Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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Transcribed from the 1889 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price,
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SCENES AND CHARACTERS, OR, EIGHTEEN MONTHS AT BEECHCROFT




PREFACE



Of those who are invited to pay a visit to Beechcroft, there are some
who, honestly acknowledging that amusement is their object, will be
content to feel with Lilias, conjecture with Jane, and get into
scrapes with Phyllis, without troubling themselves to extract any
moral from their proceedings; and to these the Mohun family would
only apologise for having led a very humdrum life during the eighteen
months spent in their company.

There may, however, be more unreasonable visitors, who, professing
only to come as parents and guardians, expect entertainment for
themselves, as well as instruction for those who had rather it was
out of sight, - look for antiques in carved cherry-stones, - and
require plot, incident, and catastrophe in a chronicle of small beer.

To these the Mohuns beg respectfully to observe, that they hope their
examples may not be altogether devoid of indirect instruction; and
lest it should be supposed that they lived without object, aim, or
principle, they would observe that the maxim which has influenced the
delineation of the different Scenes and Characters is, that feeling,
unguided and unrestrained, soon becomes mere selfishness; while the
simple endeavour to fulfil each immediate claim of duty may lead to
the highest acts of self-devotion.

NEW COURT, BEECHCROFT,
18th January.



PREFACE (1886)



Perhaps this book is an instance to be adduced in support of the
advice I have often given to young authors - not to print before they
themselves are old enough to do justice to their freshest ideas.

Not that I can lay claim to its being a production of tender and
interesting youth. It was my second actual publication, and I
believe I was of age before it appeared - but I see now the failures
that more experience might have enabled me to avoid; and I would not
again have given it to the world if the same characters recurring in
another story had not excited a certain desire to see their first
start.

In fact they have been more or less my life-long companions. An
almost solitary child, with periodical visits to the Elysium of a
large family, it was natural to dream of other children and their
ways and sports till they became almost realities. They took shape
when my French master set me to write letters for him. The letters
gradually became conversation and narrative, and the adventures of
the family sweetened the toils of French composition. In the
exigencies of village school building in those days gone by, before
in every place


"It there behoved him to set up the standard of her Grace,"


the tale was actually printed for private sale, as a link between
translations of short stories.

This process only stifled the family in my imagination for a time.
They awoke once more with new names, but substantially the same, and
were my companions in many a solitary walk, the results of which were
scribbled down in leisure moments to be poured into my mother's ever
patient and sympathetic ears.

And then came the impulse to literature for young people given by the
example of that memorable book the Fairy Bower, and followed up by
Amy Herbert. It was felt that elder children needed something of a
deeper tone than the Edgeworthian style, yet less directly religious
than the Sherwood class of books; and on that wave of opinion, my
little craft floated out into the great sea of the public.

Friends, whose kindness astonished me, and fills me with gratitude
when I look back on it, gave me seasonable criticism and pruning, and
finally launched me. My heroes and heroines had arranged themselves
so as to work out a definite principle, and this was enough for us
all.

Children's books had not been supposed to require a plot. Miss
Edgeworth's, which I still continue to think gems in their own line,
are made chronicles, or, more truly, illustrations of various truths
worked out upon the same personages. Moreover, the skill of a Jane
Austen or a Mrs. Gaskell is required to produce a perfect plot
without doing violence to the ordinary events of an every-day life.
It is all a matter of arrangement. Mrs. Gaskell can make a perfect
little plot out of a sick lad and a canary bird; and another can do
nothing with half a dozen murders and an explosion; and of arranging
my materials so as to build up a story, I was quite incapable. It is
still my great deficiency; but in those days I did not even
understand that the attempt was desirable. Criticism was a more
thorough thing in those times than it has since become through the
multiplicity of books to be hurried over, and it was often very
useful, as when it taught that such arrangement of incident was the
means of developing the leading idea.

Yet, with all its faults, the children, who had been real to me,
caught, chiefly by the youthful sense of fun and enjoyment, the
attention of other children; and the curious semi-belief one has in
the phantoms of one's brain made me dwell on their after life and
share my discoveries with my friends, not, however, writing them down
till after the lapse of all these years the tenderness inspired by
associations of early days led to taking up once more the old
characters in The Two Sides of the Shield; and the kind welcome this
has met with has led to the resuscitation of the crude and
inexperienced tale which never pretended to be more than a mere
family chronicle.

