Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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we are not catching, we are all to go there. Cousin
Rotherwood told me so for a great secret ; but he said
I might tell you, and that he would ask Aunt Alethea
to let Primrose come too. It does warm one up to

vol. 1 P



210 BEECHCROFT AT R0CKST0NE chap.

think of it, and it is much easier to feel thankful and
glad about all the rest of the right sort of Christmas
happiness, now I am so near having Gill and Yal
again. — Your very loving child,

' M. M. Merrifield.'



(Jasper.)



Vale Leston Priory,
1 25th December.



' Dearest Mother — Here are my Christmas wishes
that we may all be right again at home this year, and
that you could see the brace of pheasants I killed.
However, Gill and I are in uncommonly nice quarters.
I shall let her tell the long story about who is who,
for there is such a swarm of cousins, and uncles, and
aunts, and when you think you have hold of the right
one, it turns out to be the other lot. There are three
houses choke full of them, and more floating about, and
all running in and out, till it gets like the little pig
that could not be counted, it ran about so fast. They
are all Underwood or Harewood, more or less, except
the Vanderkists, who are all girls except a little fellow
in knickerbockers. Poor little chap, his father was a
great man on the turf, and ruined him horse and foot
before he was born, and then died of D. T., and his
mother is a great invalid, and very badly off, with no
end of daughters — the most stunning girls you ever
saw — real beauties, and no mistake, especially Emily,
who is great fun besides. She is to be Helena when



xi LADY MERRIFIELD'S CHRISTMAS LETTER-BAG 211

we act Midsummer Night's Dream on Twelfth Night
for all the natives, and I am Demetrius, dirty cad that
he is ! She lives with the Grinsteads, and Anna with
the Travis Underwoods, Phyllis's young man's bosses.
If he makes as good a thing of it as they have done,
she will be no end of a swell. Mr. Travis Underwood
has brought down his hunters and gives me a mount.
Claude would go stark staring mad to see his
Campeador.

' They are awfully musical here, and are always at
carols or something, and that's the only thing against
them. As to Gill, she is in clover, in raptures with
every one, especially Mrs. Grin stead, and I think it is
doing her good. — Your affectionate son,

'J. R M.'

(Gillian.)

'Deaeest Mamma — All Christmas love, and a
message to Phyllis that I almost forgive her desertion
for the sake of the set of connections she has brought
us, like the nearest and dearest relations or more, but
Geraldine — for so she told me to call her — is still the
choicest of all. It is so pretty to see her husband —
the great sculptor — wait on her, as if she was a queen
and he her knight ! Anna told me that he had been
in love with her ever so long, and she refused him
once ; but after the eldest brother died, and she was
living at St. Wulstan's, he tried again, and she could
not hold out. I told you of her charming house, so



212 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

full of lovely things, and about Gerald, all cleverness
and spirit, but too delicate for a public school. He is
such a contrast to Edward Harewood, a great sturdy,
red-haired fellow, who is always about with Jasper,
except when he — Japs, I mean — is with Emily
Vanderkist. She is the prettiest of the Vanderkists.
There are eight of them besides little Sir Adrian.
Mary always stays to look after her mother, who is in
very bad health, and has weak eyes. They call Mary
invaluable and so very good, but she is like a homely
little Dutchwoman, and nobody would think she was
only twenty. Sophy, the next to her, calls herself
pupil-teacher to Mrs. William Harewood, and together
they manage the schoolroom for all the younger sisters,
the two little girls at the Vicarage, and Wilmet, the
only girl here at the Priory ; but, of course, no lessons
are going on now, only learning and rehearsing the
parts, and making the dresses, painting the scenes, and
learning songs. They all do care so much about music
here that I find I really know hardly anything about
it, and Jasper says it is their only failing.

' They say Mr. Lancelot Underwood sings and
plays better than any of them ; but he is at Stone-
borough. However, he is coming over with all the
Mays for our play, old Dr. May and all. I was very
much surprised to find he was an organist and a book-
seller, but Geraldine told me about it, and how it was
for the sake of the eldest brother — " my brother," they
all say ; and somehow it seems as if the house was still



xi LADY MERRIFIELD'S CHRISTMAS LETTER- BAG 213

his, though it is so many years since he died. And yet
they are all such happy, merry people. I wish I
could let you know how delightful it all is. Some-
times I feel as if I did not deserve to have such a
pleasant time. I can't quite explain, but to be with
Geraldine Grinstead makes one feel one's self to be of a
ruder, more selfish mould, and I know I have not been
all I ought to be at Eockstone ; but I don't mind telling
you, now you are so soon to be at home, Aunt Jane
seems to worry me — I can't tell how, exactly — while
there is something about Geraldine that soothes and
brightens, and all the time makes one long to be
better.

