Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]


plums." With a lofty “Good-morning," you imagine that it is a pleasure to see she dismissed him, and, taking the side you? If you had taken your proper path behind the laurel screen that led place we should at least have dined toto the kitchen premises, was quickly gether. What have poor Aunt Anne lost to view.

and I done that you should avoid us so Quiet, methodical John Whipp, as he persistently?" sat in his well-furnished private room “Miss Whipp doesn't complain of at the bank that day, had a tingling me," she said with lifted chin. sensation as of one who has tasted ad- “She misses you-she would like venture. He was both amused and an- more of your society." noyed-amused with the airs of Miss “She is a woman. She understands Nancy, annoyed at his own misconcep- that one cannot be in two places at tion of her. Yet why should he trouble once. If I have to cook your dinner, himself about her now any more than Mr. Whipp, I cannot at the same time he had done during the two months she eat it in your company." had been under his roof? Why, indeed, “Mr. Whipp!" but that she was handsome while he She took no notice of the reproach. had thought her plain, proper while he “Nancy, how long do you mean to be bad assured himself she would be so formal? Do you wish me to call boisterous.

you Miss Seaward?” Now the conduct of John Whipp "I should prefer it,” she said coldly. after this date can only be recorded as "When I entered your service I became unbecoming, and, if you like, undigni- your housekeeper-your cook, if you fied in a responsible man of forty with will. While I remain in it, please rethe reputation of a confirmed bachelor member that I am that and nothing to maintain. For instead of accepting more." Nancy's view of the situation, and con- “Not even a third cousin ?" tenting himself with playing master to “We have not found you so anxious to so willing a handmaid, he must needs press the relationship at Roots," she suddenly remember and press the said disdainfully. claims of kinship. Miss Seaward van- He reddened consciously, but said ished in Nancy, Nancy the youngest of with an amazing simplicity: "I didn't the Roots cousins, Nancy the unique in know you then." that rough-and-ready household. On "Nor do you know me now." all possible occasions he waylaid her: “You give me no chance"-he pressed in the dewy early morning when she his advantage. “Why, even as my went to the garden; on market-days, housekeeper you would naturally pre. when he was lost in admiration of her side at my tablejudicious skill in selection; even "I have already explained to you why Sundays when, prayer-book in hand, that is impossible.” she walked sedately to church. She "Then let the dinner cook itself," he submitted with an annoyed impatience said impulsively. she did not always keep in check; she She laughed at that, a gay, girlish answered his questions shortly, she al- laugh. It was the first time he had together refused to consult with him.

seen her merry, and it pleased him "You know what you want," she amazingly, even though she was merry said, "there is no need for discussion. at his expense. Express your wishes, and I will do my "Mr. John Whipp to make such a probest to fulfil them."

posal! Mr. John Whipp willingly, "You do that admirably, but-can't voluntarily, to forego the pleasures of



the table! Mr. John Whipp to renounce the crowning glory of the day, the one end for which he lives! Do I hear aright?” She apostrophized the pictures on the wall, sober Whipp ancestors, who followed her with serious, disapproving eyes.

"You do hear aright," cried John, net. tled yet amused; “try me, and see if I do not mean what I say." He held out his hand as if to clinch a bargain, but she evaded it and fled. He heard the echo of her stifled laughter as the baize door, beyond which he never penetrated, fell to behind her.

But the more she eluded him the more he found his thoughts occupied with her. She was very handsome; he could not recall such another pair of eyes in Brierly-Stoke, a mouth that could be so suddenly stern, yet so suddenly sweet and childlike in its laughter. Nobody except Aunt Emily at the White House had a finer carriage, a greater dignity. And then her cooking --it was superb! It was instinctive in her, no tuition could have reached the same perfection. She lifted it into a fine art; it was only equalled by her skill in household management. She might have been a matron of twenty years' standing instead of a mere slip of a girl, her judgment was so mature, her decisions so judicious. He began to bemoan the day when he should lose her. Of course she would go back to Roots. She hinted already at a speedy departure. Only yesterday Aunt Anne had told him that if Eliza were not soon able to resume her duties, dear Nancy would be leaving; she had only come as a stop-gap.

“I don't see why she should go," he said crossly. “Isn't she comfortable? Is the work too hard?"

Aunt Anne did not think so, but her own family might require her.

"Nonsense,” he said brusquely, “there are women enough yonder."

But after that John, who had always

been kind, redoubled his attentions. He secured an efficient kitchen maid, he found out her taste in books and kept her sitting-room well supplied. When Grannie left the White House to join her daughter Ethel, he insisted that Aunt Anne should take her for a daily airing. - It was not till the doctor, a week or two later, hinted that Eliza was not making the progress he expected, and might never be fit for work again, that it occurred to him how he might secure Nancy's services permanently. He was greatly perturbed at the doctor's news. Then suddenly, like a ray of light, it flashed across him that he might marry Nancy. The first effect of this idea was stunning. He suffered as if from an electric shock; but in ten minutes it had acclimatized itself, in twenty it began to seem desirable, in half an hour he felt as if he had purposed the wooing of Nancy from the first moment his eyes fell on her. It was in every way a capital plan, both for himself and for her; he could give her a better home than she could ever hope to have at Roots.

