Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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'I am sure it was Phyl that was the most dismayed, and cried the
loudest,' said Lily.

'That she always does,' said Jane. 'On Friday we had an uproar in
the schoolroom about her hemming, and on Saturday she tumbled into a
wet ditch, and tore her bonnet in the brambles; on Sunday, she
twisted her ancles together at church.'

'Well, there I did chance to observe her,' said Lily, 'there seemed
to be a constant struggle between her ancles and herself, they were
continually coming lovingly together, but were separated the next
moment.'

'And to-day this sum,' said Jane; 'seven scrapes in one week! I
really am of opinion, as Rachel says when she is angry, that school
is the best place for her.'

'I think so too,' said Claude.

'I do not know,' said Emily, 'she is very troublesome, but - '

'Oh, Claude!' cried Lily, 'you do not mean that you would have that
poor dear merry Master Phyl sent to school, she would pine away like
a wild bird in a cage; but papa will never think of such a thing.'

'If I thought of her being sent to school,' said Claude, 'it would be
to shield her from - the rule of love.'

'Oh! you think we are too indulgent,' said Emily; 'perhaps we are,
but you know we cannot torment a poor child all day long.'

'If you call the way you treat her indulgent, I should like to know
what you call severe.'

'What do you mean, Claude?' said Emily.

'I call your indulgence something like the tender mercies of the
wicked,' said Claude. 'On a fine day, when every one is taking their
pleasure in the garden, to shut an unhappy child up in the
schoolroom, with a hard sum that you have not taken the trouble to
teach her how to do, and late in the day, when no one's head is clear
for difficult arithmetic - '

'Hard sum do you call it?' said Jane.

'Indeed I explained it to her,' said Emily.

'And well she understood you,' said Claude.

'She might have learnt if she had attended,' said Emily; 'Ada
understood clearly, with the same explanation.'

'And do not you be too proud of the effect of your instructions,
Claude,' said Jane, 'for when honest Phyl came into the garden, she
did not know farthings from fractions.'

'And pray, Mrs. Senior Wrangler,' said Claude, 'will you tell me
where is the difference between a half-penny and half a penny?'

After a good laugh at Jane's expense, Emily went on, 'Now, Claude, I
will tell you how it happened; Phyllis is so slow, and dawdles over
her lessons so long, that it is quite a labour to hear her; Ada is
quick enough, but if you were to hear Phyllis say one column of
spelling, you would know what misery is. Then before she has half
finished, the clock strikes one, it is time to read, and the lessons
are put off till the afternoon. I certainly did not know that she
was about her sum all that time, or I would have sent her out as I
did on Saturday.'

'And the reading at one is as fixed as fate,' said Claude.

'Oh, no!' said Jane, 'when we were about old "Russell," we did not
begin till nearly two, but since we have been reading this book, Lily
will never let us rest till we begin; she walks up and down, and
hurries and worries and - '

'Yes,' said Emily, in a murmuring voice, 'we should do better if Lily
would not make such a point of that one thing; but she never minds
what else is cut short, and she never thinks of helping me. It never
seems to enter her head how much I have on my hands, and no one does
anything to help me.'

'Oh, Emily! you never asked me,' said Lily.

'I knew you would not like it,' said Emily. 'No, it is not my way to
complain, people may see how to help me if they choose to do it.'

'Lily, Lily, take care,' said Claude, in a low voice; 'is not the
rule you admire, the rule of love of yourself?'

'Oh, Claude!' returned Lily, 'do not say so, you know it was Emily
that I called an example of it, not myself, and see how forbearing
she has been. Now I see that I am really wanted, I will help. It
must be love, not duty, that calls me to the schoolroom, for no one
ever said that was my province.'

'Poor duty! you give it a very narrow boundary.'

Lilias, who, to say the truth, had been made more careful of her own
conduct, by the wish to establish her principle, really betook
herself to the schoolroom for an hour every morning, with a desire to
be useful. She thought she did great things in undertaking those
tasks of Phyllis's which Emily most disliked. But Lilias was neither
patient nor humble enough to be a good teacher, though she could
explain difficult rules in a sensible way. She could not, or would
not, understand the difference between dulness and inattention; her
sharp hasty manner would frighten away all her pupil's powers of
comprehension; she sometimes fell into the great error of scolding,
when Phyllis was doing her best, and the poor child's tears flowed
more frequently than ever.

