Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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"And say, 'Solomon, I have surpassed thee'?"
asked Mr. Ogilvie.

Bobus looked as if he did not like it ; but his mother
shook her head at him as one who "vvell deserved the
little rebuke for self-sufficiency. There was certainly
a w^onderful winning way about her — there was a
simplicity of manner almost like that of Babie herself,
and yet the cleverness of a highly-educated woman.
Mary Ogilvie did not wonder at what Mr. and Mrs.
Acton had said of the charm of that unpretending
household, now broken up.

There was, too, the perception that, beneath the
surface on which, like the children, she played so
lightly, there were depths of sorrow that might not be
stirred, which added a sweetness and pathos to all she
said and did.

Of many a choice curiosity the children said, in
lowered tones of reverence, that " he found it ; " and
these she would not allow to be passed over, but showed
fondly off in all their best points, telling their story as
if she loved to dwell upon it.

Barbara, who had specially fastened herself on Mr.
Ogilvie," according to the modern privileges of small
girls, after having much amused him by doing the
honours of her own miscellaneous treasury. Insisted on
exhibiting " Mother Carey's studio."

Caroline tried to declare that this meant nothing
deserving of so grand a name ; it was only the family
resort for mal:ing messes in. She never touched clay


now, and there was nothing worth seeing ; but it was
in vain ; Babie had her way ; and they mounted to
the highest stage of the pagoda, where the eaves and
the twisted monsters that supported them were in
close juxtaposition with the four windows.

The view was a grand one. Belforest Park on the
one side, the town almost as if in a pit below, with
a bird's-eye prospect of the roofs, the gardens and
the school-yard, the leaden-covered church, lying like
a great grey beetle with outspread wings. Beyond
were the ups-and-downs of a wooded, hilly country,
with glimpses of blue river here and there, and village
and town gleaming out white ; a large house,
"bosomed high in tufted trees;" a church-tower and
spire, nestled on the hill-side, up to the steep grey hill
with the tall land-mark tower, closing in the horizon —
altogether, as Carey said, a thorough " allegro " land-
scape, even to "the tanned haycock in the mead."
But the summer sun made the place dazzling and
almost uninhabitable, and the visitors, turning from the
glare, could hardly see the casts and models that filled
the shelves ; nor was there anything in hand ; so that
they let themselves be hurried away to share the mid-
day meal, after which Mr. Ogilvie and the boys betook
themselves to the school, and Carey and her little ones
to the shade of the garden-wall, to finish their French
r-eading, while Mary wondered the less at the Ken-
minster ladies.




Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers
at this time of night ? Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in

you t—T-cvelfth- Night.

The summer holidays not only brought home Allen
j^rownlow from Eton, but renewed his mother's inter-
course with several of her friends, who so contrived
their summer outing as to " see how poor little Mrs.
Brownlow was getting on," and she hailed them as
fragments of her dear old former life.

Mr. and Mrs. Acton came to a farmhouse at Redford,
about a mile and a half off, where Mr. Acton was to
lay up a store of woodland and home sketches, and
there were daily meetings for walks, and often out-of-
door meals. Mr. Ogilvie declared that he was thus
much more rested than by a long expedition in foreign
scenery, and he and his sister stayed on, and usually
joined in the excursion, whether it were premeditated
or improvised, on foot, into copse or glade, or by train
or waggonette, to ruined abbey or cathedral town.

Then came two sisters, whom old Mrs. Brownlow
had befriended when the elder was struggling, as a
daily governess, to provide home and education for the



younger. Now, the one was a worthy, hard-working-
law-copier, the other an artist in a small way, who had
transmogrified her name of Jane into Juanita or Nita,
wore a crop, short petticoats, and was odd. She
treated Janet on terms of equal friendship, and
was thus a much more charming companion than
Jessie. They always came into cheap sea-side lodgings
in the vacation, but this year had settled themselves
within ten minutes walk of the Folly, a title which
became more and more applicable, in Kenminster
eyes, to the Pagoda, and above all in those of its
proper owner. Mrs. Robert Brownlow, in the calm
dignity of the heiress, in a small way, of a good
family, had a bare toleration for professional people,
had regfretted the vocation of her brother-in-law, and
classed governesses and artists as " that kind of people,"
so that Caroline's association with them seemed to her
absolute love of low company. She would have stirred
up her husband to remonstrate, but he had seen more
of the world than she had, and declared that there was
no harm in Caroline's friends. '' He had met Mr. Acton
in the reading-room, smoked pipes with him in the
garden, and thought him a very nice fellow ; his wife
was the daughter of poor Cartwright of the Artillery,
and a sensible ladylike woman as ever he saw."

