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Perhaps it was wrong of me to glance toward him, but yet natural, considering it was a friend's letter. I saw a little note enclosed, the address of which, I was almost sure, bore my own name. I waited, thinking he would give it me. I even made some slight movement to attract his attention. He looked up—he actually started—but next moment smiled as only Mr Le Poer could smile. 'News from our friend, you see !' said he, shewing me the outside envelope. 'He is quite well, and—let me consider-glancing over his own letter—'he sends his kindest remembrances to you. A most worthy man is Mr Sutherland.' So saying he folded the epistle, and placed it in his desk. The little note, which he had turned seal uppermost, he quietly put, unopened, into his pocket. It must have been my own delusion then.--Not the first, nor yet the last!
At the expiration of my first year as a governess, just as I was looking with untold eagerness to my midsummer holidays, when I was at length to go home to my mother—for the journey to London was too expensive to admit of that happiness more than once a year, there happened a great disaster to the Le Poer family: no less than that terrible scourge, typhus fever. Matilda took it first, then Caroline, then the mother. These three were scarcely convalescent when Zillah caught the fever in her turn, and had it more dangerously than any of the rest. Her life was in danger for many days, during which I had the sole anxiety and responsibility; for Mr Le Poer, on the first tidings of the fever, had taken flight, and been visible at home no more. True, he wrote every other day most touching letters, and I in return kept him constantly informed as to the progress of his wife and children. When Zillah was taken ill, however, I did not think it necessary to send him word concerning her, feeling that the poor orphan's life was precious to no one. I never was more surprised than when on Mr Le Poer's venturing back and finding Zillah in the crisis of her disease, his terror and anxiety appeared uncontrollable. "Good God!' he cried, “Zillah ill? Zillah going to die? Impossible! Why was I not informed before ? Confound you, madam'—and he turned furiously to his still ailing wife— did you not think?-Are you madquite mad?'
I declare I thought he was. Mrs Le Peor only sobbed in silence. Meanwhile the outcries of the delirious girl were heard in the very parlour. I had given her my room; I thought, poor soul, she should not die in her damp kitchen-closet.
Mr Le Poer turned absolutely white with terror-he, who had expressed only mild concern when his wife and daughters were in peril. “Miss Pryor,' said he hoarsely, 'something must be done. That girl must be saved; I'd snatch her from the very fiend himself! Send for advice, physicians, nurses; send to Leeds, Liverpool-to London even. Only, by she must not die !'
Poor Zillah did not die. She was saved for Heaven's strange purposes; though I, in my then blindness, often and often, while sitting by her bedside, thought it would be better did she slip quietly out of the bitter world in which she seemed to be only an unsightly and trampled weed. Mr Le Poer's unwonted anxiety did not end with her convalescence, which was
She may die yet!' I heard him muttering to himself the first day after he saw his niece. • Miss Pryor, my wife is a foo_1
mean, a rather undecided person. Tell me what you think ought to be done for Zillah’s recovery?' I prescribed, but with little hope that my advice would be followed-immediate change to sea air. It shall be done!' at once said he. 'Mrs Le Poer and the girls can take care of her; or stayshe likes
best. Miss Pryor, are you willing to go?' This question perfectly confounded me. I had been so longingly anticipating my going home-delayed, as in common charity I could not but delay it, on account of the fever. Now this trouble was over I had quite counted on my departure. That very week I had been preparing my small wardrobe, so as to look as nice as possible in my mother's eyes. She had given me a hint to do so, since she and I were to spend the vacation together at Mr Sutherland's country-house, and old Mrs Sutherland was so very particular.—'Why do you hesitate ?' said Mr Le Poer rather sharply. 'Are you thinking of the money? You shall have any additional salary-£50 more if you choose. Upon my soul, madam, you shall! only I entreat you to go.' I would not have minded his entreaties, but I was touched by those of Zillah, who seemed terrified at the idea of going to a strange place without me. Then, too, the additional money, not unneeded; for Mr Sutherland, so kindly generous in other things, had the still rarer generosity never to offer us that. I determined to write and tell my mother the position of affairs. Her good judgment would decide, or if hers failed, she would be sure to appeal to her trusty and only adviser since my father died; and I was content to abide by his decision. He did decide. He told my mother that it was his earnest wish I should stay a little longer with Zillah Le Poer, whom he called "his ward.' Her history, he said, he would inform me of when we met, which must be erelong, as he was contemplating returning to India for some years.
Mr Sutherland returning to India! And before his departure he must see me-me! It was a very simple and natural thing, as I felt afterwards, but not then. I did what he desired—as indeed I had long been in the habit of doing-and accompanied Zillah.