Emily's gentle manner made her instructions far more agreeable,
though she was often neither clear nor correct in her explanations;
she was contented if the lessons were droned through in any manner,
so long as she could say they were done; she disliked a disturbance,
and overlooked or half corrected mistakes rather than cause a cry.
Phyllis naturally preferred being taught by her, and Lily was vexed
and unwilling to persevere. She went to the schoolroom expecting to
be annoyed, created vexation for herself, and taught in anything but
a loving spirit. Still, however, the thought of Claude, and the wish
to do more than her duty, kept her constant to her promise, and her
love of seeing things well done was useful, though sadly
counterbalanced by her deficiency in temper and patience.



CHAPTER V - VILLAGE GOSSIP



'The deeds we do, the words we say,
Into still air they seem to fleet;
We count them past,
But they shall last.'

Soon after Easter, Claude went to Oxford. He was much missed by his
sisters, who wanted him to carve for them at luncheon, to escort them
when they rode or walked, to hear their music, talk over their books,
advise respecting their drawings, and criticise Lily's verses. A new
subject of interest was, however, arising for them in the neighbours
who were shortly expected to arrive at Broom Hill, a house which had
lately been built in a hamlet about a mile and a half from the New
Court.

These new comers were the family of a barrister of the name of
Weston, who had taken the house for the sake of his wife, her health
having been much injured by her grief at the loss of two daughters in
the scarlet fever. Two still remained, a grown-up young lady, and a
girl of eleven years old, and the Miss Mohuns learnt with great
delight that they should have near neighbours of their own age. They
had never had any young companions as young ladies were scarce among
their acquaintance, and they had not seen their cousin, Lady Florence
Devereux, since they were children.

It was with great satisfaction that Emily and Lilias set out with
their father to make the first visit, and they augured well from
their first sight of Mrs. Weston and her daughters. Mrs. Weston was
alone, her daughters being out walking, and Lily spent the greater
part of the visit in silence, though her mind was made up in the
first ten minutes, as she told Emily on leaving the house, 'that Miss
Weston's tastes were in complete accordance with her own.'

'Rapid judgment,' said Emily. 'Love before first sight. But Mrs.
Weston is a very sweet person.'

'And, Emily, did you see the music-book open at "Angels ever bright
and fair?" If Miss Weston sings that as I imagine it!'

'How could you see what was in the music-book at the other end of the
room? I only saw it was a beautiful piano. And what handsome
furniture! it made me doubly ashamed of our faded carpet and chairs,
almost as old as the house itself.'

'Emily!' said Lily, in her most earnest tones, 'I would not change
one of those dear old chairs for a king's ransom!'

The visit was in a short time returned, and though it was but a
formal morning call, Lilias found her bright expectations realised by
the sweetness of Alethea Weston's manners, and the next time they met
it was a determined thing in her mind that, as Claude would have
said, they had sworn an eternal friendship.

She had the pleasure of lionising the two sisters over the Old Court,
telling all she knew and all she imagined about the siege, Sir
Maurice Mohun, and his faithful servant, Walter Greenwood. 'Miss
Weston,' said she in conclusion, 'have you read Old Mortality?'

'Yes,' said Alethea, amused at the question.

'Because they say I am as bad as Lady Margaret about the king's
visit.'

'I have not heard the story often enough to think so,' said Miss
Weston, 'I will warn you if I do.'

In the meantime Phyllis and Adeline were equally charmed with
Marianne, though shocked at her ignorance of country manners, and,
indeed, Alethea was quite diverted with Lily's pity at the discovery
that she had never before been in the country in the spring. 'What,'
she cried, 'have you never seen the tufts of red on the hazel, nor
the fragrant golden palms, and never heard the blackbird rush
twittering out of the hedge, nor the first nightingale's note, nor
the nightjar's low chirr, nor the chattering of the rooks? O what a
store of sweet memories you have lost! Why, how can you understand
the beginning of the Allegro?'

