Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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Transcribed from the 1900 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email
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MODERN BROODS,
OR
_DEVELOPMENTS UNLOOKED FOR_


* * * * *

BY
CHARLOTTE MARY YONGE.

* * * * *

“_Youth and age are scholars yet but in the lower school_.”

—TENNYSON.

* * * * *

London
MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1900

_All rights reserved_

* * * * *

RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED,
LONDON AND BUNGAY.

_First Edition_, _October_, 1900.
_Reprinted_, _November_, 1900.

* * * * *




CONTENTS

PAGE
CHAPTER I
TORTOISES AND HARES 1
CHAPTER II
THE GOYLE 16
CHAPTER III
THE FIRST SUNDAY 23
CHAPTER IV
CYCLES 34
CHAPTER V
CLIPSTONE FRIENDS 45
CHAPTER VI
THE FRESCOES OF ST. KENELM’S 57
CHAPTER VII
SISTER AND SISTERS 67
CHAPTER VIII
SNOBBISHNESS 75
CHAPTER IX
GONE OVER TO THE ENEMY 80
CHAPTER X
FLOWN 93
CHAPTER XI
ADRIFT 103
CHAPTER XII
“THE KITTIWAKE” 108
CHAPTER XIII
CHIMERAS DIRE 119
CHAPTER XIV
PAIRING TIME ANTICIPATED 128
CHAPTER XV
BROODS ASTRAY 135
CHAPTER XVI
THE REGIMENT OF WOMEN 146
CHAPTER XVII
FOXGLOVES AND FLIRTATIONS 158
CHAPTER XVIII
PALACES OR CHURCHES 165
CHAPTER XIX
TWO WEDDINGS 179
CHAPTER XX
FLEETING 194
CHAPTER XXI
THE ELECTRICIANS 204
CHAPTER XXII
ANGEL AND BEAR 213
CHAPTER XXIII
WILLOW WIDOWS 224
CHAPTER XXIV
CRUEL LAWYERS 237
CHAPTER XXV
BEAR AS ADVISER 245
CHAPTER XXVI
NEW PATHS 258
CHAPTER XXVII
A SENTENCE 266
CHAPTER XXVIII
SUMMONED 274
CHAPTER XXIX
SAFE 284
CHAPTER XXX
THE MAIDEN ROCKS 293
CHAPTER XXXI
THE WRECK 300
CHAPTER XXXII
ANCHORED 306
CHAPTER XXXIII
FAREWELL 310




CHAPTER I—TORTOISES AND HARES


“Whate’er is good to wish, ask that of Heaven,
Though it be what thou canst not hope to see.”

—HARTLEY COLERIDGE.

THE scene was a drawing-room, with old-fashioned heavy sash windows
opening on a narrow brick-walled town-garden sloping down to a river, and
neatly kept. The same might be said of the room, where heavy
old-fashioned furniture, handsome but not new, was concealed by various
flimsy modernisms, knicknacks, fans, brackets, china photographs and
water-colours, a canary singing loud in the window in the winter
sunshine.

“Miss Prescott,” announced the maid; but, finding no auditor save the
canary, she retreated, and Miss Prescott looked round her with a half
sigh of recognition of the surroundings. She was herself a
quiet-looking, gentle lady, rather small, with a sweet mouth and eyes of
hazel, in a rather worn face, dressed in a soft woollen and grey fur,
with headgear to suit, and there was an air of glad expectation, a little
flush, that did not look permanent, on her thin cheeks.

“Is it you, my dear Miss Prescott?” was the greeting of the older hostess
as she entered, her grey hair rough and uncovered, and her dress of
well-used black silk, her complexion of the red that shows wear and care.
“Then it is true?” she asked, as the kiss and double shake of the hand
was exchanged.

“May I ask? Is it true? May I congratulate you?”

“Oh, yes, it is true!” said Miss Prescott, breathlessly. “I suppose the
girls are at the High School?”

“Yes, they will be at home at one. Or shall I send for them?”

“No, thank you, Mrs. Best. I shall like to have a little time with you
first. I can stay till a quarter-past three.”

