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Full text of "The Freres, by mrs. Alexander"

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1 llllllllllll 

[ 60007264 1Q 


1 


i^H^JR^^I 



THE FRERES. 



2. Jlobel 



MRS. ALEXANDER, 

AUTHOR OF 



SHALL IT BK ? BTC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 
VOL. L 





LONDON : 

RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 

^nblielurs in ffirbinare to ^n jBajwlg the Ciutn. 



lAH SigKli Satrvid.] 



1SI 



S6 




THE FRERES. 



CHAPTER 1 



3T was a few days before Easter, and a 
solemn dinner had been celebrated in 
the new residence of Richard Frere, 

Esq., H Square, Hyde Park. 

Only two of the various carriages which had 
awaited their owners remained. The red-waist- 
coated, red-nosed veteran who stood by the strip 
of carpet leading from the entrance to the kerb, to 
convey the orders of 'Jeames' and the auxiliary 
forces to the coachmen, was counting the amount 
of small silver already received by the bright gas 
in the fan-light over the door. 

Within, the festivity (if so inappropriate a word 

may be used) was virtually over. The last remnant 

of dessert had been cleared away, and divided by 

the ' cook and housekeeper,' impartially (according 

VOU I. 1 



2 THE FRERES. 

to her standard) between the ladies and gentlemen 
of the second table and the * supers/ The butler 
had conscientiously locked away all unopened 
bottles, and with the assistance of his confrires^ 
finished most of those already tasted, only reserving 
a decanter or two of the choicer sorts for his private 
cellar. The white-capped 'purveyor's men* had 
gathered up their ice machinery and departed ; still 
a small, well-appointed brougham, drawn by a 
steady, handsome horse, and a more showy carriage, 
with a big, restless, fiery chestnut, lingered. 

Upstairs in one of the handsomely furnished 
drawing-rooms, four persons were gathered round 
a fire, seldom unacceptable before Easter in 
London. 

A tall, good-looking elderly man, not thin, not 
portly, well set up, dressed, and preserved, with 
pale clear cold eyes, a straight nose, and thin lips. 
Next him, nearest the fire, screening her face with 
a beautifully-painted * rococo' fan, and resting a 
small black satin-booted foot on the fender, was a 
lady, past middle age, whose well-arranged draperies 
of black velvet showed her full but still graceful 
figure to the greatest advantage. A downy feather 
or two, a lappet of fairy-like lace, a couple of 
sparkling, quivering diamond butterflies, made suf- 
ficient apology for a matronly head-dress, which 
her abundant, nearly black hair might have dis- 
pensed with. 

One foot was, as I have said, resting on the 
fender, and one hand touched the low, modern 
mantel-shelf, while her eyes — very full light brown 



THE FRERES. 3 

eyes — gazed at the fire. The face was not hand- 
some, only the mouth was beautiful, and that not 
in repose. 

On her right stood two young men. One tall, 
slight, very dark, with large, deep-set, handsome 
eyes, and well-cut chin, the blue-black of a closely- 
shaven beard and moustache showing through his 
pale, clear skin. A sort of indefinable resemblance 
to his fair neighbour might have struck a stranger, 
especially about the mouth, which, though refined, 
was somewhat full. 

The fourth of the party was a short, stout, broad- 
shouldered man of perhaps thirty, with jewelled 
studs and a diamond ring. Florid, good-humoured- 
looking, and very accurately dressed, yet not quite 
so easy as the rest, he was speaking : 

* It is,' he said, * it is perfectly amazing where 
the money has come from to pay off such an 
enormous sum ! They say the fellows have brought 
old stockings and boots, by Jove ! full of five-franc 
pieces and Napoleons, forty and fifty years old, 
ready to give all to Thiers. It is more than our 
people would do, I can tell you !' 

He spoke a little thickly — not with a lisp, but as 
if he brought every word to the tip of his tongue, 
tasted it, and liked the flavour. 

* I should think not,' replied the lady, still gazing 
at the fire, and in soft, sweet, but very clear tones. 
* Why should our people give their money to 
Monsieur Thiers ?' 

* Now — now. Lady Elton ! you are too sharp 
upon a fellow ; you know what I mean !' 

I — 2 



4 THE FRERES. 

* How should I ?' she returned, with a smile that 
lit up her face, and lent it a wonderful charm. 

* Thiers is all very well for the present,' remarked 
the master of the house, * but the French are far 
too restless and impractical to remain under his 
guidance. They will be electing a king or an 
emperor, and cutting each other's throats before 
eighteen months are over.' 

* It is possible,' said Lady Elton, as if to the fire ; 
* but they never had such an opportunity of trying 
constitutionalism before.' 

* First catch your constitution,' observed the tall, 
dark young man, who had been calmly and openly 
surveying himself in the vast looking-glass over the 
mantelpiece. 

* Suppose you and I run over to Paris,' said the 
first speaker, *and see how it looks, just for the 
Easter holidays ; I have not been there since the 
siege.' 

* I am sure it would give me great pleasure, Dar- 
nell,' returned the other, civilly, • but I have already 
arranged to go there with Mr. and Mrs. Everard, 
her sister and Bertie Leigh.' 

* Oh, indeed ! quite a swell party. Well, we may 
meet there. But I am keeping you up, Mr. Frere, 
and I am due at the Countess of Rothbury's "small 
and early ;" so good-evening. Good-evening, Lady 
Elton ; good-bye. Max.' 

* I wish you a very good-evening, Mr. Darnell,* 
said the master of the house, with formal polite- 
ness. 

* Mr. Darnell's carriage,' said Max to the butler, 



THE FRERES, $ 

who appeared to answer the bell, and the son of the 
house accompanied the parting guest politely to the 
door, shaking hands with him there. 

*When do you start for Paris?* asked Lady 
Elton, as the young man returned, and threw him- 
self somewhat wearily into a deep luxurious 
easy-chair. 

* To-morrow evening, by the tidal train.* 

There was a silence of a few minutes, and Lady 
Elton, turning from the fire, looked approvingly 
round the room, walked slowly to the folding-doors, 
and inspected the smaller sitting-room, and returned 
to the fireplace. 

* Really, Mr. Frere,' she said, * you have done your 
furnishing very well. May I ask if it is all Jack- 
son and Graham, or did you exercise a right of 
choice ?' 

Mr. Frere smiled. 

* I am not responsible. Maxwell here exercised 
a considerable right of choice, which added con- 
siderably to the sum total.' 

* Ah,' said the lady, * that accounts for the por- 
traits. Jackson and Graham, or any other highly 
civilised upholsterer and decorator would have 
banished your mother and uncle to the portrait 
gallery, which no customer of theirs should be 
without. Eh, Max ?' 

* I suppose so. But in the smaller drawing-room 
they are inoffensive, and they are really good pic- 
tures.* 

* They are,' returned Lady Elton ; * and what a 
capital likeness of poor Joscelyn ! Just as he looked 



6 THE FRERES. 

at your wedding, Mr. Frere. I thought him the 
most charming of men, especially as he would 7iot 
fall in love with me.' 

* How could he resist ?' said Maxwell, with a 
tinge of mockery. 

* Do not quiz your aunt, you disrespectful boy ; 
especially as she has played hostess for you and 
your father's benefit. Pray do not give another 
dinner-party (a ladies' dinner-party I mean) for a 
couple of months, Mr. Frere. I think these solemn 
affairs are very awful. Come and dine with me and 
my Bohemian set on Wednesday, and see how 
pleasant we can be for half the cost. Am I not a 
wretch to talk in such a strain ?' 

* You are very good,* said Mr. Frere, stiffly, ' but 
you must make allowance for the deficiencies of a 
widower's establishment.' 

' Deficiencies !' cried Lady Elton, again strolling 
into the other room to look at the portrait of an 
officer in hussar uniform, with a soft, sweet face, 
and laughing eyes. * Your mdnage is only too per- 
fect. How unlike you and your brother were, Mr. 
Frere. I never could call yon by your Christian 
name, though you are my brother-in-law. While he 
— he is always " Joscelyn" to me. It was too dis- 
obliging of him not to fall in love with me.' 

' I wish he had !' exclaimed Mr. Frere, with more 
of animation than he had yet shown ; * I wish he 
had, and then I should not be bored by a modest 
application to forward the fortunes of his daughters, 
and find a career for his son.' 

* His son and daughters,' repeated Lady Elton, 



THE FRERES, 7 

* I thought they were provided for by their fine old 
Irish gentleman of a grandfather.* 

* Provided for !' said the host, with a sneer ; 
' when did an Irishman provide for anything ?' 

* I suppose it is their improvidence that makes 
them such pleasant people/ said Lady Elton, 
reflectively. * How many children did poor Joscelyn 
leave ?' 

* Two daughters and a son ; but Maxwell can 
tell you more about them than I can/ replied Mr. 
Frere, taking some letters which had come by the 
last post from a salver presented by the dis- 
tinguished-looking butler with almost religious 
reverence. 

* Yes, I remember you went over to Ireland for 
grouse-shooting the last two seasons/ said Lady 
Elton, turning to her nephew ; * so I suppose you 
found pleasant quarters ?' 

* Wonderfully pleasant !' he exclaimed, warmly. 

* Such ease and comfort, and a hearty welcome ; 
Dungar was no Castle Rackrent, I assure you ; 
everything was well ordered. Occasionally oddities 
and incongruities cropped up, but only enough to 
be amusing and original ; and the grandfather, Mr. 
de Burgh, was a typical high-bred gentleman of 
the old school — like Lever's " Knight of Gwynne," 
but quite incompetent to manage his own affairs. 
My aunt and cousins, however, had to turn out, 
because the property is entailed, and goes to a 
distant relative. Old Mr. de Burgh had no 
sons.' 

*It must be very hard for them/ said Lady 



8 THE FRERES. 

Elton, musingly ; * are they left quite unprovided 
for ?' 

* Not quite/ returned Max-; then, addressing his 
father : * I called to-day at Steenson and Gregg's, as 
you desired, to ascertain what they knew about 
Mrs. Joscelyn Frere's resources, and they referred 
me to a queer little fellow who manages their Irish 
business. He told me there is sornething like 
seven or eight thousand pounds left of her younger 
child's portion, and that remains a first charge on 
the estate. It seems the firm raised money for old 
De Burgh, and this man knows all about the De 
Burgh affairs, for he is the son of a Dungar tenant, 
and was recommended to the firm by my uncle 
two or three and twenty years ago.' 

* Seven or eight thousand pounds on land ! — that 
means scarce three hundred and fifty a year. Why 
don't you take it and trade with it, Mr. Frere, and 
give your sister-in-law six per cent. ?' suggested 
Lady Elton, ringing the bell with the freedom of 
an /tabitii^e, * Here is another sister-in-law ready 
to lend you on the same terms.' 

' Thank you,' replied Mr. Frere, coldly, ' the firm 
is not in need of funds ; but if you really want 
a safe investment, consult Steenson. He is a very 
cautious, prudent adviser. I must say I have often 
wondered why you withdrew your affairs from his 
management.' 

* I dare say you have,' said Lady Elton, with her 
sweetest smile and just a little nod ; * but I dare 
say Max will find out one day that I have not mis- 
managed them myself. My cloak and fur, if you 



THE FRERES. 9 

please ' (this to the butler). * After Southern Italy, 
I assure you furs are very acceptable, though we 
are on the borders of April* 

There was a short silence, during which Mr. 
Frere frowned over a letter, and Max hummed the 
•Last Rose of Summer.' 

It was broken by the entrance of a stout, 
supremely respectable woman, in a lace cap and a 
black silk dress, who carried over one arm a large 
red Indian cashmere cloak, richly embroidered with 
silvery white silk and a sable boa. 

*0h, thank you, Gardner,' said Lady Elton, 
civilly, and turning to allow the housekeeper to 
envelop her in her wraps. * I think everything 
went very well to-day, Gardner ; quite credit- 
ably.' 

* I am glad your ladyship is satisfied,' replied the 
sedate Gardner. * Arc you warm enough, my lady ? 
it is cold to-night.' 

* Quite warm enough, thank you. Good-night, 
Mr. Frere. Good-night, Max ; come and see me 
when you return from Paris, and tell me how the 
dear delightful city looks after all her troubles. I 
suspect those Versaillists did quite as much mis- 
chief as the poor Communards.' 

* Let me see you to your carriage,' said Max, 
cflfering his arm. * Perhaps Mrs. Joscelyn Frere 
will come to London,' said he, as they descended 
the stairs ; * though how she is to exist here I 
cannot imagine. But if she comes, do you feel 
disposed to call upon her ? She is a nice creature, 
though highly impractical, and your advice ' 



lo THE FRERES. 

* Max/ interrupted Lady Elton, turning to look 
at him, * you are interested in these Irish relatives ?' 

* Yes, very much interested, and gfrateful too for 
some very pleasant days/ 

* Interested and grateful !' repeated Lady Elton, 
with strongly marked emphasis. * What remark- 
able people they must be !' 

Max laughed good-humouredly, as he handed 
his aunt into the brougham that had waited so long. 

* Good-night, and au revoir' 

* Good-night,' returned Lady Elton. * Why, Max, 
it is striking eleven !' 

Max slowly ascended the stairs, and met his 
father coming from the drawing-room, evidently 
bound for bed. 

* You are not going out again, Maxwell ?' 

* No, sir ; I want to write a letter or two before I 
sleep, as I shall have no time to-morrow.* 

* Ah, talking of letters, here is one I had to-day 
from, I suppose, the eldest of those cousins of yours. 
It is signed " Grace Frere." It seems they are 
coming to London to seek their fortune. Prepos- 
terous ! Read it, and see if you cannot put them 
off such a project.' 

* From Grace !' exclaimed Max, quickly, a slight 
frown contracting his brow for an instant. * Give 
it to me !' and he waited with visible impatience till 
his father selected a square, thin letter from a large 
collection. 

Taking it, he bid his father a careless good-night, 
and sprang upstairs to his own room, a large, luxu- 
riously furnished chamber, with a smaller sleeping 



THE FRERES, 1 1 

apartment beyond. Hastily turning up the gas, Max 
Frere threw off his coat and waistcoat, and put on 
a dressing-gown. Then, drawing an easy-chair to 
the table, and lighting a cigar, he opened the 
letter. 

* Dear Uncle,' began the girlish, yet not spidery, 
writing — * My mother desires me to say that we 
intend leaving for London next week, as there is no 
opening here for a young man of such abilities as my 
brother's, as she is sure you will think when you 
know him. Perhaps you could find lodgings for us 
somewhere near you — three bedrooms and a sitting- 
room, or we might do with two bedrooms — and 
mamma thinks we must not give more than two 
pounds a week. We will travel without any ser- 
vant, for poor dear nurse's only daughter died a 
month ago, and she must stay to take care of 
the little children. My mother and sister join me 
in kindest regards to you and to Max. 

* I am your attached niece, 

'Grace Frere. 

* P.S. — I am quite vexed ! for I gave this letter 
to Randal more than a week ago to post, as he 
was going out, and I have just found it still in 
his overcoat pocket ! I thought that you were 
perhaps out of town, as you did not answer. So 
I wrote to Jimmy Byrne, at Messrs. Steenson and 
Gregg's, and he will take rooms, and meet us. I 
hope you don't mind ! — G. F.' 

After reading this with attention. Max laid it 



12 THE FRERES. 

down, and burst into a low laugh of intense amuse- 
ment. The idea of Richard Frere, the dignified 
head of the great firm of Frere and Co., the pro- 
bable M.P. for Finsbury at the next election, 
spending his precious moments in hunting up 
scrubby lodgings, at two pounds a week, for a 
tribe of obscure, moneyless relatives, was too comic. 
But the reverse of the picture forced itself upon 
him — the pathos of this utter, simple trust in the 
claim and right of kinship. 

* What will they all do in London ?' he thought. 
* What a terrible schooling is before them ! Poor 
Grace T A short, quick sigh. * But when was this 
precious letter written ? The only date is Friday. 
It could not have been last Friday. This is Wed- 
nesday. I should not be surprised if they were 
already in town. That curious little beggar at 
Steenson's said they were coming immediately. 
How deeply disgusted my father will be ! And 
they — they, no doubt, set it down to our shop- 
keeping miserliness that the Frere mansion is not 
thrown open for their reception. God help them ! 
that mediaeval style is long gone by. I believe 
Grace thought I stood behind a counter and sold 
sugar by the pound. After all, the difference is 
less in kind than in degfree. But Randal's abilities f 
What a delusion ! He will be the real millstone 
round thdr necks. Still, we must give him a 
chance.' 

And, leaning back in his chair, watching the 
blue curls of smoke. Max thought hard for the 
next ten or fifteen minutes ; and then, muttering : 



THE FRERES, 13 

'It is a tremendous break up, and hard lines 
for Grace — deuced hard lines' — he opened his 
blotting-book, and began to write rapidly and 
steadily. 




CHAPTER II. 

!|HE same evening, while the gorgeous 
guests at Mr. Frere's feast were begin- 
ning to disperse, a note of preparation 
was distinctly perceptible in one of the 
small houses of a semi-genteel crescent in the 
Camden Hill district. 

The mistress of the house had looked twice from 
the front-door down the street, and each time had 
said to the ' little captive maid/ who under strict 
discipline accomplished herculean labours of clean- 
ing and polishing : 

' I don't see no sign of them, Sarah ; yet the 
gentleman said as the train would be at Euston 
about nine, now it's just twenty — or just seven 
minutes to ten.' 

And each time Sarah had replied : ' Trains ain't 
always punctual, mum ! and then there's the luggage 



' I will look to the parlour fire, Sarah ; the gentle- 
man said I was to be sure and have one, and he 



THE PRE RES, 15 

seemed a fair-speaking genteel sort of a gentleman, 
and his reference quite correct ; they will be good 
lodgers I am thinking, Sarah.' 

But Sarah had descended to her own regions, 
whence arose a severe hissing suggestive of the 
kettle having boiled over. So the mistress turned 
into a small parlour scarce fifteen feet square, ten^ 
derly stirred a small but bright fire, and added a 
pinch of coal to it, twitched one or two netted anti- 
macassars into more accurate rectangularity, and 
then stood gazing with extreme satisfaction at the 
section of her property immediately under her eyes* 

Miss Timbs was a maiden lady, as she would 
have described herself, on the further side of five- 
and-forty, rather tall and exceedingly narrow. Her 
respectable afternoon dress of thick dark brown 
stuff being of corresponding dimensions, she looked 
a little like a mediaeval saint as she stood contem- 
plating her belongings, only there was no folding of 
hands for Miss Timbs ; neither, to use her own 
words, could she abide caps, so her * pepper-and- 
salt ' tinted locks were arranged on either side of 
her somewhat stony face in short corkscrew ringlets 
painfully like small mattress springs. While she 
thus stood — an unusual interval of repose for her 
— the sound of approaching vehicles caught 
her ear. 

* Sarah !' she called, * they are coming,' and she 
turned on the gas which had hitherto shown only a 
pin's point of flame ; another moment, and the 
sound of a cab stopping drew her and her little 
handmaid to the door. They discerned by the light 



i6 THE FRERES. 

of an opposite lamp a hansom, drawn up before 
the garden-gate, and a large dark object behind it, 
which they shrewdly judged to be a * four-wheeler/ 
piled with luggage. 

The driver of the hansom had descended, and was 
in the act of shouldering a portmanteau which had 
impeded the egress of two gentlemen, who now 
sprang quickly out and went to assist the occupants 
of the second vehicle to alight. 

From the four-wheeler emerged two ladies and a 
little girl, all in mourning, and then were handed 
out a multitude of small parcels, bags, boxes, books, 
a birdcage, a roll of wraps, until little Sarah quite 
disappeared under the pile raised upon her out- 
stretched arms. 

* Now don't stand out here, dear madam, troubling 
ydurself about the baggage ; Mr. Randal and me 
will see to it all. Pray go indoors with the young 
ladies,' said the shorter of the two men in an in- 
describable voice, the London twang superimposed 
on a western sing-song of wonderful flatness. 

* Thank you very much I you are really too good,' 
replied the elder lady gently ; and taking the arm 
offered her by her companion, she ascended the 
steps at the top of which stood Miss Timbs, whose 
notions of dignity would not permit her to descend 
into the mil^ of unloading, but as a token of assist- 
ance and welcome, held a lighted best composite 
candle (eight to the pound) at the utmost stretch of 
her arm out into the darkness. The little girl had 
already made her way through the garden, and 
stood gazing with all her might at the landlady, as 



THE F RE RES. ij 

if the whole object of the journey had been to study 
this new specimen of humanity. 

* Go in, Mab ; don't stare so/ said the young lady, 
in a low voice. Whereupon Mab made an evanes- 
cent but distinctly contemptuous grimace, and 
walked in. 

* Glad to see you, 'm,' said Miss Timbs, with a sort 
of cast-iron civility. * Will you please have tea, or 
a glass of beer ? I have some new-laid eggs and a 
piece of breakfast bacon in the house, as I did not 
know what you might like to take.' 

* Oh, nothing for me — I could not eat,' exclaimed 
the lady in a kind of despairing tone. * Grace, my 
dear, you had better order something for yourself.' 

* I am so hungry !' exclaimed Mab, desisting from 
a close examination of the ornaments on a tiny 
console between the fireplace and the end wall. 

* I shall eat two eggs, please.' 

*Hush, Mab! You must eat, mother,' said the 
young lady, with tender authority. *Pray let us 
have a good dish of bacon and eggs, and tea — a 
cup of tea will revive you, dear mother.' 

* Perhaps so — and, Grace,' in a doubtful tone, 

* I suppose we had better ask little Mr. Byrne to 
sup with us ?* 

* Yes, of course ; Randal will see to that' To Miss 
Timbs : * Will you be so good as to show us our 
rooms?* 

* Certainly, 'm — here,' throwing open half of the 
folding-door, by which the front and back parlours 
might on great occasions be made into one, and 
displaying a minute chamber where, with a little 

VOL. I. 2 



1 8 THE F RE RES. 

stretching, an ordinary sized man might reach all 
the means of making his toilette without moving 
out of bed. * I thought this might do for the 
gentleman, 'm/ went on Miss Timbs, with much 
volubility ; * it's all fresh and clean ' — ruffling up 
sheets, blankets, and mattress with one dexterous, 
powerful turn of her hand. * And then if you'll come 
upstairs (I must trouble you two flights, for I can't 
part my drawing-room suite) — but you'll find my 
house the same top and bottom — what you do, do 
thorough, I say — and so, 'm, the gentleman thought 
the big top front room and the back bedroom 
would do for the young ladies and yourself Of 
course, if so be as you would like my drawing- 
rooms, I wouldn't mind letting the 'ole house 
moderate, on a permanency, with plate and table- 
linning.' 

As she spoke, Miss Timbs, still holding the 
candle, led the way up the steep, narrow stairs with 
a quick step, while the poor weary travellers toiled 
after her breathless, till the whole party were 
ushered into a tolerably sized, but low bed- 
chamber, with one large bed ; the usual pink and 
white muslin-draped dressing-table ; no curtains ; 
sundry pieces of faded, many-patterned carpet, 
and a large painted deal press, with one short foot, 
and a door, which stuck hopelessly — peculiarities 
threatening destruction to those adventurers who 
attempted to use it. This dangerous piece of 
furniture was proudly termed a wardrobe by its 
owner. 

* This is my best two pair front ; and here, 'm/ 



THE FRERES. 19 

opening a small, meanly-furnished closet, *is the 
back bedroom — not large, as you see, but neat and 
comfortable/ 

* Thank you — very nice indeed,' said mamma, 
helplessly. 

* You and Mab had better have the larger room, 
mother,' said Grace, * and Mab can come in and 
dress every morning with me. Would you send 
us some warm water ?' (this to Miss Timbs), * and 
we shall be ready for tea as soon as you can get it.' 

' Yes, 'm ; I must look to it myself, for I never 
yet see a gurl I could trust with a hegg.' 

* What's a hegg, Grace ?' asked Mabel, who was 
pursuing her researches with much diligence. 

* Hush, Mabel ! she hears you ! it is only her way 
of saying egg ;' and then, as Miss Timbs disap- 
peared, she added : 

* Come, dear mamma, here is your cap. Let me 
help you to take off your things. When you have 
a cup of tea you will feel refreshed, and be able to 
sleep, I hope.' So saying, the young lady quickly 
took off her hat and waterproof cloak, and laying 
them on the bed, proceeded to unfasten her mother's 
mantle. Mrs. Joscelyn Frere had evidently been a 
beauty ; her complexion was still wonderfully fair 
and fresh, her full blue eyes soft and bright, her 
hair only slightly touched with grey, and middle- 
aged stoutness could not quite conceal a once fine 
figure. Her expression was both sad and nervous. 
She accepted her daughter's aid mechanically, 
looking round the larger room, to which they had 
returned, with evident discontent. 

2 — 2 



20 THE FRERES 

* What a wretched garret !' she exclaimed, her 
mouth quivering like a disappointed child ; * surely 
that Mr. Byrne, of whom you all think so much, 
ought to have known better than to thrust us into 
such a hole as this. He knows that we have been 
accustomed to better than anyone else; but now 
your dear grandfather is gone we have nothing, and 
are no — no — thing,' and the poor lady's sweet, soft 
voice was broken by sobs. 

* Dear, dear mother, this will never do!' cried her 
daughter, tenderly ; ' you are over-fatigued, but you 
must not give way now when we have accomplished 
the plan on which you had set your heart. Think 
how you will vex Randal. Come, bathe your eyes, 
while I smooth Mabel's hair, and then we will go 
downstairs and have our tea. Depend upon it 
Jimmy Byrne has done the best he could. Lon- 
don is a costly place, and ' 

* Pray do not say Jimmy Byrne,' implored Mrs. 
Frere, from the dressing-table. 

*Very well, dear; but I have been accustomed 
to hear him spoken of as Jimmy — stand still, 
Mabel ! Mabel, I cannot comb your hair if you 
fidget so, and you will be more comfortable when it 
is done.' 

* You are hurting me — and I want to kiss mammy. 
Don't cry, mammy.' 

* You shall kiss her in a minute ' 

* Do not prevent the poor child from showing her 
love for me, Grace.' 

* In one moment, mother — I wi// finish your hair, 
Mabel.' 



THE FRERES. 21 

* Ah ! you are hurting — ah !' 

* There, now you are ready.' 

A hasty washing of hands, and smoothing of her 
own locks, and Grace declared herself ready to 
descend. 

Downstairs in the little parlour, things looked 
considerably more cheerful. Randal Frere, a tall, 
slender youth of nineteen or twenty, with his 
mother's light-blue eyes, and soft, sweet expression, 
less an indescribable something of candour an d 
guilelessness, was helping the giggling Sarah to lay 
the cloth, and Mr. James Byrne, who had diligently 
assisted to carry the smaller parcels into the back 
room, where they formed a pyramid, was unlocking 
a very professional-looking black bag, which seemed 
crammed to bursting. He desisted from this occu- 
pation as the ladies entered, Mrs. Frere leading, 
Mabel and Grace following. 

* I hope, Mrs. Frere, ma'am ' (madam contracted 
readily when Mr. Byrne was in a hurry, or agitated), 
• that you find things pretty tidy upstairs. It's not 
what I could wish by any means, but Londoners are 
a trifle extortionate, and you wouldn't believe what 
sums of money — sums, no less — I was asked for the 
sort of rooms I'd have chosen for you ; and as Miss 
Grace wrote decided about price ' 

* I am sure you are very good,' interrupted Mrs. 
Frere, subsiding into a chair placed for her by her 
son. * We are well aware how limited our means 
are, and I am quite content.' 

* Indeed, you have done wonders for us,' cried 
Grace, who had at once fallen on the loaf, and 



22 THE FEE RES. 

begun more energetically than deftly to cut bread- 
and-butter ; * and we are more obliged than I can 
say. Do you know I was the first to recognise you 
at the station this evening, Mr. Byrne, and it is 
quite five years since you were at Dungar ?' 

* Well, I am sure I could not say I would have 
known yoUy Miss Grace,' cried Mr. Byrne, 'you 
were just a slip of girleen then, and now you are 
an elegant young lady.' 

* Ah, Mr. Byrne ! you have not lost your plea- 
sant Irish tourfieur de phrase during your ex- 
patriation.' 

* Now that's too severe!' exclaimed Jimmy, utterly 
ignorant of what tourneur de phrase meant. 

* I hoped you would have come last night,' said 
Byrne to Mrs. Frere. * I thought you would ' 

* Well, my son thought it a good opportunity to 
see Chester Cathedral, and the town itself. I 
believe he is about to write a short poem on 
Chester Fair in the fifteenth — or is it the fourteenth 
century, Randal ? And we thought it wiser to see 
the town en passant^ than that he should make a 
separate journey for the purpose. You see we are 
rapidly becoming strict economists.' 

* Yes, ma'am, exactly so,' stammered Byrne, as if 
stunned. *Oh, a poem — really now — I didn't 
know ' 

* That we had a poet among us,' put in Grace, as 
the little man hesitated. * Indeed we have, and a 
poet of no mean order — eh, Randal ?' 

* Come, Grace, that is not your real opinion,* said 
the young man, good-humouredly. 



THE FRERES. 23 

* Never mind, Randal ; my opinion is not worth 
much : and here is something more important/ as 
Sarah entered, carrying a tray loaded with plates, 
and a dish of fair dimensions and appetising 
contents. 

The next quarter of an hour was devoted to 
recruiting exhausted nature. Even the desponding 
mother revived wonderfully, and consented to taste 
a second morsel of the delicately browned bacon 
and just half a cup more tea, although it might 
have been stronger ; while the bleu de nacre tint of 
the milk excited much wonderment and apparently 
profound reflection on the part of Mabel, a diminu- 
tive imp of ten, with a small, pale face, big eyes, 
and strangely mingled ways, at once babyish and 
old-fashioned. 

* I think, Mrs. Frere, ma'am,' said Mr. Byrne, 
with a certain amount of hesitation, * that you want 
something better than a cup of milk and water 
(and this ain't no better) after your journey, and I 
made so bold (which I hope you'll excuse) to put 
a bottle of sherry and a little seed-cake for the 
young ladies in me bag.' So saying, he jumped 
off his chair as if shot from beneath, and pounced 
upon the black bag, from which, with some strug- 
gling and tugging, he produced first a black bottle, 
and then a large parcel considerably squeezed in, 
both of which he placed triumphantly on the table. 
* Stop a bit ! I'm like a great operator — I never travel 
without me instruments' (Jimmy Byrne said 'nivir' 
and * thravel,' but they do not look pretty written 
so), and he drew from his left trousers-pocket 



24 THE FRERES. 

a treasury of a knife, the handle of which contained 
a variety of implements, among them a cork-screw, 
which he selected. A sharp, sudden, cheerful chuck 
and pop ensued. *Is there a glass to be found 
anywhere ?* he said, looking round. 

* Yes/ cried Mabel, slipping from her chair ; 
'there are six on the little marble shelf behind 
you.' 

'That's right,' returned Jimmy Byrne, delicately 
wiping the mouth of the bottle with a corner of the 
table-cloth, and then proceeding to dust a couple 
of glasses by the same means. Seizing a small, 
battered tray left by Sarah on the invariable chiffo- 
nier at one side of the fireplace, he put the glasses 
thereon, filled them to the brim, and with much 
elegance handed them to Mrs. Frere. *I am so 
overjoyed and overwhelmed to see you and the 
dear young ladies — to say nothing of Mr. Randal — 
that the bag and the bottle went clean out of my 
head. Just put it to your lips, Mrs. Frere, ma'am. 
I wish I had thought of it before you began on 
that wishy-washy stuff. A couple more glasses, 
Miss Mabel — now don't turn away, madam. Here 
Mr. Randal — Miss Grace — there's welcome to Lon- 
don, and may it bring you luck.' 

* You are very kind and thoughtful,' said Mrs. 
Frere, now quite thawed, * but I seldom take wine ; 
I ' 

'Mother,' whispered Grace, 'you must not re- 
fuse.' 

* But I cannot say " no " to you,' concluded the 
mother, amending her phrase. 



THE FRERES. 25 

* I am sure, ma'am, you make me proud/ ex- 
claimed their humble friend. * Miss Grace dear — I 
beg your pardon, the word jumped just straight 
from my heart to my lips — but you'll take a 
drop ?• 

* Indeed I will,' cried Grace, sweetly and heartily. 
* What good sherry, Mr. Byrne ! it reminds me of 
poor grandpapa's,' she added, with the instinctive 
tact which is the wealth of fine spirits. 

* Do you think so now ? Well, indeed, it's the 
best I could get. What but the best would I offer 
to the lady and children — ay, and grandchildren — 
of the men I owe everything to ?' (Jimmy Byrne 
would not have used so vulgar and common a word 
as wife for the world.) * Take another glass, Mr. 
Randal ; and try the cake,' unrolling a huge round 
mass with the utmost despatch. * I remember how 
the poor dear master always eat seed-cake with his 
wine. Sure, when I was a bit of a boy, I used to 
see Mrs. Lynch, the housekeeper (and a mighty 
proud woman she was), beatening up eggs and 
powdherin' sugar whenever I went up to the big 
house.' 

* Pray don't, Mr. Byrne !' exclaimed Mrs. Frere, 
pressing her handkerchief to her eyes. * I cannot 
bear these memories/ 

* God forgive me !' exclaimed Mr. Byrne, piously 
and penitently. 

An awkward pause ensued, broken by Mabel, 
who observed, in an injured voice : 

* I have not had a drop of wine yet ! and why 
don't you cut the cake V 



26 THE FRERES. 

* Mabel ! I fear wine is not good for you after 
tea, my dear/ said her mother. 

* Do wine and tea turn, Grace ?' asked Mabel, 
bent on getting to the root of the matter. 

' She IS thinking of a milk posset, I believe,' 
said Randal, laughing. ' Here, Mab — here, take a 
sip out of my glass.' 

' Thank you ; I want one for my own self,' said 
Mab. 

*I think the least taste would not hurt her, 
madam,' suggested Byrne, nearly filling a glass, 
and cutting an enormous wedge of cake. 

'Well, Byrne,' said Randal, sipping his wine, 
* have you seen my uncle lately ?' 

* Your uncle, Mr. Randal !' said Byrne, as if 
surprised. * I never saw him but once in my life ; 
but I did see his son, Mr. Maxwell Frere, this 
very morning ; and an elegant young man he is — 
quite a swell. I did not know who it could be 
when they sent me in to speak to him.' 

*What did he want with you?' asked Randal, 
with a slight frown, while Grace, who had been 
putting the tea things on the tray with uncon- 
scious orderliness, stopped, and listened intently, 
her large eyes fixed on the speaker, as Byrne 
replied : 

* Oh, just to ask one or two little things for his 
father. He wished to know how you and your 
mamma were situated ; and, as I have no doubt 
Mr. Frere can and will be a good friend to you, Mr. 
Randal, I just told him all I knew.' 

* I should not mind my uncle,' said young Frere, 



THE FRERES. 27 

* 

With a frown, * but I do not want anything to do with 
his son. A more sneering, cynical chap than Max- 
well Frere never existed. I hated the sight of him 
at Dungar/ 

* Well, well, Randal,' observed his mother, * I 
must say I thought him agreeable, and remarkably 
well-bred for a commercial man ; though you know, 
Mr. Byrne, the Freres are of very good family, at 
least on the mother's side.' 

* No doubt of it,' returned Jimmy, readily. * Any- 
how, Richard Frere, of Corbett Chambers, is a very 
influential man. They say he will get in for Fins- 
bury next election.' 

* Is it possible ?' exclaimed Grace. * That is some- 
thing worth a man's ambition !' 

* I am sorry, Randal, you forgot to post Grace s 
letter to your uncle. He may take it ill, our asking 
anyone else to look out apartments for us. But I 
wonder Max did not come to meet us.' 

* I do not think he knew when you were coming. 
He asked when you were to arrive, and then some 
one came in and interrupted us. So I had no oppor- 
tunity of telling him. I think he said he was going 
to Paris for Easter.' 

* To Paris !' cried Randal, enviously. * What 
luck that fellow is in !' 

* Of course he can do what he likes,' said Mrs. 
Frere. 

* Why did he not like to come and meet us ?' 
asked Mabel, yawning fearfully. 

Grace said pothing, but a quick sigh, like a deep 
breath, parted her lips. 



28 THE FRERES. 

* You are a very tired little girl, are you not ? 
Mother dear, I will put Mab to bed. Will you 
come up soon ?* she said, smoothing her sister^s 
head. * I am sure Mr. Byrne will excuse us. We 
are all tired.* 

* Certainly, Miss Grace ; and this little lady looks 
just dead beat.' 

* One moment, Grace/ said Mrs. Frere. * I think 
it very desirable that no time should be lost in 
letting Mr. Frere know that his brother's family 
have arrived in town.* 

* Hem ! — true,' replied Mr. Byrne. 

* He will have had my letter by this time,' said 
Grace. 

* But you could give no address, so how could he 
call ?* rejoined her mother. 

* Suppose Mr. Randal were to call upon him in 
the city,* suggested the peace-loving Jimmy. 

* I shall do no such thing,' cried Randal, hastily ; 
* he shall never say / ran after him.* 

* Well, then, Grace and I will call at his house in 

H Square,* said Mrs. Frere, * and if he is out I 

will leave my card. It is quite necessary some step 
should be taken.' 

*Can we not settle all that to-morrow ?* said Grace, 
wearily ; * this child is going to sleep.* 
Mab had laid her head on her sister's lap. 

* Come now, Mr. Randal,* remonstrated Jimmy 
Byrne, insinuatingly ; * I don't know much of com- 
pany manners, but as a matter of business, I think 
you ought to call on your uncle ! Just go to* 
morrow or next day, send in your card, have a few 






THE FRERES. 29 

minutes' talk, and then it will be all over. You'll 
excuse me, sir, speaking so free.' 

* Of course, of course,' returned Randal, with 
princely condescension ; * well, I will see about it, 
but you will come to-morrow — eh, Byrne ?* 

* If I might make so bold, Mrs. Frere, ma'am, to 
come up in the evening, just to see if I can be of 
any use ; for I can seldom leave the office till after 
six, don't you know !' 

* We shall be delighted to see you, Mr. Byrne, at 
any time,* returned Mrs. Frere, holding out her hand 
as she rose to leave the room. Mr. Byrne took it 
with infinite respect, and held open the door for her 
to pass out. 

* Good-night,* said Grace, warmly; * you have been 
the only bit of comfort in the desolation of our 
arrival ;' and half-leading, half-carrying Mab, she 
followed her mother upstairs, while Randal and the 
family friend exchanged adieux in the hall. 

Arrived in their exalted sleeping quarters, Grace 
had much to do ; she had to undress the sleepy 
little sister, who, with the perversity of an over- 
wearied child, resisted the removal of every garment. 
She had to unpack every article of her own and her 
mother's toilette de ntiit. She had to re-arrange the 
bedclothes, and soothe her mother out of one or two 
fits of gentle impatience (if one may use such an 
expression) and hysterical despondency. And when 
all this had been accomplished, and she had retired 
into her own miserable little room, she was several 
times recalled to be told her mother had quite for- 
gotten to warn her about her candle, to know where 



30 THE FRERES. 

the matches were, and if it would not be well to ask 
the landlady for a night-light At last, she was 
finally dismissed with a tender * God bless you, my 
child ! what should we do without you ?* 

And then she was alone ! alone, with very strained 
and wearied nerves. She had not dared the whole 
long day to relax the tension by which she had 
managed to keep a brave front. But instead of 
beginning to undress, she set her candlestick on the 
wretched little painted deal dressing-table, and 
stood by it profoundly still ; one hand dropped 
listlessly by her side, the other resting on the table, 
her large eyes dilated, gazing far away to the plea- 
sant past or the threatening future. At last, rousing 
herself, she knelt by her bedside, and burying her 
face in the clothes, burst into bitter though sup- 
pressed weeping ; the quick sobs shook her whole 
frame; the tears would not stop till fatigue and 
emotion combined to overpower her, and she found 
herself falling asleep as she knelt. With an effort 
she roused herself and hastily undressed, eager to 
find oblivion and repose. 




CHAPTER III. 

I^ICHARD and Joscelyn Frere were sons 
of a successful, hard-headed, Westmore- 
land man, who had conquered fortune^ 
and established a flourishing business. 
He had also married into a good squirearchal family, 
and given his sons the best education he could. 
The elder was a boy after his own heart, formed by 
nature for a business man. Joscelyn, the younger 
closely resembled a ' ne'er-do-well ' uncle of his 
mother's, a handsome, fascinating scamp, and was 
consequently the mother's darling. Old Richard 
Frere, though hard-headed, was by no means hard- 
hearted — at least, to his pretty, well-bred wife, and 
yielded to her wish that her favourite — the boy 
who in face and figure resembled her people — 
should enter the army, which in due time he did. 

A cavalry regiment, distinguished in more ways 
than one, was selected by Mrs. Frere, because the 
colonel was a relative, and in it young Frere soon 
became a great favourite. After a few years' ex- 



32 THE FRERES. 

perience of various quarters, and sundry applica- 
tions to his father to set him straight — to which the 
long-suffering parent, with much growling, assented 

— the Hussars were ordered to Ireland. 

About the same time Richard Frere senior died 
rather suddenly, and Richard his son reigned in his 
stead. The widowed mother did not long survive a 
husband whom she missed more than she expected 
to do ; and Captain Joscelyn Frere, receiving the 
portion of property which fell to his share, rejoined 
his regiment, now quartered in the south-west of 
Ireland. He was almost immediately told off for 
detachment duty in a wild, beautiful, lonely district, 
where the only gentleman's residence, for miles 
around, was Dungar Castle, the seat of Ullick de 
Burgh, Esquire. 

Here the pleasant, good-looking hussar was well 
received, and soon became the spoiled child of the 
house, especially by the two young ladies, Mr. de 
Burgh's remaining children. To the blue eyes and 
sweet smile of the second daughter Captain Frere 
fell a victim, and after a short successful wooing, 
carried away the beauty of Dungar. 

A few pleasant years of regimental life succeeded, 
varied by frequent leave of absence, running over 
to Paris, taking peeps at Homburg, spending just 
a few weeks in London in the height of the season, 
where the dullest thing they encountered was a 
solemn dinner at the house of the elder brother, 
who had married early into the good old Border 
family of Maxwell. Then came the Crimean war, 
where Captain Frere was wounded, but obtained 



THE FRERES. 33 

two steps. Finding both health and means con- 
siderably weakened, he retired as lieutenant-colonel, 
and, with his wife and family, led a wandering, 
continental life, exceedingly agreeable, but always 
costing a little more than it ought ; till a sharp 
attack of fever, while the family were in the south 
of France, cut him off. 

His indulged, helpless wife was left with a son, 
the survivor of three ; Grace, then about ten years 
old, and little Mab — a baby, beginning to walk. 
They lingered for another year in the pleasant 
sunny land where they had been so happy, and 
then, finding that in some inexplicable way she 
appeared to have no more money, she gladly ac- 
cepted her father's loving invitation to make her 
home with him, as his other daughter was married 
and away in a distant rectory. 

Thus Dungar became the home of the little party 
we have seen arrive in the great metropolis, and 
Tie^ly eight years had slipped away before the 
kindly, high-bred, improvident grandfather died. 

Here Grace grew in health, and the beauty of 
health, like a wild rose. 

Nobody ever troubled about anything at Dungar. 
There were horses in the stable, a good dinner 
every day, and grand wood and turf fires ; there 
was fruit in the gardens, grapes in the hot-houses, 
servants and gamekeepers — who got paid somehow 
— but there was very little ready money. 

At first Randal was sent to a high-class English 
preparatory school ; then Mr. de Burgh, finding 
quarterly payments inconvenient, thought the boy 

VOL. I. % 



34 THE FRERES. 

might be prepared for college just as well at home 
by reading with the parson, and studying French 
and Italian with his sisters' governess. 

The young ladies had a governess always ; but, for 
the last two or three years, a French girl of a very 
cheap order, who had never enjoyed herself so much 
in her life as at Dungar. If she spoke French with 
grace and taught Grace and Mabel the rudiments 
of music, they, in return, taught her to sit square on 
horseback, and pull an even stroke across the bay. 

Education, like everything else, was desultory 
and intermittent at Dungar. A fine morning for a 
gallop across a wide stretch of heathy, grassy plain 
to the little market town of Rawcrawn was a good 
and sufficient cause for closing books and shutting 
up desks ; and the utmost determination on the 
part of mademoiselle that Mab should practise an 
additional quarter of an hour, to make up for the 
defalcations of yesterday, was never proof against 
an inroad from Randal, and the announcement that 
* Denis ' or * Rory ' had just come up to say there 
was a shoal of mackerel or herring in the bay, and 
the ladies must come down to see the nets dragged. 

Oh, the healthy delight of free life by flood and 
fell ! The sweet, briny air, the sense at once of 
mastery and sympathy — for the De Burghs were 
adored by the simple but shrewd peasantry round 
about — the enjoyment of to-day, the utter uncon- 
sciousness that such a period as to-morrow existed ! 
Why could it not go on for ever ? Why does this 
careless, natural enjoyment entail a return to poverty 
and savagery ? 



THE FRERES. 35 

No such questions vexed Grace and Randal 
Frere. They grew and bloomed alike ; the differ- 
ence being that the latter, by some inner process, 
came to call his idleness and want of application 
genius, and Grace, by some equally occult pro- 
cess, came to be ashamed of hers, and to endea- 
vour to remedy it by intervals of strenuous ap- 
plication. 

Between sixteen and seventeen, strong strained 
ideas of duty and perfection began to suggest 
themselves to her mind — duty so exacting that she 
never could keep up to the mark for quite three 
days together ; and then came relapses, when she 
could do nothing but ride, or row, or walk and 
climb. Innocent dissipations enough, yet suffi- 
ciently subversive of her high ideal. 

Mabel liked her best when she was less strenu- 
ously good, and her grandfather loved and admired 
her in every mood. She was the only one of his 
grandchildren born at Dungar, and she had been 
called, by his wish, after an ancestress of the old 
Costello race, from whom, on the grandmother's 
side, she was descended. But, besides her aspifa- 
tions after goodness and perfection, Grace had a 
deep thirst for knowledge. Dungar was possessed 
of an unusually good collection of books. It 
could hardly be dignified with the appellation of 
a library ; but there was to be found Scott and 
Washington Irving, Prescott and Motley, Gibbon, 
and Alison, and Bulwer, Thackeray, Dickens and 
Mrs. Gaskell, Byron and Tennyson, beside the 
older poets, and their mighty king, Shakespeare. 

3—2 



36 THE FRERES. 

Here, at times, especially on wet days, did 
Grace and Randal revel. Here was the girl's real 
schoolroom, and these her masters. Moreover, she 
dearly loved to read the newspapers to grandpapa, 
and listen to his shrewd remarks, for Mr. de 
Burgh was a keen politician. 

At the earlier stage of Mrs. Frere's residence 
at Dungar, gay guests from Dublin, and even from 
England, came to enjoy the beauty and sport of 
this wild retreat ; but, latterly, Mr. de Burgh de- 
clared himself unequal to the presence of com- 
parative strangers, and the only companions out- 
side the family circle available to Grace and 
Randal were the old parson, a contemporary of 
grandpapa's, and his Scotch grandson, Maurice 
Balfour, an orphan, who generally spent his holi- 
days at the Dungar rectory. 

A shy, silent boy, some few years older than the 
young Freres, and passionately devoted to fishing, 
boating, and shooting. 

His father had been the factor of a Highland 
laird, whom one of the rector's daughters had 
married against her father's will. 

both parents died while Maurice was still a child, 
leaving the boy to battle with the world as best he 
could, with the feeble help of his aged, and far 
from wealthy, grandfather. 

His upbringing was therefore neither refined nor 
tender ; nevertheless, though Grace used openly to 
laugh at his Scotch accent, and generally divert her- 
self with his shy fits, there was an innate gentleness, 
an indefinable something about him — the germ of 



THE FRERES. 37 

chivalrous feeling, perhaps — ^that always made her 
sure of him, secure of his forbearance and readiness 
to help her out of any scrape. 

So time rolled on till about a year and a half 
before the opening of this story. 

One day at the end of August, a letter arrived 
from Jimmy Byrne to grandpapa, on business — for 
after his advancement to the position of clerk in the 
great London establishment of Steenson and Gregg, 
Jimmy was always employed as a sort of commis- 
sion agent for Dungar — in which he mentioned that 
Mr. Frere's only son had lately returned from 
Germany, and was going to visit Ireland. Upon 
which, Mr. de Burgh ordered his daughter to invite 
her nephew to Dungar that he might enjoy some 
shooting, and make his cousins' acquaintance. 

The invitation was at once frankly accepted, and 
the advent of the London cousin was expected with 
some excitement. 

Brought up, or rather growing up, as the young 
people were with ideas more akin to those of feudal 
times than of the nineteenth century, their notion 
of a London merchant was incredibly wide of the 
mark. Their mother had always spoken of her 
husband's relations in a tone of approbation, which 
somehow conveyed to her children the impression 
that she was too generous and high-minded to men- 
tion their shortcomings, and she always dwelt on the 
educational advantages which young Maxwell 
Frere enjoyed. Randal and Grace therefore pic- 
tured him as something between a shop boy and a 
schoolmaster. Both promised themselves much 



38 THE FRERES. 

amusement from the task of instructing him in the 
mysteries of field sports and the delights of sea- 
fishing. 

*I daresay he will be a conceited cad/ said 
Randal, * but we will take the conceit out of him.' 

* Yes, if he is conceited/ returned Grace, 
musingly ; * but we must not be rude or unkind. 
After all, he is papa's nephew, and if he is anything 
like papa I shall love him, Randal.' 

* Oh ! he will not be like papa/ replied Randal, 
with much decision ; * he will be like his father, who 
must be a pompous old duffer from what mamma 
says. How old is he, Grace ?' 

* Four or five and twenty : he will look on you as 
a mere boy.' 

* And on you as a mere schoolgirl !' retorted 
Randal ; * why, you will not be seventeen till 
January.' 

* Pooh ! what matter ?' said Grace, with much dis- 
dain. 

* Grace — Randal!' called Mrs. Frere from the 
window of a morning-room which looked on the 
flower-beds and shaven sweep of grass before and 
beside the old grey house, * I wish you would come 
in and dress in good time for once, before grand- 
papa returns with your cousin.' 

This conversation took place on the steps leading 
to the entrance of the Castle — as the rambling 
edifice was called — one splendid September evening. 
Mr. de Burgh had himself driven over early to BaU 
linagar, the nearest railway station, about ten miles 
off, to receive his guest with proper courtesy. 



THE FRERES. 39 

Grace thought with some exultation of the impres- 
sion the stately old man must make upon their 
cockney relative. * Dear grandpapa/ she said to 
herself, as she slowly ascended the steps in obedi- 
ence to her mother's mandate, * I am sure no king 
or emperor could have more of the " air noble " than 
he has ; no money can buy that' For Grace had 
always been accustomed to hear of* ready money ' as 
a sort of almost unattainable good which somehow 
nice people never had, but which, in an equally mys- 
terious way, low-minded and unrefined individuals 
contrived to command. Meditating on the contra- 
dictions about her which had often occupied her 
thoughts of late, Grace went away upstairs to her 
own room, and proceeded to change her dress with 
the help of mademoiselle, without attending much 
to that lady's voluble communications, while she 
asked herself why it was that, with an estate stretch- 
ing all round, this said ready money was so scarce ? 
nay, growing steadily scarcer ever since she could 
notice anything. Why was it that grandpapa some- 
times looked so fretted and weary when those large 
blue letters came from Dublin? and when Aunt 
d'Arcy asked her (Grace) to go and stay with her in 
that city, last spring, when she was there with fier 
daughters for masters, why had mamma shaken 
her head, murmured something about * really unable 
to afford it,' and wept and read the Bible for half an 
hour after ? 

The meditation on these problems kept Grace's 
countenance grave and her eyes dreamy, while 
mademoiselle and * nurse,' who belonged properly 



40 THE FRERES. 

to Mabel, quarrelled as usual over her very simple 
toilette: white muslin, with a blue sash and a tucker, 
as became a schoolgirl. 

• Could you not make my dresses any other way, 
nurse ?* she asked, with a very discontented look in 
the glass at the corsage d Penfant^ frilled round the 
throat, and drawn into folds at the waist over her 
already developed figure ; * I look such a complete 
schoolgirl 

•Ah! what else are ye, me honey ? asked 
nurse ; ' and an illigant slip of a girl into the bar- 
gain. Sure you don't want to be ould before your 
time ?• 

*The robes of mademoiselle might be a little 
advanced,' observed the French governess. *You 
must remember "our dear one" is nearly seventeen/ 

* Faith, you may make them yourself, then,* quoth 
nurse, in a huff, * if I can't plaise the pair of ye !' 

• Don't be cross, nurse. You are a dear old dar- 
ling, and I am an ungrateful girl ; but just make 
my next frock— dress, I mean — cut square, with 
lace,' and she bestowed a penitent kiss on the old 
woman's still smooth cheek. 

• Ah, thin, you'd wheedle the birds off the threes. 
Miss Grace,' said nurse, mollified ; * you are a real 
De Bui^h.' 

* Yes, and a Frere too,' returned Grace, who had 
a wonderful love for her dimly-remembered father. 

* An' small blame to >'ou,' said nurse, her Irish 
nature sympathising with the filial instinct, and 
giving a final twitch to the sash, which ma'mselle 
had already tied, * Whist,' she continued, ' I hear 



THE FRERES. 41 

the carriage. There, now, you go down an' show 
your cousin the sort of girls we rare in Ireland.' 

When Grace entered the drawing-room, she could 
hardly believe her eyes. Could it be possible that 
the tall, slight, elegant-looking young man, who 
seemed to be one of Bulwer Lytton's heroes stepped 
out of the * Disowned,' or *Devereux,' was really her 
commercial cousin from London ? 

