'Who would dote on thing so common
As mere outward handsome woman?'—WITHER.
WE set off for a walk, and I smelt the fresh earth and the spring flowers.
'Oh! do let me garden a little!' I exclaimed, as we came to a border by
which lay some gardening tools.
'To be sure, there is a rake and a trowel,' said Aunt Christie;
away, my dear.'
'No; I must have the spade, it is so delightful to set
one's foot on it, and feel the earth coming up.'
'Ah!' exclaimed Valentine, 'and so you shall.
'Let spades be trumps,' she said, and trumps they were.'—Pope.'
'O Val! how mean of you to begin in this way, when you know you promised!' said Liz, sullenly.
'I said I would be sparing, just at first,' retorted Valentine; 'but, now,
Miss Graham, don't you think it is very mean of my family to repress my
rising genius? Many would be proud of it.'
'What have they done?'
'Done! I say, Lou, how long is this to go on? She has dug up a
'I will set it again; now I have dug enough.'
'Then we can proceed. Why, this is what they have done; my vein lies in
apt quotations, and they won't let me exercise it.'
'We didn't like it every day, and all day long, said Liz. 'Now, I'll just
lay the case before you, Dorothea; Emily knew that when she went away we
should be terribly oppressed, and so she made a rule—'
'That the moment I began, if they could call out the
author's name, and say, "Pax," I was instantly to stop, if it was only at
the second word; but, if they could not, I might go on to the end; and,
then, if I could not give his name, I might be pinched, or pricked, or
other wise tormented.' He said this with an indescribable air of
Aunt Christie remarked that the rule sounded fair.
'Yes,' he exclaimed; 'but they never can call out "Pax," for
they are not at all well read, so the rule comes to nothing, unless St.
George is present, and he is so quick, that I can hardly ever get out a
word; in fact, he often calls out what I am going to say, and stops
it; then of course I'm stamped. Now, what are you laughing at, Miss
'Because "you are so extremely young, Sir" (Dickens).'
'I'm almost as old as you are,' he replied.
Was there ever such an opportunity given for a retort!
The old aunt, with her fine Doric accent, instantly exclaimed, "I grant
thee, for we are women when boys are but boys."
He danced round her, shouting out various names, but not the
right one; and she went on till she had drawled out her quotation:
'Now, don't move your arms and legs about so, laddie; it's quite true, as
Miss Graham will tell you, and ye should not have begun it.'
'Yes,' I went on, ' "We grow upon the sunny side of the wall"
'Ah!' said Valentine, calming down, after his exercises, 'I'm
not up in that old fellow. Who would have thought it? "Thou art a
caitiff and a lying knave, and thou hast stolen my dagger and my sword;"
those are almost the only lines of his that I know; but they're sweetly
'Well, now we shall have a little peace, I hope,' said Liz,
'as he is conquered with his own weapons.'
'Are you conquered?' I inquired. 'I think you are only
sighing to yourself, "All me! what perils do environ the boy that meddles
with cold iron." '
'Boy, indeed!' he exclaimed; "but, Pax, Hudibras, this is
nothing but envy of my superior parts. I will read you and Aunt
Christie such a life. Even if you quench me, you will only be
disappointed, as the wild Tartar is who, when he spies a man that's
handsome, valiant, wise, if he can kill him, thinks to inherit his wit,
his wisdom, and his spirit; or, as that famous schoolman was, who
swallowed his enemy's knife, that it might be handy to whet his words and
sharpen his tongue on.'
'How was he disappointed?'
'He found it cut short all his arguments.'
'And the Tartar?'
'Why, he was doubly disappointed, for when he had killed the
other Tartar, there was nobody left to fight with, which was very dull,
and he himself was as ugly and cowardly as ever.'
'And that's a fine compliment, by implication, to us,' said
the old aunt.
'Yes,' said Valentine, 'and one chief merit of this quoting
faculty is, that by means of it one can tell people such home truths.'
'Well,' said Aunt Christie, 'but it's a very elaborate kind
of wit, and I think I agree with Lizzy, that it's not worth exercising.'
'The fact is,' said Valentine, 'I am not doing myself
justice. I feel so coy to-day; you really must bring me forward.
Wait a minute.'
He darted off to a little copse, and thrust his head into a
'The Oubit grows,' said Aunt Christie; 'he's a stately young
'I said so,' exclaimed Valentine, coming up; 'those precious
little lesser-white-throats are building there again.'
'But you won't be so mean as to steal the eggs,' said Liz; 'I
am sure you have eggs enough.'
'Nay, nay,' said Aunt Christie, unexpectedly taking
Valentine's part, 'ye must not look for virtues that are contrary to all
nature. I should as soon expect to meet with a ghost that could
crack a nut, as a boy that could keep his hands off a nest of young
'That's the second time I have been called a boy during the
last five minutes.'
'Didn't ye invite me, yourself, into your room last
Christmas,' exclaimed Aunt Christie, 'and wasn't it just choked with
rubbish of every sort that boys delight in?'
'He has such a value for some of his rare eggs,' says Lou,
'that he takes them about with him, packed in bran, wherever he goes.'
'Well,' answered Valentine, 'I don't see that they are a bit
worse rubbish than many things that other people carry about.'
'Not a bit, Oubit, not a bit; the amount of rubbish that some
people are proud to carry is just amazing. It is a blessèd
thing, indeed, that none of us can take our rubbish to another world; for,
if we could (I speak it reverently), some of the "many mansions" would be
little better than lumber-rooms.'
'Why do you call him "Oubit"?' I inquired.
'Mamma did,' was the reply.
But what is an Oubit?'
'Nobody knows. St. George thinks it's a hairy
caterpillar; but I say it must be a kind of newt.'
By this time we had reached a little wood, as full as it
would hold of anemones, celandine, and wild daffodil. We gathered
quantities of them, and I felt the joy of roving about where I would.
This is a kind of bliss that no one can imagine who has not been sometime
held captive at sea. It kept me under its influence till we had
returned to the house and I had dressed for dinner. Some neighbours
had been invited to meet us. I told Liz and Lou that I had never
been present at a dinner-party in my life. They said, this was not a
real dinner-party; it was only having a few friends to dinner, and that
among them would be only one interesting person. This was a nephew
of Mr. Mortimer's, a banker in a neighbouring town, who lived a little way
out of it, and had been invited to meet Tom, because he was such a clever
man, and because they wanted to show him that they had clever friends
None of the guests had made their appearance when I came into
the drawing-room. Mrs. Henfrey and Valentine were down there.
I was asked how I had liked my walk, and when I had answered, Mrs. Henfrey
said, 'And which way did Giles take Mr. Graham?'
'As if you could not guess, sister,' exclaimed Valentine.
The sister smiled, and I looked out at a window, and saw a
wide stretch of beautiful country, for the drawing-room was up-stairs, and
I thought Tom must have been pleased, whichever way he had walked.
'Of course,' continued Valentine, 'he went down the Wigfield
Road, that be might gaze on those chimneys and the endeared outline of
'I thought she wasn't at home,' said Mrs. Henfrey.
'Mind,' observed Valentine, 'I don't know that he went that way; I only
feel sure of it. You ask him.'
'Oh! you feel sure, do you? I thought Miss Dorinda was
not come home.'
'No more she is; but has the place where she hangs out no
charms for a constant mind?'
'You are rude! Hangs out, indeed! I wonder what
Miss Graham thinks of you! Ah! here is Giles! Well, which way
did you walk?'
'Down the Wigfield Road,' replied Mr. Brandon.
'What attractions must a whole wig possess,' said Valentine,
aside to me, 'when "beauty draws us with a single hair"? (Pope.)'
'Is she handsome?' I asked, also aside.
Strange to say, this revelation as to the state of Giles's
heart was a considerable relief to me. I am quite sure I was glad.
I had always known, past the possibility of a doubt, that he felt no
attraction towards me; but I felt a kind of enthusiasm still about him,
because he was philanthropical, and I thought he had high motives, so I
cared for him. In a certain sense he was dear to me, and I did not
wish to lose him—out of my world—married or single; but I had been teased
about him, and, consequently, I had felt as if all the natural instinct of
friendship towards him must be smothered. Now I knew that he had
attractions elsewhere, and I felt calm security and ease flow into my
heart at the thought of it. 'Now,' I thought, 'this annoyance really
is over.' I have frequently thought so; and yet it kept cropping up
So I thought, as the visitors arrived. Talk flowed
around me, and I joined now and then in it; but soon sank again into a
reverie, from which I only roused myself when I saw Mr. Brandon standing
before me, offering his arm, and slightly smiling at the sight of my deep
Valentine followed with Lou. 'I say, Miss Graham' he
exclaimed, as we began to descend.
'I'm so hungry—there's an unutterable want and void—a gulf, a
craving, and a sinking in, as when—'
'Oh! stop—at least, I mean, Pax (Taylor), what you have been
about since you came home is very obvious.'
Mr. Brandon glanced at me with amused surprise.
'Obvious,' replied Valentine; 'of course it is. I would
be loath to cast away my speech; for besides that it is excellently—'
Here he was stopped by the 'Pax.'
'Now that is what I complain of,' said his brother; 'if you
will quote, what you say should not only be applicable, but droll in the
'You're always stamping on me,' said Valentine. Both he
and Liz had a delightful little way of being sulky for an instant, and
then forgetting it again. So, as he came out of the sulks and sat
down beside me, I murmured to him: ' "O knight! thou lack'st a cup of
canary; when did I see thee so put down!" ' but I felt on the whole that
quoting was a tiresome trick, and I would not help him with it any more.
We passed rather a dull evening: the guests were familiar
with the household without being intimate; every one present seemed used
to every one else. But, as the evening advanced, I again had the
pleasure of seeing Tom get into a most vehement argument. He and Mr.
Brandon were on one side, and Mr. John Mortimer on the other. The
gold coinage of England, it appears, is pure, but the silver they called
not real money, but tokens. I hardly understood enough to know which
side triumphed, or why it mattered. But it was delightful to see Tom
so full of fire.
When all the guests were gone, Valentine withdrew, and as we
still sat talking, he came in again with a hat in his hand, and, walking
up to his brother, held it out to him, just as a beggar sometimes does in
St. George, pretending to misunderstand him, leaned over it
as he sat, and looked down into the crown with an air of great interest.
'Well!' he said.
'A poor boy out of work, sir!' said Valentine; 'no friends to
speak of; earned nothing all the winter; silver coinage of this wretched
country so debased that it's against my principles to spend it.
Nothing but gold can do me any good, sir.'
'I never give gold to beggars.'
'Well, hand out your purse, then, will you?' said Valentine,
'and I'll promise only to take one.'
St. George actually did so.
'But you had much better say two,' continued Valentine; 'they
would last much longer.'
'No, I won't,' answered Giles, laughing; 'they would not last
a day longer.'
Valentine thereupon returned the purse, and, with the
sovereign in his right hand, marched straight across the room to his
father. 'Papa,' he exclaimed, in a loud, plaintive voice, as of one
deeply injured, 'will you speak to Giles?'
'Will I what?' exclaimed his father, who had been amusing
himself by watching the transaction.
'Will you speak to Giles?' repeated Valentine, in the same
loud, plaintive tone. 'If this sort of thing is allowed to go on,
and I can get money from him whenever I like, it will perfectly ruin the
independence of my character.' (He showed the sovereign in his
palm.) 'Giles has no strength of mind whatever,' he continued,
shaking his head in a threatening manner. 'You'd much better
increase my allowance; for if not, I'm very much afraid this system will
'Go to bed, sir! go to bed!' exclaimed his father. 'You
are an impudent young dog, if ever there was one, and you know very well
that you are not to sit up late while you have this cough upon you.'
Valentine retired with great docility, and the next morning
when I woke I saw Mrs. Brand holding a great bunch of primroses and
violets. She said she had picked them up on the mat outside my door.
A little twisted note was stuck into the midst of them. I opened it,
and it ran thus:—
'When I awoke, I said to myself, "Ale, Squeerey?" (Dickens)
meaning primroses. The same agreeable party answered, with
promptitude, "Certainly, a glassful" (ditto). You should have had
more, only I have been studying you can guess what. —His own, V. M.'
In due time I came down, and as I entered, heard Mr. Mortimer
saying, 'Well, if he is not likely to be in time, we must have prayers
He was evidently Mr. Brandon: every one else was
So we had prayers; the venerable white head looking more
reverend than ever as it bent over the book.
We then proceeded to the dining-room to breakfast, and Mrs.
Henfrey said, 'I don't quite understand this matter yet.'
'Why, sister,' said Valentine, 'it is simple enough; Giles
was out, and saw this boy stuck in the boggy ditch; upon which, throwing
himself into an attitude, very naturally exclaimed, "Though thou art of a
different Church, I will not leave thee in the lurch." '
'I'll venture to say he said nothing of the kind,' said Mrs.
Henfrey very tartly. 'It was the milk-boy, was it not?'
'Well, his parents are not Dissenters. Stuff and
nonsense! They only go to meeting now and then.'
'But he must have said something,' argued Valentine.
'He may have changed the word "church" to "parish," and added, "I will not
leave thee in the marish." '
'It's extraordinary, I am sure,' said Mrs. Henfrey, with a
slight groan, 'how the poets came to write so many lines, as if on purpose
'Well, my boy,' said Mr. Mortimer, 'now suppose you give us a
sensible account of the matter, without any more of this foolery.'
'I don't know any more, papa, excepting that I met Giles
marching home, covered with mud and clay up to his waistcoat-pockets.'
Just then the old thin footman came in, and was asked what he
knew of the matter. His reply, given with a toast-rack in his hand,
'Yes, sir, Mr. Brandon, sir, was going along just where the
ditch is so wide and boggy, and he heard a boy a-hollering and
a-hollering, and he found the milk-boy was stuck in the clay. He had
tried to jump the ditch instead of going round by the plank. That
was how it came to pass; and the more he worked his legs about, the deeper
he got, until the ditch was full of puddles of milk. And so, sir,
Mr. Giles dragged the boy out, and he had just got him on the bank when I
came up, for I had heard the hollering as I went nigh, with the rolls.
Says Mr. Giles to me, "Just scrape the poor child, Sam; here's sixpence to
pay for his milk. And let this be a lesson to you, youngster," he
says, "never to jump over a bog when there is a plank near at hand."