Both the Miss Westons had so much pleasure in making acquaintance
with 'these delights,' as quite to compensate for their former
ignorance, and soon the New Court rang with their praises. Mr. Mohun
thought very highly of the whole family, and rejoiced in such society
for his daughters, and they speedily became so well acquainted, that
it was the ordinary custom of the Westons to take luncheon at the New
Court on Sunday. On her side, however, Alethea Weston felt some
reluctance to become intimate with the young ladies of the New Court.
She was pleased with Emily's manners, interested by Lily's
earnestness and simplicity, and thought Jane a clever and amusing
little creature, but even their engaging qualities gave her pain, by
reminding her of the sisters she had lost, or by making her think how
they would have liked them. A country house and neighbours like
these had been the objects of many visions of their childhood, and
now all the sweet sights and sounds around her only made her think
how she should have enjoyed them a year ago. She felt almost jealous
of Marianne's liking for her new friends, lest they should steal her
heart from Emma and Lucy; but knowing that these were morbid and
unthankful feelings, she struggled against them, and though she
missed her sisters even more than when her mother and Marianne were
in greater need of her attention, she let no sign of her sorrowful
feeling appear, and seeing that Marianne was benefited in health and
spirits, by intercourse with young companions, she gave no hint of
her disinclination to join in the walks and other amusements of the
Miss Mohuns.

She also began to take interest in the poor people. By Mrs. Weston's
request, Mr. Devereux had pointed out the families which were most in
need of assistance, and Alethea made it her business to find out the
best way of helping them. She visited the village school with
Lilias, and when requested by her and by the Rector to give her aid
in teaching, she did not like to refuse what might be a duty, though
she felt very diffident of her powers of instruction. Marianne, like
Phyllis and Adeline, became a Sunday scholar, and was catechised with
the others in church. Both Mr. Mohun and his nephew thought very
highly of the family, and the latter was particularly glad that Lily
should have some older person to assist her in those parish matters
which he left partly in her charge.

Mr. Devereux had been Rector of Beechcroft about a year and a half,
and had hitherto been much liked. His parishioners had known him
from a boy, and were interested about him, and though very young,
there was something about him that gained their respect. Almost all
his plans were going on well, and things were, on the whole, in a
satisfactory state, though no one but Lilias expected even Cousin
Robert to make a Dreamland of Beechcroft, and there were days when he
looked worn and anxious, and the girls suspected that some one was
behaving ill.

'Have you a headache, Robert?' asked Emily, a few evenings before
Whit-Sunday, 'you have not spoken three words this evening.'

'Not at all, thank you,' said Mr. Devereux, smiling, 'you need not
think to make me your victim, now you have no Claude to nurse.'

'Then if it is not bodily, it is mental,' said Lily.

'I am in a difficulty about the christening of Mrs. Naylor's child.'

'Naylor the blacksmith?' said Jane. 'I thought it was high time for
it to be christened. It must be six weeks old.'

'Is it not to be on Whit-Sunday?' said Lily, disconsolately.

'Oh no! Mrs. Naylor will not hear of bringing the child on a Sunday,
and I could hardly make her think it possible to bring it on Whit-
Tuesday.'

'Why did you not insist?' said Lily.

'Perhaps I might, if there was no other holy day at hand, or if there
was not another difficulty, a point on which I cannot give way.'

'Oh! the godfathers and godmothers,' said Lily, 'does she want that
charming brother of hers, Edward Gage?'

'Yes, and what is worse, Edward Gage's dissenting wife, and Dick
Rodd, who shows less sense of religion than any one in the parish,
and has never been confirmed.'

'Could you make them hear reason?'

'They were inclined to be rather impertinent,' said Mr. Devereux.
'Old Mrs. Gage - '

'Oh!' interrupted Jane, 'there is no hope for you if the sour Gage is
in the pie.'

'The sour Gage told me people were not so particular in her younger
days, and perhaps they should not have the child christened at all,
since I was such a CONTRARY gentleman. Tom Naylor was not at home, I
am to see him to-morrow.'

'Well, I do not think Tom Naylor is as bad as the rest,' said Lily;
'he would have been tolerable, if he had married any one but Martha
Gage.'

'Yes, he is an open good-natured fellow, and I have hopes of making
an impression on him.'

'If not,' said Lily, 'I hope papa will take away his custom.'

'What?' said Mr. Mohun, who always heard any mention of himself. Mr.
Devereux repeated his history, and discussed the matter with his
uncle, only once interrupted by an inquiry from Jane about the
child's name, a point on which she could gain no intelligence. His
report the next day was not decidedly unfavourable, though he
scarcely hoped the christening would be so soon as Tuesday. He had
not seen the father, and suspected he had purposely kept out of the
way.

Jane, disappointed that the baby's name remained a mystery, resolved
to set out on a voyage of discovery. Accordingly, as soon as her
cousin was gone, she asked Emily if she had not been saying that Ada
wanted some more cotton for her sampler.

'Yes,' said Emily, 'but I am not going to walk all the way to Mrs.
Appleton's this afternoon.'

