Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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" Turn to private life
And social neighbourhood ; look we to ourselves,
A light of duty shines on every day
For all." The Excursion.









It was a calm bright morning in the beginning of

September. The brilliancy of the summer tints

had scarcely begun to fade, and the warm breath of

the south breeze, as it wandered amongst the foliage

of the trees, and played with the flickering shadows

on the turf, gave no indication that the glory of the

■^ year was departing. But there is something in the

C knowledge that autumn is near, which will often

^cast a shade over the f\iir face of nature, from the

^ contrast between the charm of its present beauty

t. and the desolation which we feel to be at hand :

^ lovely though it may be, we view it with something

u of sadness mingled with our pleasure, for, like the

"J. last sweet smile of a cherished friend, we are con-

^2 scions that, even while we are yet gazing, it is

V, passing away from our sight.

^^ And perhaps it was a thought such as this,
.J which caused the sigh that escaped from Edith
^^ Courtenay, as she stood at the library window of
Elsham Priory, and looked upon the sunny pro-
spect before her.

The scene was one of quiet, home beauty, often



to be met with in England. To the right lay a
cheerful village, partly embosomed in trees, and
partly clustering around the base of a steep, conical
hill, which had once been the station of a Eoman
encampment. The church, with its spire pointing
to the blue heavens, and its white tombstones shin-
ing in the morning sun, stood near, upon another
hill of less considerable elevation ; while, imme-
diately adjoining, stretched the woods and lawns of
Allingham Park, long in the possession of the elder
branch of the Courtenay family. The house, an
edifice of Grecian architecture, with no pretensions
to beauty beyond a handsome Ionic colonnade,
almost fronted the Priory ; and to the left, the eye,
after passing over a few miles of wooded country,
rested upon the outline of the low hills, which,
receding one behind the other, formed a barrier
between the valley of Elsham and the sea.

The Priory of Elsham existed now only in name ;
its rich endowments and lands havinsr, in the rei^jn
of Henry the Eighth, shared the fate of the other
church properties which were sacrificed to the
rapacity of that monarch and his favourites. From
that time the building, deserted by its former
inmates, gradually fell into decay, and the crum-
bling walls at length entirely disappeared, as
the stones were taken to form barns and stables
for the farm, which, in after years, occupied the
spot where the Priory had stood. The modern
Priory, consisting of a square front of recent date,
and a long wing erected about a hundred years
before, had no connection with the old religious
house except that of bearing the same designation.
It was of moderate size, containing the usual num-
ber of apartments, — a library and drawing-room
oj)ening into each other, a good dining-room, a
small study, and bed rooms in proportion ; and in


its general appearance gave signs of comfort, opu-
lence, and good taste ; the latter being principally
exhibited in the quiet unostentatious style of the
furniture, and the skill with which the few acres of
pleasure ground adjoining the house were laid out,
so as to aiford the greatest variety, and command
the most striking points of view.

To the world it might have seemed that, with
such a home, and in the possession of youth, health,
friends, and affluence, Edith Courtenay could have
had no cause to sigh ; and certainly there were
no traces of sorrow in her open brow, her deep
blue eye, or the half smile upon her lip. At nine-
teen, she was too young to have experienced the
cares of the world, and too buoyant in spirit to feel
more than a passing dread of its trials ; but she
was not too young to have had experience in those
petty every-day annoyances which are often mer-
cifully sent us in early life, to prepare us for the
real afflictions that await us in after years ; and
much as she might have been envied by many,
there were circumstances in her situation which
might justly have caused them to hesitate before
they pronounced her happy. On this morning,
however, the shade soon passed from her mind. It
was only caused by the remembrance of the sum-
mer pleasures which were now almost gone ; and
when she joined her mother and her two sisters at
the breakfast table, her voice was the most cheer-
ful, and her smile the gayest of the little party.

" We are very late this morning," said Mrs.
Courtenay, looking at her watch. " Do, Jane, go
into the drawing-room, and tell me exactly what
o'clock it is by the timepiece."

