Charlotte Mary Yonge.

A storehouse of stories : storehouse the first online

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any such effect on himself, adding, as she was so squeam-
ish, he would hold his box out of the window while lie
took a pinch, for fear of offending her delicate nostrils. So
saying he did as he had proposed; keeping his hand at a
great distance, and taking a large pinch, he snuffed it up


with uncommon haste and avidity. No sooner had his nose

received the powerful scent, than he began to cough, choke,
and sneeze in sucli a manner as alarmed the company, though
Miss Myra seemed inclined to rejoice at it, and Bob Sprightly,
with his friend Samuel, could with difficulty refrain from a
violent burst of laughter. At length the old gentleman,
being somewhat recovered, began to reproach his niece with
her treachery, in having filled his box with pepper, which he
declared it to be. She denied the charge, and disowned any
knowledge of the adventure. The truth indeed was this:
while Mr. Crossly was walking in the garden, the young gen-
tlemen found his box on the table, and thinking the effect
would afford them some occasion for their mirth, had desired
the footman to procure them a quantity of ground pepper,
which they mixed with a little snuff, and carefully replaced
tlie box where they found it. I have already informed you
of the success of their scheme, in which they had the more
readily engaged, as Mr. Crossly was a man of no very agree-
able disposition, and by his ill-nature had rendered himself
obnoxious to their dislike. The preceding accident, it may
be supposed, did not increase his good humour ; and, to say
the truth, he was in no great harmony during the rest of the

Some time after this, as Miss j\Iyra was stooping to pick
up her scissors. Bob contrived to put a large spider upon the
lappet of her cap, which very quietly marched about without
being perceived,, and entertained itself with the prospect of her
ribbons, gauze, and flowers, surveyed her curls, and examined
the beauty of a bow which hung pendent from the middle of
her head-dress. It afterwards very leisurely took its progress
down her neck, the tickling sensation of whose footsteps she
attributed to some loose locks, which she stroked up with her
hand. This motion quickened its descent, and it now in-
vaded her shoulder, and took its path quite in sight down
her arm, where she first discovered its appearance. With a
scream, which the whole house might have heard, she hastily
jumped across the room and overset a little table, at Avhich
the ladies were at work, and which falling on poor Jemima,
gave her a most violent blow on the head and shoulders, she


being at a distance playing with her cousins at cards. The
company, who were all ignorant of this sudden disturbance,
begged Miss Myra to inform them what was the matter with
her % which she at length complied with, by exclaiming, ' A
spider ! a spider ! What shall I do % Take it off, or I shall
faint ! ' This Sam immediately did ; but as her affectation
was truly ridiculous, he was determined to divert himself still
further with the effects of her folly. In the meantime her
uncle blamed her, with some wamith, for the childish fool-
ishness of her behaviour. ' One would have thought,' said
he, ' it had been a giant instead of a spider with which you
were engaged. Such an outcry, indeed, for nothing at all —
I am quite ashamed of you ! And pray see what mischief
you have done to Miss Placid % The young lady, in some
confusion, apologised for the hurt which her impetuosity had
occasioned; and Jemima, who was seldom ruffled by a tri-
fling accident, soon resumed her usual cheerfulness, though
she felt the pain for a considerable time. Peace and order
being once more re-established, a basket of fruit was brought
to please the children, together with some biscuits and some
small seed cakes, which Mrs. Wagstaff had provided for their

Miss Myra was politely offered some by INIaster Sprightly ;
and upon opening an apricot, a second object of her aversion
presented itself, not less dreadful than the former, a large
earwig dropped into her lap. Notwithstanding the late mis-
chance which had happened, in consequence of such a weak
indulgence of her fears, she again shrieked as if violently
hurt, and started from her seat, which she kicked back at
the same time, without any regard to her uncle, who was
stooping down behind her chair to pick up the stalk of a
bunch of currants which he had let fall.

The chair met his face with such violence as to knock out
one of his front teeth, which had been loose a great while,
and which he had carefully preserved, as it much assisted
his speech. You may imagine, therefore, that this event did
not restore him to a very placid state, as he had already been
sufficiently discomposed by the former circumstances which
1 have mentioned.


