Out in the Forty-Five, or Duncan Keith's Vow, by Emily Sarah Holt.
This book is written in the style of a diary written by the youngest of four sisters. She is a very sensitive young girl, and her observations are very acute. Most of them are of a religious nature, and the description of the work of a preacher called Whitefield is very well worth reading. I felt quite emotional while reading it.
As you may gather from the title the book is set in the time of 1745, at the time the Bonny Prince Charlie landed in an attempt to claim his title to the throne, currently held by the Elector of Hanover, who was not very popular among the people we meet in this book, most of whom would be called Jacobites. It is interesting to see that Jacobite families like this one were more or less left alone, except when they actually took up arms.
The book takes about 10 hours to read aloud. Some of the speech is in broad lowland Scots, but you will probably have little difficulty in understanding it.
You will probably come away from reading this book resolved upon an amendment of life. If so then the book has done its work. This is the first book by this author that we have come across (lent to us for the occasion) and I am sure we shall add a few more by her in due course.
OUT IN THE FORTY-FIVE, OR DUNCAN KEITH'S VOW, BY EMILY SARAH HOLT.
WE ALIGHT AT BROCKLEBANK FELLS.
"Sure, there is room within our hearts good store; For we can lodge transgressions by the score: Thousands of toys dwell there, yet out of door We leave Thee."
"Girls!" said my Aunt Kezia, looking round at us, "I should just like to know what is to come of the whole four of you!"
My Aunt Kezia has an awful way of looking round at us. She begins with Sophy—she is our eldest—then she goes to Fanny, then to Hatty, and ends up with me. As I am the youngest, I have to be ended up with. She generally lays down her work to do it, too; and sometimes she settles her spectacles first, and that makes it feel more awful than ever. However, when she has gone round, she always takes them off—spectacles, I mean—and wipes them, and gives little solemn shakes of her head while she is doing it, as if she thought we were all four going to ruin together, and had got very near the bottom.
This afternoon, when she said that, instead of sitting quiet, as we generally do, Hatty—she is the pert one amongst us—actually spoke up.
"I should think we shall be married, Aunt Kezia, one of these days— shan't we?"
"My dear, if you are," was my Aunt Kezia's reply, more solemn than ever, "the only wedding present that I shall be conscientiously able to give to those four misguided men will be a rope a-piece to hang themselves with."
"Oh dear! I do wish she would not!" said Fanny in a plaintive whisper behind me.
"Considering who brought us up, Aunt Kezia," replied impertinent Hatty, "I should have thought they would have had better bargains than that."
"Hester, you forget yourself," said my aunt severely. Then, though she had only just finished wiping her spectacles, she took them off, and wiped them again, with more little shakes of her head. "And I did not bring you all up, neither."
My cheeks grew hot, for I knew that meant me. My Aunt Kezia did not bring me up, as she did the rest. I was thought sickly in my youth, and as Brocklebank Fells is but a bleak place, I was packed off to Carlisle, where Grandmamma lived, and there I have been with her until six weeks back, when she went to live with Uncle Charles down in the South, and I came home to Brocklebank, being thought to have now outgrown my sickliness. My Aunt Kezia is Father's sister, and has kept house for him since Mamma died, so of course she is no kin to Grandmamma at all. I know it sounds queer to say "Father and Mamma," instead of "Father and Mother," but I cannot help it. Grandmamma would never let me say "Mother;" she said it was old-fashioned and vulgar: and now, when I come back, Father will not hear of my calling him "Papa," which he says is new-fangled finnicking nonsense. I did not get used, either, to saying "Papa," as I did "Mamma," for Grandmamma never seemed to care to hear about him; I don't believe she liked him. She never seemed to want to hear about anything at Brocklebank. I don't think she ever took even to the girls, except Fanny. They all came to see me in turns, but Grandmamma said Sophy was only fit to be a country parson's wife; she knew nothing except things about the house and sewing and mending: she said fine breeding would be thrown away upon her. She might do very well, Grandmamma said, with her snuff-box elegantly held in her left hand, and taking a pinch out of it with the mittened fingers of her right—that is, Grandmamma, not Sophy—she said Sophy might do very well for a country squire's eldest daughter and some parson's wife, to cut out clothes and roll pills and make dumplings, but that was all she was good for. Then Hatty's pert speeches she could not bear one bit. Grandmamma said it was perfectly dreadful, and that her great glazed red cheeks—that is what she called them—were insufferably vulgar; she wouldn't like anybody to hear that such a creature was her grand-daughter. She wanted Hatty to take a lot of castor oil or some such horrid stuff, to bring down her red cheeks and make her slender and ladylike; she was ever so much too fat, Grandmamma said, and she thought it so vulgar to be fat. She wanted to pinch her in with stays, too, but it was all of no use. Hatty would not be pinched, and she would not take castor oil, and she would eat and drink—like a plough-boy, Grandmamma said—so at last she gave her up as a bad job. Then Fanny came, and she is more like Grandmamma in her ways, and she did not mind the castor oil, but swallowed bottles of it; and she did not mind the stays, but let Grandmamma pinch her anyhow she pleased, so I think she rather liked Fanny. I was pale and thin enough without castor oil, so she did not give me any, for which I am thankful, for I could not have swallowed it as meekly as Fanny.
It looked very queer to me, after Grandmamma's houseful of servants, to come home and find only four at Brocklebank, and but three of those in the house, and my Aunt Kezia doing half the work herself, and expecting us girls to help her. Grandmamma would hardly let me pick up my kerchief, if I dropped it; I had to call Willet, her woman, to give it to me. And here, my Aunt Kezia looks as if she thought I ought to want no telling how to dust a table or make an apple pie. She has only cook-maid and chambermaid,—Maria and Bessy, their names are,—and Sam the serving-man. There is the old shepherd, Will, but he only comes into the house by nows and thens. Grandmamma had a black man who waited on us. She said it gave the place an air, and that there were gentlewomen in Carlisle who would scarce have come to see her if she had not had a black man to look genteel. I don't fancy I should care much for people who would not come to see me unless I had a black servant. I should think they came to visit him, not me. But Grandmamma said that my old Lady Mary Garsington, in the Close, never came to see anybody who had less than a thousand a year, and did not keep a black. She was the grandest person Grandmamma knew at Carlisle, for most of her friends live in the South.
I do not know exactly where the South is, nor what it is like. Of course London is in the South; I know that. But Grandmamma used to talk about the South as if she thought it so fine; and my Uncle Charles once said nobody could be a gentleman who had not lived in the South. They were all clodhoppers up here, he said, and you could only get any proper polish in the South. Fanny was there then, and she was quite hurt with it. She did not like to think Father a clodhopper; and I am sure he is not. Besides, our ancestors did come from the South. Our grandfather, William Courtenay, who bought the land and built Brocklebank, belonged [Note 1.] Wiltshire, and his father was a Devonshire man, and a Courtenay of Powderham, whatever that may mean: Father knows more about it than I do, and so, I think, does Fanny. Grandmamma once told me she would never have thought of allowing Mamma to marry Father, if he had not been a Courtenay and a man of substance. She said all his other relations were so very mean and low, she could not have condescended so far as to connect herself with them. Why, I believe one of them was only a farmer's daughter: and I think, from what I have heard Grandmamma and my Uncle Charles say, that another of them had something to do with those low people called Dissenters. I don't suppose she really was one—that would be too shocking; but Grandmamma always went into the clouds when she mentioned these vulgar ancestors of mine, so I never heard more than "that poor wretched mother of your grandfather's, my dear," or "that dreadful farming creature whom your grandfather married." I once asked my Aunt Dorothea—that is, Uncle Charles's wife—if this wretched great-grandmother of mine had been a very bad woman. But she said, "Oh no, not bad"—and I think she might have told me something more, but my Uncle Charles put in, in that commanding way he has, "Could not have been worse, my dear Dorothea—connected with those Dissenters,"—so I got to know no more, and I was sorry.
Father once had two more sisters, who were both married, one in Derbyshire, and one in Scotland. They both left children, so we have two lots of cousins on Father's side. Our cousins in Derbyshire are both girls; their names are Charlotte and Amelia Bracewell: and there are two of our Scotch cousins, but they are a boy and a girl, and they have queer Scotch names, Angus and Flora Drummond. At least, they were boy and girl, I suppose; for Angus Drummond must be over twenty now, and Flora is not far off it. It is more than ten years since we saw the Drummonds, but the Bracewells have been to visit us several times. Amelia Bracewell is Fanny made hotter, or Fanny is Amelia and water— which you like. She makes me laugh, and my Aunt Kezia sniff. The other day, my Aunt Kezia came into the room while we were talking about Amelia, and she heard Fanny say,—
"She is so full of sympathy. She always comes and wants you to sympathise with her. She just lives upon sympathy."
"So full of sympathy!" said my Aunt Kezia, turning round on Fanny. "So empty, child, you mean. What poor weak thing are you talking about?"
"Cousin Amelia Bracewell," answered Fanny. "She is such a charming creature. Don't you think so, Aunt Kezia? Such a dear sympathetic darling!"
"It is well you told me whom you meant, Fanny," said my Aunt Kezia, pursing up her lips. "I should never have guessed you meant Amelia Bracewell, from what you said. Well, how differently two people can see the same thing, to be sure!"
"Don't you like her, Aunt Kezia?" returned Fanny in an astonished tone.
