Mr. Hogarth's Will
Catherine Helen Spence(1825-1910)
Part 1 out of 9
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Chapter I. The Will
Chapter II. Disappointment and Hope; Prose and Poetry
Chapter III. Closed Doors
Chapter IV. An Evening At Mr. Rennie's
Chapter V. A Humble Friend
Chapter VI. A Bundle Of Old Letters
Chapter VII. Up And Down
Chapter VIII. Peggy Walker's Adventures
Chapter IX. Peggy Walker's Adventures
Chapter X. Elsie's Literary Venture, and Its Success
Chapter XI. Some Grave Talk In Gay Company
Chapter XII. Mr. Brandon In Edinburgh
Chapter XIII. Peggy's Visitors, And Francis' Resolution
Chapter XIV Good News For Francis
Chapter I. How Francis Received The Good News
Chapter II. Jane's Situation
Chapter III. Elsie's Situation
Chapter IV. Elsie Refuses An Excellent Offer
Chapter V. Elsie Accepts Of A New Situation
Chapter VI. A Letter From Australia For Francis, Which Causes Surprise
In An Unexpected Quarter
Chapter VII. Harriett Phillips Does A Little Bit Of Shopping,
Which Is Somewhat Fatal To Her Projects
Chapter VIII. Francis Makes A Favourable Impression On Harriett Phillips
Chapter IX. A Bonnet Gained And A Lover Lost
Chapter X. A Seance
Chapter XI. Spiritualism, Love, And Politics
Chapter XII. Chiefly Political
Chapter XIII. Good-Bye
Chapter XIV. Francis Hogarth's Canvass And Election
Chapter XV. Mrs. Phillips's First Grief
Chapter XVI. Another Good-Bye
Chapter I. Mr. Brandon's Second Proposal To Elsie, And Its Fate
Chapter II. Mrs. Peck
Chapter III. Raising The Wind
Chapter IV. Miss Phillips Meets With A Congenial Spirit In Victoria
Chapter V. Dr. Grant Prosecutes His Suit With Caution And Success,
And Brandon Finds His Love-Making All To Do Over Again
Chapter VI. Mrs. Peck's Progress
Chapter VII. Business Interrupted By Love
Chapter VIII. Mrs. Phillips Is Relieved
Chapter IX. Mrs. Peck's Communication
Chapter X. Mrs. Peck's Disappointment
Chapter XI. Elsie Melville's Letter
Chapter XII. What Can Be Made Of It?
Chapter XIII. Not So Bad, After All
Chapter XIV. Meeting
In a large and handsomely-furnished room of a somewhat old-fashioned
house, situated in a rural district in the south of Scotland, was
assembled, one day in the early summer of 185-, a small group in deep
Mr. Hogarth, of Cross Hall, had been taken suddenly ill a few days
previously, and had never recovered consciousness so far as to be able
to speak, though he had apparently known those who were about him, and
especially the two orphan nieces whom he had brought up as his
daughters. He had no other near relations whom any one knew of, and had
never been known to regret that the name of Hogarth, of Cross
Hall, was likely to become extinct. He had the reputation of being the
most eccentric man in the country, and was thought to be the most
With the highest opinion possible of women, and the greatest pleasure
in their society, he had never married; and with the greatest affection
for his nieces, and the greatest theoretical confidence in them, he had
hedged them about with countless laws and restrictions, and had
educated them in a way quite different from the training of young
ladies of their rank and prospects. He had succeeded two childless
elder brothers in the possession of the estate; and Jane and Alice
Melville were the only children of his only sister, who had been dead
for fifteen years.
The funeral had just taken place, and the two girls had been summoned
into the drawing-room to hear the will read by Mr. MacFarlane, the
Edinburgh lawyer, who had drawn it out. They found in the room Mr.
Baird, their uncle's medical attendant, and a stranger whom they
had never seen before--a tall, grave-looking man of about thirty-four,
whose mourning was new, and who showed a deep interest in what was
Both the man of law and the man of medicine looked nervous and
embarrassed, and delayed proceeding to business as long as they
possibly could; fumbling with knots of red tape; opening the closed
curtains to admit a little more light, and then closing them again, as
if the light was too strong; so that the sisters had time to look at
the stranger, and to wonder who he was and what his business could be
there. He also seemed to be taking notes of the young ladies in a
quiet, timid manner.
At last the will was opened, and after the usual preamble, the lawyer's
voice seemed to break a little. He cleared his throat, and continued in
a lower tone----
"As I have come to the conclusion that the minds of men and women are
radically the same, and as I believe that if the latter are trained in
the same way as the former they will be equally capable of making
their own way in the world, I have acted upon this principle in the
education of my two beloved nieces, Jane and Alice Melville, the only
surviving children of my sister Mary Hogarth; and as I foresee that if
I were to leave them wealthy heiresses my purpose would be completely
thwarted, by Jane losing her independent character, and Alice sinking
into a confirmed invalid, and by both being to a dead certainty picked
up by needy spendthrifts, who will waste their fortunes and break their
hearts, as their father, George Melville, served my poor foolish
sister, I hereby convey and dispone all my property, whatsoever and
wheresoever, heritable and moveable, to Francis Ormistown, otherwise
Hogarth, at present head clerk in the Bank of Scotland, who is my son
by a private irregular marriage contracted with Elizabeth Ormistown, on
the ninth day of July, 18--, and who is my heir-at-law, though he would
find it difficult to prove his claim, as he knows nothing of the
relation between us, and as the only party besides myself
cognizant of the marriage dares not come forward to prove it, but whose
progress I have watched with interest, who has made an honourable
position for himself, without any assistance from me beyond a good
education, who has served faithfully, and who is likely to rule
uprightly, who has raised himself from nameless poverty, and whom,
therefore, I judge to be worthy of wealth and honour: Provided always,
that he shall pay to Jane and Alice Melville, my beloved nieces
aforesaid, the sum of twelve pounds a year each, in quarterly payments
in advance, for three years following my decease, when such payments
shall cease, as by that time I believe they will be independent in
circumstances: Provided also that he shall give to the said Jane and
Alice Melville, the furniture and personal effects belonging to them,
as mentioned more particularly in the schedule marked A, appended to
this instrument; and that he shall give to the said Jane and Alice
Melville no further assistance either in money or in money's worth,
directly or indirectly, whatsoever: Also providing that the said
Francis Ormistown, otherwise Hogarth, shall not marry either of his
cousins; the marriage of such near relations being mischievous and
"In case of any of these provisions being disregarded by the said
Francis Ormistown, otherwise Hogarth, all my heritable and moveable
property shall be divided among certain benevolent institutions, in the
order and manner set forth in the schedule marked with the letter B.
"All these provisions I have made, as being the best for my surviving
relatives; and I believe they will eventually acknowledge them to be
It would be hard to say which of the three parties interested, felt
most astonishment at this extraordinary will. Jane Melville stood rigid
and silent, with her face flushed and her eyes filled with tears, which
she would not let fall. Alice's face lost all colour, and she seemed
ready to faint. But the greatest excitement was shown by the fortunate
legatee. He shook from head to foot, steadying himself on the
table--looked from the two girls to the two gentlemen with bewildered
eyes--and said at last with difficulty, in a low, soft, tremulous
"Was Mr. Hogarth in his senses when he made this will?"
