Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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preparing to cany home the basket.

This, however, as she was instantly reminded, was
not country-town manners. The gardener was to
be sent with them, and Ellen herself would copy
out the recipe, and by-and-by bring it, with full

Each lady felt herself magnanimously forbearing, as
Caroline went home to the lessons, and Ellen repaired


to her husband on his morning inspection of his hens
and chickens.

" Poor thing," she said, " there are great allowances
to be made for her. I believe she wishes to do

" She knows how to teach," rejoined the Colonel.
" Bobus is nearly at the head of the school, and Johnny
has improved greatly since he has been so much
with her."

" Johnny was always clever," said his mother. " For
my part, I had rather see them playing at good honest
games than messing about with that museum nonsense.
The boys did not do half so much mischief, nor destroy
so many clothes, before they were always running
down to the Pagoda. And as to this setting up a
school, you would never consent to have Joe's wife doing
that ! "

" There is no real need."

*' None at all, if she only would — if she only knew
how to attend to her proper duties."

" At the same time, I should be very glad of an ex-
cuse for making her an advance, enough to meet the
weekly bills, till her rent comes in, so that she may
not begin a debt. Could you not send the girls to
her for a few hours every day ? "

" That's not so bad as her taking pupils, for nobody
need know that she was paid for it," said his wife,
considering. " I don't believe it will answer, or that
she will ever keep to it steadily ; but it can hardly hurt

N 2


the children to try, if Jessie has an eye on Essie and
EUie. I will not have them brought on too fast, nor
taught Latin, and all that poor little Babie is learning.
I am sure it is dreadful to hear that child talk. I am
always expecting that she will have water on the

The decision, which really involved a sacrifice and a
certain sense of risk on the part of these good people,,
was conveyed in a note, together with a recipe for the
preservation of magimm bomims, and a very liberal
cheque in advance for the first quarter of her three
pupils, stipulating that no others should be admitted,
that the terms should be kept secret, that the hours
should be regular, and above all, that the pupils should
not be forced.

Caroline was touched and grateful, but could hardly
keep a little satire out of her promise that Essie and
EUie should not be too precocious. She wrote her note
of thanks, despatched it, and then, in the interest of
some arithmetical problems which she was working
with Janet, forgot eveiything else, till a sort of gigantic
buzz was heard near at hand. A sudden thought
struck her, and out she darted into the hall. There
stood the basket in the middle of the table, just where
the boys were wont to look for refections of fruit or
cake when they tumbled in from school. Six boys and
Babie hovered round, each in the act of devouring a
golden-green, egg-like plum, and only two or three
remained in the leaves at the bottom !


" Oh, the magimm bomnns ! " she cried ; and Janet
came rushing out in dismay at the sound, standing
aghast, but not exclaiming.

" Weren't they for us ? " asked Bobus, the first to
get the stone out of his mouth.

" No ; oh, no ! " answered his mother, as well as
laughter would permit ; '^ they are your aunt's precious
plums, which she gave us as a great favour, and I was
going to be so good and learn to preserve and pickle
them ! Oh, dear ! "

" Never mind. Mother Carey," mumbled her nephew
Johnny, with his stone swelling out his cheek, where
it was tucked for convenience of speech ; " I'll go and
get you another jolly lot more."

*'You can't," grunted Robin; "they are all gathered."

" Then we'll get them off the old tree at the bottom
of the orchard, where they are just as big and yellow,
and mamma will never know the difference."

" But they taste like soap ! "

" That doesn't matter. She'd no more taste a
'juagmim bo7iinn, before it is all titivated up with sugar
than — than — than ' '

" Babie's head with brain sauce," gravely put in
Bobus, as his cousin paused for a comparison. " It's
a wasting of good gifts to make jam of these, for jam
is nothing but a vehicle for sugar."

" Then the grocer's cart is jam," promptly retorted
Armine, "for I saw a sugarloaf come in one yesterday."

*' Come on, then," cried Jock, ripe for the mischief;


" I know the tree ! They are just like long apricots.
Aunt Ellen will think her plums have been all a-
growing ! "

" No, no, boys ! " cried his mother, " I can't have it
done. To steal your aunt's own plums to deceive he?
with ! "

" We always may do as we like with that tree," said
Johnny, " because they are so nasty, and won't keep."