"If I am to speak the full truth, my dear," said my Aunt Kezia, "I am afraid I come as near to despising her as a Christian woman and a communicant has any business to do. I never had any fancy for birds of prey."
"Birds of prey!" exclaimed Fanny, blankly.
"Birds of prey," repeated my aunt in a very different tone. "She is one of those folks who are for ever drawing twopenny cheques upon your feelings, and there are no funds in my bank to meet them. I can stand a bucketful of feeling drawn out of me, but I hate to let it waste away in a drop here and a driblet there about nothing at all. Now I will just tell you, girls—I once went to see a woman who had lost fifteen hundred a year, all at a blow, without a bit of warning. What she had to say was—'The Lord has taken it, and He knows best. I can trust Him to care for me.' Well, about a week afterwards, I had a visit from another woman, who had let a pan boil over, and had spoilt a lot of jam. She wanted me to say she was the most tried creature since Adam. And I could not, girls—I really could not. I have not the slightest doubt there have been a million women worse tried since the battle of Prague, never mention Adam. As to Amelia Bracewell, who carries her fan as if it were a sceptre, and slurs her r's like a Londoner, silly chit! I have hardly any patience with her. Charlotte's bad enough, but Amelia! My word, she takes some standing, I can tell you!"
Now, I always admired the way Amelia sounds her r's, or, I suppose I ought to say, the way she does not sound them. It is so soft and pretty. Then she writes poetry,—all about the blue sea and the silver moon, or else the gleaming sunbeams and the hoary hills—so grand! I never read anything so beautiful as Amelia's poetry. She told me once that a gentleman from London, who was fourth cousin to a peer of some sort, had told her she wrote as well as Mr Pope. Only think!
Charlotte is as different as she can be. Her notion of things is to go down to the stable and saddle her own horse, and scamper all over the country, all by herself. Father says she is a fine girl, but she will break her neck some day. My Aunt Kezia says, Saint Paul told women to be keepers at home, and she thinks that page must have dropped out of Charlotte's Bible. She does some other things, too, that I do not fancy she would care for my Aunt Kezia to hear. She calls her father "the old gentleman," and sometimes "the old boy." I do not know what my Aunt Kezia would say, if she did hear it.
I wonder what Flora Drummond is like now. I used to think she had not much in her. Perhaps it was only that she did not let it come out. However, I shall have a chance of finding out soon; for she and Angus are coming to stay with us, on his way to York, where his father is sending him on some kind of business. I do not know what it is, and I don't care. Business is always dry, uninteresting stuff. Flora will stay with us while Angus goes on to York, and then he will pick her up again as he comes back. I wish the Bracewells might be here at the same time. I should like Flora and Amelia to know one another, and I do not think they do at all.
It is shocking dull here at Brocklebank. I dare say I feel it more than my sisters, having lived in Carlisle all my life, so to speak: and as to my Aunt Kezia, I do believe, if she had her garden, and orchard, and kitchen, and dairy, and her work-box, and a Bible, and Prayer-book, and The Compleat Gentlewoman, she would be satisfied to live at the North Pole or anywhere. But I am perfectly delighted when anybody comes to see us, if 'tis only Ephraim Hebblethwaite. He is the son of Farmer Hebblethwaite, lower down the valley, and I believe he admires Fanny. Fanny cannot bear him; she says he has such an ugly name. But I think he is very pleasant, and I suppose he could change his name, though I can't see why it signifies. Beside him, and Ambrose Catterall, and Esther Langridge, we know no young people except our cousins. Father being Squire of Brocklebank, we cannot mix with the common folks.
Old Mr Digby is the Vicar, and I do not think he is far short of a hundred years old. He is an old bachelor, and has nobody to keep his house but our Sam's mother, a Scotchwoman—old Elspie they call her. He does not often preach of late years—except on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and such high days. A pleasant old man he used to be, but he grows forgetful now, for the last time we met him, he patted my head just as if I were still a little child, and I shall be seventeen in March. He has been Vicar over sixty years, and christened Father and married my grand-parents.
I do wish we had just a few more friends. It really is too bad, for we might have known the family at Seven Stones, only two miles off, if they had not been Whigs, and there are five sons and four daughters there. Father would no more think of shaking hands with a Whig (if he knew it) than he would eat roast beef on Good Friday. I should not care. Why should one not have some fun, because old Mr Outhwaite is a Whig?
I shall have to keep my book locked up if I tell it all I think, as I have been doing now. I would not have Hatty get hold of it for all the world. And as to my Aunt Kezia—I believe she would whip me and send me to bed if she read only the last page.
Here comes Ambrose Catterall up the walk, and I must go down, though I do not expect there will be any fun. He will stay supper, I dare say, and then he and Father will have a game of whist with Sophy and Fanny, and I shall sit by with my sewing, and Hatty will knit and whisper into my ear things that I want to laugh at and dare not. If I did, Father would look up over his cards with a black brow and say "Silence!" in such a tone that I shall wish I was somebody else. Who I don't know— only not Caroline Courtenay.
Father does not like our names—at least mine and Sophy's. Mamma named us, and he says we have both fine romantic silly names. Hatty was called after his mother, and that he likes; and Fanny is after a sister of Mamma's who died young. But Father never gives over growling because one of us was not a boy.
"Four girls!" he says: "four girls, and never a lad! Who on earth wants four girls? I'll sell one or two of you cheap, if I can find him."
But I don't think he would, if it came to the point. I know, for all his queer speeches sometimes, he is proud of Fanny's good looks, and Sophy's good housekeeping, and even Hatty's pert sayings. I know by the way he chuckles now and then when she says anything particularly smart. I don't know what he is proud of in me, unless it is my manners. Of course, having lived in Carlisle with Grandmamma, I have the best manners of any. And I speak the best, I know. Sophy talks shockingly broad; she says, "Aw wanted him to coom, boot he would not." Fanny has found that will not do, so she tries to imitate my Aunt Dorothea and Amelia Bracewell, but she goes on the other side of her pattern, and does not sound the u full where she ought to do it, but says, "The basin is fell of shegar." Hatty laughs at them both, and lets her u go where it likes, but she is not so bad as Sophy.
I think I shall try and put the notion into my Aunt Kezia's head to have the Bracewells here for Christmas. I know Angus and Flora will be here then, and later. That would make a decent party, if we got Ephraim Hebblethwaite, and Ambrose Catterall too.
After all, I went on writing so late, that I only got down-stairs in time to see Ambrose Catterall's back as he went down the drive. He could not stay for some reason—I did not hear what. Father growled as he heard him go off, singing, down the walk.
"Where on earth did the fellow get hold of that piece of whiggery?" said he. "Just listen to him!"
I listened, and heard the refrain of the Whigs' favourite song,—
"Send him victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us—"
"Disgusting stuff!" said Father, with some stronger words which I know my Aunt Kezia would not let me put down if she were looking. "Where did the fellow get hold of it? His father is a decent Tory enough. What is he at now? Listen, girls."
Ambrose's tune had changed to,—
"King George he was born in the month of October,— 'Tis a sin for a subject that month to be sober!"
"I'll forbid him my house!" cries Father, starting up. "I'll send a bullet through his head! I'll October him, and sober him too, if he has not a care! Fan! Where's Fan? Go to the spinnet, girl, and sing me a right good Tory song, to take the taste of that abominable stuff out of my mouth."
"Nay, Brother," saith my Aunt Kezia, who was pinning a piece of work on the table, "surely a man may use respect to the powers that be, though they be not the powers he might wish to be?"
"'Powers that be!'" saith Father. "Powers that shouldn't be, you mean. I'll tell you what, Kezia,—you may have been bred a Tory, but you were born a Puritan. Whereon earth you got it—! As for that fellow, I'll forbid him my house. 'King George,' forsooth! Let me hear one of you call the Elector of Hanover by that name, and I'll—I'll—. Come along, Fan, and give me a Tory song."
So Fanny sat down to the spinnet, and played the new song that all the Tories are so fond of. How often she made Britain arise from out the azure waves, I am sure I don't know, but she, and Father with her, sang it so many times that all that day I had "Britons never shall be slaves!" ringing in my ears till I heartily wished they would be slaves and have done with it.
At night, when we were going to bed, after Father had blessed us, Hatty runs round to his back and whispers in his ear.
"Don't send Ambrose Catterall away, there's a good Father!" says she: "there will be two of us old maids as it is."
Father laughed, and pinched Hatty's ear. So I saw my gentlewoman had been thinking the same thing I had. But I don't think she ought to have said it out.
Stay, now! Why should it be worse to say things than to think them? Is it as bad to think them as to say them? Oh dear! but if one were for ever sifting one's thoughts in that way,—why, it would be just dreadful! Not many people are careful about their words, but one's thoughts!
No, I don't think I could do it, really. I suppose my Aunt Kezia would say I ought. I do so dislike my Aunt Kezia's oughts. She always thinks you ought to do just what you do not want. If only people would say, now and then, that you ought to eat plum-pudding, or you ought to dance, or you ought to wear jewels! But no! it is always you ought to sew, or you ought to carry some broken victuals to old Goody Branscombe, or you ought to be as sweet as a rosebud when Hatty says things at you.
Stop! would it be so if I always wanted to do the things I ought? I suppose not. Then why don't I?
But why ought I? There's another question.
I wish we either wanted to do what we ought, or else that we ought to do what we want!
