Part 3 out of 9
as much to him, but he would not hear of a refusal.
"'You never can manage to do much for the children at service, for all
your wages, except your own necessary expenses, goes home and is spent;
but by having a little business, you may save more than you could send
to them now, and get them a better education, and give them a better
start. No doubt we will miss you here; but Mrs. Bennett is a very
excellent person, and now I hear that Dr. Grant is going to buy Mr.
McDougall's station, only fifteen miles off, we can get him to come on
an emergency, though he says he would rather not practise. I will not
say that we can do very easily without you, but we must not keep you
"The kindness of Mr. Phillips I will never forget. Well, it was
done all as he planned it. I went to Melbourne and saw Sandy Lowrie,
and he gave me good accounts of the bairns, as growing in stature, and
Tam and Jamie keen of their learning, but the old woman, their
grandmother, he said was sore failed, and no likely to be long spared.
"I took a little shop at a low rent, in a little village, a bit out of
the town, for I was frightened to incur much risk, and I set up on my
own footing, with 'M. Walker, general store,' over my door-cheek.
"I was doing a decent business, in a small way, among poor people
mostly; and I set my face very steady against giving credit, for two
reasons--first, that I was not clever enough to keep accounts; and
besides that, it just does working folk harm to let them take on. At a
time of sickness I might break through my rule, but at no other time.
All the folk about me called me Miss Walker, very much to my surprise;
and as I was thought to be making money, I had no want of
sweethearts. After I had gone on for some years the diggings broke out,
and there was an awful overturn of everything in Melbourne. I made a
lot of money, and I bought the shop from the landlord, and was very
proud to get my title-deed written out on parchment, and to see myself
a woman of landed heritable property; and then I made my will, too, for
I had something to leave. I never was doing better in business in my
life than when Robbie Lowrie, a brother of Sandy's, came out to go to
the diggings, and maybe with an eye to make up to myself; but the news
he brought me made me change all my plans and return to Scotland. He
told me that the grandmother was dead, and that the old man, who never
had half the gumption of his wife, was not able to control the five
youngsters; so that they were getting out their heads at no allowance.
Tam, in particular, he said, was a most camsteery callant; but the old
man, he said, was fairly off all work, and not one of his own bairns
were either able or willing to help him, and I knew that he had
an awful horror of the sea. So I let my shop, and sold the stock for
time; and indeed the payments have no been owre regular, and the man
that took it is still in my debt. I found the grandfather and the
bairns were really as Robbie had said, and I have had my own work to
set things to rights. They were in debt, too, though I had sent them
double the money after I had the shop than before; but they just
thought that a rich auntie in Australia was a mine of wealth, and the
folk very unwisely gave them trust whenever they asked it. But they
were doing very weel at the school, and I find it a hantle cheaper to
give them learning here than in Melbourne; so it answers me better to
bide here than to take them out, even if grandfather would agree. He
was good to me and mine in my straits, and I cannot think to leave the
old man now.
"But what with the rent and the schooling, and one thing and another, I
found that the rent of my bit shop would not pay all expenses, so I
took in washing and dressing for the folk about Swinton. I was
aye clever at it, and I got a great inkling about clear-starching and
fine dressing from that Mrs. Bennett, at Mr. Phillips's station, for
she was a particular good laundress. A body learns at all hands if one
has only the will. And ye see, now, it seemed better for Tam and the
rest that I should try my luck in a bigger place, and I hope I may not
repent of it.
"That's all my story. It's no much tell; but yet, ye see that none of
my brothers have been burdened with my bairns. I have done it all
Jane sat silent a few moments after Peggy had finished her narrative,
and then thanked her gravely and earnestly for it. Elsie, too, had been
much interested in the adventures of this clever, upright woman, and
was only sorry it could not be available--neither incident nor
sentiment--for her poetry.
"Now, I have kept you up long enough, young ladies. If what I have said
gives you any heart, I will be glad. I hope you will sleep well, and
have lucky dreams; so good-night."
Elsie's Literary Venture, and Its Success
Elsie Melville found the second day in ----- Street better than the
first. An early walk with Jane restored her to her equilibrium, and she
sat down to write in her own room with more rapidity than before; while
Jane went out and made inquiries at registry offices, or anywhere else
that was likely to lead to employment; but day after day passed without
success. Rather than do nothing, she assisted Peggy in the lighter
parts of her work, made clothes for the children, and helped them with
their lessons in the evening. Peggy was astonished at the progress
which they all made with such assistance, and particularly delighted
with the great influence Jane had over Tom. As she grew
accustomed to the ways of the house, she learned to endure the noise
patiently, and she found these five young Lowries really interesting
and remarkably intelligent. Tom especially was eager for knowledge, and
his trade, which he entered into with all his heart, was calling out
all his abilities and all his ambition. There were many things that he
had difficulty in getting information about, for he was but a young
apprentice, and the journeymen and older apprentices wanted him to wait
on them rather than to learn the business. But he was not to be kept
back in that way; he was determined to find things out for himself, and
in every difficulty he found help and sympathy from Jane Melville. Her
out-of-the-way knowledge made her a most useful auxiliary, and she
rejoiced that there was one person in the world that she could assist
with it. She did not forget Peggy's wish about the quick writing, and
taught those peasant children to express themselves fluently on paper.
Their manners were improved under her influence, and what was
still uncouth or clumsy she learned to bear with.
Another resource to lighten the weight of anxiety and disappointment
was found in Peggy's extraordinary gift in finding out distressed
people, which even in her new residence, did not desert her. Jane, who
had been accustomed to put her hand in her purse for the benefit of
Peggy's proteges, felt at first very grieved that she had nothing to
give, but she learned that a great deal of good can be done with very
little money, and satisfied herself by giving sympathy, personal
services, and advice. It was astonishing what good advice she gave to
other people for bettering their prospects, while she seemed quite
unable to do anything for herself. But so long as Elsie was busy and
hopeful with her poems, Jane could not bear to leave her; if they
failed, they must try what they could do separately. In the meantime,
she was more disposed to try classes than anything else, for her
experience with the Lowries proved to her that she could teach clever
children, at any rate, with success; but as she could not get
the promise of any pupils of the rank and circumstances that could make
them pay, she hesitated about incurring any risk.
Elsie had completed poems sufficient to fill a small volume before her
sister had seen any opening for herself. It was with some strong
agitation on Jane's part, and still stronger on Elsie's, that they
presented themselves to the publisher who had said he would give a good
price for a good book written by a woman, and offered him the
manuscript for publication. Alas! tastes differ as to what is a good
book, and in nothing is there so much disparity of opinion as in the
article of poetry. He did not give much encouragement to the sisters,
but said he would read over the manuscript and give an answer in ten
days. Any one who has ever written with the hope of publishing can
fancy Elsie's feeling during these ten days. Her own verses rang in her
ears; she recollected passages she might have altered and improved, and
wondered if they would strike the critic as faulty; then again
she recalled passages which she fancied could not be improved, and
hoped he would not skip them; now she would sit idle in the thought
that, until she saw there was a market for her productions, there was
no necessity for multiplying them; then again she would work with
redoubled industry to see if she had not quite exhausted her fancy and
The final verdict was unfavourable:--"There is some sweetness of
versification and of expression in Miss Melville's poems, but they are
unequal, and want force and interest. They never would become popular,
so that I feel obliged to decline the publication. Poetry is at all
times heavy stock, unless by authors of established reputation."
Elsie sat sad and dispirited at this her first failure, but her sister
comforted her by saying that Edinburgh was not the best market for
anything new--London was the place where a new author had some chance.
Elsie easily caught at the hope, and retouched some of her most
imperfect pieces before sending them to a great London house. To
publisher after publisher the manuscript was sent, and after due time
occupied in reading it, the parcel returned with the disappointing
"Mr. B----'s compliments, and he begs to decline with thanks Miss
Melville's poems, as, in the opinion of his literary adviser, they
could not answer the purpose of publication."
"Messrs. H----, B----, & Co.'s compliments, and though they are
overstocked with poetry, they have read carefully Miss Melville's
poems, but find them of the most unmarketable kind, so beg to decline
"Messrs. S----, E----, & Co.'s compliments, and they regret that the
subjective character of all Miss Melville's poems will make them
uninteresting to the general reader. They therefore regret that they
cannot bring them out."
When the notes were as brief as the foregoing samples, the pain was not
so severe as in the last which Elsie received, in which a
careful but most cutting criticism accompanied the refusal. There is no
doubt that Elsie's poems were crude, but she had both fancy and
feeling. With more knowledge of life and more time, she was capable of
producing something really worth reading and publishing. If there had
been no talent in her verses, she would not have had a reading from so
many good publishing houses; but she did not know enough of the trade
to know this, and her humiliation at her repeated disappointments was
There is no species of composition that should be less hurried than
poetry. Even if it is struck off in a moment of inspiration, it should
not be published then, but laid aside for alteration and polishing
after a considerable time has elapsed; and much of our best poetry has
been very slowly composed, even at first. Our poor little Elsie had
prepared by great industry her volume of poems in less than four
months, and had not taken time to reconsider them. They were
not narrative pieces, in which the interest of the story carries you
along in reading, whether the diction is perfected or not, but mostly
short lyrical poems, and contemplative pieces, which are always much
more effective when found amongst other descriptions of poetry or in a
magazine, than when collected together in a volume. They were generally
sad, a common fault with poetesses; but poor Elsie had more excuse for
taking that tone than many others who have done so.
