why should you wish to risk its getting about?’

‘She thinks it a sort of infra dig.—a blot on the escutcheon, you see,’ whispered the husband. ‘Now, I don't. I see nothing to be ashamed of.’

‘Certainly not! But why did you never tell us before, my dear father?’ said Isabel. ‘And how did it happen? You must tell the whole story now.’

‘Nay, now, my dear—Mrs. Lang, now, don't go! I wont say another word!’ expostulated her husband, and catching hold of her, he gave her some hearty kisses and pulled her down by him, for she had risen with apparently the intention of going away. ‘I only wish these lasses here may have, in some respects, as true a sweetheart as I was then, whatever I've been since—eh, Kitty—Mrs. Lang? Come—I see you smile—come, 'tis hardly the second or third time maybe, I have talked of these days; seeing for some reason you didn't fancy it, and indeed I have avoided it like an ugly picture myself. But sometimes memory is strong—old thoughts will come. I venture to say, young and thoughtless as we were to be husband and wife, no truer pair ever came together. We have seen ups and downs, rough and smooth. We began our voyage on rough seas, sure enough. Then we put into port, and after some toil and labour—nothing to young folks—we mounted the ladder, and I thought I had you in a snug corner for life. On my soul, I did! But Providence ordains, and we must submit; and if bad times come again—any way here we are together yet. Cheer up, missis! we'll weather it; and, after all, Westbrooke is good enough for happiness.’

‘But how did it happen?’ persisted Isabel. ‘I am dying to hear all about it.’

‘Well, then, so it happened. Katharine Keeley and I had plighted our troth, as they say, young as we were. I had not a hundred pounds in coin, and she had nothing. But my uncle gave me a hundred bullocks, and three hundred sheep, and dealing me a round oath, bade me take it, and prosper as I could, or I should never deserve another farthing from him. Well! land was to be had for almost nothing then in New Zealand, and some of your mother's family were settled there and doing well; so it came about that I was sent there on a message, for which I was to receive payment if I succeeded in striking a good bargain

  ― 276 ―
with the native chief. Your mother, Katharine Keeley, had been in Sydney for education, when I first saw her, and now she was to go back to her kindred. So we both took our passages in the same ship, the brig Emu, Captain Nuttall commanding. Mr. Rowe, the clergyman, a friend of mine, and several other passengers were there. We set off with fair winds and smooth sea. Bless your soul! I thought it was paradise. I was a good sailor, and there was pretty little Kitty always sitting under the awning. Famous opportunity, Kate, is a voyage for making love! But a change came; a gale of wind and many disasters. To be brief—the Emu split to bits on a rocky shore. That was a smash!—there were two boats. They took the longboat and provisioned her; and then ascertained how many could safely go in her. Lo and behold! nine must be left out. We drew lots; Kitty here was to go; I was left, and so was the parson. Well! she cried, and vowed she wouldn't go without me, and no one cared to give up his chance of life for me. So off they went; and we had the small boat, and our share of provisions too. Three days we were out in that storm, not knowing where we were, and two of the men died. But the Captain, who was with us, you see, guessed that we were near some desperate savage islands, where they eat one another. Sure enough, at last we sighted land, and made for it. Water we must have! It cleared up a little, and we saw where we were. The Captain, and one at least of the men, knew at a glance, and he knew, if we were seen, we should all be killed. But water we must get; and there was a little repair to be done to the boat. So we rigged up a rough shelter from the wind and rain for your mother, and some of us guarded her, while some mended the boat, and some searched for water. This they found, at risk of their lives; and they also found—what assured us of the fate of our poor comrades in the longboat. My God! I can never forget that hour. Soon we heard those dreadful cries, yells I may say, in the distance; and one of our men, who had served in a whaler, and knew about these parts, said it was a song of rejoicing over some prisoners, and the natives were about to hold feast, and . . . . good Lord! it was but too true! We heard afterwards from one, who being but a bit of a cabin boy, managed to escape, that every soul of them perished; ay,—like so many sheep in the shambles! So, girls, it was then and there, with a grisly death staring us in the face, that I got the parson to marry us two; and in the dress she had on when startled up in the storm your mother became a bride! The good Lord saved us! We made off unseen. The fiends were too busy to keep any look-out. The sky cleared and soon the waves went down. The Captain used all his skill to steer us for New Zealand, and before we got there,

  ― 277 ―
we were seen and taken up by a whaler.

‘Now isn't that a romantic and wonderful history, eh? Talk to me of fiction! Girls! I have seen true, actual life stranger than all the fairy tales that ever were invented.’

‘It is so very strange to have buried it so completely! You should rather have celebrated your escape every year,’ said Isabel.