" It is not much later than usual, mamma," replied
Jane, in a languid tone, and not offering to move ;
*' I dare say your watch is quite right."
B 2


" I beg your pardon, Jane," said Edith, " it is
just now half-past nine ; and I have been waiting
at least half an hour."

" Well ! " said Jane, rather sharplj, " I suppose
it will not kill you, even if you have."

" No, not kill me," replied Edith ; " but it is
very inconvenient : I ought to be at the school by

" The school again to-day," exclaimed Char-
lotte, who had hitherto been busily employed in
making breakfast ; " I thought you were there yes-

" So I was ; but that is no precise reason why I
should not be there again to-day."

" No," replied Charlotte, with a satirical smile,
" not in your case, though it might be in another
person's. All the world are not so devoted to
schools as yourself."

Mrs. Courtenay, who was still examining her
watch, again spoke : " Charlotte, my dear, I am
certain that I am at least ten minutes too fast, and
it really makes me uncomfortable ; I wish you
would look at the timepiece."

*' In a minute, mamma," said Charlotte ; and she
continued to pour out the tea, and then proceeded
to cut bread for the party ; while Edith went to
obtain the desired information. " Ah ! thank you,
my love," said her mother, when she returned ;
" I thought I was wrong. It quite disturbs me in
the night if I fancy that my watch is out of order ;
and last night I could hardly sleep at all ; I was so
dreadfully nervous."

" Did you try Gertrude's remedy ? " asked
Edith ; " it did you good before."

" Yes, so it did ; every thing that comes from
Gertrude does me good ; but it was not mixed, and
I was obliged to go without it."


Edith looked reproachfully at her sisters. " I
was so busy yesterday," she said, " at the school in
the morning, and in the village in the afternoon,
and I depended upon you to attend to it."

" I forgot it," replied Charlotte ; " and I had no
time. Miss Forester called and paid a long visit,
and I was only able to have a few minutes' walk
before dinner."

" I wish Gertrude would make me sleep too,"
said Jane. I never have more than three hours
rest at once, and I am as tired this morning as if I
had walked ten miles : I am sure Mr. Humphries
cannot understand my case."

" Can any one ? " asked Charlotte, whose bril-
liant colour and sparkling eyes differed so entirely
from Jane's sallow complexion, and look of general
ill-health, that the family likeness was scarcely dis-
cernible. " You have as many cases as there are
days in the year : which is it this morning ? Gout,
rheumatism, tic douloureux, or ague ? or is it all
conjoined — the essence of every complaint that
ever was heard of?"

"I wish you could feel as I do, only for ten
minutes," said Jane.

" Thank you, I dare say I should survive it ; but
remember, Jane, what I complain of, is not your
taking possession of any one pet malady, but
making a monopoly of the whole race of diseases, —
monopoly of illness implies monopoly of pity ; and
really I have so many little secret griefs of my own,
that I must insist upon having a share in the com-
miseration our friends bestow upon you."

" I would not give you much for the whole," said
Jane ; " there is not one person in a hundred who
knows what real pity means."

"Perhaps not," answered Charlotte; "but for
B 3


every-day purposes make-believe pity does just as

" No, no," exclaimed Edith, " nothing that is
make-believe can ever be of any value."

" Is that to be your motto all your life, Edith ? "
asked Charlotte ; " because, if. so, you had better
retire from society at once, for every one knows it
is made up of make-believes."

" That is one of your misanthropical notions,
Charlotte, which you hold from mere perversity.
I know that fashionable society often is pretence
and show ; but I never will think that there is no
sincerity to be met with in a quiet country -place
like this."

" Miss Forester, for instance," said Jane sarcas-

" She is an exception, and of course proves the
rule. In London, I dare say she might not be re-
markable ; but here, the very fact of your bringing
her forward, shows that she is different from her

" Well," exclaimed Charlotte, " I am thankful to
say, that I am neither philosophical nor metaphy-
sical. I am willing to take the world as I find it ;
and if people are civil to me, it never enters my head
to analyse their motives."

* " But," said Edith, " there is no occasion for you
to do it ; you jdetermine beforehand that they are
all interested and selfish."