I was obliged to stop last night all at once, because I heard Hatty coming up the garret stairs. I always write in the garret and keep my book there, so that none of the girls shall get hold of it—Hatty particularly. She would make such shocking game of it. I had only just put my book away safely when in she came.
"What on earth are you doing up here?" cried she.
"What are you doing?" said I.
"Looking for you," she says.
"Then why should not I be looking for you?" said I.
"Because you weren't, Miss Caroline Courtenay!" and she makes a swimming courtesy. "Oh yes, you don't need to tell me you have a secret, my young gentlewoman. I know as well as if I had seen it. O Pussy, have you come too? Do you know what it is, Pussy? Does she come up here to read her love-letters—does she? Oh, how charming! Wouldn't I like to see them! How does she get them, Pussy? She has been rather fond of going to see Elspie this past week or two; is that it, Pussy? Won't you tell me, my pretty, pretty cat?"
"Hatty, don't be so absurd!" cried I.
"We know, don't we, Pussy?" says Hatty in a provoking whisper to the cat in her arms. "I thought there would be somebody at Carlisle that she would be sorry to leave—didn't you, Pussy-cat? What is he like, Pussy? Tall and dark, I'll wager, with a pair of handsome mustachios, and the most beautiful black eyes you ever saw! Won't that be about it, Pussy?"
I could have thrown the cat at her. How could any mortal creature be sweet, or keep quiet, talked to in that way? I flew out.
"Hatty, you are the most vexatious tease that ever lived! Do, for pity's sake, go down and let me alone. You know perfectly well it is all stuff and nonsense!"
"Oh, how angry she is, my pretty pussy!" says Hatty, hiding her laughing face behind the cat. "It was all nonsense, you know; but really, when she gets into such a tantrum, I begin to think I must have hit the white. What do you say, Pussy?"
I stamped on the garret floor.
"Hatty, will you take that hideous cat down and be quiet?" cried I.
"Dear, dear! To think of her calling you a hideous cat! Doesn't that show how angry she is? People should not get angry—should they, Pussy? She will box our ears next. I really think we had better go, my darling tabby."
So off went Hatty with the cat in her arms, but as she was going down the stairs, she said, I am sure for me to hear,—
"We will come some other time, won't we, Pussy? when the dragon is out of her den: and we will have a quiet rummage, you and I; and we'll find her love-letters!"
Now is not that too bad? What is one to do? Job could not have kept his temper if he had lived with Hatty. I wish she would get married—I do! Fanny never interferes with any one—she just goes her way and lets you go yours. And when Sophy interferes, it is only because something is left untidy, or you have not done something you promised to do. She does not tease for teasing's sake, like Hatty.
And then, when I came down, after having composed my face, and passed Hatty on my way into the parlour, what should she say but,—
"Didn't you wish I was in Heaven just now?"
"I should not have cared where you were, if you had kept out of the garret!" said I.
Hatty gave one of her odious giggles, and away she went.
Now, how can I live at peace with Hatty, will anybody tell me?
I am so delighted! My Aunt Kezia has come into my plan for having the Bracewells here at Christmas, along with the Drummonds.
"It might be as well," said she, "if we could do some good to that poor frivolous thing Amelia; but don't you get too much taken up with her, Caroline, my dear. She is a silly maid at best."
"Oh, Amelia is Fanny's friend, not mine, Aunt Kezia," said I. "And Charlotte is Sophy's."
"And is Flora to be yours?" said Aunt Kezia.
"I have not made one yet," I answered. "I do not know what Flora is like."
"As well to wait and see, trow," says my Aunt Kezia.
Sam was bringing in breakfast while this was said; and as soon as he had set down the cold beef he turned to my Aunt Kezia and said,—
"Then she's just a braw lassie, Miss Flora, nae mair and nae less; and she'll bring ye a' mickle gude, and nae harm."
"Why, how do you know, Sam?" asked my Aunt Kezia.
"Hoots! my mither's sister's daughter was her nurse," said he. "Helen Raeburn they ca' her, and her man's ane o' the Macdonalds. Trust me, but I ha'e heard monie a tale o' thae Drummonds,—their faither and mither and their gudesire and minnie an' a'."
"What is Angus like, Sam?" said I.
"Atweel, he's a bonnie laddie; but no just—"
Sam stopped short and pulled a face.
"Not just what?" says my Aunt Kezia.
"Ye'll be best to find oot for yersel, Mrs Kezia, I'm thinkin'."
And off trudged Sam after jelly, and we got no more out of him.
I wonder where the living creature is that could stand Hatty! There was I at work this morning in the parlour, when in she came—there were Sophy and Fanny too—holding up something above her head.
"'Busk ye, busk ye, my bonnie, bonnie bride!'" sang Hatty. "Look what I've found, just now, in the garret! Oh yes, Miss Caroline, you can look too."
"Hatty, if you don't give me that book this minute—!" cried I. "I did think I had hidden it out of search of your prying fingers."
"Dear, yes, and of my bright eyes, I feel no doubt," laughed Hatty. "You are not quite so clever as you fancy, Miss Caroline. Carlisle is a charming city, but it does not hold all the brains in the world."
"What is it, Hatty?" said Sophy. "Don't tease the child."
"Wait a little, Miss Sophia, if you please. This is a most interesting and savoury volume, wherein Miss Caroline Courtenay sets down her convictions on all manner of subjects in general, and her unfortunate sisters in particular. I find—"
"Hatty, do be reasonable, and give the child her book," said Fanny. "It is a shame!"
"Oh, you keep one too, do you, Miss Frances?" laughed Hatty. "I had my suspicions, I will own."
"What do you mean?" said Fanny, flushing.
"Only that the rims of your pearly ears would not be quite so ruddy, my charmer, if you were not in like case. Well, I find from this book that we are none of us perfect, but so far as I can gather, Fanny comes nearest the angelic world of any of us. As to—"
"Hatty, you ought to be ashamed of yourself if you have been so dishonourable as to read what was not meant for any one to see."
"My beloved Sophy, don't halloo till you are out of the wood. And you are not out, by any means. You are vulgar and ill-bred, my dear; you say 'coom' and 'boot,' and you are only fit to marry a country curate, and cut out shirts and roll pills."
"I say what?" asked Sophy, disregarding the other particulars.
"You say 'coom' and 'boot,' my darling, and it ought to be 'kem' and 'bet'," said Hatty, with such an affected pronunciation that Sophy and Fanny both burst out laughing.
"What do you mean?" said Sophy amid her laughter.
"Then—Fanny, my dear, you are not to escape! You are better bred than Sophy, because you take castor oil—"
"Hatty, what nonsense you are talking!" I cried, unable to endure any longer. But Hatty went on, taking no notice.
"But you drop your r's, deah, and say deah Caroline,—(can't manage it right, my dear!)—and you are slow and affected."
"Hatty, you know I never said so!" I screamed.
"Then as to me," pursued Hatty, casting her eyes up to the ceiling, "as to poor me, I am—well, not one of the angels, on any consideration. I tease my sweetest sister in the most cruel manner—"
"Well, that is true, Hatty, if nothing else is," said Fanny.
"I have 'horrid glazed red cheeks,' and I eat like a plough-boy; and I don't take castor oil. Castor oil is evidently one of the Christian graces."
"How can you be so ridiculous!" said Sophy. "See, you have made the poor child cry."
"With passion, my dear, which is a very wicked thing, as I am sure my Aunt Kezia would tell her. A little castor oil would—"
"What is that about your Aunt Kezia?" came in another voice from the doorway.
Oh, I was so glad to see her!
"Hoity-toity! why, what is all this, girls?" said she, severely. "Hester, what are you doing? What is Cary crying for?"
"Hatty is teasing her, Aunt," said Fanny. "She is always doing it, I think."
"Give me that book, Hester," said my Aunt Kezia; and Hatty passed it to her without a word. "Now, whom does this book belong?"
"It is mine, Aunt Kezia," I said, as well as my sobs would let me; "and Hatty has found it, and she is teasing me dreadfully about it."
"What is it, my dear?" said my Aunt Kezia.
"It is my diary, Aunt Kezia; and I did not want Hatty to get hold of it."
"She says such things, Aunt Kezia, you can't imagine, about you and all of us."
"I am sure I never said anything about you, Aunt Kezia," I sobbed.
"If you did, my dear, I dare say it was nothing worse than all of you have thought in turn," saith my Aunt Kezia, drily. "Hester, you will go to bed as soon as the dark comes. Take your book, Cary; and remember, my dear, whenever you write in it again, that God is looking at every word you write."
Hatty made a horrid face at me behind my Aunt Kezia's back; but I don't believe she really cared anything about it. She went to bed, of course; and it is dark now by half-past five. But she was not a bit daunted, for I heard her singing as she lay in bed, "Fair Rosalind, in woful wise," [Note 2.] and afterwards, "I ha'e nae kith, I ha'e nae kin." [Note 3.] If Father had heard that last, my Aunt Kezia would have had to forgive her and let her off the rest of her sentence.
I have found a new hiding-place for my book, where I do not think Hatty will find it in a hurry. But when I sit down to write now, my Aunt Kezia's words come back to me with an awful sound. "God is looking at every word you write!" I suppose it is so: but somehow I never rightly took it in before. I hardly think I should have written some words if I had. Was that what my Aunt Kezia meant?
Note 1. This and similar expressions are Northern provincialisms.
