Joyce Morrell's Harvest, by Emily Sarah Holt.
This book is one of a series involving the same late sixteenth century family. Its predecessor is "Lettice Eden", and its successor is "It might have been." Readers may find a little difficulty with the language, for it is written in Elizabethan English, though that won't bother you if you are familiar with the plays of Shakespeare.
Three young teenage girls, and their aunt Joyce are chatting together one evening, when one of the girls suggests they might all try to keep a journal. The idea is scoffed at, because, it was said, nothing ever happens in their neck of the woods. A few exaggerated examples of the daily events that might be recorded were given, but nonetheless, they applied to their father for the paper, pens and ink, that they would need, and set to work, taking it in turns to write up the journal.
It is slightly annoying that every proper name is written in italics, which your reviewer found rather unusual, but you can get used to anything, and once you have done that it doesn't seem too bad.
The author was said to be a good historian, and so you will find the book informative and interesting, as the great issues of the day are discussed, many of them being of a religious nature.
JOYCE MORRELL'S HARVEST, BY EMILY SARAH HOLT.
Those to whom "Lettice Eden" is an old friend will meet with many acquaintances in these pages. The lesson is partly of the same type— the difference between that which seems, and that which is; between the gold which will stand the fire, and the imitation which the flame will dissolve in a moment; between the true diamond, small though it be, which is worth a fortune, and the glittering paste which is worth little more than nothing.
But here there is a further lesson beyond this. It is one which God takes great pains to teach us, and which we, alas! are very slow to learn. "Tarry thou the Lord's leisure." In the dim eyes of frail children of earth, God's steps are often very slow. We are too apt to forget that they are very sure. But He will not be hurried: He has eternity to work in, "If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us." How many of us, who fancied their prayers unheard because they could not see the answer, may find that answer, rich, abundant, eternal, in that Land where they shall know as they are known! Let us wait for God. We shall find some day that it was worth while.
THE DWELLERS AT SELWICK HALL.
"He would be on the mountain's top, without the toil and travail of the climbing."—Tupper.
SELWICK HALL, LAKE DERWENTWATER, OCTOBER YE FIRST, MDLXXIX. It came about, as I have oft noted things to do, after a metely deal of talk, yet right suddenly in the end.
Aunt Joyce, Milly, Edith, and I, were in the long gallery. We had been talking a while touching olden times (whereof Aunt Joyce is a rare hand at telling of stories), and Mother's chronicle she was wont to keep, and hath shown us, and such like matter. When all at once quoth Edith—
"Why should not we keep a chronicle?"
"Ay, why not?" saith Aunt Joyce, busied with her sewing.
Milly fell a-laughing.
"Dear heart, Edith, and what should we put in a chronicle?" saith she. "'Monday, the cat washed her face. Tuesday, it rained. Wednesday, Nell made a tansy pudding. Thursday, I lost my temper. Friday, I found it again. Saturday, Edith looked in the mirror, and Aunt Joyce made an end of a piece of sewing.' Good lack, it shall be a rare jolly book!"
"Nay, I would never set down such stuff as that," answered Edith.
"Why, what else is there?" saith Milly. "We have dwelt hither ever since we were born, saving when we go to visit Aunt Joyce, and one day is the very cut of an other. Saving when Master Stuyvesant came hither, nought never happened in this house since I was born."
"Would'st love better a life wherein matters should happen, Milly?" saith Aunt Joyce, looking up at her, with a manner of face that I knew. It was a little mirthful, yet sorrowful withal.
"Ay, I would so!" quoth she.
"Child," Aunt Joyce makes answer, "'happy is the man that hath no history.'"
"But things do happen, Milly," saith Edith. "Thou hast forgot Anstace her wedding."
"That something happening!" pouts Milly. "Stupid humdrum business! Do but think, to wed a man that dwelleth the next door, which thou hast known all thy life! Why, I would as lief not be wed at all, very nigh."
"It seemed to suit Anstace," puts in Edith.
"Aught should do that."
"Ay," saith Aunt Joyce, something drily, "'godliness is great riches, if a man be content with that he hath.'" [Note 1.]
"Easy enough, trow, when you have plenty," quoth Milly.
"Nay, it is hardest then," saith she. "'Much would have more.'"
"What wist Aunt Joyce thereabout?" murmurs Milly, so that I could just hear. "She never lacked nought she wanted."
"Getting oldish, Milly, but not going deaf, thank God," saith Aunt Joyce, of her dry fashion. "Nay, child, thou art out there. Time was when I desired one thing, far beyond all other things in this world, and did not get it."
"Never, Milly." And a somewhat pained look came into her face, that is wont to seem so calm.
"What was it, Aunt Joyce, sweet heart?"
"Well, I took it for fine gold, and it turned out to be pinchbeck," saith she. "There's a deal of that sort of stuff in this world."
Methought Milly feared to ask further, and all was still till Edith saith—
"Would you avise us, Aunt Joyce, to keep a chronicle, even though things did not happen?"
"Things will happen, trust me," she made answer. "Ay, dear maids, methinks it should be profitable for you."
"Now, Aunt Joyce, I would you had not said that!"
"By reason that things which be profitable be alway dry and gloomsome."
"Not alway, Lettice Eden's daughter."
I could not help but smile when Aunt Joyce said this. For indeed, Mother hath oft told us how, when she was a young maid like Milly, she did sorely hate all gloom and sorrowfulness, nor could not abide for to think thereon. And Milly is much of that turn.
"Then which of us shall keep the grand chronicle?" saith Edith, when we had made an end of laughing.
"Why not all of you?" quoth Aunt Joyce. "Let each keep it a month a-piece, turn about."
"And you, Aunt Joyce?"
"Nay, I will keep no chronicles. I would not mind an' I writ my thoughts down of the last page, when it was finished."
"But who shall read it?" said I.
"There spake Nell!" quoth Milly. "'Who shall read it?' Why, all the world, for sure, from the Queen's Majesty down to Cat and Kitling."
These be our two serving-maids, Kate and Caitlin, which Milly doth affect dearly to call Cat and Kitling. And truly the names come pat, the rather that Kate is tall and big, and fair of complexion, she being Westmoreland born; while Caitlin, which is Cumberland born, is little and wiry, and of dark complexion. "The Queen's Majesty shall have other fish to fry, I reckon," saith Aunt Joyce. "And so shall Kate and Caitlin,—if they could read."
"But who is to make a beginning of this mighty chronicle?" saith Edith. "Some other than I, as I do trust, for I would never know what to set down first."
"Let Nell begin, then, as she is eldest of the three," quoth Aunt Joyce.
So here am I, making this same beginning of the family chronicle. For when Father and Mother heard thereof, both laughed at the first, and afterward grew sad. Then saith Mother—
"Methinks, dear hearts, it shall be well for you,—at the least, an' ye keep it truly. Let each set down what verily she doth think."
"And not what she reckons she ought to think," saith Aunt Joyce.
"Then, Father, will it please you give us some pens and paper?" said I. "For I see not how, elsewise, we shall write a chronicle."
"That speech is right, Nell!" puts in Milly.
"Why, if we dwelt on the banks of the Nile, in Egypt," saith Father, "reeds and bulrushes should serve your turn: or, were ye old Romans, a waxen tablet and iron stylus. But for English maidens dwelling by Lake Derwentwater, I count paper and pens shall be wanted—and ink too, belike. Thou shalt have thy need supplied, Nell!"
And as this morning, when he came into the parlour where we sat a-sewing, what should Father set down afore me, in the stead of the sheets of rough paper I looked to see, but this beautiful book, all full of fair blank paper ready to be writ in,—and an whole bundle of pens, with a great inkhorn. Milly fell a-laughing.
"Oh dear, dear!" saith she. "Be we three to write up all those? Verily, Father, under your good pleasure, but methinks you should pen a good half of this chronicle yourself."
"Nay, not so much as one line," saith he, "saving those few I have writ already on the first leaf. Let Nell read them aloud."
So I read them, as I set them down here, for without I do copy them, cannot I put in what was said.
"Fees and Charges of the Chronicle of Selwick Hall.—Imprimis, to be writ, turn about, by a month at each, by Helen, Milisent, and Editha Louvaine."
Milly was stuffing her kerchief into her mouth to let her from laughing right out.
"Item, the said Helen to begin the said book.
"Item, for every blot therein made, one penny to the poor."
"Oh, good lack!" from Milly.
"I care not, so Father give us the pennies," from Edith.
"I reckon that is what men call a dividing of labour," saith Father in his dry way. "I to pay the pennies, and Edith to make the blots. Nay, my maid: the two must come of one hand."
"Then both of yours, Father," saith Milly, saucily.
"Item, for every unkind sentence touching an other, two pence to the poor."
"Lack-a-daisy!" cries Milly; "I shall be ruined!"
"Truth for once," quoth Aunt Joyce.
"I am sorry to hear it, my maid," saith Father.
"Item, for every sentence disrespectful to any in lawful authority over the writer thereof, sixpence to the poor."
"Father," quoth Milly, "by how much mean you to increase mine income while this book is a-writing?"
Father smiled, but made no further answer.
"Item, for a gap of so much as one week, without a line herein writ, two pence to the poor."
"That is it which shall work my ruin," saith Edith, a-laughing.
