Part 2 out of 9
person. He told us all about your turn for figures and ledgers, and
that sort of thing."
"I have naturally strong nerves, too," said Jane.
"Oh, they say it is nothing being in such a place, when you once get
used to it."
"But what would become of my poor sister?" said Jane. "We did so much
wish to be together; and in such a situation I could see so little of
"That would be the case in any situation; and what is there to prevent
her from getting one for herself?"
"Just as much and more than prevents me. Still, twenty-four and
thirty pounds a year would keep her tolerably comfortable till she can
get employment or meets with success otherwise," said Jane, half
thinking aloud. "I think I will write out my application when we get
"Where are you staying--in Edinburgh?" asked Mrs. Rennie.
"At my cousin's."
"At Mr. Hogarth's?--you do not mean to say so!"
"He asked me to come and stay with him while I inquired about this
situation, or anything else that might appear to be better. You know I
cannot afford to take lodgings or live at a hotel, and no one else
thought of offering me a home."
"It was very kind and well-meant on his part, no doubt; but it was
scarcely advisable on yours to accept it."
"I spoke to Miss Thomson about it, and she saw no objection."
"Miss Thomson of Allendale: very likely she did not--she is
used to do just as she pleases, and never minds what the world thinks."
"She was the only person who gave me either help, encouragement, or
advice. I thought all she said was right and reliable. You do not know
what it is to me, who have no relation in the world but Elsie, to find
a cousin. He seems like a brother to me, and I know he feels like one.
If it had been in his power to give me money to engage a lodging,
perhaps he would have done so, but it is money assistance that is so
strictly forbidden by the will."
"If he had only spoken to some experienced friend on the subject--if
he had only spoken to ME--I am sure it could have been better managed.
In the meantime, if you have no objection to sharing Eliza's room, we
will be glad to keep you here for the remainder of your stay in
Edinburgh. You had better not go home with your cousin to-night."
Jane paused for a few minutes--many bitter thoughts passed
through her mind. "I am much obliged to you for your kind offer, but I
do not think I can accept it. If I have made a mistake, it has been
committed already, and cannot be undone. To-night, I will write my
application to the directors of the ----- Asylum; tomorrow I will be on
my way to Cross Hall. I cannot, after such a day as this, collect my
thoughts sufficiently in a strange house, among strangers, to do myself
justice in my application, nor can I bear to let my cousin know that
his brotherly kindness, and my sisterly confidence, may be
misunderstood and misinterpreted. I have no mother, and no adviser. I
had feared that perhaps the direct or indirect assistance of food and
lodging for two days might peril my cousin's inheritance,--though Miss
Thomson thought there was no danger of that either,--but I never
imagined that any one would think the less of me for accepting it. If
you do not tell him, he need never know it; for I am sure it was the
last idea he could have entertained."
What sad earnest eyes Jane turned on Mrs. Rennie!--she could
not help being touched with her expression and her appeal. A vision of
her own Eliza--without friends--without a mother--doing something as
ill-advised, and feeling very acutely when a stranger told her of it,
gave a distinctness to Jane's present suffering that, without that
little effort of imagination, she could not have realized. Besides, she
had a great wish to think highly of Mr. Hogarth, and to please him; and
the certainty that he would be extremely pained and, perhaps, offended
by her suggestion that he had compromised his cousin's position by his
good-natured invitation, had its influence.
"What you say is very reasonable, Miss Melville, but you forget that
to-morrow is Sunday. You would not travel on the Sabbath, I hope?"
"I seem to have forgotten the days of the week in this terrible whirl,"
said Jane. "I would rather not travel on Sunday, but this seems a case
"Not so," said Mrs. Rennie, kindly. "Come and go to church with
us to-morrow forenoon, and dine with us; if you feel then that you
would prefer to stay here, you can easily manage to do so without
making your cousin suspect anything. If you still are anxious to go
home, you can do that on Monday morning; but I fancy Tuesday is quite
early enough to send in your application."
"Thank you, Mrs. Rennie," said Jane. "I am very much obliged to you
indeed for your kindness, and I think I will avail myself of it; but
to-night--to-night--I must have some quiet and solitude."
"I have been somehow or other separated from you all the evening," said
Francis, as they were on their way home. "Have you enjoyed it at all?
It was hard for you to have to see so many strangers after so trying a
"Rather hard," said Jane, with quivering lips. "Life altogether is much
harder than I had imagined it to be. I want Elsie very much to-night;
but I will see her as soon as I can possibly get home."
"You do not mean to go so soon? you have done nothing
satisfactory as yet. We must make attempts in some other direction."
"I have made up my mind," said Jane; "I will apply for the situation I
despised this morning. People outside of asylums seem to be as mad and
more cruel. I will write my application to-night, and it will go by the
"Do not be so precipitate; there is no need to apply before Tuesday,
and I believe even Wednesday would do. Spend the intervening days in
town; something suitable may be advertised in newspapers. You have not
yet applied at any registry offices. You said Rome was not built in a
day, yet a day's failure makes you despair. Do not lose heart all at
once, my dear cousin. Though I never had anything half so hard to bear
or to anticipate as you have now, I have had my troubles, and have got
over them, as you will in the end."
The tone of Francis' voice gave Jane a little courage; but she was
resolute in writing out her application before she went to bed. It was
beautifully written and clearly expressed. She asserted her
qualifications with firmness, and yet with modesty, and gave
satisfactory references to prove her own statements. Of all the
applicants, she was the youngest; but Francis was sure that her letter
would be the best of the fifty.
Though Jane thought this decisive step would set her mind at rest,
sleep was impossible to her after such excitement, fatigue, and
disappointment; and the solitude she had longed for only gave her leave
to turn over all the painful circumstances of her position without let
or hindrance. Never had she felt so bitterly towards her uncle. In vain
did she try to recall his past kindness to soften her heart towards
him; for all pleasant memories only deepened the gloom of her present
friendless, hopeless poverty; and the prospect of her inevitable
separation from Elsie, which had never been distinctly apprehended
before, was the saddest of all the thoughts that haunted the night
Francis had been invited with Jane to spend the day with the
Rennies, and the cousins went to church with the family. Jane heard
none of the sermon nor of the service generally. She had not been in
the habit of paying much attention at church, and there was nothing at
all striking or impressive in the preacher's voice or manner, or in the
substance of his discourse, to arrest a languid or preoccupied
listener. Jane was thinking about the Asylum, and about how much or how
little it needed to make people mad--if they were often cured--and if
they relapsed--a great part of the time; and when Miss Rennie asked
her how she liked the sermon, Jane could not tell whether she liked it
or not. Mr. and Mrs. Rennie confessed that Mr. M---- was nothing of a
preacher, but he was a very good man and a private friend. They liked
to go to their own regular parish church, and did not run after
celebrated preachers; though Eliza was a great admirer of eloquence,
and was very often straying from her own place of worship to go
with friends and acquaintances to hear some star or another, quite
indifferent as to whether he were of the Establishment or of the Free
Kirk, or of some other dissenting persuasion.
The conversation at Mr. Rennie's all Sunday afternoon was much more on
churches, sermons, and ministers, than any Jane had ever heard before.
She had never seen anything of the religious world, as it is called,
and felt herself very much behind the company in information. Her
cousin Francis was much better acquainted with the subject; he seemed
to have heard every preacher in Edinburgh, and to know every one of
note in the kingdom.
Mrs. Rennie, apparently in a casual manner, asked Jane to make her
house her home while she remained in Edinburgh; and the invitation was
accepted with the same indifferent tone of voice, which concealed great
anxiety at heart.
"I should like my cousin to accompany me to my unfashionable chapel,"
said Francis. "Will you either join us or excuse us for the evening, as
it is the only opportunity I may have for a long time to take
Miss Melville there? Miss Rennie, you are the only one likely to have
curiosity enough to try a new church."
"I am sorry I cannot go this evening, for I have promised to go to St.
George's, to hear Mr. C----, with Eleanor Watson and her brother. You
had better come with me; it is the last Sunday he is to preach in
Edinburgh," said Miss Rennie.
"You must excuse me this once," said Mr. Hogarth; "I have a great wish
that Miss Melville should hear my minister. At any other time I will be
at your command."
Miss Rennie could not disappoint either Eleanor or Herbert Watson, or
herself; so Francis and Jane went alone to the little chapel.
"It will do you good to hear a good sermon, and I expect that you will
The idea of getting any good at church was rather new to Jane; but on
this occasion, for the first time in her life, she felt real meaning in
religious worship. Never before had she felt the sentiment of
dependence, which is the primary sentiment of religion. She had
been busy, and prosperous, and self-reliant; all she said and did had
been considered good and wise; her position was good, her temper even,
and her pleasures many. Now she was baffled and defeated on every
side--disappointed in the present, and fearful of the future.
Prayer acquired a significance she had never seen in it before; the
tone of the prayer, too, was different from the set didactic utterances
too often called prayer, in which there is as much doctrine and as
little devotion as extempore prayer is capable of. It was not
expostulatory either, as if our Heavenly Father needed much urging to
make Him listen to our wants and our aspirations, but calm, trusting,
and elevated, as if God was near, and not far off from any one of His
creatures--as if we could lay our griefs and our cares, our joys and
our hopes, at His feet, knowing that we are sure of His blessing. Was
this union with God, then, really possible? Was there an inner life
that could flow on smoothly and calmly heavenward, in spite of the
shocks, and jars, and temptations of the outer life? Could she
learn to see and acknowledge God's goodness even in the bitterness of
the cup that was now at her lips?
It was no careless or preoccupied listener who followed point after
point of the sermon on the necessity of suffering for the perfecting of
the Christian character. The thoughts were genuine thoughts, not
borrowed from old books, but worked out of the very soul of the
preacher; and the language, clear, vigorous, and modern, clothed these
thoughts in the most impressive manner. There were none of the
conventionalisms of the pulpit orator, who often weakens the strongest
ideas by the hackneyed or obsolete phraseology he uses.
"Thank you, cousin Francis," said Jane, as they walked back to Mr.
Rennie's together. "This is, indeed, medicine to a mind diseased. I
will make my inquiries as I ought to do tomorrow; but if I fail I will
send in my application; and if I succeed there, I will go to this
asylum in a more contented spirit. It appears as if it were to
be my work, and with God's help I will do it well."
Jane began her next day's work by calling on her Edinburgh
acquaintances, and then went to the registry offices; but Monday's
inquiries were no more successful than Saturday's; so she dropped her
letter in the post, and felt as many people, especially women, do when
an important missive has left them for ever to go to the hands to which
it is addressed. It seems so irrevocable, they doubt the wisdom of the
step and fear the consequences.
