Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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Then began the shopping, such shopping extra-
ordinary as none of the family had ever enjoyed
except in dreams ; and when it was the object of
everybody to conceal their purchases from every-
body else. Caroline contrived to make time for
a quiet luncheon with Dr. and Mrs. Lucas, to which
she took her two youngest boys, since Jock was
the godson of the house, and had moreover been
shaken off by his two elder brothers. Happily he
was too good-tempered to grumble at being thrown
over, and his mind was in a beatific state of con-
templation of his newly-purchased treasures, a small
pistol, a fifteen-bladed knife, and a box of mis-
cellaneous sweets, although his mother had so far
succumbed to the weakness of her sex as to pre-
vent the weapon from being accompanied by any

As to Armine, she wanted to consult Dr. Lucas
about the fragile looks and liability to cold that had
alarmed her ever since Rob's exploit. Besides, he


was so unlike the others ! Had she not seen him
quietly make his way into the drawing-room, where
Mrs. Lucas kept a box for the Children's Hospital,
and drop into it two bright florins, one of which she
had seen Babie hand over to him .?

" I do think it is not canny," she said, as if it had
been one of his symptoms.

" Do you want me to prescribe for it } "

"I did try one prescription for having too big a
soul ; I turned my poor little boy loose into school,
and there they half killed him for me, and made
the original complaint worse."

" Happily no prescription, ' neither life, nor death,
nor any other creature,' can cure that complaint," said
the good old doctor, " though, alas ! it is only too apt
to dry up from within."

" Still I can't help feeling it rather awful to have
to do with a being so spiritual as that, and it appears
to me to increase on him, so that he never seems
quite to belong to me. And precocity is a dangerous
sign, is it not } "

" I see," said the doctor, smiling ; " you are going to
be a treasure to the faculty, and indulge in anxieties
and consultations."

" Now, Dr. Lucas, you know that we were always
anxious about Armine. You remember his father
said he needed more care than the rest."

Dr. Lucas allowed that this was true ; but he only


recommended flannel, pale ale, moderation in study,
and time to recover the effects of the pump.

Both the good old friends were very kind and full of
tender congratulation, mingled with a little anxiety,
though they were pleased with her good taste and
simplicity and absence of all elation. But then she
had hardly realised the new position, and seemed to
look neither behind nor before. Her only scheme
seemed to be to take a house in London for a few
months, and then perhaps to go abroad, but of this
she could not talk in those old scenes which vividly
brought back that castle in the air, never fulfilled, of
a holiday in Switzerland with Joe.

On leaving the Lucases, she sent her boys on be-
fore her to the nearest bazaar, and was soon at her
old home. Kind Mrs. Drake effaced herself as much
as possible, and let her roam about the house alone,
but furniture had altered eveiy room, so that no
responsive chord was touched till she came to the
study, which was little changed. There she shut
herself in and strove to recall the touch of the hand
that was gone, the sound of the voice that was still.
She stood, where she had been wont to stand over
her husband, when he had been busy at his table
and she had run down with some inquiry, and with
a yearning ache of heart she clasped her hands, and
almost breathed out the words, " O Joe, Joe, dear
father ! Oh ! for one moment of you to tell me


what to do, and how to keep true to the charge you
gave me — your Magnum Bonum ! "

So absolutely had she asked the question, that she
waited, almost expecting a reply, but there was no
voice and none to answer her ; and she was turning
away with a sickening sense of mockery at her own
folly in seeking the empty shrine whence the oracle
of her life had departed, when her eye fell on the
engraving over the mantel-piece. It was the one
thing for which Mr. Drake had begged as a memorial
of Joe Brownlow, and it still hung in its old place.
It was of the Great Physician, consoling and healing
all around — the sick, the captive, the self-tormenting
genius, the fatherless, the widow.

Was this the answer .'' Something darted through
her mind like a pang followed by a strange throb —
" Give yourself up to Him. Seek the true good first.
The other may lie on its way."

But it was only a pang. The only too-natural recoil
came the next minute. Was not she as religious as
there was any need to be, or at least as she could be
without alienating her children or affecting more than
she felt } Give herself to Him } How ? Did that
mean a great deal of church-going, sermon-read-
ing, cottage visiting, prayers, meditations, and avoid-
ance of pleasure .'' That would never do ; the boys
would not bear it, and Janet would be alienated ;
besides, it would be hypocrisy in one who could not


sit Still and think, or attend to anything lengthy and

So, as a kind of compromise, she looked at the photo-
graph which hung below, and to it she almost spoke
out her answer. "Yes, I'll be very good, and give
away lots of things. Mary Ogilvie shall come and
keep me in order, and she won't let me be naughty,
if I ever want to be naughty when I get away from
Ellen. Then Magnum Bonum shall have its turn
too. Don't be afraid, dearest. If Allen does not
take to it now, I am sure Bobus will be a great
chemical discoverer, able to give all his time and
spare no expense, and then we will fit up this dear
old house for a hospital for very poor people.
That's what you would have done if you had been
here ! Oh, if this money had only come in time ! But
here are these horrid tears ! If I once begin ciying
I shall be good for nothing. If I don't go at once,
there's no saying what Jock mayn't have bought."