"A little excited, but indisputably in full possession of his senses,
strange as the will appears," said Mr. MacFarlane, the lawyer; "and Mr.
Baird will corroborate my opinion."
Mr. Baird bowed his head affirmatively. "Quite true--his head was
quite clear at the time. The will was made six weeks ago, and you, Miss
Melville, know how well he was then. Very grieved, indeed--most
inconceivable conduct--cruel--inconsiderate. I feel deeply for your
disappointment. Try not to give way, Miss Alice--or perhaps you had
better give way, it may relieve you. Mr. MacFarlane tells me that he
remonstrated with Mr. Hogarth. Most painful duty--must obey
instructions, of course. Your uncle seemed like adamant. I pity you
with all my heart."
"And so do I, with all my heart," said Mr. MacFarlane.
"And does no one pity me?" said the low voice of the heir to all; but
it was unheeded, for Alice had fainted. Her sister and Mr. Baird laid
her on the sofa, and applied the usual restoratives.
Mr. MacFarlane began to speak in an undertone, to the new master, of
the extent and value of the property he had thus suddenly come into
possession of, and congratulated him rather stiffly on the turn of
fortune that had raised him from a life of labour and comparative
poverty to ease and affluence; but his embarrassment was nothing
compared to that of the man whom he addressed. Francis Hogarth looked
round the spacious room, and out of the window to the pleasant
shrubbery and smooth-shaven lawn, and shuddered when he thought of the
two young cousins, brought up apparently in the lap of luxury, who were
to be turned out upon the world with 12 pounds a-year for three years. The
elder sister seemed to have a vigorous and robust constitution,
but the younger looked delicate. He saw, in his mind's eye, two
governesses, dragging out a weary and monotonous existence, far from
each other, while he, possessed of superabundance, was debarred from
He advanced timidly to the sofa. Alice, who had recovered
consciousness, covered her face with both her hands, and sobbed aloud.
Jane turned towards him a glance, not of reproach, but of pity. He felt
it, and took her hand.
"Believe me, Miss Melville, no one can regret this extraordinary will
as I do. I will overturn it, if I possibly can."
"You cannot," said Jane; "it is quite in keeping with all my uncle's
ideas--quite consistent with all he has told us over and over again.
He had many strange notions, but he was generally in the right, and it
MAY prove to be so now." The sigh that accompanied these words told how
faint her hopes were.
"It has been positive unkindness to bring you up as he did, and now to
throw you upon the world. My beginning was different. How could
he expect the same success for you--women, too?"
"And are women so inferior, then? It was my uncle's cherished belief
that they were not. He said he never saw a woman take up man's work
without succeeding in it. I must try to show that I will be no
exception. He was not unkind to take us on our mother's death from a
careless and unprincipled father, to bring us into a quiet and happy
home, to educate us to the best of his judgment, to be always kind,
always reasonable. Ah, no, my dear uncle, though this seems very hard,
it was not meant for unkindness!"
"It is cruel, cruel," said Alice. "He must have been mad. What will
become of us? What will become of us?"
At this burst of despair from Alice, Jane's courage gave way, and the
heavy tears rolled down her cheeks. "Elsie, darling, at the worst we
can only die, and we are not afraid of death. But no, we shall live to
conquer all this yet."
"You cannot as yet lay any plan," said Mr. Macfarlane. "Mr.
Ormistown--Mr. Hogarth, I should say--is in no hurry to take
possession. You can have a month to look about you, and there is no
saying what may turn up in a month."
"Certainly," said the new cousin; "I am sure I should be most happy to
give the young ladies accommodation in this large house for as long as
they please, if that is not forbidden by the will."
"A permanent residence is clearly forbidden; for no assistance, beyond
the small money payment specified, Can be offered or accepted; but I
think a month to remain and to collect all their wardrobe and personal
property may be permitted."
"I ought to return to the bank, and work till they find a substitute,
and will leave my cousins the undisturbed possession of Cross Hall for
a month. In the meantime, I feel as if my presence must be a painful
intrusion. I must leave you."
"Perhaps," said Jane, "though you cannot give us money, you may
be able to give us advice. You are going to Edinburgh; you may see or
hear of something we could do."
"I should be most happy to do so. What line of life should you like to
"Anything we could make a living by."
"Then I suppose a governess's situation?"
"I might teach boys, but I have not learned what would qualify me to
instruct girls. But I do thoroughly understand bookkeeping, write a
good hand, have gone through Euclid, and know as much of the classics
as nine out of ten young men in my rank of life. But my uncle cared
very little for the classics. I know a good deal of chemistry and
mineralogy, but uncle was most pleased with my bookkeeping. How did you
get on when you began to work for yourself?"
"I entered the bank as a junior clerk, at the age of sixteen, and got
30 pounds for the first two years. An unknown friend--I know now who he
was--who had paid for my education and all other expenses
previously, sent me 12 pounds a year for three years to help out my
"And you could live on that?" said Jane.
"I did live on it somehow," said Francis. "My coats were very
threadbare and my meals scanty, but I weathered these three years, and
then I got a good step, and crept up gradually. I have been now in this
same bank for seventeen years, and am at present in the receipt of 250
pounds a year, thinking myself rich and fortunate;--now I am rich and
unfortunate. Why did not my father leave me to the career I had made
for myself, and you to the inheritance you had been brought up to
"Thirty pounds a year to begin with," said Jane, half aloud; "250 pounds
after seventeen years' work. Very sweet--all one's own earning. I am
not afraid, only let Elsie keep up heart."
"I cannot," said Elsie; "I'll be dead long before seventeen years are
"I will take good care of you," said Jane.
"How are you to take good care either of yourself or of me if we
are starving?" said Elsie, with a fresh burst of tears.
"We will do our best. So you are going, Mr. Hogarth. Write to me if you
can hear of anything for me. I will be much obliged to you. Good-bye."
Jane shook hands with her cousin kindly, and soon after Mr. MacFarlane,
and Mr. Baird also, withdrew, leaving the sisters alone. Elsie wept
till she was completely exhausted, while her sister sat at the table
with pen and ink and paper before her, but writing nothing.
After a while Elsie started up from the sofa. "Jane," said she, "if we
were to marry, it would put an end to all this perplexity. It was
strange that uncle put in the clause forbidding us to marry that man.
Neither of us would demean ourselves so much, but uncle disliked the
marriage of near relatives. How strange that so little is said about
the mother. I could not look at him, but you did. Is he like his
father? My uncle was a very handsome man; I fancy this man is plain."
"I see little or no likeness to my uncle, but he is by no means
"Will he get into society? Do they consider such people legitimate?"
"The marriage was irregular, but legal," said Jane. "I see now the
cause my uncle had to dislike the Scotch marriage law. He must have
been made very miserable from some unguarded words spoken or written;
but this does not prevent his son taking the position of a legitimate
heir. He is quiet and unassuming, and will take a very good place in
"It was well," said Elsie, with a faint laugh, "that this clause was
inserted, for you seem to be in some danger."
"Not at all; but we were thrown together in very extraordinary
circumstances, and I could not help feeling for his position as he felt
for ours. Nor could I help asking for advice from him. I agree with my
uncle about cousins. He was right there, as he always used to be. At
least, he brought me up to think like him, and I can scarcely believe
that what he has now done is wrong."
