Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Scenes and Characters online

. (page 8 of 20)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 8 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Reginald, in high delight at the prospect of real fishing, something
beyond his own performances with a stick and a string, in pursuit of
minnows in the ditches. Reginald was making contrivances for tying a
string round his wrist and hanging the end of it from the window,
that Andrew Grey might give it a pull as he went by to his work, to
wake him, when Lord Rotherwood exclaimed, 'What! cannot you wake
yourself at any time you please?'

'No,' said Reginald, 'I never heard of any one that could.'

'Then I advise you to learn the art; in the meantime I will call you
to-morrow.'

Loud voices and laughter in the hall, and the front door creaking on
its hinges at sunrise, convinced the household that this was no vain
boast; before breakfast was quite over the fishermen were seen
approaching the house. Lord Rotherwood was an extraordinary figure,
in an old shooting jacket of his uncle's, an enormous pair of
fishing-boots of William's, and the broad-brimmed straw hat, which
always hung up in the hall, and was not claimed by any particular
owner.

Maurice displayed to Jane the contents of two phials, strange little
creatures, with stranger names, of which he was as proud as Reginald
of his three fine trout. Lord Rotherwood did not appear till he had
made himself look like other people, which he did in a surprisingly
short time. He began estimating the weight of the fish, and talking
at his most rapid rate, till at last Claude said, 'Phyllis told us
just now that you were coming back, for that she heard Cousin
Rotherwood talking, and it proved to be Jane's old turkey cock
gobbling.'

'No bad compliment,' said Emily, 'for Phyllis was once known to say,
on hearing a turkey cock, "How melodiously that nightingale sings."'

'No, no! that was Ada,' said Lilias.

'I could answer for that,' said Claude. 'Phyllis is too familiar
with both parties to mistake their notes. Besides, she never was
known to use such a word as melodiously.'

'Do you remember,' said the Marquis, 'that there was some great
lawyer who had three kinds of handwriting, one that the public could
read, one that only his clerk could read, and one that nobody could
read?'

'I suppose I am the clerk,' said Claude, 'unless I divide the honour
with Florence.'

'I do not think I am unintelligible anywhere but here,' said Lord
Rotherwood. 'There is nothing sufficiently exciting at home, if
Grosvenor Square is to be called home.'

'Sometimes you do it without knowing it,' said Lily.

'Yes,' said Claude, 'when you do not exactly know what you are going
to say.'

'Then it is no bad plan,' said Lord Rotherwood. 'People are
satisfied, and you don't commit yourself.'

'I'll tell you what, Cousin Rotherwood,' exclaimed Phyllis, 'your
hand is bleeding.'

'Is it? Thank you, Phyllis, I thought I had washed it off: now do
find me some sealing-wax - India-rub her - sticking-plaster, I mean.'

'Oh! Rotherwood,' said Emily, 'what a bad cut, how did it happen?'

'Only, I am the victim to Maurice's first essay in fishing.'

'Just fancy what an awkward fellow Maurice is,' said Reginald, 'he
had but one throw, and he managed to stick the hook into Rotherwood's
hand.'

'One of those barbed hooks? Oh! Rotherwood, how horrid!' said Emily.

'And he cut it out with his knife, and caught that great trout with
it directly,' said Reginald.

'And neither half drowned Maurice, nor sent him home again?' asked
Lily.

'I contented myself with taking away his weapon,' said the Marquis;
'and he wished for nothing better than to poke about in the gutters
for insects; it was only Redgie that teased him into the nobler
sport.'

Emily was inclined to make a serious matter of the accident, but her
cousin said ten words while she said one, and by the time her first
sentence was uttered, she found him talking about his ride to
Devereux Castle.

He and Claude set out as soon as breakfast was over, and came back
about three o'clock; Claude was tired with the heat, and betook
himself to the sofa, where he fell asleep, under pretence of reading,
but the indefatigable Marquis was ready and willing to set out with
Reginald and Wat Greenwood to shoot rabbits.

Dinner-time came, and Emily sat at the drawing-room window with
Claude and Lilias, lamenting her cousin's bad habits. 'Nothing will
ever make him punctual,' said she.

'I am in duty bound to let you say nothing against him,' said Claude.

'It is very good-natured in him to wait for you,' said Lily, 'but it
would be horribly selfish to leave you behind.'

'Delay is his great horror,' said Claude, 'and the wonder of his
character is, that he is not selfish. No one had ever better
training for it.'

'He does like his own way very much,' said Lilias.

'Who does not?' said Claude.

