Part 4 out of 9
did not we get your likeness taken at the time, and she shows it to
every one as that of her dear old nurse."
"I hope you're no spoiling the bairn."
"Oh! no, not much--at least, if we are, we will get Miss Melville to
counteract our bad treatment."
"You're no to make Miss Melville a terror--that's no fair. But the wee
things after Harriett, how do you call them?"
"Constance, Hubert, and Eva."
"Well, they should save the eldest from being destroyed by foolish
indulgence, for Emily and Harriett should be learned to give way to
"Everybody gives way to all of the five--but you must not say they are
spoiled, either. Harriett and Emily, too, learned a lot of monkey
tricks on board ship. The gentlemen took so much notice of them, and
encouraged a good deal of impertinence in the children."
"A ship is a bad school for bairns," said Peggy. "Mine will be come
some length before we go on board, and are not like to be so
much taken notice of. Does Mrs. Phillips like England?"
"Very much, indeed. She will not go back with her own goodwill, and I
hope not to need to return."
"All your friends are in this country," said Peggy, "and Mrs. Phillips
will have so much new to see here that she will not regret the station.
And how's Mrs. Bennett, is she still with you, and Martha, Mrs. Tuck
they call her now?"
"They are both on the station yet, Peggy; Mrs. Bennett the same
admirable woman she used to be, but one cannot advance her any way with
such a poor creature of a husband. There is no rise in him; he is a
shepherd, and a shepherd he will remain to the end of his days,
spending his wages in an occasional spree, and then coming back to us
to work for more; while that poor silly Martha happened on one of the
best men about the place, and I have left him an under-overseer. If the
two men could only have exchanged wives, things would appear
more equitably arranged."
"Well," said Peggy, when Mr. Phillips had gone, "people can see other
folks' blunders, but the man that I thought worst mated on the station
was the master himself. You'll have to take high ground with Mrs.
Phillips, Miss Melville, for if you give her an inch she will take an
ell. As for him, he is everything that is reasonable; and the bairns,
you must just make them mind you. But she is the one that will give you
the most trouble."
When this engagement was entered into Jane accompanied Elsie to Mrs.
Dunn's, who readily took her into her work-room, and was very much
pleased to hear that Miss Melville had got such a desirable situation.
The Rennies were also full of congratulations, and felt that their
invitations and their getting the sisters an introduction to Mr.
Brandon, had secured such a magnificent salary from another Australian
millionaire. Miss Rennie was particularly pleased that she had dwelt so
much on the misfortunes and talents of the sisters. The last
evening Jane spent in Edinburgh was passed at the Rennies'; Mr. Brandon
was asked to meet the girls he had been of such service to, and though
Mr. Hogarth was rather dull, and Laura Wilson in a particularly
unamiable mood, the liveliness of the Australian settler made it pass
off very pleasantly.
Jane had not only Mr. Phillips, but Mr. Brandon also as travelling
companion. Australians in England have a great tendency to fraternise,
even though they were not much acquainted in the colony, and when his
old neighbour returned to London, Brandon thought he could not do
better than go with him, and go back to the north when it was not quite
so cold. The gentlemen had a great deal to say to each other on matters
both colonial and English. In English politics they took quite as great
an interest as if they had never been out of Britain, and in
Continental politics they took a greater interest than is usual with
English people. Jane was occupied with her own thoughts. The
parting from Elsie had been a sad one, so had the good-bye to Francis,
who had said so much about her writing if she was unhappy, or if she
did not think she could keep her situation with a lady of such a
peculiar temper as Mrs. Phillips, that she could not help fearing
herself for the permanency of the situation.
Nothing that had fallen from Peggy, or from Mr. Brandon either, had
prepared Jane for the exceeding beauty of Mrs. Phillips. Jane never had
seen a woman so strikingly handsome before. When she spoke the charm
was somewhat broken, for her ideas were not brilliant, and she
expressed herself in indifferent English; but in repose she was like a
queen of romance. Tall and large, but exquisitely formed, with a soft
creamy complexion, with a slight faint rose colour on the cheeks, and a
more vivid red on the pouting lips, finely-shaped brown eyes, and a
profusion of rippling dark brown hair, she certainly offered the
fairest possible excuse for her husband's marrying beneath his
rank--both social and intellectual. Such beauty as Mrs. Phillips's is
a power, and Jane felt how difficult it would be to take high ground
with so exquisite a creature. As Mr. Brandon said, she was handsomer
than ever; the girlish beauty of sixteen, which she possessed when she
captivated Mr. Phillips, had matured into the perfect beauty of
womanhood. Though the mother of five children, she was not, and
certainly did not look, twenty-seven. Emily was not so regularly
handsome as her mother, but had more animation and more play of
feature. Harriett would have been considered a pretty child in any
other family, but she was quite a plain one in this.
No sooner had Mr. Phillips entered his house than Emily clung round his
neck; Harriett mounted on one knee and played with his hair; Constance
got on the other to have a little similar amusement with his beard and
whiskers; Hubert clamoured for a ride on papa's foot; and little Eva
cried to leave her nurse's arms to be taken up by him too.
"I was very glad to hear from Mr. Phillips, that you was coming,
Miss Melville; the trouble of the house and the row of the children
make it far too much for me, and when one comes home to England for a
holiday, they want to have some peace,' said Mrs. Phillips. 'Now, Miss
Emily, you must be on your good behaviour, now Miss Melville's come to
be your governess."
"I'm sure I shan't behave any better to her than to my own dear papa,"
said Emily, with a storm of kisses.
"You're getting up to be a great girl. I'm sure Miss Melville will be
quite shocked at your backwardness."
"She is a bush child," said Mr. Brandon, "and has been running wild all
her life; you must excuse her for the present, but we hope to see great
"I am much afraid you will be disappointed, you dear old boy," said
Emily, who had left her father and come up to Mr. Brandon, who was her
particular favourite. "Keep your spirits up as well as you can;
I am not going to be like your wonderful nephews and nieces at
Ashfield. I never saw such ignorant children; they did not know how to
make dirt pies, nor could they jump across the ditch, or get up by the
trees to the top of the garden wall. Harriett and I had such a
beautiful race round that garden, and they looked on so terrified."
"They could take the shine out of you at lessons, however," said Mr.
Brandon, "and I won't take you there again to have another such
spirited race till I hear satisfactory accounts of you from Miss
"Oh! the race was well enough, but the visit was very slow upon the
whole, so I don't think I will break my heart if I never see the place
again. Harriett may try to deserve it, but I will not take the
"I hate books," said Miss Harriett, "except picture books, and the
fairy tales papa reads to us."
"You must not mind what they say, Miss Melville," said Mr. Phillips.
"I do not intend to do so. I hope to make them like their
lessons by and by, and in the meantime they must learn them whether
they like them or not."
"You would be astonished, Lily," said Mr. Phillips, addressing his
wife, "to see what a clever, intelligent family of nephews and nieces
Peggy has got. Miss Melville has been good enough to give them some
extra instruction, and they certainly have profited by it; but even
without that, Peggy has given them every advantage that she possibly
"Oh! Peggy had always very uppish notions," said Mrs. Phillips, "it
will be a pity if she educates these children above their position."
"No one knows what position they may not take with such abilities and
education in such a colony as Victoria. I may have to stand cap in hand
to Tom Lowrie yet," said Mr. Phillips.
"You, Stanley!" said his wife; "you are so fond of saying absurd
"Don't you know the insecurity of runs? And who knows but Tom
may be Prime Minister or Commissioner of Public Lands or Public Works,
or the chief engineer on a new railway, that may go right through my
squatting rights? My dear Lily, I have a respect for incipient
greatness, and when I stood among these young people, I felt they would
be rising when I was perhaps falling."
"Were these your motives?" said Mr. Brandon, laughing. "I admired the
young Lowries for what they were in themselves, and did not go so far
into the future as you. I hope, Emily, that in time, Miss Melville will
make you what Peggy calls keen of your learning, as well as her
"Did you like learning when you were a little girl?" asked Emily of
"Very much, indeed."
"So mamma says, but then she did not have to learn very much. If I had
not such a horrid lot of tasks, perhaps I might like some of them."
"But, my dear, you are so very ignorant, you have everything to
learn now that you have come to England," said her mamma.
"But I hope not everything at once," said Jane.
"Not quite," said Mr. Phillips; "but perhaps too much so. You will see
the list of the girls' studies to-morrow, and judge for yourself."
Mrs. Phillips was favourably impressed with Jane. She was well born and
well educated, but she was plain looking. She had heard of her sudden
and sad reverse of fortune, and felt disposed to take her up and
patronise her. She had suffered from the want of a domestic manager and
house counsellor; even the very good temper and great forbearance of
her husband had given way at the small amount of comfort that could be
obtained with such a lavish expenditure of money as his had been since
they came to London; and he had spoken more sharply to her about her
mismanagement than about anything else, so she felt that now he had a
housekeeper of his own choosing, she should escape from all
responsibility. Her manner to Jane was exceedingly kind, and Jane's
hopes rose at her reception.
Mrs. Phillips always went to bed early, unless she was kept up by
amusement and gaiety; her style of beauty was of the kind that suits
best with plenty of sleep and few cares--so at ten o'clock she said
she could sit up no longer, and left Mr. Phillips to explain all the
duties expected of Miss Melville, so that she need not be disturbed by
any inquiries in the morning.
Mr. Phillips did so with a clearness and precision that showed he had
been often obliged to see to the disbursement of the money as well as
the earning if it. He gave Jane the keys and the house-books, showed
her what he thought was the sum he could spend on family expenses, and
hoped that she would make it suffice.
"I wish you to be one of the family, Miss Melville; to visit and go to
public places with Mrs. Phillips. I think we may dispense with
all the masters for my little girls, except for music, and I hope that
you will succeed in making them like both you and their lessons. I also
hope, in a short time, to give you still more difficult and delicate
work to do, and if you can be successful there, I will be most grateful
to you. Mrs. Phillips has had a very imperfect education; she was born
in the colonies, and was married when a mere child, and since her
marriage she has had few opportunities of improving herself either by
books or society. I think she feels her deficiencies; so if you could
ingratiate yourself with her--she appears to be most favourably
disposed towards you at first sight--and induce her to learn a little
from you, you would add very greatly to our happiness and comfort, and
I should be infinitely your debtor."
Mr. Phillips hesitated, and coloured a little while he made this
suggestion. Jane said she would do what she could, and would be most
happy to further his views in this and in every other way; but
she felt not a little fearful at the idea of having to ingratiate
herself with the woman she had been exhorted to take high ground with,
and to teach, probably in the most elementary branches, the most lovely
creature she had ever seen, the mistress of the house, and a person
several years her senior. Still, no difficulty--no honour. She had
wanted full employment, and here she was likely to get it.
