Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

6

from hím a letter, which Meta had the next day, desiring her to stay for the Drawing-room. But Meta knew well enough how it was, and was not to be conquered that way; so she said she must go home to entertain her uncle, and that if her papa really wished it, she would return on Monday.'

Knowing well that Mr. Rivers would be only too glad to keep her.'

Just so. How happy they both did look, when they came in here on their way from the station where he had met her! How she danced in, and how she sparkled with glee !' said Margaret,

and poor Mr. Rivers was quite tremulous with the joy of having her back, hardly able to keep from fondling her every minute, and coming again into the room after they had taken leave, to tell me that his little girl had preferred her home, and her poor old father, to all the pleasures in London. Oh! I was so glad they came ! That was a sight that did one good! And then, I fancy Mr. Rivers is a wee bit afraid of his brother-in-law, for he begged papa and Flora to come home and dine with them, but Flora was engaged to Mrs. Hoxton.'

"Ha! Flora l' said Norman, as if he rather enjoyed her losing something through her going to Mrs. Hoxton. I suppose she would have given the world to go!'

'I was so sorry,' said Ethel, but I had to go instead, and it was delightful. Papa made great friends with Lord Cosham, while Mr. Rivers went to sleep after dinner, and I had such a delightful wandering with Meta, listening to the nightingales, and hearing all about it. I never knew Meta so well before.'

"And there was no more question of her going back ?' said Norman.

“No, indeed! She said, when her uncle asked in joke, on Monday morning, whether she had packed up to return with him, Mr. Rivers was quite nervously alarmed the first moment, lest she should intend it.'

That little Meta,' said Margaret. Her wishes for substantial use have been pretty well realized !!

• Um !' said Ethel.

• What do you mean ?' said Norman, sharply. 'I should call her present .position the perfection of feminine usefulness.

"So perhaps it is,' said Ethel ; 'but though she does it beauti fully, and is very valuable; to be the mistress of a great luxurious house, like that, does not seem to me the subject of aspirations like Meta’s.'

* Think of the contrast with what she used to be,' said Margaret, gently, the pretty, gentle, playful toy that her father brought her up to be, living a life of mere accomplishments and self-indulgence; kind certainly, but never so as to endure any disagreeables, or make any exertion. But as soon as she entered into the true spirit of our

VOL. II.-1*

calling, did she not begin to seek to live the sterner life, and train herself in duty ? The quiet way she took always seemed to me the great beauty of it. She makes duties of her accomplishments by making them loving obedience to her father.'

· Not that they are not pleasant to her ?' interposed Norman.

Certainly,' said Margaret, but it gives them the zest, and confidence that they are right, which one could not have in such things merely for one's own amusement.'

Yes,' said Ethel, she does more; she told me one day that one reason she liked sketching was, that looking into nature always made Psalms and Hymns sing in her ears, and so with her music and her beautiful copies from the old Italian devotional pictures. She says our papa taught her to look at them so as to see more than the mere art and beauty.'

Think how diligently she measures out her day,' said Margaret; getting up early, to be sure of time for reading her serious books, and working hard at her tough studies.'

• And what I care for still more,' said Ethel, 'her being bent on learning plain needlework and doing it for her poor people. She is so useful amongst the cottagers at Abbotstoke!

"And a famous little mistress of the house,' added Margaret. When the old housekeeper went away two years ago, she thouglit she ought to know something about the government of the house; so she asked me about it, and proposed to her father that the new one should come to her for orders, and that she should pay the wages and have the accounts in her hands. Mr. Rivers thought it was only a freak, but she has gone on steadily; and I assure you, she has had some difficulties, for she has come to me about them. Perhaps Ethel does not believe in them ?'

'No, I was only thinking how I should hate ordering those fanciful dinners for Mr. Rivers. I know what you mean, and how she had difficulties about sending the maids to Church, and in dealing with the cook who did harm to the other servants, and yet sent up dinners that he liked, and how puzzled she was how to avoid annoying him. Oh! she has got into a peck of troubles by making herself manager.