“Then come and take off your things. I do not know when I have been so
glad!”

“Do the girls know?” asked Miss Prescott, following upstairs to a
comfortable bedroom, evidently serving also the purposes of a private
room, for writing table and account books stood near the fire.

“They know something; Kate Bell heard a report from her cousins, and they
have been watching anxiously for news from you.”

“I would not write till I knew more. I hope they have not raised their
expectations too high; for though it is enough to be an immense relief,
it is not exactly affluence. I have been with Mr. Bell going into the
matter and seeing the place,” said Miss Prescott, sitting comfortably
down in the arm-chair Mrs. Best placed for her, while she herself sat
down in another, disposing themselves for a talk over the fire.

“Mr. Bell reckons it at about £600 a year.”

“And an estate?”

“A very pretty cottage in a Devonshire valley, with the furniture and
three acres of land.”

“Oh! I believe the girls fancy that it is at least as large as Lord
Coldhurst’s.”

“Yes, I was in hopes that they would have heard nothing about it.”

“It came through some of their schoolfellows; one cannot help things
getting into the air.”

“And there getting inflated like bubbles,” said Miss Prescott, smiling.
“Well, their expectations will have a fall, poor dears!”

“And it does not come from their side of the family,” said Mrs. Best.
“Of course not! And it was wholly unexpected, was it not?”

“Yes, I had my name of Magdalen from my great aunt Tremlett; but she had
never really forgiven my mother’s marriage, though she consented to be my
godmother. She offered to adopt me on my mother’s death, and once when
my father married again, and when we lost him, she wrote to propose my
coming to live with her; but there would have been no payment, and so—”

“Yes, you dear good thing, you thought it your duty to go and work for
your poor little stepmother and her children!”

“What else was my education good for, which has been a costly thing to
poor father? And then the old lady was affronted for good, and never
took any more notice of me, nor answered my letters. I did not even know
she was dead, till I heard from Mr. Bell, who had learnt it from his
lawyers!”

“It was quite right of her. Dear Magdalen, I am so glad,” said Mrs.
Best, crossing over to kiss her; for the first stiffness had worn off,
and they were together again, as had been the solicitor’s daughter and
the chemist’s daughter, who went to the same school till Magdalen had
been sent away to be finished in Germany.

“Dear Sophy, I wish you had the good fortune, too!”

“Oh! my galleons are coming when George has prospered a little more in
Queensland, and comes to fetch me. Sophia and he say they shall fight
for me,” said Mrs. Best, who had been bravely presiding over a
high-school boarding-house ever since her husband, a railway engineer,
had been killed by an accident, and left her with two children to bring
up. “Dear children, they are very good to me.”

“I am sure you have been goodness itself to us,” said Magdalen, “in
taking the care of these poor little ones when their mother died. I
don’t know how to be thankful enough to you and for all the blessings we
have had! And that this should have come just now, especially when my
life with Lady Milsom is coming to an end.”

“Indeed!”

“Yes, the little boys are old enough for school, and the Colonel is going
to take a house at Shrewsbury, where his mother will live with them, and
want me no longer.”

“You have been there seven years.”

“Yes, and very happy. When Fanny married, Lady Milsom was left alone,
and would not part with me, and then came the two little boys from India,
so that she had an excuse for retaining me; but that is over now, or will
be in a few weeks time. I had been trying for an engagement, and finding
that beside your high-school diploma young ladies I am considered quite
passée—”

“My dear! With your art, and music, and all!”

“Too true! And while I was digesting a polite hint that my terms were
too high, and therewith Agatha’s earnest appeal to be sent to Girton,
there comes this inheritance! Taking my burthen off my back, and making
me ready to throw up my heels like a young colt.”

“Ah! you will be taking another burthen, perhaps.”

“No doubt, I suppose so, but let me find it out by degrees. I can only
think as yet of having my dear girls to myself, _moi_, as the French
would say, after having seen so little of them.”

“It has been very unfortunate. Epidemics have been strangely
inconvenient.”

