Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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would sometimes think poor Caroline was just a little
touched in the head."

" I hope not," said the Colonel, rather alarmed.

" It may be only affectation," said his lady, in a
consolatory tone. '' I am afraid poor Joe did live with
a very odd set of people — artists, and all that kind of
thing. I am sure I don't blame her, poor thing ! But
she is worse to manage than any child, because you
can't bid her mind what she is about, and not talk
nonsense. When she leaves her house in such a state,
and no one but that poor girl to see to anything, and
comes home all over mud, raving about fairy-land, and
gold trees and blue ground ; when she has just got
into a bog in Belforest coppice — littering the whole
place, too, with common wild flowers. If it had been
Essie and EUie, I should just have put them in the
corner for making such a mess ! "

The Colonel laughed a little to himself, and said,
consolingly, "Well, well, you know all these country
things are new to her. You must be patient with

Patient ! That had to be the burthen 'of the song
on both sides. Carey was pushing back her hair with
a fierce, wild sense of impatience with that calm
assumption that fretted her beyond all bearing, and
made her feel desolate beyond all else. She would


have, she thought, done well enough alone with her
children, and scrambled into her new home ; but the
directions, however needful, seemed to be continually
insulting her understanding. When she was advised
as to the best butcher and baker, there was a ring in
her ears as if Ellen meant that these were safe men
for a senseless creature like her, and she could not
encounter them with her orders without wondering
whether they had been told to treat her well.

Indeed, one of the chief drawbacks to Carey's
comfort was her difficulty in attending to what her
brother "and sister-in-law said to her. Something in
the measured tones of the Colonel always made her
thoughts wander as from a dull sermon ; and this was
more unlucky in his case than in his wife's — for Ellen
used such reiterations that there was a fair chance of
catching her drift the second or third time, if not the
first, whereas all he said was well weighed and
arranged, and was only too heavy and sententious.

Kencroft, the home of the Colonel and his family,
Mrs. Robert Brownlow's inheritance, was certainly " a
picture of a place." It had probably been an appendage
of the old minster, though the house was only of the
seventeenth century ; but that was substantial and
venerable of its kind, and exceedingly comfortable and
roomy, with everything kept in perfect order. Caroline
could not quite think the furniture worthy of it, but
that was not for want of the desire to do everything
handsomely and fashionably. Moreover, in spite of


the schoolroom and nurseryful of children, marvels of
needlework and knitting adorned every table, chair,
and sofa, while even in the midst of the town Ken-
croft had its own charming garden ; a lawn, once
devoted to bowls and now to croquet, an old-fashioned
Availed kitchen garden, sloping up the hill, and a
paddock sufficient to make cows and pigs part of the

The Colonel had devoted himself to gardening and
poultry with the mingled ardour and precision of a
man who needed something to supply the place of his
soldierly duties ; and though his fervour had relaxed
under the influence of ease, gout, and substantial flesh,
enough remained to keep up apple-pie order without-
doors, and render Kencroft almost a show place.
The meadow lay behind the house, and a gravel walk
leading along its shaded border opened into the lane
about ten yards from the gate of the Pagoda, as
Colonel and Mrs. Brownlow and the post office
laboured to call it ; the Folly, as came so much more
naturally to everyone's lips. It had been the work of
the one eccentric man in Mrs. Robert Brownlow's
family, and was thus her property. It had hung long
on hand, being difficult to let, and after making
sufficient additions, it had been decided that, at a
nominal rent, it would house the family thrown upon
the hands of the good Colonel.


THE colonel's CHICKENS.

They censured the bantam for strutting and crowing,
In those vile pantaloons that he fancied looked knowing ;
And a want of decorum caused many demurs
Against the game chicken for coming in spurs.

The Peacock at HotJie.

Left to themselves, Mother Carey, with Janet and
old nurse, completed their arrangements so well that
when Jessie looked in at five o'clock, with a few choice
flowers covering a fine cucumber in her basket, she
exclaimed in surprise, " How nice you have made it
all look, I shall be so glad to tell mamma."

" Tell her what .'' " asked Janet.

" That you have really made the room look nice,"
said Jessie.

" Thank you," said her cousin, ironically. " You see
we have as many hands as other people. Didn't Aunt
Ellen think we had ? "

" Of course she did," said Jessie, a pretty, kindly-
creature, but slow of apprehension ; " only she said she
was veiy sorry for you."

