Part 1 out of 4
This etext was produced from the 1902 Macmillan and Co. edition by
David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE STOKESLEY SECRET
by Charlotte M. Yonge
"How can a pig pay the rent?"
The question seemed to have been long under consideration, to judge
by the manner in which it came out of the pouting lips of that sturdy
young five-year-old gentleman, David Merrifield, as he sat on a volume
of the great Latin Dictionary to raise him to a level with the tea-table.
Long, however, as it had been considered, it was unheeded on account
of one more interesting to the general public assembled round the table.
"I say!" hallooed out a tall lad of twelve holding aloft a slice
taken from the dish in the centre of the table, "I say! what do you
call this, Mary?"
"Bread and butter, Master Sam," replied rather pettishly the maid who
had brought in the big black kettle.
"Bread and butter! I call it bread and scrape!" solemnly said Sam.
"It only has butter in the little holes of it, not at the top, Miss
Fosbrook," said, in an odd pleading kind of tone, a stout good-
humoured girl of thirteen, with face, hair, and all, a good deal like
a nice comfortable apricot in a sunny place, or a good respectable
"I think it would be better not to grumble, Susan, my dear," replied,
in a low voice, a pleasant dark-eyed young lady who was making tea;
but the boys at the bottom of the table neither heard nor heeded.
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary," was Sam's cry, in so funny a voice,
that Miss Fosbrook could only laugh; "is this bread and scrape the
fare for a rising young family of genteel birth?"
"Oh!" with a pathetic grimace, cried the pretty-faced though sandy-
haired Henry, the next to him in age, "if our beloved parents knew
how their poor deserted infants are treated--"
"A fine large infant you are, Hal!" exclaimed Susan.
"I'm an infant, you're an infant, Miss Fosbrook is an infant--a
"For shame, Hal!" cried the more civilized Sam, clenching his fist.
"No, no, Sam," interposed Miss Fosbrook, laughing, "your brother is
quite right; I am as much an infant in the eye of the law as little
"There, I said I would!" cried Henry; "didn't I, Sam?"
"Didn't you what?" asked Susan, not in the most elegant English.
"Why, Martin Greville twitted us with having a girl for a governess,"
said Henry; "he said it was a shame we should be taken in to think
her grown up, when she was not twenty; and I said I would find out,
and now I have done it!" he cried triumphantly.
"Everybody is quite welcome to know my age," said Miss Fosbrook, the
colour rising in her cheek. "I was nineteen on the last of April;
but I had rather you had asked me point blank, Henry, than tried to
find out in a sidelong way."
Henry looked a little surly; and Elizabeth, a nice-looking girl, who
sat next to him and was nearest in age, said, "Oh! but that would
have been so rude, Miss Fosbrook."
"Rude, but honest," said Miss Fosbrook; and Susan's honest eyes
twinkled, as much as to say, "I like that;" but she said, "I don't
believe Hal meant it."
"I don't care!" said Sam. "Come, Mary, this plate is done--more
bread and butter; d'ye hear? not bread and gammon!" and he began the
chant, in which six voices joined till it became a roar, pursuing
Mary down to the lower regions:-
"Thick butter and thin bread,
Or it shall be thrown at Mary's head;
Thick bread and thin butter,
Is only fit for the ducks in the gutter."
Elizabeth looked appealingly at Miss Fosbrook; but Miss Fosbrook was
leaning back in her chair, her handkerchief up to her mouth, in fits
of laughing, seeing which, the children bawled louder and louder; and
Elizabeth only abstained from stopping her ears because she knew that
was the sure way to be held fast, and have it bellowed into them.
Little Annie blundered in her eagerness upon
"Thick bread and thin butter,"
whereupon there was a general outcry. "Nanny likes thick bread and
thin butter, let her have it!" and Sam, Henry, and Johnnie directed a
whole battery of their remaining crusts towards her cup, which would
presently have been upset into her lap but for Miss Fosbrook, who
recovered herself, and said gravely, "This must not be, Sam; I shall
send you away from the table if you do."
Sam wanted to see whether she would, and threw the crust.
"Sam," she said very decidedly, though there was a quiver in her
voice, as if she were frightened.
Sam looked up, and did not move.
"Oh, Miss Fosbrook!" cried Susan, "we were all just as bad. Don't
"It is time that Sam should show that he has the feelings of a manly
boy," said Miss Fosbrook, looking full at him. "He knows that I must
keep my word, and that I have no strength to fight with him.--Sam, go
and finish your tea on the window-seat."
Her clear brown eyes looked full at him as she spoke, and all the
young population watched to see what he would do. He hesitated a
moment, then took up his cup and plate, and sat down in the window-
Miss Fosbrook breathed freely, and she had almost said, "Thank you,
Sam," but she did not think this was the time; and collecting
herself, she said, "Fun is all very well, and I hope we shall have
plenty, but we ought not to let it grow riotous; and I don't think it
was of a good sort when it was complaining of the food provided for
The children were all rather subdued by what she said; some felt a
little cross, and some rather ashamed; and when Mary brought back the
dish replenished with slices, no one said a word as to whether the
butter were thick or thin. The silence seemed to David a favourable
occasion for renewing the great question, "How does a pig pay the
There was a general giggle, and again Miss Fosbrook was as bad as
any: while David, looking affronted, tapped the table with the
handle of his spoon, and repeated, "I want to know."
"I'll tell you, Davy man," began Henry, first recovering. "The pig
is a very sagacious animal, especially in Hampshire, and so he smells
out wherever the bags of money are sown underground, and digs them up
with his nose. Then he swings them on his back, and gives a curl of
his tail and a wink of his eye, and lays them down just before the
landlord's feet; and he's so cunning, that not an inch will he budge
till he's got the receipt, with a stamp upon it, on his snout."
"No; now is that a true story?" cried little Annie, who was the only
person except David grave enough to speak; while Sam, exploding in
the window, called out, "Why, don't you know that's why pigs have
rings in their noses?"
"There was a lady loved a swine;
'Honey,' says she,
I'll give you a silver trough.'
'Hunks!' says he,"
continued Hal; "that shows his disinterestedness. Oh, werry
sagacious haminals is pigs!"
"For shame, Hal," cried Elizabeth, "to confuse the children with such
"Why, don't you think I know how the rent is paid? I've seen Papa on
rent-day hundreds of times."
"But the pigs, Hal; did you ever see the pigs?"
"Thousands of times."
"Bringing bags of gold? O Hal! Hal!"
"I want to know," continued David, who had been digesting the
startling fact, "how the pig swings the bag on his back? I don't
think ours could do it."
"It's a sort made on purpose," said Hal.
"Made on purpose by Mr. Henry Merrifield," said Susan, at last able
to speak. "Don't believe one word, David dear; Hal is laughing at
"But how does a pig do it?" asked David, returning to the charge.
"Why do you want to know, my dear?" asked Miss Fosbrook.
"Mary's sister said so."
"I know," exclaimed Susan; "Davy went out with the nursery children
to-day, and they went to see Mary's sister. Her husband is drowned
because he was a sailor; and the Mermaid went to South America; and
there are five little tiny children."
"Of the mermaid's?" cried Harry.
"No, no; the Mermaid was the ship, and it was wrecked, and they have
noticing to live upon; and she takes in washing, and is such a nice
woman. Mamma said we might take them our old winter frocks, and so
David went there."
"And she said if she had a pig to pay the rent she should be quite
happy," said David. "How could he?"
"I suppose," said Miss Fosbrook, "the pig would live on her garden-
stuff, her cabbage-leaves and potato-skins; and that when he was fat
she would sell him, and pay the rent with the money. Am I right,
Sam? you know I am a Cockney."
"You could not be more right if you were a Hampshire beg," said Sam.
"Jack Higgins was her husband's name, and a famous fellow he was; he
once rigged a little boat for me."
"And he sailed with Papa once, long ago," added Susan; to which Sam
"More fool he to go into the merchant service and get drowned, with
nothing for his widow to live upon."
"I say," cried Hal, "why shouldn't we give her a pig?"
"Oh, do!" earnestly exclaimed David.
"I'll catch one," broke from John and Annie at once; "such lots as
there are in the yard!"
"You would catch it, I believe," said Sam disdainfully; while Susan
"No; those are Papa's pigs. Purday would not let you give them
"Of course," said Henry, "that was only those little geese. I meant
to make a subscription among ourselves, and give her the pig; and
won't she be surprised!"
"Oh! yes, yes," shouted the children; "let's do it all ourselves!"
"I've got one-and-threepence, and sixpence next Saturday," cried Hal.
"And I've eightpence," quoth Annie.
"And I've a whole shilling," said David.
"I've fourpence," said Johnnie.
"I've not much, I'm afraid," said Susan, feeling in her pocket, with
rather black looks.
"Oh!" said Sam, "everybody knows simple Sukey never has a farthing in
her pocket by any chance!"
"Yes, but I have, Sam;" and with an air of great triumph, Susan held
up three-halfpence, whereat all the party screamed with laughter.
"Well, but Bessie always has lots! She's as rich as a little Jew.
Come, Bet, Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy, and Bess, what will you give?--
what have you got?"--and one hand came on her shoulder, and another
on her arm but she shook herself free, and answered rather crossly,
"Don't--I can't--I've got something else to do with my money."
