BROTHER AND SISTER

LADY BETTY shaded her eyes with her hand and looked out on the rose
garden of Althorpe.

At her feet the lawn was close clipped and green; beyond was a garland
of many colors, roses by hundreds and tens of hundreds, the warmth
and glow of the sun upon them; behind them, the long avenue of limes
and beeches, and between the trees vistas of level land with the deer
moving to and fro.

The butterflies—a little host of them—whirled under the window, and
her ladyship smiled.

“Come, Alice,” she said, “’tis too fair a day to linger indoors. Bring
your lute, girl, and we’ll sing one of those dear Irish ballads where
none may hear it, to carp and scold,—none, indeed, but the rooks and
butterflies, or perchance the roses. What sayst thou, Alice, may not a
rose hear sweet sounds when it exhales such sweet perfume?”

“I know not, madam,” replied her handmaid soberly, as she laid aside
her needlework and reached for her lute; “but sometimes, truly, I think
’twould be well if ears were fewer in this world.”

“Ay, or tongues more gentle,” assented Lady Betty laughing, as she
stepped out of the window to the lawn, followed by her attendant.

Both were young girls, but youth and the rosy comeliness of youth
sat more lightly on the handmaid Alice, whose simple face and figure
suggested nothing more subtle than the virtue and homely wisdom of a
country girl. It was quite different with Lady Betty Clancarty, the
daughter of the Earl of Sunderland and the maiden wife of an Irish
peer. There was a slight pensiveness to her beauty, for beautiful she
was; yet there were times when the gayety of a vivacious spirit broke
through all restraints, and she was the light-hearted, witty girl that
nature had intended her to be. Her eyes—beautiful eyes they were,
too,—were large, clear and sparkling with spirit, and the soft tints
of her complexion and the glossy waves of her dark hair combined to
make a charming picture, far more human and bewitching, indeed, than
her own portrait from the brush of Lely, hanging in the great gallery
at Althorpe. The pensiveness of her expression showed only when her
face was in repose; when she smiled the sun shone through the cloud.
Her figure was gracefully tall in its gown of white dimity flowered
with pink, the neck dressed open with falls of lace, and the full
sleeves loose and flowing at the elbow.

She moved lightly and swiftly across the lawn, one white hand resting
on the shoulder of her handmaid, who was shorter and fuller in outline
than her mistress. Though their stations were thus widely sundered,
a frank girlish friendship existed between them, and Lady Betty had
few secrets that were not shared by Alice Lynn. They had grown up in
the same household; the one child waiting on the other on all state
occasions, but usually her playmate, after the fashion of those days
when the feudal tie of lord and vassal still bound old servants and
their descendants to their masters. The ancestors of Alice Lynn
had borne the banner of the Despencers in many a bloody field; she
came of good yeoman stock, worthy of honor and trust, and she was
single-hearted in her devotion to Lady Clancarty. They made a charming
picture, walking through winding paths and talking freely, with little
reference to their respective stations in the great world beyond
Althorpe.

“Ah, the roses,” Lady Betty said, “I know not whether I love them best
in their first budding or in their prime, or when the last few pale
blossoms struggle to unfold under wintry skies, like our poor hearts,
Alice, that need to be warmed by the sunshine of prosperous love. Mine
should have shrivelled up long ago—like an old dried leaf. But it has
not,” she added, smiling and laying her hand on her bosom; “I feel
it—it throbs—it is warm and strong and whole, Alice, and yet—I am a
wife and, for aught I know, a widow too!”

“There be many wives who would fain be widows, I trow,” retorted Alice,
bluntly, and Lady Betty laughed gayly and lightly, the sun shining in
her lustrous eyes.

“Perchance I am happy, then, in not knowing my husband’s face,” she
said; and added musingly, “a strange fate is mine, Alice, married at
eleven and then separated forever from my husband by a gulf as wide
as—as the infinite space; I know no stronger simile. Here am I, the
daughter of a Whig peer, who is a counsellor of King William’s, and the
sister of a burning Whig—for Spencer is on fire, I am sure—and yet I
am the wife, the wedded wife, of an Irish rebel and Jacobite; an outlaw
from his country and a stranger even to me. What a fate!” and she shook
her head with a pensive air, though a smile lurked about her lips for,
after all, she could not mourn the absence of an unknown spouse.

