Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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was sorry for poor Allen, he said, but as to making a
friend of such a fellow, pah ! No ! there was no harm
in him, he was a good officer enough, but he never
had a grain of common sense ; and whereas he never
could keep out of debt, he must needs go and marry a
young girl, just because he thought her uncle was not
kind to her. It was the worst thing he could have
done, for it made her uncle cast her off on the spot,
and then she was killed with harass and poverty. He
never held up his head again after losing her, and just
died of fever because he was too broken down to have
energy to live. There was enough in this to weave out
a tender little romance, probably really another aspect
of the truth, which made Caroline's bright eyes over-
flow with tears, when she heard it couched in tenderer
language from Joseph, and the few books and treasures
that had been rescued agreed with it — a Bible with
her father's name, a few devotional books of her


mother's, and Mrs. Hemans's poems with " To Lina,
from her devoted J. A."

Caroline would fain have been called Lina, but the
name did not fit her, and would not take.

Colonel Brownlow was altogether very friendly, if
rather grave and dry towards her, as soon as he Avas
convinced that " it was only Joe," and that pity, not
artfulness, was to blame for the undesirable match.
He was too honourable a man not to see that it
could not be given up, and he held that the best
must now be made of it, and that it would be more
proper, since it was to be, for him to assume the part
of father, and let the marriage take place from his
house at Kenmmster. This was a proposal for which
it was hard to be as grateful as it deserved ; since
it had been planned to walk quietly into the parish
church, be married "without any fuss," and then to
take the fortnight's holiday, which vras all that the
doctor allowed himself.

But as Robert was allowed to be judge of the
proprieties, and as the kindness on his part was great,
it was accepted ; and Caroline was carried off for three
weeks to keep her residence, and make the house feel
what a blank her little figure had left.

Certainly, when the pair met again on the eve of the
wedding, there never was a more willing bride.

She said she had been very happy. The Colonel
and Ellen, as she had been told to call her future
sister, had been very kind indeed ; they had taken her


for long drives, shown her everything, introduced her to
quantities of people ; but, oh dear ! was it absolutely-
only three weeks since she had been away ? It seemed
just like three years, and she understood now why the
girls who had homes made calendars, and checked off
the days. No school term had ever seemed so long ;
but at Kenminster she had had nothing to do, and
besides, now she knew what home was !

So it was the most cheerful and joyous of weddings,
though the bride was a far less brilliant spectacle than
the bride of last year, Mrs. Robert Brownlow, who
with her handsome oval face, fine figure, and her
tasteful dress, perfectly befitting a young matron,
could not help infinitely outshining the little girlish
angular creature, looking the browner for her bridal
white, so that even a deep glow, and a strange misty
beaminess of expression could not make her passable
in Kenminster eyes.

How would Joe Brownlow's fancy turn out ?




John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear,

" Though wedded we have been
These twice ten tedious years, yet we

No holiday have seen." — Cowper.

No one could have much doubt how it had turned out,
who looked, after fifteen years, into that room where
Joe Brownlow and his mother had once sat tete-a-tete.

They occupied the two ends of the table still, neither
looking much older, in expression at least, for the
fifteen years that had passed over their heads, though
the mother had — after the wont of active old ladies —
grown smaller and lighter, and the son somewhat more
bald and grey, but not a whit more careworn, and, if
possible, even brighter.

On one side of him sat a little figure, not quite so
thin, some angles smoothed away, the black hair
coiled, but still in resolute little mutinous tendrils on
the brow, not ill set off by a tuft of carnation ribbon on
one side, agreeing with the colour that touched up her
gauzy black dress ; the face, not beautiful indeed —
but developed, softened, brightened with more of sweet-
ness and tenderness — as well as more of thought —


added to the fresh responsive intelligence it had always

On the opposite side of the dinner-table were a girl
of fourteen and a boy of twelve ; the former, of a much
larger frame than her mother, and in its most awkward
and uncouth stage, hardly redeemed by the keen
ardour and inquiry that glowed in the dark eyes, set
like two hot coals beneath the black overhanging
brows of the massive forehead, on which the dark
smooth hair was parted. The features were large, the
complexion dark but not clear, and the look of resolu-
tion in the square-cut chin and closely shutting mouth
was more boy-like than girl-like. Janet Brownlow was
assuredly a very plain girl, but the family habit was
to regard their want of beauty as rather a mark
of distinction, capable of being joked about, if not
triumphed in.

