Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Scenes and Characters online

. (page 4 of 20)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 4 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


said she. 'Is Robert gone?'

'No,' said Phyllis, 'he is reading the newspaper.'

Phyllis and Adeline left the room, and Jane walked up and down,
considering whether she should venture to go down to tea; perhaps her
cousin had waited till the little girls had gone before he spoke to
Mr. Mohun, or perhaps her red eyes might cause questions on her
troubles; she was still in doubt when Lily opened the door, a lamp in
her hand.

'My dear Jenny, are you here? Ada told me you were crying, what is
the matter?'

'Then you have not heard?' said Jane.

'Only Robert began just now, "Poor Jenny, she has been the cause of
getting us into a very awkward scrape," but then Ada came to tell me
about you, and I came away.'

'Yes,' said Jane, angrily, 'he will throw all the blame upon me, when
I am sure it was quite as much the fault of that horrible Mrs.
Appleton, and papa will be as angry as possible.'

'But what has happened?' asked Lily.

'Oh! that chatterer, that worst of gossipers, has gone and told the
Naylors and Mrs. Gage all we said about them the other day.'

'So you told Mrs. Appleton?' said Lily; 'so that was the reason you
were so obliging about the marking thread. Oh, Jane, you had better
say no more about Mrs. Appleton! And has it done much mischief?'

'Oh! Mrs. Gage "pitched" into Robert, as Wat Greenwood would say,
and the christening is off again.'

'Jane, this is frightful,' said Lily; 'I do not wonder that you are
unhappy.'

'Well, I daresay it will all come right again,' said Jane; 'there
will only be a little delay, papa and Robert will bring them to their
senses in time.'

'Suppose the baby was to die,' said Lily.

'Oh, it will not die,' said Jane, 'a great fat healthy thing like
that likely to die indeed!'

'I cannot make you out, Jane,' said Lily. 'If I had done such a
thing, I do not think I could have a happy minute till it was set
right.'

'Well, I told you I was very sorry,' said Jane, 'only I wish they
would not all be so hard upon me. Robert owns that he should not
have said such things if he did not wish them to be repeated.'

'Does he?' cried Lily. 'How exactly like Robert that is, to own
himself in fault when he is obliged to blame others. Jane, how could
you hear him say such things and not be overcome with shame? And
then to turn it against him! Oh, Jane, I do not think I can talk to
you any more.'

'I do not mean to say it was not very good of him,' said Jane.

'Good of him - what a word!' cried Lily. 'Well, good-night, I cannot
bear to talk to you now. Shall I say anything for you downstairs?'

'Oh, tell papa and Robert I am very sorry,' said Jane. 'I shall not
come down again, you may leave the lamp.'

On her way downstairs in the dark Lilias was led, by the example of
her cousin, to reflect that she was not without some share in the
mischief that had been done; the words which report imputed to Mr.
Devereux were mostly her own or Jane's. There was no want of candour
in Lily, and as soon as she entered the drawing-room she went
straight up to her father and cousin, and began, 'Poor Jenny is very
unhappy; she desired me to tell you how sorry she is. But I really
believe that I did the mischief, Robert. It was I who said those
foolish things that were repeated as if you had said them. It is a
grievous affair, but who could have thought that we were doing so
much harm?'

'Perhaps it may not do any,' said Emily. 'The Naylors have a great
deal of good about them.'

'They must have more than I suppose, if they can endure what Robert
is reported to have said of them,' said Mr. Mohun.

'What did you say, Robert,' said Lily, 'did you not tell them all was
said by your foolish young cousins?'

'I agreed with you too much to venture on contradicting the report;
you know I could not even deny having called Mrs. Gage by that name.'

'Oh, if I could do anything to mend it!' cried Lily.

But wishes had no effect. Lilias and Jane had to mourn over the full
extent of harm done by hasty words. After the more respectable men
had left the Mohun Arms on the evening of Whit-Monday, the rest gave
way to unrestrained drunkenness, not so much out of reckless self-
indulgence, as to defy the clergyman and the squire. They came to
the front of the parsonage, yelled and groaned for some time, and
ended by breaking down the gate.

This conduct was repeated on Tuesday, and on many Saturdays
following; some young trees in the churchyard were cut, and abuse of
the parson written on the walls the idle young men taking this
opportunity to revenge their own quarrels, caused by Mr. Devereux's
former efforts for their reformation.

On Sunday several children were absent from school; all those
belonging to Farmer Gage's labourers were taken away, and one man was
turned off by the farmers for refusing to remove his child.

