THE FAIRCHILD FAMILY
BY Mrs. SHERWOOD
THE FAIRCHILD FAMILY
BY Mrs. SHERWOOD
EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION BY MARY E. PALGRAVE
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY FLORENCE M. RUDLAND
NEW YORK FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY PUBLISHERS
The History of Lucy, Emily, and Henry Fairchild was begun in 1818, nearly a century ago. The two little misses and their brother played and did lessons, were naughty and good, happy and sorrowful, when George III. was still on the throne; when gentlemen wore blue coats with brass buttons, knee-breeches, and woollen stockings; and ladies were attired in short waists, low necks, and long ringlets. The Battle of Waterloo was quite a recent event; and the terror of "Boney" was still used by nursery maids to frighten their charges into good behaviour.
Perhaps some of those who take up this book and glance at its title-page are saying to themselves. We have plenty of stories about the children of to-day—the children of the twentieth century, not of the early nineteenth. How should it interest us to read of these little ones of the time of our great-grandparents, whose lives were so dull and ideas so old-fashioned; who never played cricket or tennis, or went to London or to the seaside, or rode bicycles, or did any of the things we do?
To anyone who is debating whether or no he will read the Fairchild Family, I would say, Try a chapter or two before you make up your mind. It is not what people do, but what they are that makes them interesting. True enough, Lucy, Emily and Henry led what we should call nowadays very dull lives; but they were by no means dull little people for all that. We shall find them very living and real when we make acquaintance with them. They tore their clothes, and lost their pets, and wanted the best things, and slapped each other when they disagreed. They had their good times and their bad times, their fun and frolic and their scrapes and naughtiness, just as children had long before they were born and are having now, long, long after they are dead.
In fact, as we get to know them—and, I hope, to love them—we shall realize, perhaps with wonder, how very like they are to the children of to-day. If they took us by the hand and led us to their playroom, or into "Henry's arbour" under the great trees, we should make friends with them in five minutes, even though they wear long straight skirts down to their ankles and straw bonnets burying their little faces, and Henry is attired in a frock and pinafore, albeit he is eight years old. We should have glorious games with them, following the fleet Lucy running like a hare; we should kiss them when we went away, and reckon them ever after among our friends.
And so, as we follow the History of the Fairchild Family we shall understand, better than we have yet done, how children are children everywhere, and very much the same from generation to generation. Knowing Lucy and Emily and Henry will help us to feel more sympathy with other children of bygone days, the children of our history books—with pretty Princess Amelia, and the little Dauphin in the Bastille, with sweet Elizabeth Stuart, the "rose-bud born in snow" of Carisbrook Castle, and a host of others. They were real children too, who had real treats and real punishments, real happy days and sad ones. They felt and thought and liked and disliked much the same things as we do now. We stretch out our hands to them across the misty centuries, and hail them our companions and playmates.
* * * * *
Few people nowadays, even among those who know the Fairchild Family, know anything of its writer, Mrs. Sherwood. Yet her life, as told by herself, is as amusing as a story, and as full of incidents as a life could well be. When she was a very old woman she wrote her autobiography, helped by her daughter; and from this book, which has been long out of print, I will put together a short sketch which will give you some idea of what an interesting and attractive person she was.
The father of Mrs. Sherwood—or, to give her her maiden name, Mary Butt—was a clergyman. He had a beautiful country living called Stanford, in Worcestershire, not far from Malvern, where Mary was born on May 6, 1775. She had one brother, a year older than herself, and a sister several years younger, whose name was Lucy.
Mary Butt's childhood, in her beautiful country home, was very happy. She was extremely tall for her age, strong and vigorous, with glowing cheeks and dark eyes and "very long hair of a bright auburn," which she tells us her mother had great pleasure in arranging. She and her brother Marten were both beautiful children; but no one thought Mary at all clever, or fancied what a mark she would make in the world by her writings.
Mary was a dreamy, thoughtful child, full of fancies and imaginings. She loved to sit on the stairs, listening to her mother's voice singing sweetly in her dressing-room to her guitar. She had wonderful fancies about an echo which the children discovered in the hilly grounds round the rectory. Echo she believed to be a beautiful winged boy; "and I longed to see him, though I knew it was in vain to attempt to pursue him to his haunts; neither was Echo the only unseen being who filled my imagination." Her mother used to tell her and Marten stories in the dusk of winter evenings; one of those stories she tells again for other children in the Fairchild Family. It is the tale of the old lady who was so fond of inviting children to spend a day with her.
The first grand event of Mary's life was a journey taken to Lichfield, to stay with her grandfather, old Dr. Butt, at his house called Pipe Grange. She was then not quite four years old. Dr. Butt had been a friend, in former days, of Maria Edgeworth, who wrote the Parents' Assistant and other delightful stories; of Mr. Day, author of Sandford and Merton; and other clever people then living at Lichfield. He knew the great actor, David Garrick, too, who used to come there to see his brother; and the famous Dr. Samuel Johnson, who had been born and brought up at Lichfield. But to little Mary, scarcely more than a baby, these things were not of much interest. What she recollected of her grandfather was his present to her, on her fourth birthday, of "a doll with a paper hoop and wig of real flax." And her memories of Pipe Grange were of walks with her brother and nurse in green lanes; of lovely commons and old farmhouses, with walls covered with ivy and yew-trees cut in grotesque forms; of "feeding some little birds in a hedge, and coming one day and finding the nest and birds gone, which was a great grief to me."
Soon afterwards the nursery party at Stanford was increased by two little cousins, Henry and Margaret Sherwood. They had lost their mother, and were sent to be for a time under the care of their aunt, Mrs. Butt. They joined in the romps of Marten and Mary, and very lively romps they seem to have been. Mary describes how her brother used to put her in a drawer and kick it down the nursery stairs; how he heaped chairs and tables one on the other, set her at the top of them, and then threw them all down; how he put a bridle round her neck and drove her about with a whip. "But," she says, "being a very hardy child, and not easily hurt, I suppose I had myself to blame for some of his excesses; for with all this he was the kindest of brothers to me, and I loved him very, very much."
When Mary was six years old she began to make stories, but she tells us she had not the least recollection of what they were about. She was not yet able to write, so whenever she had thought out a story, she had to follow her mother about with a slate and pencil and get her to write at her dictation. The talk Mary and Marten heard while sitting at meals with their parents was clever and interesting. Many visitors came to the house, and after a while there were several young men living there, pupils of Mr. Butt, so that there was often a large party. The two little children were never allowed to interrupt, but had to sit and listen, "whether willing or not"; and in this way the shrewd and observant Mary picked up endless scraps of knowledge while still very young. She tells us a good deal about her education in these early days. "It was the fashion then for children to wear iron collars round the neck, with a backboard strapped over the shoulders; to one of these I was subjected from my sixth to my thirteenth year. It was put on in the morning, and seldom taken off till late in the evening, and I generally did all my lessons standing in stocks, with this stiff collar round my neck. At the same time I had the plainest possible food, such as dry bread and cold milk. I never sat on a chair in my mother's presence. Yet I was a very happy child, and when relieved from my collar I not unseldom manifested my delight by starting from our hall-door and taking a run for at least half a mile through the woods which adjoined our pleasure grounds."
Marten, meanwhile, was having a much less strict and severe time of it. Mr. Butt was an easy-going man, who liked everything about him to be comfortable and pretty, and was not inclined to take much trouble either with himself or others. While Mary was with her mother in her dressing-room, working away at her books, Marten was supposed to be learning Latin in his father's study. But as Mr. Butt had no idea of authority, Marten made no progress whatever, and the end of it was that good Mrs. Butt had to teach herself Latin, in order to become her boy's tutor; and Mary was made to take it up as well, in order to incite him to learn.
The children were great readers, though their books were few. Robinson Crusoe; two sets of fairy tales; The Little Female Academy; and AEsop's Fables made up their whole library. Robinson Crusoe was Marten's favourite book; his wont, when a reading fit was on, was to place himself on the bottom step of the stairs and to mount one step every time he turned over a page. Mary, of course, copied him exactly. Another funny custom with the pair was, on the first day of every month, to take two sticks, with certain notches cut in them, and hide them in a hollow tree in the woods. There was a grand mystery about this, though Mary does not tell us in what it consisted. "No person," she says, "was to see us do this, and no one was to know we did it."
In the summer that Mary was eight years old, a quaint visitor came to Stanford Rectory. This was a distant relative who had married a Frenchman and lived at Paris through the gay and wicked period which ushered in the French Revolution. Mary's description of this lady and her coming to the rectory is very amusing: "Never shall I forget the arrival of Mme. de Peleve at Stanford. She arrived in a post-chaise with a maid, a lap-dog, a canary-bird, an organ, and boxes heaped upon boxes till it was impossible to see the persons within. I was, of course, at the door to watch her alight. She was a large woman, elaborately dressed, highly rouged, carrying an umbrella, the first I had seen. She was dark, I remember, and had most brilliant eyes. The style of dress at that period was perhaps more preposterous and troublesome than any which has prevailed within the memory of those now living. This style had been introduced by the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, and Mme. de Peleve had come straight from the very fountain-head of these absurdities. The hair was worn crisped or violently frizzed about the face in the shape of a horse-shoe; long stiff curls, fastened with pins, hung on the neck; and the whole was well pomatumed and powdered with different coloured powders. A high cushion was fastened at the top of the hair, and over that either a cap adorned with artificial flowers and feathers to such a height as sometimes rendered it somewhat difficult to preserve its equilibrium, or a balloon hat, a fabric of wire and tiffany, of immense circumference. The hat would require to be fixed on the head with long pins, and standing, trencherwise, quite flat and unbending in its full proportions. The crown was low, and, like the cap, richly set off with feathers and flowers. The lower part of the dress consisted of a full petticoat generally flounced, short sleeves, and a very long train; but instead of a hoop there was a vast pad at the bottom of the waist behind, and a frame of wire in front to throw out the neckerchief, so as much as possible to resemble the craw of a pigeon.
