Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Laneton Parsonage : a tale for children online

. (page 1 of 58)
Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellLaneton Parsonage : a tale for children → online text (page 1 of 58)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook





^ 2rale for CfjiUireit



Oh ! say not, dream not, heavenly notes

To childish ears are vain, —
Tliat the young mind at random floats,

And cannot reach the strain.

Dim or unheard the words may fall.
And yet the heaven-taught mind

May learn the sacred air, and all
The harmony unwind.

T}iE Christian Vear









* A/T-'^MMA,' said little Madeline Clifford, as she looked up
IVl from the work which she had been industriously hem-
ming for nearly a quarter of an hour, ' I want very much to ask
you a question.'

* Well, my love, what is it ? why should you be afraid ?'

* Because, perhaps, you will think it is curious, and would
rather not answer.'

* I can but say no, if I think it wrong.'

' Oh ! it is not wrong, I am sure ; but sometimes you tell us
not to trouble ourselves about other persons' concerns ; and
what I wish to know has nothing really to do with me, or with
any of us.'

Mrs Clifford smiled : ' Shall I tell you, Madeline,' she said,

* what you are going to ask ?'

' You can't, mamma ; how should you know .'' you cannot
look at my thoughts.'

* But I can guess them, which sometimes does as well. What
made you listen so much to what Mrs Mortimer and I were
saying just now ?'

' Oh, then, mamma, you do know : but I did not understand
when I did listen ; because I could not make out what Mrs
Moi-timer meant when she said that Lady Catharine Hyde was
going to adopt Alice Lennox. What is adopting?'

' Taking her to be her own child ; and having her taught, and
clothed, and fed, as a mother would.'

* And will she love her ? ' inquired Madeline. ' I should net

^1 ^ ' 'A '. ^


J j' > >


care for all the eating and drinking in the world if no one loved

' I have no doubt Lady Catharine will,' replied Mrs Clifford,
* because she is a very kind-hearted person ; and AHce is most
fortunate in having found such a friend, now that she has lost
her mother.'

' Lady Catharine was very fond of Mrs Lennox, was she not,
mamma?' asked Madeline.

* Yes, my dear, very ; and she promised, when Mrs Lennox
was dying, that Alice should live with her, and be to her as her
own little girl : and the fact of her keeping her word so strictly
in the one case, is a reason for believing she will do so in the

' WiU Alice like it?' said Madeline, quickly.

' I don't know, my dear ; and she is too sorrowful now for

any one to judge.'

'But, mamma, will she be Alice Lennox still?'

Mrs Clifford could not help smiling : ' Yes, my love ; why

should she not ? '

' But if she is Lady Catharine Hyde's child, how can she be?'
' She will not be hers really, but only what is called adopted.'

* And so her name will not alter,' said Madeline. ' Persons'
names do alter though, sometimes, mamma : yours was Beres-
ford once.'

* Yes ; that was my surname ; I changed it when I was
married ; but my other name — my Christian name — I kept, and
nmst keep always.'

' Mary, you mean,' said Madeline ; ' is that your best name?'

* Yes,' replied Mrs Clifford : ' Beresford is the name I had
when I was born into the world, of human parents ; but Mary
was the name given me when I was baptized, and made a child
of God. The one you see I have lost, but the other I keep.'

' And Madeline is my best name then ; but I don't remember
that it is, when I am called.'

' I am afraid we are all apt to forget,' replied her mother ;
' and though a great many persons have never been baptized,
and yet are called by two names, that is no reason why we
should think nothing of our Christian names, and of the occa-
sion on which they were given to us.'

Madeline waited for an instant, and then said, ' So Alice
will be Alice always ; and yet she will seem different when she
lives at the Manor.'

• AC.


* She will belong to a new family,' said Mrs Clifford : ' and
if Lady Catharine were to wish it very much, she might by and
by take the name of Hyde besides Lennox ; though I do not
think this is likely. Surnames can be altered ; Christian names
cannot. But you must not ask me any more questions, my dear
child : I have told you all I know ; and I am going out.'

Madeline looked as if she would willingly have kept her
mamma a few moments longer ; but Mrs Clifford was gone
almost before she had time to determine upon what was next to
be said ; and Madeline's only resource was to sit with her work
in her lap, and her head resting upon her hand, while she
thought upon what her mamma had said, and the sudden
change which had occurred in the life of her young companion.