C. M. YONGE.
6th October 1886.



CHAPTER I - THE ELDER SISTER



'Return, and in the daily round
Of duty and of love,
Thou best wilt find that patient faith
That lifts the soul above.'

Eleanor Mohun was the eldest child of a gentleman of old family, and
good property, who had married the sister of his friend and
neighbour, the Marquis of Rotherwood. The first years of her life
were marked by few events. She was a quiet, steady, useful girl,
finding her chief pleasure in nursing and teaching her brothers and
sisters, and her chief annoyance in her mamma's attempts to make her
a fine lady; but before she had reached her nineteenth year she had
learnt to know real anxiety and sorrow. Her mother, after suffering
much from grief at the loss of her two brothers, fell into so
alarming a state of health, that her husband was obliged immediately
to hurry her away to Italy, leaving the younger children under the
care of a governess, and the elder boys at school, while Eleanor
alone accompanied them.

Their absence lasted nearly three years, and during the last winter,
an engagement commenced between Eleanor and Mr. Francis Hawkesworth,
rather to the surprise of Lady Emily, who wondered that he had been
able to discover the real worth veiled beneath a formal and retiring
manner, and to admire features which, though regular, had a want of
light and animation, which diminished their beauty even more than the
thinness and compression of the lips, and the very pale gray of the
eyes.

The family were about to return to England, where the marriage was to
take place, when Lady Emily was attacked with a sudden illness, which
her weakened frame was unable to resist, and in a very few days she
died, leaving the little Adeline, about eight months old, to
accompany her father and sister on their melancholy journey
homewards. This loss made a great change in the views of Eleanor,
who, as she considered the cares and annoyances which would fall on
her father, when left to bear the whole burthen of the management of
the children and household, felt it was her duty to give up her own
prospects of happiness, and to remain at home. How could she leave
the tender little ones to the care of servants - trust her sisters to
a governess, and make her brothers' home yet more dreary? She knew
her father to be strong in sense and firm in judgment, but indolent,
indulgent, and inattentive to details, and she could not bear to
leave him to be harassed by the petty cares of a numerous family,
especially when broken in spirits and weighed down with sorrow. She
thought her duty was plain, and, accordingly, she wrote to Mr.
Hawkesworth, to beg him to allow her to withdraw her promise.

Her brother Henry was the only person who knew what she had done, and
he alone perceived something of tremulousness about her in the midst
of the even cheerfulness with which she had from the first supported
her father's spirits. Mr. Mohun, however, did not long remain in
ignorance, for Frank Hawkesworth himself arrived at Beechcroft to
plead his cause with Eleanor. He knew her value too well to give her
up, and Mr. Mohun would not hear of her making such a sacrifice for
his sake. But Eleanor was also firm, and after weeks of unhappiness
and uncertainty, it was at length arranged that she should remain at
home till Emily was old enough to take her place, and that Frank
should then return from India and claim his bride.

Well did she discharge the duties which she had undertaken; she kept
her father's mind at ease, followed out his views, managed the boys
with discretion and gentleness, and made her sisters well-informed
and accomplished girls; but, for want of fully understanding the
characters of her two next sisters, Emily and Lilias, she made some
mistakes with regard to them. The clouds of sorrow, to her so dark
and heavy, had been to them but morning mists, and the four years
which had changed her from a happy girl into a thoughtful, anxious
woman, had brought them to an age which, if it is full of the follies
of childhood, also partakes of the earnestness of youth; an age when
deep foundations of enduring confidence may be laid by one who can
enter into and direct the deeper flow of mind and feeling which lurks
hid beneath the freaks and fancies of the early years of girlhood.
But Eleanor had little sympathy for freaks and fancies. She knew the
realities of life too well to build airy castles with younger and
gayer spirits; her sisters' romance seemed to her dangerous folly,
and their lively nonsense levity and frivolity. They were too
childish to share in her confidence, and she was too busy and too
much preoccupied to have ear or mind for visionary trifles, though to
trifles of real life she paid no small degree of attention.