"Therein art thou convict of laziness," quoth Father.
"Item, on the ending of the said book, each of them that hath writ the same shall read over her own part therein from the beginning: and for so many times as she hath gainsaid her own words therein writ, shall forfeit each time one penny to the poor."
"That will bring both Edith and me to beggary," quoth Milly, "Only Nell shall come off scot-free. Father, have you writ nought that will catch her?"
"Item, the said book shall, when ended, but not aforetime, be open to the reading of Aubrey Louvaine, Lettice Louvaine, Joyce Morrell, and Anstace Banaster."
"And none else? Alack the day!" saith Milly.
"I said not whom else," quoth Father. "Be that as it like you."
But I know well what should like me,—and that were, not so much as one pair of eyes beyond. Milly, I dare reckon—but if I go on it shall cost me two pence, so I will forbear.
"Well!" saith Edith, "one thing will I say, your leave granted, Father: and that is, I am fain you shall not read my part till it be done. I would lief be at my wisest on the last page."
"Dear heart! I look to be wise on no page," cries Milly.
"Nay," said I, "I would trust to be wise on all."
"There spake our Nell!" cries Milly. "I could swear it were she, though mine eyes were shut close."
"This book doth somewhat divert me, Joyce," quoth Father, looking at her. "Here be three writers, of whom one shall be wise on each page, and one on none, and one on the last only. I reckon it shall be pleasant reading."
"And I reckon," saith Aunt Joyce, "they shall be reasonable true to themselves an' it be thus."
"And I," saith Milly, "that my pages shall be the pleasantest of any."
"Ergo," quoth Father, "wisdom is displeasant matter. So it is, Milly,—to unwise folks."
"Then, Father, of a surety my chronicling shall ill please you," saith she, a-laughing.
Father arose, and laid his hand upon Milly's head as he passed by her.
"The wise can love the unwise, my maid," saith he. "How could the only wise God love any one of us else?"
SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE II. Milly saith, and Edith likewise, that I must needs set down somewhat touching all us,—who we be, and how many, and our names, and such like. Truly, it seemeth me somewhat lost labour, if none but ourselves are to read the same. But as Milly will have it the Queen's Majesty and all her Council shall be highly diverted thereby (though little, as methinks, they should care to know of us), I reckon, to please these my sisters, I must needs do their bidding.
We therefore, that dwell in Selwick Hall, be Sir Aubrey Louvaine, the owner thereof (that is Father), and Dame Lettice his wife, and us their daughters, Helen, Milisent, and Editha. Moreover, there is Aunt Joyce Morrell, that dwelleth in Oxfordshire, at Minster Lovel, but doth once every five year tarry six months with us, and we with her the like: so that we see each the other once in every two or three years. 'Tis but a week Aunt Joyce hath been hither, so all the six months be to run. And here I should note she is not truly our aunt, but Father's cousin, her mother being sister unto his mother: but Father had never no brother nor sister, and was bred up along, with these his cousins, Aunt Joyce and Aunt Anstace, after whom mine eldest sister hath her name: but Aunt Anstace hath been dead these many years, afore any of us were born. I would I had known her; for to hear them talk of her,—Father, and Mother, and Aunt Joyce,—I could well-nigh think her an angel in human flesh. Now, wherefore is it, for I have oft-times marvelled, that we speak more tenderly and reverently of folk that be dead, than of the living? Were I to die a young maid, should Milly (that loves to mock me now) tell her children henceforward of their Aunt Helen, as though she had been somewhat better than other women? May-be. If we could only use folks we love, while they do live, with the like loving reverence as we shall do after they be dead, if we overlive them! Wherefore do we not so? We do seem for to forget then all that we loved not in them. Could we not essay to do the same a little sooner?
And when Milly cometh hither in her reading, as sure as her name is Milisent, shall she say,—"Now, Mistress Nell, there you go, a-riding your high horse of philosophy! Prithee, keep to common earth."
Beside those I have named, in the house dwelleth Mynheer Floris Stuyvesant, a Dutch gentleman that did flee from his country when the persecution was in Holland, eleven years gone: and Father, which had a little known him aforetime when he made the grand tour, did most gladly welcome him hither, and made him (of his own desire) governor to Ned and Wat, our brothers. These our brothers dwell not now at home, for Wat is squire unto my very good Lord of Oxenford, that is Father's kinsman: and Ned is at sea with Sir Humphrey Gilbert. We therefore see them but rarely. Then, beyond, there is likewise in the house Mistress Elizabeth Wolvercot, that is a cousin of Mother, whom all we do alway call Cousin Bess; she dwelleth with us at all times. Also be Kate and Caitlin, of whom I have aforetime spoken: and old Matthias, our serving-man; and the boy, Adam o' Bill's o' old Mall's.
And here I should note that once were two of us more, Aubrey and Julian: of whom Aubrey died a babe, three years afore I was born, and Julian a little maid of eleven years, between Milly's birth and Edith's. I mind her well, for she was two years elder than I, so that I was nine years old when she departed; but Milly, that was only three, cannot remember her.
Our eldest of all, Anstace, is wife unto Master Henry Banaster, and dwelleth (as Milly saith) next door, he having the estate joining Father's own. She hath two children, Aubrey, that is of seven years, and Cicely, that is four; beside her eldest, Lettice, which did decease in the cradle.
I reckon I have told all now, without I name the cows, which be Daisy, and Molly, and Buttercup, and Rose, and Ladybird, and June; and the great house-dog, which is Clover; and the cat, which is a Spanish cat [a tortoise-shell cat, then a rarity], her name Hermosa (the which Ned gave her, saying a Spanish cat should have a Spanish name, and Hermosa signifieth beautiful in that tongue), but Caitlin will make it Moses, and methinks she is called Moses more than aught else. She hath two kits, that be parti-coloured like herself, their names (given of Milly) Dan and Nan.
And now I feel well-nigh sure I have said all.
Nay, and forgat the horses! Milly will laugh at me, for she dearly loveth an horse. We have six riding-horses, with two baggage-horses, but only four of them have names,—to wit, Father's, that is Favelle, because he is favel-colour [chestnut]; and Mother's, Garnet; and mine, Cowslip; and the last, that Milly or Edith doth commonly ride when we journey, is called Starlight.
And now I have verily told every thing.
(At this point the handwriting of the chronicle changes.)
'Tis not yet my turn to write, but needs must, or it shall cause me to split in twain with laughter. Here is our Nell, reckoning three times o'er that she hath told all, and finding somewhat fresh every time, and with all her telling, hath set down never a note of what we be like, nor so much as the colour of one of our eyes. So, having gat hold of her chronicle, I shall do it for her. I dare reckon she was feared it should cost her two pence each one. But nothing venture, nothing have; and Mother laid down that we should write our true thoughts. So what I think shall I write; and how to make Father's two pence rhyme with Mother's avisement, I leave to Mistress Nell and her philosophy.
Father is a gentleman of metely good height, and well-presenced, but something heavy built: of a dark brown hair, a broad white brow, and dark grey eyes that be rare sweet and lovesome. Of old time was he squire of the body unto my right noble Lord of Surrey, that was execute in old King Henry's days. Moreover, he is of far kin (yet not so far, neither) unto my most worthy Lord of Oxenford. Now, sithence I am to write my thoughts, I must say that I would Father had a better nose. I cannot speak very truth and set down that I did ever admire Father's nose. But he hath good white teeth, and a right pleasant smile, the which go far to make amends for his nose.
Mother was right fair when she was a young maid, and is none so ill now. She is graceful of carriage, very fair of complexion, and hath the sweetest, shining golden hair was ever seen. Her eyes be pale grey [blue], right like the sky.
Of us three maids, Edith is best-favoured, and all that see her do say she is right the very picture of Mother, when she was young. Next her am I; for though I say it, I am a deal fairer than either Anstace or Nell, both which favour [resemble] Father, though Nell is the liker, by reason she hath his mind as well as his face. Now, Nell is all ways slower than Edith and me, and nothing like so well-favoured.
But for beauty, the least I did ever see in any man is in Mynheer Stuyvesant, which hath a flat nose and a stoop in the shoulders, and is high and thin as a scarecrow. Cousin Bess is metely well,—she is rosy and throddy [plump]. For Aunt Joyce, I do stand in some fear of her sharp speeches, and will say nought of her, saving that (which she can not deny) she hath rosy cheeks and dark brown hair (yet not so dark as Father's), and was, I guess, a comely young maid when she were none elder than we. As for Ned and Wat, Ned is the better-favoured, he having Mother's nose and the rest of him Father; but Wat (which favoureth Mother of his colouring, yet is not so comely) a deal the courtlier.
Now when they shall all come to read this same, trow, shall they know their own portraits? or shall they every one cry out, "This is not me!"
So now I leave the rest to Mistress Helen, till it shall come to me next month, when I will say what I think yet again.
SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE V. (In Helen's handwriting.)
Dear heart, but what hath Milly been a-doing! I could not think last night where was my book, but I was rare sleepy, and let it a-be. And here this morrow do I find a good two pages all scribbled o'er of Milly's writing. Well! 'tis not my fault, so I trust shall not be my blame.
