Principle and Practice, the Orphan Family, by Harriet Martineau.
This book was written in the earliest part of the nineteenth century, and its author was only in her twenties when she wrote it. Basically the story illustrates how at that time an ordinary decent family, perhaps with its finances already a bit stretched with the effort of educating several children, would be completely ruined if the wage-earner were to die. If there was any income at all it might be reckoned in tens of pounds a year, and the greatest economy would have to be exercised to make this go round. Anyone in the family group who was able to earn a little did their best to do so. For instance one of the girls might be able to draw attractively, and could sell some of her pictures; another might be able to create nice useful items; another might be able to teach the younger children, thus avoiding the expense of sending them to school. It was lucky if there was a wealthy friend or relative who was prepared to pay for the education of one of the boys, to the stage where he could in turn become a wage-earner.
Miss Martineau followed this book up with several more on such politico-economic themes, and indeed made her name in this way by the time she was thirty.
As so often with Miss Martineau there is a large cast: family members, friends, relations; and unless you spend some time listing them you may well not get the full impact of this book.
PRINCIPLE AND PRACTICE, THE ORPHAN FAMILY, BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.
Let none sit down to read this little tale, whose interest can only be excited by the relation of uncommon circumstances, of romantic adventures, of poetical perplexities, or of picturesque difficulties. No beauties of this kind will be here found. I propose to give a plain, unaffected narrative of the exertions made by a family of young persons, to render themselves and each other happy and useful in the world. The circumstances in which they are placed are so common, that we see persons similarly situated every day: they meet with no adventures, and their difficulties, and the remedies they procure for them, are of so homely a description, as to exclude every exertion of poetical talent in their illustration, and to promise to excite interest in those readers only, who can sympathise with the earnest desires of well-disposed and industrious young persons striving after usefulness, honourable independence, and individual and mutual improvement, amidst real, and not imaginary, discouragements, and substantial, not sentimental, difficulties. I proceed at once to my narrative.
Mr Forsyth was a merchant, who lived in the city of Exeter. He had been a widower for a few years, and had endeavoured to discharge faithfully a parent's duty to five young children, when he too was taken away from those who depended upon him, and whose very existence seemed bound up in his. He was taken from them, and no one knew what would become of these young helpless creatures, who, it was thought, would inherit from their father nothing but his good name, and who possessed nothing but the good principles and industrious habits which his care and affection had imparted to them. They had no near relations, and the friends whom their parents' respectability had gained for them, had families of their own to support, and could offer little but advice and friendly offices: large pecuniary assistance they had it not in their power to impart. One of these friends, who was also Mr Forsyth's executor, took the children into his house till the funeral should be over, and some plans arranged for the future disposal of each of them.
The eldest girl, Jane, was of an age to understand and feel the difficulties which surrounded them. She was sixteen, and from having been her father's friend as well as housekeeper, she had a remarkably matured judgment; she was of a thoughtful, perhaps an anxious, disposition, and the loss of her father, together with the anxiety she felt as being now the head of his helpless family, were almost too much for her. Though she was supported by her religious principles, it was with difficulty that she could rouse her mind from dwelling on her perplexities, to form plans, and looking round to see what could be done, and in what way she was to exert her powers for the benefit of her brothers and sisters. She was sometimes oppressed by the thought that the only prospect before her, was a melancholy one of long years of struggles against poverty, and all the grievous evils of dependence. Her brother Charles, who was a year younger than herself, tried with some success to cheer her; he was of an active, enterprising disposition, full of hope and cheerfulness. This disposition subjected him to frequent disappointments, but his father had wisely guarded against their bad effects by forming in him strong habits of perseverance. Charles had been intended by his father for the same business as himself, and he had therefore never been removed from under his parent's eye. It was well now for the whole family that Charles had been so carefully trained. His natural disposition, his acquired habits, and his sense of responsibility, joined to his strong affection for his sisters, made him the object on which Jane fixed her best hopes for the future prosperity of the family. Charles encouraged her hopes, and expressed confidence in his ability to maintain himself at present, and to assist the younger ones when a few years should have matured his powers of usefulness. Jane and Charles anxiously desired some conversation with Mr Barker, the kind friend who had taken them into his house; and were very glad when he invited them, the day after the funeral, to a consultation on the state of their affairs. He told them that it was his intention always to treat them with perfect openness, as it had been their father's custom to do. He was the more inclined to do so, from the knowledge that they were worthy of his confidence, that they possessed prudence beyond their years, and that whatever exertions they might make, would be more efficient if they knew perfectly what they had to do, what objects were to be accomplished, and on what sources they were to depend.
Mr Barker told them that when the affairs were all settled, their income, he feared, would not exceed eighty or ninety pounds a year. That he thought the first object ought to be to give the younger children such an education as would fit them for supporting themselves when they were old enough: that for this purpose the assistance of friends would be required for a few years, and that he knew of some who were willing to assist, believing, from the good principles of the children, that their assistance would be well bestowed, and that their endeavours would be in time rewarded by the usefulness and happiness of those who now required their care.
Jane acquiesced in Mr Barker's proposal, but expressed her hope that they might not be separated. The one thing that she desired more than any other, was, to remain with, and watch over the little ones, and be as far as possible a mother to them. If they were separated, the children would forget her, she said, and that she was sure she could not bear. She did not mind any labour, any privation, any anxieties, if they could but keep together.
"I knew you would think so, my dear," said Mr Barker. "You are perfectly right. You must not be separated, if it can possibly be avoided. I have been consulting with my wife about it, and we have devised a plan for you: but it is yet only a scheme; it is very doubtful whether we can carry it through. I am afraid, however, that Charles must leave you."
"I have been telling Jane, Sir," said Charles, "that I should most likely have to go to some situation where I may maintain myself. I hope, Sir, that that is what you mean."
"And do you think, Charles, that at your age you can work for your own support?"
"Yes, Sir, I do, because others have done it before me. My father taught me enough of business to qualify me for a situation in a merchant's warehouse. At least, he said, only a few weeks ago, that if I was but industrious, I need never be dependent, and that therefore he was easy about me. I hope you think so too, Sir."
"I do, my boy," replied Mr Barker: "as far as skill and industry go, you are to be trusted. But you have not considered, you do not know, the difficulties and dangers which are met with when young men leave their father's house, and go by themselves into the world, especially into the London world, to which you may be destined."
"If you mean temptations to do wrong, Sir," said Charles, "I have been warned by my father about them. But, O, Sir, is it possible, do you think, with all the advantages I have had, with my father's example always before me, with all that is now depending upon me, being, as I am, the brother on whom three sisters rely for support and assistance, is it possible that I should neglect them? that I should disgrace them? that I should forget all my father has done for me? Jane will trust me, I am sure."
He looked towards his sister, and a few proud tears swelled into his eyes.
"No doubt, Charles, your sister feels that she can trust you; and, young as you are, I believe that I can too. But there are many difficulties to be encountered besides direct temptations to crime."
"If I am made fairly to understand, Sir, what is to be required of me, the extent of my trust, I hope I shall meet with no difficulties which honourable principle, industry, and perseverance cannot overcome."
"We will talk more of this, my dear boy, when we have some situation in prospect for you. I hope it may not be difficult to procure one. Your father's name will be a good passport. Then, I hope, I understand that you both approve this first scheme of ours?"
Charles assented at once: Jane, with some exertion to repress her tears.
"And now, my dear Jane, what do you think yourself capable of doing?"
Jane very modestly doubted whether she could do any thing but take care of the children. If they were to live together, she could keep house, she thought, carefully and economically, so as to spend no more than could not possibly be avoided. She thought she could also teach her sisters a little more than she had yet imparted to them: but she hoped, from what Mr Barker had said, that they were to have better teaching than she could give them.
"We have certainly been planning, my dear," said he, "to send Isabella to school, as she is now too old to learn of you only. She is twelve years old, I think?"
"Yes," said Jane; "and Harriet is nine."
"Very well. If Isabella goes to school, Harriet may as well do so too, as the additional expense will not be very great, and may be met by your exertions, if you think as I do about the matter. Your sisters have given you experience in teaching young children, suppose you try your skill again as a daily governess."
Jane was quite willing, if she did but think herself capable of it. Mr Barker thought she had already proved her capability, and advised her, at least, to try the plan.
He told her that a very small house in the outskirts of the town was her father's property. A very little expense would make it habitable for them: furniture was ready, and he could see no objection to their all living in it together. Jane was certainly rather young to become a housekeeper, but the nursemaid, who had lived in the family for some years, was much attached to the children, and had declared her wish to "stay by them," if possible; and Mr Barker had little doubt that she would do all the servant's work of the house, and make their friends tolerably easy with respect to their domestic safety and comfort.
