Part 2 out of 4
trustworthy, but Mamma was too wise to let her be tempted by voices
begging for one plum, one almond, or the last spoonful of Jam. It
took away a great deal of the pleasure of jingling the keys, and
having a voice in choosing the pudding.
The two elder boys went to their tutor, the other children to the
nursery, except Elizabeth, who was rummaging in her little box, and
David, whom Miss Fosbrook found perched on the ledge of the window,
reading a book that did not look as if it were meant for men of his
But Miss Fosbrook thought David like the oldest person in the house--
infinitely older than John, who could do nothing better than he
except running and bawling, and a good deal older than even Hal and
Sam. Nay, there were times when he raised his steady eyes and slowly
spoke out his thoughts, when she felt as if he were much more wise
and serious than her twenty-years old self.
"Well, Davy," she asked, as at the sound of the lesson-bell the
little old man uncrossed his sturdy legs, closed his book, and arose
with a sigh, "have you found out all about it?"
"I have found out why a pig is a profitable investment," he answered
"Because he will feed upon refuse, and fatten upon cheap food," said
David, in the words of his book; "only I can't make out why. Do you
know, Miss Fosbrook?"
"I don't quite see what you want to know, Davy."
"I want to know why a pig gets fat on barley-meal, when an ox wants
mange, and oil-cake and hay. I asked Nurse, and she said little boys
mustn't ask questions; and I asked Purday, and he said it was because
pigs is pigs, and oxen is oxen. Why do you think it is, Miss
"I don't think; I know it is because the great God has made one sort
of creature to be easily fed, and made good for poor people to live
upon," said Miss Fosbrook.
David's eyes were fixed on her as if he still had questions to ask,
and she was quite afraid of her powers of answering them, for he was
new in the world, and saw the strangeness of many things to which
older people become used by living with them, but which are not the
less strange for all that.
However, the trampling of many feet put an end to question and
answer, and the day's work had to begin with the Psalms, and reading
the Morning Lessons. Bessie was by far the best reader; and David
did very well, though he made very long stops to look deliberately at
any long new word, and could not bear to be told before he had
mastered it for himself. Even Susan was sadly given to gabbling and
missing the little words that she thought beneath her attention; and
the other two stumbled so horribly, that it was pain to hear them.
This beginning might be taken as the sign of how all would do their
lessons. It is only a child here and there, generally a lonely one,
to whom lessons can be anything but a toil and an obligation. Even
with clever ones, who may be interested in some part of their study,
some other branch will be disagreeable; and there is nothing in the
whole world to be learnt without drudgery, so it would be
unreasonable to expect lessons to be regarded as delightful; but
there is one thing that is to be expected of any good child--not to
enjoy lessons; not to surpass others; not to do anything surprising;
only to make a conscience of doing what is required as well as
Now do not many children seem to think that they are to receive as
little as they can possibly take in without being punished; or that,
if they make any exertion, their teachers ought to be so much obliged
to them, that some great praise or reward is due to them?
Let us see whether anyone in Stokesley school-room was making a
conscience of the day's tasks. It is not of much use to ask for any
at present in Johnnie--not for a whole week, as Annie would declare;
he does not know his single Latin declension; his spelling, is all
abroad; his geography wild; yet though turned back once, he misses
the fine by just saying his lessons passably the last time. They
perhaps ought, in strict justice, to have been sent back; but Miss
Fosbrook was very glad to be saved the uproar that would have ensued,
and almost wondered whether she were not timidly merciful to the
horrible copy and the greasy slate. But Johnnie had no fine, and was
as proud of it as if he had been a good boy. "She hadn't caught him
out," he said, as if his kind governess had been his enemy.
As to Annie, her French verbs were always dreadful things to hear,
and the little merry face, usually so bright, used to grow quite
deplorable with the trouble she took not to use her mind. Using her
memory was bad enough, but saying things by heart was an affliction
she was used to, and it was very shocking of Miss Fosbrook to require
her to find out HOW many years Richard II. had reigned, if he began
in 1377 and ended in 1399. Susan prompted her, however; so she
really got a triumph over Miss Fosbrook, and was quite saved from
thinking. Oh, but the teasing woman! she silenced Susan, and would
have this poor injured Annie tell how old the tiresome man was.
"Began to reign at eleven years old, dethroned after twenty-two
years; how old was he?" Annie found bursting out crying easier than
thinking, and then they all cried out, "O Nanny, the pig!" and Miss
Fosbrook had the barbarity to call that FOOLISH crying! What might
one cry for, if not at being asked how old Richard II. was? If the
fine must be paid, there was no use in stopping; so Annie howled till
Miss Fosbrook turned her out to finish on the stairs; and as Nurse
Freeman was out with the little ones, there was no one to comfort
her; so she cried till she was tired, and when the noise ceased,
Susan was allowed to come and coax her, and fetch her back to go on
with her copy, as soon as her hand was steady enough. She felt very
foolish by this time, and thought David eyed her rather angrily and
contemptuously; so she crept quietly to her corner, and felt sad and
low-spirited all the rest of the morning. Now that thirty-three had
come into her head, it seemed so stupid not to have thought of it in
time; and then she would have saved her farthing, and her eyes would
not have been so hot.
Maybe, too, Susan's French phrases would not have been turned back.
Miss Fosbrook would have given a great deal not to have been obliged
to do it, but she had prompted flagrantly already, and a teacher is
obliged to have a conscience quite as much as a scholar; so the book
was given back, and Susan spent twelve minutes in see-sawing herself,
and going over the sentences in a rapid whispering gabble, a serious
worry to the governess in listening to Bessie's practising and
David's reading, but she thought it would be a hardship to be
forbidden to learn in her own way at that moment, and forbore. David
was interrupted in his "Little Arthur's History," and looked rather
cross about it, for Susan to try again. She made all the same
blunders--and more too! Back again! Poor Susie! Once, twice,
thrice, has she read those stupid words over, and knows less of them
than before. Davy's loud voice will go into her understanding
instead of those French phrases. She looks up in dull stupefaction.
William Rufus is disposed of, and David, as grave as a judge, is
taking up his slate, looking a little fussed because there is a
scratch in the corner. "Well, Susan," says Miss Fosbrook.
Susan jumps up in desperation, and puts her hands behind her. Oh
dear! oh dear! all that the gentlemen on a journey were saying to one
another has gone clean out of her head!
She cannot recollect the three first words. She only remembers that
this is the third time, and another farthing is gone! She stands and
"Susan," says Miss Fosbrook severely, "you never tried to learn
Susan gives a little gasp; and Elizabeth, who has said her French
without a blunder, puts in an unnecessary and not very sisterly word:
"Susan never will learn her French."
Susan's honest eyes fill with tears, but she gulps them back. She
will not cry away another farthing, but she does feel it very cross
in Bessie, and she is universally miserable.
Christabel feels heated, wearied, and provoked, and as if she were
fast losing her own temper; and that made her resolve on mercy.
"Susie," she said with an effort, "run twice to the great lime-tree
and back. Then take the book into my room, read this over three
times, and we will try again."
Susan looked surprised, but she obeyed, came back, and repeated the
phrases better than she had ever said French before. She was
absolutely surprised and highly pleased, and she finished off her
other lessons swimmingly; but oh, she was glad to be rid of them!
Yes, they were off her mind, and so she deserved that they should be!
She flew away to the nursery, and little Sarah was soon crowing in
Elizabeth? Not a blunder in French verbs or geography--very tidy
copy. French reading good; English equally so, only it ended in a
pout, because there was not time for her to go on to see what became
of Carthage; and she was a most intolerable time in learning her
poetry out of the book of Readings, or rather she much preferred
reading the verses in other parts of the book to getting perfect in
her lesson, and then being obliged to turn her mind to arithmetic.
Miss Fosbrook called her three times; and at last she turned round
peevishly at being interrupted in the middle of the "Friar of Orders
Gray," and repeated her twenty lines of Cowper's "Winter's Walk" in a
doleful whine, though without a blunder.
It was one of the horrible novelties that Miss Fosbrook was bringing
in, that she expected people to understand their sums as well as work
them. She gave much shorter ones, to be sure, than Mamma, who did
sometimes set a long multiplication sum of such a huge size, that it
looked as if it were meant to keep the victim out of the way; but who
would not prefer casting up any length of figures, to being required
to explain the meaning of "carrying"?
Really, if it had not been for the pig, that shocking question might
have led to a mutiny in the school-room. When it was bad enough to
do the thing, how could anyone ask what was meant by the operation,
and why it was performed?
What did Bessie do when her sum was being overlooked? Miss Fosbrook
read on: "4 from 8, 4; 7 from 1--how's this, Bessie? 7 from 10 are-
"3, and 1 are 4," dolorously, as her 3 was changed.
"Now then, what next?"
"What did I tell you was meant by carry one?"
"The tens," said Bessie, not in the least thinking "the tens" had
anything to do with the matter, but only that she had heard something
about them, and could thus get rid of the subject.
"Now, Bessie, what tens can you possibly mean? Think a little."
"I'm sure you said tens once," said injured innocence.
"That was in an addition sum. See, here it is quite different. I
Bessie put on a vacant stare. She was not going to attend to what
she did not like.
Miss Fosbrook saw the face. She absolutely shrank from provoking
another fit of crying, and went quickly through the explanation. She
saw that her words might as well have been spoken to the slate.
Bessie neither listened nor took them in. Not all her love for her
dear Christabel Angela could stir her up to make one effort contrary
to her inclinations. The slate was given back to her, she wiped out
the sum in a pet, and ran away.
Miss Fosbrook turned round, David, whose lessons had been perfectly
repeated an hour ago, was sitting cross-legged in the window, with
his slate and pencil, and a basket of bricks, his great delight,
which he was placing in rows.
"Miss Fosbrook," said he, "isn't this it? Twelve bricks; take away
those seven, then--l, 2, 3, 4, 5--the twelve is only 5: the 10 is
gone, isn't it? so you must leave one out of the next figure in the
upper line of the sum."
Now Davy had only begun arithmetic on the governess's arrival, but he
had learnt numeration and addition in her way. She was so delighted,
that she stooped down and kissed him, saying, "Quite right, my little
Davy rather disapproved of the kiss, and rubbed his brown-holland
elbow over his face, as if to clear it off.
