“Not cared that father should love some one else!”
The astonishment expressed in the young, childlike face daunted Emily for the moment.
“She would have cared for your welfare. You had better think of her as wishing that her children should always be very dear to their father, as desirous that they should not set themselves against his wishes, and vex and displease him.”
“Then I suppose I’d better give you Johnnie’s letter,” said Barbara, “because he is so angry—quite furious, really.” She took out a letter, and put it into Emily’s hand. “Will you burn it when you go home? but, Mrs. Walker, will you read it first, because then you’ll see that Johnnie does love father—and dear mamma too.”
Voices were heard now and steps on the gravel. Barbara took up her eyeglass, and moved forward; then, when she saw Justina, she retreated to Emily’s side with a gesture of discomfiture and almost of disgust.
“Any step-mother at all,” she continued, “Johnnie says, he hates the thought of; but that one—Oh!”
“What a lesson for me!” thought Emily; and she put the letter in her pocket.
“It’s very rude,” whispered Barbara; “but you mustn’t mind that;” and with a better grace than could have been expected she allowed Justina to kiss her, and the two ladies walked back through the fields, the younger children accompanying them nearly all the way home.
MRS. BRANDON ASKS A QUESTION.
flowed in a much-troubled channel;
I see you as then in your impotent strife,
A tight little bundle of wailing and flannel,
Perplexed with that newly-found fardel call’d life.”
John Mortimer was the last guest to make his appearance on the morning of the christening. He found the baby, who had been brought down to be admired, behaving scandalously, crying till he was crimson in the face, and declining all his aunt’s loving persuasions to him to go to sleep. Emily was moving up and down the drawing-room, soothing and cherishing him in her arms, assuring him that this was his sleepy time, and shaking and patting him as is the way of those who are cunning with babies. But all was in vain. He was carried from his father’s house in a storm of indignation, and from time to time he repeated his protest against things in general till the service was over.
Some of the party walked home to the house. Justina lingered, hastened, and accosted John Mortimer. But all in vain; he kept as far as possible from her, while Emily, who had gone forward, very soon found him close at her side.
“Madam,” he said, “I shall have the honour of taking you in to luncheon. Did you know it?”
“No, John,” she answered, laughing because he did, and feeling as if the occasion had suddenly become more festive, though she knew some explanation must be coming.