« AnteriorContinuar »
would have been with half the sum, or double.
about amusement. You've got your own at home.”
Mrs. McCracken smiled, paused, looked at the fire-place with the air of having forgotten something, and resumed her knitting. Then she observed
“I don't care for theatricals, if that's what you mean, Ally. You know I never did."
“I know you were always Little Mother, weren't you, Nellie? Always staid and quiet, and ever so many years older than you really are."
“Nellie has a good deal to occupy her time," said Mrs. Comberwood, who was rather reserved in evincing her own admiration for her second daughter. She was afraid of her.
“Yes, of course she has. She was cut out for a clergyman's wife.” Then she added, as if fearful of having said something unkind, “Dear Andrew ! I'nı sure there's not a better brother-inlaw in the world.”
“Nor husband," said Nellie, sedately.
“Yet I do think,” cried Alice impul sively, “that clergymen ought not to marry.”
“My dear Alice !” exclaimed Mrs. Comberwood, who had caught a whisper of this before among the “newfangled notions."
“Then all the young curates would be licensed to flirt on the premises. Very dangerous !” laughed the elder sister, speaking as one who, from her experience, could afford to ridicule such a notion. In her old-fashioned and well-regulated ideas, a clergyman was, necessarily, a marrying man. If it was not good for man, of the laity, to be alone, much less was it for man, of the clergy.
Alice saw matters in a very different light, and was in a beat directly.
“I don't see why they should flirt."
“ It is their nature to," said Mrs. McCracken, still laughing.
“Nature, dear! There is something more than nature required for a clergy
man,” replied Alice, warming with her subject.
"Something more than nature ? Well good-nature, I suppose."
Alice did not approve of this levity on so serious a subject; or rather on a subject which she had chosen to make so sacred. Yet she had given herself a mission, which was to convert her family—from their own views to hers. The service, at Andrew McCracken's church, was as unpalatable to Alice as the informalities of a meetinghouse; and she thought that could she influence Andrew in the direction of ornate devotions, and just a trifle more surplice and stole to begin with, what a great thing it would be for—for what? Well, she would not hesitate to reply“For the future of Anglicanism." This I heard her say to Austin, who seemed to ponder her words, as he caressed his favourite sister.
They dearly loved each other. Austin was two years her junior, yet his grave countenance and generally delicate appearance, gave him an air of seniority which was much increased by his calm demeanours and thoughtful way of speaking. He was a born student. Alice sipped books; Austin drank them to the dregs. Alice was easily daunted by uncut leaves ; Austin facerl them knife in hand, and conquered. Alice peeped at the last page of a novel to see how it ended; then she skipped all the descriptions, and alighted only on points of dialogue, or action, Her bent was dramatic. Austin trudged through the book-country bravely, taking it as it came-heavy plough, marsh, shady lane, or hard, open road. He paused to admire, or to reckon up matters between reader and author. He missed nothing, and, having once read any passage of more than ordinary merit, he remembered it, sometimes literally, but always its proper sense. I have already said how he told me most of the Waverley novels. It is a great tribute to the skill he brought to this kindly, self-imposed task, to record, that when I came to read “Ivanhoe,". “Guy Mannering,"and the “Talisman,"
I was, in a manner, disappointed. audience. I know," she added, in Austin's voice was wanting, and he had despairing accents, “I shall never be made reading a trouble to me. It had able to do anything before him.” been so delightful to lie in bed, gradually Oh, I could have demolished him sinking to rest, to the delicious music there and then. Afraid of him! Whatof romance and chivalry.
ever his cleverness, I despised him. I Austin had now joined them, having rather fancy I expressed myself so entered the dining-room in search of strongly to this effect, as to cause them me, and the conversation took a new all, including Alice, considerable amuseturn.