“’Twas wrong to marry a child of such tender years, my lady,” the
handmaid said indignantly; “to tie you up—one of the loveliest women
in England—to a—a—” she broke off confused, catching Lady Betty’s
eye.

“A what, Alice?” the countess asked dryly; “ay, I know by your blushes
and confusion that you have caught the contagion, that you believe with
Lord Spencer that my husband is a consummate villain. But look you, my
girl, if there is one thing above another that would make me love a
man and take up his cause, it is to find him the object of senseless
and bitter abuse. What of it if Clancarty has not sought me? how could
he? Is he not banished from the kingdom, stripped of his estates, and
denied even his most natural and sacred rights?” Lady Clancarty’s
eyes sparkled with indignation. “What of it, if he is a Jacobite
and a Papist? Is he the only man who has changed his faith? I trow
not!—though I should be the last one to say it,” and she broke off,
blushing crimson.

The thought of her own father’s apostasy, of his frequent political
somersaults, overwhelmed her, and she recollected her own dignity in
time to bridle her impulsive tongue.

Alice was too discreet to take up the argument; she stooped, instead,
to gather some violets, and arranged them slowly and in silence. Lady
Betty walked ahead of her to a little rustic seat, and sitting down
held out her hand with an impatient gesture.

“Give hither the violets, Alice,” she said imperiously, “and sing me
a song. I am in as black a mood as ever Saul was, and may do you a
mischief if you do not soothe me.”

Alice smiled. “I fear you not, dear Lady Betty,” she said, tuning her
lute; “your anger passes over as quickly as a storm-cloud in April
weather. What shall I sing you, madam?”

A roguish smile twinkled in Lady Clancarty’s eyes.

“You shall do penance, lass, and sing me either a Papist hymn or an
Irish ballad.”

“Nay, I am no Papist, but a good Protestant,” said Alice, stiffly,
“therefore it must be an Irish ballad, which is what you really want,
my lady!”

Lady Betty laughed softly.

“’Tis true, my girl,” she said, clasping her hands about her knees,
the full sleeves falling away from arms as white as milk. “I love the
ballads; whether for his sake or their own, I know not,” and she bent
her head listening as the handmaid played the first plaintive notes on
her lute.

Alice was no contemptible musician, and she touched the instrument
softly with loving fingers, playing the first sweet sad chords of that
old Irish air and Jacobite ballad, “Roseen Dhu,” or “Dark Rosaleen.”

The garden and the great park beyond and around it were quiet save for
the cawing of the hundreds of rooks that haunted those stately avenues
of trees. The warmth and the soft murmuring of the late summer were
there; here was the deep shadow of stately groves, yonder the wide
sunshine on level lawns, but the place was deserted save for the two
young women and the deer that were so tame that they pressed close
about them, looking through the trees with soft brown eyes, and seeming
to listen to the wild, plaintive notes of the ballad, as Alice sang in
a full, mellow voice:

“All day long in unrest
To and fro do I move,
The very soul within my breast
Is wasted for you, love!
The heart in my bosom faints,
To think of you, my queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,
My dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,
My dark Rosaleen!”

Midway in the song the girl paused, still playing the air softly.

“My lady,” she said, in an undertone, “there is some one yonder in the
shrubbery.”

“’Tis Melissa,” replied Lady Clancarty; “I have seen her. She loves to
lurk behind a bush, and to slip along softly as a cat upon nut-shells;
’tis her nature. Faith, I must buy her some bells for her toes. Go on,
my girl; I care not,” she added, laughing, “and I do love the tune. Ah,
‘Rosaleen, my own Rosaleen!’” she hummed, keeping time with her slender
hand.