"Fair Rosalind, in woful wise, Six hearts has bound in thrall; As yet she undetermined lies Which she her spouse shall call."
Note 3. Perhaps the most plaintive and poetical of all the popular Jacobite ballads.
"She has two eyes so soft and brown, Take care! She gives a side-glance and looks down,— Beware! Beware! Trust her not, She is fooling thee!"
Here they all are at last, and the house is as full as it will hold. The Bracewells came first in their great family coach and four— Charlotte and Amelia and a young friend whom they had with them. Her name is Cecilia Osborne, and she is such a genteel-looking girl! She moves about, not languidly like Amelia, but in such a graceful, airy way as I never saw. She has dark hair, nearly black, and brown eyes with a sort of tawny light in them,—large eyes which gleam out on you just when you are not expecting it, for she generally looks down. Amelia appears more listless and affected than ever by the side of her, and Charlotte's hoydenish romping seems worse and more vulgar.
The Drummonds did not come for nearly a week afterwards. I was rather afraid what Cecilia would think of them for I expected they would talk Scotch—I know Angus used to do—and Cecilia is from the South, and I thought she would be quite shocked. But I find they talk just as we do, only with a little Scots accent, as if they were walking over sandhills in their throats—as least that is how it sounds to me. Flora has rather more of it than Angus, but then her voice is so clear and soft that it sounds almost pretty. A young gentleman came with them, named Duncan Keith, who was going with Angus about that business he has to do. They only stayed one night, didn't [Note 4.] Mr Keith and Angus, and then went on about their business; but Father was so pleased with Mr Keith, that he invited him to come back when Angus does, which will be in about three weeks or a month. So here we are, eight girls instead of four, with never a young man among us. Father says, when Angus and Mr Keith come back, we will have Ephraim Hebblethwaite and Ambrose Catterall to spend the evening, and perhaps Esther Langridge too. I don't feel quite sure that I should like Esther to come. She is not only as bad as Sophy with her "buts" and her "comes" but she does not behave quite genteelly in some other ways: and I don't want Cecilia Osborne to fancy that we are a set of vulgar creatures who do not know how to behave. I don't care half so much what Flora thinks.
Cecilia has not been here a fortnight, and yet I keep catching myself wondering what she will think about everything. It is not that I have made a friend of her: in fact, I am not sure that I quite like her. She seems to throw a sort of spell over me, does Cecilia, as if I were afraid of her and must obey her. I don't half like it.
My Aunt Kezia has put us into rooms in pairs, while they are here. In Sophy's chamber, where I generally sleep, are Sophy and Charlotte. In Fanny's, which she and Hatty have when we are by ourselves, are Fanny and Amelia. In the green spare chamber are Hatty and Cecilia; and in the blue one, Flora and me. My Aunt Kezia said she thought we should find that the pleasantest arrangement; but I do wish she had given Flora to Hatty, and put Cecilia with me. I am sure I should have understood Cecilia much better than Hatty, who will persist in calling her Cicely, which she says she does not like because it is such a vulgar name—and so common, too. Cecilia says she wishes she had not been called by a name which had a vulgar short one to it: she would like to have been either Camilla or Henrietta. She thinks my name sweetly pretty; but she wonders why we call Hester, Hatty, which she says is quite low and ugly, and hardly, is the proper short for Hester. She says Hatty and Gatty are properly short for Harriet, and Hester should be Essie, which is much prettier. But then we call Esther Langridge, Essie, and we could not do with two Essies. I know Father used to call Mamma, Gatty, but Grandmamma said she always thought it so vulgar.
Grandmamma was always talking about things being vulgar, and so is Cecilia. I notice that some people—for instance, my Aunt Kezia and Flora—never seem to think whether things are vulgar or not. Cecilia says that is because they are so vulgar they don't know it. I wonder if it be. But Cecilia says—she said I was not to repeat it, though—that my Aunt Kezia and Sophy are below vulgarity. When we were dressing one morning, I asked Flora what she thought. She is as genteel in her manners as Cecilia herself, only in quite a different way. Cecilia behaves as if she wanted you to notice how genteel she is. Flora is just herself: it seems to come natural to her, as if she never thought about it. So I asked Flora what she thought "vulgarity" meant, and if people could be below vulgarity.
"I should not think they could get below it," said she. "It is easy to get above it, if you only go the right way. How can you get below a thing which is down at the bottom?"
"But how would you do, Flora, not to be vulgar?"
"Learn good manners and then never think about them."
"But you must keep, up your company manners," said I.
"Why have any?" said she.
"What, always have one's company manners on!" cried I, "and be courtesying and bowing to one's sisters as if they were people one had never seen before?"
"Nay, those are ceremonies, not manners," said Flora. "By manners, I do not understand ceremonies, but just the way you behave to anybody at any time. It is not a ceremony to set a chair for a lame man, nor to shut a door lest the draught blow on a sick woman. It is not a ceremony to eat with a knife and fork, or to see that somebody else is comfortable before you make yourself so."
"Why, but that is just kindness!" cried I.
"What are manners but kindness?" said Flora. "Let a maiden only try to be as kind as she can to every creature of God, and she will not find much said in reproof of her manners."
"Are you always trying to be kind to everybody, Flora?"
"I hope so, Cary," she said, gravely.
"Flora, have you any friend?" said I. "I mean a particular friend—a girl friend like yourself."
"Yes," she said. "My chief friend is Annas Keith."
"Mr Duncan Keith's sister?"
"Yes," said Flora.
"Do tell me what she is like," said I.
"I am not sure that I could," said Flora. "And if I did, it would only be like looking at a map. Suppose somebody showed you a map of the British Isles, and put his finger on a little pink spot, and told you that was Selkirk. How much wiser would you be? You could not see the Yarrow and Ettrick, and breathe the caller air and gather the purple heather. And I don't think describing people is much better than to show places on a map. Such different things strike different people."
"How?" said I. "I don't see how they could, in the same face."
"As we were coming from Carlisle with Uncle Courtenay," said Flora, smiling, "I asked him to tell me what you were like, Cary."
"Well, what did Father say?" I said, and I felt very much amused.
"He said, 'Oh, a girl with a pale face and a lot of light thatch on it, with fine ways that she picked up in Carlisle.' But when I came to see you, I thought that if I had had to describe you, those were just the things I should not have mentioned."
"Come, then, describe me, Flora," said I, laughing. "What do you see?"
"I see two large, earnest-looking blue eyes," she said, "under a broad white forehead; eyes that look right at you; clear, honest eyes,—not— at least, the sort of eyes I like to look at me. Then I see a small nose—"
"Let my nose alone, please," said I: "I know it turns up, and I don't want to hear you say so."
Flora laughed. "Very well; I will leave your nose alone. Underneath it, I see two small red lips, and a little forward chin; a rather self-willed little chin, if you please, Cary—and a good figure, which has learned to hold itself up and to walk gracefully. Will that do for a description?"
"Yes," I said, looking in the glass; "I suppose that is me."
"Is it, Cary? That may be all I see; but is it you? Why, it is only the morocco case that holds you. You are the jewel inside, and what that is, really and fully, I cannot see. God can see it; and you can see some of it. But I can see only what you choose to show me, or, now and then, what you cannot help showing me."
"Do you know that you are a very queer girl, Flora? Girls don't talk in that way. Cecilia Osborne told me yesterday she thought you a very curious girl indeed."
"I think my match might be found," said Flora, rather drily. "For one thing, Cary, you must remember I have had nothing to do with other girls except Annas Keith. Father and Angus have been my only companions; and a girl who has neither mother nor sisters perhaps gets out of girls' ways in some respects."
"But you are not the only 'womankind,' as Father calls it, in the house?" said I.
"Oh, no, there is Helen Raeburn," answered Flora: "but she is an old woman, and she is not in my station. She would not teach me girls' ways."
"Then who taught you manners, Flora?"
"Oh, Father saw to all that Helen could not," she said. "Helen could teach me common decencies, of course; such as not to eat with my fingers, and to shake hands, and so forth: but the little niceties of ladylike behaviour that were beyond her—Father saw to those."
"Well, I think you have very pleasant manners, Flora. I only wish you were not quite so grave."
"Thank you for the compliment, Miss Caroline Courtenay," said Flora, dropping me a courtesy. "I would rather be too grave than too giddy."
That very afternoon, Cecilia Osborne asked me to walk up the Scar with her. Somehow, when she asks you to do a thing, you feel as if you must do it. I do not like that sort of enchanted feeling at all. However, I fetched my hood and scarf, and away we went. We climbed up the Scar without much talk—in fact, it is rather too steep for that: but when we got to the top, Cecilia proposed to sit down on the bank. It was a beautiful day, and quite warm for the time of the year. So down we sat, and Cecilia pulled her sacque carefully on one side, that it should not get spoiled—she was very charmingly dressed in a sacque of purple lutestring, with such a pretty bonnet, of red velvet with a gold pompoon in front—and then she began to talk, as if she had come for that, and I believe she had. It was not long before I felt pretty sure that she had brought me there to pump me.
"How long have you known Miss Drummond?" she began.
"Well, all my life, in a fashion," I said; "but it is nearly ten years since we met."
"Ten years is a good deal of your life, is it not?" said Cecilia, darting at me one of those side-glances from her tawny eyes.
I tried to do it last night, and made my eyes feel so queer that I was not sure they would get right by morning.
