Heartsease or Brother's Wife
In glowing health, with boundless wealth,
But sickening of a vague disease,
You know so ill to deal with time,
You needs must play such pranks as these.--TENNYSON.
In spite of herself, Theodora's heart bounded at the prospect of having Arthur's
child in the house. She visited the babies in the village, and multiplying their
charms by the superior beauty of Arthur and his wife, proportionably raised her
expectations, but, of course, she betrayed none of her eagerness, and would not
give up one iota of her course of village occupations for the sake of being at
home for the arrival.
Nevertheless, she returned across the park, through burning sunshine, at double-
quick pace, only slackened on seeing a carriage, but it proved to be her aunt,
who was being assisted out of it, and tottering up the steps with the help of Lady
Martindale's arm, while Miss Piper, coming down to give her assistance, informed
them that the party had arrived about an hour before. The two gentlemen had
gone out, and Mrs. Arthur Martindale was in her own room.
Trembling with eagerness, Theodora followed the tardy steps of her mother and
aunt as they mounted the stairs. As they entered the gallery, a slender figure
advanced to meet them, her apple-blossom face all smiles, and carrying a thing
like a middle-sized doll, if doll had ever been as bald, or as pinched, or as skinny,
or flourished such spare arms, or clenched such claw-like fingers. Was this the
best she could give Arthur by way of son and heir? Yet she looked as proud and
exulting as if he had been the loveliest of children, and the little wretch himself
had a pert, lively air of speculation, as if he partook her complacency.
Lady Martindale gave her stately greeting, and Mrs. Nesbit coldly touched her
hand; then Theodora, with some difficulty, pronounced the words, 'How are you?'
and brought herself to kiss Violet's cheek, but took no apparent notice of the
child, and stood apart while her mother made all hospitable speeches, moving
on, so as not to keep Mrs. Nesbit standing.
Theodora followed her aunt and mother, and as soon as the baize door was shut
on them, Violet hugged her baby closely, whispering, 'No welcome for the poor
little boy! nobody cares for him but his own mamma! Never mind, my Johnnie, we
are not too grand to love each other.'
Theodora in the meantime could not help exclaiming, 'Poor child! It is just like a
'Don't talk of it, my dear,' said Lady Martindale, with a shudder and look of
suffering. 'Poor little dear! He looks exactly as your poor little brother did!' and
she left the room with a movement far unlike her usually slow dignified steps.
'Ah!' said her aunt, in a tone between grief and displeasure; 'here's a pretty
business! we must keep him out of her way! Don't you ever bring him forward,
Theodora, to revive all that.'
'What is the meaning of it?' said Theodora. 'I did not know I ever had another