Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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was always tramping all over the country with them
at all hours of the day and night. She has met her
herself, with all those boys after her, three miles from
home, in a great straw hat, when her husband hadn't
been dead a year."

" I'm sure she is always in regulation veils, and all
the rest of it, at Church, if that's what you ladies want."

" But the crown of the misdoings seemed to be that
she had been met at some old castle, sacred to picnics,
alone with her children — no party nor anything. I
could not make out whether the offence consisted in
making the ruin too cheap, or in caring for it for its
own sake, and not as a lion for guests."

"The latter probably. She has the reputation of
being very affected ! ! ! "

" Poor dear ! I heard that she was a great trial to
dear Mrs. Brownlow," said Mary, in an imitative voice.


''Why, do you know, she sometimes is up and out
with her children before six o'clock in the morning ;
and then Colonel Brownlow went In one day at twelve
o'clock, and found the whole family fast asleep on
different sofas."

" The sensible way, too, to spend such days as these.
To go out in the cool of the morning, and take a siesta^
is the only rational plan ! "

" I'm afraid one must conform to one's neighbours'

" Trust a woman for being conventional."

" I confess I did not like the tone in which my poor
Carey was spoken of I am afraid she can hardly
have taken care enough not to be thought flighty."

" Mary ! you are as absurd as the rest of them ! "

" Why ? what have you seen of her } "

" Nothing, I tell you, except once meeting her in the
street, and once calling on her to ask whether her boy
should learn German." And David Ogilvie spoke
with a vehemence that somewhat startled his sister.

It was a July evening, and though the walls of the
schoolmaster's house were thick, it was sultry enough
within to lead the brother and sister out immediately
after dinner, looking first into the play-fields, where
cricket was of course going on among the bigger boys,
but where Mary looked in vain for her friend's sons.

" No, they are not much of cricketers," said her
brother ; " they are small for it yet, and only take
their turn in watching-out by compulsion. I wish the


senior had more play in him. Shall we walk on by
the river } "

So they did, along a paved causeway which
presently got clear of the cottages and gables of old
factories, and led along, with the brightly glassy sheet
of water on one side, and the steep wooded slope on
the other, loose-strife and meadow-sweet growing
thickly on the bank, amid long weeds with feathery
tops, rich brown fingers of sedge, and bur-reeds like
German morgensterns, while above the long wreaths
of dog-roses projected, the sweet honeysuckle twined
about, and the white blossoms of traveller's-joy hung
in festoons from the hedge of the bordering plantation.
After a time they came on a kind of glade, opening
upwards though the wood, with one large oak-tree
standing alone in the centre, and behold ! on the grass
below sat or lay a company — Mrs. Joseph Brownlow
in the midst, under the obnoxious mushroom-hat,
reading aloud. Radiating from her were five boys, the
biggest of all on his back, with his hat over his eyes,
fast asleep ; another cross-legged, with a basket between
his knees, dividing his attention between it and the
book ; two more lying frog-like, with elbows on the
ground, feet erected behind them, chin in hand,
devouring the narrative with their eyes ; the fifth
wriggling restlessly about, evidently in search of
opportunities of mischief or of tormenting tricks. Just
within earshot, but sketching the picturesque wooden
bridge below, sat one girl. The little one, with her


youngest brother, was close at their mother's feet,
threading flowers to make a garland. It was a pretty
sight, and so intent were most of the party on their
occupations that they never saw the pair on the bank
till Joe, the idler, started and rolled round with
"Hollo!" when all turned, it may be feared with
muttered growls from some of the boys ; but Carey
herself gave a cry of joy, ran down the bank like a
girl, and greeted Mary Ogilvie with an eager embrace.

" You are holding a Court here," said the school-

" We have had tea out here. It is too hot for
indoors, and I am reading them the * Water Babies.' "

" To a large audience, I see."

" Yes, and some of which are not quite sure whether
it is fact or fiction. Come and sit down."

" The boys will hate us for breaking up their
reading," said Mary.

" Why should not we listen ! " said her brother.
" Don't disturb yourselves, boys ; we've met before

Bobus and Jock were, however, on their feet, and
Johnny had half risen ; Robin lay still snoring, and
Joe had retreated into the wood from the alarming
spectacle of " the schoolmaster abroad."

