Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Hopes and fears; or, Scenes from the life of a spinster online

. (page 1 of 76)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeHopes and fears; or, Scenes from the life of a spinster → online text (page 1 of 76)
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' She felt, rather than saw him watching her all the way from the garden-gate
to the wood."— Page 527.









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* She felt, rather than saw him watching her all the way from

the garden-gate to the wood " . . . . Frontispiece

" I find I can't spare yon, Honora ; you had hetter stay at the

Holt for good." ........ Page 11

* He drew the paper before him. Lucilla started to her feet " . „ 296





Who ought to go then and who ought to stay}
Where do you draw an obvious border line?

Cecil and Mary

Among the numerous steeples counted from the waters of the
Thames, in the heart of the City, and grudged by modern
economy as cumberers of the soil of Mammon, may be re-
marked an abortive little dingy cupola, surmounting two large
round eyes which have evidently stared over the adjacent
roofs ever since the Fire that began at Pie-corner and ended in

Strange that the like should have been esteemed the highest
walk of architecture, and yet Honora Charlecote well remem-
bered the days when St. Wulstan's was her boast, so large, so
clean, so light, so Grecian, so far surpassing damp old Hilton-
bury Church. That was at an age when her enthusiasm found
indiscriminate food in whatever had a hold upon her affections,
the nearer her heart being of course the more admirable in
itself, and it would be difficult to say which she loved the most
ardently, her city home in Woolstone-lane, or Hiltonbury Holt,
the old family seat, where her father was a welcome guest
whenever his constitution required relaxation from the severe
toils of a London rector.

Woolstone-lane was a locality that sorely tried the coachmen
of Mrs. Charlecote's West End connections, situate as it was on
the very banks of the Thames, and containing little save offices
and warehouses, in the midst of which stood Honora's home.
It was not the rectory, but had been inherited from City rela-
tions, and it antedated the Fire, so that it was one of the most
perfect remnants of the glories of the merchant princes of ancient
London. It had a court to itself, shut in by high walls, and
paved with round-headed stones, with gangways of Hags in mercy
to the feet ; the front was faced with hewn squares after the
€ B


■pattern of, Somerset House-, with the like ponderous sashes, and
on a. smaller .scale, the-touis-XIV. pediment, apparently designed
for the nesting-place 'of 'swallows and sparrows. Within was a
hall, panelled with fragrant softly-tinted cedar wood, festooned
with exquisite garlands of fruit and flowers, carved by Gibbons
himself, with all his peculiarities of rounded form and delicate
edge. The staircase and floor were of white stone, tinted on
sunny days with reflections from the windows' three medallions
of yellow and white glass, where Solomon, in golden mantle and
crowned turban, commanded the division of a stout lusty child
hanging by one leg ; superintended the erection of a Temple
worthy of Haarlem ; or graciously welcomed a recoiling stumpy
Vrow of a Queen of Sheloa, with golden hair all down her back.

The river aspect of the house had come to perfection at the
Elizabethan period, and was sculptured in every available nook
with the chevron and three arrows of the Fletchers' Company,
and a merchant's mark, like a figure of four with a curly tailjw
Here were the oriel windows of the best rooms, looking out on
a grassplat, small enough in country eyes, but most extensive
for the situation, with straight gravelled walks, and low lilac
and laburnum trees, that came into profuse blossom long before
their country cousins, but which, like the crocuses and snow-
drops of the flower borders, had better be looked at than touched
by such as dreaded sooty fingers. These shrubs veiled the
garden from the great river thoroughfare, to which it sloped
down, still showing traces of the handsome stone steps and
balustrade that once had formed the access of the gold-chained
alderman to his sumptuous barge.

Along those paths paced, book in hand, a tall, well-grown
maiden, of good straight features, and clear, pale skin, with
eyes and rich luxuriant hair of the same colour, a peculiarly
bright shade of auburn, such as painters of old had loved, and
Owen Sandbrook called golden, while Humf rey Charlecote would
declare lie was always glad to see Honor's carrots.