' And had she not been the Meta she is, she would either have fretted, or thrown it all up, instead of humming briskly through all. She never was afraid to speak to anyone,' said Margaret, that is ono thing; I believe every difficulty makes the spirit bound higher, till Ahe springs over it, and finds it, as she says, only a pleasure.'

She need not be afraid to speak,' said Ethel, 'for she always does it well and willingly. I have seen her give a reproof in so firm and kind a way, and so bright in the instant of forgiveness.'

'Yes,' said Margaret, she does those disagreeable things as well as Flora does in her way.'

1

[ocr errors]

And yet,' said Ethel, doing things well does not seem to be a snare to her.'

Because,' whispered Margaret, 'she fulfils more than almost anyone-the-“Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”'

*Do you know,' said Norman, suddenly, 'the derivation of Margarita ?'

No further than those two pretty meanings, the pearl and the daisy,' said Ethel.

It is from the Persian Mervarid, child of light,' said Norman; and, with a sudden flush of colour, he returned to the garden.

'A fit meaning for one who carries sunshine with her,' said Margaret. “I feel in better tune, for a whole day, after her bright eyes have been smiling on me.'

You want no one to put you in tune,' said Ethel fondly—'you, our own pearl of light.'

No, call me only an old faded daisy,' said Margaret sadly. 'Not a bit, only our moon, la gran Margarita,' said Ethel.

'I hear the real daisy coming !' exclaimed Margaret, her face lighting up with pleasure as the two youngest children entered, and indeed, little Gertrude's golden hair, round open face, fresh red and white complexion, and innocent looks, had so much likeness to the flower, as to promote the use of the pet name, though protests were often made in favour of her proper appellation. Her temper was daisy-like too, serene and loving, and able to bear a great deal of spoiling, and resolve as they might, who was not her slave ?

Miss Winter no longer ruled the school-room. Her sway had been brought to a happy conclusion by a proposal from a widowed sister to keep house with her; and Ethel had reason to rejoice that Margaret had kept her submissive under authority, which, if not always judicious, was both kind and conscientious.

Upon the change, Ethel had thought that the lessons could easily be managed by herself and Flora; while Flora was very anxious for a finishing governess, who might impart singing to herself, graces to Ethel, and accomplishments to Mary and Blanche.

Dr. May, however, took them both by surprise. He met with a family of orphans, the eldest of whom had been qualifying herself for a governess, and needed nothing but age and finish; and in ten minutes after the project had been conceived, he had begun to put it iu execution, in spite of Flora's prudent demurs.

Miss Bracy was a gentle, pleasing young person, pretty to look at, with her soft olive complexion, and languid pensive eyes, obliging and intelligent; and the change from the dry, authoritative Miss Winter, was so delightful, that unedifying contrasts were continually being drawn. Blanche struck up a great friendship for her at once, Mary, always docile, ceased to be piteous at her lessons, and Ethel moralised on the satisfaction of having sympathy needed

her son.

instead of repelled, and did her utmost to make Miss Bracy feel at home--and like a friend-in her new position.

For herself, Ethel had drawn up a beautiful time-table, with all her pursuits and duties most carefully balanced, after the pattern of that which Margaret Rivers had made by her advice, on the departure of Mrs. Larpent, who had been called away by the ill health of

Meta had adhered to hers in an exemplary manner, but she was her own mistress in a manner that could hardly be the lot of one of a large family.

Margaret had become subject to languor and palpitations, and the headship of the household had fallen entirely upon Flora, who, on the other hand, was a person of multifarious occupations, and always had a great number of letters to write, or songs to copy and practise, which, together with her frequent visits to Mrs. Hoxton, made her glad to devolve as much as she could upon her younger sister; and,“ O Ethel, you will not mind just doing this for me,' was said often enough to be a tax upon her time.