' I never heard such sermons as Mr. Harewood's
either ; it seems as if I had never listened before, but
these go right down into one. I cannot leave off
thinking about the one last Sunday, about " making
manifest the counsels of all hearts." I see now that I
was not as much justified in not consulting Aunt Jane
about Kalliope and Alexis as I thought I was, and
that the concealment was wrong. It came over me
before the beautiful early Celebration this morning,
and I could not feel as if I ought to be there till I
had made a resolution to tell her all about it, though
I should like it not to be till you are come home, and
can tell her that I am not really like Dolores, as she
will be sure to think me, for I really did it, not out
of silliness and opposition, but because I knew how
good they were, and I did tell you. Honestly, perhaps



214 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

there was some opposition in the spirit of it ; but I
mean to make a fresh start when I come back, and
you will be near at hand then, and that will help me.

1 26 th. — The afternoon service of song began and I
was called off. I never heard anything so lovely, and
we had a delightful evening. I can't tell you about
it now, for I am snatching a moment when I am not
rehearsing, as this must go to-day. Dr. and Miss
May, and the Lances, as they call them, are just come.
The Doctor is a beautiful old man. All the children
were round him directly, and he kissed me, and said
he was proud to meet the daughter of such a distin-
guished man.

' This must go. — Your loving daughter,

' Juliana Merrifield.'

(Harry.)

1 Coalham, Christmas Bay.
1 It is nearly St. Stephen's Day, for, dear mother, I
have not had a minute before to send you or my father
my Christmas greeting. We have had most joyous
services, unusually well attended, David tells me, and
that makes up for the demonstration we had outside
the door last night. David is the right fellow for this
place, though we are disapproved of as south country
folk. The boys are well and amused, Wilfred much
more conformable for being treated more as a man,
and Fergus greatly come on, and never any trouble,



being always dead-set on some pursuit. It is geology,
or rather mineralogy, at present, and if he carries home
all the stones he has accumulated in the back yard, he
will have a tolerable charge for extra luggage. David
says there is the making of a great man in him, I think
it is of an Uncle Maurice. Macrae writes to me in a
state of despair about the drains at Silverfold ; scarlet
fever and diphtheria abound at the town, so that he
says you cannot come back there till something has
been done, and he wants me to come and look at them ;
but I do not see how I can leave David at present,
as we are in the thick of classes for Baptism and
Confirmation in Lent, and I suspect Aunt Jane knows
more about the matter than I do.

1 Gillian and Jasper seem to be in a state of great
felicity at Vale Leston — and Mysie getting better, but
poor little Phyllis Devereux has been seriously ill. —
Your affectionate son, H. Merrifield.'

(Aunt Jane and Aunt Adeline.)

1 11.30, Christmas Eve.
' My dearest Lily — This will be a joint letter, for
Ada will finish it to-morrow, and I must make the
most of my time while waiting for the Waits to dwell
on unsavoury business. Macrae came over here with
a convoy of all sorts of " delicacies of the season," for
which thank you heartily in the name of Whites,
Hablots, and others who partook thereof, according,



2 1 6 BEE CHCR OFT AT RO CKSTONE chap.

no doubt, to your kind intention. He was greatly
perturbed, poor man, for your cook has been very ill
with diphtheria, and the scarlet fever is severe all round ;
there have been some deaths, and the gardener's child
was in great danger. The doctor has analysed the
water, and finds it in a very bad state, so that your
absence this autumn is providential. If you are in
haste, telegraph to me, and I will meet your landlord
there, and the sanitary inspector, and see what can be
done, without waiting for Jasper. At any rate, you
cannot go back there at once. Shall I secure a furnished
house for you here ? The Eotherwoods are coming to
the hotel next door to us, as soon as Phyllis is fit
to move and infection over. Victoria will stay there
with the children, and he go back and forwards. If
Harry and Phyllis May should come home, I suppose
their headquarters will be at Stoneborough ; but still
this would be the best place for a family gathering.
Moreover, Fergus gets on very nicely at Mrs. Edgar's,
and it would be a pity to disturb him. On the other
hand, I am not sure of the influences of the place

