Charlotte M Yonge
Part 3 out of 5
the golden spurs being part of a knight's equipment. Do you remember
when the Cid's beloved king Don Sancho was killed, that Rodrigo could
not overtake the traitor Bellido Dolfos, because he had no spurs on,
whereupon he cursed every knight who should for the future ride
without them. Now that was at the time when the laws of chivalry
were attaining their perfection, but--'
'Not so fast,' said Anne; 'I have a much earlier pair of golden spurs
for you. Do not you remember Edmund, the last King of East Anglia,
being betrayed to the Danish wedding-party at Hoxne, by the glitter
of his golden spurs, and cursing every new married pair who should
ever pass over the bridge where he was found. I think that makes for
my side of the question. Here is Edmund, a knight in golden spurs
when Alfred was a child. Ah ha, Miss Lizzie!'
Before Elizabeth could answer, Winifred came to tell her that her
mamma wanted her, and she was forced to leave the question of King
Alfred's and King Edmund's chivalry undecided; for, to her praise be
it spoken, she was much too useful a person ever to be able to pursue
her own peculiar diversions for many minutes together. She had to
listen to some directions, and undertake some messages, so that she
could not return to her own room till after Anne had gone down-
stairs. She herself was not ready till just as the elders were
setting off to the dinner-party at Marlowe Court, and rejoicing in
the cessation of the rain and the fineness of the evening.
About half an hour afterwards, the young ladies assembled in the
inner drawing-room to drink tea. Helen, however, remained in the
outer drawing-room, practising her music, regardless of the sounds of
mirth that proceeded from the other room, until Elizabeth opened the
door, calling out,
'"Sweet bird, that shunnest the noise of folly,
Most musical, most melancholy,"
come in to tea, so please your highness.'
'What can you mean?' said Helen; 'I am sure I am not melancholy.'
'I am sure you shun the noise of folly,' said Elizabeth.
'I am sorry you consider all our merriment as folly,' said Anne,
hoping to save Helen.
'Indeed I do not,' said Elizabeth; 'it was no more folly than a
kitten's play, and quite as much in the natural course of things.'
'Helen's occupation being out of the natural course of things,' said
Anne, 'I should think she was better employed than we were.'
'In making a noise,' said Elizabeth; 'so were we, I do not see much
'O Lizzie, it was not the same thing!' said Helen, exceedingly
mortified at being laughed at for what she considered as a heroic
piece of self-denial, and so it was, though perhaps not so great in
her as it would have been in one who was less musical, and more
addicted to the noise of folly.
'How touchy Helen is this evening!' thought Elizabeth; 'I had better
let her alone, both for her sake and my own.'
'How foolish I was to interfere!' thought Anne; 'it was the most
awkward thing I ever did; I only roused the spirit of contradiction,
and did Helen more harm than good; I never will meddle between
Presently after, Elizabeth asked Harriet Hazleby whether she had ever
been at Winchester.
'Yes,' was the answer, 'and a duller place I would not wish to see.'
'It is a handsome old town, is it not?' inquired Anne, turning to
Lucy; but Harriet caught up the word, and exclaimed, 'Handsome,
indeed! I do not think there is one tolerable new looking street in
the whole place, except one or two houses just up by the railroad
Anne still looked towards Lucy, as if awaiting her answer; Lucy
replied, 'The Cathedral and College and the old gateways are very
beautiful, but there are not so many old looking houses as you would
'It must be badly off indeed,' said Elizabeth, 'if it has neither old
houses nor new; but I wanted to know whether William Rufus' monument
is in a tolerable state of preservation.'
'Oh! the monuments are very grand indeed,' said Harriet; 'everyone
admired them. There are the heads of some of the old kings most
beautifully painted, put away in a dark corner. They are very
curious things indeed; I wonder they do not bring them out.'
'Those are the heads of the Stuart kings,' whispered Lucy.
'Why, Harriet,' exclaimed Dora, 'William Rufus was not a Stuart, he
was the second of the Normans.'
'Very likely, very likely, Dora, my dear,' answered Harriet; 'I have
done with all those things now, thank goodness; I only know that
seeing the Cathedral was good fun; I did not like going into the
crypts, I said I would not go, when I saw how dark it was; and Frank
Hollis said I should, and it was such fun!'
Dora opened her eyes very wide, and Elizabeth said, 'There could
certainly never be a better time or place.'
Looking up, she saw poor Lucy's burning cheeks, and was sorry she had
not been silent. No one spoke for a few moments, but presently Anne
said, 'Alfred the Great is not buried in the Cathedral, is he?'
No one could tell; at last Helen said, 'I remember reading that he
was buried in Hyde Abbey, which is now pulled down.'
'There is a street at Winchester, called Hyde Street,' said Lucy.
'Yes, I know,' said Harriet, 'where the Bridewell is, I remember--'
'By-the-bye, Anne,' said Elizabeth, anxious to cut short Harriet's
reminiscences, 'I never answered what you said about Alfred and
Athelstane. I do not think that Alfred did more than present him
with his sword, which was always solemnly done, even to squires,
before they were allowed to fight, and might be done by a priest.'
'But when Athelstane is called a knight, and the ceremony of
presenting him with his weapons is mentioned,' said Anne, 'I cannot
see why we should not consider him to have been really knighted.'
'Because,' said Elizabeth, 'I do not think that the old Saxon word,
knight, meant the sworn champion, the devoted warrior of noble birth,
which it now expresses. You know Canute's old rhyme says, "Row to
the shore, knights," as if they were boatmen, and not gentlemen.'
'I do not think it could have been beneath the dignity of a knight to
row Canute,' said Anne, 'considering that eight kings rowed Edgar the
'Other things prove that Knight meant a servant, in Saxon,' said
'I know it does sometimes, as in German now,' said Anne; 'but the
question is, when it acquired a meaning equivalent in dignity to the
'Though it properly means anything but a horseman,' said Elizabeth;
'we ought to have a word answering to the German Ritter.'
'Yes, our language was spoilt by being mixed with French before it
had come to its perfection,' said Anne; 'but still you have not
proved that King Alfred was not a knight in the highest sense of the
word, a preux chevalier.'
'I never heard of Alfred on horseback, nor did I ever know him called
Sir Alfred of Wessex.'
'Sir is French, and short for seigneur or senior,' said Anne;
'besides, I suppose, you never heard Coeur-de-Lion called Sir Richard
'I will tell you how you may find out all about it,' interrupted
Katherine; 'Mrs. Turner's nephew, Mr. Augustus Mills, is going to
give a lecture this evening, at seven o'clock, upon chivalry, and all
that. Mrs. Turner has been telling us all day how much she wishes us
'Mr. Augustus Mills!' said Elizabeth; 'is he the little red-haired
wretch who used to pester me about dancing all last year?'
'No, no,' said Katherine, 'that was Mr. Adolphus Mills, his brother,
who is gone to be clerk to an attorney somewhere. This is Mr.
Augustus, a very fine young man, and so clever, Willie says, and he
has most beautiful curling black hair.'
'It wants a quarter to seven now,' said Elizabeth, 'and the sky is
most beautifully clear, at last. Do you like the thoughts of this
'I should like to go very much indeed,' said Anne; 'but first I must
go and seal and send some letters for Mamma, so I must depart while
you finish your tea.' So saying, she left the room.
'Pray, Kate,' said Helen, as Anne closed the door, 'where is this
lecture to be given?'
'At the Mechanics' Institute, of course,' said Katherine.
'So we cannot go,' said Helen.
'And pray why not, my sapient sister?' said Elizabeth; 'what
objection has your high mightiness?'
'My dear Lizzie,' said Helen, 'I wish you had heard all that I have
heard, at Dykelands, about Mechanics' Institutes.'
'My dear Helen,' said Elizabeth, 'I wish you would learn that
Dykelands is no Delphos to me.'
'Nay, but my dearest sister,' exclaimed Helen, clasping her hands,
'do but listen to me; I am sure that harm will come of your going.'
'Well, ope your lips, Sir Oracle,' said Elizabeth impatiently, 'no
dog shall bark, only make haste about it, or we shall be too late.'
'Do you not know, Lizzie,' said Helen, 'that Socialists often hold
forth in Mechanics' Institutes?'
'The abuse of a thing does not cancel its use,' said Elizabeth, 'and
I do not suppose that Mr. Mills preaches Socialism.'
'Captain Atherley says,' persisted Helen, 'that all sorts of people
ought not to mix themselves up together on equal terms.'
'Oh! then he never goes to church,' retorted Elizabeth.
'No, no, that was only my foolish way of expressing myself,' said
Helen; 'I meant that he says that it is wrong for Church people to
put themselves on a level with Dissenters, or Infidels, or
Socialists, for aught they know to the contrary.'
'Since you have been in the north, Helen,' said Elizabeth, 'you have
thought every third man you met a Chartist or a Socialist; but as I
do not believe there are specimens of either kind in Abbeychurch, I
see no harm in taking our chance of the very few Dissenters there are
here, and sitting to hear a lecture in company with our own
'Really, I think we had better not go without asking leave first,'
'In the first place,' said Elizabeth, 'there is no one to ask; and
next, I know that Mrs. Turner has offered hundreds of times to take
us there, and I suppose Papa would have refused once for all, if he
had been so very much afraid of our turning Chartists as Helen seems
to be. I can see no reason why we should not go.'
'Then you consider my opinion as utterly worthless,' cried Helen,
losing all command of temper, which indeed she had preserved longer
than could have been expected. 'I might have known it; you never
care for one word I say. You will repent it at last, I know you
'It is not that I never care for what you say, Helen,' said
Elizabeth, 'it is only when you give me Dykelands opinions instead of
your own, and talk of what you do not understand. I suppose no one
has any objection to a walk, at least. Shall we get ready?'
Everyone consented, and they went to prepare. It should be said, in
excuse for Elizabeth, that both she and Helen had been absent from
home at the time of the establishment of the Mechanics' Institute at
Abbeychurch, so that they had not known of their father's opposition
to it. Helen, who, when at Dykelands, had been nearer the
manufacturing districts, had heard more of the follies and mischiefs
committed by some of the favourers of these institutions.