"Well, I suppose it is," said I; "I am not quite seventeen yet."
"You dear little thing!" said Cecilia, imprisoning my hand. "What is Miss Drummond's father?"
"A minister," said I.
"A Scotch Presbyterian, I suppose?" she said, turning up her nose. I did not think she looked any prettier for it.
"Well," said I, "I suppose he is."
"And Mr Angus—what do they mean to make of him, do you know?"
"Flora hopes he will be a minister too. His father wishes it; but she is not sure that Angus likes the notion himself."
"Dear me! I should think not," said Cecilia, "He is fit for something far better."
"What can be better?" I answered.
"You have such charming ideas!" replied Cecilia. She put in another word, which I never heard before, and I don't know what it means. She brought it with her from the South, I suppose. Unso—unsophy—no, unsophisticated—I think that was it. It sounded uncommon long and fine, I know.
"I suppose Scotch ministers have not much money?" continued Cecilia.
"I don't know—I think not," I answered. "But I rather fancy my Uncle Drummond has a little of his own."
Cecilia darted another look at me, and then dropped her eyes as if she were studying the grass.
"And Mr Keith?" she said presently, "is he a relation?"
"I don't know much about him," said I, "only what I have heard Flora say. He is no relation of theirs, I believe. I think he is the squire's son."
"The squire's son!" cried Cecilia, in a more interested tone. "And who is the squire?—is he rich?—where is the place?"
"As to who he is," said I, "he is Mr Keith, I suppose. I don't know a bit whether he is rich or poor. I forget the name of the place—I think it is Abbotsmuir, or something like that. Either an abbot or a monk has something to do with it."
"And you don't know if Mr Keith is a rich man?" said Cecilia, I thought in rather a disappointed tone.
"No, I don't," said I. "I can ask Flora, if you want to know."
"Not for the world!" cried Cecilia, laying her hand again on mine. "Don't on any account let Miss Drummond know that I asked you such a question. If you like to ask from yourself, you know—well, that is another matter; but not from me, on any consideration."
"I don't understand you, Miss Osborne," said I.
"No, you dear little thing, I believe you don't understand me," said Cecilia, kissing me. "What pretty hair you have, and how nice you keep it, to be sure!—so smooth and glossy! Come, had we not better be going down, do you think?"
So down we came, and found dinner ready; and I do not think I ever thought of it again till I was going to bed. Then I said to Flora,—"Do you like Cecilia Osborne?"
"I—think we had better not talk about people, Cary, if you please."
But there was such a pause where I have drawn that long stroke, that I am sure that was not what she intended to say at first.
"Then you don't," said I, making a hit at the truth, and, I think, hitting it in the bull's eye. "Well, no more do I."
Flora looked at me, but did not speak. Oh, how different her look is from Cecilia's sudden flashes!
"She has been trying to pump me, I am sure, about you and Angus, and Mr Keith," said I; "and I think it is quite as well I knew so little."
"What about?" said Flora.
"Oh, about money, mostly," said I. "Whether Uncle had much money, and if Mr Keith was a rich man, and all on like that. I can't bear girls who are always thinking about money."
Flora drew a long breath. "That is it, is it?" she said, in a low voice, as she tied her nightcap, but it was rather as if she were speaking to herself than to me. "Cary, perhaps I had better answer you. I am afraid Miss Osborne is a very dangerous girl; and she would be more so than she is if she were a shade more clever, so as to hide her cards a little better. Don't tell her anything you can help."
"But what shall I say if she asks me again? because she wanted me not to tell you that she had asked, but to get to know as if I wanted it myself."
"Tell her to ask me," said Flora, with more spirit than I had expected from her.
When Cecilia began again (as she did) asking me the same sort of things, I said to her, "Why don't you ask Cousin Flora instead of me? She knows so much more about it than I do."
Cecilia put her hands on my shoulders and kissed me.
"Because I like to ask you," said she, "and I should not like to ask her."
My Aunt Kezia was just coming into the room.
"Miss Cecilia, my dear," said she, "do you always think what you like?"
"Of course, Mrs Kezia," said Cecilia, smiling at her.
"Then you will be a very useless woman," said my aunt, "and not a very happy one neither."
"Happy—ah!" said Cecilia, with a long sigh. "This world is not the place to find happiness."
"No, it isn't," said my Aunt Kezia, "for people who spend all their time hunting for it. It is a deal better to let happiness hunt for you. You don't go the right way to get it, child."
"I do not, indeed!" answered Cecilia, with a very sorrowful look. "Ah, Mrs Kezia, 'the heart knoweth his own bitterness.' That is Scripture, I believe."
"Yes, it does," said my aunt, "and it makes a deal of it, too."
"Oh dear, Mrs Kezia!" cried Cecilia. "How could anybody make unhappiness?"
"If you don't, you are the first girl I have met of your sort," saith my Aunt Kezia, turning down the hem of a kerchief. Then, when she came to the end of the hem, she looked up at Cecilia. "My dear, there is a lesson we all have to learn, and the sooner you learn it, the better and happier woman you will be. The end of selfishness is not pleasure, but pain. You don't think so, do you? Ah, but you will find as you go through life, that always you are not only better, but happier, with God's blessing on the thing you don't like, than without it on the thing you do. Ay, it always turns to ashes in your mouth when you will have the quails instead of the manna. I've noted many a time—for when I was a girl, and later than that, I was as self-willed as any of you—that sometimes when I have set my heart upon a thing, and would have it, then, if I may speak it with reverence, God has given way to me. Like a father with an obstinate child, He has said to me, as it were, 'Poor foolish child! You will have this glittering piece of mischief. Well, have your way: and when you have cut yourself badly with it, and are bleeding and smarting as I did not wish to see you, come back to your Father and tell Him all about it, and be healed and comforted.' Ah dear me, the dullest of us is quite as clever as she need be in making rods for her own back. And then, if our Father keep us from hurting ourselves, and won't let us have the bright knife to cut our fingers with, how we do mewl and whine, to be sure! We are just a set of silly babes, my dear—the best of us."
"My Aunt Dorothea once told me," said I, "that the Papists have what they call 'exercises of detachment.' Perhaps you would think them good things, Aunt Kezia. For instance, if an abbess sees a nun who seems to have a fancy for any little thing particularly, she will take it from her and give it to somebody else."
"Eh, poor foolish things!" said Aunt Kezia. "Bits of children playing with the Father's tools! They are more like to hurt themselves a deal than to get His work done. Ay, God has His exercises of detachment, and they are far harder than man's. He knows how to do it. He can lay a finger right on the core of your heart, the very spot where it hurts worst. Men can seldom do that. They would sometimes if they could, I believe; but they cannot, except God guides them to it. Many's the time I've been asked, with a deal of hesitation and apology, to do a thing that did not cost me a farthing's worth of grief or labour; and as lightly as could be, to do another which would have gone far to break either my back or my heart. Different folks see things in such different ways. I'll be bound, now, if each of us were asked to pick out for one another the thing in this house that each cared most about, we should well-nigh all of us guess wrong. We know so little of each other's inmost hearts. That little kingdom, your own heart, is a thing that you must keep to yourself; you can't let another into it. You can bring him to the gate, and let him peep in, and show him a few of your treasures; but you cannot give him the freedom of the city. Depend upon it, you would think very differently of me from what you do, and I should think differently of each of you, if we could see each other's inmost hearts."
"Better or worse, Mrs Kezia?" said Cecilia.
"May be the one, and may be the other, my dear. It would hang a little on the heart you looked at, and a great deal on the one who looked at it. I dare say we should all get one lesson we need badly—we might learn to bear with each other. 'Tis so easy to think, 'Oh, she cannot understand me! she never had this pain or that sorrow.' Whereas, if you could see her as she really is, you would find she knew more about it than you did, and understood some other things beside, which were dark riddles to you. That is often a mountain to one which is only a molehill to another. And trouble is as it is taken. If there were no more troubles in this world than what we give each other in pure kindness or in simple ignorance, girls, there would be plenty left."
"Then you think there were troubles in Eden?" said Cecilia, mischievously.
"I was not there," said my Aunt Kezia. "After the old serpent came there were troubles enough, I'll warrant you. If Adam came off scot-free for saying, 'The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me,' Eve must have been vastly unlike her daughters."
I was quite unable to keep from laughing, but Cecilia did not seem to see anything to laugh at. She never does, when people say funny things; and she never says funny things herself. I cannot understand her. She only laughs when she does something; and, nine times out of ten, it is something in which I cannot see anything to laugh at—something which— well, if it were not Cecilia, I should say was rather silly and babyish. I never did see any fun in playing foolish tricks on people, and worrying them in all sorts of ways. Hatty just enjoys it; but I don't.
However, before anything else was said, Father came in, and a young gentleman with him, whom he introduced as Mr Anthony Parmenter, the Vicar's nephew (He turned out to be the Vicar's grand-nephew, which, I suppose, is the same thing.) I am sure he must have come from the South. He did not shake hands, nor profess to do it. He just touched the hand you gave him with the tips of his fingers, and then with his lips, as if you were a china tea-dish that he was terribly frightened of breaking. Cecilia seemed quite used to this sort of thing, but I did not know what he was going to do; and, as for my Aunt Kezia, she just seized his hand, and gave it a good old-fashioned shake, at which he looked very much put out. Then she asked him how the Vicar was, and he did not seem to know; and how long he was going to stay, and he did not know that; and when he came, to which he said Thursday, in a very hesitating way, as if he were not at all sure that it was not Wednesday or Friday. One thing he knew—that it was hawidly cold—there, that is just how he said it. I suppose he meant horribly. My Aunt Kezia gave him up after a while, and went on sewing in silence. Then Cecilia took him up, and they seemed to understand each other exactly. They talked about all sorts of things and people that I never heard of before; and I sat and listened, and so did my Aunt Kezia, only that she put in a word now and then, and I did not.