So, then, sir' (here the footman uttered a laugh of sudden delight)—'so,
then, sir, Mr. Giles went back a few paces, and 'gave a little run to jump
over in the very same place, but the bank, being soft and rotten, broke
with him, and he slipped down backwards, and—'
'And tumbled in himself!' exclaimed Mr. Mortimer, in high
delight. 'Ha, ha! Well, such things will happen now and then.'
'Yes, sir, Mr. Brandon tumbled in backwards, and sat himself
down in the very thickest of the bog, and splashed himself all over with
milk and mud.' Here the old man, unable to restrain his mirth,
retreated hastily, and Mr. Brandon came in.
'Well, Giles, my boy,' said his step-father, after the
customary morning greeting, 'how did you get out of that bog? Sam
has told us all the rest.'
'Did he tell you how, in my adversity, he and that little
ungrateful wretch stood on the bank perfectly convulsed with laughter, and
how I was so excessively surprised when I found myself sitting in the
bottom of the ditch, that I did not stir for a full half-minute, but sat
staring at them with appealing mildness?'
They all laughed but Mrs. Henfrey; and she, not in the least
amused, inquired how he got out, after all.
'Oh! I floundered up, and Sam held his stick.
That part of the business was soon managed.'
' "Let this be a lesson to you, youngster," ' said Valentine,
with a kind of respectful gravity, ' "never to jump over a bog when there
is a plank near at hand" (Brandon).'
He took care to speak loud enough for his father to hear, and
in the plaintive voice that he generally affected when making a joke.
' Come, come, sir,' said the old man, secretly enjoying it,
'let me have no more of this. Giles is a great deal older than you
The elder brother said nothing, but he looked at Valentine
with a significant smile, and proceeded to help himself to the viands and
talk with Tom over their last night's argument with John Mortimer.
The English sovereign, it appears, is worth much the same all the world
over, but the English shilling is alloyed, and this, it seems, is not done
with any deliberate intention of cheating the English people, but from
motives of policy. Now, Tom and Mr. Brandon had sagely remarked that
so long as anybody would give a sovereign for twenty shillings, it
mattered nothing to the people that they were not really worth it; but Mr.
John Mortimer had maintained that it did matter; it mattered very much to
everybody, but especially to the poor.
Tom declared his intention of going into the subject, but
this was not merely because Mr. John Mortimer had I differed from them,
but because he had talked of the whole of that wonderful invention, called
money, as if a great part of the prosperity of nations depended on what
their money was made of, and how much they were were charged for the
making of it. Moreover, in an evil hour for himself, he had declared
that these things were so simple that he wondered how there could be any
difference of opinion about them.
This discussion being not of much interest to any of us but
to me, and that only because it had roused Tom, we all retired to the
little morning-room except Tom and Mr. Brandon, who had not finished his
breakfast, and here Valentine brought a volume of 'Telemachus' to his
sister Lou, and sitting down by her, began to read aloud, with much
mouthing and a particularly bad accent.
'You see, Miss Graham,' said Mrs. Henfrey, casting a
reproachful glance at him, 'this young gentleman makes no stranger of
I said, truly enough, that I was glad of it, and she was
quite right. We might have been staying there a year for any
difference we made in any of their arrangements or any of their gentle,
easy household ways.
Valentine remarked that Giles had threatened not to take him
to France that year unless he would improve his French, and he stumbled
through a page or two, being continually corrected by Lou.
'It's perfectly abominable!' she exclaimed. 'You will
pronounce every e impartially, and how often do I tell you not to
divide the words!'
Valentine groaned: 'What with your being so particular, and
this fellow being such a shocking muff, it is too much for my spirits.
Now, then—"Mais dans re votre bonheur souvenez vous du malheureux Narbal
et ne cessez jamais de m'aimer. Quand il out achevé
ces paroles je l'arrosai de mes larmes" (ugh!); "de profonds soupirs m'empêchaient
de parler" (hang this fellow, o he's always blubbering!) "et nous
embrassions en silence." Miss Graham, did you ever read "Telemachus"
'Does he find his papa?'
'I shall not tell you; that might rob the story of its
'Well, I can't stand much more of this sobbing and crying.
Homer himself is bad enough, and Pope makes him worse. They cry
"Tears his cheeks bedewed,
Nor less the father poured a social flood,
They wept abundant and they wept aloud."
Tom and Mr. Brandon now came in.
'Ah!' said Aunt Christie, partly addressing them, 'and these
are the classics, ye see—these are what ye spend your young lives, all of
you, in getting a smattering of.'
'But it must be done,' answered Valentine, 'and as this
fellow waters all the strangers with his tears, I really am afraid he will
pour out such a flood if he meets his father, that the consequences to
that old buffer will be serious.'
'A mere smattering,' repeated Aunt Christie, nodding at them;
'and so, as they can't bear to feel that all their time has been wasted,
they pretend afterwards to think highly of the classics, though they
know better. Why, what's in this Homer that they make such a
work about? What's Achilles but a sort of glorified navvy? He
kills his meat as well as his man! Paris runs away at first (that I
never could get over), and what's it all for? Why, two women,
neither of whom is any better than she should be.'
'You shall write another "Shorter Catechism," said Mr.
Brandon, 'and we shall all be bound to learn it.'
'First question,' said Tom, blandly: 'Where is Scotland
situated? Answer: At the top of England.'
'Ay, indeed, and ye are very right,' said the old aunt,
'Second question,' added Mr. Brandon: 'What is a school?
Answer: A place where they teach boys to be pagans every day, and tell
them to be Christians once a week.'
He then walked up to the window, and saying what a beautiful
morning it was, asked if we should like to have it open, and was just
opening it, when I, having nothing to do, ran up-stairs for my work-box.
In less than three minutes I came down again, and outside the door, which
was shut, stood Valentine panting on the mat.
'It's locked,' he said; 'the door's locked and you can't get
'Yes; that villain Giles, how he comes to be so strong I
can't think. I was as quiet as possible, reading away at my French,
and he came behind me, and in the twinkling of an eye, before I could
speak, he folded me up, and I was outside the window sitting among the
tulips and things. Look at my coat. I'm all covered with
'Dear me! I wish I had seen it. Did he send you
flying out, or only lay you down like a parcel?'
'Oh! how base some people are! Giles, Giles, sir (he
called through the keyhole), you've locked out Miss Graham.'
'No, stop,' I said, 'as we are locked out, suppose we steal a
march on them, and go for a walk this lovely morning.'
'You won't do it?'
'I will, if you will.'
He expressed his delight in some strange fashion. I ran
up-stairs, was soon equipped, and off we set, on one of the sweetest
spring mornings that ever smiled itself away.
The shadows of dark-green leaves are sweet and solemn, but
the shadows of pink and white blossoms are the rarest and most delicate in
all nature. We heard all about us the piping of blackbirds, and the
near humming of contented bees. We got into the orchard and down to
a little stream that bordered it, and when I saw the glittering
water-buttercups, the mosses, and all the trees so ghostly fair, I felt
what an ecstasy there is in youth and spring.
Then we got under a great pear-tree, smelt its blossom, and
looked up through it to the pale blue sky, and I was so oppressed with
happiness that I could hardly speak, and for a long time could not leave
the enchanted spot; the common world I felt would seem so plain and chill
But we did leave it, and I found the fir-wood beyond almost
as beautiful; it abounded with the nests of thrushes and linnets, and
round its edges we gathered violets; then we came back to the orchard, sat
down on a bench, and my heart kept repeating, 'How great is His goodness,
and how great is His beauty!' Then suddenly Valentine said:—
'Do you think people are better or worse than they appear?'
'Do you mean people in general, or ourselves?'
'Oh! well, I suppose I meant you and me.'
'I think just now we must be better than we appear—we must
have some better thoughts than any words we have said.'
'But this is such a wonderful morning—so lovely that it makes
one feel quite solemn.'
'Yes, and everything so happy and so good'
'Ah! well, I wish I did not live with such extremely good
people—such people, I mean, as my father, and Giles, and Miss Dorinda.
When you see how they go on you will wish the same, unless you are a very
excellent person yourself, and I don't see that you are.'
'Oh! but I always thought it helped one on to be with such
'No, it doesn't. They have found out all sorts of ways,
both of doing good and being good; they go into motives, and they think
they must govern their bad feelings. Well, I should never have found
out much things if I had been let alone, therefore it would not have been
my duty to practise them. Now they stare me in the face, and I often
feel miserable for fear I ought to be different.'
'Oh! you are quite a child in spite of your height,' was my
thought; 'you have no reserve, even with a stranger.' But I
answered, 'Surely that is better than not thinking about it.'
'It is very disagreeable,' he replied, 'to feel that one gets
worse as one gets older.'
'Disagreeable!' I replied. 'How can you use a word so
inadequate to express the feeling?'
'Well, you know what I mean.'
'Yes; but when we feel that, we know that we can have help to
become better if we will ask far it.'
'Ah! yes,' he answered naively; 'but then, you know, you
would have to ask for it quite sincerely, and without any reservation.
Do you think I look as if I was going to be a clergyman?'
'Not in the least, as far as I can judge.'
'But I am; at least if I can make up my mind to it.
Mamma always wished it so much, and so does my father.'
'I do not see that your being so fond of fun is at all
'No—so Giles says—and some fellows must be clergymen, you
know. I've got to decide during the next few months, and if I really
feel I ought not, Giles says he shall back me. Isn't it odd, my
talking in this way to you?'
'Very odd; I was just thinking so.'
'I never do, excepting to him, and not to him if I can help
it, because he takes advantage of me afterwards; when I don't work he
reminds me of things we have talked about. I have no business to be
out here now with you. I ought to be doing my Greek.'
'Bring it here then, and we will do it together.'
'Ah! I want to hear you read Greek; but will you
promise to wait for me?'
I promised, and while he was gone sat under the pear tree
delighted with life and spring.
Tramp, tramp, came a slow foot. I wished Valentine had
not been so expeditious; but I did not look round. Something was
being read or said aloud, and I soon observed that it was by a far
different voice from the cracked one I had been listening to that morning.
The steady foot came on; there was a narrow path before the
bench, and I saw Mr. Brandon advancing, looking grave and abstracted.
He was conning or reading a speech from some written notes in his hand,
and was perfectly unconscious of my presence as I sat buried among the
I heard a sentence as he advanced. He did not look up,
and would have passed, but that he had to push aside a branch, in doing
which he glanced off his notes, and beheld me within a yard of his face.
He started up again with no little surprise, and sent the
bough swinging in his haste, so that it scattered me and the grass with a
shower of little flower pearls.
'Miss Graham! who would have thought it—and all alone!'
'All alone: that is no misfortune. I am very happy?
'Yes,' he answered, 'I see you are. Set in a white
world of blossom, and lost in maiden meditation; but why did you come
'Because I was locked out of the morning-room.'
'A sufficient cause, and one that ought to make me ashamed of
myself; but does not; for, if I may judge by appearances, you are very
much indebted to me.'
'Yes, it is so long since I set my feet on the soft
delightful sward, that I wish I might stay here all day.'
'You were led here by instinct?'
'No, by Valentine; and he is now gone to fetch his Greek
books, to do some construing with me.'
'What a delightful camaraderie seems to be established
already between you two!'
'Birds of a feather, you know.'
'You are joking; you cannot really feel any similarity and
Being touched here on a weak point, I replied that I felt
myself to be a grown-up woman while he was only a boy. 'But he is a
very delightful boy,' I went on, 'for he likes me and likes to be with
'In my eyes he is a charming young fellow, a joyous, idle,
frank, unreasonable young dog; but is every one, even a boy, charming in
your eyes if he likes you and likes to be with you?'
'I don't know. I should think not. But this
sudden friendliness I have not met with hitherto; it has the charm of
'That charm,' he said quietly, 'will most likely soon wear
He stood before me pressing the moss with his foot, and with
the faint shadows of the blossom flickering on his face. I think he
was a little impatient to go on, but he could not very well leave me by
myself any more than I could him. I liked just as well to be alone.
'What a time that boy is!' he presently said, looking along
the path, and lo! the expression of his face changed suddenly to one of
considerable embarrassment, his open forehead flushed slightly, and he
made a hasty movement as if he would have retreated, but checked himself.
At the same instant I heard several voices, Mr. Mortimer's
among them, and presently the fine white head emerged from the
entanglement of blossoming boughs; then Liz and Louisa appeared, and
Giles stood his ground.
'Bless me,' exclaimed Mr. Mortimer, 'how pleasant it is out
here! I thought you were getting up your lecture, Giles,' and
thereupon he sat down by me and cleared his throat loudly, and I thought
'So I was,' answered the step-son, 'and coming accidentally
down here, I found Miss Graham sitting all alone.'
At that ill-advised but most true word, 'accidentally,' both
the sisters and Mr. Mortimer openly smiled. I was not at all put out
of countenance; 'the endeared outlines of those chimneys' were present to
my thoughts, if not to theirs.
'Well,' said Valentine, excusing himself for having left me,
'I am sure I have not been gone a quarter of an hour, and I should have
been here before, only that I could not find my lexicon.'
'We must try to forgive you, my boy,' said Mr. Mortimer, with
a twinkle in his eye, 'and so must Giles. A quarter of an hour is
not long, after all, for him to be kept from his lecture.'
Here, taking up the defence of the oppressed, I made a remark
as to how I had been locked out, and this gradually drew on the whole
'Locked him out!' exclaimed Mr. Mortimer, with a puzzled air.
'Yes, papa,' said Lou, 'Giles put the Oubit out of the window
for making game of him at breakfast time, and then locked the door to
prevent his getting in again.'
'And I brought Miss Graham here,' said Valentine; 'and we
were so happy.'
'But when we unlocked the door,' observed Liz, 'we found it
bolted on the outside.'
'Naturally you did,' said Valentine.
'And we did not like to ring,' she continued; 'we thought it
would look so odd to the servant to find us bolted in, so we waited,
hoping Dorothea would come to the outside.'
'Where is young Graham?' asked Mr. Mortimer.
'He is in my room,' said St. George, 'hunting up something
about the currency. We are going to dine with John Mortimer
to-morrow, before the lecture.'
'Oh! he will go with you to the lecture, will he?' said
'Yes; are you going?'