I wished at that moment that the drama "Well, Austy."
could have been “Blue Beard," with “The carpenter is here about the Cavander as the celebrated polygamist, arrangements for the stage in the Alice for Fatima, and myself as Selim, drawing-room. You understand these to rush in just as his scimitar was matters better than I; will you see coming down, and—whish-run him him ?"
through the body. The theatricals with “Yes, at once.”
which I would have amused the com"Does Mr. Cavander come home to pany, should have been the kind of enday?" asked Austin of his mother, as tertainment that upset the Danish court, Alice was leaving the room.
and made the wicked King go supperShe stopped at the door. I was less to bed. naturally interested in the reply, and The preparations occupied Alice and looked from Alice to Mrs. Comberwood, her brother Dick the greater part of and then back again.
the morning, and at luncheon Cavander "Yes. He will come down with was again mentioned. your father this afternoon.".
“He's rather like a Jew," said young “I know some one who'll be delighted Dick, boldly. to see him," observed Mrs. McCracken, “Have you ever seen a Jew?” asked
Alice, colouring. Alice blushed. At that minute I “Yes, at school. A chap very like knew some one who would not be de- Cavander " lighted to see him. That some one was “Mister Cavander," interposed his myself.
mother, correcting him. Alice, mind, was just on eighteen; “They do not learn manners at I was thirteen and a half. Mr. Cavan- school,” said Alice. der's youth, or age, was of no con "And they don't teach 'em at home,” sequence to me: I was jealous of retorted Dick, who had a hot temper. him. I disliked him already: now, I “ Hush, Dick," said Austin, gravely. could have challenged him with the “Oh, humbug !” cried Dick, who greatest possible pleasure, and should had somehow got thoroughly out of bave disposed of him with rapture temper with everybody. “Cavander's a
I think I must have blushed deeply fool, and Alice makes such a fuss about on this occasion, as Mrs. Comberwood him." and Mrs. McCracken both laughed. I could have embraced him.
“Well,” said Alice, still at the door, He went on : as if the subject had so great an at- “Yes, you do, Alice ; and you look traction for her that she must speak on at him when you're talking, as if you it, “I do like him. He's very clever; wanted to know whether you're saying isn't he, Austy?"
your lesson right-and-when he's here Austin smiled. He only asked if Mr. you never come with us-and--" Cavander was going to take a part. He couldn't fire off his revolver quick
"No," said Alice, “that's the worst enough. But before he was stopped-as of it. He's coming to be among the he was with spirit by Alice, who was
No. 165.—VOL. XXVIII.
immediately backed by her mother's whip him-hey?” Then he followed authority-I think one bullet had cer- his wife into the library. tainly gone straight home. In a half While we were all here, Alice returned. apologetic, half-sulky tone, Dick con- She came in from her ride the very tinued, giving a last shot as he retired, - picture of full bloom. The sweet scent
“Well, you know you do. You're of the fresh country air was upon her: always talking with him about churches, its fragrance about her. As she walked and that sort of thing."
into the study amongst the old musty Alice brightened up, and the two books, it was like letting the bright light other ladies smiled. The absurdity of of a May morning in upon a closely Alice's attempting such a conversion as curtained chamber. Mr. Cavander's had often, ere now, been “Miss Alice ! how well you are looka subject for their quiet merriment. ing!” said Cavander, advancing to take
“It's a fancy she has at present," was her hand, in evident admiration. Mrs. Comberwood's opinion; "she'll Ah ! she had not seen him at first : give it up as she gets older.”
“it was so dark,” she said, “coming out In the afternoon Alice and Dick of the open air.” went out riding. I was offered a pony, “Shall we return to it, if you are not but did not feel quite certain of my fatigued with your ride ?” he asked, capabilities, although I should have and his voice was so sweetly modulated, liked to have accompanied Alice. and yet so strangely to my ears, that it
Later on Mr. Comberwood arrived, was like the effect of a commonplace bringing down a heap of packages from tune, set by a skilled musician to the town, and appearing, as Mr. Verney most perfect harmonies. might have described him, “in his “Yes, I am a little tired," returned character of Izaak Walton, on the thres- Alice. “Come and see Bess before hold of the honest alehouse, where he they put her into her stall. She was a was welcomed by the buxom hostess” favourite of yours, you remember. She's —that is, with the usual basket of fish. so much improved, you wouldn't know Having seen his parcels all deposited, her again.” and kissed his wife, he said, briefly, “ That's unkind, Miss Alice. I'm “Here's Cavander," rather as if he had not a George the Fourth. I never forget counted him among the packages, and a favourite." after the turbot.