Jane did not think she had naturally any great turn for children, but
the little Phillipses had been so accustomed to have people pet and
yield to them that they actually seemed to enjoy the repose and
happiness of obeying, and obeying at once, their calm, grave governess,
who never asked them to do anything unreasonable, but yet who always
insisted on implicit acquiescence. They were indebted to her tor the
shortening and simplifying of all their lessons in the first place, and
that called out a considerable amount of gratitude. She had a clear way
of explaining things to them, and she had such a large
information on all subjects that she filled out the dry skeletons of
geography and history which children are condemned to learn, and made
them look living and real to them. Their father had taught the two
elder girls to read, and to read well and fluently; but they had had no
other lessons till they had come to London, and found their hitherto
unexercised memories quite overtaxed by masters, who saw that the girls
were quick, intelligent, and observant, with a great deal of practical
knowledge quite unusual in England at their years, but absolutely
devoid of all school acquirements. They found their lessons much more
interesting to learn and much better retained when learned under Miss
Melville than under their masters; and though they were not
particularly fond of her, they were very happy with her.
Mrs. Phillips's only objection to Miss Melville was her Scotch accent;
but, before six weeks had passed she had got over that, and thought
being in London had softened it down very considerably, and she did not
think the children were at all inclined to pick it up. She began
to wonder if the governess would not give her some help or some hints,
for she was going to visit her husband's relations in Derbyshire for a
second time--her first visit had not been very long--and she hoped
and wished that she might get on better than she had done before. Her
husband had never found any fault with her in the bush of Australia;
but her blunders before his father, brother, and sisters had distressed
him so much that he had spoken to her many times rather sharply in
private about them. Though she was a woman of a very indolent
character, now that Jane managed all her housekeeping and her servants,
wrote all her notes--that, however, was a saving of time to her
husband rather than to herself--and relieved her a good deal from the
worry of the children, she felt that she had some time on her hands, in
spite of her going out a good deal to see and to be seen. She was no
reader, and had no taste for needlework; but she had the gift of being
able to sit in an easy chair thinking of nothing in particular,
and doing nothing at all, but looking so beautiful that one might have
fancied her thoughts to be of the most elevated description.
One day, while in this state of luxurious ease, she asked Jane how long
she had been at school, and opened her eyes a hair-breadth or two wider
when she was told of the education so peculiar, so protracted, that Mr.
Hogarth had given to his nieces, and that even after she had left off
regular study, Jane had never ceased to be learning something. Even now
she was keeping up, partly for Tom Lowrie's sake, and partly for her
own gratification, some of those branches of learning that were likely
to be useful to him, and corresponding with him every week on those
Mrs. Phillips sighed, and said she had been married at sixteen, and had
been very little at school all her life. She had always been moved from
place to place when she was a girl, and there were no schools in the
colony that were fit to teach young ladies then. Even now, it
was the children's education that had been Mr. Phillips's great
inducement to come to England, and she liked it very much herself,
there was so much to see in London. But would Miss Melville think it
very absurd if she were to propose to take lessons now? Jane said she
would not think it at all absurd; she was sure Mrs. Phillips would find
it very pleasant. But she was rather perplexed when the lady said that
her chief ambition was to learn the pianoforte and how to make wax
flowers. She had no particular taste for music, and no artistic taste
at all; but music and wax flowers were expensive, fashionable, and
showy accomplishments, and these Mrs. Phillips desired to acquire.
"These are things, unfortunately, that I cannot give you any assistance
with," said Jane, recovering her presence of mind, "and perhaps you
would not like to have masters and mistresses coming in for yourself.
Any other branch of study we could go on with together, and that would
be pleasanter. Music demands so very much time if you wish to
make rapid progress."
"Emily only practises an hour and Hariett half an hour a day now, and
though their master wished them to practise twice as long, they seem to
get on much better since you said they should not be so long at the
"Because it is practising, not amusing themselves or dawdling, and
because it is an hour and half an hour, neither more nor less, and not
an uncertain time, which is left to the performer's pleasure. To make
any progress with music after you are grown up, you must give three or
four hours a day to its acquirement, and that you would find it
difficult--almost impossible--to keep up. But, as I said before,
music is a thing I am so ignorant of that I can give you no assistance
and no advice on the subject."
"I would like your assistance," said Mrs. Phillips, "for the children
do get on with you, and they say that you make their lessons an
"Should you not like to be with us while we are at study, and
see if you think you could derive any benefit from my method? Come into
the schoolroom to-morrow with us?"
Mrs. Phillips agreed to this, and thought the lessons were very
pleasant. Sometimes Jane made the little girls repeat their lessons to
their mamma, still exercising the supervision which made them feel they
must be as careful as heretofore. The oral instruction which
accompanied the lessons studied from the book, seemed to Mrs. Phillips
as well as to the children, the most interesting part of it, and as the
language was simplified for the comprehension of the little pupils, it
was not at all too abstract for their mother. She declared herself
delighted with the morning at school, and tried to persuade herself
that she was only going there to see how her governess did her duty by
her children. In this way, by sitting two hours every forenoon with
Miss Melville, she contrived to pick up something, and though both her
husband and Jane would have been glad if the studies had been
prosecuted a little further, they were very much pleased with so much
The idea of learning music still haunted Mrs. Phillips, and she
obtained her husband's consent to her having lessons from Emily's
master; but her progress was so slow that she tired of it in a month,
and blamed her teacher for his stupid dry way of setting her to work.
If Miss Melville had only understood music, she knew she would have got
on ever so much better, for she had such a knack of teaching people. On
the whole, Jane was satisfied with her situation, and with the manner
in which she filled it, and when Mr. Phillips paid her her first
quarter's salary, he expressed himself in the highest degree satisfied
with everything she had done. If she could only have felt that Elsie
was well and happy, she would have been perfectly happy herself, but
the letters from Edinburgh were not at all cheerful. Elsie's account of
herself, and Francis's accounts of her, were unsatisfactory, and even
Peggy had written a few lines recently to say that she was uneasy about
her, and did not think the situation at Mrs. Dunn's agreed with
Miss Elsie at all.
It was still months before she could hope to go to Edinburgh to see her
sister; but she wrote, urging her to give up her employment, and to
take as much open-air exercise as possible, and also to take medical
advice on the subject; but Elsie did not agree to this. The family
plans were all laid for a visit to Derbyshire, and Mr. Brandon, who
seemed always to be on the move, when his old neighbours were leaving
London, seeing Jane's distress about her sister, ventured on a
good-natured suggestion in her behalf.
"I think you might go up now and see Peggy before you go to Derbyshire;
you know she is anxious to see Emily and the other children. I could go
with you. I wish so much to see the meeting between them."
"We cannot go to Scotland so early in the season. Autumn is the time
when it is pleasant to travel in the north."
"But then I cannot be a witness to Peggy's delight, for if you
delay so long I will have to be off to Melbourne before that time. I
thought if you went now you might leave Miss Melville with her sister
while you pay your visit. You do not mean to take her there, and the
servants here will, I suppose, be put on board wages during your
absence, so that she need not remain in London."
"We hope and expect that Miss Melville will accompany us to Derbyshire,
that the children may go on with their lessons, and not get into as
much mischief as they did on their last visit," said Mr. Phillips.
"I am sure their aunts made great complaints of them," said Mrs.
Phillips, "and I do not wish to give room for so much complaint again.
I hope Miss Melville will come with us."
"I would have escorted Miss Melville to Edinburgh before I went to
Ashfield, for I must see that worthy Peggy again before I leave
England, and visit my Edinburgh relatives again, too, and my time is
getting short," said Mr. Brandon; "but if you cannot spare her, I
cannot do anything but go to see her sister, and report myself
on her appearance; perhaps your letters are duller than the reality."
"Did you not tell me your sister was a milliner, Miss Melville? What a
sad thing. I am sure you are such a treasure to us that I wish some
other family would take your sister," said Mrs. Phillips.
"She thinks millinery preferable to idleness; but the long hours, and
the cold rooms, and the solitary life are too hard upon her."
"It must be dull for her to have no other society but that of our good
Peggy and her bairns after a long day's work. Don't you think, Lily,
that it would be a pleasant change for her to come and spend a few
weeks with us after we return to London, as her sister cannot yet go to
her?" said Mr. Phillips.
The idea of befriending Jane's sister in this way was not disagreeable
to Mrs. Phillips. The invitation was given, and joyfully accepted. Mr.
Brandon would delay his visit to the north till it was about the time
for Elsie to come down, and would take care of her on the way.
Jane felt happy in this new proof of the kind feeling of the family
towards her, and accompanied them to Derbyshire with a lighter heart.
Mr. Phillip's father was a medical man, with an excellent country
practice, intelligent, chatty, and hospitable. He had married a Miss
Stanley, who was not only of very good birth, but who had a
considerable fortune, which was settled on her children. Her eldest
son's portion of it had been the nucleus of the handsome fortune he had
realised in Victoria. The old gentleman had been long a widower, and
his two unmarried daughters lived with him, and kept his house, while
his younger son had been brought up to assist his father in his
profession, and eventually to succeed to the practice, but he, seeing
how well his brother Stanley had got on, had a great hankering after an
unlimited sheep-run in Australia.
The Misses Phillips were not young, but they were well dressed,
well mannered, and good looking. There was a happy, prosperous,
confident air about both of the sisters, and especially about the
younger of the two. They were the darlings of their father, the first
in their own set of acquaintances, a great deal taken notice of, on
account both of their mother's social position and their father's
professional talent, by county families; successful in domestic
management, successful in society, of good understanding, and well
educated, the Misses Phillips were looked up to very much, and felt
that they deserved to be so. They were much disappointed in their
brother's wife; from his letters, and the likenesses he had sent
home, they were prepared for a romantic and interesting, as well as
beautiful woman, but her want of education and of understanding, which
they soon discovered on personal acquaintance, was most mortifying to
ladies who thought they possessed both in a high degree, and they were
quite distressed at having to introduce her into society. The husband
saw and felt their coldness towards his wife, while Mrs.
Phillips filled his ears with complaints of their uppishness, and their
Mr. Phillips had been so proud and so fond of his sisters, and had
talked so much to her about their beauty, their cleverness, and their
goodness, that she thought she too had a right to be disappointed.
Their beauty had diminished during his fourteen years' absence in
Australia; their cleverness only made her uncomfortable; and their
goodness did not seem to extend to her. What right had a couple of
ordinary-looking old maids to look down on her, a married woman of so
many years' standing, so much younger and handsomer? She liked Jane
Melville far better than either of her sisters-in-law, for, with more
real mental superiority, there was an inferiority in position that set
her at her ease.