"And why .'*" cried Janet, leaping up in indignation.

" Why ? " interposed Allen, " because we are raw


cockneys, who go into raptures over primroses and
wild hyacinths ; eh, Jessie ? "

" Well, you have set them up very nicely," said
Jessie ; " but fancy taking so much trouble about
common flowers."

" What would you think worth setting up ? " asked
Janet. "A big dahlia, I suppose, or a great red
cactus } '*

" We have a beautiful garden," said Jessie : " papa is
very particular about it, and we always get the prize
for our flowers. We had the first prizes for hyacinths
and forced roses last week, and we should have had
the first for forced cucumbers if the gardener at
Belforest had not had a spite against Spencer, be-
cause he left him for us. Everybody said there was
no comparison between the cucumbers, and Mr. Ellis
said "

Janet had found the day before how Jessie could
prattle on in an endless quiet stream without heeding
whether any one entered into it or replied to it ; but
she was surprised at Allen's toleration of it, though
he changed the current by saying, " Belforest seems
a jolly place."

" But you've only seen the wood, not the gardens,"
said Jessie.

" I went down to the lake with Mr. Ogilvie," said
Allen, " and saw something splendiferous looking on
the other side."

" Oh ! they are beautiful ! " cried Janet, " all laid out


in ribbon gardens and with the most beautiful terrace,
and a fountain — only that doesn't play except when
you give the gardener half-a-crown, and mamma says
that is exorbitant — and statues standing all round —
real marble statues."

" Like the groves of Blarney," muttered Janet :

" Heathen goddesses most rare,
Homer, Venus, and Nebuchadnezzar,
All standing naked in the open air."

Allen, seeing Jessie scandalised, diverted her atten-
tion by asking, " Whom does it belong to ? "

" Mr. Barnes," said Jessie ; " but he is hardly ever
there. He is an old miser, you know — what they call
a millionnaire, or mill-owner ; which is it ? "

" One is generally the French for the other," put in

" Never mind her, Jessie," said Allen, with a look of
infinite displeasure at his sister. " What does he do
which keeps him away } "

" I believe he is a great merchant, and is always in
Liverpool," said Jessie. "Any way, he is a very cross
old man, and won't let anybody go into his park and
gardens when he comes down here ; and he is very
cruel too, for he disinherited his own nephew and
niece for marrying. Only think Mrs. Watson at the
grocer's told our Susan that there's a little girl, who
is his own great-niece, living down at River Hollow
Farm with Mr. and Mrs. Gould, just brought up
by common farmers, you know, and he won't take


any notice of her, nor give one farthing for bringing
her up. Isn't it shocking ? And even when he is at
home, he only has two chops or two steaks, or just
a bit of kidney, and that when he is hterally rolHng
in gold."

Jessie opened her large brown eyes to mark her
horror, and Allen made a gesture of exaggerated
sympathy, which his sister took for more earnest than
it was, and she said, scornfully, " I should like to see
him literally rolling in gold. It must be like Midas.
Do you mean that he sleeps on it, Jessie ? How
hard and cold ! "

"Nonsense," said Jessie ; " you know what I mean."

" I know what literally rolling in gold means, but I
don't know what you mean."

"Don't bully her, Janet," said Allen ; "we are not
so stupid, are we, Jessie ? Come and show me the
walnut-tree you were telling me about."

"What's the matter, Janet.?" said her mother,
coming in a moment or two after, and finding her
staring blankly out of the window, where the two had
made their exit.

" O mother, Jessie has been talking such gossip, and
Allen likes it, and won't have it stopped ! I can't
think what makes Allen and Bobus both so foolish
whenever she is here."

" She is a very pretty creature," said Carey, smiling
a little.

"Pretty!" repeated Janet. "What has that to do
with it ? "



" A great deal, as you will have to find out in the
course of your Hfe, my dear."

" I thought only foolish people cared about beauty."

" It is very convenient for us to think so," said
Carey, smiling.

"But mother — surely eveiybody cares for you just
as much or more than if you were a great handsome,
stupid creature ! How I hate that word handsome ! "

" Except for a cab," said Carey.