With a resigned sigh at the folly of mankind, his
wife asked, " How about the others ? That woman with
the hair ? and that man with the velvet coat ? Jessie
says Jock told her that he was a mere play-actor ! "


" Jock told Jessie ! Nonsense, my dear ! The man
is going out to China in the tea trade, and is come to
take leave. I believe he did sing in public at one
time ; but Joe attended him in an illness which
damaged his voice, and then he put him in the way of
other work. You need not be afraid. Joe was one of
the most particular men in the world in his own way."

Mrs. Brownlow could do no more. She had found
that her little sister-in-law could be saucy, and
personal squabbles, as she justly thought, had better
be avoided. She could only keep Jessie from the
contamination by taking her out in the carriage and
to garden parties, which the young lady infinitely
preferred to long walks that tired her and spoilt her
dress ; to talk and laughter that she could not under-
stand, and games that seemed to her stupid, though
everybody else seemed to find them full of fun. True,
Allen and Bobus were always ready to push and pull
her through, and to snub Janet for quizzing her ; but
Jessie was pretty enough to have plenty of such
homage at her command, and not specially to prefer
that of her cousins, so that it cost her little to turn a
deaf ear to all their invitations.

Her brothers were not of the same mind, for Rob
was never happy out of sight of Jock. Johnn)-
worshipped his aunt, and Joe was gregarious, so there
was generally an accompanying rabble of six or seven
boys, undistinguishable by outsiders, though very
individual indeed in themselves, and adding a consider-

L 2


able element of noise, high spirits, and mischievous
enterprise. The man in the velvet coat, whose proper
name was Oriando Hughes, was as much of a boy as
any of them, and so could Mr. Acton be on occasion,,
thus giving a certain Bohemian air to their doings.

Things came to a crisis on one of the dog-days.
Young Dr. Drake had brought his bride to show to
his old friend, and they were staying at the Folly,
while a college friend of Mr. Ogilvie's, a London
curate, had come to see him in the course of a cathedral
tour, and had stayed on, under the attraction of the
place, taking the duty for a few Sundays.

The weather was very sultry, forbidding exertion on
the part of all save cricketers ; but there was a match
at Redford, and Kenminster was eager about it, so
that all the boys, grown up or otherwise, walked over
to see it, accompanied by Nita Ray with her in-
separable Janet, meaning to study village groups and
rustic sports. The other ladies walked in the cool to
meet them at the Acton's farmhouse, chiefly, it was
alleged, in deference to the feelings of the bride, who
could not brave the heat, but had never yet been so
long separated from her bridegroom.

The little boys, however, were alone to be found at
the farm, reporting that their elders had joined the
cricket supper. So Mrs. Acton made them welcome,-
and spread her cloth in the greensward, whence could
be seen the evening glow on the harvest fields. Then
there was a feast of cherries, and delicious farmhouse


bread and butter, and inexhaustible tea, which was
renewed when the cricketers joined them, and called
for their share.

Thus they did not set out on their homeward walk,
over fragrant heath and dewy lanes, till just as the
stars were coming out, and a magnificent red moon,
scarcely past the full, was rising in the east, and the
long rest, and fresh dewiness after the day's heat, gave
a delightful feeling of exhilaration.

Babie went skipping about in the silvery flood of
light, quite wild with delight as they came out on the
heath, and, darting up to Mr. Ogilvie, asked if now
he did not think they might really see a fairy.

" Perhaps I do," he said.

" Oh where, where, show me ? "

"Ah ! you're the one that can't see her."

"What, not if I did my eyes with that Euphrasia
and Verbena officinalis .? " catching tight hold of his
hand, as a bright red light went rapidly moving in a
straight line in the valley beneath their feet.