'We shall, if Dorothea would like to go.'
'There are to be some stunning illustrations, I can tell
you,' said Valentine, and Mr. Brandon withdrew.
'You'll see it reported in one of the county papers next
Thursday,' remarked Valentine. 'St. George will figure as our
talented what's-his-name. "We have to report another successful
effort from the son of that spirited magistrate and consistent Pink,
who, living not a hundred miles from Wigfield, in patriarchal comfort,"
&c. Then at the end you will read how St. George held his audience
enthralled, and surpassed himself in lively eloquence and appropriate
illustration: "We are happy to find that Mr. Brandon has entirely
recovered after his late battle with the turbulent waves of the Atlantic,
and that his adherence to the Pink cause in this borough is as
stanch as ever." '
'Sir, you are impertinent,' said his father, who had taken
care not to speak till he had finished all he had to say.
'Yes, father,' replied Valentine humbly, 'I am sorry to say
that is too often the case,' and he shook his head and sighed.
Mr. Mortimer looked at me with an air of amusement, that
seemed to say, Isn't he a funny young fellow? and continued—'Giles, sir,
is an honour to us all; I wonder you are not proud of your elder brother!'
'I am,' answered Valentine; 'I think it must be my being
puffed up with pride about my relations that makes me so insufferable.'
Mr. Mortimer now declared himself rested, and his two
step-daughters bore him off leaving Valentine and me to our task.
So we began to read, and I soon found myself in the position
of instructress; his talent evidently was not for languages, and as a
pupil I found him absolutely provoking; he would not attend to his book;
he stopped so often to talk—to compliment—and in his horribly cracked
voice to sing little snatches of songs, that at last we got into a decided
dispute, for he was perfectly careless and indifferent, and I was very
much in earnest. 'Oh! come,' I exclaimed, as with a ridiculously
broken voice he sang, 'If she be not kind to me, what care I how fair she
be!' 'If you do not give your mind to what you are about, you will
never come to any good.'
He stared at me with surprise.
I was fluttering the leaves of his lexicon, vainly
investigating a point that he chose to consider settled; and the more I
searched the more he sang, until at last, thoroughly roused and rather
indignant, I gave him a good scolding, and asked him what he could be
thinking of to trifle away his time in that way?
He turned his clear eyes upon me, ceased to sing, and
gradually arrived at the conclusion that I really was giving him a
lecture, that I meant what I said, and that I really did regard the
reading, not as play, but as work. So he withdrew his idle hand from
his waistcoat-pocket, took the book gravely from me, and went on
construing for full ten minutes with exemplary care and a kind of urgency
and energy that surprised me.
At the end of that time I heard footsteps, and saw a little
smile begin to tremble over the lips of my companion, but he did not pause
until his brother came up and stopped before us; then he clapped to the
books, and exclaimed with a burst of laughter, 'She says I ought to be
ashamed of myself!'
'So you ought!' I answered audaciously, but obliged to laugh
'She says I am not in earnest about anything, and that I
shall certainly go to the dogs if I don't mend my ways!'
'I uttered no such words, but I said what implied as much;
and so I think.'
When I saw Mr. Brandon's amused face I felt suddenly ashamed
of the warmth I had displayed, and the unguarded things I had said to my
two days' acquaintance.
He put aside the pear boughs, came close, and sat down on a
tree stump at our feet, folding his arms and looking up at us.
'It appears that you and Miss Graham have been quarrelling?'
'Not at all!' I replied; 'but I was reading with your
brother, and he would not give his attention to what he was about, so—'
I hesitated. 'So you scolded him?'
'Yes,' said Valentine, 'she was in such a passion. She
is quite flushed now, as you can see.'
St. George glanced at my face.
'Well, Oubit,' he said, 'I hope you appreciate the
'Compliment! Do you think I like to be scolded?'
'Don't you like that a lady should take enough interest in
you to be vexed when you behave like a child?'
'The compliment was of my paying,' said Valentine, with an
easy smile. 'I was naturally occupied with her and not with the
lexicon, and she got quite indignant—roused—her eyes flashed, and she said
such things! I declare she made my cheeks tingle. Miss
'I declare I thought for a moment you were going to cry.'
Oh! what an accusation of childishness, and I had meant to be
so old in all my ways! I looked up, and Mr. Brandon met my eyes with
a sweet and tender smile, such as one bestows sometimes on a dear child,
and I thought how hard it was that I could neither look like a grown-up
woman nor behave like one.
'I have often told you,' he said to his brother, 'that your
want of earnestness is ruinous—deplorable! Now you have come in
contact with an earnest nature, which cannot endure trifling where grave
interests are concerned. See how you have shocked it!'
'Well, I shall work harder next time,' said Valentine with
easy good-nature. 'But it's not my way to be excited about things.
I naturally am careless, I suppose.'
'But you should strive against that defect, not state it
complacently as a fact that you have nothing to do with.'
'Well,' he answered, 'if Miss Graham would take me in hand,
perhaps I could catch a little energy from her. I declare I felt
quite elevated when she fired up. I experienced a kind of noble rage
against myself and everything. If she could put me into a fury and
reproach me every day, I could do anything.'
'Probably Miss Graham has something better to do than to
attend to your Greek.'
I was glad of this proposal, and said I should like very much
to read with him if he really meant to work, and would promise that there
should be no more such ridiculous scenes as we had just enacted.
'What! you really will read with me?' he exclaimed.
'Yes, of course; I scarcely ever have the least chance of
being of use; I cannot think of throwing this little one away. It is
so very unsatisfactory to live entirely for one's self.'
'There! you got that notion out of a book. That is the
first thing I have heard you say that did not sound natural and real.
My dear lord, clear your mind of cant (the Great Samuel).'
His brother tried to snub him.
'How do you know what is natural to a conscientious person?
That feeling, that notion, does come out of a book, but not the sort of
book you mean.'
'I meant one of those books that Liz and Lou are so fond of
crying over, where the people are so impossibly good and refined and
conscientious, and yet so invariably miserable.'
'Well, I hate those books too,' he answered, 'cold,
Liz and Lou did not look as if their reading had depressed
them, and I remarked that I thought so. 'You will change your mind
when the next Mudie box comes; won't she, St. George?'
'Yes, and people unconsciously imitate what they admire,
particularly when set before them in the guise of a superb young heroine,
with dark eyes and perfect features that seldom relax into a smile, stern
duty being all that remains to her—love and hope and ease being tragically
'Or of a fair girl all feeling,' said the Oubit, sighing; 'a
creature so horribly conscientious that she nearly cries if a fellow does
but read a line out of some heathen Greek without bending his whole soul
to the task.'
'I am not expected to recognize any one that I know the
disguise of a girl all feeling!'
'I said a fair girl.'
'And I am not fair and not all feeling. I was cross
when you were so provoking, that was all.'
'You are not fair?'
'No, I am not, and I do not say that to provoke a denial.
I do not care much about appearances—at least—'
'That sentence began in a very promising manner,' said Mr.
Brandon; 'but if you think you are not fair, how odd that you should not
'You think, then, that if you were a woman you should care?'
'I am sure of it'
'Perhaps you are not thinking of what I meant.'
'I was thinking of that delicacy, that attractiveness and
grace—in short, of that beauty which distinguishes your sex.'
'But I was only thinking of that beauty which distinguishes
one of my sex over others.'
'And I understand you to say that you do not care about it?'
'I do not think it would suit me at all. It would want
taking care of, like any other gift of God; I should have to change my
whole manner and conduct on purpose to harmonize with it. Yes, I
think I am glad it is not mine.'
'Your present style and manner, then, would not suit a
beautiful young woman?'
'No, because it always shows that I am very desirous to
'Ah!' said Valentine, 'and that you think, if you were
beautiful, would turn poor fellows' heads.'
'You talk,' said Mr. Brandon to me, 'as if beauty was a fact
and not an opinion.'
'It does not much matter which it is, if almost all agree as
to its absence or presence.'
'Very true,' he answered, and laughed as if a good deal
'I say, St. George,' said Valentine, 'I believe when Miss
Graham made that incautious speech, she only meant that she didn't care
what you and I thought of her face.'
There was a pause.
'She cannot deny it. I'll give her while I count twelve
to do it in.'
I looked up at the tall boy and then down at Miss Dorinda's
lover, and it seemed to me that there was no need to deny it. To
have beauty and captivate Valentine would be very awkward, for I should
not be captivated in my turn; to have it and be seen by Dorinda would
perhaps make her tremble, and would certainly make her try to prevent my
obtaining a friend.
'There!' said Valentine, 'the numbers are counted out; 'She
lives and makes no sign.'
'You need not think my indifference is magnanimous, it is
Valentine laughed. 'I know you consider me nothing but
a boy, and I do not care, but really I think you are ten times better
looking than many—indeed, than most girls—far better looking than Fanny
Wilson or Jane, either.'
A bell had been tinkling for some time, and I asked what it
was, upon which they both rose, and saying that it was the lunch-bell,
proposed that we should return to the house.
'A lame black beetle preaching like a fish;
A squinting planet in a gravy-dish;
Amorphous masses cooing to a monk;
Two fine old crusty problems, very drunk;
A pert parabola flirting with the Don;
And two Greek grammars, with their war-paint on.'
VALENTINE walked on
before us, and set the boughs swinging as he passed. Mr. Brandon
walked with me, and after a short silence, looking up, I saw that he was
considering me with attention.
'I know you are not affected,' he said. 'And so, he
continued, after another pause, 'I feel sure that in talking of your face,
as we have just been doing, you said what you really thought.'
He spoke in a perfectly matter-of-fact way, and I replied,
'I flatter myself that I am discerning,' he went on; 'but if
you venture to say such things before some others of my sex, you will
certainly be misunderstood.'
I answered, 'Your brother is not very discerning; yet he did
not misunderstand, and he agrees with me evidently in opinion.'
'Yes,' he answered, and laughed, 'I really think he does.'
I wondered whether he meant to imply that he thought me
pretty, but as I could not think of anything else to say, I asked, 'What
is Fanny Wilson like?'
'She has all the beauty inseparable from a very large
fortune. Looked at apart from that, I should say she was a
heavy-footed girl. Jane Wilson is a fine creature; she weighs about
'A very proper weight, if she is tall. I rather envy
her. If I were as heavy as that, I should never be afraid to go on
deck, even in a stiff gale.'
He laughed at the inconsistency of this speech with my
professed indifference. So did I when he had pointed it out.
'If you envy, you are ungrateful,' he continued, as
dispassionately as if he had been speaking to his grandmother. It
was just the sort of manner I thought that a man should have who, while
his heart was given to one woman, felt called upon to tell another what he
thought of her face. 'But I quite agree with you,' he continued,
'that beauty is of less consequence than some other advantages.'
'Oh! then,' I thought, 'Dorinda is a plain girl, and he knows
'But if it is ridiculous for an ugly woman to give herself
the airs of conscious beauty,' he went on, 'it is equally—almost
equally—' At this word he paused, and seemed to consider, but not finding
what he wanted, he presently attacked the subject in another place.
'I think you are too much resolved to forget how very much people differ
'If I thought they were likely to differ in my case I should
not talk as I have done, because it would appear as if I did it to elicit
a flattering assurance of dissent.'
'That is exactly what I wanted you to say. It remains
only to show that they do so differ—a remarkable thing certainly.
But I am an instance of the difference I have suggested. My eyes
justify me to myself, and in spite of all your convictions, I shall
persist in my own, for if I had to point out one of the most attractive
faces I ever saw—such is my perversity (such my bad taste that quiet
smile seems to say)—that I should undoubtedly and confidently mention
He spoke so composedly and dispassionately, that for a moment
I felt almost inclined to argue the point with him; but no, that would be
no use, and I felt that my intelligent theories on this point were upset.
It was natural not to care for beauty if it was a mere circumstance in the
possessor, but not if it was a cherished opinion in the beholder. I
felt that the kind of attractiveness he had acknowledged was precious; it
was quite inconsistent with the least disapproval or even indifference.
My world was so very contracted that few people could know or care for me,
and this glimpse so unconsciously given of the place I must have held in
his memory filled me with elation.
'I have a friend,' he presently said, 'whom I should so much
like you to see. I wonder what you would think of her face?'
'Do you consider her very beautiful, then?'
'Oh! no,' he replied. 'Oh! certainly not, but I
consider the expression of her countenance heavenly!'
'And do you think it the reflection of her mind?'
'What is her name?'
'Miss Dorinda Braithwaite.'
The name I had expected to hear, but I was struck, as I had
been before, with the formal manner in which the whole family spoke of
We came in.
'Dick is here,' said Lou; 'he is come to lunch.'
Dick, otherwise Richard à
Court, was a small fair-haired young clergyman, who seemed to be on
familiar terms with the whole family, and Mrs. Henfrey, taking me and Tom
into her confidence, let us understand that we were to make our lunch last
as long as possible, because it would be Dick's dinner, and she was afraid
he did not always have a good dinner when at home in his lodgings, because
he gave away so much of his income in charity.
We were followed into the dining-room by a large awkward dog,
who came slouching in with his head down, and an air of shame most evident
Nobody took any notice of him at first, and he stood at the
end of the table by Mr. Brandon's chair silent and shamefaced, but when
the carving was over Aunt Christie exclaimed, 'Why, there's old Smokey, I
The dog took no notice of her, and his master, leaning
towards him, said, in a tone of friendly remonstrance, 'Now, Smokey, what
do you mean by this ridiculous behaviour? I am all right, old boy.'
The dog, putting his paws on the arm of the chair, grunted
out a few inarticulate sounds that seemed full of love and entreaty,
whereupon the master said, 'You know as well as I do that you have no
business here. Don't I pay you a visit every day? and don't I always
tell you that you are not to come and hunt me up in the house?
Answer me that.'
Smokey gave a yap, which was declared by the family to be his
way of testifying assent.
'Oh! he's a wise beast,' said Aunt 'Christie. 'I never
saw the match of him.'
'Well,' continued his master, 'you can go to the magistrate,
and ask if you may stop this once.'
Thereupon the great creature came tearing round the table, barking
'Smokey wants to know if he may stop,' said St. George.
'Well,' answered the old man, looking down into the
creature's eyes, 'if he's a good dog, he may.'