"But, Jane, setting this cousin out of the way, what do you
think of William Dalzell?"
"I was just thinking of him when you spoke," said Jane, resolutely.
"Uncle must have had him in his mind when he mentioned fortune-hunters
in his will, for he never seemed to like him coming here so often; and
just six weeks ago I had been going out riding with him every day. You
said you were not well, and would not accompany us. I suppose I was
giving him what people consider a great deal of encouragement. If my
uncle had said plainly that he disapproved of the intimacy, I wonder if
I would have given it up? Perhaps not--one does not like to be
dictated to. It appeared to myself so strange that he should prefer me
to you. And now I recollect that my uncle must have paid his last visit
to Edinburgh just before he made his will; and there he would see this
young man filling his place in the world so well, while I was behaving
so foolishly. The contrast must have struck him, and he certainly has
put an end to everything between Mr. Dalzell and myself."
"Oh, Jane, he is no fortune-hunter; this will make no change. If
you marry him you must take me home with you, and tell him it is what I
deserve for standing his friend so well."
"My dearest Elsie, you have talked a great deal about Mr. Dalzell, and
I have rather foolishly listened to it, but that must be stopped now. I
know he is poor; he thought to better himself by a wealthy marriage;
and perhaps if I had been left now with 20,000 pounds, with nothing to do
and nothing to think of, his agreeable qualities----"
"Well, you own he has agreeable qualities."
"Yes; I have always owned it--they might have induced me to marry him;
and you, as the possessor of other 20,000 pounds, would have been a most
welcome inmate of our house until you chose for yourself your own home.
But now, Elsie, I know William Dalzell is not the man to encumber
himself with a penniless wife and a penniless sister-in-law."
"He is not mercenary--I am sure he is not," said Elsie with animation.
"Perhaps he is not positively mercenary; but after all am I
worthy of the sacrifice? Look at me, Elsie; even your sisterly
partiality cannot make a beauty of me. My turn of mind is not suited to
his; I have always felt that; and, above all, I am not very fond of
"No; I have liked him a good deal; but now in this crisis, when
we have to begin life in earnest--when I am puzzling myself how to
find food and clothing and shelter for you and me--I feel as if Mr.
Dalzell's past attentions belonged to another world altogether, so I am
putting them aside completely."
"Ah! but Jane, only listen to me. If he were to come now, and lay
himself and all that he has at your feet, that would prove that he was
no fortune-hunter, but a real true lover, as I always believed him to
"He will not do it," said Jane, quietly; and she now began to make some
"We have no ornaments, Elsie," said she, sadly.
"No; I never heard you regret the want of them before."
"I should like to have something to sell. Emilia Chalmers has 200 pounds
worth of jewellery, most of it left by her aunt. If we had so much, we
might convert it into money, and might stock a little shop."
"A shop!" said Elsie, shuddering.
"Why not? One is more independent keeping a shop than in a governess's
situation, and there my business knowledge would be of use. It is wrong
and absurd to have a terror of a shop."
"I cannot help feeling a great repugnance to shopkeeping."
"Then would you rather be a governess, supposing you were capable?"
"Oh, Jane, that is such a hard life. I should be separated from you;
and then one is worried by the children, and snubbed by the parents,
sneered at by servants, and ignored by visitors."
"Then dressmaking? You work beautifully."
"The late hours, and the close rooms; do you think I could stand
"I am a little afraid for you," said Jane, thoughtfully. "What would
you like to do?"
"Why, I have never thought of doing anything but being with you,
working a little, reading a little, going out a little, and having
nobody over me but you, my own darling sister. It stuns me to be told
that I must go to work for a livelihood."
"I hope we may be able to live together as you hoped, eventually; but
in the meantime we must both put our shoulders to the wheel."
"Have we no friends who would give us a home--at least for a while,
till we get accustomed to the thought of hard work?" said Elsie.
"We have no relations, and we have made but few friends. I fear no one
would come forward to help us now that we need help so much. It is a
pity that my uncle kept us so much to himself, and that we were so
fully occupied with our own home duties that we had little or no
time for society. Now we have no capital for a start, and no friends to
help us on, only our talents and our education--a small
stock-in-trade, I fear."
In the course of the afternoon the man-servant, James, announced that
Mr. Dalzell was below, and that he sent his compliments and wished to
know how the young ladies were.
It was not the first visit since Mr. Hogarth's death. He had paid a
visit of condolence on the following day, and had never been so
affectionate or impressive in his manner to Jane as on that occasion.
"Show Mr. Dalzell upstairs, James," said Jane; "I think I should like
to see him."
The man looked somewhat intelligent, and obeyed.
"I cannot see anybody--I am not fit to be seen," said Elsie,
retreating in haste from the room; "and indeed, Jane, I wonder at you
wishing to see him so soon after this dreadful news."
"He has been at the funeral, I suppose. It is very proper of him
to inquire for us, and very imperative that we should understand each
other;--the sooner the better. But do not stay if you do not like. I
should prefer to see him alone."
Mr. Dalzell was shown into the darkened drawing-room, where he was some
time in discovering that Miss Melville was alone. A few of the kind
commonplaces which had been so successful on his previous visit--remarks
on the loss she had sustained, on the excellent character of
her deceased uncle, and on the necessity of bearing the blow with
fortitude, which her strong mind was quite capable of--were made by
Mr. Dalzell in unconsciousness that they fell very differently on
Jane's ears now. Jane asked for his mother, and heard that she was very
well, and sent her kindest regards and condolences, and hoped that the
Misses Melville would be able to see her on the following day.
"Were there many people at the funeral?" asked Jane.
"Oh yes, a great man; Mr. Hogarth was so extensively known, and so
"Were there any strangers?"
"Several--to me," said Dalzell.
"Did you observe no one in particular?"
"Yes, a gentleman from Edinburgh, said to be a PROTEGE of your uncle's,
who took rather a prominent place on account of there being no male
"Have you heard," said Jane, with an effort--"have you heard anything
of the will?"
"Nothing whatever--did not think it proper or delicate to inquire,
though I saw Mr. MacFarlane after it had been read. It is a matter of
no consequence to me how Mr. Hogarth has left his property. My feelings
will be quite the same towards----"
"Stop," said Jane; "my uncle has left his entire fortune to this
stranger from Edinburgh, who is his son by a private marriage. Elsie
and I have had an education, and must make the best we can of it."
"Miss Melville, this is incredible--quite incredible. You are
merely trying me. Mr. Hogarth was incapable of such madness and
injustice. It is not treating me well to play upon me in this way."
"In proof of what I say, here is a certified copy of the will--the
final will--executed six weeks ago, when, as you know, my uncle was
perfectly well both in body and mind. It is incontestable."
The bewildered young man tried to read the paper put into his hand, but
he could not follow the written words. Jane's sad face and her manner
convinced him, however, that she was telling him the truth.
