Charlotte Mary Yonge.

A storehouse of stories : storehouse the first online

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test which will forfeit all these advantages. Think, with
yourself, shall I lose my sister's love, or abate her regard, for
an orange, a plaything, or a seat? Do I not prefer making
her contented, and keeping my own mind serene and placid,
before the pleasure of enjoying a toy, or any other thing
equally trifling % Will it tire me to fetch down her cloak, or
her doll, if she is in want of them ? And shall I not do it in
less time than it will take to dispute whose business it is to
go % In short, my dear niece, you will find so much ease and
pleasure result from the resolution to oblige, that I dare say,
if you once attempt it, you will be inclined to persevere.'

'But indeed, madam,' returned Miss Nelly, ' my sister is
as cross to me as I am to her, and therefore it is out of my
power to do what you advise ; for I cannot bear to do ever}'-
thing for her, when she will do nothing for me.' ' You are
both much to blame,' said Mrs. Placid ; ' but as you are the
eldest, it is your place to set a good example, and you do not
know, Nelly, how far that incitement will prevail. When you



JEMIMA PLACID. 259



have refused her one request, she is naturally, by way of re-
taliation, induced to deny you another : this increases your
mutual dissatisfaction, and commences new quarrels, by which
means your anger is continued, so that neither is inclined to
oblige or condescend. But if she finds you continue to be
goodnatured, she will catch the kind impression, as she used
to imbibe the ill habits of malevolence and rage. In every
case you should consider that the errors of another person
are no excuse for the indulgence of evil in yourself.'

The conversation was here concluded by the entrance of
Mr. Wagstaff and his son, and as they stayed the rest of the
day, there was no farther opportunity to resume it. While
the young folk were all at play in the evening, Miss Nelly ran
away with Sam's hat, and he pursued her for some time with-
out overtaking her ; but at last a scuffle ensued, as she held
it fast, and sometimes put it under one arm, sometimes under
the other, then knelt upon it, and afterwards sat down \\\)Oxv
it. In this last attitude, as Master Wagstaff was struggling
upon the ground, she endeavoured to rise, but his foot being
upon her frock, she tore a sad rent in it, and one of his
buttons having caught in her ribbon, did as much damage to
that likewise.

This accident put an end to the contest, and her good
humour at the same time. She got up immediately, tossed
away the subject of contention, with the illiberal epithet of,
' Take your nasty hat ! I wish I had never touched it ! ' And
the more he endeavoured to soothe her, the more vexed she
appeared, calling him a careless, mischievous monkey, and
asking how he thought the hole was to be mended ?

Jemima likewise tried every method in her power to mode-
rate her resentment, representing that it was no fault of
Master Wagstaft's, and advising her to be more composed,
and to join in their play again; but all in vain, she would
only fret, gnmible, and interrupt their entertainment. So
Sam rctirecl to a bench, and sitting down with the Master
Placids, left her to her ill humour while with his pencil he
wrote the following verses : —

Nay, Nelly dear ! now do not cry,
And wet that pretty siiaiklinj^ eye ;
s 2



26o STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

What though by chance I tore your lace,
Don't make that horrible grimace !
Do put that ugly frown away,
And join again in social play !
For after all what can you do ?
AVill pouting thus the hole renew ?
But, Nell, why what a brawl you keep,
I vow the chickens cannot sleep ;
Do, pray, observe that cackling hen
Is coming from her roost again.
The evening flies that swarm before us,
For you have stopped their buzzing chorus ;
The horses that were grazing there.
Have left their food at you to stare.
Your noise disturbs all nature's peace.
The grasshoppers their chirping cease ;
And from those plants a frog leaped out
To know the cause of all this rout.
Then stop, I prithee, or you'll find
y^ A worse disaster still behind.
A needle with assiduous care
May the torn frock again repair ;
But petulance, and passion's strife.
Will rend the future bliss of life,
Tear the fine edge of joy away,
And leave the heart to grief a prey.

This remonstrance enraged Miss Finer more than before,
and she flounced out of the garden, declaring she would no
longer stay to be so insulted.