Tall and slight, as I have said, and of a clear 
brown complexion, his dark, rather deep-set eyea 
more thoughtful than bright. He was attired in 
an admirably-cut knickerbocker suit, and held in 
one hand a soft, dark-green felt hat. He was 
standing beside Mrs. Frere, and had evidently been 
just presented to her, as she had not returned to 
the easy-chair from which she had risen to receive 
him. Mr. de Burgh, dignified and courtly in his 
usual black velveteen shooting suit, his aquiline 
features and silvery-grey hair coming out • well 
against the crimson curtains of the large bay win- 
dow in which they were grouped, stood beside his 
daughter; while Mab, well sheltered behind her 
mother's black silk skirts, peeped cautiously and 
critically at the new-comer. 

* Here, Grace,' called Mr. de Burgh, * come and 
shake hands with your cousin.' 

Grace, with the first feeling of shyness that had 
ever rippled over the fair surface of her inner life^ 
came forward with unaccountably glowing cheeks, 
and downcast eyes, to receive an easy yet deferen- 
tial bow, and a lingering, surprised glance from her 
strange kinsman. 



42 THE FRERES. 

'I had no idea my cousin was so much of a 
** young lady,"* said Maxwell Frere, in what 
sounded to Grace the most refined high-bred voice 
she had ever heard, and with a passing smile 
which displayed white teeth, and gave a sudden 
sweetness to his dark, keen face. * I fancied ' (to 
Mrs. Frere) * that both your daughters were in the 
** little girl period." ' 

* Ah ! you see Grace is such a rebellious subject,' 
said Mr. de Burgh, fondly drawing her towards 
him, * there is no keeping her back.' 

* Quite natural that she should claim and take a 
front-rank place,* returned the young stranger, in 
a tone of careless compliment. 

* What a splendid view !' he continued, stepping 
nearer the window, and gazing with genuine admira- 
tion at the fine stretch of woodland, rich with 
autumnal tints, which spread away in a gentle slope 
on the left, up to where it was bounded by a jagged 
peaked line of blue hills, rising in places to moun- 
tain heights, and the wide, sheltered bay, a large 
rocky islet guarding its entrance, which lay imme- 
diately below, all golden red in the sunset light. 
'You have a charming residence, Mr. de Burgh, 
and quite a different character of scenery from that 
of the north, where I have been staying.* 

' Yes/ said Mr. de Burgh, still stroking Grace's 
head, but absently, and with a slight sigh. * There 
is beauty enough — and from this window I am 
** monarch of all I survey!" Looking away west 
over the bay, our nearest neighbours are in 
America.' 



THE FRERES. 43 

* Who were you staying with in the north, Max- 
well?' asked Mrs. Frere, subsiding into her chair, 
and permitting Mab to lean against her knee. 

*I was moving about principally, but I spent 
three or four days with an old schoolfellow of 
mine, Kilrea. I daresay you know his people, sir ' 
{to Mr. de Burgh); *his father was one of your 
representative peers, and ' 

* I knew him,' interrupted Mr. de Burgh. * Kilrea 
— the father I mean — and I were in Vienna to- 
gether in '47.' 

Then the conversation turned on continental life, 
on the political changes since Mr. de Burgh's last 
visit to Austria, and other topics, in which Grace 
could take no part, until the entrance and introduc- 
tion of Randal made a break, and then it was time 
to dress for dinner. 

The dinner was very pleasant. Max Frere's 
company seemed to animate the kindly host, who 
had resigned the world in which his young guest 
seemed already so well versed. 

To Grace the effect of this ready-flowing con- 
versation, in which she could not join, was depress- 
ing. Yet the new cousin never for a moment 
neglected the small politenesses due to her and to 
her mother, and rendered them, too, in a frank, 
unstudied fashion. 

Randal alone seemed quite thrown out. He 
made one or two attempts to join in the conversa- 
tion, but was palpably overlooked. 

After Mrs. Frere, her daughter, and mademoiselle 
had retired, the gentlemen sat long over their wine 



44 THE FRERES. 



least, Mr. de Bui^h and his guest — for Randal 
who could not bear to be in any degree slighted, 
had slipped away, and asked Grace to come out 
and look at the bay by moonlight, when he tobk 
the opportunity of denouncing their English cousin 
as a conceited, supercilious jackanapes ; an opinion 
from which Grace entirely differed, though she was 
far from satisfied with him herself. With his 
wonderful knowledge of people and things, his 
seemingly boundless experience, he appeared more 
suited for companionship with grandpapa than a 
half playfellow for herself, as Maurice Balfour was. 

The next day, however, things looked brighter. 
After a long morning's shooting with the hale> 
active old squire, who seemed wonderfully revived 
by this sudden infusion of fresh ideas. Max Frere^ 
proposed to ride with his cousins after.luncheon — 
a suggestion readily accepted — and the young 
recluses found that the London cousin sat his horse 
well, and rode as straight * 'cross country ' as if he 
had been born and bred in Clare. 

On the whole, Maxwell Frere's visit was a great 
success. On grandpapa he made the best impres- 
sion ; Mrs. Frere declared him a charming com- 
panion ; nurse and the servants' hall pronounced 
him * a rale gintleman.' Grace was not so sure that 
he was charming, for he managed with perfect 
courte3y to make her feel herself a rather ignorant 
country girl, with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm 
on various out-of-the-way subjects, concerning 
which the well-informed world did not trouble 
itself. As for Randal, he had no doubts at all ; to 



THE FRERES. 45 

him Maxwell Frere was simply odious. Max 
laughed at his poetry and pretensions to genius ; 
advised him to study book-keeping by double 
entry, and openly deplored to Grace and Mrs. Frere 
that he had been so early removed from an English 
school. This roused Grace's wrath ; she was all 
the more disposed to stand up for her brother 
because of an undercurrent of unacknowledged 
conviction that Max Frere was right. During this 
visit she had many sharp encounters with her 
cousin, in which he did not always get the best of 
it, as he laughingly acknowledged. Yet, on the 
whole, they were good friends ; and when he left, 
Grace missed the excitement of his society more 
than she cared to acknowledge. 

A year elapsed, during which Maxwell wrote 
three or four times to Mr. de Burgh and his aunt, 
and then he came again for the grouse-shooting. 

In the interim, Grace had matured much in 
mind. The contact with her cousin, the contrast of 
his modes of thought to her own, and those of her 
companions hitherto, had been a great enlighten- 
ment — almost an education to her. She had de- 
veloped in every way, and when he came again, 
Max treated her as a young lady-friend and equal. 
They were more together, too. Mr. de Burgh had 
changed a good deal during the previous winter 
and spring. He was weaker, less cheerful, and 
more disposed to keep in his easy-chair ; while 
Randal was less inclined to put up with his cousin's 
good-humoured quizzing than ever. 

This companionship enabled Grace to overcome 



46 THE FRERES. 

the half-resentful fear of her cousin's superior know- 
ledge and attainments which she had formerly felt. 
Maxwell was so much kinder and softer too — even 
complimentary, in a frank cousinly fashion, and 
they became the closest friends. 

What long delightful rambles on foot and horse- 
back ! What fishing expeditions and nutting 
scrambles ! What a free open-air life they shared ! 
The new delight of such companionship gave a light 
to Grace's eyes, a smile of heart's joy to her lips, that 
clothed her with positive beauty; only one faint 
tinge of disappointment rippled the smooth surface 
of her entire content When she tried to talk 
seriously to Max of her efforts at self-improvement, 
of her doubts on many subjects, of her deep desire 
to know the truth of this or that doctrine, he 
would never meet her in the same spirit. Some- 
times she feared he was bored by such question- 
ing, sometimes that he did not think her worth a 
reply ; often that he did not bestow serious thought 
on matters that at times filled her heart to over- 
flowing. And then she never felt that Max con- 
fided in her. To be sure, he was much older and 
wiser, but a momentary conviction would occasion- 
ally flash across her, that of her cousin's inner self 
she was utterly ignorant. Of course these were but 
momentary gleams. The insight of seventeen is 
but instinctive and fleeting. Maxwell Frere seemed, 
and to a certain depth was, remarkably frank. 
His reserve was no solid plate armour, to chill and 
repel the touch ; rather a coat of chain -mail, flex- 
ible enough to show form and movement, but close 



THE FRERES, A7 

enough to prevent sword or lance-point piercing 
through. 

And with all their companionship, Grace could 
never tell him her vague dreamy fancies ; she 
feared his subtle, well-bred mockery, and dared not 
display her half belief in the superstitions which 
peopled lake and hill, and rocky cavern, ay, and 
red-golden cornfield, with fairies, * good people * 
and * leprechauns,' to say nothing of the special De 
Burgh banshee, who always wailed and mourned 
before any misfortune befell the family, as she 
could to Maurice Balfour, who would smile too, but 
in a different fashion. Then he was only four years 
older than herself, and Maxwell was nearly eight 

Still it was a very delightful time, that autumn 
visit which Max passed with them, and Grace felt 
herself advanced in dignity in some mysterious way, 
in consequence of her cousin's manner to her. A 
vague, sweet, unacknowledged consciousness that 
she was a woman — possibly a charming one — grew 
upon her, and gave a wonderful tender patience to 
her manner with Mabel and her mother, the former 
being often a trial. But the day of Maxwell's 
departure came too quickly, and it took all Grace's 
strength and innate pride to hide the anguish with 
which she dreaded it. Max himself openly declared 
his regret at the approaching separation, and painted 
vividly the contrast of his life in London to the 
delights of Dungar. 

* Why do you go away then ? I suppose you can 
do very much what you like ?' said Grace, on his 
reiterating this declaration. 



48 THE FRERES. 

* No one can do just what they like/ returned 
Max ; * and even if I could, I should not stay at 
Dungar. I could not fancy passing the rest of my 
life as an Irish country gentleman — or a country 
gentleman anywhere. The charm of this place is 
chiefly that I c^wnot stay.' 

Grace sighed. They were riding together, having 
made a long excursion to visit a distant point of 
view greatly admired by Max Frere, and were now 
walking their horses leisurely, as there was plenty 
of time before dinner. 

* Come, Grace,* he continued, for she did not 
speak, and his ear was curiously greedy for the 
sound of her rich, soft voice, with its faint, musically 
Irish intonation ; * come, you have a little curiosity 
and ambition yourself You would not be content 
always to dwell in the happy valley, or rather on 
the happy hill ?' 

* You are right !' cried Grace, rousing herself; * I 
always understood why Eve took the apple. I 
would not rest in contented conscious ignorance 
even in Paradise, though I might like to come back 
to it after trying other places.* 

* I thought so,* returned her cousin, with a slight 
mocking smile ; * but when people want to come 
back to their paradise there are obstacles in the 
way. Angels with flaming swords, etcetera.' 

* Yes,' said she, thoughtfully ; * how curious the 
whole story is. But don't fancy I am faithless to 
Dungar. I believe it would break my heart if I 
thought I was never to see it again. Yet, I have 
sometimes longed to go away. Is it not lovely ? 



THE FRERES. 49 

and she pointed with her whip to the scene that 
stretched before them. 

The road had wound round from behind one of 
the hills that sheltered the bay, and began to 
descend towards the level fields and open waste- 
land which bordered the sea. Opposite were 
three peaked mountains and a bold, bluff head- 
land, on the slope of which, looking south-west, 
lay the castle and woods pf Dungar. On their left 
a soft swelling upland, thickly covered with pines, 
interspersed with birch, and maple, and oak, now 
glowing in the rich beauty of mid-autumn dyes, 
led up to a blue mountain range ; while below, the 
sea lay still and glassy, except for the white foam- 
fringe that chafed against the beach. It had been 
a soft, grey day, with somewhat lowering clouds, and 
full of quiet tenderness, as if nature knew a leave- 
taking was at hand ; but as evening approached, the 
clouds broke up, and gathered away in downy ash- 
coloured masses to the south, whereon the sinking 
sun cast unspeakable glories of gold, and purple, 
and crimson upon them. The air was laden with 
the perfume of the pine woods, and every inch of 
roadway bordered by the beauty of dark rocks, and 
bright-green mosses, and long, waving, many-tinted 
ferns, and graceful, trailing tangles of bramble and 
briar, and endless, varied leafage. 

* Is it not lovely ?' repeated Grace, checking her 
horse ; * I love every hill, and tree, and rock, yet — 
yet I too would leave it.' 

*And yet,' added her companion, looking in- 
tently at the speaker, not the scene, * you are not 

VOL. I. 4 



so THE FRERES. 

unfaithful ; nor am I, though I would not stay 
here.' 

* I should like to see London/ said Grace, 
abruptly, and still gazing away out to sea ; * I re- 
member Paris quite well, but I scarcely saw Lon- 
don. All the novels I have read speak of London 
— to be sure, there are no French novels in the 
house/ 

* So much the better !* rejoined Max, laughing. 
* As it is, you have read all sorts of books generally 
forbidden to other young ladies.' 

* Have I V exclaimed Grace, colouring, and 
slightly knitting a pair of distinctly but delicately 
marked brows. * I am glad I am not as other young 
ladies. Max. I do not think any book I have read 
has hurt me ;' and she touched her horse, who was 
pawing impatiently. 

* Hurt you ! no !' said Max, pressing his steed 
to her side, and, leaning towards her, laid his hand 
on her horse's neck. * There are some natures that 
cannot be hurt.' 

Grace laughed frankly. 

* Not mine, I am afraid, I am not one bit an 
angel.' 

* You are infinitely nicer !' exclaimed her cousin. 
'Tell me, are you sorry I am going to-morrow? 
Shall you miss me ?' 

* Miss you ! Yes, indeed I shall ! There is no 
one here like you. I shall rtiiss you till you come 
back. You will come back next autumn. Max ?* 

* I will,' said Max, looking fixedly into the fair, 
sweet face, glowing with a wonderful, transparent. 



THE F RE RES. 51 

rosy beauty, after their ride in the fresh, humid air, 
and into the candid, fearless grey eyes, so shaded 
with long black lashes that they might be taken for 
blue, or black, or brown, or any other darksome 
loveliness, and thrilling with a mixed triumph and 
delight to see them droop under his, while the bright 
colour faded and flamed up again on his com- 
panion's cheek, as he added emphatically, ^ if you 
wish it !' 

'Ah, Maxwell, that is your English conceit!* 
cried Grace, instinctively resisting her own emotion. 
'You know I wish you to come back, but you like 
to hear me say it/ 

* Exactly ! precisely so ! But — who knows ? — 
you may leave Dungar. We may meet in London.' 

* Hush !' said Grace, lifting her hand. ' I have 
such a strange, miserable foreboding sometimes that 
we shall leave this dear, dear home before long, and 
be very unhappy — that it will be a sort of judgment 
on me for wishing to go ' 

* What !' interrupted Max. ' Has the unpleasant 
female appendage to the house of De Burgh been 
howling lately ?' 

* Max, you are too bad ! I will not answer ! You 
mock at everything. After all, are you so much 
wiser than your neighbours V 

'When my neighbours are, say, in Mincing Lane, 
certainly not ; and when my neighbour is a certain 
wild Irish girl, I fear the wisdom is also nil.' 

'Ah!' cried Grace, putting on a touch of the 
brogue, 'do you mean to say I make a fool of 
you?' 

4—2 



52 THE FRERES. 

' Nearly ; not quite, if I can help it/ 

'Come, Max! Here is a beautiful stretch of 
stubble field. Let us have a gallop. We can go 
home by the stone bridge, and not be very late/ 

She shook her bridle, and darted off, sitting well 
down in her saddle, and settling to her horse's 
stride in a business-like manner. Max was obliged 
to touch his steed with the spur to overtake her> 
as her sudden action had won her a momentary 
advantage ; and then away they went, neck and 
neck. Away in the wild, exhilarating contest of 
speed, their horses at full stretch, the fresh, still', 
humid air stirred almost to a breeze against their 
faces by the rapid motion, the delicious sensation 
of having * wings as a bird ;' of power, courage^ 
daring to clear any obstacle that came in the 
way ; of nameless, indescribable, headlong joy, that 
thrills the veins and braces the nerves, as a good 
rider feels beneath him the free stride of a horse 
he can trust devouring space, making their pulses 
throb with a strange delight. 

When Grace at last drew rein, she was about 
half a length in advance, and looked back in gay 
triumph at her cousin. 

* I might have passed you, had you not stopped,* 
he said, in answer to the look. * But I must say you 
are splendidly mounted. That black mare would 
bring a long price at Tatts' ; and both of you might 
create a sensation in the Park — especially your 
habit' 

'Now, Max, I know you are laughing at me! 
But I enjoy riding just as much as if my habit was 



THE FRERES. 53 

of the latest fashion, and grandpapa lias promised 
me"a new one for a Christmas present.* 

* He had better commission me to send you one 
from London. There is a house where they for- 
ward directions for self-measurement* 

. * I am afraid I should stand a bad chance of 
getting a new habit, if I depended on you. Max,' 
she returned, with a brilliant smile, yet with a 
certain wistfulness in her glance. * Randal says 
you are not gifted with a good memory for those 
you leave behind.' 

* Randal's vast experience, sound judgment, and 
deep insight into human nature, no doubt enable 
him to decide on my transparent character,' re- 
turned Max, with a touch of more than his usual 
calm contempt. ' How have I incurred the poet's 
.distrust ?' 

'And how can you be so bitter?' cried Grace. 
* There is something absolutely cruel in your voice.' 

*Pooh, nonsense !' said Max, v/ith an irrepressible 
tinge of annoyance in his tone. * I am cruel in 
telling your brother the truth. If he goes on in the 
delusions which at present possess him, he will 
come to grief. I am sorry Mr. de Burgh did not 
send him to an English public school — that would 
have taken the nonsense out of him. Why, how 
old is Randal ?' 

* He will be nineteen in March.' 

* He ought not to be mooning here, then ; better 
for him to have a desk in a merchant's office than 
nothing.* 

* Max !' 



54 THE FRERES. 

* Forgive meP and he smiled tenderly. *I do 
not like Randal to abuse me to jrau. Of course we 
miserable negvcianls are far beneath the notice of a 
daughter of the great house of De Burgh. Yet it 
is pleasant to remember that there is the same 
blood in my pretty cousin's veins as in my own. 
Pretty,' he repeated, thou^tfuUy; •no, you are 
not pretty, Grace.* 

* Dare you deny it !* she exclaimed, laughing and 
raising her whip. 

* Strike, but hear me,' returned Max, again lapng 
his hand on her horse's neck, and looking intently 
into her face. * I wish — I wish you were only pretty.* 

*Ah, Max, you have got cleverly out of that 
comer,' she said, still laughing, but with a height- 
ened colour and a gleam of exultation in her eyes, 
for there was unmistakable sincerity in his tone* 

* Can you follow ? she added, significantly touching 
her horse's flank with the whip, and rushing him 
at a ditch of tolerable width, which divided the 
long stretch of wheat-land from the waste. She 
turned to watch her companion's performance, as 
she landed on the other side. Max took it gallantly, 
sitting his horse like a man accustomed to ride 
straight 

'Well done, "commerce"!' cried his cousin, as 
he resumed his place at her side; then, holding 
out her hand with a frank, kindly grace, she added : 

* I shall never turn my back on the Freres, Max ; I 
am proud of them too. They have been men 
enough to build their own fortunes, and I loved 
my father dearly.' 



THE FRERES. 55 

A curious expression, not untinged with amuse- 
ment, passed over Max's face as he gripped her 
hand hard. 

* If it were not gloved, I should kiss this little 
hand in gratitude for your gracious words, made- 
moiselle la princesse.' 

*Ah, Max, I wish I knew if you are ever in 
earnest. Try not to mock this last day, just this 
once.' 

* Grace ! cannot you see I am horribly in earnest 
in my dislike to say good-bye ? Don't you know 
people sometimes laugh to save their tears ?' 

* Tears ! — ^your tears ! Ah, Max, that is some- 
thing unheard of ! Come, let us try once more if 
my " Colleen Dhu " cannot beat your bay in a trot- 
ting match.' 

Not many more words passed between them till 
they reached the gates of Dungar, and slackened 
their pace to a walk, as the approach to the house 
was all uphill ; even then both were unusually 
silent — Grace gazing away into space, lost in 
thought ; Maxwell's eyes dwelling, with a dark in- 
tense expression and slight knitting of the brow, 
upon his companion. 

Arrived at the house. Max assisted his companion 
to dismount, and followed her into the house. 

*Is Mrs. Frere out still?' he asked the butler, 
who had come forward to receive them. 

* Yes, sir ; she and the masther and Miss Mabel 
— they are all gone down to the glebe-house.' 

Grace went on while the man spoke, and turned 
into a small, comfortable morning-room, much used 



56 THE FRERES. 

by her mother. She walked over to a work-table 
in the oriel window, which looked out on a splendid 
stretch of hills and sea. 

* Look, Max ! How careless Mab is ! here is a 
whole heap of flowers, gathered and left to die \ 
Will you ask Connell to bring me water, and the 
two ' 

'Never mind them!' interrupted Max, closing 
the door behind him, and crossing the room to 
where Grace had just laid aside her hat, and was 
now drawing off her gloves. She looked up in 
surprise as he came to her side. 

* Let the flowers He there,' he continued. . * I 
want you to say good-bye to me now^ when we are 
alone. To-morrow I must say it in a crowd, in 
sight of the whole family.' 

He took her hand in both of his. 

* But, Max ^ began Grace, with a startled, 

awakening look in her large eyes : 

* Good-bye, sweetest cousin ! I have to thank 
you for all the pleasure of my visit here/ he con- 
tinued, drawing her nearer to him, * and I shall find 
nothing like you till we meet again ! Give me a 
farewell kiss, as a proof that you forgive all my 
heresies and misdemeanours.' 

To kiss so near a i elation seemed quite natural 
to Grace. What surprised her was, that she should 
feel a strange fear of doing so. Still she never 
ithought of resisting, although she trembled from 
head to foot as Max passed his arm gently round 
her, and held her to him with a clasp that grew 
closer and closer as he spoke. 



THE FRERES. S7 

* Do not forget me, Grace ! * Will you promise to 
welcome me as kindly as ever when I come back ?' 
And he pressed a long clinging kiss on the sweet 
dewy virgin lips, so frankly yielded to him. * You 
promise,* he repeated, still holding her soft, pliant 
figure to his breast, and almost startled to feel how 
wildly her heart beat, how she trembled in every 
limb. 

* Yes, Max,* she replied, in a very low, but steady 
tone ; * I will always remember and welcome you !' 

* Thanks, sweetest ! I will hold you to it. No 
flirtations with the parson's grandson if he comes 
back ! No tite-a-tite rides !* 

' Max !' with inexpressible scorn and indigna- 
tion. 

. * Forgive me ; and now one more kiss, and I 
will let you go!* 

* Max, I dare not ! You must not hold me, dear 
Max !* 

There was such reality in her effort to escape 
from his embrace, that Max felt compelled to 
release her; and as she hastily gathered up her 
riding-habit, he kissed the hand he still held. 

*I, at least, can never forget the most charm- 
ing cousin man ever had !* he exclaimed, as Grace, 
drawing her hand away, ran quickly out of the 
room, without one backward glance. 

Max stood looking after her, and twisting one of 
the gloves she had dropped, in his hands : 
, * I am a greater idiot than I thought I was,* he 
muttered to himself ; * but that girl might set older 
and. slower pulses than mine throbbing. God! 



58 THE FRERES. 

what sweet lips I and how she trembled! Pooht 
what a blockhead I am !' 

Catching sight of his aunt and Mr. de Burgh 
walking slowly across the gravel sweep, Max went 
forth to meet them, mentioning with admirable 
coolness that Grace and himself had only just 
come in, and that Grace had gone to dress for 
dinner. He proceeded to engage Mr. de Burgh in 
a discussion on the possibility of reclaiming the 
tract of waste that lay between the wheat-land and 
the sea, as if no such things as sweet lips and pliant 
trembling forms existed. 

Meantime Grace flew to her own room, and was 
thankful to find it for once free from the presence 
of nurse or mademoiselle. 

She was almost frightened at her own emotion. 
What was there in a cousin's kiss and request to 
be remembered, to make her heart beat till she 
could hear it, and her limbs tremble till she could 
scarce stand ? But her cousin's voice and look and 
touch could not be mistaken. Nature, independent 
of a varied course of novel-reading, told her this 
was love. She felt wafted into sudden woman- 
hood — felt it with a kind of awe. Now, of course, 
Max meant only to sound her feeling for him ; but 
later, when she had studied and improved, and 
made herself more worthy of such a hero, he would 
come and, as he said, hold her to her promise. At 
any rate, young and uncouth and recluse as she 
thought herself. Max, accomplished, travelled, 
experienced man of the world though he was, 
loved her with a love passing that of a brother. 



THE FRERES. 59 

The thought filled her with exultation and 
courage ; she bid him good-bye publicly, with a 
composure that considerably surprised the parting 
guest ; she settled to the routine of her life after his 
departure, with contentment and diligence radiating 
from the centre of hope and joy and pride in her 
heart, much to Randal's surprise. He had hoped 
that a mood of melancholy moping would have 
offered a target to the arrows of his wit Grace had 
faintly expected that Max would write to her, but 
she was by no means discontented that his occa- 
sional letters (enough for politeness) should be 
addressed to her mother ; he always sent her a kind 
message, and at first some new books and music. 

So the winter wore pleasantly away. Then came 
the great and sudden blow of grandpapa's death — 
the terrible break up of the dear old home ; but 
through all, the vague sweet hope of meeting Max 
in London streaked every phase of sorrow with a 
pale tinge of gold. And now, when they were 
fairly landed in the great wondrous fearful city of 
Grace's day-dreams, within reach of the anchor to 
which she had clung — Max had gone to Paris. 




CHAPTER IV. 



SHE tired travellers slept long on the 
morning after their arrival, and Grace 
was delighted to feel that a brighter 
frame of mind had displaced the gloom 
and depression of the previous night. 

She was the first up and dressed of the party, 
and on going into her mother's room, found her 
awake, but still tn bed. She held up a warning 
finger as her daughter entered, for Mabel was still 
in deepest sleep. 

' Well, mother dear ! are you pretty well and 
rested ?' asked Grace in a whisper, stooping to kiss 
her. 

' Quite well, but not rested. I feel as if I should 
never be at rest again. It is past eight, and they 
have not brought me hot water yet.' 

' I suppose we must ring for it,' said Grace, whose 
awakening common-sense suggested that she could 
not expect the personal attendance of home in a 
London lodging. ' The bell is broken,' she con- 



THE FRERES. 6i 

tinued, after a vain effort to pull the handle which 
hung loosely from the wall ; * I will go down and 
ask for some warm water for you, and see if Randal 
is stirring/ 

* Is that Grace ?' asked Mabel, sleepily, as she 
slowly opened her ^yt,s ; * I was dreaming we were 
at Dungar again, and had broiled salmon for break- 
fast' 

* Keep quiet, Mab, until I come back, and then 
you shall come into my room and dress.' 

* It is exceedingly awkward having no bell,' said 
Mrs. Frere, with much seriousness ; * suppose any 
of us were ill in the night ?' 

* Oh ! we must not think of being ill,' exclaimed 
Grace, as she left the room and ran quickly down- 
stairs to summon Sarah and knock at Randal's door. 

Miss Timbs herself answered what she termed 
* the dining-room ' bell ; and having called to Sarah 
to take the required hot water upstairs, proceeded 
to ask : 

* What'U you please to want for breakfast, mum?* 
Grace hesitated ; all her life she had seen excel- 
lent food appear at proper periods, but of the pro- 
ducing process she was profoundly ignorant 

* Oh, anything will do for the first, day. Some 
fish and cold meat, or eggs and tea, and preserves 
if you have any — Mabel always likes preserve — and 
that will do.' 

* Very well, mum,' returned Miss Timbs, a little 
startled at such demands upon her resources, but 
making a rapid mental calculation as to the probable 
profit of such lavish lodgers. * How soon shall you 



€2 THE FRERES. 

be ready? for I must send out for fish and preserves. 
As to cold meat, it's not likely I should have any in 
the house.' 

*It is no matter/ returned Grace, good-humouredly, 
* do what you can. My mother will be dressed in 
about an hour.' 

* I say, Grace,' called Randal through his closed 
door, * are you up and about ? What o^clock is it ? 
I forgot to wind my watch.' 

* Quarter-past eight. Get up like a good boy ;' 
to which Randal made some unintelligible reply, 
and his sister mounted the stairs, and proceeded to 
coax Mabel to get up and permit herself to be 
dressed. For though quite capable of performing 
that operation, her exceedingly erratic nature dis- 
posed her to so many breaks and divergences that 
it was never ending. On this occasion, after various 
appeals, she put on her shoes, and was immediately 
attracted by a large darn in the piece of carpet op- 
posite the dressing-table. 

* Why do they put such an old piece of carpet on 
our room, Grace ?' 

* Oh, because there was nothing better. Do come 
away and let mamma dress.' 

* Yes, there is something better, much better — a 
new carpet with big roses on it, in the room down- 
stairs. I peeped in as we were going down to tea 
last night.' 

* Never mind, Mab ; come with me.' 

* Mother ought to have it ; oughtn't you, mammy ?' 

* Go with Grace, dear ; your poor mother will have 
no more pretty things.' 



THE FRERES. 63 

* Stay, there is a bright pin under the big press/ 
whereupon she darted across the room, and striving 
to squeeze herself under the * wardrobe ' formerly 
described, nearly brought the whole concern on her 
back. 

* Mabel !' screamed her mother, * you will kill 
yourself ! Do take her away, Grace.* 

* You must come !' cried the much-suffering sister, 
and almost carried her into the next room, Mab 
protesting vehemently that she hurt her. 

Once in a fresh scene, Mab insisted on a tour of 
rigid inspection before attempting to replace her 
nightgown with her ordinary clothes. Then the 
tops of the houses, as seen from Grace's window, 
had to be viewed and commented on ; the proceed- 
ings of a cat creeping along one of the roofs 
•created the deepest interest ; and immense diffi- 
culties ensued in the matter of brushing and 
plaiting the patient's hair, calling forth many 
reproachful and contemptuous observations in 
reply to the elder sister's remonstrances, who, her 
forbearance at last exhausted, administered a 
sharp slap on the offender's shoulder, the same 
being instantly repaid by a hearty kick. 

After this exchange of civilities, the toilette pro- 
ceeded with greater rapidity, and having grumbled 
at being obliged to put on a crumpled lace frill 
and a pair of cuffs no longer in their pristine fresh- 
ness, Mabel declared herself ready, and descended 
in search of breakfast and further novelties. 

Randal had already emerged from his chamber 
when Mrs. Frere and Grace made their appearance. 



64 THE PRE RES. 

and Sarah was busy setting forth the morning meal 
with much haste and clatter ; while Mabel stood in 
the window, conspicuously holding her nose — ^for in 
truth the impromptu * haddock ' provided by Miss 
Timbs was powerful in odour, and the pot of straw- 
berry jam was of the mashiest, stickiest description, 
while the eggs, not having been subjected to the 
process of * selection ' by being broken for frying, 
called from Randal the remark that *They must 
have been laid by the hen that Noah took into the 
ark.' 

* The tea has rather a peculiar flavour ! don't you 
think so, Grace ?' said mamma. 

* Yes, it is not nice ; we must try and find better 
to-morrow. Mabel, do eat some bread and butter 
if you cannot manage your fish !' 

* Try and eat, my love,' urged Mrs. Frere. * And 
now, Randal — now that we are at last in London, 
what are you going to do ?' 

* Well !' returned Randal, easily, tilting back his 
chair in order to put a rejected supply of haddock 
on the chiffonier, * in the first place, I think we are 
not in London, but out of town ; why the place is as 
quiet and silent as Dungar, except for the shouting 
of " Milk oh !" that roused me this morning. I 
wonder what induced Jimmy Byrne to get us such 
remote quarters f 

* I suppose he could not find what we wanted 
cheap enough anywhere else,' remarked Grace, sadly. 

* But I consider these rooms dear,' said Randal, 
in a tone of strong common-sense ; * the accommo- 
dation is miserable, and the furniture disgraceful ! 



THE FRERES. 65 

I cannot bear to see my mother in such a place. 
Grace, you and I will have a "ramble in search of 
something better.' 

* Dear boy !' murmured Mrs. Frere, looking at 
him with moist eyes, * you always think of me.' 

* Well, Randal !' persisted Grace, pouring out 
another cup of washy tea for Mab, * now we are 
here, what do you think of doing } I wish you 
would call on Uncle Frere, as Jimmy Byrne advised 
you.' 

* I must think about it,' returned Randal, looking 
curiously into the milk jug ; * let us see if he will 
make the first advance ! In a week or so Max will 
have returned, and then he will be there to intro- 
duce me — it would be pleasanter than going alone.* 

* Why, Randal,' cried Grace^ surprised — for self- 
distrust was not her brother's ordinary failing — 
* you don't mean to say you are afraid of your own 
uncle ?' 

* Afraid !' repeated Randal, with lofty scorn, * it is 
not likely that I should quail before any man; but 
— the fact is — a — I wish to have some work actually 
in hand before I present myself in the temple of 
Mammon.' 

* Is Randal afraid Uncle Frere would turn him 
out ?' asked Mabel, who was listening attentively. 

* Then what do you think of doing ?' asked the 
mother, 

* Do you remember Halkett whom we met at 
Aunt d'Arcy's, in Dublin ?' was the somewhat irre- 
levant answer. 

* Yes, rather a noisy overpowering man.' 
VOL. I. 5 



66 THE FRERES. 

'A very clever fellow though, I can tell you! 
He looked at some' of my MSS. and thought them 
most promising, particularly my "Legends and Tales 
of Dungar." He has given me an introduction to a 
brother of his who writes for lots of papers and 
magazines, and I am going to present the letter to- 
day at the Girdle office. He is editor of the Girdled 

* The Girdle P repeated Grace ; * what an extra- 
ordinary name !' 

* Why, Grace,' exclaimed Mabel, with contempt, 
* it is the thing they bake cakes on !' 

*It is an abbreviation of the name,' returned 
Randal, with careless superiority. * Earth Girdle 
means their information encircles the globe — 
Shakespeare, you know. The staflF call it the 
Girdle and E. G! 

* I never heard of it before,' said Grace. 

' Very likely, my dear ; but if I could be taken 
on before I interview Uncle Frere, it would be a 
grand go, and show that conceited puppy Max 
that I am not such a noodle after all.' 

* Taken on the staff of a newspaper ! Why, 
Randal, you must be dreaming ! Just think of all 
the memoirs and biographies we have read, and 
remember how dreadfully hard the best men have 
found it to get on at first/ 

* Thatj^ou have read, Grace. / have never cared 
to risk losing my own originality by steeping my- 
self in the records of other people's blunders. Why 
should I not be taken on the staff of a paper ?' 

* Why not ?' echoed Mrs. Frere. * Really, I must 
say Randal is exceedingly clever, and the quantity 



THE FRERES. 67 

he has written already is amazing. I hope I am 
not partial, but I do think Randal quite equal to 
the staff of any paper/ She spoke in a tone of 
severe criticism. 

Grace sighed, and seeing that no one was eating, 
rang for the servant to clear away, while Randal 
continued, cheerfully : 

* So I am going to the office to-day ; it is in 

W Street, off the Strand — and I shall take my 

papers with me. I suppose I had better take a 
cab, mother, as I ought to be at the place early, 
and I don't know the way.' 

* Certainly, dear boy, certainly. Have you any 
money, Randal ?' 

Randal examined a very pretty porte-monnaiey 
and replied : 

* You had better give me five shillings. I shall 
only want cab and omnibus fares to-day, for I shall 
return to dine. By the way, you had better say 
seven o'clock for dinner ; Byrne said he was coming 
up this evening, and he cannot get away before 
six. 

* Very well ; and, Randal, if you pass anywhere 
near H Square, you might leave a card ' 

* I will see about it, mother.' 

He rose, and retired to his own room. Grace 
looked wistfully after him, but prudently resisted 
pressing the distasteful visit upon her brother, till 
backed by the counsels of the redoubtable * Jimmy.' 

Sarah had not yet removed the breakfast things 
when Randal returned, equipped in his new 
morning suit of black, and looking as bright and 

5—2 



68 THE. F RE RES. 

distingui a youngster as a mother's eye would wish 
to rest upon.' 

* Good-bye, dear ; God bless you !' 

* Good luck to you, Randal !' 

* Be sure you bring back some gridle cakes,' were 
the parting salutations of the trio he left behind ; 
and pausing to ask Miss Timbs, whom he met in 
the hall, or rather passage, the way to the nearest 
cab-stand, he walked briskly through the little 
garden-gate, and away out of sight 

* Dear me !' sighed Mrs. Frere, returning to her 
chair, it is wonderful the sensation of loneliness I 
feel when Randal is out of my sight. He is so 
brave and cheerful, and has so much self-reliance, 
which is always the mark of a strong character. 
Not that I undervalue you^ my darling,' holding 
out her hand to Grace ; * I am sure I do not know 
what we should have done without you.' 

Grace did not reply, but took the still fair soft 
hand and stroked it tenderly ; she felt too sad for 
words, an inexpressible, awful sense of isolation 
and responsibility pressed down her young heart. 
What was to become of them in this strange, 
mighty city, where their only friend was a humble 
lawyers' clerk, and where no welcome had awaited 
them from the kinsmen on whose friendship they 
had naturally reckoned ? But this mood did not 
last ; Grace felt she must throw it off or die. She 
hastily reminded herself that they were not yet 
twenty-four hours in London ; that Max had pro- 
bably not known when they were to arrive ; that 
she could not tell what urgent reasons he might 



THE FRERES, 69 

have to visit Paris ; that a week — a few days might 
change the aspect of affairs ; above all, that she 
must not, dare not despond. Let her mother talk 
of Randal's courage and cheerfulness as she would, 
they were but broken reeds to rely on. 

She had succeeded in rousing herself when Miss 
Timbs, much impressed by the general aspect of 
her new inmates, made her appearance with a spas- 
modic curtsey, and a request to know Mrs. Frere's 
orders. 

* I am sure I scarcely know what to say,' re- 
turned that lady, graciously. * Our tastes are 
extremely simple, and I do not care to incur un- 
necessary expense. What do you think, Grace, of 
a pair of fried soles, and boiled fowls with tongue 
— a ham would be rather large — and potatoes, and 
a dish of seakale and cheese ? It is rather early 
for cucumber. We will not mind sweets or dessert 
— eh, Grace ?* 

* Yes, mother,' returned Grace, with a dim, pain- 
ful sense that this was all too costly, yet not know- 
ing how to remedy it or what to suggest. 

'Very well, mum,' said Miss Timbs, with in- 
creasing deference. * And the young gentleman 
will be back to dinner ?' 

* Oh yes ; and I forgot to mention that as Mr. 
Byrne will dine with us to-day, you need not give 
us dinner till seven ; generally we dine at six.' 

* Hoh,' said Miss Timbs, and paused. * Ahem ! 
Then, mum, I must charge additional for kitchen 
fire — two-and-six a week is regular with a one 
o'clock dinner ; but for late dinner I must say 



70 THE FRERES. 

three-and-six, and sixpence a scuttle for the sitting- 
room fire.' 

*Ah, yes, I suppose so/ returned Mrs. Frere, 
vaguely. *You had better speak to Mr. Byrne 
about it when he comes, for I do not understand 
London prices, or the arrangements of a lodging- 
house.* 

* Ahem !' said Miss Timbs, with a visible vibra- 
tion of every curl, and smoothing down her apron 
nervously ; * but, begging your pardon, I don't 
keep a lodging-'ouse, though I lets my apartments 
to parties as requires accommodation ; and if I'm 
'umble, I trust I am respectable.' 

* Certainly,' replied Mrs, Frere, greatly astonished 
at the wrath she seemed to have evoked. *If I 
have said anything to offend you, I am very sorry ; 
but I cannot see that I have.' 

The gentle voice and guileless face of the speaker 
were not without their effect on Miss Timbs. 

* Well, mum, I see you are a stranger, and not 
up to our ways, and I am a bit hasty. I am sure 
you are too much the lady to make aggravating 
remarks ; so, as you say, I had better speak to the 
gentleman as took the rooms. But of course I 
shall want butter and lard for cooking, and would 
you like to buy everything yourself, mum, or shall 
I bring you my book every week ?' 

* Pray do so ! I should not know where to go for 
anything ; and for to-day we will dine at seven.* 

'Very well, mum.' And, to Mabel's profound 
admiration, she caught up, and piled together, all 
the plates, huddled the knives and forks on the 



THE PRE RES. 71 

tray, seized the butter, the cream-jug, and sundry 
other articles, in a twinkling, as if she had suddenly 
developed three or four additional pairs of hands, 
calling loudly for Sarah to clear away, and marched 
off with her load. 

* Grace, did you see what a lot of things she took 
hold of?' said Mabel. * I wonder if she will let 
them fall ?* And no doubt anxious to witness the 
anticipated catastrophe, she ran lightly to the 
kitchen stairs, and leaning over the top rail, 
strained her eyes into the cavernous depths below. 

* Our landlady seems a little hot-tempered,' said 
Mrs. Frere, as soon as they were alone. She spoke 
in a tone of apprehension, as if a little scared at the 
idea of having given offence.' 

* It seems it is not polite to say " lodging-house," ' 
returned Grace, smiling. *But she evidently for- 
gave you. We must try and find our way about as 
soon as possible, for we had better do all we can 
for ourselves. You know nurse told us we ought 
not to leave too much to our landlady.' 

* Nurse, like all women of her class, is extremely 
suspicious,' said Mrs. Frere, leaning back in her 
chair. 

* Dear nurse ! She is a very clever woman, 
mother. I wish she were here.' 

* Yes ; we miss her dreadfully. I do not know 
how that poor child will do without her !' 

* She must, poor little soul !' returned Grace, 
thoughtfully. * It will be hard for her to be shut 
up here all day. Suppose I take her out, and we 
might try and find our way to Hyde Park.* 



72 THE FRERES. 

* But, Grace dear, ladies do not walk alone in 
London ! I could not let you. Imagine meeting 
anyone you know ! Wait till Randal comes home.' 

* Is it really such an uncivilised place, that two 
girls cannot venture out together ; that we must be 
prisoners, unless we can get an escort ! I cannot 
believe it ! It seems to me that we must not play 
at being fine ladies any longer, but learn to take 
care of ourselves. I will not go if it vexes you, 
mother dear ; yet I do so long to see the Park. 
And you know Mabel will be fearfully troublesome 
in the house all day.' 

* I cannot stay in the house all day !' cried Mabel, 
returning disappointed from the kitchen stairs. 
* And Sarah says it is not a mile and a half to the 
ride in Hyde Park ; do let us go, mammy ! All 
the ladies will be riding there at twelve.' 

* At twelve !' . echoed Mrs. Frere. * They used to 
ride from five to seven in my time. Well, children, 
I do not half like it ! Perhaps our landlady could 
spare her servant to go with you ?' 

' Oh, I am sure she could not !' cried Mabel, for 
I heard Miss Timbs tell her she must make haste 
and do the rooms, and be ready to stay downstairs, 
because Miss Timbs is going out to buy things 
for us.' 

* Still, my dear, I never heard of young ladies 
walking alone in Hyde Park.' 

* Come with us yourself then,' said Grace, coax- 
ingly ; * it will do you good, and we are sure to be 
right with you.* 

* Impossible, dearest !' cried the mother ; * I am 



THE FRERES. 73 

not equal to such a walk — besides, I must write to 
your aunt D'Arcy/ 

* Well ! ask Miss Timbs what she thinks/ 

Miss Timbs was of opinion that any two young 
ladies might walk * anywheres at that time ;' it was 
just the hour when ladies and nurses and gover- 
nesses and children were about. Later, indeed, it 
might not be so well — but even then ! 

So Mrs. Frere, with many injunctions to be quiet 
and careful, especially at the crossings, permitted 
her daughters to set forth, Grace having first in- 
sisted — much to Mabel's disgust — on writing a few 
lines to her faithful friend nurse. 

Holding Mabel's hand closely, Grace sallied forth 
with some degree of eager excitement to catch a 
glimpse of the famous metropolis of which she had 
read and dreamed, till the names of its streets and 
squares and historical places were as familiar to her 
as her own, and to which her quick imagination lent 
a shape and reality widely different from the actual. 

* If you should happen to miss your way,' said 
Miss Timbs, *just you ask for "Albert Crescent, 
Grove Road, near the Water-works, Camden Hill ;" 
every p'liceman knows that. Go on straight till you 
come to the third turning on your left, then first to 
the right will take you into Kensington High 
Street, and anyone will show you the Park.' 

Fortified by these directions, and thankful to be 
in the air and in motion, Grace and her little com- 
panion walked swiftly away with the free light step 
accustomed to tread the springy grass and heather 
of their seaside home. After one or two wrong 



74 THE FRERES. 

turnings and a few inquiries, the young strangers 
found themselves in the Park, and for the first time 
felt they were in London. 

They were soon absorbed in contemplating the 
horses and their riders which seemed to them so 
numerous, though in truth the near approach of 
Easter had considerably thinned their ranks. The 
children too, so exquisitely dressed and cared for, 
attracted their attention ; the fresh air, the first 
faint flush of delicate green on the trees, the new- 
ness of everything, cheered and amused Grace. Still 
the crowd of strangers, the perpetual roar as of a 
mighty swelling tide, were somewhat appalling, and 
never in after years did she forget the impression of 
her first walk in London. 

How long they wandered and admired and won- 
dered, they could not tell ; at last Mab complained 
she was dying of hunger, and Grace found, to her 
dismay, her purse was empty. They had walked 
on and on till near Albert Gate, and it was 
weary work to retrace their steps, Mab declaring 
that she was tired to death, that she could not walk 
another step, etc. At this juncture a gentleman, 
followed by a large handsome deer-hound, crossed 
from the Knightsbridge direction, and paused a 
moment as he reached the footway to look at the 
tall slight girl in mourning, who was so evidently 
dragging a weary child after her. 

He was a stout, broad-shouldered, florid man of 
perhaps thirty, very well dressed, with a good- 
humoured, anim.al face, and reddish hair. After a 
minute of hesitation, he whistled to his dog, and 



THE FRERES. 75 

walked after the young lady and her companion, 
passed them, then paused, leant against the rails, 
and let them go by, taking a long look as they 
passed. This manoeuvre he executed twice; the 
second time, seeing that he was quite unnoticed, 
he walked smartly on ahead, then turning sharply, 
met the quarry face to face. 

Raising his hat, with an assured smile, he 
addressed Grace. 

* I beg your pardon ! But would you be so good 
as to direct me to — to — the National Gallery ?' 

* I am sorry I cannot,' she returned, without the 
slightest hesitation or embarrassment, looking 
straight into his light grey eyes. * I am a stranger 
myself.' Something in her voice and manner 
seemed to strike her interlocutor, for it was with a 
decided increase of respect he rejoined : 

* Indeed ! Can I be of any service to you ? I 
know this part of London very well.' 

* Thank you ; I want no help,' said Grace. Then 
suddenly bethinking herself of the task which lay 
before her in conveying Mab home, she added : 
* Unless, indeed, you could direct me to the nearest 
cab-stand.' 

* Certainly ! If you cross the ride, and take the 
path opposite, it will lead you to Rutland Gate, 
and there you will be pretty sure to find a cab. 
Perhaps you will allow me to accompany you ?* 

* No, thank you,' returned Grace, suddenly 
remembering, with a quick blush, that her mother 
would not like her to walk with a stranger ; * it 
would be better not.* 



76 THE FRERES. 

The stranger raised his hat, and made no attempt 
to follow as she passed on, but muttered to himself : 

* A deuced fine girl — a lady, too — and what eyes !' 
But no cab was to be found ; so poor Mabel, 

more and more fatigued, and quarrelsome in pro- 
portion, stumbled on. 

After many pauses to rest on the various benches 
which they passed, many remonstrances, coaxings, 
urgings, and encouragements, with a few inquiries — 
for Grace's organ of locality was well developed — 
they reached Albert Terrace, thoroughly worn out, 
to find Mrs. Frere in a fit of hysterical weeping, 
the effect of loneliness and fright, as she had quite 
made up her mind that the prolonged absence of 
her children was due to some terrible accident. 

* I am very sorry we stayed out so long ; but I 
had no idea it was so late. We will not leave you 
alone again. But oh ! mother, the Park is lovely ! 
and such beautiful horses, though there were a 
great many screws among them ; and then the 
children — such little darlings ! were they not, Mab ?' 

* I don't know ; I only know that I am dying of 
hunger.* 

* My dear child ! do ring the bell, Grace ! pray 
get her something to eat !' etc., etc. 

And Mab was quickly provided with the sticky 
jam and bread-and-butter, of which she and Grace 
between them devoured an extraordinary quantity. 




CHAPTER V. 



ANDAL, like his sisters, found so much 
to interest and amuse in his first 
experience of ' famous London town,' 
that he did not make his appearance 
till past six, and then he dashed in breathless to 
ask for three shillings to pay the hansom in which 
he had returned, as he did not feel sure of finding 
his way, ' And you may think what an out-of-the- 
way hole this is, when the cab-drivers do not know 
it ! We have been driving hither and thither for the 
last hour trying to find it !' And he rushed out 
again to dismiss the cab. 

' Dear me !' said Mrs. Frere, looking into her 
purse a little dismayed. ' There are eight shillings 
quite gone. I am afraid, Grace, this is a very 
expensive place !' 

' I am afraid it is, dear mother.' 
' I hope Byrne will not keep us waiting,* said 
Randal, returning ; ' I am as hungry as a hawk !' 



78 THE FRERES. 

* You ought to have had luncheon, Randal ; it is 
not good to fast too long.' 

' Oh ! I had luncheon, of course ; I could not 
hold out all day after such a miserable breakfast' 

* But I will tell you everything at dinner ; I really 
must wash my hands, the dirt of this town is fright- 
ful !' and he left the room, running against Sarah 
with a heavily laden tray as he did so. 

* How bright and well he looks,' remarked Mrs. 
Frere, sighing slightly ; * I am sure he has met with 
a pleasant reception from — from the staff of that 
paper he was going to see, or whatever it is.' 

* He has left his parcel of papers behind him,' 
said Mab, who, washed, brushed, and plaited into 
comparative freshness, was curled up on the shiny 
slippery horse-hair sofa. 

* Yes, he has,' returned Grace, who had risen to 
assist in laying the cloth — for inactivity was punish- 
ment to her ; * I hope it is a good omen.' 

* We must not be too sanguine,' said Mrs. Frere, 
in her most sensible tone, * though I must say that 
I think all Randal wants is an opening.' 

Here, a modest ring and a careful brushing of 
feet in the passage announced the arrival of Jimmy 
Byrne, to Grace's great satisfaction. She felt in 
some instinctive and indescribable way, that in his 
experience — in his knowledge of mean minutiae, 
and above all, in his respectful kindly sympathy, lay 
her one hope of help and guidance in the difficulties 
of which she was as yet but half conscious. 

* Good-evenin', ladies !' said Mr. Byrne, putting 
in his rather shaggy black head as he half-opened 



THE FRERES. 79 

the door, and then drawing back modestly : * I beg 
your pardon ; I see dinner is ready. I am sure I 
wouldn't have ' 

* Oh 1 come in, Mr. Byrne — ^pray come in !' cried 
Grace, going up to him with outstretched hand and 
drawing him into the room, * we expected you to 
dinner.* 

' Yes, Mr. Byrne,' said Mrs. Frere, courteously, 
and rising to receive him, * we quite expected you 
to dinner!' Thus encouraged, Jimmy Byrne, after 
looking carefully about for some peg or hatstand 
whereon to hang his head-covering, brought it in 
with many apologies, and carefully deposited it in 
the darkest and most inaccessible corner he could 
find ; he also carried the indispensable black bag, 
which he placed under his chair, as if less ashamed 
of that than of his hat. 

* I hope, Mrs. Frere, ma'am, I see you pretty well, 
after your fatigues — and the young ladies V 

* Quite well, thank you ; but of course, not feeling 
very bright ; the change is so very great' 

* Ay ! to be sure, so it is ; and the place is dull ! 
But it is not easy to find apartments, especially at 
this time, when everyone is coming to town for the 
season.' 

* For the season !' cried Randal, catching the last 
words as he entered ; * you don't mean to say that 
the season affects such solitude as this !' then 
shaking his hand cordially — * though I am quite sure 
you have done the best you could for us ; but it is 
rather remote, eh ?' 

* It is indeed, master — I mean Mr. Randal — 
but ' 



8o THE FRERES. 

* Here is dinner !' exclaimed Mabel, joyously, 
* and it smells very nice/ 

A welcome interruption ensued, and a pleasant 
slight confusion in taking their places, and squeez- 
ing in chairs for Mab and Mr. Byrne between the 
sofa and large table, which reduced the available 
space to a narrow passage between it and the walls. 

* What have we got ?' cried Randal, gaily lifting 
the cover ; * soles ! Why, mother, you might have 
ordered a couple more when you were about it/ 

* You forget we are not at Dungar,* said Grace, in 
a low tone. 

* Faith, I am not likely to forget it !' returned 
Randal, emphatically. * What, Byrne ! no fish ?' 

* Thank you, no, sir. I am obliged to eat fish too 
often to care for it : once a week is enough for a 
good papist — and what's more, I dined about two.' 

* I think they know how to charge for dinner and 
luncheon too in this London of yours, Byrne !' 

* Well, I don't know, Mr. Randal ! I get a very 
good dinner every day for a trifle, in a manner of 
speaking.' 

* You must tell me where,' said Randal. * What 
is it?* he continued, catching a look from his 
mother, to whom the slavey, Sarah, had been whis- 
pering mysteriously. 

*She wants to know how much beer she shall 
bring,' said Mrs. Frere, in her usual quiet, well-bred 

tone. 

* Beer !' repeated Randal. * There is something 
hopelessly vulgar about beer ! Is this all the wine 
you have, mother ?' 



THE PRE RES, 8i 

* Yes,' said Grace, ' all that is left of Mr. Byrne's 
excellent sherry.' And she smiled on him — ^that 
quick, sweet smile of hers, showing all her white, 
well-shaped teeth, and flashing over eyes and lips 
like a gleam of heart's sunshine. 

'Beer is an uncommon wholesome drink, Mr. 
Randal,' replied Byrne ; * and wine, specially in 
the suburbs, is not to be depended on.' 

* Well, how much beer then ?' reiterated mamma, 
looking to Byrne for his decision.. 

'Two pots will be lashin's and lavin's,' cried 
Jimmy, promptly. 