Nor was Allen, the boy, wanting in good looks. He
was fairer, clearer, better framed in every way than his
sister, and had a pleasant, lively countenance, prepos-
sessing to all. He had a well-grown, upright figure,
his father's ready suppleness of movement, and his
mother's hazel eyes and flashing smile, and there was
a look of success about him, as well there might be,
since he had come out triumphantly from the examin-
ation for Eton College, and had been informed that
morning that there were vacancies enough for his im-
mediate admission.

There was a pensiveness mixed with the satisfaction


in his mother's eyes as she looked at him, for it was
the first break into the home. She had been the only
teacher of her children till two years ago, when Allen
had begun to attend a day school a few streets off, and
the first boy's first flight from under her wing, for ever
so short a space, is generally a sharp wound to the
mother's heart.

Not that Allen would leave an empty house behind
him. Lying at full length on the carpet, absorbed in
a book, w^as Robert, a boy on whom the same capacious
brow as Janet's sat better than on the feminine creature.
He was reading on, undisturbed by the pranks of three
younger children, John Lucas, a lithe, wiry, restless
elf of nine, with a brown face and black curly head,
and Armine and Barbara, young persons of seven and
six, on whom nature had been more beneficent in the
matter of looks, for though brown was their' prevailing
complexion, both had well-moulded, childish features,
and really fine eyes. The hubbub of voices, as they
tumbled and rushed about the window and balcony,
was the regular accompaniment of dinner, though on
the first plaintive tone from the little girl, the mother
interrupted a "Well, but papa," from Janet, with
"Babie, Babie."

" It's Jock, Mother Carey ! He ivill come into
Fairyland too soon."

" What's the last news from Fairyland, Babie ? "
asked the father as the little one ran up to him.

" I want to be Queen Mab, papa, but Armine wants


to be Perseus with the Gorgon's head, and Jock is the
dragon ; but the dragon will come before we've put
Polly upon the rock."

"What! is Polly Andromeda } " as a grey

parrot's stand was being transferred from the balcony.

"Yes, papa," called out Armine. "You see she's
chained, and Bobus won't play, and Babie will be
Queen Mab "

" I suppose," said the mother, " that it is not harder
to bring Queen Mab in with Perseus than Oberon with
Theseus and Hippolyta "

"You would have us infer," said the Doctor with
grave humour, " that your children are at their present
growth in the Elizabethan age of culture "

But again began a " Well, but papa ! " but, he ex-
claimed, " Do look at that boy — Well wallopped,
dragon ! " as Jock with preternatural contortions,
rolled, kicked and tumbled himself with extended jaws
to the rock, alias stand, to which Polly was chained, she
remarking in a hoarse, low whisper, "Naughty boy "

"Well moaned, Andromeda !"

" But papa," persisted Janet, " when Oliver Crom-
well "

" Oh ! look at the Gorgon ! " cried the mother, as the
battered head of an ancient doll was displayed over
his shoulder by Perseus, decorated with two enormous
snakes, one made of stamps, and the other a spiral of
whalebone shavings out of a box.

The monster immediately tumbled over, twisted.


kicked, and wriggled so that the scandaHsed Perseus
exclaimed: "But Jock — monster, I mean — you're

turned into stone "

"It's convulsions," replied the monster, gasping
frightfully, while redoubling his contortions, though
Queen Mab observed in the most admonitory tone,
touching him at the same time with her wand, " Don't
you know, Skipjack, that's the reason you don't
grow "

" Eh ! What's the new theoiy ! Who says so,
Babie ? " came from the bottom of the table.

" Nurse says so, papa," answered Allen ; '' I
heard her telling Jock yesterday that he would never
be any taller till he stood still and gave himself

"Get out, will you!" was then heard from the
prostrate Robert, the monster having taken care to
become petrified right across his legs.