Added to her uncle's displeasure, Miss Myra had in some
degree suffered herself, having torn a muslin apron which
she was working, and which she had unpinned to show to
Miss Wagstaff. Such was the state of affairs when Mr.
Speedmore, a young country gentleman, entered the room.
He was about seventeen, very tall and clumsy in his appear-
ance, and entirely destitute of those graces which Mr. Placid
had the preceding evening recommended to his sons. As
soon as he had muttered over his first compliments to the
master of the house, he sneaked himself into a chair that
stood near the door, and sitting down on one side of it,
placed an oak stick w^hich he held in his hand between his
legs, and leaning his chin upon the top, sometimes nibbled
the head, and at others gnawed a piece of his glove, which
happened to be unsewed. Miss Myra surveyed his figure
with the utmost contempt, and whispered to her companion.
Miss Wagstaff, that she should like to tease such a boor,
which she supposed might be easily done by obliging him
to speak, as he absolutely seemed to have lost his tongue.

In consequence of this resolution, she addressed herself
particularly to him, and inquired whether he had been to a
camp, which was at some little distance from Smiledale \
and whether he had yet learned, or intended to learn, the
manual exercise? To this question, as he was very in-
attentive, he at first returned no answer; and upon repeat-
ing it, he misunderstood her meaning, and replied, ' No,
miss ! I have seen no Emanuel, nor do I know any such
person.' This misapprehension afforded great entertainment
to the younger part of the company, who laughed for some
time at his mistake; till Mr. Placid inquired into the cause,
and with great goodnature blamed them for the indulgence
of their mirth at Mr. Speedmore's expense ; and Miss Wag-
staff, with a smile at Miss Myra, added, that the laugh was
turned since the earwig had escaped. She blushed at the
consciousness which she felt at the reproof, and giving her
friend a tap on the shoulder, enjoined her to be silent, de-
claring she would not again speak to the young man, though
he should gnaw his stick down to the ferrule.

Airs. Placid, though in some measure recovered from her


late indisposition, still continued extremely weak. The coach
was therefore ordered to attend them early, and taking their
leave of the company, they all returned home; when the
young folk, after wishing them good night, retired to-bed.
The next morning at breakfast, Miss Finer began the con-
versation by showing how awkwardly Mr. Speedmore had be-
haved, and what a cross gentleman she thought Miss Myra's
uncle was. ' I was so glad when the snufif made him sneeze
and cough!' said Miss Sally. 'And I am sure he deserved
it,' said William ; ' for last Sunday, when we were coming
home from church, he stood at the little gate in the church-
yard with fat Mr. Stopway, and would not let Tom Gibbons
pass; but took him by the shoulder, and shook him for
being so rude as to push his way between two gentlemen.'
' And is that the cause?' returned his father, ' that you rejoice
so heartily at the inconvenience which he suffered ? ^^'hy,
my dear, you take Tom's affront sadly to heart ; but so far
from thinking it ill-natured of him to tell such a poor boy
of a fault, I dare say he intended it as a kind admonition ;
for Tom has not anybody to instruct him in those common
attentions of civility which are necessary to recommend even
a day labourer to regard. And if Mr. Speedmore had the
advantage of a friend to hint to him the use of politeness, it
might have saved him from the censure of your cousin, who
seems to have been quite astonished at the rusticity of his
manners. That young man,' continued he, 'has received no
advantage from his education, his father having neglected to
improve him in anything but the sports of the field, in which
his own time is entirely engaged, and to which he has brought
up his son ; so that you ought rather to compassionate his
misfortune than ridicule his defects; and from observing
how unpleasing such a roughness of manners will make a
person of a good disposition, learn to bestow greater assiduity
in the cultivation of your own graces.' ' But I am too apt
to forget, sir,' said Charles, ' that though I always intend to
mind your advice, and think it very just and reasonable at
the time you are speaking to me, yet when I pass by a gen-
tleman, I frequently do not pull off my hat till he is out of
sight, and then I recollect it would have been more i)olite so


to have done; and thus, in other cases, I do not remember
to attend when anybody in company is addressing them-
selves to me; because I am busy, either in looking out of
the window, or playing with something that is near me, and
so they are obliged to speak several times before I hear they
are talking to me.' ' But you should take pains not to forget
anything that you are taught,' replied Mr. Placid, ' or other-
wise there will be no use in my taking the trouble to instruct
you. I will tell you a story, Charles :'