She had to mourn the loss of fortune and the coldness of friends; the
conduct of William Dalzell to her sister had made a deeper impression
on her mind than on that of Jane. She had more capacity of suffering
than Jane had, and when she took the pen in her hand, she felt that her
life--and all life--was full of sorrow. Jane had induced Elsie to
accompany her to the chapel, where she herself had learned her first
lesson of submission and of Christian hope; but even in religion Elsie
inclined to the contemplative and the tender rather than to the
active and the cheerful side of it. She looked with far more intense
longing to the Heaven beyond the earth than Jane did, and had not the
interest in the things about her to make the dreariness of her daily
life endurable. Her poetry had been her one resource; and that appeared
to be very weak and contemptible in the opinion of those who ought to
Whether the literary taster for the publisher last applied to was less
engrossed with business than the others, or whether he thought it would
do the aspiring poetess good to show her her faults, I cannot tell, but
he wrote a long letter of critical remarks. There was one ballad--an
idealization of the incident in Jane's life which had so much impressed
Elsie, in which William Dalzell was made more fascinating and more
faithless, and Jane much more attached to him than in reality--which
this correspondent said was good, though the subject was hackneyed, but
on all the others the sweeping scythe of censure fell unsparingly. "Her
poems," he said, "were very tolerable, and not to be endured;"
mediocrity was insufferable in poetry. The tone of them was unhealthy,
and would feed the sentimentalism of the age, which was only another
name for discontent. If poetesses went on as they were doing
now-a-days, and only extracted a wail from life, the sooner they gave
up their lays the better. The public wanted healthy, cheerful, breezy
poetry, with a touch of humour here and there, and a varied human
interest running through it--a fit companion to the spirited novels of
Charles Kingsley, then at the height of his fame. If poets were to
teach the world, as they boasted that they were, they should not shut
themselves up, and practise variations on the one poor tune, "I am
miserable; I am not appreciated; the world is not worthy of me;" but go
forth to the world and learn that there are nobler subjects for poetry
than themselves. Then, with regard to Elsie's diction and rhymes, this
critic selected a number of the most faulty and imperfect verses for
censure, and Elsie had the miserable satisfaction of having to
acknowledge that they deserved it. I have little doubt that the
critic thought he was giving the poetess a good lesson; but if he had
seen the suffering that his letter caused, and the youth and
inexperience, and the sad circumstances of the poor girl who received
it, he would have repented somewhat of his very clever and satirical
Heartsick and humbled, Elsie lost hope, and health, and spirits. She
wrapped the rejected manuscript in brown paper, and put it in the
farthest corner of one of her drawers. She was only prevented from
committing it to the flames by Jane's interference.
"Now," said she, "I must be as busy as you. Peggy must teach me to
iron--surely I can learn to do that--and let me make Nancy's frock. But,
after all, Jane, this will not do for a continuance; we must seek for
employment somewhere. I have spent a good deal of time over this
useless work, and postages have come heavy on our small means. I must
try to earn something."
The heavy tears fell fast on the frock as the girl worked at
it; the listless hands dropped their hold of it occasionally, and she
was lost in bitter thoughts. She however finished it, and then busied
herself with a new bonnet for Peggy, which was to be made not at all
fashionable, but big and rather dowdy. Elsie's taste rebelled a little
at the uncongenial task; but she was doing her best to please Peggy
when the postman delivered two letters to Jane--one from Francis, and
the other from Mrs. Rennie. Francis' letters had been frequent, and had
been a little interesting even to Elsie, and this one was more so than
usual. He was coming to Edinburgh for a week or two, and meant to see
them as much as possible during his stay. He was to be at a party at
the Rennies' on New Year's Day, and his cousins were to be invited
also; he trusted to meet them there. The Rennies had occasionally
called, and shown the girls more kindness than any of their Swinton
friends, or their other Edinburgh acquaintances. They had spent a
fortnight, in autumn, at Cross Hall, and had enjoyed it very
The note from Mrs. Rennie contained an invitation for both sisters to
this party; and to girls who had been shut up so many months with no
society but that of Peggy and her relations, the prospect of spending
one evening among their equals in social position was very pleasant.
Jane anticipated pleasure, besides, from seeing and talking with her
cousin about everything and everybody in and about Cross Hall, as well
as about a tour on the Continent which he had taken. Even Elsie's face
brightened a little as she gave the last loving touches to her sister's
dress, and said that she had never seen her look better, though she was
a little thinner and paler than she used to be--to Elsie's eyes she
was quite as pretty.
Some Grave Talk In Gay Company
Francis had hoped to see his cousins before he met them at the party,
but when he called at Peggy Walker's he found that they were out taking
their customary long walk, so he met them in Mrs. Rennie's drawing-room
for the first time. Certainly the two girls in mourning were not the
plainest-looking in the room. Neither sister was beautiful, but Elsie
was very nearly so, and her recent suffering had thrown more intensity
into her expression, and made her look more lovely than ever. But it
was to Jane that Francis' eyes turned affectionately and anxiously, and
he grieved to see the traces of weariness, of care, and he even
thought, of tears, on the face which to him was the most
interesting in the world. He shook hands with her warmly, and looked
inquiringly in her face, and then drew her into a quiet corner in a
window-seat, where they could talk without being much observed. Elsie
did not sit beside them, but left them to their own conversation,
assured that she would hear all that she cared to know by-and-by; yet
she was not neglected, for Miss Rennie had taken a great fancy to her,
and was determined, if possible, to get her partners. At Mrs. Rennie's
parties there never was any scarcity of gentlemen, for they had an
extensive family connection, and Mr. Rennie was a kind and hospitable
man, who had a large acquaintance in the city. Miss Rennie had judged
hardly of Jane's personal appearance at first sight, but she thought
Elsie a most elegant and interesting creature.
"We have written so often and so fully to each other that I fancy that
we have little to say now we meet," said Jane, smiling.
"We have written so much to each other that we have all the
more to say, Jane," said her cousin. "I never get a letter from you
without its making me wish to talk over it with you. You have no news,
however, I suppose?"
"No news," said Jane. "I wrote to you of Elsie's last bitter
disappointment. It was a cruel letter; she felt it all the more,
because she says it is all true. But, really, Francis, I think her
poetry did not deserve it. She has never mentioned her verses since."
"And for yourself, you can see no prospect?"
"It seems impossible to get up the classes that I hoped for. I think I
must take to Mrs. Dunn's and the dressmaking, for we cannot go on as we
"Ah! Jane, my cup of prosperity has very many bitter drops in it."
"And mine of adversity has much that is salutary and even sweet in it.
Do not think me so very unhappy. If any one had told me beforehand of
these months that I have passed since my uncle's death, I should have
thought them absolutely intolerable, and would have preferred
death. But there is no human lot without its mitigations and
ameliorations. God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. I am not happy,
perhaps; but I am not miserable. I have not to live with people whom I
despise, for there never was a more estimable woman than Peggy Walker,
or more promising children than her nephews and nieces. You cannot
fancy what interest I feel in Tom, and how I am ambitious for him. He
will make a figure in the world, and I will help him to do so. We women
have no career for ourselves, and we must find room for ambition
somewhere. I have no brother and no husband, and I find myself building
castles in the air for Tom Lowrie and for you, Francis; for you are
proving yourself the good master, the conscientious steward of the
bounties of Providence that I hoped you would be; and is that nothing
to be glad of? I know I look sad, but do not fancy me always in this
mood; if you saw me in the evenings with Tom, and Nancy, and Jamie, and
Jessie, and Willie, you would see how cheerful I can be. Here,
I am reminded too painfully of what I have lost; there, I feel that I
have gained somewhat."
"You want to relieve my mind, my generous cousin, by making the best of
your very hard lot."
"Every lot has its best side," said Jane, "and it is only by looking
steadily at it that one can obtain courage to bear the worst. I see
this in visiting the very poor people whom I wrote to you about. Some
people are querulous in comparative comfort; others have the most
astonishing powers of cheerful endurance. I have learned upon how very
little the human soul can be kept in working order from a poor
rheumatic and bed-ridden old woman, who is so grateful for the use of
one hand while she is helpless otherwise, and who has had a very bad
husband, and several very careless and cold-hearted children; but she
has one son who comes to see her regularly once every three months, and
brings her the scanty pittance on which she subsists; and surely I,
with youth, and health, and work to do, should try to be
cheerful, even though the work is not such as I could prefer.-----And
you have been in France as well as England since I saw you last in
August. I want to hear further particulars of your travels, since you
say that you have more to give. They interested you very much,
particularly those in France."
"Very much, indeed; all the more as I acquired the language. I wrote to
you that I met with Clemence de Vericourt, now Madame Lenoir."
"Is she handsome?" asked Jane.
"No; I thought her almost ugly till she opened her mouth, and then I
forgot it, and felt the charm of the most winning manner and the most
brilliant conversational power in the world. Frenchwomen are not to
compare with Englishwomen for beauty, but they can be irresistible
"How did you get an introduction to her?" asked Jane.
"French society is more accessible than it is here; but I met
with a French gentleman in a CAFE who had known my father, and who
recognized my name, who introduced me to a good many very pleasant
salons, and to Madame Lenoir's among others. Arnauld is dead; he fell
in Algeria. His sister speaks of him with the tenderest affection."
"Is she happily married? After all her mother's solicitude, it would be
hard if she too were sacrificed."
"So far as I can see, she appears to be happy. The husband is of
suitable years and good character; not so brilliant as his wife. But
really what Madame de Girardin says appears to me to be true, that
French women are superior to their so-called lords and masters. It is
strange to me, who have been always so shy, and so shut out from
society, to be introduced--or rather plunged--into so much of it."
"Had you not society of your own when you were in the bank--your
fellow-clerks and their wives and sisters?"
"I had little intimacy with any of them, and was particularly
in want of acquaintances among the other sex. A man with no relations
who recognized his existence, and who is conscious of the doubtfulness
of his birth, as I was, does not like to push himself into society in a
country like this of Scotland, where family connections are overrated.
Now, every one seems to think that being owned by my father in his will
quite sufficient, while I am more ashamed in my secret soul of my birth
than I ever was."
"Indeed!" said Jane, "I thought it would have pleased you to be
"YOU should see, if the world does not, that if one party has juggled
the other into a marriage, without any love on either side, it may
involve legal succession to property, but does not make the birth a
whit more respectable. I had a mother who did not care for me, and a
father who did his duty, as he fancied, by me, but who disliked me, and
they appear to have hated one another."
"You extorted respect and regard from your father, and you have cause
to be proud of that. If mutual love between parents is to be
the great cause of pride of birth, I, too, have reason to be ashamed of
mine, for I think my mother's love was worn out before many years of
married life were over, and my father's never was anything but
self-love and self-will. But whatever our birth may be, we are all
God's children, and equal in His eyes, in that respect at least.----Did
Madame Lenoir speak to you of her mother?"
"Yes, she did, and recollected that my name was the name of an old and
dear friend of her mother's; so she was especially kind to me for my
father's sake. I saw Madame de Vericourt's portrait, too. She was
prettier than her daughter, at least in repose; but neither of them
were at all like my ideal; for I forgot the French class of face, and
embodied my fancy portraits in an English type."
"You enjoyed French society, then?"
