Part 1 out of 8
prepared by Sandra Laythorpe. A web page for Charlotte M Yonge
can be found at www.menorot.com/cmyonge.htm.
THE CLUE OF LIFE.
BY THE AUTHOR OF 'THE HEIR OF REDCLYFFE,' CHARLOTTE M. YONGE.
Who wisdom's sacred prize would win,
Must with the fear of God begin;
Immortal praise and heavenly skill
Have they who know and do His will.
Farewell rewards and fairies,
Good housewives now may say,
For now foul sluts in dairies
May fare as well as they.
An ancient leafless stump of a horse-chesnut stood in the middle of a
dusty field, bordered on the south side by a row of houses of some
pretension. Against this stump, a pretty delicate fair girl of
seventeen, whose short lilac sleeves revealed slender white arms, and
her tight, plain cap tresses of flaxen hair that many a beauty might
have envied, was banging a cocoa-nut mat, chanting by way of
accompaniment in a sort of cadence--
'I have found out a gift for my fur,
I have found where the wood-pigeons breed;
But let me the plunder forbear,
She will say--'
'Hollo, I'll give you a shilling for 'em!' was the unlooked-for
conclusion, causing her to start aside with a slight scream, as there
stood beside her a stout, black-eyed, round-faced lad, his ruddy
cheeks and loutish air showing more rusticity than agreed with his
keen, saucy expression, and mechanic's dress.
'So that's what you call beating a mat,' said he, catching it from
her hands, and mimicking the tender clasp of her little fingers.
'D'ye think it's alive, that you use it so gingerly? Look here!
Give it him well!' as he made it resound against the tree, and emit a
whirlwind of dust. 'Lay it into him with some jolly good song fit to
fetch a stroke home with! Why, I heard my young Lord say, when
Shakspeare was a butcher, he used to make speeches at the calves, as
if they was for a sacrifice, or ever he could lift a knife to 'em.'
'Shakspeare! He as wrote Romeo and Juliet, and all that! He a
butcher! Why, he was a poet!' cried the girl, indignantly.
'If you know better than Lord Fitzjocelyn, you may!' said the boy.
'I couldn't have thought it!' sighed the maiden.
'It's the best of it!' cried the lad, eagerly. 'Why, Charlotte,
don't ye see, he rose hisself. Anybody may rise hisself as has a
mind to it!'
'Yes, I've read that in books said Charlotte. 'You can, men can,
Tom, if you would but educate yourself like Edmund! in the _Old
English Baron_. But then, you know whose son you are. There can't
be no catastrophe--'
'I don't want none,' said Tom. 'We are all equal by birth, so the
orator proves without a doubt, and we'll show it one of these days.
A rare lady I'll make of you yet, Charlotte Arnold.'
'O hush, Tom, I can never be a lady--and I can't stand dawdling here-
-nor you neither. 'Tisn't right to want to be out of our station,
though I do wish I lived in an old castle, where the maidens worked
tapestry, and heard minstrels, never had no stairs to scour. Come,
give me my mats, and thank you kindly!'
'I'll take 'em in,' said Tom, shouldering them. ''Tis breakfast-
hour, so I thought I'd just run up and ax you when my young Lord goes
up to Oxford.
'He is gone,' said Charlotte; 'he was here yesterday to take leave of
missus. Mr. James goes later--'
'Gone!' cried Tom. 'If he didn't say he'd come and see me at Mr.
'Did you want to speak to him?'
'I wanted to see him particular. There's a thing lays heavy on my
mind. You see that place down in Ferny dell--there's a steep bank
down to the water. Well, my young Lord was very keen about building
a kind of steps there in the summer, and he and I settled the stones,
and I was to cement 'em. By comes Mr. Frost, and finds faults, what
I thought he'd no call to; so I flings down my trowel, and wouldn't
go on for he! I was so mortal angry, I would not go back to the
work; and I believe my Lord forgot it--and then he went back to
college; and Frampton and Gervas, they put on me, and you know how
'twas I come away from Ormersfield. I was not going to say a word to
one of that lot! but if I could see Lord Fitzjocelyn, I'd tell him
they stones arn't fixed; and if the frost gets into 'em, there'll be
a pretty go next time there's a tolerablish weight! But there--it is
his own look-out! If he never thought it worth his while to keep his
promise, and come and see me--'
'O Tom! that isn't right! He only forgot--I hear Mrs. Beckett
telling him he'd forget his own head if it wasn't fixed on, and Mr.
James is always at him.'
'Forget! Aye, there's nothing gentlefolks forget like poor folks.
But I've done with he! Let him look out--I kept my promises to him
long enough, but if he don't keep his'n--'
'For shame, for shame, Tom! You don't mean it!' cried Charlotte.
'But, oh!' with a different tone, 'give me the mat! There's the old
Lord and Mr. Poynings riding down the terrace!'
'I ain't ashamed of nothing!' said the lad, proudly; and as Charlotte
snatched away the mats, and vanished like a frightened hare, he
stalked along like a village Hampden, muttering, 'The old tyrant
shall see whether I'm to be trampled on!' and with both hands in his
pockets, he gazed straight up into the face of the grave elderly
gentleman, who never even perceived him. He could merely bandy
glances with Poynings, the groom, and he was so far from indifferent
that he significantly lifted up the end of his whip. Nothing could
more have gratified Tom, who retorted with a grimace and murmur,
'Don't you wish you may catch me? You jealous syc--what is the word,
sick of uncles or aunts, was it, that the orator called 'em? He'd
say I'd a good miss of being one of that sort, and that my young Lord
there opened my eyes in time. No better than the rest of 'em--'
And the clock striking eight, he quickened his pace to return to his
work. He had for the two or three previous years been nominally
under the gardener at Ormersfield, but really a sort of follower and
favourite to the young heir, Lord Fitzjocelyn--a position which had
brought on him dislike from the superior servants, who were not
propitiated by his independent and insubordinate temper. Faults on
every side had led to his dismissal; but Lord Fitzjocelyn had placed
him at an ironmonger's shop in the town of Northwold, where he had
been just long enough to become accessible to the various temptations
of a lad in such a situation.
Charlotte sped hastily round the end of the block of buildings,
hurried down the little back garden, and flew breathlessly into her
own kitchen, as a haven of refuge, but she found a tall, stiff
starched, elderly woman standing just within the door, and heard her
'Well! as I said, 'tis no concern of mine; only I thought it the part
of a friend to give you a warning, when I seen it with my own eyes!-
Ah! here she is!' as Charlotte dropped into a chair. 'Yes, yes,
Miss, you need not think to deceive me; I saw you from Miss Mercy's
'Saw what?' faintly exclaimed Charlotte.
'You know well enough,' was the return. 'You may think to blind Mrs.
Beckett here, but I know what over good-nature to young girls comes
to. Pretty use to make of your fine scholarship, to be encouraging
followers and sweethearts, at that time in the morning too!'
'Speak up, Charlotte,' said the other occupant of the room, a
pleasant little brisk woman, with soft brown, eyes, a clear pale
skin, and a face smooth, in spite of nearly sixty years; 'speak up,
and tell Mrs. Martha the truth, that you never encouraged no one.'
The girl's face was all one flame, but she rose up, and clasping her
hands together, exclaimed--'Me encourage! I never thought of what
Mrs. Martha says! I don't know what it is all about!'
'Here, Jane Beckett,' cried Mrs. Martha; 'd'ye see what 'tis to
vindicate her! Will you take her word against mine, that she's been
gossiping this half hour with that young rogue as was turned off at
'Tom Madison! cried the girl, in utter amaze. 'Oh! Mrs. Martha!'
'Well! I can't stop!' said Martha. 'I must get Miss Faithfull's
breakfast! but if you was under me, Miss Charlotte, I can tell you it
would be better for you! You'll sup sorrow yet, and you'll both
recollect my advice, both of you.'
Wherewith the Cassandra departed, and Charlotte, throwing her apron
over her face, began to cry and sob piteously.
'My dear! what is it now? exclaimed her kind companion, pulling down
her apron, and trying to draw down first one, then the other of the
arms which persisted in veiling the crimson face. 'Surely you don't
think missus or I would mistrust you, or think you'd take up with the
likes of him!'
'How could she be so cruel--so spiteful,' sobbed Charlotte, 'when he
only came to ask one question, and did a good turn for me with the
mats. I never thought of such a thing. Sweetheart, indeed! So
cruel of her!'
'Bless me!' said Jane, 'girls used to think it only civility to say
they had a sweetheart!'
'Don't, Mrs. Beckett! I hate the word! I don't want no such thing!
I won't never speak to Tom Madison again, if such constructions is to
be put on it!'
'Well, after all, Charlotte dear, that will be the safest way. You
are young yet, and best not to think of settling, special if you
aren't sure of one that is steady and religious, and you'd better
keep yourself up, and not get a name for gossiping--though there's no
harm done yet, so don't make such a work. Bless me, if I don't hear
his lordship's voice! He ain't never come so early!'
'Yes, he is,' said Charlotte, recovering from her sobs; 'he rode up
as I came in.'
'Well, to be sure, he is come to breakfast! I hope nothin's amiss
with my young Lord! I must run up with a cup and plate, and you,
make the place tidy, in case Mr. Poynings comes in. You'd better run
into the scullery and wash your face; 'tis all tears! You're a
terrible one to cry, Charlotte!' with a kind, cheering smile and
Mrs. Beckett bustled off, leaving Charlotte to restore herself to the
little handy piece of household mechanism which kind, patient,
motherly training had rendered her.
Charlotte Arnold had been fairly educated at a village school, and
tenderly brought up at home till left an orphan, when she had been
taken into her present place. She had much native refinement and
imagination, which, half cultivated, produced a curious mixture of
romance and simplicity. Her insatiable taste for reading was
meritorious in the eyes of Mrs. Beckett, who, unlearned herself,
thought any book better than 'gadding about,' and, after hearing her
daily portion of the Bible, listened to the most adventurous
romances, with a sense of pleasure and duty in keeping the girl to
her book. She loved the little fragile orphan, taught her, and had
patience with her, and trusted the true high sound principle which
she recognised in Charlotte, amid much that she could not fathom, and
set down alternately to the score of scholarship and youth.