"Such were the leading articles of this style of dress, and so arranged was the figure which stepped forth from the chaise at the door of the lovely and simple parsonage of Stanford. My father was ready to hand her out, my mother to welcome her. The band-boxes were all conveyed into our best bedroom, while Madame had her place allotted to her in our drawing-room, where she sat like a queen, and really, by the multitudes of anecdotes she had to tell, rendered herself very agreeable. Whilst she was with us she never had concluded her toilet before one or two in the day, and she always appeared either in new dresses or new adjustments. I have often wished that I could recall some of the anecdotes she used to tell of the Court of Versailles, but one only can I remember; it referred to the then popular song of 'Marlbrook,' which she used to sing. 'When the Dauphin,' she said, 'was born, a nurse was procured for him from the country, and there was no song with which she could soothe the babe but 'Marlbrook,' an old ballad, sung till then only in the provinces. The poor Queen heard the air, admired, and brought it forward, making it the fashion.' This is the only one of Mme. de Peleve's stories which I remember, although I was very greatly amused by them, and could have listened to her for hours together. My admiration was also strongly excited by the splendour and varieties of her dresses, her superb trimmings, her sleeves tied with knots of coloured ribbon, her trains of silk, her beautiful hats, and I could not understand the purpose for which she took so much pains to array herself."
I think when we read of Miss Crosbie's arrival at Mr. Fairchild's, and the time she kept them all waiting for supper while she changed her gown, we shall be reminded of these early recollections of Mrs. Sherwood's. A year or two later this quaint Madame came again on a visit to Stanford; and on this occasion, as Mary tells us, she put it into the little girl's head, for the first time, to wonder whether she were pretty or no. "No sooner was dinner over," she says, "than I ran upstairs to a large mirror to make the important inquiry, and at this mirror I stood a long time, turning round and examining myself with no small interest." Madame de Peleve further encouraged her vanity by making her a present of "a gauze cap of a very gay description." It must have looked odd and out of place perched on the top of the little girl's "very long hair and very rosy cheeks." Another of Mme. de Peleve's not very judicious presents was "a shepherdess hat of pale blue silver tiffany." But as this hat had to be fastened on with "large, long corking-pins," it proved "a terrible evil" to its wearer; which, perhaps, was just as well!
By this time dear brother Marten had been sent away to school at Reading; but little Lucy was growing old enough to be something of a playmate; and Margaret, the motherless cousin, had been brought again to Stanford on a long visit. We can fancy what a delightful companion to these two small ones Mary must have been. She had left off, for the time, writing stories, but she was never tired of telling them. In company she was, in those days, very silent and shy, and much at a loss for words; but they never failed her when telling her stories to her little companions. Her head, she says, was full of "fairies, wizards, enchanters, and all the imagery of heathen gods and goddesses which I could get out of any book in my father's study," and with these she wove the most wonderful tales, one story often going on, at every possible interval, for months together. Her lively imagination "filled every region of the wild woods at Stanford with imaginary people. Wherever I saw a few ashes in a glade, left by those who burnt sticks to sell the ashes to assist in the coarse washings in farmhouses, I fixed a hoard of gipsies and made long stories. If I could discern fairy rings, which abounded in those woods, they gave me another set of images; and I had imaginary hermits in every hollow of the rocky sides of the dingle, and imaginary castles on every height; whilst the church and churchyard supplied me with more ghosts and apparitions than I dared to tell of." Mary and her stories must have been better worth having than a whole library of "fairy-books."
One source from which Mary drew her tales was a collection of old volumes which her father had bought at a sale and to which her mother had given up a room over the pantry and storeroom. Mr. Butt made Mary his librarian; and she revelled in old romances, such as Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia, and in illustrated books of travel; spending many hours on a high stool in the bookroom, among "moths, dust, and black calf-skin," studying these treasures.
One more glimpse must be given of those happy child-days, and we will have it in Mary's own words: "I grew so rapidly in my childhood, that at thirteen I had obtained my full height, which is considered above the usual standard of women. I stooped very much when thus growing. As my mother always dressed me like a child in a pinafore, I must certainly have been a very extraordinary sort of personage, and everyone cried out on seeing me as one that was to be a giantess. As my only little friend of about my own age was small and delicate, I was very often thoroughly abashed at my appearance; and therefore never was I so happy as when I was out of sight of visitors in my own beloved woods of Stanford. In those sweet woods I had many little embowered corners, which no one knew but myself; and there, when my daily tasks were done, I used to fly with a book and enjoy myself in places where I could hear the cooing of doves, the note of the blackbird, and the rush of two waterfalls coming from two sides of the valley and meeting within the range where I might stroll undisturbed by anyone. It must be noticed that I never made these excursions without carrying a huge wooden doll with me, which I generally slung with a string round my waist under my pinafore, as I was thought by the neighbours too big to like a doll. My sister, as a child, had not good health, and therefore she could bear neither the exposure nor fatigue I did; hence the reason wherefore I was so much alone. From this cause, too, she was never submitted to the same discipline that I was; she was never made so familiar with the stocks and iron collar, nor the heavy tasks; for after my brother was gone to school I still was carried on in my Latin studies, and even before I was twelve I was obliged to translate fifty lines of Virgil every morning, standing in these same stocks, with the iron collar pressing on my throat."
When Mary was between twelve and thirteen a great change came in her life. Her father was presented to the vicarage of Kidderminster in Staffordshire, where the carpets are made. It was then a very rich living. It was settled that they should go to Kidderminster to live, while a curate was to do duty at Stanford and occupy the rectory. In those days clergymen often held two or even three livings at once in different parts of the country, taking the stipends themselves, and putting a curate in charge of whichever parishes they did not choose to reside in.
Mary was pleased at the idea of a change, as children generally are; and so was her father, who loved society and the noise and bustle of a town. But to poor Mrs. Butt, who was a very shy, timid, retiring person, the idea of exchanging "the glorious groves of Stanford for a residence in a town, where nothing is seen but dusty houses and dyed worsted hanging to dry on huge frames in every open space," was terrible. Mary could well remember how, during that summer, her mother walked in the woods, crying bitterly and fretting over the coming change till her health suffered.
Life in the big manufacturing town was much less wild and free than it had been in the Worcestershire parsonage; but the two little girls managed to be very happy in their own way. For one thing, they had a bedroom looking into the street, and a street was a new thing to them, and they spent every idle moment in staring out of the windows. They had a cupboard in which they kept their treasures—a dolls' house which they had brought from Stanford, and all the books they had hoarded up from childhood; "these, with two white cats, which we had also brought from Stanford, happily afforded us much amusement." Mary's rage for dolls was, moreover, at its height, though she more than ever took pains to hide her darlings, under her pinafore, from the eyes of Kidderminster.
Most of all, however, they amused themselves, when alone, by talking together in characters, keeping to the same year after year, till at length the play was played out. "We were both queens," Mary tells us, "and we were sisters, and were supposed to live near each other, and we pretended we had a great many children. In our narratives we allowed the introduction of fairies, and I used to tell long stories of things and places and adventures which I feigned I had met with in this my character of queen. The moment we two set out to walk, we always began to converse in these characters. My sister used generally to begin with, 'Well, sister, how do you do to-day? How are the children? Where have you been?' and before we were a yard from the house we were deep in talk. Oh, what wonderful tales was I wont to tell of things which I pretended I had seen, and how many, many happy hours have I and my sister spent in this way, I being the chief speaker."
Not long after their coming to Kidderminster, Mary's father took her with him on a visit to a large country house in Shropshire. They drove all the way in a gig, a man-servant riding behind on horseback. They reached the house just in time to dress for dinner, at which there was to be a large party. Mary had to put on her "very best dress, which," she tells us, "was a blue silk slip, with a muslin frock over it, a blue sash, and, oh! sad to say, my silver tiffany hat. I did not dare but wear it, as it had been sent with me."
A maid had been told off to dress Mary, and "great was the pains which she took to fix my shepherdess hat on one side, as it was intended to be worn, and to arrange my hair, which was long and hanging in curls; but what would I not have given to have got rid of the rustling tiffany!" Mary describes her consternation when she reached the drawing-room in this array, and found "a number of great people" there, but no other child to consort with. When everybody went to walk in the shrubberies after dinner, and a gentleman offered her his arm, as was the wont in those days, she was so panic-stricken that she darted up a bank, through the shrubs and away, and showed herself no more that evening.
The next thing that happened was that the other little cousin before mentioned, Henry Sherwood, came to live with the Butts and go to a day-school in the town. Mary recalls him as she saw him on arriving—a very small, fair-haired boy, dressed in "a full suit of what used to be called pepper-and-salt cloth." He soon settled down in his new home, "a very quiet little personage, very good-tempered, and very much in awe of his aunt," with a fame among his cousins for his talent for making paper boxes one within another. His bed was in an attic, next door to his big cousin Marten's room. Marten had a shelf full of books, which Henry used to carry off to his own domain and read over and over again. From these books he first dated an intense love of reading which was destined to be his chief stand-by in old age. We shall not wonder that Mary loved to recall her early remembrances of this little school-boy when we know that, several years later, he became her husband, with whom she spent a long and happy married life.
