A HEROINE OF HOME
Illustrated by Arthur
I FAIL to
recollect much concerning my early childhood. The things I do
remember are not the daily occurrences, but events that came with a
sharp shock of surprise or pain.
I remember the birth of my sister Elizabeth, when I was five
years old. I was crying after mamma, whom I had not been
allowed to see all day. My little brothers were sitting in the
sun at the bottom of the garden, which lay bathed in the light of a
glorious sunset. Ernest was engaged in dissecting a
Jack-in-the-box which had frightened him very much at first, and
Edwin was filling and re-filling his shoe with the gravel of the
path. I could see them from my seat in the window of the
ground-floor parlour, which opened upon the garden. I suppose
my childish heart had reached a desperate climax of misery, for my
favourite doll—loved all the more dearly for the deformities which
rendered her an object of derision to the precocious Ernest—my
one-eyed darling was cast at my feet, and I had doubtless come to
the conclusion that I could love her no more, when our nurse
entered, brisk and smiling. "Crying again, Miss Una, and
you've got a little sister! I wouldn't cry if I were you.
There, if you'll be a good girl, you'll see her presently; but I
couldn't take you up-stairs with a face like that! Why, it
would frighten the baby into fits!"
"What have I got a little sister for?" I asked.
"What for?" repeated Susan, my nurse, with a grimace which
usually greeted my formula of inquiry; "because you've got her.
Come and see."
I gave her my hand, and she hurried me up-stairs, enjoining
silence, took me into my own room and gave my face a hard and hasty
scrub, tidied my hair, and trod on tiptoe to the door of my mother's
room. There she knocked, and I was admitted, and led up to
kiss my mother's hand, and to feel it gently stroke my head.
But all the time my eyes were on the strange nurse, and on the
baby-doll she had upon her knee; and I was invited to inspect it,
and to admire its tiny hands, and when I asked in an awestruck
whisper if it had feet, I was allowed to see them also. But I
was both alarmed and disgusted when it began to pucker up its face
and cry, and it was some time before I got over the feeling of
repugnance which took possession of me.
Again, I remember recovering from a serious illness.
Then, for the first time, my father appears in my recollections.
He is standing over my couch—a tall thin man, with a handsome
fresh-coloured face, dark thick eyebrows, and clear blue eyes; but
my feeling for him is certainly not that which children ordinarily
feel for even a careless father. It is a shy strange feeling,
like what I felt at first for our kind old doctor, mingled with more
of personal admiration. He was indeed a stranger to me and to
all of us, visiting us only at long intervals, and for short
periods; sometimes sending for our mother to meet him at Portsmouth
or Southampton when his ship was in the Channel, instead of coming
home to her and us.
On this occasion my mother stood by his side, and she was
saying, "I thought we should have lost her; see how thin she is;"
and she held up my hand in hers—a wasted little hand it was.
Then she kissed it fondly, and laid it on the coverlet and left me.
And I do not know if it was then or after, but it was a part of that
time that I felt so wonderfully happy. The sunshine that
streamed into my room seemed a marvel of glory. I had been
carried down-stairs for the last few days before my father came, and
I could see the old pear-tree, white with blossom, between me and
the blue sky. The fresh-aired room seemed full of the perfume
One moment is fixed in my memory with peculiar vividness.
My mother had brought me a spray of apple-blossom, a perfect cluster
of half-opened deep-crimsoned buds. I looked at it till the
glory of the sunshine, the sweetness of the air, the blessedness of
living, as life pulsed through and through my slender little frame,
all concentrated themselves in the glowing fruit-blossom. I
held it up in my clasped hands and offered it to God. In that
same moment I knew that there was a God, and that He was good.
And then, with the sun still shining, I said my evening prayer and
fell asleep with my blossom lying on my breast. But I kept all
these feelings to myself. I never heard my mother name the
name of God. It was our nurse, Susan, who taught us our
prayers, and I have heard our mother bid her hear us say them; but
that was all—that was the closest allusion to religion or religious
things I ever heard her make. Susan taught us to say the
Lord's Prayer, and she knelt every night at her own bed, which was
close to mine—for I have lain awake and watched her—and her kneeling
figure impressed me more solemnly than her words; for her manner was
rough and irreverent, though I afterwards knew that her heart was
The next thing that stands out in my memory is the dread that
took possession of my mind at the thought of being parted from my
mother. It was on the occasion of one of my father's visits,
and I, crouching in my favourite window-seat, reading over-heard a
conversation concerning myself.
am teaching her," my mother said timidly.
"It is time she was sent to school," said my father.
"I am, teaching her," said my mother, timidly.
"What does she know?" he asked.
"She reads very well," said my mother.
"How long has she been able to read?"
"A very long time," said my mother. "She learnt in
play—I hardly know how—it seemed to come so easy to her; and she
"What is that book she is reading now?"
"'Ivanhoe,'" answered my mother.
"Ah! I remember: Scott's works are up-stairs," said my
father; "but the rest are mere rubbish. What else is she
"I am teaching her to write and to spell," said my
mother—"all I know," she repeated, sadly.
"Well, if you are satisfied—" returned my father, carelessly.
The tears came into my mother's eyes, and she answered,
"No; I ought not to be satisfied, unless it is the best for
her. No! she shall go to school; but she has been so much to
me, my little Una!" And my mother's voice broke into a
I had been listening intently, with my eyes fixed on the
page, which had become a mere jumble of black letters to me; but at
that I was seized with a gust of passion, which swept me like a
small whirlwind to my mother's feet, overcoming in a moment all my
shyness and fear of my father. I dared I knew not what, but I
clasped her knees, crying, "I shall not go, mamma, I shall not leave
you; I will die rather!" and I turned round and faced my father, my
eyes blazing with defiance.
But he only smiled, and drew me to him, saying, "I'm glad to
see you have plenty of spirit, Una," at which, of course, my heroics
vanished, and I became the shy blushing child he had always seen me.
And he held me, in an agony of mental discomfort, between his knees,
and praised my silken hair—mere rings of hazel, which Susan always
disparaged because they would not grow long and thick and admit of
being brushed back from my forehead to form a waving mane behind.
Then he kissed me, and said I should not be sent to school, for
which assurance I only felt half grateful till I had fairly escaped
into the garden.
After that conversation, and no doubt arising out of it, an
arrangement came to pass which changed the aspect of affairs at home
considerably. Our favourite room—the one which opened into the
back garden, a large, dark-papered, Turkey-carpeted, unspoilable
room—was turned into a school-room, and thither came our tutor
daily. He was a young Scotsman from Aberdeen, and his name was
Bothwell. He must have been very poor, for I remember lending
him a pair of scissors to cut off the frayed edges of his
wristbands, and telling him, with precocious housewifely thrift,
that this plan would result in more fraying, and that they ought to
be properly mended, and he answering, with a smile, that he had no
one to mend for him, and that all that he could do was to pare the
edges. When I told this to my mother, who was the tenderest
hearted creature in the world, she set to work making a set of fine
linen shirts for him, of which I was allowed to do the plainer
parts. It was an immense pleasure to me, for my childish
worship was given to this man. He was lame. He was
frightfully marked with small-pox. He was' considered in the
household a miracle of ugliness. But he was never ugly to me.
His kind, clear, deep-set eyes were wells of light to me. His
tongue was as a fountain of water in a wilderness.
Our tutor was a great success. I learned, the boys
learned, and baby Lizzie learned. The whole house seemed
seized with a love of learning, from the least to the greatest.
For mamma took to learning also. I had sometimes felt a kind
of heart-ache concerning her, since I had grown more observant.
She would often look so sad and sigh so heavily, and I was sure she
cried, though she tried to hide it; and she did not play and romp
with us as she had seemed to do long ago. At first she did not
come into the room with us when Mr. Bothwell was there. She
never saw any one. Susan managed everything for her
down-stairs, and with the tradespeople; but gradually she got to
know him, and to come and hear him teach. And, indeed, it was
not wonderful that she should come, for he made everything so
interesting, especially for me, the oldest of his pupils. I
had to prepare what he called my "meanings," a list of words with
their uses and derivations, and in his further explication of these,
Mr. Bothwell would forget how time went, and unfold to us all that
lay hidden in some simple word, till language assumed new and richer
powers every clay—magic powers, indeed. "To us," I say, for my
mother joined in this task, and wrote the prescribed exercises as
well as I. She was one of his scholars, and stayed in the
school-room with us all the time, and he treated her with the
greatest delicacy and respect. We all began Latin
together—Ernest, my mother, and I—when Ernest had passed his eighth
birthday and I my ninth.
Then in the afternoon, when Mr. Bothwell had been there some
time, a lady came to teach me music, and my mother learnt too, and
would practise along with me morning and evening. So we soon
came to have plenty of work upon our hands.
And when the summer was somewhat advanced, we went away—as we
generally did—to the sea-side, and our father joined us there.
We saw more of him this year than usual, and he seemed to get fonder
and fonder of the children. I say the children, for I fancy he
never was so fond of me. Perhaps I repelled him, having a
childish impression that he was in some way unkind to my mother.
I had fancied she cried when he came sometimes, and then that
sometimes she cried when he didn't come. But who could help
being fond of our boys and little Liz? They were the most
beautiful creatures in the world, I suppose, without exaggeration.
Their eyes, changing from blue to grey as they got older, were
large, and of the softest lustre. Their silken hair, more
luxuriant than mine, and with lovely shades and gleams of gold in
it, fell in clusters on their shoulders. Their faces were
radiant with the softest bloom. Never were such lovely
tempting mouths, such sunny arching brows, such saucy, lofty,
mirthful, heavenly looks. People, especially at the
watering-places, where they were dressed more gaily than at
home—though our mother always kept us dressed in the perfection of
childish dress, with purity, simplicity, and ease— people turned
round to look at them, and ask, "Whose children are these?"
And at this time our mother seemed to grow beautiful and more
happy. I thought she became very fond of books and of
exercises and of music, and she began to sing again. But, for
me, I am sure I was happiest when we got back to our own house, and
were left to ourselves, and had our dear Mr. Bothwell back again.
Lessons had gone on briskly all the winter, and we were in
the spring once more, when my mother began to droop, I remember,
just when the apple-trees began to blossom with the first red buds.
She had to lie down a great deal; and I had to take my music-lesson
alone with Miss Brown, who was a very pretty lady, I thought, but I
did not like her as I liked our tutor.
One Sunday my mother seemed better. It was a bright
mild day, and she proposed to take me out with her—an unusual thing,
for she seldom left the house on Sunday. After she had dressed
me in her own room, I stood and watched her dressing; and she put on
a black gown and mantilla, and a thick black veil over her bonnet.
Then she stripped all the rings off her thin fingers, into the tray
on her toilet-table, leaving only the plain gold one, and put on her
gloves with a heavy sigh.
The bells were ringing when we stepped out into the street,
and my mother let her veil fall over her face. We walked about
a little while, it seemed without a purpose; and then, when the
bells ceased ringing, we went into a church. My mother
whispered something to the pew-opener, and we were put into a seat
at the very back. I did not know the service, and I could not
hear what was said, for the reading was careless, and we were far
from the desk. I do not know if my mother heard it, or if she
could follow it; but she soon began to weep under her veil, and she
wept all the time. I remember well the intense misery that
possessed me, and the constraint that I felt in making the slightest
movement; only at last I got possession of her hand, and caressed it
from time to time.
I had not been thinking much all this time. I had been
learning a great deal, however; but that is a very different thing,
and, at my age, a healthier one. I now confined myself to
questions more easy to be answered than the old what for and
why of everything, and they were answered very much to my
satisfaction. I began to love knowledge above everything, and
to treasure every scrap of it in a tenacious memory and also in
written records filling a whole series of sixpenny copy-books.
Mr. Bothwell himself with imparting secular knowledge. He had
leave to teach us what he called "a body of divinity." My
mother seemed to think the proposition a little startling, and
murmured something about her husband not belonging to the Church.
But he silenced her scruples by telling her that all he meant to
teach was a foundation of morals, and that it was impossible to
build without a foundation, which seemed quite to convince her, and
she agreed. She would have agreed on precisely the same
grounds if he had proposed to teach us Sanscrit, which it was rather
a wonder he did not do. He then brought us next day a very
unpretending little book, which he said contained a very excellent
"body of divinity." The phrase struck me, and I asked why he
called it a "body." "Because there is only one Spirit, Una,"
he answered, "and there are many bodies of this kind, and they're
dead, all of them, till the Spirit comes into them."
In most of our studies, Ernest was following fast at my
heels; but he seemed to learn without loving what he learnt.
He had already a little mocking way, both at work and play, of
pulling things to pieces. He began by liking things or people
very much, and ended by laughing at them, and saying, What was the
good of them? He was often restless and dissatisfied.
Edwin was very different. He was a little fat fellow, who took
everything with the sweetest insouciance. Mr. Bothwell said
his mind went into his hands and feet at present, and I can testify
that during lessons his hands went into his breeches pockets and
fumbled there among all sorts of odds and ends, for his doing so
used to fidget me. He had also a funny way of standing on one
leg and turning his head a little on one side, like a listening
bird, which made me laugh. As for Lizzie, she was a perfect
darling, bright as a sunbeam, open as the day, first to win love and
favour, and to use it for the happiness of those she loved.
Yes, even then most loving and most worthy to be loved; even then as
in the days to come.
A FIRST SORROW.
I PUT off to
another chapter the one great event of our childhood, the event
which ended mine—the death of our darling mother. It was spring when
she began to droop, early spring, with the March winds and unblown
buds. That day she took me to church was the last time she was
ever out, for the weather became cold and wet, and when at length it
brightened into May she was no longer able to move out of doors.
But Susan dressed her every day, and nearly all the time I could
spare from lessons I went and sat beside her, reading for the most
part, it is true, but looking up from time to time to meet her
smile, or sitting on the edge of her couch holding her hand in the
twilight. She grew thinner and thinner, and weaker and weaker,
but I never thought of death. I think she did, and tried to
break it to me but failed; failed out of her very tenderness.
It was one evening, after the others had gone to bed, they had been
in and kissed her and said good-night; first little Lizzie, who had
been sent away happy with a sugar-plum out of a box which the dear
one kept by her side, and was trotted off crunching it with all her
might; then Edwin, the latter bestowing his kiss on one leg, and
with one hand in his pocket, for he nearly lost his balance, and I
saved him from falling on her.
At length they were gone, and I could not see to read, but I
went to the window which looked into the garden to see the May moon
in the still fair evening sky. I heard her weak voice calling
me, and was by her side in a moment.
"Do you want anything, mamma?"
"Only you, my darling. Sit down beside me here."
"The doctor said I took away the air from you sitting there,"
I answered. He had said it only the day before, when he had
come twice, instead of only once.
"Never mind, dear; I like it. You don't crowd me up,
for you sit upon nothing. There, so that I can see your face,"
I took the hand I was always fond of stroking, and it felt
chill, for I tried to warm it between mine. While I was
holding it, I thought she was going to sleep; but she started awake
again, and gripped me strangely. Then she spoke.
"You will always love me, Una darling. The others may
forget, but you will not."
"Why should they forget, mamma? unless —" and my very heart
stood still with the sudden dread.
"Unless I was going away?" she murmured.
"Oh, not that, mamma!" I cried, sobbing and quivering with
"Hush! Una dear. You hurt me—hush! God knows what
And I forced back my tears, and quelled my sobs, and sat
still there till she seemed to sleep again, and the moonlight
streamed into the room, and peace came back to me before Susan came
to take my place, and brought her lamp and closed the shutters.
The next morning we were not allowed to see mamma. The
first thing in the morning—but that happened often now—we were told
that she was not well enough yet. Then Mr. Bothwell came, and
there was a whispered colloquy between him and Susan, and instead of
lessons was announced a holiday in the Park. I remember that
Ernest was delighted at first, and then said he had been in the Park
so often that he would like to go somewhere else. But Edwin
sent his hands to the bottom of both his pockets, and turned round
on one leg with glee.
We were to be allowed to kiss mamma before we went; but we
were not to speak, for she was too tired to answer. And Susan
took us in, one by one—first Lizzie, then Ernest, then Edwin.