It might have been otherwise had Henry Mohun lived; but in the midst
of the affection of all who knew him, honour from those who could
appreciate his noble character, and triumphs gained by his uncommon
talents, he was cut off by a short illness, when not quite nineteen,
a most grievous loss to his family, and above all, to Eleanor.
Unlike her, as he was joyous, high-spirited, full of fun, and
overflowing with imagination and poetry, there was a very close bond
of union between them, in the strong sense of duty, the firmness of
purpose, and energy of mind which both possessed, and which made
Eleanor feel perfect reliance on him, and look up to him with earnest
admiration. With him alone she was unreserved; he was the only
person who could ever make her show a spark of liveliness, and on his
death, it was only with the most painful efforts that she could
maintain her composed demeanour and fulfil her daily duties. Years
passed on, and still she felt the blank which Harry had left, almost
as much as the first day that she heard of his death, but she never
spoke of him, and to her sisters it seemed as if he was forgotten.
The reserve which had begun to thaw under his influence, again
returning, placed her a still greater distance from the younger
girls, and unconsciously she became still more of a governess and
less of a sister. Little did she know of the 'blissful dreams in
secret shared' between Emily, Lilias, and their brother Claude, and
little did she perceive the danger that Lilias would be run away with
by a lively imagination, repressed and starved, but entirely
untrained.

Whatever influenced Lilias, had, through her, nearly the same effect
upon Emily, a gentle girl, easily led, especially by Lilias, whom she
regarded with the fondest affection and admiration. The perils of
fancy and romance were not, however, to be dreaded for Jane, the
fourth sister, a strong resemblance of Eleanor in her clear common
sense, love of neatness, and active usefulness; but there were other
dangers for her, in her tendency to faults, which, under wise
training, had not yet developed themselves.

Such were the three girls who were now left to assist each other in
the management of the household, and who looked forward to their new
offices with the various sensations of pleasure, anxiety, self-
importance, and self-mistrust, suited to their differing characters,
and to the ages of eighteen, sixteen, and fourteen.



CHAPTER II - THE NEW COURT



'Just at the age 'twixt boy and youth,
When thought is speech, and speech is truth.'

The long-delayed wedding took place on the 13th of January, 1845, and
the bride and bridegroom immediately departed for a year's visit
among Mr. Hawkesworth's relations in Northumberland, whence they were
to return to Beechcroft, merely for a farewell, before sailing for
India.

It was half-past nine in the evening, and the wedding over - Mr. and
Mrs. Hawkesworth gone, and the guests departed, the drawing-room had
returned to its usual state. It was a very large room, so spacious
that it would have been waste and desolate, had it not been well
filled with handsome, but heavy old-fashioned furniture, covered with
crimson damask, and one side of the room fitted up with a bookcase,
so high that there was a spiral flight of library steps to give
access to the upper shelves. Opposite were four large windows, now
hidden by their ample curtains; and near them was at one end of the
room a piano, at the other a drawing-desk. The walls were wainscoted
with polished black oak, the panels reflecting the red fire-light
like mirrors. Over the chimney-piece hung a portrait, by Vandyke, of
a pale, dark cavalier, of noble mien, and with arched eyebrows,
called by Lilias, in defiance of dates, by the name of Sir Maurice de
Mohun, the hero of the family, and allowed by every one to be a
striking likeness of Claude, the youth who at that moment lay,
extending a somewhat superfluous length of limb upon the sofa, which
was placed commodiously at right angles to the fire.

The other side of the fire was Mr. Mohun's special domain, and there
he sat at his writing-table, abstracted by deafness and letter
writing, from the various sounds of mirth and nonsense, which
proceeded from the party round the long narrow sofa table, which they
had drawn across the front of the fire, leaving the large round
centre table in darkness and oblivion.

This party had within the last half hour been somewhat thinned; the
three younger girls had gone to bed, the Rector of Beechcroft, Mr.
Robert Devereux, had been called home to attend some parish business,
and there remained Emily and Lilias - tall graceful girls, with soft
hazel eyes, clear dark complexions, and a quantity of long brown
curls. The latter was busily completing a guard for the watch, which
Mr. Hawkesworth had presented to Reginald, a fine handsome boy of
eleven, who, with his elbows on the table, sat contemplating her
progress, and sometimes teasing his brother Maurice, who was
earnestly engaged in constructing a model with some cards, which he
had pilfered from the heap before Emily. She was putting her
sister's wedding cards into their shining envelopes, and directing
them in readiness for the post the next morning, while they were
sealed by a youth of the same age as Claude, a small slim figure,
with light complexion and hair, and dark gray eyes full of brightness
and vivacity.