Sarah disappeared, and dinner progressed with- 
out anything worth recording, save that Mr. Byrne 
assisted to carve, and gravely observed that it was 
an elegant tongue, while Mrs. Frere declared the 
fowls were only fit to make broth ; and Grace, who 
had eaten too late and too heartily to care for 
dinner, remarked — or thought she remarked — a 
watchful uneasiness in Jimmy Byrne's wistful little 
black eyes. 

' She did not bring it \n black pots,* said Mabel, 
who had been very quiet and silent, as Sarah placed 
a foaming jug of beer beside Mrs. Frere. 

*Ah! mejewil!' exclaimed Jimmy, who ventured 
to let his affectionate nature overflow towards this 
juvenile member of the * great family ;' ' sure a pot 
isn't a pot here at all ! Faith, it's a jug !' 

While Mabel in deep thought pondered this meta- 
physical contradiction, the others laughed heartily, 
and as soon as the remnants of the despised fowls 
were removed, conversation flowed freely. 

VOL. I. 6 



82 THE FRERES. 

' Tell us your adventures, Randal/ asked Grace, 
whose interest in her brother was all the deeper for 
her unspoken doubt of his abilities. 

• Oh ! I had a capital *' rowl " into W Street— 

these hansoms are a splendid invention — and I 
found Halkett hard at work in one of the dirtiest 
dens you can imagine. He w^as very civil, and 
seems a monstrous clever fellow. He w^as good 
enough to say his brother had mentioned me in 
his letter as a promising boy ; and he was quite 
ready to look at my MS., and give me the best 
advice he could. He seems quite at the top of the 
tree, and is on the staff of I don't know how many 
papers and mags. In short, the Saturday wanted 
him to write for them, but he was pledged to the 
Earth Girdled 

'Very honourable of him,' remarked Mrs, 
Frere. 

* Quite so,' said Jimmy Byrne. 

' Then it was luncheon-time, so he asked me if I 
was going to lunch anywhere near ; and I said I 
didn't know exactly where to go, so he suggested 
the " London " — a very swell place, I can tell you ! 
I thought the least I could do was to invite him to 
luncheon with me. We had an entree — ^some very 
good roast-duck and peas, and a couple of glasses 
of sherry a-piece; and do you know, the fellow 
charged me eight-and-sixpence, and two shillings 
for the wine. Then I could not offer the waiter 
less than a shilling — ^he was a very respiectable 
well-mannered man. If I had been the Prince of 
Wales, he could not have been more deferential.' 



THE FRERES. 83 

* I'll go bail he doesn't get a shilling tip every 
day/ said Byrne. 

* Then,' continued Randal, * Halkett was engaged 
for the remainder of the day ; but he offered to get 
me orders for any theatre I liked, and said he would 
call on you, mother, if you had no objection ; then 
he recommended me to visit the British Museum — 
that there was much there to engage an inquiring 
mind — jumped into a cab and departed. I tried to 
walk to the British Museum, but I lost my way so 
often that it was past four when I got there, and 
found it was not an open day ; so I inquired my 
way to Oxford Street, and walked all down it. I 
knew my way there, for I stayed with a schoolfellow 
somewhere near the Marble Arch a long time ago ; 
then I got into a cab and drove home. It has been 
rather an expensive day, but I think Halkett will 
be very useful to me. He is evidently quite a great 
gun in the literary world.' 

' Pray do not bring him to call on me,' said Mrs. 
Frere, languidly, * particularly if he is like his 
brother ; besides, I could not bear anyone to come 
here ! How could I receive in such a room !' 

To this terrible question there was no reply, and 
to change the subject Grace began to recount her 
adventures. 

* Mabel and I ventured to walk in Hyde Park to- 
day ; we were charmed with the horses and the 
children. What a delightful place it is, Mr. Byrne ! 
do you ever go there ?' 

* Never, Miss Grace — that is, scarcely ever. You 
see, I am always at the office till half-past five or 

6—2 



84 THE PRE RES. 

SIX ; but it IS a grand place, and it will be twice as 
grand after Easter. I daresay your cousin, Mr. 
Maxwell Frere, will take you there when he comes 
back.' 

* It seemed grand and full enough to me to-day,* 
returned Grace, not appearing to notice the latter 
part of the speech, though it set her heart beating 
with anticipation, pleasure and dread ; * but I sup- 
pose it always seems so to a stranger.' 

* There were more strangers than us there to-day,' 
said Mab, watching Mr. Byrne, who was opening the 
black bag, and drawing from it a brown paper 
parcel, which he declared contained a *thrifle of 
cocoa-nut biscuits for Miss Mabel,' as he placed the 
treasure before her. 

* Oh, thank you ! What pretty biscuits !' cried 
Mab, who, utterly tired, yet struggled to see and 
hear to the last. * Do you know, Randal, a man 
asked Grace to show him the way to somewhere. 
Where was it, Grace ?' 

* To the National Gallery,' said Grace, carelessly. 

* Faith !' cried Jimmy Byrne, * that was quare ! 
Might I be so bold as to ask what sort of man it 
was that spoke ?' 

* Oh, he seemed a gentleman ; not very distingu^y 
still well dressed and polite. He came up to me 
about half-way down the ride, and asked if I could 
direct him to the National Gallery.' 

*The impident bla'guardT said Jimmy, wrathfully. 

* Why ?' asked Grace, opening her eyes. 

* He had no call to speak to you,' returned Byrne. 
' He knew right well where the National Gallery 



THE FRERES. 85 

was ; he wanted to get into talk with an elegant 
young lady like you — set him up ! Miss Grace 
dear, you'll excuse me^ but never answer anyone in 
the street, except indeed a female/ 

' Never answer a civil question ?' cried Grace ; 
* how could I be so rude ?' 

* No matter ; you take my advice/ 

* I knew it !' exclaimed Mrs. Frere, with height- 
ened voice and colour. * I warned you, Grace, that 
it was highly improper for young ladies of your 
rank to go wandering about parks and places alone, 
and you see the consequences ! I daresay this 
insolent fellow took you for a shop girl or a dress- 
maker, and dared to speak to you ; but you never 
take my advice !' and she pushed back her chair 
with an air of great annoyance. 

* Really, Grace,' said Randal, in a tone of severe 
reprobation, * you ought to mind what the mother 
says ; she knows the world considerably better than 
you do/ 

* Too well — only too well !' sighed Mrs. Frere, 
much affected by the depth of her own knowledge. 

A contemptuous curve quivered over her short 
upper lip for an instant as Grace looked at Randal, 
but she answered gently enough : 

* You are all crazy, I think ! The poor man was 
quite inoffensive and civil. When I said I was 
sorry I could not direct him, as I was a stranger 
too, he asked if he could be of any use, for he knew 
some parts of the town well enough ; and I re- 
plied that he was very good, but that I wanted no 
help. He grew a little red — or rather a little 



86 THE FRERES. 



redder, for he was red to b^;in with — faised his hat, 
and walked away/ 

' He had a beautiful big dog, too ; something 
like poor dear Bran at home,' said MabeL 

' I hope this unpleasant adventure will teach you 
greater caution for the future,' remarked Mrs. Frere, 
' if you wish to avoid similar anno3rances.' 

' I was not the least annoyed,' returned Grace. 

Randal suggested that possibly he might have 
been some nobleman, taking a morning stroll, who 
had been struck with the superior style of Grace 
and Mabel; while Jimmy reiterated his opinion 
that he was an ' impident bla'guard.' And then an 
awkward silence fell upon them, broken by Mabel 
suddenly falling against Mr. Byrne's arm, almost 
overcome with sleep. 

'Bless her dear heart!' said that gentleman, 
tenderly upholding the weary little figure ; ' she is 
just tired cut' 

* Grace, do put that poor child to bed !' cried 
Mrs. Frere, in a voice which insinuated that Grace 
was keeping her out of it 

* Come, Mab, rouse up, dear ; come to bed.' 

* Shall I cany you upstairs, Miss Mabel ? Sure, 
you are so tired you can scarcely stand.' 

' No, no, Mr. Byrne ; that would be too much. 
Mab, you can walk upstairs quite well.' 

Mab stumbled to her feet, and looked about with 
dim eyes, permitted Byrne to shake hands with 
her, and Randal to kiss her, gave her mother a 
loving hug, and holding on tight to Grace's arm, 
tottered upstairs. 



THE FRERES. 87 

* Do not forget to ask Mr. Byrne about the fires 
and SIX o'clock dinner, mother/ said Grace, from 
the door as she went out. 

Having accomplished her task, and sat for a few 
minutes by her bedside to soothe the querulous, 
sleepy child, Grace descended, to find tea being 
brought in, and the friends in counsel discussing 
projects for the ensuing day ; Mr. Byrne being 
strongly in favour of utilising the holiday (Good 
Friday) by a visit on Randal's part to his 
uncle. 

'You'll be pretty sure to find him at home,' 
Jimmy was saying, as Grace entered ; * every place 
is shut up. I tell you what, Mr. Randal — ^you go 
and pay your respects to Mr. Frere, and then meet 
me at the corner of Tottenham Court Road. We'll 
take a Hampstead 'bus, and look at the heath — 
it's just a curiosity for a stranger to see ; but too 
rough for the young ladies, ma'am ' — to Mrs. Frere. 

* Thank you, Mr. Byrne ; Grace and Mabel must 
come to church with me. I never could under- 
stand how people can turn a day of solemn humilia- 
tion into 2.Jite — even in France it was never done.* 

* Not there, of course,' said Grace. 

* Well, it is a thrifle heathenish,' said Byrne, rather 
cast down by this rebuke. * But if you just think,. 
Mrs. Frere, ma'am, of how hard people work, and 
how few holidays they get ^ 

* I should like to see Hampstead too,' put in 
Grace, with a little sigh ; * but I will not leave 
mamma alone another day until we are a little 
more settled.' 



88 THE FRERES. 

* Well, Jimmy/ broke in Randal, whose tendency 
was to grow rapidly familiar, * I am your man for 
Hampstead Heath to-morrow. I suppose I can't 
rout out that respectable buffer, my uncle, before 
twelve, and I must stay quarter of an hour there ; 
so I cannot meet you before one.* 

* And quite time enough, sir,* said Byrne, accept- 
ing, with a grateful bow, the tea poured out for 
him by Grace, who proceeded to recount the obser- 
vations of their landlady anent the fires and late 
dinners, while Mrs. Frere requested Mr. Byrne to 
* speak to her * about it. 

Jimmy listened with a grave face, moving a little 
uneasily on his chair, and then gave utterance to 
the following words of wisdom. 

*I daresay Miss Timbs is highly respectable — 
indeed, I wouldn't have brought any of the family 
here, ma'am, if I did not think so — but the best of 
these London lodging-house keepers are thieves of 
the world ! And, Mrs. Frere, you'll excuse me, 
. ma'am, you must be careful with them, or they'll 
. rob you right and left. If I'm not making too free, 
Miss Grace, I would just venture to remark, that 
it wouldn't be bad for your health to dine early — 
say at wan (one) or two o'clock. Just think it's 
your luncheon, as you have been used to ; and 
when six o'clock comes, you may as well have tea 
and a cold bone to save trouble, as Mr. Randal 
can't always be punctual ; you'll see it will make 
more than a shilling a week difference !' 

Jimmy spoke in the most insinuating tone, as 
though he would coax his charges into economy. 



THE FRERES. 89 

while his short, upturned face, with its wistful, 
black eyes, and shaggy, snubby, pathetic look, 
assumed an expression of imploring eagerness. 

Grace gazed at him in surprise, wondering to 
herself how this poor fellow, son of a peasant 
farmer, possessed a delicacy so tender, so keenly 
alive to the probable soreness of a bruised reed 
like her mother ! Surely the possibilities of nature 
are inexhaustible ! 

* But I hate tea-dinners !' cried Randal, pouting 
like a spoilt child, as he was. 

* Ah ! but, Mr. Randal — ^just for a bit, sir, at the 
beginning! You don't know what things cost in 
London. The elegant little dinner now you had 
to-day ! I daresay you thought it common enough ! 
Wait till you see the bill ; and. Miss Grace dear, 
ask for it to-morrow — never let things run on.' 

* I am sure, my dear sir, your advice is excellent,' 
returned Mrs. Frere, languidly. *But how in the 
world is money to last if one is to pay for every- 
thing immediately ?' 

Jimmy Byrne was silenced by this astounding 
remark. He had to look back into bygone years, 
and remember the ready-moneyless condition in 
which the great family had long existed, with every 
comfort notwithstanding, before he could compre- 
hend the utter confusion of mind on this topic in 
which poor Mrs. Frere habitually dwelt. 

*Ahem!' said he at last. *It is thrue for you, 
Mrs. Frere ; but, ma'am, the paying must come, 
and it seems a deal heavier later on, when one has 
forgotten what you got for — ^for — your money.' 



90 THE FRERES. 

Grace listened intently, but before she could 
speak, Randal exclaimed : 

'By the way, as we are on domestic matters, 
could we not find quarters nearer town ? This place 
is terribly out of the way ; and the room is rather 
small.' 

' So it is, Mr. Randal — ^small and mean for what 
you and the ladies have been accustomed to ; but 
" two-two " a week, sir, is not much as prices go ; 
and if you were to make up your mind now to 
stay six months, I'm pretty sure she'd give them 
cheaper.' 

* After all,' returned Randal, * a few shillings a 
week more for better rooms, and a livelier situation, 
would not be really dearer.' 

* Maybe not, sir ; but it's as well just to think 
that there are fifty-two weeks in the year !' 

Grace still kept silence, but though a very 
indifferent arithmetician, made a simple mental 
calculation that rather frightened her. 

* Well, Mr. Byrne, until I have seen my brother- 
in-law, and arranged some plan, it is impossible to 
say what we shall do.' 

The conversation was then chiefly absorbed by 
Randal, who treated his listeners to his views on 
various subjects — especially on literature in general, 
and newspaper writing in particular. 

Mr. Byrne listened respectfully, and evidently 
thought the speaker a great genius, but he said 
little ; and his last word at parting was a whisper 
to Grace : ' You'll excuse me ! — but get in the bills 
regular. Miss Grace !' 




CHAPTER VI. 



a HE memoryof the ensuingweek dwelt long 
with Grace Frere, as almost the dreariest 
period through which she had ever lived. 
The narrow limits of their dwelling- 
place ; the strangeness of everything ; the lone- 
liness — all were depressing, especially the want of 
ordinary occupations. 

Thanks to the urgency of Jimmy Byrne, Randal 
was induced to call on Uncle Frere, and found him 
about to drive to the station for — to him — a rare 
holiday visit to some friend in the country. 

He only spoke to his nephew in the hall, gave 
him an icy hand, said he would keep his (Randal's) 
card and write on his return, then asked when they 
had arrived, and stepped into his brougham without 
waiting for an answer. 

' He is a heartless old buiifer,' concluded Randal. 
'And scarcely courteous,' added Mrs. Frere; 
how unlike your dear father !' 
Grace said nothing, but thought with a certain 



92 THE FRERES. 

degree of comfort, that with such a parent change 
and indifference on Maxwell's part was not to be 
wondered at 

The ensuing days, however, were not all gloom. 
Jimmy, the faithful Jimmy, took them to West- 
minster Abbey on Sunday ; and, under his guardian- 
ship, Randal and Grace ventured to the theatre on 
Tuesday — to the Prince of Wales, where they 
intensely enjoyed • Ours,' Grace thinking it perfec- 
tion, and Randal stating his intention of turning his 
thoughts to dramatic writing. On their return, 
they found Mrs. Frere tolerably cheerful, and in 
possession of a note which kept Grace unusually 
wakeful. It was dated * H Square, April 3rd.' 

*Dear Mrs. Frere, 

* As morning visits are out of the question 
for me, I hope you, your son and daughter, will dine 
with me on Thursday next, at 7.30, when I expect 
Maxwell will be at home to meet you. 

* Yours faithfully, 

* Richard Frere.' 

« 

* That is cool,' said Randal. 

* Business men have cold manners,' replied Mrs. 
Frere, * and I have no doubt your Uncle Frere meant 
to be very kind.' 

* I suppose it will be quite a family party,' ob- 
served Grace, * so we need not dress much ;' but 
though she was rather silent, taking little part in 
Randalls sarcasms and anticipations, the prospect 
filled her mind all night and occupied her hands 
next morning. 



THE FRERES. 93 

She was lady's-maid in chief, and her mother 
commanded a more extensive unpacking than they 
had hitherto attempted. 

Treasures of tulle, and jet, and white crape frilling, 
and half-forgotten lockets were unearthed, and the 
morning passed away not unpleasantly in the un- 
folding and laying out of sundry garments and 
rectifications of the same, for Mrs. Frere was keenly 
alive to the importance of first impressions, and 
Grace, to the revivification of old ones. This pleas- 
ing occupation was not agreeably interrupted by the 
appearance of Miss Timbs and her little account, 
genteely presented on a small tray with the observa- 
tion, * You said as 'ow you wished it weekly, mum. 
You will see the rent is not mentioned ; the gentle- 
man paid the first week in advance, which is not 
my desire with a family of your respectability.' 
Having spoken, Miss Timbs ducked and de- 
parted. 

* Oh, Grace ! it is an awful sum !' was Mrs. Frere's 
exclamation as she glanced at the total, absolutely 
turning pale as she spoke. * Do look here — I cannot 
make out the figures quite ; can it be nearly five 
pounds r 

* Let me see, mother ! do not distress yourself so 
much — yes, I am afraid it is. How very costly 
everything is ! kitchen fire three shillings, sitting- 
room fire four! those miserable chickens seven 
shillings, and sea-kale five ! — why we have only had 
it twice ! and even cleaning the boots is charged a 
shilling, and the whole, four pounds eighteen shil- 
lings and twopence.' 



94 THE BRERES. 

* There must be a mistake somewhere/ said Mrs. 
Frere, sh'ghtly indignant, *or frightful extortion. 
Ring the bell, Grace ; I will speak to Miss — ^what 
IS her name ? — at once.* 

* Stay, dear mother !' cried Grace, a little afraid 
of rushing upon the certain, though shadowy, 
dangers of a conflict with Mrs. Timbs. ' Randal 
says Mr. Byrne will come up this evening ; let us 
wait and show the bill to him. He understands 
everything of this kind, and then we will make no 
mistake.' 

* Perhaps it would be better,' replied ' Mrs. Frere, 
not sorry to postpone the struggle. *I have no 
doubt he will compel her to reduce these mon- 
strous charges. She sees we are strangers, and 
thinks she may presume on our ignorance.' 

*But yet she is good-natured. You know she 
asked Mab down the other day when it was wet, 
and gave her bread and butter.* 

* It was our butter,* said Mab, quietly, from the 
window where she was kneeling on a chair. * She 
was having tea and buttered toast ; there was a 
large piece of butter on the table, and when she 
gave me some of the toast, she made some more, 
with lots of butter on it ; and a tiny bit of green 
leaf came off the knife, and I saw it still on the 
butter when Sarah put it on the table after dinner.* 

* Oh, Mab !' cried Grace, * you should not be a 
little spy when anyone is kind to you !' 

* I am not a spy,' returned Mab, unmoved ; * I 
could not help seeing. I daresay mammy doesn't 
mind ; Miss Timbs is not so rich as we are, and 



THE FRERES. 95 

lives down beside the kitchen. Mother would let 
her have some of our butter.' 

• Rich, dearest !' exclaimed Mrs. Frere, tragically, 
* we are only beginning to know what poverty is. 
I do not care for myself, but for my children — the 
idea is too bitter ! — ^You know, dear Grace,' she 
resumed, wiping her eyes, * that of all the money 
we had in Dublin — the trifle those few things poor 
dear grandpapa could leave me were sold for — we 
had only nineteen pounds left after our journey 
here ; and if this rapacious woman is to charge us 
five pounds a week for common necessaries, with- 
out rent, how long will that last ? Why, I cannot 
expect any more until the beginning of June, when 
the first quarter's interest is to be paid, they tell 
me. And how are we to exist if we are to pay 
ready money? It is quite unreasonable of Mr. 
Byrne to suggest it.' 

Poor Grace felt this to be unanswerable, while 
her heart sank at the gloomy prospect. She could 
only say, as cheerfully as was manageable : 

•We must talk to Jimmy Byrne about it; do 
not tease yourself too soon, mother.' 

*Ah, my dear, at my age one thinks of the 
realities.' 

However, by tea-time, when Randal came in and 
announced that Byrne could not come up till the 
next evening but one, realities were forgotten, and 
all made merry over their anticipations of to-mor- 
row's dinner with Uncle Frere. 

In spite of her outward cheerfulness and com- 
posure, Grace felt it would have been less tremen- 



96 THE FRERES. 

dous to lead the charge of the Light Brigade than 
to face the dinner at Uncle Frere's on that memor- 
able Thursday. She had assisted at her mother's 
toilette ; she had dressed and * plaited ' Mab, and 
left her with strict injunctions not to ruffle her 
hair ; and then there was but a short quarter of an 
hour left to attire herself. Yet it was enough. The 
simplicity of her means did not allow elaboration. 
After her abundant glossy, red-brown hair was 
brushed and parted, and coiled into a thick knot 
low down upon her neck — after her fresh white 
gauzy frills were properly arranged, her gloves 
carefully drawn on and buttoned, and the drapery 
of her skirt finally put to rights, she was ready. 
Then they had to wait for Randal, whose tie was 
obstinate, and his studs contradictory. 

At last all was prepared, a cab was brought, and 
they were off. Mabel, overawed by anticipation, 
was pretematurally amiable ; and Grace, like a 
thoroughbred, answering to the spur of strong 
necessity, kept up the spirits of the whole party by 
her wild, gay, fanciful chaff, till her own colour 
rose, and her deep grey eyes lit up and sparkled, 
as if she was going to a great and assured triumph, 
instead of a dreaded mortification, while she qui- 
vered in every nerve as if struck with a deadly chill. 

It was some minutes after seven thirty when the 
cab containing our party came up to Mr. Frere's 
door. A brougham was just driving off, and caught 
Randal's eye. 

* I say, mother, Uncle Frere has some swells to 
meet us.' 



THE FRERES, 97 

* I hope not, dear boy ; I want to speak to him 
alone.' 

The next moment the grave and dignified butler, 
assisted by an equally sedate footman, was assist- 
ing, with deferential observance, to remove their 
wraps, and deciding in their own minds that 
* Master's poor relations, who had come in a com- 
mon " growler," were of the right sort ' — a verdict 
which would have been endorsed by any observer 
who glanced at the group which presented itself 
as the solemn Ricketts threw open the drawing- 
room door. 

Mrs. Frere, still pretty and eminently ladylike in 
her well-fitting black dress and feathery white cap, 
leading Mabel ; Mabel, pale, plain, yet refined- 
looking, with big blue eyes, plentiful hair, and tiny 
feet ; Randal, fair and tall, and slight ; and Grace, 
slender, yet round, her small head, with its deer- 
like poise, giving an air of distinction to the whole 
figure ; her graceful, pliant waist, her creamy white 
skin, her clear, earnest eyes — making a sweet pic- 
ture of gracious girlhood. 

The master of the house and an elderly lady — . 
an elegant-looking woman, fashionably dressed — 
were standing before the fireplace ; both turned at 
the opening of the door, and announcement of * Mr., 
Mrs., and Miss Frere.' 

* Very happy to see you,' said the host, rather 
rigidly; *and you too — a — ' to Grace and Randal, 
shaking hands with all three successively. * Let 
me introduce Lady Elton, Mrs. Frere. I imagine 
you must have met in former years.' 

VOL. I. 7 



98 THE FRERES. 

* I think we have heard of each other, but never 
met/ said Lady Elton, sweetly, and offering her 
hand to Mrs. Frere. * Your son and daughter ' — a 
slight curtsey. 

* I have often heard my dear husband and Max 
speak of you, Lady Elton. I am very glad to 
make your acquaintance.' 

Lady Elton's tone, the atmosphere of the richly, 
elegantly furnished rooms, seemed like a return 
home to Mrs. Frere, and completely restored her 
soft, tranquil, ordinary manner, which the vexations 
and anxieties of the last three months had con- 
siderably frayed. 

. * I have brought my little Mabel, you see,' con- 
tinued Mrs. Frere to her brother-in-law. *I thought 
you had probably forgotten I had another girl, 
and I have no one to leave with her.' 

* Oh, indeed ! Good-evening, Miss Mabel,' said 
the uncle, with anything but cordiality ; * your first 
dinner out, I presume ?' 

* No, it is not,' replied Mabel ; * I dined out 
many times in Dublin ;' and she gazed solemnly, 
though shyly, at her stately-looking relative. 

* I am sorry Max has not come in ; he returned 
this morning, but has been detained. We will not 
wait for him.' 

While Mr. Frere was speaking. Lady Elton was 
uttering some civil nothings to Grace and Randal ; 
but it was an infinite relief to all parties when Mr. 
Frere's words were appropriately capped by the 
announcement of * dinner.' Whereupon the master 
of the house offered his arm to Mrs. Frere, Lady 



THE FRERES. 99 

Elton looked to Randal, who immediately offered 
his, and Grace and Mabel followed, hand in 
hand. 

On reaching the sumptuous dining-room — duly ' 
furnished and ornamented with oak and bronze, 
covered with Persian carpets, and hung with deep 
crimson curtains — Lady Elton took the head of the 
table, with Randal on her left ; Mrs. Frere took 
the host's right, and Grace his left ; while Mabel 
was put next her sister — a place being set for her 
after they were in the room — which mark of her 
being unexpected and unwished for irritated Grace 
in her present state of nervous strain, but which 
Mrs. Frere contemplated with profound indifference, 
A place opposite still remained vacant during the 
soup period, and in spite of Lady Elton's well-bred 
efforts to be cheerful, and Mrs. Frere's unassumed 
ease, * The cold chain of silence hung o'er them 
still !' Silence, and in Grace's sympathetic, keenly 
perceptive soul, the instinctive conviction that they 
were not favoured guests. It was hard work to 
swallow the soup, with a choking sensation in her 
throat, while her hands were icy cold, and the 
bright colour was fast fading from her cheeks. She 
had already disregarded two distinct nudges from 
Mabel, and had wondered, in a dull, hazy manner, 
at Randal's unusual quiet, when the door behind 
her opened, and her heart seemed to stand still, 
as a well-known voice, for which her ear had often 
yearned with an aching she would have died rather 
than confessed, exclaimed : 

* A thousand apologies ! I did not know I was so 

7—2 



loo THE FRERES. 

late;' and Max walked quickly round to Mrs. Frere 
and said, cordially, * Very glad to see you, my dear 
aunt ! All right, I hope ?' leaning over her chair and 
shaking hands with her quite warmly ; then passing 
Lady Elton with * Good-evening,' greeted Randal, 
patted Mabel's head kindly, and took Grace's hand : 

* So, my sweet cousin, you are in London at last !' 
he said, with a keen quick glance into the eyes up- 
raised to his, — moist, questioning ^y^Sy and almost 
unconsciously pressing the cold hand given to 
him. 

* Alas ! yes,' was Grace's expressive answer in a 
low tone ; and then Maxwell passed round to his 
place between Mrs. Frere and Lady Elton, and 
waved away the soup presented by the butler. 

* No, thanks ! let dinner go on ;' and from that 
moment coldness and silence disappeared. With a 
nod to his father. Max told him * That arrangement 
would be made, after all, on the most favourable 
terms,' an announcement that evidently gave the 
hearer satisfaction ; and then Max devoted himself 
to the company generally. He described his visit 
to Paris, spoke of its altered aspect ; he argued 
lightly with Lady Elton, who was disposed to defend 
the communists, probably for argument's sake. He 
made flattering allusions to his visit to Dungar, and 
for the first time took the trouble to put Randal in 
the best light. He looked to Mab's requirements 
in the way of sweets and fruit and wine ; and though 
he paid least attention to Grace, she was not neg- 
lected. Lady Elton had never known Max so 
agreeable ; Randal began to think he was not such 



THE FRERES. loi 

a bad fellow after all. Mrs. Frere's spirits began to 
rise as she noticed the easy friendly tone of the 
powerful only son, while Grace — Grace alone, with 
the unerring instinct of yearning tenderness, thought 
she detected under all this bright courtesy some- 
thing that was not the ring of true metal ; some lack 
which she could not define, even to herself; a con- 
sciousness which she could not resist, even when 
telling herself it was unworthy, that though well 
and naturally done, Max was playing a part. 

But she would not permit herself to be silent ; 
and, seeing her uncle the least absorbed by Max, 
she addressed her efforts at conversation to him. 
She was internally ashamed of the struggle this 
cost her. Why, she asked herself, should she have 
this dread of talking to this stern, self-contained 
man ? He was not comparable in style and bear- 
ing to her grandfather. He was her father's brother. 
He was no great noble, accustomed to courts and 
senates, but a London merchant of ordinary wealth 
and standing. Why was she such a coward, such a 
despicable coward ? She would not yield to it. 
Why should she, his equal, feel this fear of him ? 
So, with resolution worthy of a better cause, Grace, 
looking straight into her uncle's cold, light eyes, 
began : 

* You have never visited Ireland, uncle. You 
ought to have come with Max.* 

Mr. Frere glanced at her, astonished. It seemed 
a liberty on the part of this penniless, obscure girl 
to address him with the familiarity of a relative, 
when he had scarce acknowledged her as such, for 



I02 THE FRERES. 

Maxwell's views and visits committed him to 
nothing ; and he was dimly conscious of a kind of 
resentful enmity towards this possibly dangerous 
girl, with her reprehensible frank fearlessness and 
incomprehensible brightness. 

*No/ he returned shortly; *I have no time for 
visiting of any kind.' 

* I am sure a complete change would amuse you 
and do you good/ persisted Grace, feeling her 
courage revive, after making that first step which 
costs so much. * Do you never go out of town ?* 

* Very seldom. Ricketts ' (to the butler), * Hock 
to Lady Elton.' 

* I begin to like London, though we are only in 
a shabby lodging,' resumed Grace, smiling, now 
bent on making her uncle talk ; * it seems so inex- 
haustible. But I want to see the city ; that must be 
the greatest wonder of all.' 

* Not much to interest a young lady there.' 
'Young ladies are thought very stupid, I am' 

afraid,' returned Grace. * Do you ever go to the 
Derby ? I should like to see the Derby.' 

* The Derby — um — I have seen it ; it is now — a 
— scarcely the place for ladies.' 

* What a shame !' exclaimed Grace ; * ladies seem 
to have nothing left but dull things,' 

Instead of answering, Mr. Frere, raising his voice, 
addressed Lady Elton : 

* I am told Sir Henry Darnell has had another 
apoplectic attack — nearly went off !' 

* So I hear. His nephew was going to P^iris, I 
believe, as he said here ; but his uncle's medical 



THE FRERES, 105 

man advised him not to leave London till the 
patient rallied.* 

* Ha ! young Darnell is his heir. I understand 
Darnell was made a baronet last year.' 

* And a very bad style of baronet our friend will 
make/ cried Max, whose eyes had dwelt on Grace 
with an amused curiosity during her attempt to 
converse with his father ; ' but he is not a bad 
sort of fellow — uncommonly good-natured under 
the tobacco-smoke and swagger.' 

* Yes/ replied Lady Elton, carelessly ; * he is a 
kindly animal, but a mere animal.' 

A pause ensued while the dessert was handed 
round. Grace had vindicated her courage to her- 
self, and felt it would not be in good taste to attack 
her uncle again. Max had exhausted his subjects, 
and was hunting through his mental preserves for 
a new one, and Mr. Frere's brow looked sullen. 
The silence continued for a few seconds, where- 
upon Mab, who had partaken largely and indis- 
criminately of the good things offered to her, felt 
satisfied and disposed to join in the conversation. 

* Max/ she began abruptly, * there is a cat and a 
canary in our house ; they are kept downstairs in 
the kitchen.' 

' Indeed, Mab !' returned Max, rather thankful 
to her for a fresh start ; * and have you penetrated 
into those regions to make their acquaintance ?' 

* Yes ; I had tea one day with Miss Timbs.' 
' And who is Miss Timbs, Mab ?' 

* Oh, she is the woman of she house ; she buys 
everything for us, and such bad butter !' 



104 THE FRERES. 

* Mabel, my dear, do not talk at dinner,* said Mrs. 
Frere ; * little girls should be seen, and not heard.' 

* Ah 1 we used to reverse that maxim at Dungar, 
Mab,' cried Max, laughing. * So you have made 
friends with the cat.' 

* Yes ; it is a very nice cat, though she often eats 
up our cold meat, and fish, and things ; but I will 
show her to you when you come to see us. When 
will you come, Max ?* 

* Oh, next Sunday. You know I have not any 
holidays in London. It is all work and no play, 
here.' 

* That is horrid !* exclaimed Mab, with warm 
■sympathy. 

* It has not made you a dull boy yet, Max,' said 
Mrs. Frere, kindly. 

* Rather exerted a sharpening influence on the 
original over-softness of his nature — eh. Miss Frere?' 
observed Miss Elton. 

* Softness !' repeated Grace, opening her big eyes 
on the speaker with unaffected surprise ; * I never 
perceived much softness about Max.' 

* What a fortunate fellow I am to be seated 
between two such charming aunts ; both so alive 
to my many excellences !' 

* To say nothing of a cousin who used to think 
you the wisest man of the day,' said Randal. 

* Who, yourself or Grace ? How cruel to speak 
in the past tense.* 

* If you come on Sunday, Max,' recommenced 
Mab, * will you take me to the Zoological Gardens ? 
and Grace might come, too ?' 



THE FRERES. 105 

* Ah ! that would be very tiiee : but, unfor- 
tunately, I am engaged to dine at Rockhampton.' 

'Well, the Sunday after,' said Mab, with her 
usual persistence ; * and then I can go with Mr. 
Byrne to Hampstead next Sunday/ 

* With whom ?* asked Max, raising his eyebrows 
in undisguised astonishment. 

* Jimmy Byrne. Don't you know Jimmy Byrne ?* 
returned Mab. 

'Does she mean that sharp little beggar at 
Steenson and Greggs' ?' asked Max, addressing 
himself to Grace. 

* He is not a beggar !' cried Mab, indignantly ; 
'he has plenty of money. He brings me cakes 
and lots of things in his black bag.' 

* It is the same,' said Grace, meeting her cousin's 
glance with calm, unshrinking eyes, though the 
colour came back faintly to her cheeks. 

Max made no rejoinder, but turned to his pine- 
apple in expressive silence. 

* I wish you would not talk so much, Mab,' cried 
Randal, with some irritation. 

He was much impressed by Lady Elton's manner 
and appearance, and consequently scandalised by 
Mab's revelations ; but he brought his own punish- 
ment on himself, for Mab replied by openly, under 
Lady Elton's very eyes, then turned full upon her, 
making a grimace so indicative of utter con- 
temptuous defiance, that Lady Elton burst out 
laughing. 

' I am afraid you are not properly in subjection 
to your elder brother. Miss Mab,' she said good- 



io6 THE FRERES. 

humouredly, to which, with a sudden return of the 
shyness that had kept her quiet during the first 
stages of dinner, Mab made no answer, only hung 
her head and twisted her napkin. 

* If you will not take anything more ?* continued 
Lady Elton, with the after-dinner cabalistic nod, 
seeing Mrs. Frere refuse the preserved ginger ; and 
then the ladies rose to leave the room. 

* Perhaps,' said Max to Mrs. Frere, * you and 
Randal will stay and have a little talk with my 
father, as he has so seldom any time to spare.' 

* Certainly,' returned Mrs. Frere, pausing and 
casting a quick, nervous look at her daughter. 

* Then we will leave you,' said Lady Elton. 
* Come, young ladies !* and she led the way 
decidedly. 

Max held the door open, and Grace, who came 
last, full of sympathy for her mother, who she 
knew was trembling at the notion of a business 
talk with her frigid brother-in-law, whispered, as 
she passed : * Stand by my mother. Max !' backing 
the injunction with a glance of frank entreaty 
from those soft grey eyes which used to quicken 
his pulses some few months ago. 

* I will,' whispered Max, low, but emphatic ; and 
as he slowly closed the door he stood at the opening 
to the last, looking after her^ Grace felt convinced. 

When Max returned to his seat, Mrs. Frere had 
resumed hers, and Randal, with too evident sang 
froidy was helping himself to a fresh supply of 
olives, 

* Well, my dear aunt,' said Max, pleasantly ; 



THE FRERES, 107 

* I suppose your first care is to dispose of this 
young gentleman ?' 

*It is indeed, Max/ replied that lady, pocket- 
handkerchief already in hand, prepared for emer- 
gencies, while the quick beating of her heart was 
visible in her throat. * And I feel sure your father 
will do what he can, to help his only brother's only 
surviving son.' 

' I should be happy to assist you, if in my power,' 
said Mr. Frere, with mechanical civility. *What 
has Randal been trained for ?' 

An awful silence ensued. 

* I mean,' resumed Mr. Frere, filling his glass 
with claret, * has he been prepared for any examin- 
ation ? or do you think of an office, a — merchant's 
office, or a lawyer's ?' 

* I don't think Randal has been exactly trained 
for anything,' returned the mother, gathering cour- 
age, as she had to boast her son's requirements. 
*But he is really very well educated. Though latterly 
my beloved father had not the means to ^w^ him 
the advantages we all wished for, he has kept up 
his studies with Dr. Stepney, he speaks French 
very well, though not so well as Grace, and he has 
remarkable facility in writing ; indeed, I imagine 
his real tendency is for literature, only that is 
such uphill work. But I think, with his knowledge 
of French, and the rudiments of German, if he could 
get into the Foreign Office, or, as it does not do to 
be too ambitious, a private secretaryship to — a 
— nobleman, or ambassador ' 

She ceased, having talked herself into a com- 



io8 THE FRERES. 

parative calm, and profound silence fell upon the 
party for a moment or two. Then Max, suppressing 
a smile which yet gleamed in his eyes, said, not 
unkindly : 

'For the Foreign Office it is necessary to pass 

an examination, and ^ He paused, for Mr. 

Frere broke in, disapprobation in every wrinkle of 
his brow, and every tone of his voice : 

* It seems, then, that your son is not fitted for 
anything ! This sort of desultory education is pure 
loss of time ; all the accomplishments and require- 
ments possible are of no use, if not properly pigeon- 
holed and directed. I would suggest a year's 
training in some house of business, either legal or 
mercantile ; though I must warn you that it is 
exceedingly difficult to gain admittance into any 
house now. Many demand a premium — none offer 
any salary for the first year.' 

* Do you mean Randal to be a clerk Y asked Mrs. 
Frere, with mingled astonishment and indignation. 

' Yes, if he were so fortunate as to obtain such a 
situation ; but it is not so easy.' 

Mrs. Frere's pocket-handkerchief found occupa- 
tion. 

* I decidedly object to being tied to a desk,' said 
Randal, energetically ; * it is not a calling for a 
gentleman ! Why, little Jimmy Byrne is a clerk ; 
and as to my not being fit for anything. Uncle 
Frere, how do you know that till I am tried ? At 
any rate, I have some plans of my own, and until 
they have failed I do not see why my mother need 
trouble you.' 



THE FRERES. 109 

' I am afraid, my dear boy, your plans are but 
vague/ said Mrs. Frere, tearfully. ' When you know 
the world as I do ' she broke off abruptly. 

* I fear you have a good deal to learn, young 
gentleman !' said Mr. Frere, severely. * Pray, how 
old is your son ?' to Mrs. Frere. 

* He was nineteen in November, and Grace 
eighteen in January last.' 

* You see he has lost a great deal of time at the 
outset of his career. I am of course by no means 
anxious to press my assistance on him, nor should 
I wish to neglect my brother's children ; so when 
Randal's present plans have fallen through, I am 
willing to give him a seat in my counting-house 
for a year, that he may learn business. I do not 
undertake to give him continued employment, but 
his training with our firm will give him a better 
chance for the future ; and though I cannot make 
any exception in his favour as regards salary, I 
shall be happy to allow you fifty pounds a year for 
two years, payable quarterly, in advance ; by the 
expiration of which time I hope your son will be 
in a position to afford you some effectual assist- 
ance.' 

* I am sure you are exceedingly good,' Mrs, 
Frere was beginning, with heightened colour, when 
Max, as if not perceiving that she spoke, broke in : 

* Come, Randal, that is a very fair offer of my 
father's ; you ought to snatch at it. A sharp young 
fellow like you would pick up a very tolerable 
idea of business at our place in a year. What do 
you say ?* 



I lo THE FRERES. 

' I should never make a man of business/ said 
Randal, looking cross and uncomfortable. ' I am, 
of course, very much obliged to my uncle, but — I 
would rather try my hand at writing for the press 
first I rather imagine I have an opening in that 
direction ; the fact is,' with an air of importance, 
* I am on rather friendly terms with the editor of 
the Girdle^ and he has at present some of my MS. 
under consideration.' 

* The Girdle I What the deuce is the Girdle ? 
I never heard of it before,' exclaimed Max, laugh- 
ing. * I suppose it is one of those penny concerns 
that totter along for a month or two and then 
smash up.' 

* Perhaps so,' returned Randal, with lofty scorn ; 
*but when I tell you that the editor is Halkett, 
probably you may not think so little of the " con- 
cerfi. 

* Halkett,' repeated Max, with provoking em- 
phasis. ' My dear boy, nobody ever heard of him. 
Do not let these obscure scribblers bamboozle you ; 
they cannot help you ; they can scarcely scrape along 
themselves. Take my advice ; throw your MS. into 
the fire, close with my father's offer, and possibly, 
ten years hence, if you have the true author's stuff 
in you, you may give us a volume of experiences, 
or a new work on finance.' 

*Max,' said Mrs. Frere, 'this is no laughing 
matter !' 

* I know I was always a laughing-stock to my 
experienced cousin !' cried Randal, flushing fiery-red 
with indignation. *But wewillsee! I am determined 



THE PRE RES. 1 1 1 

to try my luck — much obliged to you all the same, 
sir !' to Mr. Frere, * And though it's very good of 
you to offer my mother a pension for a couple of 
years, I think we'll see how we can get on, on 
our own resources. We are not penniless — eh, 
mother ?' 

* No — not exactly ! Really your uncle is very» 
considerate ; fifty pounds is a great deal of money. 
But I should not like Randal to be tied to a desk 
all his life ; and as he seems a little hurt (perhaps 
he is too sensitive), I believe we had better decline 
for the present your kind offer. |Though my means 
are limited, there are feelings * 

*Do not decide on anything, my dear aunt,' 
interrupted Max, his lip curling with the contempt 
he could not quite conceal. * You know your own 
resources ; and I must say my father's offer is not 
of a nature to be lightly rejected.' 

* I think we might join Lady Elton,' said Mr. 
Frere, calmly ; * for I believe there is nothing more 
to be said. The offer I have made is the utmost I 
can undertake. Should your son prefer law to busi- 
ness possibly Messrs. Steenson and Gregg might 
admit him among their employes, and — a — I have 
no other suggestion to make. Shall we go upstairs ?' 

* If it comes to a clerkship,' said Randal, inso- 
lently, *I would rather serve under Jimmy Byrne.' 

His uncle took no notice of him, but rang, to let 
the servants know they were leaving the dining- 
room. 

* Randal, you are a blockhead, believe me,' said 
Max, with much candour. * At all events, my father 



112 THE FRERES, 

4 

will not expect you to decide for a week or two, 
—eh, sir?' 

* Certainly, Randal may take time ; but I do not 
say he may postpone his decision indefinitely. He 
has lost too much already, and every week of idle- 
ness renders him so much the more unfit for work.' 

So saying, Uncle Frere held the door open with 
a slight bow, intimating that the audience was 
over. 

Mrs. Frere, her heart throbbing painfully, and 
with a dull dazed fear that she had been somehow 
stupid and weak-spirited, and had injured Randal's 
interest by not saying or doing something, she 
did not know what, different from what she did, 
passed out and ascended the richly carpeted stairs, 
longing to be alone with Grace, to grasp her cool, 
soft hand, and pouring out all her fears and wrongs, 
be soothed by the tender tones and hopeful words 
of her youthful prime counsellor. 

The gentlemen followed slowly. 

Meantime, in spite of her anxious sympathy with 
her mother in the trial she was enduring, Grace 
found that time went with surprising speed and 
pleasantness in the drawing-room. So soon as 
they had reached that gorgeous apartment, and 
been served with coffee. Lady Elton drew an easy- 
chair to the fire, and indulged in a long, keen, 
scrutinising gaze at her companion. Mab had 
wandered away on a voyage of discovery to the 
inner drawing-room, which she was the better able 
to permit herself, because Grace in her turn was 
'looking about with evident admiration. 



THE FRERES. 113 

* They are handsome rooms, and in good taste/ 
said Lady Elton, at last, as Grace began to turn 
over a fine collection of photographs which lay 
invitingly on a portfolio- stand near one of the 
windows. 

* Yes, very handsome,' returned Grace, who had 
been too anxious and confused to notice anything 
before dinner : * the handsomest I have ever seen. 
And yet ' she paused. 

* Yet what ?' asked Lady Elton, with a pleasant 
smile. 

* I do not think I should care to live in them ; 
they want something, I do not know what,' replied 
Grace, frankly, but with a slight blush. 

* Exactly,' returned Lady Elton. * They want 
the touch of a woman's hand — a real woman's. 
This London finery must seem all strange to 
you, after the wild grace of nature in your beau- 
tiful Irish home. Max told me it was very 
lovely.' 

* Did Max talk to you of Dungar ?' asked Grace, 
leaving the photographs and seating herself oh a 
low ottoman near Lady Elton ; not with any rustic 
suddenness of movement, but with a gliding de- 
liberate step, as if too much in earnest to be shy or 
embarrassed. * Ah yes ! it is indeed lovely, yet I 
did not think he admired it as he ought But he 
told you it was beautiful ?' 

*Yes; he has often spoken of its many charms/ 
replied Lady Elton, watching the countenance 
turned towards her through her half-closed eye- 
lids. 

VOL. I. 8 



1 14 THE FRERES. 

* He has spoken of you to me/ resumed Grace. 
* You are his aunt ?' 

* I am : his mother's sister, so you see I cannot 
claim you as my niece, which I rather regret. I 
suppose you have seen very little of London. 
How has it impressed you so far ?' 

* I can scarcely tell you. It is terrible to me, 
and yet — I believe I shall like it, but we live in 
such a distant shabby corner, that it is not like 
being in town at all.' 

* Would you like to drive with me through the 
Park ?' 

* Oh, Lady Elton ! I should indeed.' 

'What are you going to do ^\ith your brother.^ 
He appears a very charming young man.' 

* Do with Randal ?' repeated Grace, laughing ; * I 
am afraid no one can do much with him. He is 
clever, I believe ; but I know so little, I can hardly 
judge.' 

* You have too low an estimate of yourself, Miss 
Frere,' a little cynically. 

' Indeed I have not. Humility is not a virtue 
of mine, I fear. Mab, take care of the photo- 
graphs ; do not let them fall. Are they not lovely?' 

Mab was soon absorbed, now and then putting 
a question to her sister ; while Lady Elton con- 
tinued her conversation with Grace, her interest 
steadily increasing, and gathering quite as much 
information from the speaker's face as from her 
frank replies. 

* Your cousin's visit must have been a pleasant 
break in the monotony of your life at Dungar,* 



i 



THE FRERES. 115 

observed Lady Elton, after Grace had given, in 
reply to her questions, a sketch of her existence 
there. 

* Oh yes ! it was delightful to have him to talk 
to ; he was quite different from anyone else.' 

* I suppose he was the only young man besides 
your brother you ever saw.' 

* Not quite. Long ago, when I was a little girl 
about fourteen, some officers of a cavalry regiment 
used to come over to Dungar to shoot ; and then 
there was Maurice Balfour.' 

* Who was he ?' 

* The grandson of Dr. Stepney, our rector.' 

* Ah !' said Lady Elton. 

* But he has not been home for a long time,' 
continued Grace. * He went away to England 
three or four years ago. He is an engineer ; he 
used to work in a yard, and told us such funny 
stories about his adventures : for he used to come 
home once or twice a year at first ; then he went 
away to Zurich, I think. We were very fond of 
Maurice, he is such a good fellow.' 

' Then on the whole you Kked him better than 
Max?' 

* No ! Oh no ! Maurice was only a rough boy ; 
and Max, he is quite different, and my own cousin.* 

* Ah ! blood was considered thicker than water 
at Dungar.' 

* Yes,' said Grace, with a sigh and shake of the 
head. 

* Do you mean to imply that the belief is not 
prevalent at this side of the water V 

8—2 



ii6 THE FRERES. 

* I cannot tell ; I fear not/ returned Grace, sadly, 

* Poor child !' said Lady Elton, as though to her- 
self ; then noticing that Grace's colour rose, and 
her eyes grew grave, she went on, * Does it offend 
you to be called " child "? My dear ! compared to 
me, you are a child ; and remember, one has a sort 
of liking for people one can say " child " to.' 

*Then, pray call me child,' cried Grace, with 
ready gracious tact. 

* I think we may possibly be friends, but I am a 
very whimsical old woman,' returned Lady Elton. 

* Old woman !* repeated Grace, with such real 
Unaffected surprise at the epithet, that Lady Elton 
smiled a well-pleased smile. 

* So you do not think me an old woman ? that is 
charming ! you cannot imagine how I hate growing 
old.' 

* Nurse's mother was very old,' observed Mabel, 
joining in the conversation ; * she said she was a 
hundred ; she remembered Emmet's rebellion, and 
the French landing. I thought it was only the 
Bible people that lived a hundred years.' 

Here the conversation was stopped by the 
entrance of Mrs. Frere and the gentlemen. Grace 
saw at a glance that her mother was trembling on 
the verge of a fit of hysterical weeping, and from 
Randal's colour and carriage, that he was on the 
loftiest of high horses. Mr. Frere was of course 
imperturbable, unmoved by the useless writhings of 
such miserable weaklings as his poor relations ; and 
Max too was cool and collected as usual, 

* Have you had tea ?' asked the host of Lady 



THE FRERES. wf 

Elton, as he rang for a supply of that beverage and 
the evening papers. 

' Have you seen the photographs, Mab ?' asked 
Max. 

'Yes, but I want to see them all over again,* 
returned Mab ; * Grace could not tell me half 
enough about them/ 

' Come along then, Grace ; these views are worth 
looking at' 

Grace came at his invitation and stood by him, 
feeling her hands growing colder and her heart 
sinking lower, as he continued to comment and 
explain lightly, amusingly, but without a glance, a 
syllable, an indication of that veiled tenderness, 
that irrepressible admiration he used so dexterously 
to convey in every word and look and tone, and which 
he had rendered all the more precious, because it 
was so carefully hidden from every eye save her 
own ; in short. Max had largely educated his young 
cousin. 

Lady Elton, observing the furtive hand-pressure 
bestowed by Grace on her mother as she passed, 
guessed that the quiet ladylike widow required sup- 
port, drew a chair beside her and soon attracted 
Randal, who had for some time stood in the centre 
of the room stirring his tea in solitary majesty. 
But Mrs. Frere was not equal to conversation ; she 
complained of headache, and expressed a wish to 
leave. 

Max, after a proper amount of regret, sent for a 
cab, and the much- anticipated dinner at Uncle 
Frere's was over. 



Ii8 THE F RE RES. 

* I shall have the pleasure of calling on you in a 
day or two, if you will allow me/ said Lady Elton, 
as she bid Mrs. Frere good-night. 

* Good-night, aunt — good-night, Grace ; if I can 
possibly manage to call on Sunday, I will,' was the 
valediction of Max ; not a word did he address to 
Randal. 

* I am quite interested in your Irish relatives, 
Mr. Frere/ said Lady Elton ; * there is a wonderful 
charm about the young people/ 

* Glad you think so,* returned Uncle Frere ; * can- 
not say I perceive it.' 

*Max/ whispered Lady Elton a few minutes 
later, as he put her into her carriage, * I understand 
how excellent the Irish grouse- shooting must have 
been.' 

* Do you ?' returned Max, carelessly, with his 
bright passing smile, which always suggested a 
deeper source of amusement than the lookers-on 
knew : ^ yes, it was excellent for two seasons ; the 
third would probably have been a failure, so it is as 
well it is out of the question/ 

* Home/ said Lady Elton to the footnian, as she 
drew up the glass sharply. 

Max stepped back, paused an instant, and then 
re-entered the house. 




CHAPTER VII. 



j^S^HHE days which succeeded Uncle Frere's 



dinner were very trying to the whole 
party. Mrs. Frere was terribly cast 
down ; her interview with her cold 
and powerful brother-in-law did more to enlighten 
her as to her insignificant and helpless position 
than volumes of kindly explanation such as Jimmy 
Byrne attempted, and which it must be admitted, 
between a respectful fear of offending and an 
ardent desire to impress the strong need of economy, 
were rather incoherent 

Randal, too, was more crestfallen than he would 
confess even to himself, and was consequently 
touchy and exacting in an unusual degree. The 
tone his uncle and Max adopted towards him grated 
on his sensitive self-consciousness with maddening 
irritation, so long as the impression lasted. He 
instinctively felt that the only cure for such a sore 
was an extensive application of praise and flattery, 
a salve which he naturally sought at the hands of 



I20 THE FEE RES. 

his brilliant and distinguished acquaintance, Hal- 
kett ; a visit to the E. G. office about every second 
day was the consequence. Halkett, however, was 
not to be so easily found ; sometimes he was out, 
sometimes so deeply engaged that he could not see 
even his gifted young friend Frere ; then * Ton 
his soul he hadn't had the ghost of a minute to 
himself to look at those sketches his dear boy 
had left with him ! But on Sunday — faith ! if 
all the press in London was howling at his heels 
for "copy," he would read his friend's lucubrations.' 

The depression of her elders either really made 
Mab more restless or made her seem more restless ; 
and then she managed to offend Miss Timbs, 
who in an odd mechanical way was disposed to be 
friendly. But one unfortunate evening, when Mrs. 
Frere was complaining of headache. Miss Timbs 
had asked Mab downstairs, and, apropos of the 
canary and birds in general, related a gruesome 
anecdote of a conflict between some rats and an 
owl, somewhere in the country, to which Mab 
listened with deep attention, but confounded Miss 
Timbs by inquiring at the end, * What is a " howl," 
I cannot quite understand ?' 