Moreover, Ethel perceived that Aubrey's lessons were in an unsatisfactory state. Margaret could not always attend to them, and suffered from them when she did; and he was bandied about between his sisters and Miss Bracy in a manner that made him neither attentive nor obedient.

On her own principle, that to embrace a task heartily, renders it no longer irksome, she called on herself to sacrifice her studies and her regularity as far as was needful, to make her available for home requirements. She made herself responsible for Aubrey, and, after a few battles with his desultory habits, made him a very promising pupil, inspiring so much of herself into him, that he was, if anything, overfull of her classical tastes. In fact, he had such an appetite for books, and dealt so much in precocious wisdom, that his father was heard to say, “Six years old! It is a comfort that he will soon forget the whole.”

Gertrude was also Ethel's pupil, but learning was not at all in her line; and the sight of “ Cobwebs to Catch Flies,” or of the venerated “ Little Charles," were the most serious clouds, that made tho Daisy pucker up her face, and infuse a whine into her voice.

However, to-day, as usual, she was half dragged, half coaxed, through her day's portion of the discipline of life, and then sent up for her sleep, while Aubrey's two hours were spent in more agree able work, such as Margaret could not but enjoy hearing—so spirited was Ethel's mode of teaching—so eager was her scholar.

His play afterwards consisted in lighting o'er again the siege of Troy on the floor, with wooden bricks, shells, and the survivors of a Noah's ark, while Ethel read to Margaret until Gertrude’s de. scent from the nursery, when the only means of preventing a dire confusion in Aubrey's camp was, for her elder sisters to become her play-fellows, and so spare Aubrey's tempor. Ethel good-humouredly

[ocr errors]

gave her own time, till their little tyrant trotted out to make Norman carry her round the garden on his back!

So sped the morning till Flora came home, full of the intended bazaar, and Ethel would fain have taken refuge in puzzling out her Spanish, had she not remembered her recent promise to be gracious.

The matter had been much as she had described it. Flora had a way of hinting at anything she thought creditable, and thus the Stoneborough public had become aware of the exertions of the May family on behalf of Cocksmoor.

The plan of a Fancy Fair was started. Mrs. Hoxton became more interested than was her wont, and Flora was enchanted at the opening it gave for promoting the welfare of the forlorn district. She held a position which made her hope to direct the whole. As she had once declared, with truth, it only had depended on themselves, whether she and her sisters should sink to the level of the Andersons, and their set, or belong to the county society; and her tact had resulted in her being decidedly—as the little dress-maker's apprentice amused Ethel by saying—"One of our most distinguished patronesses -a name that had stuck by her ever since.

Margaret looked on passively, inclined to admire Flora in everything, yet now and then puzzled; and her father, in his simplehearted

way, felt only gratitude and exultation in the kindness that his daughter met with. As to the bazaar, if it had been started in his own family, he might have weighed the objections, but, as it was not his daughter's own concern, he did not trouble himself about it, only regarding it as one of the many vagaries of the ladies of Stoneborough.

So the scheme had been further developed, till now Flora came in with much to tell. The number of stalls had been finally fixed. Mrs. Hoxton undertook one, with Flora as an aid-de-camp, and some nieces to assist ; Lady Leonora was to chaperon Miss Rivers; and a third, to Flora's regret, had been allotted to Miss Cleveland, a good-natured, merry, elderly heiress, who would, Flora feared, bring on them the whole “ Štoneborough crew.” And then she began to reckon up the present resources—drawings, bags, and pincushions. That chip hat you plaited for Daisy, Margaret, you must let us have that. It will be lovely, trimmed with pink.'

'Do you wish for this ?' said Ethel, heaving up a grim mass of knitting.

Thank you,' said Flora; “so ornamental, especially the original performance in the corner, which you would perpetrate, in spite of my best efforts.'

'I shall not be offended, if you despise it. I only thought you might have no more scruple in robbing Granny Hall, than in robbing Daisy.'

Pray send it. Papa will buy it as your unique performance.'

[ocr errors]
« PredošláPokračovať »