After a greeting to the two girls, who comported
themselves, according to their ages, as young ladies
might be expected to do, the Ogilvies found accom-
modation on the roots of the tree, and listened. The


•''Water Babies" were then new, and Mr. Ogilvie had
never heard them. Luckily the reading had just come
to the history of the " Do as You Likes," and the
interview between the last of the race and M. Du
Chaillu diverted him beyond measure. He laughed
so much over the poor fellow's abortive attempt to
say " Am I not a man and a brother } " that his three-
scholars burst out into a second edition of shouts of
laughter at the sight of him, and thus succeeded in
waking Robin, who, after a great contortion, sat up on
the gras.s, and, rubbing his eyes, demanded in an
injured tone what was the row ?

" * The Last of the Do as You Likes,' " said Armine.

" Oh I say — isn't it jolly," cried Jock, beating his
"breast gorilla-fashion and uttering a wild murmur of
"' Am I not a man and a brother } " then tumbling
head over heels, half in ecstasy, half in imitation of
ihe fate of the Do as You Like, setting everybody off
into fits again.

"It's just what Robin is coming to," observed
Bobus, as his namesake stretched his arms and
delivered himself of a waking howl ; then suddenly
becoming conscious of Mr. Ogilvie, he remained
petrified, with one arm fully outstretched, the other
still lifted to his head.

'' Never mind, Brownlow maximus," said his master ;
■•' it was hardly fair to surprise you in private life,
-was it r'

The boy made no answer, but scrambled up, sheepish



and disconcerted ; and indeed the sun was entirely
down and the dew almost falling, so that the mother
called to the young ones to gather up their things
and come home.

Such a collection ! Bobus picked up a tin-case and
basket full of flowers, interspersed with bottles of
swimming insects. The trio and Armine shouldered
their butterfly-nets, and had a distribution of pill-boxes
and bottles, in some of which were caterpillars in-
tended to live, in others butterflies dead (or dying, it
may be feared) of laurel leaves. Babie had a mighty
nosegay ; Janet put up the sketch, which showed a
good deal of power ; and the whole troop moved up
the slope to go home by the lanes.

" What collectors you are ! " said Mr. Ogilvie.

" For the museum," answered Armine, eagerly.

" Haven't you seen our museum } " cried Barbara,.
Viho had taken his hand. " Oh, it is such a beauty I
We have got an Orobanche major, only it is not dry

" I'm afraid Babie likes fine words," said her
mother ; " but our museum is a great amusement to
us Londoners."

They all walked home together, talking merrily,
and Mr. and Miss Ogilvie came in with them, on
special entreaty, to share the supper — milk, fruit, bread
and butter and cheese, and sandwiches, which was
laid out on the round table in the octagon vestibule,
which formed the lowest story of the tower. It was


partaken of standing, or sitting at ease on the window-
seats, a form or two, an old cai-ved chair, or on the
stairs, the children ascending them after their meal,
and after securing in their own fashion their treasures
for the morrow. The two cousins had already bidden
good-night at the gate and gone home, and the
Ogilvies followed their example in ten minutes,
Caroline begging Mary to come up to her as soon as
Mr. Ogilvie was disposed of by school hours.

" But you will be busy ^ " said Mary.

" Never mind, I am afraid we are not very regular,"
said Carey.

It was by this time ten o'clock, and the two younger
children were still to be heard shouting to one another
up stairs about the leaves for their chrysalids. So
when Mary came up the hill at half-past ten the next
morning, she was the less surprised to find these two
only just beginning breakfast, Vv'hile their mother was
sitting at the end of the table knitting, and hearing
Janet repeat German poetr}^ The boys had long
been in school.

Caroline jumped up and threw her arms round
Mary's neck, declaring that now they would enjoy
themselves. "We are ver}^ late," she added, "but
these late walks make the little people sleep, and I
think it is better for them than tossing: about, hot
and cross."

Mary was father entertained at this new code, but
s:iid nothing, as Carey pointed out to the children how

]; 2


they were to occupy themselves under Janet's charge,
and the work they had to do showed that for then-
age they had lost no time.