Unfortunately, however, her temper had prevented her from reasoning
calmly, and Elizabeth had wilfully blinded herself, and shut her ears
to conviction, being determined to follow her own course. Anne, who
had always lived at Merton Hall, excepting two months of each year,
which she spent in London, knew nothing of country town cabals, and
thinking the lecture was of the same nature as those she had heard in
London, asked no questions, as she had not heard the debate between
Elizabeth and Helen. Katherine, however, hesitated to go without the
permission of her father and mother; or, in other words, she was
afraid they would reprove her, and she was not unwilling to listen to
Helen's representations on the subject, while they were putting on
'It is not only,' said Helen, 'that we are sure that it is not right
to go anywhere without leave from Papa or Mamma, but that I know that
these Mechanics' Institutes are part of a system of--'
'Oh yes, I know,' said Katherine, 'of Chartism, and Socialism, and
all that is horrible. I cannot imagine how Lizzie can think of
'Then you will not go,' said Helen.
'Oh, I do not know,' said Katherine; 'it will seem so odd and so
particular if Anne and Lizzie and the Hazlebys go, and we do not.
It would be like setting ourselves up against our elders.'
'You do not always think much of that, Kate,' said Helen; 'besides,
if our eldest sister thinks proper to do wrong, I do not see that we
are forced to do so too.'
'Well, but Lizzie said it was not wrong, and she is the eldest,'
'Lizzie said it was not wrong, that she might have her own way, and
contradict me,' said Helen.
'We shall see what Anne says,' said Katherine; 'but if they go, I
must, you know. It was to me that Mrs. Turner gave the invitation,
and she and Willie would think it so odd to see the others without
me; and Mr. Mills too, he said so very politely that he hoped that he
should be honoured with my presence and Harriet's, it would be an
additional stimulus to his exertions, he said.'
'My dear Kate,' exclaimed Helen, 'how could you listen to such
'Why, Lizzie says everybody talks nonsense,' said Katherine, 'but we
must listen and be civil, you know; I am sure I wish people would not
be so silly, it is very disagreeable to hear it; but I cannot help
it, and after this I really think I ought to go, it would be very odd
if I did not.'
'Better do what is odd than what is wrong,' said Helen.
In her secret soul, Katherine had been of the same opinion the whole
time, and now that she thought she had made a sufficient merit of
giving up the expedition, she was about to promise to follow Helen's
advice, when she was interrupted by the entrance of Harriet, with her
shawl and bonnet in her hand, coming to gossip with Katherine, and
thus escape from Lucy, who had been quietly suggesting that in a
doubtful case, such as the present seemed to be, it was always best
to keep to the safe side. Harriet had laughed at Lucy for not being
able to give any reasons, told her that it was plain that Helen knew
nothing about the matter, and declared that she thanked goodness that
if Mr. Woodbourne was ever so angry, he was not her master, and her
own mamma never minded what she did. Lucy could make no answer in
words, but her silent protest against her sister's conduct made
Harriet so uneasy that she quitted her as soon as she could.
Helen still hoped that Anne would see the folly of the scheme, and
persuade Elizabeth to give it up, and content herself with taking a
walk, or that her sister's better sense would prevail; but she was
disappointed, when, as they left the house, Anne asked where the
lecture was to be given, Elizabeth replied, 'At the Mechanics'
Institute;' and no further observation was made, Anne's silence
confirming Elizabeth in her idea that Helen had been talking
nonsense. Still, as St. Martin's Street, where Mr. Turner lived, was
their way out of the town, Helen remained in doubt respecting her
sister's intentions until they reached Mr. Turner's house, and
Elizabeth walked up the steps, and knocked at the door.
Helen immediately wheeled round, and walked indignantly homewards,
too full of her own feelings to make any attempt to persuade
Katherine to follow her example, and every step shewing how grieved
and affronted she was.
Lucy laid her hand on her sister's arm, and looked up imploringly in
'Pooh!' said Harriet pettishly, jerking the ribbon by which she was
leading Fido: 'give me one reason, Lucy, and I will come.'
'What Helen said,' answered Lucy.
'Stuff and nonsense!' said Harriet; 'that was no reason at all.'
'What did Helen say?' asked Anne, who had been rather startled by her
'Only some Dykelands fancies about Socialists,' said Elizabeth; 'that
is the reason she has gone off like a tragedy queen. I did not think
all Abbeychurch was ready for the French Revolution--that was all.'
'There, Lucy, you see,' said Harriet; 'come along, there's a good
Here Mrs. Turner's page opened the door, and answered that his
mistress was at home.
'Dora, my dear,' said Elizabeth, 'this is too late an affair for you;
we shall not be at home till after you are gone to bed. Good-night--
run after Helen.'
Dora obeyed, and Lucy also turned away; Katherine lingered. 'Come,
Kate,' said Harriet, mounting the steps. --'Lucy, you nonsensical
girl, come back; everyone can see you out of the window; it is very
rude, now; if Mrs. Turner sees you, what will she think? Mamma would
be very angry to see you so silly. Come back, I tell you!'
Lucy only looked back, and shook her head, and then hastened away;
but Katherine, fearing that her friends would be irrecoverably
offended if she turned away from their house, thinking that she had
gone too far to recede, and trusting to Elizabeth to shield her from
blame, followed the others up-stairs.
Helen turned back, much surprised, as Lucy and Dora overtook her; and
they hastened to give explanations.
'Lizzie said I had better come home,' said Dora.
'And I thought it would be the safest thing to do,' said Lucy.
'I am very glad of it,' said Helen; 'I am sure it is not right to go,
but when Lizzie has once set her mind on anything, she will listen to
'Then do you think Papa and Mamma will be displeased?' said Dora;
'I do not think Lizzie thinks so.'
'I cannot be quite sure,' said Helen; 'but I do not think Lizzie
chooses to believe that they will.'
'But let me understand you, Helen,' said Lucy; 'I only know that you
think that Uncle Woodbourne would not approve of your going. What
are your reasons for thinking so? I did not clearly understand you.
Church-people and Dissenters put themselves on a level in almost
every public place.'
'They do not meet in every public place on what they agree to call
neutral ground,' said Helen, 'or profess to lay aside all such
distinctions, and to banish religion in order to avoid raising
disputes. You know that no subject can be safely treated of, except
with reference to the Christian religion.'
'How do you mean?' said Lucy.
'Why,' said Helen, hesitating a little, 'how many people run wild,
and adopt foolish and wicked views of politics, for want of reading
history religiously! And the astronomers and geologists, without
faith, question the possibility of the first chapter of Genesis; and
some people fancy that the world was peopled with a great tribe of
wild savages, instead of believing all about Adam and Eve and the
Patriarchs. Now if you turn religion out, you see, you are sure to
fall into false notions; and that is what these Mechanics' Institute
'Yes,' said Lucy, 'I have heard what you say about those things
before, but I never saw them in connection with each other.'
'Nor should I have seen them in this light, if it had not been for a
conversation between Captain Atherly and another gentleman, one day
at Dykelands,' said Helen. 'But, Lucy, did you leave this party,
then, only because I said it was wrong, or because you thought so
'Indeed, I can hardly tell,' answered Lucy; 'I scarcely know what to
think right and what wrong, but I thought I might be certain that it
was safer to go home.'
'I do not see,' said Helen, drawing herself up, and feeling as if she
had done a very wise thing, and known her reasons for doing it, too,
'I do not see that it is so very hard to know what is right from what
is wrong. It is the easiest way to think what Papa and Mamma would
approve, and then try to recollect what reasons they would give.'
'But then you are not always sure of what they would say,' replied
Lucy; 'at least I am not, and it is not always possible to ask them.
What did you do all the time you were at Dykelands?'
'Oh! dear Mrs. Staunton was quite a mother to me,' said Helen; 'and
besides, it was as easy to think what would please Papa there as it
is here. You were from home for some time last year, were you not,
'Yes,' replied Lucy, 'I spent several months at Hastings, with
Grandmamma; and I am almost ashamed to say that I felt more
comfortable there than anywhere else. I liked being by the sea, and
having a garden, and being out of the way of the officers. Papa and
Grandmamma talked of my always living there, and I hoped I should;
but then I should not have liked to leave Papa and the rest, and not
to be at home in my brothers' holidays, so I believe things are best
as they are.'
'How you must wish to have a home!' said Helen.
'Do not you think that home is wherever your father and mother and
brothers and sisters are, Helen?' said Lucy.
'Oh yes, certainly,' said Helen, quickly; 'but I meant a settled
'I do sometimes wish we were settled,' said Lucy; 'but I have been
used to wandering all my life, and do not mind it as much as you
would, perhaps. We scarcely stay long enough in one place to get
attached to it; and some places are so disagreeable, that it is a
pleasure to leave them.'
'Such as those in Ireland, that Mrs. Hazleby was talking of
yesterday?' said Helen.
'I did not mind those half so much as I do some others,' said Lucy;
'we could easily get into the country, and I used to walk with Papa
every day, or ride when Harriet did not want the horse. It was
rather uncomfortable, for we were very much crowded when George and
Allan were at home; but then they had leave to shoot and fish, and
enjoyed themselves very much.'
'Really, Lucy,' said Helen, 'I cannot think how you can be so very
'I did not know there was anything to be discontented with,' said
Lucy, smiling; 'I am sure I am very happy.'
'But what did you say just now you disliked?' said Helen.
'Did I say I disliked anything?' said Lucy. 'Oh! I know what it was.
I do not like going to a large town, where we can only walk in the
streets, and go out shopping every day, and the boys have nothing to
amuse them. And it is worst of all to go to a place where Papa and
Mamma have been before, and know all the people; we go out to tea
half the days we are there, or to dinner, or have company at home,
and I never get a quiet evening's reading with Papa, and Allan has a
very great dislike to company.'
As Lucy finished her speech they came to the Vicarage; and as they
opened the door, Meg Merrilies came purring out to meet Dora. They
looked round for Fido, in order to keep the peace between the two
enemies, but he was nowhere to be seen, and Dora remembered to have
seen him with Harriet, just as they left the rest of the party at Mr.