Taste, modesty, and timidity were guards to Charlotte. A broad stare
was terror to her, and she had many a fictitious horror, as well as
better-founded ones. Truly she said, she hated the broad words
Martha had used. One who craved a true knight to be twitted with a
sweetheart! Martha and Tom Madison were almost equally distasteful,
as connected with such a reproach; and the little maiden drew into
herself, promenaded her fancy in castles and tournaments, kept under
Jane's wing, and was upheld by her as a sensible, prudent girl.
AN OLD SCHOOLMISTRESS.
I praise thee, matron, and thy due
Is praise, heroic praise and true;
With admiration I behold
Thy gladness unsubdued and bold.
Thy looks and gestures all present
The picture of a life well spent;
Our human nature throws away
Its second twilight and looks gay.
Unconscious of Charlotte's flight and Tom's affront, the Earl of
Ormersfield rode along Dynevor Terrace--a row of houses with handsome
cemented fronts, tragic and comic masks alternating over the
downstairs windows, and the centre of the block adorned with a
pediment and colonnade; but there was an air as if something ailed
the place: the gardens were weedy, the glass doors hazy, the cement
stained and scarred, and many of the windows closed and dark, like
eyes wanting speculation, or with merely the dreary words 'To be let'
enlivening their blank gloom. At the house where Charlotte had
vanished, he drew his rein, and opened the gate--not one of the rusty
ones--he entered the garden, where all was trim and fresh, the shadow
of the house lying across the sward, and preserving the hoar-frost,
which, in the sunshine, was melting into diamond drops on the
lingering China roses.
Without ring or knock, he passed into a narrow, carpetless vestibule,
unadorned except by a beautiful blue Wedgewood vase, and laying down
hat and whip, mounted the bare staircase, long since divested of all
paint or polish. Avoiding the door of the principal room, he opened
another at the side, and stood in a flood of sunshine, pouring in
from the window, which looked over all the roofs of the town, to the
coppices and moorlands of Ormersfield. On the bright fire
sung a kettle, a white cat purred on the hearth, a canary twittered
merrily in the window, and the light smiled on a languishing Dresden
shepherdess and her lover on the mantelpiece, and danced on the
ceiling, reflected from a beautifully chased silver cream-jug--an
inconsistent companion for the homely black teapot and willow-
patterned plates, though the two cups of rare Indian porcelain were
not unworthy of it. The furniture was the same mixture of the
ordinary and the choice, either worn and shabby, or such as would
suit a virtuoso, but the whole arranged with taste and care that made
the effect bright, pleasant, and comfortable. Lord Ormersfield stood
on the hearth-rug waiting. His face was that of one who had learnt
to wait, more considerate than acute, and bearing the stamp both of
toil and suffering, as if grief had taken away all mobility of
expression, and left a stern, thoughtful steadfastness.
Presently a lady entered the room. Her hair was white as snow, and
she could not have seen less than seventy-seven years; but beauty was
not gone from her features--smiles were still on her lips, brightness
in her clear hazel eyes, buoyancy in her tread, and alertness and
dignity in her tall, slender, unbent figure. There was nothing so
remarkable about her as the elasticity as well as sweetness of her
whole look and bearing, as if, while she had something to love,
nothing could be capable of crushing her.
'You here!' she exclaimed, holding out her hand to her guest. 'You
are come to breakfast.'
'Thank you; I wished to see you without interrupting your day's work.
Have you many scholars at present?'
'Only seven, and three go into school at Easter. Jem and Clara, wish
me to undertake no more, but I should sorely miss the little fellows.
I wish they may do me as much credit as Sydney Calcott. He wrote
himself to tell me of his success.'
'I am glad to hear it. He is a very promising young man.'
'I tell him I shall come to honour, as the old dame who taught him to
spell. My scholars may make a Dr. Busby of me in history.'
'I am afraid your preferment will depend chiefly on James and young
'Nay, Louis tells me that he is going to read wonderfully hard; and
if he chooses, he can do more than even Sydney Calcott.'
'If!' said the Earl.
Jane here entered with another cup and plate, and Lord Ormersfield
sat down to the breakfast-table. After some minutes' pause he said,
'Have you heard from Peru?'
'Not by this mail. Have you?'
'Yes, I have. Mary is coming home.'
'Mary!' she cried, almost springing up--'Mary Ponsonby? This is good
news--unless,' as she watched his grave face, 'it is her health that
'It is. She has consulted the surgeon of the Libra, a very able man,
who tells her that there is absolute need of good advice and a colder
climate; and Ponsonby has consented to let her and her daughter come
home in the Libra. I expect them in February.'
'My poor Mary! But she will get better away from him. I trust he is
'Not he,' said Lord Ormersfield.
'Dear, dear Mary! I had scarcely dared to hope to see her again,'
cried the old lady, with tears in her eyes. 'I hope she will be
allowed to be with us, not kept in London with his sister. London
does her no good.'
'The very purport of my visit,' said Lord Ormersfield, 'was to ask
whether you could do me the favour to set aside your scholars, and
enable me to receive Mrs. Ponsonby at home.'
'Thank you--oh, thank you. There is nothing I should like better,
but I must consider--'
'Clara would find a companion in the younger Mary in the holidays,
and if James would make Fitzjocelyn his charge, it would complete the
obligation. It would be by far the best arrangement for Mary's
comfort, and it would be the greatest satisfaction to me to see her
with you at Ormersfield.'
'I believe it would indeed,' said the old lady, more touched than the
outward manner of the Earl seemed to warrant. 'I would--you know I
would do my very best that you and Mary should be comfortable
together'--and her voice trembled--'but you see I cannot promise all
at once. I must see about these little boys. I must talk to Jem.
In short, you must not be disappointed'--and she put her hands before
her face, trying to laugh, but almost overcome.
'Nay, I did not mean to press you,' said Lord Ormersfield, gently;
'but I thought, since James has had the fellowship and Clara has been
at school, that you wished to give up your pupils.'
'So I do,' said the lady, but still not yielding absolutely.
'For the rest, I am very anxious that James should accept Fitzjocelyn
as his pupil. I have always considered their friendship as the best
hope, and other plans have had so little success, that--'
'I'm not going to hear Louis abused!' she exclaimed, gaily.
'Yes,' said Lord Ormersfield, with a look nearly approaching a smile,
'you are the last person I ought to invite, if I wish to keep your
'I wish there were any one else to spoil him!'
'For his sake, then, come and make Ormersfield cheerful. It will be
far better for him.'
'And for you, to see more of Jem,' she added. 'If he were yours,
what would you say to such hours?'
The last words were aimed at a young man who came briskly into the
room, and as he kissed her, and shook hands with the Earl, answered
in a quick, bright tone, 'Shocking, aye. All owing to sitting up
'Reading?' said the Earl.
'Reading,' he answered, with a sort of laughing satisfaction in
dashing aside the approval expressed in the query, 'but not quite as
you suppose. See here,' as he held up maliciously a railway novel.
'I am afraid I know where it came from,' said Lord Ormersfield.
'Exactly so,' said James. 'It was Fitzjocelyn's desertion of it that
excited my curiosity.'
'Indeed. I should have thought his desertions far too common to
excite any curiosity.'
'By no means. He always has a reason.'
'A plausible one.'
'More than plausible,' cried James, excitement sparkling in his vivid
black eyes. 'It happens that this is the very book that you would
most rejoice to see distasteful to him--low morality, false
principles, morbid excitement, not a line that ought to please a
'Yet it has interest enough for you.'
'I am not Fitzjocelyn.'
'You know how to plead for him.'
'I speak simple truth,' bluntly answered James, running his hand
through his black hair, to the ruin of the morning smoothness, so
that it, as well as the whole of his quick, dark countenance seemed
to have undergone a change from sunny south to stormy north in the
few moments since his first appearance.
After a short silence, Lord Ormersfield turned to him, saying 'I have
been begging a favour of my aunt, and I have another to ask of you,'
and repeating his explanation, begged him to undertake the tutorship
of his son.
'I shall not be at liberty at Easter,' said James, 'I have all but
undertaken some men at Oxford.'
'Oh, my dear Jem!' exclaimed the old lady, 'is that settled beyond
'I'm not going to throw them over.'
'Then I shall hope for you at Midsummer,' said the Earl.
'We shall see how things stand,' he returned, ungraciously.
'I shall write to you,' said Lord Ormersfield, still undaunted, and
soon after taking his leave.
'Cool!' cried James, as soon as he was gone. 'To expect you to give
up your school at his beck, to come and keep house for him as long as
it may suit him!'
'Nay, Jem, he knew how few boys I have, and that I intended to give
them up. You don't mean to refuse Louis?' she said, imploringly.
'I shall certainly not take him at Easter. It would be a mere farce
intended to compensate to us for giving up the school, and I'll not
lend myself to it while I can have real work.'
'At Midsummer, then. You know he will never let Louis spend a long
vacation without a tutor.'
'I hate to be at Ormersfield,' proceeded James, vehemently, 'to see
Fitzjocelyn browbeaten and contradicted every moment, and myself set
up for a model. I may steal a horse, while he may not look over the
wall! Did you observe the inconsistency?--angry with the poor fellow
first for having the book, and then for not reading the whole, while
it became amiable and praiseworthy in me to burn out a candle over
'Ah! that was my concern. I tell him he would sing another note if
you were his son.'
'I'd soon make him! I would not stand what Louis does. The more he
is set down and sneered at, the more debonnaire he looks, till I
could rave at him for taking it so easily.'
'I hoped you might have hindered them from fretting each other, as
they do so often.'
'I should only be a fresh element of discord, while his lordship will
persist in making me his pattern young man. It makes me hate myself,
especially as Louis is such an unaccountable fellow that he won't.'
'I am sorry you dislike the plan so much.'
'Do you mean that you wish for it, grandmamma? cried he, turning full
round on her with an air of extreme amazement. 'If you do, there's
an end of it; but I thought you valued nothing more than an
'Nor would I give it up on any account,' said she. 'I do not imagine
this could possibly last for more than a few months, or a year at the
utmost. But you know, dear Jem, I would do nothing you did not
'That's nothing to the purpose,' replied James. 'Though it is to be
considered whether Ormersfield is likely to be the best preparation
for Clara's future life. However, I see you wish it--'
'I confess that I do, for a few months at least, which need interfere
neither with Clara nor with you. I have not seen Lord Ormersfield
so eager for many years, and I should be very sorry to prevent those
two from being comfortably together in the old home--'
'And can't that be without a chaperon?' exclaimed James, laughing.