" How nice for the preserves ! " observed Bobus.

" They would do just as well to hinder Mother
Carey from catching it."

" No, no, boys ; I ought to ' catch it ! ' It was all
my fault for not putting the plums away."

" You won't tell of us," growled Robin, between lips
that he opened wide enough the next moment to
admit one of three surviving plums.

" If I tell her I left them about in the boys' way,
she will arrive at the natural conclusion."

" Do they call those things magmini bo?mm f " asked
Janet, as the boys drifted away.

" Yes," said her mother, looking at her rather
wonderingly ; and adding, as Janet coloured up to the
eyes, " My dear, have you any other association with
the name .'' "

Many a time Janet had longed to tell all she knew ;
now, when so good an opportunity had come, all was
choked back by the strange leaden weight of reserve,,
and shame in that long reserve.

She opened her eyes and stared as stupidly at her


mother as Robin could have done, feelmg an utter
incapacity of making any reply ; and Caroline, who
had for a moment thought she understood, was baffled,
and durst not pursue the subject for fear of betraying
her own secret, deciding within herself that Janet might
have caught up the word without understanding.

They were interrupted the next minute, and Janet
ran away, feeling that she had had an escape, yet
wishing she had not.

Caroline did effectually shelter her nephews under
her general term " the boys," and if their mother was
not conciliated, their fellow-feeling with her was
strengthened, as well as their sense of honour. Nay,
Johnny actually spent the next half-holiday in walking
three miles and back to his old nurse, whom he be-
guiled out of a basket of plums — hard, little blue
things, as unlike magniim bomims as could well be,
but which his aunt received as they were meant, as
full compensation ; nay, she took the pains to hunt up
a recipe, and have them well preserved, in hopes of
amazing his mother.

It was indeed one difficulty that the two sisters-in-
law had such different notions of the aim and end of
economy. The income at Kencroft had not increased
with the family, which numbered eight, for there were
two little boys in the nursery, and it was only by
diligent housewifery that Mrs. Brownlow kept up the
somewhat handsome establishment she had started
with at her marriage. Caroline felt that she neither


could nor would have made herself such a slave to
domestic details ; yet this was life and duty and
interest to Ellen. Where one sister would be unheeding
of shabby externals, so that all her children might be
free and on an equality, if they did not go beyond her,
in all enjoyments, physical, artistic, or intellectual ; the
other toiled to keep up appearances, kept her children
under restraint and in the background, and made all
sorts of unseen sacrifices to the supposed duty of
always having a handsome dinner for whomsoever the
Colonel might bring in, and keeping the horses,
carriages, and servants that she thought his due.

But then Ellen had a husband, and, as Caroline
sighed to herself, that made all the difference ! and
she was no Serene Highness, and had no dignity.

The three girls from Kencroft did actually become
pupils at the Folly, but the beginnings were not pro-
pitious, for, in her new teacher's eyes, Jessie knew
nothing accurately, but needed to have her foundations
looked to — to practise scales, draw square boxes, and
work the four first rules of arithmetic.

" Simple things," complained Jessie to her mother,
" that I used to do when I was no bigger than Essie,
and yet she is always teasing one about how and
why ! She wanted me to tell why I carried one."

" Have a little patience for the present, my dear,
your papa wants to help her just at present, and after
this autumn we will manage for you to have some
real sfood music lessons."


" But I don't like wasting time over old easy things
made difficult," sighed Jessie.

" It is very tiresome, my dear ; but your papa wishes
it, and you see, poor thing, she can't teach you more
than she knows herself ; and while you are there, I am
sure it is all right with Essie and Ellie."

" She does not teach them a bit like Miss James,"
said Jessie. " She makes their sums into a story, and
their spelling lessons too. It is like a game."

Indeed, Essie and Ellie were so willing to go off to
their lessons every morning, that their mother often
thought it could not be all right, and that the progress,
which they undoubtedly made, must be by some super-
ficial trick ; but as their father had so willed it, she
submitted to the present arrangement, deciding that
'' poor Caroline was just able to teach little children."