"But papa," Janet's voice was heard, "if Oliver
Cromwell had not helped the Waldenses "

It was lost, for Bobus and Jock were rolling over
together with too much noise to be bearable ; Grand-
mamma turned round with an expostulatory " My
dears," Mamma with "Boys, please don't when papa
is tired "

" Jock is such a little ape," said Bobus, picking him-
self up. " Father, can you tell me why the moon
draws up the tides on the wrong side > "

"You may study the subject," said the Doctor;


" I shall pack you all off to the seaside in a day or

There was one outcry from mother, wife, and boys.

Not without you ? "

" I can't go till Drew comes back from his outing '

" But why should we ? It would be so much nicer
all together."

" It will be horribly dull without ; indeed I never
can see the sense of going at all," said Janet.

There was a confused outcry of indignation, in which
waves — crabs — boats and shrimps, were all mingled

" I'm sure that's not half so entertaining as hearing
people talk in the evening," said Janet.

"You precocious little piece of dissipation," said her
mother, laughing.

" I didn't mean fine lady nonsense," said Janet,
rather hotly ; " I meant talk like "

"Like big guns. Oh, yes, we know," interrupted
Allen ; " Janet does not think anyone worth listening
to that hasn't got a whole alphabet tacked behind
his name."

"Janet had better take care, and Bobus too," said
the Doctor, " or we shall have to send them to vegetate
on some farm, and see the cows milked and the
pigs fed."

" I'm afraid Bobus would apply himself to finding
how much caseine matter was in the cow's milk," said
Janet in her womanly tone.


" Or by what rule the pigs curled their tails," said
her father, with a mischievous pull at the black plaited
tail that hung down behind her.

And then they all rose from the table, little Barbara
starting up as soon as grace was said. "Father,
please, you arc the Giant Queen Mab always rides ! "

" Queen Mab, or Queen Bab, always rides me, which
comes to the same thing. Though as to the size of
the Giant "

There was a pause to let grandmamma go up in
peace, upon Mother Carey's arm, and then a general
romp and scurry all the way up the stairs, ending by
Jock's standing on one leg on the top post of the
baluster, like an acrobat, an achievement which made
even his father so giddy that he peremptorily desired
it never to be attempted again, to the great relief of
both the ladies. Then, coming into the drawing-room,
Babie perched herself on his knee, and began, without
the slightest preparation, the recitation of Cowper's
" Colubriad " : —

" Fast by the threshold of a door nailed fast
Three kittens sat, each kitten looked aghast."

And just as she had with great excitement —

" Taught him never to come there no more,"

Armine broke in with " Nine times one are nine."

It was an institution dating from the days when
Janet made her first acquaintance with the " Little
Busy Bee," that there should be something, of some


sort, said or shovrn to papa, whenever he was at home
or free between dinner and bed-time, and it was con-
sidered something between a disgrace and a misfortune
to produce nothing.

So when the two httle ones had been kissed and
sent off to bed, with mamma going vrith them to hear
their prayers, Jock, on being called for, repeated a
Greek declension with two mistakes in it, Bobus
showed a long sum in decimals, Janet, brought a neat
parallelism of the present tense of the verb " to be " in
five languages — Greek, Latin, French, German, and

" And Allen — reposing on your honours ? Eh, my
boy .? "

Allen looked rather foolish, and said, " I spoilt it,
papa, and hadn't time to begin another."

" It — I suppose I am not to hear what till it has
come to perfection. Is it the same that was in hand
last time .? "

" No, papa, 7ni^c/i better," said Janet, emphatically.

" What I want to see," said Dr. Brownlow, " is
something finished. I'd rather have that than ever so
many magnificent beginnings."

Here he was seized upon by Robert, with his knitted
brow and a book in his hands, demanding aid in
making out why, as he said, the tide swelled out on
the wrong side of the earth.

His father did his best to disentangle the question,,
but Bobus was not satisfied till the clock chimed his


doom, when he went off with Jock, who was walking
on his hands.

"That's too tough a subject for such a little fellow,"
Sdid the grandmother ; " so late in the day too ! "

"He would have worried his brain with it all night
if he had not worked it out," said his father.

" I'm afraid he will, any way," said the mother.
" Fancy being troubled with dreams of surging oceans
rising up the wrong way ! "

" Yes, he ought to be running after the tides instead
of theorising about them. Carry him off. Mother
Carey, and the whole brood, without loss of time."