Before they had been long at it, Fanny and Amelia came in from a walk, in their bonnets and scarves, and Mr Parmenter bowed over their hands in the same curious way that he did before. Amelia took it as she does everything—that is, in a languid, limp sort of way, as if she did not care about anything; but Fanny looked as if she did not know what he was going to do to her, and I saw she was puzzled whether she ought to shake hands or not. Then Fanny went away to take her things off, but Amelia sat down, and pulled off her scarf, and laid it beside her on the sofa, not neatly folded, but all huddled up in a heap, and there it might have stayed till next week if my Aunt Kezia (who hates Amelia's untidy ways) had not said to her,—
"My dear, had you not better take your things up-stairs?"
Amelia rose with the air of a martyr, threw the scarf on her arm, and carrying her bonnet by one string, went slowly up-stairs. When they came down together, my Aunt Kezia said to Fanny,—
"My dear, you had better take a shorter walk another time."
"We have not had a long one, Aunt," said Fanny, looking surprised. "We only went up by the Scar, and back by Ellen Water."
"I thought you had been much farther than that," says my Aunt Kezia, in her dry way. "Poor Emily [Note 1.] seemed so tired she could not get up-stairs."
Fanny stared, and Amelia gave a faint laugh. My Aunt Kezia said no more, but went on running tucks: and Amelia joined in the conversation between Cecilia and Mr Parmenter. I hardly listened, for I was trying the new knitting stitch which Flora taught me, and it is rather a difficult one, so that it took all my mind: but all at once I heard Amelia say,—
"The beauty of self-sacrifice!"
My Aunt Kezia lapped up the petticoat in which she was running the tucks, laid it on her knee, folded her hands on it, and looked full at Amelia.
"Will you please, Miss Emily Bracewell, to tell me what you mean?"
"Yes, my dear, mean."
"How can the spirit of that sweet poetical creature," murmured Fanny, behind me, "be made plain to such a mere thing of fact as my Aunt Kezia?"
"Well," said Amelia, in a rather puzzled tone, "I mean—I mean—the beauty of self-sacrifice. I do not see how else to put it."
"And what makes it beautiful, think you?" said my Aunt Kezia.
"It is beautiful in itself," said Amelia. "It is the fairest thing in the moral world. We see it in all the analogies of creation."
"My dear Emily," said my Aunt Kezia, "you may have learned Latin and Greek, but I have not. I will trouble you to speak plain, if you please. I am a plain English woman, who knows more about making shirts and salting butter than about moral worlds and the analogies of creation. Please to explain yourself—if you understand what you are talking about. If you don't, of course I wouldn't wish it."
"Well, a comparison, then," answered Amelia, in a slightly peevish tone.
"That will do," said my Aunt Kezia. "I know what a comparison is. Well, let us hear it."
"Do we not see," continued Amelia, with kindling eyes, "the beauty of self-sacrifice in all things? In the patriot daring death for his country, in the mother careless of herself, that she may save her child, in the physician braving all risks at the bedside of his patient? Nay, even in the lower world, when we mark how the insect dies in laying her eggs, and see the fresh flowers of the spring arise from the ashes of the withered blossoms of autumn, can we doubt the loveliness of self-sacrifice?"
"How beautiful!" murmured Fanny. "Do listen, Cary."
"I am listening," I said.
"Charming, Madam!" said Mr Parmenter, stroking his mustachio. "Undoubtedly, all these are lessons to those who have eyes to see."
I did not quite like the glance which was shot at him just then out of Cecilia's eyes, nor the look in his which replied. It appeared to me as if those two were only making game of Amelia, and that they understood each other. But almost before I had well seen it, Cecilia's eyes were dropped, and she looked as demure as possible.
"Some folk's eyes don't see things that are there," saith my Aunt Kezia, "and some folk's eyes are apt to see things that aren't. My Bible tells me that God hath made everything beautiful in its season. Not out of its season, you see. Your beautiful self-sacrifice is a means to an end, not the end itself. And if you make the means into the end, you waste your strength and turn your action into nonsense. Take the comparisons Amelia has given us. Your patriot risks death in order to obtain some good for his country; the mother, that she may save the child; the physician, that he may cure his patient. What would be the good of all these sacrifices if nothing were to be got by them? My dears, do let me beg of you not to be caught by claptrap. There's a deal of it in the world just now. And silly stuff it is, I assure you. Self-sacrifice is as beautiful as you please when it is a man's duty, and as a means of good; but self-sacrifice for its own sake, and without an object, is not beautiful, but just ridiculous nonsense."
"Then would you say, Aunt Kezia," asked Amelia, "that all those grand acts of mortification of the early Christians, or of the old monks, were worthless and ridiculous? They were not designed to attain any object, but just for discipline and obedience."
"As for the early Christians, poor souls! they had mortifications enough from the heathen around them, without giving themselves trouble to make troubles," said my Aunt Kezia. "And the old monks, poor misguided dirty things! I hope you don't admire them. But what do you mean by saying they were not means to an end, but only discipline? If that were so, discipline was the end of them. But, my dear, discipline is a sharp-edged tool which men do well to let alone, except for children. We are prone to make sad blunders when we discipline ourselves. That tool is safer in God's hands than in ours."
"But there is so much poetry in mortification!" sighed Amelia.
"I am glad if you can see it," said my Aunt Kezia. "I can't. Poetry in cabbage-stalks, eaten with all the mud on, and ditch water scooped up in a dirty pannikin! There would be a deal more poetry in needles and thread, and soap and water. Making verses is all very well in its place; but you try to make a pudding of poetry, and you'll come badly off for dinner."
"Dinner!" said Amelia, contemptuously.
"Yes, my dear, dinner. You dine once a day, I believe."
"Dear, I never care what I eat," cried Amelia. "The care of the body is entirely beneath those who have learned to prize the superlative value of the mind."
My Aunt Kezia laughed. "My dear," said she, "if you were a little older I might reason with you. But you are just at that age when girls take up with every silly notion they come across, and carry it ever so much farther, and just make regular geese of themselves. 'Tis a comfort to hope you will grow out of it. Ten years hence, if we are both alive, I shall find you making pies and cutting out bodices like other sensible women. At least I hope so."
"Never!" cried Amelia. "I never could demean myself to be just an every-day creature like that!"
"I am sorry for your husband," said my Aunt Kezia, bluntly, "and still more for yourself. If you set up to be an uncommon woman, the chances are that instead of rising above the common, you will just sink below it, into one of those silly things that spend their time sipping tea and flirting fans, and making men think all women foolish and unstable. And if you do that—well, all I have to say is, may God forgive you!—Cary, I want some jumballs for tea. Just go and see to them."
So away I went to the kitchen, and heard no more of the talk. But what was I to do? I knew how to eat jumballs very well indeed, but how to make them I knew no more than Mr Parmenter's eyeglass. She forgets, does my Aunt Kezia, that I have lived all my life in Carlisle, where Grandmamma would as soon have thought of my building a house as making jumballs.
"Maria," said I, "my Aunt Kezia has sent me to make jumballs, and I don't know how, not one bit!"
"Don't you, Miss Cary?" said Maria, laughing: "well, I reckon I do. Half a pound of butter—will you weigh it yourself, Miss?—and the same of white sugar, and a pound of flour, and three ounces of almonds, and three eggs, and a little lemon peel—that's what you'll want." [Note 2.]
We were going about the buttery, as she spoke, gathering up and weighing these things, and putting them together on the kitchen table. Then Maria tied a big apron on me, which she said was Fanny's, and gave me a little pan in which she bade me melt the butter. Then I had to beat the sugar into it, and then came the hard part—breaking the eggs, for only the yolks were wanted. I spoiled two, and then I said,—
"Maria, do break them for me! I shall never manage this business."
"Oh yes, you will, Miss Cary, in time," says she, cheerily. "It comes hard at first, till you're used to it. Most things does. See now, you pound them almonds—I have blanched 'em—and I'll put the eggs in."
So we put in the yolks of eggs, and the almonds, and the flour, and the lemon peel, till it began to smell uncommon good, and then Maria showed me how to make coiled-up snakes of it on the baking-tin, as jumballs always are: and I washed my hands, and took off Fanny's apron, and went back into the parlour.
I found there all whom I had left, and Hatty and Flora as well. When tea came, and my jumballs with it, my Aunt Kezia says very calmly,—
"Pass me those jumballs, my dear, will you? Amelia won't want any; she is an uncommon woman, and does not care what she eats. You may give me some, because I am no better than other folks."
"O Aunt Kezia, but I like jumballs!" said Amelia.
"You do?" says my Aunt Kezia. "Well, but, my dear, they don't grow on trees. Somebody has to make them, if they are to be eaten; and 'tis quite as well we are not all uncommon women, or I fear there would be none to eat.—Cary, you deserve a compliment, if you made these all by yourself."