The drawing-room showed indeed a contrast to the
chaotic state in which it had been left. It was
wonderfully pleasant-looking. The windows of the
deep bay were all open to the lawn, shaded with
blinds projecting out into the garden, where the parrot
sat perched on her pole ; pleasant nooks were arranged
in the two sides of the bay window, with light chairs
and small writing-tables, each with its glass of flowers ;
the piano stood across the arc, shutting off these
windows into almost a separate room ; low book-cases,
with chiffonier cupboards and marble tops, ran round
the walls, surmounted with many artistic ornaments.
The central table was crowned with a tall glass of
exquisitely-arranged grasses and wild flowers, and
the choice and graceful nicknacks round it were such
as might be traced to a London life in the artist
world, and among grateful patients.

Brackets with vases and casts here and there pro-
jected from the walls, and some charming crayons
and water-colours hung round them. The plastered
walls had already been marked out in panels, and a
growth of frescoes of bulrushes, ivy, and leaves of all
kinds was beginning to overspread them, while on a
nearer inspection the leaves proved to be fast becoming
peopled with living portraits of butterflies and other
insects ; indeed Mary started at finding herself in, as


she thought, unpleasant proximity to a pair of

" Ah ! I tell the children that we shall be suspected
of putting those creatures there as a trial to the old
ladies' nerves," said Caroline, laughing.

" I confess they are startling to those who don't like
creeping things ! Have you many old ladies, Carey .'' "

"Not very many. I fancy they don't take to me
more than I take to them, so we are mutually

" But is that a good thing ? " said Mary anxiously.

"I don't know," said Carey, indifferently. "At
least I do know," she added, "that I always used to
be told I didn't try to make small talk, and I can do
it less than ever now that it is the smallest of small,
and my heart faints from it. Oh Mary ! "

" My poor dear Caroline ! But you say that you
were told you ought to do it } "

" Well, yes. Dear granny wished it ; but I think
that was rather with a view to Joe's popularity, and
we haven't any patients to think of now. I should
think the less arrant gossip the children heard, the

" But is it well to let them despise everybody } "

" Then the less they see of them, the better ! "

" For shame, Carey ! "

"Well, Mary, I dare say I am naughty. I do feel
naughtier now than ever I did in my life ; but I can't
help it ! It just makes me mad to be worried or tied


down," and she pushed back her hair so that her
unfortunate cap was only withheld from tumbllng
entirely off by the pin that held it.

" Oh, that wretched cap ! " she cried, jumping up,
petulantly, and going to the glass to set it to rights,
but with so hasty a hand that the pin became entangled
in her hair, and it needed Mary's quiet hand to set it
to rights; "it's just an emblem of all the rest of it ;
I wouldn't wear it another day, but that I'm afraid of
Ellen and Robert, and it perfectly drives me wild.
And I know Joe couldn't have borne to see me in it."
At the Irishism of which she burst out laughing, and
laughed herself into the tears that had never come
when they were expected of her.

Mary caressed and soothed her, and told her she
could well guess it was sadder to her now than even
at first.

" Well, it is," said Carey, looking up. " If one was
sent out to sea in a boat, it wouldn't be near so bad
as long as one could see the dear old shore still, as
when one had got out — out into the wide open — with
nothing at all."

And she stretched out her hands with a dreary,
yearning gesture into the vacant space, such as it went
to her friend's heart to see.

" Ah ! but there's a haven at the end."

" I suppose there is," said Carey ; " but it's a long
way off, and there's dying first, and when people want
to begin about it, they get so conventional, and if


there's one thing above another that I can't stand, it
is being bored."

" My poor child ! "

"There, don't be angr}' with me, because I'm teUing
you just what I am ! "

Before any more could be said Janet opened the
door, sa}-ing, " ^Mother, Emma wants to see you.''

'' Oh ! I forgot," cried Carey, hurrying off, while
Janet came forward to the guest in her grown-up wa\-.
and asked —

"Have you been to the Water-Colour Exhibition.
Miss Ogilvie ? "

"Yes; ]Mr. Acton took me one Saturday afternoon."

" Oh ! then he would be sure to show you Xita
Ray's picture. I want so much to know how it strikes

And Janet had plunged into a regular conversation
about exhibitions, pictures, artists, concerts, lectures.
&c., before her mother came back, talking with all the
eagerness of an exile about her native countr}-. As a
governess in her school-room, ^Miss Ogilvie had had
little more than a key-hole view of all these things ;
but then what she had seen and heard had been
chiefly through the Actons, and thus coincided with
Janet's own side of the world, and they were in full
discussion when Caroline came back.