Perfectly understanding the permission, Smokey came back with
a much more confident air, and pushing up his head under his master's arm
contrived to impede the carving a good deal; going round, if he was
called, to the various members of the family, and receiving doles from
them with sober contentment, and making various little yaps, snuffles, and
whines when talked to, which they declared had distinct meanings.
'They know we can talk,' observed Liz, 'so they pick up our
tones, and pretend to do it, too. It's my belief that they think
they do talk.'
'They live in the presence of their gods,' said Tom; 'they
ought to have one privilege more than we have, to make amends.'
'To make amends for the will of their Maker concerning them,
you appear to mean,' said Dick à Court,
with a severe glance at Tom; and he began with great sincerity, but in a
wonderfully commonplace manner, to enlarge on the certainty that all the
creatures are in their right places.
'Dick,' said St. George, when this had been going on for
rather a long time, 'don't be didactic, there's a good fellow; you forget
that we men have completely taken our favourites among the creatures out
of the places we found them in.'
'What does he say?' asked Mr. Mortimer, who had caught a few
St. George raised his voice a little, and replied, 'I was
telling Dick he mustn't be didactic; you're not used to that sort of
thing, are you, my liege?—you can't stand it.'
'No, Dick, no; better not,' said Mr. Mortimer, putting up his
eye-glass and openly contemplating his step-son. 'He's quite right,
Dick; nobody's ever didactic here.'
'We could not have taken them out of their places unless it
had been ordained,' said Dick.
'Then it was ordained, for we have done it; and we have
filled them with yearnings towards us, and wants, and loves, that
otherwise they never could have known.'
'And we have demoralized them too in some respects,' said
Tom; 'their love for us renders them unable to be faithful to one
'Yes,' said Mr. Mortimer, to whom this was repeated, 'Smokey
would tear his own mother to pieces if she growled at Valentine or Giles.'
'You think they are in much the same position that we should
be,' I asked, if angels lived visibly on earth among us, and chose out
little human children here and there to take to their homes and feed with
angels' bread, and love and make much of?'
'Yes,' said St. George; 'and I am thankful we do not live
with such a race.'
'What contempt we should feel for one another if we did
Little Dick actually gasped with horror at these two
speeches. 'What can you be thinking of to talk thus of such a
blessed possibility?' he exclaimed.
'I talk according to my lights,' said Tom; I and as it is not
ordained that I should live with angels, surely I may say that I am glad.'
'Call them angels—call them whatever you like,' said St.
George, 'but if it is allowed that they are to be as much above us as we
are above the dogs, I do not see how any higher religion than fealty to
them could be possible to us.'
'Besides,' continued Tom, 'such brutes as we have tamed are
influenced not only by our acts, but by our intentions. We intend
that they shall stay in certain fields; we put a trumpery little paling
round them, or a thin hedge, or a shallow ditch; they are not consciously
obedient, but our will was that they should stay there; they generally
yield to this thought that was in our hearts when we made the barrier, and
it becomes, in consequence, insuperable to them. It would be the
same with us if we lived with our betters.'
'Now, Smokey,' said the master, in a confidential tone to his
slave, 'we are going out for a walk, Smokey; we shall go through the yard.
You had better look out.' The dog retired with alacrity. 'I am
not at all sure,' he went on, 'that Smokey did not know we were talking of
him and his people. I think he did, and felt sneaky in consequence.'
Tom answered by broaching another of his favourite notions.
It was his belief, he said, that human spirits were perceptible to
most other intelligences, though not to their fellows. 'We appear to
ourselves only to animate these bodies, but to the consciousness of other
creatures we spiritually overflow them. Just as the scents of
flowers pervade their neighbourhood, emanations from our spirits float in
our neighbourhood. That is another way in which dominion is secured
'Then what do you think our souls look like?' asked Lou quite
'I should not wonder if they give out a sort of light,' she
continued. 'They might, you know, though it might be too faint for
our mortal eyes to see it.'
Tom replied that he had not considered that part of the
subject, and the party broke up. The men and dogs shortly went
across country together, and Mr. Mortimer took Lou and me for a walk
through a pretty dingle, and then past the two cottages with green doors,
finally to a deep, natural rent, which, in the Isle of Wight, would have
been called a chine. In one part it contracted so much that a bridge
was thrown across it; and looking down as we stood on this bridge, we saw
Tom sitting below us, smoking, on a hurdle. Mr. Brandon, coming
along at a good pace; evidently measuring the length of the hollow by his
stride, and Mr. à Court setting down the
results in a natty little note-book.
'What are you about, my dear St. George?' said Mr. Mortimer.
St. George not hearing, Valentine, who had joined us, shouted
down the message. 'Hi! papa wants to know what you're up to!'
Giles looked up and laughed, lifting his hat to us, and
pointing out an old woman who was coming to meet us. He then went
striding on under the bridge, and I saw why he had become a different
person. Our friend of the yacht always used to put his feet to the
ground with peculiar caution, and liked to wear slippers when ever he
could. Even at Chartres he always stepped as lightly as possible,
and with a caution which altered his gait.
The old woman, who was very comfortably dressed, and was
evidently in great indignation, came up to Mr. Mortimer, and in her
country dialect demanded his assistance. It was just what Valentine
had said in joke the night before: 'Do'ee speak to the young landlord,'
Mr. Mortimer leaned down his grand white head and listened
with all courtesy. 'He was so masterful, nobody could do
anything with him.' And she went grumbling on. 'Times and
times and times he had chevied her pigs over the bridge; ay, times and
times, when they were feeding in the stubble, and she never said a word.
So had Master Valentine, as he very well knew.'
I thought she spoke, and Mr. Mortimer listened to the account
of these delinquencies, as if they might have taken place about the day
'Boys will be boys!' he remarked.
'Ay, so they would; but this was different, and he was not to
chevy her pigs while they were fitting in the sty. He and the young
sailor gentleman had chevied them ever so, just to see where the drains
went; but it was flying in the face of Providence to clean up her pigs;
they wouldn't fat unless they were dirty.'
'I'm sure I don't know what is to be done,' said Mr.
Mortimer, 'as these cottages belong to him.'
'And did he think, then, that he was to have the cleaning up
of this mucky old world? The world was nat'rally dirty.
She didn't mean to say but what he was a good landlord, but full of fads,
full of fads—would have it that her pigsties confected the little
spring that the folks drank of further down, and actilly wanted to
turn the drainage the other way. Do'ee talk to him, sir.'
'It won't be a bit of use,' said Mr. Mortimer. 'But I
know, if he does any damage to your pigs, he will make it up to you.'
The old lady retired, grumbling as she went.
Valentine did not let me forget our bargain that I was to
read Greek with him. We set to work the very next day, directly
after breakfast, and which of us it amused the most I hardly know, but
certainly it amused all the other members of the family, for those who did
not sit in the room came in and out and made frequent observations on us.
Just as we had nearly finished, a little shower fell, and Tom
and Mr. Brandon, who had intended to go out with us, came to condole; for
a walk was a delightful treat to me, one for which nothing else could
'I seem to contract a sort of sense of freshness from this
fellow,' observed Mr. Brandon of Tom; 'I find the world looking newer than
usual when I walk about with him.'
It was a lovely sunshiny shower that was coming down; it
seemed to fill the space between us and the tall trees, so ghostly white,
with confusing light and sparkling lines. Tom and I sat and watched
'This is better than anything we saw this winter in the
tropics,' I remarked to him.
'I wonder how you employed yourself all those months while
you were at sea,' said Mrs. Henfrey to me.
'You could not have been always looking at the sun sets,'
'Particularly in the morning,' Lou put in.
'No. Sometimes I wrote. I found writing a great
'Ah! you wrote. To your friends?'
'I have no friends.'
'You a'n't got no friends! Hurrah! You
will think the more of us then,' said Valentine. 'Was it a novel
that you wrote ?'
'With a motto to every chapter,' said Tom. 'The ladies
always take care of that. She wrote the mottoes first, and then put
the chapter to suit them.'
'And the first motto,' said St. George, 'was "All the world's
a ship, and all the men and boys are merely sailors." '
'But,' proceeded Valentine, 'the love-scenes were most
Here I was impelled to say, that I had not got so far as the
'Ay, but don't be so shy about it,' exclaimed Aunt Christie.
'I'm sure writing was a very pretty occupation for ye. What was the
hero like, my dear?'
'The hero was a terrible trouble; he wasn't natural. I
saved up a great many wise things for him to say, but could not get him to
'Then of course he was not anything like me,' said Valentine.
'No, he was not in the least like you.'
'Was he at all like me?' said Mr. Brandon; and here I
observed a certain keenness of interest in the listeners, who all seemed a
good deal amused.
'Oh! no, not at all.'
'That's odd,' he answered; I only think of the interesting
circumstances under which I came before you; but,' he added gently, and as
if the reflection pleased him, 'he must have been a prig, of course?
I know the hero was a prig.'
'But he was very handsome,' said Valentine. 'I think he
had brown eyes, and a fair complexion.'
'Yes, he was rather fair; but,' I continued, trying to
justify myself, for I saw they were all laughing at me, 'as I could not
make him natural, I gave him as many other advantages as I could; his
defect was that he was too good, so I made him a clergyman. I used
to like his remarks when I made him say them, but when I looked at them
afterwards I thought he preached.'
'And about what age was be'?' asked Valentine. 'About
the age that heroes generally are.'
'That is to say, about my age?' said Mr. Brandon, in a
persuasive tone. 'I think I must be right in saying he was about my
'Oh! no, he was not nearly so old.'
'So old!' he exclaimed, with sudden vehemence and interest.
Surely, I thought, he does not consider himself a young man
now; and Valentine remarked, in a dispassionate tone, 'Why, you're nearly
thirty, Giles—at least six years too old for a hero. An old man,'
he murmured, 'and his wits are not so—'
'He isn't,' exclaimed Mrs. Henfrey indignantly; 'he's just in
the early prime of life.'
'I was never the right age for a handsome hero,' he replied,
half-laughing, but I saw plainly that he did not like our considering him
'Well, that's as people think,' continued his champion;
'nobody can deny that he has the handsomest mouth and teeth in the
She looked round upon us as she said this. 'Or in the
room, either,' she concluded; and, with a chorus of laughter, we all
declared that we agreed with her. He replied that when he had his
portrait painted for her, he would have the most made of his one good
feature. 'It shall be painted as large as possible,' he assured her.
'Well, I must say I would like to get a look at this novel,'
said Aunt Christie.
'I have read part of it,' observed Tom. 'She expected
me to set her right when she took a young family to sea. She asked
me one day whether there was any difference between wearing and tacking.
Her genius shines most brightly in seafaring matters. It always
'But I've burnt the novel,' I pleaded; 'you know I burnt it,
'And what for?' said Mrs. Henfrey. 'What does it
signify whether there's any difference between them or not?'
'I wanted it to be right; besides, the hero being quite in
the grand style, I could not let him make mistakes. And then there
is so much variety in nature, and if you want to make a vivid picture, so
many things have to be put in, I did not know what to choose. For
instance, if I were writing of Tom, ought I, beside telling his height and
appearance, to add that during this conversation he has been gently
slapping the palm of his hand with an ivory paper-knife? or that Mr.
Brandon, sitting by Aunt Christie (who has a green-plaid gown on), has
been leaning back on the couch and judiciously kicking the heavy tassel
which hangs out from the corner of her square foot-stool, so as to keep it
always going like a pendulum?'
'If I had been your hero,' retorted the last-named of the two
victims, 'you would, in recording that little action, have taken care to
add, "but whatever he did, became him." However,' he added, in a
tone of deep reflection, 'I think, on the whole, I am glad not to be the
hero of a lady's novel. Do you think you could draw my character,
Miss Graham? Should I come out a gentle muff in your hands, I
wonder? Or a prig with a dash of the dissenting minister?'
'I intend to be the hero of your next novel,' said Valentine;
'I have quite made up my mind to that.'
'No, not the next,' said Tom, basely betraying me.
I was terribly tormented by them all when they found out that I had begun
another, especially when, being hard pressed by questions, I was obliged
to admit that I had stopped short because I could not think of any more
scenes; in fact, to collect more materials.
'Ah! I wish we had Emily with us still,' observed Aunt
Christie, when they had quizzed me to their hearts' content; 'there
were materials for anybody that could use them.'
'Yes, she was always in mischief,' said Valentine, bringing
out his sister in a light that I had not expected, 'and always getting me
'She and Giles between them,' said Mrs. Henfrey, in her usual
'Do ye mind, Giles,' said Aunt Christie, 'my seeing you and
Emily helping the Oubit to write his exercises? The
à Courts have never
forgiven you, I suppose?'
'Nor ever will,' he answered, 'excepting Dick.'
'Ah? said Aunt Christie, 'one on one side and one on the other of the
dear innocent (as he was then). "What are you all about?" I said,
when I saw him with his little elbows squared on the table.'
'Then old à Court should not have set me such foolish lessons,' said
Valentine; I how was such a little fellow to write compositions on Truth
and Probity, and all that stuff? But he never would have found out that
Giles and Emily did the answers unless they had put the last in verse.'
'Oh! yes, he would,' said Aunt Christie, 'for I remember your telling your
mother so prettily that he was very cross, and said the essay was all
nonsense, and now you might write a composition on Nonsense, and see what
you could make of that.'
'And Emily told me to say it was a squinting planet in a gravy-dish,' said
Valentine, 'and then Giles wrote the other lines.'
'But I don't see that this account of our delinquencies will be of any
use to Miss Graham,' said Mr. Brandon; 'these materials are not at all "in
the grand style!" '
'But if she does not hear the end,' said Tom, 'we may, perhaps, think it
was worse than it was.'
'The end was that we wrote an essay, and a definition to follow.
Toward the end I put in this unlucky line,—
"Two fine old crusty problems, very drunk,"
and old à Court fancied these some
allusion to himself and his brother, which of course we had never dreamed
'He got it all out of me,' said Valentine, 'and came to my father
absolutely sputtering and dancing with passion. "How dare they say such
things of me! Drunk, indeed! When was I ever known to disgrace my cloth? A
pert parabola flirting with a don—scandalous! insufferable! I'll never
enter these doors again; I never will, unless they most humbly apologize."