Now that the war was carried on so openly, Mr. Mohun considered it
his duty to withdraw his custom from one who chose to set his pastor
at defiance. He went to the forge, and had a long conversation with
the blacksmith, but though he was listened to with respect, it was
not easy to make much impression on an ignorant, hot-tempered man,
who had been greatly offended, and prided himself on showing that he
would support the quarrel of his wife and her relations against both
squire and parson; and though Mr. Mohun did persuade him to own that
it was wrong to be at war with the clergyman, the effect of his
arguments was soon done away with by the Gages, and no ground was
gained.

Mr. Gage's farm was unhappily at no great distance from a dissenting
chapel and school, in the adjoining parish of Stoney Bridge, and
thither the farmer and blacksmith betook themselves, with many of the
cottagers of Broom Hill.

One alone of the family of Tom Naylor refused to join him in his
dissent, and that was his sister, Mrs. Eden, a widow, with one little
girl about seven years old, who, though in great measure dependent
upon him for subsistence, knew her duty too well to desert the
church, or to take her child from school, and continued her even
course, toiling hard for bread, and uncomplaining, though often munch
distressed. All the rest of the parish who were not immediately
under Mr. Mohun's influence were in a sad state of confusion.

Jane was grieved at heart, but would not confess it, and Lilias was
so restless and unhappy, that Emily was quite weary of her
lamentations. Her best comforter was Miss Weston, who patiently
listened to her, sighed with her over the evident sorrow of the
Rector, and the mischief in the parish, and proved herself a true
friend, by never attempting to extenuate her fault.



CHAPTER VI - THE NEW FRIEND



'Maidens should be mild and meek,
Swift to hear, and slow to speak.'

Miss Weston had been much interested by what she heard respecting
Mrs. Eden, and gladly discovered that she was just the person who
could assist in some needlework which was required at Broom Hill.
She asked Lilias to tell her where to find her cottage, and Lily
replied by an offer to show her the way; Miss Weston hesitated,
thinking that perhaps in the present state of things Lily had rather
not see her; but her doubts were quickly removed by this speech, 'I
want to see her particularly. I have been there three times without
finding her. I think I can set this terrible matter right by
speaking to her.'

Accordingly, Lilias and Phyllis set out with Alethea and Marianne one
afternoon to Mrs. Eden's cottage, which stood at the edge of a long
field at the top of the hill. Very fast did Lily talk all the way,
but she grew more silent as she came to the cottage, and knocked at
the door; it was opened by Mrs. Eden herself, a pale, but rather
pretty young woman, with a remarkable gentle and pleasing face, and a
manner which was almost ladylike, although her hands were freshly
taken out of the wash-tub. She curtsied low, and coloured at the
sight of Lilias, set chairs for the visitors, and then returned to
her work.

'Oh! Mrs. Eden,' Lily began, intending to make her explanation, but
feeling confused, thought it better to wait till her friend's
business was settled, and altered her speech into 'Miss Weston is
come to speak to you about some work.'

Mrs. Eden looked quite relieved, and Alethea proceeded to appoint the
day for her coming to Broom Hill, and arrange some small matters,
during which Lily not only settled what to say, but worked herself
into a fit of impatience at the length of Alethea's instructions.
When they were concluded, however, and there was a pause, her words
failed her, and she wished that she was miles from the cottage, or
that she had never mentioned her intentions. At last she stammered
out, 'Oh! Mrs. Eden - I wanted to speak to you about - about Mr.
Devereux and your brother.'

Mrs. Eden bent over her wash-tub, Miss Weston examined the shells on
the chimney-piece, Marianne and Phyllis listened with all their ears,
and poor Lily was exceedingly uncomfortable.

'I wished to tell you - I do not think - I do not mean - It was not his
saying. Indeed, he did not say those things about the Gages.'

'I told my brother I did not think Mr. Devereux would go for to say
such a thing,' said Mrs. Eden, as much confused as Lily.

'Oh! that was right, Mrs. Eden. The mischief was all my making and
Jane's. We said those foolish things, and they were repeated as if
it was he. Oh! do tell your brother so, Mrs. Eden. It was very good
of you to think it was not Cousin Robert. Pray tell Tom Naylor. I
cannot bear that things should go on in this dreadful way.'

'Indeed, Miss, I am very sorry,' said Mrs. Eden.

'But, Mrs Eden, I am sure that would set it right again,' said Lily,
'are not you? I would do anything to have that poor baby
christened.'