More than thirty years ago, personal teaching at a London
parish school or personal visiting of the poor was less common
than at present, but Honora had l>een bred up to be helpful,
and she had newly come in from a diligent afternoon of looking
at the needlework, and hearing Grossman's Catechism and Sellon's
Abridgment from a demurely dressed race of little girls in tall
white caps, bibs and tuckers, and very stout indigo-blue frocks.
She had been working hard at fehe endeavour to make the little
Cockneys, who liad never seen a single ear of wheat, enter into
Joseph's dreams, and was rather weary of their town sharpness
coupled with their indiflfcrence and want of imagination, where
any nature save human nature, was concerned. 'I will bring
an ear of Hiltonbury wheat homo with me — some of the best
girls shall see me sow it, and I will take them to watch it grow-
ing up— the blade, the ear, the full corn in the oar— poor dears,
if they only bad a Hiltonbury to ,u' x,> them some tastes that


are not all for this hot, busy, eager work! ! If I could only see
one with her lap full of bluebells ; but though in this land of
Cockaigne of ours, one does not actually pick up gold and silver,
I am afraid they are our flowers, and the only ones we esteem
worth the picking ; and like old Mr. Sandbrook, we neither
understand nor esteem those whose aims are otherwise ! Oh !
Owen, Owen, may you only not be withheld from your glorious
career ! May you show this hard, money-getting world that
you do really, as well as only in word, esteem one soul to be
reclaimed above all the wealth that can be laid at your feet !
The nephew and heir of the great Firm voluntarily surrendering
consideration, ease, riches, unbounded luxury for the sake of the
heathen— choosing a wigwam instead of a West End palace ;
parched maize rather than the banquet ; the backwoods instead
of the luxurious park ; the Red Indian rather than the club
and the theatre ; to be a despised minister rather than a magnate
of this great city ; nay, or to take his place among the influential
men of the land. What has this worn, weary old civilization to
offer like the joy of sitting beneath one of the glorious aspiring
pines of America, gazing out on the blue waters of her limpid
inland seas, in her fresh pure air, with the simple children of the
forest round him, their princely forms in attitudes of attention,
their dark soft liquid eyes fixed upon him, as he tells them
"Your Great Spirit, Him whom ye ignorantly worship, Him
declare I unto you," and then, some glorious old chief bows his
stately head, and throws aside his marks of superstition. "I
believe," he says, and the hearts of all bend with him ; and
Owen leads them to the lake, and baptizes them, and it is
another St. Sacrament ! Oh ! that is what it is to have noble-
ness enough truly to overcome the world, truly to turn One's back
upon pleasures and honours — what are they to such as this ? '

So mused Honora Charlecote, and then ran indoors, with
bounding step, to her Schiller, and her hero-worship of Max
Piccolomini, to write notes for her mother, and practise for her
father the song that was to refresh him for the evening.

Nothing remarkable ! No ; there was nothing remarkable
in Honor,"she was neither more nor less than an average woman
of the higher type. Refinement and gentleness, a strong appre-
ciation of excellence, and a love of duty, had all been brought
out by an admirable education, and by a home devoted to un-
selfish exertion, varied by intellectual pleasures. Other influ-
ences — decidedly traceable in her musings— had shaped her
principles and enthusiasms on those of an ardent Oxonian of
the early years of William IV. ; and so bred up, so led by
circumstances, Honora, with her abilities, high cultivation, and
tolerable sense, was a fair specimen of what any young lady
might be, appearing perhaps somewhat in advance of her con-
temporaries, but rather from her training than from intrinsic
force of character. The qualities of womanhood well developed,
were so entirely the staple of her. composition, that there is

B 2


little to describe in her. Was not she one made to leam ; to
lean ; to admire ; to support ; to enhance every joy ; to soften
every sorrow of the object of her devotion ?

Another picture from Honora Charlecote's life. It is about
half after six, on a bright autumnal morning ; and, rising nearly
due east, out of a dark pine-crowned hill, the sun casts his
slanting beams over an undulating country, clothed in gray
mist of tints differing Avith the distance, the farther hills con-
founded with the sky, the nearer dimly traced in purple, and
the valleys between indicated by the whiter, woollier vapours
that rise from their streams, a goodly land of fertile field and
rich wood, cradled on the bosoms of those soft hills.

Nestled among the woods, clothing its hollows on almost
every side, rises a low hill, with a species of table land on the
top, scattered over with large thorns and scraggy oaks that cast
their- shadows over the pale buff bents of the short soft grass of
the gravelly soil. Looking southward is a low, irregular, old-
fashioned house, with two tall gable ends like eyebrows, and the
lesser gable of a porch between them, all covered with large
chequers of black timber, filled up with cream-coloured cement.
A straight path leads from the porch between beds of scarlet
geraniums, their luxuriant horse-shoe leaves weighed down with
wet, and china asters, a drop in every quilling, to an old-
fashioned sun-dial, and beside that dial stands Honora Charle-
cote, gazing joyously out on the bright morning, and trying for
the hundredth time to make the shadow of that green old finger
point to the same figure as the hand of her watch.