Jane was pleased with the plan, and accordingly it was put in execution with as little delay as possible. In two months' time the house was ready for them. The little furniture and house-linen which was required was put into it, and all the family, except Charles, removed to their new abode. Jane was awfully impressed with the sense of responsibility, when she took her place as mistress of the house, and when she looked upon the three children who depended on her for their domestic comfort, and for much more than this; for guidance in the formation of their habits and characters. But she also felt the great relief of being alone with her brother and sisters, and of having once more a home. The house was tolerably comfortable, though very small. The parlour and kitchen were on the ground floor; over them were two bed-rooms, one of which was occupied by Jane, the other by Isabella and Harriet. Over these were two attics, occupied by little Alfred and the servant. The furniture was scanty, but good of its kind, and likely to last for some years. The only luxurious article in the whole house was a small set of book-shelves, filled with books, which Mr Barker would not allow to be sold off with the other effects. They were not many, but well chosen, and therefore valuable to Jane at present, and likely to be so to her sisters when they should be old enough to make use of them.
Mrs Barker wished that Jane should set out on her new plan of life, as little oppressed by domestic cares as possible, and had therefore assisted her before the removal, in overlooking her own and the children's wardrobe. They were all comfortably supplied with every thing necessary. Their mourning of course was new: perfectly plain, but substantially good, it was intended to last a long time, and that for many months their clothing should be very little expense to them. Jane was an excellent workwoman, and her sister Isabella had been in the habit of assisting her, by keeping her own clothes in very good order. With respect to the little cares of housekeeping, Jane was easy: she had been so well taught, and so long experienced, that she felt herself quite capable of discharging this part of her duty. It was the responsibility of her new office of daily governess which made her most anxious. A situation had been obtained for her, which answered in all respects to Mr Barker's wishes. Jane was to devote six hours a day to the care of her young pupils, who were children of Mr Everett, a surgeon. Mrs Everett was so occupied with the cares of a large family, that she needed assistance, and Jane was to have under her charge four children from the ages of three to twelve: she was to teach them, to superintend in their play hours, and to walk with them. She was to attend from nine till three, and her salary was to be twenty-five pounds a year at first, and afterwards more, if her services were found satisfactory. She stipulated for a fortnight's holiday at Christmas, and also at Midsummer: not for the sake of her own pleasure, but from the fear that her home business would accumulate faster than she could discharge it, so as to render it necessary to devote a short time occasionally to clear it away, and set things straight again. Before she entered on her new engagement, she laid down a plan for the employment of her days, to which she determined to adhere as strictly as possible. It was as follows: for the summer season, which was now approaching, she rose before six o'clock, and set apart two hours for study. Study was absolutely necessary, if she was to keep up, or improve, her ability to teach; and she found that the hours before breakfast were the most quiet and undisturbed that she could devote to this purpose. At eight o'clock the little family assembled in the parlour, to join in prayer, and in reading a short portion of Scripture; after which, they breakfasted. Jane then saw her sisters and little brother off to school, and went into her kitchen to give her household directions before she went out. It was some inconvenience that she could not dine at the same time with the rest of the family; but it could not be helped. The children were obliged to be back at school by two o'clock, and she did not leave Mrs Everett's till three. After dinner, she sat down to her work, of which it may be supposed there was always plenty to be done. The children learned their lessons before tea-time, and after tea they went out to walk all together, whenever the weather would allow of it. They generally returned in time to read a little before nine o'clock, when the younger ones went to bed. The duty of evening, as well as morning prayer was never omitted. Jane sat down to her work again till ten, when she put every thing away, locked up her closets, and went round the house with the servant, to see that all was safe, and as it should be, and then retired to her own room, to enjoy the rest which was fairly earned by the previous hours of activity and usefulness. She was very careful to adhere as closely as possible to the whole of this plan, especially to the hours of walking and going to bed. She was sometimes tempted to think that the children could walk as well without her, and that she was too busy to accompany them: but she never would give way to her inclination to stay at home; for her reason told her that it would be injurious both to herself and her sisters, to give up her accustomed walk. She could not expect to keep up her vigour of mind and body without exercise and relaxation, and it would be wrong to deprive the children of her society in their rambles. A greater temptation still was to sit up late: the quiet hour at night was precious to her; it was the only time she could give to the formation of her plans, and to reflection on her present circumstances and anticipation of the future. The previous exercise of prayer, left her mind in a soothed and tranquil state; and however oppressed, at other times, with fears and cares, this was to her an hour of hope and cheerfulness. She rejoiced that it came at the close of the day, as it enabled her to lay her head on her pillow in that frame of mind which is the best preparation for peaceful sleep and for a cheerful waking. Often was she tempted to prolong this happy hour, but she never did. She was aware of the duty of early rising, and also of taking sufficient rest, and that in order to do both she must keep to the right time of retiring to rest; and accordingly, the moment the clock struck ten, the work was put away, and the train of thought, whatever it might be, was broken off.
The school at which Isabella and Harriet were placed, was one of the best of its kind, and it was not long before a rapid improvement was observed in them both. Isabella's talents were remarkable, but neither herself nor her family were sufficiently aware of this while they received only an irregular and imperfect cultivation. She was remarkably modest, and inclined to be indolent when she had no particular object in view; but set one before her, and her perseverance was unconquerable. She had always been a great reader, and had therefore an excellent stock of general information; but till she went to school, she never could give her attention to any of the drudgery of learning. She wished to learn French and Italian as she had learned her mother-tongue, by picking up, instead of beginning at the beginning, and learning grammar. She did pick up wonderfully well, to be sure, but she found that would not answer at school. When once convinced of this, she set to work at the grammar with all diligence, and conquered difficulties every day, till she was surprised at her own progress. Her great ambition now was, to make herself a companion for Charles and Jane; not merely to be their friend, but to help them in earning money and obtaining independence, instead of being, as she now was, the most expensive of the family. Jane urged her to be patient, and to think at present of her own improvement only: but she could not help forming many plans for future doings, some reasonable, some much too grand. She had no taste for music, and, by her own desire, therefore, the great expense of musical teaching was not incurred: but drawing was her delight, and she soon made such progress in the art, that Jane was really inspired with her sister's hope that this talent might be turned to good account.
Isabella's very judicious instructress exercised her pupils in composition, and also in translation, much more than is the custom in most schools. To Isabella this was particularly useful; first, in shewing the necessity of accurate knowledge, and her own deficiency in it, and afterwards in serving as a test of her improvement, and, consequently, as an encouragement. She liked this employment much, and soon excelled in it. Her general knowledge was brought into play; and her compositions were, at sixteen, what many at six-and-twenty need not be ashamed of. Her translations were also remarkably spirited and elegant; and a hint from Jane, that this talent might prove useful in the same way as her drawing, was quite sufficient to insure Isabella's particular exertions in its improvement.
Mr and Mrs Barker called frequently to see their young friends, and they never quitted the door without leaving happy and grateful hearts behind them. They rewarded Jane's exertions with something better than praise—with their friendship and confidence. Mr Barker talked to her about her affairs without any reserve, and the gratitude this excited in her was great. Her kind friend told her, one day, that Mr Rathbone, an old friend of her father's, who lived in London, had been enquiring about the family of Mr Forsyth, and, on hearing of their circumstances; had expressed his desire of being useful to them. "I told him, my dear," said Mr Barker, "that his kind offices would be more acceptable by and by than at present. We now see our way clear for two years, I hope; and it is well to keep a stock of kindness in reserve, to be drawn upon in case of need."
Jane expressed her gratitude for the kindness which had assisted them thus far, and said she feared she must make up her mind to be a burden to her friends for some time to come; but she could answer for her brothers and sisters, as well as herself, that no exertion on their part should be wanting.
"So we see already, my dear," said Mr Barker. "Mr Rathbone made enquiry about each of you; and I sent him, in return, a full description of you all. I think it most likely that he will keep his eye upon Alfred, and that whatever he may do hereafter will be for him."
"I am sure," said Jane, "Mr Rathbone's kindness is most unlooked for; for it must be many years since he has known our family. I have heard my father speak of him, but I do not remember ever to have seen him."
"It is only two years," replied Mr Barker, "since he returned from India, where he passed twenty years, losing his health, and growing immensely rich. He tells me that he was under considerable obligations to your good father for some exertions on his behalf during his absence; but of what nature these exertions were he does not say. Well, my dear, I must be going. Have you any thing more to say to me? Is all comfortable here, and as you like it?"
"Quite, Sir, thank you: we are only too comfortable for our circumstances, I am afraid."
"No, no, my dear; I hope Hannah and you go on comfortably together. Your house looks very neat and orderly," said he, looking round him. "Is that her doing or yours?"
"All Hannah's doing. We could not be better or more respectfully served, if we were as rich as Mr Rathbone. But I grieve to think that such a servant should make such sacrifices for us; she would be prized in any house."
"Depend upon it, Jane, she will find her reward in time. I am much mistaken if she does not find it now, day by day. You will be prosperous one day, and then she will share your prosperity, you know."
"We will hope so," said Jane. "Will you thank Mr Rathbone, Sir, for us, or shall I write myself?"
"No occasion at all, my dear, I am obliged to write to him to-morrow on business. Good-bye to you."