"Well," thought Christabel, as she hurried away for five minutes'
peace in her own room before the dinner-bell, "it is a comfort to
have one pupil whose whole endeavour is not to frustrate one's
attempts to educate him."
Poor young thing! that one little bit of sense had quite cheered her
up. Otherwise she was not one whit less weary than the children.
She had been learning a very tough lesson too--much harder than any
of theirs; and she was not at all certain that she had learnt it
Now, readers, of all the children, who do you think had used the most
conscience at the lessons?
What an entirely different set of beings were those Stokesley
children in lesson-time and out of it! Talk of the change of an old
thorn in winter to a May-bush in spring! that was nothing to it!
Poor, listless, stolid, deplorable logs, with bowed backs and crossed
ankles, pipy voices and heavy eyes! Who would believe that these
were the merry, capering, noisy creatures, full of fun and riot,
clattering and screeching, and dancing about with ecstasy at Sam's
information that there was a bonfire by the potato-house!
"A bonfire!" said the London governess, thinking of illuminations;
"what can that be for?"
"Oh, it is not FOR anything," said Susan; "it is Purday burning
weeds. Don't you smell them? How nice they are! I was afraid it
was only Farmer Smith burning couch."
All the noses were elevated to scent from afar a certain smoky odour,
usually to be detected in July breezes, and which reminded Miss
Fosbrook of a brick-field.
"Potatoes! Potatoes! We'll roast some potatoes, and have them for
tea!" bellowed all the voices; so that Miss Fosbrook could hardly
find a space for very unwillingly saying,
"But, my dears, I don't know whether I ought to let you play with
"Oh, we always do," roared the children; and Susan added,
"We always roast potatoes when there's a bonfire. Mamma always lets
us; it is only Purday that is cross."
"Yes, yes; Mamma lets us."
"Well, if Sam and Susan say it is right, I trust to them," said Miss
Fosbrook gladly; "only you must let me come out and see what it is.
I am too much of a Londoner to know."
"Oh yes; and we'll roast you some potatoes."
So the uproarious population tumbled upstairs, there to be invested
with rougher brown-holland garments than those that already concealed
the sprigged cottons of the girls; and when the five came down again,
they were so much alike in dress, that it was not easy to tell girls
from boys. Susan brought little George down with her, and off the
party set. Sam and Hal, who had been waiting in the hall, took Miss
Fosbrook between them, as if they thought it their duty to do the
honours of the bonfire, and conducted her across the garden, through
the kitchen-garden, across which lay a long sluggish bar of heavy and
very odorous smoke, to a gate in a quickset hedge. Here were some
sheds and cart-houses, a fagot pile, various logs of timber, a
grindstone, and--that towards which all the eight children rushed
with whoops of ecstasy--a heap of smoking rubbish, chiefly dry
leaves, and peas and potato haulm, with a large allowance of cabbage
stumps--all extremely earthy, and looking as if the smouldering smoke
were a wonder from so mere a heap of dirt.
No matter! There were all the children round it, some on their
knees, some jumping; and voices were crying on all sides,
"O jolly, jolly!" "I'll get some potatoes!" "Oh, you must have some
sticks first, and make some ashes." "There's no flame--not a bit!"
"Get out of the way, can't you? I'll make a hot place." "We'll each
have our own oven, and roast our own potatoes!" "Don't, Sam; you're
pushing me into the smoke!"
This of course was from Elizabeth; and there followed, "Don't,
Bessie, you will tread upon Georgie.--Yes, Georgie, you SHALL have a
"Sticks, sticks!" shouted Henry; while Sam was on his knees, poking
out a species of cavern in the fire, where some symptoms of red
embers appeared, which he diligently puffed with his mouth, feeding
it with leaves and smaller chips in a very well practised way.
"Sticks, Annie! Johnnie! Davy! get sticks, I say, and we'll make an
Annie obeyed; but the two little boys were intent on imitating Sam on
another side of the fire, and Johnnie uttered a gruff "Get 'em
yourself," while David took no notice at all.
Perhaps Hal would have betaken himself to no gentle means if Susan
had not hastily put in his way a plentiful supply of dead wood, which
she had been letting little George think he picked up all himself;
and there was keen excitement, which Christabel could not help
sharing, while under Sam's breath the red edges of the half-burnt
chip glowed, flushed, widened, then went sparkling doubtfully,
slowly, to the light bit of potato-stalk that he held to it, glowing
as he blew--fading, smoking, when he took breath. Try again--puff,
puff, puff diligently; the fire evidently has a taste for the
delicate little shaving that Annie has found for it; it seizes on it;
another--another; a flame at last. Hurrah! pile on more; not too
much. "Don't put it out!" Oh, there! strong flame--coming crackling
up through those smothering heaps of stick and haulm; it won't be
kept down; it rises in the wind; it is a red flaring banner. The
children shriek in transports of admiration, little George loudest of
all, because Susan is holding him tight, lest he should run into the
brilliant flame. Miss Fosbrook is rather appalled, but the children
are all safe on the windward side, and seem used to it; so she
supposes it is all right, and the flame dies down faster than it
rose. It is again an innocent smouldering heap, like a volcano after
"We must not let it blaze again just yet," said Sam; "keep it down
well with sticks, to make some nice white ashes for the potatoes.
See, I'll make an oven."
They were all stooping round this precious hot corner, some kneeling,
some sitting on the ground, David with hands on his sturdy knees--all
intent on nursing that creeping red spark, as it smouldered from chip
to chip, leaving a black trace wherever it went, when through the
thick smoke, that was like an absolute curtain hiding everything on
the farther side, came headlong a huge bundle of weeds launched
overwhelmingly on the fire, and falling on the children's heads in an
absolute shower, knocking Johnnie down, but on a soft and innocent
side of the fire among the cabbage-stumps, and seeming likely to bury
Sam, who leant over to shelter his precious oven, and puffed away as
if nothing was happening, amid the various shouts around him, in
which "Purday" was the most audible word.
"Ah, so you've got at he, after all," said Purday, leaning on the
fork with which he had thrown on the weeds. "Nothing is safe from
"What, you thought you had a new place, Purday, and circumvented us!"
cried Hal; "but we smelt you out, you old rogue; we weren't going to
be baulked of our bonfire."
Miss Fosbrook here ventured on asking if they were doing mischief;
and Purday answered with an odd gruff noise, "Mischief enough--ay, to
be sure--hucking the fire all abroad. It's what they're always
after. I did think I'd got it safe out of their way this time."
"Then," in rather a frightened voice, for she felt that it would be a
tremendous trial of her powers, "should I make them come away?"
"Catch her!" muttered Hal.
There was horror and disapprobation on Susan's face. Annie stood
with her mouth open; while John, throwing himself on the ground with
fury, rolled over, crying out something about, "I won't," and "very
cross;" and David lay flat on his face, puffing at his own particular
oven, like a little Wind in an old picture. Sam waited, leaning on
the ashen stick that served him as a poker. It was the most
audacious thing he had ever heard. Rob them of their bonfire! Would
that old traitor of a Purday abet her?
Perhaps Purday was as much astonished as the rest; but, after all,
much as the children tormented his bonfires, overset his haycocks,
and disturbed his wood-pile, he did not like anyone to scold them but
himself, much less the new London Lady; so he made up an odd sort of
grin, and said, "No, no, Ma'am, it ain't that they do so much harm;
let 'em bide;" and he proceeded to shake on the rest of his
barrowful, tumbling the weeds down over David's cherished oven in
utter disregard; but the children cried with one voice, "Hurrah!
hurrah! Purday, we don't do any harm, so don't ever grumble again.
"And I don't care for HER, the crosspatch," said Johnnie to Annie,
never hearing or heeding Miss Fosbrook's fervent "I am so glad!"
And as long as the foolish boy remembered it, he always did believe
that Miss Fosbrook was so cross as to want to hinder them from their
bonfire, only Purday would not let her.
Miss Fosbrook did not trouble herself to be understood; she was
relieved to have done her duty, and be free to rejoice in and share
the pleasure. She ran about and collected materials for Sam till she
was out of breath, and joined in all the excitement as the fire
showed symptoms of reviving, after being apparently crushed out by
Purday. Sam and Susan, at least, believed that she had only spoken
to Purday because she thought it right; but even for them to forgive
interference with their bonfire privileges was a great stretch.
At last she thought it time to leave them to their own devices, and
seize the moment for some quiet reading; but she had not reached the
house before little steps came after her, and she saw Elizabeth
"They are so tiresome," she said. "Sam won't let me stand anywhere
but where the smoke gets into my eyes, and George plagues so! May I
come in with you, dear Christabel?"
"You are very welcome," said Miss Fosbrook, "but I am sorry to hear
so many complaints."
"They are so cross to me," said Bessie; "they always are."
"You must try to be cheerful and good-humoured with them, and they
will leave off vexing you."
"But may I come in? It will be a nice time for my secret."
Christabel saw little hope for her intended reading, but she was
always glad of a space for making Bessie happy, so she kindly
consented to the bringing out of the little girl's treasury, and the
dismal face grew happy and eager. The subjects of the drawings were
all clear in her head; that was not the difficulty, but the
cardboard, the ribbon, the real good paints. One little slip of card
Miss Fosbrook hunted out of her portfolio; she cut a pencil of her
own, and advised the first attempt to be made upon a piece of paper.
The little bird that Bessie produced was really not at all bad, and
her performance was quite fair enough to make it worth while to go
on, since Miss Fosbrook well knew that mammas are pleased with works
of their children, showing more good-will than skill. For why?
Their value is in the love and thought they show.
The little bird was made into a robin with the colours in a paint-box
that Bessie had long ago bought; but they were so weak and muddy,
that the result was far from good enough for a present, and it was
agreed that real paints must be procured as well as ribbon. Miss
Fosbrook offered to commission her sisters to buy the Prussian blue,
lake, and gamboge in London, and send them in a letter. This was a
new idea to Bessie, and she was only not quite decided between the
certainty that London paints must be better than country ones, and
the desire of the walk to Bonchamp to buy some; but the thought that
the ribbon, after all, might be procured there, satisfied her. The
little doleful maid was changed into an eager, happy, chattering
child, full of intelligence and contrivance, and showing many pretty
fancies, since there was no one to tease her and laugh at her; and
her governess listened kindly and helpfully.