*Why, bless the child ! hain't you got no howls 
in your country ?' 

* I do not know exactly ; there are some cries wc 
call howls.' 

* I mean a big white bird.' 

* Oh, I know ! Why do you call it " howl "? it 
is owl, without an ** h." ' 

* Very well, miss ! if that's all the thanks I get 



THE F RE RES. 121 

for telling you s^ pretty story, you may go upstairs. 
No one ever found fault with my speech before. 
I don't say howl ; I say howl !' 

* There ! that's just the same ! you do put an " h " 
to it. Why are you vexed ? I like the story. 
Please tell it all over again ; only do say owl.' 

It was amazing the bitterness with which the 
severe landlady resented the child's supposed in- 
sult. It woke up all her suspicion, and she soon 
decided that her elegant, fastidious lodgers were 
not possessed of an amount of this world's goods 
proportionate to their pretensions. 

It is true her first bill was promptly paid (for 
after going carefully through the items, Jimmy had 
pronounced them not out of the way), but then 
there was a decided drawing-in, in which Grace 
was the chief agent. Yet of the whole family Grace 
was her chief favourite. There was something 
attractive to Miss Timbs' innate John Bullism in 
Grace's frank, straightforward, reasonable mode of 
dealing — her refusal to buy costly eatables, simply 
because they cost too much, her preference for 
walking to driving in cabs for the same reason — 
which elicited respect from the immaculate Timbs. 
* Miss Frere is as sensible a young woman as ever 
I met,' was her verdict. 

But on Grace herself this pause in the onward 
course of the family history pressed her most pain- 
fully. 

If Max had been utterly cold and unfriendly, 
all the strength of her pride would have been up 
in arms to resist her own tenderness. But he had 



122 THE FRERES. 

been kind, helpful, and Mrs. Frere reported of him 
on the whole favourably at that awful after-dinner 
conference. While one answering look of his into 
her ^y^s as she made her whispered appeal in 
passing through the dining-room door, haunted 
Grace, and threw a welcome though misleading 
gleam over the dull grey mist of doubt and per- 
plexity in which her thoughts worked round and 
round with painful iteration. 

Was it not possible that, as she was evidently 
unacceptable to his father, Max avoided any dis- 
play of feeling for all their sakes? She would 
have faith ; distrust was so ignoble. But, oh ! this 
unspoken uncertainty, how hard it was to bear, 
and yet to show a brave cheerful front, to resist 
the irritation that is the accompaniment of un- 
certainty, to bear with Mab, to soothe her mother's 
fears, and suppress the overwhelming temptation 
to snub Randal ! 

Small matters, perhaps, compared to the graver 
trials of after years ; nevertheless, very real and 
bitter to the young high-spirited sufferer, whose 
heart alternately yearned with almost agonised 
longing for one kind look, one loving word from 
her lover-cousin, or roused itself into haughty self- 
contempt for thus casting its all at another's feet. 

The period of inaction was short. 

Early in the week following Uncle Frere's dinner, 
Lady Elton called. It was a fine day, and Grace 
had persuaded her mother to come with Mab and 
herself to Kensington Gardens. The sight of the 
cards left during their absence, however, cheered 



THE FRERES. 123 

both Grace and Mrs. Frere ; it seemed a token that 
they were not quite forgotten, though Max had 
broken his promise to Mabel, and failed to appear 
on the previous Sunday. True, he had sent a 
pleasant well-bred note of excuse to his aunt, but 
the failure had cut deeply into Grace's soul, and 
strengthened her to resist the perpetual thought of 
him, which was at once a torture and a delight. 

* I am so sorry we were out,* said Grace, as she 
istood looking at the cards. * I have taken a great 
fancy to Lady Elton ; she seems so kind and very 
clever, just like one of these wonderful women of 
the world in a novel, who understand everything, 
and put everything right in the end.' 

^ Ah, Grace ! the real world is very different from 
what you read in your books ; I am afraid made- 
moiselle allowed you to waste a great deal of time 
in novel-reading.* 

* Indeed you need not blame mademoiselle ; but 
you will return Lady Elton's visit soon, mother ?' 

* Yes, dear.' 

* And you must take me,' remarked Mabel ; * I 
cannot stay with Miss Timbs, she is so cross and 
disagreeable.' 

* Very well, Mab.' 

* I like to see new houses and places,' continued 
Mab ; * and though I am looking about, I can hear 
all you say too.' 

' You are a little spy — I always tell you so,' said 
Grace. 

^ I do not care if you do,' returned Mabel, with 
supreme indifference. 



124 THE FRERES. 

In the evening, Randal, who had returned in 
better spirits, having succeeded in seeing Halkett, 
was giving a lively description of the interview, 
when the last post brought a note from Lady Elton, 
which was eagerly opened and read : 

' My dear Mrs. Frere ' (it ran), 

' I have been prevented from calling on you 
till to-day ; and of course you were out ! pray do 
not let us exchange mere formal visits. Will you. 
Miss Frere, and little Mabel come to luncheon at 
two the day after to-morrow (Friday)? I will 
drive you back afterwards. Kind regards to your 
daughter. 

* Yours truly, 

* Harriet Elton.' 

* How nice and kind P cried Grace, over her 
mother's shoulder. 

* And I am asked too,' said Mab. 

*Why the deuce has she left fne out?' asked 
Randal. 

* Oh ! you are supposed to have your mornings 
occupied,' said Grace, who was not sorry for the 
omission ; ' suppose you call by yourself another 
day.' 

* And perhaps be snubbed for my pains,' returned 
Randal, crossly. 

* Why, Randal ! I believe you are growing shy in 
London.' 

* Nonsense !' he returned sharply ; * it is you who 
are growing conceited. Why^ I don't know ; I am 
sure Max does not seem to think much of you 



THE PRE RES. 125 

here \ He was at your beck and call at Dungar, 
and now he does not seem to remember your exis- 
tence.' 

At this rude embodiment of all Grace's resisted 
doubts, it need scarcely be said the iron entered 
into her soul ; nevertheless, she had pluck sufficient 
to answer good-humouredly : * Max has something 
else to do in London ; he had only to amuse him- 
self at Dungar/ 

'Just that ! and so he did/ rejoined Randal, with 
significance. 'Tell me, mother,' he continued, 
* was the late Elton a peer or a baronet ?' 

* A baronet,' she replied ; ' and I remember there 
was some story of a previous engagement or love 
affair, I do not exactly know what. Sir George 
Elton was a good deal older than his wife. He 
only lived six or seven years I think after the mar- 
riage, and left her very well off. She used always 
to live in Italy or Germany until lately ; she was 
older than Mrs. Frere, I believe.' 

' She is beautiful and charming,' cried Grace, 
with enthusiasm. 

' Not beautiful^ dear !' said her mother ; ' charm- 
ing if you will. There used to be some talk about 
her, but your dear father admired and liked her 
very much. I should be glad if she interested her- 
self in you, and took you out ; for as to my going 
into society, that is quite impossible; I have not 
the means or the spirits !' 

* Oh, mother ! it is hardly to be expected that 
Lady Elton would take so much trouble for a 
stranger, and no relation !' 



126 THE FRERES. 

*She IS an uncommonly nice woman/ said 
Randal, with serious approbation ; ' so different 
from the silly girls we used to meet at Aunt 
d'Arcy's, who did nothing but wriggle and giggle/ 

* What a capital rhyme for some satirical lines on 
modern young ladies, Randal !' cried Grace, laugh- 
ing. 

Lady Elton occupied a flat in the ' Sutherland 
Mansions ' — a range of new houses built after the 
continental fashion in the neighbourhood of St 
James's Park. Here she had taken up her abode 
on her return from Italy, little more than two years 
before, and led a very easy, luxurious, well-amused 
life. She had told her friends on establishing her- 
self in her new quarters, that she intended to assume 
the privileges of an old woman ; that she would 
make no new acquaintances, unless moved thereto 
by special causes ; that she would go out to no 
large parties ; in short, that she would be no slave 
to society, but that her friends would find her at 
home every Saturday evening from nine to twelve, 
or later, and that those who wished to know her 
might get some acquaintance to introduce them 
there. The result was, that admission to Lady 
Elton's Saturday receptions was eagerly sought 
She was well known to an immense circle, a mixed 
multitude, for she pretended to no exclusiveness ; 
while her rare intimacies were generally with 
members of the literary and artistic world, espe- 
cially with foreigners, who often appeared at her 
soirees in garments 'fearfully and wonderfully 
made.' 



THE FRERES. 127 

Though often animated, and always agreeable, 
the more observant of Lady Elton's acquaintances 
felt, rather than perceived, an undercurrent of 
weariness and profound indifference which occa- 
sionally chilled the warmer surface-stream of her 
manner and conventional conversation. But there 
is always a great reserve power in the indifference 
which puts the possessor above and beyond the 
reach of their fellows to wound or to annoy, pro- 
vided it be not offensively shown, and that it does 
not go the length of declining to add a fair quota 
to the general stock of entertainment 

Then Lady Elton gave occasional charming 
little dinners, studiously simple, and far from 
gostly, yet much prized. And above all, she had 
the reputation of being stingy ; for although her 
surroundings were elegant, and in her establish- 
ment there was no lack, all was on a scale con- 
siderably smaller than that to which her reputed 
wealth entitled her. 

She was therefore credited with large accumula- 
tions, especially as no one in London knew any- 
thing of her financial operations. She was 
supposed to dabble .in foreign stocks, to have a 
confidential Jew agent at Frankfort, and a Russian 
banker at Odessa. She speculated in grain ; she 
gambled on the Paris Bourse ; she had managed to 
get up an understanding with Rothschild ; she 
held preference shares in all the Indian railways ; 
she was on confidential terms with Lesseps. 

This chatter was of course limited to the furthest 
outsiders. Her intimates shrugged their shoulders. 



128 THE FRERES. 

and hoped *dear Lady Elton would not be led 
away by the lure of high interest ;' and her sedate 
brother-in-law, who held her in high esteem, 
solemnly deplored her refusal to permit Steenson 
and Gregg to guide her in the way she should go — 
financially. 

Lady Elton, who- heard a good deal of this 
gossip, laughed, and said that, thank heaven ! she 
could afford to pay for her bread and cheese. 

It was a bright spring morning when Mrs. Frere 
and her girls arrived at Lady Elton's abode ; there 
was a fair amount of blue sky and sunshine ; the 
lilacs were peeping forth, and the water-carts 
spreading temporary freshness. Hawkers were 
going about with small flower-gardens on their 
heads, making quiet streets ring again with the 
cry of * All a-growin' and a-blowin' ;' and Grosve- 
nor Place had decked its balconies and window-sills 
with a wealth of sweet many-coloured blossoms. 

There was the indescribable quiver and renewed 
life in human as well as vegetable sap, and even 
Grace, in spite of her disappointment and bitter 
self-commune, felt gayer and more hopeful. 

* Why, mother dear! this is like a French house,' 
she exclaimed joyfully, as they entered a large 
hall, and her eye was caught by an oak key-rack, 
with a range of pigeon-holes beneath, on the 
opposite wall. 

* It is indeed,' replied Mrs. Frere, with a sigh. 

* Lady Elton, ma'am ?' said the hall porter, in 
answer to Grace's inquiries ; * third floor, ma'am» 
right-hand side.' 



THE FRERES. 129 

The door to Lady Elton's apartments was 
opened by an elderly, dark-eyed, soft-mannered 
Italian, once her travelling-servant, now her major- 
domo, her right hand and prime minister. 

He ushered them through a dim, but prettily 
arranged passage, faintly illuminated by a bor- 
rowed light, and having at the end a bank of ferns, 
kept green and fresh by the constant spray of a 
diminutive fountain, which made a pleasant cool- 
ing murmur, and looked picturesque when lit up 
in the evening. A door on the left opened into 
a well-proportioned room, from which a large 
arched opening, draped with crimson curtains, 
led into another and more spacious drawing- 
room. 

Her progress through these rooms was like the 
revelation of another world to Grace ; hitherto, 
furniture was to her half-awakened sense but 
chairs and tables, curtains and carpets, pianos, and, 
in the more exalted order of things, cabinets and 
flower-vases. Here, these every-day necessities of 
ordinary humanity had developed into an expres- 
sion of taste, habit, and individuality, beyond any- 
thing she had ever imagined, even with the help 
of elaborate descriptions in the few modern novels 
which had come within her ken. Inexperienced 
as she was, Grace felt in a dim instinctive way, as 
they followed the noiseless steps of their conductor, 
that she could read something of Lady Elton her- 
self in the arrangement, form, colour, and orna- 
mentation of her charming rooms. 

Soft grey and crimson predominated. The 

VOL. I. 9 



I30 THE FRERES. 

neutral tint of the walls was relieved by water-colour 
drawings of no mean merit. The curtains were of 
grey and crimson cretonne ; the cabinets were of 
various kinds, ebony inlaid with ivory, of Venetian 
workmanship, marquetry, and grey maple ; quaint 
corner cupboards, lined with crimson velvet, and 
full, not crowded, with delicate china, curious 
Japanese enamels, rare bits of carved ivory ; the 
niches contained vases or dishes of Palissy or other 
choice ware. Tables with lace-bordered covers ; 
chairs of every imaginable shape, suited to every 
iSort of occupation ; rich, soft-coloured squares of 
Persian carpet lying before the sofas and larger 
chairs, on the dark polished parquet ; the looking- 
glasses sunk in the wall, or lightly framed in 
brown polished wood, delicately carved — the 
whole full of perfume from the flowers which were 
everywhere, in baskets, jardinieres, vases, and a 
whole bed against the wide lofty looking-glass at 
the end of the first room, where, among a crowd of 
graceful broad-leaved oriental plants, stood a beau- 
tiful statue of Ariadne, in white marble. 

The contents of the beautiful rooms conveyed an 
idea of personal treasures, each dear to the owner 
for some special reason, and not supplied by any 
* well-known firm ' of fashionable reputation. 

The last notion suggested was costliness ; and 
yet Lady Elton's rooms were costly, with a costli- 
ness that money could not supply. At Uncle Frere's 
the solid splendour almost made you look for 
fringes of sovereigns, like the decorations of coin 
which Egyptian women bestow upon their hair 



THE PRE RES. 131 

and head-dresses. Here was something more than 
* regardlessness of expense/ 

* How lovely !' murmured Mrs. Frere, glancing 
round. 

Grace did not speak, her admiration was too 
great ; and in it there was not a tinge of the de- 
pression which often darkens our contemplation of 
beauty far above out of our reach. 

Beyond the two reception-rooms was a third 
smaller apartment, darker and more subdued in 
colouring, fitted with amber brocade and brown 
velvet. Here were books of every description, new 
and old ; curiosities, toys, bronzes, statuettes, vases 
of flowers. The only light was a very large bay or 
oriel window (the house occupied a corner), with a 
balcony beyond, from which two busy streets and 
the tops of the trees in the park might be seen. 

Lady Elton was sitting at a writing-table of 
carved walnut-wood, a feminine edition of the 
regular library-table ; and beside her stood a cane or 
basket work-table overflowing with bright-coloured 
crewels, while several newspapers, foreign and do- 
mestic, lay upon the carpet. She wore a rich, dull, 
black silk, with cufis and cravatte of heavy foreign 
white lace, and a * Charlotte Corday' cap of a lighter 
pattern, though of similar quality, adorned with a 
deep red bow. 

* So glad to see you,' she said, coming forward 
quickly to welcome Mrs. Frere. * I had just begun 
to hope nothing had happened to prevent your 
coming. Miss Frere, London has not robbed you 
of your colour yet ;' for Grace was slightly flushed 

9 — 2 



132 THE FRERES. 

with the pleasurable excitement of the visit. * And 
Mab ! little Mab ! have you left all yours in your 
wild West r 

* She never had much !' said her mother. 

* I was sorry to have missed you/ continued Lady 
Elton, * but at the hour one usually calls, everyone 
is out' 

The few minutes which ensued passed in the 
ordinary beginnings of conversation, and then 
luncheon was announced. It was served in a 
moderately-sized but handsome dining-room, ad- 
mirably and appropriately furnished ; yet light, 
agreeable and suggestive of French cookery, rather 
than the * roast beef of old England.' 

* Let Mab sit next to me,' said their hostess, with 
a kindly smile. * I have an idea I like children, 
but I have seen so little of them, I scarcely know.' 

* They are most interesting and lovable,' re- 
turned Mrs, Frere, accepting some roast sweet- 
bread from the gentle Luigi, who waited upon the 
party with tender alacrity and watchful interest. 

*They are sometimes very provoking too,' re- 
marked Grace, with a smile. 

* Let me send you a little cold lamb ; or will you 
try the currie. Miss Frere ?' said Lady Elton, while 
Luigi with an impressive air placed a mysteriously 
thick plate, with a beautifully bright silver cover 
over it, before Mab, uncovered it, and displayed a 
picturesquely brown mutton-chop with a proper 
modicum of gravy. 

* I am told children of tender years are always 
fed on mutton, especially chops/ said Lady Elton, 



THE PRE RES. 133 

looking at Mrs. Frere ; ' so I hope Mab will find 
hers good.' 

*You are most thoughtful,' replied Mrs. Frere, 
smiling, while Grace laughed merrily, and Mabel 
said civilly, but with much decision : 

* Thank you ! I do not like chops, but I will take 
some sweetbread now, and a little curry afterwards/ 

* Mabel, my dear !' began mamma, reprovingly. 
*Pray, my dear Mrs. Frere,' ' interposed Lady 

Elton, * let the little creature exercise her natural 
proclivities. Her nature, allowed to develop with- 
out needless pressure, may teach yott^ as much as 
you can teach her.' 

* Perhaps so, but she is naturally disposed to eat 
things which disagree with her,' replied Mrs. Frere. 

* It is a great pity children have not the instinct 
of the lower animals, which preserves them, I believe, 
from unsuitable food/ said Lady Elton, thought- 
fully ; while Luigi, at a sign from his mistress, 
removed the despised chop and substituted a con- 
siderable supply of rich brown sweetbread, with new 
potatoes and seakale ad libitum. 

* Have you seen Max since we met ? asked 
Lady Elton, as Luigi removed their plates, and 
placed the cream, jelly, and gooseberry-fool within 
reach of the convives before he retired. 

' No, we have not,' replied Mrs. Frere. 

'He said he would come on Sunday, and he 
never came,' put in Mabel, in an injured voice. 

' Cousin Max has a great deal to do/ urged 
Grace. 

* He has,' said Lady Elton, thoughtfully. ' Max 



134 THE hRERES. 

is rather peculiar : he is very clever. I always feel 
as if there were depths in Max I cannot sound, 
which is a little humiliating to an aunt and an 
elder — eh, Mrs. Frere ? They may only be shallow 
holes shrouded in mist, such as one meets with on 
mountain-sides on a cloudy day,' she added with a 
smile. 

' It is the less humiliating theory of the two,' said 
Grace, softly and thoughtfully ; she was deeply 
interested in and gratified by Lady Elton's ob- 
servations. Max was then remarkable, even in the 
estimation of an experienced woman of the world 
like Lady Elton. 

'I always found Max very pleasant and well- 
bred, but I never remarked anything about him 
different from other young men. I must say, though 
.of course it may be a mother's prejudice, I do not 
think he has as much ability as my Randal — cer- 
tainly he has not for literature,' remarked Mrs. 
Frere, shaking her head with an air of reluctant but 
profound conviction. 

* Indeed !' said Lady Elton, politely ; * is your 
son engaged in any profession or especial line of 
study ? I wish you had brought him with you to- 
day. He seemed very charming — like you, my dear 
Mrs. Frere, but with gleams of his father. I had the 
pleasure of knowing Colonel Frere— oh 1 thirty-two 
or thirty-three years ago, before he was married.' 

* You knew papa ?' cried Grace, her eyes sparkling. 
* Was he not nice and delightful ?' 

* He was,' replied Lady Elton, with a kindly look 
and some emphasis. But to return to your brother : 



THE FRERES. 135 

IS he going into the army, or to the bar, or into 
business ?' 

* Indeed, Lady Elton,' began Mrs. Frere, de- 
lighted to find a listener on this vexed question, * it 
is a matter of great anxiety to me how to direct 
Randal. Circumstances over which I had no control 
— ^not the least — ^prevented his being trained for any 
profession ; regularly prepared, I mean, for he has 
really studied a great deal, and is full of informa- 
tion, but his own ideas are not settled. We are not 
rich enough for the army or the bar ; and as to 
business, he is quite averse, and — and — you must 
allow it would be painful to have one's only son a 
clerk !' 

* I do not exactly see that,' returned Lady Elton, 
thoughtfully ; * beginners cannot cut • in as one can 
at whist, they must begin at the beginning. You 
would not mind his being the head of a great firm ? 
and generals must first be subalterns.' 

* Yes, dear Lady Elton ; but to sit all day at ia 
desk among men who are — well — not gentlemen !' 

' A good many are, Mrs. Frere. To be sure, I 
have always been mixed up with mercantile people : 
there is our brother-in-law, not fascinating, but 
fairly well-bred ; then my husband was only a 
remove or two from the counting-house, and " the 
scent of the roses hung round him still," though he 
was a good fellow and a gentleman aufond. Your 
son might do worse ; and if he has a touch of 
literary genius, it does not much matter what 
foundation he builds upon.' 

* Well, I am no great judge myself. I wish you 



136 THE FRERES. 

could see some of his productions. Lady Elton, if 
it would not give you too much trouble to read 
them, for his hand is not very legible ; but at 
present he has left them with a literary friend, Mr. 
Halkett, a very well-known man, I believe, who 
hopes to get them published for him,' 

*Ah!' exclaimed Lady Elton, slightly taken 
aback by this startling proposition, * one can never 
form any opinion about MS. poems, unless you 
are a professional reader, accustomed to hiero- 
glyphics of every description. I know something 
of the literary world, and as I do hope you will 
look on me as a friend, let me speak as one. 
Poems are not marketable: even good prose is 
almost a drug. So young and inexperienced a man 
as your son cannot possibly have any " wares " to 
offer that can compete with the craftsmen who 
are in constant work. Let him look about him, 
and study and ponder ; by-and-by he may make a 
most successful literary venture.' 

* I feel you are are right,' said Grace. * I have 
thought so for some time, only I could not put my 
thoughts into shape as you do, and no one would 
listen to me if I could.' 

Lady Elton smiled, and helped Mabel to more 
cream. 

*You know,' Grace went on, with heightened 
colour, for she felt impelled to grasp their hostess's 
proffered friendship with both hands, while she 
feared to presume upon her kindness, * my mother 
is very — terribly anxious to get Randal something 
to do ; it is of the greatest importance. And as he 



THE FRERES, 137 

seems not properly educated for the army, or 
appointments, don't you think it was foolish to 
refuse Uncle Frere's offer to take him into his 
office ?' 

* Did he refuse ?* asked Lady Elton, opening her 
eyes. * I have not seen Max or his father since we 
met at their house. Yes! it was very foolish 
indeed.' 

*Oh, Lady Elton!' cried Grace, clasping her 
hands, * do forgive me if I ask too much ; but would 
you mind seeing Randal, and speaking to him? 
He thinks you so wise and delightful, and a woman 
of the world, which he is always telling mamma 
and me we are not. He would listen to what you 
say, and it would be such a help.' 

Lady Elton looked at the eager face and wist- 
ful eyes of the speaker with a somewhat sad 
expression in her own, whilst Mrs. Frere observed : 

* Really, my dear Grace, I fear you are taking a 
great liberty.' 

* Child 1' said Lady Elton, as if forgetting there 
was anyone else present, * are you trying to play 
providence to your family at eighteen ?' 

* But, Lady Elton,' urged Grace, now blushing to 
the roots of her hair, for she thought their hostess 
meant rebuke, * we are all so strange and lonely. 
We have come out of such a remote, quiet, peaceful 
retreat, that even the dear mother forgets what the 
world is like ; and we must all try to do our best 
— even I — I must try to be like eight-and-twenty, 
not eighteen, if I could.' 

^ If ! but what an if! Yes, dear, I will see and 



138 THE FRERES. 

talk with your brother. He rather pleases me. I 
am engaged all to-morrow, and the day after, but 
I will write and ask him to luncheon ; I shall not 
forget.' 

* May I get down and go look at the flowers in 
the next room, and out on the balcony ?' asked 
Mabel, having reached the limits of her discursive 
appetite. 

* Yes, certainly ; go, my love only I should feel 
obliged if you will abstain from turning over my 
writing-table.' 

* Oh, Lady Elton !* cried Mrs. Frere, a little hurt, 

* Mabel would never think of such a thing.' 

* She is not mischievous,' added Grace, * only 
impatient and idle, poor child ! It is very hard for 
her to be shut up in our tiny lodging, after the free 
life she has had.' 

* I daresay she would be happier at school,' said 
Lady Elton, kindly. 

* I cannot say I approve of schools — boarding- 
schools particularly,' returned Mrs. Frere, coldly. 

* And I do not see how we can possibly pay for 
her education, even the simplest,* said Grace, with 
great candour, feeling irresistibly drawn to speak 
openly to this strong sympathetic woman. 

• * Grace ! you really should not obtrude our 
private affairs on Lady Elton. I fear she will 
think you terribly rustic' 

* Believe me, I accept her confidence in the same 
spirit with which she gives it, Mrs. Frere. Come, 
shall we go into my writing-room ? (I cannot bear 
the term boudoir) I can quite imagine the change 



THE FRERES. 139 

from so delightful a residence as Max describes 
Dungar to be, to a small London lodging, mtist be 
depressing and miserable ; but we will hope for 
better times. Why not, when you have settled 
your son, Mrs. Frere, go abroad — to Germany or 
Italy ? / prefer Italy ; life is cheaper and easier 
there, and education also.' 

* I know that,' said Mrs. Frere, sadly. * I have 
spent many happy days on the Continent, Especi- 
ally in the south of France ; but I feel as if I never 
could go so far away, or find the means to do so.' 

* It is not so costly if you know how to set about 
it,' returned Lady Elton, leading the way into her 
private sitting-room. And here the conversation 
turned on her ladyship*s travels and continental 
experiences, illustrated by photographs and art 
specimens from various localities known to fame. 
The books which were lying about were overhauled, 
and some matters of which they treated discussed. 
In short, a delightful and, to Grace, most instructive 
hour passed only too quickly; and then the carriage 
was announced. 

When seated therein, the coachman was ordered 
to drive down the Thames Embankment, back 
through Piccadilly and the Park. After the second 
round of that famed enclosure, Lady Elton said she 
was obliged to dine with some friends to go to the 
opera ; so the horses' heads were turned to Camden 
Hill. 

At parting Lady Elton pressed Grace's hand, and 
said in a low, almost caressing, voice, * I must see 
more of you,' which sent Grace in, highly elated, to 



I40 THE FRERES. 

the sordid little parlour, where the smell of some 
minced mutton preparing for Randal's tea-supper 
was only too perceptible. 

The day and its enjoyments had sent a thrill of 
life and hope through our heroine's veins, such as 
they had not known since her arrival in London ; 
and she deposited three or four books, lent her by her 
new friend, upon the unsteady little chiffonier with 
a heart full of thankfulness and silent resolve to be 
brave and helpful, to stamp out morbid longings, 
and to make the best of the materials which 
fortune had left her. 




CHAPTER VII I. 



SHE Sunday after the luncheon with Lady 
Elton was a dull day ; the footways 
damp and greasy from a continuous 
drizzle, and the fog lying low and thick. 
Grace had been anxious to go out, if possible, im- 
mediately after their early dinner, but Mrs, Frere 
had raised not unreasonable objections. In truth, 
Grace felt it was not unlikely that Max would pay 
his promised visit, and she did not wish to see him, 
while longing unspeakably to look upon his face 
again. But having broken his self-made appoint- 
ment the previous Sunday, she wished to avoid the 
appearance of expecting or waiting for him. 
None, herself included, knew what a thick strata of 
pride lay under the bright kindly frankness of her 
surface manner and feeling. It was a pride that 
excluded most small vanities, but did not raise her 
above a strong instinctive delight in pleasing. 
Were it a beggar on whom she bestowed a penny, 
or a great lady, clothed with the majesty of social 
influence, she had a pleasure in charming both. 



142 THE FRERES. 

partly due to kindliness of nature, partly to 
personal vanity ; but this only came into play 
when brought into contact with individuals: she 
had no vulgar ambition to shine, or attract atten- 
tion. What she abhorred was defeat; and to show 
Max any tender longing, any reproachful resent- 
ment, would be to confess defeat ; and she knew 
she could scarce trust her voice to speak to him, 
or her eyes to look at him, lest they should betray 
the bruised love, the trampled pride, the bitter dis- 
appointment that tortured her heart. She did not 
know, till this uncertainty came to irritate and 
humiliate her, how her all of thought and intellect 
and passion had entwined themselves round Max, 
or her idea of Max. 

But at eighteen nature rejects continuous pain, 
and Grace had many moments in which the image 
of Max, if not absolutely obscured, was dimmed. 
When circumstances offered fresh exciting subjects 
to her imagination, or, assuming a more adverse 
and engrossing form, the family anxieties and 
necessities seemed to pose themselves on her young 
shoulders, and hers only, the deep, tender, en- 
during love for mother, sister, brother, that at once 
weighed down her heart, yet gave it strength for 
its burthen, for the moment hid her personal griefs, 
and so gave a respite of which, even while she 
reaped its benefits, she was almost unconscious. 

* Fortune favours the brave.' While she argued 
with her mother the question of her going forth, 
Jimmy Byrne opened the garden-gate, and rang 
the bell. 



THE PRE RES, 143 

* I am so glad you have come/ cried Grace, after 
he had made his bow to Mrs. Frere. * Randal 
went away to the Temple church this morning, 
and was to try and find Mr. Halkett afterwards, 
and my mother does not like me to go out alone ; 
will you be so kind as to take me to Westminster 
Abbey? I think, with an umbrella, we might 
manage to walk.' 

* Faith, I'll take you. Miss Grace, with the greatest 
of pleasure. But we'll have a lively rowl in a hansom, 
if you please ; and walk back, if it's fine enough.' 

' It is terrible weather, Mr. Byrne,' said Mrs. 
Frere, ' and I really think Grace is better at home. 
It is so damp, she will probably take cold.' 

* Now you know, mother, I never take cold,' cried 
Grace, laughing and blowing her a kiss as she ran 
away to put on her hat and mantle. 

*I think it is just a trifle lighter,' said Jimmy, 
whose utter devotion to Grace would have led him 
to declare a promenade through Nebuchadnezzar's 
burning fiery furnace a desirable exercise if Grace 
willed it, 'and Sunday's a long, dull day in the 
house. Maybe missie here would like to come too, 
and leave you to have a couple hours' rest, ma'am,' 
he concluded. 

*Noj I shall stay with mamma,* said Mabel, 
decidedly ; * and besides, I think Max will come — 
he ought to come.' 

*Just as you like. Miss Mabel,' returned Mr. 
Byrne, not sorry to have a tite-d-tite expedition 
with his 'darlin' Miss Grace.' So the curiously- 
assorted couple started, Grace masking the nervous 



144 THE PRE RES, 

excitement into which her resolution to avoid 
Max, in spite of her longing to see him, had 
wrought her, by an assumption of gaiety. This 
she kept up with tolerable success during the 
* lively rowl ' proposed by Jimmy, but the enforced 
silence which succeeded their arrival at the Abbey 
was an infinite relief. The rich, subdued light, the 
music, the sense of rest, were soothing, though the 
stream of her thoughts still ran in the old channel. 
It seemed impossible, under the solemn, tender 
influence of song and prayer, to dread falsehood 
and change, harshness and indifference, as she did 
when walking about in the every-day world of dry 
facts. ' For I have said, Mercy shall be set up for 
ever. Thy truth shalt Thou stablish in the heavens/ 
chanted the choir. Grace drank in the sounds as if 
they brought a special message to herself. Mercy 
and truth — these are enough to make a heaven ; 
but did she want mercy ? Not from any fellow- 
creature !— and fellow-creatures were fallible. What 
was she that she should call forth undying attach- 
ment.? — an untrained, half-educated girl. No, 
she must not expect it ; neither would she make 
any whining, cringing efforts to win it back. 
Instinct told her they would be vain and degrading* 
Only she wished — oh, how passionately! — that 
Max had never visited Dungar, never argued with, 
and offended, and soothed, and sought her : yet 
did she wish that delicious episode obliterated 
from her life .? She could not, after all, part with 
such a memory. Love is a mighty, soul-subduing 
lord. He gives and he takes away, and blessed is 



THE FRERES. 145 

the name of that lord. The choir, having reached 
the end of the psalm, sang, with the full swell of 
organ and voices, * Praised be the Lord for ever- 
more. Amen and amen.' Grace resumed her 
seat, and strove to attend to a very tough chapter 
from the Old Testament ; and, failing this, fell into 
deep thought, resulting in excellent and enthusiastic 
resolutions to devote herself to her mother and 
Mab, to be patient and believing with Randal, to 
strive after impossible economies, to banish Max 
from her mind : whereupon imagination conjured 
him up more vividly than ever in all varieties — cold 
and sneering, genial and quietly amusing, tender 
and impassioned, with a kind of reluctant yielding 
to the force of feelings he could not control that 
made him specially attractive — and now ! why — 
why was he not true to himself and the love he had 
implied ? How was it that he did not find oppor- 
tunity to tell her that, whatever front he was com- 
pelled to present to the world, he was still hers ; 
that he longed to shelter her from the ills of life, 
to share her troubles and her tender care for those 
so dear to her ? 

With a strong effort she roused herself and 
crushed down thoughts she knew were so vain, so 
widely unlike reality. How was she to resist these 
haunting visions, so maddeningly painful in their 
delusive sweetness ? She would not yield to these 
promptings, she would fill her heart and mind with 
other things — with the duties and troubles of her 
present condition, with an effort to supply some of 
the many deficiencies of her scattered education ; 

VOL. I. 10 



146 THE FRERES, 

and so, with a slight shiver, she came out of her 
dreams as the officiating clergyman, with out- 
stretched hand, was pronouncing the blessing : 

'The peace of God, which passeth all under- 
standing, keep your hearts and minds ^ And 

Jimmy B)n*ne, anxious to get out before the crowd, 
was struggling furtively to find his hat under the 
seat. 

* What do you think, Miss Grace ? Would ye 
like to walk back ? It's horrid dirty, but it ain't 
raining.' 

* We will walk, certainly. I feel absolutely suffo- 
cated ; the Abbey was so crowded and hot. But 
oh ! Mr. Byrne, what music ! I should always be 
good if I heard such music' 

'Ah ! if you were any better than you are. Miss 
Grace dear, we'd have to tie a string to you to keep 
you with us. Sure, you'd be flying straight away 
to the skies ; so you would.' 

* No fear of that,' replied Grace, laughing, as she 
gathered up her skirts dexterously, prepared for a 
long, quick walk across the parks. 

The motion, the frank, confidential talk with her 
humble, devoted friend did her good. To him she 
poured out her difficulties, her projects, her vague 
anxieties. Would it be possible to induce Miss 
Timbs to lower her rent and accept quarterly pay- 
ments ? Money was so scarce, and mamma only 
had hers every three months. Would it also be 
possible to persuade Miss Timbs to take away that 
huge, hideous dining-table, at which ten people 
could sit with ease, and give them a round one of 



THE FRERES. 147 

moderate dimensions ? Then she (Grace) might 
make the room a trifle less ugly. Did Jimmy 
think Randal had any chance of finding literary 
employment ? Would he venture a suggestion to 
that youth, hinting the prudence of accepting 
Uncle Frere's offer? What were Jimmy's views 
as to the possibility of maintaining the family on 
three hundred and twenty pounds a year, and 
educating Mab into the bargain? Into all these 
questions the faithful Jimmy entered with deep 
interest and sound sense. So the walk back 
seemed wondrous short to Grace, who, sincerely 
occupied with the subjects under discussion, 
escaped all thought of Max for nearly a blessed 
hour. 

It was almost six o'clock when they reached 
Albert Crescent, and Grace entered the little sit- 
ting-room feeling quite sure that, if Max remem- 
bered his original undertaking to call on Sunday, 
he would most probably have come and gone by 
this time. 

The room looked unusually common and for- 
bidding. Fires having been dispensed with, a 
frightful apron-like contrivance of puckered paper, 
decorated with red and yellow roses, also paper, 
concealed the grate. The chiffonier was covered 
with a confusion of children's books, some ragged 
doll's clothes ; and the big table, with a green and 
red cover, seemed more than ever to reduce the 
space to a passage round it, like a large island in a 
small river. 

Beside the window sat Mrs. F^ere, always neat 

10 — 2 



148 THE FRERES. 

and even elegant, but with a sad tearful expression ; 
and facing her at the end of the obnoxious table, 
with Mab leaning on his shoulder in the act of 
showing him some exceedingly crooked drawings, 
the product of her own pencil, sat Max Frere — 
civil, smiling, self-possessed, irreproachable in air, 
dress and manner. He rose as Grace entered, 
followed by her squire. Her first thought it must 
be admitted, far from being any noble effort at 
self-control, any dazzling gleam of hope that Max's 
coming indicated a renewal of old tenderness, was a 
sudden wonder as to what Max would think of her 
going about with no better escort than little Jimmy 
Byrne. Not that she felt the smallest inclination 
to suppress or turn her back on the good little 
fellow, to whom she felt sincere gratitude ; still, what 
would Max think ? 

*I am so glad you have come in,' exclaimed Mrs. 
Frere. ' I have been keeping Max this half-hour, 
for I knew you would be vexed to miss him.' 

* But you should not, mother,' said Grace, muster- 
ing all her strength and natural self-control, while 
she smiled a courteous smile, and gave her hand 
to her cousin. * Max has many engagements, 
and ' 

* Would certainly not have gone without shaking 
hands with you,' interrupted Max, pleasantly, 
letting his eyes rest upon her for an instant — just 
an instant — and then looking with a curious ex- 
pression beyond her, to Jimmy Byrne, who was 
following, after carefully and audibly rubbing his 
boots on the mat. 



THE FRERES. 149 

* Mr. Byrne ;' said Mrs. Frere, introducing them. 
' Our good friend, Mr. Byrne ; I believe you have 
met before.' 

' Steenson' and Gregg's/ murmured Jimmy, as a 
slight nudge to the fine gentleman's memory, while 
he bowed and rubbed his hands. 

'Yes, certainly. I have already made Mr. 
Byrne's acquaintance,' said Max, carelessly. 

* Mrs. Frere, ma'am,' remarked Mr. Byrne, with 
the tact of simple good-feeling, * I think I'll just 
be walking down the road a bit, towards Notting- 
hill way. Maybe I'll meet Mr. Randal coming back, 
an — and I'll look in again, later on, to see if you 
have any commands.' 

Without waiting for a reply, Jimmy softly closed 
the door and effaced himself. 

There was a moment's pause, while Grace took 
off her hat and placed it over the unseemly doll's 
garments on the chiffonier. 

* You must like walking,' said Max, in a slightly 
cynical tone, * to go out in such weather.' 

In that instant's pause he had done a short 
battle with himself. His first impulse was to 
utter some cutting sarcasm on Grace's choice 
of a companion ; but a moment's thought sug- 
gested it would be unwise to express disapproba- 
tion, as that would imply a tendency to interfere 
in his cousin's affairs, and to adopt a certain 
amount of responsibility for her. 

* You see the room and the look-out are not in 
themselves so charming as to tempt one to stay at 
home,' returned Grace. 



I50 THE FRERES. 

• ' Home !' repeated Mrs. Frere, with emphasis ; 

* there is nothing to be called home here.' 

' No, of course not,' said Max, soothingly. * The 
change must be very great for you ;' and he stroked, 
in an absent way, the hand which Mabel had 
placed in his, when he resumed his seat. 

* Come here, Mab,' cried Grace, quickly. 

* What do you want ?' returned that young lady, 
without stirring. 

* I want you to take away these ugly doll's 
clothes. Just put them in Randal's room, like a 
good girl ; you can do it in a moment.' 

' I will when Max is gone ; I won't go now.' Max 
smiled. 

* Well, come and sit here by me ; you tire Cousin 
Max. You must remember you are not at Dungar.' 

* She does not tire me,' said Max, good-humour- 
edly ; * but it is quite true we are not at Dungar, 
and life here is a different and less agreeable 
thing.' 

* To us, yes ; but I daresay I shall grow to like 
it,' said Grace ; adding bravely, * the young are 
adaptable. Have I not heard you say so, Max ?' 

She got over the strange painful shrinking from 
the sound of his name which had come to her of 
late, with an effort ; for to her heart its utterance 
always seemed like a caress. 

* I am glad you cherish the words of wisdom 
which have fallen from my lips,' returned Max, 
lightly. * I only wish that fortune had treated my 
aunt as she deserves, and given her the disposal of 
the Dungar rent-roll.' 



THE FEE RES, 151 

* I am afraid the estates are dreadfully encum- 
bered/ observed Mrs. Frere ; the word * rent-roll ' 
rousing a train of thought not unnaturally asso- 
ciated with difficulty in the Irish mind. 

*I wish we could go abroad/ said Grace, *as 
Lady Elton advised ; that is, if Randal were settled, 
and did not mind staying here by himself.' 

'Then you have seen Lady Elton?* exclaimed 

Max. * I mean since we all met at H Square. 

I am glad of it ; she can be a very kind, and a very 
useful friend, ;j/*she chooses ; but she always requires 
a tinge of management.' 

' I think her quite charming,' said Mrs. Frere. 

' And quite sincere/ cried Grace, with enthusiasm. 

*Do you know she wanted me to have only a 
mutton-chop for my dinner, when there were heaps 
and heaps of goodies ?' remarked Mabel. 

* I am quite sure you would not allow yourself to 
be put off with a chop under such circumstances !' 

* Of course not,' replied Mab, decidedly. 

* By the way/ continued Max, addressing Mrs. 
Frere, *have you persuaded Randal to take my 
father's proposal into favourable consideration ? I 
assure you, as times go, it is not to be despised. 
What with competitive examinations and crowds 
of competitors, it is very hard for a young man to 
get a start/ 

' But as a clerk, my dear Max !' cried Mrs. Frere. 
' How can you recommend such a thing — ^you, who 
have been with us, and know how we lived ?' 

* Well, you see, the thing has no horrors for me. 
I am to the manner born. And if Randal proved 



152 THE FRERES. 

himself a clever, useful fellow, he might possibly 
end in having a small share in the concern, as 
junior partner, especially as he might command a 
little capital, when — oh ! when my fair cousin here 
makes that wealthy marriage which no doubt 
awaits her, and the high-minded bridegroom refuses 
to receive any filthy lucre in addition to the dower 
of grace and beauty bestowed upon him — eh, aunt ?' 
Mrs. Frere smiled. 

* Ah, Max r she said amiably, * there is no such 
luck before us ; though many girls less good- 
looking than my dear Grace have married well/ 

This calm but covert declaration that he 
renounced her, and would unhesitatingly hand her 
over to the highest bidder, spoken in Maxwell's 
frankest pleasantest voice, and her mother's matter- 
of-fact reply, sent a keen poisoned dart to Grace's 
heart that set her high spirit sparkling and effer- 
vescing to the surface, though the shock and mortifi- 
cation made her head reel, and the room and the 
forms about her grow for half an instant indistinct ; 
but she rallied directly. With a nod, and a quick, 
bright smile, she exclaimed : 

* No, Max ! It is only a poor, irrational Irish- 
man who would do such folly. I am going abroad 
to look for a rich husband. I have read some- 
where that only wealthy Russian princes are able 
nowadays to indulge their fancy in the matter of 
wives, so I intend to look out for one ; and when I 
come to London as ambassadress from the Czar of 
all the Russias, I will send you a card for my 
grand ball, though you are a city man !' 



THE FRERES. 153 

Max paused a moment before he replied, looking 
at the speaker ; in that moment their eyes met. 
Utter what phrases they would expressive of 
indifference or defiance, there was electricity in 
their glance, a marvellous fascination that eye 
exercised over eye, which was not to be resisted ; 
a flash of passionate admiration gleamed and dis- 
appeared in Maxwell's, and he was cool as ever. 
Grace, wrought up to a high pitch of proud self- 
possession, met the glance steadily, though the 
colour mounted to her cheek, and lent beauty 
to her speaking face. 

*I have no doubt you would fill the place of 
ambassadress admirably, nor overlook your humble 
relative,' said Max, slowly. ' But to come down to 
realities again, what are Randal's plans? for I 
suppose even Randal has a plan.' 

' You see, if he could get an opening in litera- 
ture,' returned Mrs. Frere, in a very sensible tone — 
* but it seems rather difficult — it would be so nice. 
He then could do his writing at home. However, 
Lady Elton appears inclined to take him up. He 
is to go and see her, and read his manuscripts to 
her.' 

*Ah, Lady Elton is rather an extraordinary 
woman, but she cannot force raw writing down 
publishers' throats,' said Max. 

*Well, we must have patience,' replied Mrs. 
Frere, placidly. ' " Pickwick " and « Vanity Fair " 
were rejected at first, I am told, by several pub- 
lishers.' 

Max smiled — an irritating smile. 



154 THE FRERES, 

* I think that a lawyer's office would suit him 
better than a merchant's/ observed Grace, nettled 
by Max's evident contempt for Randal, yet aware 
from experience that the only chance of holding 
your own against Max was to keep your temper. 

* My dear, you would not have him a clerk in a 
lawyer's office, like little Jimmy Byrne?* asked 
Mrs. Frere. 

* I can assure you it would be a capital thing for 
Randal, if he could work himself up into as good a 
position. With his small capital, he might become 
— well, head of a firm himself. As it is, you and 
your daughter do not disdain Mr. Byrne's com- 
panionship,* retorted Max, a little bitterly ; for he 
was feeling uncomfortable, and thought the visit 
had lasted long enough. 

It was an enormous increase of worldly wisdom 
since the old Dungar days that enabled Grace to 
suppress a sharp rejoinder, and answer, with great 
•equanimity : 

'No, certainly not. He is kind, and a true 
gentleman.* 

* No doubt ; though considerably disguised.' 

* Very likely,' said Grace, carelessly ; * but then 
there are disguises and disguises. Yet it is better 
to have a real brilliant set in bog-oak than a bit of 
paste in gold from Ophir — eh. Max ?' 

* Well,' replied Max, rising, * I have outstayed 
my time ; though I intended to make you a visita- 
tion, for there is so much to do just now I may not 
be able to come again for a long while.' 

* I am sure you are very busy, and I have always 






THE FRERES, 15s 

heard that money-making is most absorbing/ said 
Mrs. Frere, giving her hand to her nephew. * But 
do come when you can. It is so wretchedly dull and 
lonely here ; even Randal, who is so brave and 
hopeful, gets depressed. I do not know what we 
should do without Grace.* 

* Won't you come any more ?' cried Mabel, in- 
stinctively comprehending his tone. *Why are 
you angry with any of us ? When you used to 
quarrel with Grace at Dungar you used to make 
friends again very quick. I remember the day you 
waited ' 

* Pooh, Mab ! All you must remember now is 
that London and Dungar are quite different. Let 
Max go, dear,' interrupted Grace, drawing the child 
almost forcibly away. 

* Of course I shall see you again,' said Max, 
gaily ; * and in the meantime, aunt, if I can do any- 
thing for you, send a line to the office.' 

* Thank you, I will. Remember me to your 
father.' 

* Shake hands, Mabel. Be a good girl till we 
meet again.* 

* I'm good enough,' peevishly, and shaking hands 
reluctantly. 

* Good-morning,' he said a little formally, con- 
cluding his adieux with Grace, who put her hand 
in his, and, with a look straight into his eyes, said 
quietly, yet somewhat sadly : 

* Good-bye, Max.' 

The next moment the front-door closed upon 
his exit, and Grace stood quite still where he had 



156 THE FRERES. 

left her, the sound of her own * Grood-bye ' ringing 
in her ear. 

It was good-bye, indeed ! — ^the funeral-knell of 
her first illusion, and yet it was not all illusion. 
There had been some reality in it She had, at 
least, the consolation of knowing it had not been 
all self-deception. And so Grace Frere made her 
first step at the other side of the invisible barrier 
that parts childhood from womanhood. In these 
early weeks of her new existence she had lived 
through a distinct period, and entered another. 

But of this passage of the Rubicon there was no 
outward and visible sign. Grace, after a second or 
two of stillness, turned to collect Mab's doll's 
clothes, and to exhort and entreat that young 
person to take them upstairs. Then she remem- 
bered a big bunch of flowers brought to her mother 
by Jimmy Byrne, and hastily stuck in a water-jug 
as she was going out. These she now untied and 
disposed as best she could in a soup-plate and a 
couple of small ill-shaped vases, enduring all the 
time a flow of conjectures and wonderings from 
her mother on the subject of Max. His opinion 
of Randal, his evident intention not to come again 
for a long time, etc. At length, when Mab had 
carried off" her belongings, Mrs. Frere said, in a 
lowered and mysterious voice : 

* Grace !' 

To which Grace, a little startled by the solemnity 
of this beginning, replied : 

* Well, mother !' 

* Do you know, dear, I should not be surprised if 



THE FRERES. 157 

your uncle objected to Max visiting often here! 
He might fear his forming an attachment to you, 
now that you are no longer a school-girl.' 

* Mother !' 

'Indeed, my love, I am too apt to forget that 
you are a woman — and your mother is foolish enough 
to think a charming woman — so perhaps Uncle 
Frere has some such idea, though I am sure I never 
saw the slightest cause for alarm ; and I am a close 
observer, dear! Max never said anything that 
would lead you to suppose— eh, Grace f 

*That he was in love with me ?V Grace forced 
herself to say carelessly, while unspeakable bitter- 
ness made her heart ache. * Make your mind quite 
easy, mother dear ! I am an object of utter indiffer- 
ence to Maxwell Frere.' 

* I thought so ; but it would not have been 
unnatural. Only I quite object to marriages 
between cousins, and it would have been painful 
to refuse him. I wonder if he is attached to, or 
engaged to anyone ? What do you think, Grace ? 
Has he ever said anything that would lead you to 
suppose ' 

Mrs. Frere belonged to that class of not very 
actively-minded women — perfectly simple and pure> 
to whom, nevertheless, a man is nothing, if not a 
lover of themselves, or of somebody else. 

* Nothing — nothing whatever ; I have no idea on 

the subject, and Hush, mother ! here is Mab ! 

pray — ^pray say nothing of this before her !' 

* My dear ! of course I should not ' 

Enter Mab : * Oh, Grace ! here is Randal with- 



158 THE FRERES. 

out Mr. Byrne, so he did not meet him. I will open 
the door for him.' 

* Mab ! come back, Mab !' cried Mrs. Frere. * You 
must not get into the habit of running to the door.' 

But Mab paid no heed. 

* I must go upstairs, and put away my things,' 
said Grace, beating a hasty retreat. 

She did not return till summoned to tea. Then 
the whole party was assembled, Jimmy Byrne 
included, and Randal, exceedingly wroth and 
gloomy. 

Halkett had proved faithless. After tracing him 
to his private lodgings — a complicated search — 
Randal had forced him to return the precious 
MSS., which he had repeatedly promised to read, 
and to show to this editor, or the other publisher, 
all especial friends of his own. 

At first Halkett endeavoured to put his 'dear 
boy ' off with the usual palaver ; but on hearing that 
Randal wished to submit his writings to the criti- 
cism of a lady of rank, of great wealth, of enormous 
social and literary influence, Halkett succumbed, 
and with a confused apologetic mumble about 
* overwhelming business,' and * pressing engage- 
ments,' produced the unlucky packet intact, the 
twine uncut, the seals unbroken ; so that * the peeps,* 
and * tastes ' of * first-rate flavour, faith,' in which he 
said he had indulged, must have been pleasures of 
the imagination, as Randal told him with withering 
scorn. Halkett smiled, and then they parted, not 
with the most exalted opinion of each other. 

* It only remains now,* said Randal, crossly, 



THE FRERES. 159 

' for my Lady Elton to forget her promised invita- 
tion, and then I shall be regularly stranded.* 

* She will not, Randal/ said Grace, who had been 
particularly silent, and now spoke earnestly. ' She 
will neither deceive nor forget you, believe me.' 

* How can you tell ? you do not know so much 
of her,' returned Randal, who was in a most contra- 
dictory mood. 

' I may be wrong ; but I feel somehow that she 
is loyal and true.' 

Whereupon Jimmy Byrne observed that the late 
Sir George Elton's affairs had been entirely in the 
hands of his respected principals, 'Steenson and 
Gregg ;' but that about two years after his death. 
Lady Elton withdrew her business from theni, which 
had always been a sore point with the firm, even 
after the lapse of time which had since rolled over. 
Then the conversation took a financial turn, as it 
generally did when Mr. Byrne was of the party, 
ending with a resolution to sound Miss Timbs on 
the questions of permanent tenancy, reduced rent, 
and quarterly payments. 




CHAPTER IX. 



RACE was right Lady Elton neither 
forgot nor delayed the performance of 
her promise respecting Randal. 
A few days after her interview with 
Mrs. Frere and Grace, Lady Elton wrote to invite 
Randal and his manuscripts to visit her. 

Poor fellow ! he started with high hopes, and 
returned woefully crest-fallen. Lady Elton had 
had the cruel kindness to tell him the truth; and 
more, the tact to convince without alienating him. 
She did not refuse him a remote anticipation of 
success, but she set before him with unanswerable 
force the impossibility of working without materials, 
and that hitherto his life had not permitted him to 
accumulate them. 

Mrs. Frere and Grace had evil times of it after 
this interview. Randal was out of sorts, and out of 
temper. He was contradictory and dissatisfied. 

This mood pressed hardest on the mother, for 
Grace found frequent respite in expeditions with 



THE FRERES. i6i 

Lady Elton, who had taken a sudden strong liking 
to the bright fresh young creature, whose brightness 
had a tinge of melancholy at times which deeply 
interested her new friend. 

In truth, a life of worldly experience had not yet 
quenched the ardour with which Lady Elton seized 
upon a new interest — her detractors said, a new 
whim. 