"Ah! when shall I see a Hansom again .^" said
Janet in a slightly sentimental tone. But she returned
to the charge, " Don't go, mother, I want you to

" Beauty versus brains ! My dear, you had better
open your eyes to the truth. You must make up your
mind to it. It is only veiy exceptional people who,
even in the long run, care most for feminine brains."

" But, mother, every one did."

" Every one in our world, Janet ; but your father
made our home set of those exceptional people, and
we are cast out of it now ! " she added, with a gasp
and a gesture of irrepressible desolateness.

"Yes, that comes of this horrid move," said the

girl, in quite another tone. " Well, some day " and

she stopped.

" Some day ? " said her mother.

" Some day we'll go back again, and show what we
are," she said, proudly.

"Ah, Janet ! and that's nothing now without himy

" Mother, how can you say so, when- } " Janet


just checked herself, as she was coming to the great

"When we have his four boys," said her mother.
'''Ah! yes, Janet — if — and when — But that's a long
way off, and, to come back to our former subject," she
added, recalling herself with a sigh, " it will be wise in
us owlets to make up our minds that owlets we are,
and to give the place to the eaglets."

" But eaglets are very ugly, and owlets very pretty,"
quoth Janet.

Carey laughed. " That does not seem to have been
the opinion of the Beast Epic," said she, and the
entrance of Babie prevented them from going further.

Janet turned away with one of her grim sighs at the
unappreciative world to which she was banished. She
had once or twice been on the point of mentioning the
Magmcm Bojmm to her mother, but the reser\-e at
first made it seem as if an avowal would be a con-
fession, and to this she could not bend her pride,
while the secrecy made a strange barrier between
her and her mother. In truth, Janet had never been
so devoted to Mother Carey as to either granny or
her father, and now she missed them sorely, and felt
it almost an injury to have no one but her mother
to turn to.

Her character was not set in the same mould, and
though both could meet on the common ground of
intellect, she could neither enter into the recesses of
her mother's grief, nor understand those flashes of
brightness and playfulness which nothing could destroy

I 2


If Carey had chosen to unveil the truth to herself,
she would have owned that Allen, who was always
ready, tender and sympathetic to her, was a much
greater comfort than his sister ; nay, that even little
Babie gave her more rest and peace than did Janet,
who always rubbed against her whenever they found
themselves tcte-a-tete or in consultation.

Meantime Babie had been out with her two little
cousins, and came home immensely impressed with
the Belforest gardens. The house was shut up, but
the gardens were really kept up to perfection, and the
little one could not declare her full delight in the
wonderful blaze she had seen of banks of red, and
flame coloured, and white, flowering trees. " They said
they would show me the Americans," she said. "Why
was it, mother 1 I thought Americans were like the
gentleman who dined with you one day, and told me
about the snow^ birds. But there were only these
flower-trees, and a pond, and statues standing round
it, and I don't think they wxre Americans, for I knov/
one was Diana, because she had a bow and quiver. I
wanted to look at the rest, but Miss James said they
were horrid heathen gods, not fit for little girls to look
at ; and, mother, Ellie is so silly, she thought the people
at Belforest worshipped them. Do come and see
them, mother. It is like the Crystal Palace out-of-

" Omitting the Crystal," laughed some one ; but
Babie had more to say, exclaiming, " O mother, Essie


says Aunt Ellen says Janet and I are to do lessons
with Miss James, but you won't let us, will you ? "

" Miss James ! " broke out Janet indignantly; "we
might as well learn of old nurse ! Why, mother, she
can't pronounce French, and she never heard of
terminology, and she thinks Edward I. killed the
bards!" For the girls had spent a day or two with
their cousins in the course of the move.

"Yes," broke in Barbara, "and she won't let Essie
and Ellie teach their dolls their lessons ! She was
quite cross when I was showing them how, and said it
was all nonsense when I told her I heard you say that
I half taught myself by teaching Juliet. And so the
poor dolls have no advantages, mother, and are quite
stupid for want of education," pursued the little girl,
indignantly. " They aren't people, but only dolls, and
Essie and Ellie can't do anything with them but just
dress them and take them out walking."

" That's what they would wish to make Babie like ! "
said her elder sister.

"But you'll not let anybody teach me but you,
dear, dear Mother Carey," entreated the child.