The presence of Essie and Ellie much assisted in
bringing Babie back to methodical habits ; nor was
she, in spite of her precocious intelligence, too forward
in the actual drill of education to be able to work
with her little cousins.

The incongruous elements were the two elder girls,
who could by no means study together, since they
were at the two opposite ends of the scale ; but as
Jessie was by no means aggressive, being in fact as
sweet and docile a shallow girl as ever lived, things
went on peaceably, except when Janet could not
conceal her displeasure that Bobus would not share
her contempt for Jessie's intellect.


If she told him that Jessie thought that the Odyssey
was about a voyage to Odessa, and was written by
Alfred Tennyson, he only declared that anything was
better than being a spiteful cat ; and when he came
in from school, and found his cousin in wild despair
over the conversion of 2,861 florins into half-crowns^
he stood by, telling her every operation, and leaving
her nothing to do but to write down the figures. He
was reckless of Janet, who tried to wither them both
by her scorn ; but Jessie looked up with her honest
eyes, saying —

" I wish you hadn't put it into my head, Janet, for
now I must rub it out and do it again, and it won't
be so hard now Bobus has shown me how."

" No, no, Jessie," said Bobus ; " I wouldn't be

" For shame, Bobus," said his sister ; " how is she
to learn anything in that way ? "
'' And if she doesn't .'' " said Bobus.
" That's a disgrace."

" A grace," said provoking Bobus. " She is much
nicer as she is, than you will ever be."

" Don't talk such nonsense," said Janet, with an
elder sisterly air. " It is not kind to encourage
Jessie to think anyone can care for an empty-
headed doll."

" Empty-headed dolls are all the go," said Bobus.
" Never mind, Jessie, a girl's business is to be pretty
and good-humoured, not to stuff herself with Latin


and Greek. You should leave that to us poor
beggars ! "

" Yes, I know, that's all your envy and jealousy,"
retorted Janet.

All the time Jessie stood by, plump, gentle, and
pretty, though with a certain cloud of perplexity on
her white open brow, and as her aunt returned into
the room, she said —

" I think my sum is right now, Aunt Caroline ; but
Bobus helped me. Must I do it over again ? "

" You shall begin with it to-morrow, my dear," said
her aunt ; " then I daresay it will go off easily."

Jessie thanked with an effusion of gratitude which
made her prettier than ever, and then was claimed by
Bobus to help him in the making of some paper bags
that he needed for some of his curiosities.

Janet liked to fancy that it was beauty versus genius
that made Jessie the greater favourite. She had not
taken into account that she was always too much en-
grossed with her own concerns to be helpful, while
Jessie's pretty dexterous hands were always at ever>'-
one's service, and without in the least entering into
the cause of science, she was invaluable in the museum,
whenever her ideas of neatness and symmetry were not
in too absolute opposition to the requirements of system.

The two little ones, Essie and EUie, were equally
graceful, or indeed still more so, as being still in their
kittenhood, and their attitudes were so charming as to
revive their aunt's artistic instincts.


All the earlier part of the year, when her time was
her own, it had been mere wretchedness and heart-
sickness to think of the art which had given her
husband so much pleasure, and, but for Allen, the
studio would never have been arranged. But no
sooner was her time engrossed, than the artist fever
awoke in her, and all the time she could steal by early
rising, or on wet afternoons, and birthday holidays,
was devoted to her clay.

Before the end of the autumn she had sent up to
Mr. Acton some lovely little groups of children,
illustrating Wordsworth's poems. She had been
taught anatomy enough to make her work superior
to that of most women, and Mr. Acton found no
difficulty in disposing of them to a porcelain manu-
factoiy, to be copied in Parian, bringing in a sum that
made her feel rich.

Vistas opened before her sanguine eyes of that clay
educating her son for the Magnum Bonum, her great
thought. Her boys must be brought up to be worthy
of the quest, high-minded, disinterested, and devoted,
as well as intellectual and religious. So said their
father ; and thus the Magnum Bonum ^had become
very nearly a religion to her, giving her a definite aim
and principle.

Unfortunately there was not much in her present
surroundings to lead her higher. The vicar, Mr. Rigby,
was a dull, weak man, of a worn-out type, a careful
visitor of the sick and poor, but taking little heed to


the educated, except as subscribers and Sunday-school
teachers. Carey had done Httle in the first capacity,
Janet had refused to act in the latter.

