these records of a few weeks in the life of a Cumberer, I have often
thought how much easier it is to to write fiction well, than
In fiction, poetical justice is always done; in real life the
justice is done, but it is not always apparent.
The guilty suffer secret remorse, the ill-tempered lose the
love of their friends, the untruthful are distrusted; but these
punishments, and many such, are not laid bare to the eyes of others;
if they were, man would so far take upon himself to be the judge,
that he would think himself justified in adding the punishment of
his own neglect or contempt more openly. I proceed to the
conclusion of my narrative.
The four sisters went out to return the calls of condolence
that had been paid them.
I was at home, writing letters, when Mrs. Blount was
announced, and on entering, she told me she was come to take leave,
for she must go home to receive some friends, who, not being aware
of her absence, had written to say that they were coming to stay
with her at her house.
She had brought her little daughter with her, and was trying
hard to make her say she was sorry not to see me any more, when
Amelia and Bessie came in.
She told Amelia of her intended return, and I saw that her
manner of so doing gave a great deal of annoyance. Mrs. Blount
was warm-hearted, and kind to those whom she loved; but she was
sudden in taking both likes and dislikes, and she took a liking
without sufficient cause, and did not disguise her change of
opinion, when she had ceased to care for the object of her
preference. Amelia perceived that Mrs. Blount no longer loved
her; but she had not been told why, and no doubt set the change down
in her mind to mere caprice.
'So, you are not sorry that you are going away from
Mentoria,' said Mrs. Blount to her child. 'Oh, I'm ashamed of
you!—do say you are sorry?'
'But I want to see Spot and Die,' pleaded the little
creature; 'and I want to play with Nell's puppies.'
'Ah! you are your father's own daughter; dogs and horses are
the delight of your heart. Would you believe it, my dear, Spot
and Die are our two old bay carriage-horses?'
'I haven't any pups here,' proceeded the child; 'I've nothing
but crabs to play with, and they pinch my fingers.'
'But Mentoria cut you out such pretty things with her
scissors; such a number of ducks, and geese, and parrots, with
cherries in their beaks, and you don't love her? Oh, fie!
I think you had better give her back all those pretty things.'
'No, I shan't !' said the little creature. 'I do love
her A LITTLE!'
'Well, kiss her, then, and kiss Amelia, and Miss Bessie
Perkins, for mamma must go.'
The little one rose with alacrity from the woolly mat on
which she had been seated, and presented her rosy face to each of us
in turn; then her mamma did the same and departed. Amelia's
deep disappointment was evident; there had been no distinguishing
preference shown to her, no sorrow at parting, none of the warmth of
the first meeting, and no hint that she should hope soon to receive
her as a guest.
I could not but wish that it had been otherwise, and as I sat
with a book in my hand, I stole a glance now and then at Amelia,
who, flushed and angry, was no doubt wondering what could be the
cause of the change, and why Mrs. Blount had not followed up a hint
which she had given more than once in my presence, to the effect
that she hoped Amelia would soon be well acquainted with her house
and neighbourhood. Amelia at length took up her parasol, and
went up-stairs, saying, when Bessie observed that she thought Mrs.
Blount had taken rather a cool leaving of her friend, 'Oh, no doubt
I shall hear from her soon, when she is removed from the influence
of the person who has made her dislike me!' I felt my cheeks
blush high, though not with the sense of detected guilt; and, though
I appeared to be reading with great diligence, not a sentence
impressed itself on my mind.
Sarah shortly came in. She and Bessie went upstairs,
returned again, and were seated at work, before I could recall
myself from the brown study in which I was indulging.
At length Mrs. Blount's name was mentioned, and my attention
was instantly arrested. 'She took a very cool leave of
Amelia,' repeated Bessie, 'and never hinted at asking her to stay
with her, which Amelia always said she meant to do; perhaps she will
some other time.'
'She never will!' said Sarah.
'How do you know?' asked Bessie, surprised.
'I found it out the other day,' said Sarah, with a sigh,
'when I went out with Amelia, Mrs. Blount, and Miss T.'
I could not help breaking into the conversation by saying—
'And with which of us three were you displeased on the
occasion, Miss Sarah?'
Sarah made no answer, and Bessie said, with some resentment―
'Well, I'm sorry if Amelia has been deprived of a friend.
And, besides, in a family, what is an advantage to one is an
advantage to all.'
'My dear,' said Sarah, 'if you think Miss T. had anything to
do with it, I believe you are mistaken. My dear Miss T., you
asked which of you I was angry with; I was not angry with any, but I
was sorry for all. I was sorry for Mrs. Blount, that she had
the bad taste to ridicule Amelia before me, and the want of sense to
suppose I did not see what she meant; and I was sorry for you,
because you were so much out of countenance; and I need hardly say I
was sorry for Amelia, for I see, what I never thought before, that
other people see her faults as plainly, or more so, than her own
family do. I had no right to be angry; but I own I had hoped
that Mrs. 'Blount would be a friend to her.'
At this moment Amelia came in, and the conversation about her
ceased. She was not in a good humour—it was scarcely to be
expected that she should be—and she shortly showed it by speaking
very unpleasantly to her elder sister about the crape tucks of her
'I told you,' said Sarah, 'that you ought not to sit about on
the sand in your new mourning; crape will not stand sea air.
You should wear your common gown on the shore.'
'And I told you,' returned Amelia, 'that if you would
persist in making our common gowns yourself, and making them of that
inferior material, we should be obliged to wear our best.'
'I am not obliged to wear mine, my dear,' said Sarah, with a
sigh, 'and my mourning ought to be as deep and as good as yours.'
'Mourning ought to be handsome!' proceeded Amelia.
'My dear,' said Sarah, 'it ought to be such as the mourners
can afford to buy.'
Amelia was too much out of temper to consider her sister's
feelings, and she answered contemptuously, 'that the feelings of the
mourners could not be very keen, if they could stop to consider
every shilling at such a time. Their grief must be very
moderate, if they could not leave such things as that to dress
makers, but must needs be measuring and trimming old bonnets, and
turning skirts, directly that the funeral was over,' and then, being
thoroughly excited, she burst into a passion of angry tears, and
exclaimed that 'if it had been dear Anne that was in mourning for
one of them, she was sure she would not have considered the
expense of every yard of crape;' going on to lament her loss, and
declare that she was always kind and affectionate, she
always understood other people's feelings, till I thought I ought to
get up and leave the room, which I did, though I could not help
marvelling that Amelia did not remember in this panegyric, that
every word she said was a reproach to herself for being such a
contrast to the sister whom she had lost.
In the quiet of my own room, the sermon before spoken of
recurred to my mind, with certain salutary fears lest in judging
Amelia I should condemn myself. Its peculiarity had been its
eminently practical nature, and from it I had first learned the true
position, both in the natural world and in the spiritual vineyard,
of a Cumberer; from it I had also learned to notice, that it is both
natural and inevitable, that those who have no settled occupation
themselves, should be those most prone to find fault with the work
But my acquaintance with Miss Amelia Perkins was drawing to
its close. On coming down, I found her in high good humour,
discussing with her sisters about certain boxes, and about going out
to make some purchases. She had received a letter by the
afternoon's post, inviting her to go and spend a month with her
cousin at York. I heard some regret expressed by the sisters
that it should be such an expensive journey; but they agreed that
Amelia should go, as the younger sisters had some expectations from
this cousin, and as Amelia was bent on a visit; she said she wanted
something to recruit her spirits, after the sad scenes she had just
So, the purchases were made, and the boxes were packed, and
for two days every one was occupied about Amelia: the servants in
getting up and ironing her various possessions, Miss Sarah in
working, and Miss Perkins in collecting her things together and
So at length everything was ready,—the boxes packed, he fly
at the door, the farewell kisses given. Amelia drove away, and
after that—what after that? Why, we were much more at ease
than we had been hitherto.
People did their work; they did not find fault with the way
in which other people did theirs; no one wished to practise all the
time that others were writing letters; in short, that good old
English word 'comfortable' expressed what we felt that day and the
days following. We had not felt comfortable before. It
was a delightful help merely not to be hindered.
And now I take my leave of Amelia. Her character might
perhaps be a warning to others like her, if it were not the most
difficult thing in the world to persuade any person, who really is
such, to consider herself or himself as a Cumberer.
Many a delicate invalid, who overtasks herself, thinks
herself, notwithstanding, quite a burden, while she is teaching, by
her example, the most improving lessons of patience, gentleness, and
resignation; and many an awkward, yet warm-hearted and eager girl,
weeping over her various mistakes, blunders, and short-comings, in
her anxious attempts to be kind and to help others, and to do a
great deal in a little time, has been willing enough to take to
herself the appellation, false indeed in her case, of a Cumberer.
But the true Cumberers are not likely, in the first place,
ever to consider this matter at all; and, in the second place, if
they do, to admit that they deserve so undesirable a title.
Let, therefore, those who have the care of young people think
of it for them. Let those who have the rearing of Cumberers
seriously consider what they are about; for Cumberers are not all
born such, some are made such.