upon the

' Christmas Bay, 3 p.m. — There came the Waits I
suppose, and Jane had to stop and leave me to take
up the thread. Poor dear Jenny, the festival days are
no days of rest to her, but I am not sure that she
would enjoy repose, or that it would not be the worse
possible penance to her. She is gone down now to the
workhouse with Valetta to take cards and tea and



xi LADY MERRIFIELD'S CHRISTMAS LETTER- BAG 217

tobacco to the old people, not sending them, because
she says a few personal wishes and the sight of a bright
child will be worth something to the old bodies. Then
comes tea for the choir-boys, before Evensong and carols,
and after that my turn may come for what remains of
the evening. I must say the church is lovely, thanks
to your arums and camellias, which Macrae brought us
just in time. It is very unfortunate that Silverfold
should be in such a state, but delightful for us if it
sends you here ; and this brings me to Jenny's broken
thread, which I must spin on, though I tell her to take
warning by you, when you so repented having brought
Maurice home by premature wails about Dolores.
Perhaps impatience is a danger to all of us, and I believe
there is such a thing as over-candour.

1 What Jane was going to say was that she did not
think the place had been good for either of the girls ;
but all that would be obviated by your presence. If
poor Miss Vincent joins you, now that she is free, you
would have your own schoolroom again, and the locality
would not make much difference. Indeed, if the
Rotherwood party come by the end of the holidays, I
have very little doubt that Victoria will allow Valetta
to join Phyllis and Mysie in the schoolroom, and that
would prevent any talk about her removal from the
High School. The poor little thing has behaved as
well as possible ever since, and is an excellent com-
panion ; Jane is sure that it has been a lesson that will
last her for life, and I am convinced that she was under



2 1 8 BEE CHCR OFT AT RO CKSTONE CH ap.

an influence that you can put an end to — I mean that
White family. Jane thinks well of the eldest daughter,
in spite of her fringe and of her refusal to enter the
G.F.S. ; but I have good reason for knowing that she
holds assignations in Mr. White's garden on Sunday
afternoons with young Stebbing, whose mother knows
her to be a most artful and dangerous girl, though she
is so clever at the mosaic work that there is no getting
her discharged. Mrs. Stebbing called to warn us
against her, and, as I was the only person at home,
told me how she had learnt from Mr. White's house-
keeper that this girl comes every Sunday alone to walk
in the gardens — she was sure it must be to meet some-
body, and they are quite accessible to an active young-
man on the side towards the sea. He is going in a
few days to join the other partner at the Italian quarries,
greatly in order that the connection may be broken off.
It is very odd that Jane, generally so acute, should be
so blind here. All she said was, " That's just the time
Gillian is so bent on mooning in the garden." It is a
mere absurdity ; Gillian always goes to the children's
service, and besides, she was absent last Sunday, when
Miss White was certainly there. But Gillian lends
the girl books, and altogether patronises her in a
manner which is somewhat perplexing to us ; though,
as it cannot last long, Jane thinks it better not to
interfere before your return to judge for yourself.
These young people are members of the Kennel Church
Congregation, and I had an opportunity of talking to



xi LADY MERRIFIEL D 'S CHRIS TMAS LE TTER-BA G 219

Mr. Flight about them. He says he had a high opinion
of the brother, and hoped to help him to some higher
education, with a view perhaps to Holy Orders ; but
that it was so clearly the youth's duty to support his
mother, and it was so impossible for her to get on
without his earnings, that he (Mr. Flight, I mean) had
decided to let him alone that Ms stability might be
proved, or till some opening offered ; and of late there
had been reason for disappointment, tokens of being
unsettled, and reports of meetings with some young
woman at his sister's office. It is always the way
when one tries to be interested in those half-and-half
people, — the essential vulgarity is sure to break out,
generally in the spirit of flirtation conducted in an
underhand manner. And oh ! that mother ! I write
all this because you had better be aware of the state of
things before your return. I am afraid, however, that
between us we have not written you a very cheering
Christmas letter.

' There is a great question about a supply of water
to the town. Much excitement is caused by the ex-
pectation of Eotherwood's visit, and it is even said that
he is to be met here by the great White himself, whom
I have always regarded as a sort of mythical personage,
not to say a harpy, always snatching away every
promising family of Jane's to the Italian quarries.