Last of all, I went up to her, and kissed her in the darkened room,
and I felt her lips cling to mine for a moment. Susan hurried
I was astonished to find that even Lizzie was to be of the
party. She had hitherto been considered too small, and by
Susan too precious, to be trusted with us. But she was dressed
with the rest, and went away holding Mr. Bothwell's hand. I
was also astonished to hear Susan enjoin on our tutor to give us
something to eat, and she put some coin or other into his hand, I am
sure. I had a feeling as if she had done something derogatory
to his dignity, I remember; but I need not have feared; it was not
of the kind that can be derogated from by earthly conditions.
What a day it was! I have often felt as if it was a
perfect cruelty to have been so happy. We went in at the big
gates, and up the long green slopes under the great trees, Ernest
and Edwin giving each a hand to Lizzie, and running on before, while
I walked more sedately by Mr. Bothwell's side. Everything wore
the glory of the perfect time; the green grass glistened in its
first freshness; the leaves, crisp and fair, and newly unfurled,
were undimmed and unstained; the very sky, with small white
clustered clouds up in the blue spaces, had a look infantile grace
and joy. It was as if all things had been made new, as,
indeed, they had been by the breath of spring.
I remember coming to a knoll where some fine old thorns grew,
dotted about here and there. The old trees were covered with
blossom; one especially, the oldest-looking of all, was exactly like
one great bridal bouquet, a close-clustered mass of scented snow. I
remember noticing that some young trees close at hand had more of
leaf than of bloom, and pointing it out to our tutor.
"I have noticed it before, Una," he said; "and a fine thing
it is to think that when you might expect to be withered and worn,
outside and in, you may be like that tree there—all bloom and
About noon by the sky, we came down the southern slopes
again, and out at the great gates, and were taken into a quaint
sitting-room full of little cupboards, one in each corner and one in
the middle, and the cupboards were full of curious things brought
from foreign countries—Chinese cups and saucers, and teapots, idols,
and images, and an ostrich's egg suspended by a cord. The room
was pervaded by a curious and not altogether pleasant smell, but
that did not hinder us from enjoying the tumblers of milk and the
biscuits which were set before us, and which our tutor shared with
us. The novelty was delightful and the boys were excited by it
to an unusual degree. Only Mr. Bothwell was very silent,
answering questions, but not encouraging us to talk as he generally
sat and watched the ships coming up the reach."
After our meal we returned to the Park, and this time we
climbed the hill that commands a view of the river, and sat down on
the bench at the top. Our tutor took Lizzie on his knee, and
we sat and watched the ships coming up the reach. The boys did
not remain long. They began clambering up and down the steep
sides of the hill in a way which would have frightened our mother to
death though it did not move our tutor in the least, who had been
accustomed to mountains, and considered these mere mole-hills.
But this made me think of my mother, and wish to go back to her; an
the brisk air blowing over the height made Lizzie sleepy, and she
began to ask to go home. She had been running about a good
deal, and so she refused to walk, and Mr. Bothwell made no
remonstrance, but carried her all the way home in his arms.
At the door we were met by Susan, whose face was red and
swollen with crying and who took Lizzie in her arms and began crying
afresh over her. Our tutor took us into the school-room in
silence, and sat down looking very white and troubled.
Then he told us that we had no longer a mother on earth, and
I burst out into passionate reproaches for having been taken away
that morning and wanted to see her at once. Mr. Bothwell tried
in vain to calm me. My brothers were too frightened to make a
noise, I think; and the violence of my grief frightened them still
more. I think our tutor went and asked if I could be allowed
to see her, for he left the room, and when he came in again, he
said, "Be calm, Una, and I will take you to see her;" and he took my
hand, and led me up-stairs, and into the room—her room, only it
seemed empty, and swept and garnished, and all so hushed and white.
And he showed me her sweet face, looking very sad, but peaceful; and
the look of it froze my tears, and made me calm for a time.
So I left the room without speaking, and my first words were—
"Do not let Lizzie see her."
And Mr. Bothwell said he thought it was right that she should
not. She was too young. And I remember after that he
knelt at a chair and prayed with us; and that made me weep again,
for I was not reconciled to God's will. When little Lizzie
asked for her mamma, she was told that she was gone to God, and when
that would not satisfy her, that she should go away without Lizzie,
we said God had taken her. And it shocked me, I remember, to
hear her say, with her innocent little mouth all in a pout and
tremble, that God was very naughty to take away her mamma, though I
had had a feeling not very far from that in my heart.
I do not know on what day my father came. It was before
the funeral. He arrived in great haste, and I saw him when he
entered the room—our room, where Mr. Bothwell was: he had never left
us since her death—and he threw himself on a seat, and said, "Too
late!" as if to himself, several times. And then he looked at
my blanched face, and held out his hand, and clasped me in his arms,
and in said, "Poor child! poor little woman!" in a way which I had
never heard him speak before.
FOR some time
after our mother's death we remained in the old house under the care
of Susan and Mr. Bothwell; but when the summer came we were removed
in charge of the former. Our father, who was most kind and
tender to us at this time, arranged that she should accompany us to
our new home, and remain with us till we had become fairly happy
there. I was glad of this on my own account, but more so for
the sake of our little Lizzie. From the time of our mother's
death, a change had come over the child. She said very little
after the first day, when we found her at the door of the
death-chamber knocking, and calling, "Mamma, mamma!" The awful
reality had not come home to her childish understanding; but there
had come to her a sense of loss which troubled her, and thenceforth
she clung to one after another, especially to Susan and to me, and
would not let us out of her sight, lest she should lose us too.
She had been carried down-stairs, and soothed with stories of mamma
having gone to a beautiful place, where she was to wait for Lizzie,
who would go to her after a while. But she had got it into her
head that we might go too, and "leave Lizzie," as she phrased it in
her pathetic way, naming herself as she always did.
We were going to Scotland, and we went by steamer, and were
all more or less prostrate with sickness during the voyage, with the
exception of Edwin, who was accordingly in a state of exultation
from morning till night, and, we believe, stood upon one leg all the
time. But I remember being roused and dressed very quickly in
the little state cabin where we slept, and then taken on deck,
feeling faint and giddy, to see a sight I shall never forget.
I suppose it was my first impression of the grandeur of the
universe. The beauty of flowers and trees, of park and garden, I
knew and delighted in, and I was familiar with the sea-side and the
sunny sands; but I had never taken in the great glorious whole of
earth and sea and sky, as I did now. It was early, very early—soon
after sunrise. The grand awful sun-face had appeared above the
waves, which leaped as if in ecstasy to mingle with its rays.
An infinite purity of light was in the sky, a freshness as of a
new-born wind in the air. I had never seen a sunrise, and it
was as though I witnessed the resurrection, so thrilled and awed and
dazzled was my mind, and so full of a new and conscious joy.
And as the sun rose, it shone from the north and from the
east upon a city. Was that, too, new-risen? for such a city I
had never seen. Crowning the green slopes which reached up to
it from the shining water, were what seemed snow-white palaces, rank
on rank, set in a circle of majestic hills. There a
castle-crowned rock, and yonder a still lordlier shape—a huge black
lion couching, as if to guard the city—lifted their heads high into
the pearly sky. It was Edinburgh, and I kept my eyes fixed on
the enchanting scene until we touched the shore.
We were taken to an hotel, and re-washed and otherwise
refreshed; and in due time, while it was still early, arrived the
lady to whose care we were confided. She welcomed us with
great kindness—a peculiar sort of kindness, in which there was
nothing relaxing, but rather something bracing and strengthening.
She did not take us in her arms, and kiss and pity us, little
motherless wanderers as we were; but shook hands with us all round,
and treated us quite as if we were sensible people who knew how to
make the best of things. Lizzie clung to Susan, but observed
her impartiality, as she made no objectionable advances; but the
boys made friends at once. I never saw our boys take so
readily to any one. They attached themselves to her at once,
and, what is more, their attachment was lasting; even with Ernest it
was so. And no wonder! Was ever teacher so unexacting
and yet so firm? such a lover and promoter of freedom, and yet such
a born ruler? She ruled Ernest, who had been the most
difficult to rule, by means of the very characteristics that had
created the difficulty. She was before him in detecting the
flaws in everything which had caused his ideal nature to waver and
change. She was before him in laughing at every folly; for she
wielded the power of which he stood in keenest dread—the power of
It was the same with all of us. She turned the
peculiarities of each to account; but I doubt if she ever fully
comprehended me. No doubt this is what most young people
think, and may seem a foolish and conceited thing to say concerning
a clever cultivated woman like her; but there were thoughts and
feelings which I never revealed to her. I did not hide them;
they instinctively hid themselves. They were things too tender
to bear the keen breath of her searching intellect, too shadowy to
stand in the light of her supreme good sense.
One of these hidden things was my love for my dead mother.
To Miss Hope her name, I believe, never passed my lips; and yet how
I treasured her memory, a memory of unmingled tenderness; how I
longed for her, and sometimes cried for her; how I learnt to believe
in her presence near me, and to comfort myself with an invisible
friend in her. Nothing of this did I ever reveal to Miss Hope,
nor do I think she could have guessed it. She was herself
proud and independent, and she defended pride and disliked humility
and dependence. She was by far the most sensible person I had
known. She was a great deal more than merely sensible, but
sense predominated. She was hot and hasty of temper; but she
had too much good sense ever to indulge it. Therefore it only
served to give spirit and impulse to her mind. She had some
contempt for the claims of the stronger sex to superior wisdom, was
in fact strong-minded; but she had too much good sense to allow it
to influence her. I learnt to love her very truly and dearly,
but always with a certain reserve. She wanted just the touch
of unworldliness—that divine folly which lifts us above the region
of the most sterling sense, and lands us, it may be, in the presence
We learnt a great deal and saw a great deal in the years that
now ensued. Every autumn we were taken to meet our father;
usually abroad, but sometimes at hand, at the coast, or at some
chosen home among, the hills. Between my fourteenth and
fifteenth year I began to keep a journal. I am not going to
inflict it on any one, but I find there recorded my delight in the
beauty of nature and my appreciation of the freedom we enjoyed,
which led to my finding out, as it seldom falls to the lot of girls
of my age to find out, the precious joys of solitude. Often
when we have been spending a sunny afternoon in one of the green
hollows of the hills at the foot of which nestled the house which
was for several seasons our summer home, I have wandered away from
the rest unchidden to find for myself some upper solitude. It
was not to indulge in melancholy that I went apart; on the contrary,
it was to revel in boundless joy. Climbing up and up, I would
feel my spirit grow blither at every bound, till my very body felt
an ethereal lightness and my feet seemed hardly to touch the earth.
I must have had the gift of pure and perfect health in those days,
for I felt neither languor nor weariness. I had a fancy that
the butterflies, chasing each other in the hollow as I started
upward, felt as I did. Sometimes I reached the hill-crest only
to dart downwards again like all arrow from a bow: at another time I
would lie down out of sight, and look up into the sunny sky till it
assumed an inky blackness, listening in the perfect silence, broken
at intervals by the bleat of a sheep from below or the song of a
lark from above, or the boom of the heather-bee at my ear.
I had entered my fifteenth year when our boys were sent to
school. Ernest was fourteen by that time, and Edwin, of
course, a year younger, and Miss Hope had hitherto taught us all
together. She had laid the foundations of future knowledge and
culture deep and strong. We read, Lizzie included, much, and
that of the best, and had been taught to understand what we read,
and we were well grounded, boys and girls alike, in Latin, French,
and music. There was one thing, however, that we were never
taught, and that was religion. We knew more of the mythology
of Greece and Rome than of the religion of Christ, and what we
unavoidably learnt of the latter we learnt precisely as we did the
former, that is to say, historically.
"It is your father's wish that you should judge for
yourselves when you are of an age to understand," was the answer
that silenced our inquiries as to the absolute truth of things.
"It is your father's wish, and I have agreed to respect it."
There were good schools in Edinburgh to which our boys might
have been sent, but our father ordered it otherwise. He had
found a proprietary school, in which, he informed Miss Hope, the
principle he had adopted would be strictly carried out.
Thither, accordingly, Ernest and Edwin repaired, to be with
us only during the longer holidays, an arrangement that was more
conducive to our quiet than to our happiness. They had
furnished to our lives an element of healthy turbulence, and their
going was the signal for the close of Lizzie's childhood, just as
our mother's death had been the close to mine.
Lizzie missed Edwin especially. With him she had long
maintained an alliance, offensive and defensive, and his going left
a gap in her life, which I strove in vain to fill, the years between
us having as yet kept us apart, both in our studies and amusements.
Miss Hope's little circle received us with kindly interest,
and I had no idea how restricted it was. How it came to be so
restricted was easily explained. It is always a solitary life
that a man or woman must lead who is driven to labour out of the
sphere in which they were born. Pride meets them from above
and from below, from within and from without, and more or less
isolates them from their fellows.
Miss Hope was the daughter of a landed proprietor who had
ruined himself by speculation, and died bankrupt and heart-broken.
Her brothers had chosen careers, and gone abroad; and she had been
offered, somewhat coldly, the place of a dependent in the home of a
relative. This she had refused, and turned her talents to
account as a teacher, while former friends, sooner or later, turned
their backs upon her, or she upon them. She had made but few
friends of her own, and they were mostly of a generation older than
herself—perhaps they had been tender to her struggling youth.
The old gentlemen were fond of politics and chess, which latter they
insisted on making me a proficient in; and the old ladies were for
the most part notable housekeepers, but withal keen critics both of
books and men.
In all the circle there was not one of my own age. The
nearest approach to a companion was the deformed daughter of a
solicitor, who had one of those beautiful clear-cut high-strung
faces sometimes seen on the deformed, framed in masses of brown
hair, and whose ghost-like hand I once ventured, in a passion of
youthful tenderness, to kiss—a kiss which opened up a whole new
world to me, for it opened to me Magdalene Bruce's heart. I
had thought of her only as a patient sufferer. I had heard her
spoken of in that sensible circle as a burden to herself and to
others, as one to whom death would be a boon, and I found her filled
with a life and a joy which I recognised as higher and fuller than
The holidays were now more delightful than ever, for they
brought the boys back to us; and we were very proud of our boys,
growing handsomer and cleverer every time we saw them, and full of
the incidents and adventures of their school life.
In my seventeenth year we went abroad, and remained away from
England nearly three years. When vacation time commenced, my
father himself brought the boys to Paris, where we met them, and
commenced a little autumn tour, visiting various parts of France,
Switzerland and Italy. When the vacation was over, we returned
to our villa in the neighbourhood of Paris, and went on with our
studies, which were broken again by the Christmas holidays, spent in
Paris with our father.
Lizzie now had a German governess, with whom I read German
and practised, for she was a first-rate musician. Fräulein
Vasa I only half-liked, and she was very little of a companion to
me. She was the daughter of a Hanoverian pastor, and it was
most strange to me, associating as I did education and refinement,
to find her so highly educated and so little refined. She was
a beautiful girl in her way, large-limbed and exquisitely fair.
I have seen her half undressed in the lamplight, with her luxuriant
yellow hair tumbling about her, and her pinky neck and arms shining
as if they were half transparent and I have shrunk from the fair
arms ungraciously, for she was fond of embracing me. I would
rather have kissed the thin face of Magdalene Bruce, and saw more
beauty in it, upturned pathetically because of her deformity, than
in the Fräuliein's, bent like a rose heavy with fullness. She
was particularly fond of nice things to eat, and astonished us all,
down to Lizzie, by frequent fits of crying. A headache or a
toothache made her cry; and what was still more inconceivable, she
cried because she was dull. Her soul was sad, she said,
because there was nothing to see.
Nothing to see, and we lived in the midst of a perfect
panorama of loveliness! Our villa was set on one of the wooded
heights above the Seine, close to the village of St. Michael, and
commanding a view of the long wall of the terrace of St. Germain's,
backed by the dark woods. Every point had its fresh glimpse of
the winding river, each more picturesque than the last. Every
turn in the scrambling roads had its scene, its circle of woods, its
grey-roofed village perched on the height, or nestling in the
hollow. But the poor Fräulein delighted not in these.
What she did delight in were the gay shops, and the theatres, and
the dresses, and plenty of clatter and chatter. Her soul
delighted in these.
As for me, I knew not what dullness meant, or if I did it was
only in the society of poor Fräulein Vasa, whom I learnt to pity
with a contemptuous pity—to pity, and to tolerate. Ah! if I
had but known the future, what might I not have saved one of my
beloved ones by retaining the severe youthful intolerance with which
I was disposed to treat her duplicity, and laziness, and
self-indulgence. And yet if circumstances are God's appointed
discipline, what right have we to arraign the past? Let it
bury its dead.