And it is true, as Milly saith, that she is better-favoured than I. As for Anstace, I wis not, only I know and am well assured, that I am least comely of the four. But she should never have writ what she did touching Father's nose, and if it cost me two pence, that must I say. I do love every bit of Father, right down to the tip of his nose, and I never thought if it were well-favoured or no. 'Tis Father, and that is all for me. And so should it be for Milly,—though it be two pence more to say so.
SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE VI. We had been sat at our sewing a good hour this morrow,—that is, Mother, and Aunt Joyce, and we three maids,—when all at once Milly casts hers down with a sigh fetched from ever so far.
"Weary of sewing, Milly?" saith Mother with a smile.
"Ay—no—not right that, Mother," quoth she. "But here have I been this hour gone, a-wishing I had been a man, till it seemed me as if I could not abide for to be a woman no longer."
"The general end of impossible wishes," saith Mother, laughing a little.
"Well!" quoth Aunt Joyce, a-biting off her thread, "in all my wishing never yet wished I that."
"Wherefore is it, Milly?" saith Mother.
"Oh, a man has more of his own way than a woman," Milly makes answer. "And he can make some noise in the world. He is not tied down to stupid humdrum matters, such like as sewing, and cooking, and distilling, and picking of flowers, with a song or twain by now and then to cheer you. A man can preach and fight and write books and make folk listen."
"I misdoubt if thou art right, Milly, to say that a man hath the more of his own way always," saith Mother. "Methinks there be many women get much of that."
"Then a man is not tied down to one corner. He can go and see the world," saith Milly.
"In short," quoth Aunt Joyce, "the moral of thy words, Milly, is—'Untie me.'"
"I wish I were so!" mutters Milly.
"And what should happen next?" saith Aunt Joyce.
"Why, I reckon I could not do much without money," answereth Milly.
"Oh, grant all that," quoth Aunt Joyce,—"money, and leave, and all needed, and Mistress Milisent setting forth to do according to her will. What then?"
"Well, I would first go up to London," saith she, "and cut some figure in the Court."
Aunt Joyce gave a dry little laugh.
"There be figures of more shapes than one, Milly," saith she. "Howbeit—what next?"
"Why, then, methinks, I would go to the wars."
"And bring back as many heads, arms, and legs, as thou tookest thither?"
"Oh, for sure," saith Milly. "I would not be killed."
"Just. Very well,—Mistress Milisent back from the wars, and covered with glory. And then?"
"Well—methinks I would love to be a judge for a bit."
"Dry work," saith Aunt Joyce. "And then a bishop?"
"Ay, if you will."
"Why, I might as well be a king, while I went about it."
"Quite as well. I am astonished thou hast come thither no sooner. And then?"
"Well,—I know not what then. You drive one on, Aunt Joyce. Methinks, then, I would come home and see you all, and recount mine aventures."
"Oh, mightily obliged to your Highness!" quoth Aunt Joyce. "I had thought, when your Majesty were thus up at top of the tree, you should forget utterly so mean a place as Selwick Hall, and the contemptible things that inhabit there. And then?"
"Come, I will make an end," saith Milly, laughing. "I reckon I should be a bit wearied by then, and fain to bide at home and take mine ease."
"And pray, what hindereth that your Grace should do that now?" saith Aunt Joyce, looking up with a comical face.
"Well, but I am not aweary, and have no aventures to tell," Milly makes answer.
"Go into the garden and jump five hundred times, Milly, and I will warrant thee to be aweary and thankful for rest. And as to aventures,— eh, my maid, my maid!" And Aunt Joyce and Mother smiled one upon the other.
"Now, Mother and Aunt, may I say what I think?" cries Milly.
"Prithee, so do, my maid."
"Then, why do you folks that be no longer young, ever damp and chill young folks that would fain see the world and have some jollity?"
"By reason, Milly, that we have been through the world, and we know it to be a damp place and a cold."
"But all folks do not find it so?"
"God have mercy on them that do not!"
"Now, Aunt, what mean you?"
"Dear heart, the brighter the colour of the poisoned sweetmeat, the more like is the babe to put in his mouth."
"Your parable is above me, Aunt Joyce."
"Milly, a maiden must give her heart to something. The Lord's word unto us all is, Give Me thine heart. But most of us will try every thing else first. And every thing else doth chill and disappoint us. Yet thou never sawest man nor Woman that had given the heart to God, which could ever say with truth that disappointment had come of it."
"I reckon they should be unready to confess the same," saith she.
"They be ready enough to confess it of other things," quoth Aunt Joyce. "But few folks will learn by the blunders of any but their own selves. I would thou didst."
"By whose blunders would you have me learn, Aunt?" saith Milly in her saucy fashion that is yet so bright and coaxing that she rarely gets flitten [scolded] for the same.
"By those of whomsoever thou seest to blunder," quoth she.
"That must needs be thee, Edith," saith Milly in a demure voice. "For it standeth with reason, as thou very well wist, that I shall never see mine elders to make no blunders of no sort whatever."
"Thou art a saucy baggage, Milly," quoth Aunt Joyce. "That shall cost thee six pence an' it go down in the chronicle."
"Oh, 'tis not yet my turn for to write, Aunt. And I am well assured Nell shall pay no sixpences."
"Fewer than thou, I dare guess," saith Aunt Joyce. "Who has been to visit old Jack Benn this week?"
"Not I, Aunt," quoth Edith, somewhat wearily, as if she feared Aunt Joyce should bid her go.
"Oh, I'll go and see him!" cries Milly. "There is nought one half so diverting in all the vale as old Jack. Aunt, be all Brownists as queer as he?"
"Nay, I reckon Jack hath some queer notions of his own, apart from his Brownery," quoth she. "But, Milly,—be diverted as much as thou wilt, but let not the old man see that thou art a-laughing at him."
"All right, Aunt!" saith Milly, cheerily. "Come, Nell. Edith shall bide at home, that can I see."
So Milly and I set forth to visit old Jack, and Mother gave us a bottle of cordial water, and a little basket of fresh eggs, for to take withal.
He dwells all alone, doth old Jack, in a mud cot part-way up the mountain, that he did build himself, ere the aches in his bones 'gan trouble him, that he might scantly work. He is one of those queer folk that call themselves Brownists, and would fain have some better religion than they may find at church. Jack is nigh alway reading of his Bible, but never no man could so much as guess the strange meanings he brings forth of the words. I reckon, as Aunt Joyce saith, there is more Jack than Brownist in them.
We found Jack sitting in the porch, his great Bible on his knees. He looked up when he heard our voices.
"Get out!" saith he. "I never want no women folk."
'Tis not oft we have fairer greeting of Jack.
"Nay, truly, Jack," saith Milly right demurely. "They be a rare bad handful,—nigh as ill as men folk. What thou lackest is eggs and cordial water, the which women can carry as well as jackasses."
She held forth her basket as she spake.
"Humph!" grunts old Jack. "I'd liever have the jackasses."
"I am assured thou wouldst," quoth Milly. "Each loveth best his own kind."
Old Jack was fingering of the eggs.
"They be all hens' eggs!"
"So they be," saith Milly. "I dare guess, thou shouldst have loved goose eggs better."
"Ducks'," answereth old Jack.
"The ducks be gone a-swimming," saith she.
I now drew forth my bottle of cordial water, the which the old man took off me with never a thank you, and after smelling thereto, set of the ground at his side.
"What art reading, Jack?" saith Milly.
"What Paul's got to say again' th' law," quoth he. "'Tis a rare ill thing th' law, Mistress Milisent. And so be magistrates, and catchpolls [constables] and all the lawyer folk. Rascals, Mistress Milisent,—all rascals, every man Jack of 'em. Do but read Paul, and you shall see so much."
"Saith the Apostle so?" quoth Milly, and gave me a look which nigh o'erset me.
"He saith 'the law is not given unto a righteous man,' so how can they be aught but ill folk that be alway a-poking in it? Tell me that, Mistress. If 'birds of a feather will flock together,' then a chap that's shaking hands every day wi' th' law mun be an ill un, and no mistake."
"Go to, Jack: it signifies not that," Milly makes answer. "Saint Paul meant that the law of God was given for the sake of ill men, not good men. The laws of England be other matter."
"Get out wi' ye!" saith Jack. "Do ye think I wis not what Paul means as well as a woman? It says th' law, and it means th' law. And if he'd signified as you say, he'd have said as th' law wasn't given again' a righteous man, not to him. You gi'e o'er comin' a-rumpagin' like yon."
For me, I scarce knew which way to look, to let me from laughing. But Milly goes on, sad as any judge.
"Well, but if lawyers be thus bad, Jack—though my sister's husband is a lawyer, mind thou—"
"He's a rascal, then!" breaks in Jack. "They're all rascals, every wastrel [an unprincipled, good-for-nothing fellow] of 'em."
"But what fashion of folk be better?" saith Milly. "Thou seest, Jack, we maids be nigh old enough for wedding, and I would fain know the manner of man a woman were best to wed."
"Best let 'em all a-be," growls Jack. "Women's always snarin' o' men. Women's bad uns. Howbeit, you lasses down at th' Hall are th' better end, I reckon."
"Oh, thank you, Jack!" cries Milly with much warmth. "Now do tell me—shall I wed with a chirurgeon?"
"And take p'ison when he's had enough of you," quoth Jack. "Nay, never go in for one o' them chaps. They kills folks all th' day, and lies a-thinkin' how to do it all th' night."