"Very much, indeed. The art of conversing these French people carry to
great perfection. It is not frivolous, though it is light and
sparkling; it is still less argumentative, but it has the knack
of bringing out different opinions and different views of them. We pity
the French for their want of political liberty, but the social. freedom
they enjoy is some compensation.-----But what interested me still more
than these brilliant salons, was the tour that I took through the
country, and the careful observation of the condition and prospect of
the small proprietors so numerous in France and Flanders. The contrast
between the French small landowner and the English agricultural
labourer is very great. Nothing has struck me as so pathetic as the
condition of the English farm labourer--so hopeless, so cheerless. Our
Scottish peasants have more education, more energy, and are more
disposed to emigrate. Their wages are fixed more by custom than by
competition, and their independence has not been sapped by centuries of
a most pernicious poor law system; yet, though I think their condition
very much better than those of the same class south of the Tweed, it is
nothing like that of the peasant proprietor."
"They say that small holdings are incompatible with high
farming," said Jane, "and that such a crowded country as Britain must
be cultivated with every advantage of capital, machinery, and
"So they say here; but the small proprietors of France and Flanders
will tell another story, for they will give a higher price for land
than the capitalist, and make it pay. The astonishing industry of the
Flemish farmers in reclaiming the worst soil of Europe, and making it
produce the most abundant crops, shows me the fallacy of our insular
notions on that head. I cannot but regret the decrease of the yeomanry
class in Great Britain, and the accumulation of large estates in few
hands. Scotland, for instance, is held by 8000 proprietors or
thereabouts, of whom I am one. I should like to try an experiment. You
know that sand flat, that is worth very little but for scanty pasture,
at the back of the Black Hill, as it is called. I would divide it into
allotments among the most industrious and energetic of my
farm-labourers, and show them the method pursued by the Flemish
farmers, and see if in the course of ten years they are not growing as
good crops as in the most favoured spots on the estate. 'Give a man a
seven years' lease of a garden, he will convert it into a desert; give
him a perpetuity of a rock, he will change it into a garden.' Your
uncle did not think it would pay to reclaim that piece of land; I will
try if our peasants have not the stuff in them to make the most of the
"What an excellent idea!" said Jane.
"I knew you would sympathize with this plan, and with another which I
have also in my head--to build new cottages for all the agricultural
labourers on the estate. It is shameful that while the proprietors'
houses, and the farmers' houses, have been enlarged and improved so
much during the last century, the cottage of the hind and the cotter
should still be of the same miserable description; the partitions to be
made at the labourer's own expense, and too generally done by the
enclosed beds, which are not right things in a sanitary point
of view. The money value of the rent is increased, too, for so many
weeks of reaping in harvest time is worth more now than a century back.
I have got plans for the cottages which I wanted you to look at this
morning; I think they will do."
"You must let Peggy see them; she was brought up in one of those
cottages you speak of, and will know all their deficiencies. It will
set a good example to the neighbourhood," said Jane.
"And, after all, it will not cost me more to build these cottages, and
make thirty families more comfortable and more self-respecting, than it
would to enlarge Cross Hall, as Mr. Chalmers advises me strongly to
do--by building a new wing and adding a conservatory in the place of your
modest little greenhouse. Every one knows I have come to the estate
with money in hand instead of encumbrances to clear off, as so many
proprietors have, so they can think of my spending it in nothing but in
increasing my own comfort or importance. Another reason for my
trying these experiments and improvements is to see if we cannot keep
some of our best people in Scotland. Our picked men, and many of our
picked women, emigrate to America and Australia. The recent emigration
to Australia since the gold-diggings were discovered has been enormous.
It must hurt the general character of the nation that we lose our best
and our ablest as they grow up. I confess that if I were in their place
I should do the same; but let my experiment succeed, it may be
"Whether it is imitated or not, it is right to try it. I will watch the
result with the greatest interest. You know nothing could give me
greater pleasure than your success in such a noble work," said Jane,
with sparkling eyes. "My uncle's will is to turn out no mistake."
"We must go over together the names of those I mean to give the
allotments to. You know the people better than I do," said Francis.
"It is not fair that the commonages should be enclosed to
enlarge great estates; the waste lands should belong to the nation, and
be given to the class that needs them most, and that could, perhaps,
make most of them," said Jane. "You are bringing my uncle's theories
into practice. If it were not for Elsie I should have nothing to regret
in the settlement that my uncle made; and, perhaps, there is something
brighter in store for her."
"Has she none of the alleviations that you are so good as to make the
very most of?" asked Francis.
"She has more pleasure naturally in books and in nature than I have,
but at the present time she appears to have to have lost her relish for
both. She has felt that her estimate of her powers has been too great,
and now it is far too humble. For myself, I think just as highly of my
own abilities and acquirements as ever I did. I am sorry that your
minister has left his church, for I hoped to become acquainted with
him; and he looked so cheerful that I thought he might do Elsie good.
This new clergyman does not strike me as being so genial or
kindly, though I certainly like his sermons and his devotional services
very much. It is certainly not the least of the blessings of my
adversity that I have learned to place myself in God's hands, and to
feel that he will do all things well for me."
"Can you not place your sister in the same care?" asked Francis.
"It is easier to trust God for yourself than to trust Him for those
whom we love," said Jane; "but I try hard for that amount of faith.
Elsie is so weary of her life sometimes, it is difficult to give her
courage. This is grave conversation for a dancing party; but you do not
see the incongruity. If we cannot carry our religion into our
amusements, and into our business, it will not be of much use to us."
The sound of a well-known voice arrested Jane's attention: it was that
of William Dalzell, who was shaking hands with Mr., Mrs., and Miss
Rennie very cordially, and then, in an embarrassed manner, doing the
same with Elsie.
"How did our friends get acquainted with Mr. Dalzell?" said
"When they were visiting me at Cross Hall, we had a gathering of the
neighbouring families, and Mrs. Rennie did the honours for me. Mr.
Dalzell, with his mother, and two young lady cousins, were of the
party. I thought the county people would have held themselves aloof
from the more plebeian society of an Edinburgh banker, but he at least
has condescended to accept Mrs. Rennie's invitation to her own house.
The exclusiveness of classes, and sects, and cliques, is extremely
amusing to me. But I am engaged to dance this dance with Miss Rennie,
so you must excuse me."
As Francis went up to claim Miss Rennie's hand, a gentleman was in the
act of asking it--"I am engaged to Mr. Hogarth--see my card--but as
you are a stranger in Edinburgh, you will be obliged to me for
introducing you to his cousin, one of the sweetest girls in the world,
and one whose story is the most interesting and the most romantic I
ever heard. Oh! Mr. Dalzell, I forgot you."
"This is sad, to be so easily forgotten. I had hoped that my
requests had made more impression," said he.
"I do not think Laura is engaged for this dance. Excuse me a moment
till I ascertain." Miss Rennie walked across the room, leaving William
Dalzell and the stranger together, but she presently returned, with the
assurance that Miss Wilson was disengaged, and would be happy to be
introduced to Mr. Dalzell. Miss Wilson was ward of Mrs. Rennie's, as
Jane had heard, a West Indian heiress, somewhat stupid, and very much
impressed with her own wealth and importance. Miss Rennie had a pitying
sort of liking for her, though sometimes Laura's airs were too much for
her, and they would not speak to each other for a week at a time. She
had just left school, having made all the progress which money without
natural ability or any of the usual incentives to application could
attain, and was to live at the Rennies', which she thought a very dull
place. This large party was the brightest thing in her horizon at
present, and she was looking her best, and took her place in
the dance with one of the handsomest men in the room, with much more
animation than was usual with her.
"Now," said Miss Rennie, "I have done my best for Mr. Dalzell. I must
attend to my other stranger before I fulfil my engagement to you, Mr.
Hogarth, and I hope you will excuse me, when it is to get a partner for
Alice. Miss Melville, I suppose, does not care about dancing, she is so
dreadfully matter-of-fact. I know you have been talking politics, or
something as bad, in that corner all this evening."
So Miss Rennie led the stranger across the room, and introduced Miss
Alice Melville to Mr. Brandon, from Australia.
Mr. Brandon In Edinburgh
"You must excuse any blunders I may make in my dancing, Miss Melville,
for I am an old bushman, and have been out of practice for many years,"
said Mr. Brandon.
In spite of Elsie's being an admirable dancer, she was too much excited
to do her best, and the stranger made no great figure in his first
debut in that line. Miss Rennie was inwardly rejoicing that she had
herself got rid of him.
"What part of Australia do you come from?" asked Elsie, in the first
"From Victoria, as it is called now. It was called Port Phillip when I
"Have you been long in the colony?"
"A long time--long enough for all my friends to forget me. But
yet I need make no complaint; they have all been very kind; but I think
I am entitled to a spell now."
"To a what?" asked Elsie, to whom the term was new.
"To a rest, or rather a fling--a holiday. Ah! Miss Melville, you can
have no idea what a rough life I have led for many years. You cannot
fancy how delightful, how perfectly beautiful it is to me to be in such
society as this after the Australian bush."
Miss Melville had a better idea than he fancied. It is curious to meet
people as strangers of whom you know a great deal, and when Elsie
looked at the very gentlemanly man beside her, whose dress was
perfectly fashionable, whose air and mien were rather distinguished,
and whose language, in spite of a few colonial colloquialisms, had the
clear, sharp tone and accent which agreeably marks out an educated
Englishman among an assembly of Scotchmen, and recollected the
description of his dress and habitation which Peggy had given, and the
scenes and conversation which she had narrated, she was almost
afraid of betraying her knowledge by her countenance.
"Have you been long home from Australia?" she asked, as a safe
"A few months, and am enjoying it intensely."
"And what brings you to Scotland? I suppose your relations are all
"Oh, an Australian thinks he ought to see the whole of Britain, when he
can visit it so seldom. A man is treated with contempt on his return if
he has not seen the Cumberland lakes and the Scottish Highlands. But I
have relations in Scotland besides;--the old lady sitting by Mrs.
Rennie in black MOIRE (is it that you call it?) is a sort of aunt of
mine, and is connected in some inexplicable way with the Rennies. Your
Scotch cousinships are an absolute mystery to me; it is a pity I cannot
understand them, for I am indebted to them for a great deal of
hospitality and kindness, of which this is one of the most
agreeable instances;"--and Mr. Brandon looked at Elsie as if he meant
what he said.
"It does one good to see a man enjoying a party; our fashionable style
is for the indifferent and the done up," said Elsie, with a smile. "I
do not know if gentlemen enjoy life in spite of that nonchalant or
dismal manner; but I know it is not pleasant for the lookers on."