I remember an anecdote told me by a lady, whom I have the
pleasure to know intimately, which so strongly bears on this point,
that I will venture to relate it as a warning to those who, from
amiable weakness and false kindness, cherish in others that
selfishness which is at the root of the Cumberers character.
Shortly before the old workhouse system was modified, this
lady tells me that she went to the workhouse of the small town where
she resided, with a present of tea for a good old woman who lived
The mistress of the workhouse was busy, and the door was
opened by a pauper boy, who showed her into the little parlour
belonging to the establishment. Here, to the lady's surprise,
she found a sickly-looking girl in curl-papers, practising
some tunes on a very wretched piano.
The lady having told her errand, perhaps expected this girl,
whom she presently recognised as the mistress's daughter, to go and
seek her mother; but if she did, she was disappointed. The
girl lingered in the room, looking listless and disconsolate.
She did not like to take the liberty of going on with her
practising, and she seemed to have nothing else to do.
At length the mistress, a pleasant, hearty woman, entered the
little parlour, made many apologies for keeping the lady waiting,
but said it was washing-day, and she had been giving out the soap
required, and also cutting the bread and cheese which the children
were to have that day for their dinner.
'Your daughter is probably unwell,' said the visitor, 'as she
does not help you.'
'O no, no, ma'am!' replied the foolish woman; 'but she
doesn't like going out to walk much, and that makes her look pale;
and since I sent her to boarding-school she can't bear stirring
about in the house, paring potatoes and ironing, as I do.'
Thinking it no business of hers, the lady answered, 'Indeed,'
and then informed the mistress that she had brought some tea for her
'Thank you, ma'am,' said the mistress, 'I'll take it up to
her soon, for I shall have to go up to give out some things from the
linen-press. I have a deal of running up and down stairs.'
'Surely your daughter could save you some of the trouble,'
said the visitor, surprised, and held the packet of tea towards the
girl, who rose so slowly and reluctantly to take it that the mother
said, 'Oh, ma'am, I'll engage that old Bet shall have it long before
tea time; I'll take it up.'
'As you please,' replied the lady; and the girl, perhaps,
seeing that her conduct was not approved, left the room.
The visitor then said, 'Mrs. Green, is it possible that you
take all the fatigues of this place on yourself, when you have that
daughter quite old enough to help you?'
'Why, you see, ma'am, the poor thing likes to get away from
the pauper women, and now she learns music, she—she—does not like to
go and help in the kitchen like a servant,' replied the mistress,
'Not when her own mother does it, and it is her mother's duty
to do it? Surely your daughter does not think herself superior to
you? because if she does, she is very much mistaken,' said the
The mother blushed again for her untidy, vulgar-looking
child, and said, 'Why, ma'am, when she goes to school she looks as
different as can be, almost as neat and nice as if she were a young
lady; but I don't wonder she should go slip-shod here, for
there's nobody to see her but me.'
'And who in this world ought she to respect if not her own
mother?' asked the visitor. 'In whose eyes should she wish to
'Ah! well,' said the mistress with a sigh, 'she will some
day, mayhap; but though she's a good girl enough in some things,
I don't deny that she has faults, and it's one of them not to
mind me; and as to the curl-papers, ma'am, her hair curls so
badly, that if she didn't keep it up in them till afternoon, when
she goes out of doors, it would be straight.'
'If I were her mother,' said the lady, 'she should never wear
curl-papers before me. If her hair did not curl, she
should wear it plain.'
'She would look a deal better if she would,' said the weak
mother; 'and so I often tell her.'
'And I hope you will excuse my saying,' proceeded the
visitor, 'that she would also look a great deal better tidily
dressed, and cheerfully helping in either kitchen or laundry, than
playing here on the piano in such a discreditable state of untidy
'What you say is very right, ma'am,' said the mistress; 'but
young girls get such notions out of the books they read from those
circulating libraries—they read about fine ladies, and they want to
be ladies too, and sit doing nothing.'
'If you do not use your authority to prevent her from reading
all the trash of a circulating library, I am afraid she is not
likely to be any comfort to you,' said the guest.
The mistress looked grave, and said she had not read any of
those novels herself; but she had heard say that they were not all
good for girls to read; though as her daughter was soon going back
to school, it did not so touch matter and, no doubt, when she was
grown up she would be a very different girl.
'Finding that what I said made no impression,' said my
friend, 'I then left the workhouse; but often when in after years I
returned to it to read with, or bring some little comfort to the old
women, I saw that weak, but fond, unselfish mother toiling up and
down stairs, and spending her strength in the vain attempt to fulfil
more duties than could be properly performed by a single individual,
my heart ached for her, though I could not but feel that she had
encouraged, by indulgence, those faults in her daughter's character
which should have been most strenuously combated.'
The girl grew up idle, useless, vain, and selfish; the mother
worked for both as long as her strength permitted; when it failed,
she petitioned the poor-law guardians to give the place to her
daughter, but they declined, on the ground of her utter
incompetence, and the consequence was she had to go to service,
while her mother, being respected as a hardworking and honest woman,
got a place in an Almshouse, and then lamented, when too late, that
she had brought up her daughter to cumber instead of to cultivate
And now I will venture to add a few words to those who are at
present, or who are in danger of becoming, Cumberers; and as no one
will admit that she is of no use, benefit, or help to any one, and
that if she should die no one would be the worse off by the value of
those household charities, those domestic duties, or those acts of
kindness which were received from her; it will be desirable not to
judge so much by actions in trying to discover the truth, as
How beautiful is that saying of Holy Writ, 'The desire
of a man is his kindness!' Is it then our habitual state of
mind to be wholly occupied with our own plans, our own advantages,
our own pursuits, or do we constantly devise plans by which we can
add to the comfort of others? Is self our motive, are
we self-seekers, self-sparers, self-justifiers, or are we
considerate and observant for others?
We must not only consider whether what we do is a pleasure in
some instances, but whether we design it to be a pleasure to our
Thus I once heard a lady, who was a noble instance of a
Cumberer, say, 'It is very unjust your saying that I don't do
anything to help in the house, or to amuse the family; there's my
music.' 'Yes,' replied the sister-in-law, to whom the remark
had been addressed, 'but though you do play beautifully, and thus
often happen to amuse us, you don't play for our
benefit or pleasure, but your own; if it were unpleasant to you to
play you would not do it, for you very often play when it is
very unpleasant to us, and at very inconvenient times, and I
cannot but think your happening to be fond of music, and thus
happening to amuse us, does not prove what I said to be incorrect,
that you seldom do anything which you design be useful or
agreeable, and I wish it was otherwise.'
And now I will add to this little paper the last news I heard
concerning Amelia. She inherited a handsome fortune from the
old relative whom she went to visit, and she very shortly married,
but having quarrelled with her sisters, and thus lost her best
counsellors, she and her husband soon contrived to spend all that
portion of the property which was in their own power, and being
always in debt, through carelessness and mismanagement, together
with a selfish dislike to trouble, which she had indulged in her
girlhood, they were at length obliged to apply to their eldest
sister to lend them what assistance might be in her power.
This excellent woman did so, by taking their two eldest children to
live with her for a certain period; while they let their house,
dismissed their servants, and went to live for a year or two at
Boulogne, to retrench, and if possible practise such economy as
should enable them to return to their native country.
Here, for want of a more satisfactory termination, must end
the records of a Cumberer.
MY GREAT-AUNT'S PICTURE.
papers were lately put into my hands by an anonymous correspondent,
with a request that they might be arranged for the press.
At first sight they appeared to be intended for the perusal
of some particular person, but, after due consideration, I came to
the conclusion, that since it was vain to seek for that person, and
not less vain to attempt to discover my unknown correspondent, it
would be best to throw them loose upon the world to find themselves
an owner; therefore, my reader, I offer them to you, or, in the
words of the old proverb, 'I present you with this cap, and if it
fits, I pray you put it on.'
Many confess (thus the manuscript begins) that they are
proud; some will even confess that they are vain; some will sigh
frankly over their passionate tempers; and others again will admit
that they are of careless dispositions. But who tells, who
confesses how mean she is, or how sly, or how envious? Who
does this, or could hope for sympathy if she did?
Nevertheless, though such confessions are not sanctioned by
custom, there is that within me which so longs to express itself,
that I must needs forsake the beaten track of easy acknowledgment.
I must leave those faults which no one feels much shame in taking to
herself, and confess to you how envious I am; and though I do not
expect much sympathy from you, I shall, at least, have the comfort
of being understood, since you also, like a captive taken anciently
in war, are marked in the face as the bond-slave of—Envy. By
that unmistakable mark I know that we both serve the same hard
mistress, and that, like me, you have received pain from those
pleasures of others which you are not permitted to share.
Now, it is a curious fact that you do not consider yourself
to be an envious person, and you would be angry and hurt if your
friends thought it of you. I did not know till lately that I
was envious, and, of course, I am very anxious to conceal it
from my friends, though with you I am not so particular, because our
hearts are so much akin, that though we may disapprove of, we cannot
despise one another.