"A soldier, then?" saith Milly.
"Hired murderers," saith Jack.
"Come, Jack, thou art hard on a poor maid. Thou wilt leave me ne'er a one. Oh, ay, there is the parson."
"What!" shrieks forth Jack. "One o' they Babylonian mass-mongers? Hypocrites, wolves in sheep's clothing a-pretending for to be shepherds! Old 'Zekiel, he's summut to say touching them. You get home, and just read his thirty-fourth chapter; and wed one o' them wastrels at after, if ye can! Now then, get ye forth; I've had enough o' women. I telled ye so."
"Fare thee well, Jack," quoth Milly in mocking tribulation. "I see how it is,—I shall be forced to wed a lead-miner."
I was verily thankful that Milly did come away, for I could bear no longer. We ran fast down the steep track, and once at the bottom, we laughed till the tears ran down. When we were something composed, said I—
"Shall we look in on old Isaac Crewdson?"
"Gramercy, not this morrow," quoth Milly. "Jack's enough for one day. Old Isaac alway gives me the horrors. I cannot do with him atop of Jack."
So we came home. But if Milly love it not, then will I go by myself to see old Isaac, for he liketh me well.
SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE IX. Aunt Joyce went with me yesterday to see Isaac. We found him of the chimney-corner, whence he seldom stirreth, being now infirm. Old Mary had but then made an end of her washing, and she was a-folding the clean raiment to put by. I ran into the garden and gathered sprigs of rosemary, whereof they have a fine thriving bush.
"Do tell me, Mall," said I, "how thou orderest matters, for to have thy rosemary thrive thus? Our bush is right stunted to compare withal."
"I never did nought to it," quoth old Mall, somewhat crustily. She is Jack Benn's sister, and truly they be something like.
"Eh, Mistress Nell, dunna ye know?" saith Isaac, laughing feebly. "Th' rosemary always thrives well where th' missis is th' master. Did ye never hear yon saying?"
"Shut up wi' thy foolish saws!" saith Mall, a-turning round on him. "He's a power of proverbs and saws, Mistress Nell, and he's for ever and the day after a-thrustin' of 'em in. There's no wit i' such work."
"Eh, but there's a deal o' wit in some o' they old saws!" Isaac makes answer, of his slow fashion. "Look ye now,—'Brag's a good dog, but Holdfast's better'—there's a true sayin' for ye. Then again look ye,—'He that will have a hare to breakfast must hunt o'er night.' And 'A grunting horse and a groaning wife never fails their master.' Eh, but that's true!" And old Isaac laughed, of his feeble fashion, yet again.
"There be some men like to make groaning wives," quoth Mall, crustily. "They sit i' th' chimney-corner at their ease, and put ne'er a hand to the work."
"That is not thy case, Mall," saith Aunt Joyce, cheerily. "So long as he were able, I am well assured Isaac took his share of the work. And now ye be both infirm and stiff of the joints, what say ye to a good sharp lass that should save your old bones? I know one that should come but for her meat,—a good stirring maid that should not let the grass grow under her feet. What sayest, Mall?"
"What, me?" saith Mall. "Eh, you'd best ask th' master. I am none th' master here, howso the rosemary may thrive. I would say she should ne'er earn the salt to her porridge; but I'm of no signification in this house, as I well wis. You'd best ask o' them as is."
"Why, then, we mun gi'e th' porridge in," quoth Isaac. "Come, Mall, thou know'st better, lass."
But old Mary, muttering somewhat we might not well hear, went forth to fetch in a fresh armful of linen from the hedge.
"What hath put her out, Isaac?" asks Aunt Joyce.
"Eh, Mistress Joyce, there's no telling!" saith he. "'Tis not so much as puts her in. She's easy put out, is Mall: and 'tis no good on earth essaying to pull her in again. You'd best let her be. She'll come in of hersen, when she's weary of threapin'." [Grumbling, fault-finding.]
"I reckon thou art weary first, most times," saith Aunt.
"Well! I've ay kept a good heart up," quo' he. "'The still sow eateth all the draff,' ye ken. I've bore wi' Mall for fifty year, and it comes easier than it might to an other man. And the Lord has bore wi' me for seventy odd. If He can bear wi' me a bit longer, I reckon I can wi' Mall."
Aunt Joyce smiled on old Isaac as she rose up.
"Ay, Goodman, that is the best way for to take it," saith she. "And now, Nell, we must hurry home, for I see a mighty black cloud o'er yonder."
So we home, bidding God be wi' ye to old Mall, in passing, and had but a grunt in answer: but we won home afore the rain, and found Father and Mynheer a-talking in the great chamber, and Mother above, laying of sweet herbs in the linen with Edith.
Note 1. Passages from the New Testament are quoted from Cranmer's or the Geneva version, both then in common use.
WHEREIN IDEAS DIFFER.
"O man, little hast thou learned of truth in things most true."—Martin Farquhar Tupper.
(In Helen's handwriting.)
SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER THE XII. Well! Milly saith nought never happens in this house. Lack-a-daisy! but I would fain it were so!
One may love one's friends, and must one's enemies, Father saith. But how should one feel towards them that be nowise enemies, for they mean right kindly, and yet not friends, seeing they make your life a burden unto you?
Now, all our lives have I known Master Lewthwaite, of Mere Lea, and Mistress Lewthwaite his wife, and their lads and lasses, Nym, Jack, and Robin, and Alice and Blanche. Many a game at hunt the slipper and blind man's buff have we had at Mere Lea, and I would have said yet may, had not a thing happed this morrow which I would right fain should ne'er have happened while the world stood.
What in all this world should have made Nym so to do cannot I so much as conceive. He might have found a deal fairer lasses. Why, our Milly and Edith are ever so much better-favoured. But to want me!— nor only that, but to come with so pitiful a tale, that he should go straight to ruin an' I would not wed with him; that I was the only maid in all the world that should serve against the same; and that if I refused, all his sins thereafter should be laid at my door! Heard any ever the like?
And I have no list to wed with Nym. I like him—as a dozen other lads: but that is all. And meseems that before I could think to leave Father and Mother and all, and go away with a man for all my life, he must be as the whole world to me, or I could never do it. I cannot think what Nym would be at. And he saith it shall be my blame and my sin, if I do it not. Must I wed Nym Lewthwaite?
I sat and pondered drearily o'er my trouble for a season, and then went to look for Aunt Joyce, whom I found in the long gallery, at her sewing in a window.
"Well, Nell, what hast ado, maid?" saith she.
"Pray you, Aunt Joyce, tell me a thing," said I.
"That will I, with a very good will, my maid," saith she.
"Aunt Joyce, if a man were to come to you and entreat you to wed with him, by reason that he could not (should he say) keep in the right way without you did help him, and that, you refusing, you should be blameworthy of all his after sins—what should you say to him?"
I listened right earnestly for her answer. I was woeful 'feared she should say, "Wed with him, Nell, for sure, and thus save him."
"Say?" quoth Aunt Joyce, looking up, with (it seemed me) somewhat like laughter in her eyes. "Fetch him a good buffet of his ear, forsooth, and ask at him by what right he called himself a man."
"Then you should not think you bound to save him, Aunt?"
"Poor weak creature! Not I," saith Aunt Joyce. "But whatso, Nell? Hast had any such a simpleton at thee?"
"Aunt," said I, "'tis Nym Lewthwaite, who saith an' I wed him not, he shall go straight to ruin, and that I must answer unto God for all his sins if so be."
"Ask him where he found that in the Bible," saith Aunt Joyce. "Take no thought about him, Nell. Trust me, if a man cannot keep straight without thee, he will not keep straight with thee. Poor limping soul! to come halting up and plead with a weak woman to leave him put his hand on her shoulder, to help him o'er the stones! 'Carry me, prithee, good Mistress, o'er this rough place.' Use thine own two legs, would I say to him, and be ashamed of thy meanness. And I dare be sworn he calls himself one of the nobler sex," ends Aunt Joyce with a snort of scorn.
"O Aunt, I am so thankful you see it thus!" said I, drawing a long breath. "I was so afeard you should bid me do as Nym would."
"Nay, not this while," quoth she, of her dry fashion. "When we lack stuff for to mend the foul roads, Nell, we'll find somewhat fitter to break up than thee. If young Lewthwaite harry thee again, send him to me. He'll not want to see me twice, I'll warrant."
"I was 'feared I was wicked to shrink from it, Aunt," I made answer. "Nym said so. He said 'twas all self-loving and seeking of mine ease that alone did make me for to hesitate; and that if I had loved God and my neighbour better than myself, I would have strake hands with him at once. And I was 'feared lest it should be true."
"Ay, it is none so difficult to paint black white," saith Aunt Joyce. "'Tis alway the self-lovers that cry out upon the unkindliness of other folks. And thou art one of them, Nell, my maid, that be prone to reckon that must needs be right which goes against the grain. There be that make self-denial run of all fours in that fashion. They think duty and pleasure must needs be enemies. Why, child, they are the best friends in the world. Only Duty is the elder sister, and is jealous to be put first. Run thou after Duty, and see if Pleasure come not running after thee to beseech thee of better acquaintance. But run after Pleasure, and she'll fly thee. She's a rare bashful one."
