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drawing-room, and all our brilliant expectations
sank to zero.

'' I do not perceive that the probability of our
being laughed at improves the matter; and, of
course, everybody could see with half an eye
that we were disappointed," replied Ursula.

"You must not expect to be invited to dinner-



PLANS AXD AiIUSE:MEXTS. 119

parties, Ursie," papa assured her ; '* young women
are not worth dinner-parties."

" I don't expect to be invited to dinner-parties,
papa," she answered tartly ; *• but I think it is a
great piece of impertinence when a lackered little
body, like Mrs. Peacocke, presents her best com-
pliments and formally requests the pleasure of
any one's company, at a week's date, to sit in an
ice-house from nine o'clock at night till ten, and
partake of a biscuit and cup of cold tea in the
presence of a group of people who have just
risen, serene and satisfied, from a capital dinner."

Mamma added that she thought it was very
inconsiderate of ]\Ii's. Peacocke, who was under
no obligation to invite us at all, but she advised
us to dismiss the subject from our minds, since
it was of no use to chafe about what was past
redress.

Whatever had been Ursula's expectations in
connection with this entertainment, they appeared
now to have vanished utterly. She and I had a
long private, serious conversation that day about
the propriety and expedience of her taking a
situation ; and her views on the matter were by



120 WAEP AND WOOF.

no means unreasonable. She was a person of
great physical energy and an almost restless
mental activity; she found no congenial friends
and no sufficient occupation about her, and she
began to feel inexpressibly bored and wearied in
our narrow home-circle; a wider and more
important sphere was, she assured me, becoming
a necessity of her nature.

^^I am not afraid of work if the work be to
my taste," said she. "I am sure I could teach
thoroughly what I know, and I believe I could
make a governess-life, which some women rave
about as so intolerable, very comfortable indeed.
Of course I should not allow myself to be
trodden down as such poor-spirited creatures are,
and, in the end, I have no doubt I should get
on admirably."

" It must be a dull existence at the best,
Ursie, and one of monotonous restraint," I told
her. "It would be very wearing to your mind
to be always pinned down to the level of young
children — and you are not fond of them either."

"No, I do not like children, but I can keep
them in order," she admitted. "My chief diffi-



PLANS A2sD AMUSE^IEXTS. 121

culty is about papa and mamma ; how tliey would
like mj going out? Thej never say a word
when I allude to it."

" But there can be no two opinions as to what
they feel; they cannot bear the idea," I assured
her. " They do not see that there is any necessity
for itj but, at the same time, if you are bent on the
experiment, I do not think they will gainsay you."

" That is what it must come to," she replied.
" You are fortunately provided for, but were
anything to happen to papa and mamma, Connie
and I would be left Hterally destitute.'*

"You may be sure, Ursie, that whatever I
possessed would be shared with both of you," I
told her.

" I don't know ; it might not be in your power.
For instance, if you were to marry "

"You may put that obstacle out of your cal-
culations ; I never shaU marry," said I ; " but I
hope you and Connie will."

" It is not probable that / shall now. I have
no fortune and I am no beauty, and I am not
likely to meet with anybody in a place like this
to take a fancy to my usefulness. Connie may



122 ■ WAEP AND WOOF.

fare better — one can see that by and by she will
be perfectly handsome, and she always was a pet
with gentlemen ever since she wore bare legs and
a bunch of blue sash round her waist. It is as
well to be candid with oneself now and then, and
to look at one's prospects all round — and when
I spread out my hand of cards, I see plainly
inscribed thereon spinsterdom and governesshood."

" I don't like to hear you say that, Ursie ; you
are so young yet — who knows ? " said I, thinking
a vague hope better than none.

" I do not see the necessity for marrying in
the light that some women do," she replied. " If
I may work and be independent, and take a
respectable position at the same time, I can stand
very well by myself. Nobody will catch me
drivelling and whining — if I may not be happy
in one way I will in another."

^^But the happiest way to be happy is to be
happily married," said I. " I know I should have
preferred it had Philip Massey lived."

" Of course you would. There is no question
in which position a woman has the most honour
and influence ; but I have met with no Philip



PLANS AND Ai^IUSEMENTS. 123

Massey, as you very well know, and I am not
disposed to wait sentimentally for tlie chance of
his coming, with idle hands in my lap, when I
might be working to a purpose and putting a
little spirit into the Hfe which it is much more
probable I shall have to lead. There are three
times as many women in the comitry as there
are men, so it is nonsense for all to ex]^)ect to
marry."