Alice sang again:

“Over dews, over sands,
Will I fly for your weal:
Your holy white hands
Shall gird me with steel.
At home—in your emerald bowers,
From morning’s dawn till e’en,
You’ll pray for me, my flower of flowers,
My dark Rosaleen!
My fond Rosaleen!
You’ll think of me, through daylight’s hours,
My virgin flower, my flower of flowers,
My dark Rosaleen!”

Suddenly Lady Clancarty started and half rose, interrupting the singer;
but as Alice looked up in alarm, she sat down again, rosy and defiant.

“Pshaw!” she said; “go on, Alice, there comes Spencer himself, and,
forsooth, I would not be frightened out of my pleasure.”

“But, my lady,” protested Alice, in confusion, “he will be dreadfully
angry, he always is!”

“To be sure he will,” retorted Lady Betty, with a ripple of laughter,
“therefore sing, lass, and I will sing, too.”

Alice still hesitated, her eyes on the figure of a young man who was
coming swiftly across the lawn, but her mistress stamped her foot.

“Sing!” she commanded so sharply that Alice obeyed hastily, and in a
moment the countess’ rich contralto joined her voice in singing the
last passionate verse of “Roseen Dhu.”

“O! the Erne shall run red
With redundance of blood,
The earth shall rock beneath our tread,
And flames wrap hill and wood,
And gun peal and slogan cry
Wake many a glen serene,
Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,
My dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
The judgment hour must be nigh
Ere you can fade, ere you can die,
My dark Rosaleen!”

LORD CHARLES SPENCER paused in the centre of the triangle.

“A very pretty performance,” he said with a sneer, “a very proper
performance—to sing Jacobite ballads here!”

“I trow they are not the first that have been sung here, brother,”
retorted Lady Betty pertly.

“You have a saucy tongue, Elizabeth,” replied her brother rudely,
turning white rather than red, for in this young man’s disposition
anger went white, not red. “’Twould go hard with you if my father heard
that.”

“’Twould go hard with you if my father heard _that_!” mocked Lady Betty
incorrigible. “Come, come, Charles, talk of something agreeable.
What is the volume under your arm? Noah’s observations on droughts?
or Adam’s reflections on mothers-in-law? or Cain’s on brotherly love?
Faith, I always expect something profound from the most erudite
ornament of the Whig party.”

“I wish I might look as certainly for discretion in Elizabeth Spencer,”
he replied with acrimony.

“In Elizabeth Clancarty,” corrected the countess, flashing an indignant
glance at him.

“You are marvellously proud of that beggar’s name,” retorted her
brother, with cutting irony.

Lady Clancarty’s face crimsoned with anger.

“You are a hypocrite, Spencer!” she said, stamping her foot.

“Family insults in public are always becoming,” said Lord Spencer,
controlling himself with an effort, but white to the lips.

“Forsooth, who began it?” recriminated his high-spirited sister; “you
might better indeed talk of other things. Of your fine clothes, for
instance; you are truly ‘the glass of fashion,’ my lord, pink satin
waistcoat and breeches, gray plush coat, point of Venice ruffles,
white silk stockings, clocked, too, with pink, French shoes and
buckles,—mercy on us, sir! what splendor for beggarly Lady Clancarty
and quiet Althorpe!”

Lord Spencer, who was indeed dressed in the extreme of fashion, bit his
lip, scowling darkly at Lady Betty and Alice, who remained discreetly
in the background.

“You do well to boast of your dishonored name, madam,” he said coldly,
“but my Lord Sunderland intends that you shall be divorced from that
disreputable Irish rebel.”

“And what if I will not, my lord?” asked the countess, her face blazing
with defiance.

“You are a fool,” said Spencer sharply; “happy you would be—dragged
into exile by a rake and a scapegrace—but, pshaw! what nonsense I
talk—”

“You do, sir!” interrupted his sister defiantly.

“Nonsense because Clancarty does not want you.” He continued, with a
provoking drawl, “Where is your husband, my lady? Forsooth you do not
know—but I do! At Saint Germain and at Paris; a gambler, a rake, a
cutpurse, with half a dozen lady-loves to—”

“Silence!” cried Lady Betty furiously, rising in her indignation.
“Shame on you, sir, to insult a woman and she your sister, and to
blacken a gallant gentleman behind his back. Is that your virtue?
Faith, I believe a witty rogue would be a happier companion than a
virtuous bore!”