"Then you count it not wrong that one should desire to be happy, Aunt?"
"The Lord seems not to count it so, Nell. He had scarce, methinks, told us so much touching the happiness of Heaven, had He meant us to think it ill to be happy. But remember, maid, she that findeth her happiness in God hath it alway ready to her hand; while she that findeth her happiness in this world must wait till it come to seek her."
"I would I were as good as Father!" said I; and I believe I fetched a sigh.
"Go a little higher, Nell, while thou art a-climbing," quoth Aunt Joyce. "'I would I were as good as Christ.'"
"Eh, Aunt, but who could?" said I.
"None," she made answer. "But, Nell, he that shoots up into the sky is more like to rise than he that aims at a holly-bush."
"Methinks Father is higher than I am ever like to get," said I.
"And if thou overtop him," she made answer, "all shall see it but thyself. Climb on, Nell. Thou wilt not grow giddy so long as thine eyes be turned above."
I am so glad that Aunt Joyce seeth thus touching Nym!
SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE II. There goeth my first two pence for a blank week. In good sooth, I have been in ill case to write. This weary Nym would in no wise leave me be, but went to Anstace and Hal, and gat their instance [persuaded them to intercede] unto Father and Mother. Which did send for me, and would know at me if I list to wed with Nym or no. And verily, so bashful am I, and afeared to speak when I am took on the sudden thus, that I count they gat not much of me, but were something troubled to make out what I would be at. Nor wis I what should have befallen (not for that Father nor Mother were ever so little hard unto me, good lack! but only that I was stupid), had not Aunt Joyce come in, who no sooner saw how matters stood than she up and spake for me.
"Now, Aubrey and Lettice," saith she, "both of you, fall a-catechising me in the stead of Nell. The maid hath no list to wed with Nym Lewthwaite, and hath told me so much aforetime. Leave her be, and send him away the other side of Jericho, where he belongs, and let him, an' he list, fetch back a Syrian maiden with a horn o'er her forehead and a ring of her nose."
"Wherefore didst thou not tell us so much, Nell, my lass?" saith Father right kindlily, laying of his hand on my shoulder.
But in the stead of answering him thankfully, as a dutiful daughter should, what did I but burst forth o' crying, as though he had been angered with me: yea, nor might I stop the same, but went on, truly I knew not wherefore, till Mother came up and put her arms around me, and hushed me as she wont to do when I was a little child.
"The poor child is o'erwrought," quoth she, tenderly. "Let us leave her be, Aubrey, till she calms down.—There, come to me and have it out, my Nelly, and none shall trouble thee, trust me."
Lack-a-daisy! I sobbed all the harder for a season, but in time I calmed down, as Mother says, and when so were, I prayed her of pardon for that I could be so foolish.
"Nay, my lass," saith she, "we be made of body and soul, and either comes uppermost at times. 'Tis no good trying to live with one, which so it be."
"Ah, the old monks made that blunder," saith Father, "and thought they could live with souls only, or well-nigh so. And there be scores of other that essay to live with nought but bodies. A man that starves his body is ill off, but a man that starves his soul is yet worser. No is it thus, Mynheer?"
Mynheer van Stuyvesant had come in while Father was a-speaking.
"Ah!" saith he, "there be in my country certain called Mennonites, that do starve their natures of yonder fashion."
"Which half of them,—body or soul?" saith Father.
"Nay, I would say both two," he makes answer. "They run right to the further end of every matter. Because they read in their Bibles that 'in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin,' therefore they do forbid all speech that is not of very necessity,—even a word more than needful is sin in their eyes. If you shall say, 'Sit you down in that chair to your comfort,' there are eight words more than you need. You see?— there are eight sins. 'Sit' were enough. So, one mouthful more bread than you need—no, no!—that is a sin. One drop of syrup to your bread—not at all! You could eat your bread without syrup. All that is joyous, all that is comfortable, all that you like to do—all so many sins. Those are the Mennonites."
"What sinful men they must be!" saith Father.
"Good lack, Master Stuyvesant, but think you all those folks tarried in Holland?" saith Aunt Joyce. "Marry, I could count you a round dozen I have met in this country. And they be trying, I warrant you. My fingers have itched to shake them ere now."
"How do they serve them when they would get them wed?" saith Father. "Quoth Master John to Mistress Bess, 'Wed me' and no more?—and saith she, 'Ay' and no more? A kiss, I ween, shall be a sin, for 'tis no wise necessary."
I could not help to laugh, and so did Aunt Joyce and Mother.
"Wed!" makes answer Mynheer, "the Mennonites wed? Why, 'tis the biggest of all their sins, the wedding."
"There'll not be many of them, I reckon," saith Aunt Joyce.
"More than you should think," saith he. "There be to join them every year."
"Well, I'll not join them this bout," quoth she.
"Now, wherein doth that differ from the old monks?" saith Father, as in meditation. "Be we setting up monasteries for Protestants already?"
Mynheer shrugged up his shoulders. "They say, the Mennonites," he made answer, "that all pleasing of self is contrary unto God's Word. I must do nothing that pleases me. Are there two dishes for my dinner? I like this, I like not that. Good! I take that I love not. Elsewise, I please me. A Christian man must not please himself—he must please God. And (they say) he cannot please both."
"Ah, therein lieth the fallacy," saith Father. "All pleasing of self counter unto God, no doubt, is forbidden in Holy Scripture. But surely I am not bid to avoid doing God's commandments, if He command a thing I like?"
"Why, at that rate," quoth Aunt Joyce, "one should never search God's Word, nor pray unto Him,—except such as did not love it. Methinks these Mennonites stand o' their heads, with their heels in air."
"Ah, but they say it is God's command that thou shalt not please thyself," saith Mynheer. "Therefore, that which pleases thee cannot be His will. You see?"
"They do but run the old monks' notions to ground," quoth Father. "They go a bit further—that is all. I take it that whensoever my will is contrary unto God's, my will must go down. But when my will runneth alongside of His, surely I am at liberty to take as much pleasure in doing His will as I may? 'Ye have been called unto liberty,' saith Paul: 'only, let not your liberty be an occasion to the flesh, but in love serve one another.'"
"And if serving one another be pleasant unto thee, then give o'er," quoth Aunt Joyce. "Good lack, this world doth hold some fools!"
"Pure truth, Joyce," saith Father. "Yet, for that of monks, in good sooth I do look to see them back, only under other guise. Monachism is human nature: and human nature will out. If he make not way at one door, trust him to creep forth of an other."
"But, Aubrey, the Church is reformed. There is no room for monks and nuns, and such rubbish," saith Aunt Joyce.
"The Church is reformed,—ay," saith he: "but human nature is not. That shall not be until we see the King in His beauty,—whether by our going to Him in death, or by His coming to us in the clouds of heaven."
"Dear heart, man!—be not alway on the watch for black clouds," quoth she. "As well turn Mennonite at once."
"Well, 'sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,'" Father makes answer: "and so far thou art right, Joyce. Yet it is well we should remember, at times, that we be not yet in Heaven."
"'At times!'" quoth Aunt Joyce, with a laugh. "What a blessed life must be thine, if those that be about thee suffer thee to forget the same save 'at times'! I never made that blunder yet, I can tell thee."
And so she and I away, and left all laughing.
SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE XXII. This afternoon come Hal and Anstace, with their childre. Milly soon carried off the childre, for she is a very child herself, and can lake [play] with childre a deal better than I: and Hal went (said he) to seek Father, with whom I found him an hour later in the great chamber, and both right deep in public matter, whereof I do love to hear them talk at times, but Milly and Edith be no wise compatient [the lost adjective of compassion] therewith. Anstace came with me to our chamber, and said she had list for a good chat.
"Whereof be we to chat?" said I, something laughing.
"Oh, there is plenty," saith she. "We shall not be done with the childre this hour."
"Thou wilt not, Anstace," said I, "for in very deed all mothers do love rarely to talk over their childre, and I need not save thee. But I am no great talker, as thou well wist."
"That do I," saith she: "for of all young maids ever I saw, thou hast the least list [inclination] to discourse. But, Nell, I want to know somewhat of thee. What ails thee at Nym Lewthwaite?"
"Why, nothing at all," I made answer: "save that I do right heartily desire him to leave me be."
"Good sooth, but I thought it a rare chance for thee," quoth she: "and I was fair astonied when Edith told me thou wouldst have none ado with him. But thou must mind thy shooting, Nell: if thou pitchest all thine arrows over high, thou wilt catch nought."
"I want to pitch no arrows," said I.
"Well, but I do desire thee to conceive," saith she, "that too much niceness is not good for a young maid. 'Tis all very well to go a-picking and a-choosing ere thou art twenty: but trust me, Nell, by the time thou comest to thirty, thou shouldst be thankful to take any man that will have thee."
"Nay!" said I, "that shall I not."
"Eh, but thou wilt," quoth she, "yea, if it were Nym Lewthwaite."
"I won't!" said I.
Anstace fell a-laughing. "Then thou wilt have to go without!" saith she.
"Well," said I, "that could I do, may-be, nor break my heart o'er it neither. But to take any that should have me,—Anstace, I would as soon sell me for a slave."
"Come, Nell!—where didst pick up such notions?" quoth she.