Mary has other amusing recollections of this time of her early girlhood, and tells them in her own charming way; but we must pass on to her school life, which is bound to interest her readers of to-day, so many of whom go to school. It was the summer of 1790. Mr. Butt had been taking his turn of duty at the Chapel Royal, St. James's, being by this time one of the chaplains to the King. On his way home he stopped at Reading to visit his friend Dr. Valpy, in whose school Marten had for a time been educated.
During this visit Dr. Valpy took him to see "a sort of exhibition" got up by the "young ladies" of M. and Mme. de St. Quentin's school. This famous school, which was afterwards removed to London, was held then in the old Abbey at Reading. "This," thought Mr. Butt, "is the very place for Mary"; and to the Abbey School it was decided that she should go.
Marten was now at Westminster School. When the time came for him to return after the holidays, Mary had a seat in the chaise, and drove with him and her father as far as Reading. You will be amused by her description of her school and schoolmistresses, and of her first introduction to them.
"The house—or, rather, the Abbey itself—was exceedingly interesting; and though I know not its exact history, yet I knew every hole and corner of what remained of the ancient building, which consisted of a gateway with rooms above, and on each side of it a vast staircase, of which the balustrades had originally been gilt. Then, too, there were many little nooks and round closets, and many larger and smaller rooms and passages, which appeared to be rather more modern; whilst the gateway itself stood without the garden walls upon the Forbury or open green, which belonged to the town, and where Dr. Valpy's boys played after school hours. The best part of the house was encompassed by a beautiful old-fashioned garden, where the young ladies were allowed to wander under tall trees in hot summer evenings."
When Mary arrived at the Abbey the holidays were not quite over, and she was the first of the sixty pupils to present herself. The school was kept by Mme. de St. Quentin and a Mrs. Latournelle, who were partners. "Madame," as the girls always called her, was an Englishwoman by birth, but had married a French refugee whom circumstances had obliged to become French teacher in the school. Madame was a handsome woman, with bright eyes and a very dignified presence. Mary tells us that she danced remarkably well, played and sang and did fine needlework, and "spoke well and agreeably in English and in French without fear." Mrs. Latournelle was a funny, old-fashioned body, whose chief concern was with the housekeeping, tea-making, and other domestic duties. She had a cork leg, and her dress had never been known to change its fashion. "Her white muslin handkerchief was always pinned with the same number of pins; her muslin apron always hung in the same form; she always wore the same short sleeves, cuffs, and ruffles, with a breast-bow to answer the bow on her cap, both being flat with two notched ends."
Mrs. Latournelle received Mary in a wainscotted parlour, hung round with miniatures and pieces of framed needlework done in chenille, representing tombs and weeping willows. Mary was to be what in those days was known as a "parlour-boarder," which meant that she was treated in part as a grown-up young lady, had more liberty and privileges than the other girls, and, in fact, was allowed to do very much as she liked. She thought herself gloriously happy, on coming down to breakfast next day in the twilight of a winter's morning, to be allowed to eat hot buttered toast and to draw as near as she liked to the fire; neither of which things was it lawful to do at home.
Mary was "vastly amused," during the first few days, at seeing her future school-fellows arrive one after another. The two first to come were a pair of twin sisters named Martha and Mary Lee, so exactly alike that they could only be distinguished by a mark which one had on her forehead under the hair. There were many other big girls, but none besides herself who were parlour-boarders during that quarter. Mary soon chose out three to be her special friends; a Miss Poultenham, Amelia Reinagle (daughter of an artist who in that day was rather celebrated), and Mary Brown—niece of Mrs. Latournelle.
M. and Mme. de St. Quentin presently returned, and Mary tells us how shy she felt when "Monsieur" summoned her to undergo a sort of examination. "Full well I remember the morning when he called me into his study to feel the pulse of my intellect, as he said, in order that he might know in what class to place me. All the girls whom he particularly instructed were standing by, all of them being superior to me in the knowledge of those things usually taught in schools. Behold me, then, in imagination, tall as I am now, standing before my master, and blushing till my blushes made me ashamed to look up. 'Eh bien, mademoiselle,' he said, 'have you much knowledge of French?' 'No, sir,' I answered. 'Are you much acquainted with history?' And he went on from one thing to another, asking me questions, and always receiving a negative. At length, smiling, he said: 'Tell me, mademoiselle, then, what you do know.' I stammered 'Latin—Virgil,' and finished off with a regular flood of tears. At this he laughed outright, and immediately set me down in his class and gave me lessons for every day."
The discipline of the Abbey seems to have been very slack, especially for the big girls. This is how Mary describes it: "The liberty which the first class had was so great that, if we attended our tutor in his study for an hour or two every morning, no human being ever took the trouble to enquire where we spent the rest of the day between our meals. Thus, whether we gossiped in one turret or another, whether we lounged about the garden or out of the window above the gateway, no one so much as said, 'Where have you been, mademoiselle?'"
Mary Butt spent a year at Reading, where she learnt a good deal of French, and not, it would seem, much of anything else. She left it the following Christmas with many tears, thinking that her school-days were over; but a few months later her parents decided to send her back to the Abbey for another year, and that her sister Lucy should go too. That was in the autumn of 1792, when the French Revolution was just beginning. On January 21, 1793, the terrible news came of the murder of the unhappy King, Louis XVI. All Europe, and England especially, were horrified at the cruel deed; and at the Abbey, where there was a strong French Royalist element, feeling ran particularly high. "Monsieur and Madame went into deep mourning, as did also many of the elder girls. Multitudes of the French nobility came thronging into Reading, gathering about the Abbey, and some of them half living within its walls." Our friend Mary, as a half-fledged young lady, saw a great deal of these poor refugees, who had lost everything but their lives. They seem, however, to have shown the true French courage and gaiety under evil circumstances. There was much singing and playing under the trees; and they helped the school-girls to get up some little French plays to act at their breaking-up party. Mary took a part in the character of a French abbess, but she tells us that "assuredly" her talents never lay in the acting line, and very honestly adds: "I could never sufficiently have forgotten myself as to have acted well."
Soon after Mary's finally leaving school her parents decided to put a curate in charge of the Kidderminster living, and to return to "lovely Stanford." This was a great relief to poor, shy Mrs. Butt, who had been like a caged bird in Kidderminster; but the young people were not quite sure if they liked the change. They had made many friends in the town and its neighbourhood; and now that Mary was, as we say nowadays, "come out," she had been taken to various balls and other diversions. They soon, however, settled down again in the old home; and as there was a large, delightful, and very friendly family at Stanford Court hard by, they found plenty of variety and amusement even in the depths of the country.
The young Butts went across very often to dine at the Court; and on these occasions their hostess, Lady Winnington, got up little impromptu dances, which they greatly enjoyed. "Often," Mary writes, "when we dined at the Court she would send for the miller, who played the violin, and set us all to dance. My brother was always the partner of the eldest Miss Winnington, and as neither of them could tell one tune from another or dance a single step, we generally marvelled how they got on at all. The steward also, a great, big, and in our opinion most supremely ugly man, generally fell to my sister's lot. Thus, we did very well, and enjoyed ourselves in our own way. Sometimes the old Welsh harper came, and then we had a more set dance, and some of the ladies'-maids, and one or two of the upper men-servants, and the miller himself, and Mr. Taylor of the Fall, and the miller's brother Tommy, were asked, and then things were carried on in a superior style. We went into a larger room, and there was more change of partners; but as nothing could have induced the son and heir to ask a stranger, I always had him, whilst Miss Winnington and my sister sometimes fell to the share of the miller and his brother, the miller being himself musical and footing it to the tune better than his partners. The miller's brother seemed to wheel along rather than dance, throwing himself back and looking, in his white waistcoat which was kept for these grand occasions, not unlike a sack of meal set upright on trucks and so pushed about the room. I am ready to laugh to this hour when I think of these balls, and I certainly obtained very high celebrity then and there for being something very superior in the dancing line."
The happy life at Stanford was not destined to last long, for Mr. Butt's health began to fail, and in the autumn of 1795 he died. Mrs. Butt took a house at Bridgnorth, and settled there with her two daughters. Mary had now begun to write in good earnest; and while living at Bridgnorth two of her tales were published, one called Margarita and the other Susan Grey. Probably very few people now living have ever seen or read these stories; and if we did come across them it is to be feared we should think them very dull and long-winded. But when new they were much admired, particularly Susan Grey, which was one of the earliest tales written to interest rich and educated people in the poor and ignorant. It was widely read and reprinted many and many times.
In spite of the pleasure and excitement of authorship, life in the little house in the sleepy town of Bridgnorth was very dull and cramped to the two young girls; and they were made much happier, because they were much busier, when the clergyman of one of the town churches asked them to undertake the management of his Sunday school. This is what Sunday school teaching meant at the end of the eighteenth century: "We attended the school so diligently on the Sunday that the parents brought the children in crowds, and we were obliged to stop short when each of us had about thirty-five girls and the old schoolmaster as many boys. We made bonnets and tippets for our girls; we walked with them to church; we looked them up in the week days; we were vastly busy; we were first amused, and next deeply interested."—"Sunday schools," she goes on to say, "then were comparatively new things, so that our attentions were more valued then than they would be nowadays."