About a week after this, as the young people were busily employed, as usual, before tea, Jane mending stockings, Isabella translating French, Harriet learning geography, and Alfred frowning over his Latin grammar, Hannah brought in a large box, which had just arrived from London by the carrier, carriage paid. It must be a mistake, Jane thought; but no, it was not a mistake, the direction was plain and full: "Miss Forsyth, Number 21, South Bridge Street, Exeter." The stockings and books were thrown aside, and the whole family adjourned to the kitchen, to open the wonderful box. After the removal of several sheets of paper, a letter appeared at the top, addressed to Jane. She hastily opened it, and read as follows:
"My dear young Friend,—
"You must allow me thus to address you, though you have never seen me, and probably have never heard of me. My husband's old friendship with your father is, however, a sufficient ground for the establishment of an intercourse between us, which may be advantageous to you, and I am sure will be very pleasant to us. We owe too much to your excellent father, not to desire to be of use, if possible, to his children. I cannot tell you now, but if we ever meet, you shall know how deep is the debt of gratitude due to the friend who incurred difficulty and hazard for the sake of our interests, and who, for many weeks and months, was subjected to anxiety and fatigue on our account, when we were in India, not aware of our obligations to him, and therefore unable to express or to testify our gratitude. That friend was your father. You must accept our good offices, my dear young friend, and tell us how we can be useful to you. Mr Barker tells us that our assistance will be more acceptable hereafter than at present. Remember, then, if you please, that we expect to be applied to whenever you can give us the pleasure of serving you, or any of your family. In the mean time, we hope that the contents of this box will be useful to you, and that its arrival will afford as much pleasure to your young brother and sisters, as I remember experiencing in my childhood from similar accidents.
"I am not one, Miss Forsyth, who can reconcile it to myself to gain the affections of young people by flattery; but I cannot withhold the encouragement of an expression of approbation, when I really feel it to be deserved by the exercise of self-denial and honourable industry. I am told that you are now earning such approbation from all who feel an interest in you. Believe, therefore, that it is with as much sincerity as good-will, that Mr Rathbone and myself add the word respect to the affection with which we subscribe ourselves,—
"F. and S. Rathbone."
Jane had escaped to the parlour almost as soon as she began this letter, and her eyes were so dimmed by tears that she could scarcely proceed. Isabella, who was far more anxious about Jane and the letter, than about the box, immediately followed her, and they finished it together. Isabella was almost as much pleased, quite as much touched, with the part which concerned Jane, as with that which respected her father. She kissed her affectionately, and rejoiced that others were aware of her merit; others who could encourage it as it deserved, and reward it better than those in whose behalf her self-denial and industry were exerted.
In the mean time Alfred and Harriet were extremely impatient to proceed with the examination of the box, but Hannah would not allow it till Jane and Isabella were present. They soon returned to the kitchen, and it would be difficult to say whose countenance exhibited the most astonishment as the various presents were brought forth to view. A little card-paper box, well stuffed with cotton-wool, contained a handsome plain gold watch, which, with its seal and key, were intended for Jane. A drawing-box, well fitted up with colours and pencils of all kinds, and accompanied with a large quantity of drawing-papers, and two sketch-books, was directed to Isabella. A pretty writing-desk, filled with all the comforts and luxuries which can appertain to that pretty article of furniture, bore Harriet's name; as did also a large quantity of music, which astonished her not a little, as, though she much wished it, she had not yet begun to learn, and had no prospect of such an indulgence for a long time to come. Her sisters thought it a very likely mistake for Mrs Rathbone to make: as one sister drew, she might easily imagine that another played. But Harriet could not help hoping that, some how or other, it was to come to pass, that she should learn music directly. And she was right, as we shall see. Imagination came nearer the truth than reason, for once.
By this time Alfred began to be dismayed lest there should be no present for him; but Hannah had not yet got to the bottom of the box. When she had, she took out several packages of books, two of them directed to Alfred, and the others to the Miss Forsyths. Alfred's present consisted of some beautiful editions of the classics, so valuable that the owner of them was likely to be long before he understood how rich he was in their possession. There was also a large cake directed to him, to which he was disposed to pay a more immediate attention than to his books. The girls found that their library was to be enriched by the best foreign editions of Tasso and Alfieri, and of Racine, and by a beautiful edition of Shakspeare. They were bewildered by the splendour of these presents, so far exceeding in value any thing they had before possessed. Their usual tea hour was long past before they thought of any thing but the wonderful box. At length, however, they determined to finish their meal as quickly as possible, and to go and tell their kind friends, the Barkers, of their good fortune. It was vain to think of putting their riches out of sight, so the watch was hung over the chimney-piece, the desk, drawing-box, and books, stuck up wherever room could be made for them. While they were at tea, however, Mr and Mrs Barker called, probably with some suspicion of what they were to see, for Mr Barker glanced round the room as he entered it. "Why, young ladies," said he, "you are so splendid I dare not come in, I am afraid. My dear, we have nothing like this to shew at home. What good fairy can have done all this?"
"Two good fairies from India have sent us these beautiful things, Sir," said Isabella.
"From India! I did not know you had any such acquaintance in India."
"From India, by way of London, Sir," said Jane, "now you can guess."
"Yes, yes, my dear, I know well enough. I had some idea of finding an exhibition when I came to-night, but not such a one as this, I own. Alfred, my boy, how comes your cake to be on this chair, instead of on the tea-table?"
"We are not going to cut it to-night, Sir."
"I hardly know when we shall," said Jane. "It is too large to eat it all ourselves."
"It does look very good, to be sure," said Mr Barker. "My mouth waters when I look at it."
Isabella ran for a knife to cut it directly, but Mr Barker stopped her. "Not now, my dear; but I hoped you would have asked us to tea, to taste your cake."
"And will you really come, Sir?" asked Jane. "Mrs Barker, will you come to-morrow, and drink tea with us? And the children too. We have no amusement to offer but the cake: but we shall be quite delighted if you will come."
"With all my heart, Jane. We and two of the children will come, and we will take a long walk afterwards if you please. We shall have more time to look at your presents than we have now; we cannot stay longer to-night."
Jane put Mrs Rathbone's letter into Mr Barker's hand, and he went aside to read it. He returned it to her in silence. She obtained Mr Rathbone's address, that she might, this very evening, write her thanks for his munificent kindness.
When their friends were gone, the young people found it was too late to take their usual walk; besides, their lessons were not finished, and they resolutely sat down to their business: Alfred, with the fear of the bottom of the class before his eyes; Harriet, with the mixed motive of this fear, and the wish to do right; Isabella, influenced by the wish alone. Alfred asked Jane to hear him his lesson, and the two words, "quite perfect," at length repaid his labours.
"But, Jane," said Alfred, "you have two watches now; you will not want them both."
"Certainly," said Jane. "Isabella shall have the old one; she will value it as having been my mother's; though it is not a very serviceable one."
"O! thank you, Jane," said Isabella. "I had not thought of such a thing, I am sure. I had no idea of having a watch for many years to come."
"If you will undertake to get Harriet and Alfred off to bed, Isabella, I will. And a watch-pocket for you. Or you can make one in an hour. Sit up with me for this one evening, and we will consult what to do with our books; and I will write my letter before breakfast to-morrow: my head will be clearer then."
No sooner said than done. The girls found room in a closet for their shabbiest books, and in the morning the new ones were installed in their places on the shelves, much to the satisfaction of their owners. Jane's letter was written and dispatched, and she was more comfortable when she had attempted to express her gratitude to her father's faithful friends, though she felt that nothing she could say could do justice to her feelings. When she had put her letter into the post-office, she turned her attention from the subject, that her head might not be running on other things when she ought to be attending to her pupils.
They all got forward with their business this day, that they might be ready with a clear conscience to receive their friends on the first occasion when they had to exercise hospitality. Isabella found her watch a prodigious assistance, she declared.
The Barkers enjoyed the evening as much as their young host and hostesses. The weather was charming, the country looked beautiful, the children were merry, and, "though last, not least," the cake was delicious.
"But where is Charles all this time?" my readers will ask. Charles is in London, endeavouring to discharge, to the best of his ability, the duties of a situation which had been procured for him in the warehouse of a general merchant, who had had dealings with Mr Forsyth, had always esteemed him for his integrity, and was, therefore, willing to make trial of the services of the youth who had been brought up under the eye of such a father.
Charles found his situation a laborious one; and his salary was so small that he could only by great frugality subsist upon it himself. He found that he must wait till his character had been tried, and till he grew older, before he could afford any substantial assistance to his family. His state of mind and circumstances will be better understood from his letters to Jane, than from any account we could give. Here, therefore, are some of them, with Jane's answers.