' There was once a gentleman and lady who had two
children, a boy and a girl. They were something like you ;
that is, were troubled with short memories ; for altb.ough they
were frequently told to hold up their heads, turn out their
toes, and say. Sir and Ma'am, when they addressed any-
body, they constantly forgot to do it. Their papa was one
day lamenting this negligence of his children to a person
who paid him a visit, and who replied that if he would trust
them to his management, he would engage in a short time
so deeply to impress it upon their minds, that they should
ever after retain his instructions on their memory. To this
proposal the gentleman very willingly agreed ; and Master
Ben and his sister Peggy accompanied their papa's friend to
his house. As they were acquainted with the design of their
visit, he addressed them the next morning in terms to this
purpose: "As you well know what is expected from you,
and have been fully instructed in the requisite attentions of
polite behaviour, I shall hope you \\'ill observe them very
minutely; and in order to remind you when you are forget-
ful, I shall keep this little spur in my hand, and whenever I
see occasion shall take the liberty of applying it, which will
give you a sharp degree of pain, and therefore, I dare say,
you will take care to avoid it. Besides this, I shall, as oppor-
tunities arise, punish your neglect by the loss of your meals,
or anything else which I may think proper to deprive you
of; and the sooner you remember to observe ever}^thing
which you are desired, the sooner you will return to your
parents, with whom, if your memories remain sufficiently
good to do as you are bid, you will continue ; but whenever
that fails you, they will restore you again to my instructions."


The young folk listened very attentively to this discourse, and
promised obedience to his commands, in which promise their
intention was to be sincere, and he caressed them accord-
ingly. But, my dear Charles, little Ben soon forgot that to
loll his arms on the table at dinner-time was by no means
consistent with good manners; upon which his new tutor ap-
plied his spur with such success to his elbows, that the smart
he experienced in a moment occasioned their removal. His
sister had soon reason to sympathise with his misfortune
from her own feelings ; for as she had an ugly custom of
drinking with her mouth full, and breathing in her glass, the
reminding spur attacked her cheek so sharply, that the smart
would not let her forget the cause which liad given an oppor-
tunity for its use.

' Another day she ate her breakfast with such immoderate
haste, that the spur was applied to suggest the necessity of
chewing her food more, and not swallowing it as if she was
afraid of losing it, which in effect she did, for it was taken
from her, because she cried at the pain which her monitor
occasioned without minding its admonition. When she sat
cross-legged, she was surprised by the spur's reaching her
knee ; and when she illiberally scratched her head, it at-
tacked her fingers ; when she stooped her head, she felt it in
her neck; and, in short, was so continually tormented with
its painful invasion, that she was obliged, as well as her
brother (who was equally annoyed), to remember at all times
to behave gracefully. When, therefore, they had acquired
this necessary degree of attention, they were permitted to
return home. They never forgot the useful admonition of
the friendly spur, as on any occasion in which their memory
proved defective, it was sufficient to tell them they should
return to the gentleman who kept it in his possession, and
they immediately acted in a becoming manner. And do you
not think, Charles,' concluded Mr. Placid, ' that such a spur
would be of infinite use to you, as you are so often apt to
forget what is of great consequence to remember?'

Miss Piners smiled at each other, they being both con-
scious, as well as Master Placid, that they had frequent occa-
sions for its use. Indeed, from this time, whenever any ot


them were guilty of any omission or neglect, they were apt
to laugh at each other, and call out, that the spur was want-
ing ! By which means they frequently became more cautious
than they would otherwise have been.

Jemima, whose natural sweetness of temper led her at all
times to be obliging, very seldom afforded them an op])or-
tunity of applying the hint to her; but Miss Piners, who,
as hath been before observed, were frequently very silly and
ill-natured, often deserved a more severe reproof than to be
told they stood in need of the spur.