“Yes. First there was whooping cough here to destroy the summer
holidays; then came the Milsoms’ measles, and I could not go and carry
infection. Oh! and then Freddy broke his leg, and his grandmother was
too nervous to be left with him. And by and by some one told her the
scarlatina was in the town.”

“It really was, you know.”

“Any way, it would have been sheer selfish inhumanity to leave her, and
then she had a real illness, which frightened us all very much. Next
came influenza to every one. And these last holidays! What should the
newly-come little one from India do, but catch a fever in the Red Sea,
and I had to keep guard over the brothers at Weymouth till she was
reported safe, and I don’t believe it was infectious after all! Still, I
am tired of ‘other people’s stairs.’”

“It is nearly five years since you have been with them, except for that
one peep you took at Weston.”

“And that is a great deal at their age. Agatha was a vehement reader;
she would hardly look at me, so absorbed was she in ‘The York and
Lancaster Rose’ which I had brought her.”

“She is rather like that now. I conclude that you will wish to take them
away?”

“Not this time, at any rate till the house is fit to put over their
heads. Besides, you have so mothered them, dear Sophy, that I could not
bear to make a sudden parting.”

“There will be pain, especially over little Thekla and Polly. But if
George comes home this spring, and I go out to Queensland with him,
perhaps I should have asked you to take this house off my hands. May be
it would be prudent in you to do so even now, considering all things;
only I believe that transplanting would be good for them all.”

“I am glad you think so, for I have a perfect longing for that little
house of my own.”

“You will be able to give them a superior kind of society to what they
have had access to here. There is a good deal that I should like to talk
over with you before they come in.”

“Agatha seems to be in despair at her failure.”

“So is all the house, for we were very proud of her, and, of course, we
all thought it a fad of the examiners, but perhaps our headmistress might
not say the same. She is a good, hardworking girl though, and ambitious,
and quite worth further training.”

“I am glad of being able to secure it to her at least, and by the time
her course is finished I shall be able to judge about the others.”

“You thought of taking them in hand yourself?”

“Certainly; how nice it will be to teach my own kin, and not endless
strangers, lovable as they have been!”

“It will be very good for them all to see something of life and manners
superior to what I can give them here. You will take them into a fresh
sphere, and—as things were—besides that, I could not—I did not know
whether their lives would not lie among our people here.”

“Dear Sophy, don’t concern yourself. I am quite certain you would never
let them fall in with anything hurtful.”

“Why, no! I hope not; but if I had known what was coming, I don’t think
I should have asked you to consent to Vera and Thekla’s spending their
holidays at Mr. Waring’s country house.”

“Very worthy people, you said. I remember Tom Waring, a very nice boy;
and Jessie Dale went to school with us—I liked her. Fancy them having a
country house.”

“Waring Grange they call it. He has got on wonderfully as upholsterer,
decorator, and auctioneer. It is a very handsome one, with a garden that
gets the prizes at the horticultural shows. They are thoroughly good
people, but I was afraid afterwards that there had been a good deal of
noisiness among the young folks at Christmas. Hubert Delrio was there,
and I fancy there was some nonsense going on.”

“Ah, the Delrios! Are they here?”

“Yes, poor Fred did not make his art succeed when he had a family to
provide for, and he is the head of the Art School here. His son has a
good deal of talent, and very prudently has got taken on by the firm of
Eccles and Co., who do a great deal of architectural decoration. The boy
is doing very well, but there have been giggles and whispers that make me
rejoice that Vera should be out of the neighbourhood.”

“Is she not very pretty?”

“You will be very much struck with her, I think; and Paulina is pretty
too, and more thoughtful. She would not go with Thekla, because Waring
Grange is far from church, and she would not disturb her Christmas and
Epiphany. She is the most religious of them all, and puts me in mind of
our old missionary castles in the air.”

“Ah, what castles they were! And they seem further off than ever! Or
perhaps you will fulfil them, and go and teach the Australian blacks!”

“A very unpromising field,” said Mrs. Best, “though I hear there is a
Sister Angela at the station who does wonders with them. I hear the
quarter striking—they will be back directly.”

