Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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'Very likely! Come back; try the next field; it must have a gate
somewhere.'

Back they went, after seeing the carrier's cart from Raynham pass by.

'Redgie, it must be half-past five! We shall never be in time. Aunt
Rotherwood coming too!'

After a desperate plunge through a swamp of ice, water, and mud, they
found themselves at a gate, and safely entered the turnpike road.

'How it rains!' said Lily. 'One comfort is that it is too dark for
any one to see us.'

'Not very dark, either,' said Reginald; 'I believe there is a moon if
one could see it. Ha! here comes some one on horseback. It is a
gray horse; it is William.'

'Come to look for us,' said Lily. 'Oh, Redgie!'

'Coming home from Raynham,' said Reginald. 'Do not fancy yourself so
important, Lily. William, is that you?'

'Reginald!' exclaimed William, suddenly checking his horse. 'Lily,
what is all this?'

'We set out to South End, to take the broth to the old Martins, and
we found the meadows flooded, which made us late; but we shall soon
be at home,' said Lily, in a make-the-best-of-it tone.

'Soon? You are a mile and a half from home now, and do you know how
late it is?'

'Half-past five,' said Lily.

'Six, at least; how could you be so absurd?' William rode quickly
on; Reginald laughed, and they plodded on; at length a tall dark
figure was seen coming towards them, and Lily started, as it
addressed her, 'Now what is the meaning of all this?'

'Oh, William, have you come to meet us? Thank you; I am sorry - '

'How were you to come through the village in the dark, without some
one to take care of you?'

'I am taking care of her,' said Reginald, affronted.

'Make haste; my aunt is come. How could you make the people at home
so anxious?'

William gave Lily his arm, and on finding she was both tired and wet,
again scolded her, walked so fast that she was out of breath, then
complained of her folly, and blamed Reginald. It was very
unpleasant, and yet she was very much obliged to him, and exceedingly
sorry he had taken so much trouble.

They came home at about seven o'clock. Jane met them in the hall,
full of her own and Lady Rotherwood's wonderings; she hurried Lily
upstairs, and - skilful, quick, and ready - she helped her to dress in
a very short time. As they ran down Reginald overtook them, and they
entered the drawing-room as the dinner-bell was ringing. William did
not appear for some time, and his apologies were not such as to
smooth matters for his sister.

Perhaps it was for this very reason that Mr. Mohun allowed Lily to
escape with no more than a jesting reproof. Lord Rotherwood wished
to make his cousin's hardihood and enterprise an example to his
sister, and, in his droll exaggerating way, represented such walks as
every-day occurrences. This was just the contrary to what Emily
wished her aunt to believe, and Claude was much diverted with the
struggle between her politeness to Lord Rotherwood and her desire to
maintain the credit of the family.

Lady Florence, though liking Lilias, thought this walk extravagant.
Emily feared Lilias had lost her aunt's good opinion, and prepared
herself for some hints about a governess. It was untoward; but in
the course of the evening she was a little comforted by a proposal
from Lady Rotherwood to take her and Lilias to a ball at Raynham,
which was to take place in January; and as soon as the gentlemen
appeared, they submitted the invitation to their father, while Lady
Rotherwood pressed William to accompany them, and he was refusing.

'What are soldiers intended for but to dance!' said Lord Rotherwood.

'I never dance,' said William, with a grave emphasis.

'I am out of the scrape,' said the Marquis. 'I shall be gone before
it takes place; I reserve all my dancing for July 30th. Well, young
ladies, is the Baron propitious?'

'He says he will consider of it,' said Emily.

'Oh then, he will let you go,' said Florence, 'people never consider
when they mean no.'

'No, Florence,' said her brother, 'Uncle Mohun's "consider of it" is
equivalent to Le Roi's "avisera."'

'What is he saying?' asked Lily, turning to listen. 'Oh, that my wig
is in no ball-going condition.'

'A wreath would hide all deficiencies,' said Florence; 'I am
determined to have you both.'

'I give small hopes of both,' said Claude; 'you will only have
Emily.'

'Why do you think so, Claude?' cried both Florence and Lilias.

'From my own observation,' Claude answered, gravely.

'I am very angry with the Baron,' said Lord Rotherwood; 'he is grown
inhospitable: he will not let me come here to-morrow - the first
Christmas these five years that I have missed paying my respects to
the New Court sirloin and turkey. It is too bad - and the Westons
dining here too.'