Mr. Phillips was a little disappointed with his sisters, though he
would scarcely own it to himself. The blooming girls of twenty-one and
seventeen whom he had left were somewhat faded in the course of
the many years' absence; and the very different lives that they had led
made them take different views of most subjects. Their opinions had
hardened separately, and when they met again they did not harmonize as
they had done. His sisters were more aristocratic in all their tastes
and feelings than the Australian squatter; they had scarcely mixed at
all with children, and had no patience with his wild bush children,
whose frankness and audacity were so terribly embarrassing; and they
had shown their disappointment at his MESALLIANCE very decidedly.
But on this occasion things went on much better; both Mrs. Phillips and
the children were decidedly improved, and the sisters-in-law gave Miss
Melville the credit of it, and liked her accordingly.
Miss Melville was presentable anywhere, though she was only a
governess. The tale which Mr. Phillips told of her reverse of fortune
interested them all, particularly the old gentleman.
He had met with Jane's uncle when he had been studying in Paris,
who was then only a younger son, and had been just released from the
strict discipline of a Scotch puritanical home, and not being ambitious
of filling the subordinate office of "Jock, the laird's brother,"
wished to learn a profession, and thought he might try medicine as well
as anything else. He was then clever, idle, and extravagant, but a
great favourite with everybody. Jane questioned Dr. Phillips about the
date of this acquaintance, but it had occurred before the supposed time
of Francis's birth, so that he could throw no light on that question.
Still she wrote to Francis on the subject, though she had thought his
letters lately had been colder than before, and feared that his
friendship for her was not so deeply seated as hers for him. Willing to
show that her feelings towards him were unchanged, she entered into the
same minute description of the family she was at present living with as
she had done of the pupils, and the employers, and the visitors in
London. She was at this time more interested in Dr. Phillips and
his younger son Vivian than in any of the ladies of the family, and
felt particularly puzzled to explain the desire of the latter to leave
the country and his profession, when he had talents quite sufficient to
make a good figure, for such a life as Mr. Brandon's had been in the
Australian bush. He was the most scientific man whom Jane had met with
in society; and, as he met with very little sympathy from either of his
sisters in his chemical experiments or his geological researches, he
appreciated her intelligent and inquiring turn of mind. There were many
things he could throw light on which would be of service to Tom Lowrie,
and were mentioned in her letters to him. Young Dr. Vivian Phillips had
submitted to a great deal of the inevitable spoiling which an only
brother at home receives. Georgiana was very strongly attached to him;
and though Harriett had always said that she preferred Stanley, yet,
when he came back, with his uncongenial wife and large family of young
children to engross nine-tenths of his heart, her partiality for
him seemed to fade away, and she felt that Vivian was far better than
the other--at least, more clever and more English in his ideas; but
Stanley was more liberal, and had a better temper. Vivian had fits of
bad temper which no one could conquer, and his sisters found it was the
only plan to let him alone.
Vivian would never think of falling in love with his brother's
governess--he knew his own position too well for that: so that his
sisters had no fear of his being in any danger when Jane joined him in
his experiments in the laboratory, or went out with him and the
children geologising. And they were perfectly right in that surmise. He
liked Jane because he felt her to be a perfectly safe person--just a
little more interesting than a companion of his own sex, and one to
place rather more confidence in, for she had more sympathy and more
enthusiasm; but she had excellent sense, and did not appear to be at
Jane described the beautiful country walks she took, which she
was sure Francis or Elsie would appreciate far better than she could
do. She contrasted the activity and full life of the gentlemen of the
house with the languid idleness of Mrs. Phillips and the busy idleness
of her sisters-in-law, and thought it very unjust that all the work of
the world should be done by the one sex and so little left for the
other. She had thought the Misses Phillips superior to the Swinton
young ladies at first; but on closer acquaintance, she found it quite
as difficult to grow intimate with them. She thought she would prefer
the High Church, and almost Puseyite, tendencies of the English women
to the narrow and gloomy views of her Scotch neighbours; but her
independent turn of mind, her eager love of inquiry and her thirst for
truth, were as much cramped by the one as the other.
An enormous part of the Misses Phillips' lives was occupied in visiting
and receiving visitors. Their superintendence of their father's
household was very different from what had been expected from
Jane and Elsie at Cross Hall. They had old and faithful servants, who
knew their work and did it, and rarely troubled their mistresses for
orders. They did not take the same interest or trouble about the poor
which the Misses Melville had done. If Dr. Phillips mentioned any case
of distress, the cook was directed to send broth, or wine, or they
might even give a little money; but there was no personal inconvenience
suffered or sacrifice made for the relief of want or the comforting of
sorrow. The charity was given with the smallest amount of sympathy, and
accepted with the smallest amount of gratitude.
In public matters, in social progress, in sanitary reforms, all the
gentlemen took a lively interest; but the ladies considered these
things quite out of their own line. There was this difference, however,
between the sisters, that Georgiana (the eldest) could make any
sacrifice cheerfully for any member of her own family, but Harriett was
disinclined to make any, even for them. It is not to be supposed that
the world in general saw all these traits as Jane, in her
peculiar circumstances, and with her observant powers, had so much
opportunity of doing. They were considered to be very superior and very
amiable young ladies, and Mr. Brandon had been rather surprised at
himself for not fixing his affections on Harriett, who, as the
favourite sister of his dearest friend, would be suitable in every
respect, and who appeared to have all the qualifications to make a good
It was not mere fancy on Jane's part that Elsie was ill and unhappy.
She had magnanimously made up her mind to go to work with industry and
spirit, and Mrs. Dunn was perfectly satisfied with her. But she missed
Jane's society far more than her sister could miss hers. Jane was
constantly employed in occupations that demanded intelligence and
thought. She had access to books; she went to theatres and places of
public amusement even more than she cared for; she had the society of
Mr. Phillips constantly, and that of Mr. Brandon and several other
Australians, who were either retired on a competency or home on a
visit, very frequently, and she certainly thought them generally
pleasant and intelligent, and more agreeable company than the
provincial people in and about Swinton. Their frank acknowledgment of
the early struggles which they had had with fortune, the hearty manner
in which they enjoyed the prosperity they had earned, and their kindly
feeling towards each other, made Jane have a favourable impression of
colonial people. Mr. Phillips had become acquainted with several people
from other colonies than Victoria, partly on board ship, and partly
from other introductions. A curious and ignorant suspicion that somehow
all Australians have a sort of convict origin, made it more difficult
at that time for them than for retired Indians to get into general
society. There was no nice distinction drawn between the different
colonies; between New South Wales and Victoria, or South Australia and
Tasmania in those days--a slight savour of Botany Bay was supposed to
hang about them all. But they formed a pleasant little clique of their
own, less exclusive than most cliques, and generally disposed to
hold up each one his own particular colony as preferable to the others.
They might contrast it unfavourably with Britain, but as compared with
the other colonies, it ought to bear the palm.
Elsie felt the want of this intelligence and this variety of character
that Jane described to her so minutely in her frequent letters, and
regretted that she could write nothing interesting in return. When she
came home after a long day's work, she thought she ought to try to keep
up a little of her sister's discipline with the Lowries, and went over
their lessons with them. Tom used to bring to her the most puzzling
questions, which she thought she ought to be able to answer, and made
great efforts to do so; but instead of the intellectual work refreshing
her after the sedentary needlework, she felt all the more exhausted by
it. As for her poetry, she appeared to be unable to write a line, and
though she sometimes could read an old book, she seemed quite unfit to
pay attention to anything new.
She missed the long walks she had daily taken in Jane's pleasant
company. It was not far from Peggy's house to Mrs. Dunn's place of
business, and it was a very monotonous walk. The white regular houses,
all of one size and height, with their thousands of windows exactly on
the same model, seemed always staring her out of countenance, and made
her feel depressed even in the early morning. She felt the keen
piercing east winds of an Edinburgh spring as she had never done at
Cross Hall, where they were sheltered from them by a beautiful
plantation of trees; and the continued poor living and the hurried
meals began to tell upon a constitution naturally much less robust than
Jane's, so that she began to look pale and thin, and coughed a good
deal, and lost her appetite.
With all these drawbacks she improved so much in taste and skill that
Mrs. Dunn raised her wages--or salary, as she genteelly called it--and
put her at the head of the department in which she so much
excelled, so that she could not bear to give up her contribution to the
little fund that Jane was putting into the Savings Bank.
Miss Rennie had persuaded her mamma to try Mrs. Dunn's establishment,
and had told that lady that it was all on Miss Elsie Melville's
account, so she often saw her and Laura Wilson there, and made bonnets
for both of them with her own hands; and the Chalmerses and Jardines
had also come to see how Elsie got on, and other people from the
neighbourhood of Swinton. Elsie would rather not have had dealings with
so many old acquaintances, but Mrs. Dunn thought it was a just reward
for her kindness that she had this increase of custom.
One day, about four months after she had been engaged in this business,
Miss Rennie and Miss Wilson came in with most important-looking faces.
While Miss Wilson was busied turning over the fashion-books, her friend
whispered to Elsie:
"It is really a case; Laura is engaged to Mr. Dalzell, your old friend
and neighbour, and she is going to give one of her wedding orders
here. Mrs. Dunn should be greatly obliged to you, for we never
would have come to the house but for you. But this marriage amuses me a
good deal. I'm sure your sister was fifty times too good for him, and
Laura and he will just suit each other. He is very much attached to her
fortune, and she will have it settled upon herself; at least, papa will
see that is done as tightly as she could wish, and Laura has a sharp
eye to number one, I can assure you. She is quite delighted at the idea
of being married at eighteen, to such a handsome man, of such a good
family. Mrs. Dalzell has been to see us, and been so gracious. After
all, what better luck could she look for than to be married for her
money? with such a temper as she has, too. He certainly is handsome;
but for my part, I would rather have a man who is downright ugly than
one who grins and bows like William Dalzell. I will be quite glad when
this affair is over. Lovers are very tiresome when one does not quite
believe in the love."
"Well, Laura dear, have you made up your mind about the
dresses?" continued Miss Rennie, in a louder voice.
"You had better go to Mademoiselle Defour about the dresses," said
Elsie. "I must keep to my own department."
"Oh, Laura wants your taste to help us to decide; you know better what
suits than mademoiselle," said Miss Rennie.
"But I am going to be busy here," said Elsie, who never felt much
disposed to wait on Miss Wilson, and at this time less than ever; and
she turned to an elderly lady, of a very pleasing countenance, who,
with a pretty girl of thirteen, entered the showroom at that moment.
"Oh, Miss Thomson," said Miss Rennie, shaking hands with the new comer,
"how do you do? Are you in Edinburgh just now? You must come to see
mamma; she will be so disappointed if you leave her out. Have you come
to hear Dr. B----? He preaches for the last time in Edinburgh on
"I am to be in Edinburgh for a few days," said Miss Thomson,
"and will certainly call on your mother."
"This is one of your nieces, I suppose?" said Miss Rennie.
"Yes, this is Grace Forrester, my youngest niece, who has been doing so
well at school, and been such a good girl altogether, that I must needs
give her a new frock for a party she is invited to next week, and get
it fashionably made, too, no doubt."