Madeline's meditations, however, did not last very long.
They were interrupted by the sound of a child's voice pro-
nouncing her name ; and a stranger, on hearing the tone in
which it was repeated, would probably have started with surprise,
for the voice seemed Madeline's own. And still more, on turn-
ing to look at the little girl, who walked slowly into the room
with a book in her hand, upon which her eyes were bent v/hilst
she moved, it might almost have been supposed that two
Madelines, alike in every look and feature, were present.
There was the same fair complexion, the same light glossy hair,
the same blue eye, the same height and size. It was, to all
appearance, Madeline's second self. And if Madeline had been
asked, she would have said that her twin-sister, her darling
Ruth, was indeed her second self ; that what one liked the other
liked ; what one wished for the other desired too ; that they had
never been separated for a single day — scarcely even for an
hour ; that they had learned the same lessons from one book ;
that they had played, and walked, and slept together, day after
day, and night after night ; and that without Ruth she could
not imagine it possible to be happy for a moment. Ruth would
have said the same : yet the two sisters were not really alike ;
and even in their manner and appearance, it was possible for
a person who observed them carefully to discover many

Madeline's voice was clear and merry ; she ran about the
house singing and laughing, as if her heart was too full of
happiness to allow her a moment's rest. Ruth laughed and sang
also ; but her laugh was low, and her songs were quiet ; and
she was most frequently seen walking along the passage or up


the staircase, reading as she went, in the same way as she was
doing when she just now came into the room. There was joy-
ousncss in Madehne's glance, and her mouth seemed formed
only for smiles ; but Ruth's clear, blue eye was thoughtful ; and
when she joined in Madeline's laugh, she was the first to become
serious again, and to remember a lesson, or a piece of work,
or something they had been told to do, but which they were
likely to forget.

In temper they were still more different. Madeline was hasty
and thoughtless, quickly put out of humour, but as quickly
recovering herself. She never hesitated to confess a fault when
she had committed it ; but perhaps the next minute the con-
fession was forgotten, and the offence repeated.

Ruth was said to be shy ; and many persons thought her
gcntie and humble ; for she blushed when she was reproved,
never made excuses, and always bore punishment without com-
plaining ; but her mamma sometimes grieved to find, that after
her little girl had done wrong, she kept away from her ; and
that instead of throwing her arms round her neck, as Madeline
always did, and begging for forgiveness, she sat silent, reading
or ^vorking, or learning her lessons ; and now and then allowed
hours to pass without expressing any sorrow.

Still, on the whole, Ruth was careful and attentive, and it was
but seldom that Mrs Clifford had occasion to correct ber; and
perhaps it was from this cause that the evil in her disposition
was not so easily perceived as in Madeline's. Ruth Clifford
was shy, and liked to keep to herself, and not to be obliged to
go into the drawing-room to speak to strangers, and she was
heartily ashamed whenever she had done wrong. But it was
not because she v/as humble that the colour rushed to her cheek
when she was reproved, but because in truth she was very
proud. As soon as she began to understand the difference
between right and wrong, Ruth learned to think herself much
better than Madeline. The servants scolded Madeline for
being hasty, but they praised her because she was gentle. They
complained of Madeline's thoughtlessness, but they declared
that Ruth scarcely ever required to be reminded of the same
thing twice. As they grew older, Madeline used to forget her
lessons, but it seldom happened that Ruth was not perfect in
hers ; and Madeline herself, when in disgrace, would frequently
cry, and wish she was half as good as her sister. Scarcely
any one guessed the great defect in Ruth's character to be want


of humility, except her papa and mamma ; for pride is one of
those very serious faults which are oflen but little perceived,
and therefore the more difficult to correct.

But though Madeline and Ruth Clifford, like other little girls
of their age, had many faults which it required lime and care to
overcome, on the whole they were good children, whom every one
felt inclined to love. True and open, generally speaking, in all
that they did, good-natured and generous, and anxious to please
their parents, no one could live with them without being
interested in them.

