Charlotte Mary Yonge.

A storehouse of stories : storehouse the first online

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cation in Mrs. and indeed, I may add, Mr. Flail, rendered
absolutely necessaiy.

' But I am afraid, Mrs. Sally and Mrs. Nelly, you will be
tired, as I have but half told my story; but I will endeavour
to make short work of it, though indeed it deserves to be
noticed, for it will teach one a great deal, and convince one
how little the world's riches are to be depended on.

' I have said, you know, that Mr. Speedgo was a merchant,
and a very rich one too. It is unknown what vast sums of
money he used to spend ! when, would you think it, either
through spending it too fast, or some losses he met with in
trade, he broke all to nothing, and had not a farthing to pay
his creditors. I forget how many thousand pounds it was he
owed, but it was a vast great many. Well! this, you may be
sure, was a great mortification to them ; they begged for mercy
from their creditors; but as in their prosperity they had never
shown much mercy themselves to those they thought beneath
them, so now they met with very little from others: the poor
saying they deserved it for their pride; the rich condemning
them for their presumption in trjing to vie with those of
superior birth; and those who had been less successful in
business, blaming them for their extravagance, which, they
said, had justly brought on them their misfortunes.

' In this distress, in vain it was they applied for assistance
to those whom they had esteemed their friends; for as they
never had been careful to form their connexions with people



314 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

of real merit, only seeking to be acquainted with those who
were ricli and prosperous, so now they could no longer return
their civilities, they found none were ready to show them
any, but every one seemed anxious to keep from them as
much as possible. Thus distressed, and finding no one
willing to help them, the young squire, Master James, was
obliged to go to sea: while Miss Betsy and Miss Rachel
were even forced to try to get their living by service ; a way
of life they were both ill-qualified to undertake, for they had
always so accustomed themselves to be waited on and
attended, that they scarcely knew how to help themselves,
much less how to work for others. The consequence of
which was, they gave so little satisfaction to their employers
that they staid but a little time in a place, and from so fre-
quently changing, no family who wished to be well settled
v/ould admit them, as they thought it impossible they could
be good servants whom no one thouglit worthy of keeping.

' It is impossible to describe the many and great mortifi-
cations those two young ladies met with. . They now fre-
quently recollected the words of Molly Mount, and earnestly
v/ished they had attended to them whilst it was in their
power, as by so doing they would have secured to themselves
friends. And they very forcibly found, that, although they
were po3r and servants, yet they were as sensible of kind
treatment and civility as if they had been richer.

' After they had been for some years changing from place
to place, always obliged to put up with very low wages, upon
account of their" being so ill-qualified for servants, it hap-
pened that Miss Betsy got into service at Watchet, a place
about three mile:; distant from Mr. Flail's farm. Here she
had a violent fit of illness, and not having been long enough
in the family to engage their generosity to keep her, she was
dismissed upon account of her ill health rendering her
wholly incapable of doing her business for which she was
hired. She then, with the very little money she had, pro-
cured a lodging in a miserable little dirty cottage; but
through weakness being unable to work, she soon exhausted
her whole stock, and was even obliged to quit this habitation,
bad as it was, and for some days support herself wholly by



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 315

hegging from door to door, often meeting with very unkind
language for so idle an employment; some people telling
her to go to her parish, when, alas ! her parish was many
miles distant, and she, poor creature, had no means of
getting there.

' At last she wandered, in this distressful situation, to the
house of Mr. Flail, and walked into the farmyard just at
the time the cows were being milked. She, who for a long
time had tasted nothing but bits of broken bread, and had
no drink besides water she had scooped up in her hands,
looked at the quantity of fresh milk with a uiost wishful e\-c;
and, going to the women who were milking, she besought
them in a moving manner to give her a draught, as she was
almost ready to perish. " For pity's sake," said she, " have
compassion upon a poor wretch, dying with sickness, hunger,
and thirst ; it is a long time since I have tasted a mouthful
of wholesome victuals, my lips are now almost parched with
thirst, and I am so faint for want, that I can scarcely stand ;
my sufferings are very great indeed, it would melt a heart of
stone to hear the story of my woes. Oh ! have pity upon a
fellow-creature, then, and give me one draught of that milk,
which can never be missed out of so vast a quantity as you
have there; and may you never, never know what it is to
suffer as I now do." To this piteous request she received
for answer, the common one of "Go about your business;
w'e have nothing for you, so don't come here." "We should
have enough to do indeed," said one of the milkers, " if we
were to give every idle beggar who would like a draught of
this delicious milk ; but no, indeed, we shall not give you a
drop; so go about your business, and don't come plaguing
us liere." Mrs. Flail, who happened to be in the yard with
one of her children, who was feeding the chickens, overheard
enough of this to make her come forward and inquire what
was the matter. "Nothing, ma'am," replied the milkmaid,
" only I was sending away this nasty dirty creature, who was
so bold as to come asking for milk, indeed ! But beggars
grow so impudent now-a-days there never was the like of it."
" Oh fie ! " returned Mrs. Flail, shocked at her inhuman way
of speaking, " fie upon you, to speak in so unkind a manner