One day, when Miss Sally came downstairs, she found
Miss Placid seated at a table making a pincloth for her wax
doll, in order to keep its frock clean, while her sister had taken
possession of the middle of the window-seat, of which Miss
Sally begged to partake, and desired her to move a Httle
farther, and make room for her, which Miss Nelly very crossly
refused. 'Do pray, sister!' said she, ' get another seat for
yourself, for you can't come here, I assure you.' ' Why, there
is room enough for us both,' said Miss Sally, ' and all the
other chairs are occupied. One has got a paper on it full of
William's shells; another has a hand-box with my aunt's gauze,
and those two by the door our dolls are asleep upon ; you keep
one employed with your work, and I must not take that,
for it is the chair my aunt was sitting on, and I suppose she
will want it again on her return.' ' I don't care,' said Nelly;
' I tell you I shan't let you come ! so you may stand, if you
like it, or go to the other window, can't you?' 'But I
I want to be near the table ! so pray do,' returned Sally, en-
deavouring to squeeze herself into the seat ; while her sister,
putting her hand against the wainscot, kept her place with
all the force she was mistress of; nor would give up an inch
to the endeavours of Sally, who now likewise growing warm
by opposition, exerted all her force to maintain the part she
had gained, till at last she got pretty near the centre, without
having indeed any considerable advantage ; for both sisters
were as close to each other as can well be imagined, each
with an extended arm against the window-shutter, and push-
ing against each other with increasing anger and malevolence.

Jemima kindly got up at the beginning of the contest,


and made an offer of her chair to either of the combat-
ants ; but they were both so much displeased that they paid
no attention to her good-natured proposal; and at length
Miss Nelly, to secure her situation, set her foot against the
table, and, struggling with all her force, overset it, with every-
thing tliat was upon it, on the ground. Scissors, work-
bags, doll's clothes, gauze ribbons, and various other things
fell in confusion on the floor, among which number were a
phial of physic and a China cup, in which Mrs. Placid was
going to take a medicine which had been ordered for her,
and which being broken in the fall, the draught was spilled
amongst the before-mentioned articles. But the worst part of
the accident remains still to be mentioned : poor Jemima's
doll, which had lain before her to fit on the things she was
making for it, was in the disastrous fall broken to pieces.
She endeavoured in vain to catch it, but the overthrow of
the table was too sudden for her to prevent, and the noise
of the affray brought Mrs. Placid, who had been upstairs to
fetch some thread, into the room.

Miss Placid, with a tear starting to her eye, ran to her
mamma, and pointing to the broken pieces, without speak-
ing, picked them up, and put them into her hand.

Mrs. Placid inquired into the cause which had produced
such unfortunate effects; and Sally, who imagined she was
the party injured, related the whole occasion.

Her aunt, who perceived they were too angry to attend to
her admonitions at that time, told Miss Piner to go upstairs,
and desire the maid to come and pick up the broken glass,
and sent Sally for a little while into the garden. Then
taking Jemima by the hand, and affectionately kissing her,
thus addressed her beloved daughter on the loss of her
doll : — ' I am extremely sorry, my dear, that by your cousins'
foolish contention you are deprived of what has afforded
you so much pleasure ; but as I see you are so good a child
as to bear the accident with composure, and do not fret about
it, which you well know would never be able to repair your
loss, when I wTite to your aunt, which 1 believe I shall do
to-morrow, I will desire her to send you another immetliately ;
and as you have long wished for one that is made with it:^


eyes to open, you shall have one of that sort now. You see,
my love, how very naughty your cousins are to be so pas-
sionate, and so frequently to disagree with each other, as by
this conduct they interrupt their own happiness, and discom-
pose everybody who is connected with them. And surely it
is very easy for brothers and sisters to live in harmony and
affection, if they will but resolve to be good-natured and
obhging ; and how much more comfortably do you pass your
time, who never quarrel with your brothers, than do those
silly girls.

Jemima thanked her mamma for her indulgent promise,
and taking up her faceless child, carried it with her upstairs,
where she met her brothers, and with a sad countenance held
it up to their view. They immediately desired to be in-
formed what she had done with the face, and were much
grieved at the relation of its misfortune.