"Oh! you little stingy avaricious crab!" was the outcry beginning;
but Miss Fosbrook stopped it before Elizabeth had time to make the
angry answer that was rising on her lips.
"No, my dears, you must not tease her. Each of you has a full right
to use your own money as you may think best; and it is not right to
force gifts in this manner."
"She's a little affected pussy-cat," said Hal, much annoyed; "I know
what she wants it for--to buy herself a ridiculous parasol like Ida
Greville, when she would see poor Hannah Higgins starving at her
Elizabeth bit her lip, and tossed up her head; the tears were in her
eyes, but she made no answer.
"Come, never mind," said Sam; "she's as obstinate as a male when she
gets a thing into her head. Let's see what we've got without her.
I've only sevenpence: worse luck that I bought ball of string
The addition amounted to three shillings and elevenpence halfpenny:
a sum which looked so mighty when spread out, chiefly in coppers, on
the window-seat, that Annie and David looked on it as capable of
buying any amount of swine; but Sam looked rather blank at it, and
gazing up and down, said, "But what does a pig cost?"
"Miss Fosbrook, what does a pig cost?"
Miss Fosbrook shook her head and laughed, saying that she knew much
less of pigs than they did; and Susan exclaiming, "There's Purday in
the court," they all tumbled to the window, one upon the top of the
The window was a large heavily-framed sash, with a deep window-seat,
and a narrow ledge within the sill--as if made on purpose, the first
for the knees the second for the elbows of the gazers therefrom.
As to the view, it was into a walled kitchen court, some high
chestnut and lime trees just looking over the grey roofs of the
offices. On the ground lay a big black Newfoundland dog, and a
couple of graceful greyhounds, one of them gnawing a bone, cunningly
watched by a keen-looking raven, with his head on one side; while
peeping out from the bars of the bottle-rack was the demure face of
the sandy cat, on the watch for either bones or sparrows.
A stout, stumpy, shrewd-looking labourer, in a short round frock,
high buskins, an old wide-awake, short curly hair, and a very large
nose, stood in front of the dairy door, mixing a mess of warm milk
for the young calves.
"Purday! Master Purday!" roared nearly the whole young population
above; but he was so intent on his mixture, that he went on as if he
were deaf, till a second explosion of "Purday! Purday! I say!" made
him turn up his face in an odd half-awake kind of manner.
"Purday, what's the price of a pig?" and, "What does a pig cost,
"What d'ye all holler at once for? A body can't hear a word," was
all the answer they got; whereupon they all started together again,
and Purday went on with his mixture as if they had been so many hens
Then Sam got up his breath again and called alone, "Purday!" and Hal
and Susan by pats and pinches strangled the like outcry from Annie
and John, so as to leave the field clear for the great question,
"Purday, what does a pig cost?"
"More than your voices up there, sir," growled Purday, making some
laugh; but Henry cried impatiently,
"Now, Purday, we really do want to know what is the price of pigs."
"They was high last market," began Purday.
"I don't care if they were high or low," said Hal; "I want to know
what money they cost."
"Different pigs cost different prices," quoth the oracle, so
sententiously, that Miss Fosbrook's shoulders shook with laughing as
she stood a little in the background of the eager heap in the window.
"A nice little pig, such as you'd give--"
"Hush, hush, Hal, it's a secret," cried Susan.
"A pretty sort of secret--known to eight already, and bawled out all
over the yard," said Sam.
"But don't tell him what it's for; you can ask him without that."
"A nice little young pig," said Sam, "such as you'd keep all the
summer, and fat in the winter."
"Mind, it ain't for you, Purday," cried Hal.
"Never fear my being disappointed, sir," said the free-spoken Purday,
with a twinkle of his eye, which Hal understood so well that he burst
"Ah! you think I can never do what I say I will; but you'll see,
Purday, if we don't give a pig to--"
He was screamed at, and pulled into order and silence, ere the words,
"Hannah Higgins" had quite come out; and Sam repeated his question.
"Well," said Purday at last, "if pigs was reasonable, you might get a
nice little one to fat, at Kattern Hill fair, somewhere about ten
shillings, or maybe twelve--sometimes more, sometimes less."
"Ten shillings!" The community stood round and looked at one another
at the notion of such an awful sum; but Hal was the first to cast a
ray of hope on the gloom. "Kattern Hill fair ain't till Midsummer,
and perhaps Grandmamma will send us some money before that. If
anybody's birthday was but coming!"
"Better save it out of our allowance," said Sam. "How long is it to
Miss Fosbrook's pocket-book declared it to be four weeks.
"Well, then," said Hal, "we three big ones have sixpence a week each,
that's six shillings, leaving out stingy Bess, and the little ones
threepence, that's three times three is nine, and three times nine is
thirty-six, that's three shillings, and six is nine, and very near
four is fourteen. We shall do the pig yet."
"Yes, Hal; but if pigs are reasonable, I am afraid three times nine
never yet were so much so as to make thirty-six," objected Miss
"Twenty-seven--that's three and twopence--it's all the same," said
Hal; then at the scream of the rest, "at least two and threepence.
Well, any way there's plenty for piggy-wiggy, and it shall be a jolly
secret to delight Hannah Higgins, and surprise Papa and Mamma:
"Yes," said Sam; "but then nobody must have any fines."
"Ay, and Sue must keep her money. That will be a wonder!" shouted
"Well, I'll try," said Susan. "I'll try not to have a single fine,
and I'll not buy a single lump of sugar-candy, for I do want poor
Hannah to have her pig."
"And so will we!" cried the younger ones with one voice.
"Only," added Susan, "I must buy Dicky's canary seed."
"And I must have a queen's head to write to Mamma," said Annie.
"Oh! never mind that, such trumpery as your letters are," said Hal.
"Mamma could say them by heart before she gets them. What does she
care for them?"
Little Annie looked very deplorable.
"Never mind, my dear," said Miss Fosbrook, "mammas always care for
little girls' letters, and you are quite right to keep a penny for
your stamp for her.--You see, Hal, this scheme will never come to
good if you sacrifice other duties to it."
Henry twirled round impatiently.
"Now suppose," said Miss Fosbrook, "that we set up a treasury, and
put all in that we can properly afford, and then break it open on the
day before the fair, and see how much we have."
"Oh! yes, yes," cried the children in raptures.
"Will you help, Miss Fosbrook?" said Susan, clasping her hands.
"I should like to do a very little, if you will take this silver
threepenny; but I do not think it would be right for me to spare one
penny more, for all I can afford is very much wanted at home."
"What shall we have for treasury?" said Hal, looking round.
"I know!" cried Susan. "Here, in the baby-house; here's the Toby,
let's put it inside him."
The so-called baby-house was an old-fashioned cupboard with glass
doors, where certain tender dolls, and other curiosities, playthings
too frail to be played with and the like, were ranged in good order,
and never taken out except when some one child was unwell, and had to
stay in-doors alone.
Toby Fillpot was a present from Nurse Freeman. It was a large mug,
representing a man with a red coat, black hat, and white waistcoat,
very short legs, and top-boots. The opening of the cup was at the
top of his head, and into this was dropped all the silver and pence
at present mustered, and computed to be about four shillings.
"And, Miss Fosbrook, you'll not be cross about fines?" said Johnnie,
"I hope I shall not be cross," she answered; "but I do not engage to
let you off any. I think having so good a use to put your money to
should make you more careful against forfeiting it."
"Yes," said Johnnie disconsolately.
"Well, I never get fined," cried Hal joyfully.
"Except for running up stairs in dirty shoes," said Sam.
"Oh! there's no dirt now."
"Let me see, what are the fines?" said Miss Fosbrook.
"Here's the list," said Susan; and sighing, she said, "I'm afraid I
shall never do it! If Bessie only would help!"
The fines of the Stokesley schoolroom were these for delinquencies--
each value a farthing -
For being dressed later than eight o'clock.
For hair not properly brushed.
For coming to lessons later than five minutes after ten.
For dirty hands.
For being turned back twice with any lesson.
For elbows on the table.
For foolish crying.
For unnecessary words in lesson-time.
For running up stairs in wet shoes.
For leaving things about.
Each of these bits of misbehaviour caused the forfeit of a farthing
out of the weekly allowance. Susan looked very gloomy over them; but
Hal exclaimed, "Never mind, Susie; we'll do it all without you, never
"And now," said Sam, "I vote we have some fun in the garden."
Some readers may be disposed to doubt, after this specimen, whether
the young Merrifields could be really young ladies and gentlemen; but
indeed their birth might make them so; for there had been Squire
Merrifields at Stokesley as long as Stokesley had been a parish, and
those qualities of honour and good breeding that mark the gentleman
had not been wanting to the elder members of the family. The father
of these children was a captain in the navy, and till within the last
six years the children had lived near Plymouth; but when he inherited
the estate they came thither, and David and the two little ones had
been born at Stokesley. The property was not large; and as Captain
Merrifield was far from rich, it took much management to give all
this tribe of boys and girls a good education, as well as plenty of
bread and butter, mutton, and apple-pudding. There was very little
money left to be spent upon ornament, or upon pleasuring; so they
were brought up to the most homely dress suited to their station, and
were left entirely to the country enjoyments that spring up of
themselves. Company was seldom seen, for Papa and Mamma had little
time or means for visiting; and a few morning calls and a little
dining out was all they did; which tended to make the young ones more
shy and homely, more free and rude, more inclined to love their own
ways and despise those of other people, than if they had seen more of
the world. They were a happy, healthy set of children, not faulty in
essentials, but, it must be confessed, a little wild, rough and
uncivil, in spite of the code of fines.