Turner's door; so dismissing him from their minds, they went to
finish their walk in the garden, where Helen gave Lucy a full
description of all the beauties of Dykelands, and the perfections of
its inhabitants; and finding her an attentive and obliging listener,
talked herself into a state of most uncommon good humour and
amiability for the rest of the evening. On her side, Lucy, though
she had no particular interest in the Stauntons, and indeed had never
heard their name before Helen's visit to them, was really pleased and
amused, for she had learnt to seek her pleasures in the happiness of
If Helen had not been too much offended by Elizabeth's disregard of
her counsel to think of anything but her own dignity, and had waited
to remind Katherine of her argument with her, the latter might
perhaps have taken the safest course, for it was not without many
qualms of conscience that she ascended the stairs to Mrs. Turner's
There was no one in the room; and as soon as the page had closed the
door, Elizabeth exclaimed, 'I declare, Anne, there is the bone of
contention itself--St. Augustine in his own person! Oh! look at King
Ethelbert's square blue eye; and, Kate, is not this St. Austin's Hill
itself in the distance?'
'Nonsense, Lizzie!' said Katherine, crossly; 'you know it is no such
thing. It was in the pattern.'
'I assure you it is round, and exactly the colour of St. Austin's,'
said Elizabeth; 'there can be no doubt about it.'
Elizabeth's criticisms were here cut short by the entrance of Mrs.
Turner and her daughter, ready dressed for the evening's excursion.
'Mrs. Turner,' said Elizabeth, with all the politeness she was
capable of towards that lady, 'we are come to claim your kind offer
of taking us to the Mechanics' Institute this evening.'
'Oh, my dear Miss Lizzie,' cried Mrs. Turner, 'I am so delighted to
have the honour, you cannot think! It is my nephew, Augustus Mills,
who lectures to-night. Most talented young man, poor fellow, is
Augustus--never without a book in his hand; quite in your line, Miss
At this moment the gentleman quite in Elizabeth's line came into the
room. He had a quantity of bushy black hair, a long gold chain round
his neck, a plaid velvet waistcoat, in which scarlet was the
predominant colour--and his whole air expressed full consciousness of
the distinguished part which he was about to act. Poor Elizabeth!
little reliance as she usually placed in Katherine's descriptions,
she had expected to see something a little more gentleman-like than
what she now beheld; and her dismay was increased, when Mrs. Turner
addressed her nephew--'Augustus, Augustus, my dear, you never were so
flattered in your life? Here _is_ Miss Merton, and Miss Hazleby, and
Miss Lizzie Woodbourne, all come on purpose to hear your lecture!'
Mr. Augustus said something about being very happy, and bowed, but
whether to the young ladies or to his own reflection in the looking-
glass was doubtful. He was then regularly introduced to Anne and
Elizabeth; and upon Mr. Turner making his appearance, they arranged
themselves for the walk to the Mechanics' Institute. Mr. Turner, a
fat silent old gentleman, very ceremoniously offered his arm to Miss
Merton, who, though by this time exceedingly amazed and disgusted by
all she saw and heard, could scarcely refrain from laughing at the
airs and graces of her squire, or at the horror she plainly perceived
in Elizabeth's face, when the talking Mrs. Turner exclaimed, 'Now,
Augustus, I must have you take Miss Woodbourne--I know you will be
Little did Mrs. Turner suspect, as in the overflowing of her pride
and delight she bestowed upon Elizabeth the hero of the night, the
mingled feeling of shame and repugnance which the poor girl had to
encounter as she placed her hand within the offered arm of Mr. Mills,
almost groaning at her own folly, and vainly seeking some possible
means of escape. Mrs. Turner followed with Harriet; and Katherine
and Wilhelmina brought up the rear.
'You are very fond of study, I believe, Miss Woodbourne?' said Mr.
Mills, as they left the house.
Elizabeth made some inarticulate answer: she was in the utmost dread
of meeting either of the curates, or worse still, her cousin Rupert
Merton, if he should chance to arrive that evening.
'Most interesting pursuit!' continued Mr. Mills, wishing to shew his
aunt how well he and his companion agreed. 'I am quite devoted to
it, always was! You are a classical scholar, I presume?'
Elizabeth was ready to wish she had never learnt to read: she fancied
she saw a figure like Rupert's at the other end of the street, and
was too much frightened to reply.
While they were traversing one street of the old town, crossing the
bridge over the little stream which flowed along the valley, and
walking along the principal street of the new town, Mr. Mills
continued to talk, and Elizabeth to echo the last word of each
sentence; or when that would not serve for a reply, she had recourse
to the simple interjection 'Oh!' that last refuge of listeners with
nothing to say. After a walk, which she thought was at least as many
miles in length as it was yards, they arrived at the Mechanics'
Institute, outside which they found sundry loiterers, and a strong
scent of tobacco; and inside some crowded benches, a table with some
chairs ranged round it, and a strong odour of gas.
After a good deal of pushing and shoving, the ladies were safely
deposited on one of the front benches; while Mr. Turner, who was one
of the managing committee, seated himself on one of the chairs; and
Mr. Augustus Mills stood at the table.
Elizabeth felt as if the crimson flush called up by vexation and
embarrassment, together with her hasty walk, would never leave her
cheeks; she held her head down till Katherine touched her to make her
look up, and trusting that her bonnet would screen her heightened
colour from observation, she obeyed the sign. A flaring gas-light
hung opposite to her; and as she raised her face she encountered the
gaze of Mr. Higgins, the Radical and Dissenting editor of a newspaper
which had several times abused Mr. Woodbourne. The moment he caught
her eye, he bowed with something of a triumphant air; and she, doubly
ashamed of herself and provoked with him, bent her head so low that
he might well imagine that she returned the bow. She hoped by
looking down to escape all further observation, but unfortunately for
her, Mrs. Turner had taken care to find a conspicuous place for her
party; and Katherine, who had by this time quite forgotten her doubts
and misgivings, was nodding and smiling to everyone, with what she
considered the utmost grace and affability. Anne, meanwhile, was
trying to account for Elizabeth's ever having thought of going to
such a place, wondering what Sir Edward and Lady Merton would think
of the expedition, and for a moment considering whether Mr.
Woodbourne could approve of it, yet at the same time keenly enjoying
all that was ludicrous in the scene, and longing to talk it over with
Rupert. She was also much diverted with Mr. Augustus Mills's
eloquent lecture, in which she afterwards declared that she heard the
words 'barbarous institution' fifteen times repeated, and 'civilized
and enlightened age,' at least twenty-three times. She was, however,
not a little fatigued before it was nearly concluded, and was
heartily glad when after an hour and a half it was terminated by a
mighty flourish of rhetoric, upon the universal toleration,
civilization, and liberty enjoyed in the nineteenth century.
Deafened by the applause of those who had heard little and understood
less, half stifled by the heat of the room, and their heads aching
from the smell of gas, the girls now hoped to escape; but they were
forced to wait till the crowd nearer the door had dispersed, and then
to listen to the numerous compliments and congratulations which
poured in upon Mrs. Turner from all quarters before they could reach
the open air; and then, strenuously refusing all invitations to take
tea in St. Martin's Street, they happily regained the Vicarage.
Helen and Lucy met them at the door, with hopes that they had had a
Elizabeth answered quickly, 'Come, come, say no more about it, it was
a foolish affair altogether;' but the inquiry, after the feelings she
had seen expressed in Elizabeth's face, struck Anne as so excessively
ridiculous, that the moment they were in the drawing-room she sank
down upon the sofa, giving way to the laughter which, long repressed,
now burst forth louder and more merrily upon every fresh remembrance
of the scene; while the other girls, though persisting in declaring
that they had seen nothing diverting, were soon infected by her
joyous merriment, and the room rang again with laughter.
'Well, Lizzie,' said Anne, recovering her breath, 'I hope, as Helen
says, you have had a pleasant evening; I hope you were very much
'How can you be so absurd, Anne?' answered Elizabeth, trying to look
serious, but the corners of her mouth relaxing, in spite of her
attempts to control her risible muscles.
'I hope,' continued Anne, with a very grave face, 'that Mr. Augustus
was fully sensible of your wisdom, love of erudition, and classical
scholarship, though I cannot say they appeared on the surface.'
'You may be sure he thought me very wise,' said Elizabeth; 'I only
echoed his own words--and what would a man have more?'
'And how tenderly you touched him with the tip of your glove!'
continued Anne. 'I wish you could have seen yourself!'
'Indeed, I wish you had, Lizzie,' said Katherine; 'I think you would
have been ashamed of yourself.'
'I am ashamed,' said Elizabeth, gravely and shortly.
Lucy here asked where Fido was.
No one knew; no one could recollect anything about him from the time
they had left Mr. Turner's house to go to the Mechanics' Institute.
Katherine and Harriet went to the front door, they called, they
searched, they even went to Mr. Turner's to inquire for him, but all
their researches were fruitless; and Harriet turned angrily upon her
sister, saying, 'It is all your fault, Lucy, for running home in such
a hurry, and never thinking of him. How was I to be watching him
there, did you think?'
'I should have supposed,' said Elizabeth, 'that the person who was
leading the dog was more likely--'
'No, no, Elizabeth,' hastily interrupted Lucy, 'it was my fault in
some degree. I know I ought to have thought of him.'
'Well, say no more about him,' said Elizabeth; 'I dare say he will
come home before morning.'
And Elizabeth left the room to take off her bonnet, and to visit the
nursery, where the children were in bed. All were asleep excepting
Dora; and as Elizabeth leant over her, kissing her and bidding her
good-night, the little girl put her arm round her neck, and said,
'Lizzie, will you tell me one thing? Was it naughty to--to go where
you went to-night?'
Elizabeth had felt annoyed and provoked and surprised at herself for
her folly, but she had not thought herself in fault; but now Dora's
soft, sweet, caressing tone sounded in her ears like a serious
reproof, and turned her thought upon her sin. She was too upright
and sincere to evade such an inquiry as this, even from a younger
sister and a pupil, and answered, 'Indeed, Dora, I can hardly tell
yet how wrong it was; but I am afraid it was very wrong, for I am
sure it is a thing I hope you will never do. Besides, I know I was
very self-willed, and unkind to Helen; I have set you a very bad
example, Dora, and I believe I ought to beg your pardon for it.
Good-night, my dear!'
Was Elizabeth lowered in her sister's eyes by humbling herself?