Miss Fosbrook could not help thinking how much happier her little
companion would have been as an only child, or with one sister, and
parents who would have made the most of her love of taste and
refinement, instead of the hearty busy parents, and the rude brothers
and sisters, who held her cheap for being unlike themselves. But
then she bethought her, that perhaps Bessie might have grown up vain
and affected, had all these tastes been petted and fostered, and that
perhaps her little hardships might make her the stronger, steadier,
more useful woman, instead of living in fancies. It was the
unkindness on one side, and the temper on the other, that made Miss
The work had gone on happily for nearly an hour, and Bessie was
copying a forget-me-not off a little painted card-board pincushion of
her own, when steps were heard, little trotting steps, and Susan came
in with little George. He had been pushed down by Johnnie, and was
rather in a fretful mood; and Susan had left all her happy play to
bring him in to rest and comfort him, coming to the school-room
because Nurse Freeman was out. Before Elizabeth had time to hide
away her doings, George had seen the bright pincushion, and was
holding out his hands for it. Bessie hastily pocketed it. George
burst out crying; and Susan, without more ado, threw herself on her
sister, and, pinioning Bessie's slight arm by the greater strength of
her firm one, was diving into her pocket in spite of her struggles.
"Susan, leave off," said Miss Fosbrook; "let your sister alone. She
has a right to do what she likes with her own."
"It is so cross in her," said Susan, obeying however, but only to
snatch up little George, and hug and kiss him. "Poor dear little
man! is Betty cross to him? There! there! come with Sue, and SHE'LL
get him something pretty."
"Susie, Susie, indeed it's only that I don't want him to spoil it,"
said Elizabeth, distressed.
"A foolish thing like that! Why, the only use of it is to please the
children; but you are just such a baby as he is," said Susan, still
"You had better put your things away, Bessie," said Miss Fosbrook,
interfering to stop the dispute; and as soon as Elizabeth was gone,
and George a little pacified by an ivory ribbon-measure out of Miss
Fosbrook's work-box, she observed to Susan, "My dear, you must not
let your love for the little ones make you unjust and unkind to
"She always is so unkind to them," said Susan resentfully.
"I don't think she feels unkindly; but if you tyrannize over her, and
force her to give way to them, you cannot expect her to like it."
"Mamma says the elder must give way to the younger," said Susan.
"You did not try whether she would give way."
"No, because I knew she wouldn't; and I could not have my little
"And I could not see my little Susie violent and unjust," said Miss
Fosbrook cheerfully. "Justice first, Susan; you had no right to rob
Bessie for George, any more than I should have to give away a dinner
of your papa's because he had refused a beggar."
"Papa never would," said Susan, rather going off from the point.
"Very likely; but do you understand me, Susan? I will not have
Bessie FORCED out of her rights for the little ones. Not Bessie
only, but nobody is to be tyrannized over; it is not right."
"Bessie is so nonsensical," was all Susan said, looking glum.
"Very likely she may seem so to you; but if you knew more, you would
see that all is not nonsense that seems so to you. Some people would
admire her ways."
"Yes, I know," said Susan. "Mrs. Greville told Mrs. Brownlow that
Bessie was the only one among us that was capable of civilisation;
but Mrs. Greville is a fine lady, and we always laugh at her."
"And now," as Bessie returned, "you want to go out to your play
again, my dear. Will you leave Georgie with us?"
Susan was a little doubtful about trusting her darling with anyone,
especially one who could take Bessie's part against him; but she
wished exceedingly to be present at the interesting moment of seeing
whether the potatoes were done enough, and George was perfectly
contented with measuring everything on the ribbon, so she ran quickly
off, without the manners to thank Miss Fosbrook, but to assure the
rest of the party that the governess really was very good-natured,
and that she would save her biggest and best potato for Miss
Christabel managed very happily with little George, though not quite
without offending Elizabeth, who thought it very hard to be desired
to put away her painting instead of tantalizing her little brother
with the sight of what he must not have. Miss Fosbrook could not
draw her into the merry game with little George, which made his
shouts of glee ring out through the house, and meet Nurse Freeman's
ear as she came in-doors with the baby, and calling at the school-
room door, summoned him off to his tea, as if she were in a pet with
Miss Fosbrook for daring to meddle with one of HER own nursery
Nothing more was heard of the others, and Christabel and Elizabeth
both read in peace till the tea-bell rang, and they went down and
waited and waited, till Miss Fosbrook accepted Bessie's offer of
going out to call the rest. But Bessie returned no more than the
rest; and the governess set forth herself, but had not made many
steps before the voices of the rabble rout were heard, and they all
were dancing and clattering about her, while Susan and Hal each
carried aloft a plate containing articles once brown, now black, and
thickly powdered with white ashes, as were the children themselves up
to their very hair.
As a slight concession to grown-up people's prejudices, they did, at
the risk of their dear potatoes getting cold, scamper up to perform a
species of toilette, and then sat down round the tea-table, Susie,
David, and Sam each vociferous that Miss Fosbrook should eat "my
potato that I did on purpose for her." Poor Miss Fosbrook! she would
nearly as soon have eaten the bonfire itself as those cinder-coated
things, tough as leather outside, and within like solid smoke.
Indeed the children, who had been bathing in smoke all day, had
brought in the air of it with them; but their tongues ran fast on
their adventures, and their taste had no doubt that their own bonfire
potatoes were the most perfect cookery in art! Miss Fosbrook picked
out the most eatable bits of each of the three, and managed to
satisfy the three cooks, all zealous for their own. Other people's
potatoes might be smoky, but each one's own was delicious--"quite
worthy of the pig when he was bought," thought Miss Fosbrook; but she
made her real pleasure at the kind feeling to cover her dislike of
the black potatoes, and thus pleased the children without being
"Line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a
little." That is the way habits are formed and characters made; not
all at once. So there had been an opportunity for Susan to grow
confirmed in her kindness and unselfishness, as well as to learn that
tyranny is wrong, even on behalf of the weak; and Bessie, if she
would take home the lesson, had received one in readiness to be
cheerful, and to turn from her own pursuits to oblige others.
Something had been attempted toward breaking her habit of being
fretful, and thinking herself injured. It remained to be seen
whether the many little things that were yet to happen to the two
girls would be so used as to strengthen their good habits or their
It is not worth while to go on describing every day at Stokesley,
since lessons were far too much alike; and play-times, though varied
enough for the house of Merrifield, might be less entertaining to the
Enough to say, that by Saturday afternoon John had not only forfeited
his last farthing, but was charged with another into next week, for
the poor pleasure of leaving his hat on the school-room floor because
Elizabeth had told him of it. At about four o'clock it set in for
rain, catching the party at some distance from home, so that, though
they made good speed, the dust turned into mud, and clung fast to
David, never the best runner, was only in time to catch Johnnie by
the skirt upon the third step of the staircase, crying out, "The
pig!" but Johnnie, tired of the subject, and in a provoking mood,
twitched away his pinafore, crying, "Bother the pig!" and rushed up
after the four who had preceded him, leaving such lumps of dirt on
the edge of every step, that when Miss Fosbrook came after with
Elizabeth she could not but declare that a shower was a costly
"You see," observed Susan, "when it's such fine weather it puts one's
feet out of one's head."
While Sam, Henry, and Bessie were laughing at Susan for this speech,
little George trotted in, crying out, "Halty man come, Halty man
come; Georgie want sweetie!"
"The Gibraltar man!" cried John and Annie with one voice, and they
were at the bottom of the stairs with a bound.
"Oh, send him away, send him away. They'll spend all their money,
and there will be none left!" was David's cry; while George kept
dragging his eldest sister's frock, with entreaties of "Susie, Susie,
"They call him the Gibraltar man, because he sells Gibraltar rock,
and gingerbread, and all those things," said Henry in explanation.
"We have always dealt with him; and he is very deserving; and his
wife makes it all--at least I know she makes ginger-beer--so we must
So Henry hastened downstairs to encourage the Gibraltar man; and
Susan, saying soothingly, "Yes, yes, Georgie;--never mind Davie,
we'll make up for it; I can't vex him," had taken the little fellow
in her arms and followed.
"Pigs enough here, without sending to the fair," muttered Sam.
"Please, Sam, please, Miss Fosbrook, send the Gibraltar man away, and
don't let him come," cried David quite passionately. "Nasty man! he
will come every Saturday, and they'll always spend all their money."
"But, my friend," said Miss Fosbrook good-humouredly, "suppose we
have no right to banish the Gibraltar man?"
"_I_ don't wan't him," said Bessie; "it makes my fingers sticky."
"You're no good," said David vehemently. "I don't like you, and I
hate the Gibraltar man, taking away all our money from poor Hannah."
"Gently, gently, Davie; nobody makes you spend your money; and
perhaps the poor man has children of his own who want food as much as
"Then can't they eat the Gibraltar rock and bulls' eyes?"
Sam suggested that this diet would make them sick; to which poor
little earnest David answered, that when once the pig was bought, he
would give all his money for a whole month to the Gibraltar man, if
he would not come for the next four weeks.
And Christabel thought of what she had once read, that people would
often gladly put away from their children friends the very trials
that are sent by Heaven to prove and strengthen their will and power
of resisting self-indulgence. Before she had quite thought it out,
the quick steps were back again, and Sam greeted the entrance of John
thus: "Well, if that isn't a shame! Have you been and done Sukey
out of all that, Jack?"
"It was only three bulls' eyes," said Susan, following. "You know he
had nothing of his own, and it was so hard, and Annie gave him some."
"And Nurse some," added Hal. "Trust Jackie for taking care of
himself." Well he might say so, considering how full were John's
mouth, hands, and pockets.
"And Davie has had nothing!" said kind Susan. "Here, Davie!" holding
out to him an amber-like piece of barley-sugar.
"I don't want your stuff," said David roughly. "You've spent all
away from the pig."
"No, Davie, indeed, only twopence," said Susan; "pray have a bit."
"You might at least say thank you," said Miss Fosbrook.