I had supposed that we should go to some near watering-place, or at all events to the Liverpool shore. Indeed I had pointedly recommended Tranmere, where, as I stated to Mr Le Poer, there was living an aunt of Mr Sutherland's, who would have taken lodgings or done anything in her power for her nephew's ward. To my surprise he gently objected to this plan. After staying a night in Liverpool, instead of crossing to the opposite shore, as I expected, he put us all that is, Zillah, the two other girls, and myself—on board the Belfast boat, and there we found ourselves floating across the Irish Channel! The two Misses Le Poer were considerably frightened; Zillah looked most happy. She said it reminded her of her voyage to England when she was a little child. She had never seen the sea since. Long after we got out of sight of land she and I sat together on the deck in the calm summer evening, talking of this Indian voyage, and what it was like, and what people did during the long four months from land to land. She gave me much information, to which I listened with strange interest. I well remember, fool that I was ! sitting on the deck of that Belfast boat, with the sun dipping into the sea before us, and the moon rising on the other side-sitting and thinking what it would be to feel one's self on the deck of some Indian-bound ship, alone, or else in companionship that might make the word still correct, according to its original reading —all one: an etymological notion worthy of a governess!
The only remarkable event of our voyage was my sudden introduction by Mr Le Poer to personage whom I had not thought existed. “My son, Miss Pryor; my eldest and only son, Lieutenant Augustus Le Poer.' I was very considerably surprised, as I had never heard of the young gentleman. I could only hurriedly conjecture, what I afterwards found to be the truth, that this was the son of a former marriage, and that there had been some family quarrel, lately healed. The lieutenant bowed to me, and I to liim. Zillah, who sat by me, had no share in the introduction, until the young man, sticking his glass into his eye, stared at her energetically, muttering to his father some question, in which I just detected the words, odd fish.' 'Only Zillah,' answered Mr Le Poer carelessly. * Child, this is your cousin Augustus, lately returned from foreign service. Shake hands with him.' Zillah listlessly obeyed; but her 'cousin' seemed not at all to relish the title. He cast his eyes superciliously over her. I must confess my poor child's appearance was not very attractive. I did not wonder that Lieutenant Augustus merely nodded his head, twirled his moustache, and walked away. Zillah just looked lazily after him, and then her eyes declined upon the beautiful expanse of sea.
For my part I watched our new friend with some curiosity and amusement, especially when Caroline and Matilda appeared, trying to do the agreeable. The lieutenant was to them evidently the beau- ideal of a brother. For myself, I did not admire him at all. Unluckily, if I have three positive aversions in the world, it is for dandies, men with moustaches, and soldiers—and he was a compound of all three. Also, he was a small man; and I, like most little women, have a great reverence for height in the other sex-not universally, for some of my truest friends have been diminutive men-excellent, worthy, admirable Zaccheuses. Still, from an ancient prejudice, acquired—no matter how—my first impression, of any man is usually in proportion to his inches: therefore Lieutenant Le Poer did not stand very high in my estimation.
Little notice did he condescend to take of us, which was rather a satisfaction than otherwise; but he soon became very fraternal and confidential with his two sisters. I saw them all chattering together until it grew dusk; and long after that, the night being fine, I watched their dark figures walking up and down the other side of the deck. More than onco I heard their laughter, and detected in their talk the name of Zillah; so I supposed the girls were ridiculing her to their brother. Poor child! she was fast asleep, with her head on my shoulder, wrapped closely up, 80 that the mild night could do her no harm. She looked almost pretty —the light of the August moon so spiritualised her face. I felt thankful she had not died, but that, under Heaven, my care had saved her—for what? Ay, for what? If, as I kissed the child, I had then known But no,
I should have kissed her still ! Our brief voyage ended, we reached Belfast and proceeded to Holywood -a small sea-bathing village a few miles down the coast. To this day I have never found out why Mr Le Poer took the trouble to bring us all over the water and settle us there ; where, to all intents and purposes,
we might as well have been buried in the solitudes of the Desert of Sahara. But perhaps that was exactly what he wanted.
I think that never in her life, at least since childhood, could Zillah have been so happy as she was during the first week or two of our sojourn at Holywood. To me, who in my youth, when we were rich and could travel, had seen much beautiful scenery, the place was rather uninteresting; to her it was perfection! As she grew stronger life seemed to return to her again under quite a new aspect. To be sure, it was a great change in her existence to have no one over her but me—for her uncle and cousin Augustus had of course speedily vanished from this quiet spot—to be able to do just what she liked, which was usually nothing at all. She certainly was not made for activity; she would lie whole days on the beach, or on the grassy walk which came down to the very edge of highwater-mark-covering her eyes with her poke-bonnet, or gazing sleepily from under her black lashes at the smooth Lough, and the wavy line of hills on the opposite shore. Matilda and Caroline ran very wild too: since we had no lessons I found it hard work to make them obey me at all; indeed it was always a great pain for a quiet soul like me to have to assume authority. I should have got on better even with Mrs Le Poer to assist me; but she, poor little woman, terrified at change, had preferred staying quietly at home in Yorkshire. I was not quite sure but that she had the best of it after all.