' You will have parted with the dear girls by this
time, and be feeling very sad and solitary ; but it is
altogether a good connection, and a great advantage.



220 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

I have just addressed to Gillian, at Vale Lestou, a
coroneted envelope, which must be an invitation from
Lady Liddesdale. I am very glad of it. Nothing is
so likely as such society to raise her above the tone of
these Whites. — Your loving A. M.'

'10.30 p.m.— These Whites ! Eeally I don't think
it as bad as Ada supposes, so don't be uneasy, though
it is a pity she has told you so much of the gossip
respecting them. I do not believe any harm of that
girl Kalliope ; she has such an honest, modest pair of
eyes. I dare say she is persecuted by that young
Stebbing, for she is very handsome, and he is an odious
puppy. But as to her assignations in the garden, if
they are with any one, it is with Gillian, and I see no
harm in them, except that we might have been told —
only that would have robbed the entire story of its
flavour, I suppose. Besides, I greatly disbelieve the
entire story, so don't be worried about it ! There — as
if we had not been doing our best to worry you ! But
come home, dearest old Lily. Gather your chicks
under your wing, and when you cluck them together
again, all will be well. I don't think you will find
Yaletta disimproved by her crisis. It is curious to
hear how she and Gillian both declare that Mysie
would have prevented it, as if naughtiness or deceit
shrank from that child's very face.

' It has been a very happy, successful Christmas
Day, full of rejoicing. May you be feeling the same ;



xi LADY MERRIFIELD'S CHRISTMAS LETTER-BAG 221

that joy has made us one in many a time of separa-
tion. — Your faithful old Brownie,

' J. MOHUN.'

(Gillian again.)

1 Kowthorpe, 20tfi January.
' Dearest Mamma — This is a Sunday letter. I am
writing it in a beautiful place, more like a drawing-
room than a bedroom, and it is all very grand ; such
long galleries, such quantities of servants, so many
people staying in the house, that I should feel quite
lost but for Geraldine. We came so late last night
that there was only just time to dress for dinner at
eight o'clock. I never dined with so many people
before, and they are all staying in the house. I have
not learnt half of them yet, though Lady Liddesdale,
who is a nice, merry old lady, with gray hair, called
her eldest granddaughter, Kitty Somerville, and told her
to take care of me, and tell me who they all were. One
of them is that Lord Ormersfield, whom Mysie ran
against at Eotherwood, and, do you know, I very nearly
did the same ; for there is early Celebration at the little
church just across the garden. Kitty talked of calling
for me, but I did not make sure, because I heard some
one say she was not to go if she had a cold ; and when
I heard the bell, I grew anxious and started off, and I
lost my way, and thought I should never get to the
stairs ; but just as I was turning back, out came Lord
and Lady Ormersfield. He looks quite young, though



222 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

he is rather lame — I shall like all lame people, for the
sake of Geraldine — and Lady Ormersfield has such a
motherly face. He laughed, and said I was not the
first person who had lost my way in the labyrinths of
passages, so I went on with them, and after all Kitty
was hunting for me ! I sat next him at breakfast, and,
do you know, he asked me whether I was the sister of
a little downright damsel he met at Eotherwood two
years ago, and said he had used her truthfulness about
the umbrella for a favourite example to his small
youngest !

' When I hear of truthfulness I feel a sort of shock.
" Oh, if you knew !" I am ready to say, and I grow
quite hot. That is what I am really writing about to-
day. I never had time after that Christmas Day at
Vale Leston to do more than keep you up to all the
doings ; but I did think : and there were Mr. Hare-
wood's sermons, which had a real sting in them, and
a great sweetness besides. I have tried to set some
down for you, and that is one reason I did not say
more. But to-day, after luncheon, it is very quiet, for
Kitty and Constance are gone to their Sunday classes,
and the gentlemen and boys are out walking, except
Lord Somerville, who has a men's class of his own, and
all the old ladies are either in their rooms, or talking
in pairs. So I can tell you that I see now that I did
not go on in a right spirit with Aunt Jane, and that I
did poor Yal harm by my example, and went very
near deception, for I did not choose to believe that



xi LADY MERRIFIELD'S CHRISTMAS LETTER-BAG 223

when you said " If Aunt J. approves/' you meant
about Alexis White's lessons ; so I never told her or
Kalliope, and I perceive now that it was not right
towards either ; for Kally was very unhappy about her
not knowing. I am very sorry ; I see that I was
wrong all round, and that I should have understood it
before, if I had examined myself in the way Mr. Hare-
wood dwelt upon in his last Sunday in Advent sermon,
and never gone on in such a way.