WE had spent our
antumm in Normandy, and returned to Paris as usual, preparing to
part with our boys and go back to our village, when an event
occurred which changed the course of our lives. In the early summer,
Miss Hope's eldest brother had returned from Ceylon, a widower with
three children, all girls, for whom he was on the outlook for
suitable home. It was Lizzie who started the brilliant idea that
they might come to us, and an excellent idea it seemed; but Miss
Hope steadily discouraged us in entertaining it.
We were greatly interested in the progress affairs, however, for
Miss Hope now received a letter weekly, whereas she had hitherto
been well content, if she got one once in three months. We heard of
Mr. Hope's movements continually, and at length the news came that
his father's estate in Perthshire had come into the market in the
very nick of tittle and that lie had commissioned an agent to buy it
This had been done, and he was now in possession of his re-purchased
inheritance, and of the very house in which he and his sister bad
been born. The touch of romance in it excited us to enthusiasm, and
for the first time Miss Hope talked to us of the place as if she
really loved it.
And still a brisk correspondence went on, and father seemed to join
in it. I noticed now that there was always a portion of his letters
that she did not lea to us, and that a few of them she did not read
When it length lie joined us, I could see that something, troubled
him; lie was the most silent and reserved of Wien, and lie seemed
particularly reserved with me. He had always bad more to say to the
boys, perhaps because they were boys; and one could see how fond and
proud lie was of them; and as for Lizzie, she made him love her, for
she loved him, and she had no fearfulness, no reserve in her love,
and no timidity in expressing it. In spite of himself lie Lad to
throw off his reserve with her. But between him and me there was
always a certain constraint, and I have often caught him looking at
me in a calculating manner which sent me on more than one occasion
to consult the mirror, and see if I could discover any-thin, in
myself which was doubtful or strange, This was not the look I
noticed now, but one more troubled and more tender, so that I longed
to throw my arms round him and ask what lie was thinking of; but I
could not, and so nothing transpired till after our return to Paris.
But before the great event was announced to us that Miss Hope had
consented to take the head of her brother's house, and consequently
was going to leave us, a little incident occurred which was to
shape, the whole of our then uncertain future.
Miss Hope had a passion for art, which she had some degree infused
into us, though lily chief enthusiasm was, and is, for nature; and
we were all in the Louvre, paying a farewell visit to our favourites
there: for this much we knew, to our immense satisfaction that we
were going back to live in live in England. We were in the Salon
Carré, and made quite a large party, the boys and papa, Miss Hope,
and Fräulein Vasa lagging in the rear.
Looking at my father, I suddenly saw a gleam of recognition come
into his face as he glanced at a group standing opposite. There was
also a certain quick movement of his thick dark eyebrows, which
seemed to me expressive of annoyance. Then he left the boys and
crossed over, shaking hands with the ladies of the party. I felt
sure Miss Hope saw him as well as I did, but she took not the
slightest notice, and immediately drew Lizzie's attention to the
details of one of the pictures. There were several ladies and a
gentleman in the group my father had joined; but there was one who
drew all my attention to herself. Site was of middle age, very
florid, and highly dressed, with the hardest blue eyes I had ever
seen, and she deliberately raised her gold eye-glass and looked over
us in the most insolent manner. She glanced at the boys first, and
then stared at me. Lizzie had just turned her lovely face, and was
on the point of encountering the impertinence, when I stepped in
front of her, drew myself up to my full height, and returned the
stare with interest. But doubtless I overdid my part, for it was one
completely foreign to to me, and had only been prompted by
indignation. The lady smiled contemptuously, and dropped her glass,
and I remained, with my face burning, and my eyes filling with
tears, when a slender, quietly-dressed lady, who had been speaking
to my father, and watching the little scene, darted over to my side,
as if seized by a sudden impulse, and, holding out her hand to me,
said, with almost a sob, "My dear, I am your aunt."
"I have no aunt," I said, but still taking the hand, for I could not
help liking the face.
"This is your aunt, Una," my father said, coming up to us.
I looked up at him with I know not what of trouble in illy face. I
know that there was a terrible pain at my heart, and I felt ready to
choke with a sense of some great injustice. If she was our aunt, why
had site neglected us all this time? Why had everybody neglected us?
She had turned to Lizzie and repeated her words. Always before me in
winning love, Lizzie smiled and held lip her sweet face, which the
lady kissed, and then turned away her own to hide her emotion.
Presently my father presented her formally to Miss Hope. "These are
my sons, Ernest and Edwin," he added.
She shook hands with them, and once more with me; once more kissed
Lizzie, and then my father took her back to the party she had left,
and they all went out of the saloon, leaving us behind them there.
I could not look at the pictures any more that day, and I carried
home that pain at my heart. I longed to ask my father how it was
that we had never known that lie had a sister; but I could not, and
more than once he looked at me with that troubled look.
But Lizzie, with her fearless freedom, (lid what I could not do. She
asked the question, simply, " Is she your own sister, papa? "
"My only sister," he answered.
"And why does she never come to see us?" she asked.
"Because we have been long estranged, owing to 'things that happened
before you were born."
"And now you are going to be friends again," said Lizzie; "that will
be so nice, papa. Have you any more relations?"
"Not many—very few that I like," he replied, and left her abruptly.
Of course I was now of an age when it was necessary to consult me
about my future destiny, or at least to acquaint me with what it was
to be. I could no longer be dealt with like a child; and my father
at length sought an opportunity to tell us that Miss Hope was going
to her brother. She was truly sorry to give us up, lie said, for we
had been excellent young people, and she had been very happy with
us, and was much attached to us; but her brother had pressed his
claims and the claims of his motherless children, and she had at
length agreed to go and live with them.
How grieved, how hurt, and how unreasonable I was about it! I was
attached to her with all my heart, in spite of my little reticences
toward her, and I firmly believed that nothing would have induced me
to go away and leave her. "Why are we so friendless?" I cried. "No
one seems to care for us."
"Una," said my father, gently, "do you think I don't care for you?"
"But you are seldom with us," I answered, through my grief.
"I intend to be more with you in future," he replied.
"And we have no home," I murmured.
"I have had no home, Una. Be a brave girl and make a home for me in
my old age. My sister has offered to take charge of you for a time,
after your return to England."
"The lady we saw in the Louvre?" I asked.
"Yes. She will be most kind, I am sure, and do all she can to make
up to you for the loss of Miss Hope. But you are a woman now, and I
want you to make a home for your brothers and your sister and me. I
am greatly obliged to my sister for offer- in- to take your place
till you are old enough to fill it with propriety, and I am very
anxious that you, on your part, should do all you can to make her
"Oh, papa," I cried, "it is so hard to have to love over and over
again! It is like being pulled up by the roots!"
"Don't make things harder for me than you can help, Una," he
answered, with a strange stern look of suffering which I had never
seen on his face before.
I had to tell Lizzie and the boys; of course, Lizzie was the worst;
but the boys took it less philosophically than I had expected. We
were a very dull and miserable party for the rest of the time we
were together. Miss Hope promised faithfully to come and see us; but
she gave us no invitation to her new home. We parted from her in
London, and thither Aunt Monica came to meet us. " Mona," my father
called her, and Lizzie called her " Aunt Mona" within the hour.
Furnished apartments were taken for us in one of the streets running
northward from Oxford Street till our future place of abode could be
determined on, and there we settled down for the winter. At the
commencement of the term Ernest went up to Cambridge, having chosen
the law as his profession; while Edwin remained at home undecided,
except on the point that any of the learned professions would be
irksome to him, and that he would prefer to choose something else at
Our father expressed himself sorry that he had not put this
important matter before him sooner, especially that lie had not
encouraged him to choose the life of a sailor, as he himself had
done. And I think it was a pity he had not. The discipline was just
what Edwin needed—the strict sense of duty, and not the sense of
duty only, but the binding force of definite duties. He had the
sweetest, sunniest temper, uninvaded by anxiety or care. Idleness,
sloth, was his besetting sin. Day after day passed away, and found
him no nearer a decision. He was quite contented to share our quiet
life, to spend his mornings over a German grammar, his afternoons
sauntering about, and his evenings reading a tale. He was never
impatient or restless, and never absorbed. He would jump up from his
easiest attitude—and he was fond of easy attitudes—to do some
trifling service to any of us. He would forsake his volume on the
very brink of the catastrophe to go out with us. Even shopping,
which I detested, he did not object to. Aunt Monica tried to help
him with suggestions as to his future. There was engineering, there
was the army; but hard study and stern examinations barred the way.
He thought lie would like to be a farmer, and that was the one thing
nobody seemed to know an anything about; and so day by day went by,
and nothing was done.
Lizzie went on with her studies as usual, varied by walks in the
parks and promenades in the streets, productive of quite a new
vivacity in the Fräulein. Edwin was always at their service as an
escort. He was also profiting by the Fräulein's company to perfect
himself in German, which he considered might be of great use to him
lie took to commerce, which he thought of as an alternative to
As for me, I was emancipated from lessons—had been long ago—but Miss
Hope bad kept me up to a certain routine of improvement, which I
missed with- out knowing exactly what it was that I did miss. I had
been taught to value truth for its own sake, and not for anything it
would bring, not even for the highest things. But I could no more
help translating it into life and living joy and hope than I could
help my organism digesting the food I ate.
I had learned a great deal—was what is called thoroughly
accomplished; but to what end? Miss Hope had exhorted me to keep up
my German and Italian. But why? To become more accomplished still!
What was the good of it all? I knew enough to know how high were the
heights above me which I no longer cared to climb. There was
science, there was learning, the old classic learning, which I
coveted to acquire, and which I read of girls like myself eagerly
pursuing. But I wanted bread, and these were for me as
stones—precious stones it might be; but to the hungry, diamonds are
no more than pebbles.
Of course when Edwin was out, and Lizzie engaged at her lessons,
there were times when Aunt Monica and I were left alone together. At
such times I would be seized, in spite of my utmost efforts to
escape from it, with an oppression of shyness which completely took
away the power of speech. And all the while I so longed to be able
to speak about ordinary things in a natural way, because I feared my
silence might be misunderstood. For I was not generally silent, but,
even with strangers, could be frank and gay enough. And it certainly
was not that I did not like Aunt Monica. No one could help liking
her. She was the embodiment of Wordsworth's lovely sonnet, to that
Whose mortal lineaments seem all refined,
By favouring nature and a saintly mind,
To something purer, and more exquisite,
Than flesh and blood."
Only she was not old, and there was a sprightly air mingled with her
meekness as of a high spirit sweetly subdued.
But there was a barrier between us, and I soon became aware that she
too felt it. We could not meet as strangers and learn to know each
other, we who ought to have been known to each other long ago.
Instead of accepting her as she was, I was continually questioning,
" Why has she stood aloof from us till now? Why does everybody stand
aloof from us? What does she know about us, about my mother too?
Does her standing aloof front us mean any slight to her?" And
looking at Aunt Monica with these thoughts in my heart, my face
would suddenly flush crimson, and my eyes fill with tears.
THE DEAD PAST.
"DO you not love
me, Una?" said Aunt Monica one day, when an embarrassed silence had
come between us like some bodily presence. She had been
working beside me, and had risen and gone to the window, and now she
stood over me and laid a small fair hand on my shoulder.
"Very much, Aunt Mona," I answered; "and I want to love you
altogether, only I cannot understand—"
"I know," she replied, gently; "the past is troubling you,
and you cannot go on and leave it unexplained as some might be able
to do. It is not right that you should, my dear. You are
not a child any longer, and I will try and satisfy you as far as I
can. If I did not love you, Una, it would be hard for me to do
this." Sitting down beside me, she paused, and then she began
again a little hurriedly, as if touching on something that pained
"Do you remember your mother?" she asked.
I told her as I had never told any one before how I had
treasured her memory. I drew a picture of her as I remembered
her, so beautiful, so sweet, so gentle and loving; but somehow I
could not give it character as I could have done a picture of Miss
Hope, or even of Mr. Bothwell, or Susan. It was faint and
shadowy, like something seen in a vision.
"I never knew your mother," she said, when I had finished.
"Your father is my third brother, and I am his only sister, and a
good many years younger, as I dare say you know. Our father
was one of the severest men I ever knew. He had few faults and
no weaknesses of his own, except the great fault of want of
tenderness in dealing with the faults and weaknesses of others.
He was constantly repressing freedom, and joy, and affection in all
about him; a man whom it was easy to respect, but almost impossible
to love. In his repressive system, however, he succeeded,
outwardly at least, with all of us except my brother Ben. We
became, seemingly, as subdued and formal as he could wish, our
natures more or less injured in the process.
"Benjamin alone resisted. He was not to be repressed.
Passionate, and daring, and but little reverent, he rebelled
incessantly, and I know it made the great trial and burden of our
mother's life, the perpetual strife between the two. There was
but one appeal to which, even as a child, Ben would listen, and that
was an appeal to his sense of justice, an appeal which, as between
father and son, our father would not allow. Benjamin had also
a passionate indignation against injustice and cruelty. He
would inflict the most severe and instantaneous punishment upon any
one whom he caught in any act of oppression or unkindness—to animals
especially. Indeed, he became almost frantic under any
flagrant instance of wrong of this kind, and I know that he
considered his father's rule both unjust and cruel.
"I will not and cannot judge between them; indeed, I was too
young at the time, but I believe that our father was in error, to
say the least, and that he mistook for duty the dictates of an
arbitrary will, which failed to win from a spirit unbending as his
own the obedience which was his due.
"By the time Benjamin was of an age to choose his profession,
our father was ready to allow him to choose for himself, to avoid a
collision in which he was sure to be worsted. Benjamin chose
the sea, and was entered as a midshipman while other boys were in
the beginning of their school life. Somehow or other, he came
to be regarded as the scapegrace of the family while yet a mere lad.
Nothing dishonourable was ever heard or recorded against him, but
when we saw him from time to time he was more daring and reckless
and irreverent than ever. At length, to our great horror, he
proclaimed himself an unbeliever. I was only a child even
then, but I remember my mother's tears and the words she added to my
"He was in his twenty-fifth year when he married your mother,
who was not of our rank, I believe. She also alienated her
family by the marriage. It was a legal, but not a Christian
one, and in accepting it she tacitly renounced the faith in which
she had been brought up. Further than this I cannot go.
Of their married life I know nothing. My father commanded
every member of the family to break with your father at once.
My mother left his letters unanswered, and, when my father died, he
left her bound by a promise never to receive him unless he came to
her as a penitent.
"Before he died, my father had come into the family property,
for we belong to the old untitled gentry of England, and my eldest
brother Robert of course succeeded. Some time ago he died
childless. That lady whom you saw in the Louvre was his wife.
Then my mother died, and though she said but little, we knew that
she died mourning over her separation from your father, her youngest
and her favourite son, whom she did not dare to call even to her
"Since my mother's death, I have been comparatively free, and
I had seen your father once or twice before I met you. It was
necessary for us to meet about the disposal of our mother's
property, a further share of which came to him under her marriage
settlement, a certain sum having already passed to him on his coming
"I hoped that my brother Henry would have been reconciled to
your father, but I hoped in vain. I tried to heal the breach,
She did not add that she had mortally offended her elder
brother by the step she had taken with regard to us.
I was silent, but doubtless my face expressed the indignation
I felt, for Aunt Mona said, presently, "You are dowered with the
hate of hate, my child, but do not let your natural indignation make
you unjust. When I look back upon it all, I can find room for
pity and tenderness, though I, too, suffered. My father
thought he was doing right and no more than his bounden duty; nor
did he escape suffering himself, or seek to escape it. Do not
think he did not love us. He loved us, and lost our love, and
I think he knew it. I think he saw what even I could see—that
my mother was alienated. She failed in no wifely duty or
loyalty, but the spontaneous flow of affection was checked and
frozen. They became strangers to each other's hearts.
"Now, dear," she added, looking at me with a look of the tenderest
pleading, "let us forget these old unhappy bygone things."
"But, Aunt Mona," I said, "how could people calling
themselves Christians act in such a way? I do not understand
"You are thinking, dear child," she went on, "that these
bitter waters might have been healed at their fountain-head by the
power of the Spirit of Christ; as indeed they might. Only, Una,
we must not judge individuals, but remember that here, in God's
school, we may profit by the mistakes of others as well as suffer by
them. Above all, we must not presume to judge of Christ by
Christianity, but bring our Christianity to Christ to be judged of
After this there was no restraint between Aunt Mona and me.