"Now," said Jane kindly, "you have talked a great deal of nonsense to
me when my position was very different; but I am quite aware that
things are altogether changed. I will not feel at all hurt or angry
about it. We part perfectly good friends. But you cannot afford to
marry a wife without money, and I should be sorry to be a burden to any
William Dalzell looked at the girl he had fancied himself in
love with for the last few months, and felt that his love had not been
of a very deep or absorbing character. If the two girls had been equal
favourites of their uncle's, his choice would have fallen on Elsie, who
was prettier, more elegant, more yielding, and, as he thought, more
affectionate. Her impulsive and confiding manner, her little
enthusiasms, her blunders, were to him more charming than Jane's steady
good sense and calm temper. Jane never wanted advice or assistance; she
was too independent in mind, and too robust in body, to care much about
little attentions, though she had become accustomed to his in the
course of time, and as there was no other person to compare him with,
had allowed herself to think a good deal of him. Mr. Hogarth had always
shown so marked a preference for Jane, and had so often expressed
displeasure and impatience at Elsie's deficiencies; his property, not
being entailed, was entirely at his own disposal, so that it was
probable that Jane would be left the larger share of it, while if he
made love to Alice it was quite possible that she would be
disinherited altogether, for he knew that he was not a favourite with
the old gentleman. He did not think that anything could shake Mr.
Hogarth's confidence in Jane, and he had been very careful in feeling
his ground sure before he made a formal proposal. He had tried to
persuade himself that Jane's face was charming, though not regularly
handsome; so it was to some people, but he had not eyes to see the
charm. Her figure was undeniably fine, her temper good, her principles
to be depended on. Her education had been peculiar, and singularly
secular--his mother had felt a little shocked at her want of
religion--but then Mr. Hogarth was very odd, and when she was married she
would see things differently; and on the whole Mrs. Dalzell felt that her
handsome son had chosen with great prudence and good sense in fixing
his affections upon the elder and the favorite niece. His small
property was heavily encumbered, and such a marriage would make him
hold up his head again in the country. Mrs. Dalzell's attentions
to Jane had been nearly as assiduous as her son's, and to the
motherless girl they were quite as welcome; and she had shown so much
affection for Alice, too, that both sisters had been very much
captivated with her.
William Dalzell felt Jane's kindly-meant speech as a sort of reproach.
He would have preferred to make a speech himself, and to have seen her
more agitated. Though he had never thought himself very much in love,
he believed he had inspired a strong love, and that it would be very
hard for Jane to give him up. But things were completely taken out of
his hands; she did not even now, in the first pain of parting, dream of
breaking her heart. She was his superior, painfully his superior, and
he did not like it.
"You are quite right, Miss Melville," said he; "what you say is quite
true. I am involved and embarrassed, and could not offer you anything
"And I will make my own way in the world," said Jane; "and,
William Dalzell, do not be hurt if I give you one friendly piece of
advice on parting--try to make your own way in the world too. Shake
yourself clear of your own embarrassments by your own industry--a far
better way than by marrying a rich wife."
She looked very kindly at the young man as she spoke, but he did not
take the advice in the friendly spirit in which it was given. He
answered rather shortly, that he dared to say he would do as well as
other people, and then began to ask what she knew about the heir, if
she had ever seen him before, or heard Mr. Hogarth speak of him. She
"No, never; but I cannot answer questions. I cannot converse rationally
any longer. You had better go away, Mr. Dalzell, and let me have a
little rest, for I am rather weary."
The young gentleman stumbled down stairs, and rode home ruminating over
the downfall of all his cherished expectations; while Jane said to
herself, "It is over, and it is better so. He really is a smaller
character than I thought he was."
Disappointment and Hope; Prose and Poetry
When Jane Melville told her cousin that her uncle had been always kind
and always reasonable, she expressed her own opinion, for she had loved
and honoured him so much that she felt no hardship in doing everything
he wished; but no one else in the house or in the neighbourhood would
have endorsed that opinion. When the rumour spread far and wide that he
had disinherited his nieces, in the expectation that the education he
had given them would enable them to provide handsomely for themselves,
the servants and workpeople about shook their heads, and said it was
"aye weel kenned that the auld laird had a bee in his bonnet;" while
the class with whom Mr. Hogarth associated on more equal terms
declared; that this last eccentricity of affection (for it was all done
out of pure love), surpassed all his other oddities with regard to the
girls, which had long been the talk of the whole country.
They had, as Jane sadly confessed, made but few friends. Their uncle's
reasonable prejudices extended to morning visits, which he called a
frivolous waste of time; and he had a similar dislike to evening
parties; not on account of a puritanic disapproval of dancing, or of
young people of different sexes meeting and having opportunities of
getting acquainted with each other, but the hours were so irrational,
and the conventional dress so unbecoming and dangerous to health, that
he had prohibited Jane and Elsie from accepting the invitations that
were showered on them when they had given up lessons and were supposed
to be ready to come out. If people would meet at six, and break up
before twelve, and wear dresses fashioned like their ordinary attire,
Mr. Hogarth saw no objection to evening parties. He had invited
the neighbours to such a party, and mentioned in his note of invitation
the conditions on which it was to be attended. A good many had
accepted, partly from curiosity, and partly from a wish to be friendly;
but, in spite of really good arrangements and an excellent supper, the
party was not such a success as to be repeated often by Mr. Hogarth,
and was never imitated by any of his guests.
The Misses Melville danced well, walked well, and rode admirably; they
spent several hours every day in the open air; had learnt to swim, and
to shoot both with bow and arrow and with rifle. Their physical
education had been excellent, and had probably saved Elsie's life, for
she was extremely delicate when young, but had gained strength as she
Their book education had been chiefly conducted by an old gentleman,
who had lived for eight years in their house as tutor, and they had
spent several winters in Edinburgh, to attend classes and lectures. No
money, no care, and no time had been spared on their education,
so that it was rather a pity that, in the eyes of the world, it was so
unsatisfactory when completed. Both had gone through the same routine;
for Mr. Hogarth seemed to think that education made characters, instead
of merely drawing out what there is in the original material, and he
was disappointed that the uniformity of the training had not produced
two characters more similar than those of Jane and Elsie. Jane's
tendencies were to the practical and the positive; and she gladly
availed herself of her uncle's whim to educate her like a man of
business, regretting none of the accomplishments and showy acquirements
which are too apt to be considered the principal part of female
education. Expecting that she would be left in possession of
considerable property, and virtually the guardian of her younger
sister, she saw a fitness and propriety in her being taught the
management of money, the science of agriculture, the care of an
establishment, and the accurate keeping of accounts.
Elsie would have preferred another training, but it was not
given to her; and though she made but a lame attempt to follow Jane's
footsteps, and acquired only a superficial knowledge of what her sister
was the perfect mistress of, her uncle believed that, bad as she was,
she would have been much worse if she had not been forced into rational
studies. Though she was not a marvel of solidity, she still had as good
a knowledge of accounts, general information, history, and science, as
is possessed by many boys who get on very well in business or in
professions, when once set fairly to work.