"This is not the dressmaking-room--Miss Melville is the milliner. We
must go to the next room for Grace's frock," said Miss Rennie.
"But I am in want of a new cap and bonnet for myself, and I must teach
Grace that old people must be served first, and that young folks must
wait with patience," said Miss Thomson, looking very kindly on the
girl. "Miss Melville can take my order, I suppose? You are the sister
of the young lady who called on me some time ago?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Elsie.
"I can see a very slight likeness. I was very glad to hear such
good accounts of your sister getting a situation with some rich
colonial people in London; and I hear, too, that you are a remarkably
good hand in your own line, so I have come to ask you to make me a cap
and a bonnet that will keep on my head; and that is what I cannot get
the fashionable milliner I have employed so long to make me this year
"I can make to please Peggy Walker," said Elsie, smiling; "but you will
wish for more style--a compromise between fashion and comfort."
"With a decided leaning towards comfort," said Miss Thomson. "Are you
still living with Peggy Walker? An admirable woman she is, and one whom
I have the greatest respect for; but does she take good care of you?
You look thin and ill."
"I am not very well, but Peggy is everything that is kind and careful.
I have missed my sister, sadly. I hope, however, to see her soon, for
Mrs. Phillips has been so good as to ask me to spend a few weeks
in London, and Mrs. Dunn is going to spare me."
"Well, I am glad to hear it," said Miss Thomson, "for it seems to me
you want a change and a rest. Your cousin is making great alterations
at Cross Hall."
"Alterations for the better," said Elsie. "He told us about them."
"Well, I'm not clear about the allotments; but the cottages I do most
highly approve of, and I am coming upon my landlord to build me eight
or nine, after the same plan, as near as may be. The Allendale
cot-houses are very old, and I will never consent to have my workpeople
as badly lodged as they have been. If I asked for five hundred pounds
to add to the farmhouse, I would get it at once, for I am a good
tenant; but my landlord demurred at such an expenditure for cot-houses.
I think I will carry my point, however."
"You know," said Miss Rennie to Miss Thomson, "of the new neighbour you
are likely to get at Moss Tower? Mamma wants to have a talk with
you about Laura's marriage, as you know the Dalzells."
"Oh, yes, certainly, I'll call on your mother. I don't forget any of my
cousins, though they are a few times removed. But, dear me, Eliza, that
poor girl Melville looks ill; the brae she has had to climb has been
owre stey for her. I must look in on Peggy Walker, and hear what she
says about her," said Miss Thomson, as they moved into mademoiselle's
department and gave orders about Grace's frock, while Miss Wilson
looked over dresses, made and unmade, and received hints and
suggestions from any quarter she could.
Elsie wished that she could be out of the establishment before Miss
Wilson's wedding order came to it; so she was very glad when, after a
longer day than usual, in which she had exercised her utmost skill for
Miss Thomson's behoof, and certainly pleased herself with her work, she
returned home and found Mr. Brandon sitting talking in his usual
cheerful way to Peggy and the old man.
Dr. Phillips had wished that Elsie should join her sister before
she left Derbyshire, and spend a week or so at his house, for he had
been so delighted with Jane that he had a desire to become acquainted
with Elsie also; so that Mr. Brandon had come sooner than he had
intended, and proposed an early departure. Elsie looked so glad, so
very glad to see him; expressed herself so grateful to him for all the
trouble he was taking for her; and after asking for Jane and the
Phillipses, began to inquire about his own relations, and how he had
enjoyed his visit to Ashfield, with so much interest, that Mr. Brandon
thought her manner more pleasant than ever.
Elsie Refuses An Excellent Offer
Mr. Brandon had come home with the intention of marrying, and had
flirted a good deal during the six or eight months of his stay in
England, but he had seen so many young ladies that one had driven
another out of his head. He thought he might have fallen in love with
Miss Harriett Phillips, who, though not very young, would in all other
respects be very suitable, and who, he had no doubt, would accept him;
but still he could not manage to cultivate an attachment strong enough
to warrant such a desperate step as a proposal. Ever since he had seen
Elsie Melville at Mrs. Rennie's party, her face and form, and her
pleasant voice with its Scotch accent, recurred more frequently
in his thoughts than those of any woman he had seen. Her elegance, her
gentleness, her sprightliness, had struck him at sight, and her forlorn
condition was very interesting. Her poetical talents, of which he had
heard from Peggy, impressed him a good deal, and the manner in which
she had taken so industriously to the only means of earning a
livelihood open to her, though one which was so far beneath her, had
certainly called forth his respect.
The sight of Elsie again, though in diminished beauty, revived all
those sentiments of compassion and protection that he had felt for her
from first hearing of her misfortunes. Yes, he would marry her, and
then she would grow rosy and happy; and he would get her poems
published at his own expense, and have such a splendid copy for herself
to lay on her drawing-room table--for she should have a drawing-room
at Barragong, and every comfort, and even luxury, that Victoria in
those days could afford. He never would be ashamed to take Elsie to see
any of his friends or relatives, for she was a gentlewoman born
and bred. As for her being a milliner for the present, it was only so
much the more to be proud of.
These thoughts lay in Brandon's mind, and strengthened every day of his
short stay in Edinburgh; his strong-minded cousins thought Walter
Brandon was more contemptible than ever, for he did not seem to have an
idea in his head; whereas it was because he had one idea very strongly
in his head and heart that he was so disinclined for argument or
discussion. Peggy, who perceived Brandon's evident admiration, again
regretted her own burst of confidence in her autobiographical sketch,
but thought that now Miss Elsie was so downcast and so miserable, that
she would never think of refusing so excellent an offer as her old
master could make. She began to praise Mr. Brandon--to whose
character, however, she never did full justice, from not understanding
many of its best points. She liked Mr. Phillips much better, who was
graver. Her Scotch phlegmatic temperament could not appreciate
the fine spirit and unvarying good humour of Brandon, and his random
way of talking she thought flighty and frivolous. But yet she could,
and did, praise him for his kindness of heart and his want of
selfishness, which he had shown on many occasions, great and small, at
Barragong. These panegyrics were bestowed with discretion, not being
told to Elsie herself, but brought out incidentally in conversation
with grandfather, who thought highly of Brandon, and never ceased to
extol his politeness.
Elsie and Brandon had a railway carriage to themselves for a
considerable part of the way; and he thought he never could have a
better opportunity of declaring himself; so, with rather less
stammering and hesitation than is usual on such occasions--for he had
not the least doubt of a favourable answer--he made Elsie understand
that he loved her, and asked for her love in return.
"No, no--oh, no!" said Elsie, covering her face with her hands.
"Why 'No,' Miss Alice? 'Yes' sounds a great deal prettier. I'll
take such good care of you, and I am sure you will like Australia.
Peggy has not given you a very dismal account of Barragong, and I have
had it very much improved since her time, and I will have a great deal
more done to it; and before we go I will have your book printed-----"
"My book," said Elsie; "what book?"
"Your poems--I know they are beautiful--Peggy told me about them; and
we will have them brought out in the very best style, and I will be so
proud to think what a genius I have got for my own darling."
Elsie sighed deeply; tried to speak, but could not. It was a good sign,
Mr. Brandon thought--a sigh was ten times more encouraging than a
smile. He knew he had hit upon the right thing when he had spoken of
her poems; it was wonderful how discerning love had made him.
"You are mistaken, Mr. Brandon," said she with difficulty, scarcely
daring to raise her eyes to the level of his waistcoat; "I am no
genius, and my poems are not worth printing--poor, crude, empty
productions. I believe I can make caps and bonnets, but that is all
that I can do."
"That is only your opinion of yourself. But with my will, you shall
make no more frippery of the kind. It is quite beneath you."
"It is not beneath me to earn an honest livelihood."
"No; but it was cruel to make you have to do it. I have been so sorry
for you all these months, when Miss Melville told me how you were
"Do not say anything more about your pity for me; it pains me."
"It is not pity; it is love," said he, stoutly.
"Love born of pity; that will die when--I mean if--but it cannot be;
I never can be your wife--the most unsuitable, the most wrong thing
that I could do. Do not speak any more about it."
Elsie's real distress convinced Mr. Brandon of her sincerity, but it
set him on a wrong scent. There must be a rival; no doubt she
must love some one else, or she would have given him a hearing. It was
not possible that a girl would prefer poverty, solitude, and a position
like that which she held at Mrs. Dunn's, to marriage with a
good-looking, good-tempered fellow like himself, who would deny her
nothing, and who intended to be the kindest husband in the world--if
her heart was disengaged. Now poor Elsie was as heart-whole as a girl
could be, but her manner of refusing made him think of a number of
little signs which looked as if she were the victim of a hopeless
attachment. Her sadness, her poetry, her little sighs, her diffidence,
her pining away, were all due to the shameful conduct of one who in
happier days had sought her hand, and had deserted her when fortune
changed. His pity for her increased, but his love did not. If she had
the bad taste to prefer a sad memory to a living lover, she might do
so. He did not care to inquire as to the particulars of her unhappy
love, even if he had thought it honourable to do so. The truth is, that
Mr. Brandon did not love Elsie very much, though he thought he
did so when he asked her. If she had said yes--if she had looked at
him with grateful eyes, and told him that she would try to do her best
to make him happy, his love would have become real, and would have
surprised both himself and her by its strength and its steadiness. But
he had never dreamed of such a thing as a refusal, and he had hastened
his proposal, not from any feeling of insecurity, but from a desire to
make Elsie very happy, and to do it as soon as possible.
But he had been refused--positively refused. Elsie might have said
more of the obligation to him--might have been more grateful for the
compliment which he had paid to her--Walter Brandon thought it would
have been graceful to do so; but she said nothing of the kind. She sat
in a rigid, painful silence till they reached the next station, where
other passengers joined them, and put an end to a TETE-A-TETE which was
rather awkward for both parties. She felt that she had given pain and
mortification to a man who had meant well by her, and she did
not dare to open her lips in consolation or extenuation. She could not
trust herself to speak; she would not venture to renew any
solicitation. Forlorn and humbled as she was, she felt that she was in
the greatest danger; that it was a tremendous bribe that was offered to
her. She had Peggy's story ringing in her ears, and thought of Peggy's
insight and Peggy's courage. The weak and facile Mr. Brandon was apt to
fall in love, or to fancy that he did so, with any woman he came in
much contact with, and she was as unsuitable for him, even more
unsuitable, than Peggy was. The discipline of the last ten months had
been too severe for her; it had crushed her spirit, and injured her
health. She felt alarmed about her cough, and recently had been
thinking more of the blessedness of an early death than the happiness
of an early marriage. She felt herself to be sickly, low-spirited,
wanting in energy, no fit companion for any colonist, and especially
unfit to be the wife of a man of so little force of character.