When Jane reached home and told her sister of the application she had
sent in, Elsie was horrified at the prospect, and shook her sister's
courage still more by the pictures she conjured up of Jane's life at
such a place, and of her own without the one dearest to her heart; but
after she had said all she could in that way, it occurred to her that
if her poems succeeded, as she had no doubt they would, Jane's slavery
need but be shortlived. Her work had made great progress during the
short time of her sister's absence, and she continued to apply
to it with indefatigable industry. Scarcely would the ardent girl allow
herself to think of anything but what to write;--the tension was too
severe, but Elsie would take nothing in moderation.
A Humble Friend
The last week of the Misses Melville's stay at Cross Hall had begun
before Jane heard of the result of her application for the matronship
of the ----- Institution. Mr. Rennie then wrote to her that the
directors had appointed a widow, very highly recommended, and
apparently very well qualified. Miss Melville's letter had received
careful attention, and had favourably impressed all the directors; but
her youth and her being unmarried were great objections to her, while
the kind of housekeeping she had conducted at her uncle's was not
likely to be the best school for the management of an establishment of
this kind. Mr. Rennie was very sorry for Miss Melville's
disappointment, but he could not suggest any other situation likely to
Elsie jumped for joy when she heard of Jane's rejection, and kissed her
sister over and over again. "We shall not be parted, darling; you will
not go to slave among strangers and to be terrified by mad people. I
cannot--really, I cannot do without you--you are my muse and my
critic, as well as my best friend and adviser."
Jane was not quite so much exhilarated by her failure as her sister;
but Elsie's extravagant delight comforted her not a little. While they
were talking over this matter, Jane was called away to receive the
linen from the laundress for the last time, and to bid her good-bye.
Peggy Walker was somewhat of an authority in the district--a travelled
woman, who had been in Australia and back again, and was now living
with a family of orphan nephews and nieces, and an old man, their
grandfather. Public rumour pronounced her a niggardly woman,
for though she had property she worked as hard as if she had nothing,
and took the bread out of other folk's mouths; but as she was really an
excellent laundress, she had the best custom in the neighbourhood, and
her honesty, her punctuality, and her homely civility, had made her a
great favourite with Jane Melville.
"I fear it must be good-bye this time, Peggy," said she; "next week's
washing must be given to other hands."
"Eh, now, Miss Jean, ye dinna say so. I heard the new man was coming to
the Hall, but no just so very soon as that. But ye are no going out of
the place for good?"
"For good or ill, Peggy, we leave Cross Hall next Thursday."
"And where are you going to?"
"I wish I knew."
"Preserve us, Miss Jean! Are you and Miss Elsie, poor bit thing,
unacquainted with where you are going to?"
"It is only too true."
"Well, I am going to leave the place too; but I ken well where
I am going, and that is to Edinburgh."
"Why are you leaving Swinton? I thought you were doing very well here."
"I don't say that I have any cause to complain of my prosperity here;
but, you see, Tam is wild to learn the engineering, and he wants to go
to Edinburgh, where he thinks he will learn it best; and I don't like
to let him go by himsel', for though he is no a bad laddie, he is the
better of a home and a head to it, and I would like to keep my eye on
him. Grandfather makes no objections, and the bairns are all keen for
Edinburgh, so I am going to flit next week. As for leaving this place,
I am sure I have been growled at quite enough about coming from
Australia and taking work away from my old neighbours, so I will try my
luck where I don't know who I am taking custom from. I've been in and
got a house and a mangle in a nice quiet part of the town, no owre far
from Tam's place where he is going to work, and a healthy bit
it looks, too."
"Peggy, I wish I had your confidence and your reason for confidence. I,
too, want to go to Edinburgh to try my luck there; but though my uncle
spent quite a fortune on my education, and though I did my best to
profit by it, I really can see no way of making my living."
"Hout tout," said Peggy, "no fear of you making a living, you could do
that as well as me; but it is more than a living for yourself you are
wanting; you are thinking of Miss Elsie, poor bit lassie, and would
fain work for two. I mind well when my sister left the bairns to my
care with her dying breath, I felt my heart owre grit. It was more than
I, a single woman, with but seven pounds by the year of wages, could
hope to do, to keep the bit creatures; but yet it was borne on my mind
that I was to do it, and God be praised that He has given me the
strength and the opportunity, and it is little burden they have been to
any other body; and in due time, when they have got learning
enough, and are come the length to get the passage, I will take them
back with me to Melbourne, where their prospects will be better than in
the old country."
"Oh, Peggy! would Australia suit us? Would you advise us to go there?"
"No, Miss Melville, I scarcely think so. For the like of me it is the
best place in the world; for the like of you I cannot be at all clear
about it. I'll tell you my story some day, but not now, for I am
pressed for time, getting everything in readiness for the flitting; and
I want time to collect my thoughts; my memory is none of the best. But,
Miss Melville, if I am not making too free, I have a little room in my
new house that I would be blithe to let you and Miss Elsie have, and
you could stay there quietly till something turns up for you."
"If we can afford the rent."
"Oh, the rent!" said Peggy; "you need not think about the rent, if you
could only give the lasses a lesson in sewing (for I'm no very skilful
with the needle, and my hands are so rough with the washing and
dressing that the thread aye hanks on my fingers), and make out my
washing bills for my Customers that are not so methodical as yourself.
As for writing and counting, it is my abomination. There need no rent
pass between us."
"Thank you, Peggy, thank you; that will suit us nicely. But tell me,
can we--that is, Elsie and me--can we live in Edinburgh on
twenty-four pounds a-year?"
"I have known many a family brought up decently on as little, or even
less," said Peggy; "but then they were differently bred from you and
could live hard. Porridge and potatoes, and muslin kail, with a salt
herring now and then."
"Well, porridge and potatoes it shall be," said Jane, "for three years,
and then starvation, if the world pleases."
"If God pleases, Miss Jane; the chief thing is for us to place our
trust in Him," said Peggy.
"You are right, Peggy, I suppose; but it is hard to unlearn so
much old schooling and to accept of new teachings. Did your faith
support you when you were perplexed and disappointed--when friends
were unfaithful, and the world hard and cruel?"
"My trials have not been just like yours; but whatever God sent, He
gave me strength to bear; and it will be the same with you, Miss Jean,
if you put yourself humbly in His hands. But the auld laird cared for
none of these things; though I am sure when he left you so poorly
provided for in this world, he behoved to have given you a good hold of
the hope of a better;--besides that, it makes us contented with a very
humble lot here below. I am, maybe, too free-spoken, Miss Jean, but I
mean no disrespect."
"No offence can be taken where none is meant, Peggy; and friends are
too scarce with us now for us to reject any good advice. I am very glad
to know that we can subsist on our income, for I have not been
accustomed to deal with such small sums."
"You have wealth of clothes, no doubt; enough to last you for a
while; so there need be no outlay for that."
"And we have our own furniture--too much, I suppose for your little
room. We can sell the overplus when a push comes. I do not think
anything could suit us better than your kind offer."
"I have heard," said Peggy, "that the folk hereabouts think you will be
getting up a subscription."
"They are very much mistaken," said Jane; "the hardest living is
preferable to that. I wish you could say that Melbourne, or any part of
Australia, would do for us. Everybody was surprised when you returned
to Swinton so suddenly."
"Well, I could send the bairns more money from Melbourne than I can
make for them here, and no doubt the folk thought me foolish to leave
such a place; but what good was the money to the poor things when there
was no management, for the old man is but silly, and the bairns
had mostly the upper hand of him, though whiles they did catch it. I
have had my own ado with Tam for the last two years. I think I have got
the victory now; but I must try and keep it. So, as grandfather dreads
the water, I think I will stop in this country while he is to the fore,
and meantime the lads and lasses must have their schooling and Tam his
trade. But I keep on clavering about my own concerns, while you are in
doubt and difficulties about yours. When do you leave Cross Hall?"
"I should like to leave on Wednesday, for my cousin comes to take
possession on that day, and Elsie cannot bear any one to see us bidding
farewell to our dear old home."
"I cannot just flit before Thursday."
"Well, I suppose we must stay to welcome the new owner; I have no
objection to doing so."
"It may be painful to your feelings, Miss Melville, but yet I think it
would be but right. There are things you may mention to the new
man that would do good to them that are left behind you. That poor
blind widow, Jeanie Weir, that you send her dinner to every day, would
miss her dole if it was not kept up; and I know there are more than her
that you want to speak a good word for. I hear no ill of this Maister
Francis; and though we all grudge him the kingdom he has come into, it
may be that he will rule it worthily."
A Bundle Of Old Letters
Elsie had a headache when Francis came to take possession of his new
home, and scarcely made her appearance; but Jane, who felt none of her
sister's shrinking from him, showed him over the house, and told him
how it had been managed, hoped he would keep the present servants, and
particularly recommended to his care the gardener, who, though rather
superannuated and rheumatic, had been forty years in the service of the
family, and understood the soil and the treatment of it very well.
He was not only glad to hear what she said, but was resolved to be
guided by it, and took a memorandum of her poor pensioners, that they,
at least, should not suffer by Mr. Hogarth's will.
Then she walked with him over the grounds, and pointed out what
improvements her uncle had made, and what more he had contemplated
making. She was rather deficient in taste for rural beauty. She loved
Cross Hall because it was her home, and because she had been happy
there, rather than because she fully appreciated the loveliness of the
situation and the prospect. Her cousin, townsman as he was, had far
more natural taste. It was romantically situated, and the grounds were
beautifully laid out; there were pretty hamlets in the distance,
gentlemen's country seats embowered in trees, green cornfields, merry
brooks, and winding valleys. Francis' eyes and heart were filled with
the exceeding beauty of the landscape.
"You must be very sorry to leave all this Jane," he said.
"I believe that is the least of my troubles. I am more sorry to leave
these;" and she led him to the stables, and showed him the two
beautiful horses she and her sister had been accustomed to
ride. "You will be kind to them for our sakes, and the dogs, too.
I am--we are both--very concerned to part with the dogs."
"Should you not like to take any of them with you?" said Francis,
"No, no; dogs such as these would be a nuisance in a crowded little
room in Edinburgh, and I do not think they would like such a life, for
their own part. You will take better care of them than we could
possibly do. But I forget: you have, perhaps, as little affection for
animals as I have taste for scenery."
"I am not naturally fond of pets--which is rather strange; for my
solitary life should have made me attach myself to the lower animals.
But perhaps I am not naturally affectionate. I must cultivate this
deficient taste, however; and be assured that anything you have loved
will always be cherished by me; and every wish that you may express, or
that I can even guess at, that I am allowed to gratify, I will be only
too happy to do so. It has been a strange and stormy
introduction we have had to each other; but I am so grateful to you for
not hating me, that I chafe still the more at the cruel way in which my
hands are tied. I have consulted several eminent lawyers in the hope of
being enabled to overturn my father's will, but without success. If a
man is not palpably mad he may make as absurd a settlement of his own
property as he pleases; and your assertion of your uncle's peculiar
opinions tends to support the validity of the testament. Though no one
thinks that the disposition of the money will serve the end Mr. Hogarth
intended, yet he believed it would, and the spirit and intention of the
will must be carried out. Oh, my father! why did you not give me a
little love in your lifetime instead of this cursed money after your
"Cousin," said Jane cheerfully, "I believe you will make a good use of
this money. As my uncle says, you have served well, and should be able
to rule justly and kindly. I do not think so much about the improvement
of the property by your taste as of the care you will take of
the condition of the people upon it. This last month has been a hard,
but a useful school to me. I have thought more of the real social
difficulties of this crowded country than ever I did before. Bringing
my own talents and acquirements into the market, and finding myself
elbowed out by competition, I think of those who have to do the real
hard necessary work of the world with more sympathy and more respect.