Mr. Hogarth had no great opinion of the value of teaching languages,
and thought that a knowledge of things was of far more importance than
a knowledge of the names of things. The girls had learned, however, a
good deal of Latin and Greek from Mr. Wilson, their tutor, who thought
it a pity that Jane's fine abilities should not have a classical
education; and he had induced Mr. Hogarth to agree to it by the
argument that these languages are invaluable for the ready and
correct understanding of all scientific terms. French and Italian the
girls themselves were anxious to learn; and as they had been promised a
continental tour some fine summer, their uncle thought they might be
useful acquirements then, so they had lessons from the best masters in
Edinburgh, and profited by them. And here for the first time Elsie's
progress had been far greater than Jane's. Mr. Hogarth had himself
spent a good deal of time in his youth in France; but he had a higher
opinion of French society than of French literature, and he thought
that from the lips of brilliant Parisian women they would learn more of
the spirit of the language and of the people than from the books they
studied in classes or read at home.
Elsie had a natural taste for music, and a remarkably sweet voice in
speaking, which, if it had been cultivated, would have made her an
excellent singer; but her uncle was sure that to indulge her with a
musical education would only weaken her mind. Mr. Hogarth had seen
no good come of music. A taste for singing and a fine voice had
been the ruin of thousands--they had been most mischievous to Elsie's
own father, and they had been the chief fascinations which had won upon
his dear sister Mary. She and George Melville had sung duets together,
and from that had been led to try a duet through life; and a very sad
and inharmonious life they had made of it.
So poor Elsie's natural tastes were discouraged and thwarted; and after
the positive lessons were over, and her education was said to be
finished, she felt vacuity and ennui when Jane rejoiced in full
employment. The housekeeping was ostensibly taken by the sisters in
alternate weeks; but though Jane relinquished the keys for the stated
period, she never relinquished the superintendence. She remembered what
Elsie forgot; she looked forward where Elsie would have scrambled in
the best way she could through the passing hour, and constantly
thinking for her and remedying her blunders. Elsie was apt to forget
that any responsibility rested on herself.
Nothing in their singular training was considered odder than
that, while they were educated in a more masculine manner than most
boys, they were obliged at the same time to make a greater proportion
of their own clothes than any girls of their own rank or circumstances,
and that they had been carefully and systematically taught to make them
in the best manner possible. The only instructions which they had
received from one of their own sex had been given to them by an
excellent plain needlewoman, a first-class dressmaker, and a
fashionable milliner; and in the last two branches Elsie's taste had
made her excel her sister even more than in French and Italian.
At the time of their uncle's death, Jane was twenty-three years old,
and Elsie two years younger. They had but very recently given up
regular study, for their uncle thought girls were far too soon
"finished", as it is called, and turned out in a very incomplete state
of mental and moral development. He would not let them think themselves
educated till they had seen more of the world than could be done in
Edinburgh, which was a city he had rather a contempt for, as a
mere provincial capital, too superstitious and narrow-minded for his
taste. Paris and London were the schools for men, and therefore,
according to his notions, for women also; but when the time arrived for
the tour on the Continent and the winter in London, which had been
promised to the girls, he felt his health had given way, though he had
no positive illness, and delayed leaving home till the following year,
when he hoped to be able to enjoy it, and to show all he meant to show
to the girls without fatigue or indifference. If he had been able to go
with them on the previous year, as had been arranged, he would probably
have left his fortune otherwise, for Mr. Dalzell's attentions had only
been of recent date.
As the news of the will spread, every one said they really ought to
call on the Melvilles, poor things; but no one was in a hurry to
perform so disagreeable a duty. Mrs. Dalzell was so astounded by the
change that was made in her son's prospects, and so embarrassed lest
she should be looked to for assistance in the present urgent
necessities of the girls, that though she had been by far the most
intimate and cordial of their friends, she was not the first to visit
them. Three or four matrons had come and gone, who had made but short
calls, and who had taken refuge in commonplace inquiries as to how and
when Mr. Hogarth had been first taken ill, and at what hour he died,
but had given very little sympathy, and no advice. The minister of the
parish had called, as in duty bound, on the day after the funeral, and
surprised both Jane and Elsie by a style of conversation very different
from any they had ever heard from his lips. In his previous visits to
Cross Hall he had never talked of anything but the weather, and crops,
and the news of the neighbourhood. His tastes, his studies, his
politics, and his faith were so opposite to those of Mr. Hogarth that
there was no safety, and likely to be no pleasure, in conversation that
left the neutral ground he took. But now, when the eccentric and
sceptical Mr. Hogarth had crowned all this sins by an act of
such injustice to his nieces, and they were in affliction from
bereavement and poverty, he wished to give them spiritual comfort, and
to teach them something that he knew had been omitted in their
education; but he couched his consolation in language that seemed
strangely unfamiliar to the girls he addressed, and when he spoke of
crosses to be borne, that God has made crooks in every lot that no man
may make straight--when he dwelt upon the temptations of riches, and
the difficulty with which the rich can enter the kingdom of Heaven, and
hoped that his young friends would see the hand of God in this trying
dispensation, and would follow humbly His leading--Jane, who hoped to
conquer her difficulties, and did not mean to succumb to them, did not
feel much comforted or edified by the well-meant exhortation. Both
girls felt pained, too, by the reflections he cast on their late uncle,
and by the warning to be prepared for sudden death, as this had been an
instance of the Master coming when no one was looking for Him, and when
the loins were not girt, nor the light burning. Both girls had
loved their uncle; and even though Elsie felt that he had been often
hard to her, and that the will was not a just one, she could not bear
the idea that Mr. Herries suggested of his probable place in the future
state, while Jane felt indignant.
They had both hoped for some help and comfort from Mrs. Dalzell; but
when her visit was so long delayed, their expectations fell
considerably. Jane had become so tired of the useless kind of
condolence that was offered, that she determined to ask for advice from
the next person who came, and that happened to be Mrs. Dalzell. She
spoke a little more freely and kindly to the girls than other people
had done; but still she was keeping serious difficulties at arm's
length, when Jane turned rather sharply round on her with the abrupt
"What do you think we ought to do, Mrs. Dalzell?"
"Indeed, I cannot say, Miss Melville. This most unaccountable conduct
of Mr. Hogarth's has taken us all by surprise, so much that I
can think of nothing but overturning the will. I am sure when William
told me of the extraordinary disposition of the property, I felt--I
cannot tell you how I felt. Such a shocking thing to leave all to a son
whom nobody ever heard of before, and to leave his sister's children
destitute. You certainly have a claim on the heir, for a maintenance at
least. He should be made to refund a part of the spoil."
"He would if he could, but it is forbidden. There is no help in that
way," said Jane. "But employment, Mrs. Dalzell; can you suggest any
employment for us?"
Mrs. Dalzell hesitated. "Mrs. Chalmers is in need of a finishing
governess for Emma and Robina; but I am afraid neither of you two young
ladies would suit her, for we cannot get music-masters here, and one
must have a governess who has a good knowledge of music. If Mr. Maxwell
had not just engaged a tutor for his boys, you might have perhaps
undertaken that place, Miss Melville."
"I think I might," said Jane.
"Would it not be pleasanter, if we have to take situations, to go to a
distance," said Elsie. "I do not think I could I bear you or myself to
be near Cross Hall when everything is so changed."
"It would be more agreeable, I have no doubt, Miss Elsie; and I cannot
help thinking that in such a place as Edinburgh or Glasgow, where there
are masters and mistresses for everything, you could get on by having
classes, or engaging as teachers at some institution. In the country we
want governesses and schoolmistresses to know everything a girl ought
"Is there nothing but teaching that we can do?" said Jane.