Even my reserved nature began to unveil itself to her perfect
sympathy. And at this time, seeing me sometimes occupied in
reading her favourite books, she put into my hands a manuscript
volume, into which she had copied all the most precious utterances
of the spiritual life of the day. There I found all sections
of the Church of Christ alike, speaking the same language of faith
and hope and charity, animated by the same spirit of devotion to one
Divine Master, united in one communion with the spirit of truth.
This was just what I needed, standing outside as I did.
I began to think much and often concerning the truth of
Christianity, and our position in regard to it. We had been
brought up without the pale of the Christian faith. We knew
Christianity as we knew heathenism—from without. We had even
been taught to consider the former an immense advance upon the
latter. But Christianity refused to be treated in this way.
It was a living thing. Life and literature were full of its
vital force. Its light was everywhere reflected like that of
the sun, colouring everything in some appropriate hue. There
was no standing in a neutral attitude towards it. And why
should it exercise such a fascination for my whole nature?
Often it seemed to me like a mighty palace in the midst of a
midnight plain, with light shining from its countless windows, and
gusts of heavenly music wafted from its opened doors. And I
and others like me were condemned to wander outside among the
shadows. True, there were the stars above; but did they not
awaken the sick longing for a home of the spirit, a closer communion
with their Maker and ours, than could be bred of their distant
splendours? And then there were storms and tempests outside,
and literal weepings and wailings and gnashings of teeth over
irretrievable loss—the loss caused of sin and death. I
believed in God. I could no more help believing than I could
help seeing with my eyes open and light to see by. I felt my
life to be from His; my joy in living, my sense of the beauty of the
physical universe, my sense of right, my feeling for truth, my power
I had read the New Testament, and knew the claims of the
Divine Teacher, whose authoritative "Believe also in Me" my heart
longed to answer. It seemed impossible that the moral beauty
of the character of Christ, and the grandeur of his doctrine, could
be the outcome of a tremendous lie. In the history of
Christianity, too, it was easy to separate the true from the false.
If false popes, and sham miracles, and cruel inquisitions were
presented to me, so also were holy fathers, miracles of saving
power, tender charities. There had been, and might still be,
Iscariots who called themselves apostles; but one was authorised to
say that if any man had not the Spirit of Christ, he was none of
His. Still, it was to the living present, not to the dead
past, that I clung. I felt that for me the most powerful
appeal lay in the faith and in the lives of Christian men and women;
and now before me in my daily life, I saw a Christianity embodied
such as I had only dreamt of as yet. It must have been
embarrassing, to say the least, if Aunt Mona had known how closely I
watched her at this time. Not with any desire to find flaws in
her; nay, with quite a trembling anxiety that they might be wanting.
"Aunt Mona," I said one day, with seeming abruptness, but
really following a train of thought her presence had awakened.
"In my whole life I have known only one or two who seemed to me to
be Christians in the sense of being followers of Christ, and they
are wide as the poles asunder in everything else, only they appear
to have a secret in common—the secret of living. I believe
they are happier than other people."
"That is exactly what it is, Una. The secret of living
is with the Christian who has entered into the life of Christ.
He or she has found the keynote which harmonises all the discords of
earth, the clue which unravels all its confusions. They may go
a very little way indeed toward doing so, may leave them just where
they were as regards others, but, as far as they are concerned,
having found the Father, it sufficeth them."
AUNT MONA'S FRIENDS.
I HAD an early
opportunity of observing Mrs. Robert Lancaster at close quarters.
Soon after we were settled in our London lodgings, she came to call
on Aunt Mona. She is a large handsome woman, with a spirited
face, and hard bright blue, eyes, which she has a habit of making
larger still when she looks at you, as if she saw something that
surprised her. We met as if we had never seen each other
before. I tried to smother my antagonistic feeling, which she
had again aroused, without doing anything particular to arouse it.
She devoted herself to Lizzie—with the intention of making me
uncomfortable, I fancied, and I was sorry that she succeeded.
It was a great relief to tell Aunt Mona what I felt.
She chid me gently. "Harriet has good qualities," she said.
"She is generous in her way, capable of being magnanimous even; but
her want of sympathy is so great that she is always doing kind
things in an unkind way, and having her kindness rejected and
despised; so that she is quite convinced of the general ingratitude
and wickedness of human beings. She takes sudden and
unaccountable likes and dislikes. She is rich, for she had an
ample fortune of her own settled upon her. She is full of
energy; and yet of all these good things she is not making
happiness, but often the reverse. You might all be much to
her," Aunt Mona concluded.
Mrs. Robert, it seemed, was going to be a very frequent
visitor, and, thanks to Aunt Mona, my antagonistic feeling was not
long in being overcome. She began to interest me, and we
cannot continue to dislike what we are interested in.
She blundered in her usual way with Lizzie. I believe
she really fell in love with the child, and she asked her to come
and spend a day with her. Lizzie looked at her with her brave
frank eyes, but without her sweet frank smile, and declined, saying,
somewhat bluntly, that she did not want to go.
I felt sorry, and hastened to say, at the risk of being
misunderstood, that Lizzie had never been accustomed to go anywhere
alone. I knew that if she had included me in the invitation
Lizzie would have gone gladly. Of course there followed the
embarrassing "Will you come with her, then?" I saw Aunt Mona
glancing uneasily in my direction, and blushing hotly, I answered,
I was fully rewarded by Aunt Mona's earnest thanks—
"I was so glad, dear child, that you conquered the fear of
being misunderstood," she said, seeming to know exactly what I felt.
"Do you think it is very foolish to fear being
misunderstood?" I asked; for it was one of my most potent fears.
"Not always," she answered. "It may proceed from very
different motives—from a modesty that fears it has not done or said
the best thing in the circumstances, as well as from a restless
vanity that desires appreciation under all circumstances; but it
ought always to be striven against as one of the subtlest forms of
How far beneath the surface Aunt Mona's goodness reached!
We went to Mrs. Robert's, and found a very large handsome
house, which had an empty feel, though I believe it is constantly
full of young people, and spent what would have been a very dull
evening but for the newness of everything. It was pleasant
enough to see new pictures, new music, new books, and even new
china—new old china, I ought to say—and Aunt Robert seemed pleased
with us for coming, and for being pleased. So all passed off
Aunt Mona seems to have a great attraction for her
sister-in-law, though no two human beings can be more unlike, and
they are continually clashing, as far as it is possible for any one
to clash with Aunt Mona.
One afternoon, when Aunt Robert was there, Mr. and Mrs. and
Miss Winfield were announced, and there entered a slender
middle-aged lady, elegantly dressed, a stout smooth-faced old
gentleman about twenty years her senior, and a slight, dark,
graceful girl, apparently about my own age.
They seemed old friends, for both Mrs. Robert and Aunt Mona
greeted them familiarly, though after the first greetings the former
took her departure, when Aunt Mona introduced me.
They were hardly seated, however, when several heavy thumps,
succeeded by a prolonged and dismal howl, were heard behind the
The old gentleman's face went into a shapeless pucker of
mirth as he chuckled, "There's Thora." The lady looked
slightly annoyed, while Edwin and Lizzie both rushed to the door,
and admitted a magnificent St. Bernard. The immense creature
bounded into the room like an uncaged lioness, and, with one sweep
of her tail, cleared Aunt Mona's small work-table of its
flower-glass and other articles.
Mr. Winfield had got upon his feet, but Thora was up with her
paws on his shoulders and her deep-black muzzle at his face.
There was a great calling of, "Down, Thora, down!" by all the
party, and Thora got down, and took up the whole length of the
hearthrug in an ostentation of prostration, but she was up again in
a moment, and more obstreperous than ever.
"Perhaps I had better take her out," said Mr. Winfield.
"I think you had, my dear," said Mrs. Winfield, with the
least possible tone of sharpness.
"I do wish you would not bring her, papa," said Miss
"Oh, please let her stay; she is going to be quiet," said
Lizzie; for Thora now stood the picture of meek strength by her
"Love me, love my dog, eh?"
"Love me, love my dog, eh?" said the old gentleman, patting
Lizzie on the cheek; upon which Thora became demonstrative towards
Lizzie, and Edwin caught her by one of her broad soft ears, and a
hubbub ensued, in which the whole group swept out into the hall, and
troubled us no more. I could see them outside—at least, Mr.
Winfield and Edwin—walking up and down the pavement before the
house, Thora waving a triumphant tail as she walked beside them.
And in the meantime Miss Winfield talked to me, and Mrs.
Winfield to Aunt Mona, and I, somewhat new to drawing-room
conversation, tried to listen to both for a time, till Edith
Winfield compelled my wandering attention.
"You have come out, I suppose, though we have not met
anywhere?" she said, fixing her great grey eyes on me, sparkling
with I knew not what of eagerness or intellect, or spiritual force
of some kind, that at once attracted and repelled me.
"No," I answered simply, vouchsafing no further explanation.
"But you will this season?" she returned.
"I don't know," I replied.
"Have you always lived in the country?" she went on
"No, we have lived a good deal abroad lately; but we have
resided chiefly in Paris, Edinburgh, and London."
She seemed astonished. "I thought you had lived in the
country," she replied.
"We have always lived very quietly," I answered.
"I envy you," she said, with a shrug of her thin shoulders
which with all my French residence I had never acquired. "We
always come up to town in March and stay till the end of June.
I have been out for four seasons, and am horribly tired of it.
I get frightful headaches with the standing, and the crowding, and
the heat, and I look as fagged as possible at the end of the first
week and never recover again, but keep getting faggier and faggier,
and thinner and thinner, till I have the pleasure of knowing that I
look as nearly as possible like a death's head, and by the cross
looks I get on the staircases that my elbows are positively
I laughed, but I was puzzled; she looked so little like a
rattle, so large-eyed, and hollow-cheeked, and sad in her first
youth. I laughed, and said, "Why don't you stay at home,
"I can't; I go out with mamma. She says she goes out
with me, but that's a polite fiction. She is younger than I
am; she is never fagged, or if she is, it's before she goes out.
She gets brighter and brighter as the evening goes on; she sings
better than I do, and she never has any head-aches that I know of."
"I know very little about society," I said.
"And you are fond of books, I know," she said.
"Very," I answered, smiling.
"I never touch a book; none of us ever do," she went on; "but
mamma reads the reviews to be able to talk about them."
"And what do you do with your time?" I asked, hardly knowing
what to say to her.
"Oh, in London," she replied, "what with shopping, and
dressing, and visiting, we never have any time to spare."
"Do you play?" I said, innocently; music was a great resource
"Oh, nothing to speak of! What's the use of it?
Professionals play better. People only think good players a
bore. They either don't play themselves, and then they don't
care to hear you; or they do, and then they would much rather play
I was half angry with this hollow-cheeked girl, betraying to
me the emptiness of her life in this careless fashion. What
canker had eaten into her heart that she should find it so?
"We are near neighbours of your uncle. Winfield Court
is the nearest house to Highwood. Do you think we shall be
I felt myself blushing, for I could not reply.
"Doubtful," she answered for me, enjoying my want of tact.
"Now, I hope we shall. It will give me an opportunity for
speaking the truth and being believed."
"How so?" I asked, in blank bewilderment.
"Well, you must know that I am an extremely injured person.
I am so much in the habit of speaking the truth that people
absolutely don't believe me. Come and see me soon," she added,
rising as Mrs. Winfield rose, and shaking my hand with an eager
clutch—I can call it nothing else—and away she went with her mother;
Mr. Winfield making his adieux from the pavement, while we made ours
from the window; Thora's great tail wagging and waving in accord
with his nods and becks to us.
"Have you known the Winfields long, Aunt Mona?" I asked, when
they had gone.
"I have known them all my life," she replied. "Winfield
Court is one of the nearest country-seats to Highwood, and we have
been friendly neighbours, though, owing to the great difference in
tastes and opinions between the heads of the families, we have never
seen a great deal of them. Edith has, however, been in the
habit of running out and in to me all her life. Has she been
talking to you? She likes to talk nonsense."
"She has been talking to me, but whether it is nonsense or no
I cannot tell. She seems very unhappy," I said.
"I fear she is, poor child," returned Aunt Mona. She
has a strange character. I have never known any one at all
like her. As a child she was a mischief-maker for the very
love of it, seemingly, but probably only from sheer activity of mind
undirected into its proper channels. She delighted in setting
everybody by the ears, and then watching what would come of it.
Her curiosity was unbounded, and though her affections were warm,
she managed oftener to repel than to attract."
"I think she must be the same still," I ventured to say.
"To some extent she is, but at any rate she is profoundly
dissatisfied with her life."
"Is she wrong to be dissatisfied, Aunt Mona?" I asked.
"I think there is a noble dissatisfaction as well as an
ignoble," said Aunt Mona; "and in Edith's life there is plenty of
room for the former. Her affection for her parents is great,
but her father, a kindly man in his way, bestows a good deal more
attention upon his dogs than upon his daughter. He is a great
lover of dogs, and at Winfield they are gathered in force.
There are big dogs and little dogs, English dogs and foreign dogs,
dogs without end, indeed; and he is devoted to them, one and all.
Mrs. Winfield's heart is in society. She was a great beauty,
and brilliant and witty besides. It was thought she would have
made a splendid match, and every one was astonished when she married
her cousin Charles. But she went into society as much as ever,
and really seems to enjoy it for its own sake. Edith has no
heart for it. She is not at all like her mother, and is, I do
believe, blindly craving for a nobler and more earnest life."
"What do you call an ignoble dissatisfaction, Aunt Mona?" I
went on asking.
"I don't think it is difficult to define," she answered.
"I think it is ignoble to be dissatisfied with duty, whatever it may
be. For instance, when a girl has plenty of simple home
duties, and is dissatisfied only because she thinks she is fit for
higher things—I call that an ignoble dissatisfaction. One may
bring one's highest things into the lowliest duty; and the first
thing a girl ought to be fit for is duty, and the second is duty,
and the third is duty," she added, smiling. "No noble doing
will come out of doing anything else, and no noble satisfaction
"I think I see it," I answered. "There may be a noble
dissatisfaction when you are not satisfied with the way you are
doing your duty, an ignoble one when you are dissatisfied with the
duty itself, and won't do it, but want to be doing something else.
But what has a girl like Edith to do, aunt?" I added.
"There is a great deal for her to do, my dear. She has
a mind which would amply repay cultivation; she is deplorably
ignorant. She has in the country at least endless
opportunities for doing kindnesses, and satisfying her heart as well
as her head; and then a girl never knows when the period of
probation may be at an end; when she may be called upon, with all
the energies of both mind and heart, to support those she has
hitherto leaned upon; or when she may have to enter a home of her
own to be the ruling spirit there. There is no reason against
her seeking other duties if she has the time and strength for them;
but not in the spirit of weariness with those she has."
"Were you ever dissatisfied, dear Aunt Mona?" I asked.
"Yes, my dear; but not permanently so," she replied.
"But the mistakes made in our training were of a different
character. They were not mistakes of over-indulgence and
relaxed discipline, which throw young people so terribly on their
own resources. We were taught to recognise the great value of
time as a preparation for eternity, and to fill our hours with a
constant round of duties, even if these were made needlessly
irksome. The noblest pursuits were brought before us, and we
were encouraged to devote ourselves to them by precept and example.
The service of God, our own improvement, the good of our
fellow-creatures, were steadily kept before us. We might fall
into the weariness of mere formal observance—I think we did—but we
could hardly experience the deeper weariness of empty lives.
And no sooner did this service become heart-service than there was
no longer weariness; nay, there was boundless joy.
"You want to know how I reached this standpoint, dear?
I do not think it was by means of any special religious teaching
that the spirit and the life came into this service, filling the
divine words of the Bible and our sublime hymns and prayers with new
meaning. It came to me in my daily life, in the things that
went on about me, in the daily blessings and trials, in the solemn
hours of sorrow and of joy, through my own needs, my own longings,
my own failures, all gradually deepening into the one longing for a
Divine sympathy, a Divine companionship, which once attained, all
life flows into a new order, a new activity, a new repose."
At the end of a week Aunt Monica returned the Winfields'
visit alone. It was necessary to explain to them the position
in which we stood with regard to our Uncle Henry, and leave them to
take their own course about it.
OUR FIRST CHRISTMAS WITH AUNT MONA.