"I cannot see why they should assume such a disagreeable style of
conduct. To me, you English and Scotch people seem the most enviable in
existence--amusement after amusement, and education, elegance, and
refinement to heighten every enjoyment. I often say to myself, 'Walter
Brandon, my good fellow, this will not last; you must go back to your
stations and your troubles in a few months;' but for the present I am
By this time they had finished their dance, and were standing beside
Jane. She looked up at him with her steady eyes--"The happiness is in
yourself--not in the country, in the amusements, or in the
society. You have earned a holiday, and you enjoy it."
"All Australians feel the drawbacks of the colonies when they come to
visit England," said Mr. Brandon.
"It depends on their circumstances, whether they do or not. I often
wish that I were there," said Jane.
"And so do I," said Miss Rennie, who with Francis had just joined them.
"There must be a grandeur and a freshness about a new country that we
cannot find here; and those wonderful gold diggings, too, must be the
most interesting objects in nature."
"The very ugliest things you ever saw--and as for grandeur or
freshness, I never saw or felt it. The finest prospect I could see in
Victoria is the prospect of getting out of it, particularly now that
the diggings have spoiled the colony. We cannot forget Old England."
"Oh! of course I like patriotism," said Miss Rennie; "no country can be
to us like the land of our birth."
"But I think we should try to like the land of adoption also,"
said Jane. "The Anglo-Saxons have been called the best of colonists,
because they have adapted themselves so well to all sorts of climates
and all sorts of circumstances."
"True--true enough," said Mr. Brandon. "The Adelaide men who came
across to the diggings used to talk with the greatest enthusiasm about
their colony, their farms, their gardens, their houses, their society.
I fancied that it was because they left it for a rougher life, and that
Adelaide was like a little England to them; but, perhaps, the poor
fellows really liked the place. At any rate, almost all of them
returned, though Victoria appeared to be by far the most prosperous
colony. But I made an excellent colonist, in spite of my never becoming
much attached to the place. I adapted myself to sheep wonderfully, and
to black pipes and cabbage-tree hats, and all the other amenities of
bush life; and now, Miss Rennie, will you be good enough to adapt
yourself to me for a quadrille?"
Miss Rennie was not engaged, so she could not refuse. Elsie saw
that her cousin wished to talk to her; she feared it was to be on the
subject which was the most painful of all--her unfortunate poems. She
fancied that he must think her presumptuous in her old ambition, and
dreaded his condolences; so she made some pretext to move away out of
hearing of his conversation with Jane, and stood by the hired
musicians, who were the most unlikely persons in the room to know
anything about her or her disappointment. Standing there, with her
slight and graceful form stooping slightly, and her face cast down,
Miss Rennie again pointed her out to Mr. Brandon, of whose dancing she
was tired, and to whom she wished to talk, asking him if he did not
think her a lovely creature, and explaining the very peculiar
circumstances in which the two girls were placed.
"They have been well educated, papa says, but very peculiarly, so that
their prospects are not the better for it. We live in a frivolous age,
Mr. Brandon. I do not take much interest in Jane, but Elsie is a very
The Australian settler looked again more closely at Elsie, and
acknowledged to himself, as well as to Miss Rennie, that she was
"Shall we go to her now? she looks so deserted, Mr. Brandon. Oh! Mr.
Malcolm, I must introduce you to Miss Melville's sister."
"And co-heiress in misfortune," said the young lawyer, shrugging his
"She is lovely--come," said Miss Rennie. She took both gentlemen
across the room. Elsie started when she saw them coming close up to
"Miss Alice Melville--Mr. Malcolm--a successful author. Your sister
saw him here some months ago."
The sight of a successful author was rather too much for Elsie's
present feelings. Her eyes filled with tears, but yet she must speak.
"Yes, Jane told me she had that pleasure," said she.
"Miss Melville is here also, I hope," said Mr. Malcolm.
"Yes, she is talking to--to Mr. Hogarth."
"To Mr. Hogarth? Yes, I see--very good friends they appear to
be, in spite of circumstances. Two superior minds, you see."
"He takes such care of your horses and dogs, Miss Alice; and as for
your room, when mama proposed making it into a card-room, as it was
larger than the library, he looked as black as thunder, and said he
never would have cards played there. It was a Blue Beard's room, so we
got no access to it."
"I thought he would be kind to the animals; he promised as much to
"Oh! indeed, he is as good as his word, then," said Miss Rennie. Then,
recollecting that this talk must be painful to the girl, she turned to
Mr. Malcolm, and asked how his evangelical novel was getting on.
"Finished, and in the press by this time."
"Will it be a success? But everything you write is a success, so I need
not ask," said Miss Rennie.
"The pub. says it has not exactly the genuine twang, but I hope no one
will observe that but himself. I have more incidents in it than
usual in works of the class--an elopement, a divorce, a duel, a
murder, and a shipwreck."
"I must have a first reading, recollect. It must be so interesting,"
said Miss Rennie.
"Thrilling, I should say," said Mr. Brandon. "Well, to me there is a
deep mystery in bookmaking. How one thing is to follow another--and
another to lead to another--how everything is to culminate in marriage
or a broken heart, and not a bit of the whole to be true, I cannot
conceive; and as for poetry, it seems to me an absolute impossibility
to make verses rhyme. Can you tell me how it is done, Miss Melville?"
Elsie started. "No, I cannot--I cannot tell."
"You must ask Miss Rennie about poetry," said Mr. Malcolm; "she does
some very excellent things in that way."
"You perfidious creature, I see I must never tell you anything, for you
are sure to come out with it at all times and all places," said Miss
"It is a true bill then," said Mr. Brandon, bowing to the tenth
muse. "I cannot help wondering at you. I must not approach so near you,
for you are so far removed from my everyday prosaic sphere. I must take
shelter with Miss Melville, who knows nothing about the matter. I
cannot comprehend how people can make verses; it cannot be easy at any
"It is sometimes easier than at other," said Miss Rennie. "If the
subject is good the words flow correspondingly fast."
"And what do you consider the best subject,--marrying or burying, love
or despair? I suppose you have tried them all."
"Oh, no. Do not imagine me to be a real author--only an occasional
scribbler. Mr. Malcolm can tell you that I do not write much."
"You must show Mr. Brandon your album," said Mr. Malcolm, "and let him
judge for himself."
"Will you let me see it too?" said Elsie eagerly; "do let me see it."
"You may look over it together," said Miss Rennie
good-naturedly, "though I do not show it to every one. It will perhaps
convince Mr. Brandon that it is nothing so wonderful to write verses,
and make him less distant in his manner. My own pieces are signed
Miss Rennie's album contained a number of selections from her favourite
poets, but except her own there were no original verses in it. Her
friends preferred copying to composing, and among a very large circle
she was the only one who had tried any independent flight into the
regions of poetry; so that it was natural she should think a good deal
of herself, for every one begged for something of her own to put into
their albums, though they could not reciprocate in kind. Mr. Malcolm
contributed some smart prose pieces; Herbert Watson was clever at
caricatures; Eleanor painted flowers sweetly; while Laura Wilson,
ambitious to have something to show in Miss Rennie's album, had copied
a number of riddles in a very angular hand, which was illegible to an
Elsie and Mr. Brandon, however, had got the album to see Ella's
verses, and they turned to them with curiosity and interest. Her
quicker eye and greater experience, both in poetry and in ladies'
handwriting, made her read each piece in less than half the time taken
by Mr. Brandon, and she re-read and scanned every line and weighed
every sentiment and simile while he was making his way to the end.
"Well, really this is remarkably good," said he. "I wonder Miss Rennie
does not publish: she could fill a nice little volume. I am sure I have
seen far worse verses printed. Have not you?"
"Yes," said Elsie. "I believe Miss Rennie has had pieces published in
periodicals, but it is not so easy to get a volume printed."
"Of course, there is a risk; but then the pleasure, the fame, should
count for something. To have one's name on the title-page of a pretty
little volume must be very gratifying to the feelings."
"Oh no, not at all. I do not think so; but I do not know
anything about it. I should not speak."
"You shrink from any publicity; well, I suppose that is very natural,
too, yet I should not think that Miss Rennie does so; and as she is the
author, I am imagining her feelings. What is this other piece
called?--'Life's Journey.' What can Miss Rennie know of life's
journey--staying at home with her father and mother all her short life?"
"If she had been to Australia and back again, she would have been
entitled to speak on the subject," said Elsie.
"But really it is a very pretty piece, after all," said Mr. Brandon,
after he had read it.
"Though written by one who has never been further from home than
Glasgow in her life," said Elsie.
"I do not mean that Miss Rennie's never being out of Scotland should
make her know little; but you young ladies are taken such care of, that
you know very little of what life really is."
"It must be a disadvantage to all female authors," said Elsie,
"to know so little of business and so little of the world. I do not
wonder at men despising women's books."
"Now, Miss Melville, have I really said anything that you should put
such a construction on? If I have, I must ask pardon. I am only
astonished at the extraordinary talent which your sex show in turning
to account their few opportunities; and for my part, I should not like
them to have greater means of knowing the world. I am not a reading
man, by any means. My remarks about books are perfectly worthless, but
I can only say that I think these verses very pretty. I don't know
whether they are subjective or objective--transcendental or
sentimental. In fact, between ourselves, I do not know what the three
first words mean. I can give no reason for my liking them."
"But they please you," said Elsie; "and that is all a poet can wish."
"Oh, I thought the poets of this age gave themselves out as the
teachers of the world; but you take a lower view. I am glad to
meet with some one who is reasonable. The young ladies have all got so
clever, so accomplished, and so scientific since I left England, that I
am a little afraid of them. I hope you are not very accomplished."
"Not at all," said Elsie.
"Don't you play the most brilliant music with great execution?"
"I do not play at all."
"Nor sketch from nature--nor draw from the round--nor paint flowers?"
"Nothing of the kind."
"Then you must have gone in for science, and you are more formidable
than any of the sex."
"My uncle wished me to go in for science, but unluckily I came out
without acquiring it."
"How glad I am to hear it! I can talk to you without being tripped up
at an incorrect date, or an inaccurate scientific or historical fact.
You can warrant yourself safe to let me blunder on?"
"Is it not very good of the young ladies to set you right if
you are wrong, and if they are able to do so?"
"It may be very good for me, but it is not at all agreeable. I cannot
help wondering very much at the industry and perseverance that young
ladies show in becoming so very accomplished. I am sure that many a
lady spends as much time and energy in learning music as would,
directed otherwise, realize a fortune in Australia."
"Yes, many men in Australia have got rich with very little toil," said
Elsie; "but women cannot make fortunes either here or there, I
"So they content themselves with making a noise," said Mr. Brandon. "I
like some music, Miss Melville; but not the brilliant style. It shows
wonderful powers of manual dexterity, but it does not please me."