His offer appeared to her to be rash and imprudent. What did he know of
her to warrant him in risking his life's happiness in such a way? But
yet, though it was foolish in him to ask her, and though it would have
been very wrong in her to accept of him, she was grateful, so grateful.
How little Walter Brandon could guess how grateful she felt, when,
after their journey was over, he took her cold, trembling hand, and
placed her in the carriage that was to take them to Dr. Phillips's.
"You seem afraid of me, Miss Alice," said he. "Do not think that I will
say another word on the subject, if it is painful to you. I know better
than to persecute a woman with my addresses, if I see she does not like
them. But do you REALLY not like them?"
"No, I do not," said Elsie, abruptly. "You will see hundreds of other
women who would suit you far better than I could do."
"If you would only love me, I should be quite satisfied with your
suiting me--but if you cannot, there need be no more said about it."
Jane was engaged with her pupils when her sister arrived, and
Mrs. Phillips, who had not been very regular in her attendance at
school lately, stayed in the room this morning in order to see and
remark upon Miss Melville's pretty sister. She could see little beauty
in the sad face, with the weary look about the eyes, and the lines
round the mouth, that had been the result of Elsie's real experience of
life. The figure, Mrs. Phillips confessed to her husband and to Mr.
Brandon, was rather good, but wanted development; it was too much of
the whipping-post order. The Misses Phillips said they really thought
Jane the better looking of the two girls, for she had such a beautiful
expression; while Mr. Phillips said that Elsie had fallen off sadly
since he saw her in Edinburgh at the new year. She had struck him then
as being very pretty, but he did not think so now, and, of course, in
every other respect but personal appearance she could not be compared
with her sister. Dr. Phillips said he must have her examined about her
cough, for it should not be trifled with. He hoped that it had
not been too long neglected. All these remarks, coming immediately
after his refusal by the object of them, made Brandon somewhat
reconciled to the circumstance, though if he had had a kinder answer,
they would have made no difference in his feelings towards Elsie, but
would probably have made him love her all the more.
When Harriett Phillips spoke in warm praise of Miss Melville's
excellent understanding, and her fine, open, intelligent, expression of
countenance, he thought he never saw her own countenance look so open
or so attractive. He felt disposed to be consoled, and he was very sure
that she was quite willing to console him.
Jane saw much amiss with her darling sister at the first glance, but
hoped that the change, and Dr. Phillips's advice, which he had said
would be at her service, and her own society, would benefit Elsie
Elsie did not muster courage to tell Jane of the incident of the
railway journey till they had retired for the night.
"You know I could not answer otherwise, Jane; I did not love
him; do not be angry with me," said Elsie, apologetically.
"Angry with you my dear child! No, I honour you," said Jane.
"You see Jane, I have been so unhappy, so ill, and so low-spirited,
that I could easily have snatched at an escape from this dreary life,
and said I would marry him; but he would have been so disappointed when
he came to know me."
"You do not love him now, Elsie, but could you not have learned to love
him? It is not to be supposed that a girl has a ready-made attachment
to be given to the first man who sees fit to ask her; she must take a
"But, Jane, though he has been very kind to us, you know--you remember
Peggy, and what she said about him?"
Jane nodded assent.
"I know I have been rude about it. I ought to have said much that I
felt, but when girls say such things they either give more pain
afterwards, or get committed. Oh! Jane, tell me again that I have been
"Right? yes," said Jane, thoughtfully. "Perhaps you ought to have a man
of more fixed principles, if he could he had. But Elsie, my darling, it
is not who we ought to have in the world, but who will have us; reflect
that you may never have such an offer, or, indeed, another offer of any
kind, again. I do not mean to bias your judgment, my own dear sister.
Only think--he has, as you say, been very kind. He is not faultless;
but who is? As for Peggy's story, that was many years ago; and, so far
as I can judge from our friends here, he bears an excellent character.
We should not condemn a man for life on account of something wrong
done, or, as in this case, only purposed, when very young, and in
circumstances of temptation which you and I, perhaps, can scarcely
appreciate. He took Peggy's first answer in a right spirit, and you can
see how he respects her. All I have seen of him since I came to
London, has disposed me to think favourably of him. His temper is the
finest in the world, I think."
"Finer than Francis'?" said Elsie, who knew her sister's very great
regard for her cousin, and never fancied she could think any man his
superior in any point.
"Yes, sunnier than Francis'."
"But he is not half so clever or so cultivated," remonstrated Elsie.
"His cleverness lies in a different direction."
"I think him inferior to Francis in every way," said Elsie, "and that
weighed with me in giving my answer. You should think your husband the
very best person you ever saw."
"Perhaps when he is your husband you may, but I fancy that a girl who
has a good father and brothers, does not at once give a man this
preference when he asks for her hand. As I said before, he is not
faultless, but would not life with him be preferable to life as it is
for you now?"
"Don't, Jane; don't side with my cowardly self. To marry him,
not loving him, as he perhaps deserves to be loved--not honouring him
as I know I should honour my husband--but merely because I am
miserable--how cruel to him, how base in myself! I know, besides, that
he only pities me. Oh! Jane, if it were only life with you I could bear
it better, but I am so weary of that workroom at Mrs. Dunn's, and of
seeing people there whom I used to know, and getting a pitying sort of
recognition from them. The very girls in the workroom pity me, and
Peggy pities me, and even the children and their grandfather pity me.
Oh! Jane, Jane, I am tired, tired to death of all this pity. Nobody
ever thought of pitying you in your hardest times; you could hold up
your head, and mine seems as if I never could raise it more. It must
have been only pity in Mr. Brandon's case--what did he know of me to
make him love me?"
"Have you forgotten that you are a very sweet, charming girl, Elsie--that
your eyes are both bright and true--that your voice is
pleasant, both in itself, and for the very pleasant things you can say?
My darling, you must not lose all pride in yourself in this way. I wish
half the offers of marriage that are made were founded on as much
respect as Mr. Brandon felt for you. Though he talked slightingly of
your work at Mrs. Dunn's, do not fancy but that he honours you for
doing it. Besides, though he is not very literary, he may admire your
talents. He meant to please you by speaking about your poems."
"If he thinks I could be brilliant in society, or do him any credit in
that way, he would be sure to be disappointed, and what a terrible
thing it must be to disappoint a husband! It is not so much his
deficiencies as my own, that weigh upon me. And, besides, Jane, I am
not well; I really think I am going into a consumption--the sooner the
better, if it were not for you, my dearest--and to marry any one with
such a conviction, would be positively wicked."
"Oh, you are not going into a consumption, Elsie, I hope and
believe," said Jane, as cheerfully as she could. "Your apprehension of
such a thing shows that you are in no danger. You will see Dr. Phillips
tomorrow morning, and get something to set you to rights. I am glad you
are joining us here, for the sake of his advice. I like him so very
much, and I think him clever--perhaps not naturally so acute as Dr.
Vivian, but he has had a large practice so long, and so little wedded
to routine, and so willing to accept of any new light that can be
thrown on medicine, that his greater experience more than
counterbalances his son's greater talent. And he is cheerful, too; the
sound of his voice, and even of his step, is like a cordial to the sick
and the depressed, I think. I know it does me a great deal of good, and
it must benefit you."
"You are very happy here; honoured, and useful, and well paid," said
"Oh! yes, dear; I have a great deal to be thankful for, and in time we
will be able to be together always. In the meantime your holiday
must be enjoyed to the utmost."
So the sisters talked of their plans for the future, and of the routine
of their past life, as cheerfully as they could, and tried to banish
Mr. Brandon from their thoughts. Elsie was asleep first, and then Jane
anxiously lay awake, weighing the probabilities about her health and
her recovery, and also thinking with approval, but certainly with
regret, of Elsie's conscientious refusal of so excellent an offer as
she had that day received. Her own opinion of Mr. Brandon had risen
since she had known him better, and she believed that Elsie would have
suited him extremely well. She only hoped that he would not accept her
sister's answer as final, at least, if Dr. Phillips pronounced
favourably on the subject of her health.
Elsie Accepts Of A New Situation
When Dr. Phillips had asked Elsie a great number of questions on all
sorts of subjects, that seemed but remotely connected with the cough
that she was so alarmed about--had sounded her chest, and gone through
the several forms of examination----
"Now," said she, "Doctor, tell me the truth; I am not at all afraid to
hear it. I have no dread of death; indeed, I rather desire it than
"I am sorry to hear it, my dear girl; for I do not see any chance of
it. There is nothing organic the matter with you--nothing whatever--only
a nervous affection that a little care will overcome. You
have been overworked and underfed. You have been out of doors only in
the early morning and the late evening, and have scarcely seen the sun
for months. You have had a great deal on your spirits, and been
exceedingly dull. You have missed your excellent sister, and I do not
wonder at it. It would have been a miracle if you could have kept your
health this unkindly spring, with all these drawbacks. But you have
nothing whatever alarming in your case."
"My dear Miss Melville," continued he, turning to Jane, "I assure you
that your sister only wants what she has come to England to
obtain--change, cheerful society, sunshine, and generous diet--to restore
her to perfect health."
Elsie gave one sigh at this verdict.
"Do not think me ungrateful, Dr. Phillips; I should be thankful to be
restored to health; but life has been so hard for me lately, that I
felt almost glad to think that, without any fault of my own, God was
going to take me away, and that Jane would join me by and by,
when her work was done. She is fit for the work she has got to do, and
I appear to be so unfit for it. I suppose we ought to love life-----"
"It is a sign that one is out of health when one does not," said Dr.
Phillips. "Your depression of spirits is more physical than mental; but
then it reacts upon your health. You used to be cheerful before you
left that place--what do you call it?--where my old friend Hogarth
brought you up."
"Yes, quite cheerful," said Elsie; "but things have gone very
differently with me since."
"Well, you must regain your old spirits, if possible; and in the
meantime, get on your bonnet and have a little drive with me while Miss
Melville is busy with her pupils. If you won't mind a few stoppages, we
will have a pleasant round, through as pretty a part of the country as
England can boast of."
Jane asked privately for Dr. Phillips's opinion, being sure that
he gave Elsie his brightest view of her case.
"There is nothing positively wrong with her at present, Miss Melville;
but she has got into such a low tone of health that she needs care. She
must never return to such a life as she has had lately; she must have a
lighter employment, more open air, and better food."
"It is so difficult," said Jane, "to get employment. I am sure there
are a thousand chances against my finding such an excellent situation
as I have with Mrs. Phillips."
"And a thousand chances against their meeting with such an excellent
governess and housekeeper. The pleasure is mutual, I am sure. I must
see what your sister is fit for, when she is a little stronger."