But let me proceed. Know then, my envious kinswoman,
that I have two maiden aunts, clear and kindly women, and that they
live in a delightful cottage near the sea. There is no house
to be seen on either hand, and the shore is lonely and beautiful.
The house is settled half-way down in a scoop of the sloping hills,
and from the sea it looks like a pure white egg in a green nest of
moss and twigs, for the trees rise behind it, and fern lies around
it, and in the dingle below there is a tiny singing brook which the
sun never catches sight of all the summer long, so thickly is it
roofed over by the trees.
Last August I was invited to stay at this place with my
aunts, for the first time since my childhood. When I arrived I
was much grown and altered, and a great deal of discussion ensued as
to whom I most resembled.
'She has the family features, certainly,' said my Aunt Mary.
'But she is not so much like any of the present generation,'
added my Aunt Phœbe, 'as like the
picture of her great-aunt Beatrice which hangs over the
As she spoke I looked up at the picture, and a momentary
sensation of pleased surprise stole into my heart. Had I then
those delicate eyebrows, that clear cheek, those large thoughtful
eyes? But I had scarce ventured to admit to myself that there
was a likeness, when something peculiar in the expression gave me
pain. I wondered what it meant. It was not precisely
pensive, it was not anxious, it was not penetrating. It might
consist of all these feelings, but there was something more besides
that I could not fathom.
I looked again. 'The expression is yet more like than
the features,' said my dear Aunt Mary, and then they dropped the
subject; but I could not dismiss it; and often during the evening,
while they talked, sitting one on each side of me, asking after my
parents, and my sisters, and some old friends of theirs who lived
near my native home, I could not help casting furtive glances at the
picture, and always felt both pain and pleasure in the likeness to
myself. Once when I looked, the sun, just about to set, had covered
it with light, which came in through a side-window, and the
features, before so quiet and so pale, seemed to flush up with
sudden bloom; it did not improve them, for it gave, with the
appearance of life that flashed from my kinswoman's eyes into mine,
a glance, half reproachful, half regretful, which seemed to say, 'You
have all the notice, and I hang up here unobserved. Oh that I could
but step down from my frame, and show those doting old women how
much fairer I am, and how far worthier of all this fondness and
caressing than you are!'
I thought this was an odd fancy of mine; yet, when the sun had gone
down, and the dusk had hidden my kinswoman's picture, I could not
but feel glad; and I went on chatting to my aunts till the darkness
had covered everything, and the moon had risen, and was hanging like
a great lamp over the sea. It was the only lamp we had. My aunts
were evidently so much interested to converse again with the
grown-up niece whom they had made so much of when a child, and I was
so well pleased to find them absorbed in me and my communications,
and so delighted to watch the beautiful highway, yellow, and yet wan
of hue, which the moon had laid over the leaden-tinted waters, that
time was allowed to slip away, and I believe we were all surprised
when the maid brought in bedroom candles, and said it was the hour
Then we rose up—for we had been sitting before the front windows—and
I, in turning, glanced up again at my kinswoman's picture; pale,
how very pale, in the moonbeams which had wandered up the vale. Oh,
what a look seemed to meet me as I gazed! 'Yes,' I said to myself,
'I know now the true meaning of that expression; if your living
face had looked at me thus, I should have known, fair lady, that you
were envious of me.'
My aunts had told me, before we parted for the night, that they had
sent for my cousin, Rosie Grant to visit them whilst I was there;
and that she was coming the next day.
She was a year younger than myself, and I did not doubt that she was
much my inferior; for she had enjoyed fewer advantages, her parents
not being able to afford them for her. I thought I should find her
an untaught little Cockney, prim and womanish in manner,
nevertheless; for one seldom sees much simplicity among Londoners.
'That does not matter to me,' I thought, 'for I would always rather
have a foil than a rival.'
The next day this Rosie came; a round-faced, yellow-haired creature,
with deep dimples, and a head all over rippling curls; there was
nothing classical or finely drawn about her features. I saw at a
glance that no likeness was in her face to our beautiful aunt; but
there was a sunny radiance in her expression, a simplicity and
obedience in her manner, a something so joyous and artless in the
greeting she gave to her aunts, that I was delighted; especially
when I found that, though nearly seventeen years old, she treated me
with deference and docility, as if she felt that the difference
between us was great.
My aunts sat at home and knitted. Rosie and I spent the day on the
beach together. I naturally took the lead, and none of my proposals
came amiss to her; she was equally happy anywhere; clambering among
the woods which were nestled in on the deep spaces between the
cliffs, or picking up shells, or reading under the shadows of the
That was a delightful day; and when we came home at seven o'clock to
tea, we were not sorry to find three gentlemen sitting with my
aunts, a father and two sons. Very agreeable young men these latter
were; but I must say that neither of them cared to talk to pretty,
simple Rosie; they both seemed to feel that I was more likely to
understand them, and I made no effort to have it otherwise.
After tea my aunts asked for music, and Rosie inquired where she
should find mine. I told her; she brought it, opened the piano, set
the stool for me, and I played several pieces one after the other. I
had been well taught, and I believe I played them accurately, though
I have no particular talent for music. The guests were pleased, and
still asked for more; they said they so seldom heard music, that
they hoped I would not leave the piano so soon. So I played one more
piece; but I did not quite know it, and after making several
blunders, got rather lamely to the end, heartily wishing that I had
been contented to stop earlier.
'Now, Rosie, you may play something,' said my Aunt Mary.
'My books are not unpacked yet, aunt,' said the little girl.
My aunt smiled. 'That excuse will scarcely serve you, Rosie,' she
said; 'play something without your notes, my dear.'
Rosier evidently did not like to play before strangers, and she
blushed till her delicate neck and forehead were tinged with
crimson. She, however, sat down, and the guests, apparently to
relieve her bashfulness, began to talk on indifferent subjects.
Under cover of this talk, Rosie presently began to play, and one
voice after another became silent. She was not playing anything more
difficult than I had attempted; but, oh, the difference in feeling! I perceived that I had merely gratified their ears, but that my
cousin was touching their hearts. How unlucky, I thought, that I was
not aware how well she played; if I had known, nothing should have
induced me to exhibit my own inferiority.
They shortly asked me to play again, but I declined, and held so
resolutely back that they soon desisted, and the time passed very
unpleasantly to both of us; for Rosier was obliged to go on
playing, shy as she was, and I felt more every piece she performed,
that I wished I had known of her proficiency beforehand. I began not
to like Rosie so much, and was glad when the guests went away, which
they did about nine o'clock; and then my Aunt Mary drew Rosie's arm
through hers, and said, 'Come, let us walk on the terrace, in the
moonlight, Rosie, and you shall tell us about them all at home; I
have hardly spoken to you yet, child.'
My aunt Phœbe asked me to come with them; but I said I was afraid
of the evening air, so I was left alone, till, happening to lift up
my eyes, I became conscious of a strange kind of fancied
companionship. There was the picture looking at me with its large
pensive eyes. 'I know what is the matter with you,' it seemed to say; you are envious of your Cousin Rosie's music.'
I turned away my head, and would not look; but there was a kind of
charm for me in that face, and after awhile my eyes were again
attracted to it.
'You need not disclaim the bond between us,' it seemed to say; you
had better not, for we understand each other. Stay with me; why
indeed should you go out (though the night be lovely) and walk
silently by while your aunts make much of Rosie; you were
everything last night, now you are quite eclipsed by this new star.'
'It is ridiculous to suppose that I can be envious of such a silly,
childlike creature as that,' I mentally answered to the face in the
frame. And so I sat, more and more pained to see that look in it,
and to feel certain that just then it must be visible in my own
face, till my aunts came in, and we shortly retired—Rosie and I
As soon as breakfast was over the next morning, Rosie was impatient
to go down to the beach; but I said I wished to write a letter
first, so my aunts gave her permission to descend by herself, and
walk about till I could join her.
We were standing out in the verandah when Rosie was thus set at
large, and she forthwith set off down the slope, half running, half
dancing, quickening and quickening her pace as it became steeper
till she was obliged to run as fast as she possibly could. She
stopped when she had reached the level sands, and looking up,
laughed and waved her hands to us, and then ran off to the
My aunt had said to her that morning, 'Rosie, my dear, what a child
you are; when do you mean to grow up?' And I felt at the time that
my quieter manners impressed them with the idea that I had a better
regulated mind, and more ladylike habits. Now, however, they seemed
to have forgotten that they had expostulated, and they both laughed
heartily. I thought this more like the behaviour of a school-boy
than a young lady, and stood looking quietly on. I felt that her
careless ease, her joyous youth and spirits, were beautiful in their
eyes; and therefore, though it was natural to me to be quieter in
my movements, I believe I should have run down like Rosie, if I had
known that they would admire her for it.
'How that dear girl enjoys herself !' said one.
'Oh, she is a sweet, happy creature,' said the other. 'And why don't
you race down in that way? Eh, Millicent?'