I hastened to explain that I deserved none at all, for Maria had helped me all through; but my Aunt Kezia did not seem at all vexed to hear it; she only laughed, and said, "Good girl!"
"Isn't it horrid work?" said Cecilia, who sat next me, in a whisper.
"Oh no!" said I; "I rather like it."
She shrugged her shoulders in what Hatty calls a Frenchified way. "Catch me at it!" she said.
"You can come to the kitchen and catch me at it, if you like," said I, laughing. "But it is all as new to me as to you. Till a few months ago, I lived with my grandmother in Carlisle, and she never let me do anything of that sort."
"What was her name?" said Cecilia.
"Desborough," said I; "Mrs General Desborough."
"Oh, is Mrs Desborough your grandmother?" cried she. "I know Mrs Charles Desborough so well."
"That is my Aunt Dorothea," said I. "Grandmamma is gone to live with my Uncle Charles."
"How pleasant!" said Cecilia. "You are such a sweet little darling!" and she squeezed my hand under the table.
I began to wonder if she meant it.
"O Cary!" cried Cecilia the next morning, "do come here and tell me who this is."
"Who what is?" said I, for I looked out of the window, and could see nobody but Ephraim Hebblethwaite.
"Oh, that handsome young man coming up the drive," returned she.
"That?" I said. "Is he handsome? Why, 'tis but Ephraim Hebblethwaite."
"Whom?" cried Cecilia, with one of her little shrieking laughs. "You never mean to say that fine young man has such a horrid name as Ephraim Hebblethwaite!"
Hatty had come to look over my shoulder.
"Well, I am afraid he has," said I.
"Just that exactly, my dear," returned Hatty, in her teasing way. "Poor creature! He is sweet on Fanny."
"Is he?" asked Cecilia, in an interested tone. "Surely she will not marry a man with such a name as that?"
"Well, if you wish to have my private opinion about it," said Hatty, in her coolest, that is to say, her most provoking manner, "I rather— think—she—will."
"I wouldn't do such a thing!" disdainfully cried Cecilia.
"Nobody asked you, my dear," was Hatty's answer. "I hope you would not, unless you are prepared to provide another admirer for Fanny. They are scarce in these parts."
"I cannot think how you can live up here in these uncivilised regions!" cried Cecilia. "The country people are all just like bears—"
"Do they hug you so very hard?" said Hatty.
"They are so rough and unpolished," continued Cecilia, "so—so—really, I could not bear to live in Cumberland or any of these northern counties. It is just horrid!"
"Then hadn't you better go back again?" said Hatty, coolly.
"I am sure I shall be thankful when the time comes," answered Cecilia, rather sharply. "Except you in this family, I do think—"
"Oh, pray don't except us!" laughed Hatty, turning round the next minute to speak to Ephraim Hebblethwaite. "Mr Ephraim Hebblethwaite, this is Miss Cecilia Osborne, a young lady from the South Pole or somewhere on the way, who does not admire us Cumbrians in the smallest degree, and will be absolutely delighted to turn her back upon the last of us."
"You know I never said that!" said Cecilia, rather affectedly, as she rose and courtesied to Ephraim.
Ephraim is the only person I know who can get along with Hatty. He always seems to see through what she says to what she means; and he never answers any of her pert speeches, nor tries to explain things, nor smooth her down, as many others do.
"Miss Osborne must stay and learn to like us a little better," said he, good-humouredly. "Where is Fanny?"
"Looking in the glass, I imagine," said Hatty, calmly.
"Hatty!" said I. "She is in the garden with Sophy."
"You are the Nymphs of the Winds," laughed Ephraim, "and Hatty is the North Wind."
"Are you sure she is not the East?" said I, for I was vexed. And as I turned away, I heard Hatty say, laughing,—
"I do enjoy teasing Cary!"
"For shame, Hatty!" answered Ephraim, who speaks to us all as if we were his sisters.
"I assure you I do," pursued Hatty, in a voice of great glee, "particularly when my lady puts on her grand Carlisle air, and sweeps out of the room as she did just now. It is such fun!"
I had slipped into the next window, where they could not see me, and I suppose Hatty thought I had gone out of the door beyond. I had not the least idea of eavesdropping, and what I might hear when they fancied me gone never came into my head till I heard it.
"You see," Hatty went on, "there is no fun in teasing Sophy, for she just laughs with you, and gives you as good as you bring; and Fanny melts into tears as if she were a lump of sugar, and Father wants to know why she has been crying, and my Aunt Kezia sends you to bed before dark—so teasing her comes too expensive. But Cary is just the one to tease; she gets into a tantrum, and that is rich!"
Was it really Cecilia's voice which said, "She is rather vain, certainly, poor thing!"
"She is just as stuck-up as a peacock!" replied Hatty: "and 'tis all from living with Grandmamma at Carlisle—she fancies herself ever so much better than we are, just because she learned French and dancing."
"Well, if I had a sister, I would not say things of that sort about her," said Ephraim, bluntly. "Hatty, you ought to be ashamed."
"Thank you, Mr Hebblethwaite, I don't feel so at all," answered laughing Hatty.
"And she really has no true polish—only a little outside varnish," said Cecilia. "If she were to be introduced at an assembly in Town, she would be set down directly as a little country girl who did not know anything. It is a pity she cannot see herself better."
"There are some woods that don't take polish nearly so well as others," said Ephraim, in a rather curious tone. I felt hurt; was he turning against me too?
"So there are," said Cecilia. "I see, Mr Hebblethwaite, you understand the matter."
"Pardon me, Miss Osborne," was Ephraim's dry answer. "I am one of those that do not polish well. Compliments are wasted on me—particularly when the shaft is pointed with poison for my friends. And as to seeing one's self better—I wish, Madam, we could all do that."
As Ephraim walked away, which he did at once, I am sure he caught sight of me. His eyes gave a little flash, and the blood mounted in his cheek, but he kept on his way to the other end of the room, where Fanny and Amelia sat talking together. I slipped out of the door as soon as I could.
That wicked, deceitful Cecilia! How many times had she told me that I was a sweet little creature—that my life at Carlisle had given me such a polish that I should not disgrace the Princess's drawing-room! [Note 3.] And now—! I went into my garret, and told my book about it, and if I must confess the truth, I am afraid I cried a little. But my eyes do not show tears, like Fanny's, for ever so long after, and when I had bathed them and become a little calmer, I went down again into the parlour. I found my Aunt Kezia there now, and I was glad, for I knew that both Cecilia and Hatty would be on their best behaviour in her presence. Ephraim was talking with Fanny, as he generally does, and there was that "hawid" creature Mr Parmenter, with his drawl and his eyeglass and all the rest of it.
"Indeed, it is very trying!" he was saying, as I came in; but he never sounds an r, so that he said, "vewy twying." I don't know whether it is that he can't, or that he won't. "Very trying, truly, Madam, to see men give their lives for a falling cause. Distressing—quite so."
"I don't know that it hurts me to see a man give his life for a falling cause," saith my Aunt Kezia. "Sometimes, that is one of the grandest things a man can do. But to see a man give his life up for a false cause—a young man especially, full of hope and fervency, whose life might have been made a blessing to his friends and the world—that is trying, Mr Parmenter, if you like."
"Are we not bound to give our lives for the cause of truth and beauty?" asked Amelia, in that low voice which sounds like an Aeolian harp.
"Truth—yes," saith my Aunt Kezia. "I do not know what you mean by beauty, and I am not sure you do. But, my dear, we do give our lives, always, for some cause. Unfortunately, it is very often a false one."
"What do you mean, Aunt?" said Amelia.
"Why, when you give your life to a cause, is it not the same thing in the end as giving it for one?" answered my Aunt Kezia. "I do not see that it matters, really, whether you give it in twenty minutes or through twenty years. The twenty years are the harder thing to do—that is all."
"Duncan Keith says—" Flora began, and stopped.
"Let us hear it, my dear, if it be anything good," quoth my Aunt Kezia.
"I cannot tell if you will think it good or not, Aunt," said Flora. "He says that very few give their lives to or for any cause. They nearly always give them for a person."
"Mr Keith must be a hero of chivalry," drawled Mr Parmenter, showing his white teeth in a lazy laugh.
(Why do people always simper when they have fine teeth?)
"Chivalry ought to be another name for Christian courage and charity," saith my Aunt Kezia. "Ay, child—Mr Keith is right. It is a pity it isn't always the right person."
"How are you to know you have found the right person, Aunt?" said Hatty, in her pert way.
My Aunt Kezia looked round at her in her awful fashion. Then she said, gravely, "You will find, Hatty, you have always got the wrong one, unless you aim at the Highest Person of all."
I heard Cecilia whisper to Mr Parmenter, "Oh, dear! is she going to preach a sermon?" and he hid a laugh under a yawn. Somebody else heard it too.
"Mrs Kezia's sermons are as short as some parsons' texts," said Ephraim, quietly, and not in a whisper.
"But you would not say," observed Mr Parmenter, without indicating to whom he addressed himself, "that this cause, now—ha—of which we were speaking,—that the lives, I mean—ha—were sacrificed to any particular person?"
"I never saw one plainer, if you mean me," said my Aunt Kezia, bluntly. "What do nine-tenths of the men care about monarchy or commonwealth— absolute kings or limited ones—Stuart or Hanoverian? They just care for Prince Charles, and his fine person and ringing voice, and his handsome dress: what else? And the women are worse than the men. Some men will give their lives for a cause, but you don't often see a woman do it. Mostly, with women, it is father or brother, lover or husband, that carries the day: at least, if you have seen women of another sort, they haven't come my way."