'Nothing shows his sense so much,' said Emily, 'as his great
attachment to papa - the only person who ever controlled him.'

'And to Claude - his opposite in everything,' said Lilias.

'I think he will tire you to death in Germany,' said Emily.

'Never fear,' said Claude, 'my vis inertiae is enough to
counterbalance any amount of restlessness.'

'Here they come,' said Lily; 'how Wat Greenwood is grinning at
Rotherwood's jokes!'

'A happy day for Wat,' said Emily. 'He will be quite dejected if
William is not at home next shooting season. He thinks you a
degenerate Mohun, Claude.'

'He must comfort himself with Redgie,' said Claude.

'Rotherwood is only eager about shooting in common with everything
else,' said Lily, 'but Redgie, I fear, will care for nothing else.'

Lord Rotherwood came in, accounting for being late, as, in passing
through a harvest field, he could not help attempting to reap. The
Beechcroft farming operations had been his especial amusement from
very early days, and his plans were numerous for farming on a grand
scale as soon as he should be of age. His talk during dinner was of
turnips and wheat, till at length Mr. Mohun asked him what he thought
of the appearance of the castle. He said it was very forlorn; the
rooms looked so dreary and deserted that he could not bear to be in
them, and had been out of doors almost all the time. Indeed, he was
afraid he had disappointed the housekeeper by not complimenting her
as she deserved, for the freezing dismal order in which she kept
everything. 'And really,' said he, 'I must go again to-morrow and
make up for it, and Emily, you must come with me and try to devise
something to make the unhappy place less like the abode of the Prince
of the Black Islands.'

Emily willingly promised to go, and she went on talking to him, and
telling him whom he was to meet on the next day, when an unusual
silence making her look up, she beheld him more than half asleep.

Reginald fidgeted and sighed, and Maurice grew graver and graver as
they thought of the wasps. Maurice wanted to take a nest entire, and
began explaining his plan to Claude.

'You see, Claude, burning some straw and then digging, spoils the
combs, as Wat does it; now I have got some puff-balls and sulphur to
put into the hole, and set fire to them with a lucifer match, so as
to stifle the wasps, and then dig them out quietly to-morrow
morning.'

'It is all of no use, if that Rotherwood will do nothing but sleep,'
said Reginald, in a disconsolate tone.

'You should not have made him get up at four,' said Emily.

'Who! I?' exclaimed the Marquis. 'I never was wider awake. What
are you waiting for, Reginald? I thought you were going to take
wasps' nests.'

'You are much too tired, I am sure,' said Emily.

'Tired! not in the least, I have done nothing to-day to tire me,'
said Lord Rotherwood, walking up and down the room to keep himself
awake.

The whole party went out, and found Wat Greenwood waiting for them
with a bundle of straw, a spade, and a little gunpowder. Maurice
carried a basket containing all his preparations, on which Wat looked
with supreme contempt, telling him that his puffs were too green to
make a smeech. Maurice, not condescending to argue the point, ran on
to a nest which Reginald had marked on one of the green banks of the
ancient moat.

'Take care that the wasps are all come in; mind what you are about,
Maurice,' called his father.

'Master Maurice,' shouted Wat, 'you had better take a green bough.'

'Never mind, Wat,' said Lord Rotherwood, 'he would not stay long
enough to use it if he had it.'

Reginald ran after Maurice, who had just reached the nest.

'There is one coming in, the evening is so warm they are not quiet
yet.'

'I'll quiet them,' said Maurice, kneeling down, and putting his first
puff-ball into the hole.

Reginald stood by with a sly smile, as he pulled a branch off a
neighbouring filbert-tree. The next moment Maurice gave a sudden
yell, 'The wasps! the wasps!' and jumping up, and tripping at his
first step, rolled down the bank, and landed safely at Lord
Rotherwood's feet. The shouts of laughter were loud, but he regarded
them not, and as soon as he recovered his feet, rushed past his
sisters, and never stopped till he reached the house. Redgie stood
alone, in the midst of a cloud of wasps, beating them off with a
bough, roaring with laughter, and calling Wat to bring the straw to
burn them.

'No, no, Redgie, come away, leave them for Maurice to try again,'
said his father.

'The brute, he stung me,' cried Reginald, knocking down a wasp or two
as he came down. 'What is this?' added he, as he stumbled over
something at the bottom of the slope. 'Oh! Maurice's basket; look
here - laudanum - did he mean to poison the wasps?'

'No,' said Jane, 'to cure their stings.'

