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I'll be bound; but take care how you steer. Good looks are a rock on which many a one has split, and you are but a child, and don't know half the dangers you will be safe to encounter if you go setting your mind upon marrying a lord or any gentleman of family. If you were not pretty there would not be half the danger ; you would get disappointed and laughed at, and that would be all, and you would grow wiser as you got older and came to know yourself and the world better ; but as it is, and with your notions, your beauty may be just a snare. A girl like you ought not to think of marrying at all, not for the next six or seven years, if you are wise; but one thing I warn you-gentlemen of rank don't marry girls in your station, but they may get you into sad trouble, and make you very miserable.'
Phæbe came in quite early, for Mrs. Miller had sent some one for her, with a message that I was at the Castle waiting to see her, and was going away betimes in the morning. She looked very pretty, as she sat down by the fire to warm herself, saying how cold it was, and how old Thomas, her escort, thought we were going to have snow.
“ And so you are leaving us, Mr. Travis ?" she presently remarked,—“going back to Paris, which our mademoiselle says, and which everybody says, is the most delightful place in all the world! I do envy you! I wish I were going; I will go some day, but I dare say I shall be ever so old before I can manage it. And there is Lady Maude, just my own age, and she has been there ever so long!”
“How soon do you go back to school, Phæbe ?”
“In little more than a fortnight, I suppose; the holidays will be over then, and I am sure I'll not be sorry, for it is horribly dull at Dovercourt. Such a melancholy Christmas, and such a wretched New Year!”
“ We could scarcely wish it to be otherwise, Phæbe; our great loss is so very recent. And it falls more heavily upon you
than upon me, for it takes from you your natural protectors, just as you are beginning to need them most. Besides, I am a man, and out in the world.”
“Ah! girls always get the worst of it! And they mustn't do this, and they mustn't do that; and butter mustn't melt in their mouths! I wish, with all my heart, I were not a girl!”
“But as such wishing is in vain, you had better reconcile yourself to your girlhood, and also try to make the very best of it. Now, Phæbe, you will not permit me to be any longer your brother, but I can never help feeling that I am really nearer to you than any one else living, and I should like to know before I go away,-it may be many months before I see Dovercourt again,-if you have planned anything for the future.”
“I am going back to school- I told you so; I must get finished, mustn't I?"
“I hardly know what you mean by being 'finished.”” “Finish my education, of course!”
“But Phoebe, the Marchioness only promises for the coming quarter. She thinks you had better go on in the usual way
till Lady-day, and in the meantime make up your mind as to what you will do afterwards."
“Do ? why get finished, of course! Oh, dear! I can't get finished in one quarter, and a short quarter too! I must keep at Miss Primrose's for at least two years longer, and then
“But you cannot afford it, Phæbe ! Grandfather and grandmother's annuity died with them. All they have left behind is yours, but it is very little—it is not much more than 201. a year. You might, perhaps, make some arrangement with your governess to remain as pupil-teacher, or half-boarder, or whatever they call it, that is if you think it well to stay on learning things that may never be of any benefit to you !”
Phæbe tossed her curls, and bridled to perfection. “Halfboarder, indeed! no thank you, Hugh, not if I know it! Why, all the girls, even the little ones, look down on the half-boarders, and they've got to run here, and to run there, and be at everybody's beck and call. Why, Miss Jumps, that's just left, had to wash the third class, and comb their head, and mend their clothes, and hear them their baby-lessons, and take them to practice, teach them their notes, and all that. And she was put last in everything; if anything that we had out of the way ran short, she went without. Why, I've known her to be helping the servants on busy days; and we none of us minded what we said to her, and we many a time set the little ones on to plague her! Half-boarder, indeed ! No, no! not I; and after being on full terms too, and having plenty of pocket-money, and being styled the Queen of the school.”
In her indignation, she ran herself quite out of breath. As soon as she was silent, I said—“Then, Phæbe, if some such arrangement is not to be thought of, how can you remain and get finished,' as you say?"
“I should think the Marchioness would never have the meanness to stop everything,—the money, I mean, -just because they are dead."
“People cannot go on paying pensions to the third and fourth generation! Lady Dovercourt was under obligations to Martin and Margery Wray, and most nobly she repaid them. Neither will she desert you now; that you may not be harassed and vexed in your first sorrow, she makes herself responsible for your quarter's school-bill. And if you would like to learn a business-a nice light, ladylike business, of course, she will gladly pay the premium for you,-a handsome premium too! I really think you cannot expect more of her, Phoebe.”
“And she rolling in riches! And me learning a business! I'm not going to be one of your milliner's girls, or dressmaker's apprentices. I can promise her I will do a little better for myself than that.”
“I do not see what better you can want, Phæbe. I am sorry you are so silly, and will not see what is good for yourself. And it is most ungrateful of you to speak so unkindly of the Marchioness; it was really her money which procured you all you have enjoyed so long. Her liberality to your grandparents enabled them to send you to school. But for her ladyship they would have remained quite poor people at Eaglesmere; but for her, you would not be here now ; you would be alone at Waterhead, looking out for a decent service.”
“No, indeed! I never would do anything menial; it's of no use, Mr. Travis, I must be a lady."
“I have nothing to say against it, if you can be one. But, Phoebe, do not think me unkind if I tell you that you have not the least idea of what a lady is like! Fine clothes and fine airs, and doing nothing menial, will no more make you a lady than a fairyqueen. You may be, though, a very superior person for your station, for you are undoubtedly pretty, and you are what is commonly called genteel looking, neither are you stupid ; but you must be steady and thoughtful, and try to do your duty in that station."