"My sister says, she wonders why so many women spend so much time over
the one art in which they have shown their deficiency--that is,
"Their deficiency? I think they show their proficiency, only
that I do not care about it; that is probably my fault, and not
"But Jane says, that as so many thousands--and even millions--of
women are taught music, and not one has been anything but a fourth-rate
composer, it shows a natural incapacity for the highest branch of the
art. In poetry and painting, where the cultivation is far rarer,
greater excellence has been attained by many women. Their inferiority
is certainly not so marked as in music."
"That is rather striking, Miss Melville; but I did not expect such an
admission from such a quarter. I see you are not strong-minded My aunt,
Mrs. Rutherford, and her daughters, have rather been boring me with
their theory of the equality of the sexes: this is a first-rate
argument. Will you take it very much amiss if I borrow your idea, or
rather your sister's, without acknowledgement? I have felt so very
small, because they were always bringing up some instance or other out
of books which I had never read, that to bring forward
something as good as this, might make them have a better opinion of
"I am sure neither Jane nor I would care about the appropriation of the
idea, though it seems rather treacherous to put ours into our enemy's
"Your enemy's!--that is hard language for me. I trusted to your being
In spite of Mr. Brandon's expressed admiration for Miss Rennie's
verses, he got soon tired of reading them, and preferred the intervals
of conversation between the pieces. Before they had looked through more
than half of the album, which was a very large one, he proposed to
return to the dancing-room, and Elsie reluctantly left the book on the
library table, hoping to snatch another half-hour to finish it. Miss
Rennie's verses were decidedly inferior to her own;--even her recent
humiliation could not prevent her from seeing this, and she felt a good
Several times during the evening, she was on the point of
mentioning Peggy Walker's name to her old master, but she knew too much
about them to be able to do it with ease; she, however, ascertained
that he was to be some time in and about Edinburgh, and learned from
Miss Rennie where Mrs. Rutherford lived, so that she could tell Peggy
where she might find him, if she wished to see him.
In the quadrille which Elsie danced with Mr. Brandon, William Dalzell
and Laura Wilson were at first placed as vis-a-vis, but they moved to
the side, and Elsie had the pleasure of seeing her sister and cousin
instead. But both sisters could not but hear the familiar voice making
the same sort of speeches to Miss Wilson that he had done a few months
ago to Jane. How very poor and hollow they appeared now! Elsie thought
Miss Wilson would just suit him. She was rich enough to make him
overlook her defects of understanding and temper, and what was even
harder to manage, her very ordinary face and figure. There was an easy
solution of Mr. Dalzell's cultivating the acquaintance of the
Rennies in this wished-for introduction to the wealthy ward
Mr. Dalzell thought he ought to ask Jane to dance once, just to show
that he did not quite forget his old friends. He tried Elsie first, but
she was fortunately engaged to Mr. Malcolm, so he walked slowly to Miss
Melville, and asked her hand in an impressive manner. She willingly
accepted, and spoke to him as she would to any ordinary acquaintance.
He was piqued; he had hoped to have made her a little jealous of his
attentions to Miss Wilson, and tried to get up a little sentimental
conversation about old times, and the rides they used to have, and the
romantic scenery about Cross Hall and Moss Tower, but not the slightest
sigh of regret could his ear catch. He apologized for not having been
to see her, and said his mother regretted that her last visit to
Edinburgh had been so hurried that she had no time. Jane said quietly
that she had not expected to see either of them. Had she not found it
dull living in the Old Town with Peggy Walker?--No, she had
never felt it dull; she had always plenty to do. Was Peggy as much of a
character as ever?--Yes; she was glad to say, Peggy was the same
admirable woman she had always been, and on nearer acquaintance her
character became still more appreciated. The children must be a
nuisance?--The children were particularly fine children, and a great
resource to her. He thought Miss Alice was not looking well. Had she
felt the want of the fresh country air?--For a moment this arrow
struck her; a painful expression passed over her face, but she subdued
her feelings quickly.--Yes, perhaps Alice did suffer from the change;
but they were going to have a week's amusement while their cousin was
in town, and she hoped her sister would be the better for it.
Neither Mr. Dalzell nor Jane were sorry when the dance was ended and
they were relieved of each other's company; and he returned to Miss
Wilson, while she joined Elsie in the library, where she was finishing
her critical reading of Miss Rennie's album, with a better
coadjutor than the Australian settler, in the person of her cousin. She
was rather afraid of him at first, but she found that in general their
opinions were the same as to merits and demerits, and she could not
help owning that it would have been well to have taken him into her
counsels before she tried the public.
"I have been telling Francis," said Jane, "that I am making up my mind
to go to Mrs. Dunn's."
"Then I will go with you, Jane; we must go together; you are not to
have all the drudgery."
"I say I am only making up my mind; it is not made up yet. I will wait
another week before I decide. You are to be in town for a few days,
Francis, and you will see us every day before we go. I wish to have a
little amusement before I settle; so, Elsie, let us arrange. The
theatre to-morrow night, the exhibition on Thursday morning, a concert
on Thursday evening, and on Friday an excursion to Roslin; Saturday I
am not sure about, but we will see when the time comes."
Elsie stared at her sister; it was so unlike Jane to be pining
for amusement. "I do not care for going out, I am so unfit for it. I
would rather stay at home till the time comes to go to Mrs Dunn's."
"No, we will not let you stay and mope at home. If it has somewhat
unsettled my strong nerves to be living as we have done, so that I feel
I must have a change, what will be its effect on you to stay at Peggy's
"Your sister would rather not go out with me," said Francis.
"No; I have been unjust and uncharitable to you, but I hope I will not
be so again. Forgive me for the past, and I will promise good behaviour
for the future."
"If you are not too tired in the morning, would not a walk be
pleasant?" said Francis. "I want to show you what strikes me as the
finest view of Edinburgh. I do not expect Jane to appreciate it; but
from your remarks on these verses, I am sure you have an eye for
nature, and a soul for it."
Elsie was pleased, and felt more kindly to her cousin than she
had ever done before. There are times when a little praise,
particularly if it is felt to be deserved, does a sad heart
incalculable good. She agreed to the walk with eagerness, and looked
forward to it with hope.
Peggy's Visitors, And Francis' Resolution
The girls were somewhat later in rising on the morning after the party
than usual, and when they got up, they found that Peggy was out on one
of those errands that Jane and Elsie had been accustomed to do for her.
She had got into very good custom, from her real skill and punctuality,
even in the short time that she had tried her luck in Edinburgh; and
this week she had had more work than she could manage. On these
occasions she used to get the assistance of a very poor woman who lived
at a considerable distance, who had once been a neighbour of her sister
Bessie's, and had been kind to Willie when he was in his last illness.
Jane, sometimes with and sometimes without Elsie, had always
gone to tell this woman about the work, but on this occasion Peggy had
to take the long walk herself--not that she grudged it--for to put
half-a-crown in poor Lizzie Marr's pocket was worth a good deal of
trouble and fatigue.
She had returned about twelve o'clock, when the girls were getting
ready to join their cousin in their promised walk, and just as she got
to the top of the stairs, a man's foot was heard at the bottom. They
were going for their bonnets, when a sharp tap was heard at the door,
and Peggy opened it, and they beheld, not Francis, but Mr. Brandon.
"Well, Peggy," said he, "how are you? I thought I could not be mistaken
in those elbows. I have followed you from Prince's Street all this long
way, but you would never turn round, and I could not outstrip you, for
you know we bushmen are no great walkers, and you always were a
wonderful 'Walker' in every sense of the word. And how are you again,
Peggy shook hands with her old master, and gazed at him with
"Surely, these are not the bairns you used to speak of?" said Mr.
Brandon, looking at the Misses Melville with astonishment quite equal
"No; the bairns are all at the school--all but Tam--and he's at his
trade, but they will be here for their dinners directly. These are two
young ladies that have taken a room off me. They are no so well off as
they should be, more's the pity," said Peggy, lowering her voice.
"I met them last night at a party. How do you do, Miss Melville?" said
he, shaking hands with Elsie first, and then with Jane.
"But what brought you here on this day?" said Peggy.
"Just your elbows, Peggy. I was coming to see you at any rate, but I
did not think you were here. You must have shifted your quarters. Here
is your address," said Mr. Brandon, taking out his pocket-book--"'Peggy
Walker, at Mr. Thomas Lowrie's, Swinton, ----- shire.' I
was going to see you to-morrow, but you have saved me a journey to no
"I brought the bairns into the town for better schooling, and on
account of Tam; and grandfather finds it agrees brawly with him, too.
Grandfather," said Peggy, raising her voice, "this is Master Brandon
that you have heard me speak about whiles--the first master I had in
Grandfather expressed his sense of the politeness of Mr. Brandon in
coming all that way to see Peggy. Not but what she was a good lass, and
worth going a long journey to have a crack with.
"Well, Peggy," said Mr. Brandon, taking a seat near the fire, "and how
do you like this cold country after so many years in a hot one?"
"The winters are not so bad, but the springs are worse to stand. But if
a body's moving and stirring about they can aye keep heat in them."
"If moving and stirring can keep you warm you will never be
cold. But, Peggy, you will want to hear the news."
"Indeed do I," said Peggy; "the diggings are going on as brisk as ever,
"Just as brisk, and sheep as dear, and wool steady; so, you see, I've
taken a holiday."
"But you're going back again?"
"I must go back, for I have not made my fortune yet. But, by-the-by, it
is a great pity that you left Melbourne when you did. You would have
been a wealthy woman if you had stayed. There's Powell--was he married
before you went?"
"Ay, he was. I heard word of it in Melbourne."
"Well, he's as flourishing as possible; he will soon be richer than me.
On his own account now. Bought a flock and run, for an old song; cured
the sheep; and is now on the highway to wealth. Ah! Peggy, why were you
not Mrs Powell?"
"It was not to be," said Peggy, calmly; "but has he any bairns?"
"Two, Peggy; and he is very proud of them."
"Ay, ay; a man has need to be proud and pleased with his own. And the
"Oh, she's a nice enough person. Getting a little uppish now; but not
the manager you are," said Mr. Brandon. "More given to dress and show,
and that sort of thing. But I have a message for you from Mr. Talbot,
the lawyer, you know, though I dare say he has written to you on the
"My man of business," said Peggy, with a little pride. "I have not
heard from him for a long time."
"He is very sorry indeed, that you let the tenant have a right of
purchase to your shop."
