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'And am I then forgot, forgot? It broke the heart of Ellen!'--CAMPBELL
Clarence and Martyn walked over to Hillside the first thing the next morning to inquire for the two sisters. As to one, they were quickly reassured, for Anne was in the porch feeding the doves, and no sooner did she see them than out she flew, and was clinging round Martyn's neck, her hat falling back as she kissed him on both cheeks, with an eagerness that made him, as Clarence reported, turn the colour of a lobster, and look shy, not to say sheepish, while she exclaimed, ' Oh, Martyn! mamma says she never thanked you, for you really and truly did save my life, and I am so glad it was you-- '
'It was not I, it was Ellen,' gruffly muttered Martyn.
'Oh yes! but papa says I should have been smothered in that horrid mud, before Ellen could get to me if you had not pulled me up directly.'
The elders came out by this time, and Clarence was able to get in his inquiry. Ellen had had a feverish night, and her chest seemed oppressed, but her mother did not think her seriously ill. Once she had asked, 'Is it true, what Fanny Reynolds said?' and on being answered, 'Yes, my dear, I am afraid it is,' she had said no more; and as the Fordyce habit of treating colds was with sedatives, her mother thought her scarcely awake to the full meaning of the tidings, and hoped to prevent her dwelling on them till she had recovered the physical shock. Having answered these inquiries, the two parents turned upon Martyn, who, in an access of shamefacedness, had crept behind Clarence and a great orange-tree, and was thence pulled out by Anne's vigorous efforts. The full story had come to light. The Reynolds' boys had grown boisterous as soon as the restraint of the young ladies' participation had been removed, and had, whether intentionally or not, terrified little Anne in the chases of hide-and-seek. Finally, one of them had probably been unable to withstand the temptation of seeing her timid nervous way of peeping and prying about; and had, without waiting to be properly found, leapt out of his lair with a roar that scared the little girl nearly out of her wits, and sent her flying, she knew not whither. Martyn was a few steps behind, only not holding her hand, because the other children had derided her for clinging to his protection. He had instantly seen where she was going, and shouted to her to stop and take care; but she was past attending to him, and he had no choice but to dart after her, seeing what was inevitable; while George Reynolds had sense to stop in time, and seek a safer descent. Had Martyn not been there to raise the child instantly from the stifling mud, her sister could hardly have been in time to save her.
Mrs. Fordyce tearfully kissed him; her husband called him a little hero, as if in joke, then gravely blessed him; and he looked, Clarence related, as if he had been in the greatest possible disgrace.
It was the second time that one of us had saved a life from drowning, but there was none of the exultation we had felt that time before in London. It was a much graver feeling, where the danger had really been greater, and the rescue had been of one so dear to us. It was tempered likewise by anxiety about our dear Ellen--ours, alas, no longer! She was laid up for several days, and it was thought better that she should not see Emily till she had recovered; but after a week had passed, her father drove over to discuss some plans for the Poor-Law arrangements, and begged my sister to go back in the carriage and spend the day with his daughter.
We brothers could now look forward to some real intelligence; we became restless; and in the afternoon Clarence and I set out with the donkey-chair on the woodland path to meet Emily. We gained more than we had hoped, for as we came round one of the turns in the winding path, up the hanging beech-wood, we came on the two friends- -Ellen, a truly Una-like figure, in her white dress with her black scarf making a sable stole. Perhaps we betrayed some confusion, for there was a bright flush on her cheeks as she came towards us, and, standing straight up, said, 'Clarence, Edward, I am so glad you are here; I wanted to see you. I wanted--to say--I know he could not help it. It was his generosity--helping those that need it; and-- and--I'm not angry. And though that's all over, you'll always be my brothers, won't you?'
She held her outstretched hands to us both. I could not help it, I drew her down, and kissed her brow; Clarence clasped her other hand and held it to his lips, but neither of us could utter a word.
She turned back and went quietly away through the wood, while Emily sank down under the beech-tree in a paroxysm of grief. You may see which it was, for Clarence cut out 'E. M. F., 1835' upon the bark. He soothed and caressed poor Emily as in old nursery troubles; and presently she told us that it would be long before we saw that dear one again, for Mrs. Fordyce was going to take her away on the morrow.
Mrs. Fordyce had seen Emily in private, before letting her go to Ellen. There was evidently a great wish to be kind. Mrs. Fordyce said she could never forget what she owed to us all, and could not think of blaming any of us. 'But,' she said, 'you are a sensible girl, Emily,'--'how I hate being called a sensible girl,' observed the poor child, in parenthesis,--'and you must see that it is desirable not to encourage her to indulge in needless discussion after she once understands the facts.' She added that she thought a cessation of present intercourse would be wise till the sore was in some degree healed. She had not been satisfied about her daughter's health for some time, and meant to take her to Bath the next day to consult a physician, and then decide what would be best. 'And, my dear,' she said, 'if there should be a slackening of correspondence, do not take it as unkindness, but as a token that my poor child is recovering her tone. Do not discontinue writing to her, but be guarded, and perhaps less rapid, in replying.'
It was for her friendship that poor Emily wept so bitterly--the first friendship that had been an enthusiasm to her; looking at it as a cruel injustice that Griff's misdoing should separate them. The prediction that all might be lived down and forgotten was too vague and distant to be much consolation; indeed, we were too young to take it in.
We had it all over again in a somewhat grotesque form when, at another turn in the wood, we came upon Martyn and Anne, loaded with treasures from their robbers' cave, some of which were bestowed in my chair, the others carried off between Anne and her not very willing nursery-maid.
Anne kissed us all round, and augured cheerfully that she should lay up a store of shells and rocks by the seaside to make 'a perfect Robinson Crusoe cavern,' she said, 'and then Clarence can come and be the Spaniards and the savages. But that won't be till next summer,' she added, shaking her head. 'I shall get Ellen to tell Emily what shells I find, and then she can tell Martyn; for mamma says girls never write to boys unless they are their brothers! And now Martyn will never be my brother,' she added ruefully.
'You will always be our darling,' I said.
'That's not the same as your sister,' she answered. However, amid auguries of the combination of robbers and Robinson Crusoe, the parting was effected, and Anne borne off by the maid; while we had Martyn on our hands, stamping about and declaring that it was very hard that because Griff chose to be a faithless, inconstant ruffian, all his pleasure and comfort in life should be stopped! He said such outrageous things that, between scolding him and laughing at him, Emily had been somewhat cheered by the time we reached the house.
My father had written to Griffith, in his first displeasure, curt wishes that he might not have reason to repent of the step he had taken, though he had not gone the right way to obtain a blessing. As it was not suitable that a man should be totally dependent on his wife, his allowance should be continued; but under present circumstances he must perceive that he and Lady Peacock could not be received at Chantry House. We were shown the letter, and thought it terribly brief and cold; but my mother said it would be weak to offer forgiveness that was not sought, and my father was specially exasperated at the absence of all contrition as to the treatment of Ellen. All Griff had vouchsafed on that head was--the rupture had been the Fordyces' doing; he was not bound. As to intercourse with him, Clarence and I might act as we saw fit.
'Only,' said my father, as Clarence was leaving home, 'I trust you not to get yourself involved in this set.'
Clarence gave a queer smile, 'They would not take me as a gift, papa.'
And as my father turned from the hall door, he laid his hand on his wife's arm, and said, 'Who would have told us what that young fellow would be to us.'
She sighed, and said, 'He is not twenty-three; he has plenty of money, and is very fond of Griff.'
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