Anna sympathized with all the vehemence of her sisterly affection, and could hardly believe her aunts, who told her that things must have changed in a wonderful manner since the time of Angela’s experiences, for she had been very happy in the same place, and made no complaints.
Emilia had written to her cousin Marilda to express her willingness to return so soon as the Travis Underwoods should come home, and in the meantime she remained at Vale Leston, not showing quite as much tolerance as might be expected of the somewhat narrow way of life of her sisters. She did not like being a lodger, as it were, in Sophy’s bedroom; she found fault with the parlour-maid’s waiting, complained of the noise of the practising of the three little sisters, and altogether reminded Geraldine of Alda in penance at home.
Major Harewood was detained longer than he expected, for on arriving at Genoa he found that Menotti had migrated, and had to follow him to his villa on the Apennines, where, in the first place, he had to overcome the old man’s suspicions that he was come to recover Benista’s means on behalf of his family, and then at last was assured that the man had been dead long before 1870. Still John Harewood thought it well to obtain positive evidence, and pursued the quest to Innspruck, where Menotti averred that the man had been left by his companions dying in the care of some Sisters of Charity.
So it proved. At Innspruck, the record of the burial of Giovanni Benista, a native of Piedmont, was at length produced, dated the 12th of February, 1868, happily and incontestably before Zoraya’s marriage to Edgar Underwood!
John Harewood made haste to telegraph the tidings to Vale Leston and to Jonesville, and came home exultant, having dispelled the cloud that had brooded over the family for nearly a year, and given them freely to enjoy the wedding.
Would they do so the more or the less for Emilia’s announcement that she had a letter from Mr. Ferdinand Brown, eldest son of Sir Ferdinand’s partner, offering her marriage, and that she had accepted him? He was, of course, a rich man, but oh! how Emily, Annie, and Gerald had been wont to make fun of him, and his parents.
“But, my dear Nan,” said she, “I shall be able to do much more good in that way.”
“And really I cannot go back to those intolerable backgammon evenings at Kensington Palace Gardens.”
Till the smooth temper of my age might be
Like the high leaves upon the holly tree.-SOUTHEY.
The neighbourhood said that nothing was ever done at Vale Leston according to the conventionalities, and the Devereux wedding was an instance.
Lancelot had brought word that Bishop Norman May had actually arrived from New Zealand for a half-year’s visit, bringing with him the younger missionary Leonard Ward, and that Dr. May’s happiness was unspeakable. “A renewed youth, if he needed to have it renewed.”