'Yes,' observed Mrs. Henfrey, with all composure, 'some of the lines were
unlucky, but making them apply to him never entered their giddy heads. My
father was a good deal vexed,' she added calmly.
'No wonder!' exclaimed Mr. Brandon. 'How he did lecture us, dear old man!
and trotted us both over to apologize. Emily spoke first, and repeated a
little speech that he had composed for her; and then I. We were old enough
to have known better: I was nearly nineteen; she was sixteen. My youthful
dignity was sorely hurt; I felt that life was hardly worth having under
circumstances of such ignominy, but while I was blundering through my
apology, feeling unutterably foolish, Emily suddenly burst into an
ecstatic little chuckle, and in spite of all my struggles I presently
laughed too. After that the case was perfectly hopeless, and the families
have been estranged ever since.'
'And I was taken away from Mr.
à Court, and sent to Old Tikey,' observed
Valentine, for I was always too delicate to go to school. Giles and Emily
great deal to answer for. I never got on so well as
with him. What a comfort I might have been to my family but for them!'
I soon after got Valentine to give me these important lines, and have not
'let them die.' The shower passing off, we went up to dress for a walk, but
while (being ready first) I sat waiting in the morning-room for the
others, Mr. Brandon entered, and walking up to the
sofa, leaned over me gravely. 'Scene for the novel,' he said: ' "And as
she stood at the foot of the stairs, she looked up, and saw Amontillado
about to descend. He was dressed for dinner in his usual swallow-tail
coat, and had his clean pocket-handkerchief, slightly scented with eau de
Cologne, doubled up in his hand, but on this festive occasion he had added
nothing to the adornments she always saw him in, excepting one small
sprig of myrtle stuck in behind each ear. That sight made an indelible
impression on her memory." '
'He was not in the least in that style!' I exclaimed. 'He was very
manly, I assure you, and exceedingly strong.'
'Oh! another scene for the novel—'When he heard these trenchant words,
he sprang into the air as if he had been shot; then, tearing up a young
tree in his desperation, he flung it into the river, vaulted on it
instantly as on a steed, and waving his hand while he curbed the fiery exogen, he bade her farewell, and rode swiftly down the raging torrent
until she lost sight of him. Then, as she turned away, she said, 'I wish I
hadn't done it" ' Do you like these scenes?' he continued. 'I've just composed them.'
If I had had the sense to keep these scenes to myself there would have
been an end of them, but I could not help telling them to Valentine,
and the consequence was, frequent other scenes more or less ridiculous.
Some time during that afternoon I asked what the lecture was to be about,
and was told it was an account of one of the New Zealand settlements, and
its object, of course, was to recommend emigration.
Liz and Lou had made some gigantic pictures of the trees, scenery,
produce, native huts, &c. Their brother had been over twice already, they
said, and had been coming home the second time across America when we fell
in with him.
He and Tom came in while we were all looking at the illustrations. I held
a picture of a wild raging torrent, which a man on horseback was fording.
'That is your humble servant,' he said. 'These two pictures ought to be
labelled "Contentment" and
"Terror." "Contentment" represents a man with a long pipe in his mouth,
roasting some animal at the end of a stick.'
'Were you frightened, then, when you crossed the
'Frightened! I quaked in my shoes! My horse got snagged and uttered a
groan, poor beast, that often rings in my ears yet. I was ducked once, but
rose close to the murderous snag, and sat and held by it for
a couple of hours. Those torrents come by suddenly. When this one had
spent its force, and I ventured down from my perch, the water was so full
of pebbles that, by the time I had struggled to the bank, I was beaten
black and blue.'
'Shall you tell that anecdote at the lecture?'
'Why not? I consider it
rather a taking one.'
'I should have thought it was enough to prevent anybody from going. Did
you visit the country, intending to settle?'
'No; I went in the service of one Jenny Wilkes, as her purveyor of stores,
guardian, paymaster, autocrat, and likewise slave.'
'A remarkable place. Did you prove equal to its
'It is not for me to boast; but I should confidently
expect a good character if I applied to Jenny.'
'As autocrat, I can fancy you might play your part well, but as slave—'
'Might you be looking out for the latter article, madam? My late mistress
will speak well of me.'
'No,' I answered, laughing; 'I only asked from
'You'll please to understand,' said Mrs. Henfrey, 'that
my lord was only
three and twenty when he took out a lot of women and girls, and he would
have it that there was nothing odd in it at all.'
'No!' exclaimed Tom.
'Yes,' said Mr. Brandon, 'it does strike me as rather
droll now, but I did it.'
'As their slave?'
'Yes; and I make a capital slave when I am treated with due deference. I
can nurse children, snare and shoot and cook game, milk cows, and
otherwise comport myself like a gentleman and a man of title. My title,
bestowed on me by Jenny and her set, was almost exactly like that of the
Emperor of Russia. He is called Czar; I was called Zur. There's no
difference worth mentioning.'
'I wonder who Jenny Wilkes was?'
'She was a washerwoman.'
'And may I inquire on behalf of this assembly,' said Tom, 'by virtue of
what charm she made you her slave?'
;You certainly may. Her charms were her eleven comely children—seven fine
girls and four chubby urchins of boys.'
'More evidence is required to make the case intelligible.'
'Know, then, that, to use her own language, Jenny washed and
clear-starched for this family; but Jenny had a drunken husband, who used
to pawn the clothes for drink; and this happened so often that our
patronage was withdrawn. That was eight years ago, and then the husband
for a time was more sober, and
worked at his trade of gardening; but he was a bad fellow, and sometimes
left her for months together, and she got on as well as she could, which
was very badly. At last the man died. After he was buried I went to
see Jenny. She was, as the neighbours say, "taking on"
sadly. I thought she was crying for her husband; so I told her that for
her children's sake she must bear up. "Oh! bless you, Zur!" she cried,
sobbing afresh, "It's not that. But whatever am I to do? for now my neighbour has got the washing at the hall, and I can't have it back, and
I've nothing to put in their months
nor on their backs.' So when I heard that I took a chair and sat down, and
I remarked upon her good-looking daughters fast growing up—the eldest
eighteen. I talked of husbands for them; work for herself; good
pay. In short, I enlarged upon all that I had ever said, but with little
success hitherto. To my surprise the widow started a new objection. She
was sure she
should get lost; she never could find the way. Likewise, she remarked,
that, in going through these forests
she should lose some of the children. In vain I reasoned with her, told
her that there was no way for her
to find, no forest to traverse. She recurred to the fear
lest she should be lost. At last I said, "Jenny, do you suppose
I am able
to find the way?"
' "Oh! ay, she thought as how I could; she was sure on't, and if I was
going she would be none afraid."
' "Very well," I said, "then I am going." It had only just occurred to me,
that I was about to spend two years in touring and travelling, and why not
in that direction as well as any other? So the bargain was
struck. I was paymaster of course, but I was willing to pay for success;
but the worst of it was, that no sooner was the thing known than two more
women came trudging up to the house, "had heard as how that I was agoing
to take out Widow Wilkes, and their masters was willing, and they had but
apiece; would I take out all of them?" I did take
them all. That is, I took a passage for them, and a passage for myself in
the after-part of the same vessel.
How the women and girls quarrelled! I shall never
forget it. I was governor and umpire. They were all ill at first, happily,
and nothing worse befell than the
continuous squalling of the children. When the seasickness was over I set
up a school, taught writing, arithmetic, morals, manners, and geography;
gave lessons in chess, draughts, and dominoes, and kept the peace as well
as I could. I had paid dear for my success; I had persuaded somebody to
emigrate, and I was taking the consequences. Well, we landed in Wellington Harbour. I had engaged to remain three months, and then, if they wished it,
to take them back again. The two men got into capital situations very
soon, and went with their employers a few miles up the country. I had no
more trouble with them. But Jenny Wilkes and her daughters caused me a
world of misery, and sometimes made me feel heartily ashamed of my
ridiculous position as their guardian. Jenny donned a red bonnet, and gave
herself the airs of a young girl. The daughters put on their best frocks,
and marched about at my heels, for if I was obliged to leave the den of an
inn where we were, I was sure to find some ruffianly-looking gold-diggers
come over from Nelson, trying to make themselves agreeable, so I had to
take the girls with me, and if I had been the wickedest young fellow in
the world, I could not have felt more ashamed of myself than I did the
first few days after we landed.
'I then found a respectable place to lodge them in, something between a
store and an eating-house. I looked out for situations for the girls, but
as lovers began to present themselves, they were not easy to please, and I
soon found that my troubles would not be over until I had married the two
elders. The mother's head was turned, and she seemed incapable of looking
after the young fry; so one evening I called her outside the house to
lecture her. "Mrs. Wilkes," I began—"Mrs. Muggins, if you've no
objection, sir," she replied, and to my astonishment I found she had
married the host, a fat fellow, making money fast, and sorely in want of
somebody to manage him.
'He came out after her, looking hot and flurried. "Marry you, Jenny? What, with all your children!"
' "Yers," said Mr. Muggins, with his hands in his pockets,
into it; some men are lucky; my first wife was a fortune, to me; but she
was nothing to this—"
'Jenny retreated precipitately, and gave her youngest son a cuff, perhaps
caused by embarrassment.'
Mr. Muggins looked on admiringly.
' " Four fine boys," said he. "I've been going to buy land and go up the
country; but I haven't managed it. Four fine boys to help! yers, I'll go
and do it now. My first wife, sir, was nothing to this; why, a duchess is
nothing to her."
' "Mr. Muggins," said I, following his lead, "you've stepped into a good
thing; prove yourself worthy of it."
' "And the girls, sir," proceeded Mr. Muggins. "Oh my gracious! they'll
help their mother right and left, in-doors and out."
'Well, Mr. Muggins did buy land. Whatever faults his step-daughters may
have had, they did not want for activity, and he soon found he had only to
provide money, and he was taken in hand, washed for, cooked for, clear-starched for, his bargains made, his cart driven, his cows bought and
milked. I saw him two days before I embarked for Sidney. "If it wasn't
that Mary Jane and Melia are going to marry," said he, "I should think
myself in paradise; but their mother, sir, she's here, there, and
everywhere; and them blessed boys, they run of all her errands, and they
chop wood, and they feed
the poultry. Oh, my gracious goodness! good bye, Sir, and God bless you."
We dined at five that day, that there might be time to drive to the town
afterwards and hear the lecture. Mr. Brandon and Tom went to dine with
Mr. John Mortimer, as well as Valentine; and Lou, Lizzy, and I went over
after dinner in the carriage. I must say I felt a strong degree of
curiosity and interest, and when we stopped at a door in a dirty-looking
and saw a good many working men hanging about, I exulted quite as much as
Liz and Lou did in the prospect of a crowded audience.
We entered a somewhat dirty school-room; it was large, bare, and very
empty. Our spirits fell. 'Dear me, I wish the people would come pouring
in,' said one. 'Where shall we sit, so as to make the greatest show?'
asked the other. 'Spread your gown out, Dorothea, and cover as much of
the bench as you can.'
The benches near us were perfectly empty. As we had driven along, the
girls had told me that the last
time Giles had lectured there he had been hissed. I
felt indignant; how dared they do it! But I only said, 'Indeed, and why?'
They thought it was because Giles was so uncompromising, so fearless in
speaking his mind. I asked whether Mr. Mortimer would be present.
''Oh, no!' said Liz. 'Papa says he dare not, lest they should hiss again;
he took it very much to heart.
Oh! here come two women and a boy. Lou, dear, the
gallery is beginning to fill. There are seven children
in it. And see, here come some of the navvies.'
'But why did they hiss?'
'Papa thinks the farmers close to our village hate Giles, because some of
their labourers have emigrated through his means. More people, Lou; we
shall do now.'
We now sat silent, for the room was rapidly filling. Labourers stalked in,
pulled off their hats, and stroked down their hair, settled themselves
with a hand on each knee, and grinned. Fat old women disposed themselves
in knots in the cosiest corners, and scolded boys and girls as they went
up into the gallery, which was not an ordinary flight of steps such as
in most schools goes by that name, but a real one like the gallery of a
church, and evidently favoured by the youthful portion of the audience as a
good place for seeing in, and being in some degree out of the way of
interference from elders.
At last the room was full. A brace of fair-haired
young curates stood leaning in the doorway, and a stern-looking
schoolmaster, with a long white wand, marched about below and looked up
into the gallery in which, by this time, at least a hundred children were
seated. 'There's Dick à Court,' said Lou.
Mr. Brandon now appeared with the vicar of the town. They mounted a little
platform, on which stood a reading-desk covered with a cloth, and
surmounted by the usual supply of cold water and tumblers. The vicar
proceeded to make a little speech laudatory of the lecturer. This speech
abounded in such words as 'thrilling;' it also enlarged on the
condescension of the lecturer in taking the trouble to amuse and instruct
the classes below him. Under the infliction of the vicar's praise, the
lecturer tossed back his hair by a quick, impatient movement of the head,
his nostrils widened, and, if I am not mistaken, he uttered something like
a defiant snort. The vulgarity and bad taste of the speech were gall and
wormwood to him, but he stood manfully until it was over, and as the vicar
descended and edged his way out of the room, he came a step or two
forward, cleared his lowering brow, and gave the audience a gracious smile
which seemed to claim acquaintance with them; and then, instead of
beginning to read his lecture, his eyes pierced the gloomy depths of the
gallery, and to the surprise of the assembly, he said: 'Stand up, boys in
the gallery, and
girls too.' With an obedient scraping and rustling, all the children rose.
'My boys,' said Giles, 'last week when I heard a lecture here, you made a
great noise; a very great noise and cheering. Now, I know it is a pleasure
to you to do it; in short, that is what you come for, if I am not
mistaken' (the faces of the fathers and mothers below broke out into broad
smiles), 'and I don't want to deprive you of it altogether—merely to
desire that you will never begin it. If your elders choose to applaud, you
may help, but when they are silent, you must not make a noise. Sit down.'