I hesitated, and then replied, 'that I preferred to enjoy things in
I saw that my aunt Phœbe felt that there was something in that.
'To be sure, my dear,' she answered, 'moderation is a very good
'And besides,' I continued, with still a little hesitation in my
manner, as if I did not wish to find fault with my cousin, and with
a certain air of reluctance and regret, 'I don't know, aunt, that it
is altogether ladylike in Rosie to race about in that way the moment
she is out of her mother's sight.'
'Her mother!' exclaimed my aunt Mary; 'nothing would please her
mother better than to see her taking this healthy exercise.'
'It would be out of place in Hyde Park,' said my aunt Phœbe, rather
coldly I thought; but I see no harm in it here, where there are
only two old aunts and one young cousin for lookers on.'
It certainly is part of the misery of many, to feel keenly the
merits and perceive the beauties of others; it is indeed those
merits and those beauties which make half our pain. And when my
aunts went on as it were, apologizing for Rosie, by telling me
anecdotes concerning the sweetness of her temper, her usefulness at
home, her obedience, and her pretty natural ways, I felt that I had
brought it upon myself, and that every word said for Rosier was said
against me for I was sure that my aunts had thought my insinuations
unkind. Presently, the young gentlemen who had spent the previous
evening with us, made their appearance; they brought their sister
with them, and a message from their father to the effect, that he
should be happy to take out all the ladies that evening in his
They sat with us some time. I did not go down to Rosie, and one of
my aunts at length went and fetched her in. At the open street-door
I heard her sweet voice. 'Aunt,' she said, 'the sea air has made my
hair perfectly straight.'
My aunt laughed, and called her long locks 'rats-tails;' what a
figure she must look, I thought; but I was not sorry, I felt rather
I called her as she was going up-stairs, and our guests arose as
she appeared at the door, and spoke to her. As I had been sitting at
work so neat and so free from dust or soil, I had felt what a
contrast Rosie would be to me; all blown about as she had been with
the wind, and so untidy. That was why I called her.
But when she came and stood within the door, I mentally regretted
what I had done; for as she looked out between those long falls of
nearly straight hair, there was such a radiant sweetness in her
gentle face, and such a flush of health, as far more than made up
for any little disorder of dress; and though it seems to show such a
paltry state of feeling, I know you will understand me, when I
confess that I regretted that I had been the means of her showing
how sweet she could look under any disadvantage. Once more, I felt
that where I had been sustaining my part well, she had come forward
and thrown me into the background; for now she must needs produce
her little apron full of fern leaves, and plovers' eggs, and shells,
and sea-weeds, to show to my aunts; and every one looked at her,
and talked to her, and turned to her, and turned away from me.
Oh, what little things these are to tell, what paltry, ignoble
trifles! yet these, and such as these, occupied me every day, and
all day long; while hourly my great-aunt over the chimney-piece
chastened me with her serious eyes, and seemed to say, 'Look up,
Millicent, look at me; this is how you are looking now, and every
day your likeness to me grows stronger.' For several days I would
not allow that envy had place in my heart; it was several more ere
I could acknowledge that it was always working there, destroying my
pleasure, distorting, beginning to show itself to the penetration of
others, and making me hateful in my own eyes, and in the eyes of my
Maker. Every morning I awoke, and resolved to shake it off; but it
was so entwined with my heart-strings, that it seemed as natural to
me as the very pulse in my veins.
If Rosie had been ugly, morose, uninteresting, I felt that my visit
would have been pleasanter; and yet, every one was kind, polite,
attentive to us both. Oh, why could not I be happy to let her shine
as well as myself?
Well I thought to myself, I have certainly never given way to envy
before; but Rosie has some peculiar faculty for arousing it. When I
go home and get away from her, my envy will cease. My aunts seemed
always to be taking Rosie's part; perhaps because of those very
slight insinuations against her, which I could not help sometimes
uttering; I could not help sometimes disparaging her. The family
that I had before mentioned, were particularly pleased with her;
they praised her beauty, simplicity, and sweetness, and that to me,
and expected me to agree with them; in fact, they even seemed to do
it in compliment to me, as if being her cousin, I must needs be
proud of her.
Once, when they had praised everything else about her, they even
praised her name: 'Such a pretty name,' they said, 'and so
appropriate.' I hastened to inform them that it was not her real
name, only a name that she had given herself; her real name was
'A name that she gave herself,' was the reply; 'I should not
have given her credit for such conceit and self-consciousness as
knowing that such a name would suit her.' And the speaker showed
evident discontent with Rosie.
'My dear,' said my aunt Mary, 'you should have mentioned that the
name was adopted by your cousins before she could speak plainly, or
know the significance of it.'
'O yes,' I said, rather vexed; 'did I
not mention that?'
'O no, my dear,' replied my aunt in a low voice, 'of course not.' We
were sitting on the sand, and almost immediately our friends left
us, and said they must go home to dinner.
'Aunt,' said I, when they had withdrawn, 'whey did you say, "Of
course not?" why is it of course not?'
'Because it would not have answered your end, my dear,' replied my
I felt my cheeks burn; what was my purpose? Did she mean that my
purpose was to disparage my cousin? I really dared not ask her, for
though she had not been very explicit, I was quite certain that she
had read my inmost thoughts, and I was obliged to begin talking of
something else, lest she should explain herself without being asked. From that hour, my little remaining pleasure in the visit was gone,
and I longed to be away from the object of my envy and from the
observer of it. Every day I envied, and often was reproved,
especially by my great-aunt's picture. At length the day came for my
departure; Rosie had left the day before, and remembering my aunt's
fond parting with her, and the great regret expressed by this family
of friends on her departure, I was very much hurt to find that the
same feelings were not aroused for me, nor the same degree of sorrow
felt at losing me. I came down-stairs ready equipped for my
journey, and my aunts, after kissing me, informed me that they had
got a present for me.
'Which we think will be acceptable,' said my aunt Mary.
'Because, my dear Millicent,' said my aunt Phœbe,
'we have noticed that you really cannot keep your eyes off it; you
are far more attracted by it than by anything else in our little
'What is it, dear aunt said I, half frightened.
'My dear,' she
replied, 'it is your great-aunt's picture.'
I was obliged to accept it.
THE LILY CROWN.
I was obliged to accept that picture. I
was obliged to carry it home and show it to my parents, who said it
was the very image of me, and that they should hang it up in the
Woe worth the day! Such shocking things as it was always telling me
about myself no one would believe, who had not felt their truth. It
told me that I was envious of my own sisters whenever people
preferred their manners, their voices, their conversation, their
very dress, to mine; that if they were well, I envied their
superior bloom; that if they were ill, I envied the care, the
anxiety, the attention, they excited. I envied the elder her
precedence, I envied the younger her sprightliness.
And yet, I do not know that I ought to murmur, or that I have any
right to be sorry; for hard, inconceivably hard as the cure is, I
humbly hope the days are beginning to dawn that shall see its
But I must proceed. It was bitter to me to be admonished, day
by day, by that beautiful serious face, and to be told that I envied
my sisters. I struggled for some time against believing that I
was guilty of so odious a fault, but at length I was compelled to
admit the fact, and, in so doing, I felt as much ashamed as if all
the household had known it as well as myself.
I did not yield willingly and unconsciously to this besetting
fault, but the clear dark eyes looking down on me from under their
drooping lashes, were such a punishment in their constant
supervision, that I am ashamed to say it was quite a relief to me
when a plan was decided on by which my sisters would be out of my
way for the rest of the summer. They were invited by my
married brother to make a tour of the Continent with him and his two
little daughters, and my parents consented that they should go.
Did I envy them the pleasure they were likely to derive from
this tour? I believe I did feel some pain at heart to think
that I had not been included in the invitation, but it was such an
inexpressible comfort to be left in quiet with no one to envy,
as almost made amends for any disappointment. I hoped that by
the time my sisters returned, envy might have died out for want of
fuel to feed the flame, or that I might have argued myself, or
schooled myself, into a better frame of mind. I have heard it
said that the envious person, though he is made miserable by his
neighbour's prosperity, does nothing to diminish that prosperity—he
is, in short, no one's enemy but his own.
I used at one time to excuse my envy by thinking of this
saying, but I soon found out that, though plausible, it is false.
The envious person is, in truth, his own enemy, but he is as truly
the enemy of every one whom he envies. This passion, like all
others, must necessarily seek to display itself in action.
They who bitterly envy cannot possibly refrain from showing and
acting on it, they must be consistent. They cannot
praise heartily, they cannot cordially assist, they cannot
report fairly, they cannot generously make allowance, they
cannot be just.
But I proceed―
My sisters went on their tour, and I was left at home.
I had no one to envy, and the picture began to lose its influence
over me. I no longer dreaded to look at it, for it did not
reflect my thoughts, and I could now sit and occupy myself at my
little worktable without that constant looking up, which had become
quite a habit with me.