3i6 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

of a poor creature in distress." Then turning to the beggar,
she inquired what she wanted, in so mild a tone of voice,
that it encouraged her to speak and tell her distress.

' Mrs. Flail listened with the greatest attention, and could
not help being struck with her speech and appearance ; for
though she was clothed in rags (having parted with all her
better clothes to pay for lodging and food), still there was a
something in her language and manner which discovered
that she was no common beggar. Betsy had stood all the
time with her eyes fixed upon the ground, scarcely once
lifting them to look at the face of Mrs. Flail ; and she was
so changed herself by her troubles and sickness, that it was
impossible for any one who had ever seen Miss Speedgo to
recollect her in her present miserable state. Mrs. Flail,
however, wanted no farther inducement to relieve her, than
to hear she was in want. " Every fellow-creature in distress,"
she used to say, "was a proper object of her bounty; and
whilst she was blessed with plenty, she thought it her duty to
relieve as far as she prudently could, all whom she knew to
be in need." She therefore fetched a mug, and, filling it
with milk herself, gave it to the poor woman to drink.
" Here," said she, " take this, good woman, and I hope it
will refresh and be of service to you." Betsy held out her
hand for it, and, lifting her eyes up to look at Mrs. Flail,
whilst she thanked her for her kindness, was greatly aston-
ished to discover in her benefactress the features of her old
servant Molly Mount. " Bless me ! " said she, with an air of
confusion, " What do I see ? Who is it % Where am I ?
Madam, pardon my boldness, but pray forgive me, ma'am,
but is not your name Mount ? " " It was," replied Mrs. Flail,
" but I have been married for thirteen years to a Mr. Flail,
and that is my name now. But, pray, where did you ever
see me before? or how came you to know anything of me?"
Poor Betsy could return no answer ; her shame at being seen
by her servant that was, in her present condition, and the
consciousness of having so ill-treated that very servant to
whose kindness she was now indebted, all together were too
much for her in her weak state, and she fell senseless at
Mrs. Flail's feet.



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 317

' This still added to Mrs. Flail's surprise ; and she had
her carried into the house and laid upon a bed, where she
used every means to bring her to herself again; which, ai'ter
a considerable time, succeeded ; and she then (covered with
shame and remorse) told her who she was, and how she
came into that miserable condition. No words can describe
the astonishment Mrs. Flail was in, at hearing the melan-
choly story of her sufferings; nor is it possible to tell with
what generosity and kindness she strove to comfort her,
telling her to compose herself, for she should no longer be
in want of anything. " I have, thank Heaven," saicl she,
" a most worthy good man for my husband, who will rejoice
with me in having it in his power to relieve a suffering
fellow-creature. Do not, therefore, any longer distress
yourself upon what passed between us formerly. I had,
for my part, forgotten it, if you had not now told it me;
but, however I might then take the liberty to censure you
for too much haughtiness, I am sure I have no occasion to
do so now. Think no more, therefore, I beseech you, upon
those times which are now past; but be comforted, and
make yourself as happy in my humble plain manner of
living as you can possibly do."