Not that I ever despised them--you must not imagine me to be so
hard-hearted as that; but my feeling for them is deepened and
heightened wonderfully of late. Now they are apt to say that PARVENUS
are of all men the most exacting and the most purse-proud; and that a
mistress who has been a servant is harsher to her female dependants
than one who has been accustomed to keep domestics all her life. It is
difficult for me to conceive this; but there must be truth in it, or it
would not be a proverb in all languages. You will be an exception,
Francis. You will have my uncle's real kindness without his crotchets
and his dictatorial manner. You must not be offended if I call
you a parvenu in spite of your birth. You have come suddenly into
wealth that you were not brought up to expect."
"If I do not recollect my past life, I will certainly remember your
present advice whenever I am tempted to think too much of myself and
too little of others."
"Everything is to lead to the perfecting of your character, you see,"
"I cannot bear even improvement at the expense of any one's suffering
but my own," said Francis.
"I have been thinking so much about that sermon I heard at your church.
I do not know that the preacher brought out the particular point; but
we are made such dependent beings, not only on God, but on each other,
that we do indirectly profit by what we do not purchase by our own
effort or pains. We would not choose to have it so; but when Providence
brings on ourselves or others sorrows we grieve for, we are right to
draw from them all the good we can. It is something if my
uncle's rather unjust will has given you property with a sobered sense
of its privileges and a strong sense of its duties--something to set
against Elsie's sufferings and mine. And, besides, the loss of it has
done me one great benefit."
"Tell me what," said Francis, eagerly.
"It is quite possible, though I cannot tell how probable, that I might
have married a man to whom I am not well suited in any respect, and who
was still less adapted to make me happy if I had not been disinherited.
I am thus frank with you, cousin Francis, for I should like to give you
all the consolation I can."
"And you have been deserted by a lover, as well as impoverished; and
you ask me to take consolation from it."
"No, no; nothing so bad as that. I only explained matters to him, and
we parted. I am very glad of it. Be you the same," said Jane, looking
frankly and cheerfully in her cousin's face, and the cloud passed off
"Your sister has no affair of this kind?"
"No; nothing," said Jane.
"And yet she seems to suffer more."
"Not now; she is busy writing a volume of poems that is to make our
fortune. Dear Elsie! I hope it may."
"Poems--well, she may succeed; but I have more hope of you than of
"Because you know me better; but yet my efforts have all been very
fruitless. I am not a judge of poetry, though I like what Elsie writes.
I wished her to consent to my taking your opinion as to her verses, but
she shrank from it with most unaccountable and, as I thought,
unreasonable fear. I wonder how she can bring her work before the
public if she dreads one critic."
"It is very natural, Jane. Among the public there may be some to
admire, and some to depreciate; but the one critic to whom the author
submits his work may be of the latter class, and there seems to be no
refuge from him. It is curious to see the revelations of the inner
self that some authors make to the world--revelations that
they would often shrink from making to their nearest friends. They
appeal to the few in the world who sympathise with them, and disregard
the censure of all the rest. And recollect that, though to you I am a
friend, your sister has seen very little of me, and her first
impression was exceedingly painful. If you have told her I am a good
judge of poetry, she will be all the more averse to submit her
compositions to my criticism, for my opinion might bias yours, and
yours is her greatest comfort and encouragement. No one can wish her
success more earnestly than I do. But for yourself, what are your
"If it were not for leaving Elsie, I might try for a situation as
housekeeper in a large establishment; I know I am fully competent for
that. I should prefer something by which I could rise, but the choice
may not be given to me. We go to Edinburgh tomorrow. I do not think the
small room we are going to will hold all the furniture we are entitled
to, so will you be good enough to let what we cannot
accommodate remain at Cross Hall till we can send for it?"
"Certainly; you had better lock up your room with your own things in
it, and take the key," said Francis.
"No, no; I am housekeeper enough to know that all rooms must have
occasional air and sunshine. I can trust either yourself or the
housemaid with the key, knowing well that everything will be kept
"Where are you going to live?"
"With a very humble friend in ----- Street."
"That is very near where my earliest recollections of life in Edinburgh
found me situated."
"Do you remember your mother at all?"
"I am not quite sure; but I think I have some shadowy recollection of a
place before I came to Edinburgh, where I think I was with my mother."
"Do you think she is alive now?"
"Mr. MacFarlane says he believes she is. Do you think I should try to
"Alive all these years, and never taking any care or notice of
you! Very unmotherly on her part!" said Jane, thoughtfully.
"No one knows how she may be situated--her relations with my father
must have been very miserable. I cannot tell who was most to blame--but
if she were in distress, and I could help her, I am not forbidden
to do that, though Mr. MacFarlane strongly advises me to make no
"I think, if she hears of your inheriting Cross Hall, she is likely to
come forward if she needs assistance, and you certainly should give
"I wish very much to look over Mr. Hogarth's private papers. Mr.
MacFarlane has given me the keys of all his repositories. I
particularly wish you to go over them all with me, as there may be many
that concern you far more than myself. Could you spare me a few hours
to-day for that purpose? I am in hopes that we may find some clue to
this marriage, and perhaps some hint that might guide me in my conduct
to my mother, supposing she is still alive. If I could find
anything that would upset or modify the will, I am sure your happiness
in the discovery would be less than mine."
The long and patient search which extended over the greater part of two
days discovered nothing whatever at all definite with regard to
Francis' birth. No scrap of writing could be found that could be
supposed to be from his mother. An old bundle of papers marked outside,
"Francis' school bills, &c." was all that rewarded their search, and
they gave no information except that his education had cost his father
a considerable sum of money.
A packet of letters in a female hand, with a French post-mark, was
eagerly opened by the cousins, and contained a number of long and
confidential letters from a Marguerite de Vericourt, which extended
over a number of years, and stopped at the year when Jane and Elsie
came to live with their uncle. Jane's knowledge of French was better
than her cousin's, and the sight of the words "LE PAUVRE FRANCOIS"
arrested her attention in the first she opened. "We have come
to something at last," said she, and she translated the passage, "'I am
glad to hear that the poor Francis is doing so well at school--surely
you must learn to love him a little now. My Arnauld grows very
intelligent; and Clemence, with no teaching but my own, makes rapid
progress.' That is all; your name is not mentioned again in this
letter. We must go on to the next."
Letter after letter was glanced over, and then translated, because
though there was little mention of the poor Francis, but such a short
allusion to something Mr. Hogarth had written about him as was found in
the first letter, there was much that was very interesting in them all.
They were written with that curious mixture of friendship and love, so
natural and easy to Frenchwomen, and so difficult to Englishwomen.
Madame de Vericourt appeared to be a widow with two children, a boy and
girl. Her letters showed her to be a capable and cultivated woman,
passionately attached to her children, living much in society for part
of the year in Paris, but spending the summer in a country
chateau, where she became a child again with the little ones. She wrote
about her affairs, and her children's, as if she were in the habit of
transacting business, and thoroughly understood it, and as if she knew
Mr. Hogarth's whole history and circumstances, and took a very
affectionate interest in them. She reminded him frequently of
conversations they had had together, of long walks and excursions they
had taken in company; her children sent messages to her good friend,
and she took notice of expressions in his letters which had pleased or
For herself, she had been unhappily married when extremely young; but
before the correspondence had begun she had been for some years a
widow, and she was fully aware of the position of Mr. Hogarth. The most
interesting letter of all was the last, which appeared to have been
written in answer to his, telling of his resolution to adopt his
sister's children; and she seemed very much delighted at the idea.
"Since you say that you cannot bring yourself to love the poor
Francis, whom, nevertheless, my heart yearns after, and of whom I love
to hear even the meagre details you give to me, I rejoice, my friend,
that you have made a home for your sister's sweet little girls. You
must have something to love. Ah! to me my Arnauld and my Clemence
brought unspeakable comfort. I do not think of them as Philippe de
Vericourt's children; they are the children whom God have given to me.
I do not watch fearfully, lest his ungovernable temper and his selfish
soul should be reproduced in them. I trust that God will make them good
and happy, and aid me in my efforts towards that end. You cannot
separate the idea of Francis from that of the woman who cheated you,
and did not love you; who has blighted your hopes of domestic
happiness; and who still, even from a distance, has the power to
threaten you with exposing the disgrace that you are connected with
her. I am sorry that you cannot feel as I do; but if you can love these
little girls, it may make you softer towards him. When you
wrote to me of your poor Mary's sad death, and of the sadder life that
had preceded it, I began to wonder whether, after all, your system of
free choice in marriage produces greater happiness or greater misery
than ours of a marriage settled by our parents.
"I recollect how bitterly I felt that I had been made over, without my
wishes or tastes being consulted, to a man who cared so little for my
happiness; but at least I had no illusion to be dispelled; I did not
marry as your sister did, hoping to find Elysium, and landing in
hopeless misery; and yet my parents loved me after their fashion. I
have often thought that those whom we love, and who love us, have far
more power to injure us than those who hate us; but, alas! neither
friends nor enemies can injure us more than we do ourselves. Your
sister Mary had the disenchantment to go through; I had to chafe at the
coercion; while you, my friend, had to muse bitterly on the consequence
of one rash speech of your own, which chained you to an
unworthy and detested wife.
"I think we need a future state that we may do justice to ourselves in
it quite as much as to repair the wrongs we may have done to others.
Which of us has really made the best of himself or herself? I really
try now for the sake of my children to be cheerful; but sad and bitter
memories are too deeply interwoven with my being for me to succeed as I
should wish. If I live, I hope that the fate of my Clemence may be
happier than her mother's, so far as the state of society in France
will allow of it: I will give her a choice, and, at any rate, a power
of refusing even what appears to me to be a suitable marriage; for no
doubt it is better for an intelligent and responsible human being to
choose its own destiny, and to run its own risks. I fancy that the
mistake in your English society is, that your girls have apparently the
freedom of choice without being trained to make good use of it. If your
sister Mary was as inexperienced and as ignorant as I was at the time
when my parents gave me to M. de Vericourt, she could not
distinguish between the selfish fortune-hunter and the true lover; the
conventional manners were all the same, and she chose for herself a
life of misery. Your interference only roused the spirit of opposition,
and without preventing the marriage, made your brother-in-law regard
you with more dislike and suspicion. Ah! my friend, when I see a young
girl about to be married, my heart is full of anxieties for her--I
know the risk she runs. But I did not feel them much for myself. I grew
into the knowledge of my unhappiness as I grew in knowledge of what
might have been; but the recluse life of a French girl prevents her
from expecting much from marriage but an increase of consequence. With
us it is a step from tutelage to liberty--from nonentity to
importance. It cannot be quite so much so in England; but, from the
greater prevalence of celibacy, it has even more ECLAT and prestige
than here, where marriage is the rule. The TROUSSEAU, the presents, the
congratulations, the going into society under the interesting
circumstances of an engagement, must divert a girl's attention from the
really serious nature of the connection she is forming.