' Oh ! down, down, there's a good dog, Fly ; you'll knock me
down ! Vixen, poor little doggie, pray ! Look at your paws,'
as a blue greyhound and rough black terrier came springing
joyously upon her, brushing away the silver dew from the
shaven lawn.

' Down, down, lie down, dogs ! ' and with an obstreperous
bound, Fly flew to the new-comer, a young man in the robust
strength of eight-and-twenty, of stalwart frame, very broad in
the chest and shoulders, careless, homely, though perfectly gentle-
manlike bearing, and hale, hearty, sunburnt face. It was such
a look and such an arm as would win the most timid to his side
in certainty of tenderness and protection, and the fond voice
gave the same sense of power and of kindness, as he called
out, ' Holloa, Honor, there you are ! Not given up the old
fashion % '

' Not till you give me up, Humfrey/ she said, as she eagerly
laid her neatly gloved fingers in the grasp of the great, broad,
horny palm, ' or at least till you take your gun.'

'So you are not grown wiser?'

' Nor ever will be.'

' Every woman ought to learn to saddle a horse and lire off a


'Yes, against the civil war squires are always expecting.
You shall teach me when the time comes.'

' You'll never see that time, nor any other, if you go out in
those thin boots. I'll fetch Sarah's clogs ; I suppose you have
not a reasonable pair in the world.'

4 My boots are quite thick, thank you.'

J Brown paper ! ' And indeed they were a contrast to his
mighty nailed soles, and long, untanned buskins, nor did they
greatly resemble the heavy, country-made galoshes which, with
an elder brother's authority, he forced her to put on, observing
that nothing so completely evinced the Londoner as her obstinacy
in never having a pair of shoes that could keep anything out,

' And where are you going ? '

'To Hayward's farm. Is that too far for you? He wants
an abatement of his rent for some improvements, and I want to
judge what they may be worth,'

' Hayward's —oh, not a bit too far ! ' and holding up her skirts,
she picked her way as daintily as her weighty chaussure would
permit, along the narrow green footway that crossed the expanse
of dewy turf in which the dogs careered, getting their noses
covered with flakes of thick gossamer, cemented together by
dew. Fly scraped it off with a delicate forepaw, Vixen rolled
over, and doubly entangled it in her rugged coat. Humfrey
Charlecote strode on before his companion with his hands in his
pockets, and beginning to whistle, but pausing to observe, over
his shoulder, ' A sweet day for getting up the roots ! You're
not getting wet, I hope ? '

'I couldn't through this rhinoceros hide, thank you. How
exquisitely the mist is curling up, and showing the church-spire
in the valley.'

1 And I suppose you have been reading all manner of books ? '

' I think the best was a great history of France.'

' France ! ' he repeated in a contemptuous John Bull tone.

1 Ay, don't be disdainful ; France was the centre of chivalry
in the old time.'

1 Better have been the centre of honesty.'

' And so it was in the time of St. Louis and his crusade. Do
vou know it, Humfrey ? '


That was full permission. Ever since Honora had been able
to combine a narration, Humfrey had been the recipient, though
she seldom knew whether he attended, and from her babyhood
upwards had been quite contented with trotting in the wake of
his long strides, pouring out her ardent fancies, now and then
getting an answer, but more often going on like a little singing
bird, through the midst of his avocations, and quite complacent
under his interruptions of calls to his dogs, directions to his
labourers, and warnings to her to mind her feet and not her
chatter. In the full stream of crusaders, he led her down one
of the multitude of by-paths cleared out in the hazel coppice


for spotting : here leading up a rising ground whence the tops
of the trees might be overlooked, some flecked with gold, some
blushing into crimson, and beyond them the needle point of
the village spire, the vane flashing back the sun ; there bending
into a ravine, marshy at the bottom, and nourishing the lady
fern, then again crossing glades, where the rabbits darted across
the path, and the battle of Damietta was broken into by stern
orders to Fly to come to heel, and the eating of the nuts which
Humfrey pulled down from the branches, and held up to his
cousin with superior good nature.

k A Mameluke rushed in with a scimitar streaming with
blood, and '

' Take care ; do you want help over this fence 1 '

'Not I, thank vou — And said he had just murdered the
king '

' Vic ! ah ! take your nose out of that. Here was a crop,

k What was it 1 '

' You don't mean that you don't know wheat stubble ? '

' I remember it was to be wheat.'