'' I am not statistical, Ursie," repHed I ; ^' but
I think you make out too bad a case for yourself."

" Look at Miss Theodora Bousfield — ^her position
is good enoucrh and she hves bv criyino; sincrinp;
lessons — or at the Miss Layels; we are told
they are entirely dependent on themselves — all
three working, educated women. I should like
their independence better than my own quiet,
useless life at home. As governesses go, I dare-
say I might get a salary of eighty guineas a year."

" You would be very fortunate if you did.
Such salaries are by no means com.mon," said
I ; " especially at first going out."

"Perhaps not, but I should not like to take
less. However, as you all seem so much against



124 WARP AND WOOF.

it, I will wait until spring and see what the next
three months bring forth. I anticipate nothing,
but I do not wish to take an important step in
haste to repent it at leisure under the imputation
of having only my own rashness to blame."

When Ursula was reasonable she was very
reasonable; and these seasons I had always ob-
served to follow upon some personal humiliation
which, for the time being, had put down her
rather self-sufficient temper and compelled her
to view her merits and her pretensions by the
light of truth. The process was disagreeable to
go through undoubtedly, but it was so far salu-
tary in this, that it checked her perversity and
spirit of domineering, and made her, as Miss
Heywood used to phrase it, find her own level.
The mortification and disappointment in connec-
tion with Mrs. Peacocke's party, while it abated
her expectations, did more to reconcile her to our
reduced fortunes than anything that had happened
since we left Roseberry. She gave up harping
on what we might have been and on what we
had lost, and in ceasing to enforce a respect due
to an imaginary dignity, she became almost digni-



PLANS A^T) AMUSEMENTS. 125

fied. I could not enter into all her views and
feelings myself; we were natui*al]y of quite oppo-
site characters ; but I began to have more sym-
pathy with her revolt against inaction, and to
hope that something would occur to employ her
superfluous energies, to her own profit and our
peace at home, before many more months went
over our heads.

The monotony of our daily lives, which fretted
her so grievously, was acceptable to me. I always
had something to do at home, and whether I
would or no, Mrs. Maurice had enlisted me in
her stafi" of parish assistants. She had placed
me in charge of a class of big boys at the school,
she sent me to read to select old women, and
she claimed my special help in cutting out and
making ready the work before each meeting of
the Dorcas Society. I was new to these duties,
and, at first, I did not hke them, but in process of
time I found my interest in them all, and a far
higher amount of pleasure and satisfaction than
I could have supposed they would yield before
I tried them. But, as Ursula said, I had no
originality, and if thrust mto a groove which



126 WARP AND WOOF.

was rough to begin with, I was apt to plod up
and down in it until I had worn its inequalities
smooth and got so used to it that it would be
pain and grief to me to be set in a less familiar
way. In which she was not far wrong. I grew
old early, and I seem ever since to have been
learning the philosophy of putting up with things
that I could not put off.

Connie's chief pleasure and amusement con-
sisted in long walking expeditions everywhere
over the country, in which I was most frequently
her companion. I recollect her leading me a
pretty dance across the downs one brisk December
day, during which we lost ourselves and were over-
taken by the early falling darkness before we could
reach home again. There had been nearly a
fortnight's frost, and the down-tracks were clean
and hard as flint, but after an hour's walking
in quite an unfamiliar direction they merged in
a confused mass of furze-bushes and faded heather,
with here and there a tree, warped and distorted
by the fierce winds, stretching its ragged arms
against the cold cloudy blue of the sky.

" What fun it would be to lose ourselves,"



PLANS AKD AMUSEMENTS. 127

cried Connie ; " I don't think we ever were lost,
Doris ! "

" It would not be very difficult to do/' I
replied, stopping and looking round the horizon.
"For example, if we saw a snow-storm coming
on now, which way should we take as the shortest
to find shelter?"

Connie demurred to the question — she really
did not know.