" Robin Goodfellow," said Mr. Hughes, overhearing
her, and immediately began to sing —

*' I know a bank " —

Then the curate, as he finished, began to sing
some other appropriate song, and Nita Ray and others
joined in. It was very pretty, veiy charming in the
moonlight, very like "Midsummer Night's Dream ;" but
Mary Ogilvie, who was a good way behind, felt a start
of dismay as the clear notes pealed back to her. She


longed to suggest a little expediency ; but she was
impeded ; for poor Miss Ray, entirely unused to long-
country Avalks and nocturnal expeditions, and further
tormented by tight boots, was panting up the hill far
in the rear, half-frightened, and a good deal distressed,
and could not, for very humanity's sake, be left behind.

''And after all," thought Mary, as peals of the boys'
merry laughter came to her, and then again echoes of
** spotted snakes with double tongue " awoke the night
echoes ; " this is such a solitary place that it cannot
signify, if they will only have the sense to stop when
we get into the roads."

But they hadn't. Mary heard a chorus from " Der
Freischiitz," beginning just as she was dragging her
companion over a stile, which had been formidable
enough by day, but was ten times worse in the
confusing shadows. That brought them into a lane
darkened by its high hedges, where there was nothing
for it but to let Miss Ray tightly grapple her arm,
while the songs came further and further on the wind,
and Mary felt the conviction that middle-aged spinsters
must reckon on being forgotten, and left behind alike
by brothers, sisters, and friends.

Nor did they come up with the party till they found
them waiting in the road, close to the Rays' lodgings,
having evidently just missed them, for Mr. Ogilvie and
the clergyman were turning back to look for them
when they were gladly hailed, half apologised to, half
laughed at by a babel of voices, among which Nita's


was the loudest, informing her sister that she had lost
the best bit of all, for just at the turn of the lane there
had come on them Babie's fiery-eyed monster, which
had " burst on the path," when they were in mid song,
flashing over them, and revealing, first a horse, and
then a brougham, wherein there sat the august forms
of Colonel and Mrs. Brownlow, going home from a
state dinner, the lady's very marabouts quivering with

Mary stepped up to Nita, and gave her a sharp,
severe grasp.

" Hush ! remember their boys are here," she
whispered ; and, with an exaggerated gesture, Nita
looked about her in affected alarm, and, seeing that
none were near, added —

" Thank you ; I was just going to say it would be a
study for Punchr

" O do send it up, they'll never know it," cried
Janet ; but there Caroline interfered —

" Hush, Janet, we ought to be at home. Don't
stand here, Armine is tired to death! 1 1.5 at the
station to-morrow. Good-night."

They parted, and Mary and her brother turned
away to their own home. If it had not been for the
presence of the curate, Mary would have said a good
deal on the way home. As it was, she was so silent
as to inspire her brother with enough compunction for
having deserted her, to make him follow her, when she
went to her own room. " Mary, I am sorry we missed


you," he said ; " I ought to have looked about for you
more, but I thought "

" Nonsense, David ; of course I do not mind that, if
only I could have stopped all that singing."

" That singing ; why it was very pretty, wasn't it ? "

" Pretty indeed ! Did it never occur to you what a
scrape you may be getting that poor little thing into
with her relations, and yourself too ? "

David looked more than half-amused, and she
proceeded more resolutely —

" Well ! what do you think must be Mrs. Brown-
low's opinion of what she saw and heard to-night ?
I blame myself exceedingly for not having urged
the setting off sooner ; but you must remember that
what is all very well for holiday people, only here for
a time, may do infinite mischief to residents."

David only observed, " I didn't want all those men,
if that's what you mean. They made the noise, not I."

" No, nor I ; but we swelled tfie party, and I am
much disposed to believe that the best thing we can
do is to take ourselves off, or do anything to break up
this set."

He looked for a moment much disconcerted ; but
then with a little masculine superiority, answered —

" Well, well, we'll think over it, Mary. See how it
appears to you to-morrow when you ar'n't tired," and
then, with a smile and a kiss, bade her good-night.