'Why, his lordship is fifty-five, and she can't be much less. That
is a good joke.'
'It is not punctilio,' said his grandmother, looking distressed. 'It
is needful to be on the safe side with such a man as Mr. Ponsonby.
My fear is that he may send her home with orders not to come near
'She used to be always at Ormersfield in the old times.'
'Yes, when my sister was alive. Ah! you were too young to know about
those matters then. The fact was, that things had come to such a
pass from Mr. Ponsonby's neglect and unkindness, that Lord
Ormersfield, standing in the place of her brother, thought it right
to interfere. His mother went to London with him, to bring poor Mary
and her little girl back to Ormersfield, and there they were till my
sister's death, when of course they could not remain. Mr. Ponsonby
had just got his appointment as British envoy in Peru, and wished her
to go with him. It was much against Lord Ormersfield's advice, but
she thought it her duty, poor dear. I believe he positively hates
Lord Ormersfield; and as if for a parting unkindness, he left his
little girl at school with orders to spend her holidays with his
sister, and never to be with us.'
'That accounts for it!' said James. 'I never knew all this! nor why
we were so entirely cut off from Mary Ponsonby. I wonder what she is
now! She was a droll sturdy child in those days! We used to call
her Downright Dunstable! She was almost of the same age as Louis,
and a great deal stouter, and used to fight for him and herself too.
Has not she been out in Peru?'
'Yes, she went out at seventeen. I believe she is an infinite
comfort to her mother.'
'Poor Mary! Well, we children lived in the middle of a tragedy, and
little suspected it! By the bye, what relation are the Ponsonbys to
'Mrs. Ponsonby is my niece. My dear sister, Mary--'
'Married Mr. Raymond--yes, I know! I'll make the whole lucid; I'll
draw up a pedigree, and Louis shall learn it.' And with elaborate
neatness he wrote as follows, filling in the dates from the first
leaf of an old Bible, after his grandmother had left the room. The
task, lightly undertaken, became a mournful one, and as he read over
his performance, his countenance varied from the gentleness of regret
to a look of sarcastic pride, as though he felt that the world had
dealt hardly by him, and yet disdained to complain.
Pendragons and Dynevors innumerable
Roland Dynevor, d. 1793
1. 2. 3.
- - -
Catharine, m. James Frost Dynevor, Esq. Elizabeth, m. Jocelyn, 3rd Earl of Ormersfield Mary, m. Ch. Raymond, Esq.
b. 1770 b. 1765 b. 1772 b. 1760 b. 1774 d.1802
d. 1816 d. 1835 d. 1833 d. 1800
-------------------------------------------------- Jocelyn, m. Louisa Villars, Mary, m. Robert Ponsonby Esq.,
Henry Roland m. Frances Preston Oliver J. Frost 4th Earl of b. 1805 b. 1796 British Envoy
Frost Dynevor b. 1802 Dynevor Ormersfield d. 1826 in Peru.
b. 1794 d. 1832 b. 1797 b. 1792
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
James Roland Frances Catharine Oliver Clara Louis Fitzjocelyn Mary Ponsonby
Frost Dynevor b. 1826 b. 1827 b. 1829 b. 1831 Viscount Fitzjocelyn b. 1826
b. 1824 d. 1832 d. 1832 d. 1832 b. 1826.
Fellow of St.
'Since 1816,' muttered James, as he finished. 'Thirty years of
drudgery! When shall I be able to relieve her? Ha! O. J. F.
Dynevor, Esquire, if it were you who were coming from Peru, you would
find a score to settle!'
He ran down stairs to assist his grandmother in the Latin lessons of
her little school, the usual employment of his vacations.
Catharine Dynevor had begun life with little prospect of spending
nearly half of it as mistress of a school.
Her father was the last male of the Dynevors of Cheveleigh--a family
mounting up to the days of the Pendragons--and she had been made to
take the place of an eldest son, inheriting the extensive landed
property on condition that her name and arms should be assumed in
case of her marriage. Her choice was one of the instances in which
her affections had the mastery over her next strongest
characteristic, family pride. She married a highly-educated and
wealthy gentleman, of good family, but of mercantile connexions, such
as her father, if living, would have disdained. Her married life
was, however, perfectly unclouded, her ample means gave her the power
of dispensing joy, and her temperament was so blithe and unselfish
that no pleasure ever palled upon her. Cheveleigh was a proverb for
hospitality, affording unfailing fetes for all ages, full of a
graceful ease and freedom that inspired enjoyment.
Mr. Frost Dynevor was a man of refined taste, open-handed even to
extravagance, liberal in all his appointments, and gratifying to the
utmost his love of art and decoration, while his charities and
generous actions were hearty and lavish enough to satisfy even his
Joined with all this was a strong turn for speculations. When the
mind has once become absorbed in earthly visions of wealth and
prosperity, the excitement exercises such a fascination over the
senses that the judgment loses balance. Bold assumptions are taken
as certainties, and made the foundation of fresh fabrics--the very
power of discerning between fact and possibility departs, and, in
mere good-will, men, honest and honourable at heart, risk their own
and their neighbours' property, and ruin their character and good
name, by the very actions most foreign to to their nature, ere it had
fallen under the strong delusion.
Mr. Frost Dynevor had the misfortune to live in a country rich in
mineral wealth, and to have a brother-in-law easily guided, and with
more love of figures than power of investigating estimates on a large
scale. Mines were set on foot, companies established, and buildings
commenced, and the results were only to be paralleled by those of the
chalybeate springs discovered by Mr. Dynevor at the little town of
Northwold, which were pronounced by his favourite hanger-on to be
destined 'literally to cut the throat of Bath and Cheltenham.'
Some towns are said to have required the life of a child ere their
foundations could be laid. Many a speculation has swallowed a life
and fortune before its time for thriving has come. Mr. Frost Dynevor
and Lord Ormersfield were the foremost victims to the Cheveleigh iron
foundries and the Northwold baths. The close of the war brought a
commercial crisis that their companies could not stand; and Mr.
Dynevor's death spared him from the sight of the crash, which his
talent and sagacity might possibly have averted. He had shown no
misgivings, but, no sooner was he removed from the helm, than the
vessel was found on the brink of destruction. Enormous sums had been
sunk without tangible return, and the liabilities of the companies
far surpassed anything that they had realized.
Lord Ormersfield was stunned and helpless. Mrs. Dynevor had but one
idea--namely, to sacrifice everything to clear her husband's name.
Her sons were mere boys, and the only person who proved himself able
to act or judge was the heir of Ormersfield, then about four-and-
twenty, who came forward with sound judgment and upright
dispassionate sense of justice to cope with the difficulties and
clear away the involvements.
He joined his father in mortgaging land, sacrificing timber, and
reducing the establishment, so as to set the estate in the way of
finally becoming free, though at the expense of rigid economy and
Cheveleigh could not have been saved, even had the heiress not been
willing to yield everything to satisfy the just claims of the
creditors. She was happy when she heard that it would suffice, and
that no one would be able to accuse her husband of having wronged
him. But for this, she would hardly have submitted to retain what
her nephew succeeded in securing for her--namely, an income of about
150 pounds per annum, and the row of houses called Dynevor Terrace,
one of the building ventures at Northwold. This was the sole
dependence with which she and her sons quitted the home of their
forefathers. 'Never mind, mother,' said Henry, kissing her, to
prevent the tears from springing, 'home is wherever we are together!'
'Never fear, mother,' echoed Oliver, with knitted brow and clenched
hands, 'I will win it back.'
Oliver was a quiet lad, of diligent, methodical habits, and willingly
accepted a clerkship in a mercantile house, which owed some
obligations to his father. At the end of a couple of years he was
sent to reside in South America; and his parting words to his mother
were--'When you see me again, Cheveleigh shall be yours.'
'Oh, my boy, take care. Remember, 'They that haste to be rich shall
not be innocent.''
That was the last time she had seen Oliver.
Her great object was to maintain herself independently and to
complete Henry's education as a gentleman. With this view she took
up her abode in the least eligible of her houses at Northwold, and,
dropping the aristocratic name which alone remained of her heiress-
ship, opened a school for little boys, declaring that she was
rejoiced to recall the days when Henry and Oliver wore frocks and
learnt to spell. If any human being could sweeten the Latin Grammar,
it was Mrs. Frost, with the motherliness of a dame, and the
refinement of a lady, unfailing sympathy and buoyant spirits, she
loved each urchin, and each urchin loved her, till she had become a
sort of adopted grandmamma to all Northwold and the neighbourhood.
Henry went to Oxford. He gained no scholarship, took no honours, but
he fell neither into debt nor disgrace; he led a goodnatured easy
life, and made a vast number of friends; and when he was not staying
with them, he and his mother were supremely happy together. He
walked with her, read to her, sang to her, and played with her
pupils. He had always been brought up as the heir--petted, humoured,
and waited on--a post which he filled with goodhumoured easy grace,
and which he continued to fill in the same manner, though he had no
one to wait on him but his mother, and her faithful servant Jane
Beckett. Years passed on, and they seemed perfectly satisfied with
their division of labour,--Mrs. Frost kept school, and Henry played
the flute, or shot over the Ormersfield property.
If any one remonstrated, Henry was always said to be waiting for a
government appointment, which was to be procured by the Ormersfield
interest. More for the sake of his mother than of himself, the
Ormersfield interest was at length exerted, and the appointment was
conferred on him. The immediate consequence was his marriage with
the first pretty girl he met, poorer than himself, and all the
Ormersfield interest failed to make his mother angry with him.
The cholera of 1832 put an end to poor Henry's desultory life. His
house, in a crowded part of London, was especially doomed by the
deadly sickness; and out of the whole family the sole survivors were
a little girl of ten months old, and a boy of seven years, the latter
of whom was with his grandmother at Northwold.