Just as the girls were arranging themselves in the drawing-room for
the evening, a loud knocking was heard at the front-door, and Harriet
and Anne both sprang up--the one exclaiming, 'Someone has brought
Fido back!'--the other, 'Can that be Rupert?'
The last supposition was proved to be right; and in another moment
Rupert Merton was receiving the affectionate greetings of his sister
and cousins. Elizabeth felt some embarrassment in performing a
regular introduction of Mr. Merton to the Miss Hazlebys; but Rupert's
easy well-bred manners rendered the formidable ceremony much easier
than she had expected, and the cousins soon fell into their usual
style of conversation.
'Well, Mr. Rupert,' said Elizabeth, 'better late than never; that is
all that can be said for you!'
'Am I late?' said Rupert; 'I hope no one has waited for me.'
'I hope not indeed,' said Elizabeth; 'pray, did you expect the Bishop
and Clergy, and the whole town of Abbeychurch, St. Mary and St.
Austin, to wait your pleasure and convenience? Anne, did you ever
hear the like? Do you think Prince Rupert himself was ever so
favoured and honoured?
'What do you mean?' said Rupert.
'That you have come a day too late, you idle boy!' said Anne.
'I thought next Tuesday was to have been the day of the
Consecration,' said Rupert.
'Did you never get my letter?' said Anne; 'I wrote to tell you that
the day was altered, and you were to meet us here on the Wednesday.'
'Can I ask you to believe a gentleman's word in opposition to a
lady's?' said Rupert, looking round. 'I did indeed receive a letter
from my amiable sister, full of--let me see--histories of dogs and
cats, and the harvest, and old Dame Philips, and commissions for
pencils, which I will produce if I have not lost the key of my
portmanteau, but not one word of the Consecration.'
'But indeed I wrote a good many words about it,' said Anne; 'have you
the letter, Rupert?'
'Have I the letter?' cried Rupert. 'Young ladies, did you ever hear
of such overweening presumption? Here is a damsel who expects her
scraps of angular writing to be preserved with as much care as the
Golden Bulls of the Pope!'
'That is to say, you burnt it without reading it,' said Anne.
'The former part of your supposition is true, sweet sister mine,'
replied Rupert: 'not knowing what spells it might contain, seeing
that Miss Merton's caligraphy is more like the cabalistic characters
of a sorceress than the Italian-hand of a gentle demoiselle, I
exorcised it--I committed it to the devouring element!'
'Without turning over the second page of the second piece of note-
paper, I suppose?' said Anne.
'How was I ever to suppose that anyone would write a letter for the
purpose of giving me an important piece of information,' said Rupert,
'and then put the pith of it in a place where no one would ever dream
of looking? No, Lady Elizabeth, if by my absence your feast has lost
its brightest ornament, its wittiest and wisest cavalier, it is this
sister of mine whom you must accuse!'
It was really not a little provoking to be blamed in this manner for
Rupert's own carelessness; but Anne was used to her brother's ways,
and could bear them with good humour. Elizabeth, however, attacked
him. 'Why, Rupert, one would suppose you had never heard where a
woman's mind is to be found! These are most futile excuses.'
'I will only attempt one other,' said the truant--'the utter
worthlessness of young ladies' letters, which is such as not to
encourage their friends to make any very strict researches into
'Worse and worse!' said Elizabeth; 'you have certainly behaved most
cavalierly, that must be confessed! We are only considering what
punishment you deserve.'
'I deserve the punishment I have had, Lizzie,' said Rupert; 'I have
missed the Consecration, and three days of this fair company!'
'Besides that, you will be held up ever after as a warning to Horace
and Edward,' said Elizabeth.
'I saw that first-mentioned pupil of yours on Sunday,' said Rupert.
'Oh! how pleased Mamma will be!' cried Elizabeth; 'then you went to
'Yes; finding myself too late for the coach on Saturday afternoon, by
which I had intended to go to Ely,' said Rupert, 'I made up my mind
to spend Sunday at Sandleford, and take a cursory view of the young
gentleman, and of my old haunts.'
'Thank you,' said Elizabeth, her eyes beaming with pleasure; 'I am
sure that was very kind of you. And how did he look, poor little
fellow, and what did he say, and was not he delighted to see you?'
'I shall leave you to judge of that,' said Rupert, 'and say that he
looked very happy and flourishing, with face and shirt-collar all
over ink on Saturday afternoon; and he said more than I can remember
on Sunday evening.'
'And what does Dr. Freeman say of him?' said Elizabeth.
'Dr. Freeman assured me--what do you think, young ladies?--that
Master Horatio Woodbourne is by far the most promising youth who has
entered his celebrated academy since--of course you know whom I mean,
and will spare my blushes!'
'Unluckily,' said Anne, 'the evident fabrication of the latter part
of that speech destroys our belief in the beginning of it.'
'No, no,' said Elizabeth, 'it is only the most promising, not the
most performing. No one can doubt of Rupert's promises!'
'Rupert, you always do talk such nonsense,' said Katherine.
'Many thanks for the compliment, Lady Kate,' said Rupert, with a bow;
'considering how my intelligence is received, I think I shall spare
it in future. I have a letter and parcel from Master Horatio in my
portmanteau, and they may speak for themselves, if I have not lost my
keys, as I said before.'
'O Rupert!' cried Anne, 'how could you lose them again, after all the
pains Mamma took to save them?'
'Indeed, Anne, I did behave better than usual,' said Rupert; 'I kept
them safe till yesterday, I assure you. I wish you would come and
give me the carriage keys; perhaps some of them may unlock the
Anne did not think they would; she said they had all been tried twice
before; but Rupert would not be satisfied till the experiment had
been repeated once more; and long after all the other girls were gone
to bed, he kept his sister up, looking out some things which had been
brought from Merton Hall for him, while he sat by recounting all his
adventures in Scotland. Anne was much delighted to listen, and very
glad to have her brother with her again; but perhaps, if he had not
been quite so much engrossed by his own affairs, he would have seen
that she looked very tired, and have remembered that it was much
later than her usual bed-time.
While Katherine and Helen were undressing, the former began:
'Helen, I wish you had gone, it was such fun!'
'Was it?' said Helen. 'I thought Lizzie did not seem much
'Lizzie? Oh no,' said Katherine; 'she only hung her head and looked
vexed, though there were such a number of people, all so civil and
bowing--Mr. Wilkins, and the Greens, and Mr. Higgins.'
'Did Mr. Higgins bow to you and Lizzie?' exclaimed Helen.
'Yes, that he did,' said Katherine triumphantly; 'and a very polite
bow he made, I assure you, Helen. I was quite glad to see him; I
hope he is coming round.'
'How did Lizzie like it?' asked Helen.
'Oh! she is so odd, you know,' said Katherine; 'she seemed really
quite angry; I jogged her once or twice to make her look up, but she
shook me off quite crossly; I thought she would have been pleased.'
'I should think few things would vex her much more,' said Helen.
'Well,' said Katherine, 'Willie once told me that some people think
Lizzie very proud and disdainful, and I really begin to believe so
'Oh no, Kate,' said Helen; 'I am sure she is not proud, it is only--'
'Mercy, Helen!' here interrupted Kate, 'what are you doing to your
'Curling it,' replied Helen, in her composed manner.
'Why in the world?' said Katherine; 'I thought you liked your plaits
'Lizzie does not,' said Helen.
'Well,' said Katherine, 'I am sure I should never dream of doing such
a thing, only because Lizzie chooses to make a fuss.'
'Perhaps not,' said Helen.
There was a silence. Presently Helen said, 'I suppose Mr. Higgins's
next Sunday's paper will mention that the Mechanics' Institute was
honoured by the presence of the Miss Woodbournes!'
'Dear me, do you think so?' said Katherine, who could not guess from
her sister's manner what opinion she intended to express.
'I think it very probable indeed,' said Helen; 'such a sanction to
the education-without-religion system is not to be neglected.'
'System!' said Katherine, looking bewildered; 'how are we to sanction
'Our station here, as the daughters of the clergyman, gives us some
weight,' said Helen; 'besides that, what each person does, however
trifling, is of importance to others.'
This was not very clearly expressed, and Katherine did not trouble
herself to understand it. She only said, 'Well, I hope we have not
got into a scrape; however, you know it was Lizzie's doing, not
'I thought you went,' said Helen.
'Yes,' said Katherine; 'but that was only because Lizzie said it was
not wrong. She is the eldest, and you know she is accountable.'
'I should think that poor consolation,' said Helen.
'Well,' said Katherine sleepily, 'good-night. Those horrid gas-
lights have made my head ache. I cannot talk any more.'
Although she had sat up so much later than usual the night before,
Anne was dressed on Saturday morning in time to go to her mother's
room for a little while before breakfast.
'Mamma,' said she, after they had spoken of Rupert's arrival, 'where
do you think we went yesterday evening?'
'Where, my dear?'
'To hear a lecture at the Mechanics' Institute, Mamma.'
'I should not have thought that your uncle would have approved of his
daughters going to such a place,' said Lady Merton.
'Do you think we ought not to have gone, Mamma?' said Anne.
'I do not know the circumstances, my dear,' said Lady Merton; 'the
Mechanics' Institute may perhaps be under your uncle's management,
and in that case--'
'Oh no,' said Anne. 'I do not think it is--at least, I do not think
Uncle Woodbourne would have liked the lecture we heard much better
than Lizzie and I did; and after it was too late, I found that Helen
had declared it was very wrong of us to go. She would not go; and I
found that when I was out of the room, she and Lizzie had had a great
debate about it.'
Anne then gave a full account of all that had occurred, and ended
with, 'Now, Mamma, do you think we could have helped going on after
we once came to Mrs. Turner's, and found what kind of a thing it was
likely to be?'
'People certainly cannot stop themselves easily when they have taken
the first wrong step,' said Lady Merton.
Anne sighed. 'Then I am afraid we have done very wrong,' said she.
'For yourself, Anne,' said her mother, 'I do not think you are much
to blame, since I cannot see how you were to know that your cousins
were going without their father's consent.'
'I am glad you think so, Mamma,' said Anne; 'but I cannot be quite
happy about it, for I might certainly have supposed that there was
some reason against our going, when Helen and the youngest Miss
Hazleby turned back and went home.'
'You heard none of Helen's remonstrances?' said Lady Merton.
