Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

A glimpse of the world online

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' I have chosen the way of truth, and thy judgments have I laid
before me.' Psalm cxix. 30





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<"T\ON'T, Juliet; just see what a stroke you have forced me
*-^ to make ; and I asked you to draw at the other table.'

' And I told you I couldn't see there. What does the stroke
signify ? Mr. Brownlow never scolds.'

' But, Juliet, I must have it right ; I can't bear an untidy

' Then, if you please, Annette, it is time you should learn to
bear it. There is Myra, who never finished a drawing decently
in her life, and is quite happy without it.'

The assertion was made at random, at least if it was per-
mitted to judge from Myra's countenance. She was at that
moment seated before a writing-desk, one hand supporting her
head, the other playing idly with a pen, whilst her face was
so expressive of anything but happiness, that even Annette
forgot her annoyance at the false stroke, and joined in Juliet's
laugh at her sister's despairing attitude, as she pored over her
German exercise.

' I don't see why you are to laugh,' exclaimed Myra, and
she turned round petulantly ; ' you have neither of you begun
German yet ; when you have, see if you won't feel just the

'It is not feeling, but looking,' said Juliet. 'If I were
going to be hung, I wouldn't look so crestfallen.'

'Wait till you are tried,' was the retort, as Myra gave a
push to her writing-desk, which nearly upset the ink.

Juliet rushed to the rescue of the German exercise-book.



Annette carefully removed her drawing to a distant part of
the room.

' Good-bye to my chance of a mark to-day,' exclaimed
Juliet ; ' there is a blot on the left ear of the left hand figure,
in the left hand corner. Look, Myra ! ' She held up the draw-
ing good-humouredly, but Myra was not to be soothed.

' It would not have happened if you had not laughed at
me,' she said ; ' but you and Annette are always making fun
of me — and from younger sisters I won't bear it. Every one
makes fun of me,' she added in a lower tone.

' Only when your collar is awry,' said Juliet provokingly.

' Or when your cuffs don't match,' added Annette from the
distant corner where she had settled herself.

Myra glanced at herself in the glass over the mantelpiece >
then, without vouchsafing a reply, went and stood before it,
and tried to put her collar straight.

1 You had better let me do that for you, Myra,' said a voice
which had not been heard before.

A very'pretty girl, tall, and dressed in good taste, but in the
height of the fashion, stood in the doorway. There could not
have been a greater contrast to Myra. Her smile was so
sunny — her voice so cheerful — her movements so graceful —
even Myra's ill-humour was mollified by her soothing tone
and manner. ' Mamma wants you in the drawing-room, so
you must let me put you to rights,' she added, as Myra
seemed at first inclined to resist any interference with her

' I can't go ; I have not finished my exercise, and Herr
Werther will be here at three,' exclaimed Myra, the cloud
returning again to her face. ' Who is in the drawing-room ? '

1 The Verneys ; at least Mrs. Verney and a niece. Mrs.
Verney wants the niece to walk with you, only she is too shy
to come into the schoolroom with so many strangers ; and you
are just her age, so you are to go and make acquaintance.'

' It is very unkind in you, Rosamond, not to bring her in
here yourself; you know I can't bear going into the drawing-
room ; and Mrs. Verney always looks me over from head to
foot, and talks to mamma about me as if I was a doll.'


Rosamond only replied by gently forcing her sister into a
chair, arranging the collar, smoothing the ruffled hair, taking
off the unmatched cuffs, and sending Juliet for another pair.

Myra submitted, but neither cheerfully nor gratefully.
There was an expression in her face which, if the cause
had been more important, might have called for sympathy.
It was not annoyance, nor, at that moment, temper. It was
a look of inward trouble — restlessness ■ in an older person
it might have portended a settled despondency ; and it did
not leave her even when Rosamond pronounced that she was
all right now, and Juliet came forward and declared that she
looked quite a different person — almost pretty. The only
change then was in her manner. It had been natural before
— it was constrained now ; and as she left the room, Juliet's
comment to Annette was — ' I think it is worse when she is on
her best behaviour, because then she is affected.'

Myra was correct in her account of Mrs. Verney. She did
look at her from head to foot as she entered. ' Myra is much
grown, I think,' was her remark, addressed to Mrs. Cameron •
4 and she really is more like Rosamond than I ever thought
she would be.'