Mrs. Merrifield had taught her children herself, till Samuel and
Henry began going to the Curate for a couple of hours every day, to
be prepared for school. Lessons were always rather a scramble; so
many people coming to speak to her, and so many interruptions from
the nursery; and then came a time when Mamma always was tired, and
Papa used to come out and scold if the noises grew very loud indeed,
and was vexed if the children gave Mamma any trouble of any kind.
Next they were told they were to have a governess--a sort of piece of
finery which the little savages had always despised--and thereupon
came Miss Fosbrook; but before she had been a week in the house Mamma
was quite ill and in her bed-room, and Papa looked graver than he had
ever done before; and Mr. Braddon, the doctor, came very often: and
at last Susan was called into Mamma's room, and it was explained to
her that Mamma was thought so ill, that she must go to be under a
London doctor, and would be away, she could not tell how long; so
that meantime the children must all be left to Miss Fosbrook, with
many many injunctions to be good and obedient, for hearing that they
were going on well would be poor Mamma's only comfort.
It was three days since Captain and Mrs. Merrifield had gone; and
Miss Fosbrook stood at the window, gazing at the bright young green
of the horse-chestnut trees, and thinking many various thoughts in
the lull that the children had left when they rushed out of doors.
She thought herself quite alone, and stood, sometimes smiling over
the odd ways of her charges, and at what they put her in mind of,
sometimes gravely thinking whether she had said or done the wisest
things for them, or what their mother would have most approved. She
was just going to move away from the window, when she saw a little
figure curled up on the floor, with her head on the window-seat.
"Bessie, my dear, what are you doing here? Why are not you gone
"I don't want to go out."
"I thought they were to have a great game at whoop-hide."
"I don't like whoop-hide. Johnnie pulls the clothes off my back."
"My dear, I hope you are not staying in because they called you those
foolish names. It was all in good humour."
"It was not kind," said Elizabeth, her throat swelling. "It was not
"Perhaps not; but you did not speak to give your reasons; and who
could tell how good they might be?"
"I've a right to my secrets as well as they have," said the little
Miss Fosbrook looked kindly at her, and she turned wistful eyes on
the young governess.
"Miss Fosbrook, will you keep a secret?"
"That I will."
"I want my money to buy some card-board--and some ribbon--and some
real true paints. I've got some vermilion, but I want some real good
blue. And then I want to make some beautiful bands with ties--like
what Papa has for his letters--for all Mamma's letters in her desk.
There's a bundle of Papa's when he was gone out to the Crimean War,
and that's to have a frigate on it, because of the Calliope--his
ship, you know; and there's one bundle of dear Aunt Sarah's--that's
to have a rose, because I always think her memory is like the rose in
my hymn, you know; and Grandmamma, she's to have--I think perhaps I
could copy a bit of the tower of Westminster Abbey out of the print,
because one sees it out of her window; and, oh! I thought of so many
more, but you see I can't do it without a real good paint-box, and
that costs three and sixpence. Now, Miss Fosbrook, is it stingy to
wish to do that?"
"Not at all, my dear; but you could not expect the others to
understand what they never were told."
"I'd have said something if they had not called me stingy," said
"It certainly was rude and hasty; but if we bear such things good-
naturedly, they become better; and they were very eager about their
"Such a disagreeable thing as a pig!" continued Bessie. "If it had
been anything nice, I should not have minded so much."
"Yes; but, my dear, you must remember that the pig will be a more
useful present than even your pretty contrivances. You cannot call
them doing good, as the other will be."
"Then you are like them! You think I ought to spend all my money on
a great horrid pig, when Mamma--" and the tears were in the little
"No, indeed, my dear. I don't think anyone is called on to give
their all, and it is very nice and quite right for a little girl to
try to make a pretty present to please her mamma. There is plenty of
time before you, and I think you will manage to have some share in
the very kind action your brothers and sisters are contriving."
Elizabeth had not forgiven, as she should have done, the being called
stingy; it rankled on her feelings far more than those who said the
word understood; and she presently went on, "If they knew ever so
much, they would only laugh at me, and call it all Bessie's nonsense.
Miss Fosbrook, please, what is affectation?"
"I believe it is pretending to seem what we are not by nature," said
Miss Fosbrook; "putting on manners or feelings that do not come to us
"Then I shall tell them they make me affected," exclaimed she. "If I
like to be quiet and do things prettily, they teaze me for being
affected, and I'm forced to be as plain and blunt as their are, and I
don't like it! I wish I was grown up. I wish I was Ida Greville!"
"And why, my dear?"
"Because then things might be pretty," said Elizabeth. "Everything
is so plain and ugly, and one gets so tired of it! Is it silly to
like things to be pretty?"
"No, far from it; that is, if we do not sacrifice better things to
Elizabeth looked up with a light in her dark eyes, and said, "Miss
Fosbrook, I like you!"
Miss Fosbrook was very much pleased, and kissed her.
She paused a moment, and then said, "Miss Fosbrook, may I ask one
question? What is your name? Mamma said it must be Charlotte,
because you signed your letter Ch. A. Fosbrook, but your little
sister's letter that you showed us began 'My dear Bell.' If it is a
secret, indeed I will keep it."
"It is no secret at all," said Miss Fosbrook, laughing. "My name is
Elizabeth opened her eyes, and said it by syllables. "Christabel
Angela! that's a prettier name than Ida. Does it make you very glad
to have it?"
"I like it for some reasons," said Miss Fosbrook, smiling.
"Oh, tell me!" cried Bessie. "Mamma always says we should not be a
bit happier if our names were pretty ones; but I don't know, I feel
as if one would; only the others like to make things plainer and
uglier than they are."
"I never could call your name ugly; it is such a dignified, old,
"Yes; but they call me Betty!"
"And they call me Bell, and sometimes Jelly-bag and Currant-jelly,"
said Miss Fosbrook, laughing and sighing, for she would have liked to
have heard those funny names again.
"Then it is no good to you!" exclaimed Elizabeth.
"I don't know that we talk of good in such a matter. I like my name
because of the reason it was given to me."
"Oh, why?" eagerly asked the little girl.
"When I was born, my papa was a very young man, and he was very fond
of reading poetry."
"Why, I thought your papa was a doctor."
"I thought only ladies, and poets, and idle silly people, cared for
"They can hardly be silly if they care rightly for real poetry,
Bessie," said Miss Fosbrook; "at least, so my papa would say. It has
been one of his great helps. Well, in those days he was very fond of
a poem about a lady called Christabel, who was so good and sweet,
that when evil came near, it could not touch her so as to do her any
harm; and so he gave his little daughter her name."
"How very nice!" cried Elizabeth.
"You must not envy me, my dear, for I have been a good deal laughed
at for my pretty name, and so has Papa; and I do not think he would
have chosen anything so fanciful if he had been a little older."
"Then isn't he--what is it you call it--poetical now?"
"Indeed he is, in a good way;" and as the earnest eyes looked so
warmly at her, Christabel Fosbrook could not help making a friend of
the little maiden. "He has very little time to read it; for you know
he is a parish surgeon in a great parish in London, full of poor
people, worse off than you can imagine, and often very ill. He is
obliged to be always hard at work in the narrow close streets there,
and to see everything sad, and dismal, and disagreeable, that can be
found; but, do you know, Bessie, he always looks for the good and
beautiful side; he looks at one person's patience, and another
person's kindness, and at some little child's love for its mother or
sister, that hinders it from being too painful for him."
"But is that poetry? I thought poetry meant verses."
"Verses are generally the best and most suitable way of expressing
our feelings about what is good and beautiful; but they are not
always poetry, any more than the verses they sang to-night about the
bread and butter, because, you know, wanting thick butter was not
exactly a beautiful feeling. I think the denying themselves their
little indulgences for the sake of giving the poor woman a pig, is
much more poetical, though nobody said a word in verse."
They both laughed; and Elizabeth said, "That wasn't what you meant
about your papa. Susy cares for goodness."
"No, it was not all I meant; but it was seeing high and noble
thoughts expressed in beautiful verses that gives him pleasure; and
when he has a little bit of leisure, it is his great treat to open a
book of that sort, and read a little bit to us, and tell us why we
like it. He says it makes him young again, and takes him out of the
dingy streets, and from all his cares as to how the bills are to be
"Did you like coming here?" was Bessie's home question; and Miss
Fosbrook winked away a little moisture, as she said,
"I was glad to be growing a woman, and to be able to help about some
of those bills; and then I was glad to come into the beautiful
country that Papa has so often told us about."
"I did not know there was anything beautiful here."
"O Bessie, you never lived in London! You can't think how many
things are beautiful to me here! I want to be writing about them to
Papa and Kate all day long."
"Are they?" said Bessie. "Mamma has pretty things in the drawing-
room, but she keeps them out of the way; and everything here is so
dull and stupid!" and the little girl gave a yawn.