"My dearest Jane,—
"I am glad that the day appointed for writing has arrived: you cannot conceive the comfort your letters are to me, and the pleasure I have in answering them. I suppose that in time I shall get accustomed to the silence I am now obliged to observe with respect to the subjects I love most to talk upon; but I sigh sometimes for some one to whom I can speak of my father, and of times past; or of you, and time present, and to come. My companions here are good-tempered enough, and we go on smoothly and easily together, and I know that this is a great thing to be able to say; and that many in my situation would be glad to say as much: but yet I cannot help feeling the want of some friend to whom I can speak of what is nearest to my heart, and there is not one person in this wide city who knows you, or who could possibly feel much interest in hearing me talk of you. Consequently I hold my tongue, and your name has never passed my lips since we parted. But, dearest Jane, my thoughts of you are all the more frequent and the more dear, on this account; and on this account, I feel the more deeply, the privilege of opening my heart to the One friend who loves you better than any mortal can, who cares for your interests, more than any earthly friend can care, and who can provide for them when I can do nothing but love you, and pray for you. I continually determine that I will not be anxious about you; that we will all trust and be cheerful; and I generally keep my resolution. I hope you do the same. Whatever anxious thoughts you may have, must be for yourselves: you may be quite easy about me. I am well, very busy, and of course very cheerful; my comfort is attended to, and I have nothing to complain of in any body near me. I enjoy many privileges, and shall be able to make more for myself, when I become better acquainted with my situation. In short, the present is very tolerably comfortable, I have the prospect of increasing comforts, and may in time do grand things for you, as well as for myself. You shake your head as you read this, I dare say: but I do not see why, by industry, I may not do as grand things as others have done before me; especially as I am blessed with good friends at my setting out, which is an immense advantage to begin with. To shew you that I am not dreaming about any luck happening to me, and that I only mean to depend on skill and industry for my prosperity, if I ever am to be prosperous, I will tell you how I spend my three hours in the evening—I am actually hard at work at the French and Spanish grammar. Yes, at grammar! though, I dare say, that is the last thing you would have thought of my applying to. I want to rise, as fast as possible, from trust to trust, in this house, and it can only be done by duly qualifying myself: so I mean to learn first every thing requisite for the proper discharge of the most responsible situation of all; and then, if I have time left, I will learn other things, to which my wishes begin to tend, for the sake of general cultivation and enlargement of mind; which, I am convinced, is as great an advantage to the man of business, as to the professional man, or the private gentleman. I will tell you always how far I am able to carry my plans into execution, and you will give me what encouragement and assistance you can. I wonder whether you like Mrs Everett as well as I like Mr Gardiner. He is a most kind friend to me on the whole: I say 'on the whole,' because there is the drawback of a fault of temper, which will occasionally try my patience; but this is all. I should not have mentioned it, except that I wish you to know every particular of my situation, and that, I am sure, what I say goes no further, at least where character is concerned. Mr Gardiner makes a point of speaking to me every day, and seems to like to call me by my surname, doubtless because it was my father's. One day he called me Alfred Forsyth: he begged my pardon, and said he had been used to that name. He has asked me to dine with him next Sunday. This is very kind of him, I am sure.
"Now, Jane, be sure you tell me every thing about yourself, and the other dear girls, and Alfred. Every little trifling particular is pleasant to read about. I am very glad that Isabella's drawing prospers so well: I wish she may be able to send me a drawing soon; it would be quite a treasure to me. May I not see some of her hand-writing in the next letter? There is only one thing more I wish particularly to say. I entreat you, my dearest sister, not to work too hard or too anxiously. Take care of your health and spirits as you value ours. Give my best love to all at home, and my affectionate respects to Mr and Mrs Barker, if they will accept them. I am, dearest Jane,—
"Your most affectionate,—
"Remember me kindly to Hannah."
From Jane to Charles.
"Exeter, September 5th.
"We all thank you for your long letter. It has made us, on the whole, easy and comfortable about you. As long as you are as active and enterprising as you are now, you will be happy, for I believe that the grand secret of happiness consists in having a good pursuit, which can be followed with some success. To ensure this success, the pursuit must be rational; and I assure you, that so far from shaking my head at your hopes of doing 'grand things,' I think your hopes are very rational, provided that by 'grand things,' you and I mean the same. I suppose you mean no more than that, by qualifying yourself for higher situations than the one which you now hold, you hope to rise in rank and riches high enough to assist your family, and to enable them to work in the same manner for their own independence hereafter. This prospect is quite grand enough for us at present. We must never dream of being very rich; I am afraid that we must not even hope to discharge our very heavy obligations to our friends in any other way than by our gratitude, and by making the best use of their kindness. The weight of obligation sits heavy on me: I am afraid I am proud, and therefore it may be well for me that I am obliged to submit to dependence; but I will never rest till I can relieve our friends from a charge which extreme kindness has induced them to take upon themselves, but which must in time become burdensome. How happy should I be to do any kind of service to any of them! Amidst the chances and changes of the world, who knows but we may? But I must not think and write in this way. We must cheerfully and willingly, as well as most gratefully, accept the kindness which they so cheerfully and willingly offer. We go on very comfortably on the whole. We work very hard, but not more so than is good for body and mind, as you would be convinced if you could see how well we look and how happy we are together. The only unpleasant circumstance which has occurred lately, is a misunderstanding between Mrs Everett and myself. I really cannot tell you, for I do not know myself, what it was about; but she was, for two or three days, so dissatisfied with me, that I was afraid of being obliged to give up my charge. I told no one of it, but determined to bear it quietly for a few days, and to do my best for the children, and see whether matters would not come round again. My plan answered: we go on tolerably smoothly again, though not so very comfortably as before. I must recollect, however, that in my inexperience I may commit errors in my management of the children, and that Mrs Everett may justly feel that she has something to bear with in me. I wish, however, that she would tell me the causes of her discontent, and then the evil might be remedied without any ill-will on either side. Before this time, she was as kind as possible, and will be so again, I hope. I cannot help seeing that the children improve, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that Mr Everett thinks so too. He told Mr Barker so, and I think I could have guessed it from his manner towards me.
"Isabella desires her best love to you, and she will send you a drawing by the first opportunity that offers. She has sketched your favourite Bubbling Spring for the purpose, thinking you would like it better than any other subject. I am sure you would think it beautiful, independently of the sweet associations which endear that spot peculiarly to us. I am really astonished at Isabella's progress in drawing: her pencil sketches are beautiful, and she succeeds as well or better in water-colours. She finishes very highly in the latter, and yet she is quick. If she spent as much time as many girls do on her drawing, I should not think it right to let her sacrifice other things to this accomplishment, though it is useful and beautiful, and may, she hopes, be turned to some good account. Harriet and Alfred are as good as children can be. Their affection is delightful to me. It is quite sufficient to repay all my cares for them. They get on very well at school, though at their age their progress cannot be so remarkable as Isabella's.
"Isabella is now come into the room, and she begs to fill the little that remains of this sheet. She has a very fine subject to write about, which I kept to the last, as being the most remarkable event which has happened to us for a very long time. Farewell, my dearest brother, we think of you hourly, and one of our greatest delights is to talk over the probabilities of our meeting. O, when will it be?
"Ever your affectionate,—
The subject on which Isabella wrote to her brother, was that of Mr and Mrs Rathbone's noble present. As my readers are already acquainted with the circumstances, there is no occasion to weary them with a repetition. We also omit three or four of Charles's letters, which contain no detail of new events, and proceed to one which he wrote on Christmas-day.
"I address this letter to you, merely because I can express myself better when writing to one person than to several; but the contents of this are wholly, or in part, as you may see fit, for the public good: by the public, meaning the inhabitants of Number 21, South Bridge Street. In the first place, I offer you all my love, and best wishes for a cheerful Christmas, and much enjoyment of your holidays. I am afraid, dear Jane, that your holidays will be somewhat busy ones; but you have Isabella to help you to make 'a clearance of business,' as you say. I do not know what you will say to me for providing more work for you. I will explain presently what I mean by this. I hope the beautiful bright sun of this happy day brings as much cheerfulness to your hearts as it does to mine. There is no day of the year which so forcibly reminds us of the great number and magnitude of our blessings as this; and consequently there is no day on which we can feel so happy. I am more impressed than ever with this feeling to-day. It is the first Christmas-Day that I have ever passed away from home; but so far from this making me melancholy, I am most happy in the full tide of affection which is flowing towards you all, and not less so, in the overflowing gratitude which I feel toward that Parent who has blessed us in each other, in the love which is our happiness here, and which, we hope, will make our joy hereafter. God bless you all, and make you as happy as I wish you to be; as happy as I am at this moment.
"I can quite imagine how you will spend this day. You will take a long walk, and enjoy a long talk, in which I hope to come in for a share; though, alas! too far off to have the benefit of what you are saying. You will go to church, and I think I know what your feelings will be there. The rest of the day will be spent at Mr Barker's, I conjecture: but will good Hannah be at home alone? I am going to dine at Mr Rathbone's, but as they dine late, I shall have time for a long walk after church. You cannot imagine, no one who has not lived in London can imagine, the delight of a country walk to me. I rejoice that the day is so fine. Mr Gardiner was so kind as to ask me to dine with him to-day: so you see there was no danger of my being solitary, much less, melancholy.