"Oh, it is not of much consequence--he never was a saving body; I
don't think he will ever raise the 250 pounds."
"Will he not?--when the place is worth 2,500 pounds now; if he borrows the
money, he will carry out the purchase, and thus you lose the chance of
making a little fortune. He, of course, will keep it on till
the end of the lease, at the low rent he has it at, and then take it up
for the price specified. You cannot think how vexed I felt to hear you
had let this property slip through your fingers."
"It is a pity," said Peggy. "It would really have been a providing for
the bairns; but they must just provide for themselves. I am, at least,
putting them in the way of doing it. The rent comes in regular enough,
and is a help; and the 250 pounds will come in some time, and set us up in
some way of doing."
"250 pounds is not the sum it used to be," said Mr. Brandon; "but, in your
hands, I have no doubt it will be turned to good account."
"Here come the bairns now," said Peggy, as the quick, noisy steps of
the heavily-shod children were heard clattering up the stairs.
"I will now see what you have made so many sacrifices for. Name them as
they come in."
"Tom, Jamie, Nancy, Jessie, Willie."
"A fine lot of youngsters, upon my word, and sure to make good
colonists." And, as he said this, Mr. Brandon saw a tear stand in the
eye of the devoted aunt at his praises of her orphan charge.
"God be praised, they have their health; and on the whole they are good
bairns, though a thought noisy whiles," said she.
"There's a gentleman at the stairfoot," said Tom. "He says he has come
for you and your sister, Miss Melville, and as it was our dinner-time,
he would not come up."
"Bid him walk upstairs, for the dinner's no ready. Mr. Brandon was aye
rather an off-put to work, and ye'll no get your dinner for a good
quarter of an hour yet."
"We are quite ready," said Jane; "We will go at once. It is our cousin,
who was to call for us."
"We may go out to play then for a bit?" said Willie.
"If ye'll no go far, and be sure to be in time for the school."
Francis came up, to be surprised at the sight of Mr. Brandon,
and to receive a hurried explanation of his presence at Peggy Walker's,
and then they went for a walk. By daylight he was struck more with the
change that had shown itself in both of his cousins, and with the poor
home they had to live in. Jane's proposal on the previous night to go
to Mrs. Dunn's had distressed him more than any other of her projects,
and yet he could do nothing to prevent it, unless by making the
sacrifice which my young lady readers think he should have made long
ago, and given up the estate to marry his cousin. "All for love, and
the world well lost," is a fascinating course of procedure in books and
on the stage, but in real life there are a good many things to be
considered. It was only lately that Francis had discovered how very
dear Jane was to him. If such a woman had come across his path when he
was in the bank with his 250 pounds a-year, with any reasonable chance of
obtaining her, he would have exerted every effort and made every
sacrifice to gain such a companion for life. He would have given up
all his more expensive bachelor habits--his book-buying, and
his public amusements, and thought domestic happiness cheaply purchased
by such privations. And if Jane could have shared his brighter fortune,
he would have offered his hand and heart long before. But now, even
supposing that he had contracted no expensive habits, and he found that
he had--that he liked the handsome fortune, and the luxuries annexed
to it--it was not his own personal gratification that he was required
to give up, but the duties, and the opportunities for usefulness that
Jane so highly prized for him. He could not even expect to take as good
a position in the world as he had quitted. His place at the Bank of
Scotland was filled up, and the quixotic step he thought of taking was
not likely to recommend him to business people. And he must prepare not
only for providing for a wife and family, but for Elsie, too; and until
this day Elsie had shrunk from him, and he had rather despised her; but
during their walk he saw the affectionate and sincere nature of Jane's
sister. He thought that he could not only offer her a home, but
that he had some prospect of making it a happy one, which is by far the
most important thing in such matters, and he gradually brought himself
to believe that it was right he should make the sacrifice. Other
opportunities of usefulness might open themselves in some other sphere;
he would give up Cross Hall to the benevolent societies if Jane would
only consent to be his wife. The cousinship he thought no objection;
they were both very healthy in body and in mind, and as unlike each
other in temperament and constitution as if they were not related.
Neither Jane nor Elsie was likely to keep her health at a sedentary
employment; it was the daily long walk that had kept them so well as
they were. It was not right to undervalue private happiness, after all,
for any public object whatever. Here was the best and dearest woman in
the world suffering daily, both in herself and through her sister, and
he could make her happy; he knew that he could do that. If she refused,
however, it would interfere with the warm friendship that he
knew to be her greatest comfort and his own most precious possession;
but she could not, she would not refuse him. He saw the kind look of
her eyes; and felt convinced that though Jane believed it was only
friendship, the knowledge that she was all the world to him would
change it into love. And then to begin life afresh; no longer solitary;
no longer unloved; could he not conquer difficulties even greater than
he had ever to contend with? He did not pay proper attention at the
theatre that night. Jane and her sister were delighted with the
performance, and forgot their daily life in the mimic world before
them; but he was building such castles in the air all the time that he
was not able to criticise the play or the acting, but left that to
Elsie, who certainly did it very well.
Good News For Francis
When the children went out, and the young ladies had gone with their
cousin, Mr. Brandon took the opportunity of asking how it happened that
the Misses Melville were staying with her. She explained their position
in a more matter-of-fact way than Miss Rennie had done on the preceding
night, and then dilated on their virtues, particularly on Jane's.
"So clever, and so sensible, and so willing! There's nothing she does
not understand, and yet, poor thing, she says she must go to the
dressmaking, for with all her by-ordinary talents and her by-ordinary
education, there is not another hand's turn she can get to do. I'm sure
the pains she takes with the bairns at night, I just marvel at
it. There's Tam, she can make him do anything she likes. It is a grand
thing for a laddie when he is just growing to be a man to have such a
woman as Miss Melville to look up to--it makes him have a respect for
"He need look no higher than you, Peggy," said Mr. Brandon.
"Ah! but you see I am not quick at the book learning. I'll no complain
of Tam for want of respect to myself, for he is a good lad, take him
altogether; but then, Miss Jean, she helps him with his problems and
his squares, and runs up whole columns of figures like a lang-legged
spider, and tells him why things should be so and so, and seems as keen
to learn all about the engineering as himself; and she helps Jamie with
the Latin, that he craikit on so lang to let him learn, though for my
part I see little good it will do him, and him only to follow the
joinering and cabinet-making trade; and Tam, he will no be behind, and
he must needs learn it too; and as for her writing, ye could
read it at the other end of the room. And in her uncle's house there
was such order and such government under her eye as there was not to be
seen in another gentleman's house in the country. And yet, poor lassie,
she says there's nothing but the dressmaking for her. And Miss Elsie,
too, writing day and night, and cannot get a bode for her bit poems and
verses, till now she is like to greet her een out over every letter she
gets from London about them. I can see Miss Jean has been egging up Mr.
Hogarth, as they call him--I'm no wishing him any ill, but I wish the
auld laird had made a fairer disposition of his possessions--well,
Miss Jean has been stirring up this Mr. Francis to take them out for
the sake of Elsie, for she is just fading away."
"I like her the best of the two, and she is certainly far the
prettiest. The eldest one is a little too clever for me, and too much
disposed to preach, even in a ball-room."
"Well, I dare say she saw you had had rather little preaching in the
bush, and I am sure you were none the worse of all said to you.
But it makes us the more vexed at losing the real value of my bit
property, for if I had had the twenty-five hundred pounds you speak
about we could have begun business in Melbourne together. She can keep
books, and Miss Elsie has a clever hand at the millinery;--we could
have got on famously. I must let you see the bairns' writingbooks, and
the letters she learns them to write, and their counting-books, too."
Mr. Brandon looked and admired quite to Peggy's satisfaction; and then
he spoke to the old man in a kindly way, calling him Mr. Lowrie, and
saying he had often heard Peggy speak of him at Barragong. How much
pleasure little courtesies like this give to poverty and old age! The
old man's face brightened when he heard that he was known at such a
distance by such a gentleman as this, and he answered Mr. Brandon's
inquiries as to his health and his hearing with eager garrulity.
"Well," said Peggy, "I am no poorer than I was if I had not
known about the bit shop being worth so much; but when I think on Miss
Jean and her sister, and the lift it might have been to them, I think
more of it than I would otherwise do. And now, Mr. Brandon, I'll
trouble you to move from the fireside; I must put out the kail. But you
were aye fond of being in a body's way."
"I have it," said Mr. Brandon; "it will do."
"What will do?"
"You remember the Phillipses?"
"What should ail me to remember them? But I have such a poor head, I
forget to ask the thing I care most about. How's Mr. Phillips, and
"All well, and the other four, too."
"And Mrs. Phillips?"
"As well as ever, and handsomer than ever, I think."
"Oh! her looks were never her worst fault. But what did you mean by
saying it would do?"
"The Phillipses came home in the vessel with me, and are
settled in London for good. I think the eldest Miss Melville would be
exactly the sort of person they want to superintend the household, for
Mrs. Phillips has as little turn for management as ever, and there is a
considerable establishment. And, also, she might make Miss Emily and
Miss Harriett attend to their lessons, for, though they have masters or
some such things, they are too much the mistresses of the house to be
controlled by anybody."
"Their father was always very much taken up with these lassies--Emily
used to be like the apple of his eye; and the mistress is too lazy to
cross them either, I'm thinking," said Peggy.
"Just so. If Miss Melville's preaching in season or out of season can
give her a little more sense, I think Phillips will be all the better
for it. She can keep house, admirably, you say; and that she is able to
teach, these children's books testify. Tell Miss Melville to delay her
resolution about the dressmaking till I communicate with Phillips,
which I will do by to-day's post. He is talking of coming up to
the north shortly, principally to visit you, I think, so he may see
her, and can judge for himself. Your account of the young lady seems
everything that can be desired, and Mr. Phillips has such a high
opinion of your judgment that your recommendation will carry great
"He'll bring Emily with him to see me," said Peggy. "Tell him to be
sure and bring Emily with him. I cannot ask you to take pot-luck with
"No, I thank you; I have just breakfasted. I do not keep such early
hours as I did at Barragong. We turn night into day in these lands of
civilization, and for a change it is remarkably pleasant. But how do
you take to Scotch fare after Australia?" asked Mr. Brandon, eyeing
with astonishment the infinitesimal piece of meat which made the family
"I did not take quite kindly to the porridge at first, and missed the
meat that we used to have in such abundance; but use is second nature,
and though I whiles look back with regret to the flesh-pots of
Egypt, I have my strength, and I have some prospect of getting back to
the land of wastrie and extravagance, as I aye used to say it was at
Barragong; and Mr. Phillips's place, at Wiriwilta, was worse still. And
Mr. Phillips has made his fortune with all that waste, and with all his
liberality, and a foolish wife, and an expensive family, and is living
in London like a gentleman as he is," said Peggy. "And you really think
he would be glad to have Miss Jean?"