Mrs. Frost was one of the women of whom affection makes unconscious
heroines. She could never sink, as long as there was aught to need
her love and care; and though Henry had been her darling, the very
knowledge that his orphans had no one but herself to depend on,
seemed to brace her energies with fresh life. They were left
entirely on her hands, her son Oliver made no offers of assistance.
He had risen, so as to be a prosperous merchant at Lima, and he wrote
with regularity and dutifulness, but he had never proposed coming to
England, and did not proffer any aid in the charge of his brother's
children. If she had expected anything from him, she did not say so;
she seldom spoke of him, but never without tenderness, and usually as
her 'poor Oliver,' and she abstained from teaching her grandchildren
either to look to their rich uncle or to mourn over their lost
inheritance. Cheveleigh was a winter evening's romance with no one
but Jane Beckett; and the grandmother always answered the children's
inquiries by bidding them prove their ancient blood by resolute
independence, and by that true dignity which wealth could neither
give nor take away.
Of that dignity, Mrs. Frost was a perfect model. A singular compound
of the gentle and the lofty, of tenderness and independence, she had
never ceased to be the Northwold standard of the 'real lady,' too
mild and gracious to be regarded as proud and poor, and yet too
dignified for any liberty to be attempted, her only fault, that touch
of pride, so ladylike and refined that it was kept out of sight, and
never offended, and everything else so sweet and winning that there
was scarcely a being who did not love, as well as honour her, for the
cheerfulness and resignation that had borne her through her many
trials. Her trustful spirit and warm heart had been an elixir of
youth, and had preserved her freshness and elasticity long after her
sister and brother-in-law at Ormersfield had grown aged and sunk into
the grave, and even her nephew was fast verging upon more than middle
LOUIS LE DEBONNAIRE.
I walked by his garden and saw the wild brier,
The thorn and the thistle grow broader and higher.
Ormersfield Park was extensive, ranging into fine broken ground,
rocky and overgrown with brushwood; but it bore the marks of
retrenchment; there was hardly a large timber tree on the estate,
enclosures had been begun and deserted, and the deer had been sold
off to make room for farmers' cattle, which grazed up to the very
The house was of the stately era of Anne, with a heavy portico and
clumsy pediment on the garden side, all the windows of the suite of
rooms opening on a broad stone terrace, whence steps descended to the
lawn, neatly kept, but sombre, for want of openings in the
It was early March, and a lady wrapped in a shawl was seated on the
terrace, enjoying the mild gleam of spring, and the freshness of the
sun-warmed air, which awoke a smile of welcome as it breathed on her
faded cheek, and her eyes gazed on the scene, in fond recognition.
It had been the home of Mrs. Ponsonby's childhood; and the slopes of
turf and belts of dark ilex were fraught with many a recollection of
girlish musings, youthful visions, and later, intervals of
tranquillity and repose. After fourteen years spent in South
America, how many threads she had to take up again! She had been as
a sister to her cousin, Lord Ormersfield, and had shared more of his
confidence than any other person during their earlier years, but
afterwards their intercourse had necessarily been confined to brief
and guarded letters. She had found him unchanged in his kindness to
herself, and she was the more led to ponder on the grave, stern
impassiveness of his manner to others, and to try to understand the
tone of mind that it indicated.
She recalled him as he had been in his first youth--reserved,
sensible, thoughtful, but with the fire of ambition burning strongly
within, and ever and anon flashing forth vividly, repressed at once
as too demonstrative, but filling her with enthusiastic admiration.
She remembered him calmly and manfully meeting the shock of the
failure, that would, he knew, fetter and encumber him through life--
how resolutely he had faced the difficulties, how unselfishly he had
put himself out of the question, how uprightly he had dealt by the
creditors, how considerately by his father and aunt, how wise and
moderate his proceedings had been throughout. She recollected how
she had shared his aspirations, and gloried in his consistent and
prudent course, without perceiving what sorrow had since taught her-
that ambition was to him what pleasure was to other young men. What
had it not been to her when that ambition began to be gratified! when
he had become a leading man in Parliament, and by-and-by held office.
There, a change came over the spirit of her dream; and though she
sighed, she could not but smile at the fair picture that rose before
her, of a young girl of radiant loveliness, her golden curls drooping
over her neck, and her eyes blue as the starry veronica by the hedge
side, smiling in the sunshine. She thought of the glances of proud
delight that her cousin had stolen at her, to read in her face, that
his Louisa was more than all he had told her. Little was needed to
make her love the sweet, caressing young creature who had thrown her
arms round her, and told her that she saw it was all nonsense to tell
her she was such a good, grave, dreadful cousin Mary! Yet there had
been some few misgivings! So short an acquaintance! Her cousin too
busy for more than being bewitched by the lovely face! The Villiers
family, so gay and fashionable! Might not all have been foreseen?
And yet, of what use would foresight have been? The gentleman was
deeply attached, and the lady's family courted the match, the
distinction he had won, atoning for his encumbered fortune.
Other scenes arose on her memory--Louisa, a triumphant beauty, living
on the homage she received, all brilliance, grace, and enjoyment. But
there was a darkening background which grew more prominent. Poor
Louisa had little wisdom by nature, and her education had been solely
directed to enable her to shine in the world, not to render her fit
for the companionship of a man of domestic tastes, accustomed to the
society of superior women. There was nothing to fall back upon,
nothing to make a home, she was listless and weary whenever gaiety
failed her--and he, disappointed and baffled, too unbending to draw
her out, too much occupied to watch over her, yielded to her tastes,
and let her pursue her favourite enjoyments unchecked.
A time had come when childish vanity and frivolity were verging on
levity and imprudence. Expostulations fell powerless on her
shallowness. Painful was the remembrance of the deprecating roguish
glance of the beautiful eyes, and the coaxing caresses with which she
kissed away the lecture, and made promises, only to forget them. She
was like the soulless Undine, with her reckless gaiety and sweetness,
so loving and childish that there was no being displeased with her,
so innocent and devoid of all art or guile in her wilfulness, that
her faults could hardly bear a harsher name than follies.
Again, Mrs. Ponsonby thought of the days when she herself had been
left to stay with her old uncle and aunt. In this very house while
her husband was absent abroad, when she had assisted them to receive
the poor young wife, sent home in failing health. She thought of the
sad weeks, so melancholy in the impossibility of making an
impression, or of leading poor Louisa from her frivolities, she
recalled the sorrow of hearing her build on future schemes of
pleasure, the dead blank when her prattle on them failed, the tedium
of deeper subjects, and yet the bewitching sweetness overpowering all
vexation at her exceeding silliness. Though full one-and-twenty
years had passed, still the tears thrilled warm into Mrs. Ponsonby's
eyes at the thought of Louisa's fond clinging to her, in spite of
many an admonition and even exertion of authority, for she alone
dared to control the spoilt child's self-will; and had far more power
than the husband, who seemed to act as a check and restraint, and
whose presence rendered her no longer easy and natural. One
confidence had explained the whole.
'You know, Mary dear, I always was so much afraid of him! If I had
had my own way, I know who it would have been; but there were mamma
and Anna Maria always saying how fortunate I was, and that he would
be Prime Minister, and all the rest. Oh! I was far too young and
foolish for him. He should have married a sober body, such as you,
Mary! Why did he not? She wished she had never teased him by going
out so much, and letting people talk nonsense; he had been very kind,
and she was not half good enough for him. That confession, made to
him, would have been balm for ever; but she had not resolution for
the effort, and the days slid away till the worst fears were
fulfilled. Nay, were they the worst fears? Was there not an
unavowed sense that it was safer that she should die, while innocent
of all but wayward folly, than be left to perils which she was so
little able to resist?
The iron expression of grief on her husband's face had forbidden all
sympathy, all attempt at consolation. He had returned at once to his
business in London, there to find that poor Louisa's extravagance had
equalled her folly, and that he, whose pride it had been to redeem
his paternal property, was thrown back by heavy debts on his own
account. This had been known to Mrs. Ponsonby, but by no word from
him; he had never permitted the most distant reference to his wife,
and yet, with inconsistency betraying his passionate love, he had
ordered one of the most beautiful and costly monuments that art could
execute, for her grave at Ormersfield, and had sent brief but
explicit orders that, contrary to all family precedent, his infant
should bear no name but Louis.
On this boy Mrs. Ponsonby had founded all her hopes of a renewal of
happiness for her cousin; but when she had left England there had
been little amalgamation between the volatile animated boy, and his
grave unbending father. She could not conjure up any more
comfortable picture of them than the child uneasily perched on his
papa's knee, looking wistfully for a way of escape, and his father
with an air of having lifted him up as a duty, without knowing what
to do with him or to say to him.
At her earnest advice, the little fellow had been placed as a boarder
with his great aunt, Mrs. Frost, when his grandmother's death had
deprived him of all that was homelike at Ormersfield, He had been
with her till he was old enough for a public school, and she spoke of
him as if he were no less dear to her than her own grandchildren; but
she was one who saw no fault in those whom she loved, and Mrs.
Ponsonby had been rendered a little anxious by a certain tone of
dissatisfaction in Lord Ormersfield's curt mention of his son, and
above all by his cold manner of announcing that this was the day when
he would return from Oxford for the Easter vacation.
Could it be that the son was unworthy, or had the father's feelings
been too much chilled ever to warm again, and all home affections
lost in the strife of politics? These had ever since engaged him,
whether in or out of office, leaving little time for society or for
any domestic pursuit.
Her reflections were interrupted by a call of 'Mamma!' and her
daughter came running up the steps. Mary Ponsonby had too wide a
face for beauty, and not slightness enough for symmetry, but nothing
could be more pleasing and trustworthy than the open countenance, the
steady, clear, greenish-brown eyes, the kind, sensible mouth, the
firm chin, broad though rather short forehead, and healthy though not
highly-coloured cheek; and the voice--full, soft, and cheerful--well
agreed with the expression, and always brought gladness and promise
'See, mamma, what we have found for you.'
'Violets! The very purple ones that used to grow on the orchard
'So they did. Mary knew exactly where to look for them,' said Mrs.
Frost, who had followed her up the steps.
'And there is Gervas,' continued Mary; 'so charmed to hear of you,
that we had almost brought him to see you.'