' Red wheat, the finest Ave ever had in this land : not a bit
beaten down, and the colour perfectly beautiful before harvest ;
it used to put me in mind of your hair. A load to the acre ; a
fair specimen of the effect of drainage. Do you remember what
a swamp it was 1 '

'I remember the beautiful loose-strifes that used to grow in
that corner.'

' Ah ! we have made an end of that trumpery.'

' You savage old Humfrey — beauties that they were.'

'What had they to do with my cornfields? A place for
everything and everything in its place — French kings and all.
What was this one doing wool-gathering in Egypt 1 '

' Don't you understand, it had become the point for the blow
at the Saracen power. Where was 1 1 Oh, the Mameluke justi-
fied the murder, and wanted St. Louis to be king, but '

' Ha ! a fine covey, I only miss two out of them. These
carrots, how their leaves are turned — that ought not to be.'

Honora could not believe that anything ought not to be that
was as beautiful as the varied rosy tints of the hectic beauty of
the exquisitely shaped and delicately pinked foliage of the field
carrots, and with her cousin's assistance she soon had a large
bouquet where no two leaves were alike, their hues ranging
from the deepest purple or crimson to the pa lest yellow, or clear
scarlet, like seaweed, through every intermediate variety of
purple edged with green, green picked out with red or yellow,
or vice versd, in never-ending brilliancy, such as Humfrey almost
seemed to appreciate, as he said, k Well, you have something as
pretty as your weeds, eh, Honor % '

'I can't quite give up mourning for my dear long purples."

'All very well by the river, but there's no beauty in thing:


out of place, like your Louis in Egypt — well, what was the end
of this predicament 1 '

So Humfrey had really heard and been interested ! With
sucli encouragement, Honora proceeded swimmingly, and had
nearly arrived at her hero's ransom, through nearly a mile of
Held paths, only occasionally interrupted by grunts from her
auditor at farming not like his own, when crossing a narrow
foot-bridge across a clear stream, they stood before a farm-
house, timbered and chimneyed much like the Holt, but with
new sashes displacing the old lattice.

'Oh ! Humfrey, how could you bring me to see such havoc'?
I never suspected you would allow it.'

1 It was without asking leave ; an attention to his bride ; and
now they want an abatement for improvements ! Whew ! '

' You should line him for the damage he has done ! '

' I can't be hard on him, he is more or less of an ass, and a
good sort of fellow, very good to his labourers ; he drove Jem
Hurd to the infirmary himself when he broke his arm. No, he
is not a man to be hard upon.'

l You can't be hard on any one. Now that window really
irritates my mind.'

1 Now Sarah walked down to call on the bride, and came home
full of admiration at the place being so lightsome and cheerful.
Which of you two ladies am I to believe 1 '

1 You ought to make it a duty to improve the general taste !
Why don't you build a model farm-house, and let me make the
design 1 '

1 Ay, when I want one that nobody can live in. Come, it will
be breakfast time.'

' Are not you going to have an interview 1 '

'No, I only wanted to take a survey of the alterations ; two
windows, smart door, iron fence, pulled down old barn, talks of
another. Hm ! '

' So he will get his reduction 1 '

' If he builds the barn. I shall try to see his wife ; she has
not been brought up to farming, and whether they get on ©r
not, all depends on the way she may take it up. What are you
looking at ? '

k That lovely wreath of Traveller's Joy.'

' Do you want it % \

' No, thank you, it is too beautiful where it is.'

1 There is a piece, going from tree to tree, by the Hiltonbury
Gate, as thick as my arm ; I just saved it when West was going
to cut it down with the copse wood.'

' Well, you really are improving at last ! '

' I thought you would never let me hear the last of it ; besides,
there was a thrush's nest in it.'

By and by the cousins arrived at a field wdiere Humfrey's
portly shorthornXwere coming forth after their milking, under
the pilotage of an old white-headed man, bent nearly double,


uncovering his head as the squire touched his hat in response,
and shouted, ■ Good morning.'