'Cousin Turkey-cock, well may you be in a passion,' muttered Claude,
as if in soliloquy.

Lord Rotherwood and Lilias both caught the sound, and laughed, but
Emily, unwilling that Florence should see what liberties they took
with her brother, asked quickly why he was not to come.

'I think we are much obliged to him,' said Florence, 'it would be too
bad to leave mamma and me to spend our Christmas alone, when we came
to the castle on purpose to oblige him.'

'Ay, and he says he will not let me come here, because I ought to
give the Hetherington people ocular demonstration that I go to
church,' said Lord Rotherwood.

'Very right, as Eleanor would say,' observed Claude.

'Very likely; but I don't care for the Hetherington folks; they do
not know how to make the holly in the church fit to be seen, and they
will not sing the good old Christmas carols. Andrew Grey is worth
all the Hetherington choir put together.'

'Possibly; but how are they to mend, if their Marquis contents
himself with despising them?' said Claude.

'That is too bad, Claude. When you heard how submissively I listened
to the Baron, and know I mean to abide by what he said, you ought to
condole with me a little, if you have not the grace to lament my
absence on your own account. Why, I thought myself as regular a part
of the feast as the mince-pies, and almost as necessary.'

Here a request for some music put an end to his lamentations. Lilias
was vexed by the uncertainty about the ball, and was, besides, too
tired to play with spirit. She saw that Emily was annoyed, and she
felt ready to cry before the evening was over; but still she was
proud of her exploit, and when, after the party was gone, Emily began
to represent to her the estimate that her aunt was likely to form of
her character, she replied, 'If she thinks the worse of me for
carrying the broth to those poor old people, I am sure I do not wish
for her good opinion.'

Mr. Mohun was not propitious when the question of Lily's going to the
ball was pressed upon him. He said that he thought her too young for
gaieties, and, besides, that late hours never agreed with her, and he
advised her to wait for the 30th of July.

Lilias knew that it was useless to say any more. She was much
disappointed, and at the same time provoked with herself for caring
about such a matter. Her temper was out of order on Christmas Day;
and while she wondered why she could not enjoy the festival as
formerly, with thoughts fitted to the day, she did not examine
herself sufficiently to find out the real cause of her uncomfortable
feelings.

The clear frost was only cold; the bright sunshine did not rejoice
her; the holly and the mistletoe seemed ill arranged; and none of the
pleasant sights of the day could give her such blitheness as once she
had known.

She was almost angry when she saw that the Westons had left off their
mourning, declaring that they did not look like themselves; and her
vexation came to a height when she found that Alethea actually
intended to go to the ball with Mrs. Carrington. The excited manner
in which she spoke of it convinced Mr. Mohun that he had acted wisely
in not allowing her to go, since the very idea seemed to turn her
head.



CHAPTER XV: MINOR MISFORTUNES



'Loving she is, and tractable though wild.'

In a day or two Lady Rotherwood and her daughter called at the New
Court. On this occasion Lilias was employed in as rational and lady-
like a manner as could be desired - in practising her music in the
drawing-room; Emily was reading, and Ada threading beads.

Lady Rotherwood greeted her nieces very affectionately, gave a double
caress to Adeline, stroked her pretty curls, admired her beadwork,
talked to her about her doll, and then proceeded to invite the whole
family to a Twelfth-Day party, given for their especial benefit. The
little Carringtons and the Weston girls were also to be asked. Emily
and Lilias were eagerly expressing their delight when suddenly a
trampling, like a charge of horse, was heard in the hall; the door
was thrown back, and in rushed Reginald and Phyllis, shouting, 'Such
fun! - the pigs are in the garden!'

At the sight of their aunt they stopped short, looking aghast, and
certainly those who beheld them partook of their consternation.
Reginald was hot and gloveless; his shoes far from clean; his brown
curls hanging in great disorder from his Scotch cap; his handkerchief
loose; his jacket dusty - but this was no great matter, since, as
Emily said, he was 'only a boy.' His bright open smile, the rough,
yet gentleman-like courtesy of his advance to the Marchioness, his
comical roguish glance at Emily, to see if she was very angry, and to
defy her if she were, and his speedy exit, all greatly amused Lady
Florence, and made up for what there might have been of the wild
schoolboy in his entrance.