Mr Clifford was a clergyman ; he was not rich, and he had a
large parish to attend to, a number of poor people to see every
day, and many duties to make him anxious, and sometimes sad ;
but he was a man whose first wish and endeavour was to obey
God, and therefore, whatever trouble he might meet with, he
had a peaceful, contented mind ; and when the labours of the
day were over, and he could enjoy a walk or a conversation with
his wife or with his children, he often said with a sincere heart
that the blessings of his earthly lot were such as to overwhelm
him with the sense of God's bounty. And certainly his home
was placed in a scene where the beauty of nature alone must
have given him enjoyment.

The parsonage of Laneton was situated at the farthest end of
a little village about half a mile from the sea coast. It was a
cottage, built upon a hill ; rather low, and long, and standing
upon a smooth piece of turf, with some pretty flower-beds in
front, and a row of large elm-trees upon a grassy bank at the
side. The road through the village passed it on the right, and
on the left it was bordered by a thick copse and some green
meadows ; while, directly in front, beyond the scattered dwell-
ings of the poor, and the trees which skirted the extensive
grounds of Haseley Manor, lay a broad expanse of the blue sea,
the curling waves of which broke upon a sandy beach shut in
by the steep red cliffs that formed the little bay of Laneton.
Laneton was but a small village, and in itself had no particular
beauty, but scarcely any one passed through without admiring
it. There was a peculiar air of neatness in the cottages and
gardens ; the flowers were bright, the Avindows clean, the
palings well kept. No thatch torn as if on purpose to admit
the rain and wind ; no broken fences, or mud walls ; no gates
off their hinges ; — it was a place which every one saw at once
was cared for. Some thanks for all this were due to Lady


Catharine Hyde, the possessor of Haseley Manor, and the
owner of nearly every cottage in the place ; but there was
gratitude of a still higher kind due to ]\Ir Clifford. It was his
goodness which had been the means of gaining an influence
over the poor people, and making them more constant at
church, and more attentive to their families ; it was his instruc-
tion which had brought the children of his parish into such ex-
cellent order, that to belong to Laneton was a recommendation
to the whole neighbourhood ; whilst his constant self-denial and
devotion made him spare neither time nor labour if he saw the
least hope of being of use to the humblest of those committed
to his care. All this trouble was shared by his wife — Mrs
Clifford did not indeed teach and advise the poor in the same
way as her husband, but she could and did work for them, and
visit them, and tell them how they were to take care of their
little ones. She helped them when they were ill, and com-
forted and felt for them when they were unhappy ; and thus
took from her husband half the labour of his heavy duties.
With such parents, Madeline and Ruth had spent a very happy
childhood, for they were taught to employ their time usefully,
and to be contented with the blessings which God had granted
them, and they had no idea that any home could be prettier, ot
any station in life better, than their own. They had scarcely
ever been away from Laneton, and they heard little of what
passed in other houses, for there were but few children in the
neighbourhood, and there was only one with whom they were
allowed constantly to play.

Alice Lennox was the only child of a widow lady, whose hus-
band had been an officer in the army. Mrs Lennox was a great
invalid at the time when she first came to live at Laneton, in
the small white house which fronted Lady Catharine Hyde's
lodge. No one seemed to know much about her except Lady
Catharine herself, and her attentions never ceased. Whether
it were from being lonely also, from having lost her husband
and having no child to interest her ; or merely from natural
kindness of heart ; or, as some people said, because they had
been friends in years gone by, and had promised, even in their
school days, that they would never forsake each other when
trials should come upon them ; certain it is, that Lady Cathar-
ine's affection for Mrs Lennox was very unlike that which is
generally seen. Few days passed without their meeting, for
scarcely any engagements were allowed to interfere with the


accustomed visits. Books, pictures, flowers, and fruit, were
regularly sent from the Manor, though Mrs Lennox had nothing
to offer in return but her gratitude and love ; and when the ill-
ness, which had been gradually increasing for many months, at
length was pronounced to be dangerous. Lady Catharine spent
days and nights by the side of her invalid friend, and seemed
to forget that it was possible to be weary whilst she could afford
a moment's comfort to one she loved.