The voice was so gentle and refined, it was wonderful what
made the speech so unpleasing. Perhaps it was the sharp
criticising glance which accompanied the words.

' Myra does very well when she chooses to take pains with
herself,' said Mrs. Cameron languidly. ' My dear, don't drag
that chair so awkwardly. Madame Dupont was in despair
about her for some time, but I think I see some improvement.
Place your chair by that young lady, Myra, and make acquaint-
ance with her ; she is Mrs. Verney's niece.'

Myra moved her chair. The two girls looked at each
other, but neither uttered a word beyond the first necessary

'Myra has such a very awkward way with strangers,
observed Mrs. Cameron in an undertone. ' Rosamond, do
try and help her.'

' Rosamond is so sweet and kind ; she makes everything
go smoothly,' said Mrs. Verney. And certainly it did seem


as if Rosamond possessed some magical influence, for she had
no sooner made a commonplace remark, than the spell was
broken. Catharine Verney, who had just come from a London
school, began to pour out anecdotes — very amusing, if not
always in good taste ; and Myra listened, and asked questions,
and ventured at length to propose an adjournment to the

' Don't drag one foot behind the other,' said Mrs. Cameron
as Myra walked across the room ; and before the door was
closed, she added, ' It is so odd that she should be awkward
and affected too.'

Then Mrs. Cameron was not fond of Myra, and treated
her unkindly ? Not at all. Mrs. Cameron only gave utter-
ance to her thoughts, without considering their possible effect.
And she said what was quite true. Myra was affected at
times, under certain circumstances. She was unquestionably
awkward, and had, moreover, a very unpleasant temper — ■
extremely irritable, and very often passionate. No mother,
anxious as Mrs. Cameron was for her child's good, and per-
haps it should be added, for the world's approbation, could
help being fretted by her. But there was another, a very
special cause for vexation in this instance. Myra was such a
contrast to Rosamond, and Rosamond was Mrs. Cameron's
stepdaughter. It was scarcely in human nature to see the
grace and sweetness of manner which marked the one, without
feeling mortified at the deficiencies of the other. To do Mrs.
Cameron justice, she never showed her annoyance ill-naturedly.
She had adopted Rosamond and her two brothers as her own
children, when Rosamond was six years old, and had always
treated them with affectionate consideration. The claims of
her own children had never been allowed to interfere with
theirs. And she had been in one respect well repaid. The
first family — as her step-children were often called — were
remarkably good-tempered and manageable. The boys, in-
deed, had early passed beyond her control ; they had been
sent to a public school, and now Godfrey, having gone through
college, was studying for the bar, and Edmund was preparing
to enter the army. Nothing in their career had ever caused


her any uneasiness. Mr, Cameron might have had his
anxieties about them, but they were not shared with her ; and
Mrs. Cameron was not a person to go out of her way to seek
for trouble. What came before her she accepted ; but she
had married in order to escape from the worries of a large
household, conflicting bills, and a small income ; and when
she found herself in affluence, and free from the tyranny of a
domestic democracy, her naturally indolent mind at once
succumbed to the temptations of her position, and all thought
of duty being concentrated in the one idea of obedience to her
husband, she suffered everything beyond the sphere of his
expressed wishes to pass unnoticed. What might have been
her course if Rosamond had been of a different disposition, it
is needless to inquire. Resistance at an early period of her
married life might have roused her energy. But Rosamond's
sweet temper was a marvel. She accepted her stepmother
from the first with a kiss, and a smile, and a promise to be
very good, and the promise was carefully kept.

Servants, governesses, masters, all bore the same testimony.
Miss Cameron really gave no trouble. She was very willing
to learn, equally willing to play. Nothing seemed a grievance
or a difficulty to her. That she formed no very strong attach-
ments, and, though always welcomed by her young com-
panions, was never deeply regretted by them in absence,
might be partly the result of her reserve, partly of an unac-
knowledged feeling of envy at her superiority. For wherever
Rosamond appeared competition ceased. Others might be
second, but she was always first. A sweet voice, a good
touch, and a perfectly correct ear, made her an excellent
musician. If her drawings did not show any original genius,
they were always artistic and carefully executed ; and for
information, Rosamond gained, apparently without reading, a
knowledge which others after months of toil were never able
to make their own.

