Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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'Well, but, Claude, Redgie wishes for a rebellion, like Sir
Maurice's, for he says all the boys at his school would be one
regiment, in green velvet coats, and white feathers in their hats.'

'Indeed! and Redgie to be Field Marshal?'

'No, he is to be Sir Reginald Mohun, a Knight of the Garter, and to
ask the Queen to give William back the title of Baron of Beechcroft,
and make papa a Duke.'

'Well done! he is to take good care of the interests of the family.'

'But it is not that that I should care about,' said Phyllis. 'I
should like it better for the feeling in one's own self; I think all
that fuss would rather spoil it - don't you, Claude?'

'Indeed, I do; but Phyllis, if you only wish for that feeling, you
need not look for dangers or rebellions to gain it.'

'Oh! you mean the feeling that very good people indeed have - people
like Harry - but that I shall never be.'

'I hope you mean to try, though.'

'I do try; I wish I was as good as Ada, but I am so naughty and so
noisy that I do not know what to do. Every day when I say my prayers
I think about being quiet, and not idling at my lessons, and
sometimes I do stop in time, and behave better, but sometimes I
forget, and I do not mind what I am about, and my voice gets loud,
and I let the things tumble down and make a noise, and so it was
yesterday.' Here she looked much disposed to cry.

'No, no, we will not have any crying this evening,' said Claude. 'I
do not think you did me much mischief, my head ached just as much
before.'

'That was a thing I wanted to ask you about: William says my crying
loud is all habit, and that I must cure myself of it. How does he
mean? Ought I to cry every day to practise doing it without
roaring?'

'Do you like to begin,' said Claude, laughing; 'shall I beat you or
pinch you?'

'Oh! it would make your head bad again,' said Phyllis; 'but I wish
you would tell me what he means. When I cry I only think about what
makes me unhappy.'

'Try never to cry,' said Claude; 'I assure you it is not pleasant to
hear you, even when I have no headache. If you wish to do anything
right, you must learn self-control, and it will be a good beginning
to check yourself when you are going to cry. Do not look melancholy
now. Here comes the tea. Let me see how you will perform as tea-
maker.'

'I wish the evening would not go away so fast!'

'And what are we to do after tea? You are queen of the evening.'

'If you would but tell me a story, Claude.'

They lingered long over the tea-table, talking and laughing, and when
they had finished, Phyllis discovered with surprise that it was
nearly bedtime. The promised story was not omitted, however, and
Phyllis, sitting on a little footstool at her brother's feet, looked
up eagerly for it.

'Well, Phyl, I will tell you a true history that I heard from an
officer who had served in the Peninsular War - the war in Spain, you
know.'

'Yes, with the French, who killed their king. Lily told me.'

'And the Portuguese were helping us. Just after we had taken the
town of Ciudad Rodrigo, some of the Portuguese soldiers went to find
lodgings for themselves, and, entering a magazine of gunpowder, made
a fire on the floor to dress their food. A most dangerous thing - do
you know why?'

'The book would be burnt,' said Phyllis.

'What book, you wise child?'

'The Magazine; I thought a magazine was one of the paper books that
Maurice is always reading.'

'Oh!' said Claude, laughing, 'a magazine is a store, and as many
different things are stored in those books, they are called
magazines. A powder magazine is a store of barrels of gunpowder.
Now do you see why it was dangerous to light a fire?'

'It blows up,' said Phyllis; 'that was the reason why Robinson Crusoe
was afraid of the lightning.'

'Right, Phyl, and therefore a candle is never allowed to be carried
into a powder magazine, and even nailed shoes are never worn there,
lest they should strike fire. One spark, lighting on a grain of
gunpowder, scattered on the floor, might communicate with the rest,
make it all explode, and spread destruction everywhere. Think in
what fearful peril these reckless men had placed, not only
themselves, but the whole town, and the army. An English officer
chanced to discover them, and what do you think he did?'

'Told all the people to run away.'

'How could he have told every one, soldiers, inhabitants, and all?
where could they have gone? No, he raised no alarm, but he ordered
the Portuguese out of the building, and with the help of an English
sergeant, he carried out, piece by piece, all the wood which they had
set on fire. Now, imagine what that must have been. An explosion
might happen at any moment, yet they had to walk steadily, slowly,
and with the utmost caution, in and out of this place several times,
lest one spark might fly back.'