' She then furnished her with some of her own clothes,
till she could procure her new ones, and sent immediately
for a physician from the next town; by following of whose
prescription, together with good nursing, and plenty of all
necessaries, she soon recovered her health ; but she was too
deeply aftected with the thoughts of her former misconduct
ever to feel happy in her situation, though Mrs. Flail used
every method in her power to render her as comfortable as
possible. Nor did she confine her goodness only to this one
daughter, but sent also for her sister and mother (her father
being dead), and fitted up a neat little house for them near
their own. But as the Flails could not afford wholly to
maintain them for nothing, they entrusted the poultry to
their care, which enabled them to do with one servant less;
and by that means they could, without any great expense,
afford to give them sufficient to make their lives com-
fortable, that is, as far as their own reflections would let



3i8 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.



them ; for the last words Mrs. Speedgo said to Molly, when
she parted from her, dwelt continually upon her mind, and
filled her with shame and remorse.

' " I told her," said she, " that she should never again
come into my doors, or eat another mouthful in my house ;
and now it is her bounty alone which keeps us all from
perishing. Oh ! how unworthy are we of such goodness !
True, indeed, was what she told you, that kindness and
virtue were far more valuable than riches. Goodness and
kindness no time or change can take from us; but riches soon
fly as it were away, and then what are we the better for
having been once possessed of them % " '

Here Mr. John stopped, and jumping hastily up, and
turning round to Mrs. Sally, Mrs. Nelly, and Mr. Bob, ex-
claimed, rubbing his hands — ' There, ladies, I have finished
my story; and, let me tell you, so long preaching has made
my throat dry, so another mug of ale, if you please. Master
Bobby (tapping him at the same time upon the shoulder),
another mug of ale, my boy; for faith, talking at the rate I
have done, is enough to wear a man's lungs out, and, in
truth, I have need of something to hearten me after such
fatigue.'

' Well, I am sure,' replied Mrs. Sally and Mrs. Nelly, in
the same breath, 'we are greatly obliged to you for your
liistory; and I am sure it deserves to be framed and glazed,
and it ought to be hung up in the hall of every family, that
all people may see the sad effects of pride, and how little
cause people have, because they are rich, to despise those
who are poor ; since it frequently hapj^ens, that those who
this year are like little kings, may the next be beggars ; and
then they will repent, when it is too late, of all their pride
and unkindness they showed to those beneath them.'

Here the conversation was put a stop to by the bell ring-
ing, and John being ordered to drive to the door, I, who
during the whole of the history had been feasting upon a
mince-pie, now thought it safer to conceal myself in a little
hole in the wainscot of the closet, where, finding myself very
safe, I did not awake till midnight. After the family were
all retired to rest, I peeped out of the hole, and there saw



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 319

just such another frightful trap as that which was the prelude
to poor Softdown's sufterings. Startled at the sight, I re-
treated back as expeditiously as possible, nor ever stopped
till 1 found my way into a bed-chamber, where lay two little
girls fast asleep.

I looked about for some time, peeping into every hole and
corner before I could find anything to eat, there being not
so much as a candle in the room with them. At last I crept
into a little leathern trunk, which stood on a table, not shut
down quite close : here I instantly smelt something good;
but was obliged to gnaw through a great deal of linen to get
at it ; it was wrapped up in a lap-bag, amongst a vast quan-
tity of work. However, I made my way through half a
hundred folds, and at last was amply repaid by finding out
a nice piece of plum-cake and the pips of an apple, which
I could easily get at, one-half of it having been eat away.
Whilst I was thus engaged, I heard a cat mew, and not
knowing how^ near she might be, I endeavoured to jump
out ; but in the hurry I somehow or other entangled my-
self in the muslin, and pulled that, trunk and all, down
with me ; for the trunk stood half off tlie table, so that the
least touch in the world overset it, otherwise my weight
could never have tumbled it down.

The noise of the fall, howe\er, waked the children, and I
heard one say to the other, — ' Bless me ! Mary, what is that
noise? — What can it be? I am almost frightened out of my
wits; do, pray, sister, hug me close.' 'Pho!' replied the
other, 'never mind it. What in the world need you be
frightened at? What do you suppose will hurt you? It
sounded as if something fell down ; but as it has not fallen
upon us, and I do not hear anybody stirring, or speaking
as if they were hurt, what need we care about it ? So pray,
Nancy, let us ^^o to sleep again ; for as yet I have not had
half sufficient, I am sure ; I hope morning is not coming yet,
for I am not at all ready to get up.' 'I am sure,' answered
the other, 'I wish it was morning, and day-light now, for I
should like to get up vastly; I do not like to lay here in the
dark any longer ; I have a great mind to ring the bell, and
then mamma or somebody will come to us with a candle.'