Miss Fosbrook understood her. The wainscoted room in which they were
sitting had been painted of a uniform creamy brown; the chairs were
worn; the table was blistered and cracked; the carpet only covered
the middle of the room, and was so threadbare, that only a little red
showed here and there. All that was needful was there, but of the
plainest kind; and where the other children only felt ease and
freedom, and were the more contented and happy for the homely good
sense of all around them, this little girl felt a want that she
scarcely understood, but which made her uncomfortable and
discontented, even when she had so much to be thankful for.
Miss Fosbrook moved nearer to the window. Down below there was
certainly not much to be seen; only Pierce cleaning the knives in the
knife-house, and Martha washing out her pans before the dairy-door;
but that was not where she looked. She turned the little half-
fretful face upwards. "Look there!" she said; "and talk of seeing
"I see nothing--"
"Do you not see the pale clear green of those noble horse-chestnut
leaves just sprung into their full summer dress--not in the least
worn nor stained yet? And those fine spikes of white blossom, all
tending up--up--while the masses of those leaves fall so gracefully
down, as if lifting them up, and then falling back to do them
honour." Bessie smiled, and her eye lighted up. "And see the colour
against the sky--look at the contrast of that bright light green with
the blue, so very deep, of the sky--and oh! see that train of little
clouds, red with soft sunny light, like a little soft flock of rosy
lambs, if there were such things, lying across the sky. O Bessie! you
can't talk of wanting the sight of pretty things while you have that
Bessie was coming closer to her, when in burst Sam and Johnnie.
"Hello, Bess! moping here, I declare! I suppose you and Miss
Fosbrook are telling each other all your secrets."
"I was just coming out," said Miss Fosbrook. "I want to make out
something about those noble flowers of the horse-chestnut, and why
they don't look whiter. Could you gather one for me, Sam?"
Sam was only too glad of an excuse for climbing a tree, however
cheaply he might hold one who cared for flowers; and by the time
Bessie had put on her lilac-spotted sun-bonnet--a shapeless article
it must be confessed, with a huge curtain serving for a tippet, very
comfortable, and no trouble at all--he had scrambled into the fork,
and brought down a beautiful spire of blossoms, with all the grand
leaves hanging round in their magnificent fans.
"What will you do with it?" said the children, standing round.
"Do you think you could ask Mary to spare us a jug, Susan? If I
might put it in water in the schoolroom fireplace, it would look
fresh and cheerful for Sunday."
"Oh, yes," said Susan, pleased with the commission, "that I will;"
and away she ran, while Miss Fosbrook examined the spike to her own
great enjoyment. "I see," she said, "the flowers are not really
white, they each have a patch of pink or yellow on them, which gives
them their softness. Yes; and do you see, Bessie, they are in
clusters of three, and each three has one flower with a pink spot,
and two with a yellow one."
"That is very curious," said Bessie: the fretfulness was very much
gone out of her tone, and she stood looking at the beautiful flower,
without a word, till Susan came back, when she began to show her what
Miss Fosbrook had pointed out. Susan smiled with her really good
nature, and said, "How funny!" but was more intent on telling Miss
Fosbrook that she had brought the jug, and then on hauling Elizabeth
away to a game at Tom Tittler's ground.
Miss Fosbrook said she would put away the flower and come back again;
and she settled the branch in the chimney, where it looked very
graceful, and really did enliven the room, and then walked out
towards the lawn.
There was a lawn in front of the house, part of which had been
formerly levelled for a bowling-green, and was kept clear of shrubs
or flower-beds. Beyond was a smooth, rather rapid slope towards a
quiet river, beyond which there rose again a beautiful green field,
crowned above by a thick wood, ending at the top in some scraggy
pine-trees, with scanty dark foliage at the top of their rude russet
arms. Fine trees stood out here and there upon the slope of the
field; and Captain Merrifield's fine sleeked cows were licking each
other, or chewing the cud, under them.
There was a white Chinese bridge, the rails all zigzags, and patterns
running this way and that, so that it must have been very ugly and
glaring before the white paint had faded so much.
The house was a respectable old stone building, rather brown and
grey, and the stone somewhat disposed to peel off in flakes; the
windows large sashes, set in great projecting squared stones, the
tallest and biggest at the top. It was a house of a very sober
pleasant countenance, that looked as if it had always been used to
have a large family in it; and there was a vine, with all its
beauteous leaves, trained all across the garden front, making a
pleasant green summer-blind over the higher half of the drawing-room
windows, that now stood open, telling of the emptiness within.
Christabel stood for a few moments looking round, and thinking what a
paradise of green rest this would be to her hard-worked father and
anxious mother; and how she should like to see her little brothers
and sisters have one free run and roll on that delicious greensward,
instead of now and then walking to one of the parks as a great
holiday. Yet hers was a very happy home, and, except her being
absent from it, nothing had befallen her to sadden her merry young
spirits; so when she heard the joyous cry behind her -
"I'm on Tommy Tittler's ground,
Picking up gold and silver,"
she turned about, and laughed as she saw the gold-finders stooping
and clawing at the grass, with eyes cast round about them for Hal,
who was pursuing Susan in and out, up and down till, with screams of
exultation, she was safely across the ridge of the bowling-green,
that served as "home."
When Hal turned back, Miss Fosbrook was as heedfully and warily
picking up gold and silver as any of the rest of them. He was
resolved on capturing her; but first David was such a tempting prize,
with his back so very near, and so unconscious, that he must be made
prisoner. A catch at the brown-holland blouse--a cry--a shout of
laughter, and Davy is led up behind the standard maiden-blush rose,
always serving as the prison. And now the tug of war rages round it,
he darts here and there within his bounds, holding out his hand to
any kind deliverer whose touch may set him free; and all the others
run backwards and forwards, trying to circumvent the watchful jailor,
Tom Tittler, who, in front of the rose-bush, flies instantly at
whoever is only coming near his captive.
Ha! Susan had nearly--all but done it, while Hal was chasing away
Annie. No, not she; Hal is back again, and with a shriek away she
scours. Sam! oh, he is very near; if that stupid little Davy would
only look round, he would be free in another moment; but he only
gapes at the pursuit of Susan, and Sam will touch him without his
being aware! No--here's Hal back again. Sam's off. What a scamper!
Now's the time--here's Miss Fosbrook, lighter-footed than any of the
children, softly stealing on tip-toe, while Hal is scaring Johnnie.
Her fingers just touch Davy's. "Freed! Freed!" is the cry; and off
goes he, pounding for home! but Hal rushes across the path, he
intercepts Miss Fosbrook, and, with a shout of triumph--There is the
sound of a rent. Everybody stands a little aghast.
"It is only the gathers," says Miss Fosbrook good-humouredly. "I'll
tuck them up and sew them in by and by; but really, Hal, you need not
pull so furiously; I would have yielded to something short of that."
"Gowns are such stuff!" said Hal, really meaning it for an apology,
though it did not sound like one, for her good-natured face abashed
him a little.
"Touch and take used to be our rule," said Miss Fosbrook.
Bessie eagerly said that would be the best way, the boys were so
rude; but all the rest with one voice cried out that it would be very
stupid; and Miss Fosbrook did not press it, but only begged in a
droll way that some one would take pity on her; and come to release
her; and so alert was she in skipping towards her allies from behind
the rose-bush, that Bessie presently succeeded in giving the rescuing
touch, and she flew back quick as a bird to the safe territory,
dragging Bessie with her, who otherwise would have assuredly been
caught; and who, warm with the spirit of the game, felt as if she
should have been quite glad to be made prisoner for her dear
An hour after, and all the children were in bed. Susan and Annie
agreeing that a governess was no such great bother after all; and
Elizabeth lying awake to whisper over to herself, "Christabel Angela,
Christabel Angela! That's my secret!" in a sort of dream of pleasure
that will make most people decide on her being a very silly little
And Christabel Angela herself sat mending her gathers, and thinking
over her first week of far greater difficulties than she had
contemplated when she had left home with the understanding that she
was to be entirely under Mrs. Merrifield's direction. Poor Mrs.
Merrifield had said much of regret at leaving her to such a crew of
little savages, and she had only tried to set the mother's mind at
rest by being cheerful; and though she felt that it was a great
undertaking to manage those great boys out of lesson-hours, she knew
that when a thing cannot be helped, strength and aid is given to
those who seek for it sincerely.
And on the whole, she felt thankful to the children for having
behaved even as well as they had done.
"Grant to us, Thy humble servants, that by Thy holy inspiration we
may think those things that be good, and by Thy merciful guiding may
perform the same," spelt out David with some trouble and difficulty,
as he stood by Miss Fosbrook on Sunday morning.
"Well, my dear."
"Is wanting to buy a pig one of the 'things that be good'?'
"Anything kind and right is good, my dear," said Miss Fosbrook, a
little vexed at a sort of snorting she heard from the other end of
"Davy thinks the pig is in his Collect," said Sam.
He was one of those who were especially proud of being downright, and
in him it often amounted to utter regardlessness of people's
feelings, yet not out of ill-nature; and when Susan responded, "Don't
teaze Davy--he can't bear it," he was silent; but the mischief was
done; and when Miss Fosbrook went on saying that the wish to help the
poor woman was assuredly a good thought, which the little boy might
well ask to be aided in fulfilling, David had grown ashamed, and
would not listen. But the mention of the pig had set off Master
Henry, who was sitting up in the window-seat with Annie, also
learning the Collect, and he burst out into descriptions of the
weight of money that would be found in Toby, and how he meant to go
to the fair with Purday, and help him to choose the pig, and drive it
"More likely to hinder," muttered Sam.