Poor Phyllis had neither the excuse of being a schoolboy nor the
good-humoured fearlessness that freed her brother from embarrassment,
and she stood stock-still, awkward and dismayed, not daring to
advance; longing to join in the pig-chase, yet afraid to run away,
her eyes stretched wide open, her hair streaming into them, her
bonnet awry, her tippet powdered with seeds of hay, her gloves torn
and soiled, the colour of her brown holland apron scarcely
discernible through its various stains, her frock tucked up, her
stockings covered with mud, and without shoes, which she had taken
off at the door.

'Phyllis,' said Emily, 'what are you thinking of? What makes you
such a figure? Come and speak to Aunt Rotherwood.'

Phyllis drew off her left-hand glove, and held out her hand, making a
few sidelong steps towards her aunt, who gave her a rather reluctant
kiss. Lily bent her bonnet into shape, and pulled down her frock,
while Florence laughed, patted her cheek, and asked what she had been
doing.

'Helping Redgie to chop turnips,' was the answer.

Afraid of some further exposure, Emily hastily sent her away to be
made fit to be seen, and Lady Rotherwood went on caressing Ada and
talking of something else. Emily had no opportunity of explaining
that this was not Phyllis's usual condition, and she was afraid that
Lady Rotherwood would never believe that it was accidental. She was
much annoyed, especially as the catastrophe only served to divert Mr.
Mohun and Claude. Of all the family William and Adeline alone took
her view of the case. Ada lectured Phyllis on her 'naughtiness,' and
plumed herself on her aunt's evident preference, but William was not
equally sympathetic. He was indeed as fastidious as Emily herself,
and as much annoyed by such misadventures; but he maintained that she
was to blame for them, saying that the state of things was not such
as it should be, and that the exposure might be advantageous if it
put her on her guard in future.

It appeared as if poor Phyllis was to be punished for the vexation
which she had caused, for in the course of her adventures with
Reginald she caught a cold, which threatened to prevent her from
being of the party on Twelfth-Day. She had a cough, which did not
give her by any means as much inconvenience as the noise it
occasioned did to other people. Every morning and every evening she
anxiously asked her sisters whether they thought she would be allowed
to go. Another of the party seemed likely to fail. On the 5th of
January Claude came down to breakfast later even than usual; but he
had no occasion to make excuses, for his heavy eyes, the dark lines
under them, his pale cheeks, and the very sit of his hair, were sure
signs that he had a violent headache. He soon betook himself to the
sofa in the drawing-room, attended by Lily, with pillows, cushions,
ether, and lavender. Late in the afternoon the pain diminished a
little, and he fell asleep, to the great joy of his sister, who sat
watching him, scarcely daring to move.

Suddenly a frightful scream and loud crash was heard in the room
above them. Claude started up, and Lily, exclaiming, 'Those tiresome
children!' hurried to the room whence the noise had come.

Reginald, Phyllis, and Ada, all stood there laughing. Reginald and
Phyllis had been climbing to the top of a great wardrobe, by means of
a ladder of chairs and tables. While Phyllis was descending her
brother had made some demonstration that startled her, and she fell
with all the chairs over her, but without hurting herself.

'You naughty troublesome child,' cried Lily, in no gentle tone. 'How
often have you been told to leave off such boyish tricks! And you
choose the very place for disturbing poor Claude, with his bad
headache, making it worse than ever.'

Phyllis tried to speak, but only succeeded in giving a dismal howl.
She went on screaming, sobbing, and roaring so loud that she could
not hear Lily's attempts to quiet her. The next minute Claude
appeared, looking half distracted. Reginald ran off, and as he
dashed out of the room, came full against William, who caught hold of
him, calling out to know what was the matter.

'Only Phyllis screaming,' said Lily. 'Oh, Claude, I am very sorry!'

'Is that all?' said Claude. 'I thought some one was half killed!'

He sank into a chair, pressing his hand on his temples, and looking
very faint. William supported him, and Lily stood by, repeating, 'I
am very sorry - it was all my fault - my scolding - '

'Hush,' said William, 'you have done mischief enough. Go away,
children.'

Phyllis had already gone, and the next moment thrust into Lily's hand
the first of the medicaments which she had found in the drawing-room.
The faintness soon went off, but Claude thought he had better not
struggle against the headache any longer, but go to bed, in hopes of
being better the next day. William went with him to his room, and
Lilias lingered on the stairs, very humble, and very wretched.
William soon came forth again, and asked the meaning of the uproar.