"No, indeed, my little one." And just then the
boys came rushing in to their evening meal, full of
the bird's nest that they had been visiting in their
uncle's field, and quite of opinion that Kenminster
was " a jolly place."

"And then," added Jock, "we got the garden engine,
and had such fun, you don't know."


" Yes," said Bobus, " till you sent a whole cataract
against the house, and that brought out her Serene
Highness ! "

The applicability of the epithet set the whole family
off into a laugh, and Jock further made up a solemn
face, and repeated —

** Buff says Buff to all his men,
And I say Buff to you again.
Buff neither laughs nor smiles,
But carries his face
With a very good grace."

It convulsed them all, and the mother, recovering a
little, said, " I wonder whether she ever can laugh."

" Poor Aunt Ellen ! " said Babie, in all her gravity ;
"she is like King Henry I. and never smiled again."

And with more wit than prudence, Mrs. Buff, her
Serene Highness, Sua Serenita, as Janet made it,
became the sobriquets for Aunt Ellen, and were in
continual danger of oozing out publicly. Indeed the
younger population at Kencroft probably soon be-
came aware of them, for on the next half-holiday Jock
crept in with unmistakable tokens of combat about
him, and on interrogation confessed, " It was Johnnie,
mother. Because we wanted you to come out walking
.with us, and he said 'twas no good walking with one's
mother, and I told him he didn't know what a really
jolly mother was, and that his mother couldn't laugh,
and that you said so, and he said my mother was no
better than a tomboy, and that she said so, and
so "


And so, the effects were apparent on Jock's torn
and stained collar and swelled nose.

But the namesake champions remained unconvinced,
except that Johnnie may have come over to the
opinion that a mother no better than a tomboy was
not a bad possession, for the three haunted the
"Folly" a good deal, and made no objection to their
aunt's company after the first experiment.

Unfortunately, however, their assurances that their
mother could laugh as well as other people were not so
conclusive but that Jock made it his business to do his
utmost to produce a laugh, in which he was apt to be
signally unsuccessful, to his own great surprise, though
to that of no one else. For instance, two or three
days later, when his mother and Allen were eating
solemnly a dinner at Kencroft, by way of farewell
ere Allen's return to Eton, an extraordinarily frightful
noise was heard in the poultry yard, where dwelt
various breeds of Uncle Robert's prize fowls.

Thieves — foxes — dogs — what could it be ? Even
the cheese and celery were deserted, and out rushed
servants, master, mistress, and guests, being joined by
the two girls from the school-room ; but even then
Carey was struck by the ominous absence of boys.
The poultry house door was shut — locked — but the
noises within wxre more and more frightful — of con-
vulsive cocks and hysterical hens, mingled with human
scufPiings and hushes and snortings and snigglings
that made the elders call out in various tones of


remonstrance and reprobation, '' Boys, have done !
Come out ! Open the door."

A small hatch door was opened, a flourish on a tin
trumpet was heard, and out darted. In an Elizabethan
ruff and cap, a respectable Dorking mother of the
yard, cackling her displeasure, and instantly dashing
to the top of the wall, followed at once by a stately
black Spaniard, decorated with a lace mantilla of cut
paper off a French plum box, squauking and curtseying.
Then came a dapper pullet, with a doll's hat on her
unwilling head, &c., &c.

The outsiders were choking with breathless surprise
at first, then the one lady began indignantly to ex-
claim, " Now, boys ! Have done — let the poor things
alone. Come out this minute." The other fairly
reeled against the wall with laughter, and Janet and
Jessie screamed at each fresh appearance, till they
made as much noise as the outraged chickens, though
one shrieked with dismay, the other with diversion.
At last the Colonel, slower of foot than the rest,
arrived on the scene, just as the pride of his heart, the
old King Chanticleer of the yard, made his exit,
draped in a royal red paper robe and a species of
tinsel crown, out of which his red face looked most
ludicrous as he came halting and stupefied, having
evidently been driven up in a corner and pinched
rather hard ; but close behind him, chuckling forth his
terror and flapping his wings, came the pert little
white bantam, belted and accoutred as a pacre.