‘Yes. Well, in some fashion we did; for to say truth, we always kept that wedding-day, and not the day, a month later, when we went to church, or rather school-house, where the service was then performed. Only, as I say, mamma here, would never let me notice it any further than a private kiss, for the shivering, pale, little bride of a Kitty, who had turned into such a fashionable, matronly lady, as ‘Mrs. Lang!’—eh, mamma? Why! she would never let me call her ‘Kitty,’ or even ‘Kate,’ after we came to my paternal fortune. As to ‘Katharine,’ it was too much of it, too big a mouthful for common use; so it dropped into ‘Mrs. Lang,’—dropped into oblivion, like many another thing which I was very loth to part with. You don't know what a notable, thrifty little wife my ‘Kitty’ was. Well! I must say she deserved her honours. She was a good wife to me in my days of toil, and deserved to have all she liked when prosperity came. Now, then, Kate! Issy! if the money for French lace veils and wreaths, and all such costly ‘frizmagigerry’ is not ‘to the fore,’ when it should be;—what say you? shall it be a—a—what d'ye call it, a ‘bony newy,’note or a handkerchief, tied gipsy fashion? which I remember now, it was, and not a genuine night-cap—which, by the way, I never think a very pretty thing. But I never see either of you tie a handkerchief so—over your ears—without a sort of prick taking me back to that seashore, the cloudy sky, the distant shrieks, and the pretty Kitty Keeley.’

‘Well, now, mamma,’ he went on presently, with a genial smile, which Isabel dearly loved, and still a look as if his eyes were seeing far back in life—'well; no harm is done, is there? These girls think the story worth hearing, you see; and by Issy's face, I should guess, she is thinking that such an adventure is rather an honour than otherwise. Any how, it has done me good! I think we have too much buried our past, and forgotten to set up a tombstone either! And now for a wind-up—a secret in your ear, my dear. No! Issy, Kate, you are not to hear, on any account.—Whisper! In my secretary drawer—the inner one, wrapped up carefully, is that very identical ‘bony'—what d'ye call it—'handkerchief,’ in fact;—you will find in it as much as will buy such another at least—in case, some fine morning, either of our girls should want such head-gear, d'ye hear? Don't tell! for golden shiners

  ― 278 ―
are dreadfully scarce, and what's more, those infernal Bushrangers have keen scent. Ah! you jade! you must listen, must you?’ catching Isabel, and bestowing a hearty kiss. ‘Kate didn't hear a syllable! she is too demure, my pretty Kate; so I'll reward her too;’ and he kissed her.

‘ 'Tisn't safe, Mr. Lang, as I have often told you, to have money in the house. It was a miracle they didn't scent it out that day,’ remarked his wife even while he was still speaking.

‘Ah! they'd never find that corner! I'd eat my head if they did! Well, what shall be done with it? All I know is 'tisn't safe in the banks! However, whatever it is, and I have almost forgotten, there lies a little saving which I make over to you. It may come in some day yet.’

‘Give me your key and I will make it safe at once,’ Mrs. Lang said, roused and looking cheerful again.

‘I'll be hanged if you shall touch it,’ he said, withdrawing the key from her; ‘or at least till you give me due thanks! There! another for Kitty,’ he said, between his kisses. ‘And now make it safe and tell no one. Trust a woman to invent a scheme, and a man to blunder.’

Kate followed her mother. Isabel remained, leaning over the back of her father's chair, playing with his hair. Miss Terry had slipped out quietly before, feeling that they ought to be alone.

‘Come here, child,’ and he placed her on his knee. ‘Issy, you know now that your mother has had some trials in her life. My dear, that was an awful peril, and she was, I do assure you, as brave as any one among us; and we were none of us cowards! Her weak little body did give way. Many times I held her fainting in my arms from cold, and hunger, and fright, but her spirit was always up. Never a scream or a sigh. The Captain, who always came to see us as long as he lived, used to speak with wonder of her. He was very fond of her. I say, Issy, d'ye think 'twill break her heart to leave this?’

‘She will feel it, of course. But no; she will rally when danger really comes, daddy, just as she was brave then.’

‘Bless your heart. Well, God grant it! I own to you, if I saw your mother grieve and fret too much, I couldn't stand it—I could not. I vex her often. We have words; but she knows I am sorry afterwards, and we understand one another. But I declare my chief thought is to make her happy, and all this bother would be nothing but for the ruin to her——poor Kitty! poor Mrs. Lang!’

‘But you may arrange matters now,’ Isabel managed to say through her blinding tears, for the seeing one or two roll down her father's cheek was more than she could stand quietly.

‘Not much chance of it! But there will be Westbrooke. It will keep

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you all alive and going.’

‘ ‘Us’ all, daddy, unless you mean to desert us and take your passage.’

Mr. Lang did not answer. He was lost in thought; a painful, anxious look shadowed his face.