"But now to my business, for even to-day I have business to write about. You know when I arrived here, at Midsummer, Mr Gardiner paid me my first quarter's salary in advance: he bid me not mention the circumstance, for fear of others expecting the same favour. He said at the same time, that he hoped I would make a friend of him in case of any difficulty which might occur in money matters, as I was, he thought, very young to manage for myself on a small salary. Knowing that I was necessarily at some unusual expense on my first arrival, he has frequently asked whether I wanted any assistance. I have always said, no; for I have been really well off. Mr Barker sent me up with ten pounds in my pocket, after my travelling expenses were paid, and this, with my quarter's salary, has been more than sufficient for me. Besides this I have the ten pound note that Mr Rathbone gave me still unchanged, so that I have every reason to hope that I shall get on till Midsummer, without taking any more money of Mr Gardiner; and from that time, I shall take my salary half-yearly. Now, I think, I have found a very good occasion for changing my note: I hope you and Isabella will approve of my plan; as it is intended for your advantage, I am anxious that it should succeed. I had occasion to go last week, on some business of Mr Gardiner's, to a large toy-shop in Holborn, and while I was waiting to speak to the owner, I saw the shopman unpack a basket, which seemed to have arrived from the country. It contained a great variety of work-bags and boxes, card-racks, and such things, ornamented in various ways; many of them with drawings. When I had finished my business, I enquired whether a ready sale could be found for such articles, and what would be the probable success, if some friends of mine, who could draw very well, were to send up some specimens of their talents, like those on the counter. The owner of the shop, Mr Blyth, said, that he found it easy to obtain a supply of such articles, but that the best and prettiest would always command the best sale. He told me I might, if I chose, shew him what my friends could do, and that if their work was approved he might employ them occasionally; but of course could promise nothing at present. Now, my dear girls, I think you might make a little money these holidays by trying your hand on these things: you, Isabella, can draw all kinds of pretty things; and you, Jane, can make up the bags, etcetera, very neatly. Let me know, by the next post, whether you are inclined to try, and I will send you a few patterns and materials. I have the opportunity of getting remnants of coloured silk and ribbon cheap; so cheap that you need not grudge the carriage of them. Suppose you make at first, with all your skill and care, about a dozen bags, and netting-cases, and card-racks; and pray, Isabella, let one of your card-racks have a sketch of the Bubbling Spring on it, and another the cottage at the foot of Elston Hill. Do not scruple, my dear girls, on account of the risk, the very little risk to be incurred. If our scheme answers, I promise you that you shall repay me; if not, I can spare the small sum needed. Let me know exactly how your accounts stand this Christmas, and be easy and hopeful, whatever may happen. I wanted to say a great deal about Mr and Mrs Rathbone, but it is just time for church, and I must close my letter. I can write again by the parcel, if you authorise me to send it.—Farewell, my very dear sisters and brother.
"I am your most affectionate,—
"What a comfortable letter!" exclaimed Jane, as she finished it. "Dear Charles is as happy as we are!"
"And just as kind as ever," said Isabella: "he will never be spoiled by living in London. He will never forget, or be ashamed of us. How ready he is to set his head and hands to work in our service! But we are to write by this day's post our answer to this proposal: what shall we do, Jane?"
"Try, by all means, I think," said Jane. "What do you say, Isabella?"
"Try, by all means, I say too, and I have very little doubt of success. The sooner we begin the better, so we will write immediately. I think Mr Barker will not disapprove of it."
"Certainly not," said Jane. "But, if you please, we will tell no one about it till we see whether the plan answers or not. I am not fond of a hasty communication of plans; and besides, I wish that our friends, instead of considering us as schemers, should see, that, while we form plans, we have patience and industry to carry them through, or that they should know nothing of the matter. When we can go with earned money in our hands to Mr Barker, we will tell him how we got it: in the mean while, we will not trouble him, or run the risk of interruption ourselves."
"Very right," said Isabella. "What shall we do about Harriet and Alfred? May we tell them?"
"I think they must know," replied Jane. "You must make use of the day-light for your drawing, and they must see what you are doing. We must trust them. It will be a good lesson in keeping a secret."
The whole plan was soon settled. The letter was dispatched to Charles, and, by the earliest possible hour, the parcel with its pretty contents arrived. Charles had most completely supplied all the necessary materials, so that there were no purchases to be made, and nothing hindered their setting immediately to work. During the first evening Jane and Isabella very carefully cut paper patterns from the articles which were sent as patterns, and marked them very exactly on the pasteboard before they cut it. When the different sides of the bags, etcetera, were cut out they were found to fit exactly; so that so far all was right. This was all that they could do by candle-light, and Isabella longed for the morning that she might begin her drawing. She was pleased to see that the drawings on the pattern bags did not nearly equal what she was capable of doing, though Charles had said that he purposely picked out those which appeared to him the best done.
The next morning breakfast was soon over, and the table placed in the best light by the window. Isabella was seated at her drawing, Jane at work beside her, and the children at their amusements, very carefully avoiding the table, lest they should shake it and spoil Isabella's drawing. They were proud of their secret, and it was to be part of their business to watch and give notice of the approach of any uninitiated person, from whose sight all tale-telling materials were to be quickly swept away.
By two hours before dinner one beautiful little drawing was finished. It was duly admired, and Jane congratulated her sister on the success of her first day's exertion; but she was surprised to see Isabella sitting down to begin another. "My dear Isabella, you have done for to-day, surely?"
"No, Jane; I must outline another. I can finish the outline and the first shades before dinner."
"But when do you mean to walk? You do not, surely, mean to stay at home this beautiful day?"
"Only this one day: you can do without me this one day. I cannot leave off now, indeed."
"O, Isabella, how often have I gone with you when I had much more necessary things than these trifles to do at home! Depend upon it, you will not do the second so well as the first, if you sit so long at it; you will bring on a headache, too, and make me sorry that Charles ever devised this plan for us."
"Do put it by, Isabella," said Harriet, "and go with us."
"I will, directly," said Isabella. "I beg your pardon, Jane; I was selfish, and you never are. There, they are locked up till to-morrow, and now let us make haste, and go for our walk."
When Isabella had done a few drawings, and became more accustomed to the employment, she found that she need not be so absorbed in it, as to be unable to attend to her sisters while they read aloud. This added great pleasantness to their morning employment, and both Jane's work, and Isabella's drawing, got on fast while they listened to Harriet and Alfred, who took it in turn to read. But when the pasting together of their work began, there was an end of reading. It was too anxious a business to admit of any division of attention. The gilt edges must be exactly even, the sides must go exactly together, the bottoms must be exactly flat; or they would be deformed and unsteady. Jane was the only one careful enough to undertake this most difficult part of the business, and she bestowed great pains upon it. In general, she completely succeeded; but it was a work of time, and the fortnight of her holidays was over before their task was more than two-thirds done. Eight articles out of the dozen were finished, and she longed to see them completed. It was with a sigh that she left the busy and happy party at home, on the morning when she resumed her charge at Mrs Everett's, and she could not help fancying that Mrs Everett was less kind than usual, that the children were far from improved by their release from her authority, that they had never been so troublesome, and her task never so irksome. This was in part true; the children were nearly as unwilling to be managed, as Jane was to manage them, and they were fully as sorry as she, that the days of lessons and work, of authority and obedience, were come again, after the romping hours of their Christmas revellings.
A strong effort at patience on Jane's part, and something like an endeavour to be good on the children's, soon restored things to their usual state, and teacher and learners were on their old terms again. When Jane returned home, she found that Isabella had put away her drawing in time to take Harriet and Alfred a walk before dinner. The evening was passed busily and happily, and the finishing stroke was put to two more of the bags and baskets. In a week more all were completed. Jane was glad of it. The last two or three drawings had not been quite so well done, and it was easy to see that Isabella began to be tired. She owned that she was a little, a very little; but said, that, after a week's rest, she should be able to begin again with as much relish as ever. Jane was sorry that she had worked so hard, and recommended her to think no more of drawing for the rest of the holidays. Ten days only now remained before school should begin again; and Isabella passed the time very happily between books, walking, and work. We must not forget, also, a long letter which she wrote to Charles, by the box which carried their work. It will be in vain to guess at the hopes and fears, the alternate confidence and anxiety which these industrious girls felt about the probable reward of their labours. They calculated the number of days which must pass before a letter from Charles could arrive, to bid them rejoice or be patient yet longer. They told each other continually that they were looking for a letter too soon; that it was not likely they should have an answer till the things were sold. Their kind brother could imagine their anxiety, and the very first moment that he could send them intelligence of their success he did so, in the following letter.