But, my dear Eliza, if I should continue a minute relation
of the events which occurred during my stay in Mr. Placid's
family, the perusal would take up too much of your time,
and I have already, in the incidents which I have selected,
run to a much greater length than I at first designed. The
amiable Jemima is now sixteen; and for the sweetness of
her manners, and the even and unruffled serenity of her
teinper, is justly admired by all who are so happy as to know
her. If you would wish to deserve equal esteem, the means
are entirely in your own power, since a determined resolution
to please others will make you happy in yourself, and render
the occurrences of life more supportable. The only use of



JEMIMA PLACID. 261



reading is to acquire instruction ; and if you seek not to re-
semble the good, and avoid the bad examples with which
you are presented, your studies will tend to little purpose.
If the characters you meet with in any degree resemble your
own, and if the foibles of those characters disgust and oflend
you, instead of throwing the book aside with resentment, you
should endeavour to improve the failings of which you are
conscious, and then you will no longer meet your own por-
trait in that which the author has described. Besides that,
there is another reason to incline you to this reformation,
since if you so much dislike those errors in an imaginary
character, think how extremely irksome such faults must be
to your friends. If the representations of Miss Finer s fret-
fulness are displeasing to contemplate, how much more vex-
atious must it be when your parents find the same disposition
prevail in their own child ! In this period of your life be
persuaded to form such habits as may be continued in a more
advanced age ; and, believe me, the habit of good humour
will conduce most essentially to your happiness. The
accident which gave occasion to the account which I now
transmit to you was in no degree remedied by the captious
petulance with which you bemoaned it ; and the time which
you wasted in unprofitable lamentations would have nearly
repaired the damage. Unavoidable disasters are beyond
remedy, and are only aggravated by complaints. By sub-
mitting with a good grace to the disappointments of life, half
its vexations maybe escaped. I cannot, I think, better con-
clude the subject and my epistle, than with a few lines which
were written by Miss Placid in answer to Miss Finer, who
reproached her with not showing a proper degree of conceni
when they were disappointed by a violent shower of rain
from going with a party upon the water, which they had for a
long time been desirous of doing.

Sny, why should I fretful my fate so lament,
Since pleasure still waits on the smile of content?
Will the clouds soon disperse, if indignant I frown?'
And the rain cease in torrents the village to drown ?
^Vill the thunder's loud peal be then hush'd into peace ?
And the storm at my bidding its violence cease ?



262 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

Will the sun for my anger discover its ray,
And at once all the beauties of nature display ?
Then Eleanor tell me, what joy should I find,
In the discord of passion, the storm of the mind ?
Though the elements, will not resign to my sway,
^ly own temper, I trust, reason's voice shall obey ;
I can make to my fate my desires resign.
And the joys of contentment will ever be mine.



THE LIFE AND PERAMBULATION

OF

A MOUSE.

INTRODUCTION.

During a remarkably severe winter, when a prodigious fall
of snow confined everybody to their habitations, who were
happy enough to have one to shelter them from the incle-
mency of the season, and were not obliged by business to
expose themselves to its rigour, I was on a visit to Meadow
Hall ; where had assembled likewise a large party of young
folk, who all seemed, by their harmony and good-humour, to
strive who should the most contribute to render pleasant
that confinement which we were all equally obliged to share.
Nor where those further advanced in life less anxious to
contribute to the general satisfaction and entertainment.



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 263



After the more serious employment of reading eacli morn-
ing was concluded, we danced, we sung, we played at blind-
man's-buff, battledoor and shuttlecock, and many other
games equally diverting and innocent; and when tired of
them, drew our seats round the fire, while each one in turn
told some merry story to diver-t the company.