Lily's confidence melted away as she saw that Mrs. Eden's tears were
falling fast, and she ended with, 'Only tell them, and we shall see
what will happen.'

'Very well, Miss Lilias,' said Mrs. Eden. 'I am very sorry.'

'Let us hope that time and patience will set things right,' said Miss
Weston, to relieve the embarrassment of both parties. 'Your brother
must soon see that Mr. Devereux only wishes to do his duty.'

Alethea skilfully covered Lily's retreat, and the party took leave of
Mrs. Eden, and turned into their homeward path.

Lily at first seemed disposed to be silent, and Miss Weston therefore
amused herself with listening to the chatter of the little girls as
they walked on before them.

'There are only thirty-six days to the holidays,' said Phyllis; 'Ada
and I keep a paper in the nursery with the account of the number of
days. We shall be so glad when Claude, and Maurice, and Redgie come
home.'

'Are they not very boisterous?' said Marianne.

'Not Maurice,' said Phyllis.

'No, indeed,' said Lily, 'Maurice is like nobody else. He takes up
some scientific pursuit each time he comes home, and cares for
nothing else for some time, and then quite forgets it. He is an odd-
looking boy too, thick and sturdy, with light flaxen hair, and dark,
overhanging eyebrows, and he makes the most extraordinary grimaces.'

'And Reginald?' said Alethea.

'Oh! Redgie is a noble-looking fellow. But just eleven, and taller
than Jane. His complexion so fair, yet fresh and boyish, and his
eyes that beautiful blue that Ada's are - real blue. Then his hair,
in dark brown waves, with a rich auburn shine. The old knights must
have been just like Redgie. And Claude - Oh! Miss Weston, have you
ever seen Claude?'

'No, but I have seen your eldest brother.'

'William? Why, he has been in Canada these three years. Where could
you have seen him?'

'At Brighton, about four years ago.'

'Ah! the year before he went. I remember that his regiment was
there. Well, it is curious that you should know him; and did you
ever hear of Harry, the brother that we lost?'

'I remember Captain Mohun's being called away to Oxford by his
illness,' said Alethea.

'Ah, yes! William was the only one of us who was with him, even papa
was not there. His illness was so short.'

'Yes,' said Alethea, 'I think it was on a Tuesday that Captain Mohun
left Brighton, and we saw his death in the paper on Saturday.'

'William only arrived the evening that he died. Papa was gone to
Ireland to see about Cousin Rotherwood's property. Robert, not
knowing that, wrote to him at Beechcroft; Eleanor forwarded the
letter without opening it, and so we knew nothing till Robert came to
tell us that all was over.'

'Without any preparation?'

'With none. Harry had left home about ten days before, quite well,
and looking so handsome. You know what a fine-looking person William
is. Well, Harry was very like him, only not so tall and strong, with
the same clear hazel eyes, and more pink in his cheeks - fairer
altogether. Then Harry wrote, saying that he had caught one of his
bad colds. We did not think much of it, for he was always having
coughs. We heard no more for a week, and then one morning Eleanor
was sent for out of the schoolroom, and there was Robert come to tell
us. Oh! it was such a thunderbolt. This was what did the mischief.
You know papa and mamma being from home so long, the elder boys had
no settled place for the holidays; sometimes they stayed with one
friend, sometimes with another, and so no one saw enough of them to
find out how delicate poor Harry really was. I think papa had been
anxious the only winter they were at home together, and Harry had
been talked to and advised to take care; but in the summer and autumn
he was well, and did not think about it. He went to Oxford by the
coach - it was a bitterly cold frosty day - there was a poor woman
outside, shivering and looking very ill, and Harry changed places
with her. He was horribly chilled, but thinking he had only a common
cold, he took no care. Robert, coming to Oxford about a week after,
found him very ill, and wrote to papa and William, but William
scarcely came in time. Harry just knew him, and that was all. He
could not speak, and died that night. Then William stayed at Oxford
to receive papa, and Robert came to tell us.'

'It must have been a terrible shock.'

'Such a loss - he was so very good and clever. Every one looked up to
him - William almost as much as the younger ones. He never was in any
scrape, had all sorts of prizes at Eton, besides getting his
scholarship before he was seventeen.'

Whenever Lily could get Miss Weston alone, it was her way to talk in
this manner. She loved the sound of her own voice so well, that she
was never better satisfied than when engrossing the whole
conversation. Having nothing to talk of but her books, her poor
people, and her family, she gave her friend the full benefit of all
she could say on each subject, while Alethea had kindness enough to
listen with real interest to her long rambling discourses, well
pleased to see her happy.