The next important event in Mary's life was her marriage with her cousin Henry, by which she became the "Mrs. Sherwood" whose name has been a household word to generations of children. Henry Sherwood had had a curious history, and had endured many hardships and adventures in his youthful days. As a boy of about thirteen he had made a voyage on a rotten old French coasting-vessel, which was very nearly wrecked; was run into in the night by an unknown ship; and all but foundered in the Bay of Biscay. The French Revolution had just begun; and when the brig touched at Marseilles this young lad saw terrible sights of men hung from lamp-posts; heard the grisly cry, "A la lanterne! a la lanterne!" and was even himself seized by some of the mob, though he happily contrived, in the confusion, to slip away. In Marseilles, too, he first saw the guillotine; it was carried about the streets in procession whilst the populace yelled out the "Marseillaise Hymn." Later on in the Revolution he was seized, as an Englishman, and imprisoned with a number of others at Abbeville; but, escaping from there, he made a wonderful journey through France, Switzerland, and Germany with his father, step-mother, and their five young children; being driven by the state of affairs from town to town, and wandering further and further afield in the effort to reach England. At length, after difficulties and hardships innumerable, they landed at Hull; and Henry made his way to some of his relations, who took care of him and set him on his legs again.
Henry Sherwood soon afterwards entered the army, joining the regiment then known as the 53rd Foot; and about the same time he began to come to Bridgnorth, where his pretty young cousin, Mary Butt, was growing more and more attractive. After a while he wrote her a letter, asking if she would be his wife; and on June 30, 1803, they were married at Bridgnorth.
Mary's marriage made a great change in her life. She had married into what used to be called a "marching regiment," which was constantly on the move from one station to another. After being transferred from place to place several times within a year, with long, wearisome journeys both by sea and land, following the regiment as it marched, the news came that the 53rd was ordered on foreign service, which meant a longer journey still. It was presently known that the regiment's destination was the East Indies, or, as we should now call it, India. This was a great blow to poor Mrs. Sherwood, for by this time she was the mother of a baby girl, whom she must leave behind in England.
The regiment embarked at Portsmouth. Captain and Mrs. Sherwood had a miserable little cabin rigged up on deck, made only of canvas, and with a huge gun filling more than half the space. The vessel in which they sailed was called the Devonshire. It was quite a fleet that set sail, for besides the vessels needed to convey the troops, there had to be several armed cruisers in attendance. The war with France was going on, and there was continual danger of an attack by the enemy. When they had been more than three months at sea, three strange vessels were sighted, two of which soon ran up the French colours and began to fire, without the slightest warning, upon the English vessels. In a moment all was bustle on board the Devonshire, clearing the decks for action. The women and children were sent down into the hold, where they had to sit for hours in the dark, some way below watermark, while the shots whistled through the rigging overhead, the guns roared, the ladders had been taken away, and none of them could learn a word of what was going forward on deck, where their husbands and fathers were helping to man the guns. The fighting continued till late at night, but no serious damage befell the Devonshire. At length the women and children were hoisted up out of the hold, and "enjoyed some negus and biscuits."
From that time they saw no more of the French. At last the voyage, with its anxieties and discomforts, was over; the Devonshire sailed into the Hoogli and anchored in Diamond Harbour, expecting boats to come down from Calcutta to carry the regiment up there.
It would take too long to tell the story of the Sherwoods' life in India, though Mrs. Sherwood's account of it is very good reading. Two or three scenes will give you some notion of how she spent her time.
A certain number of the soldiers of the regiment were allowed to bring their wives and children out with them. There were no Government schools then for the regimental children, so that these little people idled away their time round the barracks, and were as ignorant as the day they were born. It came into Mrs. Sherwood's head to start a school for them, and this school she herself taught for four hours every morning, except in the very hottest weather; and the only help she had was from a sergeant of the regiment, a kind, good man. Some of the officers also were very thankful to send their children to school, so that Mrs. Sherwood soon had as many as fifty boys and girls coming daily to her bungalow. Very hard work it was teaching them to read and write and to be gentle, truthful, and obedient. She found the officers' children generally more troublesome than the soldiers', because they were more spoilt, or, as she puts it, pampered and indulged. For these children she wrote many of her books, especially her Stories on the Church Catechism, which can still be bought, and which give a very interesting picture of the life of a soldier's child in India some eighty years ago.
Besides her day-school, Mrs. Sherwood collected in her house several little orphans, the children of poor soldiers' wives who quickly died in the trying climate of India. She found some of these children being dreadfully neglected and half starved, so took them home to her and brought them up with her own children. She gives an amusing description of her home life in India during the hot season, so terribly trying to Europeans: "The mode of existence of an English family during the hot winds in India is so very unlike anything in Europe that I must not omit to describe it. Every outer door of the house and every window is closed; all the interior doors and venetians are, however, open, whilst most of the private apartments are shut in by drop-curtains or screens of grass, looking like fine wire-work, partially covered with green silk. The hall, which never has any other than borrowed lights in any bungalow, is always in the centre of the house, and ours at Cawnpore had a large room on each side of it, with baths and sleeping-rooms. In the hot winds I always sat in the hall at Cawnpore. Though I was that year without a baby of my own, I had my orphan, my little Annie, always by me, quietly occupying herself when not actually receiving instruction from me. I had given her a good-sized box, painted green, with a lock and key; she had a little chair and table.
"She was the neatest of all neat little people, somewhat faddy and particular, perchance. She was the child, of all others, to live with an ancient grandmother. Annie's treasures were few, but they were all contained in her green box. She never wanted occupation; she was either dressing her doll or finding pretty verses in her Bible, marking the places with an infinitude of minute pieces of paper. It was a great delight to me to have this little quiet one by my side.
"In another part of this hall sat Mr. Sherwood during most part of the morning, either engaged with his accounts, his journal, or his books. He, of course, did not like the confinement so well as I did, and often contrived to get out to a neighbour's bungalow in his palanquin during some part of the long morning. In one of the side-rooms sat Sergeant Clarke, with his books and accounts. This worthy and most methodical personage used to fill up his time in copying my manuscripts in a very neat hand, and in giving lessons in reading and spelling, etc., to Annie. In the other room was the orphan Sally, with her toys. Beside her sat her attendant, chewing her paun[A] and enjoying a state of perfect apathy. Thus did our mornings pass, whilst we sat in what the lovers of broad daylight would call almost darkness. During these mornings we heard no sounds but the monotonous click, click of the punkah,[B] or the melancholy moaning of the burning blast without, with the splash and dripping of the water thrown over the tatties.[C] At one o'clock, or perhaps somewhat later, the tiffin [answering to our luncheon] was always served, a hot dinner, in fact, consisting always of curry and a variety of vegetables. We often dined at this hour, the children at a little table in the room, after which we all lay down, the adults on sofas and the children on the floor, under the punkah in the hall. At four, or later perhaps, we had coffee brought. We then bathed and dressed, and at six or thereabouts, the wind generally falling, the tatties were removed, the doors and windows of the house were opened, and we either took an airing in carriages or sat in the veranda; but the evenings and nights of the hot winds brought no refreshment."
The days spent in that strange hot twilight must have seemed very long to children, even to those who had forgotten or never known the freedom of life in England; but Mrs. Sherwood had plenty of ways of filling her long quiet hours. She wrote a number of little stories about life in India, which were very much liked in their day and went through many editions. One of these was called The Ayah and Lady, and told about a native servant, her ignorant notions and strange ways, and how her mistress tried to do her good. Another was Lucy and her Dhaye, the history of a little English girl and her dark-skinned nurse, who was so devoted to her that she nearly broke her heart when Lucy went home to England and she was left behind. But the best of them all was Little Henry and his Bearer, which is one of the most famous stories ever written for children. The history of little Henry, the neglected orphan child whom nobody loved save his poor faithful heathen "bearer," or native servant, is exceedingly pretty and touching.
Mrs. Sherwood was always thinking about children and trying to find out ways of helping them to be happy and good. A page from her diary will show how often she must have been grieved and distressed at the spoilt boys and girls she saw in the houses of the English merchants and Civil servants at Calcutta and elsewhere.
"I must now proceed," she writes, "to some description of Miss Louisa, the eldest daughter then in India of our friends, who at that time might have been about six or seven. She was tall of her age, very brown, and very pale. She had been entirely reared in India, and was accustomed from her earliest infancy to be attended by a multitude of servants, whom she despised thoroughly as being black, although, no doubt, she preferred their society to her own country-people, as they ministered with much flattery and servility to her wants. Wherever she had moved during these first years of her life she had been followed by her ayah, and probably by one or two bearers, and she was perfectly aware that if she got into any mischief they would be blamed and not herself. In the meantime, except in the article of food, every desire and every caprice and every want had been indulged to satiety. No one who has not seen it could imagine the profusion of toys which are scattered about an Indian house wherever the 'babalogue' (children people) are permitted to range. There may be seen fine polished and painted toys from Benares, in which all the household utensils of the country, the fruits, and even the animals, are represented, the last most ludicrously incorrect. Toys in painted clay from Morshedabad and Calcutta, representing figures of gods and goddesses, with horses, camels, elephants, peacocks, and parrots, and now and then a 'tope walla,' or hat wearer, as they call the English, in full regimentals and cocked hat, seated on a clumsy, ill-formed thing meant for a horse. Then add to these English, French, and Dutch toys, which generally lie pell-mell in every corner where the listless, toy-satiated child may have thrown or kicked them.