At last, after having related all that we could recollect
worth reciting, and being rather at a loss what to say next,
a sprightly girl in company proposed that everyone should
relate the history of their own lives: 'and it must be strange
indeed,' added she, 'if that will not help us out of this
difficulty, and furnish conversation for some days longer;
and by that time, perhaps, the frost will break, the snow
will melt, and set us all at liberty. But let it break when it
will, I make a law, that no one shall go from Meadow Hall
till they have told their own history: so take notice, ladies
and gentlemen, take notice everybody, what you have to
trust to.' ' And because,' continued she, ' I will not be un-
reasonable, and require more from you than you can per-
form; I will give all you who may jjerhaps have forgotten
what passed so many years ago, at the beginning of your
lives, two days to recollect and digest your story; by which
time, if you do not produce something pretty and enter-
taining, we will never again admit you to dance or play
among us.' All this she spoke with so good-humoured a
smile, that everyone was delighted with her, and promised
to do their best to acquit themselves to her satisfaction;
whilst some (the length of whose lives had not rendered
them forgetful of the transactions which had i)assed) in-
stantly began their memoirs, as they called them: and really
some related their narratives with such spirit and ingenuity,
that it quite distressed us older ones, lest we should disgrace
ourselves when it should fall to our turns to hold forth.
However, we were all determined to produce something, as
our fair directress ordered. Accordingly, the next morning
I took up my pen, to endeavour to draw up some kind of a
history, which might satisfy my companions in confinement.
I took up my pen, it is true, and laid the paper before me ;
but not one word toward my appointed task could I pro-



264 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

ceed. The various occurrences of my life were such as, far
from affording entertainment, would, I was certain, rather
afflict; or, perhaps, not interesting enough for that, only
stupify, and render them more weary of the continuation of
the frost than they were before I began my narration. Thus
circumstanced, therefore, although by myself, I broke silence
by exclaiming, ' What a task has this sweet girl imposed
upon me! One which I shall never be able to execute to
my own satisfaction or her amusement. The adventures of
my life (though deeply interesting to myself) will be insij)id
and unentertaining to others, especially to my young hear-
ers : I cannot, therefore, attempt it.' — 'Then write mine,
which may be more diverting,' said a little squeaking voice,
which sounded as if close to me. I started with suqDrise,
not knowing anyone to be near me ; and looking round,
could discover no object from whom it could possibly pro-
ceed, when casting my eyes upon the ground in a little hole
under the skirting-board, close by the tire, I discovered the
head of a mouse peeping out. I arose with a design to stop
the hole with a cork, which happened to lie on the table by
me ; and I was surprised co find it did not run away, but
suffered me to advance quite close, and then only retreated
a little into the hole, saying in the same voice as before,
' Will you write my history?' You may be sure that I was
much surprised to be so addressed by such an animal; but,
ashamed of discovering any appearance of astonishment,
lest the mouse should suppose it had frightened me, I an-
swered with the utmost composure, that I would write it
willingly if it would dictate to me. ' Oh, that I will do,'
replied the mouse, ' if you will not hurt me.' — ' Not for the
world,' returned I; 'come, therefore, and sit upon my table,
that I may hear more distinctly what you have to relate.'
It instantly accepted my invitation, and, with all the nimble-
ness of its species, ran up the side of my chair, and jumped
upon my table; when, getting into a box of wafers, it began
as follows.



LfFE OF A MOUSE. 265

But, before I proceed to relate my new little companion's
history, I must beg leave to assure my readers, that, in
earnest, I never heard a mouse speak in all my life; and
only wrote the following narrative as being far more enter-
taining, and not less instructive, than my own life would
have been.



PART I.

Like all other new-born animals, whether of the human, or
any other species, I cannot pretend to remember what
passed during my infant days. The first circumstance I can
recollect was, my mother's addressing me and my three
brothers, who all lay in the same nest, in the following
words: — 'I have, my children, with the greatest difficulty,
and at the utmost hazard of my life, provided for you all
to the present moment; but the period is arrived when I
can no longer pursue that metliod: snares and traps are
everywhere set for me, nor shall I, without infinite danger,
be able to procure sustenance to support my own existence,
much less can I find sufficient for you all; and, indeed, with
pleasure I behold it as no longer necessary, since you are of
age now to provide and shift for yourselves; and I doubt
not but your agility will enable you to procure a very com-
fortable livelihood. Only let me give you this one caution
— never (whatever the temptation may be) appear often in
the same place; if you do, however you may flatter your-
selves to the contrary, you will certainly at last be destroyed.'
So saying, she stroked us all with her fore-paw, as a token of
her affection, and then hurried away, to conceal from us the
emotions of her sorrow, at thus sending us into the wide
world.