"But, Aunt, that is so ignoble a way of acting!" cried Amelia, as though she wanted to show that she was one of the other sort. "Love and devotion to a holy or chivalrous cause should be free from all petty personal considerations."
"You can get yours free, my dear, if you like—and find you can manage it," said my Aunt Kezia. "I couldn't. As to ignoble, that hangs much on the person. When Queen Margaret of Scotland was drowning in yonder border river, and the good knight rode into the water and held forth his hand to her, and said, 'Grip fast!' was that a petty, ignoble consideration? It was a purely personal matter."
"Oh, of course, if you—" said Amelia, and did not go on.
"Things look very different, sometimes, according to the side on which you see them," saith my Aunt Kezia.
I could not help thinking that people did so.
Note 1. Emily was used during the last century as a diminutive for Amelia. There is really no etymological connection between the two names.
Note 2. In and about London, the name of jumbles is given to a common kind of gingerbread, to be obtained at the small sweet-shops: but these are not the old English jumball of the text.
Note 3. There was no Queen at this time. Augusta of Saxe Gotha was Princess of Wales, and the King had three grown-up unmarried daughters.
Note 4. This provincialism is correct for Lancashire, and as far as I know for Cumberland.
"Alas! what haste they make to be undone!"
Before he went away, Ephraim came up into the window where I sat with my knitting. Mr Parmenter was gone then, and Cecilia was up-stairs with Fanny and Amelia.
"Cary," said he, "may I ask you a question?"
"Why, Ephraim, I thought you did that every day," I said, feeling rather diverted at his saying such a thing.
"Ah, common questions that do not signify," said he, with a smile. "But this is not an insignificant question, Cary; and it is one that I have no right to ask unless you choose to give it me."
"Go on, Ephraim," said I, wondering what he meant.
"Are you very fond of Miss Osborne?"
"I never was particularly fond of her," I said, rather hotly, and I felt my cheeks flush; "and if I had been, I think this morning would have put an end to it."
"She is not true," he said. "She rings like false metal. Those who trust in her professions will find the earth open and let them in. And I should not like you to be one, Cary."
"Thank you, Ephraim," said I. "I think there is no fear."
"Your Cousin Amelia is foolish," he went on, "but I do not think she is false. She will grow out of most of her nonsense. But Cecilia Osborne never will. It is ingrain. She is an older woman at this moment than Mrs Kezia."
"Older than my Aunt Kezia!" I am afraid I stared.
"I do not mean by the parish register, Cary," said Ephraim, with a smile. "But she is old in Satan's ways and wiles, in the hard artificial fashions of the world, in everything which, if I had a sister, I should pray God she might never know anything about. Such women are dangerous. I speak seriously, Caroline."
I thought it had come to a serious pass, when Ephraim called me Caroline.
"It is not altogether a bad thing to know people for what they are," he continued. "It may hurt you at the time to have the veil taken off; and that veil, whether by the people themselves or by somebody else, is often pulled off very roughly. But it is better than to have it on, Cary, or to see the ugly thing through beautiful coloured glass, which makes it look all kinds of lovely hues that it is not. The plain white glass is the best. When you do come to something beautiful, then, you see how beautiful it is." Then, changing his tone, he went on,—"Esther Langridge sent you her love, Cary, and told me to say she was coming up here this afternoon."
I did not quite wish that Esther would keep away, and yet I came very near doing it. She is not a beautiful thing—I mean in her ways and manners. She speaks more broadly than Sophy, and much worse than the rest of us, and she eats her peas with a knife, which Grandmamma used to say was the sure sign of a vulgar creature. Esther is as kind-hearted a girl as breathes; but—oh dear, what will Cecilia say to her! I felt quite uncomfortable.
And yet, why should I care what Cecilia says? She has shown me plainly enough that she does not care for me. But somehow, she seemed so above us with those dainty ways, and that soft southern accent, and all she knew about etiquette and the mode, and the stories she was constantly telling about great people. Sir George Blank had said such a fine thing to her when she was at my Lady Dash's assembly; and my Lady Camilla Such-an-one was her dearest friend; and the Honourable Annabella This carried her to drive, and my Lord Herbert That held her cloak at the opera. It was so grand to hear her!
Somehow, Cecilia never said things of that kind when my Aunt Kezia was in the room, and I noted that her grand stories were always much tamer in Flora's or Sophy's presence. She did not seem to care about Hatty much either way. But when there were only Amelia, Fanny, Charlotte and me, then, I could not help seeing, she laid the gilt on much thicker. Charlotte used to sit and stare, and then laugh in a way that I thought very rude; but Cecilia did not appear to mind it. When Father came into the parlour, she did so change. Oh, then she was so sweet and amiable!—so delicately attentive!—so anxious that he should be made comfortable, and have everything just as he liked it! I did think, considering that he had four daughters, she might have left that to us. To Ephraim Hebblethwaite she was very attentive and charming, too, but in quite a different way. But she wasted no attention at all on Mr Parmenter, except for those side-glances now and then out of the tawny eyes, which seemed to say that they perfectly understood one another, and that no explanations of any sort were necessary between them.
I cannot make out what Mr Parmenter does for his living. He is not a man of property, for the Vicar told Father that his nephew, Mr Parmenter's father, left nothing at all for his children. Yet Mr Anthony never seems to do anything but look through his eyeglass, and twirl his mustachios, and talk. I asked Amelia if she knew, for one of the Miss Parmenters, who is married now, lives not far from Bracewell Hall. Amelia, however, applied to Cecilia, saying she would be more likely to know.
"Oh, he does nothing," said Cecilia; "he is a beau."
"Now what does that mean?" put in Hatty.
"I'll tell you what it means," said Charlotte. "Emily, you be quiet. It means that his income is twenty pence a year, and he spends two thousand pounds; that he is always dressed to perfection, that he is ready to make love to anybody at two minutes' notice—that is, if her fortune is worth it; that he is never at home in an evening, nor out of bed before noon; that he spends four hours a day in dressing, and would rather ten times lose his wife (when he has one) than break his clouded cane, or damage his gold snuff-box. Isn't that it, Cicely?"
"You are so absurd!" said Amelia, languidly.
"I told you to keep quiet," was Charlotte's answer. "Never mind whether it is absurd; is it true?"
"But I don't understand," I said. "How can a man spend two thousand pounds, if he have but twenty pence?"
"Know, ignorant creature," replied Charlotte, with mock solemnity, "that lansquenet can be played, and that tradesmen's bills can be put behind the fire."
"Then you mean, I suppose, that he games, and does not pay his debts?"
"That is about the etiquette, [Note 1.] my charmer."
"Well, I don't know what you call that down in the South," said I, "but up here in Cumberland we do not call it honesty."
"The South! Oh, hear the child!" screamed Charlotte. "She thinks Derbyshire is in the South!"
"They teach the children so, my dear, in the Carlisle schools," suggested Hatty.
"I don't know what they teach in the Carlisle schools," I said, "for I did not go there. But if Derbyshire be not south of Cumberland, I haven't learned much geography."
"Oh dear, how you girls do chatter!" cried Sophy, coming up to us. "I wish one or two of you would think a little more about what wants doing. Cary, you might have made the turnovers for supper. I am sure I have enough on my hands."
"But, Sophy, I do not know how," said I.
"Then you ought, by this time," she answered. "Do not know how to make an apple turnover! Why, it is as easy as shutting your eyes."
"When you know how to do it," put in Hatty.
"That is more than you do," returned Sophy, "for you are safe to leave something out."
Hatty made her a low courtesy, and danced away, humming, "Cease your funning," just as we heard the sound of horses' feet on the drive outside. There were all sorts of guesses as to who was coming, and none of them the right one, for when the door opened at last, in walked Angus Drummond and Mr Keith.
"Well, you did not expect us, I suppose?" said Angus.
"Certainly not to-night," was Sophy's answer.
"We finished our business sooner than we expected, and now we are ready to begin our holiday," said he.
Father came in then, and there was a great deal of kissing and hand-shaking all round; but my Aunt Kezia and Flora were not in the room. They came in together, nearly half an hour later; but I think I never saw such a change in any girl's face as in Flora's, when she saw what had happened. She must be very fond of Angus, I am sure. Her cheeks grew quite rosy—she is generally pale—and her eyes were like stars. I did not think Angus seemed nearly so glad to see her.
Essie Langridge was very quiet all the evening; I fancy she was rather frightened of Cecilia. She said very little.
Father had a long day's hunting yesterday, and Angus Drummond went with him. Mr Keith would not go, though Father laughed about it, and asked if he were afraid of the hares eating him up. Neither would he go to the hunt-supper, afterwards. There were fourteen gentlemen at it, and a pretty racket they made. My Aunt Kezia does not like these hunt-suppers a bit; she would be glad if they were anywhere else than here; but Father being the squire, of course they cannot be. She always packs us girls out of the way, and will not allow us to show our heads. So we sat up-stairs, in Sophy's chamber, which is the largest and most out of the way; and we had some good fun, first in finding seats, for there were only two chairs in the room, and then in playing hunt the slipper and all sorts of games. I am afraid we got rather too noisy at last, for my Aunt Kezia looked in with,—