His sermons were very sleepy performances, except
for a tendency to jumble up metaphors, that kept the
audience from the Folly just awake enough to watch
for them. The hearer was proud who could repeat by
heart such phrases as "let us not, beloved brethren,
as gaudy insects, flutter out life's little day, bound to
the chariot wheels of vanity, whirling in the vortex of
dissipation, until at length we lie moaning over the
bitter dregs of the intoxicating draught." Some of
these became household proverbs at " the Folly," under
the title of " Rigdum Funnidoses," and might well be
an extreme distress to the good, reverent, and dutiful

Mrs. Rigby was an inferior woman, a sworn member
of the Cofifinkey clique, admiring and looking up to
her Serene Highness as the great lady of the place,
and wearing an almost abject manner when receiving
good counsels from her. Neither of them commanded
respect, nor were they likely to change the belief,
which prevailed at the Folly, that all ability resided
among the London clergy.




Lithest, gaudiest harlequin,
Prettiest tumbler ever seen,
Light of heart and light of limb.


Long walks continued to be almost a necessity to
Mrs. Joseph Brownlow, even when comparatively
sobered down, and there were few days on which she
was not to be met a mile or two from Kenminster,
attended by a train of boys larger or smaller,
according to the demands of the school for work or

The winter was of the description least favourable
to collective boyish sports, as there was no snow and
very little frost. The Christmas holidays led to more
walking than ever. The gravelled roads of Belforest
were never impassable, even in ' moist weather ; and
even the penetralia of the place had been laid open to
the Brownlows, in consequence of a friendship which
the two Johns had established with Alfred Richards,
the agent's son. They had brought him in to see the
musuem, and he had proved so nice and intelligent a
lad, that Mother Carey, to the great scandal of her


Serene Highness, allowed Jock to ask him to partake
of a birthday feast.

When Allen came home at Christmas, he introduced
stilt walking, and the Coffinkey world had the
pleasure of communicating to one another that " Mrs.
Folly Brownlow" had been seen with all her boys
walking on stilts ; and of course in the next stage,
Mrs. " Folly " Brownlow herself was said to have been
walking on stilts with all her boys, a libel, which caused
Mrs. Robert Brownlow much pain and trouble in the

" Poor Caroline ! walking seemed to be necessary to
her health, and she was out a great deal, but always
walking along in the lanes on foot with her little girls
— yes, I assure you, always on foot ! "

It was thus that Caroline, with Babie and Armine,
was descending a hill on the other side of Belforest
Park, fully employed in picking the way through the
mud from stone to stone, when a cry of dismay came
to them from a distance, and whilst they were still
struggling towards a gate, which broke the line of the
high hedge, the two Johns came back at speed, crying
— " Mother, Mother Carey ! come quick, here's Allen
had a spill — came down on his shoulder — his stilt went
into a hole, and he went right over ; they think he
must have broken something, he howls so when they
touch him."

Feeling her limbs and breath inadequate to bear her
on as fast as her spirit flew forward, Caroline dashed


through the slippery mud far too swiftly for poor little
Babie to keep up with her, leaving one boy to take care
of the little ones, while the other acted as her guide
down the long steep lane. She was unable to see over
the hedges till she came through a gate into a meadow,
where Jock looked about, rubbed his eyes, and ex-
claimed — " Hallo, where are they ? " pointing to the
place where Allen had fallen, but whence he seemed
to have been spirited away like Sir Piercie Shafton.
However, Rob and Joe came running out of a farm-
yard at a little distance, with tidings that Allen had
been taken in there, and replying to her breathless
question, that they could not tell how much he was

A fine looking white-haired farmer met her next,
saying — " Your young gentleman is not very seriously
hurt, ma'am. I think a dislocation of the shoulder is
the extent of the injury. He is feeling rather faint,
but you must not be alarmed."

It was spoken with a kind courtesy that gave her
confidence, and the old man led her to the parlour,
where his daughter-in-law, a gentle looking person,
was most kindly attending on Allen, who lay on the
sofa, exceedingly white, and in much pain, but able to
smile at his mother, and assure her that he should
soon be all right.