" Yes ; and I find it is much for my happiness in
the end : I am never disappointed in any one."

" Indeed, Charlotte," said Edith gravely, " I wish
you would not talk in such a random way ; because
I am sure, when persons are in the habit of saying
the same thhigs continually, they at last believe
them to be true."

** But that is jufct my case," replied Charlotte.


" I do believe them to be true, and therefore I say
them ; and I am not alone in my opinion : Jane
talks in the same way sometimes. Besides, Edith,
we are older than you, and must know more of the

" A year or two can make but little difference,"
replied Edith, " and if you were a hundred years
older, I should not agree with you. I will give you
some examples, and prove to you that you must be
wrong. What do you say to Edward and Gertrude ?
You do not think them hypocrites ? "

'•' Gertrude a hypocrite I my dears," said Mrs.
Courtenay, looking up from the newspaper she had
been reading ; " what do you mean ? "

'• Nothing I ma'am," replied Charlotte, shortly ;
and then, unheeding the interruption, she went on :
" You will use such harsh words, Edith ; no one
pretends to say that all the world are h}*pocrites,
but only that there is a certain gloss, a French
polish, over their words and actions, which does not
hide, but exaggerates* As for Gertrude, I always
put her out of the question when I am talking of
people in general. I suppose she is — yes, she must
be — sincere."

" And Edward," said Edith, eagerly, " you do
not doubt him ? "

" xS o," said Charlotte, " not doubt exactly — he is
sincere at the moment he is speaking, but what he
says is not quite to be depended upon."

" Oh ! Charlotte," exclaimed Edith indignantly,
while the colour mounted to her cheeks, as she
heard such an opinion expressed of her only
brother — the very idol of her imagination.

" You need not be in such a hurry to be angry,"
said Charlotte coolly. "Edward is my brother as
well as yours, so I have an equal reason for wishing
him to be perfection ; but I am not blind ; I can


see, and so can every one else who watches liim,
that he is inconsistent. You could see it, if you

'* It may be either caii, or ivill, which is the
cause," replied Edith ; " but I am certain I do not
see it. I wish you had heard his conversation with
me when he was last here ; and all his plans for
doing good."

" Excellent they were, of course, beginning with
the rebuilding of the burnt cottages at the quarry, and
ending with a new church on Torrington Heath."

" And the intermediate degrees being infant,
national, and Sunday schools, upon Edith's most
approved principles," said Jane.

" You may sneer at me if you will," exclaimed
Edith angrily, "but if only a fourth part of the
world were as good as Edward "

" It would be a very different world from what it
is," said Charlotte. " I quite grant, Edith, that to
hear Edward talk, you would believe him an angel ;
and that to see him act, you would think him a
superior mortal ; but I must contend for it, that he
does not show to you or to the world the average
standard of his principles : every one sees the best
of him at first sight."

"I thought fou were no philosopher," said
Edith, in a suppressed tone of extreme annoyance.

" It does not require much philosophy to see the
faults of one's brothers and sisters," replied Char-

"Nor one's own either," said Edith, recovering
herself ; " I know that I have felt angry, and I am
very sorry for it."

Charlotte scarcely noticed the apology, but, rising
from the breakfast table, began to search amongst
the books for something she had mislaid.

" At what time shall you be able to practise with


me ? " she said ; " we sang that trio wretchedly hast
night, and really I cannot exhibit myself in the
same way again."

" You must practise without me," said Edith ;
" I shall not be home till half-past twelve ; and
directly after luncheon, I am going with Mrs.
Grantley to see nurse Philips."

" Do let nurse Philips rest for to-day," said Jane ;
" you were with her only three days ago."

" Six, at the least," replied Edith ; " besides, I
have promised."

" Oh ! of course," said Jane, " all promises must
be kept — those made at home excepted. You said
you would try over the trio, and some of the duets

" \Vel\, so I will, by and by ; but I must go now,
or I shall be dreadfully late."

" Is Edith gone ? " asked Mrs. Courtenay, looking
round when her daughter had left the room.