'No, Mamma; I was foolish enough to be satisfied with Lizzie's saying
that she had been talking nonsense,' said Anne; 'besides, I could see
that Helen was out of temper, and I thought that might account for
'These are very good reasons, Anne,' said Lady Merton.
'Indeed they are not, Mamma,' said Anne; 'I am afraid the real cause
was, that my head was so full of the pleasure I expected in going to
the lecture, that I did not choose to think that we ought not to go.
I am afraid I am growing thoughtless, as you said I should here.'
'No, no, Anne,' said Lady Merton, smiling, 'I did not say you would,
I only said you must guard against doing so; and as far as I have
seen, you have shewn more self-command than when you and Lizzie were
'Ah! but when you are not looking on, Mamma,' said Anne; 'that is the
dangerous time, especially now Rupert is come; he and Lizzie will
make us laugh dreadfully.'
'I hope they will,' said Lady Merton, 'provided it is without
flippancy or unkindness.'
'But, Mamma,' said Anne, presently after, 'what do you think about
Lizzie? was she in the wrong?'
'I cannot tell without knowing more about it,' said Lady Merton; 'do
you know what she thinks herself?'
'No, Mamma,' said Anne; 'she was asleep before I went to bed last
night, and up before I awoke this morning. But I do firmly believe,
that if Lizzie had had the slightest idea that she was doing wrong in
going there, she would as soon have thought of flying as of doing
It was now breakfast-time; and Rupert came up to summon his mother
and sister, and to inform them that his portmanteau had just been
broken open for the seventh time since it had been in his possession.
He said this with some satisfaction, for he was somewhat vain of his
carelessness, for of what cannot people be vain?
During breakfast, it was arranged that the three elder ladies should
go in the Mertons' carriage to Baysmouth, a large town, which was
about ten miles distant from Abbeychurch, and take Winifred and
Edward with them; Dora was to accompany the other young people in a
long walk, to a farm-house, which report said had been a baronial
castle in the days of King Stephen, and from exploring the
antiquities of which some of them expected great things, especially
as it was known by the mysterious name of Whistlefar. Mr. Woodbourne
and Sir Edward expected to be engaged all day in the final settlement
of accounts with the architect of the church.
As soon as the two parties of pleasure had been arranged, Elizabeth
left the breakfast-table to tell the children of the treat in store
for them, and to write a little note to Horace, to accompany Dora's
letter, which had been finished that morning before breakfast.
Just after she had quitted the room, Sir Edward asked what the smart-
looking building, at the corner of Aurelia Place, was.
'You mean the Mechanics' Institute,' said Mr. Woodbourne.
'Never was new town without one,' said Rupert.
'Is this one well conducted?' inquired Lady Merton.
'Not much worse than such things usually are,' replied Mr.
Woodbourne; 'two or three Socialist lectures were given there, but
they were stopped before they had time to do much harm.'
'Were you obliged to interfere?' said Sir Edward.
'Yes,' said Mr. Woodbourne; 'I went to some of the managing
committee--Mr. Green and old Mr. Turner--and after some rather strong
representations on my part, they found means to put a stop to them.
Higgins, their chief promoter, made several violent attacks upon me
in his newspaper for my illiberality and bigotry; and poor Mr. Turner
was so much distressed, that he came to entreat me to go myself, or
at least to allow my girls to go, to some lectures, which he promised
should be perfectly harmless. I told him that I disapproved of
Mechanics' Institutes in general, and especially of the way in which
this one is conducted, and that I had resolved long before that none
of my family should ever set foot in it. Here the matter ended; and
I have heard no more of it, except that Mrs. Turner is constantly
tormenting my wife with offers to take the girls to some peculiarly
If Elizabeth had been present, she would certainly have immediately
confessed her indiscretion of the evening before; but she was not
there, and Katherine, who was on the point of speaking, was checked
by an imploring glance from Harriet. The conversation was changed,
and nothing more was said on the subject. As soon as they could
leave the breakfast-table, all the young ladies instantly flew to the
school-room, where Elizabeth was sitting alone, writing.
'Lizzie, Lizzie!' exclaimed three voices at once, 'do you know what
you have done ?'
'Is it anything very fatal?' said Elizabeth, looking quite composed.
'A fine scrape you have got into!' cried Katherine.
'A pretty kettle of fish you have brought us into!' exclaimed
'But what is the matter, good ladies?' said Elizabeth; 'why do you
look so like the form that drew Priam's curtains at the dead of
'Come, Lizzie,' said Katherine pettishly, 'do not be so provoking
with Priam and all that stuff, but tell us what is to be done about
that horrid Institute.'
'Oh! that is it, is it?' said Elizabeth; 'so I suppose Fido was
stolen there, and you are afraid to tell!'
'I am afraid he was,' said Katherine; 'but that is not the worst of
it--I know nothing about him. But do you know what Papa says? Uncle
Edward has been asking about the Institute; and, oh dear! oh dear!
Papa said he could not bear Mechanics' Institutes, and had resolved
quite firmly that none of his family should ever set foot in one!'
Elizabeth really looked quite appalled at this piece of intelligence;
and Katherine continued, 'And Chartists, and Socialists, and horrible
people, have been lecturing there! I remember now, that when you
were at Merton Hall in the spring, there was a great uproar, and the
Abbeychurch Reporter behaved very badly to Papa about it. A fine
affair you have made of it, indeed, Lizzie!'
'And pray, Miss Kate,' said Elizabeth sharply, 'who was the person
who first proposed this fine expedition? Really, I think, if
everyone had their deserts, you would have no small share of blame!
What could prevent you from telling me all this yesterday, when it
seems you knew it all the time?'
'I forgot it,' said Katherine.
'Exactly like you,' continued her sister; 'and how could you listen
to all Helen said, and not be put in mind of it? And how could you
bring me back such a flaming description of Mrs. Turner's august
puppy of a nephew? If we are in a kettle of fish, as Harriet says,
you are at the bottom of it!'
'Well, Lizzie,' said Katherine, 'do not be so cross; you know Mamma
says I have such a bad memory, I cannot help forgetting.'
And she began to cry, which softened Elizabeth's anger a little.
'I did not mean to throw _all_ the blame upon you, Kate,' said she; 'I
know I ought not to have trusted to you; besides that, I led you all
into it, being the eldest. I only meant to shew you that you are not
quite so immaculate as you seem to imagine. We have all done very
wrong, and must take the consequences.'
Helen was leaving the room, when Harriet died out, 'O Helen, pray do
not go and tell of us!'
'Helen has no such intention,' said Elizabeth; 'I am going to tell
Papa myself as soon as he has done breakfast.'
'Oh! Lizzie, dearest Lizzie,' cried Harriet, 'I beg you will not; you
do not know what Mamma would do to me!'
'Pray, Harriet,' said Elizabeth scornfully, 'do you think that I am
going to conceal my own faults from my own father?'
'But, Lizzie, stop one moment,' said Harriet; 'you know it was you
and Kate who took me; I did not know it was wrong to go; and now Fido
is lost, Mamma will be certain to say it was by my going, and she
will be dreadfully angry with me; and you would not wish me to be
scolded for what was your fault!'
'Should not you wish me to tell, Anne,' said Elizabeth, turning her
back upon Harriet.
'I told Mamma this morning,' said Anne.
'Told her!' exclaimed Harriet; 'and what did she say--?'
'She said she wondered that my cousins were allowed to go to such a
place,' said Anne; 'and she seemed very sorry we had gone.'
'But was she angry with you?' persisted Harriet.
Anne hesitated; and Elizabeth replied, 'No, of course she could not
be angry with Anne, when it was all my doing. She must be displeased
enough with me, though.'
'But will she tell Mamma and Aunt Mildred?' said Harriet.
'I do not think she will,' answered Anne.
'No, because she trusts to me to tell,' said Elizabeth; 'so that you
see I must, Harriet.'
'Must you?' said Harriet; 'I cannot see why; it will only get us all
'Which we richly deserve,' said Elizabeth.
'I am sure, if you like to be scolded,' said Harriet, 'you are very
welcome; only do not make Mamma scold me too.'
'I am sure, if you like to be insincere and cowardly,' said
Elizabeth, 'you shall not make me so too.'
'I do not want you to tell a fib,' said Harriet; 'I only want you to
'L'un vaut bien l'autre,' said Elizabeth.
'What?' said Harriet; 'do only wait till we are gone, if you are
determined to tell--there's a dear girl.'
'Deceive Papa and Mamma for three whole days!' cried Elizabeth; 'I
wonder you are not ashamed of yourself. Besides, Harriet, I do not
see what you have to fear. It was Kate and I who did wrong; we knew
better, and cast away Helen's good advice; we shut our eyes and went
headlong into mischief, but you had no reason to suppose that you
might not do as we did.'
'No,' said Harriet, 'I should not care if it was not for Fido.'
'But will my silence find Fido?' said Elizabeth.
'No,' said Harriet; 'but if Mamma knows we went there she will scold
us for going, because she will be angry about Fido; and if she once
thinks that it was I who lost him--oh, Lizzie, you do not know how
angry she will be!'
'But, Harriet,' said Katherine, 'I thought you used to say that you
could do anything with your Mamma, and that she never minded where
'Oh! that is when she is in good humour,' said Harriet; 'she is not
often cross with me, but when she is, you may hear her from one end
of the house to the other. Cannot you, Lucy? And now she will be
dreadfully cross about Fido, and the other thing coming upon it, I do
not know what she may say. O Lizzie, you will save me!'
'I will only tell of Kate and myself,' said Elizabeth; 'or I will ask
Papa not to mention it to Mrs. Hazleby; though, Harriet, there are
some people who prefer any suffering, just or unjust, to deceit.'
'Then you mean to tell directly,' said Katherine, in a piteous tone.
'Of course I do,' said Elizabeth; 'there is the dining-room door
shut. Come with me, Kate.'
Katherine rather unwillingly followed her sister into the passage;
but when there, fear making her ingenious, a sudden thought struck
her. 'Lizzie,' whispered she, 'if you tell Papa that you and I went,
Mrs. Hazleby will be sure to hear, and if she asks Harriet about it,
perhaps she--you know--may tell a story about it.'
'Fine confidence you shew in your chosen friend!' said Elizabeth.