Both Elsie and Jane saw at once that Mr. Brandon was disposed to take
Elsie's rejection as a final decision, and that he would have no
difficulty in transferring his attentions, if not his affections to
Miss Harriett Phillips. Elsie felt that she could not have been much
admired or loved, when he could so soon attach himself to a
woman so very different from herself. Here it certainly might be love
without any mixture of pity. He made himself very agreeable, and Miss
Harriett was not so much flattered as gratified. All his homage was
received by her as her due; there were no quick flushes of pleasure or
surprise at any little mark of kindness or attention; no disclaiming of
any compliment which was paid her as exaggerated or undeserved; the
smile of perfect self-complacency sat on her face, and gave ease to her
every action and every speech. She never hesitated in giving her
opinion; she never qualified or withdrew it when given. She knew
herself to be perfectly well-informed and perfectly well-bred. She felt
herself to be Mr. Brandon's superior in every point--in natural
ability, in education, in acquired manner, in social position, and, of
course, in moral character also, for she had no faith in the goodness
of the other sex. She saw many of their faults, and guessed at many
more, and she did not see or understand their virtues; and
Brandon made no pretence to being particularly good, and spoke
slightingly of her favourite clergyman, who was rather too High Church
in his notions to please the latitudinarian ideas of an Australian
bushman. Her connection with the county Stanleys gave her a prestige
that Mr. Brandon never could have, for his family were only
middle-class people, not at all intellectual or aristocratic. Her
brother was astonished to see how much more Georgiana and Harriett
spoke of their relations by the mother's side, who had never done
anything for them, than those good uncles and aunts Phillipses, who had
invited them for the holidays, and given them toys and books without
number; but all his laughing at his sisters could not alter their
views, and his own wife sided with the ladies, and was very proud of
her husband's aristocratic name and relations, though she had none of
Though in all these respects Harriett Phillips was so much Mr.
Brandon's superior, she was disposed to accept of him when he
asked her, as he was sure to do. It was so difficult for her to meet
with her equal, either social, intellectual, or moral; and a husband,
even though an Australian, began to be looked upon as a desirable thing
at her time of life. And though Brandon was not fascinated by her,
though he was not interested in her, though he felt no thrill in
touching her hand, no exquisite delight in listening to her voice or
her singing, he began to feel that this was to be his fate, and that
the quiet, pale girl who had refused him would not make so suitable a
wife for him as Harriett Phillips, after all.
He was somewhat astonished, however, when he heard from this last-named
lady, about a week after Elsie Melville's arrival, that her
sister-in-law had engaged her services as lady's-maid. A lady's-maid
was what Mrs. Phillips had long desired to have, and now, when she saw
Elsie's excellent taste, both in dressmaking and millinery, she thought
that with a few lessons in hairdressing she might suit her very
nicely, and it would be quite a boon to the poor girl, whom Dr.
Phillips had forbidden to return to her situation in Edinburgh.
Mr. Phillips, though he thought that a lady's-maid was rather beyond
his circumstances and his wife's sphere, hoped such good things from
her associating constantly with two such women as Jane and Elsie
Melville, that he readily gave his consent. Elsie as readily agreed to
serve in this inferior capacity. The pleasure of being near her sister
was not to be refused on account of being so far subordinated to her.
She was deeply impressed with her own inferiority, and fell into her
place at once.
Harriett Phillips could not help a slight sneer at her sister-in-law's
assumption in this new step towards gentility; but as she was going to
London with the family, she had no doubt that Elsie would be glad to be
of service to her too, as she appeared to be very good-natured, and
willing to oblige a family who had been so very kind to her sister and
herself. There were so many things that were secured for Elsie
by this arrangement which were imperatively necessary for her health,
that Jane submitted to it as the best possible under the circumstances,
though she feared that Mrs. Phillips would show to Elsie the caprice
and bad temper which she dared not show to herself. And in this she was
not mistaken; for Elsie was so yielding and so diffident, that her new
mistress exercised a great deal of real tyranny over her, varied by
fitful acts of liberality and kindness. Peggy Walker opened her eyes
very wide when she heard of both the young ladies, whom she had been
accustomed to look up to, being dependent in this way on Mrs. Phillips,
whom she had always looked down upon; but she knew that the sisters
were together, and that that was a happiness to both that outweighed
many other drawbacks. She herself was very much engrossed with the care
of grandfather, who, as well as Elsie, had felt the ungenial spring
very trying, and who did not seem to rally as the season advanced; so
she was thankful that Elsie was otherwise bestowed than in her house of
Dr. Phillips had the satisfaction of seeing a considerable
improvement in Elsie before she left Derbyshire, and used to have her
company in his morning drives to visit his patients, when her pleasant
conversation and winning manner made him ere long prefer her to her
graver and less pliant sister. He missed both the girls when they went
to London, and even Dr. Vivian paid Jane the compliment of regretting
her society a little for a week.
A Letter From Australia For Francis, Which Causes Surprise
In An Unexpected Quarter
A few weeks after the return of Mr. Phillips with his family, his
sister Harriett, and our friends Jane and Elsie to London, where the
courtship, or rather dangling, of Mr. Brandon was going on in the same
uninteresting manner, but with no apparent jar to prevent its leading
to matrimony at last, Jane was surprised by the sight of her cousin
Francis, who said he had come to the metropolis, chiefly for the
purpose of seeing her.
"I called at Peggy Walker's, before I left Scotland;" said Francis,
"but the family write to you so frequently that I suppose you
know all the news. The old man is looking very ill, however; I was
quite struck by the change in his appearance. I do not think that
situation healthy; I feel very glad you and Elsie have both left it.
How is Elsie getting on with Mrs. Phillips?"
"Tolerably--only tolerably. But her health is better--decidedly
"And you, Jane, you are looking much better than when I saw you in
"You have not written to me at such length about your cottages and your
allotments as I expected, Francis. I suppose you are too busy to have
time to write, but now you have come; we can talk over all these
It had not been voluntarily, or without a great effort, that Francis
had so much slackened his close correspondence with Jane; but her
letters were so cheerful, she seemed so busy and hopeful, she saw so
many people, and appeared to be so much appreciated by Mr. Phillips and
by all his family, that he had no hope of her allowing him to
make the sacrifice he longed to make, and he thought he must try to
accustom himself to look on her as lost to him.
"I have been busy," said he, "but I do not attempt to excuse myself by
such a reason. I have not given you answers at all worthy of your
"I have always thought that it is considered the great art in a
gentleman's letter that he should put a great deal of matter in few
words, while a lady piques herself on making an excellent letter out of
nothing. If your letters were shorter than mine, they were not, on that
account, unsatisfactory," said Jane.
"Your observation of character and manners is so much more acute than
mine, that you can see and hear nothing which you cannot photograph
faithfully, and make an interesting picture of, and you seem to have
interesting people to write about," said Francis.
"I do not think that if I had been at Cross Hall, and you in London, my
letters would have been the longest. Our old neighbours were
very uninteresting--do you not find them so?"
"All except Miss Thomson, whose acquaintance I have recently made, and
who has enough of originality and goodness about her to give some salt
to the district. She is much interested in both of you; especially in
Elsie, whom she saw at Mrs. Dunn's, and got to make something for her,
which has given the greatest satisfaction."
"I must tell this to Elsie," said Jane; "she needs a little praise, and
it does her good."
"But I want first to consult you about a letter I received the day
before I left home," said Francis. This was his excuse for exposing
himself to Jane's influence again. The thing might have been done by
letter, but he scarcely though it could be so well done; so he had
first seen Mr. McFarlane in Edinburgh, and then hastened to London to
ask the advice of the dearest friend he had in the world on the subject
of this ill-written and ill-expressed letter. It ran as follows:
"Melbourne, 20th April, 185-.
"My Dear Son Frank,
"I have heard that you are come into the property at last. I knew he
could not keep it from you, though he wanted to, for you was the hair,
and had the rights to get it. I hope you will not forget a mother that
has always remembered you, though I was forced to part from you when
you was very little, so you will scarce know my face again. I would not
stand in your light, and it has turned out all right for you.
"I had an allowance of a hundred and fifty pounds a year from him as
long as he lived, and when it stopped I made some inquiry, and found
that you had got Cross Hall and all that he had. I think that I should
have got some notise of his being dead, but I am quite used to being
neglected. I hope you will not let me be any poorer, but the contrary,
for I have been a better mother to you than many a one as makes more
fuss. It was him as would not let me keep you, and drove me away to
Australia. I would come to see you now that he is out of the
way, but I cannot afford the expense. If I had not met with shuch
ungrateful conduct from them as ought to have provided for me, I might
have been rich enuf; but it is a bad world, and the longer I live, I
see that it gets worse and worse. It will be for your advantage to keep
friendly with me, and at any rate you will do as much as your father
did, which was little enuf, God knows. But I expect as the baby that I
loved so dear will be a good kind son to me now you have come into the
"Address to Mrs. Peck, care of Henry Talbot, Esq., solicitor, -----
Street, Melbourne. I was not allowed to keep my own name or to take
his, and so everybody knows me by the name of Mrs. Peck, but I am
really and truly your afexionate mother.
"P.S. Send me an answer and a remittance by the first mail. I am very
badly off and need money."
Jane read this letter twice over, and looked at the address and
the postmark carefully.
"What do you think of it?" said he, anxiously.
"Have you asked Mr. McFarlane if he thinks this letter genuine?"
"He never saw any of Elizabeth Hogarth's writing. Any communication
which my father received from her, he must have destroyed at once."
"Did he know anything of the 150 pounds a year?"
"He thought it probable some money was paid to keep her at a distance,
but did not know anything as to how much it was, or when it was sent."
"Is there any trace in the banking transactions of my uncle of such a
payment being remitted regularly to Australia?"
"I can see nothing of the kind. I looked over some old books with that
intention, but your uncle's books were not by any means so minute and
methodical as yours. He drew large sums and did not record how he spent
them, whereas your housekeeping books are models of accurate
accounts. I hope Mr. Phillips appreciates your talents in this line?"
"Quite sufficiently, I assure you. But with regard to this letter--what
was Mr. McFarlane's advice on the subject?" asked Jane.
"To take no notice whatever of it; for that it would only bring trouble
and discredit on me if she was no impostor, and be a very foolish thing
if she was. He says that he had mentioned to my father, when he was
making his will, that in all probability the widow, if left out of the
will, would come upon the heir, and extort something very handsome from
him; but that Mr. Hogarth had said sternly that she could not do it,
for she had not a scrap of evidence that she dared bring forward to
prove that she had ever been his wife. That he had no objection to
provide handsomely for me, for I had proved that I was worthy of it;
but for her, she had been a thorn in his side all his life; that he had
done all for her that he meant to do, and all that she expected him to
do. This made Mr. McFarlane think that he had given her a sum
of money to get rid of her claims, and not a yearly allowance. She had
certainly parted with me for money, and took no further care for my
happiness. Mr. McFarlane never told me this before, but he wished to
put me on my guard about this letter."
"My uncle, certainly, must have been a good deal excited when he made
his will," said Jane.