Mrs Lennox was fully deserving of this affection, though few
praised, or spoke of her, except in pity. Only Mr Clifford often
expressed to his wife his surprise at the patience with which she
bore the most painful sufferings, and wished that he had been
acquainted with her in the days of her health, when he might
have been able, from conversation, to learn more of a character
which appeared so meek and so resigned. Sometimes, also,
when he returned from one of his frequent visits with a counte-
nance of sorrow, he would say that his grief was not for her,
for that she was fitted for the peace of heaven, and he could
not wish to keep her from it ; but that he mourned for her
orphan child, and for the dreadful loss which the death of such
a mother must be. It was no matter of surprise to him when
Mrs Lennox had breathed her last, and her child was left with-
out any relations who were able to protect her, to be told that
it was Lady Catharine's intention to adopt Alice Lennox, and
take her at once to live with her at the Manor. It seemed a
natural step for one who had shown so much affection to her
mother ; and when the wish was mentioned to him, he could
but say that it was a merciful arrangement of Providence, and
be trusted it might be a source of blessing to both Lady
Catharine and her little charge. The change would have been
a great event to any other person, but Alice was too unhappy
to understand it. When she was told that she was to leave the
small house which had been her home for the last two years,
and go to live at Haseley Manor, and be treated as the daughter
of Lady Catharine Hyde, she only cried bitterly, and said that
she would i-ather stay with her mamma's maid Benson ; she
did not like the Manor, it looked so gloomy ; and Lady Cathar-
ine was not her mamma, and she did not want to go to her.
A few persons wondered at the little girl's dislike to the notion,
and said that it was not natural, and showed that she had no
gratitude, and was very cold-hearted ; but Madeline and Ruth
Clifford, who had been Alice's playfellows for many months,


understood a great deal more of her real feelings They knew
that she was not insensible to Lady Catharine's kindness, though
there were some things which made her feel frightened at the
thoughts of living with her.

* It is really true, Ruth,' said Madeline, as she jumped up
from her scat when her sister came into the room. ' Mamma
says that Alice is to live at the Manor. I wish she would let
me go and see her first.'

' I don't think she will want to see us to-day,' said Ruth ;
' we couldn't play, you know.'

' No, not play, exactly, but I should like to talk to her, and
make her tell me whether she likes going. Do you know
that, perhaps, by and by, she will be called Hyde as well as
Lennox ? '

' Does mamma say so ?' inquired Ruth, in surprise.

* Mamma says she 7night be, but she does not think she will
be ; but she must be Alice always.'

' Why imisi?' asked Ruth ; ' why may not Alice be changed
as well as Lennox ?'

* Because Alice is her Christian name,' replied Madeline,
' and mamma says people keep that always.'

* I never thought before whether I had a Christian name,'
said Ruth ; * but I suppose that is why we answer Ruth and
Madeline, and not Clifford, when we say the catechism.'

' Yes,' said Madeline, pleased at having given her sister a
new notion ; * but if you were Alice, should you like to be called
Miss Hyde?'

' I don't know,' said Ruth ; ' I think I should choose to
have my own name.'

* I like Lennox better than Hyde, too,' said Madeline ; ' but
it would be such fun to have a new name : shouldn't you like
to be adopted .'"

* I should not like to be Lady Catharine's child,' replied

' No, of course, not to give up one's own papa and mamma ;
but Alice has none now.' Ruth looked grave. * It is very
dismal, I know,' continued Madeline, her bright face becoming
sad also j * but there will be a great many pleasant things at
Haseley which Alice never would have had if she had gone on
living in that little, poky house. All I should dislike would be
to have such a strict mamma ; doesn't it sound odd ? — I never
can fancy Lady Catharine a mamma, can you ? '


* No,' said Ruth, laughing ; ' she is just like a governess.'

* So she is — a stiff, starch governess, all set up and prim,
like Miss Meadows, who came here in the summer with Emma
Ferrers. If I were Alice, I would call her governess.'

' No,' said Ruth ; ' that would be wrong, because you know
she is really so kind.'

' And mamma says, too,' continued Madeline, ' that all gover-
nesses are not prim, and that she loved one of hers very much ;
but she lived a great many years ago. I should like to see
some more governesses, and then I could tell.' For a few
moments Madeline forgot Alice Lennox, whilst endeavouring to
remember exactly what Miss Meadows was like, and determin-
ing whether she would rather live with her or with Lady
Catharine Hyde.

Ruth was silent likewise ; but after a short pause she
exclaimed, * What I should like, would be to be as rich as if I
were Lady Catharine's child when I grew up. I wouldn't live
ivith her now, but I should like to have some great thing to
look forward to.'

' That is such a long time to come,' said Madeline; ' I never
can think of things that are far off.'