She was no sooner gone, than the thought of being our
own directors so charmed our little hearts, that we presently
forgot our grief at parting from our kind parent ; and,
impatient to use our liberty, we all set forward in search
of some food, or rather some adventure, as our mother had



266 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

left us victuals more than sufficient to supply the wants of
that day. With a great deal of difficulty we clambered up
a high wall on the inside of a wainscot, till we reached the
story abo\'e that we were born in, where we found it much
easier to run round within the skirting-board than to ascend
any higher.

While we were there, our noses were delightfully regaled
with the scent of the most delicate food that we had ever
smelt; we were anxious to procure a taste of it likewise, and
after running round and round the room a great many times,
we at last discovered a little crack, through which we made
our entrance. My brother Longtail led the way; I followed;
Softdown came next; but Brighteyes would not be prevailed
upon to venture. The apartment which we entered was
spacious and elegant; at least, differed so greatly from any-
thing we had seen, that we imagined it the finest place upon
earth. It was covered all over with a carpet of various
colours, that not only concealed some bird-seeds which we
came to devour, but also for some time prevented our being
discovered, as we were of much the same hue with many of
the flowers on the carpet. At last a little girl, who was at
work in the room, by the side of her mamma, shrieked out
as if violently hurt. Her mamma begged to know the cause
of her sudden alarm. Upon which she called out, ' A mouse!
a mouse! I saw one under the chair!' 'And if you did, my
dear,' replied her mother, ' is that any reason for your be-
having so ridiculously? If there were twenty mice, what
harm could they possibly do? You may easily hurt and de-
stroy them; but, poor little things ! they cannot, if they
would, hurt you.' 'What! could they not bite me?' inquired
the child. 'They may, indeed, be able to do that; but you
may be very sure that they have no such inclination,' re-
joined the mother. 'A mouse is one of the most timorous
things in the world; every noise alarms it: and though it
chiefly lives by plunder, it appears as if punished by its fears
for the mischiefs which it commits among our property. It
is therefore highly ridiculous to pretend to be alarmed at the
sight of a creature that would run from the sound of your
voice, and wishes never to come near you, lest, as you are



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 267

far more able, you should also be disposed to hurt it.'
' But I am sure, madam,' replied the little girl, whose name
I afterwards heard was Nancy, ' they do not always run
away; for one day, as Miss Betsy Kite was looking among
some things which she had in her box, a mouse jumped out
and ran up her frock sleeve — she felt it quite up on her arm.'
'And what became of it then?' inquired the mother. 'It
jumped down again,' replied Nancy, 'and got into a little
hole in the window-seat; and Betsy did not see it again.'
'Well, then, my dear,' resumed the lady, 'what harm did it
do her? Is not that a convincing proof of what I say, that
you have no cause to be afraid of them, and that it is very
silly to be so % It is certainly foolish to be afraid of any
thing, unless it threatens us with immediate danger; but to
pretend to be so at a mouse, and such like inoffensive things,
is a degree of weakness that I can by no means suffer any
of my children to indulge.' ' May I then, madam,' inquired
the child, 'be afraid of cows and horses, and such great
beasts as those ? ' ' Certainly not,' answered her mother,
' unless they are likely to hurt you. If a cow or a horse
runs after you, I would have you fear them so much as to
get out of the way; but if they are quietly walking or grazing
in a field, then to fly from them, as if you thought they
would eat you instead of the grass, is most absurd, and dis-
covers great want of sense. I once knew a young lady, who,
I believe, thought it looked pretty to be terrified at every
thing, and scream if a dog or even a mouse looked at her:
but most severely was she punished for her folly, by several
very disagreeable accidents she by those means brought upon
herself

* One day when she was drinking tea in a large company, on
die door being opened, a small Italian greyhound walked into
the drawing-room. She happened to be seated near the
mistress of the dog, who was making tea: the dog, therefore,
walked toward her in order to be by his favourite; but. upon
his advancing near her, she suddenly jumped up, without
considering what she was about, overturned the water-urn,
the hot iron of which rolling out, set fire to her clothes, whicli
instantly blazed up, being only muslin, and burnt her arms,