"You will have pleasure in educating your little girls. Make them
strong in body and independent in mind if you can. They are likely to
be handsome, intelligent, and, if you continue to be prejudiced against
poor Francis, rich. Give them more knowledge and more firmness than
their poor mother had. I have no doubt that they will grow up good, for
you will be kind to them. Girls all turn out well if you give them good
training in a happy home; but as for happiness, that depends so much on
their choice in marriage, that all you have done for them may be thrown
away, if you do not educate them to be something more than amiable and
pleasing companions. They must be trained to feel that they are
responsible beings: let their reading be as various, their education as
comprehensive, as you would give to boys of their rank. You know that
ignorance is not innocence, and that some knowledge of the world is
necessary to all of us if we are to pass safely through it. I
am glad to hear that Jane so much resembles you, and that Alice is so
like her mother, and that you find their dispositions amiable and
"I have told you that I have difficulties with Clemence in the matter
of truthfulness. She cannot bear to say or to do what she fancies will
be disagreeable or painful to any one. She fears, if she does so, that
she will not be loved; but I think I am succeeding in convincing her
that we must learn to bear pain, and occasionally to inflict it. When I
stood over her last night with a cup of bitter medicine she drank it
like an angel, and I said to her, 'My love, I taste this bitter taste
with you, and would rather that I had not to give it to you; but if I,
or any one whom you love, needs it, you must learn the courage to
"Arnauld disobeyed my orders one day last week, and played with his
ball in the drawing-room, and broke a vase that I prized highly.
Clemence took the blame on herself, for she thought I should be
less displeased with her than with her brother; but she was not
sufficiently skilful to hide the truth. Her BONNE was enraptured with
her generosity, and embraced her with the EMPRESSEMENT which is so
ridiculous to your insular ideas; but Clemence saw that I was not
"'Mamma,' said she, 'is it not right I should bear something for
Arnauld? I thought you would be so angry with him.'
"'More angry than he deserves?' said I.
"'No, mamma; but I thought he would feel it so much: and even if you
were as angry with me, and punished me as severely as you would have
chastised him, I should have felt that I did not deserve it.''
"'And that, on the contrary, you were very generous?'
"'Then Arnauld would have escaped altogether, and you would have borne
any pain like a martyr?'
"'But would not Arnauld have loved me for it?'
"'I do not know, Clemence,' said I, 'He knew, when he did the
mischief, that I would be displeased, and it is just and right that he
should take the consequences. A noble soul feels a certain satisfaction
in bearing deserved punishment, but it can never rejoice in the
punishment of another for its fault. I know you meant kindly; but, my
love, you should make no unnecessary sacrifices. Providence will bring
to you many opportunities of giving up your wishes, and of bearing a
great deal for others, but it must never be done at the sacrifice of
"Clemence was much impressed with what I said to her; and Arnauld, too,
seemed to feel that it would have been mean to have taken advantage of
his sister's mistaken generosity. I labour to make them think for
themselves, for I often fear that my life will not be spared to guide
them much longer. When you come again to France, bring with you your
little girls. I have spoken to my children about them, and they are
eager to become acquainted with them."
At the end of this letter was written, in Mr. Hogarth's
hand-writing, "Died, October 14th, 18-," shortly after the date of the
"I wish," said Jane, "that my uncle had shown me these letters; but I
suppose there are some things that one cannot tell to another person."
"There is no encouragement here to induce me to make inquiries about my
mother," said Francis. "I think, for the present, I will let the matter
Up And Down
When Jane had spoken of 20,000 pounds each, as the probable fortune of
herself and her sister, if their uncle had made his will in their
favour, she rather under than over estimated the value of Mr. Hogarth's
property. She had expected that many legacies to old servants and
bequests to several charitable institutions might have been left, and
there still would have been that handsome sum for his adopted children.
Francis Hogarth found that he had come into possession of a compact
little estate in a very fine part of the country, a small part of which
estate had been farmed by the proprietor, who had tried various
experiments on it with various success. There was also money invested
in the funds, and money laid out in railway shares, as well as a
considerable sum in the bank for any present necessity, or to be spent
in the improvement of the property.
Elsie had expressed a doubt of her cousin's getting into society; but
there appeared to be no likelihood of any of the country gentry looking
down on the new laird of Cross Hall. The visiting acquaintance of
people of sufficient standing in and about Swinton had consisted of
twenty-four marriageable ladies and only four marriageable gentlemen,
even including William Dalzell, who was known to be both poor and
extravagant, and an old bachelor-proprietor, nearly as old as Mr.
Hogarth, senior, and as unlikely to marry. Parties in the country were
greatly indebted to striplings and college students home for holidays
to represent the male sex. They could dance, and could do a little
flirtation, and thought much more of themselves than they ought to do;
but as for marrying, that was out of the question. An exchange
of two heiresses for one heir of Cross Hall could not but be considered
to be an advantageous one. It was not in human nature that the young
ladies themselves, and their fathers and mothers, and party-givers
generally, should not be eager to know Francis Hogarth, and be more
than civil to him. The court that is paid to any man who is believed to
be in a position to marry, is one of the most distressing features in
British society; it is most mischievous to the one sex, and degrading
to the other. Long, long may it be before we see anything like it in
the Australian colonies!
No doubt, if it is excusable anywhere, it is so in country or
provincial society in Scotland. "We cannot help spoiling the men"--says
a distressed party-giver in these latitudes, conscious that this
state of things is not right, and half-ashamed of herself for giving in
to it--"there are really so few of them." The sons of families of the
middle and upper classes as they grow up are sent out to India, to the
army, to America, or to the Australian colonies. Even when they
do not leave the kingdom, they leave the neighbourhood, and go to large
towns, where they may practise a profession or enter into business with
some chance of success. Their sisters remain at home with no business,
no profession, no object in life, and no hope of any change except
through marriage. Many of their contemporaries never return, but settle
in the colonies or die there; but, if they do return with money--perhaps
with broken constitutions and irritable tempers from India--they
still consider themselves too young to look at the women with whom
they flirted and danced before they left the old country, and select
some one of a different generation, who was perhaps a baby at that
time. Fathers and mothers see too clearly the advantages of an
establishment to object to the disparity of years and the state of the
liver, while the girl, fluttered into importance (as Madame de
Vericourt says) by presents, and jewels, and shawls, thinks herself a
most fortunate woman, particularly if she is not required to go
to India, but can have a good position at home.
So when a young man, not more than thirty-four, rather handsome, of
good character, and apparently good temper, intelligent and agreeable,
who went to church the first Sunday after he came to Cross Hall, and
who was the legitimate heir to the old family of Hogarth, came to
settle in the county as a neighbour, his having been clerk in a bank
for eighteen years was not looked on as a drawback. He was all the more
likely to take good care of his money now he had got it; and calls and
invitations came from every quarter. Mr. and Mrs. Rennie, who had had
visions of his being exactly the person to suit their Eliza, had a
month's start of the country neighbours; but they feared the result of
his being thrown among such families as the Chalmerses, the Maxwells,
the Crichtons, and the Jardines. He had asked the Rennies to pay him a
visit at Cross Hall in the autumn, when they always took a run to the
country or to the seaside, and had accompanied his invitation
with a request, that if his cousins came to Edinburgh, the Rennies
would show them some kindness and attention, which they readily
promised to do.
If Mrs. Rennie had known his secret feelings towards the country
families, she might have set her mind at rest as to their rivalry; but
Francis was very reserved, and his training had not led him to place
confidence in any one, till his heart had recently opened to his cousin
Jane. He received the visits of his new neighbours civilly, and
accepted their invitations; but the conduct of these people towards the
disinherited girls made him secretly repel their advances towards his
prosperous self. It appeared to show such barefaced worldliness and
selfishness, that he shrank from the most insinuating speeches and the
most flattering attentions.
He did not know how much of the coldness of Jane and Elsie's old
neighbours proceeded from the dislike and suspicion with which Mr.
Hogarth's religious opinions, or rather his religious
scepticism, was regarded in a particularly orthodox district. They had
exchanged formal visits, and had invited each other to large parties,
because not to do so would have been unneighbourly; but with none of
the people about Swinton had there ever been any familiar intimacy.
Jane and Elsie were supposed to be deeply tinged with their uncle's
heresies, and they were such very strange girls, having been so
strangely brought up; and having no mother or female relative to exert
any influence, their uncle had brought them up like boys, which
everybody thought very improper. Emilia Chalmers, who was musical,
could not get on with them at all; the three Miss Jardines, who were
very amiable girls, with nothing in them, could not tell whether to
call them blues or hoydens; their Latin and algebra on the one hand,
and their swimming-bath, and their riding about the country without a
groom on the other, made them altogether so unfeminine. Their uncle
thought they were quite able to take care of themselves and of each
other, and fancied more mischief might arise from the
attendance of a groom than could result from his absence; and the girls
cared for no company in their rides till William Dalzell had offered
his escort and made himself so agreeable.
Miss Maxwell and the Crichtons had failed to make either Jane or Elsie
take any interest in a theological dispute on a point of doctrine
between some neighbouring ministers which was agitating all Swinton at
the time; and when at last Jane was forced to give an opinion on one
side or the other, she gave it quite on the contrary side from the
right one, so that they were sure the girls were quite as bad as their
uncle. Both girls had been educated to express themselves very clearly
and decidedly; whereas, as Emilia Chalmers says, whenever a young lady
gives an opinion it should always be delivered SOTTO VOCE, that is,
under the powers of the performer's voice, to borrow an image from her
musical vocabulary. Even if she does know a thing very well, she should
keep her knowledge in the background; there is a graceful timidity
that is far more attractive than such unladylike confidence.
"Depend upon it, gentlemen do not like it," Miss Jardine would say. "If
Jane Melville were not an heiress, do you think William Dalzell would
submit to her airs? I know him better than that."