"Well, you know there is nothing that a gentlewoman can turn to in such
circumstances as yours but teaching, and I would be very glad indeed to
see you both in nice comfortable situations. By-the-by, Miss Elsie, I
copied into my album the very sweet verses you sent me, and have
brought them back to you. Are they really your own? William says he
thinks they are."
"Yes," said Elsie, "they are original."
"Well, I could not have thought it; they are extremely pretty."
"By-the-by," said Jane, "do you not know Miss Thomson, Mrs. Dalzell? My
uncle always spoke of her with respect and admiration, as an instance
of the skill and success with which a woman can conduct masculine
avocations. A gentlewoman-farmer, and a thriving one. I wish we had
"Oh, yes. I do know Miss Thomson. Of course we are not exactly in the
same position, we being proprietors, while she is only a farmer; but
she is a most excellent and estimable woman in her way, though she is a
bit of a character. She is now growing old, and not so active as she
"She is said to be a benevolent and a kind-hearted, as well as a clever
woman," said Jane.
"Oh, yes; and well she may be liberal, for she has made money,
and has not the status to keep up that old country families must
"I wonder if she would engage me as her helper, and teach me farming. I
know a good deal of theoretical agricultural chemistry. Will you be so
good as give me a letter of introduction to her; I should feel greatly
obliged to you."
Mrs. Dalzell willingly granted this small request, and felt much
disposed to magnify its importance. It would be a good thing if,
without any trouble or sacrifice on her own part, she could aid her
dear young friends by bringing them into contact with a person who was
more able to further their views than herself. She was sure that Miss
Thomson was the very person to apply to, for of course she would take
an interest in a young lady so unfortunately situated. It was so well
thought of on Miss Melville's part; but then Miss Melville was always
so quick and sensible. The letter of introduction was written, and then
Mrs. Dalzell took leave.
Next day Elsie was languidly reading the local weekly journal,
when she came upon a paragraph which related to themselves. Mr.
Hogarth's will was described and commented on. There was congratulation
for the heir and commiseration for the nieces.
"Oh, Jane," said she, "is it not dreadful to be brought before the
public in this way; everybody must be talking about us, and of course
everybody has got hold of the story of William Dalzell and you too. I
am glad they did not put that in the newspapers, at any rate. Every one
will think that he gave you up, and will fancy you are so distressed
"We cannot help either what people think or what they say. I do not
wonder at the COURIER making a long paragraph on the subject, for they
have not had such an interesting piece of local news since Mr. Fisher
"I do not like the appearance of my own name in print," said Elsie.
"It is a very pretty name, nevertheless, and would look as well on the
title-page of a book as any I know--only in a newspaper you do
not like it," said Jane. "I must bid you good-bye for a few hours now,
for I am going to Miss Thomson's. I am going to ride, and will not be
Miss Thomson had just taken up the local newspaper after her morning
ride over the farm, and had read the peculiarly interesting paragraph
relating to Mr. Hogarth's will, when Mrs. Dalzell's note was put into
her hands, and Miss Melville was announced.
Miss Thomson was a very fine-looking old lady, with keen, though also
kind grey eyes, looking out from rather shaggy eyebrows, and an open
frank smile on her mouth. The colour of health still bloomed on a cheek
that had seen sixty summers and winters, and the elasticity of youth
had only been transformed into the dignity and repose of a green old
age. It is better to be at the head of the commonalty than dragging in
the rear of the gentry, and for substantial comfort, liberal
housekeeping, generous almsgiving, and frank hospitality, the farmhouse
of Allendale was out and out superior to the mansion of Moss
Tower, where the Dalzells had lived for at least two centuries.
As Mrs. Dalzell's note had been introductory and not explanatory, Miss
Thomson could not guess the cause of the unexpected visit. She,
however, kindly welcomed Miss Melville, and asked her to sit down,
which Jane did with an ease and youthful dignity that was as suitable
to her time of life as Miss Thomson's at three-score.
"I have called, madam," said Jane, "because I have always admired you,
and wished to know you; and also because at this critical juncture I
have thought that your advice would be far more valuable to me than
that of people who have never made an effort or conquered an obstacle.
You know our position"--and she glanced at the open newspaper.
"Yes, I do. I feel both surprised and grieved at your uncle's
extraordinary settlement," said Miss Thomson.
"My uncle always used to point to you as an instance of what
women could do if they tried, and I am sure he must have had you in his
eye when he felt so sure of my success in life. Could you, would you
teach me to farm, and I will keep your books, write your letters,
manage your household, be your factotum, if you will allow me. I have
studied agricultural chemistry, and if you would permit me to learn
from you the practical details of farming operations, I might really be
of use to you."
Miss Thomson shook her head. "My dear girl, you do not know what you
ask. Without capital, and a large capital, no one need think of taking
a farm in Scotland; and all those things that you offer to do for me
are precisely the things that I can do for myself, and I hope will be
able to do for the next ten years. I should be better for an assistant,
it is true, but it must be some one who can ride to market, buy stock,
sell to butchers, take or let grass parks, and oversee my working farm
steward, for I am getting rather old for such long rides as I have been
in the habit of taking on the farm. And, my poor girl, anxious
as I am to befriend you in your straits, and to encourage your honest
ambition, I have nephews and nieces, and grand-nephews and grand-nieces
of my own, who have all claims upon me. My two married sisters have
large families, and not very much to keep them on, so I have to help in
various ways. Do as you like, the burden of bringing up the next
generation is pretty equally divided among us, and I am only thankful
that Providence has so prospered me that I can be of use of the young
people. I have arranged that my nephew, John Forrester, is to come and
do for me what I cannot so well manage without help; and as I have no
idea of falling behind the high farming of the times, I have given him
a thorough course of the agricultural chemistry, so much in fashion,
before he tries the practical branch of the science. I hope he will not
be too new-fangled and upsetting altogether with his theories; but he
is a good lad in the main, and I think he will do. Besides John, I have
to help his brother James to begin business, and I have two
nieces whose education I am making more thorough than their parents
could afford to do."
"So you have no room for me," said Jane. "I should have known it. I
have no claim on any one, not a relation in the world but a sister,
less fit to cope with it than myself, and a cousin, newly found under
sad circumstances, and tied down not to assist us. But could you not
give us any encouragement, for that is what I want most? Your own
"My own experience is very different from what yours can be. My father
died in the early years of a long lease of twenty-one years, when he
had laid out several thousands, all the capital he had, and all he
could raise, upon the land, hoping to get it out again with interest
and a large profit, for the farm was a fine one, though it had been
badly managed before. He had no son to take up the lease; and had
things been wound up, and the lease sold, there would have been a heavy
loss. I believed that I could manage the concern, and got leave from
the landlord, rather as a favour, to continue on Allendale. I
was industrious and methodical, and reduced the expenses of management
below what they had been in my father's time, and consequently made
more money than even he could have made of it. My landlord willingly
took me again for a tenant when the lease was expired, particularly as
I offered as much as any one for it. The value of the lease, stock, and
crop, that I began business with, could not have been less for me to
keep than 5,000 pounds, though if they had been sold they might have
brought only half that amount. You see I had a good start. I like the
work, and it likes me. I am a richer, a happier, and a more useful woman,
than I could have been if I had had 20,000 pounds all left me in a lump."