Poor Mrs. Cameron ! It was all very pleasant at first,
when Rosamond was the one child in the schoolroom, and
the little ones in the nursery were only brought down to be
exhibited for a few moments to some particular baby fancier,


and sent away at the earliest intimation of a cry ; but it was
very different when they were all to be displayed as one family.
The difference between Rosamond and her sisters was then
evident to every one — Mr. Cameron- included. Juliet and
Annette, indeed, were passable ; they had not Rosamond's
grace and beauty, but they might grow into something present-
able, and at any rate there was nothing in them that could
be remarkably the reverse ; but that unhappy Myra ! ' My
dear, if she can't look good tempered she must stay in the
nursery,' was the short and stern dictum issued by Mr. Cameron
to his wife, when the child was about seven years old ; and
his words being taken literally, Myra was constantly irritated
with injunctions to look bright and pleasant when she went
down to dessert, till she lost all control of her temper, and in
consequence was pronounced the naughtiest little girl in Eng-
land, and left upstairs for the remainder of the evening.

The governesses, and they were many (for Mrs. Cameron,
much as she disliked exertion, could never be satisfied without
trying a new plan upon Myra every two years), gave rather a
different testimony. Myra, indeed, was very fretful and pas-
sionate, but then she would work. Whether it was obsti-
nacy or industry no one ventured to decide, but certainly
whatever she took in hand she finished 3 — untidily, perhaps,
and not in a way which showed any great talent, but in a
fashion of her own, which, after all, was better than not at all.
And Myra would read too, which was what Rosamond never
did. Give her a book and she was happy ; and in this taste
was found the peace of the schoolroom. Crouched in a low
chair, in an ungainly attitude, with her feet on the fender,
Myra could sit for hours absorbed in some tale — which,
probably, she had read half a dozen times before — and Juliet
and Annette were then allowed to pursue their own occupations
undisturbed. But the moment the reading was over — the
moment there was anything to be done jointly, and in conse-
quence any difference of opinion, or question of conflicting
rights — Myra started up, full of complaints, eager to assert
herself, and ready to do battle with the first who opposed


It was no wonder that the disposition was expressed in the
face. Myra had only a very moderate share of beauty by
nature, and certainly at sixteen it had not been increased by
the softening influences of education.

' My stepdaughter and my own daughter — if they could
only be reversed !' was Mrs. Cameron's unexpressed thought,
as Rosamond, after accompanying Myra and Catharine Verney
to the schoolroom, returned to wish Mrs. Verney good-bye,
and prepare for a ride. And Mrs. Verney's after-comment —
'How sweet and charming Rosamond is!' — by no means
soothed her wounded maternal vanity.


* FAITH has brought the tonic, Doctor ; don't you think you
had better take it at once ? And here is a biscuit all ready.'

The speaker was an elderly lady with a very clear com-
plexion, and rather a bright colour, quiet blue eyes, and grey
hair dressed in large curls. She were a dark puce-colourcd
silk dress, by no means expansive, and rather short ; so short,
indeed, as to exhibit a pair of square-toed shoes, made very
high in the instep, and, if one might judge from the loud foot-
step, very heavy-soled. Her voice was rather hard, her utter-
ance rapid, only the pure accent told of the refinement of good

The Doctor was an old gentleman with strongly-marked
features, which in youth might have been called handsome.
The brown wig, pushed rather to one side, gave them an
incongruous expression now. It cut off a portion of his fore-
head, and tended to exaggerate the length of his nose — a very
remarkable nose, long, rounded, and cogitative, in which the
chief expression of the face was concentrated. Without it the
mouth might have been almost weakly benevolent, whilst the
eyes were decidedly irascible.

'A quarter of an hour before your time, Patty,' was his reply


to the medicinal offer which had been made him. The grey
eyes, twinkling through spectacles, were still kept fixed upon
the folio open before him, and he turned a page with one hand,
whilst motioning away the intruders with the other.

' I am going out, Doctor, and you will forget. Faith, pour
out the medicine.'

Faith, a diminutive counterpart of her mistress, having
attained that singular family resemblance which is often to be
remarked in servants who have lived long in one household,
came forward with a tray, a bottle of brown liquid, a wine-
glass, and a plate containing one small biscuit.