"The quantity of inner and outer garments worn by a little girl in England would render it extremely fatiguing to change the dress so often as our little ladies are required to do in India. Miss Louisa's attire consisted of a single garment, a frock body without sleeves, attached to a pair of trousers, with rather a short, full skirt gathered into the body with the trousers, so as to form one whole, the whole being ruffled with the finest jindelly, a cloth which is not unlike cambric, every ruffle being plaited in the most delicate manner. These ruffles are doubled and trebled on the top of the arm, forming there a substitute for a sleeve; and the same is done around the ankle, answering the purpose almost of a stocking, or at least concealing its absence. Fine coloured kid shoes ought to have completed this attire, but it most often happened that these were kicked away among the rejected toys.
"How many times in a day the dress of Miss Louisa was renewed, who shall say? It, however, depended much upon the accidents which might happen to it; but four times was the usual arrangement, which was once before breakfast, once after, once again before tiffin, and once again for the evening airing. The child, being now nearly seven years old, was permitted to move about the house independently of her ayah; thus, she was sometimes in the hall, sometimes in the veranda, sometimes in one room, sometimes in another. In an Indian house in the hot season no inner door is ever shut, and curtains only are hung in the doorways, so that this little wild one was in and out and everywhere just as it hit her fancy. She had never been taught even to know her letters; she had never been kept to any task; she was a complete slave of idleness, restlessness, and ennui. 'It is time for Louisa to go to England,' was quietly remarked by the parents; and no one present controverted the point."
Children like this must have made the good Mrs. Sherwood very unhappy; her own little ones—of whom she had three who lived to come home to England—were very differently brought up. She had also a lovely little boy named Henry, and a little fair-haired Lucy, who both died in India before they were two years old.
It would be impossible to end even this short sketch of Mrs. Sherwood's Indian life without mentioning her friendship with Henry Martyn, that saintly soul and famous missionary in India and Persia. When the Sherwoods knew him he was Government chaplain at Dinapore, a great military station, at which the 53rd Foot then was. Mrs. Sherwood nursed him through a bad illness, and she and her husband afterwards paid him a visit in his quarters at Cawnpore, to which place he had been transferred. He had a school at Cawnpore for little native children; and worked hard at preaching to the heathen; while all the time doing his utmost for the soldiers of the various regiments stationed in the barracks. The Sherwoods heard his wonderful farewell sermon before starting for Persia; and the news of his death in that far land reached them not long before they quitted India for England.
After being about twelve years in the East, the 53rd Regiment was ordered home, and very thankful Captain and Mrs. Sherwood were to bring the children they still had living safely back to a more healthy climate. Two of the orphans came with them, so there was quite a party of little people on board the ship; and when they landed at Liverpool they must have been a very quaint-looking group, for "we had not a bonnet in the party; we all wore caps trimmed with lace, white dresses, and Indian shawls." Can we wonder if, as Mrs. Sherwood goes on to say, "we were followed wherever we went by hundreds of the residents of Liverpool"?
The rest of Mrs. Sherwood's long life was spent in England, save for an occasional visit to France and Switzerland. She and her husband settled in the west, where she had been born and bred, and of which she was so fond. She had more children, most of whom died young; and she lived a very busy, active, useful life, working hard at writing stories and tracts, visiting the prison at Worcester, and doing whatever good and useful work lay within her power.
The first part of the Fairchild Family was published in 1818. It was so popular that, more than twenty years afterwards, she wrote a second part, which, as you will see, begins at p. 150. As we read we shall notice little points of difference between it and the first part; but our friends, Lucy, Emily, and Henry are just as nice and as naughty, as good and as silly, as they were in the opening chapters of the book.
A few years later, when a very old woman, Mrs. Sherwood wrote a third part of the Fairchild Family, in which she was helped by her daughter, Mrs. Kelly. But this third part is less entertaining and interesting than the two which went before it, and is also not entirely Mrs. Sherwood's own work; so you will not find it printed here.
In 1851 Mrs. Sherwood died at Twickenham, where she had gone to live a few years previously. In the course of her long life she had seen many trials and sorrows, but she had had a great deal of happiness. She had made the very most of all the gifts given her by God. Countless children have been the happier and the better for what she wrote for them. And by means of this new edition of a dear old book, with its pleasant type and charming illustrations, I hope a new generation will spring up of lovers and admirers of Mrs. Sherwood.
MARY E. PALGRAVE.
[A] Described in Little Henry and his Bearer as "an intoxicating mixture of opium and sugar."
[B] The huge fan, hanging from the ceiling, by which the air of houses in India is kept moving.
[C] The "tatta" is a blind, or screen, woven of sweet-smelling grass, which is kept constantly wet by the water-carriers.
THE BIRTHDAY WALK 3
MRS. FAIRCHILD'S STORY 9
ON ENVY 19
STORY OF THE APPLES 25
STORY OF AN UNHAPPY DAY 34
STORY OF AMBITION; OR, THE WISH TO BE GREAT 45
THE ALL-SEEING GOD 59
EMILY'S RECOVERY, AND THE OLD STORY OF MRS. HOWARD 67
SAD STORY OF A DISOBEDIENT CHILD 84
THE TWO BOOKS 87
THE HISTORY OF THE ORPHAN BOY 92
THE HISTORY OF LITTLE HENRI 107
A STORY OF BESETTING SINS 131
A VISIT TO MARY BUSH 143
STORY OF MISS CROSBIE'S PRESENTS 150
A VISIT TO MRS. GOODRICHE 159
STORY OF THE LAST DAYS OF MRS. HOWARD 162
THE FAIR LITTLE LADY 181
STORY OF A HOLIDAY 184
LITTLE EDWY AND THE ECHO 189
FURTHER STORY OF A HOLIDAY 203
THE HAPPY EVENING 216
BREAKFAST AT MR. BURKE'S 222
THE UNRULY FAMILY 228
STORY OF HENRY'S ADVENTURE 238
THE STORY IN EMILY'S BOOK. (PART I.) 245
THE STORY IN EMILY'S BOOK. (PART II.) 258
GUESTS AT MR. FAIRCHILD'S 286
MORE ABOUT BESSY 300
BESSY'S MISFORTUNES 313
HISTORY OF LITTLE BERNARD LOW. (PART I.) 326
HISTORY OF LITTLE BERNARD LOW. (PART II.) 341
HISTORY OF LITTLE BERNARD LOW. (PART III.) 354
THE BIRTHDAY FEAST 382
GRANDMAMMA FAIRCHILD 400
GREAT CHANGES 408
GRANDMAMMA AND THE CHILDREN 416
HISTORY OF EVELYN VAUGHAN. (PART I.) 421
HISTORY OF EVELYN VAUGHAN. (PART II.) 446
FAREWELL TO THE OLD HOME 464
List of illustrations
FRONTISPIECE—Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild had three children, Lucy, Emily and Henry.
Good children 3
They ran on before 5
Here were abundance of flowers 8
"I sat down on one of the branches to eat cherries" 9
Mrs. Grace taught me to sew, and Mrs. Penelope taught me to read 11
"How lovely! How beautiful!" 19
She saw that it was a ring 24
Henry stood under the apple-tree 25
There was one he could just reach 27
Behind the stable 33
Lucy and Emily 34
Away he ran into the garden, followed by Lucy and Emily 37
They went along the great gallery 45
Emily and Lucy had never seen such fine clothes before 53
At last she fell asleep 59
She took two or three damsons, which she ate in great haste 61
"What sound is that I hear?" said Emily 67
Emily and her brother and sister went to play in the garden 69
"I'll see now if I can't spoil Miss Patty's smart silk slip" 75
Looking in the glass, with a candle in her hand 84
"Please choose a book for me" 87
Henry reads the story 91
Marten behaved well at breakfast 92
A little old lady, dressed in a gray silk gown, came into the kitchen 99
Marten goes to school 106
Henri stood at the window 107
"Do you remember anything of the sermon?" 131
Miss Betsy 142
The children looked at the kittens 143
Drinking tea at the door of the cottage, round the little table 147
Miss Crosbie spoke kindly to her 150
In the summer parlour 159
When Betty returned, Mrs. Howard was well satisfied 162
The happy little girls went with the dolls into the bow-window 175
The coach came in sight 181
Henry looked along the road 184
He turned away from the terrible bird 189
Could it be her own—her Edwy? She could hardly be sure of her happiness 199
"Oh Papa! Mamma! Come to Edwy!" 202
"She will get amongst the shrubs," said Emily 203
Emily and Henry gave their supper to the little children 213
The magpie on the stile 215
Preparing the peas for supper 216
A sturdy boy of four, roaring and blubbering 222
They had a game at marbles 228
The noise continued till the two brothers were fairly out of the house 231
Kind Mrs. Burke gave him a piece of bread and honey 238
Lucy and Emily had now each a doll 245
Going gaily down the hill 258
Margot rose and made a curtsey 263
Meeta offered to carry the honey 285
"She does not know that I made a slit in my frock" 286
Cutting off faded flowers, and picking up the dead leaves 297
Off she ran after him 299
She saw Bessy amongst some gooseberry bushes 300
"What! what!" cried Mrs. Goodriche 303
Bessy was crying most piteously 313
"At four I shall hope to call for Mrs. Goodriche and Miss Lucy" 319
Bessy was very sorry to leave her young friends 326
But when Bernard was actually to go there was such a to-do 333
"Let us sit here under the shade of a tree" 341
He took up a slip of wood 353
There was no end of the indulgences given in private to the boy 354
Bernard rushed to meet Lucilla 381
She only seemed anxious that Lucy and Emily should look well 382
For a long time they were all very still with their toys 387
In their neatest morning dress 399
"Will Lucy love me?" said the old lady 400
"Here, ma'am, you can gather any you like" 408
It was Emily's step 415
Grandmamma was very much pleased with Lucy's stories 416
A hundred years ago 420
To teach little Francis his letters 421
"I cannot tell what the child's head is running on" 431
To hang flowers round its neck 445
Miss Anne Vaughan led her niece by the hand 446
"What a bustle there is to get ready on a dancing day" 451
Henry reminded her of the robin 464
Someone was waving something white 470
The History of the Fairchild Family
Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild lived very far from any town; their house stood in the midst of a garden, which in the summer-time was full of fruit and sweet flowers. Mr. Fairchild kept only two servants, Betty and John: Betty's business was to clean the house, cook the dinner, and milk the cow; and John waited at table, worked in the garden, fed the pig, and took care of the meadow in which the cow grazed.
Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild had three children: Lucy, who was about nine years old when these stories began; Emily, who was next in age; and Henry, who was between six and seven. These little children did not go to school: Mrs. Fairchild taught Lucy and Emily, and Mr. Fairchild taught little Henry. Lucy and Emily learned to read, and to do various kinds of needlework. Lucy had begun to write, and took great pains with her writing; their mother also taught them to sing psalms and hymns, and they could sing several very sweetly. Little Henry, too, had a great notion of singing.
Besides working and reading, the little girls could do many useful things; they made their beds, rubbed the chairs and tables in their rooms, fed the fowls; and when John was busy, they laid the cloth for dinner, and were ready to fetch anything which their parents might want.
Mr. Fairchild taught Henry everything that was proper for little boys in his station to learn; and when he had finished his lessons in a morning, his papa used to take him very often to work in the garden; for Mr. Fairchild had great pleasure in helping John to keep the garden clean. Henry had a little basket, and he used to carry the weeds and rubbish in his basket out of the garden, and do many such other little things as he was set to do.
I must not forget to say that Mr. Fairchild had a school for poor boys in the next village, and Mrs. Fairchild one for girls. I do not mean that they taught the children entirely themselves, but they paid a master and mistress to teach them; and they used to take a walk two or three times a week to see the children, and to give rewards to those who had behaved well. When Lucy and Emily and Henry were obedient, their parents were so kind as to let them go with them to see the schools; and then they always contrived to have some little thing ready to carry with them as presents to the good children.
The Birthday Walk
"It is Lucy's birthday," said Mr. Fairchild, as he came into the parlour one fine morning in May; "we will go to see John Trueman, and take some cake to his little children, and afterwards we will go on to visit Nurse, and carry her some tea and sugar."
Nurse was a pious old woman, who had taken care of Lucy when she was a baby, and now lived with her son and his wife Joan in a little cottage not far distant, called Brookside Cottage, because a clear stream of water ran just before the door.
"And shall we stay at Nurse's all day, papa?" said the children.
"Ask your mamma, my dears," said Mr. Fairchild.
"With all my heart," said Mrs. Fairchild; "and we will take Betty with us to carry our dinner."
So when the children had breakfasted, and Betty was ready, they all set out. And first they went down the lane towards John Trueman's cottage. There is not a pleasanter lane near any village in England; the hedge on each side is of hawthorn, which was then in blossom, and the grass was soft under the feet as a velvet cushion; on the bank, under the hedge, were all manner of sweet flowers, violets, and primroses, and the blue vervain.
Lucy and Emily and Henry ran gaily along before Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild, and Betty came after with the basket. Before they came up to the gate of John Trueman's cottage, the children stopped to take the cake out of Betty's basket, and to cut shares of it for John's little ones. Whilst they were doing this, their father and mother had reached the cottage, and were sitting down at the door when they came up.
John Trueman's cottage was a neat little place, standing in a garden, adorned with pinks and rosemary and southernwood. John himself was gone out to his daily work when Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild came to his house; but his wife Mary was at home, and was just giving a crust of bread and a bit of cheese to a very poor woman who had stopped at the gate with a baby in her arms.
"Why, Mary," said Mr. Fairchild, "I hope it is a sign that you are getting rich, as you have bread and cheese to spare."
"Sir," she answered, "this poor woman is in want, and my children will never miss what I have given her."
"You are very right," answered Mrs. Fairchild; and at the same time she slipped a shilling into the poor woman's hand.
John and Mary Trueman had six children: the eldest, Thomas, was working in the garden; and little Billy, his youngest brother, who was but three years old, was carrying out the weeds as his brother plucked them up; Mary, the eldest daughter, was taking care of the baby; and Kitty, the second, sat sewing: whilst her brother Charles, a little boy of seven years of age, read the Bible aloud to her. They were all neat and clean, though dressed in very coarse clothes.
When Lucy and Emily and Henry divided the cake amongst the poor children, they looked very much pleased; but they said that they would not eat any of it till their father came in at night.
"If that is the case," said Mrs. Fairchild, "you shall have a little tea and sugar to give your father with your cake;" so she gave them some out of the basket.
As Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild and their children passed through the village they stopped at the schools, and found everything as they could wish—the children all clean, neat, cheerful, and busy, and the master and mistress very attentive. They were much pleased to see everything in such good order in the schools, and having passed this part of the village, they turned aside into a large meadow, through which was the path to Nurse's cottage. Many sheep with their lambs were feeding in this meadow, and here also were abundance of primroses, cowslips, daisies, and buttercups, and the songs of the birds which were in the hedgerows were exceedingly delightful.
As soon as the children came in sight of Nurse's little cottage they ran on before to kiss Nurse, and to tell her that they were come to spend the day with her. The poor woman was very glad, because she loved Mr. Fairchild's children very dearly; she therefore kissed them, and took them to see her little grandson Tommy, who was asleep in the cradle. By this time Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild and Betty were come up, and whilst Betty prepared the dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild sat talking with Nurse at the door of the cottage.
Betty and Joan laid the cloth upon the fresh grass before the cottage-door, and when Joan had boiled some potatoes, Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild sat down to dinner with the children, after which the children went to play in the meadow by the brookside till it was time for them to be going home.
"What a happy day we have had!" said Lucy as she walked home between her father and mother. "Everything has gone well with us since we set out, and everyone we have seen has been kind and good to us; and the weather has been so fine, and everything looks so pretty all around us!"
Mrs. Fairchild's Story
The next morning, when Lucy and Emily were sitting at work with Mrs. Fairchild, Henry came in from his father's study.
"I have finished all my lessons, mamma," he said. "I have made all the haste I could because papa said that you would tell us a story to-day; and now I am come to hear it."
So Henry placed himself before his mother, and Lucy and Emily hearkened, whilst Mrs. Fairchild told her story.
"My mother died," said Mrs. Fairchild, "many years ago, when I was a very little child—so little that I remember nothing more of her than being taken to kiss her when she lay sick in bed. Soon afterwards I can recollect seeing her funeral procession go out of the garden-gate as I stood in the nursery window; and I also remember some days afterwards being taken to strew flowers upon her grave in the village churchyard.
"After my mother's death my father sent me to live with my aunts, Mrs. Grace and Mrs. Penelope, two old ladies, who, having never been married, had no families to take up their attention, and were so kind as to undertake to bring me up. These old ladies lived near the pleasant town of Reading. I fancy I can see the house now, although it is many years since I left it. It was a handsome old mansion, for my aunts were people of good fortune. In the front of it was a shrubbery, neatly laid out with gravel walks, and behind it was a little rising ground, where was an arbour, in which my aunts used to drink tea on a fine afternoon, and where I often went to play with my doll. My aunts' house and garden were very neat; there was not a weed to be seen in the gravel walks or among the shrubs, nor anything out of its place in the house. My aunts themselves were nice and orderly, and went on from day to day in the same manner, and, as far as they knew, they were good women; but they knew very little about religion, and what people do not understand they cannot practise.
"I was but a very little girl when I came to live with my aunts, and they kept me under their care till I was married. As far as they knew what was right, they took great pains with me. Mrs. Grace taught me to sew, and Mrs. Penelope taught me to read. I had a writing-and music-master, who came from Reading to teach me twice a week; and I was taught all kinds of household work by my aunts' maid. We spent one day exactly like another. I was made to rise early, and to dress myself very neatly, to breakfast with my aunts. At breakfast I was not allowed to speak one word. After breakfast I worked two hours with my Aunt Grace, and read an hour with my Aunt Penelope; we then, if it was fine weather, took a walk, or, if not, an airing in the coach—I, and my aunts, and little Shock, the lap-dog, together. At dinner I was not allowed to speak, and after dinner I attended my masters, or learned my tasks. The only time I had to play was while my aunts were dressing to go out, for they went out every evening to play at cards. When they went out my supper was given to me, and I was put to bed in a closet in my aunts' room.
"Now, although my aunts took so much pains with me in their way, I was a very naughty girl; I had no good principles."
"What do you mean by good principles?" asked Lucy.