He was standing, so as to be more on a level with the high candle,
and as Emily's writing was not quite so rapid as his sealing, he
amused himself in the intervals with burning his own fingers, by
twisting the wax into odd shapes.

'Why do you not seal up his eyes?' inquired Reginald, with an arch
glance towards his brother on the sofa.

'Do it yourself, you rogue,' was the answer, at the same time
approaching with the hot sealing-wax in his hand - a demonstration
which occasioned Claude to open his eyes very wide, without giving
himself any further trouble about the matter.

'Eh?' said he, 'now they try to look innocent, as if no one could
hear them plotting mischief.'

'Them! it was not! - Redgie there - young ladies - I appeal - was not I
as innocent?' - was the very rapid, incoherent, and indistinct answer.

'After so lucid and connected a justification, no more can be said,'
replied Claude, in a kind of 'leave me, leave me to repose' tone,
which occasioned Lilias to say, 'I am afraid you are very tired.'

'Tired! what has he done to tire him?'

'I am sure a wedding is a terrible wear of spirits!' said Emily -
'such excitement.'

'Well - when I give a spectacle to the family next year, I mean to
tire you to some purpose.'

'Eh?' said Mr. Mohun, looking up, 'is Rotherwood's wedding to be the
next?'

'You ought to understand, uncle,' said Lord Rotherwood, making two
stops towards him, and speaking a little more clearly, 'I thought you
longed to get rid of your nephew and his concerns.'

'You idle boy!' returned Mr. Mohun, 'you do not mean to have the
impertinence to come of age next year.'

'As much as having been born on the 30th of July, 1825, can make me.'

'But what good will your coming of age do us?' said Lilias, 'you will
be in London or Brighton, or some such stupid place.'

'Do not be senseless, Lily,' returned her cousin. 'Devereux Castle
is to be in splendour - Hetherington in amazement - the county's hair
shall stand on end - illuminations, bonfires, feasts, balls, colours
flying, bands playing, tenants dining, fireworks - '

'Hurrah! jolly! jolly!' shouted Reginald, dancing on the ottoman,
'and mind there are lots of squibs.'

'And that Master Reginald Mohun has a new cap and bells for the
occasion,' said Lord Rotherwood.

'Let me make some fireworks,' said Maurice.

'You will begin like a noble baron of the hospitable olden time,'
said Lily.

'It will be like the old days, when every birthday of yours was a
happy day for the people at Hetherington,' said Emily.

'Ah! those were happy old days,' said Lord Rotherwood, in a graver
tone.

'These are happy days, are not they?' said Lily, smiling.

Her cousin answered with a sigh, 'Yes, but you do not remember the
old ones, Lily;' then, after a pause, he added, 'It was a grievous
mistake to shut up the castle all these years. We have lost sight of
everybody. I do not even know what has become of the Aylmers.'

'They went to live in London,' said Emily, 'Aunt Robert used to write
to them there.'

'I know, I know, but where are they now?'

'In London, I should think,' said Emily. 'Some one said Miss Aylmer
was gone out as a governess.'

'Indeed! I wish I could hear more! Poor Mr. Aylmer! He was the
first man who tried to teach me Latin. I wonder what has become of
that mad fellow Edward, and Devereux, my father's godson! Was not
Mrs. Aylmer badly off? I cannot bear that people should be
forgotten!'

'It is not so very long that we have lost sight of them,' said Emily.

'Eight years,' said Lord Rotherwood. 'He died six weeks after my
father. Well! I have made my mother promise to come home.'

'Really?' said Lilias, 'she has been coming so often.'

'Aye - but she is coming this time. She is to spend the winter at the
castle, and make acquaintance with all the neighbourhood.'

'His lordship is romancing,' said Claude to Lily in a confidential
tone.

'I'll punish you for suspecting me of talking hyperborean language -
hyperbolical, I mean,' cried Lord Rotherwood; 'I'll make you dance
the Polka with all the beauty and fashion.'

'Then I shall stay at Oxford till it is over,' said Claude.

'You do not know what a treasure you will be,' said the Marquis,
'ladies like nothing so well as dancing with a fellow twice the
height he should be.'

