« ElőzőTovább »
were always; one of ourselves, you know; but she does not look satirical, and though she has an air of goodness about her, she does not look goody.' You know I always distinguish between people being
good,—and goody. Do you like Miss 'raven?"
"I like what I have seen of her; which is literally nothing."
Elizabeth was leaving the room, when she suddenly turned back.— "Janet, do you know Cyril Denham is coming back next week?"
"So soon! I thought he was to make a longer stay?"
"So soon, Janet! Why, he has been away more than six weeks."
"I thought it had not been so long; but time passes quickly."
"I wonder what he will think of Miss Craven!"
"Indeed, I cannot say. Come here, Elizabeth, your hair is falling down again, and the dinner-bell will ring directly."
At this period of her life, and for some years afterwards, Miss Craven kept a diary; and I am permitted to avail myself of its pages from time to time, as it may seem expedient, for the elucidation of various events, which followed in course, after her domestication with us at Forest Range.
March 1st.—I have been in my new home just a week; and I think, when I am reconciled to the changes which have wrought such havoc with my old associations and accustomed habits, I may like it very well. Let me consider the persons with whom I am now placed, amongst whom I am to go in and out, to eat, drink, sleep, and all the rest of it, for an indefinite period,—for fifteen months at least, if I live so long,— for next May twelvemonths, I shall be of age, and my own mistress in everything.
Forest Range is a very bonnie place; the grounds are beautiful even now; what will they be in sum
mer? To day, I found whole hosts of snowdrops, growing as if they were wild, among the moss under the trees in the Wilderness; and under the south wall were multitudes of violets, lovely scented violets, white and purple, peeping out from their large green cordate leaves. The conservatories are magnificent; in another month they will be gorgeous with azaleas, acacias, and cinerarias. Gardening is evidently one of my guardian's special hobbies, and I think the passion is shared fully by his wife and daughter, and by Miss Anstruther likewise. I shall be quite content to catch the horticultural fever. Hitherto I have cared chiefly about the wildlings of the woods and fields; it will be very nice to learn something of garden and greenhouse botany. Miss Anstruther seems to know all about the flowers. I am to constitute myself her pupil, and, in return, I am to teach her what I know about our common British Flora.
My guardian is the most fatherly man I ever met with; he is a sort of king in this locality; of course he is squire and lord of the manor, and magistrate and guardian of the poor, as well as of Janet Anstruther and Agnes Craven; and churchwarden and chairman of half-a-dozen boards, and all sorts of things besides. And everybody seems to love him, and joyfully accept his rule, as well they may, for if half I hear be true, his kindness is unbounded. I am sure he is a really good and noble man.
Lady Ashbumer is what I call "it sweet woman." And yet, when I come to think of it, such a term is scarcely adequate ; she is "sweet," decidedly, and — something more. That grave, quiet face of hers, so rarely lighted by a smile, is never gloomy, never otherwise than peacefully serene. She has a history, I am very sure; it must be one redounding to her praise and honour; she gives me the idea of a person who has practised self-repression in her earlier years; of one who has attained to perfect calm, after being tempest-tossed, and almost wrecked in life's first passage on the stormy seas of this wild, changeful world. Yes! I am sure she has sorrowed, and struggled, and gained the victory; she has fought her way among the breakers; and now. she is in port, and anchored on a peaceful, happy shore. Who was her pilot, I wonder, through that weary voyage, —religion, or philosophy? There is a singular repose in her manner, a rare tranquillity that seems to speak of rest,—rest after toil, and grief, and much perplexity.
As for her daughter, she does not know what self-repression means; she is all one glow of bright enthusiasm,—impulse,—passion! Hers is a loving, tender, clinging nature, highly sensitive, and most demonstrative: she is clever, too, in an aimless, idle sort of way. I like to hear her talk; and, Oh, how I like to look at her,—the beautiful, graceful, radiant creature! I had never conceived of beauty so unblemished; her's is absolutely perfect. She looks like one, who is—
"rose-lined from the cold,
A rare and matchless flower, a bright-plumed bird, down-sweeping from the skies! Such are the images that come before me, when I gaze upon her sweet, resplendent loveliness. We are friends already, and I think she likes me well. A day or two after my arrival, she asked me if I read Greek. To which I answered, "No, I do not even know the letters; a few Greek roots dug out by Mr. Butter for his Spelling Book, are all my stock."