' If you please, sir/ said the old man, trying to erect himself,
{ I wanted to speak to you.'


' If you please, sir, chimney smokes so as a body can scarce
bide in the house, and the blacks comedown terrible.'

' Wants sweeping/ roared Humf rey, into his deaf ears.

1 Have swep it, sir ; old woman's been up with her broom.'

1 Old woman hasn't been high enough. Send Jack up outside
with a rope and a bunch o' furze, and let her stand at bottom.'

1 That's it, sir ! ' cried the old man, with a triumphant snap
of the fingers over his shoulder. ' Thank ye ! '

' Here's Miss Honor, John ; ' and Honora came forward, her
gravity somewhat shaken by the domestic offices of the old

' I'm glad to see you still able to bring out the cows, John.
Here's my favourite Daisy as tame as ever.'

' Anan ! ' and he looked at his master for explanation from the
stronger and more familiar voice. ' I be deaf, you see, ma'am.'

1 Miss Honor is glad to see Daisy as tame as ever,' shouted

' Ay ! ay ! ' maundered on the old man ; ' she ain't done no
good of late, and Mr. West and I — us wanted to have fatted her
this winter, but the squire, he wouldn't hear on it, because Miss
Honor was such a terrible one for her. Says I, when I hears
'em say so, we shall have another dinner on the la-an, and the
last was when the old squire was married, thirty-five years ago
come Michaelmas.'

Honora was much disposed to laugh at this freak of the old
man's fancy, but to her surprise Humfrey coloured up, and looked
so much out of countenance that a question darted through her
mind whether he could have any such step in contemplation,
and she began to review the young ladies oi the neighbourhood,
and to decide on each in turn that it would be intolerable to see
her as Humfrey's wife ; more at home at the Holt than herself.
She had ample time for contemplation, for he had become very
silent, and once or twice the presumptuous idea crossed her that
he might be actually about to make her some confidence, but
when he at length spoke, very near the house, it was only to
say, 'Honor, I wanted to ask you if you think your father-
would wish me to ask young Sandbrook here 1 '

' Oh ! thank you, I am sure he would be glad. You know
poor Owen has nowhere to go, since his uncle has behaved so

1 It must have been a great mortification '

' To Owen ? Of course it was, to be so cast off for his noble

' 1 was thinking of old Mr. Sandbrook-; — '

' Old wretch ! I've no patience with him ! '


' Just as he has brought this nephew up and hopes to make
him useful and rest some of his cares upon him in his old age,
to find him flying off upon this fresh course, and disappointing
all his hopes.'

' But it is such a high and grand course, he ought to have
rejoiced in it, and Owen is not his son.'

■ A man of his age, brought up as he has been, can hardly be
expected to enter into Owen's views.'

' Of course not. It is all sordid and mean, he cannot even
understand the missionary spirit of resigning all. As Owen
says, half the Scripture must be hyperbole to him, and so he is
beginning Owen's persecution already.'

It was one of Humfrey's provoking qualities that no amount
of eloquence would ever draw a word of condemnation from him ;
he would praise readily enough, but censure was very rare with
him, and extenuation was always his first impulse, so the more
Honora railed at Mr. Sandbrook's interference with his nephew's
plans, the less satisfaction she received from him. She seemed
to think that in order to admire Owen as he deserved, his uncle
must be proportionably reviled, and though Humfrey did not
imply a worcl save in commendation of the young missionary's
devotion, she went indoors feeling almost injured at his not
understanding it ; but Honora's petulance was a very bright,
sunny piquancy, and she only appeared the more glowing and
animated for it when she presented herself at the breakfast-
table, with a preposterous country appetite,

Afterwards she filled a vase very tastefully with her varieties
of leaves, and enjoyed taking in her cousin Sarah, who admired
the leaves greatly while she thought they came from Mrs.
Mervyn's hothouse ; but when she found they were the product
of her own furrows, voted them coarse, ugly, withered things,
such as only the simplicity of a Londoner could bring into
civilized society. So Honora stood over her gorgeous feathery
bouquet, not knowing whether to laugh or to l)e scornful, till
Humfrey, taking up the vase, inquired, ' May I have it for my

' Oil ! yes, and welcome,' said Honora, laughing, and shaking
her glowing tresses at him ; ' I am thankful to any one who
stands up for carrots.'

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeHopes and fears; or, Scenes from the life of a spinster → online text (page 1 of 76)