The next time they met, Lilias told her all she knew or imagined
respecting Eleanor, and of her own debate with Claude, and ended,
'Now, Miss Weston, tell me your opinion, which would you choose for a
sister, Eleanor or Emily?'

'I have some experience of Miss Mohun's delightful manners, and none
of Mrs. Hawkesworth's, so I am no fair judge,' said Alethea.

'I really have done justice to Eleanor's sterling goodness,' said
Lily. 'Now what should you think?'

'I can hardly imagine greater proofs of affection than Mrs.
Hawkesworth has given you,' said Miss Weston, smiling.

'It was because it was her duty,' said Lilias. 'You have only heard
the facts, but you cannot judge of her ways and looks. Now only
think, when Frank came home, after seven years of perils by field and
flood - there she rose up to receive him as if he had been Mr. Nobody
making a morning call. And all the time before they were married, I
do believe she thought more of showing Emily how much tea we were to
use in a week than anything else.'

'Perhaps some people might have admired her self-command,' said
Alethea.

'Self-command, the refuge of the insensible? And now, I told you
about dear Harry the other day. He was Eleanor's especial brother,
yet his death never seemed to make any difference to her. She
scarcely cried: she heard our lessons as usual, talked in her quiet
voice - showed no tokens of feeling.'

'Was her health as good as before?' asked Miss Weston.

'She was not ill,' said Lily; 'if she had, I should have been
satisfied. She certainly could not take long walks that winter, but
she never likes walking. People said she looked ill, but I do not
know.'

'Shall I tell you what I gather from your history?'

'Pray do.'

'Then do not think me very perverse, if I say that perhaps the grief
she then repressed may have weighed down her spirits ever since, so
that you can hardly remember any alteration.'

'That I cannot,' said Lily. 'She is always the same, but then she
ought to have been more cheerful before his death.'

'Did not you lose him soon after your mother?' said Alethea.

'Two whole years,' said Lily. 'Oh! and aunt, Robert too, and Frank
went to India the beginning of that year; yes, there was enough to
depress her, but I never thought of grief going on in that quiet dull
way for so many years.'

'You would prefer one violent burst, and then forgetfulness?'

'Not exactly,' said Lily; 'but I should like a little evidence of it.
If it is really strong, it cannot be hid.'

Little did Lily think of the grief that sat heavy upon the spirit of
Alethea, who answered - 'Some people can do anything that they
consider their duty.'

'Duty: what, are you a duty lover?' exclaimed Lilias. 'I never
suspected it, because you are not disagreeable.'

'Thank you,' said Alethea, laughing, 'your compliment rather
surprises me, for I thought you told me that your brother Claude was
on the duty side of the question.'

'He thinks he is,' said Lily, 'but love is his real motive of action,
as I can prove to you. Poor Claude had a very bad illness when he
was about three years old; and ever since he has been liable to
terrible headaches, and he is not at all strong. Of course he cannot
always study hard, and when first he went to school, every one
scolded him for being idle. I really believe he might have done
more, but then he was so clever that he could keep up without any
trouble, and, as Robert says, that was a great temptation; but still
papa was not satisfied, because he said Claude could do better. So
said Harry. Oh! you cannot think what a person Harry was, as high-
spirited as William, and as gentle as Claude; and in his kind way he
used to try hard to make Claude exert himself, but it never would do-
-he was never in mischief, but he never took pains. Then Harry died,
and when Claude came home, and saw how changed things were, how gray
papa's hair had turned, and how silent and melancholy William had
grown, he set himself with all his might to make up to papa as far as
he could. He thought only of doing what Harry would have wished, and
papa himself says that he has done wonders. I cannot see that Henry
himself could have been more than Claude is now; he has not spared
himself in the least, his tutor says, and he would have had the
Newcastle Scholarship last year, if he had not worked so hard that he
brought on one of his bad illnesses, and was obliged to come home.
Now I am sure that he has acted from love, for it was as much his
duty to take pains while Harry was alive as afterwards.'

'Certainly,' said Miss Weston, 'but what does he say himself?'

'Oh! he never will talk of himself,' said Lily.

'Have you not overlooked one thing which may be the truth,' said
Alethea, as if she was asking for information, 'that duty and love
may be identical? Is not St. Paul's description of charity very like
the duty to our neighbour?'