"Verily, I might answer thee, of the Queen's Majesty," said I: "and if I be not in good company enough, search thou for better. Only, for pity's sake, Sister Anstace, do let me a-be."
"Eh, I'll let thee be," saith she, and wagged her head and laughed. "But in good sooth, Nell, thou art a right queer body. And if it should please the Queen's Highness to wed with Mounseer [Note 1], as 'tis thought of many it shall, then thou wilt be out of her company, and I shall be in. What shalt thou do then for company?"
"Marry, I can content me with Aunt Joyce and Cousin Bess," quoth I, "and none so bad neither."
So at after that we gat to other discourse, and after a while, when Milly came in with the childre, we all went down into the great chamber, where Father, and Hal, and Mynheer, were yet at their weighty debates. Cousin Bess was sat in the window, a-sewing on some flannel: and Aunt Joyce, in the same window, but the other corner, was busied with tapestry-work, being a cushion that she is fashioning for a Christmas gift for some dame that is her friend at Minster Lovel. 'Tis well-nigh done; and when it shall be finished, it shall go hence by old Postlethwaite the carrier; for six weeks is not too much betwixt here and Minster Lovel.
As we came in, I heard Father to say—
"Truly, there is no end of the diverse fantasy of men's minds." And then he brought forth some Latin, which I conceived not: but whispering unto Aunt Joyce (which is something learned in that tongue) to say what it were, she made answer, "So many men, so many minds." [Quot homines, tot sententiae.]
"Ha!" saith Mynheer. "Was it not that which the Emperor Charles did discover with his clocks and watches? He was very curious in clocks and watches—the Emperor Charles the Fifth—you know?—and in his chamber at the Monastery of San Yuste he had so many. And watching them each day, he found they went not all at one. The big clock was five minutes to twelve when the little watch was two minutes past. So he tried to make them at one: but they would not. No, no! the big clock and the little watch, they go their own way. Then said the Emperor, 'Now I see something I saw not aforetime. I thought I could make these clocks go together, but no! Yet they are only the work of men like me. Ah, the foolish man to think that I could compel men to think all alike, who are the work of the great God.' You see?"
"If His Majesty had seen it a bit sooner," quoth Hal, "there should have been spared some ill work both in Spain and the Low Countries."
Mynheer saith, "Ah!" more than once, and wagged his head right sadly.
"Why," quoth Hal, something earnestly, "mind you not, some dozen years gone, of the stir was made all over this realm, when the ministers were appointed to wear their surplices at all times of their ministration, and no longer to minister in gowns ne cloaks, with their hats on, as they had been wont? Yea, what tumult had we then against the order taken by the Queen and Council, and against the Archbishop and Bishops for consenting thereto! And, all said, what was the mighty ado about? Why, whether a man should wear a black gown or a white. Heard one ever such stuff?"
"Ah, Hal, that shall scantly serve," saith Father. "Mind, I pray thee, that the question to the eyes of these men was somewhat far otherwise. Thou wouldst not say that Adam and Eva were turned forth of Paradise by reason they plucked an apple?"
"But, I pray you, Sir Aubrey, what was the question?" saith Mynheer. "For I do not well know, as I fain should."
"Look you," quoth Father, "in the beginning of the Book of Common Prayer, and you shall find a rubric, that 'such ornaments of the church and of the ministers thereof, at all times of their ministration, shall be retained and be in use, as were in this Church of England, by the authority of Parliament, in the second year of King Edward the Sixth.'"
"But they were not retained," breaks in Hal, that will alway be first to speak of aught.
(Lack-a-day! shall that cost me two pence?)
"They were not retained," repeateth Father, "but the clergy took to ministering in their gowns and other common apparel, such as they ware every day, with no manner of vestments of no sort. Whereupon, such negligence being thought unseemly, it pleased the Queen's Majesty, sitting in her Council, and with consent of the Archbishop and Bishops, to issue certain injunctions for the better ordering of the Church: to wit, that at all times of their ministration the clergy should wear a decent white surplice, and no other vestment, nor should minister in their common apparel as aforetime."
"Then the rubric touching the garments as worn under King Edward was done away?" saith Mynheer.
"Done away completely," quoth Hal, afore Father could speak.
"But not by Parliament?" answers Mynheer.
"Good lack, what matter?" saith Hal. "The Queen's Majesty is supreme in this Church of England. If she issue her injunctions through her great Council, or her little Council, or her Bishops, they are all one, so they be her true injunctions."
"These were issued through the Bishops," saith Father, "though determined on in the Privy Council."
"Then did the ministers not obey?" asks Mynheer.
"Many did. But some counted the surplice a return towards Popery, and utterly refused to wear it. I mind [remember] there was a burying at that time at Saint Giles' Church in London, without [outside] Cripplegate, where were six clerks that ware the white surplice: and Master Crowley, the Vicar, stood in the church door to withstand their entering, saying that no such superstitious rags of Rome should come into his church. There should have been a bitter tumult there, had not the clerks had the wit to give way and tarry withoutside the door. And about the same time, a Scots minister did preach in London right vehemently against the order taken for the apparel of ministers. Why, at Saint Mildred's in Bread Street, where a minister that had conformed was brought of the worshipful of that parish for the communion service, he was so withstood by the minister of the church and his adherents, that the Deputy of the Ward and other were fain to stand beside him in the chancel to defend him during the service, or the parson and his side should have plucked him down with violence. And at long last," saith Father, laughing, "the Scots minister that had so inveighed against them was brought to conform; but no sooner did he show himself in the pulpit of Saint Margaret Pattens in a surplice, than divers wives rose up and pulled him forth of the pulpit, tearing his surplice and scratting his face right willingly."
"Eh, good lack!" cries Mynheer. "Your women, they keep silence in the churches after such a manner?"
"There was not much silence that morrow, I warrant," quoth Hal, laughing right merrily.
"Eh, my gentlemen, I pray you of pardon," saith Cousin Bess, looking up earnestly from her flannel, "but had I been in yon church I'd have done the like thing. I'd none have scrat his face, but I'd have rent a good tear in that surplice."
"Thou didst not so, Bess, the last Sunday morrow," quoth Father, laughing as he turned to look at her.
"Nay, 'tis all done and settled by now," saith she. "I should but get took up for brawling. But I warrant you, that flying white thing sticketh sore in my throat, and ever did. An' I had my way, no parson should minister but in his common coat."
"But that were unseemly and undecent, Bess," quoth Aunt Joyce.
"Nay, Mistress Joyce, but methinks 'tis a deal decenter," answers she. "Wherefore, if a man can speak to me of earthly things in a black gown, must he needs don a white when he cometh to speak to me of heavenly things? There is no wit in such stuff."
"See you, Mynheer," saith Father, again laughing, "even here in Selwick Hall, where I trust we be little given to quarrel, yet the clocks keep not all one time."
"Eh! No!" saith Mynheer, shrugging of his shoulders and smiling. "The gentlewomen, they be very determined in their own opinions."
"Well, I own, I like to see things decent," saith Aunt Joyce. "I desire not to have back the Popish albs and such like superstitious gauds—not I: but I do like to see a parson in a clean white surplice, and I would be right sorry were it laid aside."
Cousin Bess said nought, but wagged her head, and tare her flannel in twain.
"Now, I dare be bound, Bess, thou countest me gone half-way back to Rome," saith Aunt Joyce.
"That were nigh the Via Mala," quoth Father.
"Eh, Mistress Joyce, I'll judge no man, nor no woman," makes answer Cousin Bess. "The Lord looketh on the heart; and 'tis well for us He doth, for if we were judged by what other folk think of us, I reckon we should none of us come so well off. But them white flying kites be rags of Popery, that will I say,—yea, and stand to."
"Which side be you, Father?" asks Anstace.
"Well, my lass," saith he, "though I see not, mine own self, the Pope and all his Cardinals to lurk in the folds of Dr Meade's white surplice, and I am bound to say his tall, portly figure carrieth it off rarely, yet I do right heartily respect Bess her scruple, and desire to abstain from that which she counteth the beginnings of evil."
"Now, I warrant you, Bess shall reckon that, of carrying it off well, to be the lust of the eye," saith Aunt Joyce. "She's a bit of a Mennonite, is Bess."
"Eh, Mistress Joyce, pray you, give me not such an ill word!" saith Cousin Bess, reproachfully. "I never cared for Mammon, not I. I'd be thankful for a crust of bread and a cup of water, and say grace o'er him with Amen."
We all laughed, and Father saith—
"Nay, Bess, thou takest Joyce wrong. In that of the Mennonites, she would say certain men of whom Mynheer told us a few days gone, that should think all things pleasurable and easeful to be wrong."
"Good lack, Mistress Joyce, but I'm none so bad as that!" saith Bess. "I'm sure, when I make gruel for whoso it be, I leave no lumps in, nor let it burn neither."
"No, dear heart, thou art only a Mennonite to thyself, not to other folk," saith Aunt Joyce. "Thou shouldst be right well content of a board for thy bed, but if any one of us had the blanket creased under our backs, it should cost thee thy night's rest. I know thee, Bess Wolvercot."