"Mr. McFarlane says he certainly was so, and has no doubt he would have
altered it had he lived a little longer--provided you had not married
Mr. Dalzell, which was his great fear for you."
"Do you feel disposed, then, to answer this letter, or to prosecute any
"The whole affair is full of such unmitigated bitterness," said
Francis, "that I shrink from stirring it up; but yet I certainly ought
to know if this woman is my mother or not. Should not I, Jane? I rely
on your judgment."
"It is your affair, Francis, not mine. I can scarcely dare to advise."
"What would you do under such circumstances?"
"I cannot tell what, with your character, I would do under such
circumstances," said Jane.
"But with your character, which is a thousand times better than mine,
my dear Jane? Only think for me. Things have been taken so much out of
my hands by this detestable will, that I seem to lose the power of
judging altogether on any matter that relates to it. I cannot aid when
I most wish to do it. My father did not positively forbid me to assist
my mother. I suppose, if he had done so, it would have raised as
vehement a desire to that course of action as I now feel to oppose all
his other prohibitions."
The expression of Francis' face was earnest--almost impassioned--as
it turned towards Jane. She felt now that there was a reason for his
apparent coolness--a reason that made her heart beat fast and her eyes
fill. She did not speak for a few moments till she felt that her voice
would not betray her, and then said:
"Since you ask my advice, I will give it, such as it is. I
think I should in your circumstances make some inquiries; and you have
come to the place where you are most likely to have them answered. I
dare say Mr. Phillips knows Mr. Talbot, for I have heard his name in
conversation; and if you have no objections to telling him about this
letter, he could write--or, better still, Mr. Brandon, who talks of
returning very soon, could make personal inquiries about this Mrs.
Peck. It is quite possible she may be an impostor; for a good deal has
been said in the newspapers about your inheriting Cross Hall, and she
evidently has not got the right account of the story. She supposes you
get it as heir-at-law, and not by will. It is an easy way of extorting
money, to give out that one is a near relation of yours, and especially
one of whom you have cause to be ashamed. Her story of a yearly
allowance does not agree with Mr. McFarlane's impression either; but
that may be policy--not positive unfounded fabrication. The
orthography of this letter is not good; but the expressions are
more like vulgar English than Scotch. Your mother's name was Scotch;
and it was, at all events, a Scotch marriage. Will you speak to Mr.
Phillips on this subject. He is kind, sensible, and discreet."
"Yes, I will. You think I ought to do so?"
"He is at home just now. Suppose I ask him to come to see you?"
Francis agreed, and was pleased with the kind reception which Jane's
employer gave to him, as her cousin. He praised Miss Melville very
highly, and said that in every point of view she was a treasure in his
house. He then gave slighter praise to Elsie; but still spoke very
feelingly of the position of both girls.
After a few such remarks, Francis asked Mr. Phillips if he knew Mr.
Talbot, a solicitor in Melbourne.
"Yes, by sight and by reputation very well; but he was not a personal
acquaintance of mine. Mr. Brandon was a client of his, and so was Peggy
Walker; they could give you any information about him you might
"I suppose it is of no use asking you such a question--but do
you know anything of a woman called Mrs. Peck--Elizabeth Peck, a
The expression of Mr. Phillips's face stopped Francis' hesitating
"Have nothing to do with her," said he--"a bad one, if ever there was
one on this earth. Good Heavens! what am I to hear next?"
"She says she is my mother," said Francis.
"Perhaps it is not the same woman," said Mr. Phillips. "Your mother!
that must be a very old story; you look to be forty, or thereabouts. It
must be a different person."
The trouble of Mr. Phillips's manner was undergoing some improvement.
He walked across the room two or three times, and then said more
"Has she written to you? Would you let me see the hand writing?" The
address was in a different hand from the letter itself, so Francis
could not but show Mr. Phillips the body of the letter.
"May I read it? It is a delicate matter, I know; but I will be
secret--secret as the grave."
Mr. Hogarth assented, and Mr. Phillips read the letter through, and
then returned it.
"She says she is your mother, and for this very reason I believe she is
not, for if ever there was a woman possessed with the spirit of
falsehood, she is that woman. Mr. Hogarth, take no notice of her--do
not answer her letter--send her no money; she is not so poor as she
represents herself to be. I am glad you asked me about her, and no one
"Who is she? what is she?" was rising to Francis' lips, but the sight
of Mr. Phillips's evident suffering checked his questions. After a
short pause, he said that Miss Melville had advised him to consult Mr.
"Good God! did you say anything about this to Miss Melville?" said Mr.
"Yes, I did! I came to consult her on the letter, but it will go no
further; let us call her back. Where is she?" said Francis.
"In the drawing-room," said Mr. Phillips, ringing the bell
violently, "with Mrs. Phillips and Harriett, and Brandon, who has just
come in. Alice is out on some errand, I believe; so that Miss Melville
cannot speak to her, and she surely will not speak on your private
matters to my wife and sister."
Jane was soon brought back to the breakfast-room, in which she had left
her cousin with Mr. Phillips, and was surprised at the disturbed looks
of both gentlemen.
"Mr. Hogarth has asked me about a person in Melbourne, whom I know to
be an arrant cheat and liar. Her assertions in this letter are, no
doubt, false; it is in keeping with her character that they should be
so. He will take no further notice of the matter; and I hope and trust
that her name will never pass your lips even to your sister, while
under my roof, or even after you have left it. Mr. Hogarth, you will do
us the honour to dine with us to-morrow, at half past six? Mrs.
Phillips and I will be most happy to see you"--and so saying Mr.
Phillips hurriedly left the room, leaving Jane and Francis in
the greatest bewilderment.
"I am not so sure that this Mrs. Peck is not my mother, for Mr.
Phillips's opinion of her is exactly the same as my father's; but I
think I will inquire no further. If inquiry is to grieve and annoy the
best friend you have ever had, I will ask no questions. She may write
again when she finds she gets no answer, and bring forward something
more tangible than these vague allegations. But is this Mr. Phillips a
passionate or vindictive man?"
"Quite the contrary. I never saw him agitated in this way before. He is
of a remarkably easy temper--most indulgent to those around him."
"He is kind both to you and to Elsie?"
"Very kind indeed, and very considerate. If Mrs. Phillips were as much
so, we would both be very comfortable indeed," said Jane.
"Does she show you any temper?" asked Francis.
"No, she dares not do it; for I am useful, and save her much
trouble, and I have so much confidence in myself that I will not be
interfered with; but poor Elsie is so diffident, so humble, so anxious
to please, that she is constantly imposed on by an ignorant,
thoughtless woman. Every one imposes on Elsie. Miss Phillips is
inconsiderate, too, though she should know better. The servants impose
on her, and the children, too--though she is so fond of the children,
that I think on the whole they do her good."
"Do not you find that Elsie being here in such a capacity makes your
superintendence of the servants more difficult?" asked Francis.
"Yes; I require to be more circumspect and more firm; but my life is
quite easy, compared to hers. If I could only restore Elsie to that
moderately good opinion which she used to have of herself in her more
prosperous days, a great grief would be taken off my heart. I am the
strongest, why should not I have the most to bear?"
"Have you tried her poems in London personally?"
"I have, but without success, and she has quite lost the wish to have
them published. Your good opinion of her verses only gave her a little
"She writes none now, I suppose?"
"She has no time even if she had the inclination. Mrs. and Miss
Phillips keep her so busy that I have difficulty in getting her out in
the middle of the day to join me and the children in our walk or drive;
but that the doctor insisted on as absolutely necessary, and I will not
allow her to be deprived of it. He took quite a fancy to Elsie, and
showed her much kindness. You ought to go to see him for your father's
sake. But as to Elsie's poetry, she does nothing in this way except
improvising to the children in the evening, as she is sitting at work.
When they found out that she could, as they said, 'make verses up out
of her own head,' they think all their stories should be transferred
into ballads, and either said or sung to them. They are honest
in their admiration of the talent, but rather exacting in their demands
for its exercise; on the whole, I think, however, that it does her
good, and I know the children are fonder of her than of me. I am so
glad to see her preferred."
"Do you see much of Mr. Brandon? Could not he restore your sister to
the self-appreciation so essential to happiness and contentment?"
Jane shook her head. "He is devoting himself to Miss Phillips, and
Elsie scarcely ever sees him."
"One consequence of her taking this situation," said Francis, somewhat
impatiently. "I fancy he admired her when I saw him at Peggy Walker's,
months ago, and that he only wanted to be more in her society to have
the impression deepened. Did you not think so?"
"His admiration went a little way, but not far," said Jane.
"Not so far as to lead to a proposal?" said Francis.
"People are generally far gone before they reach that point,"
said Jane, hoping to escape thus from a rather searching question; but
a look from Francis, very sad, yet very pleasing to herself, made her
change the subject altogether. She liked to believe that she was very
dear to him; they could never marry; there was far too much to forbid
it--duty, interest, near relationship. Francis' life and career were
too important to be tacked to any woman's apron-strings, even though
that woman was herself, and the plans she had so much delighted in she
could see worthily carried out. She would not be the hindrance and
stumbling-block to any good life, and least of all to his. But, until
he met with a woman to be his wife and helpmate, she rejoiced to feel
that she was first in his heart. When that event took place, as it
ought to do before long, she would of course retire to a second and
inferior position; but it was something to rest in with pleasure, that
if it had been right and expedient, she would never have been
Sometimes mere possibilities--thoughts of what might have been--give
very precious memories to cheerful tempers; while to those who
are of a sad nature, they only enhance the gloominess of the present.
Jane was not so cowardly as to let Francis see that she regretted
anything for herself, and she proceeded to tell of her handsome salary,
and how small her expenses had been, so that she was saving money; that
Alice's salary would be equal at least to what she had at Mrs. Dunn's;
and that the twenty-four pounds a year which he was allowed to give
them was added to their savings; so that they were really making up a
little hoard to begin business with Peggy when she left Scotland for
Melbourne. She spoke of her money matters with frankness and
confidence, and her cousin could not but see that she had now
reasonable hope of prosperity.
They had had a very long conversation before Elsie came in. She had had
a number of troublesome commissions to execute, and had been detained
beyond expectation, but had acquitted herself to Mrs. Phillips's
satisfaction, and now came in with a little glow of pleasure on
her face to meet her cousin, to feel the warmth of his affectionate
greeting, to have a little talk about books and poetry, to refresh her
for her monotonous and uninteresting daily work. Nothing was said about
the letter Francis had received, and Jane and he seemed desirous to
banish it from their memory.