So chatting, they left the room. He “Anyone else ?” inquired Mrs. Com- had taken no notice of me, beyond sayberwood, after welcoming her visitor. ing, “Ah, you again,” when he first
“Let me seo-let me see," said Mr. entered. Comberwood, fumbling about in all his Cavander classed boys with toy dogs pockets, one after the other, as though –expensive, useless, stupid, dirty, and he had mislaid a friend or two in an always in the way. odd corner. “No, not to-day-not Master Dick's behaviour towards him to-day.”
was consistently sulky, and to my mind He chorused his last words in his Cavander was less of a Doctor Fell than fussy way, walking about, and sniffing heretofore, as now I had positive and suspiciously, in a fee-fo-fum and ogreish clear reasons for disliking him. fashion, and then stopped to stare at Had I been asked what harm could me, with an expression of comic surprise possibly come from Alice's partiality at seeing me before him on that par- for Mr. Cavander and his liking for ticular occasion.
her, of course I should have been “I've seen your Uncle Van, to-day- utterly at a loss for an answer. I hey? Yes "
was in a minority, without even the “ Any message for me, sir ?" I asked, shadow of a right to an objection. Dick with an air of importance.
was with me to a certain extent. Austin “ Yes-of course—he said bad boy tolerated him on his sister's account,
and committed himself to no opinion on Cavander, except as to his cleverness, which he admitted. Indeed, with Alice, he was fond of listening to him talking on most subjects. The family generally appeared to be proud of their visitor. I was ignorant of evil, but I was jealous. Being jealous, I was suspicious of there being a great deal more than met the eve; but as to the nature and extent of what I feared, I was totally in the dark.
Ignorance is the best soil for suspicion, and, therefore, mine flourished prodigiously.
RINGHURST – PROSPECTIVE ARRANGEMENTS-FIRESIDE FANCIES--ARRIVALS -A FULL HOUSE-I AM STARTLEDTHE RESULT OF UNCLE VAN'S DILEMMA,
The piece to be played by our elders in the Ringhurst Whiteboys back-draw. ing-room was a French proverbe, with which a grateful English public had already been made acquainted by the help of a kindly version rendered into language understanded of the people. Alice had read this aloud one evening to her parents, and had suggested “ getting it up.” So it was got up, and to avert hostile criticism, and to keep the evening's entertainment to its original domestic character, Alice arranged a little after-piece, as already described, wherein, however, her brothers would not play unless she joined them, as authoress and actress. So she consented, and stooped to the pigmies in order to disarm the giants. Her appearance, in Naughty Little Blue Beard, seemed to introduce the reality of children's make-believes, and the freshness of innocence among such otherwise overpowering vanities as were those of costuming, painting, and directing and ordering at rehearsals.