'Why, one must be civil; and Harriet is a sort of cousin,' said
Katherine; 'but I am sure she is not half so much my friend as
'Well, never mind defending your taste in friends,' said Elizabeth;
'for as I do think your scruple worth answering, I will tell you that
I had thought of the same thing; but I do not choose to do evil that
good may come, or that evil may not come. I shall tell Papa what an
excellent opinion you have of Harriet, and leave him to do as he
Elizabeth's hand was on the lock of the door of her father's study,
when Katherine exclaimed, 'There is someone there--I hear voices!'
'Uncle Edward,' said Elizabeth. 'I do not mind his being there; we
ought to beg his pardon for leading Anne astray.'
'Oh! but do not you see,' said Katherine, 'here are a hat and a roll
of papers on the table! Mr. Roberts must be come.'
'Tiresome man!' cried Elizabeth; 'he will be there all day, and I
shall not see Papa I do not know when. It really was a very
convenient thing when the architects of the old German cathedrals
used to take a desperate leap from the top of the tower as soon as it
was finished. Well, I must find Mamma now.'
'Cannot you wait till the evening, when you may see Papa?' said
Katherine, hoping to put off the evil day.
'I cannot have this upon my mind all day unconfessed,' said
Elizabeth; 'besides, Harriet will pester me with entreaties as long
as it is untold. Come, Kitty, do not be such a coward.'
'I am sure I do not want you not to tell,' said Katherine, looking
rather miserable; 'only I am not in such a hurry about it as you are.
You do not know where Mamma is.'
'No, but I will find her,' said Elizabeth.
The sisters set off on the chase; they looked into the drawing-room,
the dining-room, Mrs. Woodbourne's room, without success; they ran up
to the nursery, but she was not there; and they were going down
again, when Katherine, seeing Elizabeth go towards the kitchen
stairs, exclaimed, 'Well, I will go no further; it is so ridiculous,
as if it was a matter of life and death! You may call if you want
Katherine retreated into her own room, and Elizabeth ran down to the
kitchen, where she found Mrs. Woodbourne ordering dinner.
Elizabeth stood by the fire, biting her lip and pinching her finger,
and trembling all over with impatience, while Mrs. Woodbourne and the
cook were busily consulting over some grouse which Rupert had brought
'Lizzie, my dear,' said Mrs. Woodbourne presently, 'would you just run
to my room and fetch down the green receipt-book?'
Elizabeth obeyed: running was rather a relief to her, and she was
down-stairs again in another instant.
'Why, Lizzie,' said Mrs. Woodbourne, with a smile, 'you must be wild
to-day; you have brought me the account-book instead of--But, my dear
child, what is the matter?' said she, perceiving that Elizabeth's
face was scarlet, and her eyes full of tears.
'I will tell you presently,' whispered Elizabeth, breathlessly, 'when
you have done.' She darted away again, and returned with the right
book; but Mrs, Woodbourne was too much alarmed by her manner to spend
another moment in giving directions to the cook, and instantly
followed her to her own room. Elizabeth hastily shut the door, and
sat down to recover her breath.
'My dear Lizzie, there is nothing amiss with any of the--' exclaimed
Mrs. Woodbourne, almost gasping for breath.
'Oh no, Mamma,' said Elizabeth, a smile passing over her face in
spite of her distress, 'it is not Winifred who is mad. It is I who
have been more mad and foolish and self-willed than you would ever
believe. Mamma, I have been with Mrs. Turner to the Mechanics'
'My dear Lizzie, you do not mean it!' said Mrs. Woodbourne.
'Yes, Mamma, indeed it is so,' said Elizabeth mournfully; 'I did not
know what had happened there certainly, but I would not listen to
Helen's good advice, and so I have made Papa seem to consent to what
he abhors; I have led Kate and Anne and Harriet all wrong. Oh!
Mamma, is not it terrible?'
'Indeed, I wish I had told you what your Papa said to Mr. Turner,'
said Mrs. Woodbourne; 'I am afraid your papa will be very much
annoyed; but, my dear, do not distress yourself, you could not know
that it was wrong.'
'Yes; but, Mamma,' said Elizabeth, 'I did know that it was wrong to
go out without asking your leave. Simple obedience might have kept
me straight. But now I will tell you all, and you shall judge what
had best be done about the Hazlebys and Fido.'
Rather incoherently, and with many sobs, Elizabeth told the history
of the preceding evening. Mrs. Woodbourne listened to her with the
utmost kindness, and said all she could to soothe and console her,
assuring her that Mr. Woodbourne could not be seriously displeased
with her for having transgressed a command of which she was ignorant.
Elizabeth was much relieved by having been able to talk over her
conduct in this manner; and though she still felt that she had been
very much to blame, and by no means sure that Mr. Woodbourne would
pass over her fault so lightly, was greatly comforted by her mamma's
kindness. She went away to bathe her swollen eyes, before she went
down to the school-room to read the Psalms and Lessons with her
sisters, as was their regular custom when there was no service at
the church, before they began their morning's work; Mrs. Woodbourne
undertaking to call the children down in a few minutes, and saying
that she would speak to Katherine in the course of the day. She
willingly promised to say nothing to Mrs. Hazleby, and only wished
she was quite sure that there were no symptoms of madness about Fido.
'What a strange girl Lizzie is!' cried Harriet, just as Elizabeth
departed on her search for her father or Mrs. Woodbourne.
'But, Harriet,' said Lucy, drawing her aside to the window, 'what
difference is her saying nothing to make? Mamma will ask how Fido
'I am sure, Lucy, that was more your fault than mine,' said Harriet;
'I could not be watching him all the time we were at that place.'
'Then why did you take him there?' said Helen.
'Because Lucy chose to run away without ever thinking what I was to
do,' said Harriet.
'But when you were leading him, and it must have been you who let go
his string,' said Helen; 'I cannot see how you can accuse Lucy of
having been the means of losing him, when she was safe at home.'
Harriet was saved from the necessity of finding an answer, by hearing
her mother calling her in the passage, and she hastened to obey the
'Do you know where Fido is?' was Mrs. Hazleby's question.
'No,' said Harriet, finding she had only escaped one dilemma to fall
into another. She avoided any further questions, however, by
hastening past her mother and running up-stairs.
'Lucy, Lucy!' then called Mrs. Hazleby; and as Lucy came out of the
school-room, she repeated the inquiry.
'I do not know, Mamma,' answered Lucy in a low voice, but standing
'Go and ask for him in the kitchen then,' said Mrs. Hazleby.
'I am afraid it would be of no use. Ma'am,' said Lucy, firmly, but
not daring to raise her eyes; 'we missed him when we came in from
walking, yesterday evening.'
'Yesterday evening!' cried Mrs. Hazleby; 'and did you never speak of
it? I never knew anyone so careless as you are, in all my life. It
is of no use to leave anything in your charge, you care for--'
Here Lucy leant back and shut the door behind her, so that Anne and
Helen could distinguish nothing but the sound of Mrs. Hazleby's loud
angry voice raised to its highest pitch.
'Poor Lucy!' sighed Helen.
'Dreadful!' said Anne.
'And how can anyone say that Lucy is not one of the noblest, most
self-devoted creatures upon earth?' exclaimed Helen, with tears in
her eyes; 'there she is, bearing all that terrible scolding, rather
than say it was Harriet's fault, as everyone knows it was. I am sure
no one is like Lucy. And this is going on continually about
something or other.'
'How can she exist?' said Anne.
'With her acute feelings and painful timidity,' said Helen, 'it is
worse for her than it would be for anyone else, yet how gently and
simply she bears it all! and old Mrs. Hazleby says that she is often
ill after these scoldings, and she would have taken her away to live
with her, as the Major proposed, after Miss Dorothea Hazleby died,
but that she thought it would be taking away all the comfort of her
father's life. Oh! Anne,' cried Helen, walking up and down the room
as Mrs. Hazleby's voice became louder and louder, 'I cannot bear it;
what shall I do? Oh! if it was but right, if it would not make it
worse for Lucy, I could, I would go out and tell Mrs. Hazleby what
everybody thinks of her.'
'I do not wonder that Miss Hazleby was ready to do almost anything to
avoid such a scene,' said Anne.
'Mean selfish creature!' said Helen; 'she ran away on purpose that
Lucy might stay and bear all this. Anne, I do believe that if
martyrs are made, and crowns are gained, by daily sufferings and
hourly self-denial, that such a crown will be dear dear Lucy's.'
Anne's answer was--
'And all the happy souls that rode
Transfigured through that fresh abode,
Had heretofore in humble trust,
Shone meekly 'mid their native dust,
The glow-worms of the earth!'
'Thank you, Anne,' said Helen, wiping away her tears; 'I will think
of Lucy as the light, the glow-worm of her family. Thank you; the
thought of her meek clear light in darkness need not be gloomy, as it
Anne had never thought of Helen as possessing so much enthusiasm, and
was almost more inclined to wonder at her than at Lucy. While they
had been talking, Mrs. Hazleby's voice had ceased, steps were now
heard in the passage, and a letter was brought in and given to Helen.
It was from Fanny Staunton, but she had only just time to glance it
over, before the three children came in, followed by their mother and
Elizabeth. Anne went to call her mother to join them in reading the
Psalms and Lessons; and Winifred was sent to summon Katherine, who
had purposely lingered up-stairs till all the rest were assembled.
Elizabeth's eyes were very red, and she was afraid to trust her voice
to read the first verse of the Psalm, as it was always her part to
do; but little Dora, who sat next to her, and who seemed in part to
enter into her feelings, although she said nothing, read the first
verse for her; and Elizabeth took Edward, who always looked over her
book, upon her knee when the Lessons began, so as to screen her face
from her aunt. When they had finished, attention was drawn away from
her by Edward, who was eagerly assuring Lady Merton that the Bible
and Prayer-book which Uncle Edward, his godfather, had given him,
were quite safe, and he was to use them himself when Lizzie thought
he could read well enough. This Dora explained as meaning when he
had for a week abstained from guessing words instead of spelling
them; and Elizabeth proposed to him to try whether he could read to-
day without one mistake. Edward objected to reading at that time, as
he was to go out at half-past twelve, and there would be no time for
lessons. Elizabeth demonstrated that it was now only half-past ten,
and that it was impossible that he could spend two hours in putting
on his best frock and trowsers, and in settling what to buy with the
bright half-crown which Uncle Edward had given him; and Winifred
assured him that she meant to do all her lessons to-day. Edward
looked round to appeal to his mother, but both she and Lady Merton
had left the room, and he was forced to content himself with asking
Anne whether she thought there was time.
