CHAPTER I. A CHAPTER OF RETROSPECT
Sorrow He gives and pain, good store;
Toil to bear, for the neck which bore;
For duties rendered, a duty more;
And lessons spelled in the painful lore
Of a war which is waged eternally.-Anon.
“Ah! my Gerald boy! There you are! Quite well?”
Gerald Underwood, of slight delicate mould, with refined, transparent-looking features, and with hair and budding moustache too fair for his large dark eyes, came bounding up the broad stair, to the embrace of the aunt who stood at the top, a little lame lady supported by an ivory-headed staff. Her deep blue eyes, dark eyebrows, and sweet though piquant face were framed by the straight crape line of widowhood, whence a soft white veil hung on her shoulders.
“Cherie sweet! You are well? And the Vicar?”
“Getting on. How are they all at Vale Leston?”
“All right. Your mother got to church on Easter-day.” This was to Anna Vanderkist, a young person of the plump partridge order, and fair, rosy countenance ever ready for smiles and laughter.
“Here are no end of flowers,” as the butler brought a hamper.
“Daffodils! Oh!-and anemones! How delicious! I must take Clement a bunch of those dear white violets. I know where they came from,” and she held them to her lips. “Some primroses too, I hope.”
“A few; but the main body, tied up in tight bunches like cauliflowers, I dropped at Kensington Palace Gardens.”
“A yellow primrose is much more than a yellow primrose at present,” said Mrs. Grinstead, picking out the few spared from political purposes. “Clement will want his button-hole, to greet Lance.”
“So he is advanced to button-holes! And Lance?”
“He is coming up for the Press dinner, and will sleep here, to be ready for Primrose-day.”
“That’s prime, whatever brings him.”
“There, children, go and do the flowers, and drink tea. I am going to read to your uncle to keep him fresh for Lance.”
“How bright she looks,” said Gerald, as Anna began collecting vases from the tables in a drawing-room not professionally artistic, but entirely domestic, and full of grace and charm of taste, looking over a suburban garden fresh with budding spring to a church spire.
“The thought of Uncle Lance has cheered them both very much.”
“So the Vicar is really recovering?”
“Since Cousin Marilda flew at the curates, and told them that if they came near him with their worries, they should never see a farthing of hers! And they are all well at home? Is anything going on?”
“Chiefly defence of the copses from primrose marauders. You know the great agitation. They want to set up a china clay factory on Penbeacon, and turn the Ewe, not to say the Leston, into milk and water.”