In the course of a week, my cares were somewhat lightened. The lieutenant reappeared, and from that time forward I had very little of the girls' company. He was certainly a kind brother; I could not but acknowledge that. He took them about a great deal, or else stayed at Holywood, leaving us by the late evening train, as he said, to go to his lodgings at Belfast. I, the temporary mistress of the establishment, was of course quite polite to my pupils' brother, and he was really very civil to me, though he treated me with the distance due to an ancient duenna. This amused me sometimes, seeing I was only twenty-six-probably his own age; but I was always used to be regarded as an old-maid. Of Zillah the lieutenant hardly ever took any notice at all, and she seemed to keep out of his way as much as possible. When he left us in the eveningand there was always tolerable confusion at that time, his two sisters wanting to see him off by the train, which he never by any chance allowed
then came the quietest and pleasantest half-hour of the day. The Misses Le Poer disliked twilight rambles, so Zillah and I always set off together. Though oftentimes we parted company, and I was left sitting on the beach, while she strolled on to a pleasant walk she said she had found—a deserted house, whose grounds sloped down to the very
shore. But I, not very strong then, and weighed down by many anxious thoughts, loved better to sit and stupify myself with the murmur of the sea—a habit not good for me, but pleasant. No fear had I of Zillah's losing herself, or coming to any harm; and the girl seemed so happy in her solitary rambles that I had not the desire to stop them, knowing how a habit of selfdependence is the greatest comfort to a woman, especially to one in her desolate position. But though, as her nature woke up, and her dulness was melting away, Zillah seemed more self-contained, so to speak; more reserved, and relying on her own thoughts for occupation and amusement,
still she had never been so attentive or affectionate to me. It was a curious and interesting study—this young mind's unfolding, though I shame to say that just then I did not think about Zillah as much as I ought to have done. Often I reproached myself for this afterwards ; but, as things turned out, I now feel, with a quiet self-compassion, that my error was pardonable.
I mind one evening—now I mind is not quite English, but I learned it, with other Scottish phrases, in my young days, so let it stand I mind one evening, that, being not quite in a mood to keep my own company, I went out walking with Zillah; somehow the noise of the sea wearied me, and unconsciously I turned through the village and along the highroadalmost like an English road, so beautiful with overhanging trees. I did not talk much, and Zillah walked quite silently, which indeed was nothing
I think I see her now, floating along with her thin but lithe figure, and limp, clinging dress—the very antipodes of fashion—nothing about her that would really be called beautiful except her great eyes, that were perfect oceans of light. When we came to a gateway-which, like most things in poor Ireland, seemed either broken down or left half-finished she looked round rather anxiously.
'Do you know this, my dear?'
Of course I have,' said she quickly, and slightly colouring. “You knew it: or I thought you did.'
She appeared apprehensive of reproof, which struck me as odd in so inoffensive a matter, especially as I was anything but a cross governess. To please and reassure her I said: “Well, never mind, my dear; you shall shew me your pet paradise. It will be quite a treat.'
'I don't think so, Miss Pryor. It's all weeds and disorder, and you can't endure that. And the ground is very wet here and there. I am sure you 'll not like it at all.'
Oh, but I will, if only to please you, Zillah,' said I, determined to be at once firm and pacific—for I saw a trace of her old sullen look troubling my pupil's face, as if she did not like her haunts to be intruded upon even by me. However she made no more open opposition, and we entered the grounds, which were almost English in their aspect, except in one thing—their entire desolation. The house might not have been inhabited, or the grounds cultivated, for twenty years. The rose-beds grew wildgreat patches of white clover overspread the lawn and flower-garden, and all the underwood was one mass of tall fern.
I had not gone far in and out of the tangled walks of the shrubbery when I found that Zillah had slipped away. I saw her at a distance standing under a tall Portugal laurel seemingly doing nothing but meditate -a new occupation for her; so I left her to it, and penetrated deeper in what my old French governess would have called the bocage. My feet sunk deep in fern, amidst which I plunged, trying to gather a great armful of that and of wild-flowers; for I had, and have still, the babyish propensity of wishing to pluck everything I see, and never can conquer the delight I feel in losing myself in a wilderness of vegetation. In that oblivion of childlike content I was happy_happier than I had been for a long time. The ferns nearly hid me, when I heard a stirring in the