' I am not going to wait for you now, but shall
confess it all to Aunt Jane as soon as I go home, and
try to take it as my punishment if she asks a terrible
number of questions. Perhaps I shall write it, but it
would take such a quantity of explanation, and I don't
want Aunt Ada to open the letter, as she does any
that come while Aunt Jane is out.

' Please kiss my words and forgive me, as you read
this, dear mamma ; I never guessed I was going to be
so like Dolores.

f Kitty has come to my door to ask if I should like
to come and read something nice and Sundayish with
them in her grandmamma's dressing-room. — So no
more from your loving Gill.'



CHAPTER XII

TRANSFORMATIONS

' Well, now for the second stage of our guardianship 1 '
said Aunt Ada, as the two sisters sat over the fire
after Valetta had gone to bed. * Fergus comes back
to-morrow, and Gillian — when V

1 She does not seem quite certain, for there is
to be a day or two at Brompton with this delightful
Geraldine, so that she may see her grandmother — also
Mr. Clement Underwood's church, and the Merchant
of Venice — an odd mixture of ecclesiastics and dissipa-
tions.'

' I wonder whether she will be set up by it.'

'So do I ! They are all remarkably good people ;
but then good people do sometimes spoil the most of
all, for they are too unselfish to snub. And on the
other hand, seeing the world sometimes has the whole-
some effect of making one feel small '

' My dear Jenny ! '

' Oh ! I did not mean you, who are never easily
effaced ; but I was thinking of youthful bumptiousness,
fostered by country life and elder sistership.'



chap, xii TRANSFORMATIONS 225

' Certainly, though Valetta is really much improved,
Gillian has not been as pleasant as I expected, especi-
ally during the latter part of the time.'

1 Query, was it her fault or mine, or the worry of
the examination, or all three V

' Perhaps you did superintend a little too much at
first. More than modern independence was prepared
for, though I should not have expected recalcitration
in a young Lily ; but I think there was more ruffling
of temper and more reserve than I can quite under-
stand.'

1 It has not been a success. As dear old Lily
would have said, "My dream has vanished," of a
friend in the younger generation, and now it remains
to do the best I can for her in the few weeks that are
left, before we have her dear mother again.'

'At any rate, you have no cause to be troubled
about the other two. Valetta is really the better for
her experience, and you have always got on well with
the boy.'

Fergus was the first of the travellers to appear at
Eockstone. Miss Mohun, who went to meet him at
the station, beheld a small figure lustily pulling at a
great canvas bag, which came bumping down the step,
assisted by a shove from the other passengers, and
threatening for a moment to drau; him down between
platform and carriages.

' Fergus, Fergus, what have you got there ? Give
it to me. How heavy ! '

vol. 1 Q



226 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

' It's a few of my mineralogical specimens,' replied
Fergus. ' Harry wouldn't let me put any more into
my portmanteau — but the peacock and the dendrum
are there.'

Already, without special regard to peacock or
dendrum, whatever that article might be, Miss Mohun
was claiming the little old military portmanteau, with
a great M and 110th painted on it, that held Fergus's
garments.

He would scarcely endure to deposit the precious
bag in the omnibus, and as he walked home his talk
was all of tertiary formations, and coal measures, and
limestones, as he extracted a hammer from his pocket,
and looked perilously disposed to use it on the vein of
crystals in a great pink stone in a garden wall. His
aunt was obliged to begin by insisting that the walls
should be safe from geological investigations.

' But it is such waste, Aunt Jane. Only think of
building up such beautiful specimens in a stupid old
wall'

Aunt Jane did not debate the question of waste,
but assured him that equally precious specimens could
be honestly come by ; while she felt renewed amuse-
ment and pleasure at anything so like the brother
Maurice of thirty odd years ago being beside her.

It made her endure the contents of the bag being
turned out like a miniature rockery for her inspection
on the floor of the glazed verandah outside the drawing-
room, and also try to pacify Mrs. Mount's indignation



xii TRANSFORMATIONS 227

at finding the more valuable specimens, or, as she


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