"There, I've disposed of the butcher and baker! "
she said. *' Now we can be comfortable again.'

Mary expected Janet to repair to her own lessons,


or to listen to those scales which Babie might be heard
from a distance playing ; but she only appealed to her
mother about some picture of last year, and sat down
to her drawing, while the conversation on pictures
and books continued in animated style. So far from
sending her away, Mary fancied that Carey was
rather glad to keep to surface matters, and to be pre-
vented from another outbreak of feeling.

The next interruption was from the children, each
armed with a pile of open books on the top of a slate.
Carey begged Mary to wait, and went outside the
window with them, sitting down under a tree whence
the murmured sounds of repetition could be heard,
lasting about twenty minutes between the two, and
then she returned, the little ones jumping on each
side of her, Armine begging that Miss Ogilvie would
come and see the museum, and Barbara saying that
Jock wanted to help to show it off.

"Well, run now and put your own corners tidy,"
suggested their mother. " If Jock does not stay in
the playground, he will come back in a quarter of
an hour."

" And Mr. Ogilvie will come then. I invited him."
said Babie.

At which Carey laughed incredulously ; but Janet,
observing that she must go and see that the children
did not do more harm than good, walked off, and
Mary said —

" I should not wonder if he did act on the invitation."


" I hope he will. It would have only been civil in
me to have asked him, considering that I have taken
possession of you," said Caroline.

" I fully expect to see him on Miss Barbara's
invitation. Do you know, Carey, he says you have
transformed his school."

" Translated it, like Bottom the Weaver."

" In the reverse direction. He says you have made
the mothers see to their boys' preparation, and wakened
up the intellects."

" Have I } I thought I had only kept my own boys up
to the mark. Yes, and there's Johnny. Do you know,
Mary, it is very funny, but that boy Johnny has adopted
me. He comes after me everywhere like a shadow,
and there's nothing he won't do for me, even learning
his lessons. You see the poor boy has a good deal of
native sense, Brownlow sense, and mind had been more
stifled than wanting in him. Nobody had ever put
things to him by the right end, and when he once let
me do it for him, it was quite a revelation, and he has
been so happy and prosperous that he hardly know.s
himself. Poor boy, there is something very honest and
true about him, and so affectionate ! He is a little
like his uncle, and I can't help being fond of him.
Then Robin is just as devoted to Jock, though I
can't say the results are so very desirable, for Jock
is a monkey, I must confess, and it is irresistible to
a monkey to have a bear that he can lead to do


anything. I hear that Robin used to be the good
boy of the establishment, and I am afraid he is not
that now."

" But can't you stop that .?"

" My dear, nobody could think of Jock's devices so
as to stop them, who had not his own monkey brain.
Who would have thought of his getting the whole set
to dress up as nigger singers, with black faces and
banjoes, and coming to dance and sing in front of the
windows ? "

" There wasn't much harm in that."

" There wouldn't have been if it had been only here.
And, oh dear, the irresistible fun of Jock's capering
antics, and Rob moving by mechanism, as stiff and
obedient as the giant porter to Flibbertigibbet." Carey
stopped to laugh. " But then I never thought of their
going on to present themselves to Ellen in the middle
of a mighty and solemn dinner party ! All the
grandees, the county people (this in a deep and awful
voice), sitting up in their chignons of state, in the awful
pause during the dishing-up, when these five little
wretches, in finery filched from the rag bag, appear on
the smooth lawn, mown and trimmed to the last extent
for the occasion, and begin to strike up at their shrillest,
close to the open widow. Ellen rises with great
dignity. I fancy I can see her, sending out to order
them off. And then, oh dear, Jock only hopping more
frantically than ever round the poor man the hired


Avaiter, who, you must know, is the undertaker's chief
mute, and singing —

* Leedle, leedle, leedle,

Our cat's dead.
What did she die wi' ?

\Vi' a sair head.
A' you that kenned her

While she was alive,
Come to her burying

At half-past five.'

And then the Colonel, bestirring himself to the rescue,
with 'go away boys, or I'll send for the police.' And
then the discovery, when in the height of his wrath,
Jock perked up, and said, ' I thought you would like
to have the ladies amused. Uncle Robert.' He did
box his ears then — small blame to him, I must say. I
could stand that better than the jaw Ellen gave us
afterwards. I beg your pardon, Mary, but it really
was one. She thinks us far gone in the ways of
depravity, and doesn't willingly let her little girls come
near us."