Neither did I ; we were quite out of sight of
all familiar places, but I suspected that the
shoulder of St. Cross hid them, so I proposed
that we should go down to a certain point and
take an observation. We liked making rounds —
if we had chosen to return by the way we had
come, it would have been easy to retrace our
steps, but that was not our object — it was plea-
sant to find out beautiful new walks and to
announce the same when we amved at home
tired. My suggestion was accordingly followed,
but when the point was reached we only looked
down on the steep ribbed side of a chalky cliff
tufted with scant grass ; at the bottom was a
scrubby wood, then two narrow fields ending in



128 WARP AND WOOF.

a sharp ridge, and far below the open sea. We
had got beyond and above Avonmore Head,
behind which lay Scarcliffe Bay, Scarcliffe, and
Redcross, and a high road we supposed there
must certainly be, though from our present posi-
tion we could see nothing of it."

" As we don't kfiow where we are, we may
consider ourselves really lost," said ^Connie ex-
hilarated.

" Yes ; if it be a pleasurable sensation," replied
I ; " but, for my part, I begin to think this grim
north-easter, which we shall have full in our teeth
in returning, just a little drawback to the charms
of the situation."

" Oh ! I love the wind," and Connie stretched
out her arms as if to embrace it.

" Come," said I, " your enthusiasm may keep
you warm, but it whistles through me as if I
were a skeleton ! "

'^ Let us take a run ! I'll race you back to
the last gate we came through."

Connie took an mifair start and beat, of course,
but the rapid exercise counteracted the effect of the
north-easter and put us both in a glow. It was very



PLANS AND AMUSEMENTS. 129

good to come out with Connie ; it made the blood
run faster and swept the cobwebs out of mj
brains ; but I thought it was now time to make
the best of our way home ; for, as the crow flies,
we must then have been fall fom^ miles away,
and it was past thi-ee o'clock of the afternoon.

So we set our faces towards Redcross, but
in attempting a short cut we soon came to a
standstill amongst a tangle of tracks in the ling
and were quite undecided which to take. After
looking round and looking at the sky interroga-
tively for some minutes, Connie espied a white curl
of smoke rising above a ridge of the down only
a short way off, and proposed that we should
run across to the dwelling it betrayed to inquire
of our whereabouts. We forced our way accord-
ino-ly throuD-h cline-ino; bushes till we came to
a ragged thorn hedge and a stile ; beneath was
an unkempt vegetable garden, sloping down the
steep, and, quite in the hollow, fronting to the
south, was a thatched cottage.

" Pretty little nook I " cried Connie, " but who
would have thought of any one Hving in an
out-of-the-way place like this ! "

VOL. I. 9



130 WARP AND WOOF.

The winterly sunshine was yellowing the
cottage wall where a dark bushy myrtle grew
up with a few deep crimson buds of a late rose
peeping out from its thick verdure. As we
approached nearer, we saw that the garden round
about it was more carefully tended and that it
had an air of comfort and occupation. The
sound of our steps and voices brought to the
door an elderly woman dressed in mourning
with some plain needlework in her hand ; she
came a pace or two out to meet us, with a look
of disturbed inquiry on her face, and I immedi-
ately stated how we had lost our way and wished
to be put in the road for getting back to Redcross.
She turned her head to the lattice window, which
was standing open, and said to some one within, —

" Paul, my dear, will you put these strangers
into the way of getting back to Redcross ? "
Glancing in the same direction I saw a low-
ceiled room shelved round with books, and a
man seated at a table writiftg ; he rose as his
mother appealed to him, and came to the door
with his pen in his hand. He did not look at
us, but pointing down a rough lane from the



PLANS AND AMUSEilEXTS. 131

garden-gate, told us hastily that we must follow
its windings until we came to another gate, which
would bring us into the high road about three
miles and a half from Redcross, and was at
once returning to his work, when his mother
suggested aside that the gate would be locked.

Connie exclaimed, —

'*' Oh, we can climb over the gate, thank you ! "
but with a few hasty words about its not beino-
an easy gate for ladies to chmb, he snatched up
a key from the window-sill, came out, and led
the way down the lane. I said I was extremely
sorry to give him the trouble, but he took no
notice and marched on in advance, his uncovered,
grizzled hair fluttering in the wind, and his
long lean limbs swinging in a swift easy gait.
It taxed even Connie to keep up with him, and
by the time he reached the gate we had fallen
some way behind. He was waiting with it open
when we came up and merely bowing his head
in acknowledgment' of our thanks, locked it
behind us, and turned back to the cottage.