“Is one always to keep in one's station, then ?”
“By no means. As a rule, I fancy those people who have no ambitions, who remain a long life through in one station, are grovelling and sordid in their souls. Besides, I do not believe any one does remain from birth till old age precisely in the same station of life. There is no standing still in this world ; if one does not get on, one goes back. One generation is always higher or lower in estate than the one which preceded it.”
"That cannot be. People of rank are people of rank, and they can't rise any higher. Dukes and duchesses and such like can neither get on nor come down in the world. There's the Queen! Nothing on earth could make her an inch higher than her ancestors, the other kings and queens, who came before her.”
“ Indeed, you mistake, Phæbe. In rank she is perhaps not higher than her predecessors ; but in station she is far above Queen Anne, or that stupidly.good George III. and his unlovely consort. Believe me, our station is very much what we choose to make it
. Providence puts certain materials into our hands, and we do with them either well or ill. If Queen Victoria had been a silly, vain, selfish woman, bent only on her own personal aggrandisement, an unwise ruler, an unloving wife, a foolish mother, her real station would not be that which now is hers. Her people would not love and reverence her; other nations would not acknowledge her supremacy; she would have small influence in the world, and what influence she did possess she would owe solely to her rank. I do not know whether I express myself clearly, but I know what I mean,-in one sense, Queen Victoria cannot climb any higher, because, as sovereign of these realms, she stands on the topmost pinnacle of human grandeur ; but she may still rise in station, she may still make herself a nobler woman, a greater queen, a mightier potentate!"
“And yet, because I am a poor man's child, you scold me when I want to be something different.”
“Indeed I do not, Phæbe. There can be no objection to your rising in the world. The children ought to take a better position than their parents, and we are at liberty to take any station which is ours lawfully. But, my dear girl, the mischief is, that you misunderstand the true practice and principle of rising! No one rises by pretension, by despising that from which he sprung, by vanity, or by love of ease. If you want a higher station than that which is at present assigned to you, you must buy it!—buy it, Phæbe, with patience, hard work, and honest worth. If you try. to get into a more exalted station in any other way, if you trust to your pretty face, to airs and graces and to luck,-you will be disappointed in the end, and instead of rising honourably, happily in the social scale, you may-indeed you may-fall lower than now, in your girlish inexperience, you can imagine.”
“Indeed, Mr. Hugh gives you excellent advice, Phoebe, and I do hope you'll listen to him," interposed Mrs. Miller. “There's no reason why you should not rise, as he says; but quite the other way. I believe in what he says, that if you do not climb, you slide down-hill; there is no standing still for anybody now-a-days. But you must honestly win your position; you can't clutch it or make a dash at it.”
But Phæbe was crying, sobbing out that everybody wanted to put upon her, now that the old folks were gone. We could make nothing further of it, for she refused to enter into rational conversation, but still persisted in declaring that she meant to be a lady, and would do nothing menial. She had somehow caught the phrase, perhaps from advertisements; but I am sure she had no very clear ideas as to what was and what was not “menial.” I felt anxious about her ; but Mrs. Miller would take her back to Southchester, when the time came, and explain her true position to
the Misses Primrose, who would of course understand that existing arrangements terminated at Lady-day. And surely they were the best persons to advise Phæbe, for they best knew her capabilities, and ought to know her disposition.
But Phoebe protested—“And then it will get whispered about in the school that I am leaving because I am poor! and I shall be looked down upon, and have ill-natured things said to me, and they'll pay me back for any little spites I may have shown them."
“Upon my word, Phæbe," I said, “I think the sooner you leave your school the better! I have heard many people speak ill of ladies' boarding schools, but I never thought they were as harmful as, by your showing, they are. You seem to have learned all sorts of littlenesses since you went to Southchester.”
“Indeed, it has not improved her,” said Mrs. Miller. never used to have these foolish, uppish notions. I don't believe in these big schools, where girls of all sorts are herded together, to corrupt each other!—to say the least of it, to put nonsense into each other's heads. There's a lot of money spent, and precious time spent; and what is there to show for it? What solid good has Phæbe gained, I should like to know ? ”
“Plenty, Mrs. Miller !” replied the damsel, with spirit. “I dare say I shall forget a good deal of heavy things, such as I do not care much about, a good deal quicker than I learnt them. I don't pretend to have a taste for history, and geography, and chronology, and the use of the globes—which I don't believe are of any mortal use whatever-like that book-worm, Sarah Muggeridge, who is going to be a governess. But I have learned to paint flowers, and to do heads in chalks, and to play on the piano, and to sing, and to valse the valse à deux-temps, and I know how to enter a room, and how to sit gracefully, and all that kind of thing."
Poor Phoebe ! she thought she had silenced us, for in very pity I made no reply, and Mrs. Miller shut her lips firmly. She had heard Phæbe stumble and scramble through one or two showy pieces of music—“Airs with variations,” in the Herz style—and the housekeeper knew what good music was. And I had seen the showy flower-painting, and the heads in chalk, which were, alas! of the lowest school of art, if, indeed, they could be said to have any affinity at all with art! As for sitting gracefully—if affectation and airs constituted grace, I must say Phæbe had learned her lesson well.
As I took leave of Phoebe I bade her remember that I was and ever would be her fast friend ; "and though you refuse any longer to be my sister," I said, “I shall still hold myself your brother, as much as if we had had the same parents. And I know the Marchioness will always be kind to you ; she will never forget that you are Martin Wray's granddaughter."