Then, said Miss Ashburner, "Are you a Latin scholar!" I really thought she was putting me through my paces. I told her, " No, it takes a man, and more years of a man's life than I have lived, to make a Latin scholar."
"But," she pressed, "You have learnt Latin?"
"Yes," I replied, "I began to learn it when I was a little child. I read Virgil with the clergyman at Hydale, who succeeded my father in the living. I just keep it up; I shall never try to go on any further.'
"Oh!" she said, "I am glad. I
was so afraid you would be the most learned woman in the parish. I don't see the use of poring over books."
"Not of poring. But books generally, good books!—think what we should be without them?"
"Oh, of course, books are indispensable. But do you ever read stories?"
"Certainly, sometimes. I read a downright good one, whenever I can get it. I don't care for the mass of novels; but I thoroughly enjoy those that are high-toned, pure and artistically written."
"Ah! we shall get on together. I was so afraid you were that overwhelming, most anomalous creature, a femme-savante. Now, I am a dunce; that is why I am so frightened at the clever ones of my own sex."
"I think you are unjust towards yourself. You do not talk like a veritable dance !"
"But I am one, notwithstanding. Of course, I have read heaps of histories, and learned geography, and bits and scraps of ologies. And I attended lectures on astrology,—no, astronomy, I mean; they are not the same, I think; and chemistry, and I studied Mrs. Somerville's Physical something, I forget what, now; but it did not seem to have a particle of sense in it, or else I lacked the sense to find it out. And Mrs. Blissett made us elder girls write essays: the last I had to write was about "Moral Culture ;" and I began by saying that it behoved us all, under every circumstance, and at all times and places, to cultivate our morals. And there I came to a full stop; for I had not a notion how to set about such cultivation, or how it could be done by any one. Hit had been about the cultivation of orchids now, or seedling strawberries, I could have made something of it; but one can't put one's morals into a forcing house."
"They would not thrive, I fancy, if one could; they are of hardy growth, and they need the frosts of winter, and the keen east-winds of spring, quite as much as the warm sunshine of the summer days."
"Ah! I knew you were clever," said Miss Ashbumer, reproachfully, "that is what is called,—oh, what is it?—moralizing! Dear me, perhaps that is the way to cultivate your morals!"
"Very far from it," I answered, and was going on to say something wise about the difference between mere speech and action, when she stopped me, and begged me not " to talk philosophy!" Yet, I am sure she is not " a dance" by any means, and though I can believe she may be very wayward, perhaps even trying now and then, I am sure that I shall love her. Yesterday, we had a charming gallop across the Fairchurch Downs. My guardian mounted me as well as I could wish. Our own wild roads and nearly pathless moors have made me a very fearless rider. Miss Ashbumer has an excellent seat, and was delighted to find out I liked equestrian exercise. Miss Anstruther is not a good horsewoman: she prefers a ramble, or the pony-carriage. About Miss Anstruther I have little to observe. She is only eight-and-twenty, her cousin tells me: I thought she must be thirty-five! In the grave serenity of her face and manner she is not unlike Lady Ashbumer, but there is no relationship I am told, and she is only cousin to Sir John by courtesy. I like this quiet, secluded life at Forest Range; but I believe we shall have some visitors ere long; and when the weather mends, we are to drive to Southchester to make some calls. There is ji Mrs. Denham, who is often mentioned, and she has a son named Cyril. I wonder what these Denhams will be like. Heigho! when I get to such an idle point as wondering, it is time I ceased to write. I will shut you up my diary for to-day.