But, yet, when the girls were shown to be no heiresses, every one was
very sorry for them. If a subscription had been got up to assist them
in their difficulties, there was no one who would not have given
something. Even the Misses Crichton and Miss Maxwell would have
subscribed as much as they did to the Foreign Missions, and that was no
inconsiderable sum; and if Jane and Elsie had thrown themselves on the
compassion of the neighbourhood, there were many who would have offered
them a temporary home. But they preserved their independent spirit even
though they were not heiresses, and could not sue in FORMA PAUPERIS. It
was a subject of much conversation that the Misses Melville had
preferred to go with Peggy Walker, the laundress, to some poor
place in the old town of Edinburgh, to making any application for
assistance to people of their own sphere. What they could do under
Peggy's auspices was not likely to be of a very brilliant description.
It is not to be supposed that Peggy Walker was not as good a judge of
orthodoxy as the Misses Crichton and Miss Maxwell, but she had not so
great a horror of the family at Cross Hall as they had; she had been
for several years out of her own parish and country, and had learned
some toleration. As she said, the old laird was a just man and a kind
one, and until he made his will she had no fault to find with him; and
as for the young ladies, they were just the cleverest and the
tenderest-hearted to the poor of all the gentry in the country-side.
Many a tale of distress had Peggy told them, and had never failed to
find the girls open their purses, or go to see the poor people. They
had a liberal allowance, and had no extravagant tastes in dress; but
their charities had been so extensive that at the time of their uncle's
death, there was no great balance in either girl's hands. They
knew that Peggy was no niggardly woman, but a most liberal one
according to her means and her opportunities--that she gave personal
services out of a very busy life, and money, too, out of an income that
had many claims on it.
The house-servants and the labourers in Mr. Hogarth's immediate
employment were very sad at parting with the young ladies, who had
always been so kind and so considerate. If the neighbours had thought
the girls proud, none of the servants did. If Francis had not tried
hard to please them all, and to make them feel that he regarded them
for the sake of those who had been before him, it would not have been
likely that he would have gained their good opinion; but he succeeded
in doing so.
Peggy Walker thought she had got into a very snug and comfortable
dwelling in a flat in ----- Street, and when she gave what she
considered the most cheerful-looking apartment to the young ladies as
their sleeping-room, she certainly did all she could for their
accommodation. The old man, Thomas Lowrie, was particularly
pleased with the look-out to the street. He could sit in his own chair
and see all the bustle of life going on below, and made little
complaint of the noise at first. The five children thought there was
nothing so charming as running up and down the common stair, and were
quite proud of their elevated position in the world; but the Misses
Melville could not but feel an immense difference between their own
ideas of comfort and those of the humble family with whom they lived.
The floors were clean, and the stairs, too, after a fashion; but the
coarse dark-coloured boards could not be made to look white. The walls
which Peggy's own hands had sized of a dark-brown colour looked rough,
and cracked, and gloomy. They were aware that their scanty means did
not allow them to indulge in any separate meals or attendance, and Jane
and Elsie began as they meant to go on, and shared the homely meals in
the homely home. They had never thought that they had any luxurious
tastes; but the very plain fare and the inelegant service
seemed to take away even the natural healthy appetite of youth. The
noise of the children, and the querulous voice of their grandfather,
with Peggy's sharp, decisive remarks, were all different from the
respectful silence with which they had been attended at Cross Hall.
Peggy was anxious to make the girls as happy as she could, and feared
that they must feel this a downcome; but her hands were full of work,
and her head of cares. She had made her venture in the world, too, and,
with so many dependent on her, it was a considerable risk. They could
not help admiring the wonderful patience which she had with the old
man, who was not her own father, but merely the father-in-law of her
dead sister. She allowed him a weekly modicum of snuff, and was
particular that Tom, or one of the others, should read the Bible or the
news to him in a clear, distinct voice, that the old man might be able
to hear all of it. In all little things she gave way to him, but in all
great and grave matters she judged and acted for herself, whatever
grumbling might follow. Over the children she kept a very
careful watch; and even when she was absent on necessary business, her
influence was felt in the household.
After the first day was over, and the girls had gone to their own room
for the evening, Elsie broke out with----
"Jane, this is dreadful! How different from what I imagined poor
people's lives to be! Nothing beautiful or graceful about it. Poets and
novelists write such fine things about poverty and honest toil, and
throw a halo of romance about them."
"Yet Peggy is above the average--far above the average," said Jane,
thoughtfully; "these children are better taught and better mannered
than three-fourths of the peasantry in Scotland, but yet it is a great
change to us, a very great change."
"I am sure they might be a great deal better than they are. Oh, Jane, I
really can eat nothing served up as it is done here; and that grumbling
old man's Kilmarnock nightcap, and his snuff, are enough to
disgust one. Even at tea did you notice Peggy stirring the teacup with
such vigour, and balancing her saucer in the palm of her hand?"
"I never fancied there was so much in little things," said Jane; "but
we must get over our fastidiousness--we must indeed. It is a pity we
were brought up so softly and delicately, though we thought we were so
remarkably hardened by our uncle's training."
"I cannot even write to-night," said Elsie. "Everything looks so sordid
and miserable, and the town here is so dirty and mean."
"We must walk out to-morrow a good long way--you know what beautiful
walks we used to have all around Edinburgh. We must breathe fresh air
and poetical inspiration."
"I wish I could write," said Elsie, turning over her sheets of
manuscript. "I have been able to write a little every day since I
began, no matter how grieved or anxious I have been. Who is it says
that genius is nothing but industry? and I have been so industrious! I
must try to write to-night; we are settled as far as we can
expect to be settled for some time, and I ought to begin as I mean to
"No, my dear, you feel disappointed and disenchanted to-night; do not
think of writing. Your work ought to be done at your best moments.
To-morrow is a new day, and I believe it will be a fine one: sleep till
"But I cannot sleep either."
"Rest, then, as I mean to do."
A little tap at the door announced Peggy.
"Is there anything I can do for you, young ladies?"
"Nothing, thank you, Peggy, but come in," said Jane.
She entered, and found Elsie hurriedly gathering together her
manuscript, with a heightened colour and some agitation. Love letters
were the only conceivable cause of a girl's blushing over anything she
had been writing, to Peggy's unsophisticated mind. "I should not
interrupt you, Miss Elsie; I did not know you had letters to
"It is not letters," said Jane; "she is writing a book."
"A book! Well, that is not much in my line; but no doubt books are
things that are wanted in the world, or there would not be such
printing-houses and grand shops for making and selling them. And you
are expecting to get a price for that, Miss Elsie?"
"I hope so."
"Well, it is more genteel work than what I have been used to; but the
pen was always a weariness to me. I thought shame of myself when I was
in Australia, that I could write nothing to the bit creatures that I
was spending my life for, but just that I was weel, and hoped they were
the same, and bidding them be good bairns, and obedient and dutiful to
their grandfather and grandmother, and that they should mind what the
master said to them at school; and then I would send kind regards to
two or three folk in the countryside, and signed myself their
affectionate aunt, Margaret Walker. But, dear me! I should have said
fifty things forbye that senseless stuff. I am thinking, Miss Jane and
Miss Elsie, that if they had been your nephews and nieces, and you had
been parted from them by all these thousands of miles of land and
water, that your letters would have been twice as often and ten times
as long, full of good advice and loving words. I have heard bonnie
letters read to me. I marvelled greatly at them--everything so smooth
and so distinct, just as if the two were not far apart, but had come
together for an hour or so, and the one just spoke by word of mouth all
that the other wanted most to hear. I would like the bairns learned to
write well and fast, for when the pen is slow, the heart Cannot find
utterance. I have heard worse letters even than my own, full of
repetitions and stupid messages, and nothing said of what the body that
got the letters wanted most to hear. There is a very great odds in
letters, Miss Melville, and mine were so useless and so bare, that I
thought it better to sacrifice a good deal of money and come
home to attend to the bairns myself, and to counsel them by word of
"Peggy, you have had adventures," said Jane. "I wish you could tell my
sister and me all that happened to you when you were in Australia. Your
life may be useful to us in many ways."
"Not to put into a book, I hope," said Peggy suspiciously. "I have no
will to be put into a book."
"No fear of that," said Elsie.
"It's poetry you're writing, like Robbie Burns's. I can see the lines
are different lengths. I'm thinking you'll have no call to make any
poetry on me, so I may tell you my story. It may make you think on
somebody or something out of your own troubles."
"It was a great wonder to the Swinton people that you returned a single
woman," said Jane. "They say Australia is the country to be married
"I might have been married over and over again, up the country,
and in Melbourne too," said Peggy; "but you see I had the thought of
the bairns on my head, and I did not feel free to change my condition.
Some of them said if I likit them well enough I could trust to their
doing better for the young folk than I could myself; but I never let
myself like them well enough to trust them so far, though one or two of
them were very likely men, and spoke very fair."
"Perhaps when you return to Australia you may make it up with one of
them yet," said Elsie, who, in spite, of her depression, felt some
curiosity as to Peggy's love passages.
"The best of them married before I left Melbourne, like a sensible man,
who knew better than to wait on my convenience. I see, Miss Elsie, you
are wondering that the like of me, that never was what you would call
well-favoured, should speak of offers, and sweet-hearts, and such like;
but in Australia it's the busy hand and careful eye that is the great
attraction for a working man. I never had much daffing or
nonsense about me, and did not like any of it in other folk, but I had
lots of sweethearts. But I'll tell you the whole story, as neither of
you look the least sleepy, and if I am owre long about it ye may just
tell me so, and I'll finish it up the morn's night."
So Peggy sat down to tell her tale, while Elsie crept down on a little
footstool, and laid her head in her sister's lap, glad to receive the
fondling which Jane instinctively bestowed on her dependent and
Peggy Walker's Adventures
"You see, Miss Jean and Miss Elsie, that my sister Bessie and me were
always very much taken up with one another; she was a good bit aulder
than me, and as my mother died when I was six years old, she was like a
mother to me. I'll no say that she clapped and petted me as you are
doing to your sister, Miss Jean, nor that she had the gentle ways of
speaking that gentlefolks have; but verily to use the words of
Scripture, 'our souls were knit together in love,' and we thought
nothing too great to do or to bear for one another. Bessie was far
bonnier than me, but scarcely so stout; and Willie Lowrie, that had
been at the school with her, and a neighbour's son, courted
her, when they came to man's and woman's estate, for a long time. My
father was a cotter on Sandyknowe farm, a worthy, God-fearing man, but
sore distressed with the rheumatics, that came upon him long before he
was an old man, and often laid him off work. His sons went about their
own business; and he used to say that though they might help him in the
way of money nows and thens, it was from his two lasses that he had the
most comfort. Bessie waited till I was grown up and at service in a
good place, where I pleased the mistress, before she married Willie. My
father went home with her, and lived but three years afterwards, saying
always that Bessie and Willie were good bairns to him, and his grey
hairs went down to the grave in peace.
"But, wae-sakes! bairns came to Bessie thick and fast, and Willie took
a bad cough, and fell into a decline. He just wasted away, and died one
cold winter day, leaving her with four young things, and another
coming. Bessie did not fold her hands in idle lamentation when
the desire of her eyes was removed with a stroke. No, she went to the
outwork, and wrought double hard; owre hard, poor thing, for after
little Willie was born she never looked up. And then and there I vowed
to God and to her that I would do a mother's part by her orphans as
long as life was vouchsafed to me.