'It was all my fault,' said she; 'I was vexed at Claude's being
waked, and that made me speak sharply to Phyllis, and set her
roaring.'

'I do not know which is the most inconsiderate of you,' said William.

'You cannot blame me more than I deserve,' said Lily. 'May I go to
poor Claude?'

'I suppose so; but I do not see what good you are to do. Quiet is
the only thing for him.'

Lily, however, went, and Claude gave her to understand that he liked
her to stay with him. She arranged his blinds and curtains
comfortably, and then sat down to watch him. William went to the
drawing-room to write a letter. Just as he had sat down he heard a
strange noise, a sound of sobbing, which seemed to come from the
corner where the library steps stood. Looking behind them, he beheld
Phyllis curled up, her head on her knees, crying bitterly.

'You there! Come out. What is the matter now?'

'I am so very sorry,' sighed she.

'Well, leave off crying.' She would willingly have obeyed, but her
sobs were beyond her own control; and he went on, 'If you are sorry,
there is no more to be said. I hope it will be a lesson to you
another time. You are quite old enough to have more consideration
for other people.'

'I am very sorry,' again said Phyllis, in a mournful note.

'Be sorry, only do not roar. You make that noise from habit, I am
convinced, and you may break yourself off it if you choose.'

Phyllis crept out of the room, and in a few minutes more the door was
softly opened by Emily, returning from her walk.

'I thought Claude was here. Is he gone to bed? Is his head worse?'

'Yes, the children have been doing their best to distract him.
Emily, I want to know why it is that those children are for ever in
mischief and yelling in all parts of the house.'

'I wish I could help it,' said Emily, with a sigh; 'they are very
troublesome.'

'There must be great mismanagement,' said her brother.

'Oh, William! Why do you think so?'

'Other children do not go on in this way, and it was not so in
Eleanor's time.'

'It is only Phyllis,' said Emily.

'Phyllis or not, it ought not to be. What will that child grow up,
if you let her be always running wild with the boys?'

'Consider, William, that you see us at a disadvantage; we are all
unsettled by this illness, and the children have been from home.'

'As if they learnt all these wild tricks at Broomhill! That excuse
will not do, Emily.'

'And then they are always worse in the holidays,' pleaded Emily.

'Yes, there are reasons to be found for everything that goes wrong;
but if you were wise you would look deeper. Now, Emily, I do not
wish to be hard upon you, for I know you are in a very difficult
position, and very young for such a charge, but I am sure you might
manage better. I do not think you use your energies. There is no
activity, nor regularity, nor method, about this household. I
believe that my father sees that this is the case, but it is not his
habit to find fault with little things. You may think that,
therefore, I need not interfere, but - '

'Oh, William! I am glad - '

'But remember that comfort is made up of little things. And, Emily,
when you consider how much my father has suffered, and how desolate
his home must be at the best, I think you will be inclined to exert
yourself to prevent him from being anxious about the children or
harassed by your negligence.'

'Indeed, William,' returned Emily, with many tears, 'it is my most
earnest wish to make him comfortable. Thank you for what you have
said. Now that I am stronger, I hope to do more, and I will really
do my best.'

At this moment Emily was sincere; but the good impulse of one instant
was not likely to endure against long cherished habits of selfish
apathy.

Claude did not appear again till the middle of the next day. His
headache was nearly gone, but he was so languid that he gave up all
thoughts of Devereux Castle that evening. Lord Rotherwood, who
always seemed to know what was going on at Beechcroft, came to
inquire for him, and very unwillingly allowed that it would be better
for him to stay at home. Lilias wished to remain with him; but this
her cousin would not permit, saying that he could not consent to lose
three of the party, and Florence would be disappointed in all her
plans. Neither would Claude hear of keeping her at home, and she was
obliged to satisfy herself with putting his arm-chair in his
favourite corner by the fire, with the little table before it,
supplied with books, newspaper, inkstand, paper-knife, and all the
new periodicals, and he declared that he should enjoy the height of
luxury.