March 2nd.—Now, my diary, let me tell you all about to-day. Yon are the only bosom-friend I have, dear diary, and you keep all my secrets,—that is, you would keep them if I had any to confide to you. Some day. perhaps, I shall have my secrets, " be respected like the lave," as Jenny's mother says, in "The Cotter's Saturday night." And then,
diary,—then I will tell you all about it, oh, you silent, faithful friend!
This morning we were going a ride. Elizabeth and I, over the chalkdowns that swell so finely round about us here. They, in some measure, not fully, mind my diary, reconcile me to the loss of mountains and of moors, and of steep fellsides. But it began to rain, and so we staid in-doors, and I took down my crotchet-work, and spent the time till luncheon in the breakfast room. Lady Ashbumer was not there ; but Miss Anstruther was busy fitting sewing for the children at the village school, which is under her especial supervision; she goes there nearly every day, and a class of elder girls comes up to her on Sunday afternoons for Bible-teaching. Elizabeth was practising.
Miss Ashbumer does not care very much for music, but she takes lessons still, and has to get them ready, as she assures me, to her great annoyance. Her forte is painting; she is a real artist. She had been scampering over the keys, and sometimes counting audibly, for about an hour, when Lady Ashbumer came in, in search of something in the cabinet. While she was searching a drawer, she said in her usual quiet way, "Elizabeth, Cyril Denham is come home!"
Miss Ashbumer ceased her playing, and twirled herself round upon the music-stool: "Oh, Mamma, is he really? When did he come? How do you know? When will he ride over to Forest Range?"
"I will answer your questions in order, my dear,—he really is come. He returned to St. Croix last night. I know the fact, because he has written ine a note, which James, the Southern carrier has brought; and he will dine with us to-morrow, and stay all night as usual."
"I wonder if Mrs. Denhnm is glad to have her son again?"
"I should think she is; mothers generally welcome their children home after a period of absence."
"Ah! but Mrs. Denham is not like anybody else."
"My dear, we will not fall into
discussion about Mrs. Denham,— you do not like her."
'• No, indeed." said Elizabeth, with emphasis, "if I had such a mother."
"I trust you would obey her?"
"I fear I should not, Mamma. I should be a very naughty girl!"
"What have you been practising so long?"
"Oh, these ' Wild Flower Quadrilles.' and that charming little waltz that Cyril brought me."
"You waste your time, Elizabeth; you will not know your lesson for Rosaldi, when he comes on Friday."
"I should not know it, Mamma, if he were not coming till Friday six months. It is a horrible thing of an overture; I cannot even count it. And as for fingers,—I am confident it was written for creatures with superfluous digital extremities. It wants at least ten fingers on each hand, not to speak of thumbs, which ought to be much longer than any I have seen."
Lady Ashburner having found what she sought, went back again to the great conservatory, where she and her husband were occupied with the head gardener. Elizabeth did not resume her practising, she yawned, and flung herself upon the couch, declaring that practising was most fatiguing exercise, especially to persons of lymphatic temperament.
"Which you are not. Elizabeth! said Janet Anstruther, pausing in her task."
"Oh, yes, I am, Janet. As I grow older, I shall say, like Tennyson's 'Lotus-eater,' 'There is no joy but calm.'"
"You may say that now," returned Miss Anstruther, "for it is true. But the • calm' of the Lotus-eater was stupor, not real calm, which is as compatible with labour as with rest."
"Oh, now she is talking metaphysics!" said Elizabeth, imploringly. "Let us speak of something else: I want to tell Agnes about Mrs. Denham."
"No!" said Miss Anstruther, •' you ought to leave her to form her own opinion."
"Well, I will,—that is, if I can.
I should think Sally Hawkes is sing ing a Pcmn to celebrate the return of Cyril."
"Who is Sally Hawkes," I ventured to inquire.
"Mrs. Denham's companion, who looks after the servants, gives out the stores, sees to Cyril's socks and buttons, reads aloud huge tomes of musty, fusty old divinity, copies sermons, and makes herself generally useful. As Cyril is the only lively thing about the house, she must have been qualifying for a cloister, while he was away. He is always kind to her, poor little soul!"
•' Who is she, though,—a poor relation?"