Mrs. Ponsonby declared herself so much invigorated by Ormersfield
air, that she would go to see her old friend the gardener. Mary
hurried to fetch her bonnet, and returned while a panegyric was going
on upon her abilities as maid-of-all-work, in her mother's
difficulties with male housemaids--black and brown--and washerwomen
who rode on horseback in white satin shoes. She looked as if it were
hardly natural that any one but herself should support her mother,
when Mrs. Frost tenderly drew Mrs. Ponsonby's arm into her own; and
it was indeed strange to see the younger lady so frail and broken,
and the elder so strong, vigorous, and active; as they moved along in
the sunshine, pausing to note each spring blossom that bordered the
gravel, and entered the walled kitchen-garden, where espaliers ran
parallel with the walks, dividing the vegetables from the narrow
flower-beds, illuminated by crocuses opening the depths of their
golden hearts to the sunbeams and the revelling bees. Old Gervas,
in a patriarchal red waistcoat, welcomed Mrs. Ponsonby with more
warmth than flattery. Bless me, ma'am, I'm right glad to see you;
but how old you be!'
'I must come home to learn how to grow young, Gervas,' said she,
smiling; 'I hear Betty is as youthful as my aunt here.'
'Ay, ma'am, Betty do fight it out tolerablish,' was the reply to this
'Why, Gervas, what's all that wilderness? Surely those used to be
'Yes, ma'am, the earliest hautboys; don't ye mind? My young Lord
came and begged it of me, and, bless the lad, I can't refuse him
'He seems to be no gardener!'
'He said he wanted to make a Botany Bay sort of garden,' said the old
man; 'and sure enough 'tis a garden of weeds he's made of it, and
mine into the bargain! He has a great big thistle here, and the down
blows right over my beds, thick as snow, so that it is three women's
work to be a match for the weeds; but speak to him of pulling it up,
ye'd think 'twas the heart out of him.'
'Does he ever work here?'
'At first it was nought else; he and that young chap, Madison, always
bringing docks and darnel out of the hedges, and plants from the
nursery gardens, and bringing rockwork, and letting water in to make
a swamp. There's no saying what's in the lad's head! But, of late,
he's not done much but by times lying on the bank, reading or
speaking verses out loud to himself, or getting young Madison off his
work to listen to him. Once he got me to hear; but, ma'am, 'twas all
about fairies and such like, putting an ass's head on an honest body
as had lost his way. I told him 'twas no good for him or the boy to
read such stuff, and I'd ha' none of it; but, if he chose to read me
some good book, he'd be welcome--for the candles baint so good as
they used, and I can't get no spectacles to suit me.'
'And did he read to you?'
'A bit or two, ma'am, if the humour took him. But he's young, you
see, ma'am. I'm right glad he'll find you here. My old woman says
he do want a lady about the place to make him comfortable like.'
'And who is this young Madison?' asked Mrs. Ponsonby, when they had
turned from the old gardener.
'To hear Jem, you would believe that he is the most promising plant
rearing for Botany Bay!' said Mrs. Frost. 'He is a boy from that
wild place Marksedge, whom Louis took interest in, and made more
familiar than Jem liked, or than, perhaps, was good for him. It did
not answer; the servants did not like it, and it ended in his being
sent to work with Smith, the ironmonger. Poor Louis! he took it
sadly to heart, for he had taken great pains with the boy.'
'I like to hear the old name, Louis!'
'I can't help it,' said Mrs. Frost. 'He must be his old aunt Kitty's
Louis le Debonnaire! Don't you, remember your calling him so when he
was a baby?'
'Oh yes, it has exactly recalled to me the sort of gracious look that
he used to have--half sly, half sweet-and so very pretty!'
'It suits him as well now. He is the kind of being who must have a
pet name;' and Mrs. Frost, hoping he might be already arrived, could
hardly slacken her eager step so as to keep pace with her niece's
feeble movements. She was disappointed; the carriage had returned
without Lord Fitzjocelyn. His hat and luggage were come, but he
himself was missing. Mrs. Frost was very uneasy, but his father
silenced conjectures by saying, that it was his usual way, and he
would make his appearance before the evening. He would not send to
meet another train, saying, that the penalty of irregularity must be
borne, and the horses should not suffer for such freaks; and he would
fain have been utterly indifferent, but he was evidently listening to
every sound, and betrayed his anxiety by the decision with which he
checked all expression of his aunt's fears.
There was no arrival all that evening, no explanation in the morning;
and Betty Gervas, whom Mary went to visit in the course of the day,
began to wonder whether the young Lord could be gone for a soldier--
the usual fate of all missing village lads.
Mary was on her way home, through the park, along a path skirting the
top of a wooded ravine, a dashing rivulet making a pleasant murmur
among the rocks below, and glancing here and there through the
brushwood that clothed the precipitous banks, when, with a sudden
rustling and crackling, a man leaped upon the path with a stone in
Mary started, but she did not lose her presence of mind, and her next
glance showed her that the apparition was not alarming, and was
nearly as much amazed as herself. It was a tall slight young man, in
a suit of shepherd's plaid, with a fair face and graceful agile form,
recalling the word debonnaire as she had yesterday heard it applied.
In instant conviction that this was the truant, she put out her hand
by the same impulse that lighted his features with a smile of
welcome, and the years of separation seemed annihilated as he
exclaimed, 'My cousin Mary!' and grasped her hand, adding, 'I hope I
did not frighten you--'
'Oh no; but where did you come from?'
'Up a hill perpendicular, like Hotspur,' he replied, in soft low
quiet tones, which were a strange contrast to the words. 'No, see
here,' and parting the bushes he showed some rude steps, half nature,
half art, leading between the ferns and mountain-ash, and looking
'How delightful!' cried Mary.
'I am glad you appreciate it,' he exclaimed; 'I will finish it off
now, and put a rail. I did not care to go on when I had lost the
poor fellow who helped me, but it saves a world of distance.'
'It must be very pretty amongst those beautiful ferns!'
'You can't conceive anything more charming,' he continued, with the
same low distinct utterance, but an earnestness that almost took away
her breath. 'There are nine ferns on this bank--that is, if we have
the Scolopendrium Loevigatum, as I am persuaded. Do you know
anything of ferns? Ah! you come from the land of tree ferns.'
'Oh! I am so glad to exchange them for our home flowers. Primroses
look so friendly and natural.'
'These rocks are perfect nests for them, and they even overhang the
river. This is the best bit of the stream, so rapid and foaming that
I must throw a bridge across for Aunt Catharine. Which would be most
appropriate? I was weighing it as I came up--a simple stone, or a
rustic performance in wood?'
'I should like stone,' said Mary, amused by his eagerness.
'A rough Druidical stone! That's it! The idea of rude negligent
strength accords with such places, and this is a stone country. I
know the very stone! Do come down and see!'
'To-morrow, if you please,' said Mary. 'Mamma must want me, and--but
I suppose they know of your return at home.'
'No, they don't. They have learnt by experience that the right time
is the one never to expect me.'
Mary's eyes were all astonishment, as she said, between wonder and
reproof, 'Is that on purpose?'
'Adventures are thrust on some people,' was the nonchalant reply,
with shoulders depressed, and a twinkle of the eye, as if he purposed
amazing his auditor.'
'I hope you have had an adventure, for nothing else could justify
you,' said Mary, with some humour, but more gravity.
'Only a stray infant-errant, cast on my mercy at the junction station.
Nurse, between eating and gossiping left behind--bell rings--engine
squeaks--train starts--Fitzjocelyn and infant vis-a-vis.'
'You don't mean a baby?'
'A child of five years old, who soon ceased howling, and confided his
history to me. He had been visiting grandmamma in London, and was
going home to Illershall; so I found the best plan would be to leave
the train at the next station, and take him home.'
'Oh, that was quite another thing!' exclaimed Mary, gratified at
being able to like him. 'Could you find his home?'
'Yes; he knew his name and address too well to be lost or mislaid.
I would have come home as soon as I had seen him in at the door; but
the whole family rushed out on me, and conjured me first to dine and
then to sleep. They are capital people. Dobbs is superintendent of
the copper and tin works--a thoroughly right-minded man, with a nice,
ladylike wife, the right sort of sound stuff that old England's heart
is made of. It was worth anything to have seen it! They do
incalculable good with their work-people. I saw the whole concern.'
He launched into an explanation of the process, producing from his
pocket, papers of the ore, in every stage of manufacture, and
twisting them up so carelessly, that they would have become a mass of
confusion, had not Mary undertaken the repacking.
As they approached the house, the library window was thrown up, and
Mrs. Frost came hurrying down with outstretched arms. She was met by
her young nephew with an overflow of fond affection, before he looked
up and beheld his father standing upright and motionless on the
highest step. His excuses were made more lightly and easily than
seemed to suit such rigid looks; but Lord Ormersfield bent his head
as if resigning himself perforce to the explanation, and, with the
softened voice in which he always spoke to Mrs. Ponsonby, said, 'Here
he is--Louis, you remember your cousin.'
She was positively startled; for it was as if his mother's deep blue
eyes were raised to hers, and there were the same regular delicate
features, fair, transparent complexion, and glossy light-brown hair
tinted with gold--the same careless yet deprecating glance, the same
engaging smile that warmed her heart to him at once, in spite of an
air which was not that of wisdom.
'How little altered you are!' she exclaimed. 'If you were not taller
than your father, I should say you were the same Louis that I left
fourteen years ago.'
'I fear that is the chief change,' said Lord Ormersfield.
'A boy that would be a boy all his life, like Sir Thomas More's son!'
said Louis, coolly and simply, but with a twinkle in the corner of
his eye, as if he said it on purpose to be provoking; and Mrs. Frost
interposed by asking where the cousins had met, and whether they had
known each other.
'I knew him by what you said yesterday,' said Mary.
'Louis le Debonnaire? asked Mrs. Frost, smiling.
'No, Mary; not that name!' he exclaimed. 'It is what Jem calls me,
when he has nothing more cutting to say--'
'Aye, because it is exactly what you look when you know you deserve a
scolding--with your shoulders pulled down, and your face made up!'
said his aunt, patting him.
When Mrs. Ponsonby and Mary had left the room to dress, Louis
exclaimed, 'And that is Mrs. Ponsonby! How ill she does look! Her
very voice has broken down, though it still has the sweet sound that
I could never forget! Has she had advice?'