AT this time I
discarded my old habit of keeping a regular diary, and began to
record, at intervals, the events that were passing around me, and
the thoughts and feelings which influenced me. These I shall
be able to give more exactly as they occurred at the time, with all
the freshness of the immediate impression, by transcribing, whenever
it is possible to do so, the record as it was written; often at the
moment, seldom later than a few days after the event. Thus I
find myself writing at the close of the year:—
Our first Christmas with Aunt Mona has been a very happy one.
I think it has been so to her, though I can see how great has been
the sacrifice she has made for us. Our father has come from
his station in the Channel to spend the holidays with us.
Happily, our lodgings have been found elastic enough, by a little
packing on the part of us girls, to accommodate both him and Ernest.
I shall be sorry to see our father go back to his ship again.
On the first evening, when we were all together seated round the
fire waiting for dinner to be announced, he looked round on us and
said, "This is more like home than anything I have known for years."
I could see his eyes glisten as he spoke, and I thought of his
lonely cabin and of the stormy nights in the Channel, and noticed
for the first time that his hair was grey—very grey for his
years—and that his tall thin figure stooped. He would not let
us light up the drawing-room that evening, and Lizzie and I played
and sang to him by firelight, and he was mostly silent. He
never had much to say, though he can be boyishly gay at times, with
a wonderful simple-hearted gaiety.
Ernest has come home full of ardour for his student life at
Cambridge. He is in love with the place and everything in it,
with his rooms, with his tutor, and with his new associates.
He has already laid out his whole course there, an ideal course,
which is to crown his youth with the triple crown of knowledge,
virtue, and strength. He means reading hard, and going in for
honours, but without being a mere bookman, joining the sports
without becoming an athlete, boating without turning himself into a
coxswain, riding without making a jockey of himself.
He has been confiding these intentions to me in his letters,
and at first I could no help feeling what I had already learnt to
feel instinctively concerning all Ernest's enthusiasms, that this
would last only while the newness lasted; but I begin to feel
convinced that there is something more real in it than usual, and to
think that, after all, the fickleness he has hitherto shown may have
been only a seeking after the best, and that now, at least for a
time, he will be satisfied, and perhaps form tastes, and habits, and
friendships that will last. The associates he has chosen are
evidently thoughtful and pure. The friend whose name he
mentions most frequently is a Mr. Temple, and it gave me a clue to
the new way in which he seemed to look at things when I learnt that
this friend is ardently religious. "And he does not shut
himself up with other pious fellows," said Ernest, "who keep to
their own set as if our ideas would contaminate them. He is
always ready for discussion and investigation. He says he
wants to hear all that can be said on the negative side, and he has
no fear of the result. Do you know," he added, "he has
convinced me that there is no halting-place between positivism and
Christianity, and that the former is only a name for know-nothingism."
This admission led to several conversations between us, too
simple and sacred for record, but in the course of them, the name of
Herbert Temple has become very familiar to me, so that I almost feel
as if he were my own friend as well as my brother's.
I am glad Edith Winfield has gone out of town with her father
and mother. I am sure it is ungrateful of me, for she has been
very kind. She was extremely outspoken concerning our Uncle
Henry's refusal to acknowledge us, and abused him roundly; and she
has come to us several times during the last month--whenever she was
particularly dull, she tells us, but it is a dullness we fail to
discover. Her usual effect is to brighten us all up, not
exactly like sunshine—there is nothing sunny about Edith—but like a
crisp breeze which may blow a storm some day. Even Aunt Mona
feels her refreshing, though she sometimes interposes when her
tongue runs too fast or too far.
I cannot tell why, but I felt a vague sense of trouble when
Ernest came into contact with her, which he did on the very day in
which he came up to town. She ran in to say good-bye not an
hour after he had arrived. For one thing, I feared she would
shock his fastidious nature, and I did not wish to warn him against
her, for that I felt would be an injustice; and, besides, would
defeat my desire, which was simply that through her he might not
think more meanly of all women.
Curiously enough, their first meeting seemed a sufficient
answer to my objection. Edith on this occasion was perfectly
charming. I was quite bewildered by the change in her. I
knew not that she could change almost at will. Her very voice
had altered. The harsher notes were gone. She was
altogether sweet and gracious. Her rapid utterance, which made
her speech stumble at times, gave her an artless grace. In
short, I made the discovery that Edith Winfield was fascinating,
and, at the same time, that Ernest thought so too.
My own longing to gain the Christian standpoint is becoming
more definite and eager. When I saw Aunt Mona preparing to go
to church on Christmas Day, I felt a great desire to go with her.
I hesitated a little, but when I found that our father wished to be
alone all the morning to write letters, I hastened to ask if I might
"I will gladly take you with me, dear," she answered, "only I
should like you to see your father and mention your wish to him.
He will not hinder you; he does not wish to hinder me from using any
influence I can gain over you. Indeed, without this having
been expressly understood, I could never have come to you. He
thinks you are all old enough to choose for yourselves. Still,
it would be better for you to speak to him on the subject."
My heart failed me.
On the spur of the moment, I went straight into his presence.
He had been writing, but had ceased, and was sitting with his head
resting on his hand, leaning against the writing-table. He
seemed to me very sad, and my heart failed me. It felt like
desertion. He smiled a courteous and affectionate smile, and
rose to greet me.
When I had hurriedly stated my wish in answer to his question
of "What is it, Una?" the sadness returned to his face, but he
replied, "Do not think for a moment that I would seek to prevent you
going, or even desire that you should not go. All I have
bargained for has been that you should be brought up entirely
without bias. Go, by all means, and judge for yourself."
I left him, wishing that some day I might find courage to ask
him what he believed concerning God. It was beginning to be
the great question with me. I believed in God because I could
not help it. If there was any faith to be put in instinctive
belief, that belief was instinctively mine. Was it his also or
had be come to think, as I had lately found was possible among
thinking men, that the universe was but an infinite assortment of
blind forces which, in their ceaseless play, had blundered upon man?
However, the church bell was ringing, and I went to join Aunt
Mona. Lizzie and the Fräulein begged to accompany us also, the
latter assuring us of the staunchness of her Protestantism, though I
fear she went simply to see something fresh. Her craving for
sight-seeing was something which would have been incredible to any
one who had not witnessed it. Lizzie went only to be one of
us. She had had from the first an unquestioning love for Aunt
Mona, and it was enough for her to sit beside us and to feel that we
were hearing the same words, to make them sweet and sacred.
For some time after our entrance the bell kept clanging over
our heads. I could not account for the feeling of repose and
peace that took possession of me. It was like the rest which
the mind feels when in the midst of confusion it perceives an order
which promises to reduce it to a perfect design. The service
was begun and conducted with extreme simplicity, and it affected me
deeply. It satisfied me, too. Something was here, I
felt, answering to the craving of my spirit.
Then followed the sermon, but the face and voice of the
preacher had already bound me like a spell. I cannot describe
the elevation, the purity, the saintliness of the one, or the
trembling tenderness, the penetrating power of the other. His
speech was of the divine mystery of which the day was a celebration,
but he made the mystery appear the highest and purest reason.
All the providences of God led up to it; all the human charities
flowed out from it; all the aspirations and hopes of the race were
bound up with it.
When we came out of the church I gave a little sigh of
satisfaction, and Aunt Mona looked at me and said, "I am glad we
have had such a sermon as this." "Yes," I answered, "I have
heard nothing like it before. That is what is meant by the
Gospel, I suppose. I never understood before what it meant."
"You have had but few opportunities," she said, gently.
"It is not the first time I have been in church, Aunt Mona,"
Yes, it was this I had thirsted for. It was some
tidings from somewhere of the Father in heaven, some proof that to
other spirits than mine He had drawn near, and some hope that I
might draw nigh to Him—nay, abide in Him for ever. In later
days I have often thought that the sight of a great congregation is
one of the most moving in the world; their being sent empty away one
of the most mournful. And a man may lavish all the treasures
of his intellect, and exhaust all the moral energy of his nature,
and yet fail in this; for unless he has drunk himself of the living
water of a spiritual life, he cannot be to others the well-spring of
living water which every spiritual man becomes. He may build
the cistern, but he cannot fill it; he may serve as the conduit, but
the waters must come from above. He cannot be a preacher of
the Gospel; he has for the waiting multitude no tidings of great
We had arrived at home before Lizzie spoke at all, and then,
twining her arms round me with a fervent clasp, and fixing her clear
steadfast eyes on my face, she said, simply—
"Una, it is all true; I am quite sure it is the truth, and I
The holidays are over, and Ernest has returned to Cambridge,
but our father remains for a week or two longer. The only one
who stays at home on Sundays now is Edwin, and so long as he stays I
do not think our father minds so much our desertion. I could
not help feeling it as such, and being silent—a cowardly silence I
often think it is.
I never saw any one like Edwin. His idleness is
perfectly amazing, and he is not deficient in intellect; on the
contrary, he has always learnt only too easily. After watching
him closely for some time, our father seems to have become alive to
the necessity for making him do something. He has a way of
trying to win him which it is pathetic to watch. It is,
"Edwin, come and take a turn with me," and Edwin will go with
apparent alacrity and pleasure, and our father will begin to talk to
him, and gradually Edwin will lag behind, and become absent.
Then suddenly he will remember that he has something to do or to
see, and hasten or saunter off, while our father looks wistfully
after him, not striving to hold him, but evidently half hurt, half
perplexed. These little scenes take place in the garden of a
neighbouring square which our father is as fond of pacing as if it
were a quarter-deck, and on one or two occasions I have been
present, and have watched them, and I know that it has been the same
at other times, by the conduct of both. Edwin has returned
alone and gone out afterwards with Lizzie and the Fräulein, and I
have gone out and found my father pacing there alone.
At last, however, he has left us, and Edwin seems to have
persuaded him that the best thing he can do is to learn German as
thoroughly as French, which he is in a fair way of doing, and that
then some opening will occur. He will enter the office of some
great merchant, and carve out a fortune for himself.
TIME has begun to
slip away once more with a seeming monotony of movement, as it did
in our villa above the Seine before we knew Aunt Mona. It is
as when one glides down a stream between level meads which we have
ceased to notice, when all of a sudden we find ourselves at the
confluence of two rivers, or between the quays of a city, or walled
in by mountain ranges and hastening towards a fall.
We are already approaching Easter. The Winfields have
been in town for some weeks. They are certainly very kind.
They lost no time in calling upon us, and were as cordial as at
Edith has taken to running in and out as before, till hardly
an afternoon passes that she does not come to us, enlivening us with
her chat about last evening's party, and all the foibles of the
hour. She brightens us up so much that I begin to take myself
to task for not liking her better, and to feel sorry that I cannot
return the caressing warmth of her manner to me. If she finds
me alone she will fling herself on a low stool at my feet, and lean
her head against my knees, much as Thora does to her father; and on
one of these occasions I know not what impulse of tenderness made me
caress the soft luxuriant hair; for she has a habit of throwing her
hat aside when she comes in.
"Go on," she said when I stopped; and, instead of repeating
the motion, I bent down and kissed the shining head—the first
spontaneous caress I had ever given her.
When she looked up at me, which was not for a minute or two,
her great eyes were full of a tender mist, and she said, with a
humility which contrasted strongly with her usual manner, "Do you
really like me, Una? I thought you didn't; you have been so
cold to me. But a kiss from you is worth more than one from
anybody else I know."
I felt my eyes fall before hers, and my face begin to flush.
"One would think you took me for a lover, Una," she said,
laughing. "Have you ever had a lover, U.?" Her mood had
changed in a moment.
"No," I answered; "only I shrink from accepting more than I
"That is pride," she said, quickly, and then repeated with
"'I hold him high who for love's sake
Can give with generous earnest will;
But he who takes for love's sweet sake,
I think I hold more generous still.'
Don't you like people to love you whether you love them or no?" she
finished up by asking.
"It would be terrible to me," I answered, honestly.
"It might be to me too, under certain circumstances," she
said, more thoughtfully. "It might be if I thought it would
last, but it doesn't, you know."
"I should not care for a love that did not last, either to
take or to give," I said.
"Yours would last," she said, looking at me wistfully again,
and then bursting out into a little mocking laugh.
We were all three of us, and Aunt Monica, of course, invited
to an evening party at the Winfields', but only Edwin went.
Aunt Mona considers Lizzie too young; and, though our darling Liz
manifested a healthy girlish appetite for what she could not but
consider a new pleasure, she yielded gracefully to Aunt Mona's
verdict. As for me, I was left to choose for myself, and
though I know that Aunt Mona would have accompanied me cheerfully, I
fancy she was better pleased that I declined to go. She still
hopes that her brother Henry will relent, and take us into favour,
and would evidently prefer not to create speculation concerning our
family affairs in the meantime by appearing with us in society.
Aunt Robert is of a different opinion. She is already a
warm partisan, and there is no love lost between Uncle Henry and
"I don't know why you should study him," she said. "I
should let him cook in his own sauce, if I were you."
Both Aunt Robert and the Winfields are going out of town for
Easter. Ernest is to spend the first week with Mr. Temple, at
the house of an uncle of his in Devonshire, so we shall be quieter
Easter has come and gone, and we have had the great pleasure
of seeing and becoming acquainted with Ernest's friend. After
spending a week in Devonshire, Ernest came up to be with us for the
remainder of his holiday, bringing Mr. Temple with him. They
were anxious to be together. Mr. Temple was going into
lodgings at a private hotel which he frequents when in London, and
which is quite close to us; but Aunt Monica, dear large-hearted Aunt
Mona, invited him to come to us instead, and he accepted with
Ernest's admiration for his friend is unbounded, and now that
I have seen him I do not wonder at it. On the evening of their
arrival, when Mr. Temple had bidden us good-night, and Ernest had
gone up to his room with him, he came back again to ask us what we
thought of him. Of course we all liked him, but our praise was
not warm enough to satisfy his worshipper.
I am glad Ernest has found such a friend, for he is really
delightful. He is grave and courteous in manner, but full of
flashes of fun. He does not speak at all of serious subjects;
his pervading air alone is serious, but he went to church with us on
Sunday, the day after his arrival, and no one could mistake the
depth of his devotion. He and Aunt Mona stayed to the
Communion, while we remained in our pews, except Ernest, who went
out with the congregation. We found him pacing up and down in
front of the church, looking rather restless and unhappy.
Before the week was over Ernest's friend was as much ours as
his. We all felt it. To Aunt Monica he gave the
deference of a son. To Lizzie the playful tenderness of a
brother. This also to Edwin and to me, but with a subtle
difference in both cases. In speaking of him to me, and now in
writing of him, Ernest calls him "your friend Mr. Temple," but that
he is like an elder brother describes him best. Not that he is
much older than Ernest, for he is only a year older than I am; but
one could never lean on Ernest. He might enter on some grand
enterprise and carry it out even, if his enthusiasm sustained him to
the end. He might lead a forlorn hope, be the martyr of an
unwon cause, but a support in one's daily life, a helper in one's
common duties, he would not care to be. He wants to be doing
some great thing, and does not care to do nobly the little things;
and Aunt Mona teaches that ennobling the little things is the
hardest if not the highest task.
Even Edwin does not grudge his brother's devotion to this
friend; but I don't know what Edwin would grudge. I sometimes
question if this wonderful sweetness of his comes from a certain
lightness of nature. I would almost like to see him more
I can hardly believe that it was only a week, not that it did
not go swiftly enough, for it went past like a dream; but now that
it is gone it seems an age. The brief mornings flew past, with
light reading, and letters, and chat; and after luncheon we went
out. Ernest proposed riding, but Mr. Temple turned to me.
"Do you and Miss Lizzie ride, Miss Lancaster?"
"Oh, yes, we are extremely fond of it; but we have not ridden
in London yet."
"Then let us walk instead," he said to Ernest; and we went
for a walk. I never knew how lovely London can look in the
"There is nothing I like better than walking about London,"
he said, afterwards. "The endless variety of human faces, and
even of human habiliments, interests me unfailingly."
"If the endless variety were not such a variety of ugliness,
I should like it well enough," said Ernest. "Do you know that
he dragged me up and down Seven Dials when you ladies left us to-day
till I know I shall have a nightmare of horrible faces."