"Besides, Papa wouldn't let you," added Bessie; but Hal did not
choose to hear, and went on as to how the pig should ran away with
Purday, and jump into a stall full of parliament gingerbread (whereat
Annie fell into convulsions of laughing), and Hal should be the first
to stop it, and jump on its back, and ride out of the fair holding it
by the ears; and then they should pop it into the sty unknown to
Hannah Higgins, and all lie in wait to hear what would happen; and
when it squealed, she would think it the baby crying; but there Susan
burst out at the notion of any one thinking a child could scream like
a pig, taking it as an affront to all babyhood; and Miss Fosbrook
took the opportunity of saying,
"Hadn't you better hatch your chickens before you count them, Henry?
If you prevent everyone from learning the Collect, I fear there will
be the less hope of Mr. Piggy."
"Oh! we don't have fines on Sundays," said Henry.
"Mamma says that on Sundays naughtiness is not such a trifle that we
can be fined for it," said Susan.
"It is not naughtiness we are ever fined for," added Elizabeth:
"THAT we are punished and talked to for: but the fines are only for
"Oh! I hope I sha'n't have any this week," sighed Susan.
"You may hope," said Sam. "You're sure of them for everything
possible except crying."
"Yes, Bessie gets all the crying fines," said Hal; "and I hope she'll
have lots, because she won't help the pig."
Bessie started up from her place and rushed out of the room; while
Miss Fosbrook indignantly exclaimed,
"Really, boys, I can't think how you can be so ill-natured!"
They looked up as though it were quite a new light to them; and Susan
"Oh, Miss Fosbrook! they don't mean it: Sam and Hal never were ill-
natured in their lives."
"I don't know what you call ill-natured," said Miss Fosbrook, "unless
it is saying the very things most likely to vex another."
"I don't mean to vex anybody," said Henry, "only we always go on so,
and nobody is such a baby as to mind, except Bessie."
And Sam muttered, "One can't be always picking one's words."
"I am not going to argue about it," said Miss Fosbrook; "and it is
time to get ready for church. Only I thought manliness was shown in
kindness to the weak, and avoiding what can pain them."
She went away; and Susan was the first to exclaim,
"I didn't think she'd have been so cross!"
"Stuff, Sue!" said Sam; "it's not being cross. I like her for having
a spirit; but one can't be finikin and mealy-mouthed to suit her
London manners. I like the truth."
It would have been well if any one had been by to tell Mr. Samuel
that truth of character does not consist in disagreeable and
Miss Fosbrook did not wonder at little Elizabeth for her discomfort
under the rude homeliness of Stokesley, where the children made a bad
copy of their father's sailor bluntness, and the difficulties of
money matters kept down all indulgences. She knew that Captain
Merrifield was as poor a man for an esquire as her father was for a
surgeon, and that if he were to give his sons an education fit for
their station, he must make his household live plainly in every way;
but without thinking them right feelings, she had some pity for
little Bessie's weariness and discontent in never seeing anything
pretty. The three girls came in dressed for church, in the plainest
brown hats, black capes, and drab alpaca frocks, rather long and not
very full; not a coloured bow nor handkerchief, not a flounce nor
fringe, to relieve them; even their books plain brown. Bessie looked
wistfully at Miss Fosbrook's pretty Church-service, and said she and
Susan both had beautiful Prayer-Books, but Mamma said they could not
be trusted with them yet--Ida Greville had such a beauty.
Was it the effect of Miss Fosbrook's words, that Sam forbore to teaze
Bessie about Ida Greville?--whose name was a very dangerous subject
in the schoolroom. Also, he let Bessie take hold of Miss Fosbrook's
hand in peace, though in general the least token of affection was
scouted by the whole party.
It was a pretty walk to church, over a paddock, where the cows were
turned out, and then along a green lane; and the boys had been
trained enough in Sunday habits to make them steady and quiet on the
way, especially as Henry was romancing about the pig.
By and by Elizabeth gave Miss Fosbrook's hand a sudden pull; and she
perceived, in the village street into which they were emerging, a
party on the way to church. There were two ladies, one in stately
handsome slight mourning, the other more quietly dressed, and two or
three boys; but what Elizabeth wanted her to look at was a little
girl of nine years old, who was walking beside the lady. Her hat was
black chip, edged and tied with rose-coloured ribbon, and adorned
with a real bird, with glass eyes, black plumage, except the red
crest and wings. She wore a neatly-fitting little fringed black
polka, beneath which spread out in fan-like folds her flounced pink
muslin, coming a little below her knees, and showing her worked
drawers, which soon gave place to her neat stockings and dainty
little boots. She held a small white parasol, bordered with pink,
and deeply fringed, over her head, and held a gold-clasped Prayer-
Book in her hand; and Miss Fosbrook heard a little sigh, which told
her that this was the being whom Elizabeth Merrifield thought the
happiest in the world. She hoped it was not all for the fine
clothes; and Sam muttered,
"What a little figure of fun!"
Martin and Osmond Greville went daily to Mr. Carey's, like Sam and
Hal, so the boys ran on to them; and Mrs. Greville, turning round,
showed a very pleasant face as she bowed to Miss Fosbrook, and
shaking hands with Susan and Elizabeth, asked with much solicitude
after their mamma, and how lately they had heard of her.
Susan was too simple and straightforward to be shy, and answered
readily, that they had had letters, and Mamma had been sadly tired by
the journey, but was better the next day. The little girls shook
hands; and Mrs. Greville made a kind of introduction by nodding
towards her companion, and murmuring something about "Fraulein
Munsterthal;" and Miss Fosbrook found herself walking beside a lady
with the least of all bonnets, a profusion of fair hair, and a good-
humoured, one-coloured face, no doubt Miss Ida's German governess.
She said something about the fine day, and received an answer, but
what it was she could not guess, whether German, French, or English,
and her own knowledge of the two first languages was better for
reading than for speaking; so after an awkward attempt or two, she
held her peace and looked at her companions.
Susan and Mrs. Greville seemed to be getting on very well together;
but Elizabeth's admiration of Ida seemed to be speechless, for they
were walking side by side without a word, perhaps too close to their
elders to talk.
Annie and David were going on steadily hand in hand a little way off;
and Miss Fosbrook chiefly heard the talk of the boys, who had fallen
behind; perhaps her ears were quickened by its personality, for
though Sam was saying, "I'll tell you what, she's a famous fellow!"
the rejoinder was, "What! do you mean to say that you mind her?"
"Doesn't he?" said Hal's voice; "why, she sent him away from tea last
night, just for shying crusts."
"And did he go?" and there was a disagreeable sounding laugh, in
which she was sorry that Hal joined.
"Catch the Fraulein serving me so!"
"She never tries!"
"She knows better!"
"I say, Sam, I thought you had more spirit. You'll be sitting up
pricking holes in a frill by the time the Captain comes back."
"And Hal will be mincing along with his toes turned out like a
dancing-master!" continued an affected voice.
"No such thing!" cried Hal angrily: "I'm not a fellow to be ordered
The Grevilles laughed; and one of them said, "Well, then, why don't
you show it? I'd soon send her to the right-about if she tried to
interfere with me!"
Miss Fosbrook could bear it no longer; and facing suddenly round,
looked the speaker full in the face, and said, "I am very much
obliged to you--but you should not speak quite so loud."
The boys shrank back out of countenance; and Sam, who alone had not
spoken, looked up into her face with a merry air, as if he were
gratified by her spirited way of discomfiting them.
Osmond tried to recover, and muttered, "What a sell!" rather
impudently; but they were now near the churchyard, and Mrs. Greville
turning round, all was hushed.
Christabel felt much vexed that all this should have happened just
before going into church; she felt a good deal ruffled herself, and
feared that Bessie's head was filled with nonsense, if Hal's were not
with something worse.
The church looked pretty outside, with the old weather-boarded wooden
belfry rising above the tiled roof and western gable; and it was
neatly kept but not pretty within, the walls all done over with pale
buff wash, and the wood-work very clumsy. Sam and Susan behaved well
and attentively; but Bessie fidgeted into her mamma's place, and
would stand upon a hassock. Miss Fosbrook was much afraid it was to
keep in sight of the beautiful bird. Hal yawned; and Johnnie not
only fidgeted unbearably himself, but made his sister Annie do the
same, till Miss Fosbrook scarcely felt as if she was at church, and
made up her mind to tell Johnnie that she should leave him at home
with the babies unless he changed his ways. Little David went on
most steadily with his Prayer-Book, and scarcely looked off it till
the sermon, when he fell asleep.
Miss Fosbrook had one pleasure as she was going home. The children
had all gone on some steps before her, chattering eagerly among
themselves, when Sam turned back and said abruptly, "Miss Fosbrook,
you didn't mind THAT, I hope?"
"What those boys were saying? It depends on you whether you make me
"I don't mean to make any rows if I can help it," said Sam.
"I am sure I hope you will be able to help it! I don't know what I
should do if you did!"
Sam gave an odd smile with his honest face. "Well, you've got a good
spirit of your own. It would take something to cow you."
"Pray don't try!"
Sam laughed, and said, "I did promise Papa to be conformable."