'Then they were saved?' cried Phyllis, breathlessly; 'and what became
of them afterwards?'

'They were both killed in battle, the officer, I believe, in Badajoz,
and the sergeant sometime afterwards.'

Phyllis gave a deep sigh, and sat silent for some minutes. Next,
Claude began a droll Irish fairy-tale, which he told with spirit and
humour, such as some people would have scorned to exert for the
amusement of a mere child. Phyllis laughed, and was so happy, that
when suddenly they heard the sound of wheels, she started up,
wondering what brought the others home so soon, and was still more
surprised when Claude told her it was past ten.

'Oh dear! what will papa and Emily say to me for being up still? But
I will stay now, it would not be fair to pretend to be gone to bed.'

'Well said, honest Phyl; now for the news from the castle.'

'Why, Claude,' said his eldest brother, entering, 'you are alive
again.'

'I doubt whether your evening could have been pleasanter than ours,'
said Claude.

'Phyl,' cried Ada, 'do you know, Mary Carrington's governess thought
I was Florence's sister.'

'You look so bright, Claude,' said Jane, 'I think you must have taken
Cinderella's friend with the pumpkin to enliven you.'

'My fairy was certainly sister to a Brownie,' said Claude, stroking
Phyllis's hair.

'Claude,' again began Ada, 'Miss Car - '

'I wish Cinderella's fairy may be forthcoming the day of the ball,'
said Lily, disconsolately.

'And William is going after all,' said Emily.

'Indeed! has the great Captain relented?'

'Yes. Is it not good of him? Aunt Rotherwood is so much pleased
that he consents to go entirely to oblige her.'

'Sensible of his condescension,' said Claude. 'By the bye, what
makes the Baron look so mischievous?'

'Mischievous!' said Emily, looking round with a start, 'he is looking
very comical, and so he has been all the evening.'

'What? You thought mischievous was meant in Hannah's sense, when she
complains of Master Reginald being very mischie-vi-ous.'

Ada now succeeded in saying, 'The Carringtons' governess called me
Lady Ada.'

'How could she bring herself to utter so horrid a sound?' said
Claude.

'Ada is more cock-a-hoop than ever now,' said Reginald; 'she does not
think Miss Weston good enough to speak to.'

'But, Claude, she really did, she thought I was Florence's sister,
and she said I was just like her.'

'I wish you would hold your tongue, or go to bed,' said William, 'I
have heard nothing but this nonsense all the way home.'

While William was sending off Ada to bed, and Phyllis was departing
with her, Lily told Claude that the Captain had been most agreeable.
'I feared,' said she, 'that he would be too grand for this party, but
he was particularly entertaining; Rotherwood was quite eclipsed.'

'Rotherwood wants Claude to set him off,' said Mr. Mohun. 'Now,
young ladies, reserve the rest of your adventures for the morning.'

Adeline had full satisfaction in recounting the governess's mistake
to the maids, and in hearing from Esther that it was no wonder, 'for
that she looked more like a born lady than Lady Florence herself!'

Lilias's fit of petulance about the ball had returned more strongly
than ever; she partly excused herself to her own mind, by fancying
she disliked the thought of the lonely evening she was to spend more
than that of losing the pleasure of the ball. Mr. Mohun would be
absent, conducting Maurice to a new school, and Claude and Reginald
would also be gone.

Her temper was affected in various ways; she wondered that William
and Emily could like to go - she had thought that Miss Weston was
wiser. Her daily occupations were irksome - she was cross to Phyllis.

It made her very angry to be accused by the young brothers of making
a fuss, and Claude's silence was equally offensive. It was upon
principle that he said nothing. He knew it was nothing but a
transient attack of silliness, of which she was herself ashamed; but
he was sorry to leave her in that condition, and feared Lady
Rotherwood's coming into the neighbourhood was doing her harm, as
certainly as it was spoiling Ada. The ball day arrived, and it was
marked by a great burst of fretfulness on the part of poor Lilias,
occasioned by so small a matter as the being asked by Emily to write
a letter to Eleanor. Emily was dressing to go to dine at Devereux
Castle when she made the request.

'What have I to say? I never could write a letter in my life, at
least not to the Duenna - there is no news.'

'About the boys going to school,' Emily suggested.

'As if she did not know all about them as well as I can tell her.
She does not care for my news, I see no one to hear gossip from. I
thought you undertook all the formal correspondence, Emily?'