Harriett Phillips Does A Little Bit Of Shopping, Which Is Somewhat Fatal
To Her Projects
Among other purchases which Elsie had made on the day of Francis'
arrival, were the materials for a bonnet for Mrs. Phillips, which she
had chosen, and which, as she was busily engaged in making up, so much
excited Harriett's admiration, that she was seized with a desire to
have one like it immediately, only that hers must be of a different
colour, and a little modified in shape, to suit her different
complexion and contour of face. On the following morning, as she was
going out shopping herself, she asked Elsie to accompany her, to give
her the benefit of her taste on this as well as some other
purchases. Mr. Brandon was asked if he was not going down Regent
Street? He said he was, and he would be very happy to go with Miss
Phillips--as he had nothing particular to do, and Phillips was out,
and Jane had the children at their lessons, and he did not find it
amusing to be left TETE-A-TETE with Mrs. Phillips.
Miss Harriett was quite unaware of her own weakness, or she never would
have asked a lover to go with her in a draper's shop. Elsie had seen
something of Mrs. Phillips's unreasonableness and unscrupulousness, but
this was the first time she had been with her sister-in-law, and she
did not expect from a young lady of such professed good principles, and
good-nature, such an utter abnegation of these excellent qualities in
dealing with tradespeople. She blushed for her companion, who did not
blush for herself. She herself chose quickly, with the certain judgment
of a fine taste and a practised eye; but what she fixed on as most
suitable for Miss Phillips's complexion and style, was not
always of a suitable price. When driven from the expensive to something
cheaper, then it was shabby and not fit to wear. Miss Phillips had come
out determined to get as good things as possible, and to pay as small a
price as possible for them; she would not be put off with an inferior
article, and yet she was not willing to give the value of a superior.
Elsie, who had herself waited on ladies of this character, and felt her
body ache all over from the fatigue of being civil to them, was sorry
for the shopmen, who fetched out box after box, and displayed article
after article, without anything being exactly the thing which their
customer wanted; while Walter Brandon stood beside the two ladies,
finding it harder than ever to feel sentimental about Harriett
Leigh Hunt recommends men to choose their wives in drapers' shops; for
if a woman is conscientious, reasonable, and expeditious there, he
thinks a man may be sure she will be fit for all the duties of life.
But perhaps his test is too severe for general use, for many of
the best of wives and mothers, the kindest of friends, and the most
pious of Christians, are very far from appearing amiable under
circumstances of such great temptation. The obsequious manners of
British shopmen, who never show any spirit or any resentment, tend to
lull conscience, while the strife between the desire for display and
style, and the love of money, makes many women at once fastidious and
unscrupulous. To Brandon, Harriett Phillips's conduct appeared ill-bred
and mean; he could not help contrasting her with Elsie Melvlle, and
acknowledging that the latter was the real gentlewoman. He began also
to observe a certain imperiousness in Harriett's manner to Elsie
herself, which struck him as being particularly ungraceful, and the old
pity began to reawake the old love. He had sometimes wished to speak to
Alice just a few words to show that he had not been offended or piqued
at her refusal, but never had had any opportunity, and on this occasion
Miss Harriett did not seem disposed to give him any.
At last, after being in several shops, and turning over
innumerable boxes of ribbons, laces, blondes, flowers, &c., all was
purchased that was required, and even Miss Phillips was perfectly
satisfied with the selection she had made.
"Oh, dear!" said she, looking at her watch, "how late it is! I quite
intended to be in time for luncheon, for we started so early. Morning
is always the best time for shopping--at least, I find I am better
attended to then. But we are too late, and Mrs. Phillips will not wait
for us. We had better have something to eat here, for I am very
hungry--so, Mr. Brandon, I trust you to find some place where we can make
a comfortable luncheon; I have no doubt you know the best restaurateur,
and afterwards you will get us a cab to go home in. I like to make
gentlemen useful when I take them shopping with me."
"I am quite at your service," said Brandon, "for, as I said before, I
have nothing particular to do."
"That is taking all the grace out of your gallantry," said Miss
Phillips, "but if you acquit yourself well, I will forgive you that
Brandon did as he was desired--took the ladies to a fashionable
restaurateur's, asked them what they would like, and ordered and paid
for a very good and very expensive luncheon. Then he brought a cab, and
accompanied them home.
"I really wish my brother could keep a carriage of his own," said Miss
Phillips. "That is one of the few extravagances I quite sympathize with
Mrs. Phillips in her desire for. It is so disagreeable to have to trust
to these hired conveyances. One does not know who may have been in them
before, and might catch fever or something of that kind."
"Perhaps one might," said Brandon, "though it never entered my head to
think of such disagreeable things. But then I have never been
accustomed to ride in a carriage of my own. Riding on horseback was my
only means of locomotion at Barragong; and Melbourne, up to
this time, has no such luxury for ordinary people as a hackney-coach
stand, so that I cannot help being surprised at the cheapness and
convenience of cabbing it in London. Whereas both of you ladies have
been accustomed to private carriages, and must feel this very
"Oh, Alice! by the by, so you were, I suppose," said Miss Phillips.
"I preferred riding on horseback in those days," said Elsie; "but I
think the drives with Dr. Phillips, lately, were the most delightful
things I ever had in my life. After being quite debarred from anything
but walking so long, I feel this hackney-coach really luxurious, I
"The drives in Derbyshire did you good, Miss Alice; you are looking
better than when you came down," said Mr. Brandon.
"Oh! much better," said Miss Phillips. "Papa said it was all nonsense
her being so alarmed about her health; but, both she and Miss
Melville were a little frightened--London suits her better than
Edinburgh. I have not heard you cough, Alice, for a week or more."
"Yes, my cough is quite gone," said Elsie; "and I have much better
"But, by the by," said Miss Phillips, "I really want my bonnet to go
out with tomorrow. Your London smoke is dreadfully destructive. I had
no idea that mine was so bad till I put it on this bright day, and
really it looks too shabby to wear, though I had intended to make it
last another month. At home it would have looked better after three
months' wear than it does after three weeks here. You know, Mrs.
Phillips promised you should have it ready for me to go to the
exhibition of pictures tomorrow, by middle day," continued she.
"I fear," said Alice, "that I cannot get it done in time, for we have
been so much longer in Regent Street than I expected, and it will be
nearly dinnertime before we get home; and Mr. Phillips insists, that as
my cousin Francis is to dine with you today, I should be of the party."
"Indeed!" said Harriett, "and so you cannot finish my bonnet in time--it
is a great disappointment to me."
"Mr. Phillips would not allow me to refuse, I know; and Jane, too, is
anxious for me to have a talk with Francis."
"And you would like it yourself, too?" said Mr. Brandon.
"Yes, very much indeed," said Elsie, honestly.
"I will be glad to have the chance of seeing you. By the by, Phillips
forgot to ask me; but I will forgive him, and invite myself."
"Oh! you need not stand on ceremony," said Harriett; "you are in the
habit of coming in and going out of the house like one of ourselves;
but really, Alice, are you sure you could not do my bonnet for me?
There is so little work on the bonnets now-a-days, and you might have
it done by two o'clock. Is not that the hour you appointed, Mr.
"Yes; or say half-past," said Brandon.
"Well, by half-past two. I am sure you have made bonnets in a greater
hurry at your Edinburgh house of business often enough. I have seen how
very quick you are. I quite wondered at the rapidity with which you got
on with Mrs. Phillips's."
"But that is not finished," said Elsie, "and I promised it for the same
hour to go to the Exhibition. I am very sorry, indeed, Miss Phillips;
but, unless you can induce Mr. Phillips to excuse my appearance at
dinner, I cannot possibly do it for you."
"Oh! very well," said Harriett, coldly; "I have a bonnet to wear,
though it really is rather shabby; and Mrs. Phillips takes such pains
to have everything fresh and fashionable, that I am sadly thrown into
the shade. What a sum of money she contrives to spend every year on
herself! but my brother is so exceedingly easy and indulgent, he denies
her nothing. Don't you think her dreadfully extravagant, Mr. Brandon? I
should be ashamed to spend money as thoughtlessly as she does.
She does not care what she pays for a thing if it takes her fancy. Now,
my bonnet will not cost two-thirds of what hers has done, and it will
look quite as pretty, will it not, Alice?"
"A little different in style, but quite as well," said Elsie.
"You see, Mr. Brandon, that if I have seemed to take a great deal of
trouble over my purchases, it has been for some purpose. One cannot
economize without some thought being bestowed upon such things as
Mr. Brandon could not but assent, but the act of politeness COSt him an
"Then you come to dine with us today, to meet this Mr. Hogarth? Do you
know, I have a great curiosity to see him. His father and papa being
such old friends, long ago, gives me quite an interest in him; and the
extraordinary story of his succession to his Scotch property is so
romantic. What is he like--is he presentable?"
"He was quite the rage in Edinburgh when I was there, about the
new year--a reading man, and a man of considerable taste--just your
sort, in fact. He is a great friend of Miss Melville's, though I fancy,
Miss Alice, that you do not care so much for him."
"I like him very much indeed, though I was longer in doing him justice
than Jane was. The circumstances of our first introduction were very
painful," said Elsie.
"If he is a friend of your sister's, that is quite enough for me," said
Harriett. "I do not think I ever met with any one so congenial to my
tastes as Miss Melville is. Ladies are so superficial nowadays; their
education is all for show, and nothing solid or thorough in it. My dear
father was so careful to give us a thoroughly good education. It is
very seldom that we meet with any one so well grounded as Miss Melville
is. It is a good thing for my nieces that Stanley met with her. Your
uncle MUST have meant that you should teach, Alice."
"Did Dr. Phillips mean that you should teach?" said Brandon, bluntly.
"No, no, certainly; but Miss Melville has learned so much that
is quite valueless except in teaching--oh! a great many things quite
out of the way; but I meant that the groundwork was the same. Poor
Alice! all this odd training was thrown away on you."
"Not thrown away," said Brandon, firmly. "If it were not for Miss
Alice's diffidence she would soon let you know how much she has
profited by it. You should hear Peggy Walker on that subject."
"I am quite charmed with the estimation in which both you and my
brother hold that wonderful woman," said Miss Harriett,
condescendingly. "Stanley is quite enthusiastic about Peggy."
"And so am I, and with as good reason. Your brother owes her much, but
I think I owe her more."
"More!" said Harriett; "oh! I see. Peggy nursed and saved the lives of
Emily and little Harry, and perhaps of Mrs. Phillips, too, and my
brother is greatly indebted to her; but I suppose she nursed
your precious self through an illness all but mortal, so you are still
more grateful. I know that you gentlemen think a great deal of number
one. I understand the thing clearly."
Walter Brandon paused a minute. "No, it is not that, Miss Phillips; but
Peggy raised my opinion of all women. Her courage, her devotion, her
self-denial, and her truthfulness made me think more highly of all her
sex; and if ever I am blessed with a wife she will have cause to
cherish the memory of that homely Scotchwoman."
"To think that a gentleman who had a mother and sisters, should need
such a lesson from a woman like Peggy," said Harriett, incredulously.
"One's mother and sisters are always looked on as exceptional
people--placed like saints in a consecrated shrine," said Brandon; "but
here was a woman with no particularly careful training or education,