" But Joe, why should we not wait for you ? You
never did send us away all forlorn before ! " she said,
pleadingly. " We are all quite well, and I can't bear
going without you."

" I had much rather all the chickens were safe away,
Carey," he said, sitting down by her. "There's a
tendency to epidemic fever in two or three streets,
which I don't like in this hot weather, and I had
rather have my mind easy about the young ones."

" And what do you think of my mind, leaving you
in the midst of it } "

"Your mind, being that of a mother bird and a
doctor's wife, ought to have no objection."

" How soon does Dr. Drew come home } "

" In a fortnight, I believe. He wanted rest terribly,
poor old fellow. Don't grudge him every day."

"A fortnight!" (as if it was a century). "You


can't come for a fortnight. Well, perhaps it will take
a week to fix on a place."

" Hardly, for see here, I found a letter from Acton
when I came in. They have found an unsophisticated
elysium at Kyve Clements, and are in raptures which
they want us to share — rocks and waves and all."
*' And rooms .? "

" Yes, very good rooms, enough for us all," was the
answer, flinging into her lap a letter from his friend, a
somewhat noted artist in water-colours, whom, after
long patience, Carey's school friend, Miss Cartwright,
had married two years ago.

There was nothing to say against it, only grand-
mamma observed, " I am too old to catch things ; Joe
vv'ill let me stay and keep house for him."

" Please, please let me stay with granny," insisted
Janet ; "then I shall finish my German classes."

Janet was granny's child. She had slept in her
room ever since Allen was born, and trotted after her
in her " housewifeskep," and the sense of being pro-
tected was passing into the sense of protection. Before
she could be answered, however, there was an announce-
ment. Friends were apt to drop in to cofi"ee and talk
in the evening, on the understanding that certain days
alone were free — people chiefly belonging to a literary,
scientific, and artist set, not Bohemian, but with a
good deal of quiet ease and absence of formality.

This friend had just returned from Asia Minor, and
had brought an exquisite bit of a Greek frieze, of which


he had become the happy possessor, knowing that
Mrs. Joseph Brownlow would delight to see it, and
mayhap to copy it.

For Carey's powers had been allowed to develop
themselves ; Mrs. Brownlow having been always house-
keeper, she had been fain to go on with the studies
that even her preparation for governessship had not
rendered wearisome, and thus had become a very
graceful modeller in clay — her favourite pursuit — when
her children's lessons and other occupations left her
free to indulge in it. The history of the travels, and
the account of the discovery, were given and heard
with all zest, and in the midst others came in — a
barrister and his wife to say good-bye before the
circuit, a professor with a ticket for the gallery at a
scientific dinner, two medical students, who had been
made free of the house because they were nice lads
with no available friends in town.

It was all over by half-past ten, and the trio were
alone together. " How amusing Mr. Leslie is ! " said
the young Mrs. Brownlow. "He knows how to
describe as few people do."

"Did you see Janet listening to him," said her
grandmother, "with her brows pulled down and her
eyes sparkling out under them, wanting to devour
every word ? "

" Yes," returned the Doctor, " I saw it, and I longed
to souse that black head of hers with salt water. I don't
like brains to grow to the contempt of healthful play."


" People never know when they are well off ! I
wonder what you would have said if you had had a
lot of stupid dolts, boys always being plucked, &c."

" Don't plume yourself too soon. Mother Carey ;
only one chick has gone through the first ordeal."

"And if Allen did, Bobus will."

"Allenr is quite as clever as Bobus, granny, if "

eagerly said the mother.

"If " said the father; "there's the point. If

Allen has the stimulus, he will do well. I own I am
particularly pleased with his success, because per-
severance is his weak point."

" Carey kept him up to it," said granny. " I
believe his success is quite as much her work as his

" And the question is, how will he get on without
his mother to coach him ? "

" Now you know you are not one bit uneasy, papa ! "
cried his wife, indignantly. " But don't you think we
might let Janet have her will for just these ten days ?
There can't be any real danger for her with grand-
mamma, and I should be happier about granny."

" You don't trust Joe to take care of me ? "

"Not if Joe is to be out all day. There will be
nobody to trot up and down stairs for you. Come, it
is only what she begs for herself, and she really is
perfectly well."