Colonel Brownlow's severe command to open the
door was not resisted for one moment, and forth rushed
a cloud of dust and feathers, a quacking Avaggling
substratum of ducks, and a screaming flapping rabble
of chickens, behind whom, when the mist cleared, were
seen, looking as if they had been tarred and feathered,
various black and grey figures, which developed into
Jock, Armlne, Robin, Johnny, and Joe. Jock, the
foremost, stared straight up in his aunt's face, Armlne
ran to his mother with — " Did you see the old king,

mother, and his little page ? Wasn't It funny "

But he was stopped by the sight of his uncle, who laid
hold of his eldest son with a fierce " How dare you,
sir ? " and gave him a shake and blow. Robin stood
with a sullen look on his face, and hands in his pockets,
and his brothers followed suit. Armlne hid his face
in his mother's dress, and burst out crying ; but Jock
stepped forth and, with that impish look of fearless-
ness, said, " I did it, Uncle Robert ! I wanted to
make Aunt Ellen laugh. Did she laugh, mother } "
he asked in so comical and innocent a manner that, in
spite of her full consciousness of the heinousness of
the offence, and its general unluckiness, Mother Carey
was almost choked. This probably added to the
gravity with which the other lady decreed with Juno-
like severity, " Robin and John must be flogged. Joe
is too young."

" Certainly," responded the Colonel ; but Caroline,
instead of, as they evidently expected of her, at once


offering up her victim, sprang forward with eager,
tearful pleadings, declaring it was all Jock's fault, and
he did not know how naughty it was — but all in vain.
" Robert knew. He ought to have stopped it," said
the Colonel. " Go to the study, you two."

Jock did not act as the generous hero of romance
would have done, and volunteer to share the flogging.
He cowered back on his mother, and put his arm
round her waist, while she said, " Jock told the truth,
so I shall not ask you to flog him. Uncle Robert. He
shall not do such mischief again."

" If he does," said his uncle, with a look as if her
consent would not be asked to what would follow.




There will we sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By summer rivers, by whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals. — Marlcnve.

*' How does my little schoolfellow get on ? " asked
Mary Ogilvie, when she had sat down for her first
meal with her brother in her summer holidays.

" Much as Ariel did in the split pine, I fancy."

" For shame, David ! I'm afraid you are teaching
her to see Sycorax and Caliban in her neighbours."

" Not I ! How should I ever see her ! Do you
hear from her ? "

" Sometimes ; and I heard of her from the Actons,
who had an immense regard for her husband, who,
they say, was a very superior man."

" It is hardly necessary to be told so."

" They mean to take lodgings somewhere near here
this next month, and see what they can do to cheer
her in her present life, which must be the greatest
possible contrast to her former one. Do you wish to
set out on our expedition before August, Davie ? I
should like you to see them."


"By all means let us wait for them. Indeed I
should not be at liberty till the last week in July."

" And how go the brains of Kenminster } You look
enlivened since last time I saw you."

" It is the infusion the brains have received. That
one woman has made more difference to the school
than I could have done in ten years."

"You find her boys, at any rate, pupils worth

" More than that. Of course it is something to have
a fellow capable of ideas before one ; but besides that,
lads who had gone on contentedly at their own level
have had to bestir themselves not to be taken down
by him. When he refused to have it forced upon him
that study was not the thing at Kenminster, they
found the only way to make him know his place was
to keep theirs, and some of them have really found
the use of their wits, and rejoice in them. Even in
the lower form, the Colonel's second boy has developed
an intellect. Then the way those boys bring their
work prepared has raised the standard ! "

" I heard something of that on my way."

"You did.?"

" Yes ; two ladies were in full career of talk when
the train stopped at the Junction, and I heard — 'I am
always obliged to spend one hour every evening
seeing that Arthur knows his lessons. So troublesome,
3^ou know ; but since that Mrs. Joseph Brownlow has
come, she helps her boys so with their home-work
that the others have not a chance if one docs not


look to it oneself.' Then it appeared that she told
Mr. Ogilvie it wasn't fair, and that he would give her
no redress."

" Absurd woman ! It is not a matter of unfairness^
as I told her. They don't get help in sums or
exercises ; they only have grammar to learn and con-
struing to prepare, and all my concern is that it should
be got up thoroughly. If their mothers help them, so
much the better."

"The mothers don't seem to think so. However,
she branched off into incredulity that Mrs. Joe Brownlow
could ever really teach her children anything, for she

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