'Oh yes, Edward; I hope you will let me hear how well you can read; I
want to know whether the young robins saw any more monsters,' said
Winifred, rather inopportunely, was ready with the information, that
the nest was visited by two more monsters; but Anne stopped her ears,
and declared she would hear nothing but from Edward himself, and the
young gentleman was thus persuaded to begin his lesson.
Helen did not wait to see how the question was decided, but went up
to her own room to enjoy Fanny Staunton's letter. She paused however
a few moments, to consider whether she should go to Lucy, but
thinking that it must certainly be painful to her to speak of what
had passed, she proceeded to her own room, there to send her whole
heart and mind to Dykelands.
Fanny Staunton's letter was overflowing with affection and with
regrets for Helen's departure; and this, together with her
descriptions of her own and her sister's amusements and occupations,
made Helen's heart yearn more strongly than ever after the friends
she had left. Anne's cheerful manner, and Lucy's quiet content, had,
the day before, made Helen rather ashamed of herself, and she had
resolved to leave off pining for Dykelands, and to make herself
happy, by being useful and obliging, without thinking about little
grievances, such as almost everyone could probably find in their own
home, if they searched for them. When she had curled her hair, it
was with the hope that the sacrifice of her tails would convince
Elizabeth that she had some regard for her taste; unfortunately,
however, her hair was rather too soft to curl well, and after having
been plaited for the last three months, it was most obstinate in
hanging deplorably straight, in a way very uncomfortable to her
feelings and irritating to her temper; besides which, Elizabeth had
been too much occupied by her own concerns all the morning, to
observe the alteration, and indeed, if she had remarked it, she was
not likely to feel as much flattered by this instance of deference to
her opinion, as Helen thought she ought to be. Last night, Helen had
lamented that her own petulance had prevented her from reasoning
calmly with Elizabeth, and from setting before her all the arguments
upon which she had discoursed so fluently to Lucy, after the
imprudent step had been taken; but now, she threw the blame upon
Elizabeth's impetuosity and unkindness, and felt somewhat aggrieved,
because neither of her sisters had expressed a full sense of her
firmness and discretion. She compared Fanny's affectionate
expressions, with Elizabeth's sharp and hasty manner; the admiration
which her friends had made rather too evident, with the wholesome
though severe criticisms she sometimes met with at home; the
quietness at Dykelands, with the constant bustle at the Vicarage; and
ended, by thinking Mrs. Woodbourne the only person of the family who
possessed any gentleness or kindness, and making up her mind that
Dykelands was the only pleasant place in England, and that she
herself was a most ill-used person, whose merits were not in the
Such were the feelings which gradually took possession of her mind,
while she was writing her answer to Fanny's letter; and by the time
she had finished, had brought her into that agreeable frame, which is
disposed to be offended with the first person who does not act up to
Katherine's study, through the whole morning, was to avoid a private
interview with Mrs. Woodbourne; and she really shewed considerable
ingenuity in evading her. If Mrs. Woodbourne called her, she
answered, 'Yes, Mamma, I am coming directly,' but she took care not
to come till she knew that her mamma was no longer alone; if Lady
Merton wanted anything which she had left up-stairs, Katherine would
officiously volunteer to fetch it, when particularly told that she
was not wanted; if Mrs. Woodbourne moved to the door, and made signs
to Katherine to follow her, she worked with double assiduity, and
never looked up unless to speak to Rupert or to Harriet; and thus she
contrived to elude the reproof she expected, until the whole party,
except the two gentlemen, met at twelve o'clock for an early
luncheon, so that there was no longer any danger that Mrs. Woodbourne
would find an opportunity of speaking to her, at present.
The three children were to dine late with the rest of the party, and
were in high glee at the prospect of the afternoon's amusement;
Elizabeth seemed to have recovered her spirits; Harriet was as noisy
as ever; and Lucy, if possible, a little quieter than was her wont;
Anne, as usual, ready to be amused with anything; and Rupert quite
prepared to amuse everyone.
Fido was again mentioned, and Rupert, who had heard about half of the
history of his loss, suggested the possibility of his having been
despatched by the railroad to London, there to be converted into
sausages. Harriet, after many exclamations of 'O Mr. Merton!'
declared that if she believed such a thing could ever happen, she
would never eat another sausage in her life, and concluded as usual
with, 'would you, Lucy?' Mrs. Woodbourne inquired anxiously after
Winifred's hand. Mrs. Hazleby was on the point of taking fire at the
implied suspicion of her lamented favourite's sanity, when Rupert
averted the threatened danger, by a grave examination of Winifred and
Meg Merrilies, who had both been wounded, and concluded by
recommending that as soon as puss shewed symptoms of hydrophobia,
Winifred should be smothered between two feather-beds, to prevent
further mischief. Everyone laughed, except Dora, who thought the
proposal exceedingly shocking; and Rupert argued very gravely with
her on the expediency of the measure, until she was called away to
prepare for the walk.
Dora re-considered her arguments while putting on her bonnet, and the
instant the walking party were outside the front door, she began
again. 'But, Rupert, it would be committing murder to kill Winifred,
even if she had the Fidophobia.'
'No, no, Dora,' said Rupert, 'it is your mamma and Lizzie who have
'What can you mean?' said Helen; 'how can you frighten the child so,
'Do not you know, Helen,' said Elizabeth, ''tis his vocation. He is
a true Knight Rupert.'
'Expound, most learned cousin,' said Rupert; 'you are too deep.'
'You must know,' said Elizabeth, 'that Knecht Ruprecht is the German
terrifier of naughty children, the same as the chimney-sweeper in
England, or Coeur de Lion in Palestine, or the Duke of Wellington in
'Baby, baby, he's a giant,
Tall and black as Rouen steeple;
And he dines and sups, 'tis said,
Every day, on naughty people.'
'I should have thought,' said Rupert, 'that considering my namesake's
babe-bolting propensities, and his great black dog, that he would
have been more likely to be held up in terrorem in England.'
'I suppose there was some old grim Sir Rupert in Germany,' said
Elizabeth; 'but my dictionary is my only authority.'
'You are taking knecht to mean a knight,' said Anne, 'contrary to
your argument last night. Knecht Ruprecht's origin is not nearly so
sublime as you would make it out. Keightley's Fairy Mythology says
he is only our old friend Robin Good-fellow, Milton's lubber fiend,
the Hob Goblin. You know, Rupert, and Robert, and Hob, are all the
same name, Rudbryht, bright in speech.'
'And a hobbish fellow means a gentleman as clumsy as the lubber
fiend,' said Elizabeth.
'No doubt he wore hob-nails in his shoes,' said Rupert.
'And chimney hobs were so called, because his cream bowl was duly set
upon them,' said Anne.
'And he was as familiar as the Robin Redbreast,' said Elizabeth.
'And wore a red waistcoat like him, and like Herb Robert,' said Anne.
'As shabby as this flower,' said Elizabeth, gathering a ragged Robin
from the hedge.
'Well done, etymology,' said Rupert; 'now for syntax and prosody.'
'I hope we have been talking syntax all this time,' said Elizabeth;
'we will keep prosody for the evening, and then play at
They now came to some bright green water-meadows, which bordered the
little stream as soon as it left the town. There was a broad dry
path by the river side, and as they walked along it, there was no
lack of laughter or merriment in anyone but Helen, and she could find
no amusement in anything she saw or heard. At last, however, she was
highly delighted at the sight of some plants of purple loose-strife,
growing on the bank. 'Oh!' cried she, 'that is the flower that is so
beautiful at Dykelands.'
'What! the loose strife?' said Elizabeth, 'it is common enough in all
Poor Helen! as if this slight to the flower she admired were not a
sufficient shock to her feelings, Rupert, perfectly unconscious on
what tender ground he was treading, said, 'If it is a lover of damp,
I am sure it can nowhere be better suited than at Dykelands. Did you
grow web-footed there, Helen?'
'O Rupert,' said Helen, 'I am sure the garden is always quite dry.'
'Except when it is wet,' said Elizabeth.
'That was certainly the case when I was there two years ago,'
observed Rupert; 'I could not stir two steps from the door without
meeting with a pool deep enough to swim a man-of-war.'
'Rupert,' said Elizabeth, 'I hereby give notice, that whosoever says
one single word against the perfect dryness, cleanliness, and beauty,
of dear Dykelands, commits high treason against Miss Helen
Woodbourne; and as protecting disconsolate damsels is the bounden
duty of a true knight and cavalier, I advise you never to mention the
subject, on pain of being considered a discourteous recreant.'
'Lizzie, how can you?' said Helen peevishly.
'How strange it is,' said Anne, 'that so many old family houses
should have been built in damp places.'
'Our ancestors were once apparently frogs,' said Rupert; unhappily
reminding Helen of her sister's parody.
'Well,' said Elizabeth, 'I can understand why monasteries should have
been built in damp places, near rivers or bogs, both for the sake of
the fish, and to be useful in draining; but why any other mortal
except Dutchmen, tadpoles, and newts, should delight in mud and mire,
passes my poor comprehension.'
Rupert pointed to a frog which Dora's foot had startled from its
hiding-place, and said, 'Pray, why, according to my theory, should
not the human kind have once been frogs? leap-frog being only a
return to our natural means of progression.'
'And bull-frogs in a course of becoming stalwart gentlemen,' said
'Yes, we often hear of a croaking disposition, do not we, Helen?'
said Elizabeth; 'you see both that propensity, and a love of marshes,
are but indications of a former state of existence.'
'And I am sure that your respectable neighbour, Mr. Turner, is a toad
on his hind legs,' said Rupert.
'Minus the precious jewel,' said Elizabeth.
'By-the-bye,' said Rupert, 'is there not some mystery about that
gentleman? This morning I hazarded a supposition, in the drawing-
room, that the lost darling we have heard so much of, might have been
dissected for the benefit of Mr. Turner's pupils, and thereupon arose
a most wonderful whispering between Kate and one of your sweet
cousins there, Lizzie, about some nephew, an Adolphus or Augustus, or
some such name; but the more questions I asked, the more dark and
mysterious did the young ladies become.'