She there undressed it, and put the clothes very carefully
away; and so great was her affection for its remains, that
she laid the body in the same drawer ; nor could prevail
with herself to part with it, although so much disfigured as
to renew her regret for its loss every time she beheld it.

Just as she finished this employment, her papa entered the
apartment, and calling her to him, commended the placid
manner in which she had supported an accident, which
many little girls would have fretted about for a long time.
' You see, my dear,' said he, ' that, young as you are, num-
berless occasions arise which are proper to exercise your
fortitude, and call forth your patience into action. Older
people, my Jemima, meet with greater trials; but there is as
much merit in your submitting calmly to such accidents as
tend to discompose your temper and provoke your indigna-
tion, as in your elders bearing with the real troubles of life.
These mortifications, to which every child must submit,
should be always received with composure, and I hope you
will never suffer them to ruffle your temper, or make you
forget that, to be good-natured, is one of the first duties you
can exercise in social intercourse. I dare say you are very
sorry for the loss of your doll, and I am grieved that it has
so happened ; for I know that a trial is greater or less in pro-


portion to the value which the person affixed to the object
they are deprived of; that is, though I should not mind the
breaking of a dozen wax dolls on my own account, yet to
you, who liked to play with it, it is a great loss indeed.'

During this consolatory discourse, Mrs. Placid talked very
seriously to her two nieces. She began by telling Miss Finer
that she had on many occasions observed her to behave very
ill-naturedly to her sister; 'and as you are the eldest, my
dear,' said she, ' I think you ought to endeavour to assist
her, and set a good example ; and how can you expect she
should be obliging to you, when she never sees any instances
of kindness in your behaviour? Why would you not make
room for her this morning when she desired you] The
window was large enough for both of you, and I am sure
your denial must have rendered you very uncomfortable. It
is very wicked, Nelly, to act in such a manner, and allow
your ])assions to become so violent that you are quite regard-
less of their consequence.' ' But I had the window first,
madam,' said Miss Finer, 'and therefore she had no right
to it; and I never heard that there was any wickedness in
keeping one's own place when one had gotten possession I '
'There is great wickedness,' replied her aunt, 'in being so
tenacious of every trifle, as to disagree about it with those
with whom we live, especially between brothers and sisters,
who ouglit always to be united in affection and love ; and if
you now indulge your passions, so that you will submit to no
opposition, it will make you hated and despised by every-
body, and constantly unhajjpy in your own mind. It is im-
possible, my dear, to have every circumstance happen as we
wish it to do ; but if a disappointment could at any time jus-
tify ill-nature and petulance, it would certainly be adding
greatly to the unhappiness of life. And do you think, my
dear, that to fight on every occasion with those who oppose
you is at all consistent with the delicacy of a young lady ] I
dare say, when you give yourself time to reflect on the sub-
ject, you will perceive that you have been much to blame ;
and that whenever you have suffered yourself to be ill-natured
and quarrelsome, you have always been proportionably un-
easy and wretched. Nothing can so much contribute to


your present felicity or future peace, as a good understand-
ing and cordial affection for your sister. You will most pro-
bably be more in her comi)any than in any other person's,
and how comfortable would it be, by every little oftice of
kindness, to assist each other! I am sure if you will try the
experiment, you would find it much better than such churlish
resistance and provoking contentions. It is by good humour
and an attention to please in trifles that love is cherished
and improved. If your sister wants anything, be assiduous to
fetch it. If she cannot untie a knot, do it for her. If she
wishes for a place in the window, make room immediately.
Share with her all that is given to you ; conceal her faults,
as you dislike your own to be observed ; commend her good
qualities, and never envy, but endeavour to emulate, her per-
fections. By this method you will ensure her regard, and
make yourself happy at the same time ; that will give the
highest pleasure to your parents, and obtain the esteem of
all your acquaintance. Think of these motives, my dear girl,
and resolve to exert yourself; and when you feel inclined to
be angry and cross, recollect whether it will be worth while,
because you have first got possession, to engage in a con-

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeA storehouse of stories : storehouse the first → online text (page 23 of 43)