But how difficult is that middle road which is the only right one!
David, being too much set on one single purpose, good though it was,
could see nothing else. It was right and generous to abstain from
sweets with this end in view; but it was wrong to be rude and
unthankful to the sister who meant all so kindly, and was the most
unselfish of all. She turned round to Elizabeth with the kind offer
of the dainty she had not even tasted herself, but was not more
"How can you, Susie? it is all pulled about with your fingers."
This was a matter on which the Misses and Masters Merrifield were not
wont to be particular; and with one of the teasing laughs that Bessie
hated, Sam exclaimed as Susan turned to him, "Yes, thank you, Sukey,
_I_ don't mind finger sauce," but not before John was stretching out
a hand glazed with sugar, and calling out, "Oh, give it to me!" and
as it disappeared in his brother's mouth, he burst out angrily, "How
cross, Sam! You did that on purpose!"
"Yes," said Sam, "I did; for though pigs on four legs are all very
well, I don't like pigs on two."
"Here, Jackie, never mind," said Susan, seeing him about to begin to
cry, and offering him her last sugar-plum.
"I don't want sugar-plums, I want barley-sugar," said John devouring
"I haven't one bit more," said Susan regretfully.
"Have you had any yourself, Susan?" asked Sam.
"No; but I didn't want any."
"Oh then, here Susie, I always keep a reserve," said Henry. "No, no,
not you, Jack; I don't feed little pigs, whatever Susie does."
And in spite of Susan, both the elder brothers set on John, teasing
him about his greediness, till he burst out crying, and ran away to
the nursery. Miss Fosbrook hated the teasing, but she thought it
served John so rightly, that she would not save him from it; and she
only interfered to remind the others that their fingers would bring
them in for fines unless they were washed before tea.
"And how much have you spent?" reproachfully asked that rigid young
judge, David; but all the answer he got was a pull by the hair from
Hal, and "Hollo, young one! am I to give my accounts to you?"
David gravely put up his hand and smoothed his ruffled locks,
repeating, in his manful way, "I want to know what you have left for
Whereupon Hal laid hold of him, pulled him off the locker, and rolled
him about on the floor like a puppy dog, crying, "I'll tell you what,
if you make such a work about it, I'll spend all my allowance, and
not subscribe at all."
"Sam!" cried the tormented David, and "Sam!" cried the governess,
really afraid the little boy would be hurt; but Sam only stood
laughing with his back to the shutter, and Christabel herself hurried
to the rescue, to pick Henry off his victim, holding an arm tight,
while the child got up, and ran away to get his hair re-brushed for
"Now, Hal, you might have hurt him," argued the governess.
"Very good thing for him too," said the brothers with one voice.
She was very much shocked; but when she thought it over she perceived
that though Hal might be to blame, yet in the long run even this
rough discipline might be more useful to her dear little David than
being allowed to take upon him with his elder brothers, and grow
conceited and interfering.
Miss Fosbrook was not surprised when, next morning, a frightful
bellowing was heard instead of Johnnie being seen, and she learnt
that Master John was in the hands of Nurse Freeman, who was
administering to him a dose in consequence of his having been greatly
indisposed all night. It must be confessed that Christabel was not
very sorry to hear it, nor that Nurse would keep him to herself all
day; for bad company as Johnnie had been on the week-days, he had
been worse on the Sunday.
And when John came out on Monday, he looked like a different boy; he
had lost his fractious, rebellious look; he spoke as civilly as could
be expected of a small Merrifield, and showed no signs of being set
against his lessons. To be sure it was a bad way of spending a
Sunday, to be laid up with ailments brought on by over-eating; but
even this was better than spending it, like the former one, in wilful
misbehaviour; and John, who knew that Papa, Mamma, brothers, and
sisters all alike detested and despised real greediness, had been
heartily ashamed of himself, both for this and his forfeits. A new
week was a new starting-point, and he meant to spend this one well.
For indeed it is one of the blessings of our lives that we have so
many stages--days, weeks, years, and the like--from each of which we
may make fresh starts, feel old things left behind, and go on to lead
a new life.
Besides, Johnnie was quite well now; and perhaps no child, so well
brought up, could have been so constantly naughty the whole week
without some degree of ailment, suspected neither by himself nor
others. For this is one of our real troubles, when either young or
old, that sometimes there is a feeling of discomfort and vexation
about us that, without knowing why, makes everything go amiss, causes
everybody else to appear cross, and all tasks, all orders, all
misadventures, to become great grievances. Grown-up people feel this
as well as children; but they have gone through it often enough to
know what is the matter, and they have, or ought to have, more self-
command. But children have yet to learn by experience that the outer
things are not harder and more untoward, so much as that they
themselves are out of sorts. This is poor comfort; and certainly it
is dangerous to say to ourselves that being poorly is any excuse for
letting ourselves be cross, or for not doing our best. If Mrs.
Merrifield had thought so, what miserable lives her husband and
children would have led! No, the way to use the certain fact that
the state of our bodies affects our tempers and spirits, is to say to
ourselves, "Well, if this person or this thing do seem disagreeable,
or if this work, or even this little bit of obedience, be very
tiresome, perhaps it may really be only a fancy of mine, and if I go
to it with a good will, I may work off the notion;" or, "Perhaps I am
cross to-day, let me take good care how I answer." And a little
prayer in our hearts will be the best help of all. Self-command and
goodness will not come by nature as we grow up, but we must work for
them in childhood.
When the Monday allowances were brought out, and the pig's chance
inquired into, David alone produced his whole sum, untouched by
forfeiture or waste, and dropped it into "Toby Fillpot." Elizabeth
had her entire sixpence; but a penny had been spent on a letter to
Mamma, and she gave but one to the fund, in spite of the black looks
she met from David. Sam had lost a farthing by the shower, and had
likewise bought a queen's head, to write to his father. The rest,
fourpence-three farthings, he paid over. Poor Johnnie! his last
week's naughtiness had exceeded his power of paying fines, and a
halfpenny was subtracted from this week's threepence; while the
Gibraltar man had consumed all that fines had spared to little Annie,
had left Susan only threepence, and Henry but twopence-halfpenny.
This, with twopence that Miss Fosbrook had found in her travelling-
bag, made one shilling and fourpence-farthing--a very poor collection
for one week. David was quite melancholy.
"Never mind," said Henry; "Mr. Carey's brother, the Colonel, is
coming to stay here the last week in July, and he gives us boys half-
a-sovereign each, so that we might buy a stunning pig all ourselves
"Always? He never did so but once," said Sam.
"That was the only time he saw us, though," said Hal; "and we were
quite little boys then. I'll tell you what, Sam, he'll give us each
a sovereign this time, and then I'll buy a bow and arrows."
"Stuff!" said Sam. "I hope he won't."
"I hate it! I hate saying thank you; I shall get out of the way, if
"Sam has no manners!" said Hal, turning round to Miss Fosbrook. "To
think that he had rather go without a sovereign or two than say thank
"I'M too much of a gentleman to lay myself out for presents!"
retorted Samuel; and the two boys fell on each other, buffeting one
another, all in good part on Sam's side, though there was some temper
and annoyance on Henry's.
When Sam was out of hearing, Hal discoursed very grandly on the
sovereign he intended Colonel Carey to give him, and the prodigious
things he meant to do with it. A gentleman once gave Osmond Greville
two sovereigns; why should not Colonel Carey be equally liberal? And
to hear the boy, those two sovereigns would buy everything in the
world, from the pig to a double-barrelled gun. David began to grow
hurt, and to fear the Toby fund would be lost in this magnificence;
but Hal assured him that it would be a help, and they should all have
a share in the pig, promising presents to everybody, which Susan and
Annie expected with the more certainty that Sam was never present to
laugh down these fine projects.
Indeed Miss Fosbrook had laughed at them once or twice, and observed
that she thought money earned or spared a better thing than money
given; and this caused Hal to cease to try to dazzle her, though he
could not give up the pleasure of regaling his sisters in private
with the wonders to be done with Colonel Carey's possible sovereigns.
The second week was prosperous: the treasury made progress; and
Christabel began to feel as if her pupils were not beyond her
management, as at first she had feared. Collectively they were less
uncouth and bearish, not so noisy at their meals, nor so needlessly
rude to one another; and the habit of teasing Elizabeth whenever
there was nothing else to do was greatly lessened. Indeed Sam did
not plague her himself, nor let his brothers do so, unless she
tempted him by some very foolish whine or bit of finery; and in such
eases a little friendly merriment is a sound cure, very unlike the
hateful fault of tormenting for tormenting's sake.
Nor did Elizabeth give nearly so much cause for their rough laughter,
since Miss Fosbrook had given wholesome food to her tastes and
likings, partly satisfying the longing for variety, beauty, or
interest which had made her discontented and restless. Her head was
full of HER secret, and her pretty plans for her gift. Such lovely
drawings she saw in her mind's eye, such fairies, such delightful
ships, kittens, babies in the cradle! But when the pencil was in her
hand, the lines went all ways but the right; her fairy was a grimy
little object, whose second wing could never be put on; the ships
were saucers; the kitten might have been the pig; the baby was an owl
in an ivy-bush; and to look at the live baby in the cradle only
puzzled her the more. Miss Fosbrook gave her real drawing lessons;
but boxes, palings, and tumble-down sheds, done with a broad black
pencil, did not seem to help her to what she wished. Yet sometimes
her fingers produced what surprised and pleased herself and
Christabel; and she never was happier than when safely shut into Miss
Fosbrook's bed-room with her card and her paints. She used to bolt
herself in, with a little parade of mystery that made Annie
exceedingly curious, though the others generally let it alone as
Christabel wanted to learn botany for her own pleasure. She found a
book which Susan and Bessie pronounced to be horridly stupid (indeed
Annie called it nasty, and was reproved for using such a word), but
when the information in it was minced up small, and brought out in a
new form, Bessie enjoyed it extremely. The whole party were
delighted to gather flowers for Miss Fosbrook--the wetter or the
steeper places they grew in the better; but the boys thought it
girlish to know the names; and Susan, though liking gardening, did
not in the least care for the inside of a flower. Elizabeth,
however, was charmed at the loveliness that was pointed out to her;
and even Annie, when the boys were not at hand, thought it very
entertaining to look at petals, stamens, and pistils, and to see that
a daisy is made up of a host of tiny flowers. Both little sisters
were having their eyes opened to see some of the wonder and some of
the glory of this earth of ours. It made Bessie much less often
tired of everything and everybody; though after all there is but one
spirit that is certain never to be weary or dissatisfied, and into
that she had yet to grow.