" I have seen that man somewhere before,"
said Connie as we both put our best foot fore-

9—2



132 WARP AND WOOF.

most on tlie hard frozen road. I thought I had
seen him too, or somebody exceedingly hke him,
but neither of us could remember where ; only
we agreed that the house in the hollow was a
queer place for him to be living in unless he
were poet, philosopher or hermit, or all three
combined.

Walking our swiftest we did not reach home
until nearly an hour after dark, and only just
in time to escape a heavy fall of snow, so we
had to listen to lectures from all parties and to
promise to take no more rambles of the kind,
until lengthening days gave us more time to lose
and find ourselves aojain.



133



XIII.

A MOENDsG AT THE PEIORY.

Embalmed between the leaves of my old Thought-
Book, I have a few curiosities of literature which
serve as notes to the brief entries in tlie text. Of
this date I find a quaint little epistle of Miss
Pegge Burnell's, written on pink satin notepaper,
and still exhaling the delicate perfume which
always reminds me of her. It was addressed to
aU of us and says, much like an echo of her own
deep voice speaking, "I make no calls in this
weather, girls, but I want to see you. "When it
is warmer I shall pay your father and mother a
visit to talk about Roseberry. I remember that
place when I was young, for I spent some of the
happiest days of my life there. If they will waive
ceremony with an old woman, all whose bones
are fuU of tooth-ache while this east wind blows.



134 WARP AND WOOF.

and come np to see lier, she will be delighted.
I prefer receiving visitors at lunch time, when
the}^ can eat or let it alone as it suits them — that is,
between twelve and two ; if they come earlier I
am not downstairs — if they come later it interferes
with my drive. Mind the pretty one is of the
party. Yours sincerely, Cecilia Pegge Burnell."
This document was answered in person by
papa, mamma, and the pretty one walking up to
the Priory the following day. Papa returned
charmed with the old lady and all her surround-
ings, and from Connie's account she must have
made herself truly delightful. She had given
them a description of Roseberry as she recollected
it in the time of Admiral Villers, and had asked
a thousand and one questions about the improve-
ments and alterations papa had made while it
was in his possession; she was curious to learn
whether such and such walks in the gardens
remained as they were formerly, and whether
certain trees were standing of which she had a
distinct remembrance. Mamma fancied she must
have some sentimental interest in the place from
the vividness with which she recalled its minutest



A MORXIXG AT THE PRIORY. 135

features. She wanted to know if the front door
steps were jet in a semicircle and worn very
hoUow in the middle; and when papa told her,
no, he had had them renewed on first going there,
she said, "And not before thej required it.
The edge of the second step was quite worn
awaj ; but Admiral Villers was a stingy old hunks,
and every man, woman and child in the kingdom
might have broken their bones before he would
have spent sixpence to mend it." In telling
Ursula and myself what had passed, Connie
added of her own opinion, " I do not believe the
poor old lady was born so deformed as she is,
neither does mamma. We think it must have been
the result of some accident that happened, perhaps,
at Roseberry. "

Miss Pegge Burnell had sent a request that
Ursula, Connie and I would go up and visit her
at her favourite hour, the day but one after, and
as we could all be spared we went accordingly.
She, however, had had a very bad night and was
not yet out of her room, so she sent a message to
us to perambulate the grounds for half an hour,
at the end of which time she would be ready



136 WARP AND WOOF.

to receive us ; but on no account were we to go
away.

We gladly availed ourselves of the permissioUa
and deep winter though it was, the sunshine upon
the down side was so clear and the evergreens
were so beautiful, that when we came round upon
the south terrace beneath the windows of the
principal rooms, we might have imagined that
spring had arrived there already. The Priory
was a solidly built, irregular old place, over the
grey, time-fretted stones of which no ivy or other
covering had been permitted to grow; but close
under the wall there was a narrow border running
the whole length of the house, the delicious wafts
of perfume from which betrayed the whereabouts
of innumerable violets. This terrace commanded
a glorious prospect ; from thence we could over-
look the village and the lovely meadows which
then bordered the road down to Scarcliffe; we
could trace the daily-growing new town and the
crowded roofs of the old one; we could descry
the dotted figures on the pier, the ships in the
harbour and the whole arc of the beautiful bay,
with the Castle high perched on the frowning