" Yes, to the school, mamma," replied Charlotte.

" But she told me she would show me how to do
the knitting from the pattern which Gertrude sent.
I shall never be able to manage it without her."

" You understand it Jane, don't you ? " said

" Yes ; that is, I tried it once ; but I should not
be able to begin ; and I must finish this book, for it
must be sent away to-day."

" It would not be much trouble to try the work,"
said Charlotte ; " and if you succeed, mamma will
be able to go on."

" Well, I will see about it presently," replied Jane;
and she went to fetch her book, and then, seating
herself by the drawing-room window, forgot her
mother's wishes till again reminded of them by

Edith pursued her walk to the school in no very


enviable state of mind; for although daily accus-
tomed to such a conversation as had just passed,
had not as yet become a second nature. She dif-
fered with her sisters upon almost every point, both
of principle and taste ; and the irritation of per-
petual disagreement was at times more than she
could bear with temper.

She felt something like degradation also, in think-
ing of the impression a stranger would have received
from the tone in which she had been tempted to
reply to Charlotte's observations ; and her con-
science bitterly reproached her for having broken
the serious resolution, made only a few hours before,
of endeavouring if possible to spend that one day
without yielding to provocation. Perhaps on any
other subject she might have been invulnerable ;
but to speak against Edward, was to touch that
which was nearest and dearest to her in the world ;
and if her self-accusation had been less sincere, she
might have found some excuse for her annoyance
in the greatness of the trial ; but, as it was, she
was too vexed with herself to complain of her
sister, or to feel pained, as she often did, at the
contrast between what her home really was, and
what she knew it ought to be.

The school in some measure diverted her thoughts
from herself. The mistress was ill, and she had en-
gaged to take charge of the children for an hour
and a half every day, till a proper substitute could
be found ; and the necessity of attending to them
had a great effect in restoring her equanimity ; —
as she forgot for the time that there were any other
persons in the world besides tiresome Anne God-
frey, and dull little Sarah Plowden, and the rest of
the half mischievous, half frightened tribe of chil-
dren, whom she was endeavouring to reduce into
gomething like order. The morning passed quickly


away, for Edith had an innate love of teaching and
managing, and what to others woukl have been the
most tiresome of all tiresome tasks, was to her only
a subject of interest ; and she felt sorry, when at
twelve o'clock the children were dismissed, and
she was obliged to return to the Priory — to her
mother's uncongeniality, and Jane's peevishness,
and Charlotte's satire. The feeling was not exactly
acknowledged, but it caused her unconsciously to
linger on the road, and to indulge in a day dream
of happiness, which could never be realised, but
in which her two sisters had no share. There
w^as another indeed, who was always foremost in
Edith's visions of enjoyment, but she was absent
— living with an invalid aunt of her father's, who
had taken a fancy to her when she was about four-
teen, and had persuaded her parents to part with
her, on the promise that she should inherit all her
little property at her death. The temptation might
not to some have been very great, since Mrs.
Heathfield's income was not more than five hundred
a year ; but it would at least be a comfortable pro-
vision for Gertrude, and i\Ii\ Courtenay was too
much harassed with family cares to allow a dislike
to parting with his child to interfere with a plan
which promised well for her worldly advantage.

How Gertrude was to be educated, or what prin-
ciples were to be instilled into her mind, he never
inquired. Though possessed of first-rate talents
himself, he considered them of but little importance
in a woman. He had married a young and very
pretty girl, devoid of any cultivation of mind be-
yond the superficial acquirements of the day ; and
she had implicitly obeyed his orders, and had never
thwarted his wishes even by a look of ill humour ;
and, though now and then irritated by her weak
simplicity, on the whole he was contented ; — what


satisfied him must of course satisfy every one else,
— he asked nothing more than that Gertrude should
possess lady-like manners, a moderate share of ac-
complishments, a quiet, easy temper, and five hundred
a year. "With these advantages she would pass
through life easily, and would die surrounded by
friends and comforts ; and then — but of what was
to come afterwards Mr. Courtenay never thought.
This world was his home, his hope, his happiness.
In the existence of another he believed — he had
been taught to do so from his childhood — and in
occasional moments of weariness he could discourse
eloquently upon the vanity of earthly enjoyments ;
and when grieved at the loss of a friend, he could
sigh, and express a hope of meeting him again in
heaven : but when the words were repeated the
feeling was gone ; and Mr. Courtenay returned to
his easy chair, and his well-stored library, and for-
got that if the heaven of which he had spoken
were ever to be reached, it must be through the
straight gate of penitence and faith, and by the nar-
row way of daily self-denial.

