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The three daughters of Sir Harry Woolstonone of whom was married to the second son of a nobleman, one, to the curate of the parish, and one to a man, whose means and origin were as equivocal as his manners and exterior were prepossessing—affected to remain neutral in the family quarrel. But all cornfort in their visits to Harrals was destroyed; and Maple Hill, the retreat of the offending couple, was too small to afford them a welcome by way of compensation. The result was complete estrangement.
For a time, Woolston and his wife were too happy in each other to look beyond the sweet-briar hedge of their villa. Like bees, they lived in winter upon the honey hived during their long summer. And when a little hazel-eyed girl was born to them, whom they ventured to name Janetta, after Lady Woolston, the proud barrister counted up his gains at the close of the circuit, and rejoiced to find that they formed a tolerably satisfactory addition to his narrow income. For the baronet showed no signs of relenting. He had perhaps the plea that his son refrained from all demonstration of penitence. Like most inveterate port-bibbers who have passed their allotted three-score years and ten, he was becoming muzzy and morose; dozing through his evenings, and grumbling through his mornings; more especially if anything occurred to disturb the dull routine of his life :-as a stone thrown into a stagnant pond discomposes its scummy surface.
Neither of his three sons-in-law would have ventured to provoke one of these angry outbreaks, by mentioning the name of the banished John ; which the constituted authorities of Harrals seemed resolved to dismiss into oblivion.
Gerald Molyneux, the husband of Emma, the eldest daughter, was too fine a gentleman to embark in family squabbles. Harpsden, the curate, who was louking forward to a living at the hands of Sir Harry, when entreated by his gentle Caroline to interfere in her brother's behalf, pleaded the interests of their little boy. As to Wroughton and Clara, they were living too gay a life on the continent to trouble their heads about the young couple at Hendon, or the old couple at Harrals. And thus, everything went on; the mortar dropping from the walls, the tiles from the roof; and from the hearts of the father and son, every trace of mutual attachment.-An unnatural state of things ;--beginning with a fault, and ending alrnost in crime. Three
years had elapsed since the dispute in the stuffy dining-room, when the little villa at Hendon résounded with the squalls of a second baby. And this time, a son and heir. Yet, such was the obstinacy which John Woolston inherited, if he inherited nothing else, from the dogged old baronet, that he persisted in avoiding all allusion to his family honours, when inscribing for the “ Times,” among the births of the day, “the lady of J. Woolston, Esq., of a boy.” And lo! the advent of a child in whose honour an ox, or at all events a sheep or two, would have been roasted whole, had it seen the light, as in heirship bound, under the canopy of one of the oldfashioned state beds of Harrals, was commemorated only by a bottle of Cape wine, and a home-made cake, in the meagre establishment at Maple Hill.
For the income of the Woolstons had not increased with their family. The young wife, delicate and indolent, had usually a sister from Denny Cross staying with her, to assist in the nursing and housekeeping; and poor John, a little sick of omnibus transit between Hendon and his chambers, and a little dispirited for want of the club, from which he had made it a point of conscience to withdraw his name and subscription, began to think it might have been wiser if, in the onset, conciliatory measures had restored him to the comfort and decencies of Harrals. But, as people usually say on such occasions, “it was too late now."
The pettish spirit of independence which had so little availed him, must, for the sake of consistency, be persevered in.
No one was at hand to remonstrate. The Molyneuxes were engrossed by their aristocratic connections and enjoyments; the Wroughtons were still on the continent; the Harpsdens absorbed in parsonage cares.
As to Mrs. Woolston's humbler family and friends, they were satisfied to have their dear Maria and her children back among them at Denny Cross, to enjoy Christmas cheer, and probably Midsummer recreation, without inquiring too curiously how the interim was passed.
Had John Woolston entertained the smallest solicitude concerning the ultimate welfare of his children, he would probably have taken steps for their restoration to the position they had innocently forfeited. But the little cherub in the cockaded
had only now to grow and prosper, and ultimately succeed to the honours of a baronetcy, and eight thousand a year; in the comfortable conviction of which, John Woolston stepped daily into the bus which conveyed him to Temple Bar ; indifferent to the minor miseries