Fines were much less frequent: there were no foolish tears; only one
lesson of John's turned back, two of Annie's, one of Susan's; some
unbrushed hair of Susan's too--an unlucky mention of the raven by
Annie in lesson-time--and some books left about by Sam. Henry's
fines were the serious ones: he had two for incorrect sums, one for
elbows on the table, three for talking, one for not putting his
things away; and besides, he COULD NOT go without a pennyworth of
string; and the Grevilles would have laughed at him if he had not
bought some more marbles.
But what did that signify when Colonel Carey was coming? and a
sovereign would buy a pig three times over--at least, if it was quite
a little one. Christabel wished the hope of that sovereign had never
occurred to him, for he seemed to think it quite set him free from
the little self-restraints by which the others were earning the
pleasure of making the gift; and though he still talked the most
about the pig, he denied himself the least for it.
One evening the boys came in with a great piece of news. Their tutor
had read in the paper that Admiral Penrose was appointed to the
Ramilies, to take command in the Mediterranean. He was a great
friend of their father, and, said the boys, was most likely to make
him his flag-captain.
"And me a naval cadet!" said Hal. "He said he would, when he was
"One of you, he said," put in Susan.
"I know it will be me!" said Hal. "He looked at the rigging of my
frigate, and said I knew all the ropes quite well; and he told Papa
he might be proud of such a son!"
"Oh! oh!" groaned the aggrieved multitude.
"Well--such a family; but he was looking at me; and I know he will
give me the appointment; and I shall sail in his ship--you'll see.
And when I get to the Mediterranean, I'll tell you what I'll do--I
shall kill a shark all my own self!"
"A shark in the Mediterranean!"
"Well, why shouldn't they get in by the Straits of Magellan? Oh! is
that the other place? Well, never mind--I'll shoot the shark."
"Stuff, Hal!" said Sam rather gruffly.
Hal went off on another tack. "Well, at least he has set me down by
this time; and Papa will have me up to London for my outfit."
"I hope you will have leave, and come and see us," said Annie.
"I'll try; but, you see, I shall be an officer on duty, and I dare
say Admiral Penrose will hardly be able to spare me; but I'll send
you all presents out of my pay."
"You'll spend all your pay on yourself," said David.
"Out of my prize-money then."
"You can't get prize-money without a war," said Elizabeth.
"Oh! don't let there be a war!" cried Susan.
"Yes, but there is!" said Harry in a tremendous tone; and as Miss
Fosbrook held up her hands, "at least there was one in the Black Sea;
and I know there was a battle in the newspaper--at least, Mr. Carey
read about Palermo."
"I don't think Garibaldi in Sicily will put much prize-money into
your pocket, Hal," said Miss Fosbrook.
"Oh! but there's sure to be a war! and I shall get promoted, and be a
man before any of you. I shall go about, and see condors, and lions,
and elephants, and wear a sword--at least, a dirk--while you are
learning Latin and Greek at Uncle John's!"
"Don't make such a noise about it!" said Sam crossly.
"I don't know why you should be the one to go," said Elizabeth. "Sam
is the eldest."
"Yes; but Sam is such a slow-coach. Papa said I was the only one fit
to make a sailor of--at least, he said I was smart, and--Hollo! Sam,
I won't have you kicking my legs!"
"Don't keep up such a row then!" growled Sam; but Hal was in too full
swing to be reached by slight measures. He pushed his chair back,
tucked up his feet like a tailor's, out of reach, and went on: "Then
I shall come home in my cocked hat, like Papa's--at least, my cap--
and come and ask for a holiday for you all at Uncle John's."
Uncle John was an under-master at one of the great public schools,
and the children were all a good deal in awe of him.
"Uncle John won't give one for YOU!" said Sam.
"Come, boys, I can't have this bickering," said Miss Fosbrook. "I
can't see you trying which can be most provoking. Stand up. Now,
David, say grace. There, Annie, finish that bit of bread out of
doors. Go out, and let us have no more of this."
She spoke now with much less fear of not being minded; and having
seen one of the quarrelsome parties safe out of the school-room, she
went to fetch from her own room a glove that wanted mending; and on
her return found Sam alone there, curled up over his lesson-books on
the locker, looking so gloomy, that she was afraid she had made him
sulky, for which she would have been very sorry, since she had a
respect for him.
"What is the matter?" she asked; and his "Nothing" did not at all
assure her that he was in a right mood. She doubted whether to leave
him alone; but presently thought he looked more unhappy than ill-
tempered, and ventured to speak. "Have you a hard piece to learn?
Perhaps I could help you."
He let her come and look at his book; but, to her surprise, he had
before him a very easy problem in Euclid.
"Indeed, if you only gave your mind to this," she said, "you would
soon make it out."
"Stupid stuff!" exclaimed Sam. "It is all along of that, and the
rest of it, that I have got to be a land-lubber!" and he threw the
book to the other end of the room.
"Have you no chance?" said Miss Fosbrook, without taking notice of
this rudeness, for she saw that the boy could hardly contain himself.
"No! The Admiral did take notice of Hal; and one day when I was slow
at a proposition, my father said I was too block-headed to beat
navigation into, and that Hal is a smart fellow, worth two of me. I
know he is! I know that; only if he would not make such an
"Then you wish it very much?"
"Wish it! Of course I do. Why, my father is a sailor; and I
remember the Fury, and I saw the Calliope--his ship that he had in
the war time. Before I was as big as little George I always thought
I should be a sailor. And now if Papa goes out with Admiral Penrose,
and Hal too--oh! it will be so horrid home!"
"But can't you both go?"
"No; my father said he couldn't ask to have two of us put down,
unless perhaps some younger one had a chance by and by. And Hal is
the sharpest, and does everything better than I can when he has a
mind. My father says, among so many all can't choose; and if this
place is to be mine, Hal may want to be in the navy more than I.
Yes, it is all right, and Hal must go. But--but--when my father is
gone--"and Sam fairly burst out crying. "I didn't hardly know how
different it is with him away till this month. I was such a little
fellow when he went to the Black Sea; but now--never mind, though!"
and he stamped his foot on the floor. "Papa said it, and it must be.
Don't tell the others, Miss Fosbrook;" and he resolutely went and
picked up his Euclid, and began finding the place.
"You will do your duty like a man, wherever you are, Sam," said
Sam looked as if he had rather that she had not said it, but it was
comfortable to him for all that; and though she kept further
compliments to herself, she could not but think that there was no
fear but that he would be a man, in the best sense of the word,
before Hal, when she saw him so manfully put his sore grievance out
of his head, and turn to the present business of conquering his
lesson. Nor did she hear another word from him about his
It made her dislike Henry's boasts more than ever; and she used to
cut them short as fast as she could, till the young chatterer decided
that she was "cross," and reserved all his wonderful "at leasts" for
his sisters, and his proofs of manliness for the Grevilles.
The Gibraltar man did not come on Saturday; and Miss Fosbrook had
been the saving of several stamps by sending some queer little
letters in her own to Mrs. Merrifield, so that on Monday morning the
hoard was increased to seven-and-sixpence; although between fines and
"couldn't helps," Henry's sixpence had melted down to a halfpenny,
which "was not worth while."
On this day arrived a servant from the Park, bringing a delicate
little lilac envelope, stamped with a tiny rose, and directed to Miss
Merrifield. There was another rose on the top of the lilac paper;
and the writing was in a very neat hand.
My dear Susan,
Mamma desires me to say that she hopes you and Bessie and Annie will
come to dine early to-morrow, and play with me, and that Miss Fosbury
will come with you. She hopes your Mamma is better, and would be
glad to have her address in London.
I am your affectionate
IDA ARABELLA GREVILLE.
"Oh! Miss Fosbrook, may we go?" cried the girls with sparkling eyes.
Mrs. Merrifield had written that one or two such invitations might be
accepted, but she had rather it did not happen too often, as visits
at the Park were unsettling to some of the children. So as this was
the first, Christabel gladly consented, rather curious and rather shy
on her own account.
Elizabeth begged for the rose, to copy it, and as there were no
little ones present to seize it, she was allowed to have it; while
Susan groaned and sighed over the misfortune of having to write a
"horrible note" just at play-time; and the boys treated it as a sort
of insult to the whole family that Ida should have mistaken their
"Tell her you won't go till she has it right," said Sam; at which
Annie made a vehement outcry of "No, no!" such as made them all laugh
at her thinking him in earnest.
Susan's note began -
My dear Ida,
We shuold -
But then perceiving that something was the matter with her word,
Susan sat and looked at it, till at last, perceiving that her u and o
had changed places, she tried putting a top to the u, and made it
like an a; while the filling up the o made it become a blot, such as
caught Bessie's eye.
"O Susie, you won't send such a thing as that up to Ida?"
"No--that WOULD be a 'horrible note,'" said her governess; and she
ruled the lines again.
"Dear me," said Susan impatiently; "can't one send a message up by
the man that we'll all come, without this fuss?"
But Miss Fosbrook said that would be very uncivil; and Susan,
groaning, stretched every finger till the lines were finished, and
began again, in her scraggy round-hand--getting safely through the
"should," and also through "like to come very much;" but when Miss
Fosbrook looked up next, she saw that the rest of the note consisted
Mamma is at Grandmamma's, No. 12, St., Grovensor Place.
I am your affectionate
"My dear, I am very sorry."
"What! won't that do?" sighed Susan, beginning to get into despair.
Miss Fosbrook pointed to the word "Grovensor."
"Oh dear! oh dear! I thought I had got that tiresome word this time.
Why can't it put its ss and ns into their proper sensible places?"
cried poor Susan, to whom it was a terrible enemy. She used to try
them in different places all the way round, in hopes that one might
at last be right.