"This is very different, indeed, from our case," said Jane. "It is the
want of capital that I feel so very hard. I could make something of
"I suppose that for you, Miss Melville, with nothing but youth, health,
and a stout heart, there is nothing but a governess's situation
to be thought of. Society seems to say to gentlewomen who have not
enough to live on, 'Teach or marry;' and the governess market and the
marriage market are both sadly overstocked. People have not all got a
taste for either alternative. Here am I, a sensible, well-disposed
woman, but yet I never could teach in my life, and I never had any wish
"The world is large," said Jane; "there are thousands of fields of
labour. Uncle did not wish us to be governesses, I am quite sure; he
did not educate us for it; and I do not think he wished us to marry
"He should have left you a small competence--not enough to tempt
others, but to save you from being tempted yourself," said Miss
"I dare say he made a great mistake; but I think he fancied that the
strong necessity for effort would stimulate us to exertion. To vegetate
on a small annuity would not be so pleasant as to earn even the
same income for ourselves," said Jane.
"Well, my dear girl, I do not fear for you, though things look so very
gloomy at present. You have got the stuff in you. There is promise of
success in your step and voice--in your quick eye and honest smile. Is
your sister like yourself?--no; you said she was less fit for the life
that is before you; that is a pity."
"It is; but we love each other so dearly--we are all the world to each
"Well, that is good for both of you; love is just as great a necessity
as air or food. I cannot help thinking that you should try your luck in
Edinburgh; you are more likely to find what will suit you there than in
a country side, like this of Swinton. Have you any friends there?"
"None to rely upon," said Jane.
"Your cousin that has come into such an inheritance, does he seem
"Very much so, but he is forbidden to give us help."
"In money, perhaps; but it would be only right if he would take
some trouble to make inquiries, and speak for you to any one he thinks
could employ you. It would be a satisfaction to his own mind, besides."
"I have a letter from him this morning, saying that he has heard of
something that he fears is not good enough for me, or either of us, and
urging me to come to Edinburgh, to see for myself, offering me or both
of us, if we are so inclined, the hospitality of his humble home, as he
calls it. I cannot afford to go to a hotel, and we have no friend to
whose house we could go uninvited, so I feel inclined to accept the
"You had better do so, Miss Melville; and as it may be a while before
you meet with work, and as travelling about to look for it costs money,
you will be so good as to take this, with my best wishes," said Miss
Thomson, opening her desk and taking out a five-pound note and handing
it to Jane, who, though she had fancied she never could have accepted
money from a stranger, felt this to be offered so frankly and
kindly, that she thanked Miss Thomson and took it.
"This is the best sign of you yet--no foolish pride--no flying in my
face with indignant disclaiming of what people call charity, and
throwing the bit of paper on the carpet for the lass to sweep out, but
a sensible and reasonable way of taking from a fellow-creature what she
would take as pleasantly from you if she needed it and you had it to
spare. You will do, Miss Melville; only mind, as the old Scotch proverb
has it, 'You must set a stout heart to a stey brae'."
On Jane's return to Cross Hall she found her sister in very much better
spirits than when she set out for Allendale. An idea had struck Elsie,
consequent partly on the remark Jane had made about her name looking
well on the title-page of a book, and partly on her seeing in the
Poet's Corner of the SWINTON COURIER some verses very inferior to her
own which Mrs. Dalzell had returned to her. She was a poet; and what
was there to hinder her from distinguishing herself in the
literary world by thoughts that breathe and words that burn; and also
from earning in this pleasant way a handsome income. Hope arose out of
the vision; the fanciful and fragile mind that every one had despised
and undervalued might, perhaps, do greater things than Jane's clear
head and busy hands. Never had her ideas flowed more rapidly, or her
words arranged themselves so well. She began by bewailing her own sad
fate, the loss of fortune, and the desertion of friends; and the
sincerity of her feelings made it feel like an inspiration. Things that
appeared to her to be new thoughts crowded on her, and before Jane's
return she had finished a short poem very much to her own satisfaction.
She would scarcely wait to hear the result of her sister's visit to
Miss Thomson, but impetuously and affectionately made Jane sit down to
listen to her lay.
"I wish I were a good judge, Elsie. It seems to me to be very pretty.
Here and there I would alter a word; but, on the whole, I think
you have succeeded," was the welcome criticism.
"You think so; and you are so prosaic. I feel as if I could go on for
ever writing. Don't you think you have seen worse verses printed, not
in a newspaper, but in a book?"
"I read so little of that kind of literature; but I am sure you often
read pieces to me, from both newspapers and books, that do not interest
me half so much."
"Oh, Jane, I count so much on your good opinion, because I know that
you will give it honestly, and because I think if I can please you I
may please anybody." And Elsie looked so animated, so joyous, and so
spiritual, that Jane's hopes rose. She, indeed, was no judge of poetry,
but anything that could give courage and hope to her sister's mind must
be a good thing.
"You must persevere, my dear. It will do yourself good, if no other
good comes of it," said she.
"But other good is sure to come of it, Jane. Do not such things get
printed, and of course the writer is paid for them? I can write
so fast; and now I know some of the real trials of life, I can speak
"And you are the type of the bulk of the poetry-reading public," said
Jane thoughtfully. "The lady readers, I mean; generous, impulsive, and
romantic; you ought to know what will suit the public taste. I wish you
all success. But I have failed in my object, and have been advised to
go to Edinburgh. You saw I had a letter this morning from Mr. Hogarth,
with an invitation for both of us to come and live at his house, and
look about us. You would not like to go?"
"No, Jane, I would far rather stay here and write; but it would be
uncomfortable for you to go by yourself. I will go, if you very much
"No, my dear, if you think this writing is to be your vocation, it is
not necessary for you to look for a situation, and I do not mind going
by myself, only I feared you would be unhappy alone."
"I will be quite happy. I must have something better than this
done while you are away."
"I must write to my cousin, accepting the invitation, and telling him
when to expect me. The sooner I can go the better."
Francis Hogarth was waiting for Jane at the railway station, and as
they walked together to his house in the outskirts of the town, she
eagerly asked him about the situation he had heard of that he feared
would not suit.
Her cousin hesitated a little, for it seemed so far below her deserts
and her capabilities; but Mr. Rennie, the manager of the bank in which
he had so long been employed, had told him that the ----- Institution,
the principal asylum for the insane in Scotland, and an admirably
managed establishment, wanted a second matron; and that from the
accounts he had heard of Miss Melville's practical talents, it was
probable that she would be the very person to fill the situation
well. Jane eagerly asked after the duties and the salary, but Francis
could not give her all the particulars she desired. Mr. Rennie was to
see one of the Directors of the ----- Institution on that evening, and
was to make inquiries; he had some influence with one or two of the
directors, and would use it in Miss Melville's favour if she was
disposed to apply for it. It was expected that there would be at least
fifty applications for it, and a little interest was a good auxiliary
even to the greatest merits in the world. The duties, so far as Francis
knew them, were the active superintendence of a large number of female
servants, and the charge of all the stores, both of food and clothing,
required for a household of several hundreds, who could none of them
think for themselves. He did not know if she would come much in contact
with the patients; he hoped not, for he thought it would be a
sufficiently exhausting and anxious life without that. He had heard
that the institution parted with the present occupant of the
situation for incompetence--that there had been both waste and
"I feel sure that my superintendence of my uncle's household, and my
knowledge of accounts, should enable me to fill such a situation well,
and from the number of applications, and the responsible nature of the
duties, the salary should be handsome," said Jane. "I think I should
send in an application, and I feel obliged both to Mr. Rennie and you
for the suggestion. The establishment is well managed; you know it is
one of those to which my uncle's property was to go in case you
disobeyed his injunctions. He had a high opinion of the kind and
rational treatment of the patients there. I do not see any objection to
mingling with them either. I might be very useful."