“Ah! before they come, we ought to talk over means! Something is owing
for these last holidays. Oh! Sophy, I cannot find words to say how
thankful I am to you for having helped me through this time, even to your
own loss! It has made our life possible.”

“Indeed, I was most thankful to do all I could for poor Agnes’ children;
and though I did not gain by them like my other boarders, I never _lost_,
and they have been a great joy to me, yes, and a help, by giving my house
a character.”

“When I recollect how utterly crushed down I felt, seven years ago, when
their mother died, and Aunt Magdalen refused help, and how despairingly I
prayed, I feel all the more that there is an answer to even feeble almost
worldly prayer.”

“That it could not be when it was that you might be enabled to do the
duty that was laid on you, my dear.”

And with the exchange of a kiss, the two good women set themselves to
practical pounds, shillings, and pence, which was just concluded when the
patter of feet up the stone steps and voices in the hall announced the
return of Mrs. Best’s boarders.

Just as Magdalen was opening the door, there darted up, with the air of a
privileged favourite, a little person of ten years old, with flying brown
hair and round rosy cheeks, exclaiming breathlessly, “Is she come?”

The answer was to take her up with a motherly hug, and “My dear little
Thekla!” There was not time for more than a hurried glance and embrace
of the three on the steps of the stair, in their sailor hats and blue
serge; but when in ten minutes more, the whole party, twenty in number,
were seated round the dining table, observation was possible. Agatha, as
senior scholar, sat at the foot of the table, fully occupied in
dispensing Irish stew. She had a sensible face, to which projecting
teeth gave a character, and a brow that would have shown itself finer but
for the overhanging mass of hair. Vera and Paulina were so much alike
and so nearly of the same age that they were often taken for twins, but
on closer inspection Vera proved to be the prettiest, with a more
delicately cut nose, clearer complexion, and bluer eyes; but Paulina,
with paler cheeks, had softer eyes, and more pencilled brows, as well as
a prettier lip and chin, though she would not strike the eye so much as
her sister. Little Thekla was a round-faced, rosy little thing, childish
for her nearly eleven years, smiling broadly and displaying enough white
teeth to make Magdalen forebode that they would need much attention if
they were not to be a desight like Agatha’s.

She sat between Mrs. Best and Magdalen; and in the first pause, when the
first course had just been distributed, she looked up with a great pair
of grey eyes, and asked, in a shrill, clear little voice, “Sister, may I
have a bicycle?”

“We will see about it, my dear,” returned Magdalen, unwilling to pledge
herself.

“But haven’t you got a fortune?” undauntedly demanded Thekla.

“Something like it, Thekla. You shall hear about it after dinner.” And
Magdalen felt her colour flushing up under all those young eyes.

“Kitty Best said—”

But here Mrs. Best interposed. “We don’t talk over such things at table,
Thekla. Take care with the gravy. Did Mr. Jones give a lesson, this
morning?”

“Yes, a very long one,” said Vera.

“It was about the exact force of the words in the Revised Version,” added
Agatha, “compared with the Greek.”

“That must have been very interesting!” said Magdalen.

Vera and her neighbour looked at one another and shrugged their
shoulders; while some one else broke in with the news that another girl
had not come back because she was down with influenza; and Magdalen,
suspecting that “shop” was not talked at table, and also that the
Scripture passage could not well be discussed there, saw that it was wise
to let the conversation drift off, by Mrs. Best’s leading, into anecdotes
of the influenza.

All were glad when grace was chanted, and the five sisters could retreat
into the drawing-room, which Mrs. Best let them have to themselves for
the half hour before Magdalen’s train, and the young ones’ return to the
High School. She was at once established with Thekla on her lap, and the
others perched round on chairs and footstools. Of course the first
question was, “And is it really true?”

“It is true, my dears, that my old great aunt has left me a house and
some money; but you must not flatter yourselves that it is a great
estate.”

“Only mayn’t I have a bicycle?” began Thekla again.

“Child, I believe you have bicycles on the brain,” said Agatha. “But,
sister, you do mean that we shall be better off, and I shall be able to
go on with my education?”