"Well, and I do dearly love to see folk comfortable," quoth she. "As for me, what recketh? I thank the Lord, my health is good enough; and a very fool were I to grumble at every bit of discomfort. Why, only do think, Mistress Joyce, how much worser I might have been off! Had I been born of that country I heard Master Banaster a-telling of, where they never see the sun but of the summer, and dwell of huts full o' smoke, with ne'er a chimney—why, I never could see if my face were clean, nor my table rubbed bright. Eh, but I wouldn't like that fashion of living!"
"They have no tables in Greenland for to rub, Bess," quoth Hal.
"Nor o'er many clean faces, I take it," saith Father.
"Ah! did you hear, Sir," saith Mynheer, "of Mynheer Heningsen's voyage to Greenland the last year?"
"I have not, Mynheer," saith Father. "Pray you, what was notable therein?"
"Ah! he was not far from the coast of Greenland, when he found the ship go out of her course. He turned the rudder, or how you say, to guide the ship—I am not sea-learned, I ask your pardon if I mistake— but the ship would not move. Then they found, beneath a sunken rock, and it was—how you say?—magnetical, that drew to it the iron of the ship. Then Mynheer Heningsen, he look to his charts, for he know no rock just there. And what think you he found? Why, two hundred years back, exactly—in the year of our Lord 1380, there were certain Venetians, the brothers Zeni, sailing in these seas, and they brought word home to Venice that on this very spot, where Heningsen found nothing but a sunken rock, they found a beautiful large island, where were one hundred villages, inhabited by Christian people, in a state of great civility [civilisation], but so simple and guileless that hardly you can conceive. Think you! nothing now but a sunken rock."
"But what name hath the island?" asks Hal.
"No name at all. No eyes ever saw it but the brothers Zeni of Venice."
"Nay, Mynheer, I cry you mercy," saith Father of his thoughtful fashion. "If the brothers Zeni told truth (as I mean to signify no doubt), there was One that saw it, from the time when He pronounced all things very good, to the day when some convulsion of nature, whatso it were, by His commandment engulfed that fair isle in the waters. 'Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He,—in heaven, and in earth, and in the sea, and in all deep places.' Not one hair from the head of those unknown Christians, that were Christians in truth, perished in those North waters. We shall know it when we meet them in the Land that is very far off."
SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE XXXI. Mine hand was so weary when I was come to the last sentence afore this, that I set down no more. Truly, there was little at after that demerited the same.
And now I be come to the end of my month, I have been a-reading over what I writ, to see how much I must needs pay. There be but two blots, the which shall be so many pence: and two blank spaces of one week or over, the which at two pence each brings the account to sixpence. I cannot perceive that I have at any time writ disrespectfully of my betters—which, I take it, be Father, and Mother, and Aunt Joyce, and Cousin Bess, and Mynheer Stuyvesant, But for speaking unkindly of other, I fear I am not blameless. I can count six two-pences, which shall be one shilling and sixpence. I must try and do better when my month cometh round again. Verily, I had not thought that I should speak unkindly six times in one month! 'Tis well to find out a body's faults.
So now I pass my book over to Milly—and do right earnestly desire that she may be less faultful than I. What poor infirm things be we, in very sooth!
Note 1. Francois Duke of Anjou, who visited the Queen in September, 1579, to urge his suit. Elizabeth hesitated for some time before she gave a decided negative.
MILISENT MAKES A FRIEND.
"The inward depths of that deceitful fount Where many a sin lies sleeping, but not dead."
(In Milisent's handwriting.)
SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE FIRST. Things be alway going awry with me. Elsewise, this jolly book should ne'er have come into my hands first of a Sunday. I would love dearly to read o'er what my philosophical sister hath writ, and comment on the same: but I reckon I must tarry till to-morrow.
Now, Mother said I was to write what I thought, and I mean to do the same. As to the pennies and the two-pences, they may count up themselves, for all I care. They'll not outrun half-a-crown, I reckon: and having paid the same at my month end, I shall just worry the life out of Father till he give me an other. So here goes it!
Well, the first thing I think is,—Why must everything pleasant be set aside while Monday? Father saith happiness and wickedness be not alike, though (quoth he) some folk think so much. Now, it seems me that happiness and holiness should be the same thing. Why should a matter not be right simply by reason that I like it? I want to know, and I will ask somebody, some of these days.
Howbeit, of one thing am I assured,—namely, that it cannot be wicked to write on Sunday what it is not wicked to do. So I shall tell what we did.
Now, there some folk are so queer! They will take down a gown, and shake out the folds, and talk an half-hour o'er it,—how this gimp should be better to run that way, and next week the bottom must needs be fresh bound: all of a Sunday. But to stick a neeld in, and make the gimp run that way, and fresh bind the bottom,—good lack! they should count you a very heathen an' you asked them. Now, I want to know how the one is a bit better than the other. I cannot see a pin to choose betwixt them.
Well! we gat out of bed this morrow—I reckon that is the first thing, beyond opening one's eyes.
Nell is alway the first up, and Edith the last. She is rare hard to wake, is Edith; or rather, not to wake, but to make her rise up when she is woke. She takes a deal of shaking and talking to, some mornings specially. Nell does the talking, and I do the shaking: and I warrant you, I give it her.
Howbeit, we were all up, at long last—and if one of us be late of a Sunday morrow, Father looks as if we had brake his heart. Our Sunday gowns at this season be of green satin, of sixteen shillings the yard,—eh, good lack! should I have set that down of a Sunday? Well, never mind; 'tis now done—and furred with pampilion [an unknown species of fur]. Our out-door hoods be black velvet: and in this gear went we to church, at Keswick. And I would with all mine heart we had a church nearer unto us than three weary miles, though every body saith 'tis mighty near. Father rid on Favelle, with Edith behind him; and Mother on Garnet, behind Master Stuyvesant; and Nell and I on Cowslip; and Aunt Joyce of her own hackney, that is called Hermit, with old Matthias. Cousin Bess come ambling after, on Starlight, with Adam afore her: and behind trudged Kate and Kitling. And by the same token, Moses came a-mewing to the door to see us depart.
So came we to the church, and there found afore us my Lord Dilston and his following, that had rowed over from Lord's Island, whereon of old time the Barons of Dilston [the Radcliffes, subsequently created Earls of Derwentwater] have had an house (I am mindful of strangers the which shall read our chronicle, which is more, I reckon, than Nell shall have been), and in good sooth, but Mistress Jane is fair of face, and I do love to look upon her. Well, of course, Father being but a knight, we stood of one side to let pass a baron: and when all they were gone up, went up we, in due order, Father handing Mother, and Mynheer with Aunt Joyce, and then Cousin Bess and we three maids. And there was Dr Meade with his white rag of Popery (as Cousin Bess will have it) a-flying behind him as he came from the vestry: and I might not forbear to give a little pinch to Edith as I saw it fly. 'Tis to no good to pinch Nell, for she doth but kill me with a look. And there, of either side (which I had nigh forgot), stood the common folk, the townsfolk, and the lead-miners from Vicar's Island [anciently belonging to Fountains Abbey] and such like, all a-gaping and a-staring on us as we went by, to see the baron and the knight. And eh, but I do love to be gaped on! 'Tis the best bit of all the Sunday, for me.
(Now, Mother, you said I was to write what I thought.)
Then come matins, which one has to sit through, of course: the only good matter being the chants. I can sing out, and I do. Then come the sermon, which is unto me sore weariness, and I gape through it as I best may. Dear heart, what matter is it to me if Peter were ever at Rome or no, or if Saint James and Paul do both say the same thing touching faith and works? We have all faith—say we not the Creed every Sunday? and what would you have more? And as to works, I hate good works. Good works always means doing the very thing you would rather not. 'Tis good works to carry a pudding to old Nanny Crewdson through a lane where I nigh lose my shoes in the mire, right at the time when I want to bide at home and play the virginals. Or 'tis sitting of a chair and reading of Luther's Commentary on the Galatians to one of my betters, when my very toes be tingling to be out in the sunshine. Good lack, but I do owe a pretty penny to Master Doctor Luther for that commentary! I have had to sit and read it a good score of times when it should have done me marvellous ease to have boxed his ears with it. Had I been Mistress Katherine, it should have gone hard with me but I would have pulled Master Doctor out of his study, and made him lake with little Jack and Maudlin, in the stead of toiling o'er yon old musty commentary. Nell saith she loveth to read it. In good sooth, but I wish she may!