'Dr. Hastings saw her in London,' said his father. 'He sent her into
the country at once, and thinks that there is fair hope that complete
rest of spirits may check the disease.'
'Will she stay here?' said Louis, eagerly. 'That would be like old
times, and we could make her very comfortable. I would train those
two ponies for her drives--'
'I wish she would remain here,' said his father; 'but she is bent on
becoming my aunt's tenant.'
'Ha! That is next best! They could do nothing more commendable.
Will they be a windfall for the House Beautiful?'
'No,' said Mrs. Frost. 'They wish to have a house of their own, in
case Mr. Ponsonby should come home, or Miss Ponsonby to stay with
'The respected aunt who brought Mary up! How long has she been at
'Four years! She has not made use of her opportunities! Alas for
the illusion dispelled! The Spanish walk and mantilla melt away; and
behold! the primitive wide-mouthed body of fourteen years since!'
Mrs. Frost laughed, but it seemed to be a serious matter with Lord
Ormersfield. 'If you could appreciate sterling worth,' he said, 'you
would be ashamed to speak of your cousin with such conceited
All the effect was to make Louis walk quietly out of the room; but
his shoulder and eyebrow made a secret telegraph of amazement to Mrs.
The new arrival seemed to have put the Earl into a state of constant
restless anxiety, subdued and concealed with a high hand, but still
visible to one who knew him so intimately as did Mrs. Ponsonby. She
saw that he watched each word and gesture, and studied her looks to
judge of the opinion they might create in her. Now the process was
much like weighing and balancing the down of Fitzjocelyn's own
favourite thistle; the profusion, the unsubstantiality, and the
volatility being far too similar; and there was something positively
sad in the solicitous heed taken of such utter heedlessness.
The reigning idea was the expedition to Illershall, and the excellent
condition of the work-people under his new friend the superintendent.
Forgetful that mines were a tender subject, the eager speaker became
certain that copper must exist in the neighbourhood, and what an
employment it would afford to all the country round. 'Marksedge must
be the very place, the soil promises metallic veins, the discovery
would be the utmost boon to the people. It would lead to industry
and civilization, and counteract all the evils we have brought on
them. Mary, do you remember Marksedge, the place of exile?'
'Not that I know of.'
'No; we were too young to understand the iniquity. In the last
generation, it was not the plan to stone Naboth, but to remove him.
Great people could not endure little people; so, by way of kindness,
our whole population of Ormersfield, except a few necessary
retainers, were transported bodily from betwixt the wind and our
nobility, located on a moor beyond our confines, a generous gift to
the poor-rates of Bletchynden, away from church, away from work, away
from superintendence, away from all amenities of the poor man's
This was one of the improvements to which Mr. Dynevor had prompted
the last Earl; but Louis did not know whom he was cutting, as he
uttered this tirade, with a glow on his cheek and eye, but with his
usual soft, modulated intonation and polished language, the
distinctness and deliberation taking off all air of rattle, and
rendering his words more impressive.
'Indeed! is there much distress at Marksedge?' said Mrs. Ponsonby.
'They have gifts with our own poor at Christmas,' said Lord
Ormersfield, 'but they are a defiant, ungrateful set, always in
distress by their own fault.'
'What cause have they for gratitude?' exclaimed his son. 'For being
turned out of house and home? for the three miles' walk to their
daily work! Yes, it is the fact. The dozen families left here, with
edicts against lodgers, cannot suffice for the farmer's work; and all
Norris's and Beecher's men have to walk six miles every day of their
lives, besides the hard day's work. They are still farther from
their parish, they are no one's charge, they have neither church nor
school, and whom should we blame for their being lawless?'
'It used to be thought a very good thing for the parish,' said Mrs.
Frost, looking at her niece. 'I remember being sorry for the poor
people, but we did not see things in the light in which Louis puts
'Young men like to find fault with the doings of their elders,' said
'Nothing can make me regard it otherwise than as a wicked sin!' said
'Nay, my dear,' mildly said Aunt Catharine, 'if it were mistaken, I
am sure it was not intentionally cruel.'
'What I call wicked is to sacrifice the welfare of dependents to our
own selfish convenience! And you would call it cruel too, Aunt
Catharine, if you could hear the poor creatures beg as a favour of
Mr. Holdsworth to be buried among their kin, and know how it has
preyed on the minds of the dying that they might not lie here among
their own people.'
'Change the subject, Fitzjocelyn,' said his father: 'the thing is
done, and cannot be undone.'
'The undoing is my daily thought,' said Louis. 'If I could have
tried my plan of weaving cordage out of cotton-grass and thistle-
down, I think I could have contrived for them.'
Mary looked up, and met his merry blue eye. Was he saying it so
gravely to try whether he could take her in? 'If you could--' she
said, and he went off into a hearty laugh, and finished by saying, so
that no one could guess whether it was sport or earnest, 'Even taking
into account the depredations of the goldfinches, it would be an
admirable speculation, and would confer immeasurable benefits on the
owners of waste lands. I mean to take out a patent when I have
succeeded in the spinning.'
'A patent for a donkey,' whispered Aunt Catharine. He responded with
a deferential bow, and the conversation was changed by the Earl; but
copper was still the subject uppermost with Louis, and no sooner was
dinner over than he followed the ladies to the library, and began
searching every book on metals and minerals, till he had heaped up a
pile of volumes, whence be rang the changes on oxide, pyrites, and
carbonate, and octohedron crystals--names which poor Mrs. Frost had
heard but too often. At last it came to certainty that he had seen
the very masses containing ore; he would send one to-morrow to
Illershall to be analysed, and bring his friend Dobbs down to view
'Not in my time,' interposed Lord Ormersfield. 'I would not wish for
a greater misfortune than the discovery of a mine on my property.'
'No wonder,' thought Mrs. Ponsonby, as she recollected Wheal
Salamanca and Wheal Catharine, and Wheal Dynevor, and all the other
wheals that had wheeled away all Cheveleigh and half Ormersfield,
till the last unfortunate wheal failed when the rope broke, and there
were no funds to buy a new one. No wonder Lord Ormersfield trembled
when he heard his son launch out into those easily-ascending
conjectural calculations, freely working sums in his head, so exactly
like the old Earl, his grandfather, that she could have laughed, but
for sympathy with the father, and anxiety to see how the son would
take the damp so vexatiously cast on his projects.
He made the gesture that Mrs. Frost called debonnaire--read on for
five minutes in silence, insisted on teaching his aunt the cause of
the colours in peacock ores, compared them to a pigeon's neck, and
talked of old Betty Gervas's tame pigeons; whence he proceeded to
memories of the days that he and Mary had spent together, and asked
which of their old haunts she had revisited. Had she been into the
'Oh yes! but I wondered you had sent the old walnut press into that
'Is that satire?' said Louis, starting and looking in her face.
'I don't know what you mean.'
'I have a better right to ask what you mean by stigmatizing my
apartment as a lumber-room?'
'It was only what I saw from the door,' said Mary, a little confused,
but rallying and answering with spirit; 'and I must maintain that, if
you mean the room over the garden entrance, it is very like a lumber-
'Ah, Mary! you have not outgrown the delusions of your sex. Is an
Englishman's house his castle while housemaids maraud over it,
ransacking his possessions, irritating poor peaceful dust that only
wants to be let alone, sweeping away cherished cobwebs?'
'Oh, if you cherish cobwebs!' said Mary.
'Did not the fortunes of Scotland hang on a spider's thread? Did not
a cobweb save the life of Mahomet, or Ali, or a mediaeval saint--no
matter which? Was not a spider the solace of the Bastille? Have not
I lain for hours on a summer morning watching the tremulous lines of
the beautiful geometrical composition?'
'More shame for you!' said Mary, with a sort of dry humorous
'The very answer you would have made in old times,' cried Louis,
delighted. 'O Mary, you bring me back the days of my youth! You
never would see the giant who used to live in that press!'
'I remember our great fall from the top of it.'
'Oh yes!' cried Louis; 'Jem Frost had set us up there bolt upright
for sentries, and I saw the enemies too soon, when you would not
allow that they were there. I was going to fire my musket at them;
but you used violence to keep me steady to my duty--pulled my hair,
did not you?'
'I know you scratched me, and we both rolled off together! I wonder
we were not both killed!'
'That did not trouble Jem! He picked us up, and ordered us into
arrest under the bed for breach of discipline.'
'I fear Jem was a martinet,' said Mrs. Frost.
'That he was! A general formed on the model of him who, not
contented with assaulting a demi-lune, had taken une lune toute
entiere. We had a siege of the Fort Bombadero, inaccessible, and
with mortars firing double-hand grenades. They were dandelion
clocks, and there were nettles to act the part of poisoned spikes on
'I remember the nettles,' said Mary, 'and Jem's driving you to gather
them; you standing with your bare legs in the nettle-bed, when he
would make me dig, and I could not come to help you!'
'On duty in the trenches. Your sense of duty was exemplary. I
remember your digging on, like a very Casablanca, all alone, in the
midst of a thunder-storm, because Jem had forgotten to call you in,
crying all the time with fear of the lightning!'
'You came to help me,' said Mary. 'You came rushing out from the
nursery to my rescue!'
'I could not make you stir. We were taken prisoners by a sally from
the nursery. For once in your life, you were in disgrace!'
'I quite thought I ought to mind Jem,' said Mary, 'and never knew
whether it was play or earnest.'
'Only so could you transgress,' said Louis,--'you who never cried,
except as my amateur Mungo Malagrowther. Poor Mary! what an
amazement it was to me to find you breaking your heart over the
utmost penalties of the nursery law, when to me they only afforded
agreeable occasions of showing that I did not care! I must have been
intolerable till you and Mrs. Ponsonby took me in hand!'
'I am glad you own your obligations,' said Lord Ormersfield.
'I own myself as much obliged to Mary for making me wise, as to Jem
for making me foolish.'
'It is not the cause of gratitude I should have expected,' said his
'Alas! if he and Clara were but here!' sighed Louis. 'I entreated
him in terms that might have moved a pyramid from its base, but the
Frost was arctic. An iceberg will move, but he is past all melting!'
'I respect his steadiness of purpose,' said the Earl; 'I know no
young man whom I honour more than James.'