"My dear Girls,—
"I hope I have not disappointed you by delaying my letter for a few days, but I thought it would be quite a pity to write till I could give you Mr Blyth's opinion, and that of the public, about your works. I have just been to the shop, and though it is late at night, I cannot go to bed till I have offered you my congratulations. I have in my pocket three guineas, which Mr Blyth thinks a fair price for your work. I hope you will think so too, and be as well satisfied with your gains as I am. Mr Blyth gave me an order for as many more as you like to send up, for he has eyes to see that your things are prettier, and better made, than any articles of the kind in his shop. I hope you will be encouraged by your deserved success, and that the next parcel you send will keep up your credit. I know you cannot get on so fast when the holidays are over. Indeed I scarcely know how you will find time at all; but as you desire me to send you more work, I conclude you will make time for it some how or other. Your leisure hours can hardly be better spent, I think; and I have no fear but that you should overwork yourselves. That you will neglect your duties of teaching and learning, I never, for a moment, supposed; so your assurances on that head, my dear girls, are quite unnecessary. Now, pray take care of your health and spirits: take exercise and amusement, and remember that there is not the least hurry in the world for these things. If they are not finished till Midsummer, it will be of much less consequence than your over-working yourselves. I do not send you the money. I can get your materials so very cheap that the carriage of them will answer again. I have, according to your desire, paid myself: so now you stand on your own ground, and are, in this matter, under no obligations to any body, not even to your own brother; so I hope my proud sisters will be satisfied. I laid out only eighteen shillings. I have taken that sum from your three guineas, and will lay out the remainder in silk, ribbon, paper, etcetera. It is pleasanter, I know, to see money at once, than materials for further work; but I think your present success, and especially your darling independence, will afford you pleasure enough for this time, and that you will be willing to wait awhile for more substantial gains. You deserve all you can get, my dear girls, and I am sure you cannot desire success so earnestly, or rejoice in it so heartily, as I do for you. My concerns prosper: that is, I am busy, well, and cheerful, and independent. Some little rubs I meet with, like any body else; but I wonder sometimes to think how happy I am. Anxious thoughts for you sadden me now and then; but I try to remember, that the same kind Parent who has hitherto protected us, is still about our path, and that we have nothing to do but to labour and trust. We are doing now what we can, and therefore we ought to be satisfied with the present and hopeful for the future, and grateful, day by day, hour by hour.
"Your last letter was written in such a spirit of cheerfulness, that if I had been miserable, I could not have shut my heart against its influence: but I was not miserable. I was sitting alone, my thoughts far from myself, from you, from every body; for I was absorbed in a Spanish book which I was translating. You may imagine how readily it was thrown aside when the postman knocked at the door, and how joyously the full tide of my thoughts turned towards home, and how my affection rested on each of you in turn, and blessed each of your names as it rose, accompanied with a thousand sweet recollections, to my remembrance. I hope you will give me the pleasure of such another evening soon. I met Mr Rathbone in the street the other day. He enquired how you all were, and said I must go and dine with him soon, as he has something to say to me. He says that he has requested Mr Barker to allow Harriet to learn music, as he hears she has a taste for it. He hopes that dear Harriet will come to London some time or other and play to him, as music is his passion. I cannot describe to you how kind his manner is, nor how dearly I love the very sight of this good man. And yet even he does not escape slander. I have heard it said, often and often, that he is a perfect tyrant to his inferiors, that as long as he is treated with deference, he is unwearied in kindness, but that the least opposition enrages him, and that once displeased he is an irreconcilable enemy. Of course I believe nothing of all this, and have shewn no little indignation when I have heard such things said. What a world it must be, when such a man as Mr Rathbone is slandered! I do not intend to be curious about what he has to say to me till the time comes. Perhaps he will tell me what was the nature of the service which my dear father rendered him. But I will not think more of the matter: it may be only a trifle after all.
"I am very sorry to conclude, but I must be off to bed; it is very late, and I must be at the warehouse two hours sooner than usual to-morrow. I hope you will be satisfied with what I send you, and that Harriet will be pleased at her musical prospects. Farewell, all of you; let me hear soon, and believe me,—
"Your very affectionate brother,—
"P.S. I have now received a note from Mr Rathbone, in which he says that he and Mrs R. are obliged to leave town for some weeks: and that therefore they must defer seeing me at present. He asks whether Alfred has ever shewn any taste for mathematics, and expresses his hope that his attention will be directed that way without delay. What can this mean? You had better ask Mr Barker."
Mr Barker was no better able to guess Mr Rathbone's designs than Charles himself; so they were all obliged to wait in patience till their kind friend should return to town, which did not take place till the following autumn. In the mean time, however, his directions were observed, and Alfred began to learn mathematics.
Jane and Isabella had so little time now for the employment which their brother had provided for them, that March was past before another box was prepared for Mr Blyth. Their brother had the pleasure of transmitting five guineas to them, as the reward of their industry; and we may imagine the complacency and satisfaction with which they revealed the history of their labours and earnings to their friend Mr Barker. He was as much pleased as they expected, and even more surprised. He asked them how they intended to apply the money. They replied without hesitation, to the children's school expenses; for their only object was to make themselves less burdensome to their friends. Mr Barker would not allow of this. He recommended them to lay by their earnings as a separate fund, to be applied when any extraordinary occasion should arise. He kindly added, that money so earned should bring some pleasure in its expenditure to those who had obtained it by industry, and that he did not see why their parlour should not in time be graced by a pair of globes, or even a piano, honourably obtained by their own exertions. This was a splendid prospect, and an animating one for these good girls, and they determined to set to work again, as soon as the holidays should afford them leisure. It was now necessary, however, to try their hands at something else, as Mr Blyth had given notice that it would be some months before he should want a further supply of the articles on which they had hitherto so profitably employed their ingenuity.
What should they next attempt? This was a difficult question to answer, and the girls determined to look about them, and observe, and wait for the present, and not expect to earn more money before the holidays. So they spent their leisure time through April and May in reading and drawing for improvement, and in work, of which their hands were always full.
When Midsummer came, and Jane made up her accounts at the close of her first year of housekeeping, she thought she had every reason to be satisfied and grateful. She had the encouragement also of Mr Barker's warm approbation of her self-denying industry, and of her excellent management. He gave her encouragement of another kind also. He told her that Mr Everett had expressed his entire satisfaction in her conduct to the children under her care, and his intention of either raising her salary, or doing something equivalent to this, at the end of the next year. The lady whose school Isabella and Harriet attended, also spoke in praise of the girls to Mr Barker, and told him that their good principles, their influential sense of religion, which was evinced by their uniform good conduct, afforded a certain proof of excellent management at home. She made many enquiries concerning Jane, and determined to keep her eye on her, and to find some opportunity of doing service to one who so well merited kindness and assistance. Mr Barker did not tell Jane all this; but he told her enough to cause tears of pleasure to swell into her eyes, and emotions of unspeakable gratitude to arise in her heart. She reserved the expression of this gratitude till, alone in her chamber, she could pour out her whole soul before Him who had directed and upheld her steps on the narrow path of duty, and who was now showering rich blessings upon her, and filling her heart with peace and hope. She thanked him that he had preserved them to each other, and yet more, that their family peace was unbroken: that they were closely united in the love of Him and of each other. She felt that as long as this love subsisted she could bear any trials that came from without; and though she looked forward to probable anxieties and difficulties, the prospect did not dismay her, so strong did she now feel in an Almighty support, and in perfect reliance on the goodness and mercy which was now about her, and which, she trusted, would follow her all the days of her life. It was not indeed to be expected that every year should pass away so smoothly. They had all enjoyed health and comfort at home, improvement and pleasure abroad. They had gained new friends, and so far from suffering want, their affairs bore a more cheering aspect than they could have hoped. Their income amounted, as I have said, to eighty pounds a year, and they had besides a house of their own. They had been at scarcely any expense for clothes, and their good servant Hannah had very low wages. Their expenditure this year, under Jane's excellent management, was only fifty-six pounds: the rest of their income, with Jane's salary of twenty-five pounds, went therefore towards the fund which their friends had raised for the education of the three younger ones. Charles managed to be independent, as we know, and Isabella hoped that in four or five years she might be so too. Jane never expected to spend so little again. She could not hope that their house would be always so free from sickness, or that their wants would always be so few.
Mr Barker, after examining her accounts, and praising the accuracy with which they were kept, congratulated her on the result. "I am glad, my dear," said he, "that the first year has been so smooth an one. I hope you find it an encouragement, and that you will not be dismayed if you should meet with a few rubs before long. We all meet with rubs, and you must expect your share."
"Certainly," replied Jane. "I am only surprised that we have done well so far. We owe it to your help, Sir. We could have done nothing without you."
"You can do some things without me, though, Jane. Remember you earned five guineas, without my knowing any thing of the matter. I cannot tell you how glad I am that Isabella is likely to prove a good help to you. She is a sweet girl, and will do us honour, when a few years have brought out her talents. But, my dear, she works very hard, and she is too young to work all day long. My wife is going to take the children to the sea, in July: if you will spare Isabella, a fortnight's run by the sea will bring more colour into her cheeks, and make her ready to begin school with new spirit."
Jane was beyond measure gratified by the indulgence offered to Isabella. She most thankfully accepted the kindness; and we cannot better close this part of our little history than by leaving our readers to imagine the actual happiness and hopeful anticipations of Jane, her sisters and brother, at the close of the first year, which had bound them together in those ties, the tenderness and strength of which only the fatherless can understand.