' It will do you good, sir; you have been much better since
you took it. Hasn't he now, Mrs Patty ? '

' Of course he has. The notion of those pins' heads doing
any one good ! But Miss Medley is out of her mind, poor
thing ; there is no doubt of that. I hope it is not wrong to
say so. I hope not. Now, Doctor, dear ! '

The affectionate epithet did its work. The Doctor gave a
slight sigh as he made a memorandum on a sheet of paper
which lay on his desk, and then confronted his medical

' It isn't so very bad, after all,* said Faith, looking at Mrs.
Patty ; ' not half so bad as the black doses my grandmother
gave me when I was a child.'

' I wish, Faith, your grandmother was here to give you this,
then,' said the Doctor. ' Patty, what have you done with my
globules ? '

' Locked them up, Doctor. They are a temptation to you.
Don't think about them now.' She put the glass into his

' Only one biscuit ! ' exclaimed the Doctor. There was an
evident hesitation for a moment ; then the nauseous mixture
was swallowed, and the empty glass laid upon the tray, with
a look which Faith seemed instantly to understand, and
answered by conveying the obnoxious objects as quickly as
possible from his sight, whilst Mrs. Patty handed him the
solitary biscuit, saying, as she saw him glance at the empty
plate, ' Two would spoil your appetite.'


'Patty, I shall keep the globules myself,' was the Doctor's
rejoinder ; ' mind you let me have them.'

' We will see, Doctor, dear ; don't think anything more
about it ; there is some nice porridge for dinner. Shall you
want anything more before I go out ? '

1 Nothing,' was the irritable reply ; but the very next
moment the old man looked up and repeated gently, ' Nothing,
thank you, Patty; only, if you meet Mr. Baines, tell him I
should be glad to see him.'

'Mr. Baines dines with the Camerons to-day, so I hear,' said
Mrs. Patty ; ' I don't see clearly what makes him like to go
there so often.'

' He is dull, and there are young people there,' replied the
Doctor abstractedly ; and he turned to resume his studies with
an eagerness which seemed to show that he trusted to St.
Augustine to help him to forget the nauseous flavour that still
lingered in his mouth.

Mrs. Patty stood for a moment in thought, and then trotted
rather than walked out of the room, muttering to herself, ' I
dare say she is very good ; I ought not to say a word ; no, I
ought not ; and perhaps he never thinks about her, only it
might be better for him not to be always laughing and talking
with her.'

Mrs. Patty Kingsbury followed Faith into the kitchen, a
pleasant-looking room, bright with well-kept pewter covers,
and a dinner set of real china, of the old-fashioned willow
pattern. The lattice windows were open upon a back court,
kept in perfect order, and made really pretty by a few pet
plants. An arm-chair stood by the window, and Mrs. Patty
seated herself in it, and summoned Betsey, the cook, to a con-
sultation with herself and Faith.

' Your master won't take kindly to the porridge much longer,
Betsey ; you must think of something else for him.'

' He has had it but three days, ma'am, and my father took
it for a fortnight.'

'Dr. Kingsbury is of a different constitution to your father,'
observed Mrs. Patty, with a slight tone of offended dignity.


'Mr. Harrison says his case is peculiar. You know, Faith,
he objects to gruel also.'

' Quite, ma'am/ replied Faith, shaking her head. ' He
objects to everything now, except the pins' heads. To think
of Miss Medley's deluding him so ! But he'll give in, ma'am ;
don't take on so, pray now don't. He took down the draught
quite good, like a baby, Betsey; he did indeed.'

' He did indeed,' repeated Mrs. Patty ; ' but, Betsey, I think
I should have a mutton-chop ready, in case the porridge does
not suit. They are very good — are men — very good indeed ;
you know, Betsey, we ought to look up to them, and we do ;
but they like their own way in eating and drinking, and very

' You mustn't let master be asked out yet, Mrs. Patty ; if
you'll forgive my boldness for saying so,' said Betsey. ' There's
been Colonel Verney's man down since breakfast, and he says
they are likely to have a gay time there before long, for the
Colonel's nephew is expected back from India, and there will
be dinner-parties for him.'

' Your master requires no check but a sense of duty,' was
Mrs. Patty's reply; whilst Faith added quickly:

' One would think, Betsey, that master ate and drank like
a tiger ; but he has no more appetite than a chick just out of
its shell.'

'May be,' replied Betsey; 'but if't was a saint, I wouldn't
put him down to gruel at one end and turtle soup at the other.
Those grand dinners at the Colonel's are a perfect sight. How
do you wish the mutton-chop dressed, Mrs. Tatty?'