She was just in time to find Jock asking the price
of all the animals in the Pantheon Bazaar, and ex-
pecting her to supply the cost of a vicious-looking
monkey. The whole flock collected in due time at
the station, and so did their parcels. Allen brought
with him his chief purchase, the most lovely toy-
terrier in the world, whom he presented on the spot to
Elvira, and who divided the journey between licking
himself and devouring the fragments of biscuit with


which Jock supplied him. Allen had also bought
a beautiful statuette for himself, and a set of studs.
Janet had set herself up with a case of mathe-
matical instruments and various books ; Bobus's
purchases were divers chemical appliances and a
pocket microscope, also what he thrust into Jessie's
lap and she presently proclaimed to be a lovely little
work-case ; Jessie herself was hugging a parcel, which
turned out to contain warm pelisses for the two
nursery boys just above the baby. For the adapta-
tion of their seniors' last year's garments had not
proved so successful as not to have much grieved the
good girl and her mother.

Elvira's money had all gone into an accordion, and
a necklace of large blue beads.

" Didn't you get anything for your grandfather or
your cousins .'' " said Caroline.

" I wanted it all," said Elfie ; " and you only gave
me two sovereigns, or I would have had the brace-
lets too."

" Never mind, Elfie," cried Babie, " I've got some-
thing for Mr. Gould and for Kate and Mary."

" Have you, Babie } So have I," returned Armine ;
and the two, who had been wedged into one seat,
began a whispering conversation, by which the listeners
might have learnt that there was a friendly rivalry as
to which had made the two pounds provide the largest
possible number of presents. Neither had bought


anything for self, for the chest of drawers, bath, and
broom were for Babie's precious dolls, not for herself
Mother Carey, uncle and aunt, brothers, sisters, cousins,
sei-vants, Mr. Gould, the gardener's grandson, the old
apple-woman, " the little thin girls," had all been
provided for at that wonderful German Bazaar,
and the only regret was that gifts for Mr. Ogilvie
and Alfred Richards could not be brought within
the powers of even two pounds. What had Mother
Carey bought } Ah ! Nobody was to know till
Twelfth-day, and then the first tree cut at Belforest
would be a Christmas-tree. Then came a few
regrets that everybody had proclaimed their pur-
chases, and therewith people began to grow weary
and drop asleep. It was by gaslight that they
arrived at home and bundled into the flys that
awaited them, and then in the hall at home came
Elvira's cry —

" Where's my doggie, my Chico ? "

" Here ; I took him out," said Jock.

" That's not Chico ; that's a nasty, horrid, yellow
cur. Chico was black. You naughty boy, Jock,
you've been and changed my dog."

" Has Midas changed him to gold ?" cried Babie.

" Ah," said Bobus, meaningly.

" You've done it then, Bobus ! You've put some-
thing to him."

" / haven't," said Bobus, " but he's been licking


himself all the way home. Well, we all know green
is the sacred colour of the Grand Turk."

" No ! You don't mean it ! " said Allen, catching
up the dog and holding him to the lamp, while
Janet observed that he was a sort of chameleon, for
his body, which had been black, was now yellow, and
his chops which had been tan, had become black.

Elvira began to cry angrily, still uncomprehending,
and fancying Bobus and Jock had played her a trick
and changed her dog ; Allen abused the horrid little
brute, and the more horrid man who had deceived
him ; and Armine began pitying and caressing him,
seriously distressed lest the poor little beast should
have poisoned himself. Caroline herself expected to
have heard that he was dead the next morning, and
would have felt more compassion than regret ; but,
to her surprise and Allen's chagrin, Chico made his
appearance, very rhubarb-coloured and perfectly well.

" I think," said Elvira, " I will give Chico to grand-
papa, for a nice London present."

Everybody burst out laughing at this piece of
generosity, and though the young lady never quite
understood what amused them, and Allen heartily
wished Chico among the army of dogs at River
Hollow, he did somehow or other remain at the Folly,
and, after the fashion of dogs, adopted Jock as the
special object of his devotion.

Ellen came in, expecting to regale her eyes with




the newest fashions. Or were they all coming down
from the dressmaker ?

"I had no time to be worried with dressmakers,"
said Caroline.

" I thought you went there while the girls were
going about with Mrs. Acton."

" Indeed no. I had just got my new bonnet foi
the winter."

" But ! "

"And indeed, I have not inherited any more

Ellen sighed at the impracticability of her sister-in-
law and the blindness of fortune. But nobody could
sigh long in the face of that Twelfth-day Christmas-
tree. What need be said of it but that each member
of the house of Brownlow, and each of its dependents,
obtained the very thing that the bright-eyed fairy of
the family had guessed would be most acceptable.




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