'Do you call a letter to your sister formal correspondence!'

'Everything is formal with her. All I can say is, that you and
William are going to the ball, and she will say that is very silly.'

'Eleanor once went to this Raynham ball; it was her first and last,'
said Emily.

'Yes, not long before they went to Italy; it will only make her
melancholy to speak of it - I declare I cannot write.'

'And I have no time,' said Emily, 'and you know how vexed she is if
she does not get her letter every Saturday.'

'All for the sake of punctuality, nothing else,' said Lily. 'I
rather like to disappoint fidgety people - don't you, Emily?'

'Well,' said Emily, 'only papa does not like that she should be
disappointed.'

'You might have written, if you had not dawdled away all the
morning.'

This was true, and it therefore stung Emily, who complained that Lily
was very unkind. Lily defended herself sharply, and the dispute was
growing vehement, when William happily cut it short by a summons to
Emily to make haste.

When they were gone Lily had time for reflection. Good-temper was so
common a virtue, and generally cost her so little effort, that she
took no pains to cultivate it, but she now felt she had lost all
claim to be considered amiable under disappointment. It was too late
to bear the privation with a good grace. She was heartily ashamed of
having been so cross about a trifle, and ashamed of being
discontented at Emily's having a pleasure in which she could not
share. Would this have been the case a year ago? She was afraid to
ask herself the question, and without going deep enough into the
history of her own mind to make her sorrow and shame profitable, she
tried to satisfy herself with a superficial compensation, by making
herself particularly agreeable to her three younger sisters, and by
writing a very long and entertaining letter to Eleanor.

She met Emily with a cheerful face the next day, and listened with
pleasure to her history of the ball; and when Mr. Mohun returned home
he saw that the cloud had passed away. But, alas! Lilias neglected
to take the only means of preventing its recurrence.

The next week William departed. Before he went he gave his sisters
great pleasure by desiring them to write to him, and not to let him
fall into his ancient state of ignorance respecting the affairs of
Beechcroft.

'Mind,' was his farewell speech, 'I expect you to keep me au courant
du jour. I will not be in the dark about your best friends and
neighbours when I come home next July.'



CHAPTER XVI - VANITY AND VEXATION



'And still I have to tell the same sad tale
Of wasted energies, and idle dreams.'

Devereux Castle now became the great resort of the Miss Mohuns. They
were always sure of a welcome there. Lady Rotherwood liked to
patronise them, and Florence was glad of their society.

This was quite according to the wishes of Emily, who now had nothing
left to desire, but that the style of dress suitable, in her opinion,
to the granddaughter of the Marquis of Rotherwood, was more in
accordance with the purse of the daughter of the Esquire of
Beechcroft. It was no part of Emily's character to care for dress.
She was at once too indolent and too sensible; she saw the vulgarity
of finery, and only aimed at simplicity and elegance. During their
girlhood Emily and Lilias had had no more concern with their clothes
than with their food; Eleanor had carefully taught them plain
needlework, and they had assisted in making more than one set of
shirts; but they had nothing to do with the choice or fashion of
their own apparel. They were always dressed alike, and in as plain
and childish a manner as they could be, consistently with their
station. On Eleanor's marriage a suitable allowance was given to
each of them, in order that they might provide their own clothes, and
until Rachel left them they easily kept themselves in very good trim.
When Esther came Lily cheerfully took the trouble of her own small
decorations, considering it as her payment for the pleasure of having
Esther in the house. Emily, however, neglected the useful 'stitch in
time,' till even 'nine' were unavailing. She soon found herself
compelled to buy new ready-made articles, and expected Lilias to do
the same. But Lilias demurred, for she was too wise to think it
necessary to ruin herself in company with Emily, and thus the two
sisters were no longer dressed alike. A constant fear tormented
Emily lest she should disgrace Lady Rotherwood, or be considered by
some stranger as merely a poor relation of the great people, and not
as the daughter of the gentleman of the oldest family in the county.
She was, therefore, anxious to be perfectly fashionable, and not to
wear the same things too often, and in her disinterested desire to
maintain the dignity of the family the allowance which she received
at Christmas melted away in her hands.

Lily, though exempt from this folly, was not in a satisfactory state
of mind. She was drawn off from her duties by a kind of spell. It
was not that she liked Florence's society better than her home
pursuits.