' Quite plain, Betsey ; it can't be too plain. Did the butler
say when Mr. Charles Verney was expected ? '

'The day after to-morrow, ma'am; and Conyers, at Mrs.
Cameron's, says that her mistress and Miss Rosamond are
asked there for next week. She does not quite know what

' Miss Myra must be getting nearly old enough to go out
now, surely,' said Faith. ' I wonder nobody ever asks her.'

' Such a wee whimpering child as that ! ' exclaimed Betsey ;
'why, if anything went wrong she would burst out storming in


the middle of dinner. I never did sec any one so queer, for
her age— no, never.'

' Yet there's something good about her too,' said Faith.
' There is not one of the young ladies as pays master half the
respect Miss Myra does.'

Mrs. Patty had been sitting with rather an absent air during
this short colloquy between her servants, but the last sentence
caught her attention. Perhaps the discussion struck her as
somewhat unfitting, for she rose up and said gravely, ' Mutton-
chop, then — quite plain — at four o'clock.'

A burst of laughter was heard at the open window.

' Faith, is that you ? — do come here, please do, Faith.'
The voice was Juliet Cameron's ; her round merry face ap-
peared at the lattice ; she evidently did not see Mrs. Patty.
' Myra has slipped down the bank into the pond ; she is not
hurt, she is only wet, and a little frightened ; and she wants
to know if Betsey will let her come and dry herself at the
kitchen fire.'

' Myra can come into the parlour, my dear.' said Mrs. Patty,

' O Mrs. Patty ! I beg your pardon. I didn't know you
were here. Myra told me not to go to the front door, because
of the Doctor's being unwell ; and she said it would be making
a fuss. There is nothing the matter. Catharine Verney is
there — that is Airs. Verney's niece, you know ; and she and
Myra were talking, and not looking where they went, and
Myra fell and rolled over, that was all. It was so very odd
to see her ; she went down the bank like a ball : you can't
think how droll it was.'

' Young ladies should learn to walk straight,' observed
Faith before Mrs. Patty could reply. ' Is Miss Myra very
wet ? '

' Faith, if you please to fetch my garden-bonnet, I shall go
and see about it,' said Mrs. Patty. ' It may be better that
Myra should go home.'

' Myra won't do that till she is dry, if she should have to
stay in the sun all the afternoon,' said Juliet, her laughter
breaking forth again. i Mamma would scold her. You


know, Mrs. Patty, she always says Myra is no better than
a child of five years old; and she did roll over just like

Faith brought the bonnet, a very remarkable one — a deep
curtain behind, a kind of pent-house before — at the far end
of which Mrs. Patty's face appeared somewhat like the sun in
a mist.

' We will go and see, my dear/ was her reply to Juliet's
remark. ' Betsey, remember the mutton-chop ; and, Faith,
if I am not back to take the Clothing Club pence, when the
women come at two o'clock, you must begin.'

' So like her, that is — looking after things so long before-
hand/ observed Betsey to Faith, as Mrs. Patty joined Juliet
in the court ; ' why, she may walk to Marston and back before
two o'clock comes.'

' It is because she wouldn't run the chance of neglecting/
was Faith's reply.

Mrs. Patty did not encourage Juliet's communicativeness.
She walked on at a steady quick pace, to which Juliet found
it somewhat difficult to accommodate herself. The Rectory
stood on a rising ground, with a smooth piece of sloping lawn
in front. At the foot of the lawn was a little wooded dell
crossed by a rustic bridge, and rising from the other side of
the dell were the gardens and fields attached to Yare Hall,
a moderate-sized, square, red-brick Elizabethan house, with
stone mullions and facings to the windows, and a thick shrub-
bery round it. Mrs. Patty crossed the lawn and the bridge,
and then turned into a gravel path which skirted the deil.
Presently she paused.

'The large pond, I suppose, my dear?'

'Yes, Mrs. Patty; they were walking along the terrace at
the top.'

' Very good. Run on, my dear, and tell them I am

' But, Mrs. Patty, Myra never thought of troubling you ; she
will be so vexed.'

'Run on, my dear; you <*an en quicker than I can.' And
Mrs. Patty nodded her head good-naturedly, but moved lor


Juliet to pass her in a way which showed that she had no
intention of having he: will disputed. Juliet was out of sight

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellA glimpse of the world → online text (page 1 of 34)