'The poor unhappy quiz!' cried Reginald.

While the others were busy over a nest, Mr. Mohun asked Emily how the
boy got at the medicine chest. Emily looked confused, and said she
supposed Jane had given him a bottle.

'Jane is too young to be trusted there,' said Mr. Mohun, 'I thought
you knew better; do not let the key be out of your possession again.'

After a few more nests had been taken in the usual manner, they
returned to the house. Maurice was lying on the sofa reading the
Penny Magazine, from which he raised his eyes no more that evening,
in spite of all the jokes which flew about respecting wounded
knights, courage, and the balsam of Fierabras. He called Jane to
teach her how flies were made, and as soon as tea was over he went to
bed. Reginald, after many yawns, prepared to follow his example, and
as he was wishing his sisters good-night, Emily said, 'Now, Redgie,
do not go out at such a preposterous hour to-morrow morning.'

'What is that to you?' was Reginald's courteous inquiry.

'I do not wish to see every one fast asleep to-morrow evening,' said
Emily, and she looked at her cousin, whose head was far back over his
chair.

'He is a Trojan,' said Reginald.

'Is a Trojan better than a Spartan?' asked Ada, meditatively.

'Helen thought so,' said Claude.

'"When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war,"' muttered the
Marquis.

'You are all talking Greek,' said Jane.

'Arabic,' said Claude.

As far as it could be comprehended, Lord Rotherwood's answer related
to Maurice and the wasps.

'There,' said Emily, 'what is to be done if he is in that condition
to-morrow?'

'I am not asleep; what makes you think I am?'

'I wish you would sit in that great chair,' said Emily, 'I am afraid
you will break your neck; you look so uncomfortable, I cannot bear to
see you.'

'I never was more comfortable in my life,' said Lord Rotherwood,
asleep while finishing the sentence; but this time, happily with his
elbows on the table, and his head in a safer position.

The next day was spent rather more rationally. Lord Rotherwood met
with a book of Irish Tales, with which he became so engrossed that he
did not like to leave it when Emily and Claude were ready to ride to
Devereux Castle with him. When there he was equally eager and
vehement about each matter that came under consideration, and so many
presented themselves, that Emily began to be in agonies lest she
should not be at home in time to dress and receive her guests. They
did, however, reach the house before Lilias, who had been walking
with Miss Weston, came in, and when she went upstairs, she found
Emily full of complaints at the inconvenience of having no Rachel to
assist her in dressing, and to see that everything was in order, and
that Phyllis was fit to appear when she came down in the evening;
but, by the assistance of Lily and Jane, she got over her troubles,
and when she went into the drawing-room, she was much relieved to
find her two gentlemen quite safe and dressed. She had been in great
fear of Lord Rotherwood's straying away to join in some of Reginald's
sports, and was grateful to the Irish book for keeping him out of
mischief.

Emily was in her glory; it was the first large dinner-party since
Eleanor had gone, and though she pitied herself for having the
trouble of entertaining the people, she really enjoyed the feeling
that she now appeared as the mistress of New Court, with her cousin,
the Marquis, by her side, to show how highly she was connected. And
everything went off just as could be wished. Lord Rotherwood talked
intelligibly and sensibly, and Mr. Mohun's neighbour at dinner had a
voice which he could hear. Lily's pleasure was not less than her
sister's, though of a different kind. She delighted in thinking how
well Emily did the honours, in watching the varied expression of Lord
Rotherwood's animated countenance, in imagining Claude's forehead to
be finer than that of any one else, and in thinking how people must
admire Reginald's tall, active figure, and very handsome face. She
was asked to play, and did tolerably well, but was too shy to sing,
nor, indeed, was Reginald encouraging. 'What is the use of your
singing, Lily? If it was like Miss Weston's, now - '

Reginald had taken a great fancy to Miss Weston; he stood by her all
the evening, and afterwards let her talk to him, and then began to
chatter himself, at last becoming so confidential as to impart to her
the grand object of his ambition, which was to be taller than Claude!

The next morning Lord Rotherwood left Beechcroft, somewhat to Emily's
relief; for though she was very proud of him, and much enjoyed the
dignity of being seen to talk familiarly with him, yet, when no
strangers were present, and he became no more than an ordinary
cousin, she was worried by his incessant activity, and desire to see,
know, and do everything as fast and as thoroughly as possible. She
could not see the use of such vehemence; she liked to take things in
a moderate way, and as Claude said, much preferred the passive to the
active voice. Claude, on the contrary, was ashamed of his
constitutional indolence, looked on it as a temptation, and struggled
against it, almost envying his cousin his unabated eagerness and
untiring energy, and liking to be with him, because no one else so
effectually roused him from his habitual languor. His indolence was,
however, so much the effect of ill health, that exertion was
sometimes scarcely in his power, especially in hot weather, and by
the time his brothers' studies were finished each day, he was unfit
for anything but to lie on the grass under the plane-tree.