' Not so many years,' obscr\'ed Ruth ; ' we are ten now — in
eight years' time we shall be eighteen ; it docs not seem so very

' It docs to me,' observed Madeline ; ' I can't understand
^vhat it is for things to be going to happen so far off as one
year ; and that is a reason why I should not care to be Alice.
It would be no good to have pleasure to come by and by ; I
should want to have it at once.'

* I daresay Alice will have some pleasures,' said Ruth ; ' but
I don't know that I should much enjoy them, if I had to live
with that strict Lady Catharine, instead of our own dear papa
and mamma.'

' I wonder whether we shall ever go and play at Haseley .'"
said Madeline. ' I heard Benson telling Alice it was such a
beautiful place for hide and seek.'

' Lady Catharine does not like a noise,' said Ruth ; ' you
remember how she always kept on hushing whenever we went
into the white house, and she was there. Somehow, I don't
think I could play at the Manor.'

* Oh I as for that,' exclaimed Madeline, ' I can play any-
where ; and 1 don't diink Lady Catharine is cross exactly,


though si'.a docs hush so much. I dare say she will not care
when tlicrc is no person ill in the house.'

' Perhaps not/ replied Ruth, as if scarcely attending to what
her sister was saying ; and, after thinking for some minutes, she
added, ' it is the odd feeling I can't understand. It would be
like plaj'ing at being her child as we play with our dolls. I
don't think I should like it — no, I am sure I should not.'

* Well, I should,' said Madeline ; ' it is very strange of you,
Ruth, not thinking of things as I do. I don't mean, of course,
that it would be pleasant going away from home ; but if I could
go to a new house and a new place, with papa and mamma,
and you '■ —

' And be Lady Catharine's child all the time,' said Ruth,
laughing ; ' she should be your mamma, Madeline — I would
not have her for mine.'

' How I long to see Alice ! ' said Madeline. ' I fancy she
must be difterent, though it is such a little while ago that we
were with her. Mrs Mortimer said to mamma, that she heard
she was to go to the Manor to-morrow.'

' To-morrow is the funeral,' said Ruth.

* Yes, I know it is ; shouldn't you like to see it ?'

* No,' replied Ruth, quickly.

' Oh ! why not ? Cook said, that if we looked out of the
nursery window we should be able to watch it all the way to
the churchyard. Lady Catharine's great carriage is to be there,
and Mr Mortimer is going in a caiTiage too ; — there can be no
harm in looking.'

* I don't suppose there would be any harm in it,' replied
Ruth ; ' but I know it would make me cry, and I think it would
make you cry, too, Madeline. Don't you i-emember how kind
Mrs Lennox was whenever we went there, and how she used to
give us oranges and baked apples?'

Madeline looked a little ashamed : * I was not thinking of
Mrs Lennox,' she said, ' only about the carriages ; but, Ruth,
don't you think she is very happy?'

* Yes,' replied Ruth, ' yet I don't like her being gone at all
the more for that ; and when nobody lives at the white house,
1 shall hate passing by it.'

' You are always thinking of something on beyond,' said
Madeline. ' I wish I could. I am sure no one would love me
if they knew I wanted to see the funeral — no one but you, Ruth ;
but you can't lieli) it^ because we are sisters.'


' If Alice had a sister!' began Ruth.

*Ycs, wouldn't it be nice for her? She asked me one day if
you and I were not just like sisters to her, and I did not know
what to say. I don't think we can be like sisters to anybody
but ourselves — do you think we can?'

* No,' replied Ruth, earnestly; ' and papa and mamma would
not wish us to be. You know they said, only last Sunday,
when we were sitting in the arbour after church, that all our
whole lives, if we lived ever and ever so long, there would be
nobody to love us in the same way, because of no one having
just the same things to remember.'

* We have quite the same.' said Madeline, ' all the way back
as far as we can think.'

' Yes,' continued Ruth, 'all from that red spelling-book which
uncle George gave us when we were three years old.'

' And the work-boxes,' added Madeline ; ' and that time
when old Roger used to dip us in the sea — and the new cur-
tains to our bed, Ruth ; only I cried, and you did not, when
mamma would not let us pull them close ; and, oh, so many
things!' Ruth's memory was the clearer of the two, and one

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellLaneton Parsonage : a tale for children → online text (page 1 of 58)