'I wonder if it is possible!' cried Elizabeth, with a sudden start.
'What is possible?' asked Anne.
'That Rupert should be right,' said Elizabeth; 'was Mrs. Hazleby in
the room when you spoke ?'
'Yes, but what of that?' said Rupert.
'That you, talking at random,' said Elizabeth, 'very nearly betrayed
Harriet's grand secret.'
'Really, the affair becomes quite exciting,' said Rupert; 'pray do
not leave me in suspense, explain yourself.'
'I do not think I can, Rupert,' said Elizabeth, not wishing to expose
Harriet, for Mrs. Woodbourne's sake.
'Then I am to understand,' said Rupert, 'that Miss Hazleby has
presented Fido to this noble Adolphus, as a pledge of the tenderest
friendship, and that you and Kate act as confidants.'
'Nonsense, Rupert,' said Anne, trying to check him by a look.
'And I suppose,' proceeded Rupert, 'that the gentleman is to extract
poor Fido's faithful heart, and wear it next his own. I never should
have devised so refined and sentimental a souvenir. It is far beyond
forget-me-nots and arrows. So professional too.'
Elizabeth and Anne laughed so much that they could neither of them
speak for some moments; but when Anne recovered, she took her brother
by the arm and whispered, 'Rupert, the less you say about the Turners
or Fido, the better. I will explain it all to you when we have an
Elizabeth thanked her by a look; and at this moment Dora, who had
been far in advance with Katherine and the Hazlebys, came running
back to beg Rupert to gather for her some fine bulrushes which grew
on the brink of the river. Rupert was very willing to comply with
her request; but Elizabeth recommended Dora to leave them till they
should return, and not to take the trouble of carrying them to
Whistlefar Castle and back again.
Leaving the river, they began to ascend a steep chalky lane, which
had been wet all the winter, and was now full of rough hardened
wheel-ruts and holes made by slipping horses. Elizabeth thought that
Robert Bruce's calthorps could hardly have made the ground more
uneven, and she was just going to say so, when Helen groaned out,
'What a horrid place! I slip and bruise my ancle every minute.'
Upon which she immediately took the other side of the question, and
answered, 'It is not nearly so bad as the long lane on the down, and
you never complain of that.'
'Oh! but this is all up-hill,' said Helen.
'I am not in the least tired, Helen,' said Dora, who with Rupert's
assistance was taking flying leaps over the ruts.
'You? no, I should think not,' said Helen, in so piteous a tone, that
Rupert very good-naturedly waited till she came up to him, and then
offered her his arm.
On seeing this, Harriet was rather vexed that she had not been first
noticed by the gentleman, and began to make heavy complaints of the
badness of the road, but no one paid much attention to her.
Elizabeth however gave her arm to Lucy, who never could bear much
After they had gained the top of the hill, they walked on for some
distance between high hedges, and as none of the party knew the way
further than the river, except from some directions given them by Mr.
Walker, the Curate, they begun to think that they must have missed a
turn to the left, which he had told them to take. Harriet and Helen
both declared that they had passed the turning; Katherine was sure
they had not; and Elizabeth said that she had seen a turn to the
right some way behind them, but that to the left was yet to come.
As they could not agree upon this question, Rupert walked onwards
to explore, leaving the young ladies to rest on the trunk of a tree
lying by the side of the road. While he was gone, Elizabeth drew
Helen aside, saying, 'Helen, you had better take care, I hope Rupert
has not observed how much out of humour you are.'
'I am not out of humour,' said Helen, according to the usual fashion
of denying such a charge.
'Then why do you look and speak as if you were?' said her sister;
'you had better watch yourself.'
'I think you are enough to vex anyone, Lizzie,' said Helen; 'bringing
me ever so far out of the way on such a road as this, and then
scolding me for saying I do not like it.'
'I see,' answered Elizabeth, 'you are not in a fit state to be
'No,' retorted Helen, who had indulged in her ill-humour till she
hardly knew what she said, 'you will never condescend to hear what I
have to say. Perhaps it might be as well sometimes if you would.'
'Yes, Helen,' said Elizabeth, colouring and turning away, 'it would
indeed. I know I have given you a right to upbraid me.'
At this moment Rupert came back, cheering the drooping courage of the
wearied and heated damsels with intelligence, that 'there is no lane
without a turning,' and he had found the one they were seeking.
Things now went on better; they came to a shady green path by the
side of a wood, and Helen was more silent, her temper having perhaps
been a little improved by the coolness. Soon, however, they had to
cross two long fields, where gleaning was going on merrily; Helen
made several complaints of the heat and of the small size of her
parasol; and Elizabeth had to catch Dora, and hold her fast, to
prevent her from overheating herself by a race after Rupert through
the stubble. At the first stile, Harriet thought proper to make a
great outcry, and was evidently quite disposed for a romp, but Rupert
helped her over so quietly that she had no opportunity for one. They
now found themselves in a grass field, the length of which made Helen
'Why, Helen, how soon you are tired!' said Rupert; 'I am afraid
Dykelands did not agree with you.'
'Helen is only a little cross, she will be better presently,' said
Dora, in so comical a tone, that Rupert, Katherine, and Harriet all
laughed, and Helen said sharply, 'Dora, do not be pert.'
Rupert was really a very good-natured youth, but it would have
required more forbearance than he possessed, to abstain from teazing
so tempting a subject as poor Helen was at this moment.
'And how do you know that Helen is a little cross, Dora, my dear?'
'Because she looks so,' said Dora.
'And how do people look when they are a little cross, Dora?'
'I do not know,' answered Dora.
'Do they look so, my dear?' said Rupert, mimicking poor Helen's woe-
begone face in a very droll way.
Dora laughed, and Helen was still more displeased. 'Dora, it is very
naughty,' said she.
'What! to look cross?' said Rupert; 'certainly, is it not, Dora?'
Elizabeth and Anne were far in the rear, reaching for some botanical
curiosity, on the other side of a wet ditch, or they would certainly
have put a stop to this conversation, which was not very profitable
to any of the parties concerned. Dora was rather a matter-of-fact
little person, and a very good implement for teazing with, as she did
not at all suspect the use made of her, until a sudden thought
striking her, she stopped short, saying very decidedly, 'We will not
talk of this any more.'
'Why not?' said Rupert, rather sorry to be checked in the full
enjoyment of his own wit.
'Because Helen does not like it,' said Dora.
'But, Dora,' said Rupert, wishing to try the little girl rather
further, 'do not you think she deserves it, for being out of temper?'
'I do not know,' said Dora gravely, 'but I know it is not right or
kind to say what vexes her, and I shall not stay with you any longer,
Rupert, if you will do it.'
So saying, Dora, well-named Discreet Dolly, ran away to Lucy, of whom
she was very fond.
Rupert was both amused and surprised at Dora's behaviour, and
perhaps, at the same time, a little ashamed and piqued by a little
girl of seven years old having shewn more right feeling and self-
command than he had displayed; and to cover all these sensations, he
began to talk nonsense to Katherine and Harriet as fast as he could.
In the mean time Helen walked on alone, a little behind the rest of
the party; for by this time Elizabeth and Anne had come up with the
others, and had passed her. As they entered a little copse, she
began to recollect herself. She had from her infancy been accustomed
to give way to fits of peevishness and fretfulness, thinking that as
long as her ill-humour did not burst forth in open name, as
Elizabeth's used formerly to do, there was no great harm in letting
it smoulder away, and make herself and everyone else uncomfortable.
Some time ago, something had brought conviction to her mind that such
conduct was not much better than bearing malice and hatred in her
heart, and she had resolved to cure herself of the habit. Then came
her visit to Dykelands, where everything went on smoothly, and there
was little temptation to give way to ill-humour, so that she had
almost forgotten her reflections on the subject, till the present
moment, when she seemed suddenly to wake and find herself in the
midst of one of her old sullen moods. She struggled hard against it,
and as acknowledging ill temper is one great step towards conquering
it, she soon recovered sufficiently to admire the deep pink fruit of
the skewer-wood, and the waxen looking red and yellow berries of the
wild guelder rose, when suddenly the rear of the darkness dim which
over-shadowed her spirits was scattered by the lively din of a long
loud whistle from Rupert, who was concealed from her by some trees,
a little in advance of her. She hastened forwards, and found him and
all the others just emerged from the wood, and standing on an open
bare common where neither castle nor cottage was to be seen, nothing
but a carpet of purple heath, dwarf furze, and short soft grass upon
which a few cows, a colt, and a donkey, were browsing. The party
were standing together, laughing, some moderately, others
'What is the matter?' asked Helen.
'I do not know,' said Elizabeth, 'unless Rupert is hallooing because
he is out of the wood.'
'Wait till you have heard my reasons unfolded,' said Rupert; 'did you
never hear how this celebrated fortress came by its name?'
'Never,' said several voices.
'Then listen, listen, ladies all,' said Rupert. 'You must know that
once upon a time there was a most beautiful princess, who lived in a
splendid castle, where she received all kinds of company. Well, one
day, there arrived an old grim palmer, just like the picture of
Hopeful, in the Pilgrim's Progress, with a fine striped cockle-shell
sticking upright in his hat-band. Well, the cockle-shell tickled the
Princess's fancy very much, and she made her pet knight (for she had
as many suitors as Penelope) promise that he would steal it from him
that very night. So at the witching hour of midnight, the knight
approached the palmer's couch, and gently abstracted the cockle hat
and staff, placing in their stead, the jester's cap and bells, and
bauble. Next morning when it was pitch dark, for it was the shortest
day, up jumped the palmer, and prepared to resume his journey. Now
it chanced that the day before, the lady had ordered that the fool
should be whipped, for mocking her, when she could not get the marrow
neatly out of a bone with her fingers, and peeped into it like a
hungry magpie; so that the moment the poor palmer appeared in the
court-yard, all the squires and pages set upon him, taking him for
the fool, and whipped him round and round like any peg-top.
Suddenly, down fell the cap and bells, and he saw what had been done;
upon which he immediately turned into an enchanter, and commanded the
Princess and all her train to fall into a deep sleep, all excepting
Back to Full Books