If left to her father's care, Gertrude Courtenay
would probably have grown up the very counterpart
of himself, but only with superior energy of mind.
She had his generosity, his good temper, and his
high sense of honour ; but she had also his pride,
his love of command, his keen sense of the im-
portance of the world's applause, and his delight in
every thing that was beautiful and luxurious. And
in her own home these feelings would have been
fostered to the utmost ; but in the retirement of a
country village, with no companion but her aunt,
there was little opportunity for their dev elopement ;
and before she was placed in any scenes of greater
temptation, she had learnt to study her own heart,
and to pray and strive against its weaknesses. In


what way the principle of religion had first taken
root in her mind, it would have been almost impos-
sible for her to have told. It had sprung up, un-
noticed even by herself, in constant intercourse
with one whose minutest actions were governed by
its rules; for although JNIrs. Heathfield, from illness
and natural reserve, but seldom conversed upon the
subject, there was an influence in her meek, uncom-
plaining resignation, and her self-denying charity,
which it was impossible for a mind so thoughtful
as Gertrude's to withstand.

Perhaps, indeed, the influence was the greater
from the very fact of there being something of si-
lence and mystery connected with it. "When first
taken to Farleigh Cottage, Gertrude had felt as if
removed into a new world ; new, not merely in
its external appearance, but in the motives and
feelings of the persons who inhabited it ; and when
the first grief at separation from her home had sub-
sided, she found daily cause for increasing wonder.
Her aunt watched over her carefully by directing
her studies ; but she was too unwell actually to super-
intend them. She could only recommend the books
she wished her to read, and give her reasons for
admiring them ; and then Gertrude was left to
think by herself upon the difference between her
father's taste and her aunt's ; and to endeavour, if
possible, to discover which was based upon the
highest principles. The answer, if left to her own
inclination, would have been in her father's favour ;
but, to counteract the force of an early impression,
she had daily before her eyes the picture of patience,
humility, entire freedom from selfishness, and a
thoughtful care which-never forgot even the most
distant objects of compassion. Gertrude deeply
felt her aunt's goodness ; she looked on it as on
something surpassingly strange, almost unearthly ;



and she could not but believe that the subjects
which interested her, must be in themselves far su-
13erior to all others. And so the first bias was given
in favour of religion ; and the seed which had been
implanted at baptism, and then buried beneath the
distractions and frivolities of a careless education
grew up by imperceptible degrees into a strength
and beauty unknown only to its possessor.

But notwithstanding the quiet peacefulness of
Gertrude's life at Farleigh, her heart still clung to
the recollection of her own home, and her childish
pleasures, with a tenacity which neither time nor
distance could entirely destroy. There were many
solitary hours in which she longed for the society
of her sisters ; although the letters received from
them made her occasionally doubt whether differ-
ence of education would not prevent any similarity
of taste and feeling between them. This doubt
amounted to a painful certainty, when, after an ab-
sence of three years, she paid a long promised visit
to the Priory. It had been anticipated with de-
light for weeks beforehand, and every passing
cloud of distrust had been driven from her mind,
as something unkind in herself, and unjust to her
family ; but when a week had been spent under her
father's roof, and she had watched the tone and
temper exhibited in her sisters' every-day life, the
fond illusion was dispelled ; and she was forced to
acknowledge, with bitter disappointment, that the
retirement of Farleigh afforded her infinitely greater
sources of happiness than the comparative dissipa-
tions of her home. Perhaps the effect of this visit
on Gertrude's mind might have been different, if

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