His aunt and his son were looking towards each other with glistening
eyes of triumph and congratulation, and Mrs. Frost cleared her voice
to say that he was making far too much of her Jemmy; a very good boy,
to be sure, but if he said so much of him, the Marys would be
disappointed to see nothing but a little fiery Welshman.
Lightly soars the thistle-down,
Lightly does it float--,
Lightly seeds of care are sown,
Little do we note.
Watch life's thistles bud and blow,
Oh, 'tis pleasant folly;
But when all life's paths they strew,
Then comes melancholy.
Poetry Past and Present.
Mary Ponsonby had led a life of change and wandering that had given
her few strong local attachments. The period she had spent at
Ormersfield, when she was from five to seven years old, had been the
most joyous part of her life, and had given her a strong feeling for
the place where she had lived with her mother, and in an atmosphere
of affection, free from the shadow of that skeleton in the house,
which had darkened her childhood more than she understood.
The great weakness of Mrs. Ponsonby's life had been her over-hasty
acceptance of a man, whom she did not thoroughly know, because her
delicacy had taken alarm at foolish gossip about herself and her
cousin. It was a folly that had been severely visited. Irreligious
himself, Mr. Ponsonby disliked his wife's strictness; he resented her
affection for her own family, gave way to dissipated habits, and made
her miserable both by violence and neglect. Born late of this
unhappy marriage, little Mary was his only substantial link to his
wife, and he had never been wanting in tenderness to her: but many a
storm had raged over the poor child's head; and, though she did not
know why the kind old Countess had come to remove her and her mother,
and 'papa' was still a loved and honoured title, she was fully
sensible of the calm security at Ormersfield.
When Mr. Ponsonby had recalled his wife on his appointment at Lima,
Mary had been left in England for education, under the charge of his
sister in London. Miss Ponsonby was good and kind, but of narrow
views, thinking all titled people fashionable, and all fashionable
people reprobate, jealous of her sister-in-law's love for her own
family, and, though unable to believe her brother blameless, holding
it as an axiom that married people could not fall out without faults
on both sides, and charging a large share of their unhappiness on the
house of Fitzjocelyn. Principle had prevented her from endeavouring
to weaken the little girl's affection to her mother; but it had been
her great object to train her up in habits of sober judgment, and
freedom from all the romance, poetry, and enthusiasm which she
fancied had been injurious to Mrs. Ponsonby. The soil was of the
very kind that she would have chosen. Mary was intelligent, but with
more sense than fancy, more practical than intellectual, and
preferring the homely to the tasteful. At school, study and
accomplishments were mere tasks, her recreation was found in acts of
kindness to her companions, and her hopes were all fixed on the going
out to Peru, to be useful to her father and mother. At seventeen she
went; full of active, housewifely habits, with a clear head, sound
heart, and cramped mind, her spirits even and cheerful, but not high
nor mirthful, after ten years of evenings spent in needlework beside
a dry maiden aunt.
Nor was the home she found at Lima likely to foster the joyousness of
early girlhood. Mr. Ponsonby was excessively fond of her; but his
affection to her only marked, by contrast, the gulf between him and
her mother. There was no longer any open misconduct on his part, and
Mrs. Ponsonby was almost tremblingly attentive to his wishes; but he
was chill and sarcastic in his manner towards her, and her nervous
attacks often betrayed that she had been made to suffer in private
for differences of opinion. Health and spirits were breaking down;
and, though she never uttered a word of complaint, the sight of her
sufferings was trying for a warm-hearted young girl.
Mary's refuge was hearty affection to both parents. She would not
reason nor notice where filial tact taught her that it was best to be
ignorant; she charged all tracasseries on the Peruvian republic, and
set herself simply to ameliorate each vexation as it arose, and
divert attention from it without generalizing, even to herself, on
the state of the family. The English comfort which she brought into
the Limenian household was one element of peace; and her brisk,
energetic habits produced an air of ease and pleasantness that did
much to make home agreeable to her father, and removed many cares
which oppressed her mother. To her, Mary was all the world-
daughter, comforter, friend, and nurse, unfailing in deeds of love or
words of cheer, and removing all sense of dreariness and solitude.
And Mary had found her mother all, and more than all she remembered,
and admired and loved her with a deep, quiet glow of intense
affection. There was so much call for Mary's actual exertion of
various kinds, that there was little opportunity for cultivating or
enlarging her mind by books, though the scenes and circumstances
around her could not but take some effect. Still, at twenty-one she
was so much what she had been at seventeen--so staid, sensible, and
practical, that Miss Ponsonby gladly pronounced her not in the least
Fain would her aunt have kept both her and her mother as her guests;
but Mrs. Ponsonby had permission to choose whatever residence best
suited her, and felt that Bryanston-square and Miss Ponsonby would be
fatal to her harassed spirits. She yearned after the home and
companions of her youth, and Miss Ponsonby could only look severe,
talk of London doctors, and take Mary aside to warn her against
temptations from fashionable people.
Mary had been looking for the fashionable people ever since, and the
first sign of them she had seen, was the air and figure of her cousin
Fitzjocelyn. Probably good Aunt Melicent would distrust him; and yet
his odd startling talk, and the arch look of mischief in the corners
of his mouth and eyes, had so much likeness to the little Louis of
old times, that she could not look on him as a stranger nor as a
formidable being; but was always recurring to the almost monitorial
sense of protection, with which she formerly used to regard him, when
she shared his nursery.
Her mother had cultivated her love for Ormersfield, and she was
charmed by her visits to old haunts, well remembering everything.
She gladly recognised the little low-browed church, the dumpy tower,
and grave-yard rising so high that it seemed to intend to bury the
church itself, and permitted many a view, through the lattices, of
the seats, and the Fitzjocelyn hatchments and monuments.
She lingered after church on Sunday afternoon with Mrs. Frost to look
at Lady Fitzjocelyn's monument. It was in the chancel, a recumbent
figure in white marble, as if newly fallen asleep, and with the
lovely features chiselled from a cast taken after death had fixed and
ennobled their beauty.
'It is just like Louis's profile!' said Mrs. Frost, as they came out.
'Well,' said Louis, who was nearer than she was aware, 'I hope at
least no one will make me the occasion of a lion when I am dead.'
'It is very beautiful,' said Mary.
'May be so; but the sentiment is destroyed by its having been six
months in the Royal Academy, number 16,136, and by seeing it down
among the excursions in the Northwold Guide.'
'Louis, my dear, you should not be satirical on this,' said Mrs.
'I never meant it,' said Louis, 'but I never could love that
monument. It used to oppress me with a sense of having a white
marble mother! And, seriously, it fills up the chancel as if it were
its show-room, according to our family tradition that the church is
dedicated to the Fitzjocelyns. Living or dead, we have taken it all
'It was a very fair, respectable congregation,' said his aunt.
'Exactly so. That is my complaint. Everything belonging to his
lordship is respectable--except his son.'
'Take care, Louis; here is Mary looking as if she would take you at
'Pray, Mary, do they let no one who is not respectable go to church
'I do not think you would change your congregation for the wretched
crowds of brown beggars,' said Mary.
'Would I not?' cried Louis. 'Oh! if the analogous class here in
England could but feel that the church was for them!--not driven out
and thrust aside, by our respectability.'
'Marksedge to wit!' said a good-humoured voice, as Mr. Holdsworth,
the young Vicar, appeared at his own wicket, with a hearty greeting.
'I never hear those words without knowing where you are,
'I hope to be there literally some day this week,' said Louis. 'Will
you walk with me? I want to ask old Madison how his grandson goes
on. I missed going to see after the boy last time I was at home.'
'I fear he has not been going on well, and have been sorry for it
ever since,' said the Vicar. 'His master told me that he found him
very idle and saucy.'
'People of that sort never know how to speak to a lad,' said Louis.
'It is their own rating that they ought to blame.'
'Not Tom Madison, I know,' said Mr. Holdsworth, laughing. 'But I did
not come out to combat that point, but to inquire after the
commissions you kindly undertook.'
'I have brought you such a set of prizes! Red rubrics, red margins;
and for the apparatus, I have brought a globe with all the mountains
in high relief;--yes, and an admirable physical atlas, and a box of
instruments and models for applying mathematics to mechanics. We
might give evening lectures, and interest the young farmers.'
'Pray,' said the Vicar, with a sound of dismay, 'where may the bill
be? I thought the limits were two pounds eighteen.'
'Oh! I take all that on myself.'
'We shall see,' said Mr. Holdsworth, not gratefully. 'Was Origen
sent home in time for you to bring?'
'There!' cried Louis, starting, 'Origen is lying on the very chair
where I put him last January. I will write to Jem Frost to-morrow to
send him to the binder.'
'Is it of any use to ask for the music?'
'I assure you, Mr. Holdsworth, I am very sorry. I'll write at once
'Then I am afraid the parish will not be reformed as you promised
last Christmas,' said the Vicar, turning, with a smile, to Mrs.
Frost. 'We were to be civilized by weekly concerts in the school.'
'What were you to play, Louis?' said Mrs. Frost, laughing.
'I was to imitate all the birds in the air at once,' said Louis,
beginning to chirp like a melee of sparrows, turning it into the
croak of a raven, and breaking off suddenly with, 'I beg your pardon--
I forgot it was Sunday! Indeed, Mr. Holdsworth, I can say no more
than that I was a wretch not to remember. Next time I'll write it
all down in the top of my hat, with a pathetic entreaty that if my
hat be stolen, the thief shall fulfil the commissions, and punctually
send in the bill to the Rev. W. B. Holdsworth!'
'I shall hardly run the risk,' said Mr, Holdsworth, smiling, as he
parted with them, and disappeared within his clipped yew hedges.
'Poor, ill-used Mr. Holdsworth!' cried Aunt Catharine.
'Yes, it was base to forget the binding of that book,' said Louis,
gravely. 'I wish I knew what amends to make.'
'You owe amends far more for making a present of a commission. I
used to do the like, to save myself trouble, till I came down in the
world, and then I found it had been a mere air de grand seigneur.'
'I should not dare to serve you or Jem so; but I thought the school
was impersonal, and could receive a favour.'
'It is no favour, unless you clearly define where the commission
ended and the gift began. Careless benefits oblige no one.'