"And I was very much obliged to you yesterday evening. The behaviour
of the other boys depends so much on you."
"Yes, I know," said Sam; "and I don't mind it so much now I see you
can stand up for yourself."
"Besides, what would it be if I had to write to your father that I
could not manage such a bear-garden?"
"I'll take care that sha'n't happen," exclaimed Sam. "It would
hinder all the good to Mamma! I'll tell you what," he added, after a
confidential pause, "if we get beyond you, there's Mr. Carey."
"I thought you did not mean to get beyond me."
Sam looked a little disconcerted, and it struck her that, though he
would not say so, he was doubtful whether the Greville influence
might not render Henry unmanageable; but he quickly gave it another
turn. "Only you must not plague us about London manners."
"I don't know what you mean by London manners. Do you mean not
bawling at tea? for I mean to insist upon that, I assure you, and I
want you to help me."
"Oh! not being finikin, and mincing, and nonsensical!"
"I hope I'm not so!" said Miss Fosbrook, laughing heartily; "but I'll
tell you one thing, Sam, that I do wish you would leave off--and that
is teazing. I don't know whether that is country manners, but I
don't like to see a sensible kind fellow like you just go out of your
way to say something mortifying to a younger one."
"You don't know," said Sam. "It is fun. They like it."
"If they really like it, there is no objection. I know I should like
very much to have my brother here quizzing me; but you know very well
there are two sorts of such fun, and one that is only sport to the
"Bessie is so ridiculous."
"She is the very one I want to protect. I don't think that teazing
her does any good; it only gives her cross feelings. And she really
has more right on her side than you think. You might be just as
honest and bold if you were less rude and bearish."
"I can't bear to see her so affected and perked up."
"It is not affectation. She is really more gentle and quiet than you
are; you don't think it so in your Mamma, and she is like her."
"Mamma is not like Bessie."
"And then about Davy. How could you go and stop the poor little boy
when he was trying to think and feel rightly?"
"He was so funny," repeated Sam.
"I hope you will think another time whether your fun is safe and
"One can't be so particular," he said impatiently.
"I am sorry to hear it. I thought the only way to do right was to be
He grunted, and flung away from her. She was vexed to have sent him
off in such a mood; but, unmannerly as he was, she saw so much good
in him, that she could not but hope he would be her friend and ally.
Dinner went off very peaceably, and then Susan fetched her two
darlings from the nursery, George and Sarah, of three years and
eighteen months old. Her great perfection was as a motherly elder
sister; and even Sam was gentle to these little things, and played
with them very nicely.
Miss Fosbrook reminded Hal of his Collect; but he observed that there
was plenty of time, and continued to stand by the window, pursuing
the flies with his finger, not killing them, but tormenting them and
David very seriously, by making them think he would--not a very
pretty business for the day when all things should be happy, more
like that which is always found "for idle hands to do."
Evening service-time put an end to this sport; but Miss Fosbrook
could not set off till after a severe conflict with Johnnie. She had
decreed that he should not go again that day, after his behaviour in
the morning; and perhaps he would not have minded this punishment
much if David had not been going, which made him think it a disgrace.
So, in the most independent manner be put on his hat, and was
marching off, when Miss Fosbrook stood in front of him, and ordered
He repeated, "I'm going to church." It was plain enough that he had
heard what those boys had said about not submitting.
"Church is not the place to go to in a fit of wilfulness, Johnnie,"
she said; and his sisters broke out, "O Johnnie!" but the naughty
boy, fancying, perhaps, that want of time would lead to his getting
his own way, marched on, sticking up his toes very high in the air.
"Johnnie, Johnnie dear," entreated Susan, "what would Mamma say?"
John would not hear, and walked on.
"John," said Miss Fosbrook, "if you do not come back directly, I must
She had measured her strength with his: he was only eight years old,
and she believed that she could carry him; but he heard the church-
bells ringing, and thought he should have his way.
She laid hold of him, and he began fighting and kicking, in stout
shoes, whose thumps were no joke. She held fast, but she felt
frightened, and doubtful of the issue of the struggle; and again
there was Hal laughing.
"For-shame, Henry!" burst out Sam; and the same moment those two feet
were secured, and John was a prisoner. Miss Fosbrook called out to
the rest to go on to church, and she and Sam dragged the boy up to
the nursery, and shut him in there, roaring passionately.
Nurse Freeman, knowing nothing about it, could not believe but that
the stranger lady had made her child naughty, and said something
about their Mamma letting him go to church; and "when the child
wished to go to church, it seemed strange he should not."
Miss Fosbrook would not defend herself, for she was in great haste;
but Sam exclaimed, "Stuff! he was as naughty as could be all this
morning, and only wanted to go now because he was told not."
Johnnie bellowed out something else, but Miss Fosbrook would not let
Sam go on; she touched his arm, and drew him off with her, he
exclaiming, "Foolish old Freeman! she will pet and spoil him all
church-time, till he is worse than ever."
It was lucky for her that she was too much hurried to dwell on this
vexation; she almost ran to save herself from being late, and
scarcely heard Sam's mutterings about wishing to break Martin
"You need not hurry so much," he said; "there's a shorter cut, only I
suppose you can't get through a gap."
"Can't I?" she laughed; and he led her on straight through the Short-
horns. Some of them looked at her more than she fancied, but she
knew she might give up all hopes of Sam if he detected her fears.
Then came the gap, where a tree had been cut down in the hedge, and
such a jump down from it! But she gathered up her muslin, and made
her leap so gallantly, that the boy cried,
"Hurrah! well done!" and came and walked close to her, saying
confidentially, "I say, do you think we shall ever do the pig?"
"I am sure it might be done. If you are likely to do it you must
know better than I."
"I don't know that I much care about it. It will be rather a bother;
only now we have said it, I shall hate it if we don't do it."
"I think the pleasure of giving it will be a delightful reward for a
"Only Hal and the girls will make such a work about it. I'm glad,
after all, that Bessie has nothing to do with it, or she would want
to dress it up in flowers and ribbons. Ha-ha! But what a little
crab it is!"
"Don't be too sure of that. People may have other designs."
"Bessie's can't be anything but trumpery."
"Sometimes present trumpery is a step to something better. 'A was an
Archer' is not very wise, but it is the road to reading--and even if
it were not so, Sam, it is not right to shame people into giving; for
what is not bestowed for the true reasons, does no good to giver nor
Sam looked up with a frown of attention, as if he were trying to take
in the new light; but he did take it in, and smacking his hands
together with a noise like a pistol-shot, said, "Ay, that's it! We
don't want what is grudged."
Miss Fosbrook thought of words that would another time be more
familiar to Sam. "Not grudgingly, nor of necessity, for God loveth a
What she said was, "You see, if you plague Bessie too much, to make
her like ourselves, when she is really so different, you are driving
her to the shamming you despise so much."
"But ought not she to be cured of being silly?"
"When we have quite made up our minds upon what silliness is. There,
the bell has stopped."
The most part of church-time Johnnie was eating Nurse Freeman's plum-
cake. Perhaps this did not make him any easier in the conscience,
but he had a very unlucky sentiment, that as he was already naughty
and in disgrace, it was of no use to take the trouble of being good
till he could make a fresh beginning; and after what the Grevilles
had said, he did not think that would be till Papa and Mamma came
home; he did not at all mean to give in to a girl that was not even
twenty. So he would not turn to the only wise thing he could have
done, the learning of his Collect, but he teased Nurse out of more
cake and more, and got what play he could out of little George, and
that was not much, for Johnnie was not in a temper to be pleasant
with a little one.
Coming home from church, Collects were to be learnt and said before
tea: but Hal, after glancing over his own, took up his cap and said,
"Come along, Sam, Purday will be feeding the pigs; I want to choose
the size of ours."
"I've not done," said Sam.
"Papa never said we were to say them to Miss Fosbrook."
"He meant it though," was all Sam's answer. "Don't hinder me."
"Well, I've no notion of being bound by what people mean," continued
Hal; and no one could imagine the torment he made himself, neither
going nor staying, arguing the matter with his elder brother, as if
Sam's coming would justify him, and interrupting everyone; till at
last Miss Fosbrook gathered all her spirit, and ordered him either to
sit down and learn properly at once, or to go quite away. She was
very much vexed, for Henry had been the most obliging and good-
natured of all at first, and likely to be fond of her; but such a
great talker could not fail to be weak, and his vanity had been set
against her. He looked saucy at first, and much inclined to resist;
if he had seen any sympathy for him in Sam he might have done so, but
Miss Fosbrook's steady eye was too much for him, so he saved his
dignity, as he thought, by exclaiming, "I'm sure I don't want to stay
in this stuffy hole with such a set of owls; I shall go to Purday."
And off he marched.
The others stayed, and said their Collects and Catechism very
respectably, all but John, who had not learned the Collect at all,
and was sent into another room to finish it, to which he made no
resistance; he had had enough of actual fighting with Miss Fosbrook.
Then she offered to read a story to the others, but she found that
this was distasteful even to her friend Sam; he thought it stupid to
be read to, and said he should see after Hal; David trotted after
him, and Susan and Anne repaired to the nursery to play with the
little ones and the baby. She minded it the less, as they all had
some purpose; but she had already been vexed to find that all but
Davy preferred the most arrant vacant idleness to anything rational.