'Shall I go?' said Jane. 'Ada, run and fetch your pattern.' Emily
and Ada were much obliged by Jane's disinterested offer, and in a
quarter of an hour Ada's thoughts and hands were busy in Mrs.
Appleton's drawer of many-coloured cotton.

'What a pity this is about Mrs. Naylor's baby,' began Jane.

'It is a sad story indeed, Miss Jane, I am sure it must be grievous
to Mr. Devereux,' said Mrs. Appleton. 'Betsy Wall said he had been
there three times about it.'

'Ah! we all know that Walls have ears,' said Jane; 'how that Betsy
does run about gossiping!'

'Yes, Miss Jane, there she bides all day long at the stile gaping;
not a stitch does she do for her mother; I cannot tell what is to be
the end of it.'

'And do you know what the child's name is to be, Mrs. Appleton?'

'No, Miss Jane,' answered Mrs. Appleton. 'Betsy did say they talked
of naming him after his uncle, Edward Gage, only Mr. Devereux would
not let him stand.'

'No,' said Jane. 'Since he married that dissenting wife he never
comes near the church; he is too much like the sour Gage, as we call
his mother, to be good for much. But, after all, he is not so bad as
Dick Rodd, who has never been confirmed, and has never shown any
sense of religion in his life.'

'Yes, Miss, Dick Rodd is a sad fellow: did you hear what a row there
was at the Mohun Arms last week, Miss Jane?'

'Aye,' said Jane, 'and papa says he shall certainly turn Dick Rodd
out of the house as soon as the lease is out, and it is only till
next Michaelmas twelve-months.'

'Yes, Miss, as I said to Betsy Wall, it would be more for their
interest to behave well.'

'Indeed it would,' said Jane. 'Robert and papa were talking of
having their horses shod at Stoney Bridge, if Tom Naylor will be so
obstinate, only papa does not like to give Tom up if he can help it,
because his father was so good, and Tom would not be half so bad if
he had not married one of the Gages.'

'Here is Cousin Robert coming down the lane,' said Ada, who had
chosen her cotton, and was gazing from the door. Jane gave a violent
start, took a hurried leave of Mrs. Appleton, and set out towards
home; she could not avoid meeting her cousin.

'Oh, Jenny! have you been enjoying a gossip with your great ally?'
said he.

'We have only been buying pink cotton,' said Ada, whose conscience
was clear.

'Ah!' said Mr. Devereux, 'Beechcroft affairs would soon stand still,
without those useful people, Mrs. Appleton, Miss Wall, and Miss Jane
Mohun,' and he passed on. Jane felt her face colouring, his freedom
from suspicion made her feel very guilty, but the matter soon passed
out of her mind.

Blithe Whit-Sunday came, the five Miss Mohuns appeared in white
frocks, new bonnets were plenty, the white tippets of the children,
and the bright shawls of the mothers, made the village look gay; Wat
Greenwood stuck a pink between his lips, and the green boughs of
hazel and birch decked the dark oak carvings in the church.

And Whit-Monday came. At half-past ten the rude music of the band of
the Friendly Society came pealing from the top of the hill, then
appeared two tall flags, crowned with guelder roses and peonies, then
the great blue drum, the clarionet blown by red-waist-coated and red-
faced Mr. Appleton, the three flutes and the triangle, all at their
loudest, causing some of the spectators to start, and others to
dance. Then behold the whole procession of labourers, in white round
frocks, blue ribbons in their hats, and tall blue staves in their
hands. In the rear, the confused mob, women and children, cheerful
faces and mirthful sounds everywhere. These were hushed as the flags
were lowered to pass under the low-roofed gateway of the churchyard,
and all was still, except the trampling of feet on the stone floor.
Then the service began, the responses were made in full and hearty
tones, almost running into a chant, the old 133rd Psalm was sung as
loudly and as badly as usual, a very short but very earnest sermon
was preached, and forth came the troop again.

Mr. Devereux always dined with the club in a tent, at the top of the
hill, but his uncle made him promise to come to a second dinner at
the New Court in the evening.

'Robert looks anxious,' said Lily, as she parted with him after the
evening service; 'I am afraid something is going wrong.'

'Trust me for finding out what it is,' said Jane.

'No, no, Jenny, do not ask him,' said Lily; 'if he tells us to
relieve his mind, I am very glad he should make friends of us, but do
not ask. Let us talk of other things to put it out of his head,
whatever it may be.'