The days glided on, and the holidays came to an end; Maurice spent
them in adding to his collection of insects, which, with Jane's
assistance, he arranged very neatly; and Reginald and Phyllis
performed several exploits, more agreeable to themselves than
satisfactory to the more rational part of the New Court community.
At the same time, Reginald's devotion to Miss Weston increased; he
never moved from her side when she sang, did not fail to be of the
party when she walked with his sisters, offered her one of his own
puppies, named his little ship 'Alethea,' and was even tolerably
civil to Marianne.

At length the day of departure came; the boys returned to school,
Claude joined Lord Rotherwood, and the New Court was again in a state
of tranquillity.



CHAPTER XI - DANCING



'Prescribe us not our duties.'

'Well, Phyllis,' said her father, as he passed through the hall to
mount his horse, 'how do you like the prospect of Monsieur le Roi's
instructions?'

'Not at all, papa,' answered Phyllis, running out to the hall door to
pat the horse, and give it a piece of bread.

'Take care you turn out your toes,' said Mr. Mohun. 'You must learn
to dance like a dragon before Cousin Rotherwood's birthday next
year.'

'Papa, how do dragons dance?'

'That is a question I must decide at my leisure,' said Mr. Mohun,
mounting. 'Stand out of the way, Phyl, or you will feel how horses
dance.'

Away he rode, while Phyllis turned with unwilling steps to the
nursery, to be dressed for her first dancing lesson; Marianne Weston
was to learn with her, and this was some consolation, but Phyllis
could not share in the satisfaction Adeline felt in the arrival of
Monsieur le Roi. Jane was also a pupil, but Lily, whose
recollections of her own dancing days were not agreeable, absented
herself entirely from the dancing-room, even though Alethea Weston
had come with her sister.

Poor Phyllis danced as awkwardly as was expected, but Adeline seemed
likely to be a pupil in whom a master might rejoice; Marianne was
very attentive and not ungraceful, but Alethea soon saw reason to
regret the arrangement that had been made, for she perceived that
Jane considered the master a fair subject for derision, and her 'nods
and becks, and wreathed smiles,' called up corresponding looks in
Marianne's face.

'Oh Brownie, you are a naughty thing!' said Emily, as soon as M. le
Roi had departed.

'He really was irresistible!' said Jane.

'I suppose ridicule is one of the disagreeables to which a dancing-
master makes up his mind,' said Alethea.

'Yes,' said Jane, 'one can have no compunction in quizzing that
species.'

'I do not think I can quite say that, Jane,' said Miss Weston.

'This man especially lays himself open to ridicule,' said Jane; 'do
you know, Alethea, that he is an Englishman, and his name is King,
only he calls himself Le Roi, and speaks broken English!'

Though Alethea joined in the general laugh, she did not feel quite
satisfied; she feared that if not checked in time, Jane would proceed
to actual impertinence, and that Marianne would be tempted to follow
her example, but she did not like to interfere, and only advised
Marianne to be on her guard, hoping that Emily would also speak
seriously to her sister.

On the next occasion, however, Jane ventured still farther; her
grimaces were almost irresistible, and she had a most comical manner
of imitating the master's attitudes when his eye was not upon her,
and putting on a demure countenance when he turned towards her, which
sorely tried Marianne.

'What shall I do, Alethea?' said the little girl, as the sisters
walked home together; 'I do not know how to help laughing, if Jane
will be so very funny.'

'I am afraid we must ask mamma to let us give up the dancing,'
replied Alethea; 'the temptation is almost too strong, and I do not
think she would wish to expose you to it.'

'But, Alethea, why do not you speak to Jane?' asked Marianne; 'no one
seems to tell her it is wrong; Miss Mohun was almost laughing.'

'I do not think Jane would consider that I ought to find fault with
her,' said Alethea.

'But you would not scold her,' urged Marianne; 'only put her in mind
that it is not right, not kind; that Monsieur le Roi is in authority
over her for the time.'

'I will speak to mamma,' said Alethea, 'perhaps it will be better
next time.'