"Strange enough masks; but only masks, I fancy," said his
friend; "masks of the deadly sins in any number; but if by any
process we could scale them off, we should find, beneath them all,
the human face divine. Look at the little children among them,
pinched and wretched enough; but with such gleams of light and
sweetness in their wee faces. Still I don't propose to take
you to Seven Dials, Miss Lizzie. It is not a pleasant place by
any means, though it is a favourite haunt of mine."
"But I should like very much to go," said Lizzie, who had
been listening eagerly, with her eyes fixed on Mr. Temple's face.
"Lizzie would bring back a whole menagerie, I believe," said
"I think I should want to bring away some of the little
children," said Lizzie, earnestly.
"Pray, Miss Lizzie, are you already a practical
Lizzie blushed, and denied all connection with philanthropy,
but confessed to a love of little children. "And you know,"
she added, "the little children will one day be men and women, and
the men and women were once little children."
We all laughed except Mr. Temple.
"That is the depth of profundity," said Ernest, mockingly.
"Do you know," said Mr. Temple, "the first time I put that
proposition to myself, though it seems simple to absurdity, it let
in a flood of light upon my thoughts concerning things in general."
"Made you give your version of 'Take care of the pence, and
the pounds will take care of themselves,' 'Take care of the
children, and the men will take care of themselves.'"
"Yes, and it gives a profound pathos to the most degraded and
brutalised of men, the having once borne the image of the child,
unconscious and tender, and helpless and innocent."
How glad I should have been to have made a third at the
conversations that took place between the two when we had retired
for the night. They seemed to me endless; for more than once I
lay awake and listened for the quiet "good-night" on the stairs, as
they passed up to their rooms. In these long evenings they
doubtless indemnified themselves for devoting themselves to us
during the day. Still, in the hour or two after dinner the
young men would sometimes begin a discussion which lasted longer
than our usual hour of retiring, and kept Lizzie and me, and also
Aunt Mona, interested auditors. I dare say they talked, as
young men, a little loftily. Why should they not, if their
thoughts and feelings are loftier? The years that bring
soberer language and soberer thought may sometimes take away more
than they give.
One evening—the last—they began to talk about political
economy. Mr. Temple was combating the notion that the luxury
of the rich is a benefit to the poor.
"It encourages trade, doesn't it?" said Ernest, whose mind
was not given to practical questions.
"It is wholly bad to encourage a useless trade," said his
friend. "It is the trades that supply useless luxuries that
are the most fluctuating and often the most crushing."
"But there are true tastes to be satisfied—the craving for
beauty in the things that surround us every day."
"Granted; a taste so liberally gratified by nature must be
true and noble; but if we have the power to gratify it by art, it
must be a matter of conscience that we do not do so at the cost of
others, or even at the cost of the sacrifice of some nobler aim.
I think it is possible for the lover of art to become a very poor
creature indeed, and I am always a little jealous of the
encroachments of a passion for it."
"But then there is the encouragement of industry. If we
were all to take to camel's hair and leathern girdles, the ladies to
blue serge and ditto—I think I have seen something like that
somewhere—a great many people's occupations would be gone."
"But a lady trailing a rich dress of Lyons silk in the dust
and mire is not encouraging industry."
"Ladies don't do that," broke in Lizzie, with a "Bravo!" from
"I am corrected, Miss Lizzie; but some who follow their
example in having rich dresses without the taste, or perhaps the
opportunity for wearing them only on fit occasions, do." He
avoided the sneer at a class which is so easy, and so false, and
went on, "They are not encouraging industry; they are possibly
preventing their poorer sisters from having rags enough to cover
them. All waste is uneconomical, and if a lady has two silk
dresses where one would suffice, she has withdrawn for her pleasure
the power which would have sufficed for some one else's need."
"But how far are you to carry the principle?" asked Ernest.
"If you mean in individual practice, that is a question, I
fancy, for the conscience, and has no more to do with political
economy on that side, than arithmetic has with the circulation of
the blood. It may mean for one man spending generously a noble
income, promoting taste, and culture, and happiness, and to another,
'selling all that he has.'"
Just at this point, to me of the deepest interest, I happened
to look at Edwin, who was full length on a couch behind us, and saw
his tender eyes fixed with a smile in one direction. Following
them, I saw the Fräulein, with a bit of embroidery falling from her
large handsome hands, and her fair head and rose-hued face nodding
in slumberous unconsciousness. Of course other eyes followed
in the same direction, and our colloquy was broken up.
Lizzie and I were rather severe upon the Fräulein that night
when we got her up-stairs. We knew she did not like Mr.
Temple. He was perfectly courteous to her, but she shrank from
him strangely. "He is too clever for me," she said, that
evening; "and his eyes go through and through me."
A PRINCE IN DISGUISE.
THE other day I
startled Aunt Mona by jumping up, and tapping on the window, in the
endeavour to arrest the attention of some one on the opposite side
of the street.
"Who is it, my dear?" she asked, coming over to me, and
looking out of the window at the crowd below.
"The gentleman there."
"Where?" asked Aunt Monica. "I do not see any
gentleman. Has he crossed over?"
"No; he is there still. But he does not see me; he
cannot hear me for the rattle of the carriages."
Aunt Monica stared across the street in complete
bewilderment, for there was no one to be seen on the opposite side
except an old man, evidently an itinerant vendor of toys, waiting to
cross when the stream of vehicles had passed.
I had no time to explain, but left Aunt Monica standing there
in astonishment, while I ran downstairs and out into the street,
darted between the carts and carriages, seized the hand of this very
old man, and at length dragged him with me into the house, as fast
as his lameness would permit.
I still held his hand, and in the other, and over his
shoulder, he carried a load of children's toy carts and
wheel-barrows. I wanted him to come straight up into the
drawing-room, but he would not come, and I desisted from urging him,
because I felt it would give him pain; so I had to content myself
for the present with a hurried conversation in the hall, which ended
in the obtaining of his address and leave to call upon him there.
On entering the room again, I found Edwin stretching his lazy
length upon the sofa, a volume of Tennyson in his hand.
"Oh, Edwin! oh, Aunt Monica!" I cried, excitedly; "whom do
you think I have found?" Aunt Mona smiled, and answered, "I
don't know, my dear; but you evidently forgot that you were in the
middle of London. I saw you rush out, and run madly across the
street; and I thought you were possessed with a sudden mania for
purchasing the stock of an old toy-vendor."
"Katie never ran; she 'moved to meet him,'" quoted Edwin,
from the sofa.
"Then Katie must have been a very lifeless and rather selfish
creature," I answered, hastily; "and you don't deserve to know whom
I have found."
"Who was it?" asked Aunt Monica. "Some pensioner, I
"It was Mr. Bothwell, our old tutor," I answered.
"My dear, I am more bewildered than ever. You don't
mean the old man with the toys?"
"Yes, indeed I do. He tells me that teaching failed
him, and so he took to toy-making. Only think of it, Aunt
Mona! he lives by making those things, and he is very, very poor!"
"Why didn't you give him something?" said Edwin.
"Why didn't you bring him up-stairs?" said Auntie.
"First, Aunt Mona, because he would not come; and, Edwin, I
could not give him money like a common beggar."
"Oh, I mean lots, all that you had—not such a sum as one
gives a beggar."
"No, I could not; I feel sure it would have hurt him to be
offered money. Besides, I want him. I want to see him.
I have his address. He says it is not a fit place for a lady
to visit. But I must go; you will come with me, Aunt Mona?
Indeed, I must go!"
"By all means, my dear. It is very sad for a gentleman
and a scholar to be reduced to live in such a way."
"Only he is not sad, Aunt Mona. I never saw any one
more cheerful. But fancy his living all alone in a room by
himself, with no one to do anything for him."
I could not rest till I had dragged Aunt Mona to the address
Mr. Bothwell had given me. It was in one of the courts at the
back of St. Martin's Lane, and we passed through Seven Dials to
reach it, which we did at last under the guidance of a friendly
policeman, who, however, left us at the entrance of the court.
It was certainly a dismal and dirty place, and I saw some
faces, especially of women, round the doors of the public-houses
which made me shudder, and yet they inspired more of pity than
terror. We had asked our way, and been answered with unvarying
courtesy, and within the little court it was the same.
The houses were large and old, and surrounded the court, so
that even on that bright afternoon in May a great portion of it was
in shadow; but in the little strip of sunshine the children played.
They stopped their game to look at us, and drew near to listen when
we asked a young woman, with a baby in her arms, to direct us to Mr.
"I know; I'll show you," came from half-a-dozen eager voices,
quite drowning the woman's answer, and showing that he whom we
sought was well known among his neighbours.
The house, it seemed, was let in single rooms, and Mr.
Bothwell's was on the ground-floor. The young woman led the
way, and all the children followed. A cheerful "Come in!"
answered the young woman's knock, and having opened the door she
ushered us in and withdrew, driving out the children, who showed a
strong inclination to follow us.
When I had introduced Aunt Mona, while Mr. Bothwell was
finding us seats, I was getting accustomed to the dimness and
confusion of the little apartment. The window was in a corner,
and in the corner was a bench, heaped with materials for the
construction of toys; another ran along the side of the room with a
turning-lathe fixed to it; against the end wall was a set of plain
deal shelves filled with books in good old-fashioned calf bindings,
except that the top shelf was occupied with a row of dishes, a few
cups and saucers, a brown teapot, and a plate or two. A lot of
thin wooden planks leaned against the wall in the only spare corner.
There was a tiny table about two feet square, a big easy chair in
which the master of the house had placed Aunt Mona, and several
three-legged stools, which came out from under the bench, and which
he gaily informed me he had made for visitors. In the midst of
the confusion there was something genial. It was not
comfortless; there was a small fire, and a little kettle simmering
on the hob. "You see I am quite comfortable here," he said;
and what with the fire and the books one could not help believing it
Then he began asking minutely about all of us, and taking the
greatest interest in all I told him, gradually, and in spite of the
invincible shyness which he could not help showing, setting us at
our ease as any gentleman would his visitors.
"You wonder to find me engaged in such work as this, Miss
Una," he said, seeing me examining the heap of wooden objects which
lay near me.
"Do you make these with your own hands?" I asked, by way of
"Yes, I make them, and sell them to the toy-shops; and in the
summer I sell more than I can make; only, as there is no demand in
the winter, I lay in a little stock of the separate parts, such as
you are looking at, and put them together as required."
"But I fear such work is very poorly paid," said Aunt Monica.
"It is so," he said; "but, you see, it takes very little to
keep me, and when I am busy I lay up enough for the time when work
"But what made you take to such work as this? It is not
fit for you," I said, hastily.
"I am glad to be fit for it, Miss Una, though you seem to
think it is a degradation; which, indeed, it might be if other work
was required of me."
It was my turn to blush; but I could not deny my thought as
he had read it.
"You could do higher work," I said; "and to do lower work
does not seem right, does it?"
"But the higher was not given me to do," he answered.
"I tried and tried in vain to get teaching; tried till it was
useless to try any more, for my clothes were no longer respectable
enough to present myself in, and my very letters, one from your
father among the number, were worn out, too, with much handling.
Nobody wanted me to teach; and the rebuffs I got make me wince to
this day. Misfortune makes us acquainted with strange
bedfellows, they say; and it made me acquainted in this very way
with an old toy-maker, who taught me his light and gentle craft in
return for some teaching which he wanted sadly enough—of higher
things than earthly knowledge, Miss Una; and I have stuck to it.
I make my carts and wheel-barrows so strong that they will stand any
amount of knocking about. They are not made only to sell, to
disappoint the bairns, and teach them distrust, and premature
knowledge of the world; depend upon it, Miss Una, the Master knows
best, and I am at my appointed task."
I was listening with a delight which I saw reflected in Aunt
Mona's face. I was listening to the same voice that had
charmed my childish heart. He had quite cast off his shyness,
because he felt, as all such natures feel, the atmosphere of
"You are looking at my books," he said to Aunt Mona, who had
risen and was standing before the book-shelves. "They were my
father's, and very sorry I was to part with some of them. I
parted with those I liked least; but I fear I sold some that were
mere rubbish, and that ought by rights to have gone into the
fire—the only safe place for a bad or foolish book. The less
rubbish in the world, the better!
"And yet," he went on, "I remember a rebuke on this point
which came from your little sister Lizzie. She was holding
tenaciously a whole lapful of odds and ends, engaging both hands,
while a ball and some other object were held under each arm; and
being summoned to lay down that rubbish, she replied, indignantly,
'It isn't rubbish—it's toys!' And in this life of mine here I
learn what things can be made of use to human beings in their
straits, and to despise nothing—nothing, except it be the bad
books," he added, with a twinkle of humour; "I haven't found out any
use for them."
"I fear there is nothing you would care to read," he said to
"You mean nothing that I could read," she replied. "I
see they are mostly in Latin."
"Yes, they are mostly classics," he said. "I like to
read the great poets and philosophers, and it keeps up my knowledge
of the ancient tongues. One never knows what use one may have
"Then you will take up your teaching again?" said Aunt Mona.
"I didn't mean in this world," he said quite simply. "I
don't think I shall. But there is nothing finished here.
We shall want all our knowledge yet."
"I think I have some moderns whom you might care to become
acquainted with at you leisure," said Aunt Mona, preparing to go;
"and you will come and see us, Mr. Bothwell, will you not?
There are Edwin and Lizzie at home, and Una here is promising
herself no little profit and pleasure from renewing her acquaintance
"If you don't come to us, we mean to come to you," I said,
"now that we have found the way."
"Then, I must come to you," he answered, "for I would not
like to expose you to the risk of coming here."
"Indeed, it does not seem at all dangerous," said Aunt Mona;
"the people were so civil to us. Your neighbours especially
seemed quite eager to show us the way to your room."
"Ah, poor things! The women and children you saw about
in the daylight are anything but dangerous; but within hearing of
our voices almost, there are men, and women too, capable of any and
every crime, men and women who are at this moment drinking
themselves into madness, turning themselves into cruel and
"And are you not afraid to live among them?" I said.
"I have nothing to be afraid of," he said. "They could
not injure me if they would, and would not if they could. They
are welcome to warm their shivering limbs at my little fire.
If they are hungry, they know that they can share my crust and my
cup of tea, and wonderfully chary they are of doing it. They
take sanctuary here from themselves and from each other. I
have saved one or other of them from death, from suicide, from
murder. I have rescued a wife from her husband, a child from
its mother. One whole night I had a baby here, but that I
wouldn't undertake again on any account."
"But what would you do with it if it came in your way?" I
said, laughing at the rueful face he made at the bare remembrance of
"Oh, I could get plenty of nurses for it now among the women
and girls. It was left with me by a neighbour, who promised to
come and fetch it, and then went and got locked up dead drunk.
I shall never forget how awfully it cried. I was sure it was
hungry, and I didn't know how to feed it; and, indeed, it would have
died if I hadn't thought of giving it some milk out of the teapot,
as I had heard of the motherless lambs getting in the north country.
You see I can work for the Master even here."
"Indeed you can," said Aunt Mona; "and perhaps do more than
those who seem to have all the advantages of wealth and position,
for you live among them."
He nodded affirmatively, adding, "One can see better, you
know, with a farthing candle close at hand, than by the light of a
Aunt Mona gave her hand at parting to Mr. Bothwell, with a
look of recognition, which I was delighted to see; and when we were
once more in the street she whispered, "My dear, your Mr. Bothwell
is one of the world's princes in disguise, and you and I must do him
SMALL MATTERS OR GREAT?
IT seems a very
small matter I am going to set down, so small that I fear I
exaggerate its importance; and yet it has made me very uneasy.
Fräulein Vasa has been in excellent spirits ever since we
came to London. We have never once seen her in tears, and she
has even ceased the prodigious yawning which used to go on, more or
less, every evening. She has been very much impressed with the
necessity for taking good long walks in the open air, as a
precaution against the unsanitary conditions of London; and her
headaches have disappeared in consequence. We have heard her
trilling her pretty German songs all over the house, and her
complexion has been lovelier than ever.
But with all this improvement her appetite has been extremely
variable. I noticed it on several occasions without saying
anything about it, and indeed thinking it was part of the general
improvement; for I am sure she ate more than was good for the health
either of body or mind. But to-day Aunt Mona spoke out about
it, and seemed quite concerned that she could eat so little.
There was a curious silence, I thought, and happening to look
at Lizzie, I saw her eyes directed with indignant rebuke towards the
Fräulein, while, knife and fork in hand, she seemed to wait for her
Turning to Edwin, he was looking persistently at his plate,
and the Fräulein's alabaster brow was flushing to the roots of her
"We shall have to get some of your native dishes to tempt
your appetite, if you go on in this way," Aunt Mona continued.