"Can't you remember what I told you, that the first Grosvenor was the
grand huntsman? Grosveneur in French; that would show you where to
put the s--gros, great."
But Susan never wished to remember anything French; and Sam observed
that "the man deserved to be spelt wrong if he called himself by a
French name. Why couldn't he be content to be Mr. Grandhunter?"
"But as he is not, we must spell his name right, or Mrs. Greville
will be shocked," said Miss Fosbrook.
"Please can't you scratch it out?" said the disconsolate Susan.
"_I_ should not like to send a note with a scratch in it. Besides,
yours is hardly civil."
"No, indeed," said Elizabeth; "don't you know how people answer
invitations, Susie? I'll tell you. 'Miss Susanna, and Miss
Elizabeth, and Miss Annie Merrifield will be very happy to do the
honour of dining with--' Sam, why do you laugh at me always?"
"Why, you are telling Ida you will do her honour by dining with her."
"People always do honour when they dine," said Elizabeth. "I know
"They profess to receive the honour, not confer it, Bessie," said
Miss Fosbrook, laughing; "but I don't think that is the model for
Susie's note. It would be as much too formal as hers was too blunt."
"Must I do it again?" said Susan. "I had rather not go, if it is to
be such a plague."
"Indeed, I fear you must, Susie. It is quite needful to learn how to
write a respectable note; really a more difficult thing than writing
a long letter. I am sorry for you; but if you were not so careless
in your letters to Mamma this would come more easily to you."
But this time Miss Fosbrook not only ruled another sheet, but wrote,
in fair large-hand on a slate, the words, that Susan might copy them
without fresh troubles:
We are much obliged to your Mamma for her kind invitation, and shall
have much pleasure in coming with Miss Fosbrook to dine with you and
spend the day. I am sorry to say that Mamma was not quite so well
when last we heard. Her address is--No. 12,--St., Grosvenor-place.
Susan thought that here were a very serious number of words, and
begged hard for leave to leave out her sorrow. Of course she was
sorry, but what was the use of telling Ida so?
Miss Fosbrook thought it looked better, but Susan might do as she
"I wouldn't say it, then," said Sam. "I wouldn't say it only to look
better to Ida." With which words he and Hal walked off to the
Would it be believed? Susan, in her delight at being near the end,
forgot the grand huntsman, and made the unlucky Place "Grovesnor,"
and then, in her haste to mend it, put her finger into the wet ink,
and smeared not only that word, but all the line above!
It was a shame and a wonder that a girl of her age should be so
incapable of producing a creditable note; and Miss Fosbrook was very
near scolding her but she had pity on the tearful eyes and weary
fingers, and spoke cheerfully: "There, that was almost the thing.
One more trial, Susan, and you need never be afraid of Ida's notes
If Susan could not write notes, at least she was not cross; and it
would be well if many who could send off a much better performance
with far less difficulty could go to work as patiently as she did,
without one pettish word to Miss Fosbrook, though that lady seemed to
poor Susie as hard a task mistress as if she could have helped it.
This time Miss Fosbrook authorized the leaving out of the spending
the day, and suggested that S. would be enough without the whole
Susanna, and she mercifully directed the cover to Miss Greville.
"There, my dear, you have worked hard for your pleasure," she said,
as Susan extended each hand to its broadest stretch to uncramp them,
and stretched herself backwards as if she wanted to double her head
down to her heels. "I shall give you a good mark, Susie, as if it
had been a lesson."
Susan deserved it, for her patient perseverance had been all out of
obedience, not in the mere desire of having her note admired.
Indeed, good child, at the best it was a very poor affair for a girl
of twelve, and Miss Fosbrook was ashamed of it when she looked at
Ida's lady-like little billet.
"But I wonder," said she to herself, "whether I shall feel as if I
would change my dear stupid Susan for Miss Ida?"
Meanwhile Susan flew screaming and leaping out into the garden in a
mad tom-boy fashion; but that could well be pardoned, as there were
only her sisters to see her; and the pleasure of having persevered
and done her best was enough to make her heart and her limbs dance
Depend upon it, however wretched and miserable hard application to
what we do not like may seem at the moment, it is the only way to
make play-times really delicious.
Miss Fosbrook soon knew what Mrs. Merrifield meant by saying that
visits at the Park unsettled the children. Susan indeed, though
liking anything that shortened lessons by an hour, and made a change,
was not so fond of being on her good behaviour at the Park as to be
greatly exalted at the prospect; but Elizabeth and Annie were changed
beings. They were constantly breaking out with some new variety of
wonder. They wondered whether they should dine in the school-room,
or at Mrs. Greville's luncheon; they wondered if Mr. Greville would
speak to them; they wondered whether Fraulein Munsterthal would be
cross; they wondered if Ida still played with dolls; and they looked
as if they thought themselves wonderful, too, for going out for a
Nay, the wonders were at their tongues' end even when lessons began,
and put their farthings in great peril; and when they had nothing
else to wonder at, they wondered when it would be twelve o'clock, and
took no pains to swallow enormous yawns. Once, over her copy,
Elizabeth exclaimed, "Now! yes, this is necessary, Miss Fosbrook!
May not we wear our white frocks?"
"They are not ironed," answered Susan.
"Oh, do let me go and tell Mary! There's lots of time," said Bessie,
who had lately thought it cruel of the clock to point only to half-
past ten, and never bethought herself how Mary would like to be
called off from her scrubbing to iron three white frocks.
"Would your Mamma wish it?" asked Christabel.
"Oh dear no," was Susan's answer; "we always wear clean ones of our
every-day frocks. Our white ones are only for dinner-parties and
Bessie grumbled. "How cross! I hate those nasty old spotty
cottons;" and Johnnie returned to the old story--"Little vain pussy-
Up went Miss Fosbrook's warning pencil, she shook her head, and held
out her hand for two fines. Elizabeth began to gulp and sob.
"Oh, don't, Betty!" cried Susan. "Stop while you can. You won't
like going up with red eyes. There, I'll pay your fine; and there's
another for my speaking."
"No, Susie; that was not foolish speaking, but kind words," said Miss
Fosbrook; "but no more now; go on, Annie."
But Annie, who was reading a little history of St. Paul, would call
Cilicia, Cicilia, and when told to spell it she began to cry too
decidedly for Susan's good-nature to check her tears. And not only
did Elizabeth's copy look as if she had written it with claws instead
of fingers, but she was grieving over her spotted cotton instead of
really seeking for places in her map. Thus the Moselle obstinately
hid itself; and she absolutely shed tears because Miss Fosbrook
declared that Frankfort WAS on the Maine. For the first time she had
her grammar turned back upon her hands. How many mistakes Annie made
would be really past telling; for these two little girls had their
whole minds quite upset by the thought of a day's pleasure; and as
they never tried to restrain themselves, and to "be sober, be
vigilant," they gave way before all the little trials in their paths-
-were first careless, and then fractious. Perhaps when they were
older they would find out that this uplifted sense of excited
expectation is the very warning to be heedful.
If Miss Fosbrook had been a strict governess, she would have told
them they did not deserve to go at all; or at any rate, that Bessie
must repeat her grammar better, and re-write her copy, and that
Annie's unlucky addition sum must be made to prove; but she had seen
her little sisters nearly as bad in prospect of a pantomime, so she
was merciful, and sent them in good time to brush their hair, put on
their spotted cottons, and wash off as much as possible of the red
mottling left by those foolish tears.
Their spirits rose again as fast as they had sunk; and it was a
lively walk through the park to the great house, with a good deal of
skipping and jumping at first, and then, near the door, a little awe
They were taken through a side-door of the hall to the school-room,
where Ida and her governess received them. It was the first time
that Christabel had seen her out of her beplumed hat, and she thought
her a pleasant, bright-looking little girl, not at all set up or
conceited. Her mauve muslin, flounced though it was up to her waist,
showed that it had been wise to withstand Bessie's desire for the
white muslins; but Miss Fosbrook had enough to do on her own account
with the endeavour to understand the German governess's foreign
accent, without attending to the children more than was necessary.
It was not a very remarkable day, and the pleasures of it seemed
hardly enough to justify the little girls' great excitement. There
was first the dinner at the luncheon of the parents, where the
children sat up rather formal and subdued, and not quite certain what
all the dishes might contain, a little afraid of getting what they
COULD not eat, though desirous of making experiments in this land of
wonders. None of them had forgotten, and they thought no one else
had, how Bessie had once come to disgrace by bursting out crying over
the impossibility of finishing some terrible rice-bordered greenish
yellow stuff that burnt her mouth beyond bearing, and which Ida
called curry, and said people in the East Indies liked. However,
that was when Bessie had been a very little girl; and she still
continued adventurous, saying, "Yes, if you please," to cutlets set
round in a wreath, with all their bones sticking up, and covered with
a reddish incrustation that Susan and Annie thought so unnatural,
that they preferred the boiled chicken that at least they could
understand, though it had funny-hooking accompaniments in the sauce.
And Hal's report of some savoury jelly which he had once encountered
would have deterred them from the pink transparency in the shape of a
shell, if they had not seen Bessie getting on very well with it, Miss
Fosbrook happily perceiving and cutting short Annie's intended
inquiry whether it were nice. To her great relief, this was the only
want of manners betrayed by her little savages, and she was able to
keep her attention tolerably free from them, so as to look at the
pictures on the walls, observe the two boys, Hal's friends, and talk
to Mrs. Greville, who made conversation with her very pleasantly.
She was much grieved to perceive, from what that lady said, that Mrs.
Merrifield was thought to be much more ill, and in a far more
alarming state, than she had at all understood. The girls were too
young to enter into the tone of sad sympathy with which Mrs. Greville
spoke, and the manner in which a doubt was expressed whether the
Captain would be able to sail with Admiral Penrose if he should have
the offer; and as soon as she saw that they and their governess were
in ignorance, she turned it off; but she had said enough to fill
Christabel with anxiety and desire to know more; and as soon as the
dinner was over, and the little girls had run off together to visit
Ida's beautiful cockatoo in the conservatory, she turned to Fraulein
Munsterthal, and begged to hear whether she knew more than had been
Fraulein Munsterthal did not quite know that such a person as Mrs.