‘Well,’ he said presently, as if recovering himself from some maze; ‘I shall be right glad when it is over and settled in one way or other. I shan't stay one moment more than I can help. Issy! look well after everything. I don't mind telling you, I am uneasy about those wretched sinners, the Bush fellows. They may do me an ill turn and come here again. For no consideration resist them. Mind! let them eat and drink, and spoil, if they will, but keep a good look-out about the huts, and after the dogs. Have Towser here every night. The Jollys will come and do anything for you; and the Parson, as far as he can, he will; 'tother one, Herbert, wont be likely to come! Now don't look grave, for it can't be helped. Our blood was up, and we had hard words. I can't put up with his pride, and his cold ways, and his setting up so! I don't wish to have him here again in a hurry; he don't suit me. But for all that, angry as I was, I don't bear him malice. Perhaps,’ he added, uneasy at the look in his child's face, which she vainly strove to conceal, too—'perhaps we shall come round again in time, that is, if he keeps out of my way just now, while I am smarting about these miserable money concerns. Anyway, to please you, I'd swear the peace with any one, even Herbert. But, I say, Issy, come, tell your old father the truth, my pet. Is this—this man anything to you? I mean, in all the late love-making, has it so chanced that you and he . . .’

‘Why, papa! haven't we all been thinking that Mr. Herbert was making up to Miss Terry till just now?’ she said, laughing, but blushing too.

‘Well, so we have, or you tried to make me believe it. But that was a mistake, and—and——Perhaps he knew his own mind all along, you see, and had the taste to like my darling best. Eh, well now, supposing—imagining this to be so, what should you say to it?’

‘I can't imagine or suppose anything about it. I don't think I have much imagination.’

‘Can't you? Then you aint in love, that's clear!’

‘I never wish to be either, if it would make you less happy, and, what is more, I don't fancy it is in my line at all! I assure you, daddy, it is quite funny how often I stop with a feeling of joy and relief, when it strikes me that Mr. Farrant and Miss Terry are engaged, and that it is no longer expected for me to be entertaining him, and so on! Yes; I could clap my hands and dance for joy, in spite of feeling as if they

  ― 280 ―
had made us rather foolish.’

‘God love you, my pet, and I hope it is not greedy or selfish, but I don't want to give you away yet, and that's the truth. But, as I have said before, don't fret! Leave us alone, and Herbert and I shall get all right again. You'll see! Bless your bright loving eyes, I would be civil to any one, just to please you! So cheer up, my heart's pet! Give your old dad a sweet sunny smile now, and go to bed. I have one or two letters to sort out, and shall follow soon. Mamma and Kate are counting the hoard, I'll be bound! I wonder where they'll hide it! Now, Isabel, I leave you to keep up your poor mother, and Kate, and all. 'Tis your spirit and courage I look to now, while I am away—and—always. God in heaven bless you, my heart's darling, and a dear child you have always been to me! Now, again,—and again—good night. Keep alive and cheerful, and tell Kate to get her bony newy . . .’

‘Not for that Fitz, though!’ Isabel said, as she went out, looking back with a smile.

‘No!’ her father laughed back. ‘As you say, Issy, not for Fitz. Heaven send her a better one, or, any way, make her happy—all happy!’

Isabel saw her father off just after dawn the next day. His old accustomed cheery way had come back, and the tender melancholy of the preceding evening seemed to have vanished, now that it came to action. She watched him out of sight, and vowed in her heart that come what might of change or trouble, she would do her best to smooth things for him, and Westbrooke should yet prove a very happy home for all. Later Mrs. Vesey called for Kate, claiming the remainder of the visit, although Mrs. Lang was wishing to keep her now that she was at home. When they were gone, Isabel felt herself to be on the ‘look-out,’ in spite of efforts to the contrary. Nothing but a very sudden summons to the station would have kept him away! And not even that—'for he could have found time just to ride here and say good-bye!’ No; she remembered that Mr. Lang had spoken of hard words. Perhaps it was something fresh. And yet Isabel was not aware that they had met lately. Mr. Farrant came, and stayed to carve for them at dinner. He knew nothing of the Herberts, believed they were all right, Mr. Herbert certainly intending to go to his station, but when, he did not know. Isabel, in riding with her brothers, passed quite in front of Warratah Farm. But though any time before, she would naturally have stopped at the gate and inquired for Miss Herbert, now, some shy, conscious feeling rendered this an impossible thing; and they even rode the faster while within sight of the place. For which afterwards Isabel

  ― 281 ―
soundly rated her own folly, and wrathfully attacked Miss Terry in this way. ‘What is come to us all? There is some spirit of stiff gravity brooding over us. I wont bear it! I will be myself, my ownself! Why doesn't Mr. Herbert come here as he said he should? It is your fault. Your hiding up that secret has done more harm than you think. He is afraid to come, or, perhaps, he is unhappy!’

‘No, no, Isabel. He may be busy. These are days for men to be very anxious and eager about their concerns. But Mr. Herbert will come here as soon as he possibly can. He is not unhappy now, nor do I expect he need be so!’

‘Oracular! and that nod and smile, full of meaning—if one could discover what! Well, I wont dispute and run the risk of snapping off your nose, for I feel savagely disposed. It is dull, dreadfully dull. Kate must come home. When will daddy be here, I wonder? O, dear me! to think of my wishing time to fly. A very serious symptom, and it all comes of having nothing to do!’