" So that's what we get," said Mary, to herself, half
amused, half annoyed; "those men think it Ms all


because one is left behind in the dark ! David is the
best boy in the world, but there's not a man of them
all who has a notion of what gets a woman into
trouble ! I believe he was rather gratified than
otherwise to be found out on a lark. Well, I'll talk to
Clara"; she will have some sense ! "

They were all to meet at the station the next
morning, to go to an old castle, about an hour from
Kenminster by railway ; and they filled the platform,
armed with sketching tools, sandwich baskets, botanical
tins, and all other appliances ; but when Mr. Ogilvie
accosted Mrs. Joseph Brownlow, saying, " You have
only half )'our boys," she looked up, with a drolly
guilty air, saying, " No, there's an embargo on the
other poor fellows."

They had just taken their seats, and the train was
in motion, when a heated headlong boy came dashing
over the platform, and clung to the door of the
carriage, standing on the step. It was Johnny. Or-
lando Hughes, who was next the window, grasped his
hands, and, in answer to the cries of dismay and blame
that greeted him, he called out, " Yes, here I am ; Rob
and Joe couldn't run so fast."

"Then you've got leave } " asked his aunt.

Johnny's grin said " No."

She looked up at Mr. Ogilvie in much vexation and

" Don't say any more to him now. It might put him
in great danger. Wait till the next station," he said.


It was a stopping train, and ten minutes brought a
halt, when the guard came up in a fury, and Johnny
found no sympathy for his bold attempt. Carey had
no notion of fostering flat disobedience, and she told
Johnny that unless he would promise to go home by
himself and beg his father's pardon, she should stay
behind and go back with him, for she could have no
pleasure in an expedition with him when he was
behaving so outrageously.

The boy looked both surprised and abashed. His
affection for his aunt was very great, as for one who
had opened to him the gates of a new world, both
within himself and beyond himself. He would not
hear of her giving up the expedition,- and promised
her with all his heart to walk home, and confess,
" Though 'twasn't papa, but mamma ! " were his last
w^ords, as they left him on the platform, crestfallen,
but with a twinkle in his eye, and with the station-
master keeping watch over him as a dangerous subject.

Mr. Ogilvie said it would do the boy good for life ;
Caroline mourned over him a little, and wondered
how his mother would treat him ; and Mary sat and
thought till the arrival at their destination, when they
had to walk to the castle, dragging their appurtenances,
and then to rouse their energies to spread out the

Then, when there had been the usual amount of
mirth, mischief, and mishap, and the party had dis-
persed, some to sketch, some to scramble, some to


botanize, the "Duck and Drake to spoon," — as said the
boys, Mary Ogilvie found a turfy nook where she could
hold council with Mrs. Acton about their poor little
friend, for whose welfare she was seriously uneasy.

But Clara did not sympathise as much as she
expected, having been much galled by Mrs. Robert
Brownlow's supercilious manner, and thinking the
attempt to conciliate her both unworthy and useless.

*' Of course I do not mean that poor Carey should
truckle to her," said Mary, rather nettled at the im-
plication ; " but I don't think these irregular hours,,
and all this roaming about the country at all times,.
can be well in themselves for her or the children."

" My dear Mary, did you never take a party of
children into the country in the spring for the first
time ^ If not, you never saw the prettiest and most
innocent of intoxications. I had once to take the
little Pyrtons to their place in the country one April
and May, months that they had always spent in
London ; and I assure you they were perfectly mad,
only with the air, the sight of the hawthorns, and all
the smells. I was obliged to be content with what
they co2^ld do, not what ought to be done, of lessons.
There was no sitting still on a fine morning. I was
as bad myself; the blood seemed to dance in one's
veins, and a room to be a prison."

" This is not spring," said Mary.

"No, but she began in spring, and habits were


" No doubt, but they cannot be good. They keep
up flightiness and excitability."

" Oh, that's grief, poor dear ! "

"We bain't carousing, we be dissembling grief, as
the farmer told the clergyman who objected to merry-
making after a funeral," said Mary, rather severely.
Then she added, seeing Clara looked annoyed, " You
think me hard on poor dear Carey, but indeed I am
not doubting her affection or her grief."

"Remember, a woman with children cannot give
herself entirely up to sorrow without doing them

"Poor Carey, I am sure I do not want to see her
given up to sorrow, only to have her a little more
moderate, and perhaps select — so as not to do herself
harm with her relations — who after all must be more
important to her than any outsiders."