And what to all well-regulated minds, let me ask, is the attraction to us Seniors (we do not go to the back of the box always, or if we do, we push our selves forward into priority when we think there's something we haven't seen,
though we know we shall pooh-pooh it afterwards)—what, I ask, is the attraction to us, at Christmas-time, in the heated, noisy theatre, if it is not the sunny smiles of the children making the gas-light garish? To see them all in a row, gloves, oranges, and playbills—a ripple of laughing waters-it does your heart good, and warms you towards the oldest' jokes, clumsiest tricks, and stalest stage devices. But, understand me, even in this retrospect I say distinctly to see them, not to bring them. I once unbosomed myself sweetly on this subject at a table where, it being Christmas-tide, the hospitality was profuse, and there were olives to the wine, and olive-branches round about; and the good hostess exclaimed, “ You love children! Ah!”-here she turned up her eyes, and thanked heaven for a man, and not a brute_“I will give you a treat. Will you come to the pantomime with us to-morrow week ?” I was ravished, I was enchanted, I would look forward to it with rapture. The day came—so did the evening. Dinner was provided at five, that we might be in time. In time for what ? For the first piece before the pantomime, which is, I am aware, played by the most patient and energetic artists, amid howls and execrations from the upper and uppermost galleries. It was a tea-dinner, too, such as I have already described as having fallen to the lot of Uncle Van. In fact, it was not a dinner at all, considering what I had had at that house. Papa was obliged, he artfully said, to leave us on business, but would join us at the theatre. The sneak! He deserved his amiable wife's cutting sarcasm, wherein she drew the happy comparison between the bachelor who doated on children (me), and the husband who avoided them (him). But oh, the miseries! I had to sit on the box of the fly. I had to hold everything; argue with everybody; pay anybody who preferred a claim. Finally, I was put right at the back of the private box, where I leaned my head against the side, like a disjointed punch-doll, in the vain attempt to catch even a glimpse of a
dragon's tail. The next day I had a were the cups to make you wink, and cold and a stiff neck. But, even on gasp, but clutch the handle all the more this purgatorial occasion, their infantine firmly for such expressions of emotion; hilarity came to me like a message from and these cups he would recommend to heaven ; for assuredly it told me of his gossips. good things going on in an unseen However, much had to be done before world (I have said the stage was we arrived at the supper, which to some invisible to me on account of my posi- of us boys was not by any means the tion), concerning which I could only least portion of the evening's amuseguess, or take their statements.
ment. The announcement, then, that the I had to work for my meal for days lesser Comberwoods were going to play a before—that is, I had to study Baron little piece written by their elder sister, Abomelique, be perpetually called into drew (so to speak) a house, and many the housekeeper's room to try somewrote for permission to bring friends—a thing on (for our dresses were homefree-and-easy way of increasing a party made), and to be ready at any moment to any extent, much practised both in to hear Austin, Dick, or Alice, if retown and country, and often taken as quired by them to lend them my ears, the discharge of an obligation. In this in return for theirs, occasionally. sense, as asking costs nothing, except Mr. Cavander lounged about, and perhaps the trouble of polishing up a when the important business of the certain amount of brass, the practice is morning was over-which was, of course, valuable, on economical grounds. our theatrical preparations-Dick would
The party had grown into something be called upon to ride with his sister like the proportions of a county ball, Alice, who was invariably accompanied and had begun to frighten Mrs. Comber- by Mr. Cavander. Dick sulked and wood. At this time Mrs. McCracken wouldn't, but Alice told him it was was most serviceable to her, and under- unkind, and then he obliged her. He took the general direction. As for often anticipated their return, riding Comberwood, he, for his part, would back alone. have had all England invited, and would When evening darkened the house, have “taxed the costs," severely, after- Alice, who loved the fire-light, as being wards.
“thinking-time," would sit in a low The county people liked the owner of chair, and hold silent communion with Ringhurst, and were inclined to be the glowing logs and coals. gathered together round his board, as Mr. Cavander was never far from her often as he liked to invite them. There at this hour; and, sometimes, Mamma was a jovial geniality and warmth about and Mrs. McCracken would consent to him, which was as attractive as sealing- take their refreshing cup of tea in the wax after friction. When they entered dark. This predilection for comparative Ringhurst, they felt, instinctively, that obscurity was unintelligible to the practhere was a round of beef, and a chine, tical elder sister. and a pasty, and a Tudoric flagon, in the “You can't read, you can't sew, and refectory—that, in short, they had not really there's something, to my mind, so been asked merely to heat the house oppressive in it, you can hardly talk," with their breath, and save the fuel. said Mrs. McCracken, who did not ap
No, Mr. Comberwood blazed out on prove of everyone giving way to Alice. his guests, and welcomed all without dis- “I do not always want to read, I do tinction. He had secret corners, though, not always want to sew, and I think for choice spirits who cared for oysters we all talk a great deal too much," said and stout (from London) in preferenceAlice, whose face was thrown into a to all the champagne and chicken you Rembrandt-like shade, by the red light could give them; and he knew, too, on her dress, from her knee downhaving concocted them himself, which wards.