To be sure, Susan sometimes, Bessie and Hal always, would read any
book that made no pretensions to be instructive, but even a fact
about a lion or an elephant made them detect wisdom in disguise, and
throw it aside. She thought, however, she would make the most of
Bessie, and asked whether she would like to hear reading, or read to
"To myself," said Bessie; and there was a silence, while Miss
Fosbrook, glad of the quiet, began reading her Christian Year.
Presently she heard a voice so low that it seemed at a distance and
it made her start, for it was saying "Christabel!" then she almost
laughed, for it seemed to have been an audacious experiment, to judge
by little Elizabeth's scared looks and the glow on her cheeks.
"May I say it sometimes when we are alone together?" she said
timidly. "I do like it so much!"
"If it is such a pleasure to you, I would not deprive you of it,"
said Miss Fosbrook, laughing; "but don't do so, except when we are
alone, for your Mamma would not like me to seem younger still."
"Oh, thank you! Isn't it a nice secret?" cried Bessie, clinging to
her hand: "and will you let me hug you sometimes?"
A little love was pleasant to Miss Fosbrook, when she was feeling
lonely, and she took Bessie in her lap, and they exchanged caresses,
to the damage of the collar that Miss Fosbrook's sister had worked
"And you don't call me silly?" cried Bessie.
"That depends," was the answer, with some arch fun; but Bessie had
not much turn for fun, and presently went on -
"And you saw Ida Greville?"
"What did you think of her?"
"I had not much opportunity of learning what to think."
"But her parasol, and her bird! Did you think her mama very silly to
give her pretty things?"
"No, certainly not, unless she wore them at unsuitable times, or
thought too much about them."
"Ida has so many, she does not think of them at all. And she has
shells, and such a lovely work-box, and picture-books; she has all
"Are you quite sure?"
"Oh, yes, quite sure! and they don't tease her for liking pretty
things; her brothers keep quite away, and never bother about the
schoolroom; but she learns Italian and German, and drawing and
singing. Mr. Greville said something about our spending the day
there. Oh! if we do but go! Won't you, Miss Fosbrook?"
"If I am asked, and if your Mamma would wish it."
"Oh, Mamma always lets us go, except once--when--when--"
"When I cried," said Elizabeth, hanging down her head; "I couldn't
help it. It did seem so tiresome here, and she said I was learning
to be discontented; but nobody can help wishing, can they?"
"There must be a way of not breaking the Tenth Commandment."
"I don't covet; I don't want to take things away from Ida, only to
have the same."
"Yes; but what does the explanation at the end of the Duty to our
Neighbour say, filling out that Commandment?"
"I think I'll go and see what Susie is doing," said Elizabeth.
Christabel sighed as the little girl walked off, displeased at having
her repinings set before her in a graver light than that in which she
had hitherto chosen to regard them.
She saw no more of her charges till tea-time, when the bell brought
them from different quarters, Johnnie with such a grimy collar and
dirty hands, that he was a very un-Sunday-like figure, and she would
have sent him away to make himself decent, but that she was desirous
of not over-tormenting him.
Sunday was always celebrated by having treacle with the bread, so the
butter riot was happily escaped; and Bessie was not in a gracious
mood, and the corners of her mouth provoked the boys to begin on what
they knew would make her afford them sport. Hal first: "I say, Bet,
didn't Purday want his gun to-day at church?"
Elizabeth put out her lip in expectation that something unpleasant
was intended, and other voices were not slow to ask an explanation.
"Shooting the cocky-olly birds!"
A general explosion of laughter.
"I say (always the preface to the boy's wit), shall I get a jay down
off the barn to stick into your hat, Betty?"
"Don't, Hal," said such a deplorable offended voice, that Sam, who
had really held his tongue at first, could not help chiming in,
"No, no; a cock-sparrow, for her London manners."
"No, that's for me, Sam," said Christabel good-humouredly. "A
London-bred sparrow; a pert forward chit."
She really had found a safety-valve; the boys were entertained, and
diverted from their attack on their favourite victim, by finding
everyone an appropriate bird; and when they came to "Tomtits" and
"Dishwashers," were so astonished at Miss Fosbrook's never having
seen either, that they instantly fell into the greatest haste to
finish their tea, and conduct her into the garden, and through a
course of birds, eggs, and nests, about which, as soon as she was
assured that there was to be no bird's-nesting, she was very eager.
Bessie ought to have been thankful that her persecutors were called
off, but she was in a dismal mood, and was taken with a fit of
displeasure that her own Christabel Angela was following the rabble
rout into the garden, instead of staying in the school-room at her
The reason of her gloom was, that Miss Fosbrook had spoken a word
that she did not choose to take home, and yet which she could not
shake off. So she would neither stay in nor go out cheerfully, and
sauntered along looking so piteous, that Johnnie could not help
making her worse by plucking at her dress, by suddenly twisting her
cape round till the back was in front, and pushing her hat over her
eyes, till "Don't Johnnie," in a dismal whine, alternated with "I'll
tell Miss Fosbrook."
Christabel did not see nor hear. She had gone forward with a boy on
either side of her, and Susan walking backwards in front, all telling
the story of a cuckoo,--or gowk, as Sara called it in Purday's
language,--which they had found in a water-wagtail's nest in a heap
of stones; how it sat up, constantly gaping with its huge mouth,
while the poor little foster-parents toiled to their utmost to keep
it supplied with caterpillars, and the last time it was seen, when
full-fledged, were trying to lure it to come out of the nest by
holding up green palmers at some little distance before it. This was
in the evening; by morning it was gone, having probably taken flight
Miss Fosbrook listened with all the pleasure the boys could desire.
She had read natural history, and looked at birds stuffed in the
British Museum, or alive at the Zoological Gardens, on the rare days
when her father had time to give himself and his children a treat;
and her fresh value and interest in all these country things were
delightful to the boys.
It was a lovely summer evening. The sun was low enough to make the
shadows long and refreshing, as they lay upon the blooming grass of
the wilderness, softly swaying in the breeze, all pale with its
numerous chaffy blossoms, and varied by the tall buttercups that
raised up their shining yellow heads, or by white clouds of bold-
faced ox-eye daisies.
The pear-trees were like white garlands; the apple-trees covered with
white blossoms and rosy buds; the climbing roses on the wall were
bursting into blossom; the sky was one blue vault without a cloud.
Surely Elizabeth had no lack here of what was pretty. Then why did
she lag behind, unseeing, unheeding of all, but peevishly pushing off
John and Anne, thinking that they always teased her worst on Sundays,
and very much discomfited that Miss Fosbrook was not attending to
her? Surely the fault was not altogether in what was outside her.
"See!" cry the boys. Miss Fosbrook must first look up there, high
upon the side of the house, niched behind that thick stem of the
vine. What, can't she see those round black eyes and little beak?
They see her plain enough. Ah! now she has them. That's a fly-
catcher. By and by they shall be able to show her the old birds
flying round, catching flies on the wing, and feeding the young ones,
all perched in a row.
Now, can she scramble up the laurels? Yes, she hopes so; though she
wished she had known what was coming, for she would have changed her
Sunday muslin. But a look of anxiety came on Sam's face as he peeped
into the clump of laurels; he signed back the others, sprang upon the
dark scraggy bough of the tree, and Hal called out,
"Gone! has Ralph been there?"
"Ay, the black rascal; at least, I suppose so. Not an egg left, and
they would have hatched this week!"
"Well, Purday calls him his best friend," said Harry. "He says we
should not get a currant or a gooseberry if it wasn't for that there
raven, as Papa won't have the small birds shot."
"Bring down the nest, Sam," cried Susan; "Georgy will like to have
The children behind, who never could hear of anything to be had
without laying a claim to it, shouted that they wanted the nest; but
Sam said Sue had spoken first, and they fell back discontented, and
more bent on their unkind sport. Miss Fosbrook was rather shocked at
the tearing out the nest, and asked if the old bird would not have
another brood there; but it was explained that a thrush would never
return to a forsaken nest; and when Sam came down with it in his
hand, she was delighted with the wonderful cup that formed the
lining, so smooth and firm a bason formed of dried mud set within the
grassy wall. She had thought that swallows alone built with mud, and
had to learn that the swallows used their clay for their outer walls,
and down for their lining, whereas the thrush is a regular plasterer.
Sam promised her another thrush to make up for her disappointment,
and meantime conducted her to a very untidy old summer-house, the
moss of whose roof hung down loose and rough over a wild collection
of headless wooden horses, little ships with torn sails, long sticks,
battered watering-pots, and old garden tools. She was desired to
look up to one of the openings in the ragged moss, and believe that
it housed a kitty wren's family of sixteen or eighteen; but she had
to take this on trust, for to lay a finger near would lead to
desertion; in fact, Sam was rather sorry to be able to point out to
her, on coming out, the tiny, dark, nutmeg, cock-tailed father kitty,
popping in and out of the thorn hedge, spying at the party.
Now then for a wonder as they came out. Sam waved everybody away--
nay, waved is a small word for what he did--shouted, pushed, ordered,
would be more like it. He was going to give Miss Fosbrook such a
proof of his esteem as hardly any one enjoyed, not even Hal, twice in
Everybody submitted to his violent demonstrations, and Christabel
followed him to the back of the summer-house. There stood a large
red flower-pot upside down.
"Now, Miss Fosbrook!"
