Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Hopes and fears; or, Scenes from the life of a spinster (Volume 1) online

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you are ! Not
given up the old fashion V

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

' So you are not grown wiser V

1 Nor ever will be.'

1 Every woman ought to learn to saddle a horse and
fire off a gun.'

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

1 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.'

' My boots are quite thick, thank you.'


1 Brown paper !' And indeed they were a contrast
to his mighrty nailed soles, and long, nntanned 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 com-
pletely evinced the Londoner as her obstinacy in never
having a pair of shoes that could keep anything out.

1 And where are you going f

'To Hay ward'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.'

I 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 foot-
way 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, Yixen 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 1 ?'

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

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

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

' France P he repeated in a contemptuous John Bull

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

1 Better have been the centre of honesty.'

1 And so it was in the time of St. Louis and his
crusade. Do you 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 multi-
tude of by-paths cleared out in the hazel coppice for
sporting; here leading up a rising ground whence the
tops of the trees might be overlooked, some necked
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.

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

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

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

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

' What was it?'

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

' I remember it was to be wheat.'

1 Red wheat, the finest we 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

1 1 remember the beautiful loose-strifes that used to
grow in that corner.'

1 Ah ! we have made an end of that trumpery.'
' You savage old Humfrey — beauties that they were.'
1 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 gather-
ing in Egypt \ '

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

I 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 palest 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 appre-
ciate, as he said, ' Well, you have something as pretty as
your weeds, eh, Honor V

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

1 All very well by the river, but there's no beauty in
things out of place, like your Louis in Egypt — well,
what was the end of this predicament V

So Humfrey had really heard, and been interested !
With such encouragement, Honora proceeded swim-
mingly, and had nearly arrived at her hero's ransom,
through nearly a mile of field paths, only occasionally in-


terrupted 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 1 I never suspected you would allow it.'

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

' You should fine 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

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

' 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 V

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 V

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 '

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

' So he will get his reduction 1 '

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 or not, all depends on the way she may
take it up. What are you looking at 1 '

1 That lovely wreath of Traveller's Joy.'

' Do you want it ¥

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


* There is a piece, going from tree to tree, by the
Hiltonbuiy Gate, as thick as my arm ; I just saved it
when "West was going to cut it down with the copse

'Well, you really are improving at last !'

1 1 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 where
Humfrey's portly short horns were 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.'


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

'Wants sweeping,' roared Humfrey, into his deaf

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

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

' 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 for-
ward, her gravity somewhat shaken by the domestic
offices of the old woman.

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

' 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 i3 glad to see Daisy as tame as ever,*
shouted Humfrey.


'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-live
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 of the neighbourhood,
and to decide on each in turn that it would be intoler-
able to see her as Humfrey 's wife ; more at home at
the Holt than herself. She had ample time for con-
templation, 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 shamefully.'

' It must have been a great mortification '

' To Owen 1 Of course it was, to be so cast off for
his noble purpose.'

' I 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 resign-
ing all. As Owen says, half the Scripture must be
hyperbole to him, and so he is beginning Owen's per-
secution 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 pro-
portionably reviled, and though Humfrey did not
imply a word save in commendation of the young
missionary's devotion, she went in-doors 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 hot-house ; 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
be scornful, till Humfrey, taking up the vase, inquired,
' May I have it for my study V

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

Good-natured Humfrey, thought she, it is all that
I may not be mortified; but after all it is not those
very good-natured people who best appreciate lofty


actions. He is inviting Owen Sandbrook more because
he thinks it would please papa, and because he com-
passionates him in his solitary lodgings, than because
he feels the force of his glorious self-sacrifice.

The northern slope of the Holt was clothed with fir
plantations, intersected with narrow paths, which gave
admission to the depths of their lonely woodland palace,
supported on rudely straight columns, dark save for
the snowy exuding gum, roofed in by aspiring beam-
like arms, bearing aloft their long tufts of dark blue
green foliage, floored by the smooth, slippery, russet
needle leaves as they fell, and perfumed by the peculiar
fresh smell of turpentine. It was a still and lonely
place, the very sounds making the silence more audible
(if such an expression may be used), the wind whispering
like the rippling waves of the sea in the tops of the
pines, here and there the cry of a bird, or far, far away,
the tinkle of the sheep bell, or the tone of the church
clock, and of movement there was almost as little, only
the huge horse ants soberly wending along their' high-
ways to their tall hillock thatched with pine leaves, or
the squirrel in the ruddy, russet livery of the scene,
racing from tree to tree, or sitting up with his feathery
tail erect to extract with his delicate paws the seed
from the base of the fir cone scale. Squirrels there
lived to a good old age, till their plumy tails had
turned white, for the squire's one fault in the eyes of
keepers and gardeners was that he was soft-hearted
towards ' the varmint.'

A Canadian forest on a small scale, an extremely
miniature scale indeed, but still Canadian forests are
of pine, and the Holt plantation was fir, and firs were
pines, and it was a lonely musing place, and so on one
of the stillest, clearest days of ' St. Luke's little
summer,' the last afternoon of her visit at the Holt,
there stood Honora, leaning against a tree stem, deep,
deep, very deep in a vision of the primeval woodlands
of the West, their red inhabitants, and the white man


who should carry the true, glad tidiugs westward,
westward, ever from east to west. Did she know how
completely her whole spirit and soul were surrendered
to the worship of that devotion 1 Worship ? Yes,
the word is advisedly used ; Honora had once given
her spirit in homage to Schiller's self-sacrificing Max,
the same heart-whole veneration was now rendered to
the young missionary, multiplied tenfold by the hero
being in a tangible, visible shape, and not by any
means inclined to thwart or disdain the allegiance of
the golden-haired girl. Nay, as family connexions
frequently meeting, they had acted upon each other's
minds more than either knew, even when the hour of
parting had come, and words had been spoken which
gave Honora something more to cherish in the image
of Owen Sandbrook than even the hero and saint.
There then she stood and dreamt, pensive and saddened
indeed, but with a melancholy trenching very nearly
on happiness in the intensity of its admiration, and
the vague ennobling future of devoted usefulness in
which her heart already claimed to share, as her
person might in some far away period on which she
could not dwell.

A sound approached, a firm footstep, falling with
strong elasticity and such regular cadences, that it
seemed to chime in with the pine-tree music, and did
not startle her till it came so near that there was dis-
tinctive character to be discerned in the tread, and then
with a strange, new shyness, she would have slipped
away, but she had been seen, and Humfrey, with his
timber race in his hand, appeared on the path, exclaim-
ing, ' Ah, Honor, is it you come out to meet me, like
old times ? You have been so much taken up with
your friend Master Owen that I have scarcely seen
you of late.'

Honor did not move away, but she blushed deeply
as she said, ' I am afraid I did not come to meet you,

1 No 1 What, you came for the sake of a brown


study? I wish I had known you were not busy, for I
have been round all the woods marking timber.'

' Ah !' said she, rousing herself with some effort, ' I
wonder how many trees I should have saved from
the slaughter. Did you go and condemn any of my

' Not that I know of,' said Humfrey. ' I have
touched nothing near the house.'

1 Not even the old beech that was scathed with
lightning 1 You know papa says that is the touch-
stone of influence ; Sarah and Mr. West both against
me,' laughed Honora, quite restored to her natural
manner and confiding ease.

' The beech is likely to stand as long as you wish it,'
said Humfrey, with an unaccustomed sort of matter-of-
fact gravity, which surprised and startled her, so as to
make her bethink herself whether she could have
behaved ill about it, been saucy to Sarah, or the like.

' Thank you,' she said ; ' have I made a fuss V

'No, Honor,' he said, with deliberate kindness,
shutting u}} his knife, and putting it into his pocket ;
1 only I believe it is time we should come to an under-

More than ever did she expect one of his kind re-
monstrances, and she looked up at him in expectation,
and ready for defence, but his broad, sunburnt coun-
tenance looked marvellously heated, and he paused ere
he spoke.

' I find I can't spare you, Honora, you had better
stay at the Holt for good.' Her cheeks flamed, and
her heart galloped, but she could not let herself under-

' Honor, you are old enough now, and I do not
think you need fear. It is almost your home already,
and I believe I can make you happy, with the blessing

of God ' He paused, but as she could not frame

an answer in her consternation, continued, ' Perhaps I
should not have spoken so suddenly, but I thought you
would not mind me ; I should like to have had one


word from my little Honor before I go to your father,
but don't if you had rather not.'

' O don't go to papa, please don't,' she cried, ' it
would only make him sorry.'

Humfrey stood as if under an unexpected shock.

' Oh ! how came you to think of it V she said in her
distress ; ' I never did, and it can never be — I am so
sorry !'

1 Very well, my dear, do not grieve about it,' said
Humfrey, only bent on soothing her ; ' I dare say you
are quite right, you are used to people in London much
more suitable to you than a stupid, homely fellow like
me, and it was a foolish fancy to think it might be
otherwise. Don't cry, Honor dear, I can't bear
that !'

1 O Humfrey, only understand, please ! You are
the very dearest person in the world to me after papa
and mamma ; and as to fine London people, oh no, in-
deed ! But '

'It is Owen Sandbrook ; I understand,' said Hum-
frey, gravely.

She made no denial.

1 But Honor,' he anxiously exclaimed, ' you are not
going out in this wild way among the backwoods, it
would break your mother s heart ; and he is not fit to
take care of you. I mean he cannot think of it now.'

' no, no, I could not leave papa and mamma ; but
some time or other '

1 Is this arranged ? Does your father know it V

1 Humfrey, of course !'

1 Then it is an engagement V

1 No,' said Honora, sadly ; ' papa said I was too
young, and he wished I had heard nothing about it.
We are to go on as if nothing had happened, and I
know they think we shall forget all about it ! As if
we could ! Not that I wish it to be different. I know
it would be wicked to desert papa and mamma while
she is so unwell. The truth is, Humfrey,' and her
voice sank, ' that it cannot be while they live'

VOL. i. o


' My poor little Honor !' lie said, in a tone of the
most unselfish compassion.

She had entirely forgotten his novel aspect, and only
thought of him as the kindest friend to whom she
could open her heart.

' Don't pity me,' she said in exultation ; ' think what
it is to be his choice. Would I have him give up his
aims, and settle down in the loveliest village in Eng-
land 1 No, indeed, for then it would not be Owen !
I am happier in the thought of him than I could be
with everything present to eDJoy.'

1 1 hope you will continue to find it so/ he said, re-
pressing a sigh.

' I should be ashamed of myself if I did not,' she
continued with glistening eyes. ' Should not I have
patience to wait while he is at his real glorious labour %
And as to home, that's not altered, only better and
brighter for the definite hope and aim that will go
through everything, and make me feel all I do a pre-

' Yes, you know him well,' said Humfrey ; 'you saw
him constantly when he was at Westminster.'

' yes, and always ! Why, Humfrey, it is my great
glory and pleasure to feel that he formed me ! When
he went to Oxford, he brought me home all the
thoughts that have been my better life. All my dearest
books we read together, and what used to look dry
and cold, gained light and life after he touched it.'

' Yes, I see.'

His tone reminded her of what had passed, and she
said, timidly, ' I forgot ! I ought not ! I have vexed
you, Humfrey.'

' No,' he said, in his full tender voice ; ' I see that
it was vain to think of competing with one of so much
higher claims. If he goes on in the course he has
chosen, yours will have been a noble choice, Honor ;
and I believe,' he added, with a sweetness of smile that
almost made her forgive the if, ( that you are one to be-


better pleased so than with more ordinary happiness.
I have no doubt it is all right.'

' Dear Humfrey, you are so good !' she said, struck
with his kind resignation, and utter absence of acerbity
in his disappointment.

1 Forget this, Honora,' he said, as they were coming
to the end of the pine wood ; ' let us be as we were

Honora gladly promised, and excepting for her
wonder at such a step on the part of the cousin whose
plaything and pet she had hitherto been, she had no
temptation to change her manner. She loved him as
much as ever, but only as a kind elder brother, and she
was glad hat he was wise enough to see his immeasur-
able inferiority to the young missionary. It was a
wonderful thing, and she was sorry for his disappoint-
ment ; but after all, he took it so quietly that she did
not think it could have hurt him much. It was only
that he wanted to keep his pet in the country. He
was not capable of love like Owen Sandbrook's. *

Years passed on. Rumour had bestowed Mr. Charle-
cote of Hiltonbury on every lady within twenty miles,
but still in vain. His mother was dead, his sister
married to an old college fellow, who had waited half
a life time for a living, but still he kept house alone.

And open house it was, with a dinner table ever
expanding for chance guests, strawberry or syllabub
feasts half the summer, and Christmas feasts extending
wide on either side of the twelve days. Every one
who wanted a holiday was free of the Holt ; young
sportsmen tried their inexperienced guns under the
squire's patient eye; and mammas disposed of their
children for weeks together, to enjoy the run of the
house and garden, and rides according to age, on pony,

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeHopes and fears; or, Scenes from the life of a spinster (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 34)