In early days this warmth of nature and imagina- 
tion had wrought her much mischief, and heaped 
up troubles for her after-years. But whatever her 
trials and griefs she bore them alone, and extricated 
herself without extraneous aid. 

To drive with Lady Elton, and talk with her, or 
rather to hear her talk, was high delight to Grace 
Frere. It was the opening of a new world to the 
novice. 

But Lady Elton was a little nettled by the 
steadiness with which Grace refused first to go to 
her * Saturdays,' and then when the reason thereof 
proved to be a difficulty of toilette, by the resolu- 
tion with which she rejected aid in this particular. 
Lady Elton only overcame her young prot^gde^s 
reluctance to appear, by assuring her that the 
mixed character of her (Lady Elton's) soirees per- 
mitted morning as well as evening dress. 

Grace had already enjoyed the opera and a 
flower-show under her kind chaperon's guidance, 
and had longed very much, if the truth must be 
told, to appear at one of the 'Saturdays,' which she 
fancied must be ' feasts of reason.' 

* Well, Grace, I shall send the carriage for you 

VOL, I. II 



:r- THE FXEMES. 

cc S*r=d»y. witboat fail.' said Lady Elton, at 
rortir:^ coc =is!:: aito- tbe opera. ' Be sure you 
a:c ;cac>~. I wCl tak do potting o£* 

- 1 scjlH ccly be rjo s^ad to come, as I may wear 
Ejocr—i^: c:^^' returned Gntx, Idssiog her before 
i&cal^ted. 

- Have TCC et:^c>-^ yoais^, dearest ?" asked her 
r^.cbsr, as Gr»M thrtw aside ber white opera-cloak, 
a^ crew ca ber g>::ves. ' I have made you some 
jsTrsrcAie =T cwn se^", as Mab would say. I 
^b~o^:^ >'v:a wccji be warm and thirsty ;' and with 
r::v:i pri5e Mrs. Freie; whose housekeeping and 
V--:., -^ary pwwws were ven* limited, produced a lai^e 
^■.iss r£; c« tie beieiage. 

■ Ot, tS a rV yvti, moiher dear ! How nice it is ! 
;"-v« is =^.-«hir:j: I Lie so much as lemonade. But 
ot. b.-w wxroierfi:! ihe ogcn. is ! It is like fairy- 
-t^^ a^ such b e a c tjful music ! some of the songs 
s«=! to war coe s very heart. Ah, if I could but 

•So ycQ wocIJ, dear, if yxm were Uught But 
Gr-ictx I liav« news for >-ou. WTien Mr. Byrne was 
b«« tius evec-:r.g w« settled eveij-thing with Miss 
T:™i*s. We are to ha\-e the drawing-room from 
tvv-:»onv«r, and tath,: .^,,„p^:r il.in -Jiis dreadful 
tvx«x hccaose «« are to take it for sLx months ; 
biut c^oefi>- because Mr Bj-me recommended 
svvae oM man who is to replace us in these 
Ivx^ens^* 

\1iinny isoor good genius,' cried Grace. 'Now; 
«!<««:« mother, yon must go out for a nice 1^^ 
«*ri\x with LwJy Eltoo— she desirx^ me to ask^^P 



i 



r 



THE FRERES. 163 

—to-morrow ; and while you are out Mab and I 
will move everything, and make the room look 
pretty. So, to bed ! You look quite tired. Why 
did you sit up for me ?' 

' I was longing to talk to you, my love. The 
greatest comfort I have is talking to you. But it 
is late. Good-night, and God bless you.' 

The following Saturday was bright and spring- 
like, as becomes 'the opening of the first summer 
month. And Grace, as she always did with Lady 
Elton, enjoyed the relief of, at any rate, temporary 
forgetfulness. At eighteen the wounds must be 
deep indeed which cannot be skinned over by 
pleasant, sympathetic company, sunshine, air, 
motion, and even second-hand contact with pros- 
perity. 

Lady Elton proposed that they should try and 
heighten their bloom by a drive to Richmond, and 
a walk in the Park while the horses rested and 
refreshed ; which programme was carried out, to 
Grace's great delight, and they returned to a late 
dinner. 

Grace was less impressed than she expected to 
be by the assembly at Lady Elton's. 

Being, as it were, a daughter of the house, she 
was present at the gradual gathering of the com- 
ich is not so formidable as a plunge into a 
eatly assembled, and, as Lady Elton 
" to almost all the first arrivals, or 
s became crowded, she soon found 



1 62 THE FRERES. 

on Saturday, without fail/ said Lady Elton, at 
parting one night after the opera. * Be sure you 
are ready. I will take no putting off.' 

* I shall only be too glad to come, as I may wear 
morning dress,' returned Grace, kissing her before 
she alighted. 

' Have you enjoyed yourself, dearest ?* asked her 
mother, as Grace threw aside her white opera-cloak, 
and drew off her gloves. * I have made you some 
lemonade my own self, as Mab would say. I 
thought you would be warm and thirsty ;' and with 
much pride Mrs. Frere, whose housekeeping and 
culinary powers were very limited, produced a large 
glass full of the beverage. 

* Oh, thank you, mother dear ! How nice it is ! 
there is nothing I like so much as lemonade. But 
oh, how wonderful the opera is ! It is like fairy- 
land, and such beautiful music ! some of the songs 
seem to tear one's very heart. Ah, if I could but 
sing !' 

* So you would, dear, if you were taught. But 
Grace, I have news for you. When Mr. Byrne was 
here this evening we settled everything with Miss 
Timbs. We are to have the drawing-room from 
to-morrow, and rather cheaper than this dreadful 
room, because we are to take it for six months ; 
but chiefly because Mr. Byrne recommended 
some old man who is to replace us in these 
rooms.* 

* Jimmy is our good genius,* cried Grace. ' Now, 
dearest mother, you must go out for a nice long 
drive with Lady Elton — she desired me to ask you 



THE F RE RES. 163 

— to-morrow ; and while you are out Mab and I 
will move everything, and make the room look 
pretty. So, to bed ! You look quite tired. Why 
did you sit up for me ?' 

* I was longing to talk to you, my love. The 
greatest comfort I have is talking to you. But it 
is late. Good-night, and God bless you.' 

The following Saturday was bright and spring- 
like, as becomes 'the opening of the first summer 
month. And Grace, as she always did with Lady 
Elton, enjoyed the relief of, at any rate, temporary 
forgetfulness. At eighteen the wounds must be 
deep indeed which cannot be skinned over by 
pleasant, sympathetic company, sunshine, air, 
motion, and even second-hand contact with pros- 
perity. 

Lady Elton proposed that they should try and 
heighten their bloom by a drive to Richmond, and 
a walk in the Park while the horses rested and 
refreshed ; which programme was carried out, to 
Grace's great delight, and they returned to a late 
dinner. 

Grace was less impressed than she expected to 
be by the assembly at Lady Elton's. 

Being, as it were, a daughter of the house, she 
was present at the gradual gathering of the com- 
pany, which is not so formidable as a plunge into a 
large party already assembled, and, as Lady Elton 
introduced her to almost all the first arrivals, or 
until the rooms became crowded, she soon found 
people to talk to. 

II — 2 



i64 THE FRERES. 

Her large, soft, wondering eyes and ready, frank 
speech soon found favour with the varied indi- 
viduals who were presented to her, and the first 
three-quarters of an hour sped quickly in pleasant 
talk with many men and women whose names 
would have quenched a novice better informed 
than Grace as to the celebrities of the hour. Some- 
thing in the toumeur de phrase and the tone of 
the conversation charmed her. It was like sip- 
ping new and exhilarating wine. Not that the 
talk was remarkable for originality, or depth, or 
wit ; but the sentences were so well-turned, the 
words so quaint, or chosen with the skill of prac- 
tised talkers, that all sounded new and brilliant to 
Grace. She listened admiringly, yet unabashed. 
Moreover, there was unspoken flattery in the 
manner with which both men and women ad- 
dressed the • favoured guest ' of their hostess. For 
the moment, poverty and disappointment were for- 
gotten ; she only felt that she was the equal of the 
accomplished people who were so unexpectedly 
familiar and kindly to her. Hope and self-confi- 
dence seemed to come to her with fresh courage, and 
many a piquant answer put old men about town 
on their mettle, while more than one flattering 
query respecting her was addressed to Lady Elton, 
who absolutely revelled in Yax protigies success. 

Among the many to whom Grace had not been 
introduced she noticed an exceedingly pretty, fragile- 
looking young lady, with pale golden-brown hair^ 
large sleepy blue eyes, and a complexion like an 
ivory miniature. She was most charmingly dressed 



THE FRERES. 165 

in pearl-grey satin and delicate, costly white lace ; 
the only bit of colour about her, a deep-red rose in 
the left angle of her low square corsage. Her hair 
was picturesquely frizzy, and out of it her sweet 
childish face and innocent-looking eyes peeped 
smilingly. Grace could not for some time make 
out who she was. She had seated herself in front 
of a bank of ferns and greenery near the en- 
trance, and looked admirably against this back- 
ground. 

Grace had just been introduced to an old lady 
very richly dressed, who had at once begun a string 
of questions ; and she only waited a good oppor- 
tunity to ask for information in her turn, when 
through the doorway came a figure which she 
had vaguely hoped, yet feared, to see. It was 
Max Frere — Max, in very accurate and admirable 
evening dress, yet with a cloud on his brow and a 
cynical curl on his lip. He stood still as he 
reached the middle of the room, and looked round 
him. Grace felt he saw her, though he made no 
sign, and therefore forced herself to bestow a most 
flattering amount of attention on her interlocutor. 
Yet she was aware of every look and movement of 
her cousin. He did not seem to know many 
people, but she noticed that when he caught sight 
of the Greuze-like little beauty whom she admired 
so much, he bowed and smiled with an air of defe- 
rence, and made a step in her direction. His pro- 
gress was, however, arrested. A stout, broad- 
shouldered, red-faced young man, who seemed, in 
some odd way, not unknown to Grace, laid a hand 



i66 THE FRERES, 

on his shoulder. They spoke together pleasantly 
for a few minutes, yet Grace felt certain that Max 
was in one of his bitterest moods. Suddenly they 
looked towards her, and she observed Max raise 
his eyebrows with an expression of surprise. Then 
both made their way through the groups of people 
standing about, and Grace felt her heart bound as 
they paused before her. 

* I did not know I was to have the pleasure of 
meeting you here to-night,' said Max, looking at 
her with a half-smile on his lip and a slight frown 
on his brow. 

* Nor I, that I should see you,' returned Grace, 
quietly. 

* No, I do not often frequent Lady Elton's gather- 
ings; but, Grace, my friend Darnell wants to be 
presented to you — Mr. Darnell, Miss Frere.' 

The red-faced young man bowed, and Grace, 
dreadfully puzzled by her curious sense of having 
met him before, returned his salute, looking steadily 
at him, to his evident discomfort. 

* Is Randal here, too ?* asked Max.' 

* No,' said Grace, shortly, she did not like his tone. 
Max turned away, and walked straight up to the 

young lady iti grey, beside whom he sat down, and 
entered into what seemed a very interesting con- 
versation. 

Meantime, Mr. Darnell stood before Grace, 
evidently in the deepest embarrassment, and seek- 
ing for words that would not come — a difficulty so 
evident to her, that in spite of herself, an arch yet 
kindly smile parted her lips, as their eyes met. 



THE FRERES. 167 

* I see you recognise me, Miss Frere/ he said at 
last ; ' and, on my honour, I have done nothing but 
think how I could excuse myself ever since I saw 
you were in the room.' 

While Grace pondered these words, the inter- 
rogative dowager, spying an acquaintance opposite, 
rose, and crossed to where she was sitting. Darnell 
immediately seized upon the chair she had vacated, 
and at the same moment Grace found the clue to 
the puzzle. 

* Ah ! I remember now ; you are the gentleman 
who spoke to Mab and me in the Park some 
weeks ago.' 

* I am sure I do not know how to apologise ; but 
the fact is, a fellow loses his head sometimes. And 
after all, it was your own fault !' 

* Loses his head !' repeated Grace, a little be- 
wildered, and not yet catching le mot de Venigme ; 
* his way, you mean. There is nothing to apologise 
for. If I wanted to find my way, I, too, would ask 
the first person I met' 

'You are exceedingly good to take it in that 
light,' returned Darnell, earnestly, ' and it can just 
be kept dark between us ; people are so deucedly 
ill-natured, and given to chaffing.' 

Grace opened her big eyes. 

* Oh, very well !' 

* I know I ought not to have spoken to you ; but 
you'll grant it was a deucedly strong temptation ?' 

*0h!' said Grace again, with a sudden blush, 
that faded away quickly, * perhaps you had better 
say no more.' 



i68 THE FRERES. 

'Very well, Miss Frere ; only I wish you could 
just see all I think and feel, and — and — all that — 
I know you would forgive me.' 

An awkward pause, which Grace would not 
break. She sat playing with the tassel of her fan, 
and watching the sweet smiling infantile looks 
bestowed by the pretty blonde on the dark, keen 
countenance of Max Frere. 

* Is this your first visit to London ?* began Dar- 
nell, with a desperate effort 

' It IS.' 

Another fearful pause. 

'And — a — ^you are a regular country girl : you look 
like it. I mean — ^you have such a beautiful colour.* 

* It is well for you you corrected yourself,' said 
Grace, laughing good-humouredly. * The first part 
of your speech was fearfully insulting.' 

* Now, Miss Frere, I see you have no nonsense 
about you ; there is something to eat in the next 
room. Will you have an ice ?' 

* Thank you,' said Grace, rising readily. 

She was glad to get away from the sight of Max's 
air of devotion, of the grace and gentle flattery 
of his companion's aspect. They looked so well 
matched — a pair of Fortune's favourites ; and catch- 
ing a glimpse of herself in one of the many looking- 
glasses, she contrasted her own tall figure, her plain 
dress, her earnest face, and large, serious eyes, with 
the airy elegance, the butterfly beauty, the sunny 
sweetness of the unknown lady in grey. 

* No wonder Max is charmed,' she thought. 'A 
creature like that is formed to receive homage — 



THE FRERES. 169 

adoration ; while I — how was it that in his tempo- 
rary banishment Max could have a passing fancy 
for me ? What am I compared to such women as 
he must be accustomed to ?' 

It was a moment of intense bitterness, of utter 
self-abasement, yet untinged by any feeling of 
personal dislike to the pretty creature who evoked 
it. Through all the sense of contrast, Grace was 
sound and strong enough to admire heartily the 
beauty and fascination which she thought so far 
above herself. 

But while she pondered these things, and com- 
bated the crushing sense of hopeless inferiority 
which for a few cruel moments prostrated her, Mr. 
Darnell was piloting her through the well-filled 
rooms, and talking freely. 

'Your first visit to the opera the other night — eh, 
Miss Frere ? I saw you there. How did you like 
Patti ?' 

* Oh, she was too delightful ! she made me forget 
there was any other world but one of truth and 
troubadours.' 

* Ha, ha, ha ! I am afraid truth at the opera is a 
homoeopathic quantity ; but it must be awfully 
jolly to be so fresh. It is quite delightful even 
to hear anyone speak like you.' 

* Were you never fresh yourself? You are quite 
young still,' said Grace, with startling directness. 

*Ah! I was green enough once,' returned 
Darnell, with a good-humoured laugh. * I could 
hardly apply the word "fresh" to myself.' 

'Well, I think Randal — that is my brother — is 



I70 THE FRERES. 

quite as fresh as I am. He saw Fanny Josephs in 
" School " the other night, and he has been writing 
verses to her ever since/ 

' Oh — a — your brother ? (Will you take straw- 
berry ice or vanille ?) Is he staying here tod ?' 

'With Lady Elton? No, we are staying in 
London ; my mother and little sister — all of us. I 
am not with Lady Elton/ 

* I see ; come up for the season. I suppose you 
will be presented at the next drawing-room.* 

* Oh no, indeed I shall not/ said Grace, with such 
utter denial that Darnell thought he had com- 
mitted some blunder ; and glancing at her simple 
black dres3, he remarked : 

* No, of course not ; in too deep mourning f 
*That is not the reason. But do tell me who 

some of the people are. Who is that kind-looking 
old — no, elderly man, with such a beautiful head 
and white beard, and that one with straggling hair 
and great glittering eyes ?' 

'Indeed, Miss Frere, I am quite at sea here, 
especially with the men. I believe they are all 
howling swells in their own line — poets, and artists, 
and engineers, and learned foreigners. But there, 
you see that fellow with a light moustache and his 
hair parted down the middle ? that's Lord Albert 
Neville, of the Blues. They say he dabbles in 
water-colours.' 

* He looks dreadfully stupid/ said Grace, gazing 
after him. 

'And/ continued Darnell, filling himself a 
tumbler of claret, and highly pleased to act show- 



THE FRERES. 171 

man, * that tall lady dressed in crimson velvet and 
black lace, with diamond stars in her hair, is 
Mrs. Damer. I daresay she is going on to Lady 
Mountgarret's ball, and so, very likely, are those 
three girls in white and gold — the Miss Mordaunts. 
They sing wonderfully. All these people who are 
so much dressed are going to other parties, I fancy.' 

* And who is that beautiful girl in grey that Max 
Frere was talking to ?' asked Grace, with wonderful 
self-possession. 

' After he introduced me to you ? Oh, that is a 
charming young widow. Lady Mary Langford. 
Yes, she is awfully pretty, but too much of a doll. 
I think ifs a case of spoons with Frere, in that 
quarter ; at any rate, I think he is a sort of fellow 
to go in for rank and political influence, and all 
that. Don't you think so, Miss Frere ?* 

* Yes, Max is ambitious,' said she, slowly ; ' and 
he is right. I would be too, were I a man.' 

*I am sure,' began Darnell, reddening with a 
confused sense that there was an opening for a 
compliment, but not feeling at all equal to the occa- 
sion — * I am sure. Miss Frere, you needn't trouble 

about ambition, or anything else. You ' an 

agonised pause. 

* No ! Well, I do not,' returned Grace, who mis- 
took his meaning, and fancied he was going to 
administer a philosophic rebuke, to which his 
courage was unequal. * Ambition can only be a 
torment to women. But how young to be a widow, 
and how sad !' 

* Lady Mary Langford seems to bear her griefs 



172 THE FEE RES. 

with fortitude,' returned Darnell, drily. * If you 
will not take anything else, let us come into the 
next room. I heard a fellow say that Eberstein, 
the German baritone, is going to sing.' 

Grace rose, and as they passed into the larger 
drawing-room. Max Frere went by with Lady 
Mary on his arm. She was chattering gaily ; he 
looked distrait and stem. He caught a glance 
from Grace, and they both smiled, just a gleam of 
recognition ; but Grace thought she heard the fair 
young widow ask who she was. 

Her conjectures, however, were stilled by the rich 
strains of the promised baritone, and she was soon 
listening with rapt attention to the beautiful *Folkes- 
Heder'andthrillingbattle songswhich he poured forth. 

* Oh, how delicious his voice is ! What would 
I not give to sing like that !' she exclaimed, as he 
left the piano, and stood in animated conversation 
with Lady Elton. 

' I daresay you sing capitally yourself — eh. Miss 
Frere ?' said Darnell, who was watching her speak- 
ing face with unconcealed admiration. * I wish I 
had a chance of hearing you.' 

'Indeed, I cannot sing. I never had any lessons ; 
but I could listen to it all day long.' 

*And where do you put up, as you are not 
staying with Lady Elton?' asked Darnell, en- 
couraged by her frank simplicity. 

* A long way from this, almost out of town. Do 
you know a place called Camden Hill ? It is not 
so easy to find as the National Gallery,' she added, 
with a smile. 



THE FRERES, 173 

* Now, Miss Frere, that is too bad/ exclaimed 
Darnell, not knowing exactly what to make of his 
companion, whose style was so unlike all the girls 
he had ever met before. 

* But I am quite sure I could find Camden Hill, 
if you would allow me to call on you/ 

He felt this was a bold stroke, but he also felt 
that his companion was too ignorant of the world 
to perceive its boldness. 

* Of course we should be very glad to see any 
friend of dear Lady Elton's/ began Grace, care- 
lessly ; and then remembering the horror her mother 
would feel at the idea of a visitor, she added, 
colouring as she spoke, * but my mother is still so 
sad, and unequal to see strangers ; and — ' she hesi- 
tated, wisely restrained her lips from uttering the 
words, * ashamed of our lodgings/ and continued, 
* that it would be better if you waited for a while. 
It is very kind of you to think of coming. I am 
sure Randal would be delighted to know you.' 

Darnell looked at her sharply as she spoke. 
Was this put-off a bit of finery and exclusiveness, 

or With the last words Grace raised her 

eyes and looked straight into his. Then Darnell 
doubted no more. 

* Later on, then, if you will allow me ?* 

* Oh y^s ! certainly/ she returned, with polite but, 
Darnell felt, utter indifference. 

* I do not think I ever met your brother with 
Max Frere/ he resumed. 

* No, I am sure you never have,' said Grace, with 
a slight laugh. * We always lived in Ireland until 
grandpapa died/ 



174 THE PRE RES. 

* Ah, I remember now hearing that Max had gone 
to some grand place in Ireland to shoot, and that 
he had Irish cousins. I fancied there was some- 
thing not quite English in your voice and accent/ 

* That I have the brogue, in short,' said Grace, 
with another distracting smile and glance. 

* Nothing of the kind, by Jove ! Only your 
voice is softer and more musical than the generality 
of ' 

*Are you sure you have not been to Blarney 
yourself, Mr. Darnell ?' archly. 

* Indeed I have not. I am fearfully stupid about 
paying compliments. I never seem to have any- 
thing ready at the right time.* 

* That is very unfortunate. I suppose there are 
a great many like you. But the people are going 
away. Pray take me back to Lady Elton — perhaps 
I ought to have gone to her before.* 

' I am sure she does not want you ; but if you 

will ' He offered his arm ; and, as they went, 

Grace noticed Lady Mary Langford leaving the 
room, escorted by a dishevelled foreigner, much 
decorated. 

When they reached Lady Elton she was saying 
good-night to several parting guests, and behind 
her stood Max Frere, talking to the white-bearded 
man who had excited Grace's admiration. 

As soon as they had reached their hostess Grace 
relinquished Darnell's arm with a slight curtsey. 

* My dear, I have hardly had time to speak to 
you,' said Lady Elton. * I hope you have not been 
bored.' 



THE FRERES, 175 

* Bored ! No, I have been much amused. I do 
not think I ever saw so many people together before.' 

More guests came to say good-night The 
greybeard with the interesting head shook hands 
with Max and departed, and at last he and Darnell 
were the only ones left. 

* Grace,' said the former suddenly, drawing close 
to her and looking down into her eyes with a 
curious, half-angry light in his own, * how are you 
going home? Has anyone come for you ? Shall 
I ' 

* Oh, thank you ! I am staying with Lady Elton 
till to-morrow evening.' 

* Indeed ! Much better than * 

He stopped abruptly, as Lady Elton, who over- 
heard her young /r^/^^//.f answer, turned and inter- 
rupted him : 

* Yes, Grace is staying with me. You had better 
come with us to the Zoo to-morrow. Max. We 
can have the benefit of your escort, and you will 
probably be rewarded by meeting the charming 
widow.' 

*You mean Lady Mary Langford,' returned 
Max, with a peculiar smile. * No, I cannot have 
the pleasure of escorting you, because I am engaged 
to dine with her and Mrs. Damer at Lady Mount- 
garret's, at her Richmond villa, where she goes to 
get out of the way of the ball debris! 

* Ah, you are better engaged. Are you going to 
the ball, young gentlemen ?' 

* No,' said both, and made their adieux. 

* Better engaged,' said Darnell, as the young 



176 THE FRERES. 

men descended the stairs together ; * I should say 
worse. That cousin of yours is a deuced fine girl — 
beats Lady Mary all to nothing. Such go in her, 
too ! I did not know you had such charming rela- 
tives stowed away among the bogs.* 

Max turned a glance of mingled dislike and 
contempt upon the speaker. 

* Yes/ he said slowly, * my cousin Grace is 3l very 
fine girl altogether, though untrained and terribly 
natural ; but, Darnell, my good fellow, she hasn't a 
rap, and her people are paupers.' 

'Though she is a Frere?' cried the other, 
astonished. 

' Though a Frere,' repeated Max, sneering. * Her 
father was a cavalry man, and had no share in the 
concern.* 

' Oh, I see ! Well, a girl with such a pair of 
eyes doesn't want a bank at her back.' 

* Perhaps not ; it is quite a matter of opinion. 
Good-night, Darnell.' 

* Good-night,' said the other ; adding to himself 
as he stood alone on the entrance-steps trying to 
light his cigar, * Anyhow, it is a jolly shame.' 




CHAPTER X. 



3|F you will stand on a footstool, Mab, 
you might hold it up at that side, 
until I fasten it here,' said Grace to 
her little sister. 
They were busily engaged decorating the fire- 
place in the ' drawing-room,' as Miss Timbs proudly 
designated the larger of the first-floor apartments. 
It was no doubt a great improvement on the stuffy 
parlour beneath, and Grace had done her best to 
give it something of a home-like aspect. She had 
unpacked her books and little treasures, expended 
a few pence on some pots of mignonette, and was 
now putting the finishing-stroke to an attempt tc 
drape the empty grate with white muslin curtains, 
in humble imitation of Lady Elton's fireplace. 

Poor Grace was terribly awkward about needle- 
work when she began to exercise that womanly 
craft. No one, except nurse, ever troubled about 
mending or making at Dungar ; but a feeling of 
strong necessity, and natural aptitude, enabled 
VOL. I. 12 



I7S THE FRERES. 

Grace to make rapid progress. Moreover, Mrs. 
Frere, though very slow, was an accomplished 
needlewoman, of a refined order. To sit and sew 
delicate plain work, with the perfection of neat- 
ness, was to her a tranquillising occupation, so 
her instruction was of great assistance to her 
daughter. 

It was more than a fortnight since Lady Elton's 
* Saturday,* and Grace had been frequently her 
companion in the interim to a dinner at Green- 
wich, a garden-party at Fulham, and to a concert, 
beside sundry mornings shopping ; for Lady Elton, 
who, in spite of her reputation for a whimsical 
degree of stinginess, could be lavishly generous, 
had insisted, in a tone that Grace could not resist, 
in conferring sundry additions to her toilette, which 
were, indeed, indispensable, if she was to be the 
donor's companion. 

Grace had enjoyed all mightily ; the change and 
variety had done her a world of good, while her 
cure was further assisted by the evident determina- 
tion of Max to renounce her. 

At the present moment her whole heart was 
occupied in the effort to fasten the lace-edged 
muslin drapery, which she had made up for a few 
shillings, to the green-cloth-covered board, which 
ornamented while it increased the width of the 
mantel-shelf. 

* There, Mab ! I think that looks very nice, with 
the white shavings and fern leaves behind, and this 
azalea between the festoons of the curtains.' 

* It is quite lovely, Grace — quite as pretty as the 



. THE F RE RES. 179 

grate in Lady Elton's own sitting-room. How 
pleased mamma will be when she comes back !* 

Mrs. Frere had gone with Randal to the city 
with a bank bill, received that morning from 
Ireland, respecting the endorsement of which they 
were all uncertain, so it was thought she had better 
go with it herself. 

* Poor dear mother ! how tired she will be, and 
dazed with heat and noise!' exclaimed Grace, 
gathering up needles, thimble, thread, and various 
snippets of muslin and cotton fringe. * Why, Mab, 
it is past five o'clock !' 

* Here they are,' cried Mab, going to the window. 

* And in a hansom, too, after all you have said to 
Randal !' 

* Oh, with the mother, it is a different thing ; 
but I did not think she would go into a hansom.' 

*But, Grace, it is a strange gentleman. He is 
paying the driver — he is coming in !' 

* It cannot be anyone for us,* said Grace calmly, 
as she stood by the table, regulating the mis- 
cellaneous contents of her shabby little work- 
basket. 

She had hardly uttered the words, when the 

* slavey,' Sarah, came in with a card. 

* A gentleman for you, miss.' 

* Mr. Darnell !' exclaimed Grace, in much sur- 
prise, and with small pleasure, as she glanced at 
Mab's rough head and the untidy table. 

The next moment Darnell, beaming, red, irreso- 
lute, and not knowing how to excuse his appear- 
ance, still further confused by the unexpectedly 

12 — 2 



i8o THE FRERES. 

humble, not to say mean, shrine which sheltered 
his divinity, stood bowing before her. 

*0h, Mr. Darnell ! I am quite surprised to see you.' 

* Hope you will excuse my calling ; you said I 
might come after a while, and — and — I hope — that 
is, I wished to know how you are after that garden- 
party. Caught no cold, or anything ?* he concluded 
indefinitely. 

* No, thank you. Will you not sit down ? My 
mother is not at home.' 

* Thanks,* returned Darnell, taking a chair, and 
gfrowing a little more comfortable. 

Mab stood leaning on the table, and gazing at 
the visitor with intense delighted curiosity ; and 
Grace took Mrs. Frere's easy-chair, leaning her 
elbow on the arm, and resting her head on her 
hand with careless, graceful ease. 

'There was rather a heavy shower, you know,' 
resumed Darnell, reverting to the saving clause of 
a possible cold. 

* I was in the conservatory then.' 

* This is your sister ?' asked Darnell, bent on 
amiability, and turning to Mab. 

* Yes, my only sister. Mab, shake hands with 
Mr. Darnell.' 

Mab sidled up with evident reluctance, and 
placed a dingy little paw in Darnell's ringed 
fingers. 

* How do you do ? and how do you like London ?' 
Mab hung her head, overcome by one of her 

very intermittent shy fits. 

* Can't you speak, Mab ?' cried Grace. She had 



THE FRERES. i8i 

a dim feeling that Mr. Darnell, with all his good- 
nature and fine surroundings, was not a gentleman, 
and she felt especially anxious that Mab should 
show her good-breeding. 

*No, I can't!' said Mab, sharply; roused to 
instant resistance by the slight tone of rebuke. 

' Ha, ha, ha ! Why, you are a regular little 
Paddy,' exclaimed Darnell, facetiously, growing 
more at ease as he noted the comparative poverty 
of the room and its belongings. * You speak to 
tell us you cannot* 

*Who are you?' asked Mab, restored by this 
small amount of friction to her natural assurance, 
though her tone was by no means pert It was 
one of calm, logical inquiry. 

Simple as the query was, it almost annihilated 
Darnell. He could not go into an elaborate 
account of himself, neither could he summarise 
himself. It was then an infinite relief, when Grace 
forestalled his reply in a rather indignant tone : 

* Mr. Darnell is a friend of Lady Elton's, Mab. 
You must not ask rude questions.' 

* Oh,' said Mab, her scrutinising gaze still bent 
unflinchingly on their visitor. * Do you go to 
luncheon with her, and does she give you mutton- 
chops ?' 

* No, I never had the honour of having luncheon 
with Lady Elton.' 

* Mab,' began Grace, in a tone of remonstrance. 

* Now, Miss Frere, now, do let her have her own 
way !' urged Mr. Darnell. * She is such a jolly 
little girl. I have some nieces about her age, but 



1 82 THE FRERES. 

the poor little beggars haven't a bit of nature left 
in them ; they are so trained and tortured.' 

* Tortured/ repeated Mab, deeply interested ; 

* racks or thumb-screws ?* 

^ By Jove !' cried Mr. Darnell, in deep surprise, 

* she knows a lot. I suppose, Miss Mab, you are 
up in history, and geography, and all that ?* 

Mab shook her head, and Grace laughed. 

* I do not think Mab would ever open a book of 
her own accord, but she likes hearing stories.* 

By this time the keen edge of Mab's curiosity 
was blunted, and she withdrew to the window 
which opened on a balcony, and busied herself 
rooting up the mould in some flower-pots with a 
stick. An awkward pause ensued. 

* Have you seen Frere lately ?' asked Mr. 
Darnell. 

* Who ? Max. No, not since I saw him at Lady 
Elton's.' 

* I fancy he is very steady in the City, though he 
is such a swell. Shrewd fellow ! Don't you think 
so. Miss Frere ?' 

* Yes, he is clever.' 

*They say young Lord Rushborough is very 
much struck with Lady Mary Langford. That 
will be a spoke in Frere's wheel, for he has wealth 
as well as rank.' 

* And is he nice ?' asked Grace, with interest. 

* Yes, a very nice fellow, I am told.* 

* Poor Max 1' exclaimed Grace, with a smile. 

* Oh, he will be all right !* cried Darnell, with a 
knowing nod. * It is not easy to turn his flank \ 



THE FRERES. 183 

But, Miss Frere, I am going to give a little dinner 
at Richmond, one of these fine evenings ; perhaps 
Mrs. Frere, and your brother, and yourself would 
do me the honour to be of the party.' 

* At Richmond !' cried Grace, sitting straight up. 
* Oh, I wish my mother would go. It is very kind 
of you, Mr. Darnell, to think of us,* she added 
earnestly. * But I am afraid, if it is a party, my 
mother would not go ; she has never recovered 
grandpapa's death. She is so depressed, and ' 

*Well,' interrupted Darnell, eagerly, and changing 
his seat to one nearer to her, * don't let us have a 
party ; just yourselves, and Lady Elton, and your 
cousin. Max Frere. We can stroll in the Park, and 
drive home by moonlight. It will be awfully jolly.* 

*And I may go too?' asked Mab, leaving her 
flower-pots to listen. * May I ?' 

* To be sure you shall. You ask your sister to 
bring you.' 

* Oh, Grace always takes me when she can ; 
though she is cross enough often.* 

* You are an ill-natured little puss,' said Grace, 
laughing. 

* Come, Miss Mab, • I am certain your sister is no 
end of an angel to you ; at any rate she looks like 
one,* exclaimed Darnell. 

This speech cost him a desperate effort ; he red- 
dened so violently that Mab wondered the hand- 
kerchief with which he wiped his brow, did not 
take fire; and. his reward, poor fellow! was a 
steady surprised look out of Grace's great eyes, 
which changed into an expression of amusement 



1 84 THE FRERES, 

not untinged with scorn. However, she only 
smiled good-humouredly, and said : 

* I will ask my mother, and try to persuade her. 
Thank you very much, Mr. Darnell ; the dear 
mother has but a dull life here.* 

* Yes, it is an awfully out-of-the-way place,' he 
returned with sincere sympathy, and then doubted 
whether it was quite the right thing to say. * You 
ought to come nearer town. I am sure Lady Elton 
never planted you here.' 

* No, indeed. We did not know Lady Elton till 
we had been a short time in London.' 

* Are you going to make any stay ?' 

* Yes, some months, certainly. Oh, Mr. Darnell! 
here is my mother and Randal.' 

* Very glad. I shall ask her myself now.' 

Mrs. Frere was tired, but evidently in tolerable 
spirits. She looked with great surprise at the 
strange visitor, but received him most graciously. 

* I fancied it must be Max when I saw a gentle- 
man in the room,' she said,with her soft,sweet smile. 

* He is almost our only visitor.' 

* Indeed !' said Mr. Darnell, with an uneasy, 
though unconscious glance at Grace. 

* A very rare one,' remarked Randal, who could 
not let the name of Max pass without a sneer. 

* Max was a favoured guest of ours in Ireland, but 
he can only manage to call once in six weeks 
here.' 

* Nonsense, Randal ! Max is not an idle man. 
Remember how much he has to do, and how far 
off we are,' said Grace, much annoyed. 



THE FRERES. 185 

' Yes, Max Frere is a very good fellow/ observed 
Darnell, with an air of wisdom, * but he will never 
put himself out of the way for anyone ;' and he 
made a mental note, * Wants to cut 'em — deuced 
shabby !* 

* I don't call that good-fellowship,* cried Randal, 
contemptuously. 

* Perhaps, Miss Frere, you would be so good as 

to mention ^ suggested Darnell, after a little 

further talk. 

* Oh yes,' said Grace, with a friendly nod and 
kindly glance that delighted Darnell. 'Mother, 
Mr. Darnell wishes us all to dine with him at 
Richmond some day soon. Will you, mother dear ? 
I wish you would.' 

* My love, I do not think I could possibly dine 
away from home, if home I can call it ' — with a 
disparaging glance at her entourage, 'But I am 
very much obliged to you for taking the trouble to 
come here and ask us. Randal and Grace will 
probably be pleased to accompany Lady Elton 
(I suppose Lady Elton will be of the party ?), but 
I ' 

*Now, don't say no, Mrs. Frere. You really 
must come, just this once.' 

* Yes, mother dear, to please me. I shall enjoy 
myself ever so much more if you will come.' 

* I am sure, Mrs. Frere, you can't possibly refuse 
such an appeal. I don't know who could, when 
Miss Frere asks.' 

'Well, if you really care for an old woman's 
company,' said mamma, with a well-pleased smile, 



i86 THE FRERES. 

while her whole countenance brightened as it had 
not done for a long time. 

* That's right,' from Randal. 

' You are a dear good mummy/ from Mabel. 

* You know / care/ softly, with a gentle squeeze 
of the hand, from Grace. 

* I am greatly flattered that you make an excep- 
tion in my favour/ said Darnell gallantly, though 
feeling it was quite his due, and hugging himself in 
the notion that, at any rate, the * adored one's ' 
people recognised his value. * I shall see Lady 
Elton this evening — there is a big dinner at the 
Freres' — and I shall settle all about it with her.' 

Then the conversation turned on the theatres and 
amusements of London, in which Randal did most 
of the talking, and displayed a large amount of 
ignorance to the knowing eye of their visitor: for 
Darnell's simplicity was but an outer shell — his 
experience of London life was large, if not deep. 

Grace took little part in the talk, save when 
appealed to by Darnell, which was tolerably often ; 
but Mrs. Frere displayed unusual animation, and 
bestowed an amount of interested attention on 
their visitor which surprised her daughter. At last 
Darnell rose to take leave, with a confused apology 
for having stayed so long. 

* If you allow me, I will come over to-morrow 
and let you know what arrangements I have made 
with Lady Elton and Max Frere/ he concluded. 

* Very well,' said Grace, seeing nothing to remark 
in what seemed a perfectly natural piece of courtesy. 

* If you will be so good/ replied Mrs. Frere. 



THE FRERES. 187 

Radiant with his success, Mr. Darnell turned to 
depart, and as he placed his hand on the door- 
handle it was suddenly pushed open, and Jimmy 
Byrne walked nearly into his arms : Jimmy him- 
self very hot and dusty, and holding with some 
difficulty a huge round basket, covered with blue 
paper, evidently fresh from Covent Garden. 

Both started back, both apologised profusely. But, 
of the two,little Jimmy Byrne was the least confused. 

* I'm sure, Mrs. Frere, ma'am, I had no notion 
there was company in the drawing-room, or I 
would not have come up. The girl never let on a 
word to me. I am ashamed entirely, sir, to have 
trod on your toes like that' 

' Oh, never mind ; I am sure Mr. Darnell does 
not. Pray come in, Mr. Byrne,* exclaimed Grace, 
starting forward with outstretched hand, and such 
a look of warm welcome in her eyes and on her 
smiling lips that Darnell felt a sudden jealous pang, 
a sullen envy of the shabby little beggar who was, 
perhaps, to bask in such sunshine all the evening, 
while he (Darnell) was obliged to sit out a dinner 
of three hours with, probably, a solemn dowager on 
one side and a simpering, highly-trained, and 
rigidly-moulded demoiselle on the other. 

But there was no attempt at an introduction, and 
Mr. Darnell, after reiterated adieux, took his 
departure. 

Byrne looked after him with a wistfully curious 
expression on his short honest face, but was far too 
innately well-bred to ask any questions. 

* Oh, I am so glad you are come !' cried Mab, 



i88 THE FRERES. 

clasping his hand in both hers ; * it is so long since 
you were here/ 

* Indeed, I have thought it long myself, Miss 
Mabel ; but we have been that busy the last fort- 
night, I have been a'most afraid to go to bed. And 
I hope I see you well, Mrs. Frere ? you'll excuse 
my remarking it, which I do with the greatest of 
pleasure — ^you're looking pounds better — pounds, 
ma'am, upon my word ! Isn't your mamma now 
looking well. Miss Grace ?' 

There was the heartiest earnestness in his tone ; 
and smiling gratefully on him, Grace replied : 

' Yes, indeed ! and I am so glad you, too, see the 
improvement.' 

* The mother is looking quite young and charm- 
ing,' said Randal, who was in a good humour ; and 
Mrs. Frere, who dearly loved her children's tender 
flattery, coloured with pleasure, and really looked 
pretty enough to justify it. 

* Do you know, Mr. Byrne, I have been in the 
city to-day — quite an expedition for me ; but it 
was necessary to get the money for a bank bill. I 
must say the new agent of the estates is very oblig- 
ing ; I was compelled to ask him to advance the 
quarter's interest which will be due in June, for we 
really had no money, and he did so at once. Now 
we shall get on quite comfortably ; it is wonderfully 
cheering to have money in one's purse.' 

* It is so, ma'am,' returned Jimmy, with his usual 
ready acquiesence ; but Grace noticed that his 
countenance fell, and that he grew very grave. 

*Then,' resumed Mrs. Frere, complacently, * we 



THE FRERES. i«9 

took the opportunity to order a dress suit for 
Randal. He is unable to go to Lady Elton's 
receptions for want of a proper toilet, so we went 
to his poor dear father's tailor, Macleland, in St. 
James's Street' 

* Who did you say, ma'am ?' asked Jimmy, in a 
startled tone. 

* Macleland,' repeated Mrs. Frere, and continued, 
without heeding a half-stifled exclamation of * Oh 
Lord !* from Byrne, * Do you know, they quite 
remember Colonel Frere, and ' — pressing her hand- 
kerchief to her eyes — * they keep his measure still ; 
so the man who took Randal's ' 

* Really quite a gentlemanlike fellow !' interrupted 
Randal. 

* said he should have a suit of the best 

quality on the most moderate terms,' Mrs. Frere 
went on. 

* Might I ask, ma'am, if he named a price ?' said 
Jimmy Byrne, insinuatingly. 

' No, of course not,' replied Randal, loftily ; * one 
cannot bargain with people of that sort ; better to 
leave it to themselves.' 

* Ahem !' said Byrne, and a portentous silence 
fell upon them. 

Randal felt indignant that Jimmy presumed to 
be silent ; Grace, that some serious imprudence had 
been committed ; while Mrs. Frere dimly wished 
she had never mentioned the dress suit. Disappro- 
bation from anyone, peasant or prince, infant or sage, 
annihilated her ; she was utterly without a moral 
backbone, and could not stand without support. 



THE FRERES. 191 

* By the dint of good luck,' he went on, * I got 
out of the office an hour earlier ; and as I come 
through Covent Garden I saw these strawberries ; 
so I thought they'd just do for your dear mamma 
and Miss MabeL' 

* And not for me? that is too bad of you, Mr. 
Byrne.' 

'Ah, then. Miss Grace, I do not think of you 
along with them kind of things,' said Jimmy, with 
much earnestness. ' Sure, you are the man o' busi- 
ness of them all! and I am always wanting to 
trouble you about what may be too much for a 
young creature like you.' 

' Ah !' said Grace, with a somewhat sad smile, * I 
can bear a good deal.' 

And a pause ensued while the servant was laying 
the table, Jimmy Byrne standing meantime with 
his hands in his pockets, and an unmistakable 
look of trouble on his brow. 

* That will do, Sarah,' said Grace, as Randal left 
the room, and Mabel ran upstairs after her mother. 
She proceeded to set forth the tea-things with quick 
deft fingers. 

' I am afraid you think my mother rather impru- 
dent to-day,' she continued, anxious to utilise the 
few moments tite-d-tite. 

* Imprudent !' repeated Jimmy in a low tone, but 
with strong emphasis. 'It's downright madness, 
divil a less,' asking pardon. * Look here now, Miss 
Grace ; you see if the coat isn't fivejpound, or five- 
pun-teri; and the trousers — God forgive me for 
naming them — ^two, or two-fifteen ; and the waist- 



192 THE FRERES. 

coat may be another twenty shillings. If Mr. 
Randal must have a suit' (he said *shute'), *my 
tailor would have given him one in the height of 
the fashion for five, the whole lot, or five-ten, and 
ten per cent, discount for ready cash. See now, if 
you wouldn't mind looking, sure my coat don't fit 
so bad !* 

And in the heat of argument, Jimmy turned a 
narrow back and sloping shoulders for Grace's 
inspection, drawing in his waist that she might 
observe the artistic cut of his scarcely fashionable 
garments. 

* Very nice indeed,' said Grace, with deep gravity. 
The subject was too serious to permit of her 
attending to (she dl-wBys perceived) the comic side 
of Jimmy's argument. 

* Yet 1 do think Randal ought to have had the 
clothes. Why should I go to Lady Elton's, and he 
be left at home ? But I wish they had waited and 
consulted you.' 

' Ah, it's other things besides balls and parties he 
should be thinking of Miss Grace dear, I can 
speak truth to you. He is wasting his time cruel. 
Sure he ought to be turnin' in a guinea a week, 
anyhow. I'm going to speak to him this night, 
and you back me up like a jewel, as ye are. Faith, 
I wish you were the boy — ah ! it's easy to see you 
were reared on a boy's milk. Wasn't it a foster- 
brother you had ?* 

* Yes. But, Jimmy, do speak to Randal ; I will 
help you all I can.' 

* An' it's not that only, but Mrs. Frere, poor dear 



THE FRERES. 193 

lady, she is as innocent as an infant. She is highly 
pleased because she's got the quarter's interest six 
weeks or two months before it's due. Where will 
she be when quarter-day comes round, and nothing 
to look to ? for not a penny of this haul will be 
left, I'll be bound; 

* I am sure I don't know ; but yet we cannot go 
on without money/ ejaculated Grace. 

* And then,' proceeded Jimmy, * after agreeing to 
pay quarterly — but whisht !' interrupting himself, 
* here comes the mistress ; we'll have it out after 
tea.' 

Thereupon enter Mrs. Frere, looking serene, 
smiling, and so unusually bright, that poor Grace's 
heart sank at the idea of curtailing the short gleam 
of light, the little * breathing-space,' amid the long- 
enduring spell of trouble and mortification beneath 
which she had cowered. 

* I shall quite enjoy a cup of tea,' she said cheer- 
fully, seating herself at the table ; * and what beau- 
tiful strawberries ! That is a piece of extravagance 
for which I must really scold you, Mr. Byrne. You 
are too kind and thoughtful.' 

* Faith ! not at all, Mrs. Frere, ma'am. It is 
just a pleasure to me to find a tasty trifle for you, 
now and again.' 

Then Randal and Mab came in, and tea was dis- 
cussed with much cheerfulness and enjoyment. 

Randal was in high spirits, which made it all the 
more difficult for Jimmy Byrne to approach his 
subject, though he was more resolute with the son 
than with the mother. 

VOL, I. 13 



194 THE FRERES. 

Tea over, Grace waited with some trepidation 
for the beginning of the passage-of-arms. She saw 
that Jimmy was nerving himself for the fray, by 
the little tugs he gave to the breast of his coat, the 
clearing of his throat, and swallowing of imaginary 
lumps therein. 

At last, with a sudden clearing of his counte- 
nance, as if a happy thought had struck him, he 
exclaimed : 

* Would you mind coming out for a stroll, Mr, 
Randall, down by Holland Park ? It is three 
weeks and more since I saw a tree or a blade of 
grass.' 

* By all means. I am your man. Will^^« come, 
•Grace ?' 

* No, thank you,* she replied discreetly. 

* And I am going to draw in my new book,' said 
Mab. 

When the gentlemen had departed, Grace gently 
opened to her mother the probable object of 
Jimmy's desire for a stroll, and begged her not to 
be influenced by Randal's dreams of literary fame. 
Of course, while she spoke, Mrs. Frere thought 
Grace's reasoning unanswerable, and quite agreed 
with her ; but a quarter of an hour after, she would 
speak out of her thoughts, and revert to the pain 
of knowing that dear Randal, with his high aspi- 
rations and exceptional abilities, should be chained 
to a desk — all the necessity of the case forgotten, 
and only the unconquerable disgust remembered. 

The walk and talk must have been long, for 
Randal and his companion did not return till the 



THE FRERES. 195 

shades of evening were closing in, and both looked 
as if the exercise had not been cheering. 

* It is awfully hot and choky. Mother, I should 
like a glass of beer, if it is not too extravagant — 
eh, Jimmy?' 

* Ah, Mr. Randal, it's not a glass of beer that 
does the mischief — no, nor two.' 

Having quaffed the desired beverage, Randal, 
addressing Grace, exclaimed : 

* Here's Jimmy Byrne been bullying me to no 
end about laziness, and attempting impossibilities, 
and heaven knows what ! Perhaps I ought to 
tackle to and earn some filthy lucre, but it is 
deuced hard not to be able to get any work in one's 
own line. However, you shall not say I am ob- 
stinate, I'll take anything you can get for me, 
except a clerkship in the Frere firm. I will not sit 
with a pen behind my ear in a place where Max is 
master.' 

* Then you see, Mr. Randal, there's the fifty ' 

* Now you may just save your breath, Jimmy. It 
is the one thing I cannot do — riot for — even for my 
mother.' 

* Heaven forbid I should demand such a sacri- 
fice !' exclaimed Mrs. Frere, rather hysterically. 

* Indeed, when you are ready to renounce your own 
wishes so nobly, it would be base to expect more.' 

* Very true, faith ! very true !' ejaculated Byrne ; 

* but, ahem ! you see the question is, where will we 
find such another offer? Mr. Randal's writing is 
not exactly a business hand, and, don't ye know, 
it's not every one can read it. Suppose now, while 

13—2 



196 THE FRERES. 

we are trying to find something that will please 
you, you practise a clerk's hand.' 

* Please me ! do you think anything of the kind 
you mean would please me ?* 

* But do, dear Randal, take Mr. Byrne's advice ; 
try and prepare yourself for anything that may 
offer — you have so much time !' 

* Oh ! you are always ready to preach. Miss 
Grace ; how would you like to be obliged to sit at 
a desk yourself all day long ?' 

* I wish to heaven I could ! it, or anything, rather 
than sit here consuming our small income, and 
helpless to add anything to it. I wish I were in 
your place, Randal !* cried Grace earnestly, and 
clasping her hands. 

* That is all very fine,' began Randal, sullenly, 
when his sister interrupted him. 

'I will tell you what I can do, mother dear. 
That Mr. Darnell has something to do with some 
office in the city, and he seems very frank and 
good-natured ; I will ask him to help us, for I too 
would rather Randal was not under Uncle Frere.' 

* Darnell!* repeated Jimmy Byrne; *is he any- 
thing to Sir Henry Darnell, the great ship- 
owner ?' 

* His nephew — his favourite nephew, Lady Elton 
says.' 

* Whew !' whistled Jimmy in delighted astonish- 
ment, and then asked pardon ; * why, he is the man 
that can do it. They have more than twenty or 
thirty clerks in their office, and this is the heir ! old 
Sir Henry never married. I thought he was a bit 



THE FRERES. 197 

of a swell when I come in this evening, but I didn't 
think it was young Mr. Darnell.' 

* He seems a friendly sort of person,' said Grace 
carelessly; *and at all events I can ask Lady Elton 
to mention Randal to him.' 

* Better do it yourself, Miss Grace dear — ^better 
do it yourself,' cried Byrne, rising and taking his 
hat. 

* Anyway, Mr. Randal,' he continued, * will you 
come to me in the office in my own room to-morrow 
about one, and we'll settle about the writing and 
one or two other matters we were speaking of?' 

And Grace's heart felt lighter and more hopeful 
as she heard Randal say readily : 

* I will, Jimmy — I will be with you a little before 
one.' 




CHAPTER XL 



|LTH0UGH Grace hardly expected 
that Mr. Darnell could succeed in 
arranging the proposed dinner at 
Richmond, it seemed so out of the 
ordinary routine of their lives, his project was 
crowned with success. 

Lady Elton at once agreed to be of the party, 
and Mrs. Frere's faint objections were over- 
ruled. 

It was a beautiful day, and Grace enjoyed it 
more than any other she had yet passed in Ixjndon. 
For she was not alone in her enjoyment : her 
mother, who seemed quite herself, Mab, Randal — 
all were there to share her pleasure. So she was 
unvisited by those stabs of self-reproach which 
frequently pierced her when the thought of mother 
and Mab alone and uncheered came across her 
heart How nice it was to be all together I How 
thankful she was that a press of business had pre- 
vented Max from joining them ! 



THE FRERES. i99 

Lady Elton arrived in good time in the open 
carriage which in summer replaced her brougham, 
accompanied by an elderly and excessively-polite 
gentleman of doubtful nationality — a Pole or a 
Hungarian, given to humane and patriotic schemes 
— ^much decorated, and possessing the gift of 
tongues. 

Immediately after, Mr. Darnell dashed up in a 
mail-phaeton, drawn by a pair of showy chestnuts. 

He proposed to drive Grace and Randal, and, 
on her entreaty to be of the party, he very good- 
humouredly agreed to take Mab also. 

They started in excellent spirits, Darnell the 
gayest of the party ; everything seemed coming to 
his hand. His contentment reached its height 
when, having cleared the more crowded part of the 
road, Grace, with some hesitation, asked if she 
might be allowed to take the reins: 

*Oh, you can handle the ribbons, can you?' 
Darnell exclaimed. * These chestnuts are not so 
easy to manage.' 

* I think I can, if you will let me try.' 
'Certainly, Miss Frere. Here, you had better 

take my seat Hold on a bit, Miss Mabel. There 
you are. You must keep the off one up to the 
collar — ^he never pulls fair.' 

' So I see,* said Grace, gathering up the reins in 
workwomanlike style, and keeping the chestnuts at 
a steady trot 

* Gad ! I see you can do it,' cried Darnell, de- 
lighted ; * you gave that victoria the go^by in 
capital style.' 



200 THE FRERES. 

* May I keep them ?' asked Grace presently, 
glancing at the reins. 

' That you shall — all the way !' 

When at length they drew up at the Star and 
Garter, and Darnell assisted her to descend, Grace, 
looking straight into his eyes with her frankest, 
sweetest expression, said, * Thank you very much 
for the pleasure you have so kindly given me.* He 
seemed for the first time really to know the full 
value of wealth : had it not earned for him this 
charming recognition ? 