" Isn't that a pity } "

" I don't know ; Essie and Ellie have feelings in their
clothes, and don't like our scrambling walks, and if Ellie
does get allured by our wicked ways, she is sure to be
torn, or splashed, or something, and we have shrieks
and lamentations, and accusations of Jock and Joe,
amid floods of tears ; and Jessie comes to the rescue,
primly shaking her head and coaxing her little sister,
while she brings out a needle and thread. I can't


help it, Mary. It does aggravate me to look at
her ! "

Mary could only shake her head with a mixture of
pity, reproof, and amusement, and as a safer subject
could not help asking —

" By the bye, why do you confuse your friends by
having all the two families named in pairs ? "

"We didn't know we were going to live close
together," said Carey. " But the fact is that the Janets
were named after their fathers' only sister, who seems
to have been an equal darling to both. We would
have avoided Robert, but we found that it would have
been thought disrespectful not to call the boy after
his grandfather and uncle."

" And Bobus is a thoroughly individual name."

" Then Jock's name is John Lucas, and we did mean
to call him by the second, but it wouldn't stick.
Names won't sometimes, and there's a formality in
Lucas that would never fit that skipjack of a boy. He
got called Jock as a nickname, and now he will abide
by it. But Joseph Armine's second name does fit him,
and so we have kept to it ; and Barbara was dear
grandmamma's own name, and quite our own."

Therewith Babie rushed downstairs with " He's
coming, Mother Carey," and darted out at the house-
door to welcome Mr. Ogilvie at the gate, and lead him
in in triumph, attended by her two brothers. The
two ladies laughed, and Carey said, with a species of
proud apology —


" Poor children, you see they have been used to be
noticed by clever men."

" Mr. Ogilvie is come to see our museum," cried
Babie, in her patronising tone, jumping and dancing
round during his greetings and remarks that he hoped
he might take advantage of her invitation ; he had been
thinking whether to begin a school museum would not
be a very good thing for the boys, and serve to open
their minds to common things. On which, before any
one else could answer, the parrot, in a low and senten-
tious tone, observed, " Excellent."

" There, you have the consent of your first acquaint-
ance," said Carey, while the bird, excited by one of
those mysterious likings that her kind are apt to take,
held her grey head to Mr. Ogilvie to be scratched,
chuckling out, "All Mother Carey's chickens;" and
Janet exclaimed —

" That's an adoption."

The troop were climbing the stairs to the third story,
where Armine and Bobus were already within an
octagon room, corresponding to the little hall below,
and fitted with presses and shelves, belonging to the
store-room of the former thrifty inhabitant ; but now
divided between the six children. Mother Carey, as
Babie explained, being " Mine own, and helping me
more specially."

The table was likewise common to all ; but one of
the laws of the place was that everything left there after
twelve o'clock on Saturday was, as Babie's little mouth


rolled out the long words, " confiscated by the inexor-
able Eumenides."

"And who are they?" asked Mr. Ogllvie, who was
always much entertained by the simplicity with which
the little maid uttered the syllables as if they were her
native speech.

"Janet, and Nurse, and Emma," she said ; " and they
really are inex-o-rable. They threw away my snail
shell that a thrush had been eating, though I begged
and prayed them."

"Yes, and my femur of a rabbit," said Armine,
''and said it was a nasty old bone, and the baker's
Pincher ate it up ; but I did find my turtle-dove's
egg in the ash-heap, and discovered it over again,
and you don't see it is broken nov/ ; it is stuck down
on a card."

"Yes," said his mother, " it is wonderful how valuable
things become precisely at twelve on Saturday."

Each had some department : Janet's, which was
geology, was the fullest, as she had inherited some
youthful hoards of her father's ; Bobus's, which was
botany, was the neatest and most systematic. Maiy
thought at first that it did not suit him ; but she soon
saw that with him it was not love of flowers, but the
study of botany. He pronounced Jock's butterflies to
be perfectly disgraceful.

"You said you'd see to them," returned Jock.
"Yes, I shall take up insects when I have done with
plants," said Bobus, coolly.

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