"A person of good principles, my dear," said Mrs. Fairchild, "is one who does not do well for fear of the people he lives with, but from the fear of God. A child who has good principles will behave just the same when his mamma is out of the room as when she is looking at him—at least he will wish to do so; and if he is by his own wicked heart at any time tempted to sin, he will be grieved, although no person knows his sin. But when I lived with my aunts, if I could escape punishment, I did not care what naughty things I did.
"My Aunt Grace was very fond of Shock. She used to give me skim-milk at breakfast, but she gave Shock cream; and she often made me carry him when I went out a-walking. For this reason I hated him, and when we were out of my aunts' hearing I used to pull his tail and his ears and make the poor little thing howl sadly. My Aunt Penelope had a large tabby cat, which I also hated and used ill. I remember once being sent out of the dining-room to carry Shock his dinner, Shock being ill, and laid on a cushion in my aunts' bedroom. As I was going upstairs I was so unfortunate as to break the plate, which was fine blue china. I gathered up the pieces, and running up into the room, set them before Shock; after which I fetched the cat and shut her up in the room with Shock. When my aunts came up after dinner and found the broken plate, they were much surprised, and Mrs. Bridget, the favourite maid, was called to beat the cat for breaking the plate. I was in my closet and heard all that was said, and instead of being sorry, I was glad that puss was beaten instead of me.
"Besides those things which I have told you, I did many other naughty things. Whenever I was sent into the store-room, where the sugar and sweetmeats were kept, I always stole some. I used very often at night, when my aunts were gone out, and Mrs. Bridget also (for Mrs. Bridget generally went out when her mistress did to see some of her acquaintances in the town), to get up and go down into the kitchen, where I used to sit upon the housemaid's knee and eat toasted cheese and bread sopped in beer. Whenever my aunts found out any of my naughty tricks, they used to talk to me of my wickedness, and to tell me that if I went on in this manner I certainly should make God very angry. When I heard them talk of God's anger I used to be frightened, and resolved to do better; but I seldom kept any of my good resolutions. From day to day I went on in the same way, getting worse, I think, instead of better, until I was twelve years of age.
"One Saturday morning in the middle of summer my aunts called me to them and said, 'My dear, we are going from home, and shall not return till Monday morning. We cannot take you with us, as we could wish, because you have not been invited. Bridget will go with us, therefore there will be no person to keep you in order; but we hope, as you are not now a little child, that you may be trusted a few days by yourself.'
"Then they talked to me of the Commandments of God, and explained them to me, and spoke of the very great sin and danger of breaking them; and they talked to me till I really felt frightened, and determined that I would be good all the while they were from home.
"When the coach was ready my aunts set out, and I took my books and went to sit in the arbour with Shock, who was left under my care. I stayed in the arbour till evening, when one of the maid-servants brought me my supper. I gave part of it to Shock, and, when I had eaten the rest, went to bed. As I lay in my bed I felt very glad that I had gone through that evening without doing anything I thought naughty, and was sure I should do as well the next day.
"The next morning I was awakened by the bells ringing for church. I got up, ate my breakfast, and when I was dressed went with the maid to church. When we came home my dinner was given me. All this while I had kept my aunts' words pretty well in my memory, but they now began to wear a little from my mind. When I had done my dinner I went to play in the garden.
"Behind the garden, on the hill, was a little field full of cherry-trees. Cherries were now quite ripe. My aunts had given me leave every day to pick up a few cherries if there were any fallen from the trees, but I was not allowed to gather any. Accordingly I went to look if there were any cherries fallen. I found a few, and was eating them, when I heard somebody call me, 'Miss! Miss!' and, looking up, saw a little girl who was employed about the house, in weeding the garden, and running errands. My aunts had often forbid me to play or hold any discourse with this little girl, which was certainly very proper, as the education of the child was very different from that which had been given me. I was heedless of this command, and answered her by saying: 'What are you doing here, Nanny?'
"'There is a ladder, Miss,' she replied, 'against a tree at the upper end of the orchard. If you please, I will get up into it and throw you down some cherries.'
"At first I said 'No,' and then I said 'Yes.' So Nanny and I repaired to the tree in question, and Nanny mounted into the tree.
"'Oh, Miss! Miss!' said she as soon as she had reached the top of the ladder, 'I can see from where I am all the town, and both the churches; and here is such plenty of cherries! Do come up! Only just step on the ladder, and then you can sit on this bough and eat as many cherries as you please.'"
"And did you get into the tree, mamma?" said Lucy.
"Yes, my dear, I did," said Mrs. Fairchild; "and sat down on one of the branches to eat cherries and look about me."
"Oh, mamma!" said Emily, "suppose your aunts had come home then!"
"You shall hear, my dear," continued Mrs. Fairchild. "My aunts, as I thought, and as they expected, were not to come home till the Monday morning; but something happened whilst they were out—I forget what—which obliged them to return sooner than they had expected, and they got home just at the time when I was in the cherry-orchard. They called for me, but not finding me immediately, they sent the servants different ways to look for me. The person who happened to come to look for me in the cherry-orchard was Mrs. Bridget, who was the only one of the servants who would have told of me. She soon spied me with Nanny in the cherry-tree. She made us both come down, and dragged us by the arms into the presence of my aunts, who were exceedingly angry; I think I never saw them so angry. Nanny was given up to her mother to be punished; and I was shut up in a dark room, where I was kept several days upon bread and water. At the end of three days my aunts sent for me, and talked to me for a long time.
"'Is it not very strange at your age, niece,' said Mrs. Penelope, 'that you cannot be trusted for one day, after all the pains we have taken with you, after all we have taught you?'
"'And,' said my Aunt Grace, 'think of the shame and disgrace of climbing trees in such low company, after all the care and pains we have taken with you, and the delicate manner in which we have reared you!'
"In this way they talked to me, whilst I cried very much.
"'Indeed, indeed, Aunt Grace and Aunt Penelope,' I said, 'I did mean to behave well when you went out; I made many resolutions, but I broke them all; I wished to be good, but I could not be good.'
"When my aunts had talked to me a long time, they forgave me, and I was allowed to go about as usual, but I was not happy; I felt that I was naughty, and did not know how to make myself good. One afternoon, soon after all this had happened, while my aunts and I were drinking tea in the parlour, with the window open towards the garden, an old gentleman came in at the front gate, whom I had never seen before. He was dressed in plain black clothes, exceedingly clean; his gray hair curled about his neck, and in his hand he had a strong walking-stick. I was the first who saw him, as I was nearest the window, and I called to my aunts to look at him.
"'Why, it is my Cousin Thomas!' cried my Aunt Penelope. 'Who would have expected to have seen him here?'
"With that both my aunts ran out to meet him and bring him in. The old gentleman was a clergyman, and a near relation of our family, and had lived many years upon his living in the North, without seeing any of his relations.
"'I have often promised to come and see you, cousins,' he said, as soon as he was seated, 'but never have been able to bring the matter about till now.'
"My aunts told him how glad they were to see him, and presented me to him. He received me very kindly, and told me that he remembered my mother. The more I saw of this gentleman, the more pleased I was with him. He had many entertaining stories to tell; and he spoke of everybody in the kindest way possible. He often used to take me out with him a-walking, and show me the flowers, and teach me their names. One day he went out into the town, and bought a beautiful little Bible for me; and when he gave it to me he said: 'Read this, dear child, and pray to God to send His Holy Spirit to help you to understand it; and it shall be a lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your path.'"
"I know that verse, mamma," said Lucy; "it is in the Psalms."
"The old gentleman stayed with my aunts two months, and every day he used to take me with him to walk in the fields, the woods, and in the pleasant meadows on the banks of the Thames. His kind words to me at those times I shall never forget; he, with God's blessing, brought me to the knowledge of my dear Saviour, and showed me the wickedness of my own heart, and made me understand that I never could do any good but through the help of God."
"When the good old gentleman was gone, did you behave better than you did before he came, mamma?" said Lucy.
"After he left us, my dear, I was very different from what I was before," said Mrs. Fairchild. "I had learned to know the weakness of my heart, and to ask God to help me to be good; and when I had done wrong, I knew whose forgiveness to ask; and I do not think that I ever fell into those great sins which I had been guilty of before—such as lying, stealing, and deceiving my aunts."
"Who can go with me to the village this morning," said Mr. Fairchild, one winter's day, "to carry this basket of little books to the school?"
"Lucy cannot go," said Mrs. Fairchild, "because her feet are sore with chilblains, and Henry has a bad cold; but Emily can go."
"Make haste, Emily," said Mr. Fairchild, "and put on your thick shoes and warm coat, for it is very cold."
As soon as Emily was ready, she set off with her father. It was a very cold day, and the ground was quite hard with the frost. Mr. Fairchild walked first, and Emily came after him with the little basket. They gave the basket to the schoolmaster, and returned. As they were coming back, Emily saw something bright upon the ground; and when she stooped to pick it up, she saw that it was a ring set round with little white shining stones.
"Oh, papa, papa!" she said, "see what I have found! What a beautiful ring!"
When Mr. Fairchild looked at it, he was quite surprised.
"Why, my dear," said he, "I think that this is Lady Noble's diamond ring; how came it to be lying in this place?"
Whilst they were looking at the ring they heard the sound of a carriage; it was Sir Charles Noble's, and Lady Noble was in it.