The dinner was very successful. Lady Elton 
was at her best, the Polish-Hungarian instructive, 
Mrs. Frere kindly and complacent, Mab quiet and 
<:ontent. 

At Grace's request the feast was somewhat shorn 
of its proportions to permit an evening ramble in 
the park, which she and Mabel profoundly enjoyed. 
Darnell was their companion, while Mrs. Frere 
paired off with the Polish colonel, and Lady Elton 
with Randal. 

Before leaving the hotel Grace had found a 
moment for consultation with Lady Elton. 

' Do you think there would be any use in asking 
Mr. Darnell to help Randal in finding something 
to do ?' 

* Yes, I daresay he could help him effectually.' 

* Will you speak to him, then, dear Lady Elton ?' 

* Who, me ? I think you had much better speak 
to him yourself,' returned that lady, drily. 

Grace noticed something, she knew not what, in 
Lady Elton's words not quite like her ordinary 



THE FRERES. 201 

tone ; but the only idea suggested by it was that 
her ladyship thought her young friend ought not 
to trouble her with a trifle she might herself accom- 
plish. For to Grace it seemed a very light matter 
to ask one young man to help another, where it did 
not involve pecuniary aid. 

Yet she was surprised to find that the absolute 
asking was not so easy as she expected. More 
than once she revolved how she should begin, and 
could not plan it. At last Darnell, who had gone 
to assist Mab in gathering a big bunch of ferns, 
returned to her side, and Grace, speaking out of 
the fulness of her heart, began : 

*You are very good-natured, Mr. Darnell, so 
good-natured that I am tempted to ask you some- 
thing — something I want very much.* 

' I am sure I would do anything for you. Miss 
Frere — anything I could,' returned Darnell, with a 
look of such unmistakable admiration that Grace, 
blinded as she was by preoccupied feelings^ felt 
startled and disturbed. There was a pause, for she 
could not find words. 

'Well, what is it?' said Darnell, with a self- 
satisfied smirk. He fancied his fair companion 
was struck mute by her sense of his power and 
veiled tenderness. 

'You see there is Randal, poor fellow!* she 
began hastily ; ' he has nothing to do, and he wants 
to be at work. He does not like to go to Uncle 
Frere's. Do you think you could find anything 
for him, or recommend him anywhere? He is 
really very bright and clever.' 



202 THE FJRERES. 

* Oh !' said Darnell (a long-drawn ' oh '). * He 
wants to go into an office, I suppose ? It is rather 
uphill work ; still there are capital chances to be 
met with in trade. I don't know that I can do 
much for him. At any rate, I shall be most happy 
to do my best. Would he like to go abroad? 
There are some good appointments to be had in 
China and Japan ; but he must have some business 
training first.' 

* Abroad T cried Grace, to whose vivid imagina- 
tion the word conjured up visions of oriental wealth 
— ^ Barbaric pearl and gold. ' Oh, I do not know 
how my mother could ever part with him. But I 
am sure he would be delighted to go. I should^ 
were I a man ; and I often wish I were.* 

* Thank God you are not,' said Darnell, piously, 
while he thought to himself how convenient it 
would be to push a brother-in-law's fortunes, 
and at the same time put him in remote but 
honourable exile. *Well, Miss Frere, I will see 
what's to be done ; and you may be sure I will do 
my best for your brother' — a slight emphasis on 
•your.' 

* Thank you so very much,' cried Grace, smiling 
on him with such sunny eyes and sweet tremulous 
lips, that poor Darnell felt inclined to go down on 
his knees then and there on a sharp gravelled walk, 
and declare his utter and complete subjugation. * I 
feel we may trust you.' 

* You may indeed. Miss Frere ! You must feel 
sure I would do a good deal to serve anyone 
belonging to you.' 



THE FRERES. 203 

After this, the ramble through the park pro- 
gressed most successfully. Darnell described his 
last visit to the moors, and how he had lost his 
way in a thunderstorm. And Grace was drawn on 
to speak of Dungar. 

Darnell exhibited much interest in the details of 
life in the West, stated his conviction that it must 
have been awfully jolly there, and openly expressed 
his envy of Max Frere's experiences. 

Something in his companion's frank friendliness 
took the wind out of the wide-spread sails of com- 
pliment and flattering insinuation, which he endea- 
voured to set. Nevertheless, he felt delightfully at 
ease, and the determination to secure this charming 
naive creature for a wife grew clearer and clearer 
as he listened to her bright unaffected talk, and 
met her kindly, honest glance. 

* What had Max Frere been about to let a girl 
like this escape him ? But he was right It was 
not good for cousins to marry, and he was heartily 
glad Max had the sense to see it' 

A moonlight drive home concluded a day which 
Grace did not hesitate to tell Mr. Darnell was the 
happiest she had spent in London. 

* I think you are an ungrateful girl,' said Lady 
Elton, with a smile. * I, too, have done my best to 
amuse you.' 

* You have, indeed you have ; and I am so 
pleased to be with you : but to-day we were all 
together. It was delightful !' 

Darnell was silent — he dared not trust himself to 
speak ; and in the general leave-taking it was not 



ao4 THE FRERES. 

noticed. . He was the last to go, and at parting 
pressed Grace's hand as he said : 

* You may trust me ; I will do the best I can for 
your brother, Miss Frere.' 

* Thank you a thousand times ! Good-night' 

* Is he not good-natured ?* she exclaimed when 
the door was safely shut upon them. * But I wish 
he would not shake hands so hard ; he has squeezed 
my ring into my finger.' And she drew off a little 
old-fashioned pearl and diamond ring — her only 
bit of jewellery. * I am sure he will find something 
for you, Randal ; and then, dear boy, you will work 
and learn the secret of making money, so that you 
may have leisure to write beautiful books.' 

* You talk to me as if I was a baby, Grace,' re- 
turned Randal, rather offended. * How unjustly 
things are divided in this world ! There is that 
Darnell ; what has he done to have wealth and 
power? while I, who have twice his capacity for 
enjoyment, and am more of a gentleman into the 
bargain, haven't a sixpence I can call my own, 
or ' 

*I must say, Randal,' interrupted Mrs. Frere, 
* I think he is very much to be liked, and quite a 
gentleman.' She spoke emphatically, and kissed 
Grace at the end of the little speech, as though it 
were a special compliment to her. 

The day after Darnell's dinner. Lady Elton went 
to Brighton to visit an old friend, and it was three 
days before Grace saw her again ; during which 
time Darnell called, but the whole party were out. 
They had gone with their good friend Jimmy 



THE FRERES. 205 

Byrne on an expedition to Hampstead, where 
Mab revelled in the freedom of the open heathy 
while the wide view, stretching away to a delicious 
dim blue distance, charmed Grace. 

This, and a couple of following weeks, were the 
best and brightest of their London sojourn. 

* The gentleman, miss,' said Sarah, opening the 
door one afternoon, nearly a fortnight after the 
Richmond dinner; and enter Mr. Darnell, smiling, 
radiant, and wonderfully at ease. Grace had met 
him several times in the interim, and had grown 
to look upon him as a familiar acquaintance, albeit 
not quite approving his style or appearance. 

* Well, Miss Frere,' he began, as soon as the first 
salutations were over, and he had taken a seat 
beside Mrs. Frere, * I am happy to say I have been 
able to keep my promise about your brother.' 

* Indeed !' cried Grace. 

* Yes ; a friend of mine, who has a large concern 
in the city, will take him on for six months, just 
to see what he can do. It is a Colonial brokers* 
firm — Cartwright and Co. — so if he is sharp and 
looks about him he may get a chance of a berth 
abroad. It is really a better house to be in than 
Freres* ; they are all in one grove, and not so likely 
to push a young fellow on.* 

* Oh, thank you, Mr. Darnell; you have done us 
such a piece of service! Hasn't he, mother dear?* 

* I cannot say how very much obliged we feel,*^ 
said Mrs. Frere, warmly. 

* Not at all. Don't mention it/ said Darnell; *I 
am too happy to be of any use. Of course there 



2o6 THE FRERES. 

will be no pay at first, but by-and-by, when he has 
learned something, he will have a salary. And, 
Mrs. Frere, if your son will breakfast with me to- 
morrow, about 9*30, I will go with him, and 
intioduce him to Cartwright.* 

Both Mrs. Frere and Grace thanked him heartily, 
and promised punctuality in Randal's name. 

* I had nearly forgotten this,* resumed Darnell*, 
drawing forth a note. * Lady Elton desired me to 
give you this, and you are to be sure to come.' 

Grace read the note, and looked up with spark- 
ling eyes. 

* Oh, mother dear !' she exclaimed, ' a ball ! 
Lady Elton wants to take me to a ball. She 
wishes me to go in to-morrow to talk it over.' 

* A ball, Grace! I am afraid ' began mamma. 

* Come, now, Mrs. Frere, you must not object. I 
quite count on meeting Miss Frere at this ball,* said 
Darnell, with an air of proprietorship. 

* We shall see about it,* said Grace, not wishing 
to discuss the question then ; and Mab coming in 
with the draught-board, Darnell proposed to play 
with her, and thus managed to prolong his visit 
beyond reasonable limits. 

Though it was with a sullen brow and reluctant 
step that Randal started to keep the appointment 
made for him by his mother and sister with Mr. 
Darnell, he offered no objection. Unpractical and 
utterly inexperienced as he was, he felt he must 
not throw away this chance, or at any rate that he 
must let the chance reject him. Scarce two 
months in London had already shown him that 



THE FkERES. 207 

editors will not entrust the writing of leading 
articles to unfledged boys, and that the highest 
genius may not be ripe enough at nineteen or 
twenty to suit the ideas of publishers. On the 
whole, Randal's heart was not bad ; his head was 
easily inflated, his character was weak and capri^ 
cious, and his judgment — nil. 

His mother blessed him tenderly, Mab threw an 
old shoe after him, while Grace ran downstairs to 
open the door, and give him a parting kiss. An 
unusual proceeding on her part, for there was no 
great amount of sympathy between her and her 
brother. 

* Come straight back again, Randal,' she said. 'Just 
call on Jimmy Byrne as you pass — you will pass 
near his office ? — and ask him to come up to tea.* 

Randal nodded gloomily, and departed. 

The morning passed heavily, even anxiously, 
Grace wished to keep her appointment with Lady 
Elton, and yet felt it impossible to leave the house 
in ignorance of Randal's news. 

At last, as she stood ready in hat and walking 
garb, waiting for the carriage which was to be sent 
for her, Randal drove up in a hansom. 

One glance at his face was sufficient. It was 
radiant compared to its aspect when he started. 

* Well, dear boy !' 

* Well, mother ! that Darnell is a regular trump ! 
We had a splendid breakfast, and then away we 
went in a cab to the office — Corbett Chambers — a 
grand place — rows of clerks writing away for their 
lives — lots of polished mahogany and brght brass. 



2o8 THE FRERES. 

We went through into Cartwright's private room ; 
it is fitted up like a nobleman's — Turkey carpet, 
leather chairs, maps of all parts of the world against 
the walls; and Cartwright himself— a jolly old fellow 
— shook me by the hand, said he understood I 
wanted some insight into business, that he hoped I 
would pick up a fair amount of knowledge in his 
little place. If I liked to begin on Monday they 
would find a desk for me ; with that, he spoke down 
a tube, and a regular fine gentleman — a deuced 
deal better-looking than the master or Darnell 
either — came in, and bowed as if we were all 
princes of the blood. He was introduced as the 
head clerk, and told to look after me. " I suppose," 
says Mr. Cartwright, " you want to know something 
of the China trade with a view to joining your 
cousin's firm. They do nothing in that line now, 
JDUt I am told that young Frere is a devilish sharp 
young fellow, and very ambitious — wants to em- 
brace all branches." Of course I denied any con- 
nection over the way, and so on. The upshot is, I 
am to begin work on Monday. Do you know, I do 
not believe it will be half bad, the people all seem 
so monstrous civil ; but I think it's partly owing to 
Darnell, he appears to be quite a great gun.' 

' My dearest boy, I am so delighted to see you 
so pleased ! I feel sure that beginning in such a 
good spirit, you will prosper.' 

* What capital news, Randal ! I wish I could stay 
at home and talk to you a little !' 

* Here is the carriage, Grace,' cried Mab from the 
window. 



THE FRERES. 209 

* And I must not forget I called on Jimmy, but he 
was out, so I just left a line for him,' concluded 
Randal. 

' Quite right,' cried Grace, as she hurried away. 
* I will certainly come back to tea/ 

It was a damp, drizzling day, and Lady Elton 
was very easily aifected by weather ; which perhaps 
accounted for an unusual tinge of gravity in her 
look and manner, although she was as kind as 
ever. 

* I did not send for you as soon as I intended,* 
she said, coming to meet her young guest ; * I was 
prevented. But what is the matter ? Have you 
found a pot of gold, as the people do in your Irish 
fairy tales ? You look so bright. Come and eat 
some luncheon, and tell me all about it,' and she 
drew her to the table. 

* Oh, Lady Elton !' cried Grace, * I have wonder- 
fully good news. That good kind Mr. Darnell has 
persuaded one of the great city men to take Randal 
into his counting-house or office ; and Randal went 
there with him this morning, and has just now 
returned quite pleased. He is to begin on Monday 
really to work ; is it not delightful !' 

'That good kind Mr. Darnell,' repeated Lady 
Elton ; * why, child, a short time ago you seemed 
hardly to notice him. But this is really very good 
news.' 

* Oh, Lady Elton ! of course, at first, I did not 
mind Mr. Darnell much ; he is not very remark- 
able. But when he is so kind and takes so much 
trouble for Randal — a stranger who is nothing to 

VOL. I. 14 



2IO THE FRERES. 

him — I cannot help feeling grateful ; and I really- 
like him, he is so good-humoured and ' She 

paused suddenly in her eulogium. 

' Yes/ replied Lady Elton in a dry tone, * he is 
quite disinterested. I am glad, very glad you 
appreciate him ; and am quite charmed that he has 
succeeded in putting Pegasus to draw the plough. 
I wonder if the London mill will ever grind Randal 
into utility ? Now to our own affairs ; you are of 
course coming to this ball with me ?' 

' Indeed, Lady Elton, I do not think I can or 
ought !' began Grace. And thereupon a very- 
animated dispute arose between the two friends — 
Grace pointing out the impossibility of her aJTord- 
ing herself a new dress, and her extreme reluctance 
to owe it to Lady Elton's bounty ; the elder lady in- 
sisting on her own right to please herself, and spend 
her money as she liked, and ending by asking her 
if she would like Max Frere to think she moped at 
home to avoid meeting him ? Whereupon Grace 
fired up : 

' What he thinks is nothing to me,' she cried ; * I 
am surprised such an idea ever crossed your mind. 
Lady Elton ! I never dreamed he would be at this 
ball, nor does his going or staying affect me ; but I 
do not like to feel myself sinking from a friend to a 
pensioner on you.' 

* My dear, what misplaced pride ! Child, I am a 
lonely old woman : let me cheat myself for an hour 
into believing you are my daughter, for whom I am 
providing her first ball toilette. Let me guide your 
first steps in this wilderness of a world ; and when 



THE F RE RES. 211 

you are wiser and able to stand alone, you will thank 
me. Grace, I want to save you from the direst 
misfortune that can befall a woman.' 

* And what is that ?' asked Grace, bewildered. 
' Hopeless, obscure poverty !' 

* Ah, I fear even you, clever and wise as you 
are, cannot avert that,* returned Grace, with a 
smile ; * and though it is very disagreeable, I can 
imagine worse things.* 

* Your imagination is a mere magic-lantern that 
distorts reality; but you interest me greatly. I 
wonder how your life will run, for you have a 
troublesome spirit, child. Nevertheless, you will 
come with me to the ball ; and now we will go and 
choose your dress and all the etceteras.' 

* Ah, Lady Elton, who could withstand you } I 
will do whatever you wish.' 

* That is a wide promise, but I will keep you to 
it,' said Lady Elton, laughing, as she rang for the 
carriage ; and while she went to put on her bonnet, 
Grace stood in a painful reverie. What could have 
suggested that sting of Lady Elton's anent Max ? 
She was certain that she never by word or look 
betrayed the secret of her feeling for that cruelly- 
fascinating cousin whose name still exercised a 
power over her which she hated, yet could not 
withstand. Pride and a certain half-unconscious 
strength enabled her to suppress all outward signs 
of emotion with wonderful success for one so 
young; but she knew what a thrill of pain the 
mere sound of his name struck through her heart, 
how wildly her pulses throbbed at the sight of him, 

14—2 



212 THE PRE RES. 

even while she most bitterly despised herself for 
such weakness. Because all through this deep- 
rooted passion and tenderness she felt that she 
could never love, and trust, and believe in him 
again as she had done, even if he sought her, even 
if she yielded to the charm of his voice, and look, 
and manner. Grace's own most distinct virtue was 
loyalty, and the absence of it in another was at 
once unaccountable and unpardonable to her. 

* I am quite ready,' said Lady Elton, breaking in 
upon her thoughts ; * so come along. We have 
plenty to do.' 

The succeeding hours flew pleasantly by. 
Having yielded to her kind friend's wishes in the 
matter of dress, Grace threw herself heartily into 
the charming occupation of choosing the hundred 
and one requisites for a ball toilette. 

Nor did Lady Elton show less eagerness and 
pleasure. To that lonely woman this sudden 
acquisition of a fresh living interest was like a 
renewal of youth. She threw herself into the new 
friendship with the utmost ardour, and laid down 
the future of her young prot^g^e on lines rigidly 
traced out according to her ladyship's notions of 
what was best and most suitable, which it would 
be treason in Grace or anyone else to doubt. 

* You must have some ornaments,' said Lady 
Elton, speaking apparently out of deep thought 
* Yours is not merely the simple, girlish style ; you 
can bear a good deal of dress.' 

They had finished their shopping and were 
drawing towards Camden Hill, for Grace had 



THE FRERES. 213 

resolutely insisted on returning, as she promised, 
to tea. 

* My mother has a handsome set of pearls — ^very 
good ones, I believe — ^and of course I can have 
them.' 

* No, no ! I know what an old-fashioned suit of 
pearls is. Better (as you wish to have some indi- 
cation of mourning in your dress) wear jet — that 
sparkling Paris jet, I mean.' 

' Yes, that would be very nice ; only I haven't 
any.' 

* But I have. However, there is time enough to 
settle all that ; the ball is more than a fortnight 
off.' 

Arrived at Albert Crescent, Lady Elton said she 
would come in and shake hands with Mrs. Frere 
and Randal. 

They found the family party assembled, with 
the addition of Jimmy Byrne, and just about to sit 
down to their evening meal, for it was almost seven 
o'clock. 

The fragrant odour of the tea and Mrs. Frere's 
kindly invitation was more than Lady Elton could 
withstand ; and a very merry party they were. 
Jimmy, too simple and real to be shy or embar- 
rassed, though perfectly unobtrusive, was evidently 
a source of great amusement and curiosity to Lady 
Elton, who drew him out with infinite tact. 
Randal's good fortune and the exceeding friend- 
liness of Mr. Darnell were discussed — Grace's 
triumphs at the ball laughingly predicted. Mrs 
Frere grew quite animated as the conviction that 



214 THE FRERES. 

such children as hers must be destined to high 
fortunes grew upon her under the genial influence 
of the hour, and the consciousness that a decent 
remnant of the Dungar agent's last remittance was 
still in her desk. Mabel settled a Sunday expe- 
dition ; and Randal ventured to accept an invitation 
to Lady Elton's ensuing 'Saturday/ having faith in 
the renowned Macleland's punctuality. 




CHAPTER XII. 

lANDAL'S satisfaction with his new 
employment continued almost un- 
|f Wtl ^b^ted for the first ten days. It was 
doubt monotonous and mechanical, 
but on the whole less oppressive than he expected. 
The day b^ore the ball, he had returned in high 
spirits. Mr. Cartwright had sent for him into his 
private room to show him a French letter, which 
that worthy Briton could not read. The firm had 
little or no Continental business, and therefore did 
not require their clerks to be linguists. Randal, who 
was never disposed to hide his light under a bushel, 
had mentioned to the manager that he had lived in 
France at one time, and he was therefore sent for 
to decipher this epistle. It was from a Dutch 
house in Japan, and promised an important increase 
of business. Mr. Cartwright was consequently 
highly pleased with everything, his new emfloyi 
included, especially as he very readily turned the 
carefully composed answer into French. Of course 



2i6 THE FRERES. 

he was ignorant of the French equivalents for 
technical commercial terms, but so also was his 
employer; and his translation was considered a 
masterpiece. 

Need it be said that a superb edifice was raised 
by the mother's imagination on this slender founda- 
tion, or that Grace set out in excellent spirits to dine 
with Lady Elton, at whose house she was to dress ? 

The ball was like all other London balls, save 
that it was given in an unusually large house. 

There were flowers in great profusion, liveried 
flunkeys, and a regiment of hired waiters ; a softly 
lighted conservatory, with inviting sofas ; a crowd 
on'the staircase, a mob in the ball-room ; splendid 
toilettes, and brilliant jewels — all that one sees in 
fifty other ball-rooms in the course of the season. 
But to Grace it was dazzling and fairy-like. 

Before she reached the festive scene she had been 
a little ashamed of her own elation at the sight of 
the image reflected by her glass, on this, the first 
occasion on which she was dressed in full evening 
array — ^when she saw her round, rich figure draped 
in gauzy white, her neck and arms showing well 
from the contrast of her black ornaments, and her 
bright brown hair crowned by a starry coronet of 
the same sparkling jet. If mother and Mab could 
only see her! that was her one regret. Nothing 
seemed quite complete to her in which they did 
not share. But when she found herself surrounded 
by girls in infinitely more splendid and striking 
attire, of more practised style and manner, she felt 
dwarfed into nothingness. 



THE FRERES. 217 

* I suppose you can dance ?' said Lady Elton, as 
they issued from the tea-room. * I never thought 
of it before.* 

* Oh yes ! our last governess danced beautifully, 
and we always danced at Dungar in the winter 
evenings ; but perhaps London dancing is different' 

* I do not imagine it is of much consequence 
to-night ; it seems a fearful crowd.' 

* Ah, here is Mr. Darnell !' exclaimed Grace, 
delighted to see a familiar face in this crowd of 
strangers — a delight visible in her speaking face. 

*You are late, Lady Elton!* he exclaimed. *I 
have been looking for you this half-hour. May I 
have the honour of the next valse, Miss Frere?' 
And he took her card to write his name. 

A struggle up the stairs ensued, and after being 
presented to the hostess, Grace accepted Darnell's 
arm, and entered the ball-room ; but already she 
was noticed as something new and fresh — an 
acquaintance of Darnell's, too — and three more 
names were inscribed upon her card before she 
began a fruitless attempt to dance in a dense 
crowd. 

* Is it not maddening ?* she exclaimed to her 
partner, as they came to a stand-still, after fighting 
their way once round the room. * Such delightful 
music ! I never danced to a band before, and not 
to have room enough is too bad.' And she looked 
upon the struggling crowd with a slight pout on 
her red lips. 

* They will clear off soon, at least a good many,' 
returned Darnell. * There are two more balls on 



2i8 THE FRERES. 

to-night, to my knowledge ; and several beside, I 
daresay.' 

* Tlien let us go back to Lady Elton. It is too 
much to stand here and listen to the music' 

Darnell laughed, and turned away with her. 

* Your first ball, Miss Frere ?* 

* The very first.' 

* I am proud to be your first partner at your first 
ball. You look stunning. By Jove, you do !' 

' Do I ?' exclaimed Grace, much amused at the 
expression, which was quite new to her. * I have 
not deprived you of the power of speech, at all 
events.' 

* No ; it is quite the other way.' 

* Is Lady Mary Langford here to-night ?* 

* I fancy not. This is not a swell house, though 
a very good one ; and she does not know many 
outside her own set, I imagine. Lady Elton, you 
know, is different from everyone else. You meet 
all sorts at her " evenings." ' 

On reaching the place where they had left her, 
no Lady Elton was to be seen. However, Grace 
was quite content to stay with Darnell ; she was 
accustomed to him, and his admiration, both 
* uttered and unexpressed,' amused her ; and, 
besides satisfying an undeniable need of her genial 
and sympathetic nature, soothed the amour propre 
which had been so sorely bruised. 

With thoughtless and very innocent coquetry, 
Grace turned aside his compliments, and met his 
attempts at sentiment with jest and laughter, till 
the victim's feelings reached * white heat.' 



THE FRERES. 219 

Meantime the ball progressed. Grace struggled 
through two more dances, with partners introduced 
to her by Darnell ; and, as he predicted, the ball- 
room began to thin. 

* Shall we try again?' said Darnell to Grace, who 
had found Lady Elton, and was sitting beside her. 

*Ah, it is only a quadrille,* he added, as he 
caught the sound of the music. 

* Never mind,' cried Grace, * it is something to 
dance, if you do not object.' 

* Object to dance with you ?' said Darnell, * that's 
not very likely ;' and offering his arm, he led her 
off with a radiant face. 

Lady Elton looked after them, an expression 
of entire content on her countenance. The next 
moment. Max Frere came through a door leading 
into the ball-room, and addressed her : 

*I have been looking for you. They told me 
you were downstairs.' 

* I went down for a cup of tea.' 

* So you have brought Grace Frere with you ?' 
he continued, after a pause, during which he 
seemed lost in thought. * I saw her dancing with 
Darnell.' 

' Yes ; I assure you I feel quite proud of my 
protigie. Does she not look well ?' 

' She does ' (emphatically). * Darnell seems far 
gone. I think you have managed very well.' 

*You give me too much credit. I have not 
managed at all, but they seem to like each other. 
However, as you know, that may mean everything 
or nothing.' 



220 THE FRERES. 

' Like each other/ repeated Max, heeding only 
the first part of the speech ; ' do you mean to say 
Grace likes, in the sense of loving, a fellow like 
that ? Why, he has not the capacity of an average 
groom.* 

* I do not know much about grooms,' said Lady 
Elton, * but I know young Darnell is a fair enough 
average specimen of "golden youth," and man 
enough to follow the dictates of his heart ; besides, 
young creatures like Grace generally respond to 
the first man who makes love to them.' 

* True,' muttered Max. 

*An inconvenient tendency in general, but it 
might answer in this case,' continued Lady Elton ; 
* not that I admit either has any serious thoughts 
of the other.' 

* No — very probably. Matrimony is desperately 
serious. I suppose I ought to ask Grace for a 
waltz ?' 

'Don't trouble yourself,' returned Lady Elton, 
with a slight elevation of the brow ; * she has plenty 
of cavaliers.' 

Max looked at his aunt with a half-cynical smile, 
and left her to go in search of Grace. 

The quadrille over, Darnell led his partner into 
the conservatory. 

* Sit down and rest awhile here,' he said, as they 
reached a sofa behind which a graceful figure of a 
nymph held a lamp. * There, you look like a Flora 
or one of these old goddesses yourself — 'pon my 
soul you do. Miss Frere ! there's something about 
your head * 



THE FRERES. 221 

* An old goddess ?' interrupted Grace, laughing, 
* there could not be such a thing. The immortal 
gods must have been for ever young.* 

* At any rate, you look as if you could never be 
old ; I wish you would not chaff a fellow so much. 
Just listen to me now, for I am in earnest, 
desperately.' 

* Grace, you must give me a waltz ! will you 
not?* 

Grace started quickly, and turning towards the 
voice, beheld Max Frere. 

Max — tall, svelte^ his dark keen intelligent face 
and deep glowing eyes looking darker and deeper 
than ever. His peculiar smile, half-sweet, half- 
mocking, curved his lips as he spoke ; and his voice ! 
— how it brought back to her Dungar and its lost 
happiness — the scenes of her dawning life — the 
solemn joy of her first burst into full womanhood 
— all stood out clear before her, as a scene is sud- 
denly called out of the blackness of a dark night by 
a quick bright flash of lightning ; while Darnell, red, 
rugged, hearty, devoted, was utterly forgotten. 

A waltz with Max was what she had not dreamed 
of. True or false or fickle, she would have one with 
him — just one ; and during it she would forget 
everything, save that he was all * her fancy once 
painted him,* strong and wise and noble, a little 
contemptuous to the world in general, but tender, 
impassioned, devoted to herself! Why should he 
not be all this yet ? Why should she not prove 
that she was still charming ? Her heart beat, and 
a strange icy thrill struck through her veins. 



222 THE FRERES. 

* Ah, Max ! I did not know you were here.' 

She looked at him, straight into his eyes, with a 
glance so bright and soft and candid, that some- 
thing of the old expression of deep almost greedy 
admiration came back to his face. 

* But, Miss Frere, I was just going to ask you for 
this waltz r put in Darnell, eagerly. 

* Unfortunately you did not speak in time/ re- 
turned Max, coolly, as he offered his arm to his 
cousin. * Come, Grace, we are losing precious 
minutes !' and they were soon whirling to the 
delightful music of one of GungTs waltzes. The 
first batch of supper-eaters having descended, * like 
reapers,' to a harvest of tongue, turkey, diXiApat^ de 
Strasbourg^ there was space enough to permit of 
dancing with enjoyment ; and Grace enjoyed it with 
a fulness of delight that gave perceptible though 
indefinable grace and sparkle to face and figure, 
step and carriage. 

Max danced well, but he seemed heavy compared 
to his partner. He felt the influence of her spirit, 
and looking steadily at her in the first pause of the 
dance, he said in a low voice : 

* Were I a painter, and wished to depict the Spirit 
of the Ball, I would ask you to sit — no — to dance 
to me. Why, Grace, you are like a breath of the 
fresh wild west wind, caught and imprisoned in 
muslin or gauze ; only you should not have these 
black things about you.' 

' Yes, y^s^ I ought. The west wind sometimes — 
often brings storm and showers, and other evils, or 
is compelled to bear them.' 



THE FRERES. 223 

* Where did we dance together last, Grace ?' 

'In the drawing-room, at Dungar, while my 
mother played. Ah, Max! don't remind me of 
Dungar ; let me enjoy this one evening. If you 
only knew how I long to return there !* 

* It is hard lines for you, Grace. You ought to 
have a brighter destiny ; but I fancy " the winter 
of your discontent " will not last long. Come, we 
are wasting time — another round.* 

In the next interval of rest Max was colder and 
less complimentary. 

* So you have found a berth for Randal ? perhaps 
you will make something of him.. You are just 
the sort of girl to retrieve the fortunes of the 
family.' 

* Me ! Why, what can I possibly do ? If you 
could show hoWy I would gladly do anything. Ah, 
Max, the dear mother droops in that dreary 
lodging;' and the graceful bosom heaved visibly 
with a heavy sigh. * But I will not be sad to-night. 
Yes ; Randal has been very fortunate. And was 
it not kind of Mr. Darnell to take so much trouble 
for us strangers? Do you know, he sometimes 
comes all the way out to see us ; and even plays 
draughts with Mabel, as you used.' 

* Yes ; I don't doubt he is devilish friendly !' said 
Max, with a fierce impatience that startled his 
companion. 

This sudden change in her cousin's manner she 
accounted for by supposing that he imagined there 
was a covert reproach in her allusion to his games 
with Mabel ; and as she never intended or would 



224 THE FRERES. 

have deigned to send so paltry a shaft, she hastened 
to efface the impression. 

' Oh, he has plenty of time, you know ; and is 
his own master. I suppose he has nothing better 
to do.* 

* Grace, you puzzle me a little ; I sometimes 
wonder if I quite understand you. But they will 
soon stop playing. One more turn ; I fancy it will 
be a long time before I dance with you again.' 

' Indeed 1' 

'Are you sorry?' almost tenderly. 
*I do not know,' said Grace, ^^with a sudden 
movement of distrust. 

* Well, / do.' 

He pressed her to him for an instant as he spoke. 
And once more they made a tour of the room, 
pausing near where Darnell stood, with a scowl on 
his broad, simple face, holding Grace's fan. 

* Ah, Darnell,' said Max, in his usual easy tone, 
* I shall restore my cousin to your care ; for I am 
going on to another party, and have not time to 
look for Lady Elton. Cousins need not stand on 
ceremony — eh, Grace? Good-night,' and he was 
gone. 

Gone, also, the momentary intoxication — the 
sudden dazzling gleam of pleasure. Grace was 
vaguely conscious of going down to supper, of 
having a variety of good things put on her plate, 
and its being taken away again ; of dancing with 
sundry men, who all looked distractingly alike, 
with hair parted down the middle, and buttonhole 
bouquets, who said the same sort of things; she 



It 

1 

'I 

\t 



THE FKERES. 225 

was aware of a sort of dreary satisfaction in taking 
refuge with Mr. Darnell, of a sense of infinite 
relief when Lady Elton said they must go home ; 
of still greater comfort when she took her seat in 
the dark, cool carriage. When Mr. Darnell said in 
a tone, the peculiar significance of which she did 
not notice, that he would see her the next morning, 
she only replied : * Oh yes ! I hope so ;' whereat 
L^dy Elton laughed outright. 

* Well, child ! did you enjoy the ball ?' 

* Yes, dear Lady Elton ! so much that I cannot 
talk about it ; and oh, I am so tired ! But it was 
very beautiful' 

'Something I do not understand has gone wrong,' 
thought Lady Elton, but she wisely kept silence. 

Grace came to breakfast the next morning 
looking paler and more wearied than could be 
accounted for by the moderate amount of danc- 
ing she had accomplished. Her eyes, too, were 
heavy, with a dark shade beneath them. 

* You do not look as if you had slept well, child,' 
said Lady Elton, looking at her keenly. 

* I did not,' returned Grace : * the music haunted 
me. How charming it was ! What a pity there 
was such a crowd ! I long to have a nice free dance. 
But how beautiful the dresses were !' She spoke 
easily, and plunged into a discussion of the people 
and small events of the ball, with sufficient interest 
and animation. 

Yet her hostess watched her with close but well- 
veiled scrutiny. Her quick, sympathetic perception 
detected a discordant, indefinable something under 

VOL. I. 15 



226 THE FRERES. 

the ordinary tone assumed by her young favourite; 
and though Grace was candour itself, Lady Elton 
had already observed that when she chose to drop 
a veil over her heart, it was not to be lifted. 

* What became of Max Frere ?' asked Lady 
Elton, suddenly. * He went away to look for you, 
and I saw no more of him/ 

* He went to another party, but I had a very 
good waltz with him first,' replied Grace, quietly, 
while she stooped to pick up her napkin, which had 
fallen. 

* He dances well, I believe ; indeed, he does most 
things well. And sometimes I like him very much, 
but, at times I do not. What is it about him that 
repels one ?* 

* I do not know. We all liked him at Dungar.' 

* And do you like him in London ?' 

* We do not see enough of him here to know,' 
returned Grace; and added, with a smile, * Every- 
thing is different here, so it is well to leave Dungar 
likings at Dungar.' 

* Very sensible. Quite right,' said Lady Elton ; 
and taking up a morning paper, she read aloud a 
short crisp leader on the prospects of the French 
Republic. Grace listened attentively, as she 
proved by some remarks, and then Lady Elton said : 

* I am obliged to go out this morning, dear; but 
I shall return to luncheon, and drive you home 
after ' 

* Then you do not want me to go out with you 
now ?' asked Grace, smiling. 

*No,' replied Lady Elton, looking sharply at 



THE FRERES. 227 

her. * It is a secret expedition ; besides ' she 

hesitated, and closed her lips, as if to suppress 
unspoken words. 

* Oh, I do not mind, dear Lady Elton. It is 
always delightful to me to sit in your beautiful 
room and read/ 

* Very well. Why, Grace,' looking at the clock, 
* it is twenty minutes to eleven, and I have to go 
to Islington, an unexplored northern region, of 
which you are entirely ignorant. You will find all 
the magazines in my morning-room ; so au revoir' 
Lady Elton rose and went to dress. Grace sauntered 
into the study, and to the balcony, whence she re- 
turned, and throwing herself into a luxurious chaise 
loiigue^ took up one of the more learned periodicals, 
and tried to read a paper on * Tree and Serpent 
Worship.' Presently Lady Elton looked in, with 
her bonnet and lace cloak on : * I am going, but 
shall not be long.' 

Grace blew her a kiss, and then settled herself 
to think. All was still — not silent — for an under- 
current of tone, the roar of the everlasting ebb 
and flow of London's mighty human tide, stirred 
the air ; but it was subdued and soothing. 

Grace had certainly not slept well. She had 
fought a good fight in the silent night-watches. 
She had understood Max, when after his slight, 
seemingly irrepressible betrayal of tenderness, he 
had handed her over to another, rather than curtail 
by five minutes the time he intended for a fresh 
scene of pleasure, and probably for Lady Mary. 
She must never delude herself again; Max Frere 

IS— 2 



228 THE FRERES. 

was possessed of some talisman, against which her 
simple charms were powerless. She must put him 
away out of her life — away back with other sweet 
and precious things for memory to embalm, but 
which could breathe, and move, and live again — 
never more. She did not feel angry, or indignant, 
or disdainful ; only utterly disenchanted, as though 
a strong light had been held against some dis^ 
solving view, and shown the meagre crooked lines, 
the paltry ugliness, which lurked beneath the grace 
and beauty of the ostensible picture. She was not 
bitter : reasons of which she knew nothing might 
influence Max. But be they what they might, lie 
must from henceforth cease to exist for her. Love 
— sweet, sunny, youthful love — had fled from her ; 
she could not conceive its ever springing to life 
again. But she had her home dear ones to think 
of, and care for ; she would live for them, work for 
them, be their guardian, and 

* If you please, 'm, would you see Mr. Darnell ?' 
said the pliant Luigi, who had entered unperceived, 
and now offered a card upon a salver. 

*Mr. Darnell!' said Grace, a little bewildered. 
* Does he know Lady Elton is out ?' 

* He does, but asked if mademoiselle would 
receive ' 

* Oh yes, of course,' she returned. 

And thereupon enter Darnell, in most accurate 
morning costume, with a moss-rose in his button- 
hole. He looked exceedingly uncomfortable, and 
grasped the hand offered him by Grace, with pain- 
ful energy. 



THE FKERES. 229 

' I am sorry Lady Elton is out/ said Grace with 
much composure, and motioning him to sit down, 
while she took her place on a sofa. 

* Oh — Lady Elton ! I did not want to see her — a 
— I hope you are all right after the ball, Miss Frere ?' 

* Quite well, thank you. It was very nice. I 
never saw anything so beautiful before.' 

* You will see many a better one, I daresay,' said 
Darnell, recovering himself a little. * But do you 
know. Miss Frere, you are not looking all right by 
any means. I suppose it is rather cool to tell you 
so ; but — but — I care too much not to say what I 
think.' 

* Then do not care so much, and say pretty 
things !' cried Grace, laughing, and a little puzzled 
by his tone. 

* I can't help it, you see,' returned Darnell ; and 
a pause ensued, during which he rapped his teeth 
reflectively with the top of his cane. * Don't you 
think Max Frere an intrusive duffer ?' he exclaimed 
at last, * coming after us in that way into the con- 
servatory V 

* No, I do not ; he wanted to dance with me, and 
he dances very well' 

* But,' cried Darnell, drawing closer to her, with a 
certain desperate resolve in his air, * / wanted to 
say something very particular to you — very par- 
ticular indeed.' 

*Did you?' said Grace, alarmed, a faint light 
beginning to dawn upon her, and suggesting the 
prudence of running away. 

*Yes, indeed I did — something very important 



230 THE FRERES. 

to myself, at any rate ; and I fancy, Miss Frere, 
you know what it is. You must see — ^you must 
understand that I — that I— have formed a very 
great attachment to you — in short, am over head 
and ears in love — there ! it is quite a relief to get it 
off my mind.' 

An appalling silence. Grace looked gravely at 
him out of her great serious eyes, her clasped hands 
falling in her lap with a despairing gesture. 

*I wish you would say something,* urged poor 
Darnell. *You see I am quite my own master, 
and whatever my uncle may think, he cannot take 
away my share of the business ; and that's not bad. 
Besides, at his age, it is not likely he would alter his 
will, though he does want me to marry money or rank. 
/ don't care the snuff of a candle, if you don't.' 

Grace, a little dazed by the suddenness of this 
speech,. and also puzzled by its incoherent rapidity, 
did not at once reply. 

* Do speak to me,' repeated Darnell, imploringly. 
*But I don't know what to say,' she returned, 

taking the first words that came ; ' I am so 
astonished !' 

* Come now,' cried Darnell, who having broken 
the ice, was braver than he had himself anticipated. 
* You don't mean to say you did not see I intended 
to propose for you ?' 

*I saw nothing of the kind. I never thought 
about it.' 

*Then you don't care a straw for me, or you 
would !' said he, in a tone of mortification which 
touched her. 



THE FRERES. 231 

* Indeed I do ! I like you very much. We all 
like you ; and it is very good of you to care for me ' — 
the colour began to rise in her cheek — '' very, very 
good ; but — Mr. Darnell, I don't think I am at all 
in love with you.' 

* Oh ! if you are not sure about it, it's not so bad. 
I protest I have love enough for two, if you'll only 
venture ; that is, try me — ^you know what I mean.' 

*Ah, Mr. Darnell, there is no "trying" in 
marriage — it is for always ; and how can you wish 
to marry a person you know so little about ? I 
might not be a bit what you would like when you 
know me better ' 

* Nonsense !' cried Darnell ; * I never loved any- 
one before — I mean so much. I have never been 
able to get you out of my head since the day I 
met you in the Park ; yet I have always been so 
ashamed of having spoken to you ' 

* Oh, indeed !' Grace tried to interrupt him, but 
he rushed on with his self-imposed exculpation : 

* I am quite sure it gave you a wrong impression 
of me. You think I am fast, and I can tell you I 
am a saint compared to other fellows : your 
cousin Max Frere, for instance. If I had a home 
and a wife I loved, you'd see how I would stick to 
it. It's hard lines if all the comfort and style I 
could give her, can't get me the woman I want.' 

The thought was vulgar, but the emotion which 
made his voice husky was real. 

* Indeed, I am sure you are good and nice/ 
cried Grace, greatly touched, and giving him her 
hand with friendly frankness. * It grieves me to — 



232 THE FRERES. 

to pain you, but I must tell you the truth. Besides, 
with my deai mother, and Mab, and Randal too, 
to take care of, I do not see how I could marry 
anyone.' 

* Oh, for that matter,' said Darnell, holding her 
hand tight in both of his, * your brother is in a fair 
way to get on ; and — and as you are not as rich as 
you ought to be, perhaps Mrs. Frere will do better 
with one less on her hands.' 

* My mother do better without me ? That is all 
you know. Pray, let my hand go ; you hurt me.' 

* I tell you what, Miss Frere,' exclaimed Darnell, 
brightening, for he had been terribly cast down by 
this persistent refusal, * just take time, and think 
about it ; that is, if — if there isn't any other fellow. 
Oh, Miss Frere, don't say you care about any other 
fellow !' 

* No !' said Grace, firmly, though she turned a 
little pale, and she believed she spoke truth, so dis- 
enchanted had she felt that morning. 

* That's right. Now I won't give up hope. So 
you'll promise me to think about it — eh, Miss 
Frere? A young lady is none the worse for 
knowing her own value. But remember, I do not 
take " no " for an answer this time.' 

* I think you had better, Mr. Darnell. I am quite 
sure it would be better for me not to marry, and * 

Now don't. Miss Frere — don't. You take time 
to consider. Talk to Lady Elton, she is a good 
friend of mine. Let me come and see you now and 
then, and — and you will find I am not such a bad 
fellow.' 



THE PRE RES. 233 

* Very well/ returned Grace, incautiously growing 
anxious to get rid of him. ' But I don't think it 
will be any use ; and then, perhaps 7<?2^ may think 
better of it too/ 

This was added with a sweet arch smile, and 
little friendly nod which seemed to poor Darnell 
distractingly charming, but which to a more ex- 
perienced man would have been infinitely dis- 
couraging. 

' I suppose I ought to go,' said Darnell, with a 
longing look at his inamorata. 

* Yes, I think so/ returned Grace, with terrible 
frankness. 

* You are very cruel. Miss Frere.' 

* Oh, don't talk in that way, Mr. Darnell ; let us 
be friends, at all events.' 

' Certainly ! till — till we are something else/ 
exclaimed Darnell, quite proud of this happy hit. 

* Good-morning/ said Grace, rising. 

* Good-morning. Do you return to Albert 
Crescent to-day ?' 

'Yes/ 

* May I come and see you to-morrow ?' 

* No, no ; the day after, if you like/ 

* If I like ! Well, good-bye for the present.' 

At last she was rid of him ; and strange to say, 
for the half-hour that intervened before Lady 
Elton's return, she scarce gave him a thought. 
She sat as in a dream, and lived over again her 
whole life— her childish days in France, her early 
girlhood in Ireland ; she thought deeply of their 
position in London, of their gloomy future, of how 



234 THE FRERES. 

they were to exist on an income which, even in 
their present narrow mode of life, was decidedly 
deficient ; of Mab's extraordinary ignorance, of the 
necessity of doing more for that child than she 
had hitherto done. 

In the midst of these sweet and bitter reflections, 
Lady Elton returned ; and then they were sum- 
moned to an early luncheon, as Grace was anxious 
to return home. 

Lady Elton was unusually silent during the repast, 
occasionally looking at Grace with inquiring eyes. 

When Luigi had placed the sweets before his 
mistress and departed, Grace began, with much 
composure : 

*Mr. Darnell called while you were out. Lady 
Elton.' 

* Yes ; and what then ?' 

* Well, you will hardly believe it — he asked me 
to marry him !' 

* Yes, I quite believe it ; I have expected this 
Maircissement^ 

* Have you ?' cried Grace, opening her eyes. 
* You know everything.* 

* I certainly know more than you do ; but Grace, 
I cannot believe that you would have been so blind 
to what was coming if your heart had not been 
filled with a dominant feeling for another.* 

Grace blushed crimson, and her brows contracted. 

* There,* continued Lady Elton, * I do not want 
to force any confidence ; but of this I am certain, 
that a better and more disinterested offer could not 
be made to any girl. Pray what was your answer?* 



THE FRERES. 235 

* I told him I did not love him, and did not want 
to marry anyone/ 

*That would be all right enough if you were 
independent. But how d6 you propose to solve 
the problem of existence? Why, child, it is the 
choice, not only between btead and water and patd 
de Pdrigord, but between the sordidness of miser- 
able shabby everyday penury, and the ease and 
refinement and beauty which wealth can purchase ! 
Poverty grows more and more of an evil as the 
world advances.' 

* For all that, I do not think I could marry Mr. 
Darnell' 

* Tell me how you parted,' said Lady Elton, as if 
forcing herself to be patient. 

* Oh ! we agreed to be very good friends, and I 
promised to think it over — not that it will be much 
use — and he said he would come and see us.' 

* Ah, that is not so bad ! Of course, Grace, igno- 
rant as you are of the world, you must be aware that 
you have committed yourself to a good deal.' 

' Have I ?' cried Grace, alarmed. * At any rate, I 
have not promised to marry him !' 

* No — but you ' Lady Elton checked herself ; 

second thoughts are best. Perhaps it would be wiser 
to let her young favourite drift unconsciously to the 
consummation for which she so devoutly wished. 

* You see I was sorry for him. He is so kind, 
and seemed so cut up, that I would have said nearly 
anything to comfort him ; but I told him it was 
no use.' 

* " She who deliberates is lost," ' quoted Lady 



236 THE FRERES. 

Elton, with a smile. * Believe me, Darnell could 
pick and choose in many very good families/ 

* Then it was very stupid of him to want me, of 

whom he knows so little.' 

* " Curious fool, be still ! 
Is human love the growth of human will ?*' ' 

returned Lady Elton, laughing. * Your mother will 
be quite interested in your first conquest' 

*0h, dear Lady Elton/ cried Grace, earnestly, 
* do not say anything to her ; she cannot help 
talking, and then Mab gets to know everything. 
We never have such a thing as a secret among us, 
and Mab would ask the most dreadful questions.* 

* I think you might trust your mother in this, 
Grace, and I think you must. This is a very 
serious matter. You cannot keep poor Darnell in 
uncertainty on so vital a question.' 

' I do not wish to do so,' replied Grace, in a low 
but resolute voice. * I wanted him to accept my 
decision to-day.' 

* Well, well ! do not let us quarrel, dear ; though 
I confess I am greatly in favour of your accepting 
so excellent an offer, and indeed everyone would 
think with me. Max Frere was saying to me only 
last night, how nice it would be if you married 
Darnell, or something to that effect' 

* Max !' escaped from Grace's lips unconsciously, 
as she remembered how suddenly he had consigned 
her to Darnell's care, and left her the night before ; 
but she forced herself to say meditatively, in a tone 
that Lady Elton quite misunderstood, *Yes, I 
suppose it would be a very good marriage.' 




CHAPTER XIII. 



gj^N the matter of mental values there is no 
standard. Each has his own weights 
and measures, by which, had he the 
choice, his neighbour would no doubt 
decline to be tried. 

Thus Grace Frere, unmoved herself by the 
feelings which agitated Darnell, preoccupied and 
heedless, forgot that he considered himself on 
trial, and imagined that little occasional displays 
of indifference [when she remembered to show 
them) would suffice to warn him of her intentions. 

The days slipped past, not too agreeably. As 
the small supply of ready-cash sank lower and 
lower, Mrs, Frere's cheerfulness kept at a corres- 
ponding level ; while Randal's first sunny view of 
mercantile pursuits was frequently clouded over 
by the ' crotchets of that fellow Brown, the 
manager,' about his writing. It took Grace and 
Jimmy Byrne infinite trouble, and an enormous 
exercise of tact, to induce him to practise his pen.- 



238 THE FRERES. 

manship, in order to acquire something like legi- 
bility and a clerkly hand. 

Meanwhile, Mab's education troubled Grace 
terribly. She felt that the child was running to seed 
for want of a little culture, which, so far as she 
could, she was most anxious to impart. But to get 
Mab to * say lessons ' was indeed an herculean labour : 
first to make her sit down, then to induce her to 
learn ' Grace's way ' — which was never her own — 
to make a subject clear to a mind determined not 
to receive it — all this was a sore trial of patience ; 
but when to it was added the visible nervous 
annoyance of the mother — visible though un- 
expressed — and gradually accumulating during 
the lesson, till utterance cotild no longer be re- 
strained : 

* Don't you think, dear Grace, that will do for 
to-day ? Mabel seems to me a little feverish, and 
I fear you have not quite the knack of fixing 
attention.'- 

Mab's education was, perhaps, the only point on 
which Mrs. Frere doubted her eldest daughter's 
infallibility. 

When at the last Mrs. Frere * spake with her 
tongue,' poor Grace would give up in despair ; and 
often, it must be admitted, threw the books, maps, 
and slate together with more violence and impa- 
tience than is becoming in a heroine : but human 
nature is very imperfect, and Mab could be mad- 
dening. Yet she was a curious mixture. One day 
— a warm, oppressive June day — when Grace had 
striven to be more than unusually patient and ex- 



THE PRE RES. 239 

planatory, while Mab had brought up a huge 
reserve force of wilfulness and impenetrability to 
resist the attack, Grace's self-control had suddenly 
broken down under the pressure of great provoca- 
tion, and she had administered sundry sharp slaps 
on the little contemptuous shoulders so expressively 
uplifted — chastisement no sooner administered 
than heartijy repented of. * She is such a little 
thing, and so backward, I ought not to have touched 
her ; for I know it only makes her worse,' thought 
Grace, hastily putting away the books and copies, 
which were strewn on the table. Then she stole 
upstairs to her own little room, and sitting by the 
dressing-table, indulged in a rare fit of crying. 

She had had more than one trial that morning. 
Randal had reproached her before he started for 
forcing him into that 'cursed treadmill* of an 
office, which produced nothing, and would pro- 
bably lead to nothing, but the cost of omnibuses to 
and fro. 

* Why don't you urge Darnell to get me some- 
thing better ? He would do it you know, only for 
your confounded pride !' 

Some words had fallen from Mrs. Frere which 
startled her daughter into the knowledge that 
she in some vague way counted on her (Grace's) 
marriage to restore the family fortunes ; and with 
the knowledge came the fear that she had, through 
a sort of indolent thoughtlessness, been deceiving 
every one; that she must rouse herself, and act 
honestly and boldly. As she pondered these things, 
her thoughts were sad enough ; but Max had no 



240 THE FRERES. 

share in them. Her warm deep family affection 
was a spring of wholesome strength. Chiefly she 
wished she could marry Darnell ; and then she 
tried to think what real benefit this marriage would 
bring to her dear ones. She could not see that it 
would do much. How could her mother and Mab 
live on a stranger's bounty ? and how could they 
live at ^//without her ? Then all her novel-reading 
tended to prove that such marriages seldom turned 
out as they promised. Nor would it be fair to Mr. 
Darnell. And at eighteen, how could she condemn 
herself to an uncongenial life away from the beloved, 
helpless mother, and Mab ? — dear, provoking, incor- 
rigible Mab, whom from the bottom of her heart 
she loved — slaps notwithstanding. 

Her tears were falling fast over a picture con- 
jured up by her imagination of mother and Mab 
alone in a little house, with no one to cheer the 
former and suggest pleasant thoughts to her, or 
even save her from the attacks of the latter, whose 
troublesome moods were not to be averted, when 
the door was pushed open, and a small figure, with 
very much-disordered hair, stole into the room, and 
crept up to where her sister sat. 

' Gracie dear ! Why are you crying, Gracie ?* 
The next instant she was on her sister's knee, 
and clasped in her arms, while her own hot, grubby 
little hands were reaching round her neck. 

* I am tired, dear, and — and — I am sorry I 
slapped you, darling ; but oh, Mab, you are pro- 
voking 1' 

* Yes, I know ; but, Gracie dear, I cannot help it. 



THE FRERES. 241 

though I love you. You don't think I do, but I 
do.' A storm of kisses. * Why do you try and 
teach me, Grace? It is not one bit of use. I can't 
learn. What is the good of it ? It only makes me 
ever so hot and uncomfortable, and you so cross ! 
Perhaps I may like lessons when I am older, but I 
can tell you I shall not learn them till I do.' 