"London does not agree with you, I suppose; for in spite of your
long walks you eat nothing."
I could not understand it; the Fräulein only uttered a
long-drawn "Ach!" and even Edwin looked embarrassed.
Lizzie did not speak again during dinner-time, but as soon as
it was over, and we were on our way to the drawing-room, going
up-stairs with her arm around my waist, she made me understand that
she wanted me to come up to our own room, and accordingly we
ascended another flight together.
As soon as we were within it, she closed the door, and burst
forth indignantly, and yet with a half smile of amusement, "I can
bear it no longer, and yet I hate to speak of it. I do think
she might have spoken herself, when she had such an opportunity."
"What do you mean, dear?" I cried.
"It is perfectly disgusting! When we are out the
Fräulein goes into the pastry-cooks' shops and eats all sorts of
things. No wonder she has no appetite. To-day she had
four or five great things—cakes and tarts—and a glass of wine.
They wanted me to have some, but I would not. You know how we
were taught to despise that sort of thing."
"They—who are they?" I said.
"Oh, Edwin has been with us most times. He takes a
little, but not nearly so much as she does."
"And does he take wine also?"
"Yes, sometimes a glass, or two glasses, of sherry."
"And of course he pays for it all?"
"Yes, but he did not propose it first," explained Lizzie.
"It was the Fräulein herself. She said she was hungry, and the
things looked so nice; and so they do," said honest Lizzie, "and I
would have liked them well enough, only I was angry and disgusted.
What shall we do?" and Lizzie looked the picture of comical
"I will speak to Edwin at once," I said; "it must not go on.
It is very bad for both of them, but especially for him; and you
must tell the Fräulein that you have spoken to me about it."
That evening we both found an opportunity to accomplish our
tasks. Edwin treated it as a very light matter.
"What would you have had me do? The girl was only
hungry, and wanted something to eat. She is a great baby; but
it is good to see how she enjoys herself. And how could I say
anything afterwards, when she said nothing? I suppose she did
not like to tell; it is natural enough. After all, she is a
stranger in a strange land, and we must make allowances. It
will be all right now that Liz has told you. Liz always cuts
her way straight out of a difficulty."
"It won't be all right if it is to go on," I said, gravely.
"Why not? We used to do it at school to any extent."
"Oh, Edwin, I wish you were not so idle. Can't you see
how wrong and foolish it is?" I broke in. "What has that to do
with it?" he asked.
"A very great deal," I answered. "If you were earnestly
engaged in preparing for the work of your life, as you ought to be,
you would not care to saunter in the streets and eat cakes and drink
"How very serious we are," he laughed, with good- humoured
mockery. "And what is my lifework to be, Professor Lancaster?
I wish you would let me know."
"For a man it must be to make himself of some use in the
world, I should think; to help to make things go right instead of
"Rather vague," he replied, still mocking me. "A good
many are only engaged in making things go wrong; if one keeps from
doing that, it is something," he added, more gravely. "I don't
think I am doing much harm. Other fellows like me want to ride
in the Park and have expensive luncheons, and smoke, and go to
entertainments, and spend lots of money. I am a perfect
Spartan in comparison with others of my age."
"But, then, you are doing nothing."
"I can't possibly be doing harm, then."
"Oh, Edwin, one can't keep from doing wrong if one isn't
doing right," I said. "Why don't you join Ernest at college,
and work as he is working?"
"What would be the good of it?" he asked. (Oh, that
question! Is everybody asking it? and do they go on asking it
for ever!) "Ernest has ambitions," he went on. "He wants
to be Lord Chancellor some day."
"So should I, if I had been a man. I call that a great
ambition to know the laws, perhaps to make them better—fitter to
punish the evil, and help the good to triumph."
"Very fine, Fräulein Professor in," Edwin began; "but," he
went on more seriously, nay, even with a touch of sadness, "there
are hundreds of fellows wanting to do all those fine things, and
better able to do them than I am, so I should only be keeping out a
better man if I succeeded, and I feel sure I should not."
"Then there is medicine," I went on; "but what is the use;" I
thought, "we have had it all over twenty times. Here he will
only make a wry face, and look disgusted, and put all my heroics to
flight by some pleasantry."
But some deeper vein had been reached, for he answered,
gravely, "I do not think I am fitted for that life either."
"I had no idea you were so humble."
"It is true," he said; "I think I am a useless sort of
fellow. If any of you wanted me to do anything, I could do it.
I can't get it into my head that the world wants me. I used to
wonder at the fellows at school wanting the prizes so much, and the
places. More than once I have let a fellow win when I could
have done it myself, because I couldn't bear to see him
"But you took a good many prizes and worked very well at
"Worked—yes, I suppose I did. I read for the reading's
sake; I enjoyed it, and I couldn't help winning the prizes.
And now I mean to enjoy life, without seeking its prizes, and
perhaps I may win there too."
I can make nothing of him, and I am very uneasy. My
pre-occupation, perhaps, has hindered me from noticing how much less
eager Edwin is for his brother's companionship. Hitherto they
have been inseparable. Edwin always chose after Ernest, and
always chose the same things. They always did everything
together, and went everywhere together. When did they begin
this divergence? Has there come a change in their relations to
each other, and has Ernest's fickleness anything to do with it?
I cannot tell. I can only hope that something will rouse the
fine intellect and sweet generous nature to shake off this lethargy.
Is it a great calamity, or a little one, or no calamity at
all, this which has befallen us? The loss of money may be any
of these, I suppose—a calamity in proportion as it cripples our
powers and narrows the possibilities of our lives, and the reverse
if it restores the one and widens the other.
I have never known the real value of money, and so I can
hardly measure the loss of it. I have always been supplied
with all I wanted; and only when I have not had enough to give away
have I ever wished for it, and then I wished for it on the scale of
"The Arabian Nights," to be measured like Ali Baba's treasure,
uncounted and uncountable.
Aunt Monica makes little of it; says we shall have enough for
all the necessaries and some of the luxuries of life. She has
three hundred a year of her own, but I believe all that my father
had beyond the income of his profession, has been swept away by the
failure of a company in which he had invested.
Aunt Monica is thankful that the company was "limited," which
she has been explaining to me, so that, beyond the paying up of the
capital invested, there will be no future calls upon him.
Still, I fear we shall to some extent be dependent on Aunt Monica.
My father has written to me. He is much more troubled
about the loss than Aunt Mona seemed to think he would be, and
speaks out plainly. He tells me that we shall be dependent, to
a great extent—almost entirely, for the present—on Aunt Monica.
That we girls must spend nothing, and that the boys must get into
harness at once. He is doubtful if Ernest can be maintained at
the University, and writes to Edwin that he must look out for
something at once.
Edwin has taken it so sweetly. He looked all through
the advertisements in The Times the very morning the letter
came, and then, as there seemed nothing for him, he made up an
advertisement of his own, letting us all help and advise him.
This was what we decided to send—
A YOUNG Gentleman of good education, and with a
competent knowledge of French and German, desires to enter a
Merchant's Office as Corresponding Clerk, or in any other capacity
in which immediate remuneration would be given.
"I needn't say how young I am, Auntie, unless I am asked," he
said, stretching himself up to his full height, which was slightly
over six feet. "Nobody would take me for under twenty, would
they?" and he stroked the chin already golden-brown with the
fast-coming insignia of perfect manhood. "Give us a kiss for
good fortune," he said, gaily, as he went out to post his letter.
"Nobody would take me for under twenty, would they?"
And we all kissed him as he went out, Lizzie running after
him to proffer another and another.
When she came back she noticed, and we all noticed, that the
Fräulein was in tears, and, for the first time, we neither felt
disgusted nor annoyed at them. On the contrary, Lizzie went up
to her, and gave her an affectionate, if rather patronising, hug;
and we all felt more friendly and sympathetic towards her.
Indeed, on my part the sympathy awakened a feeling of self-reproach
that this girl, with a heart that could be touched by our trouble,
should have lived so long under our roof, and still remain so great
Lizzie, too, has come to the front in our need. She is
far more practical than I am, and I believe she realises the
situation better. Instead of going off to bed before any one
else, as she has hitherto done, often, it must be confessed, with
sleep in her dear eyes, and a repressed tendency to yawn about the
corners of her sweet mouth, she begged to begin sitting up with us.
And the poor Fräulein succumbed at last and went off to bed,
when Lizzie, watching for her opportunity, began. "Dear
Auntie, Fräulein Vasa must be sent away at once. I am sorry
to-night, somehow, but she is sure to get a good situation.
She has often told me that it is quite easy for German governesses
to get more money than we give her. I can go on with my
lessons with a little help from Una, and I shall like it much
"It would be a great saving, and, indeed, a necessary one,"
said Aunt Monica; "and I feel sure she will easily get another
situation, as you say, my dear."
And so it was settled at once that Fräulein Vasa should leave
"She has taught me a good deal," said Lizzie, evidently
desiring to think as well of her as possible; "and among other
accomplishments, Auntie, to be a far better needlewoman than I ever
thought of being. You none of you know how clever I am.
I have watched her and helped her in making up her dresses, which
always fit her so nicely. She does it quite scientifically, so
different front a dressmaker. She takes down all the
measurements, and then draws out the pattern with a bit of chalk,
and cuts away with mathematical precision. And I have watched
her trim hats and bonnets till I am sure I could do it myself.
And I mean to try, if you won't mind making guys of yourselves for a
little, while I am learning. You have no idea how economical
it is to do all these things for one's self."
I really think Lizzie enjoys the prospect of being poor, and
The Fräulein has asked leave to stay with us till she finds
another situation—a request to which we were glad that Aunt Mona
assented willingly. Auntie will not hear of interrupting
Ernest's studies. I am sorry to say he writes in a very
discontented tone, as if some one ought to be blamed in this matter.
I can see, indeed, that he blames our father, and feels an injustice
done to himself, as if he had a right to the happiness that a
certain amount of money will purchase, and some one had robbed him.
We have been on the look-out for a small suburban house, and
at last we have found one. It is only £50 a year, and that is
as much as we shall be able to afford. It has two
sitting-rooms and five bed-rooms, one for Aunt Mona and one for
Lizzie and me, one for Edwin (which Ernest must share in the
holidays), and one for our only maid. What a change this will
be for Aunt Monica, who has always been accustomed to have a maid of
her own till she took charge of us! Aunt Robert told us so.
She comes to see us, and laments over us so much that it makes me
feel quite wretched—not on my own account, but on Aunt Mona's.
And yet where should we have been without her? And then she
declares that she is happier than she ever was in her life before,
and I do not think it is entirely fancy. She seems happy.
"I am only afraid," she said to Aunt Robert, the other day,
"that my helpless ways will make me a sad trouble to my children.
Did you ever see me with a prettier cap?" she went on. "Well,
Lizzie made it out of nothing; absolutely created it out of a few
scraps of lace."
"And I did so enjoy making it," said Lizzie; "and Aunt Mona
has lace enough to make up caps for a lifetime."
I do not know what we should have done at this time, also,
but for Aunt Robert. We had got our little house, but Aunt
Mona confided to me that she had not nearly enough money by her to
furnish it. "We must be content with very little," I said; but
I had not the slightest notion what that meant.
It was Aunt Robert who came to the rescue. When it came
to furnishing our house, she wanted to see it, and to take us
shopping in her carriage, but Lizzie cried out, "Oh, that will never
do; they will think we want fine things, and we have only a very
little money, and we have settled that we can only have iron beds
and plain deal furniture in the bedrooms, and very little carpet,
and eke it out with some pretty matting."
"Oh, have we?" said Aunt Robert, with an accent on the "we"
which made us all laugh; but we were packed comfortably into the
roomy carriage, and driven out to our cheap suburb, that Aunt Robert
might see the house and its capabilities.
"You can't live here," said Aunt Robert, looking disdainfully
at the very outside of our little mansion, which we had almost
admired, after all we had seen.
"Why not?" said Aunt Mona. "We cannot choose—that is,
we have chosen to the best of our ability. You know what our
income is likely to be. People with such an income must live
in such houses as these. It would take every penny we have to
pay for our present lodgings alone."
Aunt Robert went over the little rooms, finding fault with
everything, till Lizzie said, "Aunt Robert, I do wish you hadn't
come. We thought everything quite pretty, and I mean to go on
thinking every thing pretty still," and she looked at the
fault-finder with comical defiance.
Aunt Mona looked troubled at Lizzie's speech, and I know I
was, but Aunt Robert seemed to take it in good part. "You
saucy child!" she said, with a smile.
"I wish we could see inside some of the little houses, to
find out how they manage," said Lizzie.
"I don't think that would help you," said Aunt Robert,
looking out of the window. "Those houses opposite are smaller
still. Do you see in that window what appears to be the top of
a bride's cake under a glass case? Is that an advertisement
that they are newly married?"
"I see some darling little faces watching us from over the
way—a whole window full," said Lizzie. "This will be our
drawing-room," said Aunt Mona.
"And you will let me furnish it for you," said Aunt Robert.
"Lizzie shall go with me and choose everything for this one room.
You can manage the rest."
"Oh, that will be delightful!" exclaimed Lizzie, throwing her
arms round the speaker. "You are as good as a fairy
godmother—and better, for your gifts won't vanish away."
Aunt Robert kissed her, and I saw the hardish mouth tremble a
little, and a flush of pleasure pass over Aunt Robert's face.
"I know it will be a pleasure to you, Harriet," said Aunt
Mona, in her quiet sweet tones, "and it will be a great help to us;
but be sure that you keep down your desire for the bountiful and the
expensive, or we shall offend against good taste by our want of
POVERTY AND REFINEMENT.
OUR little house
is furnished at last, and very nice and pretty it looks now we are
in it. Aunt Robert and Lizzie have been very judicious, Lizzie
boldly claiming all the credit to her aunt's face, who had wanted to
buy twice as many things as the room would hold; and the controversy
had ended in Aunt Robert furnishing both sitting-rooms, leaving only
the bed-rooms to Aunt Mona, in spite of her remonstrance. There is a
dark green carpet in our drawing—room, with a mossy pattern; a
simple set of walnut-wood furniture in crimson stuff; pretty lace
curtains; a single pot of flowers, which can be renewed according to
the season; and then for ornament a few pretty vases on the
mantle-shelf—though they are only glass, they are very pretty. Auntie's portfolio furnished plenty of water-colour paintings for
the walls, and she is quite proud of them—could not have believed
they would look so well. And then her books: they are arranged in
little hanging book-cases within easy reach. The dining-room is
equally simple, only the wood is oak, and the furniture clad in
leather; and the things being larger, and the room smaller, it has
enough ado to hold us. Lizzie wishes we weren't all so big, rather
reversing the usual mode of desiring to adapt things.
Aunt Mona and I did our part with a very small expenditure, fitting
the bed-rooms with painted deal, iron beds in black and gold, and
strips of carpet and Indian matting. It was well that we did spend
so little, for the things wanted seemed endless. There was linen,
and plate, and kitchen things, and we are always finding out that
something else must be bought. My very brain seems to be new
furnished, as indeed it is, for I have been buying a great number of
new ideas as well as new furniture—ideas which make life appear in a
very new and real light; and among these ideas is a profound respect
for the class which creates and maintains all the new homes so like
this of ours in externals at least. Whatever their failings may be,
they cannot be the wretched and contemptible creatures whom I have
heard called hard names by ignorant people.
Edwin thinks he has been remarkably fortunate. He has found, by the
merest chance, just the kind of situation he wanted, in a large
mercantile house. They have great transactions with France and
Germany, and their corresponding clerk, a Frenchman, who has been
with them several years, is hopelessly ill. They fear he may never
be able to take his place in the office again. Poor man, he had
only one hundred and fifty pounds a year, and he has a wife and
several children. Edwin is to have the half of that sum for the
present, with the prospect of retaining the situation at the full
salary on the death of his predecessor; in the meantime, I believe
the other half is to be paid to him. The whole thing sounds dreary
in the extreme, but, dear fellow, he is quite satisfied, and feels
sure that his work will be easy.