268 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

face, and neck, most dreadfully: she was so much hurt as to
be obliged to be put immediately to bed; nor did she recover
enough to go abroad for many months. Now, though every
one was sorry for her sufferings, who could possibly help
blaming her for her ridiculous behaviour, as it was entirely
owing to her own folly that she was so hurt % When she
was talked to upon the subject, she pleaded for her excuse,
that she was so frightened she did not know what she did,
nor whither she was going ; but as she thought that the dog
was coming to her, she could not help jumping up, to get
out of his way. Now what ridiculous arguing was this!
Why could not she help it? And if the dog had really been
going to her, what harm would it have done % Could she
suppose that the lady whose house she was at, would have
suffered a beast to walk about the house loose, and go into
company if he was apt to bite and hurt people % Or why
should she think he would more injure her, than those he
had before passed by 1 But the real case was, she did not
think at all; if she had given herself time for that, she could
not have acted so ridiculously. Another time, when she was
walking, from the same want of reflection she verj' nearly
drowned herself She was passing over a bridge, the outside
rails of which were in some places broken down: while she
was there, some cows, which a man was driving, met her:
immediately, without minding whither she went, she shrieked
out, and at the same time jumped on one side just where
the rail happened to be broken, and down she fell into the
river; nor was it without the greatest difficulty that she was
taken out time enough to save her life. However, she
caught a violent cold and fever, and was again, by her o^^^l
foolish fears, confined to her bed for some weeks. Another
accident she once met with, which, though not quite so bad
as the two former, yet might have been attended with fatal
consequences. She was sitting in a window, when a wasp
happened to fly toward her; she hastily drew back her head,
and broke the pane of glass behind her, some of which
stuck in her neck. It bled prodigiously ; but a surgeon
happily being present made some application to it, which
prevented its being followed by any other ill effects than



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 269



only a few days' weakness, occasioned by the loss of blood.
Many other misfortunes of the like kind she frequently ex-
perienced ; but these which I have now relatetl may serve to
convince you how extremely absurd it is for people to give
way to and indulge themselves in such groundless appre-
hensions, and, by being afraid when there is no danger,
subject themselves to real misfortunes and most fatal acci-
dents. And if being afraid of cows, dogs, and wasps (all
of which, if they please, can certainly hurt us,) is so ridiculous,
what must be the folly of those people who are terrified at a
little silly mouse, which never was known to hurt anybody V
Here the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of
some gentlemen and ladies ; and we having enjoyed a very
fine repast under one of the chairs during the time that the
mother and daughter had held the above discourse, on the
chairs being removed for some of the visitors to sit upon, we
thought it best to retire ; highly pleased with our meal, and
not less with the kind goodwill which the lady had, we
thought, expressed towards us. We related to our brother
Brighteyes all tliat had passed, and assured him he had no
reason to apprehend any danger from venturing himself with
us. Accordingly he promised, if such was the case, that the
next time we went and found it safe, if we would return back
and call him, he would certainly accompany us. ' In the
mean time, do pray. Nimble,' said he, addressing himself to
me, ' come with me to some other place, for I long to taste
some more delicate food than our mother has provided for
us ; besides, as perhaps it may be a long while before we
shall be strong enough to bring anything away with us, we
had better leave that, in case we should ever be prevented
from going abroad to seek for fresh supplies.' 'Very true,'
re])licd I; 'what you say is quite just and wise, therefore I
will with all my heart attend you now, and see what we can
find.' So saying, we began to climb, but not without diffi-
culty, for very frecpiently the bits of mortar which we stepped
upon gave way beneath our feet, and tumbled us down to-
gether with them lower than when we first set oft". However,
as we were very light, we were not much hurt by our falls;
only indeed poor Brighteyes, by endeavouring to save him-



270 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

self, caught by his nails on a rafter, and tore one of them
from off his right fore-foot, which was very sore and incon-
venient. At length we surmounted all difficulties, and, in-
vited by a strong scent of plum-cake, entered a closet, where
we found a fine large one, quite whole and entire. We
immediately set about making our way into it, which we
easily effected, as it was most deliciously nice, and not at all
hard to our teeth.

Brighteyes, who had not before partaken of the bird-seed,



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeA storehouse of stories : storehouse the first → online text (page 24 of 43)