A MOEXIXG AT THE PRIOEY. 137

North Cliff. Redcross itself was a bowery little
spot, with its very ancient church and nest of
humble thatched cottages, which no speculative
builder had jet been permitted to buy up; and
the park extending behind it to the verge of the
cliffs was grouped over with magnificent timber
trees, while a hanging fir wood on the lower slope
of the down formed a dark background to the
long grey front of the house. The gardens were
formed on three terraces and though they were
now bare of flowers, the turf was so green and
velvety and the choice shrubs were planted to so
good an effect, that no air of winterly desolation
and decay in the foreground marred the soft
loveliness of the scene.

We had scarcely completed our smwey when
we were summoned to enter the house by an
intimation that Miss Pegge Burnell was now
come do^Ti stairs and was ready to receive us.
When we appeared she immediately said in a
voice of querulous suffering, "Ghrls, I don't
apologize — all my friends have consented to take
me by chance just as I happen to be, and I hope
you will do the same. To-day I happen to be



138 WARP AND WOOF.

very bad, and that is worse for me than for
you."

She would not, however, listen to any con-
dolences or inquiries, and in answer to our
proposal to leave her, she said, —

"If you want to vex me past my patience
you can go. I like young people, but it is
not all of them who can put up with me, I
know. It gives me pleasure and takes my
thoughts away from myself, to see happy faces
about me, and I am much obliged to you for
coming ; but if you don't like it, don't stay."

So, of course, we stayed, and in talking of
various things — pictures, books and events that
were happening in the world, she did, indeed,
appear to lose the paramount sense of her own
pain. My sister Ursula was excellent company
for such an occasion. She was a diligent student
of The Times, she read new books and reviews
systematically for the purpose of getting up
subjects of conversation ; she made the best of
every one of her talents ; she had opinions and
maintained them; she talked with emphasis and
rarely talked nonsense; and she was now able



A MORNING AT THE PRIORY. 139

to give i\Iiss Pegge Burnell a summan^ of
general intelligence in which no London corre-
spondent could have beaten her. Connie's place
and mine was that of submissive listeners ; Ursula
had elected herself to be the clever one of our
family, a dignity which no one disputed, and
when she spoke we held our peace.

She had great manual dexterity; she could
read French, German and Itahan, and was well
up in such literature as is supplied by language
masters to their pupils ; she di'ew — that is to
say, she copied ; she played on the piano, but in
a hard, fighting, unsentimental way, ver\' trying
to listen to if she went on with the exercise long ;
and on every one of her accomplishments she
had her views, which no modest diffidence vrith-
held her from enunciating in any company.

Once or twice I thought ]Miss Pegge BurneU
answered her with covert irony, but Ursula did
not appear conscious of it, and she looked
immensely flattered when the poor old lady said —

'^I should like you for my companion. Miss
Ursula, if you had a lighter foot, and did not
always shut doors with a clap." Ursula wanted



140 WAEP AND WOOF.

to know how Miss Pegge Burnell could have
discovered that she clapped doors. *'I reason
by analogy, my dear," was the answer; "when
I see a young woman who shakes the room as
she walks across it, I am morally certain that
she will either clap the door or leave it standing
wide open."

" How observant you must be ! " cried Ursula ;
" that is what I always do."

I do not remember ever to have seen a more
luxurious picture of wealthy spinsterhood than
that offered to our admiration in the Priory draw-
ing-room. It was grave and quiet, but it had
an aspect of generous warmth and amplitude
which, from the first time of my entering it,
became inseparable in my mind, from its owner's
personality. It was long and lofty, and lined
with polished oak panels, in each division of
which hung a fine picture. Three deeply sunken,
narrow high windows broke the south side of
the room looking upon the terrace ; the fire- ^
place was opposite the centre one, and had an
elaborate and grotesquely carved chimney-piece,
over which was an arched window commanding



A MOENIXG AT THE PRIORY. 141

a lovely peep of the downs ; the west end of the
room was circular, and formed an immense bay
opening into the conservatory. Disregarding the
common light and airy character of a drawing-
room, Miss Pegge Burnell had had carved book-
cases, dark like the panelling, fitted between the
windows and in the recesses on each side of the
fire-place. The floor was covered with a crimson
carpet, woven in one piece ; starred with amber


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