320 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

* And what in the world,' rejoined Mary, * will be the use
of that? Do you want a candle to light you to look for the
wounds the noise has given you; or what can you wish to
disturb my mamma for? Come, let me cuddle you, and do
go to sleep, child, for I cannot think what occasion there is
for us to keep awake because we heard a noise ; I never
knew that noise had teeth or claws to hurt one with, and I
am sure this has not hurt me; and so, whether you choose
to lie awake or not, I will go to sleep, and so good-bye to
you, and pray do not disturb me any more, for I cannot talk
any longer.' ' But, Mary,' again rejolied the other, ' pray do
not go to sleep yet, I want to speak to you.' 'Well, what
do you want to say?' inquired Mary. ' Why, pray, have you
not very often,' said Nancy, ' heard of thieves breaking into
people's houses and robbing them 1 and I am sadly afraid
that noise was some rogues coming in ; so pray, Mary, do
not go to sleep, I am in such a fright and tremble you can-
not think. Speak, Mary, have not you, I say, heard of
thieves?' ' Yes,' replied Mary, in a very sleepy voice, 'a
great many times.' ' Well then, pray, sister, do not go to
sleep,' said Nancy, in a peevish accent; 'suppose, I say,
that noise I heard should be thieves, what should we do?
What will become of us ? Oh ! what shall we do ? ' — ' Why,
go to sleep, I tell you,' said Mary, 'as fast as you can; at
least do pray let me, for I cannot say I am in the smallest
fear about house-breakers or house-makers either; and of all
the robberies I ever heard of in all my life, I never heard of
thieves stealing little girls ; so do, there's a dear girl, go to
sleep again, and do not so foolishly frighten yourself out of
your wits for nothing.' ' Well,' replied Nancy, ' I will not
keep you awake any longer; but I am sure I shall not be
able to get another wink of sleep all night.'

Here the conversation ended, and I could not help think-
ing how foolish it was for people to permit themselves to be
terrified for nothing. Here is a little girl, now, thought I,
in a nice clean room, and covered up warm in bed, with
pretty green curtains drawn round her to keep the wind
from her head, and the light in the morning from her eyes;
and yet she is distressing herself, and making herself really
uncomfortable and unhappy, only because I, a poor little



LIFE OF A MOUSE.



harmless mouse, with scarcely strength sufficient to gnaw a
nutshell, happened to jump from the table, and throw down,
perhaps, her own box. — Oh! what a pity it is that i)eople
should so destroy their own comfort! How sweetly might
this child have passed the night, if she had but, like her
sister, wisely reflected that a noise could not possi])ly hurt
them ; and that, had any of the family occasioned it, by
falling down, or running against anything in the dark which
hurt them, most likely they would have heard some more
stirring about.

And upon this subject the author cannot help, in human
form (as well as in that of a mouse), observing how extremely
ridiculous it is for people to suffer themselves to be terrified
upon every trifling occasion that happens ; as if they had no
more resolution than a mouse itself, which is liable to be
destroyed every meal it makes. And, surely, nothing can be
more absurd than for children to be afraid of thieves and
house-breakers; since, as little Mary said, they never want to
seek after children. Money is all they want; and as children
have very seldom much of that in their possession, they may
assure themselves they are perfectly safe, and have therefore
no occasion to alarm themselves if they hear a noise, without
being able to make out what it is ; unless, indeed, like tlie
child I have just been writing about, they would be so silly
as to be frightened at a little mouse; for most commonly the
noises we hear, if we lay awake in the night, are caused by
mice running about and playing behind the wainscot; and
what reasonable person would suffer themselves to be alarmed
by such little creatures as those ? But it is time I should re-
turn to the history of my little make-believe companion, who
went on saying —

The conversation I have been relating I overheard as I
lay concealed in a shoe that stood close by the bedside, and
into which I ran the moment I jumped off the table, and
where I kept snug till the next morning ; when, just as the
clock was striking eight, the same Mrs. Nelly, whom I saw
the day before in the kitchen, entered the apartment, and
accosted the young ladies, saying, ' Good morning to you,
ladies; do you know that it is time to get up?' 'Then,

* V



STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.



pray, Nelly, lace my stays, will you?' said Miss Nancy.
' But lace mine first, and give me my other shoes ; for those
I wore yesterday must be brushed, because I stepped in the
dirt, and so when you go down you must remember and take
and brush them, and then let me have them again,' said
Mary ; ' but come and dress me now.'