One afternoon, after a very quiet morning, I put on my
bonnet, and descended the old steps of the terrace which lies
against the west side of the house. I went into the garden and
wandered about for some time among the flowers, till I came to a
favourite border of hollyhocks (which were just then in full bloom)
and stood before them, occupied in thinking how short a time had
completed their growth in comparison with my own: deep red, primrose
coloured, and studding the tall stalks with delicate rosettes, or
cup-shaped, with a towering little pillar within, how very beautiful
I thought them! I was still gazing at them, and thought I
should never be tired of admiring their loveliness, when I felt a
hand upon my shoulder, and my father's voice aroused me from my
'What, in a brown study, Millicent, my child?' said he.
'No, papa,' I answered; 'I was only looking at the
'For want of more lively occupation,' he continued.
'Ah, it was too bad to leave you moping here by yourself. You
were always too quiet, too fond of reflection, Millicent.'
'Is not that a fault on the right side, papa?'
'I don't know, my dear; you are so quiet now, that I really
quite forget your presence sometimes: I never hear your voice, or
your footsteps. This really must be put a stop to, as I was
saying yesterday to your mamma.'
'How, papa?' I inquired.
He only smiled, and said, 'We shall see.'
I assured him that I did not feel dull.
'Young people,' he observed, 'always want companions, and it
is natural and proper that they should have them, as I said to
mamma. So, my dear child, I have written to your uncle, told
him how the case stands, and asked him to spare your Cousin Rosie to
come and spend a few weeks with you, for as you have met already she
will not feel like a stranger here; I expect his reply to-morrow.'
'Thank you, papa,' said I; but oh, what a pang shot through
my heart at the mention of this most mistaken kindness. I
could not smile, I could hardly appear glad; now, I thought, my rest
is over, and I am again to come under the dominion of envy.
My father told me that he expected an answer the next day;
till it came, I was in a fever of hope that the invitation would be
declined. But no, my father handed the note to me: 'Here,
Millicent,' he said, 'your uncle says they cannot very conveniently
spare their dear child, she is so useful at home, but they feel that
it will be such an advantage to her to have your companionship, such
an improvement to her, that they mean to send her. In fact,
Millicent, Rosie has described you in such glowing terms at home, as
so ladylike, so clever, so well-informed, so charming, that they
feel they ought not to deprive her of the benefit of your society.'
My father laughed, but was evidently pleased; and I could not
help blushing, for I felt that I had taken very little pains to
describe Rosie, with her sweetness, simplicity, and gentleness, in
my home circle. These words in the letter were a reproof to
me, also as reminding me of what I had observed at my aunt's,
namely, that Rosie had formed a very strong attachment and liking
for me. I knew she admired me, and she had once or twice
expressed a kind of half romantic, half childish fondness for
dressing me, and adorning my hair.
She once said, 'She was glad she was my cousin.' I tell
this to show how unenvious she was.
'Why are you glad, Rosie?' I had inquired.
'Oh,' she answered, 'because I like to be with you. I
love you, and I like to see your beauty and elegance. I never
saw any one like you before.'
She said this with such perfect simplicity, that it did not
sound like either flattery or affectation.
'Oh, Rosie,' I answered, laughing, 'you must not pay such
'Compliments,' she answered, lifting up her dimpled face as
if surprised. 'Why, Millicent, you must know that you are
beautiful; every one thinks so, why should not I say it then?'
She had an affectionate sweetness about her that most people
would gladly have responded to. I did not, because this sweet
manner, and everything else about her that was good and interesting,
excited not my love, but my envy.
Rosie arrived by the railway. She was full of joy; and
when I went to meet her with the pony-carriage she expressed the
greatest delight at the prospect of paying such a delightful visit
in the country, and being, as she artlessly said, with me.
And now, as day by day Rosie and I were together, I felt that
unless I watched narrowly over my actions, envy would again assert
her dominion. I did watch; I prayed for assistance, more
because I felt the pain of my propensity, than the sin of it.
I did strive, and so long as I relaxed not these efforts, I believe
that I overcame. . . .
[Here several leaves have been torn from the manuscript, and
though some fragments of paper remain they only contain a few broken
sentences, of which I can make nothing, excepting that they refer to
the lapse of several weeks, till the narrative is continued thus.]
Rosie and I were practising together, when this note arrived.
My mother presently brought it to us, and said, 'Here, my dear, is
an invitation for you and Rosie to join a picnic in Sir Eliot
Morton's wood. They are to boil the kettle under the trees,
and the Mortons, and the Blakes, and the Wilsons, are all to be
there. Should you like to go?'
'What time is it to be, mamma?' I inquired.
'Not till five o'clock,' she replied; 'and the Mortons hope,
if you come, you will bring some butter, some milk, and some fruit,
and also music, for in the evening they mean to adjourn to the
Rosie said nothing, but looked as if she would like to go.
'I would send the eatables forward by the stable-boy,' said
'I think we had better accept, then,' I answered; 'it is a
splendid day, and Rosie would be sure to enjoy it.'
'Yes, indeed,' said Rosie, 'I should like it of all things.'
It was such a beautiful afternoon, that though the place was
three miles off, we decided to walk, for almost all the way was
shaded by elm-trees, and for more than a mile we were to follow a
footpath which led along by the side of a little glassy river.
Rosier was ready first, for just as we were about to set off, my
father called me to write a note for him. We were very early,
and I thought it a pity that Rosie should be detained, so I asked
her to go forward and wait for me at a certain stile, under an
ash-tree, a very little way from the gate into my father's grounds.
When the note was written I followed, and I well remember my
sensations as I stepped out into the delicious air and sunshine.
I wandered on, and my thoughts naturally recurred to the events of
the past week. Self-satisfied and confident, I congratulated
myself that my uneasy feelings towards Rosier were nearly overcome,
for I had heard her praised without pain, and had responded with
readiness, if not with cordiality.
I went slowly on till a turn in the deep glen, through which
our little river ran, brought me to a place where it spread out into
a wide clear pool; a few small white water-lilies were lying upon
it, and it reflected the rich blue of the sky, excepting where a
steep gravel bank, crowned by the beautiful green ash-trees, was
seen in it. I looked in as I stood on the opposite side;
something white was under the ash-tree: I instantly recognised it as
the figure of Rosie. She, too, was standing looking down into
the water. She had taken off her bonnet, and every feature of
her sweet face, every lock of her yellow hair, and every fold of her
flowing muslin gown, was distinctly mirrored in that nether world.
She had some peculiar ornament on her head—flowers. I looked
again, not at the living girl, but at her clear image, and saw that
she had made a coronet of the water-lilies, and set it on her head.
She, as well as myself, was silent and motionless; the small
water-lilies, no larger than roses, studded the sunny water, they
were all far beyond the reach of her hand; her shawl and bonnet lay
at her feet, and her face was radiant with its tenderest expression
of peace and tranquillity.
For a minute or two I stood gazing at her, and thinking that
a painter would have given something for such a sight. First,
I only admired her and her delicate coronet, but then I began to
consider that there would soon be others to admire as well as
myself; next, to regret that she should possess an ornament so more
than commonly beautiful; then to envy her, and wish I had it instead
I could not conceal my vexation; and when I had walked round
to her, and she, turning to me with a smile, put her finger to the
flowers, and said, 'Are they not pretty, Millicent?' my annoyance
was so great at the idea of meeting all my young friends in my
common cottage bonnet, while she presented herself crowned like some
lovely princess, and just suiting her crown, that I could not help
saying, under the faint hope that she might be induced to discard
them, 'They are pretty enough as they float on the water, Rosie, but
they are queer things to wear on one's head.'
'Oh, I dried their stalks,' said Rosie, innocently.
'I see a drop of water twinkling at the yellow tip inside one
of them now,' I continued, regarding them with an air of strong
'Oh, I am so sorry you don't like them,' said Rosie; 'I
thought you would exclaim about their beauty the moment you saw
I was so weak and so envious at this moment, that I could not
help laughing sarcastically.
'But,' said Rosie, 'I am glad I did not begin by asking you
to wear them. It was an amusement to me to make the coronet,
and twine it with ivy-leaves. I thought you would look so well
'What!' I exclaimed, biting my lip with vexation, 'did you
make it for me?''
'Yes,' said Rosie, 'but never mind. It was no trouble,
you know; on the contrary, a great deal of amusement, getting out
the lilies. See, I have gathered every one that was within
How much, while she said this, the folly of my envious spirit
stared me in the face!
If I had only expressed the admiration I felt, or even
refrained from disparagement, Rosier would have given me the crown
which she had made on purpose for me, and would have gone unadorned
herself to this rural feast.
As it was, I had completely outwitted myself. I could
not accept what I had disapproved of, and I could not ask her to
take it off without betraying myself. What base, what evil
feelings are these to describe, perhaps the basest that deform our
fallen nature! but you know them, you can understand them, you can
follow me as I detail their workings.
We sat silent for a few minutes; we were still too early for
the picnic. I know not what Rosie was thinking of. My
thoughts were made up of shame, envy, and ill-humour; till,
suddenly, Rosie exclaimed, 'Oh, Millicent! I quite forgot to
bring my music.'