" As if I could have a child victimised to me;' taid


" The little Cockney thinks the victimising would
be in going to the deserts with only the boys and me,"
laughed Carey ; " But I think a week later will be
quite time enough to sweep the cobwebs out of her

"And you can do without her?" inquired Mrs.
Brownlow. " You don't want her to help to keep the
boys in order ? "

"Thank you, I can do that better without her,"
said Carey. " She exasperates them sometimes."

" I believe granny is thinking whether she is not
wanted to keep Mother Carey in order as well as her
chickens. Hasn't mother been taken for your
governess, Carey } "

" No, no, Joe, that's too bad. They asked Janet at
the dancing-school whether her sister was not going
to join."

" Her younger sister } "

" No, I tell you, her half-sister. But Clara Acton
will do discretion for us, granny ; and I promise you
we won't do anything her husband says is very
desperate ! Don't be afraid."

" No," said grandmamma, smiling as she kissed her
daughter-in-law, and rose to take her candle ; " I am
never afraid of anything a mother can share with her

" Even if she is nearly a tomboy herself," laughed
the husband, with rather a teasing air, towards his
little wife. " Good night, mother. Shall not we be


snug with nobody left but Janet, who might be great-
grandmother to us both ? "

" I really am glad that Janet should stay with
granny," said Carey, when he had shut the door
behind the old lady ; " she would be left alone so
many hours while you are out, and she does need
more waiting on than she used to do."

" You think so } I never see her grow older."

" Not in the least older in mind or spirits ; but she
is not so strong, nor so willing to exert herself, and
she falls asleep more in the afternoon. One reason for
which I am less sorry to go on before, is that I shall
be able to judge whether the rooms are comfortable
enough for her, and I suppose we may change if they
are not."

" To another place, if you think best."

" Only you will not let her stay at home altogether.
That's what I'm afraid of."

" She will only do so on the penalty of keeping me,
and you may trust her not to do that," said Joe,
laughing with the confidence of an only son.

" I shall come back and fetch you if you don't
appear under a fortnight. Did you do any more this
morning to the great experiment. Magnum Bonum } "

She spoke the words in a proud, shy, exulting semi-
whisper, somewhat as Gutenberg's wife might have
asked after his printing-press.

" No. I haven't had half an hour to myself to-day ;
at least when I could have attended to it. Don't be



afraid, Carey, I'm not daunted by the doubts of our good
friends. I see your eyes reproaching me with that."

" Oh no, as you said, Sir Matthew Fleet mistrusts
anything entirely new, and the professor is never
sanguine. I am almost glad they are so stupid, it
will make our pleasure all the sweeter."

" You silly little bird, if you sit on that egg it will
be sure to be addled. If it should come to any good,
probably it will take longer than our life-time to work
into people's brains."

" No," said Carey, " I know the real object is the
relieving pain and saving life, and that is what you
care for more than the honour and glory. But do
you remember the fly on the coach wheel ? "

" Well, the coach wheel means to stand still for a
little while. I don't mean to tiy another experiment
till my brains have been turned out to grass, and I
can come to it fresh."

" Ah ! 'tis you that really need the holiday," said
Carey, wistfully ; " much more than any of us. Look
at this great crow's foot," tracing it with her finger.

" Laughing, my dear. That's the outline of the
risible muscle. A Mother Carey and her six ridi-
culous chickens can't but wear out furrows with
laughing at them."

" I only know I wish it were you that were going,
and I that were staying at home."

*' ' You shall do my work to-day,
And I'll go follow the plough,' "


said her husband, laughing. " There are the notes of
my lecture, if you'll go and give it."

" Ah ! we should not be like that celebrated couple.
You would manage the boys much better than I could
doctor your patients."

" I don't know that. The boys are never so com-
fortable, when I've got them alone. But, considering
the hour, I should think the best preliminaiy would
be to put out the lamp and go to bed."

" I suppose it is time ; but I always think this last
talk before going upstairs, the best thing in the whole
day ! " said the happy wife as she took the candle.

D 2




Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street.
Doors, where my heart was wont to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand —
A hand that can be clasped no more.
Behold me, for I cannot sleep. — Tennyson.

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