We have had Ernest with us for a few days, but I am very glad he
has gone to Aunt Robert's. He was so dissatisfied with everything. He could not bear to see Lizzie and me doing things in the house,
and was always saying, "Can't the servant do that?" I had to tell
him that there was more to do, especially when he was at home, than
one pair of hands could accomplish. I marvel what they can
accomplish, now that I have tried the separate items. Lizzie and I
make the beds and dust the rooms. We asked the servant how we could
help her, and she told us that her former mistress had done these
things. We find it pleasant enough to do them. An hour or two in the
morning suffices, and it keeps our nice little maid from being
thoroughly overworked. She is anything but the typical
maid-of-all-work, our Juliana. She dresses very simply, though she
has such a fine name, and is pretty and delicate looking, with an
air and gait which would beseem any lady, and speech and manners to
match. Lizzie and I look far fitter for housework than she does, and
yet, I suppose because she is trained to it, she is far less easily
tired. When I said I feared she must be very tired, one day that
Aunt Robert came to dine with us, she said so sweetly that she was
not tired in the least, adding, with a look of grateful kindliness,
"I do not mind work at all—it is a pleasure to work in this house,
where I am never scolded, or worried, or spoken to as if I was an
inferior animal;" and then she told me how hard and miserable her
life had been with more than one former mistress, "driven," as she
phrased it, "from morning till night, attacked with looks and tones
of fury or of freezing contempt if anything went wrong. They made me
feel so bad that sometimes I did not know what I was doing, and
really made mistakes and breakages from nervousness. I never was so
happy in my life as now," she concluded.
Thus far our new domestic life is a great success. It is pleasant to
find our single servant, of whom we had a great dread, and who might
have tyrannised over us to any extent, prizing so much our courtesy
and kindness, which is no more than the common courtesy and kindness
which English ladies always show to their domestics.
Of course, Juliana must go out now and then. She goes to church on
Sunday evenings, and once a month to visit her mother, and then we
are left to serve ourselves. I am glad Edwin was not at home on one
of these occasions, as he would have seen me getting red over the
kitchen fire cooking a mutton chop, and opening the side door to
take in the milk and the bread. I do not see why it should vex him
so much. These things must be done, and they can be done without any
loss of refinement. Juliana does all her work with a gentle dignity
which is perfectly delightful to behold.
I talked it over with Aunt Monica.
"Real refinement is a thing of the inner kingdom, dear child," she
said. "Like real religion, no circumstances exclude it. If it is
present within, it is sure to rule and guide all that is without."
"And yet people talk as if it belonged only to a certain class—nice
people and refined people meaning only the wealthy and the
"There are circumstances favourable and circumstances unfavourable
to it," said Aunt Mona, "and many a noble fight has been made by
men and women to keep themselves and those dear to them surrounded
with the former. But then nothing is so hostile to it as pretence. Truth is necessary to its existence. Indeed, it is allied to all
that is pure and good. It is with a kind of intuition of this that
the proverb says cleanliness is next to godliness."
"And it costs a great deal," I said, speaking from my new
"Indeed it does; the delicate personal purity of English ladyhood
costs a very great deal, both in time and money; but Juliana, whom
you have instanced, is an example of how a servant achieves it by
her own labour and the fitting simplicity of her dress. It is doing
her duty so fittingly that lends her so much dignity."
"A lady under the same circumstances ought to do the same."
"Yes, my dear; but not by dressing exactly like a servant; that
would be renouncing instead of practising the fitness we have been
speaking about. Nature will not lend itself to imitations. They are
too cheap. And if we cannot pay in money for the best things, we
must do it in a higher currency. Peace and order and 'sweetness and
light' are not to be had without giving in exchange self-control and
self-denial, unselfish aims and earnest thought."
"And then all high thought ennobles," continued Aunt Monica. "An
aged Christian is perfectly refined. I have one in my mind at this
moment who died in the ward of a city workhouse. I knew her before
she went into it, too weak and poor even to keep herself clean. She
was watching over her one unhappy son, who was a confirmed drunkard,
and whom she would not leave till she was no longer able to wait on
him, as she did with unfailing gentleness in the midst of his
"Oh, Aunt Mona, how good people are!" I exclaimed, somewhat vaguely.
"Can be, I should say," she answered, smiling. "You mean that our
virtue and our refinement cost us comparatively little."
"Yes, indeed; our lives are quite easy and leisurely. Lizzie says
she never knew there was so much time in a day before."
It is true we are getting accustomed to our new mode of life, and
finding it quite easy. We are able, after the bustle of settling
down, to look about us and to think it is just a little dull for our
neighbours, if not for ourselves. Certainly the days are long. We
rise early and breakfast early, because Edwin must go into the City
by the 8.20 train, and then there is ample time in the morning for
all our domestic work, for dressing and for our early dinner. There
are no visitors. We generally go out for a walk, all three; and
there are just three walks to be had in the neighbourhood. One,
after an interval of market-gardens and untidy waste ground, already
let for building purposes, takes us past the long wall of a suburban
cemetery. Another, among endless rows, and roads, and terraces, like
the one we live in; and the third, into the fields—at first they are
brick-fields, by no means exhilarating objects of contemplation, but
Lizzie and I can walk past them and get into real fields, with
hawthorn hedges, and spreading trees, and stiles, and field-paths. We can even get up on a little hill by means of one of these paths,
and see all about us green, as if we were in the heart of the
country. Only Aunt Mona cannot walk so far, and sometimes she stays
at home, I feel sure, in order that she may not hinder us.
"In the evening we have our books and our music."
Then in the evening we have our books and our music. I do not know
if this is enough for me. I do not think I am discontented, and
neither is Lizzie. She is anything but that, but she craves already
for a fuller life, shown in the eager interest she takes in the
concerns of our neighbours. The people opposite, I ought to say, for
we have no neighbours, so to speak. On one side of us there is an
empty house, and on the other we have seen no one except a little
He was discovered by Lizzie one day. Nothing was to be seen of him
but his round face and very round eyes looking over the top of the
wall. He must have got a chair there to stand upon, and it must
stand there always, for we never look out without seeing the little
face peeping at us. That garden, and a very neglected garden it is,
seems to be his whole world, and he looks over the wall quite into
another. On first seeing me come out into the garden and look up at
him, his head disappeared suddenly, so suddenly that I feared some
catastrophe might have occurred. It came up again, and then I smiled
and nodded. Again it disappeared, and this time a little hand came
up again, holding out a pansy, which was accepted with thanks, and
so our intercourse began.
At first it was conducted by a telegraphy of nods and smiles and
gifts of flowers, chiefly dandelions and daisies on his part, but at
length he found a tongue; and what a nimble little tongue it was,
too! Everything that took place within his ken was immediately
communicated. In vain I tried to stop him. "I'se dust had my
dinner," he would say. "I'se had beef tea; mamma had a top. Mamma
isn't well to-day; I mustn't make a noid." Next day he appeared,
calling out excitedly, "I dot a baby; have 'oo dot a baby?" and be
seemed to pity us much when we answered in the negative.
We have sent Lizzie away for a fortnight to Aunt Robert's country
house. Indeed, it was Lizzie whom Aunt Robert wanted all along,
asking her and Ernest, but Ernest only as a make-weight. Lizzie
declined, and yet she did it so graciously that Aunt Robert could
not take offence. "Let me come to you some other time, dear aunt,"
she said. "There is so much that I can do at home just yet;" and so
it was settled that Ernest was to go alone. He has been seeing a
good deal of company at Nyewood. His friend Mr. Temple is to be
there during Lizzie's stay, and the Winfields have been and gone. He
seems to have enjoyed himself on the whole. Lizzie and he are to
come home together in a fortnight, when Aunt Robert goes to pay some
Auntie and I are still troubled about Edwin, though not on the score
of idleness any longer. I fear he has a great deal more to do than
he anticipated, for he often comes home late, and seems tired and
depressed. Indeed, we see very little of him. He has to go away so
early, and on Sunday he stays at home all the morning, when we are
at church, and goes out in the evening for long walks, which seem to
tire him more than refresh him. The other evening, when he came home
early, Fräulein Vasa came to see us, and he went home with her. Curiously enough, she has found a situation in our neighbourhood. Perhaps she sought to be near us, for she claims us as her only
friends in England. After all, she is a stranger, and we must be
kind to her. I am glad Edwin offered to see her home, as the roads
are dark and lonely but he did not do it as graciously as he would
once have done. A shadow has fallen on our sunny-hearted boy.
THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR.
LIZZIE would have
been gratified. We have seen something of our neighbours at last. The day after she left us the nurse next door brought us the new
baby for inspection, with the mother's thanks for our kind
inquiries. Along with nurse and baby came our little friend from
over the wall, whom we have only known by the name of Toodles.
"Mamma's Toodles" was the name he gave us, while he rejoices in the
title of Master Frederick William Johnson Jones. "Teddy is short for
Frederick," explained the nurse, "and so it got to be Toodles"—by
what process might be interesting and instructive to advanced
students of philology. The nurse was also commissioned to inquire if Toodles was in any way troublesome, as his looking over the wall had
been discovered, and prohibited; and Toodles had been breaking his
heart ever since. We assured her that it did not trouble us in the
least, duly admired the baby, whose little red face was buried in a
stiff satin bonnet, and ended by asking Toodles to tea. It was a
bond of interest between us and the unknown young mother to find
that the father of Toodles was at sea, and away on a long voyage, in
command of a merchant vessel.
Then while Aunt Mona and I were engaged in ministering to the
insatiable curiosity of Toodles, we were called on to receive the
clergyman and his wife. Mr. Davidson is a fine-looking man, with
iron-grey hair, and stern not to say severe cast of countenance. He
is an interesting preacher, but he is not an attractive man, at
least to me; his expression is one I cannot understand. Mrs.
Davidson is a large and still rather handsome woman, who says very
little, and looks rather timid and repressed. I do not think they
are happy together; he has a way of looking at her—a "what will you
say next?" sort of look—which reduces her to silence. He does not
otherwise snub her, except by entirely passing over any remark she
makes, but she is evidently afraid of being snubbed.
Mr. Davidson told us that his curate, Mr. Carrol, had decided on
bringing his mother and sister to live in the district, and that he
has taken the house next door to us. It will be very pleasant for
us, especially as Aunt Mona believes that she knows something of
Mrs. Carrol. It is not quite a common name, and one whom she knew in
early youth married a clergyman who bore it.
Thus we were prepared to welcome our new neighbours, and it was well
that we were so. The poor lady and her daughter arrived in a cab
before their furniture, which had been delayed on the road, and
evidently the fatigue and anxiety had been too much for her, for no
sooner had she got out of the cab than she fainted, and would have
fallen to the ground but for her son's arm thrown around her just in
time to prevent it. He had just come out of the empty house to meet
them, and seemed very much distressed.
She was being carried in-doors, with the aid of the cabman, when I
ran out, by Aunt Mona's desire, and begged them to carry her into
our house instead, and lay her on the sofa in our sitting-room.
"We shall be most thankful," replied both brother and sister in a
breath. "Something has delayed the carts, and there is not even a
chair for her."
So they carried her in and laid her on the sofa, and Aunt Mona and I
bathed her hands and face with eau-de-cologne and fanned her, while
Mr. Carrol stood looking on, and her daughter knelt by her side. It
was a long faint, and I was not used to fainting, and by the time it
was over I was trembling so that I could hardly stand. But at length
animation was restored and she opened her eyes upon us.
She seemed startled to find herself in a strange place, till her
daughter, still kneeling by her, explained how she had been brought
there, and begged her earnestly to remain where she was, till a room
in her own house could be prepared for her.
"We ought to have arranged differently," said Miss Carrol, " knowing
what mamma is; but she felt so unusually well, and we were anxious
to get settled, and thought the furniture would have got here an
hour or two ago. My brother remained here to prepare for us."
While we were speaking, the furniture did arrive, but the brother
and sister left their mother with us thankfully. How tender they are
of her, and how good and sweet she looks! Her face may have been
plain in youth, but it is beautiful and attractive in age; a
dignified and noble face, if sadder and less beautiful than Aunt
Monica's: a face from which the last faint gleam of life's sunset
has vanished, but where the grey light of fading day is yet left
tender and serene.
It was as Aunt Mona thought. She had known Mrs. Carrol slightly very
many years ago, and they still had one or two mutual friends and
acquaintances. We did not part with our guest till quite late in the
evening, the brother and sister running in from time to time with
tender inquiries, and staying to take tea with us.
Clara Carrol is a noble-looking woman. She has the pure pale
complexion of red or reddish-haired people, without a tinge of
sickliness. She is curiously like a picture I have seen, and retain
in my memory. It may have been one of Mr. Burne-Jones's before he
made all the noses in them turn up at the point. I am glad her nose
does not turn up. Why is it that when a fashion of any kind prevails
we see so many instances of it? Is it only that we never noticed it
before?—red hair, for instance, and this of noses; only, as Lizzie
says, "people may dye their hair, but they can't turn up their
noses." Ernest hates up-tilted noses passionately. He says the
heroines who possess them are capable of being furies, like her who
had "large eyes, the haunts of scorn." They have the attitude—as
far as noses can assume an attitude—of contempt and malice. Therefore I am glad that Clara has not this nose of fashion, but one
which, though not long, is straight as that of a Greek statue. Her
brows are straight, under the delicate golden eyebrows, and her
mouth firm and pure, though rarely smiling—indeed, almost sternly
Claude Carrol is in some respects a contrast to his sister, with
shadowy hair and high-arched brows. His face is far more mobile,
more sensitive, more feminine, in fact, than hers, though in person
he is tall and manly. I had only heard him read, and seen him at a
distance, but Aunt Mona and I have always liked him in the
reading-desk; his reading is quiet and reverent, and without the
slightest affectation. Of course, now that we have really seen him,
we like him much indeed.
We have been able to help our neighbours a good deal in a variety of
little ways. Not a day has passed, since they came, without our
seeing them, and they all three improve on acquaintance. We have
been over their house, so like and yet so unlike our own, the latter
being rather new at present—what an artist would call raw, I
believe. It, on the contrary, is full of things that have served a
lifetime, and have the look of real well-preserved old age not that
of sham new old age. I have been with Clara and Claude all our
walks, our three walks, and we know all about each other's tastes
Mrs. Carrol is the widow of a clergyman who died before the birth of
this son and second child; died, the hard-working curate of a London
parish, of a fever caught in the slums where his work had lain. He
left his widow in poverty, but not wholly unprovided for—the
provision which had enabled them to marry, being her own portion,
was settled upon herself and her children. Her sorrow came upon her
with a sudden shock and in a time of bodily weakness, and it had
very nearly proved fatal; but when she returned, as it were, from
the very brink of the grave,
it was the new life she brought with her that gave her strength to
take up her burden, and she has told Aunt Mona how her sorrow
blossomed into joy over "the sweetest child that ever made
Through the influence and exertions of the clergyman whose curate
Mr. Carrol had been, Claude was admitted into the Bluecoat school,
while Mrs. Carrol educated her daughter carefully and thoroughly—as
she herself had been educated—with but little help from school or
master. They have lived in a small house in a dismal West-end
district bordering on Chelsea, one of a "dull, unfriendly,
unfashionable row," Clara says. And unfashionable enough Clara and
her mother may have been, but dull or unfriendly never. It is
wonderful what bright and sweet lives they seem to have led during
all the years of Clara's youth. For a time—when her brother was at
college—Clara, though so young for the task, went out as a daily
governess, trudging through all weathers to teach several relays of Belgravian pupils. It seems to have been hard and fatiguing work;
and, happily, with Claude's independence—also achieved unusually
early—the necessity for it ceased.
Clara's time is now entirely at her own disposal. "With her talents
(and Clara is really talented)," says her brother, "friends are
always telling her she might do great things; but somehow the great
things do not come in her way, and she seems quite contented to do
the little ones." She has led, and does lead a very useful life; she
waits on her mother, who is greatly invalided; she has helped to
maintain herself that she might not hinder her brother's career, and
now she does all the helpful household things which enable them to
live on their limited income as they do live, and still she seems at
leisure. In her former home she seems to have helped the clergyman
of the district and his wife with all their schemes and charities,
teaching in the school, and even making up garments for its
These are our new friends, about whom I have been writing to Lizzie
every day, as she does not fail to remind me. I have certainly been
very much interested in them, and have had very little else to think
about. Lizzie's letters are not very satisfying. They rather excite
curiosity than gratify it. She has so much to tell me, she writes. But the time has sped, thanks to our new neighbours, and she will be
at home again, and then I shall be satisfied; for Lizzie's talk is
better than my pen, though I can always write so much better than I