Florence was indeed a very sweet-tempered and engaging creature; but
her mind was not equal to that of Lilias, and there was none of the
pleasure of relying upon her, and looking up to her, which Lilias had
learnt to enjoy in the company of her brother Claude, and of Alethea
Weston. It was only that Lily's own mind had been turned away from
her former occupations, and that she did not like to resume them.
She had often promised herself to return to her really useful
studies, and her positive duties, as soon as her brothers were gone;
but day after day passed and nothing was done, though her visits to
the cottages and her lessons to Phyllis were often neglected. Her
calls at Devereux Castle took up many afternoons. Florence
continually lent her amusing books, her aunt took great interest in
her music, and she spent much time in practising. The mornings were
cold and dark, and she could not rise early, and thus her time
slipped away, she knew not how, uselessly and unsatisfactorily. The
three younger ones were left more to themselves, and to the maids.
Jane sought for amusement in village gossip, and the little ones,
finding the nursery more agreeable than the deserted drawing-room,
made Esther their companion.

Mr. Mohun had, at this time, an unusual quantity of business on his
hands; he saw that the girls were not going on well, but he had
reasons for not interfering at present, and he looked forward to
Eleanor's visit as the conclusion of their trial.

'I cannot think,' said Marianne Weston one day to her sister, 'why
Mr. Mohun comes here so often.'

Alethea told her he had some business with their mamma, and she
thought no more of the matter, till she was one day questioned by
Jane. She was rather afraid of Jane, who, as she thought, disliked
her, and wished to turn her into ridicule; so it was with no
satisfaction that she found herself separated from the others in the
course of a walk, and submitted to a cross-examination.

Jane asked, in a mysterious manner, who had been at Broomhill that
morning.

'Mr. Mohun,' said Marianne.

'What did he go there for?' said Jane.

'Alethea says he has some business with mamma.'

'Then you did not hear what it was?'

'I was not in the room.'

'Are you never there when he comes?'

'Sometimes.'

'And is Alethea there?'

'Oh yes!'

'His business must be with her too. Cannot you guess it?'

'No,' said Marianne, looking amazed.

'How can you be so slow?'

'I am not sure that I would guess if I could,' said Marianne, 'for I
do not think they wish me to know.'

'Oh! nonsense, it is fine fun to find out secrets,' said Jane. 'You
will know it at last, you may be sure, so there can be no harm in
making it out beforehand, so as to have the pleasure of triumph when
the wise people vouchsafe to admit you into their confidence; I am
sure I know it all.'

'Then please do not tell me, Jane, I ought not to hear it.'

'Little Mrs. Propriety,' said Jane, 'you are already assuming all the
dignity of my Aunt Marianne, and William's Aunt Marianne - oh! and of
little Henry's Great-aunt Marianne. Now,' she added, laughing, 'can
you guess the secret?'

Marianne stood still in amazement for a moment, and then exclaimed,
'Jane, Jane! you do not mean it, you are only trying to tease me.'

'I am quite serious,' said Jane. 'You will see that I am right.'

Here they were interrupted, and as soon as she returned from her walk
Marianne, perplexed and amazed, went to her mother, and told her all
that Jane had said.

'How can she be so silly?' said Mrs. Weston.

'Then it is all nonsense, as I thought,' said Marianne, joyfully. 'I
should not like Alethea to marry an old man.'

'Mr. Mohun is very unlikely to make himself ridiculous,' said Mrs.
Weston. 'Do not say anything of it to Alethea; it would only make
her uncomfortable.'

'If it had been Captain Mohun, now - ' Marianne stopped, and blushed,
finding her speech unanswered.

A few days after, Mr. Mohun overtook Marianne and her mother, as he
was riding home from Raynham, and dismounting, led his horse, and
walked on with them. Either not perceiving Marianne, or not caring
whether she heard him, he said,

'Has Miss Weston received the letter she expected?'

'No,' said Mrs. Weston, 'she thinks, as there is no answer, the
family must be gone abroad, and very probably they have taken Miss
Aylmer with them; but she has written to another friend to ask about
them.'

'From all I hear,' said Mr. Mohun, 'I should prefer waiting to hear
from her, before we make further inquiries; we shall not be ready
before midsummer, as I should wish my eldest daughter to assist me in
making this important decision.'

'In that case,' said Mrs. Weston, 'there will be plenty of time to
communicate with her. I can see some of the friends of the family
when I go to London, for we must not leave Mr. Weston in solitude
another spring.'