The artist's wife could not but see things a little
differently from the schoolmaster's sister, who more-
over knew nothing of Carey's former life ; and Clara
made answer —

" Sending her down to these people was the greatest
error of dear good Dr. Brownlow's life."

"I am not sure of that. Blood is thicker than

" But between sisters-in-law it is apt to be only ill-
blood, and very turbid."

" For shame, Clara."

" Well, Mary, you must allow something for human


nature's reluctance to be treated as something not quite
worthy of a handshake from a little country town
Serene Highness! I maybe allowed to doubt whether
Dr. Brownlow would not have done better to leave
her unbound to those who can never be congenial."

"Granting that (not that I do grant it, for the
Colonel is worthy), should not she be persuaded to
conform herself"

" To purr and lay eggs } My dear, that did not
succeed with the ugly duckling, even in early life."

" Not after it had been among the swans ? You
vain Clara ! "

" I only lay claim to having seen the swans — not to
having brought many specimens down here."
" Such as t/iat Nita, or Mr. Hughes } "
"More like the other bird, certainly," said Clara,
smiling ; " but Mary, if you had but seen what that
house was. Joe Brownlow was one of those men who
make themselves esteemed and noted above their
actual position. He was much thought of as a
lecturer, and would have had a much larger practice
but for his appointment at the hospital. It was in
the course of the work he had taken for a friend gone
out of town that he caught the illness that killed him.
His lectures brought men of science about him, and
his practice had made him acquainted with us poor
Bohemians, as you seem to think us. Old Mrs.
Brownlow had means of her own, and theirs was quite
a wealthy house among our set. Any of us were wel-


come to drop into five o'clock tea, or at nine at night.
and the pleasantness and good influence were wonder-
ful. The motherliness and yet the enthusiasm of
Mrs. Brownlow made her the most delightful old lady
I ever saw. I can't describe how good she was about
my marriage, and many more would say they owed
all that was brightest and best in them to that house.
And there was Carey, like a little sunshiny fairy, the
darling of everyone. No, not spoilt — I see what you
are going to say."

" Only as we all spoilt her at school. Nobody but
her Serene Highness ever could help making a pet
of her."

"That's more reasonable, Mary," said Mrs. Acton.
in a more placable voice ; " she did plenty of hard
work, and did not spare herself, or have what would
seem indulgences to most women ; but nobody could
see the light of her eyes and smile without trying to
make it sparkle up ; and she was just the first thought
in life to her husband and his mother. I am sure in
my governess days I used to think that house paradise,
and her the undoubted queen of it. And now, that
yoic should turn against her, Mary, when she is un-
crowned, and unappreciated, and brow-beaten."

She had worked herself up, and had tears in her

Mary laughed a little.

" It is hard, when I only want to keep her from
making herself be unappreciated."


" And I say it is in vain ! " cried Clara, " for it is
not in the nature of the people to appreciate her, and
nothing will make them get on together."

Poor Mary ! she had expected her friend to be
more reasonable and less defensive ; but she remem-
bered that even at school Clara had always protected
Carolina whenever she had attempted to lecture her.
All she further tried to say was —

" Then you won't help me to advise her to be more
guarded, and not shock them .? "

" I will not tease the poor little thing, when she has
enough to torment her already. If you had knov/n
her husband, and watched her last winter, you would
be only too thankful to see her a little more like

Mary was silent, finding that she should only argue
round and round if they went on, and feeling that
Clara thought her old-maidish, and could not enter
into her sense that, the balance-weight being gone,
gusts of wind ought to be avoided. She sat wondering
whether she herself was prim and old-maidish, or
whether she was right in feeling it a duty to expostulate
and deliver her testimony.

There was no doing it on this day. Carey was
always surrounded by children and guests, and in an
eager state of activity; but though again they all
went home in the cool of the evening, an attempt to
sing in the second-class carriage, which they filled
entirely, was quashed immediately — no one knew


how, and nothing worse happened than that a very
dusty set, carrying odd botanical, entomological, and
artistic wares, trailed through the streets of Kenminster,
just as Mrs. Coffinkey, escorted by her maid, was
walking primly home from drinking tea at the

Still Mary's reflections only strengthened her re-
solution. On the next day, which was Sunday, she

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMagnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 18)