"Willie's father and mother had left Sandyknowe, and gone to a place
about forty miles off. They were living poorly enough, but they came to
me in my desolation, and offered to take the bairns if we--that is, my
brothers and me--would help whiles with money to get them through.
But, you see, James and Sandy were married men, with families of their
own, and Robert and Daniel were like to be married soon, and it was
borne on my mind that I was to be the chief person to be depended on.
"I went home to my place at Greenwells. It was a big farmhouse, and I
was kitchenmaid, and had the milking of the kye, and the making of the
butter and cheese to do, and such like, and Mrs. Henderson said
that I was a faithful industrious lass. But, dear me! what was seven
pounds by the year to maintain the bairns? I thought over it and over
it on the Sabbath night after I came home. I tried to read--the 14th
of John's Gospel--but my heart would be troubled and afraid in spite
of those bonnie consoling words. I knew the old people, the Lowries,
were not the best hands for bringing up the bairns, for they were so
poor. I had no money--not a penny--for you may guess that in my
sister's straits I kept none in the shuttle of my chest, and no way of
keeping a house over their heads by myself could I see. Mrs. Henderson
came into the kitchen with Miss Thomson. You know Miss Thomson of
Allendale. She was on a visit to the mistress; they are connections,
"'Well, Peggy,' said Mrs. Henderson, 'I see you are just fretting, as
"'I'm no fretting, ma'am, I'm praying,' said I.
"'The best thing you can do,' said Miss Thomson.
"'Of course it is,' said Mrs. Henderson, 'provided it does not
hinder work, and Peggy is neglecting nothing.'
"'I wish, ma'am, that you would let me take the housemaid's place, as
well as my own; I can do more work if you would raise my wages.'
"'Nonsense, Peggy,' said the mistress, 'you are busy from morning till
night; you cannot possibly do more than you are doing now. You cannot
be in two places at once.'
"'No, ma'am, but I could take less sleep. I am stronger than ever I
was; and I have so many to work for. The bairns-maid and me could
manage all the housework.'
"Mrs. Henderson shook her head, and said it was not to be thought of,
but she did not mind raising my wages to eight pounds by the year, for
I was a good servant; and with that I had to be content--at least, I
"Next day a fat turkey had to be killed and plucked, and I had an old
newspaper to burn for singeing the feathers. I could not but look at
the newspaper, when I had it in my hand, and the first thing
that struck my eye was, that domestic servants, especially if they were
skilful about a dairy, might get a free passage to Melbourne, by
applying to such a person, at such a place, and that their wages when
they got out to Australia would be from sixteen to twenty-five pounds
by the year. It was borne on my mind that I should go to Australia from
the moment I cast eyes on that paragraph in the paper. I did not just
believe everything that was in print, especially in the newspapers,
even in those days; for I knew the real size of the big turnip that was
grown in Mr. Henderson's field, and it was not much more than half what
the 'Courier' had it down for, but I felt convinced that I should
inquire about this matter of free passage to Australia. It was a
providence that Miss Thomson was stopping in the house at the time, for
she was a woman of by-ordinary discretion and great kindness; so I
opened my mind to her, and she said I was right, and gave me a letter
to the agent, who was a far-away cousin of her own, and three pounds in
money forbye, to buy fitting things for the voyage; and she
told me how I was to send money home for the youngsters, and wrote a
line to a friend of hers that lived close to the Lowries, asking her to
look whiles to see that the bairns were well and thriving.
"It is not often that I greet, Miss Jean, but Miss Thomson twice
brought the tears to my eyes, first with her kindness when I left
Scotland, and again with her kindness when I came back, and brought
her, no the silver--I would not shame her with giving back what had
really been life and hope to myself and five orphan bairns--but some
curious birds that I had got up the country, that she sets great store
by. I told her how I had got on, and what had induced me to come back;
I told her that I never could pay back my debt to her, and would not
try to do it, but that if we prospered, there had been much of it her
doing; and she said she admired nothing so much as my resolution and
courage in going to Australia, until she admired still more my
resolution and self-denial in coming back. I do not think much
of flattery, Miss Elsie--they say it is very sweet to the young and
the bonnie--but these words of praise from a good woman like Miss
Thomson made my heart swell and my eyes overflow. You have been at
Allendale, Miss Jean; you must have seen the birds in the lobby."
Jane had been too much engrossed with her own affairs during her only
visit to Miss Thomson to observe Peggy's birds, but she drew a good
omen form the coincidence of Miss Thomson's assistance being given so
frankly to two women both in distress and in doubt.
"How did you like the voyage, Peggy?" asked Jane.
"It is queer how that voyage has faded out of my mind, and yet it was a
long one--over five months; they know the road better now, and do it
quicker. I was not more than four months coming back in a bigger ship.
I mind we had a storm, and all the women on board were awful feared,
and a boy was washed overboard, and there was some ill-blood between
the captain and the doctor; but all that I could think on was
to get to the end of the voyage, and make money to send home to the
"Well, to Melbourne we got at last, and a shabby place I thought it
looked; but the worst of all was, that such wages as had been spoken of
in the papers were not to be had at all, for if ever the folk there are
in great want of anything, there seems to be abundance of it before it
can be sent out; so I could not get the offer of more than thirteen
pounds, and I mourned over the distance, and the five months lost on
the passage, with such small advantage at the end of it. I said I
wanted a hard place. I had no objections to go to the bush--I dreaded
neither natives, nor snakes, nor bushrangers, but I behoved to make
good wages. I was explaining this at the Agency Labour Office, when a
gentleman came in--an Englishman I knew him to be by his tongue--and
"'Like all new comers, this young woman is greedy of filthy lucre.'
"'I have come here to better my condition,' said I.
"'And so you will, in time,' said the gentleman, 'but you must not
expect a fortune all at once.'
"'Are you in want of a servant, sir?' said I.
"'Very much; but I don't know that you will suit me.'
"'I'm thinking,' said I, 'that if the mistress were to see me she would
be of a different opinion, sir.'
"'Very likely she would. I dare say Mrs. Brandon would highly approve
of you. Perhaps, after all, you will do. What are you?'
"'Plain cook, laundress, and dairymaid,' said I.
"'Age? Mrs. Brandon would like to know.'
"'Twenty-five. I have got five years' character from one place, and
three from another, and a testimonial from the minister. I may look
rough, with just being off the sea, sir, but I think the mistress will
find out that I am fit for any kind of work. I am not afraid of work or
distance, or solitude, or anything.'
"'You are a trump,' said he, 'a regular brick; but confess that
you are greedy. If I say thirty pounds a year, you will go more than a
hundred miles up the country?' That was a great distance from town in
those days, Miss Jean, though they think nothing of it now. All my
fellow-passengers objected to such distances, but I had no objection.
"'Yes, sir,' said I, cheerfully, 'I will go, and be much beholden to
you for the offer.'
"'And start to-morrow, wages to commence then?' said he.
"'The sooner the better,' said I. 'Only, if I want to send siller to my
friends I may not be able to do it from such a wild place.'
"'I will manage all that for you,' said the gentleman. 'I am accustomed
to do it for one of my shepherds. But recollect you will have to do a
great deal of work for your high wages. The cows are wild, and must be
bailed up and foot-roped. You may get an ugly kick or butt'----
"'As if I had never seen Highland kyloes! I am not at all
feared. Providence will protect me on land, as it has protected me by
water. After five months of the sea, with only a plank between me and
eternity, you cannot terrify me with kye.'
"'We have few conveniences for saving labour; but I see I need not
explain anything to you; you can think of nothing but your thirty
pounds a year; so, Mr. What's-your-name, draw up the agreement for a
"The agreement was drawn out and signed Walter Brandon and Margaret
Walker, and the next day I was on the road, if road you could call it,
for the like of it you never saw--sometimes rough and tangled,
sometimes soft and slumpy, sometimes scrubby and stony. I marvelled
often that they kept in the tracks. I rode on the top of a dray through
the day, and slept under it at night. There were four men with us; two
of them were inclined to be rough; but I soon let them see that they
would need to keep a civil tongue in their heads to deal with me. We
were nigh a fortnight on the road, but somehow I did not weary of that
as I did of the voyage, for my wages were going on, and
something making for the bairns of that journey."
Peggy Walker's Adventures
"It was near dark on a Saturday when we got to Barragong, which was the
name of Mr. Brandon's station. The master had got home long before us,
for he had gone on his horse.
"'Well, Peggy,' said he, as I got off the dray, 'how do you like bush
travelling? Slow, but sure, is it not?'
"'Uncommonly slow,' said I.
"'Why, you have got worse burnt on the top of the dray than even on
shipboard. Spoiled your beauty, Peggy.'
"'My beauty is of no manner of consequence,' said I, 'it has not broke
my work arm, and that is more to the purpose. Will you please,
Sir, to ask the mistress to show me the kitchen?'
"'You ask to see what is not to be seen,' said the master. 'There is no
kitchen to speak of, and as for the mistress, it is a pure invention of
"'No mistress?' I gasped out; 'ye spoke of Mrs. Brandon.'
"'It was you that spoke of her, Peggy; and as I hope in time to have
such a person on the premises, I made bold to say that you would suit
her, and in the meantime I dare say we will get on very well. You will
be really the mistress here, for there is not another woman within
"I started back, fairly cowed at the thought of being in that wild
place alone, among I knew not how many men of all sorts of characters.
"'It was not fair of you, Sir,' I said; 'I never thought but what you
were married when you took me up so natural.'
"'But really, Peggy, you are the very person we want here, and
I can make it worth your while to stay. You want good wages, and you
will get them; you are not a child, and you can take care of yourself.
It is hard that because I am so unlucky as to have no wife, I am to
have neither cleanliness nor comfort. Make the best of a bad bargain,
Peggy; I confess that your eagerness after good wages led me too far,
but I felt the temptation strong. Try the place for a week, and if you
do not like it, you can go back. Mr. Phillips's drays are going into
town, and if you cannot make up your mind to be contented here, you can
return to Melbourne with them.'
"I took the measure of Mr. Brandon that week, and I came to the
determination that I ought to stay. To be sure it was wrong of him to
fetch me out on false pretences, as it were, but I had walked into the
trap myself, and, as he said, he was in great need of a servant. He
might be weak, but he was not wicked; at least, I felt that I could
hold my own. It was a rough place for a gentleman to live in. Am I
wearying you, young ladies? I could leave off now, and go on
the morn's night."
"I am interested very much in your story," said Elsie.
"And so am I," said Jane. "I know not where fortune, or rather, as you
more properly call it, Providence may send us; and your experience has
a peculiar fascination to me. Do, pray, go on."