'The practice is the same, but not the theory,' said Lily.

'Now, what is called duty, seems to me to be love doing unpleasant
work,' said Miss Weston; 'love disguised under another name, when
obliged to act in a way which seems, only seems, out of accordance
with its real title.'

'That is all very well for those who have love,' said Lily. 'Some
have not who do their duty conscientiously - another word which I
hate, by the bye.'

'They have love in a rough coat, perhaps,' said Alethea, 'and I
should expect it soon to put on a smoother one.'



CHAPTER VII - SIR MAURICE



'Shall thought was his, in after time,
Thus to be hitched into a rhyme;
The simple sire could only boast
That he was loyal to his cost,
The banished race of kings revered,
And lost his land.'

The holidays arrived, and with them the three brothers, for during
the first few weeks of the Oxford vacation Claude accompanied Lord
Rotherwood on visits to some college friends, and only came home the
same day as the younger ones.

Maurice did not long leave his sisters in doubt as to what was to be
his reigning taste, for as soon as dinner was over, he made Jane find
the volume of the Encyclopaedia containing Entomology, and with his
elbows on the table, proceeded to study it so intently, that the
young ladies gave up all hopes of rousing him from it. Claude threw
himself down on the sofa to enjoy the luxury of a desultory talk with
his sisters; and Reginald, his head on the floor, and his heels on a
chair, talked loud and fast enough for all three, with very little
regard to what the damsels might be saying.

'Oh! Claude,' said Lily, 'you cannot think how much we like Miss
Weston, she lets us call her Alethea, and - '

Here came an interruption from Mr. Mohun, who perceiving the position
of Reginald's dusty shoes, gave a loud 'Ah - h!' as if he was scolding
a dog, and ordered him to change them directly.

'Here, Phyl!' said Reginald, kicking off his shoes, 'just step up and
bring my shippers, Rachel will give them to you.'

Away went Phyllis, well pleased to be her brother's fag.

'Ah! Redgie does not know the misfortune that hangs over him,' said
Emily.

'What?' said Reginald, 'will not the Baron let Viper come to the
house?'

'Worse,' said Emily, 'Rachel is going away.'

'Rachel?' cried Claude, starting up from the sofa.

'Rachel?' said Maurice, without raising his eyes.

'Rachel! Rachel! botheration!' roared Reginald, with a wondrous
caper.

'Yes, Rachel,' said Emily; 'Rachel, who makes so much of you, for no
reason that I could ever discover, but because you are the most
troublesome.'

'You will never find any one to mend your jackets, and dress your
wounds like Rachel,' said Lily, 'and make a baby of you instead of a
great schoolboy. What will become of you, Redgie?'

'What will become of any of us?' said Claude; 'I thought Rachel was
the mainspring of the house.'

'Have you quarrelled with her, Emily?' said Reginald.

'Nonsense,' said Emily, 'it is only that her brother has lost his
wife, and wants her to take care of his children.'

'Well,' said Reginald, 'her master has lost his wife, and wants her
to take care of his children.'

'I cannot think what I shall do,' said Ada; 'I cry about it every
night when I go to bed. What is to be done?'

'Send her brother a new wife,' said Maurice.

'Send him Emily,' said Reginald; 'we could spare her much better.'

'Only I don't wish him joy,' said Maurice.

'Well, I hope you wish me joy of my substitute,' said Emily; 'I do
not think you would ever guess, but Lily, after being in what Rachel
calls quite a way, has persuaded every one to let us have Esther
Bateman.'

'What, the Baron?' said Claude, in surprise.

'Yes,' said Lily, 'is it not delightful? He said at first, Emily was
too inexperienced to teach a young servant; but then we settled that
Hannah should be upper servant, and Esther will only have to wait
upon Phyl and Ada. Then he said Faith Longley was of a better set of
people, but I am sure it would give one the nightmare to see her
lumbering about the house, and then he talked it over with Robert and
with Rachel.'

'And was not Rachel against it, or was she too kind to her young
ladies?'

'Oh! she was cross when she talked it over with us,' said Lily; 'but
we coaxed her over, and she told the Baron it would do very well.'

'And Robert?'

'He was quite with us, for he likes Esther as much as I do,' said
lily.

'Now, Lily,' said Jane, 'how can you say he was quite with you, when
he said he thought it would be better if she was farther from home,
and under some older person?'

'Yes, but he allowed that she would be much safer here than at home,'
said Lily.

'But I thought she used to be the head of all the ill behaviour in


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 4 of 20)