Well! matins o'er, come the communion, for which all tarried but Edith; she, not being yet confirmed, is alway packed off ere it begin. And when that were o'er—and I do love the last Amen of all—went all we to dinner with Mistress Huthwaite, at whose house we do ever dine of a Sunday: and mighty late it is of a communion Sunday; and I am well-nigh famished ere I break bread. And for dinner was corned beef and carrots, and for drink sherris-sack and muscadel. Then, at three o' the clock, all we again to church: and by the same token, if Dr Meade gave us not two full hours of a sermon, then will I sell my gold chain for two pence. And at after church, in the porch were my Lord Dilston and fair Mistress Jane; and my Lord was pleased to take Father by the hand, and Mother and Aunt Joyce likewise; but did but kiss us maids. [Note 1.] But Mistress Jane took us all three by the hand, and did say unto me that she would fain be better acquainted. And in very deed, it should be a feather in my cap were I to come unto close friendship with my Lord Dilston his daughter, as I do right heartily trust I may. Nor, after all, were it any such great preferment for me, that am daughter unto Sir Aubrey Louvaine of Selwick Hall, Knight, which is cousin unto my right honourable Lord the Earl of Oxenford, and not so far off neither. For my most honourable Lord, Sir Aubrey de Vere, sometime Earl of Oxenford, was great-great-great-grandfather unto my Lord that now is: and his sister, my Lady Margaret, wife to Sir Nicholas Louvaine, was great-great-grandmother unto Father: so they twain be cousins but four and an half times removed: and, good lack, what is this? Surely, I need not to plume me upon Mistress Jane Radcliffe her notice and favour. If the Radcliffes be an old house, as in very deed they be, so be the Veres and the Louvaines both: to say nought of the Edens, that have dwelt in Kent-dale these thousand years at the least. But one thing will I never own, and that is of Mynheer Stuyvesant, which shall say, and hold to it like a leech, that our family be all Dutch folk. He will have it that the Louvaines must needs have sprung from Louvain in the Low Countries; but of all things doth he make me mad [angry: a word still used in the north of England] when he saith the great House of Vere is Dutch of origin. For he will have it a weir to catch fish, when all the world doth know that Veritas is Latin for truth, and Vere cometh of that, or else of vir, as though it should say, one that is verily a man, and no base coward loon. And 'tis all foolishness for to say, as doth Mynheer, that the old Romans had no surnames like ours, but only the name of the family, such like as Cornelius or Julius, which ran more akin unto our Christian names. I believe it not, and I won't. Why, was there not an Emperor, or a Prince at the least, that was called Lucius Verus? and what is that but Vere? 'Tis as plain as the barber's pole, for all Mynheer, and that will I say.
Howbeit, I am forgetting my business, and well-nigh that it is Sunday. So have back. Church over, all we come home, in the very order as we went: and in the hall come Moses a-purring to us, and a-rubbing of her head against Nell; and there was Dan a-turning round and round after his tail, and Nan, that had a ball of paper, on her back a-laking therewith. So we to doff our hoods, and then down into the hall, where was supper served: for it was over late for four-hours [Note 2], and of a communion Sunday we never get none. Then Nell to read a chapter from Master Doctor Luther his magnifical commentary: and by the mass, I was glad it was not me. Then—(Eh, happy woman be my dole! but if Father shall see that last line, it shall be a broad shilling out of my pocket at the least. He is most mighty nice, is Father, touching that make of talk. I believe I catched it up of old Matthias. I must in very deed essay to leave it off; and I do own, 'tis not over seemly to swear of a Sunday, for I suppose it is swearing, though 'tis not profane talk. Come, Father, you must o'erlook it this once: and I will never do so no more—at the least, not till the next time.)
Well then, had we a chapter of Luke, and a long prayer of Father: and I am sore afeared I missed a good ten minutes thereof, for I wis not well what happed, nor how I gat there, but assuredly I was a-dancing with my Lord of Oxenford, and the Queen's Majesty and my Lord Dilston a-looking on, and Mistress Jane as black as thunder, because I danced better than she. I reckon Father's stopping woke me, and I said Amen as well as any body. Then the Hundredth Psalm, Nell a-playing on the virginals: and then (best of all) the blessing, and then with good-night all round, to bed. I reckon my nap at prayers had made me something wakeful, for I heard both Nell and Edith asleep afore me.
SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE III. Now have I read o'er every line my philosophical sister hath writ: and very nigh smothered me o' laughing at divers parts. The long discourses she putteth in, touching all manner of dreary matters! I warrant, you shall not see me to deal with the Queen's Majesty's injunctions touching the apparel of parsons, nor with the Dutch Mennonites, nor with philosophical questions touching folks' thoughts and characters, nor no such rubbish. I like sunlight, I do. Catch me a-setting down Master Stuyvesant his dreary speeches! (I go not further, for then should it cost me sixpence: but Master Stuyvesant hath no authority over me, so I may say what I will of him for two pence.) But it seemeth me, for all her soberness and her killing looks, that Mistress Helena is something diverted with my speeches, else had she not put so many in. But I ought not to have said what I did, quotha, touching Father's nose! Ought I not, forsooth? Mistress Helena, that shall cost you two pence, and I shall be fain to see the fine paid.
(Eh, lack-a-day! but that shall cost me two pence! Dear heart, whatever was Father a-thinking of? I shall be as clean ruined as the velvet doublet that Ned dropped in the fish-pond!)
It seemeth me Father must have desired to make a good box for the poor. I would it had not been at my cost.
One thing is plain,—that Mistress Nell keeps a conscience. I scarce think I do. There is a cushion full of pins somewhere down near my stomach, and now and then I get a prick: but I do but cry pish and turn the pin end into the cushion. Nell, on the contrary, pulleth forth the pin and looketh on it, holding it in all lights. But there was one time, I mind, that I did not cry pish, and methinks every pin in the cushion had set a-work to prick me hard. 'Twas ever so long gone, when Wat and I dressed up the mop in a white sheet, and set it on the stairs for to make Anstace and Nell scream forth, a-taking it for a ghost: but as ill luck would have it, the first came by was Mother, with Edith in her arms, that was then but a babe, and it so frighted her she went white as the very sheet, and dropped down of a dead faint, and what should have come of Edith I wis not, had not Anstace, that came after, been quick to catch at her. Eh, but in all my life never saw I Father as he then were! It was long time ere Mother come to, and until after said he never a word, for he was all busied with her: but when she was come to herself and well at ease,—my word! but he did serve out Wat and me! Wat gat the worst, by reason he was the elder, and had (said Father) played the serpent to mine Eva: but I warrant you I forgat not that birch rod for a week or twain. Good lack! we never frighted nobody again.
And after all, I do think Father's talk was worser than the fustigation [whipping]. How he did insense it into us, that we might have been the death of our mother and sister both, and how it was rare wicked and cruel to seek to fright any, and had been known to turn folks' heads ere this! You see, Father, I have not forgot it, and I reckon I never shall.
But one thing Father alway doth, and so belike do all in this house, which I hear not other folks' elders for to do. When Alice Lewthwaite gets chidden, Mistress Lewthwaite saith such matters be unseemly, or undutiful, and such like. But Father, he must needs pull forth his Bible, and give you chapter and verse for every word he saith. And it makes things look so much worser, some how. 'Tis like being judged of God instead of men. And where Mistress Lewthwaite talks of faults, Father and Mother say sins. And it makes ever so much difference, to my thinking, whether a matter be but a fault you need be told of, or a sin that you must repent. Then, Mistress Lewthwaite (and I have noted it in other) always takes things as they touch her, whereas Father and Mother do look on them rather as they touch God. And it doth seem ever so much more awfuller thus. Methinks it should be a sight comfortabler world if men had no consciences, and could do as it listed them at all times without those pin-pricks. I am well assured folks should mostly do right. I should, at any rate. 'Tis but exceeding seldom I do aught wrong, and then mostly because I am teased with forbiddance of the same. I should never have touched the fire-fork, when I was a little maid, and nigh got the house a-fire, had not old Dame Conyers, that was my godmother, bidden me not do the same. Had she but held her peace, I should ne'er have thought thereon. Folks do not well to put matters into childre's heads, and then if aught go wrong the childre get the blame. And in this world things be ever a-going wrong. But wherefore must I be blamed for that, forsooth? 'Tis the things go wrong, not me. I should be a very angel for goodness if only folks gave o'er a putting of me out, and gainsaying of me, and forbidding things to be done. In good sooth, 'tis hard on a poor maid that cannot be suffered to be as good as she should, were she but let a-be.
SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE VI. Yesterday, the afternoon was so fair and sunshine, that Edith and I (Mother giving us leave) rowed o'er to Saint Hubert's Isle, where Edith sat her down of a great stone, and said she would draw the lake's picture in little. So I, having no list to stand behind and look on, went off to see if I could find aught, such as a squirrel or a pie, to divert me withal. As for Adam, which had rowed us o'er, he gathered up his nose and his heels all of a lump on the grass, and in five minutes he was snoring like an owl. For me, I wandered on a while, and went all over the ruins of the hermitage, and could find nought to look at save one robin, that sat on a bough and stared at me. After a while I sat me down, and I reckon I should have been a-snoring like Adam afore long, but I heard a little bruit [noise] that caused me turn mine head, and all suddenly I was aware of a right goodly gentleman, and well clad, that leaned against a tree, and gazed upon me, yet with mighty respect and courtesy. He was something past his youth, yet right comely to look to; of a fair hair and beard, and soft eyes, grey [blue] as the sky. Truly, I was something fluttered, for he ware a brave velvet jerkin, and a gold chain as thick as Master Mayor's. And while I meditated if I should speak unto him or no, he spake first. "I pray you, fair my Mistress, or Madam [then restricted to noble ladies and knights' wives] if so be, of your good pleasure, to do a stranger to wit of the name of this charming isle?"
"Saint Hubert's Isle, Sir," quoth I. "Of old time, as 'tis said, Saint Hubert had an hermitage hereon: the ruins whereof you may see down yonder."
"Truly, the isle is better accommodated at this present," saith he, and smiled one of the comeliest smiles ever saw I on a man's face. "And who was Saint Hubert, if it please my fair damosel?"
"In good sooth, Sir, that know I not," said I; "save that he were one of the old saints, now done away."