“Yes, my dear, I think I can promise you so much,” said Magdalen,
caressing the serge shoulder.

“O thanks! Girton?” cried Agatha.

“There is much that I must inquire about before I decide—”

Again came, “Elsie Warner has a bicycle, and she is no older than me!
Please, sister!”

“Hush now, my little Thekla,” said the sister kindly; “I will talk to
Mrs. Best, and see whether she thinks it will be good for you.”

Thekla subsided with a pout, and Magdalen was able to explain her
circumstances and plans a little more in detail; seeing however that the
girls had no idea of the value of money, Paulina asked whether it meant
being as well off as the Colonel and Lady Mary—

“Who keep a carriage and pair, and a butler,” interposed Vera.

“Oh no, my dear. If I keep any kind of carriage it will be only a basket
or governess cart, and a pony or donkey.”

“That’s all right,” said Agatha. “I would not be rich and stupid for the
world.”

“Small fear of that!” said Magdalen, laughing. “Our home, the Goyle, is
not more than a cottage, in a beautiful Devonshire valley—”

“What’s the name of it?”

“The Goyle. I believe it is a diminutive of Gully, a narrow ravine. It
is lovely even now, and will be delightful when you come to me in April—”

“Shall I leave school?” asked Vera. “I shall be seventeen in May.”

“You will all leave school. Mrs. Best has made it easy to me by her
wonderful goodness in keeping you on cheaper terms; but if Agatha goes to
the University you must be content to work for a time with me.”

“Oh!” cried Thekla. “Shall I have always holidays? My bicycle!”

Everybody burst out laughing at this—not a very trained cachinnation, but
more of the giggle, even in Agatha; and Magdalen answered:

“You will have plenty of time for bicycling if the hills are not too
steep, but I hope to make your lessons pleasant to you.” She did not
know whether to mention Mrs. Best’s intention of soon giving up her
house, which would have much increased her difficulties but for her
legacy; and Agatha said, “You know, I think, that Vera and Polly both
ought to make a real study of music. They both have talent, and
cultivation would do a great deal for it.”

Agatha spoke in a dogmatic way that amused Magdalen, and she said, “Well,
I shall be able to judge when we are at the Goyle. Vera, I think you
sing—”

Vera looked shy, and Agatha said, “She has a good voice, and Madame
Lardner thinks it would answer to send her to some superior Conservatoire
in process of time.”

Vera did not commit herself as to her wishes, and Mrs. Best returned to
say that if Miss Prescott wished to see the headmistress it was time to
set out for the school; and accordingly the whole party walked up
together to the school, Magdalen with Agatha, who was chiefly occupied in
explaining how entirely it was owing to the one-sidedness of the
examiners that she had not gained the scholarship. Magdalen had heard of
such examiners before from the mothers of her pupils.

She had to wish her sisters good-bye for the next three months, not
having gathered very much about them, except their personal appearance.
She administered a sovereign to each of them as they parted. Agatha
thanked her in a tone as if afraid to betray what a boon it was; Vera,
with an eager kiss, asking if she could spend it as she liked; Paulina,
with a certain grave propriety; and Thekla, of course, wanted to know
whether it would buy a bicycle, or, if not, how many rides could be
purchased from it.

When they were absorbed in the routine of the day, the interview with the
head mistress disclosed, what Magdalen had expected, that Agatha, was an
industrious, ambitious girl, with very good abilities quite worth
cultivating, though not extraordinary; that Vera had a certain sort of
cleverness, but no application and not much taste for anything but music;
and that Paulina was a good, dutiful, plodding girl, who surpassed
brighter powers by dint of diligence. The little one was a mere child,
who had not yet come much under notice from the higher authorities.

On the whole, Magdalen went away with pleasant hopes, and the
affectionate impulses of kindred blood rising within her, to complete her
term with Lady Milsom, by whom she could not well be spared till towards
Easter; while, in the meantime, her house was being repaired.




CHAPTER II—THE GOYLE


“A poor thing, but mine own.”—SHAKESPEARE.

“Thaay stwuns, thaay stwuns, thaay stwuns, thaay stwuns.”


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