Down they all sat, but in the very act they caught a
low patting of feet and soft clapping of hands, which I believe the two
curates began, and which ran through the room directly. Up started the
children. Here was the desired signal. They stamped, cheered, and made a
downright hubbub, while the audience laughed and enjoyed the joke. Again
and again the running fire of claps broke out below, and the exulting
voices of the children echoed it, while the lecturer, who began to look
rather out of countenance, stood waiting for permission to begin. At last,
the two curates, contented with their work, took up their hats, gave Giles
a cheerful nod, and with innocent countenances blandly departed after
There was nothing particular, I think, in the opening of the lecture; and
if there had been, I should not have noticed it, for my ears had other
work than listening to mere words, however significant. Just as the people
were settling themselves in their seats, and the first sentence was
uttered, I had heard behind Lou a very low, soft hiss, a sound that I
should hardly have been conscious of if Lou had not started and looked
At first Giles was decidedly nervous; perhaps he, too, had heard this
soft hiss. However that might be, he betrayed by his countenance that he
was not content, not excited, and consequently not able to excite his
audience and fix their attention on himself.
I was beginning to feel disappointed, and was at the same time angry with
myself for fearing that it was stupid and dull, when, having waded through
his exordium, he began to warm with his subject; his voice changed,
softened, grew deeper and richer, his countenance and all his attitudes
altered, his words came faster, and his audience began to lift up their
faces and cease to cough and fidget.
My eyes, like theirs, were drawn to gaze at him, and forget everything
else. He had raised himself into a higher place than he was wont to
occupy; his voice was wanted to calm the agitation that he had caused and
to answer the questions that he was asking. There
was a sort of passion in all his actions, and as I listened, I felt for
the first time the full meaning of the expression, 'His eloquence carried
him away.' The world, as he went on, seemed to lie before us, great and
fair as God has made it, and as if we were looking on while it rolled
majestically in its pathway, showing all its hills
and valleys to its Maker by turns. Voices seemed to be floating up from it
to His throne,—not only the base, ungrateful cries of wounded pride and
disappointed ambition, and wearied idleness and jaded vice, but the sighs
of the over-tasked, the moaning of hungry children, and the complaints of
fathers and mothers who see them pine for want of food and warmth. To the
picture of this great crowd and the gasping of those who are trampled
down, he contrived to give such reality that the listeners were oppressed,
as if they themselves wanted breathing-room, and had been thrown down
among these restless throngs. As for me, I felt helpless among the
jostling multitudes, and derived a vivid sense of the worthlessness of the
items in one another's eyes where the aggregate is so vast, and the small
count set by the poor and the unready, and the grinding of the poor by the
rich, and the snatching of the poor from one another, and the piled-up
houses and unrefreshing air and smoky sky. I wished to get away, and all
at once we were away. He exclaimed, 'We have done with this now; let us
go!' I think I see the vessel still; her great swooping white sails,
hovering over the fresh sea, like wings that God taught man to make, that
he might flee away and be at rest. We were away in some great silence.
And now the vessel had left us. We were sitting on some towering hill, and
this was the fresh world lying at our feet, stretching out into great
valleys where solitary creatures feed, wading knee-deep in grass, and wide
open pastures, where nothing moves but the shadows of the clouds and
mountains veined with ore, and forests where nations of birds build, and
where the trees rock in the windy sky and shed their fruits which there
are few to gather.
Stepping away along those open wastes, one of that company might penetrate
at last to some sheltered nook and hear the sound of the ringing axe with
joy; he would not listen unheeded, the solitary workers want him. Come and
help us, man, is all their cry; you may not be wise, but you are company
for us; you may not be strong, but you are willing. Come and help us,
woman; be a wife here, and choose among urgent suitors; be a mother, and
see all your children welcome and cherished as the best gifts of a
bountiful Providence. What! as they sit hard at work in the old country do
they sigh when they set foot on the cradle-rockers, and fear that even to
its own father the crying babe is a burden that he knows not how to bear? Cast in your lot with us, and no such fear shall ever clutch at your heart; the father shall exult in every child you bring him as the means of
riches and comfort, a new workman, a fresh companion, another helper.'
Of course, I only give the impression he conveyed, not the words; the
power of these, and of the dilated eyes and impassioned voice, I remember
well; but they not to be conveyed in language. When his pictures were all
finished and held up before the audience, his arms dropped at his side, and
all the vehemence with which he had spoken seemed to depart from him. His
eyes were seeking the upturned faces of the audience, after a long
pause he went on slowly, dropping the manner by which he had gained the
mastery, and taking to a quiet tone. ' "Suffer me a little, and I will show you that I
have yet to speak on God's behalf." If men crowd their fellows, God has made
for the oppressed a fair green wilderness. If men care not for poor, God
has cared, and spread a wide inheritance for them, watered it for them when
they knew not of it, and made it ready. If'—no more words reached for close at my back came
the sound I had dreaded—a long hiss, clear, though low. It seemed to electrify Giles; he stopped
instantly, but only for a moment, and with face turned in that direction,
attentive ears, plodded through the remainder of his sentence, and allowed
it to come to an end with a long pause which seemed to invite a repetition
of the hiss. It did not come, and he began another, under cover of which
the hiss was repeated, and a faint murmur of shame came from the unlighted
corners of the room.
I was too much frightened to look round, and Liz and Lou shook visibly on
their bench. For an instant there was a dead silence. Giles was searching
the bench behind us with his penetrating eyes, and I saw that he had found
what he wanted; for, his countenance cleared, he kept them fixed on some
one close to us, and slowly closing his MS. notes, he folded his arms, and
said, with particular force and clearness:—
'If the man who just now interrupted me will rise, I
shall be glad to speak to him.'
No answer—no sound behind us, but a little uneasy rustling.
I declare the words seemed to strike me on the face, they were so firmly
spoken, and aimed so directly behind me.
'Martin Churt, I know you can speak—I have heard you myself; did I
interrupt you so?' He carried his eyes round the room, repeating, 'Did I?' And several men's voices answered, 'Noa, that thee didn't, zur.'
'Martin,' continued Giles, in a more colloquial tone, 'If I were you, I
would stand up and say what I had to say; you could not have a better
opportunity. Get on
the bench, man, and have it out.' (There was now a sound at our back of
hard breathing and puffing, as if some gentleman of the lower sort might
be holding down his head and dabbing his face with his handkerchief.)
'It is true that these good fellows and these good woman came to give
a hearing to me,' continued Giles; 'but I dare say they can spare a little
time for you. You could speak on Sunday afternoon, when I heard you
holding forth on the common. Get up and let us hear the sound of your
'Ay, ay, let us,' shouted a voice from the corner; 'fair play be a jewel.'
' 'You told the people then that there was no God; the more fool you to say
it, and they to listen, when you know as well as they do that there is a
God, and a good one. Now I am telling them that our good God has made the
world large enough for all his creatures. Well, man, what have you to say
Somebody started up behind us now, jumped on the bench, and a coarse voice
blurted out, 'There's a mort o' things moight be said, if a chap knowed how
to speak his mind—things goes wrong, and them rascally upper classes—'
Here he paused and cleared his throat; but he had lost his advantage by
this hesitation, for a loud voice bawled out behind us with a
countrified twang, 'Good Lord, if he be'ant a calling out agin them upper
classes agen—haw, haw, haw!'
Roars of coarse laughter followed; the most exquisite wit could not have
excited more ecstatic applause. It seemed to be more alarming to
poor Lou than the unfriendly hiss, for she shook in every limb, and presently
turned so pale that Liz made a sign to me that we
must leave the room; and not without extreme reluctance I rose and
The little door at which Giles and the clergyman had entered stood ajar,
and was close to us; before the navvies had done exercising their lungs in
laughter, we had passed through it, and shut it behind us. How vexed I
Liz and I were both very cross, and did not fail to give Lou a little
wholesome scolding, under the infliction of which she presently began to
cry, and then to recover herself. Meanwhile we longed to go back,
especially as the noise in the lecture-room increased; however, we did not
think we could do that with propriety, so we listened at the crack of the
door, but we could not make out much. And after a short time it was
evident that St. George was again master of the field, and was
going on with his lecture. It was very dull, and rather
dark in the little room to which we had retreated. There was one candle,
which was guttering down in the tin candlestick, for there was a strong
draught; and by its light we pursued the only occupation that the room
afforded. We examined the dingy maps that hung on the walls.
At last it was evident that the assembly was dispersing, and presently
after Mr. Brandon came to us with Valentine and Tom.
Lou went up to her brother as if in some alarm for his safety, laid her
hands on his shoulders, and looked anxiously in his face, but did not meet
with any sympathy, only a pinch on the cheek, and 'How could you be such
a goose, Lou dear? Miss Graham, were you afraid?'
'Afraid! No. Oh! I was just for an instant at first.'
'Why should she have been?' said Lou. 'Your being ridiculed or hissed out
of the room is not of the same consequence to her.'
'Lou, I conscientiously believe that you would have been just as much
frightened if the lecturer had been a perfect stranger to you.'
'Were not you frightened yourself?'
'No, I foresaw it all along, and at first it hampered me; but I had to
exert myself a good deal after you were gone, and the room became
frightfully hot; so I think you must make room for me inside the trap.'
It is remarkable how much men despise close carriages, and what
disrespectful epithets they invent for them. Mr. Brandon, on taking his
place with us, took care to remark that he only did so because he had to
speak the next night at some meeting or other, and therefore, as it poured
with rain, and he had no greatcoat, it behoved him to take precaution not
to catch a cold.
Great interest was expressed about Tom and Valentine; the latter, on
account of his whooping-cough, was not to return in the open dog-cart; so
he and Tom had procured a chaise, and were in our rear. It was very
dark, and Liz and Lou vainly searched the darkness for them, and was sure
the driver had deposited them in the ditch. This fear I did not share, and
I wished somebody would mention the lecture, but no one did.
Mr. Brandon had settled himself in his corner, and held his peace. And
when Liz and Lou had ascertained that we and the fly had safely passed the
ditch, they were silent too, till within ten minutes of our reaching home,
when we heard shouts behind us, and the carriage stopped. We let down the
window, and Tom's voice shouted from the fly, 'Valentine says what are we
to say about the hissing to his father?'
'Tell him to say nothing, but go to bed, and leave me to manage it,'
replied Giles; 'and, Graham—'
'All right. I hear—'
'If the subject can be staved off till to-morrow, I shall be glad.'
THE next day I noticed that a profound silence was observed on the subject
of the lecture, and Mr. Mortimer, who was supposed to be in low spirits,
received more than the usual attention from his children. Every one
secretly pitied him, and there was a talk in the family that Tom and Mr.
Brandon were to go over to a neighbouring town to choose a present for
his birthday. This delicate attention, it was thought, might divert his
mind from his mortification; and when I asked Valentine what the present
was to be, he replied that he 'only knew it was to be appropriate to the
day,—consequently it would of course be a tankard.'
'Why?' I asked; 'why a tankard?'
'Because the day is muggy.'
'I don't believe you invented that joke yourself, it does not sound at all
'Doesn't it? Well, perhaps I did not, then; but I seemed to think I did.'
'I suppose you have not forgotten that I proposed to read with you?'
'Not at all. I cannot go out of doors such weather, so I'll read all day
if you like.'
'Pity you give such a bad reason for a good action.'
'Would you have me give a good reason for a bad action instead? as the
Feejee Islander did, when he threatened to leave off eating Englishmen
altogether, because their flesh tasted so of salt.'
He then began, in a fitful sort of way, to read and construe, while Liz
and Lou sat by at work; and Mrs. Henfrey alternately read her novel and
listened to our frequent sparring.
'I wish I knew what old Giles was talking about, he
exclaimed, when, the rain having ceased, he saw his father and Mr. Brandon
sauntering along a gravel-walk, and talking.
'Old' in some families is a term of opprobrium; but, as used
by Valentine, it was generally supposed to express affection.
'What should he be talking of?' said Lou.
'He's such an old patriarch,' continued Valentine. 'Why, he's talking of
me, to be sure. I know he is. Now, Miss Graham, you never heard me cough,
'No, not once.'
'What business is it of his, then, if I do cough at night? How he found
out that I do, I can't think. Am I to be spied out, and cockered up, and
blanketed all my
'What has St. George been doing?' asked one of the girls.
'Doing! Why, just after I got into bed last night, he marched into my room
hauling a great blanket after
him, and carrying a candle. A happy instinct warned me of what he was
after, so when he spoke I did not answer a word, for I know if I stirred a
even wagged a finger, I should begin to cough. So I lay like a log, and
we stared at each other with cheerful persistency. He set down his candle
consider my helpless condition, I could not throw so much as a pillow at
him!) and he began to examine the bed-clothes; said curtains were
unwholesome; and it was no use trying to harden myself by having only one
blanket, when I
was wheezing like an old broken-winded horse. So he took his
blanket, laid it over, and, as he stood leaning against the bed-post preaching at me, he
ignominiously tucked it in with his foot. If I was a pet felon in jail, I could
not be more pestered with attention than I am. What with beef-tea and
comforters, my life's a burden to me. But to be tucked up!—there he goes
again, laying down the law, and papa is listening.'
'Well,' said Mrs. Henfrey, 'what did he do next?'
'Do! Why, he sat down on the side of the bed and lectured me; said it was
unmanly to neglect my health, and showed a cowardly wish to escape the
of being prudent; said it was selfish, talked about papa, you know, and my
duty to myself on his account; and how, if anything happened to me, it
break his heart. Well, that's an affecting point of view to set it
in, but he shouldn't have tucked me up! However, in another minute it was
all over with me, Giles went on talking of papa: "How could I go on in
when I knew I was as dear to him as the apple of his eye?"
I could not stand that; I said, "Which eye?" Now that seems a natural
enough question to ask; but I suppose my long silence made it impressive,
old Giles forgot all his heroics, and laughed till he shook the bed. Papa
has a habit, sometimes, of looking at one, rubbing his bands, and
himself, "He's as dear to me, this fellow is, as the very apple of my
eye." Sometimes he does it to St. George, and sometimes to me.
suppose as one was appropriated to you before I was born, and he has but
two, mine must be the left," I went on; "and to be as the apple of one's
left eye, is no such great matter, when he can't see out of it. O the
meanness of keeping the good eye for yourself." Well, I paid dear for that
laughed, but I began to cough, and I coughed (to use an appropriate
simile) till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of my boots.'
'Dear me,' said Mrs. Henfrey, anxiously. She was very much disturbed to
hear this, and not at all amused
at his queer way of relating it. 'Then what is St. George going to do?'
'That is exactly what I want to know. I hope he is not ruining all my
prospects in life; but if he is, I can
not help it. I've done my best.'