Few events worth recording happened during the next summer, autumn, and winter. The return of Mr Rathbone to London, which did not take place till the month of May, was the first remarkable circumstance which I have to relate. He asked Charles to dine at his house the Sunday after his arrival at home, and various and most kind were the enquiries he made about the whole family. He saw some specimens of Isabella's drawings, which pleased him much, and he expressed great satisfaction when he heard that Harriet was making excellent progress in music. He listened with benevolent interest when Charles spoke of Jane's exertions, of the mother's care which she bestowed on those who stood almost in the place of children to her. This was a subject on which Charles loved to speak, when he could find an auditor who could comprehend and would sympathise with his feelings. Such a listener he was aware that he now had, and his heart warmed more and more towards his benefactor with each moment in which he was allowed to dwell on a sister's praises. At length Mr Rathbone enquired how he who was so ready to make known the exertions of others, was himself going on in the world. "If you do not object to give me your confidence, Charles," said he, "I am as much interested in your concerns, as in your sisters."
Charles thanked him, and said there was but little to tell; and that little he communicated at once. He told Mr Rathbone the amount of his salary, and that of his expenditure. He told him how he was endeavouring to qualify himself for a higher situation, and what were the hopes which he ventured to indulge of affording his sisters some substantial assistance in time. At present he could do but little: the first year he had by great self-denial saved three pounds. This year he hoped to send Jane a five pound note on Midsummer Day, and in a year or two he had the prospect of a large salary.
Mr Rathbone questioned him closely as to his manner of living, and his plans of economy. Accustomed as he was to a very lavish expenditure, such economy as Charles's struck him with wonder; and he was surprised to find that so far from being despised by the young men among whom he was thrown, Charles was regarded with respect by all, with affection by some. He did not live in close, grudging solitude: he had lost none of the spirit of generous sociality which he brought with him to London, and preserved there, in spite of its chilling and counteracting influences. He was benevolent; he was generous. His purse he could in conscience open to none but his sisters; but his heart was open, his head was busy, and his hands were ready, whenever an opportunity of doing good occurred. Some of the young men with whom his situation connected him, gave entertainments to their friends, or made parties to go to places of public amusement. Charles could not do this; nor did he wish to offer, or accept, obligations of this kind; but all his companions readily acknowledged, from their own experience, that Charles had both the power and the inclination to do good. One had been ill, and had been nursed by Charles night and day, or as much of the day as he could call his own, so carefully and tenderly, that he owed his recovery in part, and the whole of what alleviation his disease admitted, to his benevolent care. Another had displeased Mr Gardiner, it was feared irremediably; and the young man would have gone to ruin, if Charles had not with indefatigable patience brought down his high and perverse spirit to the tone of apology and due humiliation; and, moreover, ventured to moderate his master's somewhat unreasonable anger. He got no thanks from either of them at the time: but he did not want thanks, and gained his end, which was, to see the youth re-established in his respectable situation. The hour of gratitude came at last, and Charles now knew that he might command every possible service from the youth whom he had obliged, and who was now proud to call him friend. He had rendered Mr Gardiner an essential service by informing him of the malpractices of some of the inferior people on the premises, which no one else had the courage to expose; and the widow with whom he lodged was obliged to him for her release from the oppression of a tyrannical landlord, who dared not trouble her, when he found that a spirited youth was her friend, who would not sit still and see her ill treated, while courage and activity could procure a remedy.
When we think that to these important services were added hourly kindnesses, most acceptable in the intercourses of social life; when we remember that where Charles was, there was cheerfulness, kindness, an open heart, a quick eye, and a ready hand to do good; we shall not wonder that he was beloved, though poor, and respected, though humble. Mr Rathbone was not, could not be, aware of all these things, but he heard Charles speak of the kindness that he experienced, and then it was easy to guess that it was earned by kindness shewn.
"I forget," said he, "how long it is exactly, since you came to London."
"Two years next month, Sir."
"And have you not seen your sisters in all that time?"
"No, Sir; nor have I any near prospect of seeing them. I do not venture to wish it, for fear of growing discontented. The girls are happy, and so am I; and we do not repine because we cannot reach an unattainable pleasure."
"I will try, Charles, whether it be unattainable. Two years of industry and self-denial deserve a reward. I will call on Mr Gardiner to-morrow, and beg for a fortnight's holiday for you. If I can obtain it, we will send you down to Exeter in a trice."
Charles's gratitude was inexpressible. In spite of his struggles, the tears started from his eyes. In a moment, his home and its beloved inmates rose up to his memory, and awakened his affections with an energy and vividness which he had never experienced before, in the deepest of the many reveries in which they had been presented to his fancy. Mr Rathbone understood his feelings, and so little doubted of being able to obtain this favour, that he tried to work up still more the ecstasy of hope which he had excited. "I have no doubt Mr Gardiner will spare you, Charles: you can be off by to-morrow night's coach."
But Charles had not so far forgotten common things in his joy, as to be unmindful that Jane would lose half the pleasure of his visit, if it was paid while she was engaged for the greater part of the day with her pupils. He knew that she was to have a fortnight's holiday at Midsummer, and he felt that it would be but justice to her, and the best economy of pleasure for himself, to defer his visit till that time, if possible. He did long, to be sure, to be off at once, and to take them by surprise, and he was afraid the intervening month would appear dreadfully long; but he felt that this was childish. He stated the case to Mr Rathbone, and begged that the request might be for the last week of June and the first of July.
He was much surprised to see a dark cloud pass over Mr Rathbone's brow while this explanation was being made: he could not believe it caused by any thing he had said, and therefore took no notice of it. The reply was, "It is not likely, Sir, that Mr Gardiner should let you choose your own time. I will mention it, however, and see what he says. I suppose you will not refuse to go now, if you cannot be spared afterwards?"
Poor Charles said what he thought best; but he was so astonished and grieved to have given offence, that his words did not come very readily. He tried in vain to forget Mr Rathbone's look and words; but, in spite of himself, he could not help endeavouring to account for what was unaccountable, and watching his benefactor's looks with intense anxiety.
The coldness passed off, and Mr Rathbone dismissed Charles with his usual kindness. Mrs Rathbone desired him not to trouble himself to call, if he should go the next night; but that, if his departure should be delayed for a month, she should wish to see him again. He would find her at home any morning before one o'clock.
The next day, about noon, Charles received a note, the contents of which were as follows.
"I have called on Mr Gardiner this morning, and he grants you leave of absence from the moment you read this till Wednesday fortnight; so that you have two clear weeks' holiday, and two days for going and coming. Mr G. can better spare you now than afterwards; so I hope you and your sister will find or make time for what you have to say to each other. I do not intend that this journey should break your five pound note. Let your sister have it, as you intended, and pay your expenses with that which is inclosed. I hope you will get a place in this night's coach, and that all will go well with you till we meet again.
"Mrs Rathbone wishes you much pleasure, and requests you to take charge of the accompanying letter to Jane.
"I am yours very sincerely,—
The inclosure was a ten pound note. Charles stood bewildered. The pressure of the time, however, made him collect his thoughts, and determine what was to be done. He first ran to the counting-house to thank Mr Gardiner briefly, but gratefully, for his indulgence. He next wrote a note, warmly expressive of his feelings, to Mr Rathbone: one of his friends in the warehouse engaged to leave it at the door that evening. Then Charles ran as fast as possible to secure a place in the coach. After some doubt and anxiety, he succeeded. He then bid his companions good-bye, and went to his lodgings to pack his little trunk and pay his bill. He then dined at a chop-house, and found that he had a clear hour left before it was time to depart. He did not hesitate how to employ it. There was a poor, a very poor family, who lived a little way from his lodgings, whose misery had caused Charles many a heart-ache. The mother was a daughter of the widow who was Charles's landlady, and it was through her that he knew any thing of them. Some trifling services he had been able to render these poor people, but with money he had not been able to assist them. Now, however, he felt himself so rich, from Mr Rathbone's bounty, that he thought he might indulge himself by bestowing a small present before his departure. He knew that one of the children was ill, and required better nourishment than their poverty could afford. He went to them, saw the child, sat with it while the mother went out to buy food with the half-crown which he had put into her hand, and left them with a light heart, followed by their blessings.
Who was ever happier than Charles at this moment? Whichever way his mind turned, it met only thoughts of peace and hope. The novelty of a journey, the freshness and beauty of the country in the brightness of a sweet evening in spring, the thought of two whole weeks of leisure, and of the sweet family intercourse which was to endear it, gratitude for benefits received, the sweet consciousness of benefits bestowed, all conspired to make him inexpressibly happy. His imagination represented to him all the possible situations in which the meeting with his family might take place. He was well enough acquainted with the house to fancy what the interior looked like; and he planned, in his fancy, where each of the family would be sitting, what each would be doing, and how each would express the astonishment and pleasure which his arrival must excite.