"I have not a doubt of it; but good-bye for the present. I hear your
youngsters rattling upstairs. I will see you again ere long, and must
get better acquainted with them. Good-bye, sir," said Mr. Brandon, to
Thomas Lowrie, who having never been called either Mr. or Sir in his
life before, was lost in astonishment at the remarkably fine manners of
Peggy's old master.
"A very civil-spoken gentleman, Peggy," said he. "It must have been a
pleasure to serve a gentleman of such politeness."
"What a pity," said Peggy to herself, "that I ever should have
told the young ladies that daft-like story about me and the master. I
wish I had bitten my tongue out first. But who was to think of him
turning up like this? And he's just the man for Miss Elsie; but I have
made her laugh at him, and I misdoubt if her proud spirit will bend to
him. And after all, what the worse is he, if she had known nothing
about it. And I dare say all young men are alike; and he's better than
the most half of them. There was Elsie so taken up with that lad
Dalzell, that came courting Miss Jean, and if she had heard half that
was said about him, poor Mr. Brandon would have been a saint in
comparison. But an opening for Miss Jane is aye worth something. To
think of her being put under the like of Mrs. Phillips; and it's like
I'll see Emily--a spoiled bairn, no doubt--but she had naturally a
fine disposition, at least humanly speaking."
It was not in human nature, however, that Peggy should quite lose sight
of her own concerns in her pleasure at the thought of Miss
Melville having something better to do than dressmaking. The
recollection of the years of hard work that had converted her little
shop into a freehold, her old pride in having her title made out on
parchment, the hurry she had been in to get it let, to go home by a
particular ship, and the obstinate way in which her tenant's wife
insisted on a right of purchase, and her own reluctant admission of the
clause, thinking that as the house was not new, 250 pounds was an outside
value for it, and now to think of its being such a kingdom. The town
had run up to her little suburban shop, and far past it; on every side
the monster, Melbourne, had been adding to his extent, and now, on
account of the bit of garden and large yard, that she had thought would
be so nice for the children, when she had them out, and that she had
bought very cheap, the value of her property was increased tenfold--but
she was none the richer. The sacrifice she had made had turned out
even greater than she had expected, and now she could not help thinking
of how she would miss Miss Melville, and what a loss it would
be to her bairns; and how she was to keep Miss Elsie in tolerable
spirits without her sister was another perplexity.
The duties of the day were gone through as usual, however; but when the
children and the old man had gone to bed, Peggy made up her mind to
make a martyr of herself, and to sit up for the young ladies, who had
not been home all day, and with a piece of mending in her hands, which
got on but slowly, she mused on her ill luck. Very tired and sleepy,
and a little out of humour, she was when she opened the door for Jane
"Well, well! I just hope you're the better of your late hours, though
they are not just what I approve of."
"Only once in a way, Peggy; our holiday will soon be over. But you
should not have sat up for us--promise not to do it again. We have
enjoyed the theatre to-night, have we not, Elsie?"
"Yes, but the disenchantment comes so soon again."
"I have no great opinion of theatres and play-acting, and such
like. I was once in a theatre in Melbourne, though," said Peggy.
"With one of your sweethearts, Peggy?" asked Jane.
"Whisht with your nonsense, Miss Jean; don't be talking of sweethearts
to a douce woman like me," said Peggy, who, nevertheless was rather
proud of her Australian conquests, and liked to hear them alluded to
now and then.
"But how did you like the play?"
"I cannot say I did. To see folk dressed up and painted, rampaging
about and talking havers, just making fools of themselves. A wee
insignificant-looking body setting up to be a king! and the sogers--you
should have seen the sogers, as if they could ever fight."
"It is likely there was nothing very first-rate on the Melbourne boards
at that time, but our play to-night was perfectly well got up," said
Elsie, "and the acting was admirable."
"I'm no clear that at its best the theatre is a fit place for Christian
men and women to frequent," said Peggy.
"You prefer the stern realities of life to its most brilliant
illusions," said Jane.
"Speaking of the realities of life, Mr. Brandon says he knows of
something likely to suit you, Miss Jane," said Peggy.
"Indeed!" said Jane, with an incredulous smile.
"At least, he says you must resolve on nothing till you hear from him.
He is going to write to London to Mr. Phillips."
"Your Mr. Phillips--is he in London?"
"Yes; and Mr. Brandon says they are sorely in need of somebody to keep
the house--for I fancy everything is at rack and manger if Mrs.
Phillips has the management--and to make Emily and Harriett mind their
books, for they are such spoiled bairns. I was showing Mr. Brandon what
you could do with Tam and Nancy and the others, and he says you are
exactly the person that they need; and I can see that it is wondrous
"What salary should I ask?" said Jane; "or should I leave it to Mr.
"You had better leave it to him; he is not such a skinflint as
our benevolent associations. I always found both him and Mr. Brandon
open-handed and willing to pay well for all that was done for them. To
me, Mr. Phillips was most extraordinary liberal."
"Then you think it likely I will get this situation at a respectable
"I think you are almost sure of it."
"What good news for Francis, to-morrow!" said Jane.
How Francis Received The Good News
When Francis, after a night's rest disturbed by thoughts and
calculations as to ways and means, had arrived at the definite
resolution to ask Jane Melville to marry him, he recalled a thousand
signs of her affectionate regard for him--of her understanding his
character as no one ever cared to understand it before--of her
sympathy with all his past life and his present position, which left
him no doubt that she would return his love and accept of him. The home
and the welcome he was prepared to offer to Elsie would plead with her
own heart in his favour. All her theoretical objections as to cousins
marrying (which after all is a very doubtful point, and has much
to be said on both sides); all her ambition for himself would melt away
before the warmth of the truest love and the hope of the happiest home
in the world. And yet she was not to be won entirely, or even chiefly,
by personal pleadings for happiness, or by the feeling that her life
and Elsie's might go on smoothly and cheerfully with him. She was to be
convinced that it was right that she should marry him, and then the
whole of her affectionate and ardent nature would abandon itself to the
pleasure of loving and being beloved. It was because she had no husband
to occupy her heart that she dwelt so fondly on those abstractions of
public duty and social progress, and he would convince her that out of
an aggregate of happy homes a happy people is composed. She had found
opportunities both of gaining knowledge and of doing good in the most
unfavourable circumstances, and she would have more chances as his
wife, with his co-operation and sympathy.
She was not the sort of woman his poetical and artistic dreams
had been wont to draw as the partner of his life; not the lovely,
clinging, dependent girl who would look up to him for counsel and
support, but something better, both in herself and for him, than his
fancy had ever painted. Her powers of sympathy had been increased by
her knowledge; she was as just as she was generous. There was no corner
of his heart he could not lay bare to her; no passage of his past life
that he could not trust to her judging fairly and charitably. Whether
he rose or fell in the world; whether he gained social influence or
lost it in the career that he had again to begin, her foot would be
planted firmly beside his; her insight and sympathy would heighten
every enjoyment and fortify him for every trial. That he felt her to be
beautiful, perhaps, was more in his powers of seeing than in her
positive charm of countenance; but so far as the soul looked through
her eyes and breathed from her lips, she had a sort of beauty that did
not weary any intelligent gazer, and at all events, which could
never weary Francis Hogarth. After all the flattery he had met with
since his accession to fortune, and the conventionalisms of society in
which he had been plunged, he felt the transparent sincerity of Jane's
character something to rest in with perfect confidence and perfect
satisfaction. The most brilliant Frenchwomen had not her earnestness or
her power, though they had far more vivacity, and made their
interlocutors more satisfied with themselves. And Francis felt that he
ought to be married; and how could he ever attach himself sufficiently
to any other woman and not draw comparisons between her and the woman
whom his interest--his worldly interest alone--forbade him to make
his wife? He must learn to love Jane less, or obtain from herself leave
to love her more.
Jane's joyous greeting, when he came to Peggy's for his cousins, to
take them to the Exhibition, startled him not a little; and when she
eagerly told him of Mr. Brandon's views for her future advancement; and
that both he and Peggy had no doubt that she would suit the
Phillipses; and that an answer was sure to be had in a few days, and
demanded his congratulations on her altered prospects; then asked him
to submit his plans for cottages to Peggy's inspection, as she was by
far the most competent judge as to their merits or deficiencies. Old
Thomas Lowrie was also taken into council, and his wondering admiration
of the bonny slated houses was something worth seeing. Peggy's
suggestion of the addition of a little storeroom, in which milk and
meal and potatoes could be kept, was put and carried unanimously. They
then went into the allotment questions, and Jane, Elsie, and Peggy,
offered their opinions as to the fittest persons for the boon, and then
began to wonder how many years it would be before they could make the
land pay. All this, which ought to have gratified Francis--for every
man should be glad when people take an interest in his plans--struck a
chill to his heart, for it boded no good to his new visions.
"You seem to be in great spirits altogether, to-day, Jane," said
"How can I help it? The prospect of a situation of fifty or sixty
pounds a year is something overpoweringly delightful to me. If I had
heard of such a thing six months ago, I should have been glad, but now
that I have felt the difficulty of getting any employment whatever, and
feel quite sure that I am fit for this, my only dread is lest Mr.
Phillips may have got another person, or may not like my appearance;
but if he is satisfied to engage me I am determined to save money to
start in business. By and by we are going to join Peggy in Melbourne."
"But your sister--how do you feel about leaving her?"
"I was quite aware that I must leave her if I meant to do anything of
any value for myself."
"I am never going to stand in Jane's light any more," said Elsie. "I am
not so selfish as to regret any piece of good fortune that comes to her
"And I think of inquiring a little further as to her poems," said
"Oh, no! that is altogether useless," said Elsie.
"You promised yesterday to let Francis see them to-day, Elsie. We must
have his opinion on this subject. I certainly think I could do more
personally, than by letter, to get them published."
"And Jane always wished so much to see London," said Elsie. "I am so
glad to think she has such a prospect, and from all Peggy's accounts of
Mr. Phillips, he is everything that could be wished. How little we
thought when we listened to her long tale about her taking such care of
Emily and Harriett Phillips, the first night we came to live here, that
she was saving pupils for Jane. It seems like a fate."