He now plunged into his exercise, and only paused once during the next
half hour to say, 'Here am I taken in tow by the powerful steam-tug "Dorothea,"
registered A 1, for fifteen years. I'm coming into port at a spanking
rate, and I know they'll say, "Let him keep on terms with the young woman;
signifies his terms with old Alma Mater?" '
Presently he broke out again,—
'Here am I, six feet one in my socks (St. George is only a bare five feet
eleven when he first wakes in the morning), and yet I'm reading Greek with
and have never yet had so much as one sniff of the air of freedom. If I
had been up at Cambridge all these weeks, and my cough had been left
perhaps it would have been well before now.'
Aunt Christie now came in, and Mrs. Henfrey detailed to her how Valentine
coughed at night. I never saw any one so gently, peaceably, and
uninterested in the droll side of things as Mrs. Henfrey was,
and yet so kind and comfortable. Though she was a widow and had lost two
young children, her face looked unworn and satisfied. In her life the
surely have played a subordinate part. She had let her
good things go easily. She had what are called substantial comforts about
her, and she pleased herself with them. Perhaps she had never held the
others very closely to her heart; but a little shade of anxiety was
visible now on her pleasing face. And when Aunt Christie made light of the Oubit's'
ailment, it did not reassure her.
Aunt Christie was not in the least like one's notion of a spinster in poor
circumstances. There was an affluence of energy, and sometimes an
vehemence in her ways, that spoke of strength, both of mind and
body. Her hands and feet were large and bony; and, though more than sixty
years old, she evidently found a deep joy in life, and thought of it as a
She soon began to talk to me, and Valentine called her
'Miss Graham belongs to me. We haven't done our Greek yet.'
Presently she spoke again, and again he found fault, and she ridiculed
'We've done our Greek now,' I observed.
'But I have annexed you,' he answered. 'I'm a great comfort to you; I
satisfy the craving you have to be useful, you know; and I consider that,
in return, you
ought to devote yourself to me. In fact, it's no fun to talk to you,
unless I can have you, as it were, for my own possession.'
'Ay, ay, possession!' said Aunt Christie. 'It's astonishing how early the
mind of humanity begins to
cling to the notion of possession. I remember I was but seven or eight
years old' (here he interrupted her, but she went on just the same) —'I
but seven or eight years old when my father gave me a bit of ground to
make a garden of, and through it ran a little burn that before it reached
down past one or two of
the cotter's doors. One day, some of their bairns made
and launched on it a fleet of paper boats. They came floating down into my
water, and I, full of a lofty indignation to think that they should
where I was mistress of the property, flung out every one of the flabby
things with my rake; and while they lay wrecked on the grass, I proudly
myself to Van Tromp, sailing through the narrow seas with a broom at his
mast-head, to signify that he had swept the English ships from the
She had a way of telling this which showed she meant to compare his
conduct with her own, and nothing that he said made any difference. He had
made ridiculous in my eyes and in his own.
Tom and Mr. Brandon were away some hours; but, while dressing me for
dinner, Mrs. Brand told me they had returned, and brought a gentleman with
them, who would stay and dine—a Doctor Simpsey; and the cook had received
orders to keep back the dinner half an hour. 'She says she never
lived with such a trying
family,' continued Mrs. Brand. 'She is sure the dinner will be spoilt;
and she is so nervous, she is hardly fit to dish up.'
'Well, but if the dinner is spoilt, she need not worry; it will not be her
'Gentlefolks don't consider that,' said Mrs. Brand; they don't know the
difficulties there are below while they sit eating at their ease—nor the
trouble of keeping jelly cold, and gravy hot, and the fish from burning,
and the pudding from falling. Yet, if the dinner is not sent up as well as
usual, you may depend on it, Mrs. Henfrey will speak about it to-morrow. Ladies always do.'
Dr. Simpsey was a pleasant man, and did his best to make the evening go
off well. He and Tom had a long and animated conversation, and then we had
some duets; but Mr. Mortimer sat perfectly silent in his chair, and Mr.
Brandon watched him; and was very grave.
Late in the evening, as I sat a little apart from the
rest, Valentine came up and said,—
'You see, St. George did steal a march on me. I believe he went away
mainly to bring Dr. Simpsey; and when he had got him, he just said to papa
be as well if he gave me a look. Papa, of course, said "Yes." '
'But what did the Doctor say.'
'Why, he said I was to eat bread and milk for my breakfast. At my age
'You don't like it, then?'
'If that fellow Prentice were to hear that I eat bread
and milk for my breakfast, I should never hear the last of it.'
'But, surely, that was not all he said?'
'No; he poked and tapped, and listened with his ear at my chest; said I
was to have a fire in my room all day; and remarked to papa, as if I had
sweet, unconscious infant, that I was a very fine young fellow, and there
was a thickening of the right lung. Then I was sent away, and not allowed
to hear any more of their odious plans.'
And he recurred to the prescription of his breakfast,
and to Prentice, with such heartfelt annoyance, that I said,—
'I am very fond of bread and milk; I shall ask if I may have some, too;
and I shall ask Liz to join. No doubt she will; and then, if anything does
reach the ears of Prentice, it will be that some of the family and the
guests have taken a liking to it, and generally eat it.'
'You are a brick!' he exclaimed, 'if ever there was one.'
And the next morning three basins 'smoked upon the hoard.'
Valentine did not appear to feel at all uneasy about the remarks of the
doctor on his health. He grumbled a good deal when he went into the
because it had been decreed that for the present he was only to go out in
fine weather; but he laid out his books and lexicons and exercises, and
me to come and give my lesson, as if he found having some one to tyrannize
over a set-off against the despotic orders of the physician.
'And I wish you to understand, my dear young friend,' he presently said, 'that you are not going to have all the lecturing and instructing to
yourself: I am
going to take my turn now, and overhaul your education a little before I
begin my Greek.'
'No, don't!' I replied, for Tom and Mr Brandon had come in, and Aunt
Christie was listening.
'I shall begin with a few moral remarks,' he proceeded. 'I wish to see
what use you have made of your many advantages; for, no doubt, my young
you are sensible that you have had advantages. That's the style, isn't it,
Aunt Christie pricked up her head. 'Ye're just the marvel of creation for
idleness and impudence,' she answered, with a good-natured laugh.
'Now, then,' he continued, 'you went on a yachting tour last winter: went
to Buenos Ayres?'
'What's the latitude and longitude of Buenos Ayres?'
'I forget—at least I don't know with perfect accuracy.'
'Sad, sad, breaking down at once! Is that the best answer you can give
'Why,' exclaimed St. George, 'you don't mean to say that you know
'You have been consulting books of travels then, and that accounts for
some gaps on my shelves.'
'I shall take no notice of your mean insinuation. Describe Buenos Ayres,
'It's a horrid, watery, sandy, square, uninteresting place.'
'If I were to go to that country, I have no doubt I could find interesting
things in it for years,' said Valentine, reproachfully.
'No doubt at all, Oubit,' said Aunt Christie. 'The shallowest sea God ever
spread, is deep enough to float a flounder.'
'There's nothing I could not make something of, or get something out of,'
continued the young professor.
'Quite true,' said St. George. 'I believe
met a sea-nymph walking by the shore, you would beg a bit of coral of
'And why shouldn't I?' exclaimed Valentine.
'Why shouldn't you put the highest things to their lowest use? Well,
that's a subject for your own consideration quite as much as for mine.'
'So the town's square, is it?' said Valentine. ' Yes,
now it is.'
'But I only went once into the town,' I continued.
'Then make some rather more intelligent remarks concerning it.'
I saw in the streets paving-stones with English inscriptions on them, such
as "Try Warren's Blacking,"; "Do you bruise your Oats yet?" I asked what's
meant, and was told that they had no stone, so
they imported old pavement from England. It comes
as ballast. I think they said they had a contract with
Kensington Vestry or the Notting-hill Vestry. I know it was somewhere at
the West-End. Do you find that confirmed in your books?'
'Let me have none of this levity. How wide is the river?'
'Thirty or forty miles, I should think; and when I saw the harbour, it was
generally full of carts and horses.'
'In the water?'
'Of course. The ships lie nearly two miles from the
shore. The water used to wash over the horses' backs as they came out to
'Do you think the horses liked it?'
'No; they used to kick and plunge a good deal, so that great pumpkins and
melons, and all sorts of lumpish nuts, and queer fruits and berries, used
set afloat out of the carts, and come sailing down to us. A man stood bolt
upright on each horse's back, and appeared to stand on the water, for you
saw the horse's head, you know.'
'That must have had rather a bathing-machine effect. Well, I can make
nothing of you. What else did you ,see in those parts?'
'I saw Rio.'
'What have you to remark concerning it?'
'It was perfectly beautiful! and I went in an omnibus to see the
'Yes; and there is a rock in them nearly three thousand feet high, and
it was so hot that I could hardly bear to lay my hand on it.'
'That's what we call accurate information. The Corcovada Rock you mean—2,400 feet high'
'Ah! that is mentioned in your book, then. Does it add that the
butterflies there, instead of wavering and waggling about, go shooting
birds? I saw some great flowers like open loose lilies, and settling on
them were crowds of large butterflies, with perfectly transparent wings. The sun
shone through them, and all their delicate little veins were
reflected on the lilies. It was intensely hot, but that could not have
been the reason why the birds were so
lazy they expected us to get out of their way. When I came among a crowd
of large ones, I felt inclined to say, "Do get out of my path, will you?"
Buenos Ayres smelt of wool: all that part of South America had a woolly
smell that you could perceive out at sea. But Rio had a slightly mouldy
of damp woods and fruits wasted and decaying in the hot, flowery meadows.'
'Fancy, more fancy, Miss Graham. How am I to classify such talk as this?'
'I have often noticed,' said Mr. Brandon, 'that everything coming from
the prairie towns in the States has a perceptible smell of grass.'
'And you can smell London ten miles off by the smoke,' observed Ms. Henfrey.
'And all India smells of sandal-wood,' remarked Tom.
'Very improving, this. Proceed.'
'The cooks go to market on horseback. The beggars beg on horseback (at
least, the cripples do), and the children ride down the hills to school
backs of large sheep.'
'Now, I wonder whether that's true, or not! Have you any other remark to
'Yes. I did not hear any birds sing at Rio, but the frogs chirped exactly
as sparrows do, and there were
flies who whistled at night. Their note was just like a railway
whistle, and quite as loud.'
'Now, stop! I am going to sum up, and I will duly insist on that
perverse ingenuity which has not only avoided conveying one single item of
worthy information, but which has prevented me from bringing out my learning. One
more question. What is the depth of Rio harbour?'
'I don't know.'
'Then, as Captain Cuttle said, "No more don't I." '
After this I had
Valentine and his Greek to myself all the rest of the morning, and, after
having treated us to one of her ever-fresh varieties, and given us a warm,
still, and very sunny day, we sallied forth in a body to a certain fir
we meant sit for a while, Aunt Christie bringing some books with her, and
Tom also. We reached a screen of larches, and came through it to a place
where the underwood had been cut away, and the large trees left. A good
many felled trunks lay on the ground, with clumps of primroses about them,
on the slope of a ridge grew whole nations of anemones and wild hyacinths.
We sat down on the ridge, just in front of the screen of firs. The long,
deep dell was all bare to the light, for the chestnuts and poplar-trees
had not yet
unfolded their crumpled leaves, and the sun was pouring down
his rays on the heads of the flowers. I do not know that a partly felled
wood is a particularly lovely place in general, but that unsullied sky was
so was the sudden warmth and the thick shelter behind us, and I liked to
see the shy English birds flitting about and piping, and then peeping
corners at us.
Aunt Christie was with us, but not Mrs. Henfrey, she almost always
remained where Mr. Mortimer chose to be. Valentine presently came up, with
untidy bunch of flowers in each hand, and his little dog followed with
some twigs of flowering larch in his mouth.
Aunt Christie began to caress him. It appeared that he was Emily's dog,
and had been left in special charge of Valentine.
'Bonny Emily!' said Aunt Christie,' I miss her. It's not much of a man
she's got; but, I'll answer for it, she rules him well.'
'She does,' said Mr. Brandon. 'Not that that is anything uncommon; this
is a woman-ridden age. Yet, it is but fair to confess that all the former
ones are man-ridden ages. What we want is a happy proportion.'
'Emily was always sure such wonderful things were coming,' remarked Lou. 'Wasn't she, St. George?'
'Yes,' he answered, 'Emily always wanted all—wanted the sea at her
doorsteps, to come singing up the
street, between her and the opposite neighbours. Have
we no boats? How easy to step on board; and then we should be out on
the road that leads everywhere.'
Valentine, who had flung himself full length on the
slope, and tied his flowers together, taking the twigs from his dog to add
to them, now reared himself on one elbow, and graciously saying, 'There, I
you wanted some of these,' dropped the ponderous lump of flowers on my
'My dear boy! said Mr. Brandon, 'I really think I
must take you in hand; is that the sort of nosegay to give a lady—bigger
than her head, and tied up with an old hat-band, torn off for the
'Well,' answered Valentine, sulkily, 'I had nothing else to tie it up
with; and as for bigness, I got one twice as big, last week, for Jane
'Worse and worse! you shouldn't have mentioned that little fact at all. Now, when I give a nosegay to a lady—'
'Ah! but you never do.'
'How do you know that?'
'Ay,' said the old aunt, 'how does he know that?' It was an ay at least
two syllables long.
Mr. Brandon made some reply, in which he was especially severe on the
dripping cur, out of whose mouth some of the stuff had been taken, and
said, had been pushing his nose into every rat-hole within reach; and
Valentine, taking the matter quite in earnest, exclaimed, 'Now, Liz, now,
Christie, isn't this a shame?—Giles was never known in all his days to
be attentive and polite. It's my belief he can't bear girls; and, because
I try to supply
his deficiencies, he calls my dog a cur.'
'Oh, pray defend your dog,' I said; 'you seem to feel the remarks on him
far more than those on your-self.'
'So I do; he smells no worse than other fellow's dogs, when they have
been rat-hunting; and, as to carrying things for me, that's his
acting according to his lights.' Then, observing that we were laughing at
him for taking the thing so seriously, he suddenly came out of his sulky
fit, and exclaimed, 'If I could see your nosegays, Giles, no doubt I
should have a fine example to copy; but it's my belief they are not yet
'Nor likely to be,' said Lou.