* But Mab, you would not wish to be like a street 
child that has no one to teach it anything ?^ 

* I shouldn't mind,' returned Mab, with much 
candour. 

* I assure you, you will be ashamed one day, 
Mab.' 

* It is a long way off/ said Mab, philosophically. 
*You would be such a nice dear Gracie, if you 
didn't bother about lessons. Perhaps when it is 
cooler I might learn a little; but I tell you what' — 
with an air of making a great concession — * I will 
listen if you like to read to me, for MissTimbs has 
given me a piece of flannel to make a petticoat for 
my big doll, and you can help now and then.' 

* Why not draw, dearest, instead ? You like 
drawing ?' 

* Yes ; but my doll wants a flannel petticoat, 
and — oh, I forgot ! I was to tell you that Mr. 
Darnell is downstairs.' 

* Well, I cannot see him, Mab ; I have a dreadful 
headache. Say,' — and she rose, putting Mab aside, 
and throwing herself on her bed — *say I am lying 
down, and cannot speak to anyone.' 

Mab nodded, and was trotting off, when Grace 
called her back : 

VOL. I. 16 



242 THE FRERES. 

* And you ^35? love me, Mab ?' 

* Yes, \ do? A long, sweet, loving kiss. 

Grace lay still, consoled with the delightful con- 
sciousness of complete reconciliation, and resolved 
to enjoy the rest she needed. ' 

Consequently, Darnell was fain to content him- 
self with a somewhat jerky conversation with Mrs. 
Frere, and felt very much put out and irritated by 
Grace's obstinate refusal to appear. He had 
grown so accustomed to find her always kindly, 
good-humoured, easy, that he began to look upon 
her as his own property — ^virtually, though tacitly, 
engaged to him. It was impossible, after a fort- 
night of constant friendly intercourse, that she did 
not intend to marry him. He had even accepted 
some chaff from a friend or two, who had noticed 
his devoted attentions at the ball, with a self- 
satisfied conscious smirk. 

He tried to convey to Mrs. Frere that he felt 
somewhat injured, and succeeded in making her 
very uncomfortable ; then he started off to pour 
his troubles into Lady Elton's sympathetic ear, for 
he had taken her into his confidence at an early 
stage of the affair, and justly considered her his 
strongest /^/«/ (Tappui^ 

Lady Elton was sincerely anxious to bring about 
a marriage which she considered so advantageous 
for Grace. Her ladyship's view of that sacred 
connection was not exalted. 

* We make a terrible mistake,' she was wont to 
say to those with whom she dared to air her 
opinions, * in striving to mix up love and marriage. 



THE FRERES. 243 

The French are really much more sensible. If 
people would but recognise that love — real love — 
is a state of exaltation, like the inspiration of a 
grand poem, or a masterpiece of art, which must 
burn itself out, and which lasts only in proportion 
to the degree of friendship it is capable of evolving I 
Very few need this, or can give it ; and most have 
home affections — a sense of duty, of interest, of 
self-respect.- These, and the absence of temptation,, 
make by far the larger proportion of family-life 
pure ; but in France there are compensating friend- 
ships, and sympathetic affinities, which we dare not 
permit in England : our animalism is too strong. 
We have no notion of love that can be satisfied 
with a milk diet, of mutual comprehension, of" 
mutual interest, and occasional meetings of friend-^ 
ship dashed with the salt of imaginative tenderness 
— a delicate happiness of which the commonplace 
necessities of every-day married life are utterly 
destructive.' 

To which exposition, or something like it, where- 
with, in one of their many conversations, Lady 
Elton favoured Grace, that young lady replied 
rather bluntly : 

* I cannot believe the generality of people are so 
worthless that a little trouble and worry about 
common things will wear out their affections. I 
am sure we have had all sorts of trouble since dear 
grandpapa died, and I believe we are twice as fond 
of each other.' 

* You ! yes ; but that is not being in love t 
Child, unless they are exceptional characters, men 

16 — 2 



244 THE FRERES. 

almost always behave worst and most falsely to the 
women they love — yes, really love !' 

' What is the use of living if one believes such 
things ?' cried Grace, passionately. 

* I am a wretch to talk this treason to you !* said 
Lady Elton, tenderly. * And very silly, too, for I 
only make you uncomfortable, and do not convince 
you one bit* 

With these opinions deeply and bitterly im- 
pressed upon her warm, impassioned, but strongly 
suppressed nature. Lady Elton was an ardent advo- 
cate of Darnell, and to her he now confided his griefs. 

He found her carriage at the door, and herself 
prepared for a round of visits. After excusing 
himself for his intrusion, and being encouraged to 
proceed, he broke out with : 

'Don't you think it deuced strange that Miss 
Frere would not see me ?' 

* Was she at home ?' 

* Of course she was. She had a headache, they 
said, and was lying down.' 

* Well, I think that is quite explanation enough. 
You could not expect her to come down and 
receive you when she was suffering !' 

* Oh, she wasn't so bad ! She had been teaching 
that imp of a sister of hers — such a sharp little 
beggar as it is ; she makes me die of laughing 
sometimes — and it looked as if she wanted to shirk 
seeing me. I think, considering the terms we are 
on, she might have seen me. I would get out of 
my coffin if she asked for me.' 

* You are a preux chevalier^ Mr. Darnell/ said 



THE FRERES. 245 

Lady Elton, with a flattering smile ; * but a young 
lady's view of things is rather different. You know 
I never misled you with any idea of her being in 
love with you ; she is so young and inexperienced, 
she does not know what love is : but I quite believe 
she is to be won. And it is not given to every man 
to have the first of his wife's heart. But you really 
must have a little more patience ; do not startle 
the game. Let her glide into liking you * 

* She is a long time about it !' growled Darnell. 

* Long, my dear Mr. Darnell ! Why, it is only a 
fortnight since the ball. Come, now, be guided 
by me.* 

* Yes, but it is rather hard to be hanging on like 
this, not knowing how matters are going. I say,. 
Lady Elton, I am so uncertain and miserable, I 
declare to heaven I will go straight out to-morrow 
and ask her to make up her mind — if she will take 
me or leave me !' 

* Do not !' cried Lady Elton. * There are half-a« 
dozen good reasons why it would be better to wait. 
It is so difficult even to see her alone in that miser- 
able lodging of theirs. She shall come here next 
Saturday and stay till Monday. Come in oa 
Sunday morning, and settle everything with her.' 

'Settle everything!' repeated Darnell, turning 
red and radiant. ' Do you think there is a good- 
chance for me then ?' 

* I believe,' said Lady Elton, oracularly, * Grace 
Frere likes you better than she thinks.' 

She rose as she spoke, which movement Darnell 
accepted as a dismissal. 



246 THE FRERES. 

* Ah, Lady Elton !' he exclaimed, * you under- 
stand everyone and everything ; and I am sure I 
can never forget your kindness and sympathy. I feel 
as if I shall owe all the happiness of my life to you !' 

He shook hands warmly and departed. 

* I hope he may owe me his happiness,' thought 
Lady Elton, looking after him. *I must speak 
seriously to Grace ; it is too bad to keep the poor 
fellow on the stretch, in a state of uncertainty on a 
question of such vital importance to him. What 
an odd mixture of romance and common sense, 
strength and weakness, that girl is ! She is open as 
daylight in most matters ; but she can also be 
silent — and her silence respecting Max Frere is a 

1 ittle suspicious. Now Max Frere's self is a very 
* * Moloch " — a devouring demon ! The more a wife 
oved him, the more miserable he would make her. 
No good woman would ever influence him !' 

Her visits over. Lady Elton drove to Camden 
Hill, and found the party sitting down to tea: 
<jrace considerably better, and busily employed 
cutting brown bread-and-butter; Randal, somewhat 
gloomy, sitting apart and reading one of the weekly 
papers, chiefly remarkable for its bitter libels, 
clothed in the language of philosophic impartiality. 

All brightened at the appearance of their * guide, 
philosopher, and friend,' who sat down with them, 
and exerted her power of amusing and cheering 
with no small effect. She mentioned Darnell's 
visit and report of Grace's headache, but in a 
pleasant, piquant fashion (she had some days since 
taken Mrs. Frere into her confidence, and found a 



THE FRERES. 247 

hearty ally in that lady). She drew Randal into 
conversation, and her appreciative remarks and 
replies chased the gloom from his brow ; and she 
ended by making Grace promise to dine and sleep 
at her house on the next day but one, which would 
be Saturday. 

* I wonder if there is anyone else in the world 
who would take all this trouble for people without 
a claim, without a blood-tie ?' began Grace, warmly 
embracing Lady Elton as she accompanied her to 
the door. 

* I am sure I cannot tell,' interrupted the latter, 
smiling, * nor can I account for the attraction you 
have exercised over me. You provoking puss ! to 
help you in any way is a pleasure to me. If you 
wish to show me gratitude, accept my guidance.' 

* I am sure I do, dear Lady Elton T 

* I hope and expect you will, but I am not sure' 
A hearty kiss, and she was gone. 

The ensuing Saturday Lady Elton's reception 
was particularly successful. The literary and 
artistic world was well represented ; the fashion- 
ables were not so numerous. There was a good deal 
of music, music of no mean order ; and Grace was 
charmed to listen to some very brilliant conversa- 
tion, which gave a fresh impetus to the current of 
her ideas. 

The faithful Darnell, of course, came early, and 
Grace received him so kindly, and expressed her 
regret at not having been able to see him when he 
last called, with such friendly frankness, that the 



248 THE FRERES. 

worthy young citizen was immensely comforted 
and encouraged. 

'I think it is all right/ he whispered to Lady 
Elton, as the guests were departing. *What a 
brick of a girl she is ! Til just tell her I will look 
in to-morrow, before I go/ 

* No, Mr. Darnell ! take my advice, say nothing 
about it Come in by all means, but take her by 
surprise. You will then see her real feelings.' 

Darnell, reduced to silence by the glowing antici- 
pations thus suggested, squeezed the speaker's hand, 
and, after a confused good-night to Grace, departed. 

It was a splendid night. The day had been at 
once blazing and sultry — a foretaste of July, now 
close at hand ; but at night-fall came a sudden 
heavy shower, and then a faint breeze had sprung 
up. It now came in at the window of the study, 
bringing with it the perfume of the mignonette and 
heliotrope with which the balcony was filled. 

* Take away the lights, Luigi/ said Lady Elton, 
sinking back in a low easy-chair, when the com- 
pany were all gone. * It is only twelve, Grace I 
Let us sit and talk awhile in this lovely light ; the 
air, too, is delicious/ 

* Yes ! it would be a sin to go to bed without en- 
joying it/ 

There was a pause. Grace had drawn a small 
ottoman to the window, and placed herself where 
the moonlight fell upon her graceful throat and 
head. Lady Elton's eyes rested on her with kindly 
admiration. 

* What a strange notion it seems/ began Grace, 



THE FRERES. 249 

meditatively. * I mean what that gentleman with 
the long grey beard said to-night, that all society, 
and institutions, and laws, and everything originated 
in the mutual attraction of male and female for 
each other ; do you believe it ?* 

* Yes, with considerable reservations/ 

'Who is he, Lady Elton? He seems to have 
studied and to understand everything.' 

* He is a Professor Vanhooten, an American ; a 
very clever fellow certainly, with remarkable faith 
in himself, if in nothing else/ 

'What heaps of things there are that I never 
dreamt of, to know and to learn !' 

* I wish to heaven, child, you would learn to know 
your own mind !' said Lady Elton, with sudden 
animation. 

Grace looked at her in great surprise. 
' Do you not see/ resumed her friend, * that you 
are treating Mr. Darnell abominably ?' 
' No, I do not !' returned Grace, stoutly. 

* Why, child ! you let him haunt you, spend his 
days with you, load you with favours, consider 
himself sure of you ; and yet I believe you have 
not decided to accept him. But if you do not, you 
will behave very ill.' 

* You surely exaggerate things. Lady Elton/ said 
Grace, dismayed, and turning pale. * I told him we 
should be glad to see him if he liked to come, but 
that I did not think it would be any use/ 

'Well, of course letting him come at all was 
decided encouragement. If you felt you could not 
marry him, why not refuse at once ?' 



250 THE FRERES. 

' Because he would not let me. But if it was so 
likely to deceive him, why did you not warn me ?* 

* Why !* began Lady Elton, with an unusual ex- 
pression of anger, but checked herself, and resumed 
in a carefully modulated voice, * because I credited 
you with more common-sense, and superiority to 
sentimental rubbish, than to suppose you did not 
finally intend to accept him. Dearest Grace ! just 
look at your position — your mother's — Mab's. 
What a deliverance such a marriage would be ! 
What a friend to gain for Randal ! If I thought 
you had any prior attachment, I would not urge 
you so strongly. But really, Darnell is by no 
means a bad looking young man, and it will be no 
sacrifice of youth to age. You will mould him to 
what you like. You may collect a charming circle 
round you, and show that stiff, contemptuous uncle 
of yours there is that in you which he cannot keep 
in obscurity. Then your dear mother ! her heart 
is set on this marriage. You surely would not 
deprive her of the only gleam of light that can 
give brightness to her declining years.' 

* Don't, Lady Elton — don't !' cried Grace, covering 
her face with her hands. 

The pain expressed in her voice startled her 
companion, who was silent for a few moments, and 
then resumed : 

* To say nothing of the cruelty and injustice to 
poor Darnell, who loves you most truly, or he 
would not set his heart on such a disadvantageous 
match.' 

* I do not see that it is disadvantageous,' cried 



THE F RE RES. 251 

Grace, looking up straight into the speaker's eyes. 

* I am as well, and better born than he is, as well 
nurtured, as well educated ; and if I have no money, 
he has plenty. I don't see that he makes any 
sacrifice.' 

' Society would take a different view of it,' said 
Lady Elton. 

* Oh ! I don't care about that, or anything else 
on my own account,' cried Grace, in deep distress. 

* I want to do what is best and right, and I don't 
want to grieve Mr. Darnell either. I like him 
very well in a way, but to marry him ! Oh, Lady 
Elton, I don't think if we were married he would 
care much for my mother, and I think he could be 
rough and cross. I cannot feel to trust him. I 
believe I could sooner make up my mind to marry 
that man with the grey beard and the queer 
notions. I could listen to him talking all day, but 
Mr. Darnell is — very stupid.' 

* My dear Grace, husbands are rarely amusing ; 
and if they were, wives would not think so. All 
these ideas about sympathy and companionship 
are far-fetched, and nearly impossible.' 

* But you said the other day that nothing was so 
delightful as the sympathetic companionship of an 
accomplished man. Does marriage destroy sym- 
pathy ?' 

* Very often ; but gives solid compensations.* 
For nearly another hour did Lady Elton set 

forth the merits of Darnell, the delights of the 
position within Grace's grasp, the duty she owed 
to her family, the hundred and one advantages to 



252 THE FRERES. 

be gained by such a marriage, till she began to 
produce an effect upon her listener. 

Grace's affection for Lady Elton was warm, her 
faith in her friend's wisdom and rectitude unbounded. 

Perhaps she was selfish in thus rejecting the good 
fortune offered her ; perhaps her instinctive half- 
distrust of Mr. Darnell was a stupid prejudice; 
perhaps Lady Elton was right, and the more she 
knew him and got used to him, the better she 
would like him. 

* I see you are the sensible girl I always believed 
you were,' said Lady Elton at length, rising, and 
striking a match to light her bedroom candle. 
* Reflect upon all I have said, and do not insult an 
honest man who loves you, by throwing him over 
after exhibiting him as yoMX fianci^ 

' But I did not !' 

* Everyone in the room to-night considered him 
engaged to you. Believe me, when you have 
accepted him, you will be much happier. Now, 
Grace, before we separate for the night, promise 
me you will not refuse.' 

* I will think about it, dearest, kindest Lady 
Elton ! and — and — I believe I ought to marry him !' 

* Enough !* cried Lady Elton, enchanted. * You 
are not the girl to shrink from doing what you 
ought Good-night — God bless you !' 

* Now,' she thought, as Grace, her long eyelashes 
heavy with unshed tears, left her, * let Darnell 
strike upon this half-melted metal to-morrow, and 
what between surprise and preparation, it will be 
an accomplished fact. I think — I am sure I am 



THE FRERES. 253 

doing right : it would be madness to miss such a 
chance.' 

Grace lay long awake, while her lively imagina- 
tion depicted in the most gloomy colours the 
future, take which road she might through its 
threatening shadows. If she rejected what Lady 
Elton represented as fair fortune for her dear ones 
and herself, what a weight would be upon her con- 
science; to what just reproaches would she not 
leave herself open — self-reproaches, too — the bitter- 
est of all ! And if she accepted Darnell, to what 
life-long loneliness — or worse, irritating accompani- 
ment, not companionship — she would condemn her- 
self ; isolated in spirit, yet never free ; separated 
perhaps from those she loved by a dozen invisible 
barriers ! Oh, better a thousand times work with 
them — struggle, starve, unfettered by claims and 
duties she could never fulfil ! Then her distrust of 
Darnell suggested gruesome visions of possible 
unkindness and estrangement ; and so in the short 
darkness of the summer night her fancy piled up 
images of woe, till she sobbed herself to sleep. 

* Do you want particularly to go to church this 
morning, Grace?' asked Lady Elton, after their 
late breakfast the next morning. She had avoided 
all allusion to their conversation of the night before, 
but watching her young friend narrowly, thought 
she traced symptoms of a mental conflict. 

' No. There is scarcely time, and I can go this 
evening with my mother and Mab.' 

*Very well! as I have some letters to write. 



254 THE FRERES. 

rather difficult letters, I shall write in my own 
special room, and leave you in the company I 
know you like. There are some excellent papers 
in the Westminster Review. And, dear child ! I 
do not wish to force your confidence in any way, 
but have you thought of all I said last night ?' 

* I have/ returned Grace, with a low sigh. 
'And do you not think I am right?' 

* I believe you are,' 

* Then you will act accordingly ?' 
' Yes — if Mr. Darnell persists.' 

* Which of course he will. I feel sure, then, of 
your future ; it will be free from the carking cares 
of poverty which degrade and debase.' 

* They need not,' said Grace ; but Lady Elton did 
not stop to listen : she swept quickly from the room, 
and Grace somewhat listlessly took up a Review, 

Meantime Lady Elton seated herself at her 
writing-table, and set forth pen and paper. Yet 
her letter did not progress ; she seemed a little on 
the watch, slightly restless. 

At length Luigi entered : 

* Mr. Darnell, miladi.' 

* Ah, where have you put him ?' 

* He is in the study, miladi, with Miss Frere.' 

* My compliments ! I beg him to excuse me : I 
have letters of importance to answer.' Luigi dis- 
appeared. 

* I think all will go well,' she mused, as she 
dipped her pen in the ink. Then glancing at a 
large old-fashioned, highly ornamented watch, 
which hung on a rococo stand beside her, she 



THE FRERES. 



255 



smiled. ' I will note the time occupied by a modern 
declaration. Having broken the ice before, he is 
already within the intrenchments. All must go 
well. I have brought her into the right frame of 
mind : he has only to go in and win. Foolish 
child ! Poverty is bad for everyone, but it is 
annihilation for a woman, who never can rise out 
of it without a man's help. How unfortunate it is 
that one cannot put the real bare truths of life 
before a young creature whose whole future 
depends upon her recognition of them ! Yet if one 
did, would not the knowledge kill out youth ? 
And youth, with its woes, and wilfulness, and mis- 
takes, is priceless.' 

She wrote on for awhile, then again glanced at 
the watch ; nearly half an hour had elapsed. 'AH 
goes well, no doubt,* she thought, and applied her- 
self to her writing with renewed interest for perhaps 
ten or fifteen minutes ; then she was startled by 
the distant violent shutting to of a door, which 
shook the house. Before she ceased to conjecture 
what could have caused the unwonted sound, Grace 
came into the room and walked straight up to her 
writing-table — Grace with crimson cheeks and 
moist glowing eyes. 

* Well, my love,' began Lady Elton, blandly, * I 
suppose I am to congratulate the future ' 

* I do not know what you will say to me,' cried 
Grace, interrupting her with a somewhat excited 
voice. * But — but, I fear I have been rather rude 
and abrupt ; and he is gone away in a rage.' 




CHAPTER XIV. 



^N awful silence ensued. Lady Elton's 
face grew set and hard, yet she mastered 
her rising anger until she should get at 
the root of the matter, 

' You mean to tell me you have definitively re- 
jected Mr. Darnell ?' 

' Yes, quite ! he will never speak to me again.' 

' I certainly cannot congratulate you on your 
fixity of purpose,' said Lady Elton, bitterly. ' It 
is scarcely an hour since you confessed that it was 
your duty to marry Mr. Darnell.' 

' I know,' cried Grace, ' and I did think I ought. 
So he talked and talked — oh, a great deal of non- 
sense ! I tried to like him and think it nice, and I 
had begun to smile and say how good I thought 
him, when all of a sudden he attempted to throw 
his arms round me ' (the crimson cheeks became a 
shade more crimson) ; ' and then, Lady Elton, I 
knew I could not, dare not marry him. I thrust 
him away rather roughly, and told him straight out 



THE FRERES. 



257 



I could not, and would not have anything to do 
with him ! He was awfully angry, and spoke so 
rudely that I said if he could not remember I 
was a lady, he had. better go away. And he did, 
slamming the door in such a fury — did you not 
hear it ?' 

Lady Elton made no reply. She walked away 
down the room and back again in silence. Then 
she said in a tone Grace had not heard from her 
before : 

* I never anticipated such a finale. I consider 
that you have utterly, perhaps intentionally, de- 
ceived me. You have not been candid ; there is 
some preference, some concealed preference which 
interferes with Darnell. Come, I will give you one 
more chance of fortune, and my friendship — let me 
try to bring Darnell back ; it might be done.' 

* I would do nearly anything for your friendship. 
Lady Elton,' returned Grace, the colour fading from 
her cheeks, and her heart beating audibly, * but this, 
I will not ! I am ashamed of having been so nearly 
persuaded against my own instinct, but now I will 
change no more.* 

Lady Elton rang the bell. *As you will,' she 
said in a low, concentrated voice ; * but you will 
also excuse me if I decline in future to interfere in 
your affairs.' (To Luigi, who appeared in answer 
to the bell : * Miss Frere will want a cab in a 
quarter of an hour.' Luigi bowed, and retired. 
* As you have made up your mind, and I have 
made up mine^ we need waste no words ; the 
sooner we separate the better. You have cruelly 

VOL. I. 17 



258 THE FRERES. 

disappointed me. I thought after the care and 
affection I have lavished on you, that you would 
be guided by me — that you would have had faith 
in my experience and judgment. As it is* — an 
expressive break — * I presume you will be ready to 
return home in a few minutes ?' 

* What !' cried Grace, who had been almost 
stunned by the stern earnestness of Lady Elton's 
manner. *Are you going to turn me from your 
house because, in a matter so vital to me, I dare to 
follow the impulse of my own feelings? Lady 
Elton, you are not just ! I know I have behaved 
badly — that unintentionally I have misled you ; 
but — I do not deserve this!' Great tears rolled 
down her cheeks, yet her voice, though slightly 
shaken, was still distinct. * Has no girl before me 
disappointed the projects of her elders — aye, and 
proved herself right in the end ?' she went on, with 
increasing warmth. * Surely your own youth is not 
so far off that you cannot feel its promptings still ! 
Did you never yield to your own impulse ?' 

* Yes !' said Lady Elton, turning fiercely on her, 
* and have ever since cursed the day I did. Had I 
at your age, and later, had such a friend as you 
have in me, I should have listened to her, and been 
«aved. Do not speak to me any more ; I cannot 
bear to hear or see you at present. Go — leave me !' 

* You may be severe and unjust,' exclaimed 
Grace ; * but I shall always love you, and think of 
you with gratitude And pleasure ; and — and — I will 
kiss you before I go.' 

So saying, in spite of Lady Elton's surprised 



THE FRERES. 



259 



resistance, she embraced her vehemently, covering 
her brow and cheek with kisses, then darted away 
to her own room to prepare for her departure. 

That return home in disgrace, and at variance 
with her warmly loved and profoundly admired 
friend, was nearly the bitterest and most vivid of 
Grace's varied memories in after-years. It was 
difficult, too, to face her mother. 

Grace dreaded the unspoken reproach of her 
sad, simple, downcast face infinitely more than 
Lady Elton's worst words. Mrs. Frere had in 
truth built largely on her marriage with Darnell. 
To her somewhat primitive ideas, innocent as she 
was of any notion that women — ^gentlewomen — 
could be independent and self-supporting, a rich 
husband was the only deliverer by which a girl 
could be lifted out of the slough of despond, from 
the mire and clay of poverty, to the rock of wealth 
and importance. She had also a vague opinion 
that if a husband was easy-tempered and generous, 
there was no further need of higher qualifications. 
Darnell promised to fulfil these requirements — 
besides, he was fairly good-looking for a bon parti — 
and what more could Grace want ? 

It was an infinite relief to find Jimmy Byrne 
already installed, and the cloth laid for dinner. A 
respite was thus secured. If Jimmy would only 
take Mab and Randal out to walk, and leave her 
alone with her mother, it would be an enormous 
help. 

After a hasty greeting Grace ran upstairs to 

17 — 2 



26o THE FRERES. 

remove her bonnet, and also what traces of tears 
remained. But tears with Grace were rare, and 
came usually in a short thunder-shower. Even on 
this terrible occasion they had soon passed away ; 
and the drive to Albert Crescent, with the window 
of the cab open, had left but few sig^s ; only a 
heightened colour which made her eyes sparkle, and 
evoked an exclamation from Jimmy Byrne. 

* Ah, Miss Grace, I'm sure the Dungar roses can 
bloom in London, in spite of the smoke !' 

* Oh, I am flushed ; it is very warm to-day !' 

* And had you a pleasant party yesterday ?' asked 
Mrs. Frere, with a curious lingering look ; she 
fancied her daughter had something to communi- 
cate which she would not impart before the general 
public. 

* Yes, charming. There were a number of clever 
people, foreigners and Americans.' 

* Was Darnell there ?' asked Randal. 

* Oh yes, of course ; he always is.' 

* He is an elegant young man,' remarked Jimmy, 
with profound approbation. * I'm told Sir Henry 
Darnell has bought a beautiful] place for him near 
Leatherhead.' 

* Some of the fellows in our office seem to think 
I am an intimate friend of his,' said Randal ; * they 
have asked me no end of questions about him. It 
is confoundedly snobbish, but his acquaintance 
seems a sort of patent of nobility.' 

* It is a mighty influential firm, faith !* said Byrne. 

* By the way, mother,* resumed Randal, * one of 
our fellows gives a little dinner at Greenwich to- 



THE FRERES. 261 

day, and asked me — seven o'clock, I believe — you 
won't mind if I go as soon as the cloth is removed.' 

* No, dear Randal ; only I hope they are nice 
people for you to associate with.' 

* Oh, nice enough ! very jolly. Their " h's " get 
misplaced sometimes, but they are uncommon civil ; 
evidently see that I am a touch above them, and 
treat me with great respect ; there is no use in 
giving one's self airs ' 

* No, certainly not !' said Mrs. Frere. 

Grace did not speak, though she felt an instinctive 
dislike and distrust towards the society thus de- 
scribed. 

* I say !' cried Randal, who had been examining 
his purse, * could you give me ten bob, mother? 
These buses run away with such a heap of money.' 

* Ten shillings !' repeated Mrs. Frere, evidently 
upset by the request. 

• * Ten shillings, Mr. Randal !' exclaimed Jimmy. 
* Ah, how is a lady to have change of a Sunday 
morning ? I have a nate little gold bit here, Mrs. 
Frere, ma'am, and Mr. Randal can bring it to me 
any time he is passing by the office.' 

* You are really very obliging, Mr. Byrne ; but, 
Randal, don't you think you might make five do ?' 

* It all comes to the same, mother dear ; I shall 
want the balance for buses.' 

* I am sure,' said Mrs. Frere to Byrne, * I hope 
they will soon give Randal some salary, for we are 
nearly ruined with omnibuses and luncheons.' 

* We might put up a sandwich for him every day,' 
said Grace. 



262 THE FRERES. 

* Oh, that looks so deuced shabby !* cried Randal. 
* Why, the poorest chap among the clerks goes to a 
bar for luncheon.' 

. * Well, Mr. Randal, you'll excuse me^ sir, but Fd 
just not be too ready to go along with those clerks of 
Cartwright's ; some of them are a trifle unsteady. 
We do business for the principal, and our young 
men give rather a queer account of them.' 

* Then, Randal dear, do not go to this dinner ; 
keep away,' said Grace. 

* Oh, that is impossible ! I promised faithfully, 
and Wilkins depends on me for " Molly Carew ;" 
they say I sing it equal to any of the music-hall 
fellows.' 

* On a Sunday !' cried Mrs. Frere, aghast. 

* Why, where did they hear you ?' asked Grace. 

* The night I went to supper with Anderson ; 
when I did not come home till after one.' 

There was silence after this, broken only by a 
portentous * hem ' from Jimmy Byrne ; till Randal 
rose, bid them * good-bye,' pocketed the half- 
sovereign offered him by the family friend, and left 
the room. 

* Here, Mab, Randal has dropped his handker- 
chief; take it to him, dear.' 

* Why should I take him his handkerchief?' 

* Do, dear. Do it because mamma asks you, 
Mabel' 

*He might conie for it himself,' returned Mat, 
rising reluctantly to obey her mother's behest. 

* Will you do me a great favour, Jimmy ?' cried 
Grace, as soon as the little rebel was out of hearing 



J 



THE FRERES. 263 

(she had long ago discarded the formality of * Mr. 
Byrne/ which Mrs. Frere never dropped). * Will 
you take Mab out for a walk ? She is always so 
pleased to go with you.' 

* Indeed, an* I will, Miss Grace dear ; in an hour, 
if that is time enough. It is so thundering hot just 
now.' 

* To be sure, whenever you like. Here she 
comes, you ask her yourself 

The hour that intervened, though shortened by 
Mabel's impatience, seemed appallingly long to 
Grace ; but at last she was alone with her mother, 
in the quiet room which she had put straight, and 
darkened into comfortable coolness. Then Mrs. 
Frere's gentle question, * What have you to tell me, 
Grace?' drew out, in a broken staccato fashion, 
the impending revelation. 

A very bad half-hour indeed ensued. At first 
poor disappointed Mrs. Frere strove to be com- 
posed and high-minded, while the lace lappets of 
her cap quivered with the violent beating of her 
heart. 

* Of course, dear — of course if you feel you can- 
not give him that affection which you ought, you 
were right to refuse ; but oh, Grace, were you not 
too hasty ? What an excellent marriage for you, 
and what a cru — u — el disappointment !' and the 
dam of resolution was carried away in a burst of 
sobs. * I do not blame you, dear, but as you care 
for no one else, don't you think you might in time 
have come to love poor Mr. Darnell ? I am sure I 
see nothing but misery and poverty before us. I 



264 THE FRERES. 

have only five pounds left, and there are four weeks 
due to the butcher. Then Lady Elton will never 
forgive you, and she was our only friend. How 
unfortunate it is that you could not like him. It 
would have put everything straight.' 

* I cannot see that. We could not all have lived 
upon Mr. Darnell. He might have helped Randal, 
but otherwise he would have only taken me away ; 
and what could you do without me? I think it 
must be dreadful to marry a man so much richer 
than your own people. Every want of theirs 
would seem a reproach to you ; and yet how bitter 
to see them mere encumbrances to one's husband ! 
Oh, mother dear, do not be angry with me ! I am 
so unhappy !' 

* Angry with you ! No, my own Gracie !' cried 
Mrs. Frere, her true heart touched by this un- 
wonted confession from the generally self-sufficing 
daughter, whose equable spirits sometimes sug- 
gested to the more excitable, timid mother, want 
of feeling. * Angry with you ? You who do every- 
thing for me ! Only if ) ou could have married 
Mr. Darnell, dear, I might have known some rest 
in the end of my days ; but God's will be done ! 
He gave and He has taken away,' she said, 
brokenly, with an instinctive recurrence to the 
formulas of religious consolation, as a South 
African would murmur a medicine fetish ; and 
again she covered her face and wept. 

Grace soothed her with loving tenderness, and 
spoke hopeful words which almost deceived herself. 
She pointed out the true wealth of their family 



THE FRERES. 265 

affection, their small needs, of the economies that 
improved knowledge and extended experience 
would enable them to make of the fair hopes open- 
ing to Randal in his new employ. 

* I dare say they will turn him away when they 
know you have rejected Mr. Darnell !' ejaculated 
Mrs. Frere. 

* Oh, mother, that is too absurd ! and then you 
must try and make it up with Lady Elton. Though 
I am awfully angry with her for turning against 
me, and being unjust and unkind, she has been 
wonderfully good to us.' 

* What can I do or say, Grace ? no one minds 
me, and I am afraid she thinks you deceived her.' 

* But I did not ; I could not help myself, no more 
than the water can help rippling when the wind 
blows over it.' 

* That is nonsense, Grace, if you had really made 
up your mind !' 

* I thought I had, indeed I did ! Come, mother 
dear, let us compose a letter to Lady Elton ; I feel 
quite lost and broken-hearted at the idea of a real 
quarrel with her. I never loved anyone so much 
— after j/^« all. It is a pleasure to me to look at her 
and hear her talk.' 

Mrs. Frere shook her head and shed more tears. 
Then Grace brought her writing materials, but her 
mother, after spoiling a few sheets of note-paper, 
declared she was too nervous to think clearly ; so 
Grace seized the pen herself, and poured forth her 
genuine feelings in an ardent unstudied letter, 
worth a dozen concocted epistles. And then Mrs. 



266 THE FRERES. 

Frere said her head ached so severely that she 
would go and lie down. Grace must make her 
excuses to Mr. Byrne ; which Grace did, and if the 
truth be told, passed a more cheerful evening than 
she had dared to hope for, in the society of the 
kindly little man. They talked of Dungar and its 
dear lost master — of some of Jimmy's remarkable 
experiences in the great office of Steenson and 
Gregg, which he related with point and humour. 
However, though carefully suppressing any sign of 
having perceived it, Jimmy did perceive that some- 
thing unusual and unpleasant had occurred, and 
so took his leave early. Thus the unhappy day 
ended ; and Grace, having administered a final cup 
of tea to her mother, and smoothed the coverlet 
over the restless though sleeping Mab, reflected as 
she extinguished her candle, that bad as all had 
been, how infinitely worse was the ill she had 
escaped — a positive engagement to Mr. Darnell ! 

Come what might of poverty and struggle, she 
was free — free to work and to endure for those she 
loved, unencumbered by the awful weight of dis- 
tasteful duties. But Grace might have saved her 
eloquence, and her tear-bedewed epistle to Lady 
Elton. The mid-day post brought Mrs. Frere a 
letter from that lady — a terribly distinct and decided 
letter. She expressed her utter disappointment 
and disenchantment very freely — spoke of the 
heartless conduct of Grace to Mr. Darnell, and her 
own shame thereat-— of her regret at this unplea- 
santness separating her from Mrs. Frere (whom she 
held blameless), because in her present frame of 



THE FRERES. 267 

mind personal contact would certainly embitter and 
perpetuate the indignation which perhaps time and 
absence would enable her to overcome. With this 
object, and also to avoid gossip, she was resolved to 
go to Paris, ostensibly to meet a Russian friend 
whose arrival there was announced ; that she would 
probably not return to London till late in the 
autumn, and then only to pass through ; finally, 
that she would leave town on the following Wednes- 
day. 

*The day after to-morrow!* cried Mrs. Frere, lay- 
ing down the letter. 

An icy feeling of despair fell upon Grace as she 
finished this cruel letter — a sense of helplessness 
and desertion — a sudden fear of the future and its 
ungauged difficulties — the dawning of painful doubt 
as to whether she had done well in yielding to 
her own impulses, when a friend, wise, experienced, 
kind as Lady Elton, could condemn her so severely 
— a consciousness that she had estranged a powerful 
ally for her friendless family. Who had they now 
to stand by them in the wide world of London but 
little Jimmy Byrne ? For a bitter hour she took 
in, in its fulness, the horror of desolation she had 
brought upon them. 

But she dared not breathe her fears to her 
mother. Dearly as she loved her, she never dreamed 
of looking to her for help. She would not be so 
cruel as to crush a nature so tender, so simple, so 
fragile, with the weight of her own reasonable 
anticipations. Grace could give help and protec- 
tion too, without their frequent accompaniment of 



268 THE FRERES. 

contempt. Hers was the true chivalry which can 
be loving and loyal to the weakness that leans 
upon it, so the courage she simulated came to her 
in reality. 

Dark clouds never hang long on the horizon of 
youth ; to them the unknown is almost always 
bright, even when the brightness is fitful. A sense 
of wrong, of being unjustly treated, helped to sus- 
tain her ; and then when she re-read the letter, 
hope began to clear away a tiny blue space in the 
clouded sky. 

* See, dear mother ! Lady Elton evidently intends 
to try and conquer her anger and be friends again ; 
and when she has time to think, she will see she 
has been unjust to me. We must leave her alone, 
and say nothing to Randal.' 

* Oh, we must, Grace ! he will suspect some- 
thing. I — I did speak to him this morning. You 
were not in the room when he came in to break- 
fast, so I told him.' 

* I wish you could have avoided it. He was 
dreadfully late. When did he come in last night ?' 

* I am sure I do not know,' said the mother, 
evasively. * I told him he had better not speak to 
you about it' 

* What did he say himself ?* 

* Oh ! he was very much astonished that Mr. 
Darnell wished to marry you, and thought you 
terribly foolish to refuse.' 

There the matter ended. Both Grace and 
Mrs. Frere avoided the vexed subject of Mr. 
Darnell. 



THE FRERES. 269 

With the amazing adaptabih'ty of nature, the 
shipwrecked family settled into their new routine, 
no longer enlivened by glimpses of the gay world ; 
and Grace tried hard not to regret them, not to feel 
at times how bitter it was to be cut off by inexor- 
able circumstance, through no fault of her own, 
from the amusements, society, and surroundings 
properly belonging to her age and station. She 
did her best to teach and bear with Mab, sometimes 
with success, which cheered her ; sometimes with 
signal failure, which depressed and irritated. Randal 
was tolerably satisfactory and content. He had 
had more letters to translate and answer, and was 
promised pay and a regular engagement at the end 
of three months from the time of his entering the 
office. As yet, then, there was no sign of that 
dismissal, in revenge for Grace's rejection of Darnell, 
which Mrs. Frere anticipated. 

Some little gleams of pleasure lightened the dull 
atmosphere of the month which followed Lady 
Elton's departure : an expedition to Hampton 
Court in which Mrs. Frere joined, and a visit to 
the theatre in which she did not, both under the 
guidance of the indefatigable Jimmy. 

Meantime, Uncle Frere and Max made no sign. 
In spite of every attempt to cheer and please her, 
Mrs. Frere was persistently downcast, despairing, 
and miserable. Grace observed, too, that her melan- 
choly was on the increase, and began to fear she 
was, or would be, seriously ill. 

At last matters culminated. 

One morning, at breakfast, Mrs. Frere found a 



270 THE FRERES. 

letter with the Dublin postmark, at one side of her 
plate, and an ominous-Iooking open paper with 
Miss Timbs's compliments at the other. It was 
a polite request for the quarter's rent, due the day 
before, as Miss Timbs was herself pressed for 
money. 

Poor Mrs. Frere grew very red ; she opened her 
letter with a trembling hand. It was short, and 
apparently not very satisfactory. Mrs. Frere laid 
it down, and began stirring her tea round and round 
and round, unconsciously. 

* Why, " mummy,^* you are not eating your break- 
fast and not minding what you are about, just like 
me,' cried Mab. 

Grace looked up, and saw big tears on her 
mother's cheek. 

* If you have finished, Mab, will you run upstairs 
and dust the mother's room for her ?' 

* No, I won't !' said Mab ; * you want to get rid of 
me, and I want to stay with my mummy, because 
she is unhappy. Why are you crying, mother dear ? 
there's a big tear just dropped into your cup ;' and 
Mab hastened to wipe her mother's face with a 
much-tumbled handkerchief. 

* Oh, there is no use in concealing anything now !' 
sobbed Mrs. Frere, clasping the child to her. * My 
poor helpless darling ! we shall all have to go to 
prison. I foresaw this, and I wrote to your Aunt 
d'Arcy. She thought she could help me, and now 
she is disappointed : she cannot send me one farthing. 
And nothing coming till September! while this 
dreadful bill, and the butcher's and other little 



THE FRERES. 271 

things — why, it will take thirty pounds to pay 
them all/ 

*But, dear mother, have you nothing left?' ex- 
claimed Grace, appalled by this revelation. 

She had never thought of inquiring into the state 
of their finances, nor noticed that her mother had 
been unusually reserved about them, an inadvert- 
ence for which she reproached herself, while Mab 
declared with tears her intention of scratching any 
gaoler's t:yits out who attempted to touch her 
mother. 

* Left !* repeated Mrs. Frere, in a broken voice ; 
* I have seventeen sh — shillings and fourpence half- 
penny, and Randal has had two or three half- 
sovereigns from Mr. Byrne. What are we to do, 
Grace ? what are we to do ?' 

* We must think quietly and do the best we can,' 
said poor Grace, trying to speak with composure, 
while she trembled all over. * Let us go up to your 
room where we can speak more safely, and I will 
send away the breakfast-things.' 

*Very well,' said Mrs. Frere, rising with the 
obedience of a frightened child. * Oh, Grace dear, 
there is no help for it !' she exclaimed, when they 
reached the haven indicated, and all three clung 
together on a rickety sofa which Miss Timbs had 
with much pomp added to the scanty furniture on 
their becoming quarterly tenants. * I must apply 
to your Uncle Frere.' 

* Mother, no ! let us try anything and everything 
first. If we could only see Jimmy Byrne ! He is so 
busy now, one of the other chief clerks is away ; but 



272 THE FRERpS. 

let me go in with Mab and send up a little note to 
ask if he can come out this evening.' 

* What, go to an office alone ! Suppose you met 
anyone you knew ?' 

* Mother dear, who knows us — me ? and in such 
an emergency we must not stick at trifles. Yes, 
Mab and I will go in at once to Jimmy, and you 
might tell Miss Timbs that we will pay her next 
Monday. But mother, please promise me, no 
application to Uncle Frere until we have tried every- 
thing else.' 

After a little further discussion, many embraces, 
and not a few tears, the programme was adopted, 
with the slight alteration of shifting the task of com- 
municating with Miss Timbs to Grace's shoulders. 

That excellent woman received the announce- 
ment of probable delay in the payment of her rent 
with scarcely veiled dissatisfaction. 

*Well, 'm,' she said, addressing Mrs. Frere, 
although Grace was the speaker, * I hope it will be 
convenient for you to settle on Monday ; for I have 
waited, if you will excuse my saying so, three 
months already.' 

* I shall be most happy to pay you before if I 
receive the money,' said poor Mrs. Frere, limply. 

* Anyhow, on Monday, certing,' returned Miss 
Timbs, taking a sharp, quick survey of the room ; 
and pouncing on a small tray and a duster left 
behind by the delinquent Sarah, she walked off, 
condemnation in every footfall. 

' She does not seem pleased,* said Mrs. Frere to 
Grace, when she was out of hearing. 



THE FRERES. 273 

* Not very ; but she will be all right when we can 
pay her, and three or four days cannot matter 
much.' 

It was a long hot journey to Finsbury Square, 
and when it was accomplished they found Jimmy 
absent. He had been sent down to the country 
to attend to some business consequent on the death 
of an old country gentleman client ; but he was 
expected at the office next morning. 

Grace almost dreaded to meet her mother with 
such a tale to unfold. But, to her relief, a change 
for the better seemed to have passed over Mrs. 
Frere. Her eyes showed signs of much weeping, 
but her voice and manner were less despairing — 
indeed, were almost cheerful. Mrs. Frere could not 
dissemble — she was far too deficient in the requisite 
self-control ; and Grace, knowing her extreme 
timidity and tendency to exaggerate difficulties 
into horrors, felt certain that something had 
occurred to give her mother fresh hope and 
courage. 

' Tell me, dearest mother, has anything happened ? 
You seem more at ease than when we went out.' 

* Nothing, Grace ! I have just been thinking, 
how the wind is tempered to the shorn lamb f 

*And you have kept your word to me.^ You 
have not written to Uncle Frere ?' 

* I have not, indeed ! Am I in the habit of break- 
ing my word to you, Grace ?* 

* No — no ; but I am sure you would like to write 
to Uncle Frere, and if we must — we must. How- 
ever, pray let it be a last resource.' 

VOL. I. 18 



274 THE FRERES. 

* It IS most unfortunate that Mr. Byrne is away/ 
said Mrs. Frere, as if willing to change the subject, 
* and so unusual.' 

To this Grace assented ; and then Mrs. Frere 
settled calmly to her needlework, and even took 
an interest in the novel which Grace proposed to 
read aloud, with a view to drawing her mother's 
thoughts from the contemplation of painful matters 
which contemplation could not mend. For cir- 
cumstance and a certain instinctive power of obser- 
vation had early initiated Grace Frere into the art 
of ministering to a mind not diseased, but disquieted 
and ' sore smitten.' This unwonted fortitude sug- 
gested ideas of extraneous aid surreptitiously 
invoked ; but Grace, after one thrill of delight at 
the idea of some unexpected romantic reconcilia- 
tion with Lady Elton, dismissed the subject from 
her thoughts, thankful to accept the respite thus 
afforded her. 

Randal took the news of their being left finan- 
cially high and dry with much equanimity. 

'When Jimmy comes he will advise something,' 
he said. * Anyhow, mother, you always have Uncle 
Frere under your lee ; and I don't see why Grace 
should be so shocked about applying to him. Why, 
he is the nearest relation we have in the world, 
and we have cost him nothing as yet ! I think he 
and Max have behaved deucedly shabby. How 
long did Max stay at Dungar t Months, by George ! 
and he has never called here but once.' 

* However, Randal, Uncle Frere would have given 
you immediate employment, and ' 



THE PRE RES. 275 

*WeIl, I preferred getting it through my own 
merits — at least, by my friends. By the way, 
mother, I am to begin on the 1st of August at 
twenty-one shillings a week. What do you think 
of that ?' 

*You must pay for your own omnibus and 
luncheon then !' cried Mabel. 

*If we can only get through this awful 

crisis,' said Mrs. Frere, after hesitating for a word, 
' I have no doubt we shall get on.' 

* I wish /could do anything,' said Grace, musingly, 
and in a tone of deep depression. 

'The only thing you can do, you won't,' re- 
turned Randal, carelessly, yet with a touch of 
bitterness in his voice. 

Grace flushed angrily, but glancing at Mab, reso- 
lutely closed the lips that had already opened to 
utter an angry retort. And Randal, with the 
facility of his easy nature, passed to other topics, 
and related how much some sarcastic lines he had 
written on old Brown, the manager, had been 
admired by his brother clerks. 

Next morning's second delivery brought a line 
from the faithful Jimmy, promising to be with them 
that evening, but not till eight o'clock. 

' Thank heaven ! we shall see dear old Jimmy 
to-night/ cried Grace, looking up. 'Why, what 
have you got, mother.?' she continued, catching 
sight of Mrs. Frere reading a note with a radiant 
face. 

* There !' she replied triumphantly ; * I always 

18-2 



276 THE FRERES. 

said Max was a well-disposed, well-bred young 
man. After you went out yesterday, I thought of 
writing to him, as you could not object to that^ for 
he must have plenty of money ; and here, he sends 
me a cheque for fifty pounds, with such a nice 
note. Read it, dear ! you will be quite pleased ! 
You see, after all, I can do something.' 




CHAPTER XV. 



THE enigma of Mrs. Frcre's cheerfulness 
was solved. ' Mother !' was all Grace 
could utter, and then she stood still and 
silent for a couple of seconds, the blood 
surging up to her head, her heart beating to suffo- 
cation, her hands icy cold, her whole being suddenly 
crushed with an overwhelming sense of defeat and 
humiliation. Alms from Max ! and begged for by 
her own mother ! This was a depth of d^radation 
she had never anticipated. With a confused whirl 
of memory, a short agony of contrast between past 
and present, she went down into hell for one of 
those mystic moments which are ages of experience 
and instants of time ! Then, with a strong effort, 
she drew herself together, and cried in a tone the 
anguish of which struck Mrs. Frere as incompre- 
hensible. 

' Mother ! how could you do it ? Why, it is a 
thousand times worse than asking my uncle. Max, 
who has treated us so consistently as poor relations 



278 THE FRERES. 

— mere unnecessary items ! — to ask Max ! Oh, I 
would have starved first ! How — how can we ever 
repay him !' 

She sat down, and leaning her elbows on the 
table, covered her face with her hands. 

* But Grace/ said Mrs. Frere, half frightened by 
the emotion her daughter exhibited, * do read the 
note ; you will see there is really nothing to trouble 
yourself about : nothing can be kinder and nicer.' 

Grace held out her hand, took it with a shudder- 
ing reluctant touch, and read : 

* My dear Aunt, 

* I have just come in, and found yours. I am 
very happy to meet your wishes, and as you do not 
name any sum, enclose a cheque for fifty pounds — 
the amount, I think, my father ought to have sent 
you, as Randal has fulfilled the condition of finding 
employment, though not in our house. However, I 
I shall not mention the matter, as you wish it kept 
between us. Pray do not trouble yourself about 
repayment. I am very pleased to be of use to you, 
and return, in some small degree, the kindness for 
which I am your debtor. Very glad to hear Randal 
is doing well. Love to Grace. 

' Yours very sincerely, 

* Maxwell Frere.' 

Grace let the note fall, and kept silence. 

* You see, dear,' urged Mrs. Frere, after a short 
pause, * we need not trouble about paying it back. 
It is quite true, I am sure, what Max says about 



THE FRERES. 279 

his being pleased to help us, and so it ought to be. 
He is our nearest relative ; we have always been 
very kind to him ; and he has plenty of money. I 
do not see why you should distress yourself so 
much.' 

* Don't you ?' said Grace, rising and coming over 
to the window, out of which she gazed vacantly ; 
* I cannot explain it to you, then. If I shrank from 
confessing to Uncle Frere that we mismanaged 
things and got into debt, it is a thousand times 
worse to put ourselves under the feet of his son, 
who throws us help as one gives broken meat to a 
beggar whom you feed on the door-step, but will 
not admit within your home! He was like a son 
and a brother to us at Dungar. Why not give us 
a little time, a little interest here^ where we are 
so alone ? Oh, mother ! send it back ! If you care 
for me — if you would save me the bitterest mortifi- 
cation — let me send it back ! We must repay it 
one day. Why not make whatever sacrifice is to 
be made at once ? I have been thinking so hard, 
and surely among your lace and trinkets there is 
something to sell — something we can do without ; 
but I feel as if it would suffocate me — as if my 
whole life would have a bitter taste if this horrid 
thing is not sent back.' 

* Send it back, Graqe !' repeated Mrs. Frere, 
almost stunned by the passionate vehemence with 
which Grace poured out this appeal. * What is to 
become of us if I do V 

A long tearful argument ensued, which ended, of 
course, by the stronger will prevailing; though 



28o THE FRERES. 

Grace by no means succeeded in convincing her 
mother — she only forced her into most reluctant 
submission; but as a kind of protest, she posi- 
tively refused to be instrumental in such a distinct 
rebelh'on against the will of Providence. On Grace's 
head be it — Grace must write the note in which 
the cheque was to be enclosed. With some pride 
in even this slight resistance, Mrs. Frere, in deep 
grief and displeasure, retired to her own room with 
Mab, and her Bible, from the pages of which she 
no doubt drew some of the consolation that is the 
reward of simple, unhesitating faith.' 

Mab, who came in for too much of the scene 
above described, was furious against Grace for con- 
tradicting * mummy,' and making her cry. 

* Just like your conceit !' she said. ' Mother 
knows everything much better than you ; if I were 
her I should box your ears.' And she never passed 
her sister in her many excursions into the sitting- 
room to get her work, or drawing-book, or beloved 
doll, without pulling her hair, or giving her a knock 
with her small elbows — assaults which Grace bore 
with much patience, till at length one of Mab's 
sudden attacks sent a huge blot from the pen to 
the paper her sister was writing upon, when she at 
last broke out with : 

* Go away, Mab ! you are an ill-natured, dis- 
agreeable little monkey ! You cannot understand 
what is the matter. Do you suppose I do not love 
the mother better than you do V 

Mab made an audacious grimace and ran away. 
Then Grace settled really to the difficult task of 



THE FRERES. 281 

writing to Max. After several attempts, she was 
at last fain to be content with the following : 

' Dear Max, 

'I am so sorry my mother troubled you 
with our affairs ! You know how nervous and 
easily frightened she is ; and if her purse is not 
quite full, she thinks she must go to prison. I 
hope, however, that we can manage quite well with- 
out trespassing on you, and therefore return the 
enclosed cheque, with many thanks to you for 
sending it so promptly. My mother desires her 
love ; and I am, 

* Yours very truly, 

* Grace Frere.' 

Then she went out and posted it herself, return- 
ning to the house with a wonderful sense of relief, 
though still sore at the idea of her mother having 
placed herself thus at the feet of her foe. 

It seemed a very long weary day of waiting till 
the time of Jimmy Byrne's promised visit came. 

Mrs. Frere was inconsolable, and would eat no 
dinner, to her daughter's infinite distress ; while she 
assumed a tone of hopeless resignation, as to mar- 
tyrdom incurred in a good cause. 

* Do not trouble about me, Grace,' she said, when 
urged to eat, or coaxed and soothed. * I am but 
an encumbrance — a useless burden ; I see it more 
and more every day. Even the small services which 
I could render are rejected and undervalued. No 
one, I believe, except my poor Mabel, would miss 



282 THE FRERES. 

me ; but for her sake, I should not care hov/ sooa 
it may be God's will to take me !' 

* Dearest mother, how can you say such things !' 
Grace would reply. ' You are cruel to me. You 
know how desolate we all should be without you ; 
and I am sure Randal would be as much vexed as 
I if you had kept that cheque. Let us say no 
more ; and depend upon it, Jimmy Byrne will sug- 
gest something/ 

* What can he suggest, unless he can get us 
money ?* 

And so on, da capo. 