"Then what are YOU going to do?" said Francis, who did not seem so much
delighted with Jane's good news as she had expected. "Are you to live
here with Peggy, as before?"
"Not just as before. I am going to Mrs. Dunn's through the day,
and Peggy is good enough to say she will be glad to keep me, though I
lose my better half in Jane. I think I really have some taste and
talent for millinery, and I mean to try to cultivate it; for if we
begin business together in Melbourne, it may be very useful. Jane and I
lay awake half the night, talking over our plans, and I do not see why
we should not make our way in time."
"Then, you are going to forget the Muses altogether, and give your
whole soul to business?"
"Did you not do that every day, cousin Francis, when you were at the
Bank?" said Elsie.
"Perhaps you may write better poetry when you do not make it your day's
work. Do you not think she may, Francis?" said Jane.
"Very probably--very probably she may;" said Francis, thoughtfully, as
if he were weighing the advantages of literature being a staff,
over its being a crutch, but in reality he was not thinking of Elsie or
her verses, at all.
He had prepared himself to make a great sacrifice--to do something
very generous and Quixotic--not altogether uninfluenced by the wish
for personal happiness of the highest kind; but yet he believed that
his chief motives for taking the resolution were the forlorn and
hopeless situation of the two girls. Now they were no longer forlorn or
hopeless. If this situation for Jane was obtained, and Elsie persevered
in her determination to work hard at the perfecting of her taste for
making caps and bonnets, they had a definite plan of life, likely to be
as prosperous as that he could offer to them. And Jane would not accept
of him to-day, though she would probably have done so yesterday. His
plans, his ambitions, were too dear to her to be thrown away lightly,
and he could see nothing but sisterly affection in her eyes. If she
took the position she was entitled to at Mr. Phillips's, she was likely
to meet with some society there, and Mr. Brandon, or some other
Australian settler, not so shy of matrimony without a fortune on the
lady's part, as the middle-class Englishman of this century is, might
see some of the virtues and attractions which he had learned to love--no
one could see so many of them as himself--and might win the best
wife in the world, without being fully conscious of the blessing. He
knew the real strength of his love, when he tried to fancy Jane the
wife of any one else. He almost wished she might fail in her object,
and that Mr. Phillips would decide that she would not suit. He was
selfish enough to hope that she might not be happy there. They must
continue to correspond as frequently and as openly as hitherto. He
would watch for any turn that might offer him hope, and he must be all
the more careful to disguise his real feelings, lest it might prevent
her from expressing herself as frankly as she had done. When a blessing
appears to be lost its value is greatly enhanced, and all the comforts,
and privileges, and opportunities, of his present situation, that he
had made such an effort to give up, seemed to shrink into
insignificance, compared with the domestic happiness that was now
eluding his grasp.
"There was great lamentation among the bairns this morning when I said
something about Miss Jean maybe leaving us; but they took great comfort
from the recollection that they had learned to write so well that they
might send real post letters to her--not mere make-believes--and she
promised to answer them. Tam says if she goes to London she must keep
on the look-out for anything that is in his line, and indeed Miss Jean
said she would. It is a real blessing that penny post. In my young
days, to think of writing back and fore to London about anything ye
wanted to know would have been out of the question for poor folk," said
"You must write to me, too," said Francis, "about all the things and
all the people you see, and how you like them, and if you tire of
London or of teaching--just every mood as you feel it. I do not
think it was quite fair in you always showing me the brightest side of
your life. I do not mean to show you always mine."
"When you are disappointed because the workmen will not build the
cottages fast enough, or because the inhabitants do not keep them as
clean as your fastidious taste thinks necessary, or because the dull
Scottish brain will not readily take up the Flemish or French ideas you
want to engraft in them, you will write all your indignant or disgusted
expressions to me, rather than lose patience with the people
themselves--it is safer. I am prepared for some disappointments, but I
will wait patiently and in hope for the end."
"Did you always have this large amount of public spirit, Jane? It
struck me very forcibly the first evening you spent with me at my
"I think it lay dormant for a few months before my uncle's death," said
Jane, laughing; "but it came out stronger than ever afterwards. Francis
is very grave to-day. I would not trust him with your verses,
Elsie; his criticisms will be far too severe in his present mood."
"But I will trust him just at this very time," said Elsie; "for if this
dull morning has made him a little depressed, perhaps he may feel a
little for me sitting in my cheerless room, without hope and without
society. I beg your pardon, Jane, you are always good and kind, and so
was Peggy, and every one; but it was so dull--so very dull. But what I
mean is, that if Francis is moody and dispirited, as a great many
people are at times, my verses will not seem to him such a wail as to
the busy, merry world we live in. I never saw a more favourable-looking
Elsie then went to her drawer, and for the first time since she had
tied up her manuscript touched it without a sick pang at her heart. The
very sight of the enveloping brown paper had been odious to her: but
to-day she felt courage enough to untie it, and to select a few of what
she considered her best pieces for her cousin's perusal.
Much depends on the mood of the reader of poetry. Francis did
not find Elsie's sad views of life at all overdrawn, and he pointed out
both to her and to Jane many fine passages, and what he considered to
be pretty images. Here and there he found fault; but, on the whole, he
said Elsie's verses were full of promise, and she only had to wait
patiently for awhile--to observe as well as to reflect, and not to be
quite so subjective--to attain to excellence.
At the Exhibition and at the concert in the evening, Francis had again
to admire the naturally fine taste of his younger cousin, and to lament
with her that none of her talents had been cultivated. According to all
his preconceived fancies, he should have fallen in love with Elsie; but
it was not so. She was a sweet, amiable girl, with a great deal of
quickness and undeveloped talent, but she was chiefly dear to him as
Jane's sister. Elsie felt for the time restored to a better opinion of
herself, and was grateful to the person who thought well of what the
world seemed to despise. She was disposed now to do Francis
justice, and more than justice. Never had she talked with a man of
finer taste or more admirable judgment. She caught another glimpse of
William Dalzell, who was at the concert with the Rennies and Miss
Wilson, and contrasted her old favourite with her new, very much to the
disadvantage of the former.
Francis was aware that this was the person from whose attentions Jane
had been in such danger. He could scarcely conceive the possibility of
a woman of such admirable sense and such penetration as Jane forming an
attachment to one so shallow and so unheroic. He felt himself scarcely
worthy of Jane Melville, and he would never compare himself with the
Laird of Mosstower. But the young people had been thrown together, and
had spent much of their time of meeting in the open air. William
Dalzell was a good rider and a fearless sportsman; he rode a beautiful
horse, and was very careful of it. He appeared to have a good temper,
and his mother worshipped him, while Elsie was never weary of
sounding his praises. Mr. Hogarth was in indifferent health, and was
somewhat exacting at all times. He had not the sympathy with the high
spirits of youth that he had had in former years, so that Jane had
enjoyed the animated rides, where she did most of the talking to a
listener, young, handsome, and determined to be pleased with everything
she said and did. She thought she interested him in her favourite
subjects; he had said that she improved him, and his mother said the
same; so that she rejoined in her influence, which seemed to bear such
Miss Rennie, who had heard when in-----shire, a somewhat exaggerated
account of young Dalzell's attachment to Miss Melville, was very much
disgusted with his conduct, and though his attentions to Laura Wilson
amused her very much, she had a grudge at him for their mercenary
motives. Laura was evidently captivated at first sight; she could speak
of nobody but Mr. Dalzell, and Mr. Rennie as her guardian was a little
alarmed, but on inquiry he found that Moss Tower was not very
deeply dipped after all; Mrs. Dalzell had her jointure off it, but he
was an only son, and any little wildness or extravagance of youth was
likely to be put an end to by marriage. Laura was a somewhat
troublesome ward, so passionate and so self-willed that even at school
she had carried her point against him by sheer determination over and
over again, and he wished heartily to be well freed of her by marriage
with a tolerably respectable man. Her fortune he would secure her
future husband from making ducks and drakes of by settlements, which
are generally in Britain framed as if the future husband was an enemy
to be dreaded, and not a friend to be trusted. For the law as it stands
puts such enormous power, not only over happiness (which is
inevitable), but over property and liberty, into the hands of the
husband, to be used against as well as for the advantage of the wife,
that it is only by taking power from both, and vesting it in trustees,
that money can be saved for the wife and children. In the cases where
the marriage is a happy one, the settlement is a hindrance and a
nuisance; but in such cases as that of William Dalzell and Laura
Wilson, it would be prudent to evade the law of the land, and to
preserve the property of the heiress by such means.
In an almost incredibly short time, Mr. Brandon called at Peggy
Walker's to say that he had had a letter from Mr. Phillips, who thought
very favourably of Miss Melville from his description, but who would
come to Edinburgh himself in a day or two and see the young lady, so as
to judge for himself.
He came accordingly, but, to Peggy's great disappointment, without
Emily or Harriett. They had both bad colds, and he could not make them
travel in the depth of winter even to see Peggy. Jane and Elsie could
not but admire the kindly greeting to gave to his old and
faithful servant, and the interest he took in her affairs and her
children, which was even more strongly expressed than Mr. Brandon's;
and as for grandfather, he could not tell which of the two Australian
gentlemen was the most polite.
The manners of the younger sister took Mr. Phillips's fancy more than
those of the elder, but he saw that Jane would suit him best; so, in a
much shorter time than she could have conceived possible, she found
herself engaged to accompany him on his return to London, as
housekeeper and governess, at a salary of 70 pounds a year.
"We mean to come to Edinburgh next summer, when we will probably take a
tour in the Highlands, so that you have a prospect of seeing your
sister then," said Mr. Phillips: "but I must have you with us as soon
as possible, so I hope you will be ready the day after to-morrow."
"Yes, I will be quite ready then," said Jane. "I have not much to do,
except to part from Elsie, and that will be hard to do at last
as at first."
While Mr. Phillips talked to Peggy about his children, and especially
of Emily, the girls both examined his countenance and drew their
conclusions as to his character. He was not so handsome as Mr. Brandon,
being smaller and more insignificant-looking, and his fair complexion
had not stood so well the constant exposure to the weather under an
Australian sun as Mr. Brandon's dark one, but his smile was remarkably
bright, and though his manner was very gentle and pleasing, he did not
seem to want for decision of character.
"I doubt Emily is changed out of my knowledge. I have not seen her
since she was four years and a half old, when you brought her to
Melbourne for me to see, and when she coaxed me out of far more lollies
than were good for her."
"I will bring her up in summer, and you will acknowledge that you would
know her anywhere. As for you, she will know you quite well, for