"Well, as I was saying, it was a rough place, and he was a gentleman in
his up-bringing and in many of his ways. You would not have believed,
if you had seen him in Melbourne, and heard him speak such English,
that he could go about in an old ragged, dirty shooting-coat, with a
cabbage-tree hat as black as a coal nearly--that he could live in a
slab hut, with a clay, or rather, a dirt floor, and a window-bole with
no glass in it--and that he could have all the cooking and half the
work of the house done at the fireside he sat at, and sit down at a
table without a table-cloth, and drink tea out of tin pannikins. The
notion of getting such wages in a place with such surroundings
quite dumb-founded me; and he had the things too; for by-and-by I found
napery and china in a big chest that I used for a table out of doors;
and bit by bit I made great improvements at Barragong. He gave me one
of the huts for myself, and I was a thought frightened to sleep there
my leafu' lane at first, but I put my trust in my Maker, and He watched
over me. I cooked in my own hut, and settled up the master's. He began
to think that a boarded floor would be an improvement, and he got the
men to saw them up. Hard work it was for them; and ill-coloured boards
they made; but when they were laid down, and a glass window put in, the
master's hut looked more purpose-like.
"I was not feared for the wild kye when I saw that the stockkeeper
would help me to get them into the bail; and when we got a milk-house
dug out of the hill-side, I made grand butter. I'll not soon forget the
day I had my first kirning. The stockkeeper--George Powell was his
name--had got into the dairy, as I thought, to lick the cream,
for he was an awful hand on it; but he kept hanging about, and
glowering at the milk-pans, and then looking at me, till at last he
said some nonsense, and I told him to be off with his daffing; I would
tell the master if he said an uncivil word.
"'I don't mean to be uncivil, Peggy; quite the contrary,' says he.
"'Then what do you mean?' says I, taking his hand off my shoulder, and
driving it bang against the stone slab we put the milk-pans on.
"'I mean, Peggy, will you marry me?' says he; 'that's civil enough,
"'No I won't,' says I. 'Thank you for the compliment, all the same, but
I have no wish to change my condition.'
"'Tell that to the marines,' says he. 'If you don't like me, tell me
so; but none of that nonsense.'
"'I like you well enough; but what I say is no nonsense. I do not wish
to change my condition.'
"'It would be a good change for you,' says he. 'I wonder you
are not frightened to stay here a single woman. Now, if you were my
wife, I could protect you;' and he flourished the arm I had given the
bang to--and a goodly arm it was.
"I told him about the bairns, and he just laughed at me. 'We'll see,'
says he. 'We'll see. Wait a little.'
"Well, every kirning that he was not out at a distance on the master's
business, did that man Powell come into the dairy and ask me the same
question, and get the same answer; and three of the shepherds, and a
little imp of a laddie that looked after the horses, made up to me too,
and seemed to think it was not fair that I would choose none of them.
Any woman with a white face might have had as many sweethearts; but I
think it was my managing ways that took Powell's fancy. If a fairy
could only move a lot of the women from the places where they are not
wanted, and put them where they are, there would be a wonderful
thinning taken out of Scotland and planted in Australia. But ye
see there are no fairies; and at such a distance, it costs a lot of
money to move such commodities as single women. I have puzzled my
brains whiles about the matter, Miss Jane, and many a time I have
repented coming back to a place where hands are many and meat is
scarce; but it will not be for long; and in the meantime I try to help
all the distressed bodies that I know about; and that I have kept my
five bairns from being a burden to anybody, is enough work for any
woman either here or in Australia. I'm going off of my story; but the
marvel to me that I was so beset with sweethearts that did not want
them, while so many lasses here never Can see the sight of one, always
makes me think that there should be a medium, and that lasses should
neither be ower much made of or neglected altogether. But to go back to
the bush. I had to rule with a high hand at Barragong, and really to
demean myself as if I were the mistress, to keep folk in their place.
But the worst was to come.
"The master had not been well for a week or so, and I had taken
especial care of him, and got him gruel and such like, that he seemed
very glad of; and he was getting better, and was sitting by the fire
while I was setting down the supper, when he said--No, I cannot tell
you what he said. No; he was not well, and may be did not know exactly
what he was about. I cannot tell his words, though they are burned into
my memory as clear and distinct as though I had heard them but
yesterday, but they were most unbefitting words for him to say or for
me to hear.
"I stood still for a whole minute or more, and looked him in the face.
He did not like the fixed steady way I kept my eyes on him.
"'Say such a thing again if you dare,' said I. 'You had no such thought
in your head or your heart when you brought me out to Barragong. I knew
that by your eyes. You must treat me respectfully if you mean to call
yourself a gentleman.'
"'Don't be so very hot, Peggy. You have made a fellow so comfortable,
that he may be excused for thinking more of you than he used to
do,' says he.
"'Think more of me!' says I; 'you think less of me, or you would not
"'What was I to fancy,' says he, 'when you refuse Powell so
pertinaciously, but that you are looking higher?'
"'Mr. Brandon,' says I, 'George Powell is high enough for me, for he
would make me his wife; and if I was free to marry, I would look for no
higher match. But to think that what you offer is higher!--May God
forgive you for the thought!'
"'Why, Peggy, perhaps I may offer higher yet; you are a good and a
clever girl, and will make an admirable wife.'
"'Not to you, sir; nor to any one out of my own station. Do not think
of making a fool of yourself, just because there is nobody here to
compare with homely Peggy Walker.'
"He looked at me more particularly than he had ever done before. I
leaned my hands on the table. and squared my elbows, and spread
my great browned hand and red arms before him. He laughed, and said,
'Peggy, you are right; you are a worthy girl and a clever, and in the
sight of God are worth ten of me; but when I think of taking you home
and presenting you to my mother and sisters as Mrs. Brandon, it is
rather comical. As for anything else, you are too good a girl, and I
will say no more about it, only I wish you would marry Powell and be
done with it.'
"Well, Miss Jean, this was the beginning and the end of it with the
master; but I think that man Powell was my greatest temptation,
especially after Mr. Brandon's words. He really was a protection to me,
for he was always civil and respectful in his language to me, and there
was not one of the men who dared say the thing that would anger him.
But it fell out that I was removed from Barragong before I had given in
to Powell, though I'm not saying what might have happened if I had
stopped there for six months longer.
"The master had a friend, a Mr. Phillips, who lived twenty
miles off, who had more stock and more men on his station than we had
at Barragong;--a nice quiet gentlemanly man, who had done as silly a
thing as Mr. Brandon had half evened himself to. He had married out of
his degree, though he had more temptation to it than the other, for the
lassie was very bonnie, and very young, and I dare say he thought he
could learn her the ways of gentlefolks.
"Be that as it may, the lady, Mrs. Phillips, was expecting her inlying,
and her husband had trysted a skilled nurse from Melbourne, for a
doctor could not be had; but when the appointed time came, the nurse
had made some other engagement, and could not or would not come; nor
did she send a fit person in her place. There was not time to get any
one from Melbourne, and Mr. Phillips came to Barragong and entreated me
to come to his wife, and Mr. Brandon to spare me. I said I had but
little skill, but that I would do the best I could for the poor lady in
her straits, and the master said he would let me go with pleasure if I
would only promise to come back when Mrs. Phillips was well and
"I thought I had been rather deceived in this instance too, for I
fancied there was no woman about the place but the mistress herself;
but I saw a well-grown strapping lass in the kitchen, and I thought she
might have answered as well me; but I soon found out that though the
woman (Martha they called her) had legs and arms and a goodly body of
her own, she had no more head than a bairn, and would have been a
broken reed to trust to in any time of peril or difficulty.
"It did not seem to me at first that Mrs. Phillips was so unlike a
lady, for she had an English tongue, and she was very well-favoured,
and sat quiet in her seat, and ordered folk about quite natural. She
had been married now well on for a year, and had got used to be the
mistress. But I had not been long there ere I found out her faults and
her failings; and to my mind her husband had but a poor life with her,
though he did seem to be very fond of the young creature, with
all her deficiencies. You see she had not an atom of consideration
either for him or for any other body on the station; she was either too
familiar or too haughty to the girl Martha; as for me, I knew my place
better, and if she did not keep me at my distance, I could mostly keep
her at hers.
"Not many days after I went to the Phillips's, she was taken ill and
safely delivered of a fine lassie. I have seen women make a great fuss
about bairns, till I cannot be surprised at anything they say or do,
but the joy of the father over the wee Emily was beyond anything I ever
saw. To see the great bearded man taking the hour-old infant in his
arms, kissing it over and over again, and speaking to it in the most
daft-like language, and calling on every one to admire its beauty! No
doubt the bairn had as much beauty as a thing of that age can have, but
I don't think any of the men he showed it to admired it much. I know
Powell, for one, when he came with his master's compliments to inquire
for Mrs. Phillips, and may be to have a crack with myself, was
not much taken up with the brat, as he called it. I had it in my arms,
and it was greeting, poor thing, so I had no time to give Powell a
word, except just the message for Mr. Brandon.
"Mrs. Phillips was by no means an easy lady to nurse. I knew well how
strict old Tibbie Campbell, who used to nurse Mrs. Henderson, used to
be about what a lying-in woman should have to eat and drink, and what
care she took that she could catch no cold, and I thought I behoved to
be as particular with Mrs. Phillips; but she would not hear reason. She
said that such a climate as Scotland should be no rule for treatment in
Australia, and she thought she should know her own constitution best,
and what was likely to agree with her; so she would take no telling
from me. As for Mr. Phillips, he would always give her what she wanted
if she teased for it long enough, or if she began to greet, so she
carried her point in spite of my teeth. And, poor thing, she suffered
for it; for she first took the cold, and then the fever; she
was out of her senses for five weeks, and barely escaped with her life.
It was a weary nursing. Mr. Phillips was wonderful in a sick-room, and
relieved me greatly; but I had such an anxious life with the bairn as
well as the mother. He used to beg me, with tears in his eyes, to save
the bit lassie, if it was in my power, and the man's life seemed to
hang on the little one's. His eye was as sharp as a mothers'--sharper
than most mothers'--to notice if Emily looked worse or better. It was
a novelty to me to see such care and thought in a man, not but what it
is well a father's part to care for his own offspring, and to take
trouble and fatigue for them.
"Mr. Brandon, all the time that the mistress was lying between life and
death, was wondrous patient, and never made a complaint for the want of
me, though I am sure things were at sixes and sevens at Barragong; but
when Mrs. Phillips had got the turn, and was able to move about again,
he sent me a message to come back. Well, I had promised, no doubt--and
I had a far easier life at Mr. Brandon's than where I was, and
nothing had ever been said about wages by Mr. Phillips to me--but then
the poor little lassie, it seemed as much as her life was worth to
leave her to her mother and the lass Martha, for they had not the sense
of an ordinary woman between them, and my heart clung to the bit bairn
with great affection.