At length he fell asleep, and continued so, except for the occasional intervention of some pleasant dreamy thoughts, till the sunrise again roused him to the observation of the exquisite beauties of the fresh morning. The hours now passed less rapidly away, and he found his emotions becoming so tumultuous, that he tried to turn his thoughts upon indifferent subjects, and to enter into conversation with his fellow-passengers. As the day advanced, he became impatient of being shut in, so that he could catch only a confined view of the beautiful country through which he was passing, and he therefore took his seat on the roof of the coach. He sat next to a young man, who soon made acquaintance with him, and whom he found a very agreeable companion. His name Charles could not ascertain, but he found that he lived at Exeter, and it was interesting to them both to talk of persons and places with which both were familiar. In the afternoon, when they were still busy talking, and reckoning that four hours more would bring them to their journey's end, the coach stopped at a public-house by the road side, which the coachman entered, leaving a man at the horses' heads to take care of them. Some one called the man, and he left his charge, and the passengers did not for some moments perceive that he had done so, till something passed which caused the horses to start. Several men ran at once to catch the reins: this frightened the leaders yet more, and they set off at full gallop. Charles was sitting in front, and his companion, with much presence of mind, got over and seated himself on the box, and caught the reins. He attempted to pull in, but the screams of some of the passengers were enough of themselves to terrify any horses, and the young man's strength began to fail before they relaxed their speed at all. Still there was a wide road before them, with no apparent obstruction, and Charles, who tried to keep himself calm, hoped that the horses would soon be tired, and slacken their pace. He saw his companion's strength failing, and he leaned over and said, "Keep on one minute more and we shall do," when, most unfortunately, a waggon turned out of a field by the road side. The leaders turned sharp round, and upset the coach close by the hedge. Charles's fall was broken by the hedge, and he rose in a moment, with no other hurt than a few scratches from the briars; but such a dreadful scene of confusion met his view, that, though his first thought was to give help, he knew not where to turn. He looked for his companion, but could not see him, and hearing the most dismal screams from the inside of the coach, he entreated one or two persons, who were standing shaking their limbs, and apparently unhurt, to help him to get out the passengers. It was some time before they comprehended what he meant, and longer still before they could collect their senses sufficiently to be of any use. At length, however, Charles and another man climbed on the body of the coach, and pushed down the window. Two young ladies and a Quaker gentleman were inside. The latter said to Charles, "Lend me thy hand, for I am uppermost, and then we will rescue the others: there is not much harm done, I hope."
One of the ladies continued to scream so loud, that it was difficult to make her understand that she must use her own limbs in getting out. By main force, however, she was hauled through the window, and set on her feet. The Quaker gentleman said to her, "I recommend thee to be more quiet, if thou canst; if not, thou hadst better go a little out of the way, that we may know what we are doing. There is a stile yonder: sit there, and I will bring thy friend to thee."
The lady was able to comprehend this, and she accordingly moved away. There was more difficulty in rescuing her companion, who was really hurt: her arm was injured, and she was in great pain. She was quiet, however, and exerted what strength she had. Charles led her to some grass at a little distance: he hastily spread her cloak, and laid her down, and called her companion to her. When he reached the scene of disaster again, he was shocked to find that an outside passenger was killed. He was a dreadful object, and nothing was to be done, but to move him out of sight as quickly as possible. Still Charles looked round in vain for his companion; but when the noise had a little subsided, he thought he heard a faint groan from beneath the huge box-coat which was lying close by. Charles lifted it, and saw his companion lying with a large trunk upon one leg. He seemed in great agony, and unable to move. Charles called the Quaker gentleman. They gently lifted the trunk, and saw a sickening sight. The leg was dreadfully crushed. Charles for a moment turned away, but, ashamed of his weakness, he, with the Quaker's approbation, loosened the shawl which he wore round his neck, and wrapped it about the injured leg. They then raised the poor youth, and seated him on the trunk, and tried to ascertain whether he had received any other injury. They could not detect any, but the sufferer was in so much pain, that they could not be sure. Charles beckoned to the waggoner, who was assisting the other passengers, and enquired whether there was any house nearer than the public-house which they had left, where the wounded passengers could be taken in for the present.
The man answered that there was none, and that they were three miles distant even from that.
Charles engaged him to convey the ladies and the young man in his waggon, which was filled with straw, and the people from the public-house having by this time reached the scene of disaster, the Quaker gentleman was able to accompany them. They therefore looked out their luggage, deposited the young man and the two ladies in the waggon, and returned to the public-house on foot. By the way they agreed what was further to be done. The Quaker thought the two ladies would be able to reach Exeter that night, and would prefer doing so to remaining in the inconvenient and crowded public-house. If the coach was able to proceed, so much the better; if not, a chaise could probably be procured. As for the young man, he must certainly remain; he was in no condition for travelling.
"I do not know," said Charles, "how you are circumstanced. We must not leave this poor youth; one of us must take charge of the ladies, and the other remain with him. Will you take your choice?"
"My wife is ill," replied the Quaker, "and I fear would be in terror, if she should hear of the accident, and not see me, even if I assured her of my welfare by my own hand. I should therefore prefer returning. But perhaps thou hast calls equally pressing?"
"No, I have not," replied Charles. "No one expects me: my family do not know that I am on my way to them: the matter therefore is decided."
"Not quite," said the Quaker. "The one who remains will have some painful scenes to go through. Thou art young: canst thou bear them?"
"I will try to bear them," replied Charles. "My heart aches for this young man, but it will be a comfort to be of service to him. We must learn his name, and you will call at his house as soon as you arrive, and inform his family; and some of them had better return in the chaise with a surgeon; for I suppose there is no medical advice to be had hereabouts."
"Probably not," replied the Quaker. "It is now nearly six: if we can procure a chaise without delay, in nine or ten hours hence his friends may be with him, and thou wilt be in part relieved from thy charge."
"He will be able to command himself," said Charles, "at least, if I may judge from his presence of mind at the time of the accident; and I shall therefore know better what to do, than if he were as unmanageable as that young lady."
"Her agony was so great," replied the Quaker, "that it would make one think that fear is, for the time, a greater evil than actual pain. Her sister (for I conclude they are sisters) was quiet enough; but it was beyond my power to stop her screams. Tell me how thy companion acted, for, being inside, I do not know."
Charles related how the youth had endeavoured to stop the horses.
"He indeed shewed self-command," said the good man, "and I am afraid he will have occasion to exercise all his resolution. I have no hope that that leg can be cured; but I hope his life is not in danger!"
"Can you," said Charles, "give me any directions respecting his treatment? Is there any thing to be done besides making him as easy as I can?"
"Nothing, that I am aware of," replied the Quaker. "I think thou wilt not have much need of thy purse for these few hours, or I would ask thee whether it is well filled?"
Charles thanked him, and assured him that no assistance of that kind was wanted.
By this time they had reached the public-house, and the young man was soon laid on a bed, in a decent though not very quiet apartment. On enquiry being made, it was found that no chaises were to be had there, but that a return chaise would probably pass very soon. The ladies were so incapable, one from pain, the other from terror, of judging what was best to be done, that the Quaker gentleman decided every thing for them. He directed the lady's arm to be bathed and hung in a sling, and advised them to accompany him in the chaise to Exeter, as soon as it should pass. Charles meanwhile was sitting by the bedside of the injured man, trying to ascertain the necessary particulars of his name, place of residence, etcetera. He was now able to speak, and said his name was Monteath, that his father and mother lived in — Street, Exeter, and that Mr Everett was the surgeon whom he wished to attend him. He said, "Are you going directly? must you leave me now?"
"I shall not leave you till your friends arrive," replied Charles. "Some of our fellow-passengers will carry our message to Exeter."
"Thank you! God bless you!" were the only words in answer. Presently he said, "Who are you? You have not told me your name."
Charles told his name.
"Forsyth!" exclaimed Mr Monteath; "surely you are the brother of Miss Forsyth, whom I have seen at Mr Everett's!"
"I am," said Charles.
"Then do not stay with me," said the youth; "your sister will be terrified when she hears of the accident."
Charles explained that his sisters did not expect him. He then enquired whether he did not suffer less than at first.
"Yes, I am rather easier," replied Monteath, "but still it is dreadful pain. However, I shall have worse to go through before I am better. I see what is before me: I do not wish to be blind to it."
"I am glad you are not blind to it," replied Charles. "You have strength of mind and self-command, and if you can keep up for a few hours, the worst will be over. Your present calmness assures me that you will keep up."
"I know not," replied Monteath. "Thoughts come crowding upon me faster than I can bear. This pain is not the worst: yet Oh! how it weakens me! I ought to feel, even at this moment, that all is right, that this suffering is for my good."
"It is," said Charles; "and it is this thought which has comforted me for you. In a few hours you will, I trust, be at ease, and, after that, all will come easy to you. In the mean time, think whose hand has brought this evil upon you, and remember that he is pitying your pain. He also gives strength and courage to those who ask for them."
"I will seek for them," replied Monteath. "Leave me for a while: I will try to compose my mind, and strengthen myself for these hours of pain."