With John to resolve was to execute. He found Nancy once more in the cool of the garden while yet the night mists were scarcely sucked up, and on some flimsy pretext dismissed the attendant Jane.

Nancy had ceased to look annoyed at interruption, she had even learned to find a certain amusement in this big cousin's imperturbable methods. He refused to be snubbed, therefore she ceased to snub him. Women, whatever they may say, like a masterful man.

But when he began, stammeringly at first, then with growing composure, to make known his wishes, the blood turned to fire in her veins. She would have given a great deal to answer him with dignity, but the floods of her indignation were let loose. He held out bis hand so confidently, as if he ex

pected her to curtsey to him with hum- I shall be a little nearer her in the ble gratitude while he deigned to raise South of France. But I am a poor her up, he who offered to marry her- traveller, quite unused to taking tickets he said nothing of love

that she might and looking after luggage, and makcook for him, and wait upon him, an ing my wants known in foreign unpaid servant, forever!

tongues. Will you come and take care In words of passionate scorn she de- of me, Nancy? The children are all nounced him, and then, stricken and so persuaded their poor old mother cansobbing with the sense of the degrada- not look after herself, and they will tion she had suffered, she slipped past thank you as gratefully as I.” him and escaped.

She could not have made any appeal

that more closely touched the proud, CHAPTER IV.

sore-hearted girl, but Nancy still hung

back. The first visit Grannie paid on her re- But, perhaps you have not heard-I turn to Brierly-Stoke was to Roots. think you ought to know_" She saw the elder sisters first, and an- "My dear, I want no confessions. swered their hundred questions patient- Think of me as an old witch who ly. They had heard of Ethel's engage- knows everything without being told; ment-was it true? Yes, it was indeed and now, shall we go and break the quite true; rather unexpected, but very news to your sisters? I have your fasatisfactory in every way, and for the ther's consent already. You see I was dear child's happiness. Grannie choked bold enough to take yours for granted.” down a sigh. She dilated in her gentle That winter by the sea was like a reway upon the subject until the curiosity incarnation for Nancy. They settled of Martha and Susan and Jessie was themselves in a large hotel

near sated, and then she asked to see Nancy Cannes, where they had a private sitand was told she was in the garden. ting-room and need mix no more than

Thither Grannie followed her, beg. they chose with the gadding crowd. ging leave to find her way alone; and Their windows opened upon a garden when Mrs. Whipp made a request in of palms and aloes and wonderful vegethat little regal way she could put on tation, which bowered enchanting no Seaward sister dared refuse her. glimpses of the sunlit sea. Nancy had She drew Nancy, who got up from the never dreamed that any world could bench where she sat with a proud be so fair. And in Grannie's company startled look, close to her gray Chudda

she expanded mentally and grew shawl with a very tender movement. spiritually. There was about the old

“My dear," she said, “I have come to lady so fine a dignity, so all-embracing steal you once more. No," she smiled, a charity, and at the same time so wise as Nancy made a movement of resist- an estimate of men and things, that a ance, not to be anybody else's cook young girl could not but learn much of this time, but my dear companion. You her. Just as Nancy's hands softened have heard that I am losing Ethel? and grew white now that they were no She is to be married next week, and longer claimed by toil, so her judgments then-I shall be childless. Nancy, will grew milder, her manners easier. She you share my home? All my children carried herself better, she dressed bet. wish it. Autumn will soon be here, and ter, and every day, her blood the richI am thinking of going abroad. It is er for sun and sea, she grew handsomonly a foolish old woman's notion, but er and happier. when my Ethel goes to India I feel that Grannie was scarce allowed to miss

Ethel, her tyrant and her darling; Nancy walked and drove with her on the Croisette; listened to the music in the Cercle Nautique, read to her, and picked up the ped stitches in her knitting. They talked of home, and dis. cussed the letters that came from India, and Brierly-Stoke, and Manchester, and London, and mourned very sincerely together when they heard of the death of Miss Anne Whipp. They grew more and more to each other as the weeks passed on.

The glimpses of life as it revealed it. self at table d'hôte had also their educational value for Nancy; her first tea at Rumpelmayer's was a breathless experience, and a new soul seemed born in her when she heard the world-renowned band in the Beaux-Arts at Monte Carlo. Not for all the music in the world would Grannie have set her dainty foot in the Casino.