'Perhaps I shall see you there,' said Mr. Mohun. 'I have some
business in London, and I think I shall meet the Hawkesworths there
in May or June.'

After a little more conversation Mr. Mohun took his leave, and as
soon as he had ridden on, Marianne said, 'Oh! mamma, I could not help
hearing.'

'My dear,' said Mrs. Weston, 'I know you may be trusted; but I should
not have told you, as you may find such a secret embarrassing when
you are with your young friends.'

'And so they are to have a governess?'

'Yes; and we are trying to find Miss Aylmer for them.'

'Miss Aylmer! I am glad of it; how much Phyllis and Ada will like
her!'

'Yes, it will be very good for them; I wish I knew the Grants'
direction.'

'Well, I hope Jane will not question me any more; it will be very
difficult to manage, now I know the truth.'

But poor Marianne was not to escape. Jane was on the watch to find
her alone, and as soon as an opportunity offered, she began:-

'Well, auntie, any discoveries?'

'Indeed, Jane, it is not right to fancy Mr. Mohun can do anything so
absurd.'

'That is as people may think,' said Jane.

'I wish you would not talk in that way,' said Marianne.

'Now, Marianne,' pursued the tormentor, 'if you can explain the
mystery I will believe you, otherwise I know what to think.'

'I am certain you are wrong, Jane; but I can tell you no more.'

'Very well, my good aunt, I am satisfied.'

Jane really almost persuaded herself that she was right, as she
perceived that her father was always promoting intercourse with the
Westons, and took pleasure in conversing with Alethea. She twisted
everything into a confirmation of her idea; while the prospect of
having Miss Weston for a stepmother increased her former dislike; but
she kept her suspicions to herself for the present, triumphing in the
idea that, when the time came, she could bring Marianne as a witness
of her penetration.

The intercourse between the elder Miss Mohuns and Miss Weston was,
however, not so frequent as formerly; and Alethea herself could not
but remark that, while Mr. Mohun seemed to desire to become more
intimate, his daughters were more backward in making appointments
with her. This was chiefly remarkable in Emily and Jane. Lilias was
the same in openness, earnestness, and affection; but there was
either a languor about her spirits or they were too much excited, and
her talk was more of novels, and less of poor children than formerly.
The constant visits to Devereux Castle prevented Emily and Lilias
from being as often as before at church, and thus they lost many
walks and talks that they used to enjoy in the way home. Marianne
began to grow indignant, especially on one occasion, when Emily and
Lily went out for a drive with Lady Rotherwood, forgetting that they
had engaged to take a walk with the Westons that afternoon.

'It is really a great deal too bad,' said she to Alethea; 'it is
exactly what we have read of in books about grandeur making people
cast off their old friends.'

'Do not be unfair, Marianne,' said Alethea. 'Lady Florence has a
better right to - '

'Better right!' exclaimed Marianne. 'What, because she is a
marquis's daughter?'

'Because she is their cousin.'

'I do not believe Lilias really cares for her half as much as for
you,' said Marianne. 'It is all because they are fine people.'

'Nay, Marianne, if our cousins were to come into this neighbourhood,
we should not be as dependent on the Mohuns as we now feel.'

'I hope we should not break our engagements with them.'

'Perhaps they could not help it. When their aunt came to fetch them,
knowing how seldom they can have the carriage, it would have been
scarcely civil to say that they had rather take a walk with people
they can see any day.'

'Last year Lilias would have let Emily go by herself,' said Marianne.
'Alethea, they are all different since that Lady Rotherwood came - all
except Phyl. Ada is a great deal more conceited than she was when
she was staying here; she pulls out her curls, and looks in the glass
much more, and she is always talking about some one having taken her
for Lady Florence's sister. And, Alethea, just fancy, she does not
like me to go through a gate before her, because she says she has
precedence!'

Alethea was much amused, but she would not let Marianne condemn the
whole family for Ada's folly. 'It will all come right,' said she,
'let us be patient and good-humoured, and nothing can be really
wrong.'

Though Alethea made the best of it to her sister, she could not but
feel hurt, and would have been much more so if her temper had been
jealous or sentimental. Almost in spite of herself she had bestowed
upon Lilias no small share of her affection, and she would have been
more pained by her neglect if she had not partaken of that spirit
which 'thinketh no evil, but beareth all things, believeth all
things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things.'


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 12 of 20)