"Oh, no! il know nothing of her antecedents'though; she came to live with Mrs. Denham about nine years ago, when Mrs. Erskine married. Somebody wanted to marry Sally once,—a respectable tradesman, who lives in Southchester."
"And was she not matrimonially inclined?"
"Oh, yes. But Mrs. Denham would not hear of it; she sent the tradesman off about his business, and shut up Sally in the house. And Sally cried herself very nearly blind, and has never since read small print by candlelight, without her glasses. Mamma was very wroth, but it did not do a bit of good; no one ever can or could do anything with Mrs. Denham."
"How does she get on with her son?"
'• Oh, she keeps him under, as if he were a child. He is very patient. I should run away."
"Where would you run to?"
"To the antipodes,—to anywhere, —go out for a governess,—take in washing and clear starching.—marry the baker,—or the milkman!"
I have no doubt Miss Ashburner would do something desperate if her life were not a smooth one; but the idea of her getting her own living seems positively senseless. I am anxious to see this Cyril Denham, about whom I have heard a great deal. Janet says, scarcely anybody understands him, his mother least of all. She says, too, he loves poetry, and is enthusiastically fond
of books. I can see she likes him. Well, I suppose I shall see plenty of him, since he evidently comes here pretty often, and is quite at
home. When he and I have met, I will tell you all about him, oh, my diary!
(To be continued.)
BOOKS: NEW AND OLD.
"Productive was the world In many things, but most in books."—Pollok.
The celebrated Fontenelle is reported to have said, that if he had his hands full of truths he would only open one finger at a time. This is not the rule by which most authors are now governed. Both hands are opened at once, and information on every conceivable subject, and in every kind of dress, is lavishly scattered broadcast. When Goldsmith, after much labour, had composed ten lines of poetry, he rose from his desk, exclaiming, " This is no bad morning's work." The reading public now demand men with greater versatility of genius—-men of quick thought and lively imagination, who, gifted with fluency, can rapidly develope what the mind conceives—men who, from very slender materials, can dash off a sparkling " leader" or an impressive tale. "We remember," says one, "being on business in a printingoffice where a genius of this order, who dealt in extreme novels, sat, as was his wont, correcting proofs, when the printer informed him that the concluding chapter of his second volume was some pages short. 'What is the last of it about?' said the novelist, still correcting. 'Lord Lionel going out with his wolf-dog,' replied the printer. 'Ha! that's a good subject; bring me some paper,' and, to our astonishment, he filled the required pages with Lord Lionel's wolf-dog. To the best of our recollection two pages and a half were occupied with its ears, and one and three-quarters exactly with its tail, and almost five were devoted to the courage, sagacity, and faithfulness of the 'noble quadruped.'" From the pens of such ready writers come many of the volumes of great primer, English, pica, or small pica, which issue from the esta
blishments of the publishers as fast as the compositors can "set up," the pressmen can "pull," and the binders can "stitch," "letter," and "block." These men, who are easily inspired for their work, are the fathers of most of the immense family of magazines and pamphlets brought into existence every month; whilst the daily and weekly newspapers, which find a place in every household, from John o' Groat's to Land's-end, would soon finish their course if their writers could not yoke capricious genius to unfriendly themes, and tax the mind under unfavourable circumstances. Of course there still exist disciples of Fontenelle, whose names we honour, and whose works we prize—men of deep feeling and high intellectual calibre—who, as brave champions of truth and powerful engines for usefulness, now and then throw out to the world a remarkable book, like a shot from an Armstrong gun. But these unquestionably are in the minority. The men who are ever giving their best thoughts to their generation, and always working at express speed, are beyond computation. Indeed, it cannot be decided which class of men is the more numerous, the readers or the authors.
How strikingly does this state of things contrast with the condition of our ancestors of the middle ages. Printing not being invented, and reading and writing being rare accomplishments, the principal medium of communication was the wandering minstrel, who went up and down the country reciting or singing ballads. The few books in existence were exceedingly costly, and consequently inaccessible to the million. It is no great matter of surprise that the