A sudden thought struck me. 'Go back for it, then,' I
said, 'and I will sit here and wait for you; it is only a quarter of
a mile, and we shall still be in plenty of time, for it is not like
a formal party.'
Rosie thanked me, and instantly started off on here errand,
wearing the lily crown on her head. Now, I thought, here is a
chance for me; I am perfectly determined to get some lilies for a
crown while Rosie is away. There will be time to plait them,
and I can easily say, when she returns, that I have altered my mind,
and think they look very tolerable. I can tie a stick to the
end of my parasol, and by that means I shall easily draw them to
Accordingly, I procured a stick, and having fastened it,
looked about for a favourable place where they grew nearest to the
edge of the pool. As I stood on the bank, the reflection of
the blue sky was so clear in it, that even the small black images of
the little swallows, floating high in the air, were as distinctly
visible as the nearest grasses, or the yellow flags that grew
thickly by the brink. There was one change in it, however, for
a small white cloud had come up, and its image lay down in the pool
like a heap of snow.
I saw that, small as it was, it would soon obscure the sun,
and for a little while change the hues of the whole landscape; and I
have a recollection of thinking at the moment, that it was an apt
emblem of misfortune, coming up, when least expected, and bringing
instantaneous dimness over the brightest and most sunny scenes.
But I did not think that the emblem had any significance for
me; and I took my stick and descended cautiously to the margin of
the glassy pool.
AS I said before,
I descended that green bank and stooped over the liquid mirror; but
had no sooner done so, than I started back with such sudden surprise
as I remember to this day. What had I seen there? It was
only for a moment that I had looked down into these polished deeps,
but the face they had presented to me—which seemed to have come up
to meet me—is indelibly fixed on my memory. My Aunt Beatrice
seemed to have met my glance from among the lily leaves; so
strongly, so truly reflecting her picture, that for the moment I
could hardly believe that the face was really my own.
Once again I had seen that peculiar expression which hovered
over it like a shadow. Once again, considering it as I might
have done the face of another person, the thought was forced upon
me, 'She is envious of me.'
I stood for a moment diverted from my purpose; but upon
consideration, this curious likeness interested me: and, stooping
over the water, I again leaned forward to meet my own face and look
at it well.
Yes; it leaned towards me, in all things a duplicate of the
face in the frame: the dark eyes a little anxious, a little
reflective; the long hair drooping forward to shadow the cheeks; the
lip slightly pouting, as brooding over feelings not altogether free
Ah, my Aunt Beatrice, if that had been truly your face
looking up at me, with the azure of a reflected sky behind you, with
your white dress gathered about your throat, and your two hands
holding back the hair which nearly touched the water; if that had
truly been your face, I, not being blinded by self-love, might have
taken warning by its expression, instead of softening its meaning,
and trying to explain it away.
It was base and bitter envy that overshadowed it; and this
painful image over which it brooded, was the image of a young girl
in whose heart such shadows were never found: a girl who loved you,
and whom all but you must needs have loved; but whose remembered
sweetness, though you thought on it then, was an example that you
would not follow, and a warning that you threw away.
So I arose from my contemplation, and taking my long stick I
tried very hard to draw the lilies to land; but one after the other,
as I succeeded in drawing it so close as to be almost within reach
of my hand, would slip from my hold, dip under the water, and
re-appear in its old place.
I thought I should be more successful on the other side of
the pool where the water was deeper, so I went round; and I remember
seeing some haymakers in a field not far off, and wishing I had one
of their rakes; for so much time had already been wasted in
fruitless attempts, that I began to fear Rosie would return before I
had secured the flowers; and, in the plenitude of my folly, I hoped
she might delay to come.
Happy indeed it was for me that such wishes are made in vain.
But it is needless to anticipate.
I found a place where I thought the lilies grew rather closer
to the edge; but the grass was slippery, and the soil was damp.
I came near; I drew one lily close to land. Another moment and
I had cautiously stooped for it; my hand grasped it. I rose
again. My feet felt suddenly cold, I cast a hurried glance
downward, and found to my indescribable terror, that the tuft of
grass on which I was standing had given way, and was sliding down
the steep descent with me into the water. Not rapidly.
My impression is (perhaps through the vivid distinctness of that
fearful instant), that I went down somewhat slowly into the water.
I tried to throw myself backwards; but it was too late, and with my
feet still on that clump of grass, I went down on the clay, till the
water was first over my knees, then over my shoulders, then over my
head. Yet, such was the wonderful manner in which this
descent, to apparently inevitable death, seemed to sharpen the
faculties of life to unnatural power, and lengthen out moments of
time, that I distinctly heard the washing and bubbling of the water
as it closed me in. I distinctly saw the rocking of the lilies
as the watery rings spread over the surface and I was aware, when I
looked at the trees which overshadowed my father's house, that I
probably saw them for the last time.
These sensations were vivid and strong; but the instant I was
submerged, I ceased to think, and became conscious of an
overpowering weight on my head.
I do not know how long this lasted, I know nothing till I was
breathing again, up in the air and light, and fighting for life
among the rocking lilies. Every breath was a shriek, and in
mortal terror, lest I must soon go down again like a stone, I cried
out, and struggled vainly to reach the longed-for bank, which I saw
almost close at hand, when I beheld a white figure flying towards
me. It was close—it had flung itself down on the bank, and
grasped with one hand the leaves of some yellow flags, that
providentially grew there; with the other it had seized my hair, as
I was again going down; and in an instant, perhaps less, my face was
above water, and I heard Rosie, who was faint and panting with swift
running; I heard her beseeching me not to struggle, and I saw that,
as she lay on the brink, a very little thing would drag her in.
But I could not obey her. I believe that at first I did not
understand her. The water gurgled in my ears, and the trailing
water-weeds almost covered my face. I again struggled, and
then she cried out, adding her call for help to my distracted voice,
and exclaimed in despairing tones, 'Oh, my darling, my darling, be
still; there are only these flag-leaves to hold me up, and some of
them are breaking away. Millicent, I cannot drag you out; but
I can hold you up till help comes. The hay-makers have heard
us; they are coming; we shall soon be safe,—only be still.'
I was still; sufficient sense had returned to me for that.
I held her arm with my cold hands. I heard the cracking rustle
of the flag-leaves, as one after the other they gave way. I
saw Rosie's white face grow fixed as stone with fear, and just as I
became conscious of shouts and encouraging cries near at hand, at
that same instant Rosie made a murmur of despair; I felt her grasp
of me tighten but the last of the flag-leaves broke away, and two
instead of one, went down under the rocking lilies.
It has been well said, that 'time measures not the tides of
soul;' that which had seemed to me to include cycles of life and
suffering must all have been enacted in a very short space indeed.
We went down again; but the time during which she had held me up had
saved my life. Perhaps, four or five minutes was all that it
comprised, then we went down; and for what a purpose had I brought
both our lives in peril!
I did not think of that: again I felt that weight upon my
head, then I became unconscious, and then there was a period, long
or short I know not, when I heard dimly; then was aware of light
before my eyes, then could open them and look about me.
I was lying on my back under some green trees; some of the
haymakers, healthy, sunburnt women, were standing about me. I
looked up into the sky, and saw swallows flying about, and I saw a
'Lord be praised,' said one of the women; 'I thought she was
'Give her air,' said another voice; 'she don't know where she
is yet; but, bless you, there's no fear of her being drowned, she
was not a minute, not half a minute, under water. It was
nought but fright made her swoon off.'
I saw another woman approach me, unfasten my hair, and dry it
with her apron.
I knew I was safe; but where was Rosie? I tried to
speak, but could not, and I tried to move, but was unable to stir,
while all this time the women talked on among themselves, under the
impression that I was not able yet to understand them.
'Which of them was it that took her out?' said one.
A labouring man's name was mentioned. 'And a lucky
thing for him,' said the first speaker; 'as good as a year's rent,
I'll be bound.'
'As good as ten pound,' said another 'let the Squire alone
'Lie still, my pretty miss,' said the woman who was drying my
hair; 'Missis and the Squire are sent for, they'll be here directly,
don't be frightened.' I made another effort to rise, and she
stooped towards me, lifted me up, and supported me in her strong
motherly arms. Then I could see the pool; oh, how eagerly I
gazed at it. It was still already as glass,—as still as if
nothing had ever disturbed its serenity ; but oh, terrible sight to
me, who well knew what it meant,--in the very centre of it lay
floating the crown of lilies!
Oh, when I saw it floating, and believed that Rosie's yellow
locks lay under it, my despair was too great for my frame; I
fainted, and now I believe that some time did pass, though I was
unconscious of it.
I opened my eyes as from a troubled dream; my parents and
some of our servants were standing by me; some people were preparing
to lift me up and carry me away; but I cried out that I would not
go, I must see Rosie; I wanted to know what had become of Rosie.
Gaining strength through the energy of my desire, I released
myself from them, and urged my steps towards the water. The
lily crown was floating slowly, slowly down the river, but I saw a
group of people standing silently, as others had stood about me.