"Oh, Mr. Fairchild!" she called out of the window of the carriage, "I am in great trouble; I have lost my diamond ring, and it is of very great value. I went to the village this morning in the carriage, and as I came back, pulled off my glove to get sixpence out of my purse to give to a poor man somewhere in this lane, and I suppose that my ring dropped off at the time. I don't know what I shall do; Sir Charles will be sadly vexed."
"Make yourself quite happy, madam," said Mr. Fairchild, "here is your ring; Emily just this moment picked it up."
Lady Noble was exceedingly glad when she received back her ring. She thanked Emily twenty times, and said, "I think I have something in the carriage which you will like very much, Miss Emily; it is just come from London, and was intended for my daughter Augusta; but I will send for another for her."
So saying, she presented Emily with a new doll packed up in paper, and with it a little trunk, with a lock and key, full of clothes for the doll. Emily was so delighted that she almost forgot to thank Lady Noble; but Mr. Fairchild, who was not quite so much overjoyed as his daughter, remembered to return thanks for this pretty present.
So Lady Noble put the ring on her finger, and ordered the coachman to drive home.
"Oh, papa, papa!" said Emily, "how beautiful this doll is! I have just torn the paper a bit, and I can see its face; it has blue eyes and red lips, and hair like Henry's. Oh, how beautiful! Please, papa, to carry the box for me; I cannot carry both the box and the doll. Oh, this beautiful doll! this lovely doll!" So she went on talking till they reached home; then she ran before her papa to her mamma and sister and brother, and, taking the paper off the doll, cried out: "How beautiful! Oh, what pretty hands! What nice feet! What blue eyes! How lovely! how beautiful!"
Her mother asked her several times where she had got this pretty doll; but Emily was too busy to answer her. When Mr. Fairchild came in with the trunk of clothes, he told all the story; how that Lady Noble had given Emily the doll for finding her diamond ring.
When Emily had unpacked the doll, she opened the box, which was full of as pretty doll's things as ever you saw.
Whilst Emily was examining all these things, Henry stood by admiring them and turning them about; but Lucy, after having once looked at the doll without touching it, went to a corner of the room, and sat down in her little chair without speaking a word.
"Come, Lucy," said Emily, "help me to dress my doll."
"Can't you dress it yourself?" answered Lucy, taking up a little book, and pretending to read.
"Come, Lucy," said Henry, "you never saw so beautiful a doll before."
"Don't tease me, Henry," said Lucy; "don't you see I am reading?"
"Put up your book now, Lucy," said Emily, "and come and help me to dress this sweet little doll. I will be its mamma, and you shall be its nurse, and it shall sleep between us in our bed."
"I don't want dolls in my bed," said Lucy; "don't tease me, Emily."
"Then Henry shall be its nurse," said Emily. "Come, Henry, we will go into our play-room, and put this pretty doll to sleep. Will not you come, Lucy? Pray do come; we want you very much."
"Do let me alone," answered Lucy; "I want to read."
So Henry and Emily went to play, and Lucy sat still in the corner of the parlour. After a few minutes her mamma, who was at work by the fire, looked at her, and saw that she was crying; the tears ran down her cheeks, and fell upon her book. Then Mrs. Fairchild called Lucy to her, and said:
"My dear child, you are crying; can you tell me what makes you unhappy?"
"Nothing, mamma," answered Lucy; "I am not unhappy."
"People do not cry when they are pleased and happy, my dear," said Mrs. Fairchild.
Lucy stood silent.
"I am your mother, my dear," said Mrs. Fairchild, "and I love you very much; if anything vexes you, whom should you tell it to but to your own mother?" Then Mrs. Fairchild kissed her, and put her arms round her.
Lucy began to cry more.
"Oh, mamma, mamma! dear mamma!" she said, "I don't know what vexes me, or why I have been crying."
"Are you speaking the truth?" said Mrs. Fairchild. "Do not hide anything from me. Is there anything in your heart, my dear child, do you think, which makes you unhappy?"
"Indeed, mamma," said Lucy, "I think there is. I am sorry that Emily has got that pretty doll. Pray do not hate me for it, mamma; I know it is wicked in me to be sorry that Emily is happy, but I feel that I cannot help it."
"My dear child," said Mrs. Fairchild, "I am glad you have confessed the truth to me. Now I will tell you why you feel so unhappy, and I will tell you where to seek a cure. The naughty passion you now feel, my dear, is what is called Envy. Envy makes persons unhappy when they see others happier or better than themselves. Envy is in every man's heart by nature. Some people can hide it more than others, and others have been enabled, by God's grace, to overcome it in a great degree; but, as I said before, it is in the natural heart of all mankind. Little children feel envious about dolls and playthings, and men and women feel envious about greater things."
"Do you ever feel envious, mamma?" said Lucy. "I never saw you unhappy because other people had better things than you had."
"My heart, my dear child," answered Mrs. Fairchild, "is no better than yours. There was a time when I was very envious. When I was first married I had no children for seven or eight years; I wished very much to have a baby, as you wished just now for Emily's doll; and whenever I saw a woman with a pretty baby in her arms, I was ready to cry for vexation."
"Do you ever feel any envy now, mamma?" said Lucy.
"I cannot say that I never feel it, my dear; but I bless God that this wicked passion has not the power over me which it used to have."
"Oh, mamma, mamma!" said Lucy, "how unhappy wickedness makes us! I have been very miserable this morning; and what for? only because of the naughtiness of my heart, for I have had nothing else to make me miserable."
Then Mrs. Fairchild took Lucy by the hand, and went into her closet, where they prayed that the Holy Spirit would take the wicked passion of envy out of Lucy's heart. And as they prayed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died upon the cross to deliver us from the power of sin, they did not doubt but that God would hear their prayer; and indeed He did, for from that day Lucy never felt envious of Emily's doll, but helped Emily to take care of it and make its clothes, and was happy to have it laid on her bed betwixt herself and sister.
Story of the Apples
Just opposite Mr. Fairchild's parlour window was a young apple-tree, which had never yet brought forth any fruit; at length it produced two blossoms, from which came two apples. As these apples grew they became very beautiful, and promised to be very fine fruit.
"I desire," said Mr. Fairchild, one morning, to his children, "that none of you touch the apples on that young tree, for I wish to see what kind of fruit they will be when they are quite ripe."
That same evening, as Henry and his sisters were playing in the parlour window, Henry said:
"Those are beautiful apples indeed that are upon that tree."
"Do not look upon them, Henry," said Lucy.
"Why not, Lucy?" asked Henry.
"Because papa has forbidden us to meddle with them."
Henry. "Well, I am not going to meddle with them; I am only looking at them."
Lucy. "Oh! but if you look much at them, you will begin to wish for them, and may be tempted to take them at last."
Henry. "How can you think of any such thing, Lucy? Do you take me for a thief?"
The next evening the children were playing again in the parlour window. Henry said to his sister, "I dare say that those beautiful apples will taste very good when papa gathers them."
"There, now, Henry!" said Lucy; "I told you that the next thing would be wishing for those apples. Why do you look at them?"
"Well, and if I do wish for them, is there any harm in that," answered Henry, "if I do not touch them?"
Lucy. "Oh! but now you have set your heart upon them, the devil may tempt you to take one of them, as he tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. You should not have looked at them, Henry."
Henry. "Oh, I shan't touch the apples! Don't be afraid."
Now Henry did not mean to steal the apples, it is true; but when people give way to sinful desires, their passions get so much power over them that they cannot say, "I will sin so far, and no further." That night, whenever Henry awoke, he thought of the beautiful apples. He got up before his parents, or his sisters, and went down into the garden. There was nobody up but John, who was in the stable. Henry went and stood under the apple-tree. He looked at the apples; there was one which he could just reach as he stood on his tip-toe. He stretched out his hand and plucked it from the tree, and ran with it, as he thought, out of sight behind the stable. Having eaten it in haste, he returned to the house.
When Mr. Fairchild got up, he went into the garden and looked at the apple-tree, and saw that one of the apples was missing; he looked round the tree to see if it had fallen down, and he perceived the mark of a child's foot under the tree. He came into the house in great haste, and looking angrily, "Which of you young ones," said he, "has gathered the apple from the young apple-tree? Last night there were two upon the tree, and now there is only one."
The children made no answer.
"If you have, any of you, taken the apple, and will tell me the truth, I will forgive you," said Mr. Fairchild.
"I did not take it, indeed, papa," said Lucy.
"And I did not take it," said Emily.
"I did not—indeed I did not," said Henry; but Henry looked very red when he spoke.
"Well," said Mr. Fairchild, "I must call in John, and ask him if he can tell who took the apple. But before John is called in, I tell you once more, my dear children, that if any of you took the apple and will confess it, even now I will freely forgive you."
Henry now wished to tell his father the truth; but he was ashamed to own his wickedness, and he hoped that it would never be found out that he was the thief.
When John came in, Mr. Fairchild said:
"John, there is one of the apples taken from the young apple-tree opposite the parlour window."
"Sir," said John, "I did not take it, but I think I can guess which way it went." Then John looked very hard at Henry, and Henry trembled and shook all over. "I saw Master Henry this morning run behind the stable with a large apple in his hand, and he stayed there till he had eaten it, and then he came out."
"Henry," said Mr. Fairchild, "is this true? Are you a thief—and a liar, too?" And Mr. Fairchild's voice was very terrible when he spoke.
Then Henry fell down upon his knees and confessed his wickedness.
"Go from my sight, bad boy!" said Mr. Fairchild; "if you had told the truth at first, I should have forgiven you, but now I will not forgive you."