And all the while, wise woman as she was, Grannie never sought to probe into the girl's wound, either to sympathize or make light of it. She did not avoid John Whipp's name, but neither did she obtrude it. She spoke of him naturally when his name came up in the home letters. At first Nancy listened with a defiant throb of the heart; but by-and-by, so gently was she being moulded by Grannie's influence, she began to wonder whether her share in that business

very heroic after all. If John Whipp had not loved her as a girl desires to be loved, at least he had made no pretence of anything but a kindly affection for her, and, after all, a man pays a woman the highest compliment in his power when he asks her to share his life. So Nancy forgave him, and learnt to listen to such little scraps of news as that he was enlarging the bank and had taken to gardening and was thinking of building a commodious greenhouse, without wincing.

By-and-by February came and the

flowers with it. Grannie dearly loved to buy acacia sprays

and early anemones and roses and all the sweets of the spring to send to the children at home; and one day when she and Nancy were paying their morning visit to Roux's in the Rue d'Antibes, she turned to the girl and said:

“I should like to send some to poor Eliza Jones. Will you write the address for me, my dear?' I am afraid my shaky old hand will not be very legible.

Nancy drew off her glove and took the pen; the old lady dictated an address in London.

"Why-is Eliza having a holiday?"

“Didn't you know," said Grannie with artful surprise, "poor Eliza was sent home to her relations a few days after you left? She will never be fit for service again, poor thing.

But John has been very liberal; he has set. tled a comfortable little pension on her, so that she may be well taken care of. My daughter Harriet and the children go to see her often."

"And-Mr. Whipp,” stammered Nancy, “has he found another treasure?”

"I am afraid not.” Grannie buried her fine little nose in a bunch of daffodils to hide a smile. "I believe he bas shut up part of the house and bas Nichols, the charwoman, to look after him. Jane was much too young to be left without supervision, but she has found a good home with young Mrs. Evan Whipp."

Nancy heard in silence, but she found herself thinking, not without a touch of humorous compassion, a good deal about cousin John and his forlorn condition, while sbe ate and drank of the best and was luxuriously housed. How he must feel the change, what a miserable man he must be, and-and-had she not perhaps been a little hard upon him, after all? So that one day, when the heat was growing intolerable and they were thinking of moving on, Gran


[ocr errors]


nie found the way already paved for a wardly, “Mrs. Whipp will be so glad. little plan she had to propose.

She breakfasts in her room.

I will go "I want to show you something of and tell her.” Paris, dear,” she said, “but I am a very "No, don't go yet-that is, pray don't poor guide. I have not been there since disturb her. I can wait. I wanted to my dear husband and I went on our tell you-I have been so horribly honeymoon, and I am told I shall find ashamed of myself—" it a changed world. My nephew, John "You will want some breakfast," Whipp, proposes to take a little holiday said Nancy breathlessly, flying prethis spring-for I am sure he needs it, cipitately from the room with cheeks poor fellow-and I have been wonder- aflame. ing if he could be persuaded to come By dinner time they had scarcely and take charge of two helpless wom- grown more used to each other, and it What think you, Nancy?"

was Grannie who did most of the talk"I think what you think," said ing. Nancy, bending over the back of “We thought we would keep you all Mummy's chair so that her faint acces- to ourselves to-night, John,” she said, sion of color was not visible.

“I am "though Nancy and I generally take sure Mr. Whipp will be very useful- our one little dip into the world at at the Custom House."

table-d'hôte. To morrow you shall have “Yes-at the Custom House," Gran- tea at Rumpelmayer's and see all the nie quickly acquiesced, with a hovering sights. I hope you will like your din. smile.

ner, my dear; the chef is quite a perJohn, who in truth had been intrigu- sonage, I believe.” ing for an invitation, made such haste "After six months of Mrs. Nichols's to respond to Grannie's note that he ministrations,” said John lightly, but took the ladies by surprise. They had looking a little annoyed, “I assure you I expected him in the evening and he thankfully eat anything that is put became in the morning, and found Nancy fore me." in a dark blue gown like that in which And Nancy's watchful gray eyes ob. he had first seen her, only it came served that he passed all the choicest from Paris and fitted her much better, dishes by. arranging the flowers she had bought in In the late evening, when they his honor that morning from a walnut- walked in the garden, John threw off faced old woman in the Allée de la something of his embarrassment and Liberté. She had schooled herself to betrayed an unusual interest in the be quite friendly to him, and held out strange plants and flowers which borher hand readily when she had got over dered the walks and grounds. the start he gave her by his sudden They left Grannie seated in her appearance; but somehow there was an basket chair and paced the terrace in indefinable something about John that front of her. John told Nancy all made friendliness difficult. It was not about the rock garden he was planning that he was stiff, for indeed he took at Laurel Grove, and the fern-house he the hand humbly enough, but that, in- had built. She liked it a great deal credible as it seemed, he was shy. Was better than discussing mênus with him, this the self-confident John who had so and when she went to bed she found magnificently thrown his handkerchief herself revising the portrait she had to her and expected her humbly to pick painted of him, putting in a softer it up? His embarrassment was con- touch here, lightening a shadow there. tagious; she found herself saying awk- She approved of his devotion to Gran

« ForrigeFortsæt »