With all his generosity and goodness, Jimmy 
Byrne was yet too human to resist an emphatic 

* / told you sol when Grace unfolded the state of 
affairs, as they sat in a committee of ways and 
means over some iced claret-cup, compounded by 
Randal for the refreshment of their guest and 
himself 

*I told you so! — didn't I now, Miss Grace .^ — 
when your dear mamma ' (Jimmy would not call her 

* mother' on any account) 'was so pleased to get 
the cash from Ireland, the rainy day was sure to 
come, for all the putting off. And it's a brute I am 
for reminding you of it ! Now, what we have to do 
is — to see what's to be done ;' and Jimmy, drawing 
his coat-tails from beneath him with a sudden jerk, 
pulled his chair to the table resolutely, and with a 
cheerful countenance. * I suppose, Mrs. Frere, 
ma'am, you want between thirty and forty pounds 
to put you straight, and carry you on till the next 
gale (/>. quarter's rent) comes in ?' 



THE FRERES. 283 

* Forty ? — yes ; but where on earth shall we get 
it, and how can we repay it ?* said Mrs. Frere, 
despairingly. 

'The fellows in our office seem to get money 
quite easily/ said Randal, with an air of superior 
experience. ' They draw bills on each other — at 
least some of them — and then some one else cashes 
them ; and by-and-by they are renewed, and so on, 
and they needn't pay for ever so long.* 

* Lord presarve us !' cried Jimmy, in tones of 
profound horror. * Mr. Randal, don't you be led 
away by them reckless blaguards — if you'll pardon 
the word, Mrs. Frere. Them bills is just a spider's 
web, and the creatures that's caught in them has 
their blood sucked out till they drop, disgraced, 
and — and bedivilled, into an early grave I Have 
nothing to do with them, Mr. Randal — don't let 
'em touch ye, or ye'll sup sorrow !' and the moisture 
stood in the speaker's honest black eyes, his 
earnestness giving force to his short pathetic face, 
with its shaggy eyebrows, and wide, rugged mouth 
so kindly, nay, almost tender, in the expression of 
its down-curved corners. 

* Oh, I can take care of myself !* returned Randal, 
carelessly. * But let us go on ; how can we get 
this forty pounds V 

*Ahem! You see, Mrs. Frere, ma'am, I have 
been on the whole a successful man in my small 
way ; and I need not tell you, ma'am, who I have to 
thank for it. Then my poor mother has been 
dead these six years and more — besides my father's 
brother that was bedridden for twelve years, but 



284 ^^-^ FRERES. 

was wonderful hearty, and knitted stockings to the 
last; 

Here Jimmy paused ; and Grace, who was listen- 
ing breathlessly, wondered what possible connection 
there could be between his late mother, his bed- 
ridden uncle, and their present necessities. 

* So you see, ma'am, that for years I have had 
no call upon me, and I have saved a trifle — faith, 
a snug trifle ! — and I'm sure I will let you have 
forty pound with all the pleasure in life ! and a 
proud man I am to be of any use to your father s 
daughter.' 

' But, Jimmy dear ! ' began Grace. 

* Oh, Mr. Byrne !' broke in Mrs. Frere, with a 
little tinge of bitterness, 'there is no use in speak- 
ing to Grace ; her pride is quite unreasonable." 

* But, Miss Grace jewil !' cried Jimmy, growing 
very Irish in his eagerness, 'sure, you might as 
well pay me five per cent, as a stranger. I'd take 
a regular acknowledgment, and Mr. Randal here 
should be security — and sure, Miss Grace, you 
wouldn^t be so unkind * 

'Oh no, Jimmy !' cried Grace, taking his hand, 
' it is not that ; but shifting the debt from one to 
another will do no good. Why should we rob such 
a friend as you ? Just listen to me, and look at 
these. I know my mother will forgive me for 
taking them ; but could we not get some money 
for these V she opened a purple velvet case, and 
displayed her mother's pearl necklace, brooch and 
ear-rings. 

' What !' Mrs. Frere almost shrieked. ' My 



THE FRERES. 285 

pearls ! Your dear father's first gift ! Oh, Grace ! 
I never thought you could propose such a thing — 
it seems like sacrilege. No ! I cannot — cannot 
part with them !* 

Grace with a slight gesture of despair sat down 
in silence, while Mrs. Frere sobbed ; and Randal 
exclaimed : 

' You are too hard on the mother.' 

* Faith ! they are beauties/ said Jimmy, cover- 
ing his distress at this scene by affecting a critical 
and admiring examination of the jewels. 

' Everything must go/ ejaculated Mrs. Frere ; 
* even what I have held most sacred.' 

* See now, Miss Grace I What's the use of 
breaking your dear mamma's heart when I am 
ready and willing to let her have what she wants V 
urged Jimmy Byrne. 

* But, mother !' cried Grace, clasping her hands 
in earnest imploring, 'just think how dreadful it 
would be to take Jimmy's money and not be able 
to pay him, which we never could do unless you 
sold the pearls — they must go sooner or later. Do 
you think my dear father would not rather you 
made use of them than let them lie in their cases? 
All I entreat is that you will not take Jimmy's 
money, or anyone's money. Help me to persuade 
her,' she concluded, turning to Byrne and taking 
his hand, looking into his face with a constraining 
expression in her soft, speaking eyes. 

* Ahem ! Miss Grace dear, there's no denying 
you !' returned the devoted Jimmy. * Look here 
now, Mrs. Frere, ma'am : it's not that all I have 



286 THE FRERES. 

isn't at your service, but how can we vex Miss Grace 
when she's that good, and so thoughtful and kind ! 
If you wouldn't mind — a — a— employing a " rela- 
tive," we might meet the case in every pint/ He 
paused and looked deprecatingly at his revered 
hostess. 

* A relative,' repeated Mrs. Frere. * That was 
my idea ; but Grace would not hear of it.' 

' You mean Uncle Frere ; well, I would rather 
not, if possible,' said Randal. 

' I would not mind it so much if we were not in 
debt,' remarked Grace. 

' True for you, Miss Grace ; but you see, ma'am, 
the "uncle" I mean is a different sort of an uncle. 
Surely you must have heard of parties that advance 
money on personal effects V 

' Of course,' cried Randal ; * pawnbrokers.' 

* Just so — only none of the common sort. Then 
you see, Mrs. Frere, you would not have to part 
with the property at all. It would be kept safe, 
and when you could pay back the loan the pearls 
would be there ready for you, so long as you kept 
up the interest regular.' 

' There, dearest !' said Grace, twining her arm 
through her mother's; 'that is not so bad. It 
would not hurt you to let them go for a little 
while, or even a long while when it would be such a 
help.' 

* Not hurt me to let what is so precious to me go 
into the hands of some common wretch, who smokes 
and — and ^ 

* Not at all, Mrs. Frere, ma'am. These are most 



THE FRERES. 287 

respectable men — fit to be churchwardens, faith !* 
interrupted Byrne. 

After some more discussion, it dawned upon Mrs. 
Frere that it would be a noble sacrifice to give up 
her pearls for her children ; so embracing them with 
smiles and tears, she became the most eager of the 
party to dispose of the treasured gift. The ques- 
tion of value then arose. 

' I know they cost upwards of a hundred, or a 
hundred and fifty pounds,' said Mrs. Frere, con- 
templating her pearls with loving looks. 

* Ahem ! let us say a hundred,' replied Byrne. 
' Now such valuable things as these would always 
fetch nearly what they are worth ; but I wouldn't 
advise more than fifty or sixty being raised on 
them ; that will take you nicely on till the next 
quarter comes in.' 

* Well,' cried Randal, ' if you come to that, I don't 
see why we should not get a hundred. There are 
several things I want — real necessaries, you know.' 

' Yes,' added Mrs. Frere ; * and I want a good 
many important trifles for the girls, that I do not 
very well see how we can do without ; and then it 
IS essential that Mab should have a piano, or she 
will lose all her music' 

' By all means, dear old boy !' said Randal, slap- 
ping Byrne on the shoulder cheerfully ; ' let us say 
a hundred.' 

* Perhaps, Mrs. Frere, ma'am, it might be as well 
to remember that it is easier to pay back sixty 
than a hundred— not to mention interest, which 
comes heavy.* 



288 THE FRERES. 

* I never can understand about interest ; what is 
it ?' asked Grace. 

* It's the rent you pay for the use of the money/ 
said Jimmy, who stoutly resisted the increased 
vote, backed by Grace ; and with much argument, 
and some show of temper from Randal, succeeded 
in fixing the proposed subsidy at seventy pounds. 

This conclusion was not arrived at till far into 
the night, and Byrne then took his leave. 

' How can I ever thank you enough ?' whispered 
Grace, as she followed him to the door. * You do 
not know what a deliverance you have wrought 
for me — me especially ! Come and see me often, 
Jimmy dear, and advise me. I am so ignorant 
about all useful things ; and oh ! how hard it is to 
make money last out !' 

•It is so. Miss Grace ; and the only way to do it, 
my heart ! — oh, sure, I make too bold to call you so ! 
— the only way to do it is to part it, and keep every 
bit for its own use : try for that, Miss Grace dear.' 

' I will, Jimmy — I will ; but mine are not the 
only fingers to dip into the purse.' 

'True for you; you must just do the best you 
can. Good-night, and God bless you ! Sure, all 
this is too hard for you !' 

' Why worse than for the rest } I must take my 
share.' 

* Good-night, me darling young lady !' 

If poverty has many pains, it has also a joy 
wealth can never know: the heavenly sense of 
relief brought by sudden deliverance from pressing 
necessities. 



THE FRERES. 289 

Grace mounted to her bedroom that night as 
though she trod on air. She had been doubly 
delivered : all danger of an application to Max 
was at an end — at any rate, removed into the dim 
distance which youth calls ' never ;' and Miss 
Timbs, whose countenance since yesterday morning 
had been dark and dreadful — more dreadful than 
an opposing park of artillery, or the widening leak 
in a sinking ship, or anything else horrible and 
appalling — Miss Timbs was robbed of all her 
terrors. 

Randal, who had least felt the family difficulties, 
was the least elated, though he went to bed very 
cheerfully, proposing ere they parted to have an 
open carriage the next day and drive to Hampstead 
Heath, just to freshen themselves up after these 
worries, as they were going to be flush of cash. 
Mrs. Frere was radiant. They were not only de- 
livered out of all their troubles ; but the deliverance 
was due to the sacrifice of her pearls. All the time 
Grace was assisting her to undress, she was planning 
the purchase of some new clothes and a change of 
mourning for her dear girls ; she gave few thoughts 
to self. 

Grace listened, but committed herself to no reply, 
so they kissed each other tenderly and parted for 
the night, utterly and completely reconciled, though 
Mrs. Frere had said, half in jest but more in earnest, 
* Ah, Grace ! if you had not turned off poor Mr. 
Darnell, we should not have had this terrible trial 
to ({o through.' 

' I don't see that, mother ! I am sure it 

VOL. I. 19 



290 THE FRERES. 

would have been worse to ask him than any one 
else.' 

With tears of gratitude, Grace, in the solitude of 
her own little chamber, poured forth thanks to God 
for her freedom from any engagement to Mr. 
Darnell, and her emancipation from Max Frere's 
benefits. 

If money cannot give health, affection, and capa- 
bility to enjoy — the three essentials of a happy life 
— the want of it neutralises all : the real want. I 
do not mean that riches are necessary to the full 
enjoyment of the above excellent gifts, but a certain 
ease of circumstance sufficient to ensure indepen- 
dence. 

The effect of a comparatively full purse on the 
little party in Albert Crescent was magical. Mrs. 
Frere cast her terrors to the wind, and once more 
believed that the future hid bright fortunes behind 
its dim mantle. Miss Timbs' fading faith in the 
solvency of her tenants, whose ' carriage visitors ' 
had suddenly and mysteriously forsaken them, 
revived and blossomed forth into smiles and 
civility. Randal seemed content, though indifferent, 
as became a philosopher and poet, to the ebb or 
flow of 'filthy lucre;' even Mab was gay and 
triumphant, for she was to have a new dress and 
lier hat re-trimmed. But Grace, though deeply 
thankful aud infinitely relieved, was the gravest of 
the party, as she felt that she must in future take 
the responsibility of their finances on herself, and 
that if possible without offending her mother. 



THE FRERES. 



291 



whose tender loving nature was yet not quite free 
from that troublesome manifestation of deficient 
reason known as ' huffiness/ 

To make a certain fixed sum suffice for their 
weekly wants, in spite of Mrs. Frere's suggestions 
and Miss Timbs's scarcely veiled contempt, was a 
hard task for inexperience ; and Grace was very 
inexperienced — nay more, naturally open-handed. 
Nor can it be denied that the first three or four 
weeks of her management things were uncomfort- 
able, not to say scanty ; that Randal complained 
bitterly, and eat more expensive luncheons in 
revenge ; that Mrs. Frere sighed, and observed 
that she feared it would be so ; or, worst of all, that 
Grace occasionally lost her temper with the whole 
party. But nature had bestowed on her one great 
gift — the philosopher's stone of social life — that 
without which neither empires or households can 
be properly ruled — * tact.' 

Whatever the discontent above, it was impossible 
to work against Miss Timbs below ; so, following 
historical precedent, Grace, by a sort of instinctive 
intuitive statecraft, turned her into an ally by treat- 
ing her as one. She told Miss Timbs how she 
wished to learn housekeeping on the most econo- 
mical principles ; that in order to keep straight she 
must not exceed a certain outlay — simply and 
honestly asking the keen landlady to help her. 
And she did. The rough justice of her very Eng- 
lish nature was touched, and though she sometimes 
treated the young student of economy with a 

19 — 2 



202 THE FRERES* 

familiarity more friendly than flattering, she proved 
on the whole a useful assistant. 

Like all young reformers, Grace was too eager. 
In her faithful adherence to the advice of her 
• guide, philosopher, and' friend/ Jimmy Byrne, she 
nervously strove to avoid every outlay that could 
possibly be avoided, and made herself perfectly 
miserable over accounts which would not add up or 
balance, and hunting after shillings which could 
not be accounted for. 

How hot and tired she grew while endeavouring 
to make a new frock for Mab ! She had entered 
enthusiastically into the project, after a profound 
calculation, by which she proved to herself that 
making would be half the cost ; and told Mrs. Frere 
that it could not be difficult, as she had a pattern 
in Mab's present garment. But she little knew the 
task she undertook ; she almost wept over her own 
mistakes and the amount of material thereby 
wasted, not to mention Mab's rebellion against 
being ' tried on ' on an average three times a day. 
But she persevered gallantly, and at length pro- 
duced a very wearable dress, the first of many an 
after-effort. 

* Will you come out with us, Grace ?' asked Mrs. 
Frere, one evening, some ten days after the events 
detailed in the last chapter. ' Mab wants a walk, 
and I said I would take her.' 

No, dear,' said Grace. ' I have this flounce to 
sew on, and my work will be finished ; then I shall 
be free.' 

Very well ; I am sure it has been a great under- 



THE FRERES. 



293 



taking, and you have done it so nicely/ returned 
Mrs. Frere, looking round the bedroom where 
Grace had established herself, and which was 
strewn with shred and patches. 

So mother and Mab departed, and Grace worked 
on. She had almost accomplished the last stitch 
when the servant entered. 

* If you please, miss, there's a gentleman below 
wants to see you.' 

' A gentleman !' cried Grace, alarmed. ' Not Mr. 
Darnell, Sarah V 

' No, miss ; a strange gentleman.' 

* Are you sure he did not ask for Mr. Frere — for 
my brother ?' 

* No, miss ; he asked for you, when I said Mrs. 
Frere was out.' 

* I will come directly.' 

As Sarah retired, Grace smoothed her hair, after 
a hasty putting to rights of her toilette by shaking 
off the threads which clung to her dress, and fasten- 
ing on a fresh white frill. Then she went down, 
prepared to meet some friend of Randal's, while 
wondering why that young gentleman had not 
come in ; opened the sitting-room door, and found 
herself face to face with Max Frere. 

The encounter was so unexpected that it is no 
figure of speech to say that it took her breath 
away. With a flash of memory their last tite-d'tite 
interview came back to her, when with passionate 
tenderness he had held her to his heart, and made 
her promise not to flirt with the * parson's grandson ' 
in his absence — and now ! 



294 I^HE FRERES. 

She grew pale with intense feeh'ng — a strange 
fear of being alone with her cousin — a dread lest he 
should insult her with any apology or excuse for 
his conduct. 

She looked thinner and more colourless, he 
thought, than formerly; but her eyes seemed larger 
and darker from the contrast, and an expression 
of gravity stilled her face into unusual earnestness. 

She stopped just inside the door, silent for half 
a second, and then, in a tone of utter natural aston- 
ishment, exclaimed : 

' Max !' 

'Are you so surprised to see me?' said he, ad- 
vancing to meet her, a faint tinge of colour passing 
over his sallow cheek at the unintentional, evi- 
dently unintentional, reproach of her surprise. 

' Yes, rather surprised,' she returned, collecting 
herself, and putting her hand in his for an instant. 
' I am very sorry my mother is out. Will you sit 
down. Max V 

* I tried to get here earlier,' said Max, taking a 
chair, while Grace placed herself opposite in her 
mother's usual seat ; * but it is almost impossible 
to escape from the office. I wanted to come 
every day for the last week,' continued Max, look- 
ing very straight at his cousin, whose composure 
was returning, and who met his eyes steadily. 

'I am sure it is hard to get away,' she said 
quietly, and there was an awkward pause. 

'Grace,' exclaimed Max, and an indefinable 
something in his voice brought the roses to her 
cheek again, * I am more fortunate than I hoped 



THE FRERES. 



295 



to be in finding you alone, for I want you to ex- 
plain various matters which puzzle me.' 
' What are they ?' asked Grace. 

* First : why did you return my cheque ? have 
you utterly renounced me — us — that you will not 
accept help from your nearest relatives ?' 

* I have not renounced you, but why should we 
take your money, or anyone's money (which must 
always be an unpleasant thing to do), when we do 
not want it ?' 

' Then how the deuce did you manage without 
it ? for my aunt wrote rather a hopeless account of 
matters.* 

' Did she ?' exclaimed Grace, flushing crimson 
with anger and mortification. * She wrote without 
my knowledge, you may be sure.' 

' I am sure,' said Max, emphatically. ' But that 
does not account for your being able to do without 
the cheque.' 

*You may therefore conclude that we have 
resources of which you are ignorant, and which my 
m other forgot,' returned Grace, with a brief sweet 
smile. 

* That means, you decline to tell me Y 

' This much I may say — that we have incurred 
no obligation. Your money has been returned,' 
she added, laughing, * so you cannot expect to see 
the play.' 

Max looked at her gravely, almost sternly, for a 
minute without speaking, and then said : 

* I understand. The world is developing you 
wonderfully, Grace !' ^ 



296 THE FRERES. 

' Yes, my education is evidently going to be very 
thorough/ she returned, bravely checking a little 
sob that rose in her throat. 

* Well, number one is disposed of. Now for mys- 
tery number two. I heard the day before yester- 
day, that Darnell had started with Everard, and 
some other fellows, in a yacht to cruise along the 
coast of Norway. Why did you let him go ? or 
why did you send him away ? Come, have patience! 
I speak to you confidentially, because I interest 
myself in your affairs — more than you would per- 
haps believe. Grace, you have flung away fortune 
if you have rejected Darnell.' 

Grace could not reply, so paralysed was she by 
the audacity of this speech. Was it possible that 
Max had forgotten — clean forgotten — what was in- 
delibly stamped upon her memory t After an in- 
stant's pause, he went on : 

* I credited you with the wisdom of compromise ! 
I thought you would have grasped the solid in- 
gredients of life, even if you were forced to forego 
a dream or two, as I have done. I did not think a 
nature like yours could be weakly sentimental.' 

* Do not waste your thoughts on what you can- 
not understand,' said Grace, quivering with in- 
dignation, the very intensity of which gave her 
strength to present an unbroken front to the foe ; 
* our ideas of what is necessary to life are totally 
dissimilar. I have already most of the ingredients 
/ consider solid. Of course it is very mortifying to 
be considered weakly sentimental by you^ but not 
unbearable.' 



THE FRERES. 297 

* Of course a ready retort comes to you as 
naturally as breath to your lips ; yet, Grace, for 
old friendship's sake, tell me why you refused 
Darnell ?' 

* Who told you he asked me ?' 

* The thing is self-evident : not only his dis- 
appearance from the scene, but Lady Elton's. 
Moreover she said to me the night before she left 
Paris, that my Irish relatives were a stiff-necked 
generation.* 

* Did she say that ?' cried Grace, deeply wounded, 
the tears springing to her eyes, and even hanging 
on her long lashes till they visibly fell on the 
handkerchief she would not raise to catch them. 

Max's eyes dwelt on her with a glow in their 
dark depths which she did not heed. 

' " Alas ! how light a cause may move !" ' he 
quoted ironically. ' I thought you were superior 
to the opinion of others V 

* Of people generally, yes ; but I love Lady Elton, 
and it cuts me to the heart to hear that she spoke 
slightingly of us. Why should I be ashamed of 
acknowledging it ?* 

* But her opinion is not unfounded, Grace ?' 

* Perhaps not.' 
A pause. 

* Grace,' said Max, in low soft tones, raising his 
eyes suddenly to hers, * wAy did you refuse Dar- 
nell ? He is not a bad sort of fellow for a bonpartu 
Come, Grace, I want you to confide in me — to talk 
of the future.' 

Another pause, while his eyes rested on her with 



298 THE FRERES. 

a curious expression, as if he wanted to tame some 
wild creature by the power of his glance. 

It was not without effect, though she did not 
lower hers. Her lips trembled and parted as if to 
utter some hasty rtply ; but she closed them reso- 
lutely and remained silent, a half smile indicating 
some change of thought. After waiting for her to 
speak, Max resumed : 

* Do you think, because I yield to the omnipo- 
tence of circumstances, I am not interested in 
you Y 

* Will you be so good as not to trouble yourself 
about my affairs — matrimonial or monetary,* cried 
Grace; 'and I shall feel much more grateful than 
for any help you can give me.' 

There was an angry sparkle in her eyes as she 
spoke. Max sat in silence, tapping the carpet with 
his stick. 

* If you have anything more disagreeable to say, 
say it and have done,' exclaimed Grace, at last. 

' Are you then content, Grace, to settle down to 
the sordid insignificance of poverty — to a life of 
monotonous routine — with scarce a pleasure or a 
break ; to spend your mental powers in calculating 
how to make both ends meet ; to see your beauty 
(to most men you are beautiful, Grace) fading in 
obscurity, bestowed perhaps on some underbred 
companion clerk of your brother's ? Think of such 
a destiny, Grace, compared with ' 

' It is horrible !' she interrupted, and starting from 
her seat she walked hastily to the fireplace, and 
surveyed herself in the glass. * Don't suppose all 



THE FRERES. 299 

this is not horrible to me ! I love ease, and 
pleasure and dress. You don't know how de- 
lightful it is to hear you say I am handsome ! 
I understand all you say ; but can you understand 
that there is something more — a something, the 
want of which nothing else, not all the pleasure 
and grandeur in the world could make up for, and 
that is home — a place to come back to and rest in — 
where you have other selves to share everything 
with you. You don't understand this, Max ; you 
never had a home ! It is no blame or merit to 
me ; I cannot help it. I could no more take my 
mother and Mab and Randal out of my heart and 
live, contented with finery, knowing tJuy were poor, 
than I could take the blood out of my veins ! It 
would be like covering one arm with bracelets and 
gems, and cutting the other off.' 

Max leant his elbow on the table, and resting his 
chin on his hand, gazed at her with reluctant 
admiration. 

'Do you mean to say you will never marry 
because your mother and sister are poor V 

* No,' cried Grace, too much in earnest to mince 
matters or fence. ' If I ever meet a kind, good 
man that will be a son and a brother to them ; and 
if I feel sure they have all they really want, I shall 
marry, I daresay.' 

* Would not Darnell have fulfilled all these con- 
ditions r 

' No ; could I even like him ! And I tell you, 
Max, I dare not marry a man I did not love. I 
suppose it is very wicked ; but I know if I were 




CHAPTER XVI. 



^EEK succeeded week after this interview, 
with a monotony rarely broken ; yet 
though sometimes a little weary and 
cast down, Grace, on the whole, kept 
her courage and spirits. The conversation with 
her cousin had completed her disenchantment, 
while the reluctant admission of his parting words 
soothed her self-esteem — and wounds to self-esteem 
are ever the hardest to heal. She was not un- 
happy; she was too fully employed to mope, 
though the employment was far from congenial. 
To battle against the irrepressible tendency of 
mother and Randal to throw away money on non- 
essentials ; to fight against a similar weakness in 
herself^yielded to occasionally, and bitterly re- 
pented of; to struggle through Mab's lessons 
practising included (for they had ventured to hire 
a piano) ; to help Mrs. Frere in needlework ; to 
manage Miss Timbs; to keep the family accounts 
square, and endure contemptuous reproaches for 



THE FRERES. 303 

her stinginess from Randal without answering 
bitterly — an effort not always successful — this is 
but an outline of her avocations during the long 
weeks between early July and the first days of 
September. 

She was not without her compensations, however. 
Sometimes Mab had a rare fit of attention, which 
woke Grace's hopes ; often she enjoyed an hour's 
practice herself, according to the instructions she 
could remember, for she had a hearty natural love 
of music, and pined for advantages it was not her 
destiny to enjoy. Often Jimmy Byrne brought 
her a thoughtful, suggestive volume of history or 
essays, or a new magazine from a public library to 
which the little man subscribed ; and often, too, a 
bright entrancing novel, which she could read to 
her mother, and which carried her out of the dull 
present into the stirring realms of passion, poetry, 
and adventure. Sometimes there was a delightful 
expedition with Jimmy Byrne and Randal to the 
theatre (upper boxes). Then there were moments 
of purest pleasure when alone with her mother, 
or when bidding her good-night Mrs. Frere would 
whisper a few tender words expressive of her 
reliance on her daughter : * What should we do 
without you, Grace } You are everything to us, 
darling !' 

It was not an unbearable life after all, though 
Grace hoped it would not go on unbrokenly for very 
long. Sometimes she could not believe that for a 
brief interval she had fluttered in the world of 
gaiety and fashion — of pleasure and wealthy idle- 



304 THE FRERES. 

ness. It seemed a dream, less real than the 
pictures conjured up by her vivid imagination 
whenever she sat or walked or worked alone ; 
stories through which she lived as distinctly as if 
they were facts of memory : and in them it must be 
admitted she often triumphed over Max — ^triumphed 
materially — the only kind of triumph Max could 
feel. How to raise herself from her present 
obscurity, with this object, often exercised her 
thoughts ; and these reflections always depressed 
her, for she ever reached the same conclusion, that 
half-educated, untrained and inexperienced, she 
could but do the very humble work belonging to 
' that state to which it had pleased God to call 
her.' 

Of Darnell she scarcely thought at all ; she 
never faltered in her sense of satisfaction at having 
refused him, even when her domestic troubles 
were at the worst. On the whole, it was a peaceful 
period had it not been for Randal, who had latterly 
become so popular among his office-mates, that he 
was very often out till late — not to say early — and 
availed himself of the piano to learn sundry songs 
and choruses. The fact of his receiving a weekly 
stipend made him exceedingly independent, though 
he was not unfrequently driven to apply to his 
mother for a subsidy. 

One ray of exterior joy came to illuminate the 
* even tenor of their way.' 

The morning's post, one dull day in August, 
brought a foreign letter to Mrs. Frere. It was 
from Lady Elton, dated Wiesbaden ; and though 



THE FRERES. 305 

carefully veiled, conveyed an unspoken regret for 
their estrangement and an avowed desire to hear 
of their present condition and prospects. She 
asked for an immediate answer, as she was on 
the point of leaving with some friends for the 
Engadine. 

This letter was the most delightful event that 
could have occurred, in the opinion of Grace and 
Mrs. Frere. To answer it was a charming task, 
performed conjointly by mother and daughter. 

Lady Elton spoke also of her probable return 
to London after Christmas, which was a new though 
remote hope. To be reconciled to her friend and 
benefactress was the acme of Grace's desires at 
present, and here was a prospect of that consum- 
mation. 

It was Sunday, the second day after the receipt 
of this welcome epistle ; and Jimmy Byrne had 
come up, as he often did, to share the family dinner 
in Albert Crescent, to take counsel with Grace, and 
enjoy a talk v/ith her. The little man was bright 
and observant, nor quite uncultivated ; for he often 
solaced his lonely evenings with books as well as 
newspapers, in which he was deeply read, having a 
true Hibernian love of politics. 

Dinner was over, and they had been discussing 
the news of the day, when Jimmy Byrne suddenly 
said : 

* Mrs. Frere, ma'am ! if I might inquire, hadn't 
the master some relations by the name of Costello?' 

VOL. I. 20 



3o6 THE FRERES. 

* Yes, Mr. Byrne ; my mother's name was Costello 
— Costello of Dargan Abbey/ 

* Just so, ma'am ! Well, you see, this Squire 
Blundell, that died about two or three months back 
— you remember, Miss Grace, I was sent away to look 
after the papers and valuables — he has left, among 
other bequests, two thousand pounds in Indian 
railway debentures to a Count Costello of the 
Austrian army, his old friend and comrade. I 
wonder, now, if it's any relation of yours, ma'am ?' 

* Very possibly,' returned Mrs. Frere, with faintly 
awakened interest. ' What is his name — his Chris- 
tian name V 

* Denis — Denis, Count Costello ; and a very old 
gentleman he must be, for the man that's gone was 
over eighty.' 

' Why, Mr. Byrne,* cried Mrs. Frere, now quite 
roused, * he must be my own uncle !' 

* You don't say so !' exclaimed Jimmy, with some 
excitement ; * sure, he is a general, and grand cross 
of something or other, and a great man entirely.' 

*Is he the officer grandpapa used to tell such 
stories about, when they were together in Vienna }' 
asked Grace. 

* Yes, dear ; but we have lost sight of him for 
years. We did not know where to address the 
news of my dear father's death to him. He married 
— oh, forty or forty-five years ago, and is, I believe, 
more German than English.' 

' Irish, you mean !' said Randal. 

* And where is the count, my uncle, now ?' asked 
Mrs. Frere. 



THE FRERES. 307 

' Well, I don't remember the name of the place/ 
returned Jimmy ; 'but I can find out for you. I 
know there have been letters from him, and he 
wants to take his money over to Germany, which is 
just madness.' 

*Do find out his present address for me,' said 
Mrs. Frere. ' I should like to hear from him again. 
I remember his visiting Dungar a couple of years 
before I was married. He was a splendid-looking 
man then, and so bright and gay, though he had 
not long lost his wife.' 

* Ah, it's little they care for wives over there !* 
said Jimmy, with the vague distrust of foreign 
morals natural to an untravelled islander. 

' I wander if he could get me into the Austrian 
service,' cried Randal, eagerly. 

' The Austrian service ! God forbid !' cried Jimmy. 

* You had a deal better stick to the service you 
are in.* 

*Why did this great-uncle of ours go into the 
Austrian service then } He must have been better 
off than I am.' 

' I do not know that, Randal,' replied his mother. 

* The Dargan estate was wofully encumbered ; there 
was next to nothing for younger children : and re- 
member that fifty years ago it was the habit of the 
Irish Catholic gentry to put their younger sons in 
the French and Austrian service. The Costellos 
were all Catholics.' 

* I should like to see him,' said Grace, musingly 

* I fancy him quite a hero of romance.' 

* Had he any children V asked Byrne. 

20 — 2 



3o8 THE FRERES. 

'As well as I remember, several; but it must be 
nearly twenty years since I heard anything of him,' 
said Mrs. Frere. 

' I was thinking,' continued Jimmy, whose world- 
liness was of the simplest, ' it would only be natural 
if he was to adopt you, Mrs. Frere, and Mr. Randal, 
and the young ladies ; for if he is a count and a 
general, I suppose he has a fine property over 
there : but of course, if he has a family, that is 
another matter.' 

' Indeed, Mr. Byrne,* returned Mrs. Frere, smiling, 
' I fear the Austrian service is a very poor one ; 
probably this legacy will seem riches to him. I am 
afraid there are no golden chances before us.' 

'More's the pity,' cried Jimmy, and the subject 
dropped ; but to Grace the conversation suggested 
a fine field for castle-building, which was her chief 
recreation. 

Grand and wide were the structures she raised on 
the airy foundation of fancy. Sometimes a sudden 
accession of fortune through some unexpected 
channel enabled her to revisit Dungar in splendour, 
and even tempt the present possessor to cut off the 
entail, and sell the beloved place to her ; sometimes 
she developed a voice, genius, art-power that would 
raise her to prominence and prosperity. Now she 
imagined her Austrian grand-uncle a model of all 
that was generous ; pictured the possibility of his 
having, say, a married daughter, also charming and 
genial ; she invites Grace to Vienna, and launches 
her into the most brilliant society of that delightful 
caprtal ; there she meets Max, and is able to assist 



THE FRERES. 309 

him socially — she would acquire German in a few 
months ; she would display that new riding-habit — 
poor dear grandpapa's last gift — filched from more 
pressing claims upon his last loan. People rode in 
Vienna, and appreciated good riding ; perhaps she 
might be presented to the empress. The Costello . 
and De Burgh blood would entitle her to 

* Gracie dear/ said Mao — down came Grace to 
the narrow realities of Albert Crescent, and beheld 
Mab standing, one little rosy foot quite bare on the 
dark carpet, and holding out a stocking — 'there is 
such a big hole in the heel ; would you mind sewing 
it up before I go out ? Miss Timbs is going to 
Covent Garden for fruit to make jam, and she is 
going to take me with her. We will bring it back 
on the top of the omnibus. Don't you think I 
might sit there too V 

* Oh, Mab ! why will you not look at your stock- 
ings before you put them on, and bring them to me 
if they want mending } Have you no others ?' 

' None without holes/ returned Mab, shaking her 
head. 

So having made her sister presentable, Grace 
devoted the remainder of the afternoon to an ener- 
getic repairing of numerous small stockings, which, 
iiowever, was no impediment to a dioramic succes- 
sion of mental pictures which helped the time away 
while the busy fingers plied the needle. 

August was now nearly over, and the weather 
beautiful and fresh — a change doubly welcome, for 
the first half of the month had been dull and rainy. 
Although the streets had that deserted look ^which 



3IO THE FRERES. 

London, in spite of its multitude of inhabitants, 
presents in the ' out-of-season * period, Mrs. Frere 
and her daughter did not feel it, for their walks 
were always in search of fields and trees, or what 
apologies for them they could find. 

Randal was not well. He had caught cold, and 
had a bad cough. He was feverish too, and his 
mother and Grace persuaded him to stay at home 
for two days, a seclusion he bore very impatiently. 
He was the least healthy of Mrs. Frere's children 
— the least constitutionally strong ; and he had 
grown visibly paler and thinner since their residence 
in London. His spirits were variable also, and 
subject to frequent depression. At times he looked 
on himself as a blighted genius, doomed to an early 
grave ; at others, when he had achieved some little 
social triumph among his fellow-clerks, with whom 
he was very popular, he would be radiant, brimful 
of hope and brightest anticipations. * There must 
be something in me, mother !' he would remark ; 
* or those fellows — honest well-meaning chaps, with 
plenty of sense — would not be so ready to applaud 
all I say !' 

He had been very rebellious on the second day 
of his imprisonment, having finished a thrilling tale 
of Miss Braddon's, and not liking the volume just 
chosen by his sister to replace it. 

' Where is Jimmy Byrne Y he asked querulously, 
as Grace, in hat and scarf, stood beside the easy- 
chair wherein he lounged. * The little beggar has 
not been near us for a week past ; he always has 
something to say.' 



THE FRERES. . 311 

* There is a note on the table for my mother/ re- 
plied Grace ; ' and I think the writing looks like his.' 

* Let us open it !' cried Randal. 

' No, no ! Mother and Mab will soon be back ; 
they have only gone round by Holland Park, 
and ' 

' Nonsense, Grace ! the mother would not mind ! 
Why, we have no secrets ! Hand, it over like a 
good girl.' 

* Indeed I will not!' 

*Then I will take it myself !* and Randal, darting 
from his seat, pounced upon the note. 

* I am sure it is not right, Randal !' 

* On my head be it !* he cried, laughing ; and tear- 
ing open the envelope, he read : 

* Dear Madam, 

' I have been that busy I have not had time 
to run up to the Crescent, and I hoped Mr. Randal 
might call. Who do you think walked into the 
office late this afternoon 1 General Count Costello 
himself, no less ! I was sent for to bring some 
papers about the late Mr. Blundell's investments, 
and so soon as he heard me speak, " You are a 
countryman of mine !" says he. " I am so," says I. 
** Where do you come from T " A place called 
Dungar,'* says I. With that he nearly shook my 
hand off, and asked no end of questions. And I just 
write to beg and pray of Mr. Randal to go and call 
upon him — Charing Cross Hotel, No. 153 — as soon as 
ever you get this ; he (the general) is just dying to 
see some of his own people from the old country. 



312 THE PRE RES. 

I hope to call round to-morrow evening, but not 
before eight. 

* Your respectful and obedient servant, 

' J. Byrne.' 

* By Jupiter ! there's a transformation scene for 
you, Grace ! I will dress and be off this moment. 
What o'clock is it V 

* Nearly one. But you must wait till after dinner, 
till my mother comes in. An hour or two later 
will make very little difference ; you will not find 
the count — he will be sure to be out' 

* At any rate I will get ready, and be off directly 
we have dined. Why, Grace, this is a bit of romance !' 

And Randal vanished into his room, quite 
restored to health and vigour by this wonderful 
piece of intelligence. 

Mrs. Frere was less excited than her children on 
reading Jimmy's note ; her imagination had faded 
somewhat in the storms of time and change. How- 
ever, she was pleased at the idea of seeing any of 
her kin, and wrote a very amiable note, begging 
the stranger uncle to give them an early day, and 
to name which would suit him best. 

Armed with this and his card as credentials, 
Randal started, as soon as he could escape from his 
mother's entreaties to eat more, to drink another 
glass of wine, etc. ; and the remainder of the day 
passed as usual, but for a little variation in the 
conversation consequent on Mrs. Frere's intermit- 
tent queries and suggestions. * I suppose, if my 
uncle comes to dinner, he will give some little 



THE FRERES. 313 

notice, so that we may be prepared ?' or, * Should 
the count come, Grace, you will strain a point, 
dear, and let us have a nice little dinner ?* or, 'You 
know, Grace, the man downstairs is away for his 
holiday ; I think Miss Timbs would let us have his 
room to dine in, if you asked her/ 

Then Mab of course had a hundred questions to 
put, of the most searching character ; and was so 
bent on receiving satisfactory replies, that it was 
almost impossible to make her go through her 
afternoon practising. At the end of each scale or 
exercise she would swing round on the piano-stool, 
with : * But, Grace,* or, * But, mother, why has this 
uncle never come to see us before ?' or, ' Do you 
think our uncle has ever killed a man — really 
killed one himself in a battle?* 'Will he speak 
English V etc., etc. 

Randal returned in a couple of hours, looking 
very pale and weary. He had not found Count 
Costello, nor Jimmy Byrne, at whose office he 
had also called. Mr. Byrne had gone out with 
the count, and was not expected back that day. 

' Then he will come on here in the evening, and 
tell us everything,' observed Grace. 

And then Randal settled himself to read ; the 
shades of night began to close in, tea was served, 
and Grace, with much tact, persuaded Mab to 
retire at eight o'clock, as she particularly wished 
that observant young person not to be present 
during Jimmy Byrne's visit. To this end she ac- 
companied her upstairs, undertaking to brush her 
hair and help her to undress. 



314 THE FRERES. 

This process was proceeding, when a loud ring 
of the front-door bell attracted Mab's attention. 

' That's a runaway,' she said : ' Miss Timbs is 
nearly driven crazy with them. She caught one 
boy, though, yesterday ; she was at ' 

* Hush, Mab !' cried Grace, pausing, with the 
brush uplifted in her hand. Feet were heard 
coming upstairs to the drawing-room; no doubt 
Jimmy Byrne. Grace recommenced brushing with 
redoubled vigour, longing to run down and hear 
the news, and Mab recommenced : 

*She was at the side-door taking in the milk 
when the ring came, so she darted up the steps 
and knocked him on the head with the tin measure. 
Was it not fun ? I wish I had been there !' 

A sudden knock at the door, and Randal's voice 
said : 

* Grace, you must dress Mab again, and come 
down quick ! Here is Count Costello come with 
Jimmy Byrne !' 

* Is it possible ?' cried Grace, hastily tying up 
Mab's abundant locks, hurrying on her frock, and 
arraying her to the best advantage. ' There now, 
Mab, go on downstairs ; I will come directly.' 

Mab, nothing loath, started off. Grace, having 
made a rapid inspection of her own toilette and 
added an improving touch or two, followed quickly. 

When she came into the sitting-room she was a 
little dazzled, for Randal had lit all three gas- 
burners in honour of the visit. Mrs. Frere was in 
her usual chair, Randal and Jimmy Byrne were 
standing at the other side of the table, and opposite 



THE FRERES. 315 

the door sat an old gentleman, holding both Mab's 
hands, while she stood between his knees. As Grace 
came into the full light he looked up, putting Mab 
away, and rising suddenly, stood facing her. A 
fine figure, very tall and very thin, but large ; a 
once- powerful frame, still grand in age ; a well-set 
head, with plentiful grey hair, cut in military 
fashion ; thick, nearly white eyebrows, over-hang- 
ing large dark eyes that looked absolutely black 
from contrast ; long grey moustache, an aquiline 
face, and stern soldierly aspect ; the slightly-bowed 
legs and peculiar step, as if the sabretache was always 
knocking against his left heel (which Grace after- 
wards observed), betrayed the old trooper. She 
paused, colouring under the dark piercing eyes 
which seventy-five years had not yet robbed of all 
their fire. But the count, making a step forward, 
said, with a slight quiver in his voice and a sur- 
prised air : 

' Who — who is this ?' yet holding out his hand 
while he spoke. 

* My eldest daughter, Grace,' replied Mrs. Frere. 

' Grace — did you say Grace ?* repeated, the old 
man, laying the other hand over hers which she 
had given him ; then he murmured something in 
German which no one understood, and exclaimed 
in as genuine an Irish accent as if he had never left 
his native country, * My dear child, you are like a 
bit — faith, a bright bit ! — of my old life given back 
to me. God bless you, my child !* He drew her 
to him, and kissed her brow with a kind of solemnity 
very touching to his young grand-niece, who thought 



3i6 THE PRE RES. 

the still muscular, gnarled hand trembled as it lay 
upon her shoulder, * How did you come to call her 
Grace ?' he continued, holding her away and gazing 
with a yearning expression in his deep tyt,s. 

' It was a fancy of my dear father's,' returned 
Mrs. Frere; 'she was his favourite grand-child. 
He named her after a Grace Costello, about whom 
there is a story of her riding some immense 
distance in an incredibly short time, to warn some 
outlaws and give them time to escape/ 

* Ay, I know !' returned the count ; * and she is 
like another Grace Costello — a cousin of ours — 
did you ever see her ? — but no ; she must have 
left Ireland before you were born — as like as if she 
herself stood before me !* 

The old man sat down, and for a moment seemed 
lost in thought ; then rousing himself, he began to 
ask questions — endless questions — many of which 
Mrs. Frere was unable to answer : they related to 
people and circumstances passed away and for- 
gotten before her time. 

The count was deeply distressed to hear the 
fallen fortunes of his niece, and greatly astonished. 
But he said little, evidently restrained by a feeling 
of delicacy ; though Mrs. Frere poured forth her 
tale of woe with little reserve, in spite of Grace's 
occasional efforts to check her. 

Then Grace, in her character of housekeeper, 
with a sweet smile and blush, asked if her uncle 
had dined. 

' Yes, my jewil,' he returned. * After dragging 
my friend here' — a condescending wave of the 



THE FRERES. 317 

hand to Jimmy — ' all over the town, we went back 
to the hotel to dinner, and there I found this young 
gentleman's card ' — a nod and smile to Randal — 
' and your note, my dear niece. I was so over- 
joyed to find one of my own kin ready and anxious 
to welcome the old stranger, that I could not resist 
accompanying Mr. Byrne to see you at once.' 

' At any rate, uncle, have a glass of wine after 
your drive out here,* said Mrs. Frere, seeing that 
Grace, by some occult process, had conjured up 
glasses, biscuits, and a bottle of Bordeaux. 

To this the count readily assented, and drank to 
their future friendship, chinking glasses rather 
noisily. Then he drank Jimmy Byrne's health, 
then success to Randal, and so grew exceedingly 
friendly and communicative. 

He told how his eldest son had married a 
Hungarian heiress, and lived on his estate; and his 
second son had a distant command in Croatia. 
That he himself had for the last eight or nine years 
resided with his widowed daughter, who had married 
a Saxon Gutsbesitzer, or gentleman farmer, and 
who managed the property during her son's 
minority. That she had two daughters, good and 
love-worthy maidens ; and that life was very tran- 
quil and happy in the remote valley near the 
Bohemian frontier. Still it was evident that the 
journey to London, the sudden glimpse of the 
living world, had been a great delight to the hale 
old man, in whose nearly exhausted life still 
lingered a sparkle of that ' eternal boyhood ' which 
death only can extinguish in an Irishman's nature. 



31 8 THE FRERES. 

They talked far into the night, Count Costello 
occasionally breaking off to address Grace, * Let 
me hear your voice, darling ! it takes me back 
five-and-forty years ;' or, * Look at me, jewil ! 
Mein Gott ! I see another's eyes in yours/ 

At last Count Costello ordered Jimmy Byrne to 
fetch him a cab — declared he was keeping the 
ladies up too late — kiseed Mrs. Frere's hand and 
Grace's brow — ^set his heels .together — made a 
magnificent bow, and departed. 

The exclamations, observations, and discussions 
which ensued may be imagined. 

In truth, the appearance on the scene of the 
Austrian grand-uncle made a great and important 
change in the life of the Albert Crescent recluses. 
The old man quite revelled in the fresh delight of 
playing the generous friend to his new-found 
relatives. He gave them frequent dinners at his 
hotel and elsewhere ; he engaged Mrs. Frere and 
Grace in long shopping expeditions, to select 
presents for his daughter and his grandchildren. 
He took advantage of this opportunity to make 
many useful gifts to Mrs. Frere and Grace. In 
short, the gallant veteran, finding that a half year's 
dividend had accrued since the death of his friend 
the testator, thoroughly enjoyed the unusual plea- 
sure of having what seemed to him a large sum of 
money at his disposal. But London is a costly 
place ; and at the end of a fortnight he began to 
talk of returning to his Saxon home. 

In the close and friendly intercourse with Grace, 
which sprang up quickly and naturally, the kindly 



THE FRERES. 319 

old man soon acquired a full and complete know- 
ledge of the skeletons hidden in the recesses of her 
thoughtful heart, which by some strange sympa- 
thetic attraction was drawn to reveal its hopes and 
fears to the pleasant, light-hearted old soldier, 
whose experience and worldly wisdom was yet so 
curiously streaked with simplicity and tender- 
ness. 

A wonderful friendship had sprung up between 
him and Grace, and though she did not feel the same 
reliance on his judgment as on Jimmy Byrne's, she 
was nevertheless immensely cheered and encouraged 
by the acquisition of one more warm friend. 

It was with a certain sinking of the heart she 
looked forward to the approaching separation from 
her grand-uncle. London would seem doubly 
desolate when he was gone. Ah, if Uncle Frere 
had been like him, how different their lives 
might be ! 

* Here is a note from the count,* said Mrs. Frere, 
one afternoon, as Grace came into the room after 
ascending from a domestic consultation with Miss 
Timbs. * He says he will sup with us at seven, as 
he has a communication of some importance to 
make. I wonder what it can be ! At any rate, 
dear, let us have something nice for supper. Could 
you manage a lobster mayonnaise, or a dressed 
crab ? your uncle enjoys a little fish.' 

' I will see about it, mother dear. We have some 
nice cold beef and salad, and the count is so fond 
of salad ;' and Grace hurried away to prepare for 
the coming guest. 



320 THE FRERES. 

It was a wet, wild evening, and Count Costello 
arrived in a cab, accompanied by Jimmy Byrne. 

The count was looking remarkably well in a 
fashionable suit of London-made garments, and 
had an air of scarcely veiled importance. After an 
interchange of greetings, Count Costello took his 
seat, and glancing round, remarked : 

* Your boy has not come in yet, my dear niece X 

* No ; he is often late on Wednesdays. It is a 
foreign-post day, I believe.* 

' Ha ! I should prefer his presence, as I want to 
hold a family council. But as he is detained, I 
shall proceed without him,' said the count, drawing 
a letter from his pocket and handing it to Mrs. 
Frere. * Let me beg your attention to this letter 
from my daughter, Frau Alvsleben, which reached 
me only this morning.' 

* From my cousin !' exclaimed Mrs. Frere, in 
some surprise, * and in French.' 

' Yes, my daughter can speak a little English, 
but to write it is beyond her. Read, my dear niece, 
read !' 

The letter was somewhat formal, but very kind, 
and contained an invitation for Grace to accom- 
pany the count on his journey back, and pass a 
couple of months with her Saxon relatives, who 
would do all in their power to amuse and interest 
her. Mrs. Frere handed the letter to Grace, 
observing : 

* Madame Alvsleben is most kind and hospitable, 
but we have you to thank, dear uncle, for this 
tempting proposal.' 



THE FRERES. 321 

To Grace, a whole volume of new and delightful 
possibilities seemed to open, as she glanced through 
the letter. A visit to Germany ! a total and com- 
plete escape from Max Frere's patronage and in- 
terference ! It would be too delightful! But 
mother and Mab — ^how could she leave them ? 

'Well, what does my jewil say?' asked the 
count, who had been watching her. 'Will you 
start with me on Monday ?' 

' Oh, dear uncle, I should like it ever so much ; 
but I do not very well see how it can be managed. 
I can scarcely leave the mother ; and then — ^' 
She paused. 

* Don't think of the cost of the journey,' said the 
count ; * that's my affair.' 

' Here is Randal !' cried Mab ; whereupon the 
matter in hand was explained, and the discussion 
proceeded. 

* I don't see how we can get on without Grace,* 
said Randal. 

* Anyhow, it's right she should get a peep of the 
world, after her slavin' for everyone,' remarked 
Jimmy Byrne ; ' and where would she have such 
an opportunity as this, to travel under the care of 
a nobleman and her own blood relation V 

* True for you, Byrne ! Begad ! you are a 
sensible little fellow,' said the count 

* It would be terrible to part with her, even for a 
week,' said Mrs. Frere, tremulously ; * but when it 
would be for her good !' 

' I will not go if you feel you could not do with- 
out me,' observed Grace. 

VOL. I. 21 



322 



THE FRERES. 



* Listen to me now/ began the count, with the 
air of making an oration ; ' I have been thinking 
hard what's best for you all, and I believe that you 
are just wasting your substance in this costly 
capital. Come away with both your girls, niece 
Frere. Life is easier and cheaper in our corner of 
the world. You'll get a good education for this 
child,' laying his hand on Mab's head ; * youll find 
a simple cheerful society for yourself and Grace, 
and get something more than bare meat, drink, 
dress, and shelter. Then you'll be near your next 
of kin, and we will look after you.' 

' It would be very nice,' said Mrs. Frere, hesi- 
tatingly ; * but I could not leave Randal.' 

* Randal is a man, and must learn to take care of 
himself ; your first duty is to your daughters,* re- 
turned the old soldier, gravely. 

* Perhaps, uncle, you might get me into the 
Austrian service,' suggested Randal. 

' No ! I would not if I could, sir. You are a 
deuced deal better off where you are. The Austrian 
service is not what it used to be. My notion is 
this* : let Grace come with me — she will pick up a 
little German in a month. Between us we will 
find good quarters for you ; and then you and the 
child come over when all is ready, and get settled 
before winter. What do you say ? Here's Byrne 
will look after Randal, who has begun to earn a 
trifle ; and he will be twice the man he is when he 
hasn't his mammy to coddle him.' 

An animated discussion ensued, in which Randal 
was the chief dissentient. Jimmy Byrne was 



THE FRERES. 323 

strongly in favour of the count's suggestion, and so 
was Mrs. Frere, though considerably appalled at the 
idea of so tremendous an undertaking. 

By the time they sat down to a pretty and 
appetising little supper, however, the count had 
prevailed so far at least, that all agreed to the 
proposal of Grace's visit with a view to her recon- 
noitring the country ; nay, more, that she should 
start with him on the following Monday. 

* Once the line of march is decided, " boot and 
saddle !" no loitering !' cried the old soldier, highly 
pleased at the prospect of carrying off his favourite 
grand-niece, and his spirits were infectious. 

Somehow, before supper was over, everyone 
began to consider the suggested removal to Saxony 
as a most happy thought. Jimmy, who never got 
rid of the notion that the count had a fine estate 
somewhere, and that ' Miss Grace' would have her 
share of it, forgot all selfish regrets in the hope of 
her prosperity. Mrs, Frere, recalling old tales of 
German prices, began to expect they might live 
on two or three hundred a year like millionaires. 
Mab brightened up at the prospect of living near 
the country ; and Grace — Grace thought that pro- 
pitious heaven had opened to her a direct deliver- 
ance from dulness, depression, and obscurity. 

So they drank each other's health in some cham- 
pagne brought by Uncle Costello, and clinked 
glasses and encouraged each other by pleasant 
fanciful suggestions, till a merrier party could not 
be found. 

When at last Grace was alone in her little room, 

21 — 2 



324 



THE FRERES. 



she could hardly quiet herself to serious thought 
Was it possible that in four days she would be 
starting on this suddenly projected voyage of 
discovery ? She trembled at the idea — at the bare 
imagination of leaving mother and Mab unpro- 
tected. Yet she felt it was a chance for all she 
must not lose ; and with a short but fervent prayer 
to God for help and guidance, she at last sank to 
sleep. 



END OF VOL. I. 



BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS AND ELECTROTYPERS, CiriLDPORD. 

7. 5". &* So*ts. 



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