'Beware of putting me forward,' said Claude, rising, and, as he leant
against the chimney-piece, looking down from his height of six feet
three, with a patronising air upon his cousin, 'I shall be taken for
the hero, and you for my little brother.'

'I wish I was,' said Lord Rotherwood, 'it would be much better fun.
I should escape the speechifying, the worst part of it.'

'Yes,' said Claude, 'for one whose speeches will be scraps of three
words each, strung together with the burthen of the apprentices'
song, Radara tadara, tandore.'

'Radaratade,' said the Marquis, laughing. 'By the bye, if Eleanor
and Frank Hawkesworth manage well, they may be here in time.'

'Because they are so devoted to gaiety?' said Claude. 'You will say
next that William is coming from Canada, on purpose.'

'That tall captain!' said Lord Rotherwood. 'He used to be a very
awful person.'

'Ah! he used to keep the spoilt Marquis in order,' said Claude.

'To say nothing of the spoilt Claude,' returned Lord Rotherwood.

'Claude never was spoilt,' said Lily.

'It was not Eleanor's way,' said Emily.

'At least she cannot be accused of spoiling me,' said Lord
Rotherwood. 'I shall never dare to write at that round table again -
her figure will occupy the chair like Banquo's ghost, and wave me off
with a knitting needle.'

'Ah! that stain of ink was a worse blot on your character than on the
new table cover,' said Claude.

'She was rigidly impartial,' said Lord Rotherwood.

'No,' said Claude, 'she made exceptions in favour of Ada and me. She
left the spoiling of the rest to Emily.'

'And well Emily will perform it! A pretty state you will be in by
the 30th of July, 1846,' said Lord Rotherwood.

'Why should not Emily make as good a duenna as Eleanor?' said Lily.

'Why should she not? She will not - that is all,' said the Marquis.
'Such slow people you all are! You would all go to sleep if I did
not sometimes rouse you up a little - grow stagnant.'

'Not an elegant comparison,' said Lilias; 'besides, you must remember
that your hasty brawling streams do not reflect like tranquil lakes.'

'One of Lily's poetical hits, I declare!' said Lord Rotherwood, 'but
she need not have taken offence - I did not refer to her - only Claude
and Emily, and perhaps - no, I will not say who else.'

'Then, Rotherwood, I will tell you what I am - the Lily that derives
all its support from the calm lake.'

'Well done, Lily, worthy of yourself,' cried Lord Rotherwood,
laughing, 'but you know I am always off when you talk poetry.'

'I suspect it is time for us all to be off,' said Claude, 'did I not
hear it strike the quarter?'

'And to-morrow I shall be off in earnest,' said Lord Rotherwood.
'Half way to London before Claude has given one turn to "his sides,
and his shoulders, and his heavy head."'

'Shall we see you at Easter?' said Emily.

'No, I do not think you will. I am engaged to stay with somebody
somewhere, I forget the name of place and man; besides, Grosvenor
Square is more tolerable then than at any other time of the year, and
I shall spend a fortnight with my mother and Florence. It is after
Easter that you come to Oxford, is it not, Claude?'

'Yes, my year of idleness will be over. And there is the Baron
looking at his watch.'

The 'Baron' was the title by which the young people were wont to
distinguish Mr. Mohun, who, as Lily believed, had a right to the
title of Baron of Beechcroft. It was certain that he was the
representative of a family which had been settled at Beechcroft ever
since the Norman Conquest, and Lily was very proud of the name of Sir
William de Moune in the battle roll, and of Sir John among the first
Knights of the Garter. Her favourite was Sir Maurice, who had held
out Beechcroft Court for six weeks against the Roundheads, and had
seen the greater part of the walls battered down. Witnesses of the
strength of the old castle yet remained in the massive walls and
broad green ramparts, which enclosed what was now orchard and farm-
yard, and was called the Old Court, while the dwelling-house, built
by Sir Maurice after the Restoration, was named the New Court. Sir
Maurice had lost many an acre in the cause of King Charles, and his
new mansion was better suited to the honest squires who succeeded
him, than to the mighty barons his ancestors. It was substantial and
well built, with a square gravelled court in front, and great, solid,
folding gates opening into a lane, bordered with very tall well-
clipped holly hedges, forming a polished, green, prickly wall. There


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