Merrifield was in existence; but she was very amiable and warm-
hearted, and said how sad it was to think of the trouble that hung
over "these so careless children," and was doubly kind to the girls
when they came back from their conversation with pretty "Cocky," who
set up his lemon-coloured crest, coughed, sneezed, and said "Cocky
want a biscuit!" to admiration, till the boys were seen approaching;
when Ida, knowing that some torment would follow, took herself and
her visitors back to the protection of the governesses in time to
prevent the cockatoo from being made to fly at the girls, and powder
them with the white dust under his feathers.
The afternoon was spent in the garden, the little girls betaking
themselves to a pretty moss-covered arbour, where there was a grand
doll's feast. Ida had no less than twenty-three dolls, ranging from
the magnificent Rosalind, who had real hair that could be brushed,
and was as large as little Sally at home, down to poor little china
Mildred, whose proper dwelling-place was a bath, and who had with
great difficulty been put into petticoats enough to make her fit to
be seen out of it. Now nobody at home could have saved the life of a
doll for a single day, and Susan and Elizabeth were both thought far
above them; but these beautifully arrayed young ladies had always
been the admiration of the heart of Bessie as well as of Annie, and
they were not too old for extreme satisfaction in handling their
elegant ladyships, and still more their beautiful dinner and tea-
service of pink and white ware.
Susan, though she could not write a note, or do lessons like Ida, was
older in the ways of life, and played rather as she did with the
little ones at home than for her own amusement. She would much
rather have had the fun of "cats and mice" with her brothers; and but
for the honour of the thing, so perhaps would Annie. However, they
were all very happy, getting the dolls up in the morning, giving
Mildred washing enough for all the twenty-three, making them
breakfast, hearing lessons, in which Ida was governess, and made them
talk so many languages that Annie was alarmed. Of course one of the
young ladies was very naughty, and was treated with extreme severity;
then there was dinner, a walk, an illness, and a dinner-party. While
all the time the two real governesses sat in the shade outside, and
talked in English or German as best they might, the Fraulein
understanding Christabel's English the best, as did Christabel the
Fraulein's German. They began to make friends, and to wish to see
more of one another.
There was a walk round the garden, and admiration of the beautiful
flowers, and the fountain and pond of gold-fish, till the boys came
home, and got hold of the garden-engine for watering, crying out,
"Fire! fire!" and squirting out the showers of water very much in the
direction of the girls.
Ida became quite crimson red, and got hold of Susan's hand to drag
her away; then, as the foremost drops of another shower touched her,
she faced about, and said, "Osmond! don't, or I'll tell Mamma."
There was a great rude laugh, as of boys who well knew the threat was
never put in execution; and poor Fraulein Munsterthal only shook her
head at Miss Fosbrook's look of amaze, and said in German that "die
Knaben" were far too unartig for her to keep in order. She pitied
Miss Fosbrook for having so many in charge as to destroy all peace.
And if Sam and Hal had been like these two, Christabel felt that she
could have done nothing with them. To her dismay, Osmond and Martin
came in to the school-room tea; and she never had thought to feel so
thankful for poor dear Susan's slowness of comprehension, for, from
their whispers among themselves, and from their poor tormented
sister's blushes, she was clear that the "fire" was a piece of bad
wit on Susan's red hair. Boys who could so basely insult a guest,
and that a girl, she was sure must be bad companions for Sam and
Henry. Such little gentlemen as they had been at dinner too, so
polite and well-behaved before their father and mother! There could
be no doubt that something must be very wrong about them, or they
would not change so entirely when out of sight. It is not always
true that a child must be deceitful who is less good in the absence
of the authorities; because their presence is a help and a restraint,
checking the beginning of mischief, and removing temptation; but one
who does not fall by weakness, but intentionally alters his conduct
the instant the elder is gone, shows that his will has been
disobedient all along
By and by Mr. Greville's voice was heard calling, "Martin! Osmond!"
As they went out to meet him in the passage, Miss Fosbrook clearly
overheard, "Here is the spring of the garden-engine spoilt. Do you
know anything about it?"
"You have not been meddling with it?"
"No." And they ran downstairs.
The colour flushed into Christabel's cheeks with horror. She was
glad that her little girls were all in Ida's room, listening to a
musical-box, and well out of hearing of such fearfully direct
falsehoods, as it seemed to her, not knowing that the boys excused it
to their own minds by the notion that it was not the SPRING of the
engine that they had been meddling with, and that so they did not
know how the harm had been done--as if it made it any better that
they lied to themselves as well as their father! The German saw her
dismay, and began to say how unlike her Ida was to her brothers--so
truthful, so gentle, and courteous; but poor Christabel could not get
over the thought of the ease and readiness with which deceit came to
these boys. Could their daily companions, Samuel and Henry, have
learnt the same effrontery, and be deceiving her all this time? No,
no, she could not, would not think it! Assuredly not of Sam! She
was very glad not to see the boys again, and went home with her
pupils, rather heavy-hearted, at eight o'clock, just as Ida was to
put on her white muslin and pink ribbons, and go down after dinner
for half an hour.
There were many kisses at parting, and a whole box of sweets, done up
in beautifully coloured and gold and silver paper, presented to the
little visitors; but it might be supposed that the girls were tired,
for there was a fretful snarling all the way across the park, because
Elizabeth insisted that the gifts should be called bon-bons, and the
others would hear of nothing but goodies. Nobody looked at the
beautiful evening sky, nor at the round red moon coming up like a
lamp behind the trees, nor at the first stars peeping out, nor even
at the green light of the glow-worm--all which were more beautiful
than anything Ida had shown them, except perhaps the hothouse
flowers; and at last two such cross ill-tempered voices sounded from
Bessie and Annie, that Christabel turned round and declared that she
should not let the sugar-plums be touched for a week if another word
were said about them.
She hoped that when the visit was over it would be done with; but no
such thing. Though Susan was her own good hearty self, Elizabeth had
not recovered either on that day of the next from the effects of the
pleasuring. On each she cried over her lessons, and was cross at
whatever the boys said to her, made a fuss about keeping the
ornamental cases of the bon-bons, and went about round-backed,
peevish, and discontented, finding everything flat and ugly after her
one peep at the luxuries of the Park. Her farthings melted away
fast; but she seemed to think this her misfortune, not her fault.
She did not try to talk to Miss Fosbrook, feeling perhaps that she
was in a naughty mood, which she would not try to shake off; and she
made no attempt to go on with her present for her Mamma, it looked so
poor and trumpery after the beautiful things she had seen.
Nor did Christabel like to remind her of it, fearing that the
occasion for giving it might never come; but she did feel that it was
a mournful thing to see the child, who was in danger of so fearful a
sorrow, wasting her grief in pining after foolish fancies, and
turning what should have been a refreshing holiday into an occasion
of longing after what she thus made into pomps and vanities of this
wicked world. Christabel had heard that people who murmur among
blessings often have those blessings snatched away, and this made her
tremble for poor little discontented Elizabeth.
"There!" exclaimed Susan, "I really have got a letter from Papa
himself. What a prize!"
"You'll have to mind your Grosvenor when you answer HIM," said Sam;
"but hollo, what's the matter?"
For Susan's eyes had grown large, and her whole face scarlet, and she
gave a little cry as she read.
"Your Mamma, my dear?" asked Miss Fosbrook.
"Oh, Mamma--Mamma is so very ill!" and Susan throw the letter down,
and broke into a fit of sobbing.
Sam caught it up, and Elizabeth came to read it with him, both
standing still and not speaking a word, but staring at the letter
with their eyes fixed.
"What is it, my dear?" said Miss Fosbrook, tenderly putting her arm
round Susan; but she sobbed too much to make a word distinct, and
Bessie held out the letter to her governess, looking white, and too
much awed to speak.
Captain Merrifield wrote in short, plain, sad words, that he thought
it right that his children should know how matters stood. The
doctors' treatment, for which their mother had been taken to London,
had not succeeded, but had occasioned such terrible illness, that
unless by the mercy of God she became much better in the course of a
day or two, she could not live. If she should be worse, he would
either write or telegraph, and Susan and Sam must be ready to set out
at once on the receipt of such a message, and come up by the next
train to London, where they should be met at the station. He had
promised their mother that in case of need he would send for them.
God bless you, my poor children, and have mercy on us all!
Your loving father,
That was all; and Christabel felt, more than even the children did,
from how full and heavy a heart those words had been written.
Though she hardly knew how to speak, she tried to comfort Susan by
showing her that her father had evidently not given up all hope; but
Susan was crying more at the thought of her Mamma's present illness
and pain than with fear of the future; and Sam said sadly, "He would
not have written at all unless it had been very bad indeed."
"Yes," said Miss Fosbrook; "but I believe, in cases like this, there
is often great fear, and then very speedy improvement."
"Oh dear," said Bessie, speaking for the first time, "I know it will
be. Little girls in story-books always do have their mammas--die!"
"Story-books are all nonsense, so it won't happen," said Sam; and
really it seemed as if the habit of contradicting Bessie had
suggested to him the greatest consolation that had yet occurred.
Just then Henry and the younger ones came in, and learnt the tidings.
Henry wept as bitterly as his elder sister, and John and Annie both
did the same; but David did not speak one word, as if he hardly took
in what was the matter, and, going to the window, took up his lesson-
books as usual.
"It is nine o'clock, Hal," said Sam presently.
"Oh, we can't go to Mr. Carey to-day," said Hal.
"Yes, we shall," returned Sam.
"Oh don't," cried Susan. "Suppose a telegraph should come!"
"Well, then you can send for me," said Sam. "Come, Hal."
"How can you, Sam?" said Henry crossly; "I know Mr. Carey will give
us leave when he knows."
"I don't want leave," said Sam; "I don't want to kick up a row, as
you'll do if you stay at home."
"Well then, if the message comes, I shall take Susie to London
instead of you. I'm sure they want me most!"
"No, go down to Mr. Carey's with your brother, if you please, Hal,"
said Miss Fosbrook decidedly. "If he should tell you not to stay, I
can't help it; but you will none of you do any good by hanging about
without doing your daily duties."