"One day Powell came over with the spring-cart to fetch me home, and I
was in a swither what to do, for ye don't just like to press services
on folk that do not want them; but by that time Mr. Phillips had got to
know the necessity of the case, and it was only because he wanted the
offer to come from his wife that he had not asked me before; but she
was unreasonable, and he had to do it himself. She did not see why she
and Martha could not manage the baby; she was sure Peggy was no such
marvel; that there was no difficulty in feeding the child; that it was
cruel to put a strange woman over to give her orders, for Peggy was far
too independent for her place; and then Emily would love her nurse
better than her own mother. I know that was the way she went on
to Mr. Phillips, but on this point he was unmovable. When he asked me
as a great favour to stay, I consented for the sake of him and of
"Powell was very angry at me for stopping, and took quite a spite to
the little lassie that caused my stay. The way he spoke of that bairn
decided me. If he could not be fashed with one, how could he be fashed
with five? I was determined on one thing, that I should not have a
house of my own unless there was room in it, and a welcome in it, for
Bessie's orphans; so it was settled in my mind that day that I never
could be Mrs. Powell.
"I stopped at the Phillips's for more than eighteen months. The
mistress got used to me, and the bairn Emily was as fond of me as bairn
could be. I had more freedom from sweethearts there at first, for the
men were greatly taken up with Martha; but by the time I had been three
months there I had nigh hand as many followers, as she called them, as
she had herself. And followers she might well call them. I
could not go out with the bairn for a walk, or out to the kye, or turn
my head any way, without one or other of them being at my heels. And
when Martha got married to one of the men on the place, which happened
ere long, I seemed to have the whole station bothering me; but I would
have nothing to do with any of them. Mr. Phillips gave more credit than
any of the folk I had ever seen to my yearnings after Bessie's orphans,
and my resolutions to live single for their sake; but he never could
see that they would be such a drawback to any decent man that liked me;
but I knew there were few men so taken up with bairns as he was.
"Well, as I said, Mrs. Phillips, finding I did my work well and
quietly, gave over interfering with me, and seemed to get to like me;
but when her time was drawing near again, she was not disposed to trust
herself to my care altogether, nor, indeed, was I very keen of the
responsibility. She wanted to go to Melbourne, but the master would not
hear of it; and not all her fleeching, nor her tears, nor three
days' sulks, in which she would not open her mouth to him, would make
him give in to that.
"He seemed to have the greatest dread of parting with her, particularly
to go to Melbourne; and it was a busy time of the year, so that he
could not stay with her there. But he said he would go and fetch a
doctor, if one was to be had, and keep him in the house till he was
needed, and for as long as she was in any peril; and with that she
behoved to be contented. He was as good as his word, for he fetched one
from the town. I did not much like the looks of the man, but I said
nothing, and the mistress seemed quite satisfied.
"But Mr. Phillips took me by myself, and says he to me, 'I believe this
man is skilful enough and clever enough, but he has one fault--we must
keep drink from him and him from drink, or we cannot answer for the
consequences. But for this fault he would have had too good a practice
in Melbourne for us to be able to have him for weeks here. There is no
place near where he can get drink, so I think we can easily
manage to keep him all right. We need not tell Mrs. Phillips, Peggy.'
"Well, I kept watch over this Dr. Carter very well for a fortnight or
more, and he seemed to go on all right; but after that time he got very
restless, and I used to hear him walking about at night as if he could
not sleep, and through the day he could not settle to his book as he
used to do at first, or go to take a quiet walk, or ride not over far
from the house, but took little starts and turned back, as if something
was on his mind.
"I misdoubted him, but with all my watching I could see nothing. As ill
luck would have it, the night the mistress was taken ill, and I went to
call him up, there I found this man Carter as drunk as he could be, to
be able to stand, with an empty brandy bottle beside him that he had
knocked the head off. The keys were in my pocket, and not a bottle
missing out of the press. There never was much kept in the house, for
Mr. Phillips was a most moderate man, and tea is the great
drink in the bush; but in case of sickness we aye had some brandy by
us. But the poor deluded man had got one of the men about the place to
ride forty miles to get him this brandy that had just come at the time
when he was especially needed to be sober. I told him the lady was
wanting him, and Mr. Phillips and me shook him up; and he half came to
himself; and if the mistress had not smelt the drink so strong upon
him, she might not have known. She had another fine lassie, and all was
going on very well, for the mistress was more reasonable. She had
bought her experience very dear the time before, and would take a
telling. When the doctor had got over his drinking fit he was very
penitent, and spoke quite feelingly on the subject. Mr. Phillips turned
off the man that had fetched him the brandy, and told all the men on
the station the reason why. The man Carter did not want for skill, nor
for kindness either, when he was sober; so, as we were more fearful for
the fortnight after than the fortnight before the birth, we
just kept him on. Little Harriett was a fortnight old, and the mistress
was doing so nicely that Mr. Phillips thought he might leave us for one
of his out-stations, where he was wanted, and said he would not be home
for two or three days. And then the poor demented creature of a drunken
doctor contrived again to get hold of drink, and was far more
outrageous this time. Mrs. Phillips was lying on the sofa in the
parlour, when he came in and terrified her by roaring for more brandy;
and when I came in to settle him, he grippit me by the arm and
threatened me with I don't know what, if I refused him. The mistress
entreated me to turn him out of doors--and so I did. He got on a horse
of the master's--I marvelled how he kept his seat--and set off, and I
felt easy in my mind.
"But I had just got the mistress quieted down, when the native boy Jim,
that was always doing odd jobs about the place, came running past the
window with such a look of terror on his face that I saw something was
wrong. I ran out quick but quietly, to ask what was the matter.
"'Fire! Peggy,' says he; and then, sure enough, I looked out,
and the grass was on fire, but very far off, and a strong wind blowing
it right to the slab huts on the head station with their thatch roofs.
Nothing could save us if it came near, and as I have told you it was a
busy time, and the men were all hither and thither, and nobody left on
the place but Martha, and Jim, and myself, and the mistress ill, and
two infants, as I may say, for Emily was not thirteen months old. The
only thing that could be done was to burn a broad ring round the
houses, as I had seen done at Barragong; but that craved wary watching.
By good luck the bairns were both sleeping, and Mrs. Phillips resting
quiet, so I called Martha and Jim, and said we must take wet bags and
green boughs and beat the fire out as we burned. Jim was as quick and
clever as need be, and set about in earnest; but Martha said she could
do nothing for terror, and prayed me to remember her situation.
"'Your situation,' says I, 'will be far worse if you don't
bestir yourself for your own safety. If you won't lend a hand for the
sake of your poor helpless mistress and the innocent bairns, you behove
to do it for the sake of your own four quarters.' So she got more
reasonable, and helped us somewhat, but it was close work, for the fire
was near. It was all that poor wretch of a doctor's doing, too, for he
had been trying to smoke, and had dropped his lighted pipe in the dry
withered grass, and it blazed up like wild; he got out of it, for he
was travelling against the wind, while we were in full waft of it. I
thought the wind and the fire would beat us, and was like to throw up
the work in despair, when I saw a man on horseback galloping for dear
life. I thought it was the master at first, but it was Mr. Brandon, and
he was nigh hand as good, for he fell to, and worked with all his
might, and with his help we saved the house, and all the precious ones
in it. In time the men dropped in, and they set about working to save
the run, but if the wind had not providentially changed at night, they
would scarcely have been able to save it. As it was, there was
thousands of acres of land laid bare, and a flock of sheep killed; the
poor beasts have not the sense to run away out of the fire.
"Oh! the appearance of the place that night was awful to behold; and
just before the wind chopped round the master came home, riding like
"'We are all safe,' said I, as I ran to meet him, and I saw his face by
the light of the blazing fires around us was as pale as death. 'Mrs.
Phillips and the bairns are not a hair the worse. Thank God for all his
"'Thank God!' said he, 'thank God! Now they are preserved, I can bear
the loss of anything else!'
"He came to his wife, and kissed her and the bairns with solemn, and,
as I thought, with pathetic thankfulness. I was afraid she would be
sorely upset with the terrible events of the day, and I never closed my
eyes that night, but sat up by her bedside lest she should take a bad
turn; but she did not seem any the worse of it, and both her
and the bairns got on brawly. The loss of the sheep was no such great
matter in these times, for there was so little market for them, that we
had to boil them down for the sake of the tallow--that could be sent
to England. Times were changed before I left the colony, for the
diggings made a great demand for sheep and cattle to kill; but when I
was up the country the waistrie of flesh was sinful to behold. I have
many a day sinsyne thought on the beasts and the sheep that were
slaughtered there for the working men, and how the bits that they threw
about or left on their plates might be a good dinner for many a hungry
stomach in Scotland.
"Well, after I had been more than a year and a half at Mr. Phillips's,
my wages just running on as they had done at Mr. Brandon's, and five
pounds sent every quarter, as opportunity offered, for the bairns, I
heard word of a cousin of William Lowrie's coming out to Melbourne, to
follow his trade of a stone-mason there, and I had a strong desire to
see him, to ask after my orphans; for if my letters to them
were but poor, the letters I got back were no better, so my heart was
set on seeing Sandy Lowrie, who had lived close by, and knew the bairns
well. It chanced that Mr. Phillips had a man and his wife on the
station at the time that had no family. The man was nothing of a hand
at work, but the wife was one of those bright, clever, cheery little
Englishwomen that can turn hand to anything, and had such a fine
temper--nothing ever could put her out. So, as she could do for the
mistress as well as myself, I asked leave from the master and
Mrs. Phillips to go to the town and see Sandy. The mistress was fashious,
for she did not like anybody about her to please themselves, and she had
got used to me, as I said before; but the master was as reasonable as she
was the contrary.
"He said to me, the day before I left, 'Peggy, I owe you a great debt.
You have saved the life of my wife and children.'
"'Under Providence, sir,' said I.
"'Under Providence, of course,' said he; 'but I fear Providence
would have done little for them if Martha had been the only instrument
Providence had at hand to use, so I am over head and ears in debt to
"'No, Mr. Phillips,' said I, 'my work you have paid me well for; my
kindness you have returned with kindness and consideration such as I
never hoped to meet with in a strange land. If I have nursed and cared
for your children you have comprehended my love for my own poor bairns;
and this permission to visit Melbourne, that I may hear about them, is
a great favour, and one I will never forget to be grateful for.'
"'You are not to let me off in this way,' said he. 'You will find a
hundred pounds lying in the bank to your credit, which, as you are a
prudent woman, you may be trusted to invest yourself in any way that
you may judge best for yourself or the orphans. My idea is that you may
take a little shop, and this sum would stock it. I could assist you
with my name further than the sum of money I have given to you,
if it is necessary.'
"It flashed on my mind that this was a grand opening; but it seemed so
selfish and greedy-like to take advantage of his kindness, and to leave
him, and Mrs. Phillips, and the bairns, to further my own plans. I said