" Had they sent for a surgeon } "

" No, but they had sent for a bone-setter, who would
be there in a minute."


The old farmer explained that it would be two
Jiours at the least before a surgeon could be fetched
from Kenminster, while Higg, the blacksmith, who
lived close at hand, was better for man and beast than
any surgeon he had known, and his son had instantly
set out to fetch him. As the mother doubtfully asked
of his fitness, instances were quoted of his success.
The family had a '* gift," inherited and kept up from
time immemorial, and :the farmer's wife declared that
he was as tender as possible ; she had seen him operate
on a neighbour's child, and should not be afraid to
trust him with one of her own.

The man's voice was heard ; they went out to speak
to him, and Caroline was left v/ith her boy.

"What do you think, Ali, my dear, she said,
kneeling by him, " I have often heard dear papa
?peak of the wonderful instinct of those bone-setting

" I'd have nothing to do with a humbugging quack,"
put in Bobus.

" He may humbug as much as he likes, if he'll only
get me out of this pain," said poor Allen.

" He will only make it ever so much worse, and
then you'll have to have it done over again," croaked

" That is not the way to talk of it, Bobus," said his
mother. "I know a dislocated shoulder does not
require any great skill, and that promptness is of
greater use than knowledge in such a case."



" Well, if you like to encourage abominable humbug-
and have Allen lamed for life, I don't," said Bobus.
" I sha'n't stay in the house with the blackguard."

He stalked out of the room with great loftiness of
demeanour, just as the operator was being introduced
— a tall, sinewy man, with one of those strong yet
meek faces often to be found among the peasantry.
He came in after the old farmer, pulling his fore-
lock to the lady, and waiting for orders as if he
had been sent for to mend the grate ; but Caroline
saw in a moment that he was a man to trust in^.
and that his hands were not only clean, but w^ere well -
formed, and powerful, with a great air of dexterity.

" I am afraid my boy's arm is put out," she said^
trembling a good deal.

" Yes, ma'am."

"And — and," said she, feeling sick, and more
desolate and left to her own judgment than ever
before. " Can you undertake to push it in again."

" Please God, ma'am," Higg said, gravely, coming
nearer for examination.

Allen shrank and shuddered.

" Won't it hurt awfully ? " he asked.

"Well, sir, it won't just be a bed of roses, but it
won't last, not long, if you sets your will to it."

He asked for various needments, and while he was
inspecting them, Allen's courage began to fail, and he
breathed out whispers that the man was rougher and
more ignorant than he expected, and they had better


wait and send to Kenminster for a doctor ; but those
who thought CaroHne helpless and childish would
have been amazed at the gentle resolution with which
she refused to listen to his falterings, and braced him
to endure, knowing well that her husband had said
that skill was hardly needed in such a case, only
resolution. She would not let herself be taken out of
the room, and indeed never thought of herself, only of
Allen, whose other hand she held, and to whom she
seemed to give patience and courage. When all was
well over, there was a hospitable^ invitation to the
patient to remain till he was fit to return, and an
extension of the invitation to his mother, but with
promises of every care if she must leave him, and this
she was forced to decide on doing, as such a house-
hold as hers could not well spare her, especially on
a Saturday evening ; and she also saw that the
inconvenience to her hosts would have been great.

Allen was so much relieved, that^she had no fear of
leaving him to these kind people, to whom shehad
taken a great fancy.

"I shall learn the habits of the genuine species,
British farmer," said he, as his mother kissed him, and
declared him the best and most conformable of boys.

Old Mr. Gould would not be denied driving her
home in his gig, and when she thought about it, she
found she had a strange relaxed aching of the knees,
which made her glad of kindness for herself and the
little ones. In the fine old kjtclicn she found that

O 2


Armine had had an overpowering fit of crying, which
had been kindly soothed by motherly Mrs. Gould, and
the whole party were partaking of a luxurious tea,
enlivened by mince pies and rosy-cheeked apples,
which had diverted his attention to the problem why
the next year's prosperity should depend on the
number of mince pies consumed before Christmas.

Bobus was not among them, having marched off in
his contempt of the bone-setter, and his mother was
not without fears that he might bring a real surgeon
down on her at any moment, so she quickly drank off

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMagnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 18)