'Fancy, Giles presenting a nosegay!' exclaimed Liz.
'On one knee, with the words, "Accept this wreath, O loveliest of thy
sex! "' said Mr. Brandon; 'that is
my favourite style.'
Presently after this Tom was desired by the old aunt to read, and he took
up a volume of Carlyle that he had with him, and some of us listened, and
others took an interest in the bringing down of a ragged last year's nest,
which hung in a young tree, close in front of us.
Valentine first flung his own bandless hat at it; but, instead of coming
down with the nest, it stuck up there, in the fork itself. Many fir-cones
about; these he collected into a heap, and the two brothers, as they sat,
pelted the hat with great skill and interest, till Liz, suddenly observing
Valentine had nothing on his head, leaned forward, and, whispering for a
moment to Mr. Brandon, lifted off his hat and quietly put it on Valentine. Neither of
the two took any particular notice; and there was something so easy and
familiar in the little action, that I wondered afresh whether it was all
my own fault
that my brother held me, as it seemed, so far off.
But the fir-cones being now exhausted with no effect, St. George took up
the big bunch of flowers, which lay beside me, and flung it up with such
the tree, that it brought the hat crashing down at last, and the nest and
a dead bough with it. On hearing the noise and seeing this pother, Tom
looked up, and paused, whereupon Miss Christie, no doubt thinking it would
not be courteous to let him suppose we took no interest in his reading,
proceeded to make some observations on it, and Tom, shutting the book,
said, 'Carlyle is a rare old boy; he digs up a thought, now and then,
which is like a nugget of pure gold.'
'Ah, but we should value it more if he sometimes left it uncoined,'
observed Mr. Brandon; 'he always stamps it with his own image and
'Now, what do you mean by that, for goodness' sake?' said Aunt Christie, a
'That it is egotistical to write in such a style that nobody can mistake a
sentence for any other man's concoctions.'
'Ah, well, Giles, we all know that the poor old man
is no favourite of yours; but,' she added, as if conscious that she had
only said this because she was secretly vexed at any sort of disparagement
old person whatever,—'but I think this old woman is and always has been.'
'Poor old man,' repeated Tom, very much amused at such an expression
applied to Carlyle; 'now, suppose we try a change.'
'Yes, but not Tennyson—not the Mendelssohn of poets,' exclaimed Mr.
Brandon, as if in great alarm.
'Why not?' replied Tom.
'Because I am so choked up with sentiment already to-day, that I hardly
know what to do with myself, I know he'll make me worse.'
'I like sentiment,' said Lou, idly; 'it's so soothing.'
soothing, indeed? Well, if I am to plunge into sentiment, let it be over
head and ears,
and in good earnest, and let there be nobody there to see. But a large
party dallying with it, and dipping in here a foot, and there a finger, is
what I cannot
'Because you are so vehement,' said Tom. 'Now, when I read this sort of
thing, I feel like a cat sitting
still to be stroked by its master's hand. I like it, and purr
'When my masters lay their hands upon me, I never feel that I am being
stroked; I feel the thrill of their touch vibrating among the strings of
my heart, and
playing wild music on that strange instrument, to a tune that I never
intended, making it tremble and shake
its inmost core, in their unsparing race over the chords.'
'Do you mean to say that any living poet has such , effect on you now?'
'No; but a man who once had real power, must retain a portion of it thus,
that the old strain recalls the time when it was felt to be so
suitable and so
telling; and nothing is more affecting than to be thrown back self
I'm sure it's past my power to see any resemblance
between Tennyson and Mendelssohn,' said Aunt Christie.
'There is a kind of subtile beauty in their harmonies. Something dreamy,
and a general pensiveness of effect which comes partly from high finish. They
are both tender and not passionate, and they both appeal strongly
to the feminine side of a man's nature. Handel, on the contrary, is almost
exclusively masculine, just as Mil- ton is.'
'Handel is a very jolly fellow,' said Tom.
'He is a glorious fellow; I like him better than Milton, and Tennyson
better than Mendelssohn. Handel's humanity is grave and deep; his pathos
reverence sublime. When I hear his music I feel the
more a man for it. He makes one brave. His sweetness does not subdue, but
comfort and elevate; his
passion keeps clear of all puling. I go and hear him whenever I can.'
'Giles is like a jockey,' observed Valentine, 'he goes into training to
make himself strong.'
'And he's as full of sentiment as he can hold,' said the old aunt, nodding
at him. 'I always used to be
afraid he would turn out a poet himself. Why didn't ye, Giles?'
'It was entirely on account of the rhymes,' he answered, bantering her.
'There are so many bad rhymes in the English language, and they would come
'And that's a pity,' she answered with gravity; 'a bad rhyme, like a bad
egg, is aye conspeecuous. You may beat up a dozen eggs in the cake, but if
one of them's bad it spoils all. Now what are you two girls laughing at?'
'Perhaps at your notion about Giles turning out a poet,' said Valentine.
'And Miss Graham, too,' she continued. 'Well, child, ye might know
better, for ye've seen the world; but, as I remember, ye found some of the
strangest parts of it very uninteresting.'
'Yes,' said Giles, 'I was surprised when you said that, Miss Graham. I
should have thought you would find
plenty there to gratify the widest and most wholesome curiosity.'
'Ay, and intelligence, too,' proceeded Aunt Christie. 'And I am glad, to
be sure, she has some of that; for, my dears, all of you, ye may have
one must have a certain amount both of intelligence and knowledge to be
amazed even at the most extraordinary things.'
We admitted the truth of this, and she went on. 'I remember when I was a
mere wean I had a nurse-girl that thought to make me respect and fear her
telling me that her grandmother was a very powerful witch; and, indeed, if
she pleased to mutter her spells she could make the moon come down into
back yard; but I was not at all impressed, for I argued with myself that
the moon, as I had seen, came down somewhere every night, with no spells
At one time I had seen it go down into the trees behind the manse, at
another it would dip the other side that hill where
Johnnie MacQueen had his potato garden. So I just answered, "When you're
granny brings her down so near as that, ye won't forget to wake me,
for I would dearly like to have a look at her." '
This story was mainly directed at me, and was supposed to illustrate my
want of intelligence; but there was more good-nature than malice in it, and
Christie evidently felt that now she had the laugh on her side.
'And all this time,' she continued, 'we're keeping the lieftenant from
'Because Brandon's so afraid of Tennyson,' said Tom. And I broke in,
should be very sorry to do without him.'
'Ten years ago I embued myself with him thoroughly,' observed Mr.
Brandon. 'Like a cow that is fed on madder I was dyed in his colour to the
that was when I was young and careless, as you all are now, including Aunt
'Yes, dear,' answered Lou.
'I hear the sound of wheels—the wheels as of a
very exceeding old and rickety yellow chariot. It will be our painful duty
to go in.'
'Who sits in the yellow chariot?' asked Tom.
'A fine woman. Unless her soul is twice the customary size, it can be
no match for its tabernacle.'
'I'll go in and pay my respects to the fine woman.'
'Sister knows where we are,' observed Liz; 'if she wants us, she can
send for us.'
'Mrs. Wilson and Jane with her,' exclaimed Valentine. 'They are come
to call on Aunt Christie.'
A carriage was now seen for a moment, and a smiling face nodding and
bowing. 'Well, we must go in,' said the girls, and we all rose.
'But there is no need for Miss Graham to come in,' observed Mr. Brandon.
'I dare say she would much prefer to be left here for half an hour.'
I replied that I should like it exceedingly, and they went away, Mr.
Brandon saying that he would come when the Wilsons were gone and fetch me
When they were gone I leaned my chin upon my hand, had a long and
delightful dream all to myself, and sat so still that the birds and
squirrels grew bold,
and the butterflies, taking me perhaps for a mere erection made of
drapery, settled nearer, and then the robins began to sing with shriller
notes and hop
about with a perter air.
In what seemed a very little while, I heard the tread of a man's foot on
the dead twigs, and Mr. Brandon approached, and strange to say he had some
flowers in his hand—a nosegay fresh and perfect, made of the most
delicate flowers and the youngest leaves and newly-opened violets. He
grave, as he generally did when not talking. 'I hope you have not found
the time long,' he said; 'we have been away
three-quarters of an hour.' Then he sat down a little below me on the
slope, took out a manuscript, and tearing off its last leaf, on which
written, folded it round his nosegay, and said gravely, 'I robbed you of
your flowers, may these take their place? How little sisters know their
that darted into my mind, but I tried to be as grave as he was while I
held out my hand for them, and said, 'Is that MS. the lecture? If so, I did
not hear the
end of it.'
'Nor anyone else as here written,' he replied. 'I only write my lectures
down, because being a coward by nature, I seldom like to stand up without
something to fall back upon in case I should lose my self-possession.'
'What would be likely to take it away?' I inquired.
He looked surprised at
my question, and no wonder, for it asked him to unfold a little point in
which at first I thought he meant to keep to himself, but he did not. He
replied, 'If I were to look up suddenly and see some one whose presence I
been unaware of, and whom I very much wished to please, I might lose it;
and yet if I had known beforehand of that very person's intended presence,
been ready for it, I should find it a great stimulus; and I think most
people would give the same account of themselves.
'I suppose,' he presently added, 'you know who it was that saved my
lecture last night? You recognized the voice that made game of my
'It was a was Graham. That fellow is so quick—he seized the opportunity
'How clever of him!'
'Yes.' Then he hesitated and presently said, 'I wonder whether you have
any influence over him.'
'No, not the least in the world.'
'You are sure of that; you feel that you have no power to persuade him.'
'No indeed, I have none.'
'That is odd,' he went on, 'for you began to influence my young brother
'They are not alike—they are fitful, and they want perseverance, but it
is from different causes.'
'Yes, that is true,' he said, and seemed to ponder.
'And Tom is so much above me, he is intellectually so much my superior,
that,' I went on, ' I am afraid of him.'
Upon this he looked up, smiled, and said, 'Afraid of him! Very few people
inspire you with such a feeling I should think.'
'On the contrary, when I do not understand people, I often feel afraid of
'Are you afraid of Valentine?'
'Certainly not!' with a little exultant laugh. 'No, you can wind that
young gentleman round your finger. Are you afraid of me?'
'Will you read the end of that lecture? I should like so much to hear it.'
Without answering he continued to look at the flowers as I held them with
one hand on my knee, and smoothed a leaf and settled a bud with the other,
'Ah!' he said, 'you treat my flowers just as you did Valentine's. A long
time ago—ten years—as I sat in this wood, and almost in this very spot,
I gave a bunch
of flowers to—' and here he paused for some time, then went on without
putting in any name: 'She held them as she talked, and flattered them
touch of her delicate fingers; she smoothed the primrose faces, and spread
out the crumpled leaves with her caressing hand, but she cared to have
no more than you did for that prodigious bunch; and she
showed it just as you have done. I felt it (young fool that I was)—I felt
it to the very heart.'
'I did not mean to disparage Valentine's flowers. I touched them very
lightly, it could not make them fade.'
'Very lightly, just as you have been touching mine now, as softly as one
might smooth a baby's hair. I
never saw flowers so treated from that day to this. It was not what she
did that pained me, but what she did not do.'
'And have I followed her in that omission?'
His words troubled me exceedingly, they were the regretful avowal of some
passionate love, but as he
looked up at me he made me so thoroughly conscious again of the imaginary
beauty with which he invested me, that I was abashed and felt my face
over with a bloom that nature did not bestow on me often. They were such
inconvenient blushes that I was fain to lift up the flowers to hide them,
inhaled their fragrance and lingered over it as long as I could. I thought
of Dorinda, and wondered how there could be anything to be so disturbed
concerning some earlier love, if he was satisfied of hers; and when I was
obliged to put the flowers down, I said: 'Perhaps this friend of yours
was just as
unconscious of disparaging the flowers as I have been twice this afternoon;
but I should like to be warned for the future. What did she do?'
'What did she omit? It was what you have just this moment done. She did
not lift them to her face, nor let them touch her lips, and exhale
their fragrance for
her. I might have gathered dog-violets for any sweetness she drew from
'I know you abjure sentiment.'
'Yes, I do.'
'Then let us look for a prosaic reason for her behavior. Perhaps that lady
did not like the scent of flowers.'
'Perhaps that lady did not like me.'
'It would be as absurd seriously to conclude so—
He had turned on his
elbow and laughter lighted up his eyes when I paused—'As to infer the
now,' he said, 'yes, so it would, and yet if flowers are gathered for
your especial pleasure and you accept them, I think it is singular not to
whether they are sweet or not.'
'As I have done, but then I am not afraid of Tennyson, or of Mendelssohn
'Do you ever think of the oracular Miss Tott? It would have soothed her
sentimental soul to hear you make that last speech; she would have moaned
over your audacity, and answered you as she did Graham—"Ah, you will be
some day." '
'But shall I? Do You think I shall?'
'My thought should be at your service if it was worth having, but I do not
know enough of you to make it so. Do you remember Walter Scott's
of Minna and Brenda, and the feelings of those damsels as regarded ghosts? "The one," he says,
"believed, but was not afraid; the other did not believe, but trembled"—with which of the two do you sympathize?'
'I admire the first, though I fear I might not be able to imitate her. The
second I pity, but I blame and I think I almost despise her. At present,
belief is that there are no ghosts, and certainly I do not tremble.'
'When they rise, then, and begin to haunt you, you will, I doubt not, be
what you admire—not afraid, at least not long afraid; you will know that they
exist, but you will learn first to master them, and then to lay them.'
'When they rise? Oh, how can you say such eerie things, Mr. Brandon; they
make me wish to go in directly.'
He laughed but answered—'They have made you rise, but it is just as well
to go in, the air begins to freshen, and the sun has lost its power. I am
as doleful as Miss Tott, am I not?'
'On the contrary, all these ghosts and spirits of yours are evidently
unable to daunt you, perhaps they spur you on to be more courageous.'
'Perhaps—or my companion may be powerful to lay them. There used to be a
spirit of the past, that has often appeared to me in this wood; you must
have chased it away.'
I felt there was something ambiguous in these words, but I answered
literally—'Oh, no, I do not even believe in ghosts, how then can I have