Sam's finger hooked into the hole at the top. Off came the flower-
pot, and disclosed something flying off with rushing wings, and
something confused remaining,--a cluster of grey wings all quill,
with gaping yellow mouths here and there opening, a huddling movement
always going on in the forlorn heap, as if each were cold, and wanted
to be undermost.
"Tits, my tits!" said Sam triumphantly; "they've built their nest
here three years following."
"But how do they get in and out?"
"Through the hole. Take care, I'll show you one."
"Won't you frighten away the bird?"
"Oh dear no! Ox-eyes aren't like wrens; I go to them every day.
See!" and he took up in his hand a creature that could just be seen
to be intended for a bird, though the long skinny neck was bare, and
the tiny quills of the young wings only showed a little grey
sprouting feather, as did the breast some primrose-coloured down.
Miss Fosbrook had to part with some favourite cockney notions of the
beauty of infant birds, and on the other hand to gain a vivid idea of
what is meant by "callow young."
Sam quickly put his nestling back, and showed her the parent. She
could hardly believe that the handsome bird in the smooth grey coat
and bright straw-coloured waistcoat, with the broad jet-black line
down the centre, the great white cheeks edged with black, and the
bold knowing look, could be like what the little bits of deformity in
the nest would soon become.
"Ay, that's an ox-eye," said Sam. "You'll hear them going on peter--
peter--peter--all the spring."
But Sam was cut short by a loud and lamentable burst of roaring where
they had left the party.
Miss Fosbrook hurried back, hearing Hal's rude laugh as she came
nearer, it was Elizabeth, sobbing in the passionate way in which it
is not good to see a child cry, and violently shaking off Susan, who
was begging her to stop herself before Miss Fosbrook should come.
What WAS the matter?
"Oh! Betty's nonsense."
"She only cried that Miss Fosbrook might hear."
So shouted the little Babel, Bessie sobbing resentfully between her
words, till Miss Fosbrook, insisting that everybody should be quiet,
desired her to tell what had happened.
"Johnnie--Johnnie called me a toad."
The others all burst out laughing, and Miss Fosbrook, trying to
silence them with a frown, said it was very rude of John, but she saw
no reason why a girl of Bessie's age should act so childish a part.
"He's been teasing me, and so has Anne, all this time!" cried Bessie.
"They've been at me ever since I came out, pulling me and plaguing
"Well," said Susan, "I told you to walk in front of Miss Fosbrook,
where they could not."
"I didn't do anything to her," said John.
"He only pulled her frock and poked her ankles," said Anne pleadingly
"Only--and why did you do what she did not like?"
Johnnie looked sturdy and cross. Anne hung her head; and Elizabeth
burst out again,
"They always do--they always are cross to me! I said I'd tell you,
and now they said Ida was a conceited little toad, and stingy Bet was
another;" and out burst her howls again.
"A very sad and improper way of spending a Sunday evening," said Miss
Fosbrook, who had really grown quite angry. "Anne and John, I WILL
put an end to this teasing. Go to bed this instant."
They did not dare to disobey, but went off slowly with sulky
footsteps, muttering to one another that Miss Fosbrook always took
pipy Betty's part; Nurse said so, and they wished Mamma was at home.
And when they came up to the nursery, Nurse pitied them. She had
never heard of a young lady doing such a thing as ordering off two
poor dear children to bed for only just saying a word; but it seemed
there were to be favourites now. No, she could not put them to bed;
they must wait till Mary came in from her walk; she wasn't going to
put herself out of the way for any fine London governess.
So Johnnie had another conquest over Miss Fosbrook; but Anne was
uncomfortable, and went and sat in a corner, wishing she had had her
punishment properly over, and kicking her brother away when he wanted
to play with her.
As for Bessie, she only cried the more for Miss Fosbrook's trying to
talk to her. It was a way of hers, perhaps from being less strong
than the others, if once she started in a cry she could not leave
Susan told Miss Fosbrook so; and the boys tried to drag her on with a
promise of a blackbird's nest; but she thought them unfeeling to such
woeful distress, and first tried to reason with Bessie, then to
soothe her, till at last, finding all in vain, she thought bed the
only place for the child, and led her into the house, helped her,
still shaking with sobs, to undress, and was going to see her lie
down in the bed which she shared with Susan. Elizabeth was still
young enough to say her prayers aloud. The words came out in the
middle of choking sobs, not as if she were much attending to them.
Miss Fosbrook knelt down by her as she was going to rise, and said in
her own words,
"Most merciful God, give unto this Thy child the spirit of content,
and the spirit of love, that she may bear patiently all the little
trials that hurt and vex her, and win her way as Thy good soldier and
Elizabeth held her breath to listen. It was new and odd. She did
not like to say Amen; she did not know if the governess were not
taking a liberty. Perhaps it was a new way of telling her she was
wrong--Christabel, whom she had thought on her side.
The bad temper woke up, and would not let her offer a friendly kiss.
She hid her face in the pillow, and as soon as Miss Fosbrook had shut
the door, went off into a fresh gust of piteous sobs, because Miss
Elizabeth Merrifield was the most miserable ill-used child in all the
She might be one of the most miserable, but it was not because of her
ill-usage, but because she had no spirit to be cheerful, and had
turned away from comfort of the right kind. She was in such a frame
as to prefer thinking everyone against her, to supposing that
anything she could do would mend matters.
Christabel was much grieved at this unfortunate end to the Sunday
evening. She looked over all the boys' birds' eggs--they were
allowed to keep two of every sort as curiosities--and listened to
some wonderful stories of Henry's about climbing trees, and shooting
partridges, and she kept the remaining children quiet and amused; but
she was not happy in her mind.
She thought she must have been wrong in not watching them more
closely, and she felt more dislike and indignation against Johnnie
than she feared was altogether right in his governess. Also, she
feared to make too much of Elizabeth, and was almost afraid that
notice taught her to be still more fretful. And yet there was a
sense of being drawn to her by their two minds understanding each
other, by likeness of tastes, by pity, and by a wish to protect one
whom her little world oppressed.
Nurse Freeman could not be more afraid of Miss Fosbrook making
favourites than she was herself.
All she could do in the matter was that which she had already done at
Bessie's bedside, and much more fully than when the little girl was
listening to her.
With Monday morning began the earning of the pig. Miss Fosbrook's
first business after prayers was to deal out the week's allowance--
sixpence to each of the four elders, threepence apiece to the three
"May there be no fines," she said.
"I'll not have the hundredth part of a fine!" shouted Henry, tossing
his money into the air.
Little David's set lips expressed the same purpose.
"Please let me have a whole sixpence," said Susan. "If I haven't any
change, I sha'n't spend it."
"You, Sukey! you'd better have the four farthings," laughed Sam.
"You'll be the first to want them."
Susan laughed; and Miss Fosbrook, partly as an example to the
plaintive Elizabeth, said, "You are so good-humoured, Susie, that I
can't find it in my heart to demand a fine--or--your hair; and
there," pointing to the stout red fingers, "did you ever behold such
a black little row?"
"Oh dear!" cried Susan, in her good-humoured hearty voice, "how
tiresome, when they were SO clean this morning, and I've only just
been feeding the chicken, and up in the hay-loft for the eggs, and
pulling the radishes!"
"Well, go and wash and brush, and to-morrow remember the pig," said
Miss Fosbrook, unable to help comparing the radishes and the fingers
for redness and for earthiness.
It was a more difficult matter when, as Elizabeth put her silver coin
into her purse, John must needs repeat the stupid old joke, "There
goes stingy Bet!" and Bessie put on her woeful appealing face.
"John, I shall punish you if I hear those words again."
"I don't mind. Nurse says you have no business to punish me! She
did not put me to bed; and I had such fun! Oh, such fun!" and the
boy looked up with a grin that set all the others laughing.
Christabel resolutely kept silence, and hoped her looks did not show
her annoyance, as the boy went on, "I got lots of goodies, for Nurse
said she had no notion of no stranger punishing her children. Oh!
Oh! Oh!" For Samuel had hold of his ear, and was tweaking it
"There! Go and tell Nurse, if you like, baby!"
"Sam, indeed I can't have my battles fought in that way!" cried the
governess, much distressed, as Johnnie roared, perhaps that old Nurse
might hear, and, to all attempts to find out whether he were hurt,
offered only heels and fists, till Susan came back and hugged him
"Now Johnnie has cried before breakfast on a Monday morning," said
Annie, "all the rest of the week will go wrong with him."
"Indeed," said Miss Fosbrook, "I hope no such thing.--Suppose we try
and show Annie she is wrong, Johnnie!"
But Johnnie was sulky, and even Susan looked as if she thought this a
new and dangerous notion. Sam laughed, and said, "I wish you joy,
Miss Fosbrook. Now he'll think he must be naughty."
"Johnnie," said David solemnly, "the pig."
The pig was a very good master of the ceremonies, and kept all elbows
off the table at breakfast-time; and Bessie, who was apt to stick
fast in the midst of her bread and milk, and fall into disgrace for
daintiness and dawdling, finished off quietly and prosperously.
Then every one was turned loose till nine o'clock. Susan had charge
of Mamma's keys, and had to go down to the kitchen, see what the cook
wanted, and put it out, but only on condition that no brother or
sister ever went with her to the store-closet. Susan was highly