Phyllis considered it to be entirely her fault that he could not go,
and was too much grieved on that account to have many regrets to
spare for herself. She enjoyed seeing Adeline dressed, and hearing
Esther's admiration of her. And having seen the party set off, she
made her way into the drawing-room, opening the door as gently as
possible, just wide enough to admit her little person, then shutting
it as if she was afraid of hurting it, she crept across the room on
tiptoe. She started when Claude looked up and said, 'Why, Phyl, I
have not seen you to-day.'

'Good morning,' she mumbled, advancing in her sidelong way.

Claude suspected that she had been more blamed the day before than
the occasion called for, and wishing to make amends he kissed her,
and said something good-natured about spending the evening together.

Phyllis, a little reassured, went to her own occupations. She took
out a large heavy volume, laid it on the window-seat, and began to
read. Claude was interested in his own book, and did not look up
till the light failed him. He then, closing his book, gave a long
yawn, and looked round for his little companion, almost thinking,
from the stillness of the room, that she must have gone to seek for
amusement in the nursery.

She was, however, still kneeling against the window-seat, her elbows
planted on the great folio, and her head between her hands, reading
intently.

'Little Madam,' said he, 'what great book have you got there?'

'As You Like It,' said Phyllis.

'What! are you promoted to reading Shakspeare?'

'I have not read any but this,' said Phyllis. 'Ada and I have often
looked at the pictures, and I liked the poor wounded stag coming down
to the water so much, that I read about it, and then I went on. Was
it wrong, Claude? no one ever told me not.'

'You are welcome to read it,' said Claude, 'but not now - it is too
dark. Come and sit in the great chair on the other side of the fire,
and be sociable. And what do you think of 'As You Like It?''

'I like it very much,' answered Phyllis, 'only I cannot think why
Jacks did not go to the poor stag, and try to cure it, when he saw
its tears running into the water.'

To save the character of Jacks, Claude gravely suggested the
difficulty of catching the stag, and then asked Phyllis her opinion
of the heroines.

'Oh! it was very funny about Rosalind dressing like a man, and then
being ready to cry like a girl when she was tired, and then
pretending to pretend to be herself; and Celia, it was very kind of
her to go away with Rosalind; but I should have liked her better if
she had stayed at home, and persuaded her father to let Rosalind stay
too. I am sure she would if she had been like Ada. Then it is so
nice about Old Adam and Orlando. Do not you think so, Claude? It is
just what I am sure Wat Greenwood would do for Redgie, if he was to
be turned out like Orlando.'

'It is just what Wat Greenwood's ancestor did for Sir Maurice Mohun,'
said Claude.

'Yes, Dame Greenwood tells us that story.'

'Well, Phyl, I think you show very good taste in liking the scene
between Orlando and Adam.'

'I am glad you like it, too, Claude. But I will tell you what I like
best,' exclaimed the little girl, springing up, 'I do like it, when
Orlando killed the lioness and the snake, - and saved Oliver; how glad
he must have been.'

'Glad to have done good to his enemy,' said Claude; 'yes, indeed.'

'His enemy! he was his brother, you know. I meant it must be so very
nice to save anybody - don't you think so, Claude?'

'Certainly.'

'Claude, do you know there is nothing I wish so much as to save
somebody's life. It was very nice to save the dragon-fly; and it is
very nice to let flies out of spiders' webs, only they always have
their legs and wings torn, and look miserable; and it was very nice
to put the poor little thrushes back into their nest when they
tumbled out, and then to see their mother come to feed them; and it
was very pleasant to help the poor goose that had put its head
through the pales, and could not get it back. Mrs. Harrington said
it would have been strangled if I had not helped it. That was very
nice, but how delightful it would be to save some real human person's
life.'

Claude did not laugh at the odd medley in her speech, but answered,
'Well, those little things train you in readiness and kindness.'

'Will they?' said Phyllis, pressing on to express what had long been
her earnest wish. 'If I could but save some one, I should not mind
being killed myself - I think not - I hope it is not naughty to say so.
I believe there is something in the Bible about it, about laying down
one's life for one's friend.'

'There is, Phyl, and I quite agree with you; it must be a great
blessing to have saved some one.'

'And little girls have sometimes done it, Claude. I know a story of
one who saved her little brother from drowning, and another waked the
people when the house was on fire. And when I was at Broomhill,
Marianne showed me a story of a young lady who helped to save the
Prince, that Prince Charlie that Miss Weston sings about. I wish the
Prince of Wales would get into some misfortune - I should like to save
him.'

'I do not quite echo that loyal wish,' said Claude.


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