I held out my arms to my father, for strength failed, and he
carried me towards them, set me on my feet, and they divided and let
Rosie was lying on the grass; her face was nearly hidden by
her hair. She was crownless now; one of her arms lay above her
head, and her cold white hand still grasped the long green
flag-leaves; drops of water trickled from them, and from her white
clothing and disordered hair. I stood, I looked, and in my
despair I uttered no lamentation, but I thought of that great
multitude above with palms in their hands, and I sunk upon my face
on the grass, crying out that Rosie was dead, and that I had been
the cause of it.
I do not know all that followed; reason assures me that the
time was short, though memory presents it as long.
Attempts were made to calm me, but I could not attend to
entreaties or commands; my mind was dark, my senses were confused,
and delusive phantoms seemed to float before me wherever I turned.
My Aunt Beatrice, not a picture, but a living, breathing creation,
seemed to rise up out of the water and follow my wandering eyes, and
hanging suspended over Rosie's head, I thought I saw the crown of
I remember that some people took her up and carried her away,
and that they gently tried to draw the leaves from her hand, but
could not; but I remember nothing of how I was taken home, nor can I
recall anything that happened, till, after a very long sleep, or
more probably a stupor brought on by narcotics, I opened my eyes in
my own chamber.
For a while I felt tranquil, somewhat confused, and though
aware that something unusual had happened, not willing, or perhaps
not able, to consider what it was.
I turned on my pillow, and I remember experiencing a
sensation of surprise at finding that the person who sat watching me
in the dusk was not my mother, but an old servant. She was
fanning me. My windows were thrown open, for the night was
exceedingly sultry. I looked out and saw the red summer
lightning playing between some ragged clouds, and said to the maid,
'Mary, has there been a storm?'
'Yes, ma'am,' she answered, 'a very awful storm;' and she
continued to fan me.
After a while I was obliged to go to sleep again; but it was
a confused and wretched sleep, and towards the close of it I became
conscious that some one was singing. I awoke in a fright, and
though day had not yet dawned, I knew that I had been some hours
asleep. My windows were closed, and the servant, who still sat
by me, had let her hands drop on her knee, and was slumbering.
A shaded lamp was burning in one corner. I sat up, and by its
light looked about me. On the table lay some work that I had
placed there when I came up-stairs to dress. I saw it, and in
an instant the events of the day rushed back upon my recollection,
and all the terrors of that doubt respecting Rosie.
I sprang out of bed, threw on my dressing-gown, and went out
into the passage, bent upon entering Rosie's room, and satisfying
It was dark, but I groped my way on to her door, which was
shut. I opened it cautiously, no light was burning; the
window-shutters had never been closed, and sufficient light came in
from the shining of the crescent moon to show me that the curtains
were not drawn, and that no one was sleeping in her bed.
I cannot describe what I felt, as, half-fainting with the
sickness of hope deferred, I turned from this empty room. I
was wandering down the passage, when I heard voices below on the
stairs. I went to the landing, and, leaning over the
banisters, saw my father standing, and our usual physician with him.
My father was leaning in an attitude of despondency against the
balustrade. I heard the physician's soothing voice―
'But it is at least a blessing that there is nothing to fear
for your daughter.'
My father sighed, and I strained my senses to catch what
'Nothing to fear for my daughter,' said he, 'but how much to
hope for my niece?'
'She has youth on her side.'
Then Rosie lived. There was comfort in that, though
these sentences showed that she was in danger. The hall lamp
was still burning, and I could distinctly see the anxious expression
of my father's face.'
'You think, then,' he said, 'that she may survive?'
The physician hesitated.
'When fever comes on with such fearful rapidity, we cannot
pronounce an opinion,' he replied; 'there is always great danger.'
I stayed to hear no more; my eyes were blinded with tears;
but as they fell down my cheeks I saw light from under a bedroom
door, and I urged my way towards it, opened it and entered.
Ah, my little Rosie, my once envied and now beloved,
inexpressibly beloved cousin, shall I ever forget the anguish of
that moment? She was sitting up in bed and singing.
Two people sat beside her. They gently laid her down
again, but again she rose. Her cap had been taken off; her
long yellow hair streamed over her shoulders, for the delirium of
fever gleamed in her blue eyes, and the colour was high in her
cheeks. First she talked incoherently, then again she sang but
inexpressibly sweet were those unconscious songs. My mother
wept over her, but she took no notice, and the attendants soothed
and entreated, but she did not hear them. Still, in the
silence of that sultry night, her trembling voice sounded through
the desolate house, and went out among the branches of the trees,
startling the birds from their slumbers.
I LISTENED, and
my heart died within me, for I perceived that the sudden shock of
that perilous morning—though I had been permitted to rise up from it
little the worse—had prostrated my gentle and lovely cousin.
Oh, how precious she was to me now! With what anguish of heart
I reflected on her generous self-devotion; with what bitter tears of
useless regret I lamented the paltry feelings which had cost us both
I stood till the physician returned to her room, and then I
went back to my own, threw myself on my bed, and repented. How
heart-sickening are the tears of repentance when they are shed for
those hours which are past recall! Anything else but this I
thought I could have borne; but there was no hope, or a very faint
hope, that I should ever be able even to acknowledge my fault to
Rosie, and so relieve my heart of this intolerable pressure; much
less that I should ever be able to make any reparation, by future
kindness, for my past grudging and envious behaviour. From the
nature of things I could never repay her; she had saved my life,
snatched me back at the peril of her own, when I was about to fall a
prey to my demon mistress—Envy.
I lay and wept; a sharp distress will drive many a hard heart
to the only sure refuge. As I continued to mourn during that
desolate night, I perceived my sin against God far more forcibly
than I had done hitherto; yet, though my offence I knew was against
Him, to Him I was driven for refuge. I besought Him to spare
the life of my cousin, and to pardon the sin which had endangered
it. At length, but not till morning dawned, that sweet and
broken singing became silent, and exhausted and weak, I fell asleep.
About eight o'clock I was awoke by some one entering my room:
it was my mother. My first cry was an entreaty that she would
tell me of Rosie. She appeared depressed and utterly fatigued
with watching and anxiety; she sat down, and said she hoped I would
be calm, and not give my parents the distress of seeing us both very
ill. Rosie was much the same―a
little quieter, and I was on no account to enter her room. She
was to be kept nearly in the dark, and as tranquil as possible.
She presently left me, and returned with the physician, who,
finding me exhausted with weeping, and otherwise suffering from the
effects of the shock, desired that I should be dressed and taken out
into the fresh air, and that a couch should be set for me under the
trees. I felt that this was done partly that I might not hear
Rosie's voice, but I submitted, knowing how much sorrow there was in
the household, and desiring to add to it no more than I could help.
I sat out of doors under the trees, with the splendour of the green
lawn refreshed by thunder showers stretching away before me, and all
the gay flowers, the tall hollyhocks, the dahlias, and the rich
clustering autumn roses smiling upon me. I felt my heart
strangely out of unison with the freshness, gaiety, and peace of
nature; but I acknowledged that I did not deserve to be with Rosie,
and I felt the truth of what they had said, that no one's presence
was so likely to excite her as mine.
Oh what a long day was that, and how very long were those
which followed; never do I remember days of such unequalled
splendour, such cloudless serenity, and I was kept out in them from
morning to night, with my father or that old servant for
companionship. But from my place under the trees, though I
could hear nothing, I could still watch the house. I could see
the evidences, now and then, of hurry and confusion, figures rapidly
passing the staircase window, servants lingering in the hall
watching for the doctor, that he might not be detained an instant at
the door. I knew that the chance for Rosie's life was small,
and I believed that a very few more days of such suffering as I was
then enduring, would prostrate me also. Everything that
kindness could suggest or love invent was said to soothe me,
everything but the one thing I pined to have—the assurance that
Rosie was better.
But on the third day of this sojourn out of doors, I happened
for a time to be left alone, and I could not restrain myself, I must
needs go into the house; and there, as I wandered about restlessly
in the lower rooms, I observed a peculiar appearance of suspense in
those whom I met. They were so much absorbed that they
scarcely noticed my presence, and I asked no questions (for nothing
definite was ever told me in reply), but I waited till the physician
came to pay his evening visit, and then I sat down on the lowest of
the stairs, and waited till he should descend.
I leaned my head against the balusters, for I was weak.
It was just about the time of day, as I remembered, that we had both
been brought home. What days of misery to me, and suffering to
her, had been the three which had followed! The physician at
length came down. He lifted me up, and gave me his arm into
the parlour. Then he told me that the fever had left Rosie.