And it was better, for Mr. Mohun happening to be at home, was dragged
into the dancing-room by Emily and Ada. Once, when she thought he
was looking another way, Jane tried to raise a smile, but a stern
'Jane, what are you thinking of?' recalled her to order, and when the
lesson was over her father spoke gravely to her, telling her that he
thought few things more disgusting in a young lady than impertinence
towards her teachers; and then added, 'Miss Weston, I hope you keep
strict watch over these giddy young things.'

Awed by her father, Jane behaved tolerably well at that time and the
next, and Miss Weston hoped her interference would not be needed, but
as if to make up for this restraint, her conduct a fortnight after
was quite beyond bearing. She used every means to make Marianne
laugh, and at last went so far as to pretend to think that M. le Roi
had not understood what she said in English, and to translate it into
French. Poor Marianne looked imploringly at her sister, and Alethea
hoped that Emily would interpose, but Emily was turning away her head
to conceal a laugh, and Miss Weston was obliged to give Jane a very
grave look, which she perfectly understood, though she pretended not
to see it. When the exercise was over Miss Weston made her a sign to
approach, and said, 'Jane, do you think your papa would have liked - '

'What do you mean?' said Jane, 'I have not been laughing.'

'You know what I mean,' said Alethea, 'and pray do not be displeased
if I ask you not to make it difficult for Marianne to behave
properly.'

Jane drew up her head and went back to her place. She played no more
tricks that day, but as soon as the guests were gone, began telling
Lilias how Miss Weston had been meddling and scolding her.

'And well you must have deserved it,' said Lily.

'I do not say that Jenny was right,' said Emily, 'but I think Miss
Weston might allow me to correct my own sister in my own house.'

'You correct Jane!' cried Lily, and Jane laughed.

'I only mean,' said Emily, 'that it was not very polite, and papa
says the closest friendship is no reason for dispensing with the
rules of politeness.'

'Certainly not,' said Lily, 'the rules of politeness are rules of
love, and it was in love that Alethea spoke; she sees how sadly we
are left to ourselves, and is kind enough to speak a word in season.'

'Perhaps,' said Jane, 'since it was in love that she spoke, you would
like to have her for our reprover for ever, and I can assure you more
unlikely things have happened. I have heard it from one who can
judge.'

'Let me hear no more of this,' said Emily, 'it is preposterous and
ridiculous, and very disrespectful to papa.'

Jane for once, rather shocked at her own words, went back to what had
been said just before.

'Then, perhaps, you would like to have Eleanor back again?'

'I am sure you want some one to put you in mind of your duty,' said
Lily.

'Eleanor and duty!' cried Emily; 'you who thought so much of the
power of love!'

'Of Emily and love, she would say, if it sounded well,' said Jane.

'I cannot see what true love you or Jane are showing now,' said Lily,
'it is no kindness to encourage her pertness, or to throw away a
friendly reproof because it offends your pride.'

'Nobody reproved me,' replied Emily; 'besides, I know love will
prevail; for my sake Jane will not expose herself and me to a
stranger's interference.'

'If you depend upon that, I wish you joy,' said Lilias, as she left
the room.

'What a weathercock Lily is!' cried Jane, 'she has fallen in love
with Alethea Weston, and echoes all she says.'

'Not considering her own inconsistency,' said Emily.

'That Alethea Weston,' exclaimed Jane, in an angry tone; - but Emily,
beginning to recover some sense of propriety, said, 'Jenny, you know
you were very ill-bred, and you made it difficult for the little ones
to behave well.'

'Not our own little ones,' said Jane; 'honest Phyl did not understand
the joke, and Ada was thinking of her attitudes; one comfort is, that
I shall be confirmed in three weeks' time, and then people cannot
treat me as a mere child - little as I am.'

'Oh! Jane,' said Emily, 'I do not like to hear you talk of
confirmation in that light way.'

'No, no,' said Jane, 'I do not mean it - of course I do not mean it -
don't look shocked - it was only by the bye - and another by the bye,
Emily, you know I must have a cap and white ribbons, and I am afraid
I must make it myself.'

'Ay, that is the worst of having Esther,' said Emily, 'she and Hannah
have no notion of anything but the plainest work; I am sure if I had
thought of all the trouble of that kind which having a young girl
would entail, I would never have consented to Esther's coming.'

'That was entirely Lily's scheme,' said Jane.

'Yes; it is impossible to resist Lily, she is so eager and anxious,
and it would have vexed her very much if I had opposed her, and that
I cannot bear; besides, Esther is a very nice girl, and will learn.'


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 8 of 20)