Fitzjocelyn received his aunt's scoldings very prettily. His manner
to her was a becoming mixture of the chivalrous, the filial, and the
playful. Mary watched it as a new and pretty picture. All his
confidence, too, seemed to be hers; but who could help pouring out
his heart to the ever-indulgent, sympathizing Aunt Catharine? It was
evidently the greatest treat to him to have her for his guest, and
his attention to her extended even to the reading a sermon to her in
the evening, to spare her eyes; a measure so entirely after Aunt
Melicent's heart, that Mary decided that even she would not think her
cousin so hopelessly fashionable.
Goodnatured he was, without doubt; for as the three ladies were
sitting down to a sociable morning of work and reading aloud, he came
in to say he was going to see after Tom Madison, and to ask if there
were any commands for Northwold, with his checked shooting-jacket
pockets so puffed out that his aunt began patting and inquiring.
'Provisions for the House Beautiful,' he said, as forth came on the
one side a long rough brown yam. 'I saw it at a shop in London,' he
said, 'and thought the Faithfull sisters would like to be reminded of
their West Indian feasts.' And, 'to make the balance true,' he had
in the other pocket a lambswool shawl of gorgeous dyes, with wools to
make the like, and the receipt, in what he called 'female algebra,'
the long knitting-pins under his arm like a riding-whip. He
explained that he thought it would be a winter's work for Miss Salome
to imitate it, and that she would succour half-a-dozen families with
the proceeds; and Mrs. Ponsonby was pleased to hear him speak so
affectionately of the two old maiden sisters. They were the nieces
of an old gentleman to whom the central and handsomest house of
Dynevor Terrace had been let. He had an annuity which had died with
him, and they inherited very little but the furniture with which they
had lived on in the same house, in hopes of lodgers, and paying rent
to Mrs. Frost when they had any. There was a close friendship and
perfect understanding between her and them, and, as she truly assured
them, full and constant rent could hardly have done her as much good
as their neighbourhood. Miss Mercy was the Sister of Charity of all
Northwold; Miss Salome, who was confined to her chair by a complaint
in her knee, knitted and made fancy-works, the sale of which
furnished funds for her charities. She was highly educated, and had
a great knowledge of natural history. Fitzjocelyn had given their
abode the name of the House Beautiful, as being redolent of the
essence of the Pilgrim's Progress; and the title was so fully
accepted by their friends, that the very postman would soon know it.
He lingered, discoursing on this topic, while Mary repacked his
parcels, and his aunt gave him a message to Jane Beckett, to send the
carpenter to No. 5 before Mary's visit of inspection; but she
prophesied that he would forget; and, in fact, it was no good augury
that he left the knitting-pins behind him on the table, and Mary was
only just in time to catch him with them at the front door.
'Thank you, Mary--you are the universal memory,' he said. 'What rest
you must give my father's methodical spirit! I saw you pile up all
those Blackwoods of mine this morning, just as he was going to fall
'If you saw it, I should have expected you to do it yourself,' said
Mary, in her quaint downright manner.
'Never expect me to do what is expected,' answered he.
'Do you do that because it is not expected?' said Mary, feeling
almost as if he were beyond the pale of reason, as she saw him
adjusting a plant of groundsel in his cap.
'It is for the dicky-bird at my aunt's. There's no lack of it at the
Terrace; but it is an old habit, and there always was an illusion
that Ormersfield groundsel is a superior article.'
'I suppose that is why you grow go much.'
'Are you a gardener? Some day we will go to work, clear the place,
and separate the botanical from the intrusive!'
'I should like it, of all things!'
'I'll send the horse round to the stable, and begin at once!'
exclaimed Louis, all eagerness; but Mary demurred, as she had
promised to read to her mother and aunt some of their old favourites,
Madame de Sevigne's letters, and his attention flew off to his
restless steed, which he wanted her to admire.
'My Yeomanry charger,' he said. 'We turn out five troopers. I hope
you will be here when we go out, for going round to Northwold brought
me into a direful scrape when I went to exhibit myself to the dear
old Terrace world. My father said it was an unworthy ambition. What
would he have thought, if he had seen Jane stroking me down with the
brush on the plea of dust, but really on the principle of stroking a
dog! Good old Jane! Have you seen her yet? Has she talked to you
about Master Oliver?'
The horse became so impatient, that Mary had no time for more than a
monosyllable, before Louis was obliged to mount and ride off; and he
was seen no more till just before dinner, when, with a shade of
French malice, Mrs. Frost inquired about Jane and the carpenter: she
had seen the cap, still decorated with groundsel, lying in the hall,
and had a shrewd suspicion, but the answer went beyond her
expectations--'Ah!' he said, 'it is all the effect of the Norman
'What have you been doing? What is the matter?' she cried, alarmed.
'The matter is not with me, but with the magistrates.'
'My dear Louis, don't look so very wise and capable, or I shall think
it a very bad scrape indeed! Pray tell me what you have been about.'
'You know Sir Gilbert Brewster and Mr. Shoreland are rabid about the
little brook between their estates, of which each wishes to arrogate
to himself the exclusive fishing. Their keepers watch like the
Austrian guard on the Danube, in a life of perpetual assault and
battery. Last Saturday, March 3rd, 1847, one Benjamin Hodgekin, aged
fifteen, had the misfortune to wash his feet in the debateable water;
the belligerent powers made common cause, and haled the wretch before
the Petty Sessions. His mother met me. She lived in service here
till she married a man at Marksedge, now dead. This poor boy is an
admirable son, the main stay of the family, who must starve if he
were imprisoned, and she declared, with tears in her eyes, that she
could not bear for a child of hers to be sent to gaol, and begged me
to speak to the gentlemen.' He started up with kindling eyes and
vehement manner. 'I went to the Justice-room!'
'My dear! with the groundsel?'
'And the knitting-needles!'
On rushed the narration, unheeding trifles. 'There was the array:
Mr. Calcott in the chair, and old Freeman, and Captain Shaw, and fat
Sir Gilbert, and all the rest, met to condemn this wretched widow's
son for washing his feet in a gutter!'
'Pray what said the indictment?' asked Mrs. Ponsonby.
'Oh, that he had killed an infant trout of the value of three
farthings! Three giant keepers made oath to it, but I had his own
mother's word that he was washing his feet!'
No one could help laughing, but Fitzjocelyn was far past perceiving
any such thing. 'Urge what I would, they fined him. I talked to old
Brewster! I appealed to his generosity, if there be room for
generosity about a trout no bigger than a gudgeon! I talked to Mr.
Calcott, who, I thought, had more sense, but Justice Shallow would
have been more practicable! No one took a rational view but
Ramsbotham of the factory, a very sensible man, with excellent
feeling. When it is recorded in history, who will believe that seven
moral, well-meaning men agreed in condemning a poor lad of fifteen to
a fine of five shillings, costs three-and-sixpence--a sum he could no
more pay than I the National Debt, and with the alternative of three
months' imprisonment, branding and contaminating for life, and
destroying all self-respect? I paid the fine, so there is one act of
destruction the less on the heads of the English squirearchy.'
'Act of destruction!'
'The worst destruction is to blast a man's character because the love
of adventure is strong within him--!'
He was at this point when Lord Ormersfield entered, and after his
daily civil ceremonious inquiries of the ladies whether they had
walked or driven out, he turned to his son, saying, 'I met Mr.
Calcott just now, and heard from him that he had been sorry to
convict a person in whom you took interest, a lad from Marksedge.
What did you know of him?'
'I was prompted by common justice and humanity,' said Louis. 'My
protection was claimed for the poor boy, as the son of an old servant
'Indeed! I think you must have been imposed on. Mr. Calcott spoke
of the family as notorious poachers.'
'Find a poor fellow on the wrong side of a hedge, and not a squire
but will swear that he is a hardened ruffian!'
'Usually with reason,' said the Earl. 'Pray when did this person's
parents allege that they had been in my service?'
'It was his mother. Her name was Blackett, and she left us on her
marriage with one of the Hodgekins.'
Lord Ormersfield rang the bell, and Frampton, the butler and
confidential servant, formed on his own model, made his appearance.
'Do you know whether a woman of the name of Blackett ever lived in
'Not that I am aware of, my Lord. I will ascertain the fact.'
In a few moments Frampton returned. 'Yes, my Lord, a girl named
Blackett was once engaged to help in the scullery, but was discharged
for dishonesty at the end of a month.'
'Did not Frampton know that that related to me?' said Louis, sotto
voce, to his aunt. 'Did he not trust that he was reducing me from a
sea anemone to a lump of quaking jelly?'
So far from this consummation, Lord Fitzjocelyn looked as triumphant
as Don Quixote liberating Gines de Pasamonte. He and his father
might have sat for illustrations of
'Youth is full of pleasance,
Age is full of care,'
as they occupied the two ends of the dinner-table; the Earl
concealing anxiety and vexation, under more than ordinary punctilious
politeness; the Viscount doing his share of the honours with easy,
winning grace and attention, and rattling on in an under-tone of
lively conversation with Aunt Catharine. Mary was silently amazed at
her encouraging him; but perhaps she could not help spoiling him the
more, because there was a storm impending. At least, as soon as she
was in the drawing-room, she became restless and nervous, and said
that she wished his father could see that speaking sternly to him
never did any good; besides, it was mere inconsiderateness, the
excess of chivalrous compassion.
Mrs. Ponsonby said she thought young men's ardour more apt to be
against than for the poacher.
'I must confess,' said Aunt Catherine, with all the reluctance of a
high-spirited Dynevor,--'I must confess that Louis is no sportsman!
He was eager about it once, till he had become a good shot; and then
it lost all zest for him, and he prefers his own vagaries. He never
takes a gun unless James drives him out; and, oddly enough, his
father is quite vexed at his indifference, as if it were not manly.
If his father would only understand him!'
The specimen of that day had almost made Mrs. Ponsonby fear that
there was nothing to understand, and that only dear Aunt Kitty's
affection could perceive anything but amiable folly, and it was not
much better when the young gentleman reappeared, looking very
debonnaire, and, sitting down beside Mrs. Frost, said, in a voice
meant for her alone--'Henry IV; Part II., the insult to Chief Justice
Gascoigne. My father will presently enter and address you: