Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Magnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) online

. (page 10 of 18)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMagnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ascended to the Folly, at about four o'clock in the
afternoon, and found the family, including the parrot,
spread out upon the lawn under the shade of the
acacia, the mother reading to them.

" Oh, please don't stop, mother," cried Bable ; while
the more courteous Armine exclaimed —

"Miss Ogilvie, don't you like to hear about Bevis
and Jocelin Joliffe .? "

" You don't mind waiting while we finish the
chapter," added their mother ; " then we break up our

" Pray go on with the chapter," said Mary, rather
coolly, for she Avas a good deal taken aback at finding
them reading " Woodstock " on a Sunday ; " but
afterwards, I do want to speak to you."

" Oh ! don't want to speak to me. The Colonel has
been speaking to me," she said, with a cowering,
shuddering sort of action, irresistibly comic.

" And he ate up half our day," bemoaned more than
one of the boys.

Miss Ogilvie sat down a little way ofi", not wishing


to listen to " Woodstock " on a Sunday, and trying to
work out the difficult Sabbatarian question in her mind.

" There ! " said Caroline, closing the book, amid
exclamations of " I know who Lewis Kerneguy was."
'' Wasn't Roger Wildrake jolly ? " " O, mother, didn't
he cut off Trusty Tomkins' head .? " " Do let us have
a wee bit more, mother ; Miss Ogilvie won't mind."

But Carey saw that she did mind, and answered —

*' Not now ; there won't be time to feed all the
creatures, or to get nurse's Sunday nosegays, if you
don't begin. Then, coming up to her guest, she said,
'' Now is your time, Mary ; we shall have the Rays and
Mr. Hughes in presently ; but you see we are too
worldly and profane for the Kencroft boys on Sunday ;
.and so they make experiments in smoking, with
company less desirable, I must say, than Sir Harry
Lee's. Am I very bad to read what keeps mine round
ane .? "

" Is it an old fashion with you } "

" Well, no ; but then we had what was better than
a thousand stories ! And this is only a feeble attempt
to keep up a little wateiy reflection of the old

It was a watery reflection indeed !

" And could it not be with something that would
be "

" Dull and goody ? " put in Carey. " No, no, my dear,
that would be utterly futile. You can't catch my birds
without salt. Can we, Polly ? "



To which the popinjay responded, "We are all
Mother Carey's chickens."

" I did mean salt — very real salt," said Mary, rather

" I have not got the recipe ;" said Carey. " Indeed
I do try to do what must be done. My boys can hold
their own in Bible and Catechism questions ! Ask
your brother if they can't. And Army is a dear little
fellow, with a bit of the angel, or of his father, in him ;
but when we've done our church, I see no ^good in
decorous boredom ; and if I did, what would become
of the boys .? "

" I don't agree to the necessity of boredom," said
Mary ; " but let that pass. There are things I wanted
to say."

" I knew it was coming. The Colonel has been at
me already, levelling his thunders at my devoted head.
Won't that do .? "

"Not if you heed him so little."

"My dear, if I heeded, I should be annihilated.
When he says 'My good little sister,' I know he
means ' You little idiot ; ' so if I did not think of
something else, what might not be the consequence ?
Why, he said I was not behaving decently ! "

" No more you are."

" And that I had no proper feeling," continued she,
laughing almost hysterically.

" No one can wonder at his being pained. It ought
never to have happened."


"Are you gone over to Mrs. Grundy.'* However,
there's this comfort, you'll not mention Mrs. Coffinkey's

" I'm sure the Colonel didn't ! "

" Ellen does though, with tragic effect."

" You are not like yourself, Carey."

" No, indeed I'm not ! I was a happy creature a
little while ago ; or was it a very long, long time ago }
Then I had everybody to help me and make much of
me ! And now I've got into a great dull mist, and
am always knocking my head against something or
somebody ; and when I try to keep up the old
friendships and kindnesses — poor little fragments
as they are — everybody falls upon me, even you,

" Pardon me, dearest. Some friendships and kind-
nesses that were once admirable, may be less suitable
to your present circumstances."

" As if I didn't know that ! " said Carey, with an
angry, hurt little laugh ; " and so I waited to be
chaperoned up to the eyes between Clara Acton and
the Duck in the very house with me. Now, Mary, I
put it to you. Has one word passed that could do
harm } Isn't it much more innocent than all the
Cofifinkey gossip > I have no doubt Mrs. Coffinkey's
sister-in-law looks up from her black-bordered pocket-
handkerchief to hear how Mrs. Brownlow's sister-in-
law went to the cricket-match. Do you know, Robert
really thought I had been there ? I only wonder how

M 2


many I scored. I dare say Mrs. Coffinkey's sister-
in-law knows."

" It just shows how careful you should be."

" And I wonder what w^ould become of the children
if I shut myself up with a pile of pocket-handkerchiefs
bordered an inch deep. What right have they to
meddle with my ways, and my friends, and my boys } "

"Not the Coffinkeys, certainly," said Mary; "but
indeed, Carey, I myself was uncomfortable at that
singing in the lanes at eleven at night."

" It wasn't eleven," said Carey, perversely.

"Only 10.50— eh?"

" But what was the possible harm in it } "

"None at all in itself, only remember the harm
it may do to the children for you to be heedless of
people's opinion, and to get a reputation for flightiness
and doing odd things."

" I couldn't be like the Coffinkey pattern any more
than I could be tied down to a rope walk."

" But you need not do things that your better sense
must tell you may be misconstrued. Surely there was
a wish that you should live near the Colonel and be
guided by him."

" Little knowing that his guidance would consist in
being set at me by Ellen and the Coffinkeys ! "

"Nonsense," said Mary, vexed enough to resume
their old school-girl manners. "You knozv I am not
set on by anybody, and I tell you that if you do not
pull up in time, and give no foundation for ill-natured


comments, your children will never get over it in people's
estimation. And as for themselves, a little steadiness
and regularity would be much better for their whole

"It is holiday time," said Carey, in a tone of

" If it is only in holiday time "

"The country has always seemed like holiday.
You see we used to go — all of us — to some seaside
place, and be quite free there, keeping no particular
hours, and being so intensely happy. I haven't yet
got over the feeling that it is only for a time, and we
shall go back into the dear old home and its regular
ways." Then clasping her hands over her side as
though to squeeze something back, she broke out, " O
Mary, Mary, you mustn't scold me ! You mustn't bid
me tie myself to regular hours till this summer is over.
If you knew the intolerable stab when I recollect that
he is gone — gone — gone for ever, you would understand
that there's nothing for it but jumping up and doing
the first thing that comes to hand. Walking it down
is best. Oh! what will become of me when the
mornings get dark, and I can't get up and rush into
those woods ? Yes "-—as Mary made some affectionate
gesture — " I know I have gone on in a wild way, but
who would not be wild who had lost him ? And then
they goad me, and think me incapable of proper feeling,"
and she laughed that horrid little laugh. " So I am, I
suppose ; but feeling won't go as other people think

1 66

proper. Let me alone, Mary, I won't damage the
children. They are Joe's children, and I know what
he wanted and wished for them better than Robert or
anybody else. But I must go my own way, and do
what I can bear, and as I can, or — or I think my heart
would break quite, and that would be worse for them
than anything."

Mary [had tears in her eyes, drawn forth by the
vehement passion of grief apparent in the whole tone
of her poor little friend. She had no doubts of Carey's
love, sorrow, or ability, but she did seriously doubt of
her wisdom and judgment, and thought her un-
disciplined. However, she could say no more, for Nita
Ray and Janet were advancing on them.

The next day Caroline was in bed with one of her
worst headaches. Mary felt that she had been a cruel
and prim old duenna, and meekly bore Clara's
reproachful glances.




He put in his thumb

And he pulled out a plum,

And cried, " What a good boy am I ! "

Jack Horner.

Whether it were from the effects of the warnings, or
from that of native good sense, from that time forward
Mrs. Joseph Brownlow sobered down, and became less
distressing to her sister-in-law. Mary carried off her
brother to Wales, and the Acton and Ray party
dispersed, while Dr. and Mrs. Lucas came for a week,
giving much relief to Mrs. Brownlow, who could
discuss the family affairs with them in a manner she
deemed unbecoming with Mrs. Acton or Miss Ogilvie.
Had Caroline heard the consultation, she would have
acquitted Ellen of malice ; and indeed her Serene
Highness was much too good to gossip about so near
■a connection, and had only confided her wonder and
perplexity at the strange phenomenon to her favourite
first cousin, who unfortunately was not equally

With the end of the holidays finished also the trying


series of first anniversaries, and their first excitements
of sorrow, so that it became possible to be more calm
and quiet.

Moreover, two correctives came of themselves to
Caroline. The first was Janet's inordinate corre-
spondence with Nita Ray, and the discovery that the
girl held herself engaged to stay with the sisters in

" Without asking me ! " she exclaimed, aghast.

" I thought you heard us talking," said Janet, so
carelessly, that her mother put on her dignity.

"I certainly had no conception of an invitation
being given and accepted without reference to me."

"Come, now. Mother Carey," said this modern
daughter ; " don't be cross ! We really didn't know
you weren't attending."

" If I had I should have said it was impossible, as
I say now. You can never have thought over the
matter ! "

" Haven't I } When I am doing no good here, only
wasting time .'' "

" That is my fault. We will set to work at once

" But my classes and my lectures ! "

" You are not so far on but that our reading together
will teach you quite as much as lectures."

Janet looked both sulky and scornful, and her
mother continued —

" It is not as if we had not modern books, and I


think I know how to read them so as to be useful
to you."

"I don't hke getting behindhand with the world."

"You can't keep up even with the world without a
sound foundation. Besides, even if it were more
desirable, the Rays cannot afford to keep you, nor I to
board you there."

"I am to pay them by helping Miss Ray in her

" Poor Miss Ray ! " exclaimed Carey, laughing.
*' Does she know your handwriting } "

" You do not know what I can do," said Janet, with

"Yes, I hope to see it for myself, for you must put
this notion of going to London out of your head. I
am sure Miss Ray did not give the invitation — no,
nor second it. Did she, Janet ? "

Janet blushed a little, and muttered something
about Miss Ray being afraid of stuck-up people,

" I thought so ! She is a good, sensible person,
whom grandmamma esteemed very much ; but she
has never been able to keep her sister in order ; and
as to trusting you to their care, or letting you live in
their set, neither papa nor grandmamma would ever
have thought of it."

" You only say so because her Serene Highness turns
up her nose at everything artistic and original."

" Janet, you forget yourself," Caroline exclaimed, in
a tone which quelled the girl, who went muttering


away ; and no more was ever heard of the Ray
proposal, which no doubt the elder sister at least had
never regarded as anything but an airy castle.

However, Caroline was convinced that the warnings
against the intimacy had not been so uncalled for as
she had believed ; for she found, when she tried to
tighten the reins, that her daughter was restive, and
had come to think herself a free agent, as good as
grown up. Spirit was not, however, lacking to
Caroline, and when she had roused herself, she made
Janet understand that she was not to be disregarded
or disobeyed. Regular hours were instituted, and the
difficulty of getting broken into them again was
sufficient proof to her that she had done wrong in
neglecting them. Armine yawned portentously, and
declared that he could not learn except at his own
times ; and Babie was absolutely naughty more than
once, when her mother suffered doubly in punishing
her from the knowledge of whose fault it was. How-
ever, they were good little things, and it was not hard
to re-establish discipline with them. After a little
breaking in, Babie gave it to her dolls as her deliberate
opinion that " Wegulawity settles one's mind. One
knows when to do what."

Janet could not well complain of the regularity in
itself, though she did cavil at the actual arrangements,
and they were altered all round to please her, and she
showed a certain contempt for her teacher in the
studies she resumed with her mother ; but after the


dictionary, encyclopaedia and other authorities, in-
cluding Mr. Ogilvie, proved almost uniformly to be
against her whenever there was a difference of opinion,
she had sense enough to perceive that she could still
learn something at home.

Moreover, after one or two of these references, Mr.
Ogilvie offered to look over her Latin and Greek
exercises, and hear her construe on his Saturday half-
holidays, declaring that it would be quite a refresh-
ment. Caroline was shocked at the sacrifice, but she
could not bear to affront her daughter, so she consented ;
but as she thought Janet was not old enough to need
a chaperon, and as her boys did want her, she was
hardly ever present at the lessons.

Moreover, Mr. Ogilvie had a lecturer from London
to give weekly lectures on physical science to his boys,
and opened the doors ^to ladies. This was a great
satisfaction, chiefly for the sake of Bobus and Jock,
but also for Janet's and her mother's. The difficulty
was to beat up for ladies enough to keep one another in
countenance ; but happily two families in the country,
and one bright little bride in the town, were found
glad to open their ears, so that Ellen had no just
cause of disapproval of the attendance of her sister
and niece.

Ellen had more cause to sigh when Michaelmas
came, and for the first time taught poor Carey what
money matters really meant. Throughout her married
life, her only stewardship had concerned her own dress


and the children's ; Mrs. Brownlow's occasional plans of
teaching her housekeeping had always fallen through,
Janet being always her grandmamma's deputy.

Thus Janet and nurse had succeeded to the manage-
ment when poor Carey was too ill and wretched to
attend to it ; and it had gone on in their hands at the
Pagoda. Janet was pleased to be respected accordingly
by her aunt, who always liked her the best, in spite of
her much worse behaviour, for were not her virtues her
own, and her vices her mother's }

Caroline had paid the weekly books, and asked no
questions, until the winding up of the executor's
business ; and the quarterly settlement of accounts
made startling revelations that the balance at her
bankers was just eleven shillings and fourpence half-
penny, and what was nearly as bad, the discovery
was made in the presence of her fellow executor, who
could not help giving a low whistle. She turned pale,
and gasped for breath, in absolute amazement, for she
was quite sure they were living at much less expense
than in London, and there had been no outgoings
worth mentioning for dress or journeys. What were
they to do .'' Surely they could not live upon less !
Was it her fault }

She was so much distressed, that the good-natured
Colonel pitied her, and answered kindly —

" My good little sister, you were inexperienced. You
will do better another year."

**But there's nothing to go on upon ! "


He reminded her of the rent for the London house,
and the dividends that must soon come in.

"Then it will be as bad as ever ! How can we live
more cheaply than we do ? "

" Ellen is an excellent manager, and you had better
consult her on the scale of your expenditure."

Caroline's spirit writhed, but before she had time to
say anything, or talk to Janet, the Colonel had heard his
excellent housewife's voice, and called her into the
council. She was as good as possible, too serenely kind
to manifest surprise or elation at the fulfilment of her
forebodings. To be convicted of want of economy
would have been so dreadful and disgraceful, that she
deeply felt for poor Caroline, and dealt with her
tenderly and delicately, even when the weekly house-
hold books were opened, and disclosed how much had
been spent eveiy week in items, the head and front
of which were oft repeated in old nurse's self-taught
writing —

"Man Glasofbeare. id.

'•Creme ^d."

For had not the Colonel's wife warned against the
endless hospitality of glasses of beer to all messengers ;
and had not unlimited cream with strawberries and
apple-tarts been treated as a kind of spontaneous
luxury produced at the Belforest farm agent's ? To
these, and many other small matters, Caroline was
quite relieved to plead guilty, and to promise to do her
best by personal supervision ; and Ellen set herself to


devise further ways of reduction, not realising how
hopeless it is to prescribe for another person's house-
hold difficulties. It is not in the nature of things that
such advice should be palatable, and the proverb about
the pinching of the shoe is sure to be realised.

" Too many servants," said prudence. " If old nurse
must be provided for — and she ought to have saved
enough to do without — it would be much better to
pension her off, or get her into an almshouse."

Caroline tried to endure, as she made known that
she viewed nurse as a sacred charge, about whom there
must be no question.

Ellen quietly said —

"Then it is no use to argue, but she must be
allowed no more discretion in the housekeeping."

" No, I shall do that myself," said Caroline.

" An extravagant cook."

" That may be my fault. I will try to judge of that."

" Irregular hours."

" They shall end with the holidays."

There was still another maid, whom Ellen said was
only kept to wait on nurse, but who, Caroline said, did
all their needlework, both making and mending.

" That," said Ellen, " I should have thought you and
Janet could do. I do nearly all our work with the girls'
help ; I am happy to say that Jessie is an excellent
needlewoman, and Essie and Ellie can do something.
I only direct the nurserymaid ; I never trust anything
to servants."


"I could never bear not to trust people," said

Ellen sighed, believing that she would soon be cured
of that ; and Carey added —

" On true principles of economy, surely it is better
that Emma, who knows how, should mend the clothes,
than that I should botch them up in any way, when I
can earn more than she costs me ! "

" Earn ! "

" Yes ; I can model, and I can teach. Was I not
brought up to it ? "

" Yes, but now it is impossible ! It is not a larger
income that you want, but proper attention to details
in the spending of it, as I will show you."

Whereupon Mrs. Brownlow, in her neat figures, built
up a pretty little economical scheme, based on a
thorough knowledge of the subject. Caroline tried to
follow her calculations, but a dreaminess came over her ;
she found herself saying " Yes," without knowing what
she was assenting to ; and while Ellen was discoursing
on coals and coke, she was trying to decide which of
her casts she could bear to offer for sale, and going
off into the dear old associations connected with each,
so that she was obliged at the end, instead of giving
an unqualified assent, to say she would think it
over ; and Ellen, who had marked her wandering eye,
left off with a conviction that she had wasted her

Certainly she was not prepared for the proposal with


which Mother Carey almost rushed into the room the
next day, just as she was locking up her wine, and the
Colonel lingering over his first glance at the day's

" I know what to do ! Miss James is not coming
back ? And you have not heard of any one ? Then,
if you would only let me teach your girls with mine !
You know that is what I really can do. Yes, indeed,
I would be regular. I always was. You know I was,
Robert, till I came here, and didn't quite know what
I was about ; and I have been regular ever since the
end of the holidays, and I really can teach."

" My dear sister," edged in the Colonel, as she paused
for breath, " no one questions your ability, only the
iitness of "

" I had thought over two things," broke in Caroline
again. " If you don't like me to have Jessie, and Essie,
and EUie, I would offer to prepare little boys. I've
been more used to them than to girls, and I know
Mr. Ogilvie would be glad. I could have the little
Wrights, and Walter Leslie, and three or four more
directly, but I thought you might like the other way

" I can see no occasion for either," said Ellen. " You
need no increase in income, only to attend to details."

"And I had rather do what I can — than what I
can't," said Caroline.

" Every lady should understand how to superintend
her own household," said her Serene Highness.


" Granted ; oh, granted, Ellen ! I'm going to
superintend with all my might and main, but I don't
want to be my own upper servant, and I know I
should make no haild of it, and I had much rather
earn something b}' my wits. I can do it best in
the way I was trained ; and you know it is what I
have been used to ever since my own children were

Ellen heaved a sigh at this obtuseness towards what
she viewed as the dignified and ladylike mission of the
well-born woman, not to be the bread-winner, but the
preserver and steward, of the household. Here was
poor little Caroline so ignorant as actually to gloiy in
having been educated for a governess !

The Colonel, wanting to finish his Times in peace,,
looked up and said, with the gracious tone he always
used to his brother's wife —

" My good little sister, it is very praiseworthy in you
to wish to exert yourself, and very kind and proper to
desire to begin at home, but you must allow us a little
time to consider."

She took this as a hint to retreat ; and her Serene
Highness likev/ise feeling it a dismissal, tried at once
to obviate all ungraciousness by saying, " We are
preserving our magrmm boiiums, Caroline dear ; I will
send you some."

" Magnum bonum I " gasped Caroline, hearing
nothing but the name. " Do you know } "

" I know the recipe of course, and can give you an



excellent one. I will come over by-and-by and explain
it to you."

Caroline stood confounded. Had Joe revealed all
to his brother .? Was it to be treated as a domestic
nostrum ? " Then you know what the mag7ium boimm
is } " she faltered,

" Are you asking as a philosopher," said the Colonel,
amused by her tone

"I don't know what you mean, Colonel," said his
wife. " I offered Caroline a basket of magrmm bonums
for preserving, and one would think I had said some-
thing very extraordinary."

" Perhaps it is my cockney ignorance," said Caroline,
beginning to breathe freely, and thinking it would have
been less oppressive if Sua Serenita would have either
laughed or scolded, instead of gravely leading her past
the red-baize door which shut out the lower regions
to the room where white armies of jam-pots stood
marshalled, and in the midst two or three baskets of
big yellow plums, w^hich awoke in her a remembrance
of their name, and set her laughing, thanking, and

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMagnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 18)