'Twenty-four hours more, with a pulse at such a height,' he said,
'and her case would have been past hope, but now, with extreme care,
if there is no relapse, I trust that, weak as she is, she may yet be
I was very thankful, but that thankfulness was chastened by
much fear: that there still was danger was not concealed from me,
and when I was permitted that night to go into Rosie's chamber, and
look upon her while she slept, I wondered that anything so frail, so
faint, so deathly, could be recalled to the land of the living; but
I had been assured that there was hope, and I endeavoured not to
Three days had so completely changed that sweet and dimpled
face, that no one could possibly have recognised it. Her hair
had been cut away, and the unshaded cheeks were visible in all their
sunken whiteness, and the wasted hands lay in such a hush of repose,
or rather of exhaustion, that but for the evidence that she breathed
I could not have thought that she was still of this world. But
I looked and mourned; envy had been killed by love; but oh! amid
what bitter pangs of self-reproach, what anguish of remorse this
love had grown!
It was more than a week before I was permitted to see her in
her waking moments, but I cannot describe our meeting, full as it
was on one side with the keenest distress, and on both with the
strongest affection. After that I was permitted to be
constantly with her, nursing and attending on her during her tedious
recovery; and then it was that I solemnly resolved she should not
love me, being in ignorance of my besetting fault, but that I would
tell her of it both for the sake of my peace, and that she might
assist me in my efforts towards a cure, for I had become more humble
now; and fearful as was the lesson that I had received, I still
dreaded a relapse.
Therefore, when Rosie first came down stairs, and lay on the
sofa in the little morning-room, I proceeded to finish a drawing
which had been long on the easel, and on which I had bestowed more
than ordinary thought and pains. There was a clear pool of
water in the middle of my picture, a gravel bank rose from it on one
side, and a green ash-tree overhung it; there was a blue sky above,
with one white cloud rising up out of the west; there were some
yellow flags growing by the margin of the pool, and in the centre of
it floated a lily crown. As Rosie lay on the sofa, her eyes
were soon attracted to this little landscape. I saw instantly
that she recognised it, and that her regards lingered over it with a
kind of tranquil joy.
What a happy scene it was for her to recollect. What a
gracious reward had been vouchsafed to her to repay her for her
pain, even the rescuing of a human life—the life of one who was
extremely dear to her. But what a painful scene it was for me!
I intended to copy it for her that she might continue to derive
pleasure from it, and to keep the original that it might be a
warning to me. I let her gaze at it, and when she was
satisfied—pleased that I should have made it, but so weak, so
touched and troubled at the sight of it that her eyes were dim with
tears—I covered it, and approaching her couch, told her that I had
something to say to her. I knew she would still love me, and
that she would feel neither resentment nor disbelief, so I knelt by
her, and with my arm supporting her, and her cheek leaning against
mine, I told her all that I have told to you.
And when I had done, true to the lovely simplicity of her
character, she did not attempt to palliate, or even to excuse.
She listened with wonder, with pity, with sympathizing love.
She kissed me many times, but it was evidently a mystery to her; and
then she reminded me that God could forgive us all our sins, and she
proposed that we should pray for the forgiveness of ours.
Sweet, simple Rosie! she believed that I had been envious because I
had told her so; she knew in theory that envy was a wicked thing,
but so little had she ever been tempted to such a sin, that she
scarcely knew either the blackness or the misery of it. And
when she had paused awhile over my narration, and caressed me with
all her own simplicity and tenderness, she said, 'Ah, Millicent, if
you had told me that you were vain I could easily have believed you,
but God has made you so rich, and so beautiful, and so much beloved,
that I can scarcely understand what there is for you to envy.'
I felt the truth of what she said. God had placed me in
the best and happiest part of this his beautiful world. I was
young, healthy, cared for, and sometimes, even in my most envious
days, I had seriously considered whether there was any person with
whom, on the whole, I could change with advantage, and I had decided
that I had not yet met with such a person. And yet,
notwithstanding this deliberate decision, I had basely envied almost
every one with whom I came into contact the brighter part of her
less favoured lot.
I rose from my cousin's side, feeling lighter at heart for
her sincere pity and simple-minded, generous forgiveness. I
felt that a great fault could not be eradicated at once, but I
believed and knew that of Rosie, at least, I never could be envious
again. And why? Because I loved her so heartily, that
all her joys, her advantages, her hopes, had become mine. The
great commandment offers the only solution of that problem which
afflicts the envious. How shall I be cured?' we ask; it
answers, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'
But can love be learned? Can it be fostered,
cultivated, indulged? Can I make myself love my neighbour?
Let us ask another question which may help us to the answer of this.
Can hatred be learned? Can it be encouraged, cherished?
Can I make myself hate my neighbour? Yes. How can I do
this? I can do it by reflecting on the least agreeable parts
of his character to the exclusion of his better qualities; I can
impute bad motives to his indifferent actions; I can disparage his
virtues and fail to excuse his faults; I can decline, in his case,
to admit the strength of temptation; I can treasure up and dwell on
imaginary slights or little affronts that he may have shown me, till
they exasperate me; I can tell others of his behaviour, dwelling
always on its darkest side, till it appears all the darker by
And can I make myself envy my neighbour? Yes, I can.
I can do it by constantly comparing him with myself on those points,
and those only, where he has the advantage, by considering that
those advantages are precisely such as I want in order to make me
happy, by exaggerating their importance, and by dwelling so much on
the lot of others that I neglect the means of improving my own; and
by sitting idle, brooding over my hard case, and mourning because I
see no way for making myself useful, beloved, or admired, while
others with no better opportunities or talents, are up and doing
those very things which, but that I am absorbed in envying them, I
could do just as well.
By an opposite course I can foster, cultivate, and encourage
affection. This, it is granted, must be difficult at first,
too difficult indeed for any but those who seek Divine assistance.
But I must proceed. Rosie stayed with me till she had
quite recovered her health, and then went home, carrying with her
the blessings and the love of all our household. Shortly
afterwards, my sisters returned, and I, knowing what was in my own
heart, resolved that by God's help, I would never, while I lived,
consider my fault as cured; but watch over it as over a fire
subdued, but not extinguished, and which any passing wind will fan
once more into a flame. My watch has now been long, and partly
lest I should slumber at my post of watcher, and partly that my
example may be a warning to you, I have set myself the task of
penning these pages.
But, you will naturally ask, how did I discover that you were
the bond-slave of envy?
We are so anxious naturally to conceal this fault, and it is
one that it would be such an offence to accuse one of, that, though
there are few of us to whom it has not been said, or intimated by
friends or acquaintances, 'You have a high opinion of yourself;' or,
'You are exaggerating this story;' or, 'You should not be so
disdainful of your inferiors' or, 'You are not very industrious;'
or, 'You are hasty;' or, 'You are inconsiderate yet, to none of us,
perhaps, has it ever been said, I perceive that you are envious.'
This delicacy is a disadvantage to us; that which is not
mentioned we think to be unknown. It may certainly
be concealed from others for a time, but the essence of envy arises
and depends on comparison; once institute a comparison in the
presence of the envious, and, unless they are on their guard, it is
sure to be betrayed. As when an acquaintance of yours praised
Mary's singing in your presence—Mary, whom you call your friend—and
you replied, 'O yes, she sings beautifully, but really it would be a
disgrace if she did not.'
'How so?' said your acquaintance.
'Oh,' you answered, 'because she is always practising;
indeed, I wonder how she can make it consistent with other duties;
besides, she has been so well and so thoroughly taught; no pains
have been spared with her;' and you added, in the tone of an injured
person, 'It would be absurd to expect those who have enjoyed no such
advantages to equal her; it would be quite unfair.' Now, why
did it give you pain to hear Mary praised, if you really love her,
and are not envious of her and why was it needful to assure her
admirer that she had had such superior advantage? Did it make
your singing any worse to know that hers was better; and if it was
better, why deny that this better singing was any merit of hers?
I discovered then that you were envious; but I was confirmed
in my discovery the next day, when, as I sat at work with you, a
common friend of ours chose to descant on the beauty and loveliness
of Isabel. You listened for some time uneasily, and with a
slightly heightened colour. You seemed to assent, and you even
smiled, but it was not a cordial smile; and you said gently, 'Yes,
she is pretty, and has charming spirits, but I think her manner has
been a little more subdued since her sister made that runaway
By this remark you made the visitor suddenly silent; the
shock of the information that you had conveyed was considerable.
You knew him to be ignorant of that fact, yet you took care to
convey it as if you were merely referring to something well known to
you both, and you presently continued in a quiet tone, 'Those
charming high spirits have their disadvantages after all.' He
slowly answered, 'Yes,' and then asked if Isabel resembled her
sister in person. 'Oh, she is the image of her,' you answered
good-humouredly; 'the sisters are as much alike in face as in
manner.' (I have never heard any one else advert to this strong
likeness, nor can I see it.)
Upon this the visitor, effectually silenced, stooped and
picked up his glove; we both thought the information you had
conveyed gave him more uneasiness than we should have supposed.
He thought it a great disadvantage to Isabel, as you meant he should
do; but you had no reward for your information: he could not be
interested in the lively conversation which you tried to engage him
in; he liked you none the better because you made him like Isabel
Here the manuscript abruptly terminates. On examination
it appears that some concluding pages have been torn away; but I
will not draw upon my own invention to supply a conclusion; I prefer
to give the story as it stands.