Well, thought I, this is a rude way of speaking, indeed,
something like Miss Nancy Ardess, at the house where my
poor dear Softdown was so cruelly massacred ; I am sure I
hope I shall not meet with the like fate here, and I wish I
was safe out of this shoe ; for perhaps, presently, it will be
wanted to be put on Mary's foot; and I am sure I must not
expect to meet any mercy from a child who shows so bad a
disposition as to speak to a servant in so uncivil a manner,
for no good-natured person would do that.

With these kind of reflections I was amusing myself for
some little time when, all on a sudden, they were put an end
to by my finding the shoe in which I was concealed hastily
taken up ; and before I had time to recollect what I had best
do, I was almost killed by some violent blows I received,
which well nigh broke every bone in my skin. I crept quite
up to the toe of the shoe, so that I was not at all seen, and
the maid, when she took up the shoes, held one in one hand
and the other in the other, by their heels, and then slapped
them hard together, to beat out some of the dust which was
in them. This she repeated three or four times, till I was
quite stunned; and how or which way I tumbled or got out,
I know not ; but when I came to myself, I was close up
behind the foot of a table, in a large apartment, where were
several children, and a gentleman and a lady, all conversing
together with the greatest good-humour and harmony.

The first words I heard distinctly enough to remember
were those of a little boy, about five years old, who, with
eagerness exclaimed — 'I forget you! no, that I never shall.
If I was to go a hundred thousand miles off, I am sure I
shall never forget you. What ! do you think I should ever,
as long as I live, if it is a million of years, forget my own dear
papa and mamma'? No; that I should not, I am ver}-, very
sure I never should.' 'Well, but Tom,' interrupted the



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 323

gentleman, ' if in a million of years you should not forget us,
I dare say, in less than two months you will forget our
advice, and before you have been at school half that time,
you will get to squabbling with and tricking the other boys,
just as they do with one another; and instead of playing at
all times with the strictest openness and honour, you will, I
sadly fear, learn to cheat and deceive, and pay no attention
to what your mother and I have been telling you.' ' No !
that I am sure I shan't!' replied the boy. 'What! do you
think I shall be so wicked as to turn a thief, and cheat
people ] ' 'I dare say, my dear,' resumed the father, ' you
will not do what we call thieving ; but as I know there are
many naughty boys in all schools, I am afraid they will teach
you to commit dishonourable actions, and to tell you there
is no harm in them, and that they are signs of cleverness and
spirit, and qualifications very necessary for every boy to
possess.' ' Aye, that's sure enough,' said the boy, who ap-
peared about ten years old, ' for they almost all declare that
if a boy is not sharp and cunning, he might almost as well
be out of the world as in it. But, as you say, papa, I hate
such behaviour; I am sure there is one of our boys, who is
so wonderfully clever and acute, as they call him, that I de-
test ever having anything to do with him: for unless one
watches him as a cat would watch a mouse, he is sure to
cheat or play one some trick or other.' ' What sort of tricks
do you mean % ' inquired the little boy. ' Why, I Avill tell
you,' replied the other. ' You know nothing of the games
we have at school, so if I was to tell you how he plays at
them you would not understand what I meant. But you
know what walking about blindfold is, don't you 1 Well !
one day, about a dozen of boys agreed to have a blind race,
and the boy who got nearest the goal, which was a stick
driven in the grounds with a shilling upon the top of it, was
to win the shilling, provided he did it fairly, without seeing.'
' I suppose,' interrupted Tom, ' you mean the boy who got
to the stick first.' 'No, I do not,' replied his brother, 'I
mean what I say, the boy who got nearest it, no matter
whether he came first or last; the fun was to see them try to
keep in a straight path, with their eyes tied up, whilst they

V 2



324 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

wander quite in the wrong, and not to try who could run
fastest. Well! when they were all blinded, and twisted round



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeA storehouse of stories : storehouse the first → online text (page 29 of 43)