Hal saw he had no chance, and marched off, muttering about its being
very hard. Sam picked up his books, and turned to go, with a grave
steady look that was quite manly in its sadness, only stopping to
say, "Now, Jackie, you be good!--Please Miss Fosbrook, let him run
down after me if the message comes, and I'll be back before the horse
Miss Fosbrook promised, and could not help shaking hands with the
brave boy, if only to show that she felt with him.
"Then must we all do our lessons?" asked Annie disconsolately, when
he was gone.
"Yes, my dear; I think we shall all be the better for not neglecting
what we ought to do. But there is one thing that we can do for your
dear Mamma; you know what I mean. Suppose you each went away alone
for five minutes, and were to come back when I ring the little bell?"
The first to come back was Annie, with the question in a low whisper,
"Miss Fosbrook, will God make Mamma better if we are very good?"
Miss Fosbrook kissed her, saying, "My dear little girl, I cannot
tell. All I can certainly tell you is, that He hears the prayers of
good children, and if it be better for her and for you He will give
her back to you."
Annie did not quite understand, but she entered into what Miss
Fosbrook said enough to wish to be good; so she took up her book, and
began to learn with all her might.
Elizabeth would have thought it much more like a little girl in a
book to have done no lessons, but have sat thinking, and perhaps
reading the Bible all day; but on the whole Elizabeth had hardly
thoughts enough to last her so long; nor was she deep or serious
enough to have done herself much good by keeping the Bible open
before her. In fact she did lose her verse in merely reading the
chapter for the day! So it was just as well that she had something
to do that was not play, and that was a duty, and thus might give the
desire to be good something to bear upon.
But Christabel saw by Susan's face, and heard in the shaken voice
with which she took her turn in the reading, that she could not have
given her mind to her tasks, and did not need them to keep her out of
mischief. It would have been cruel to have required her to sit down
to them just then, and her governess was glad to be able to excuse
her on account of the packing-up. All her things and Sam's must be
got ready in case of an immediate start, and she was sent up to the
nursery to take care of the little ones, while Nurse and Mary mended,
ironed, and packed.
To be sure Nurse Freeman made poor Susan unnecessarily unhappy by
being sure that it was all the fault of the London doctors; but she
was a kind, tender old woman, and her petting was a great comfort to
the poor girl. What did her most good, however, was sitting quite
quiet with the little ones while they were asleep, and all alone; it
seemed to rest and compose her, and she always loved to be in charge
of them. Poor child! she might soon have to be their little mother!
She was able to play with them when they awoke, and cheered herself
up with their pretty ways, and by finding how quickly Baby was
learning to walk. Ah! but would Mamma ever see her walk?
If any of the children thought it unjust that Susan's lessons should
be let off, they were wrong. Parents and teachers must have the
power of doing such things without being judged. Sometimes they see
that a child is really unable to learn, when the others perceive no
difference; and it would be very harsh and cruel to oppress one who
is out of order for fear little silly, idle, healthy things should
think themselves hardly used.
At any rate, the lessons were capitally done; and when the children
met again, they were all so much brighter and more hopeful, that they
quite believed that their Mamma was going to get better very fast.
Bessie especially was so resolved that thus it should be, that she
shut herself into Miss Fosbrook's room, and drew and painted with all
her might, as if preparing for Mamma's birthday made it certain that
it would be kept.
The boys brought word that they would have a holiday the next day, as
it was the Feast of St. Barnabas, and after morning service Mr.
Carey was going to meet his brother and bring him home.
"I shall be all the more certain to get the sovereign, or two
sovereigns," said Henry to David, the only person whom he could find
to listen to him, "if Sam is gone; and everyone will be caring about
"And then you'll give it to the pig," said David.
"Oh yes, to be sure. You will grow into a pig yourself if you go on
that way, David."
However, David, partaking the family distrust of Hal's birds-in-the-
bush, and being started on the subject of the hoard, ran up to Sam,
who was learning his lessons by way of something to do, and said, "If
you go to London, Sam, may I have your sixpence on Monday for the
"I don't know that I am going."
"But if you do--or we sha'n't get the pig."
"I don't care."
"Don't you care if we don't get the pig?"
"No. Be off with you."
David next betook himself to his eldest sister, who was trying to
write to her father, and finding such a letter harder and sadder work
than that to Ida Greville, though no one teased her about writing,
blots, or spelling.
"If you go to London, Susie," said he, in the very same words, "may I
have your sixpence on Monday for the pig?"
"Oh, Davie, don't be tiresome!"
David only said it over again in the same words, and put his hand
down on her letter in his earnestness.
"Come away, Davie," said Miss Fosbrook; "don't tease your sister."
"I want her to say I may have her sixpence on Monday for the pig."
"No, you sha'n't, then," said Susan angrily; "you care for the nasty
pig more than for poor Mamma or anyone else, and you sha'n't have
So seldom did Susan say anything cross, that everyone looked up
surprised. Miss Fosbrook saw that it was sheer unhappiness that made
her speak sharply, and would not take any notice, except by gently
taking away the pertinacious David.
He was very much distressed at the refusal; and when Miss Fosbrook
told him that his brother and sister could not think of such things
when they were in such trouble, he only answered, "But Hannah Higgins
won't get her pig."
Miss Fosbrook was vexed herself that her friend David should seem
possessed with this single idea, as if it shut out all others from
his mind. He was consoled fast enough; for Susan, with another great
sob, threw down her pen, and coming up to stroke him down with her
inky fingers, cried out, "O Davie, Davie, I didn't mean it; I don't
know why I said it. You shall have my sixpence, or anything! But,
oh dear, I wish the message was come, and we were going to dear
Mamma, for I can't write, and I don't know what to do."
Then she went back to her place, and tried to write, and sat with her
head on her hand, and dawdled and cried and blotted till it grew so
near post-time that at last Miss Fosbrook took the longest of her
scrawls, and writing three lines at the bottom to say how it was with
them all, directed it to Captain Merrifield, thinking that he would
like it better than nothing from home, sent it off, and made Susan
come out to refresh her hot eyes and burning head in the garden.
Sam presently came and walked on her other side, gravely and in
silence, glad to be away from the chatter and disputes of the younger
ones. That summons had made them both feel older, and less like
children, than ever before; but they did not speak much, only, when
they sat down on a garden bench, as Miss Fosbrook held Susan's hand,
she presently found some rough hard young fingers stealing into her
own on the other side, and saw Sam's eyes glistening with unshed
tears. She stroked his hand, and they dropped fast: but he was
ashamed to cry, and quickly dried them.
"I think," she said, "that you will be a man, Sam; take care of
Susan, and be a comfort to your father."
"I hope I shall," said Sam; "but I don't know how."
"Nobody can tell how beforehand," she said. "Only watch to see what
he may seem to want to have done for him. Sit quietly by, and don't
get in the way."
"Were you ever so unhappy, Miss Fosbrook?" asked Susan.
"Yes, once I was, when my father was knocked down by an omnibus, and
was very ill."
"Tell us about it?" said Susan.
She did tell them of her week of sorrow and anxious care of the
younger children, and the brightening ray of hope at last. It seemed
to freshen both up, and give them hopes, for each drew a long sigh of
relief; and then Sam said, "Papa wrote to Mr. Carey. She is to be
prayed for in church to-morrow."
"Oh," said Susan, with a sound as of dismay, which made Christabel
ask in wonder why she was sorry, when, from Susan's half-uttered
words, she found that the little girl fancied that a "happy issue out
of all her afflictions" meant death.
"Oh no, my dear," she said. "What it means is, that the afflictions
may end happily in whatever way God may see to be best; it may be in
getting well; it may be the other way: at any rate, it is asking
that the distress may be over, not saying how."
"Isn't there some other prayer in the Prayer-book about it?" said
Sam, looking straight before him.
"I will show you where to find it, in the Visitation of the Sick. I
dare say it has often been read to her."
The boy and girl came in with her, and brought their Prayer-books to
her room, that she might mark them.
This had been a strange, long, sad day of waiting and watching for
the telegram, and the children even fancied it might come in the
middle of the night; but Miss Fosbrook thought this unlikely, and
looked for the morrow's post. There was no letter. It was very
disappointing, but Miss Fosbrook thought it a good sign, since at
least the danger could not be more pressing, and delay always left
room for hope.
The children readily believed her; they were too young to go on
dwelling long on what was not in sight; and even Susan was cheerful,
and able to think about other things after her night's rest, and the
relief of not hearing a worse account.
The children might do as they pleased about going to church on
saints' days, and on this day all the three girls wished to go, as
soon as it had been made clear that even if the message should come
before the short service would be over, there would be ample time to
reach the station before the next train. Miss Fosbrook was glad to
prove this, for not only did she wish to have them in church, but she
thought the weary watching for the telegram was the worst thing
possible for Susan. Sam was also going to church, but Henry hung
back, after accompanying them to the end of the kitchen-garden. "I
wouldn't go, Sam; just suppose if the message came without anyone at
home, and you had to set out at once!"
"We couldn't," said Sam; "there's no train."
"Oh, but they always put on a special train whenever anyone is ill."
"Then there would be plenty!"
"At least they did when Mr. Greville's mother was ill, so they will
now; and then you may ride upon the engine, for there won't be any
carriages, you know. I say, Sam, if you go to church, and the
telegraph comes, I shall set off."
"You'll do no such thing," said Sam. "You had much better come to
"No, I sha'n't. It is like a girl to go to church on a week-day."
"It is much more like a girl to mind what a couple of asses, like the
Grevilles, say," returned Sam, taking up his cap and running after
his sisters and their governess.
"It is quite right," observed Henry to John and David, who alone
remained to listen to him, "that one of us should stay in case the
telegraph comes in, and there are any orders to give. I can catch
the pony, you know, and ride off to Bonchamp, and if the special
train is there, I shall get upon the engine."
"But it is Sam and Susan who are going."
"Oh, that's only because Sam is eldest. I know Mamma would like to
have me much better, because I don't walk hard like Sam; and when I
get there, she will be so much better already, and we shall be all
right; and Admiral Penrose will be so delighted at my courage in
riding on the engine and putting out the explosion, or something,
that he will give me my appointment as naval cadet at once, and I
shall have a dirk and a uniform, and a chest of my own, and be an
officer, and get promoted for firing red-hot shot out of the
batteries at Gibraltar."