“Your tongue will cut your throat yet, madam,” said Spencer harshly;
“you have worked yourself into this passion; you have never seen your
husband since childhood, and you do not know him. It is my duty as your
brother, a painful duty, I admit,” he said pompously, “to tell you
the truth. Lord Clancarty is a notorious scamp, a dissolute fellow, a
murderer and oppressor; and, as for you, what does he care for you?
You little fool, he has never sought you—and never will!” and with
this taunt my lord turned on his heel and walked decorously but swiftly
away, wise enough to fly before his sister could retaliate.

Lady Betty stood as he had left her for a moment, her little hands
clenched and her face crimson.

“The mean hypocrite!” she cried, “to fling it in my teeth. I vow I
sometimes almost hate Spencer—and yet he is my brother. I’m a beast,
Alice, a wretch! but oh!” and suddenly her mood changed; she threw
herself on the garden-seat, trembling with emotion, tears on her dark
lashes. “Oh, why must I be so cruelly insulted? ’Tis true, Alice, ’tis
true; Clancarty has never even cared to claim his wife! Think of it,
I—I—Betty Spencer, scorned by an Irish Jacobite!” and she burst into
tears.

“My lady,” purred a smooth voice, as the other attendant suddenly and
softly stepped into view, from the friendly shadow of an elm; “be
consoled, ’tis even as Lord Spencer—”

“Go!” cried the countess furiously, dashing away her tears and stamping
her foot at Melissa. “Go! What do I want of your consolation, you
eavesdropper!”

“My lady, I beg pardon,” stammered the confused waiting-woman, “I—”

“Go!” repeated the countess imperiously, with a gesture of disdain.
“When I want you, I will summon you.”

With a look of ill-disguised anger on her smooth face, but with an
attempted air of humility, the attendant withdrew as softly as she had
approached, and Lady Betty recalled her dignity.

“Pshaw!” she said, “what a creature I am, Alice, so to betray myself,
and to stoop to quarrel with that worm, Melissa! I did not think, I
never think; but, oh, my girl, my lot has many thorns! Alas, and alas!

‘Once I bloomed a maiden young
A widow’s woe now moves my tongue;’

and a widow by desertion. Ah, how I hate the taunt!” and she stamped
her foot.

“Heed it not, dear Lady Betty,” murmured Alice, “’tis not true.”

“Ah, but it is, girl, it is,” cried Lady Clancarty, with an impatient
gesture, “and I despise myself for caring.”

“Are you sure, madam, that Lord Clancarty has made no effort to claim
his bride, or to see you?” Alice asked soberly, standing alone in the
triangle opposite Lady Betty, the sun shining in a friendly fashion on
her comely, honest face.

“Am I sure?” repeated the countess in surprise, and her expression
changed swiftly; “do you think he may have tried to communicate with me
and failed?”

“Why not, my lady?” replied the handmaid simply; “we know how my Lord
Spencer feels; and your father, the earl, madam, is, perhaps, as little
inclined toward your husband.”

Lady Betty sat looking down reflectively, tapping her foot on the
gravel path.

“It may be so,” she said thoughtfully; “your brain is growing keen,
Alice, from crossing swords with mine!” and she laughed, for she was an
April creature with swift-changing moods. She rose, throwing out her
hands with a pretty gesture, as though she threw care to the winds.

“O Donough Macarthy, Earl of Clancarty, art worthy all these heart
beats of mine?” she cried, and laughed as gayly as a child. “I tell
thee, Alice, he has not seen me for years, not since I was eleven, and
he pictures me with a turned-up nose and freckles and red hair, and is
half frightened to death at the thought of his English bride.”

“Your hair was never red, my lady,” said Alice soberly.

“Pshaw, child, he has forgotten, poor lad!” laughed Lady Betty, herself
again; “he may think my nose red, too!”

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