Jane soon heard more of the cause of the depression of her cousin's
spirits than even she had any desire to do. After dinner, the girls
were walking in the garden, enjoying the warmth of the evening, when
Mr. Devereux came up to her and drew her aside from the rest, telling
her that he wished to speak to her.

'Oh!' said Jane, 'when am I to meet you at school again? You never
told me which chapter I was to prepare; I cannot think what would
become of your examinations if it was not for me, you could not get
an answer to one question in three.'

'That was not what I wished to speak to you about,' said Mr.
Devereux. 'What had you been saying to Mrs. Appleton when I met you
at her door on Saturday?'

The colour rushed into Jane's cheeks, but she replied without
hesitation, 'Oh! different things, La pluie et le beau temps, just as
usual.'

'Cannot you remember anything more distinctly?'

'I always make a point of forgetting what I talk about,' said Jane,
trying to laugh.

'Now, Jane, let me tell you what has happened in the village - as I
came down the hill from the club-dinner - '

'Oh,' said Jane, hoping to make a diversion, 'Wat Greenwood came back
about a quarter of an hour ago, and he - '

Mr. Devereux proceeded without attending to her, 'As I came down the
hill from the club-dinner, old Mrs. Gage came out of Naylor's house,
and her daughter with her, in great anger, calling me to account for
having spoken of her in a most unbecoming way, calling her the sour
Gage, and trying to set the Squire against them.'

'Oh, that abominable chattering woman!' Jane exclaimed; 'and Betsy
Wall too, I saw her all alive about something. What a nuisance such
people are!'

'In short,' said Mr. Devereux, 'I heard an exaggerated account of all
that passed here on the subject the other day. Now, Jane, am I doing
you any injustice in thinking that it must have been through you that
this history went abroad into the village?'

'Well,' said Jane, 'I am sure you never told us that it was any
secret. When a story is openly told to half a dozen people they
cannot be expected to keep it to themselves.'

'I spoke uncharitably and incautiously,' said he, 'I am willing to
confess, but it is nevertheless my duty to set before you the great
matter that this little fire has kindled.'

'Why, it cannot have done any great harm, can it?' asked Jane, the
agitation of her voice and laugh betraying that she was not quite so
careless as she wished to appear. 'Only the sour Gage will ferment a
little.'

'Oh, Jane! I did not expect that you would treat this matter so
lightly.'

'But tell me, what harm has it done?' asked she.

'Do you consider it nothing that the poor child should remain
unbaptized, that discord should be brought into the parish, that
anger should be on the conscience of your neighbour, that he should
be driven from the church?'

'Is it as bad as that?' said Jane.

'We do not yet see the full extent of the mischief our idle words may
have done,' said Mr. Devereux.

'But it is their own fault, if they will do wrong,' said Jane; 'they
ought not to be in a rage, we said nothing but the truth.'

'I wish I was clear of the sin,' said her cousin.

'And after all,' said Jane, 'I cannot see that I was much to blame; I
only talked to Mrs. Appleton, as I have done scores of times, and no
one minded it. You only laughed at me on Saturday, and papa and
Eleanor never scolded me.'

'You cannot say that no one has ever tried to check you,' said the
Rector.

'And how was I to know that that mischief-maker would repeat it?'
said Jane.

'I do not mean to say,' said Mr. Devereux, 'that you actually
committed a greater sin than you may often have done, by talking in a
way which you knew would displease your father. I know we are too
apt to treat lightly the beginnings of evil, until some sudden sting
makes us feel what a serpent we have been fostering. Think this a
warning, pray that the evil we dread may be averted; but should it
ensue, consider it as a punishment sent in mercy. It will be better
for you not to come to school to-morrow; instead of the references
you were to have looked out, I had rather you read over in a humble
spirit the Epistle of St. James.'

Jane's tears by this time were flowing fast, and finding that she no
longer attempted to defend herself, her cousin said no more. He
joined the others, and Jane, escaping to her own room, gave way to a
passionate fit of crying. Whether her tears were of true sorrow or
of anger she could not have told herself; she was still sobbing on
her bed when the darkness came on, and her two little sisters came in
on their way to bed to wish her good-night.

'Oh, Jane, Jane! what is the matter? have you been naughty?' asked
the little girls in great amazement.

'Never mind,' said Jane, shortly; 'good-night,' and she sat up and
wiped away her tears. The children still lingered. 'Go away, do,'


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