"It seems a throwing away of your talents and acquirements, to make a
mere housekeeper of you," said Francis.
"It is not such an insignificant office after all. What contributes to
the comfort and happiness of a family every day, and all day
long, is surely as valuable a thing as much book-learning; and to keep
such a large establishment going smoothly and satisfactorily requires
much care and thought, and a particular kind of talent, which I think I
possess, and which such a life will develop. When can I see Mr. Rennie,
and when can I send in my application?"
"Mr. Rennie particularly desires to see you to-morrow morning; and if
you like the prospect he holds out, your application can be sent in
When they reached the small but prettily situated cottage occupied by
Francis, Jane was agreeably struck with the comfort and neatness of
everything about it. The furniture, without being costly, was good of
its kind; the very excellent collection of books was methodically
arranged in ample book-shelves, and carefully preserved by glass doors;
the bright fire in the grate--for though it was called summer, it was
but a bleak cold day in Edinburgh; and the respectable-looking
middle-aged woman who had just laid the cloth for dinner, and now
brought it in; all gave an air of comfort and repose to a dwelling much
humbler than she had been accustomed to live in, but far better than
any she could hope for a while to occupy. There were on a side table a
few costly articles of VERTU, and a magnificent folio of engravings,
which had been bought by Mr. Hogarth since his accession to fortune;
but substantial comfort had been attained long before.
Jane was rather surprised to see the large proportion of poetry and
fiction that filled the book-shelves. Little did Mr. Hogarth the elder
suppose that the bank clerk, whose outer life was so satisfactorily
practical, had an inner life whose elements were as fanciful and unreal
as poor Elsie's. His taste was certainly more severe and fastidious
than hers, for he was older, and had read more; but his love, both of
art and poetry, was very strong, and had been to him in his long
solitary struggle with fortune a constant and unfailing pleasure. He
had found in them some amends for the want of relatives and the
want of sympathy; and now his heart turned with strong affection to
both of his cousins, and especially to the one who treated him with so
much delicacy of feeling and such generous confidence. It was like
finding a long-lost sister; there was so much to ask and to answer on
either side. Jane liked to talk of her uncle; and Francis' curiosity
about his unknown father, whom he had only occasionally seen at long
intervals as a stranger who took a little interest in him, was
satisfied by her clear and graphic descriptions of his opinions, his
talk, and his habits; whilst she, beginning a new life, and doubtful of
the issue, eagerly asked of his early experiences, and liked to
chronicle every little step in a steady and well-deserved progress.
Though Jane had such a practical turn of mind, and such an excellent
education, it must not be supposed that she knew much of the world.
Educate women as you will, that knowledge is rarely attained at
twenty-three; and she had lived so much in a Utopia of her own,
fancying that things that were right were always expedient, and that
they should always be valued for their intrinsic worth, that she did
not see the difficulties of her situation as clearly as many people who
had not half her understanding. She and her uncle had been too apt to
talk of things as they ought to be, and not as they actually were. With
all Jane's quiet good sense, there were points on which she could be
enthusiastic, and on this evening the successful cousin was struck by
the warm expressions of an optimism in which he could not share,
uttered by one who had good cause for complaint and dissatisfaction.
When the cousins went together to the Bank of Scotland on the following
day, and were shown into Mr. Rennie's private room, Jane's hopes were
somewhat damped by the details she received about the situation. The
duties were even greater than she had supposed, consisting in the
active and complete superintendence of a great many female servants,
and a slighter control over a still larger number of female
keepers, who also acted as housemaids and chambermaids; the control of
the workroom, so as to see that there was no waste, extravagance, or
pilfering there; the arrangements necessary in the cooking and
distribution of such large quantities of food, so that each should have
enough, and yet that there should be no opportunity of theft; and the
watchfulness required to prevent any of the girls employed in the
establishment from flirting with any of the convalescent gentlemen. The
wages given by the directors had been too low to keep servants long in
the place, or to secure a good class of girls who would be above
dishonesty or other weaknesses; and this made the duties of their
superintendent particularly irksome; while there was a good deal to be
done for the patients themselves, though not so much by the second as
by the upper matron.
All this seemed a formidable amount of work for one head and one pair
of eyes to do; and when Jane was told that the salary was 30 pounds
a-year, and that so many applications had been and were likely to be
sent in, that great interest was necessary for success, she was by no
means so decided on sending in hers. Even the privileges annexed to the
situation, of a small bedroom for herself, and a parlour shared by two
others, with a fortnight's holidays in the year, though very necessary
to prevent the second matron being removed speedily into one of the
wards, did not seem so tempting as to revive Jane's last night's
"Surely," said she, "the payment is very small for the work and the
"There is so much competition for a thing of this kind," said Mr.
Rennie. "There are so many women in Scotland who have too little to
live on, or nothing at all, that they will gladly snatch at anything
that will give them food and lodging, and the smallest of salaries. I
know of a situation of 12 pounds a-year that received forty-five
applications from reduced gentlewomen. The payment is never in proportion
to the work."
"But the work has been badly done hitherto, I understand," said
Jane. "It is not having too little to live on that makes a woman fit
for such a situation as this. Why do not they raise the salary and
insist on higher qualifications?"
"I cannot tell why they do not, but so it is," said Mr. Rennie.
"Is there any chance of rising from second to first matron?" asked
Jane. "That is worth 90 pounds, you say."
"In the course of fifteen or twenty years, perhaps; but the duties are
very distinct at present, and require different kinds of talent."
"Yes," said Jane; "and great interest with the directors might get a
new person in, and fifteen or twenty years' services would have less
weight. I do not feel inclined to work twenty years for 30 pounds even
with a better chance of 90 pounds at last than is offered here. It is at
best a prison life, too; not the life I had hoped for, nor what I am best
fitted for. My cousin's place is filled up here, I understand."
"Every one below Mr. Ormistown has got a step, and we only want
a junior clerk. No doubt we will have plenty of applicants."
"Will you take me?" said Jane. "Do not shake your head, Mr. Rennie.
Cousin Francis, speak a word for me; I am quite fit for the situation."
"If you could do anything to further Miss Melville's views in any way
you would lay me under a deep and lasting obligation, Mr. Rennie," said
Francis. "I have most unconsciously done both of my cousins a great
injury, which I am not allowed to repair. My late father had as much
confidence in this young lady's talents and qualifications as he had in
mine. I know she is only too good for the situation she asks for."
Mr. Rennie was disposed to try to please Mr. Hogarth. He had always had
a high opinion of him, and had great confidence in his judgment and
integrity. He was to take the chair at a dinner given to the whole bank
staff by this man who had advanced all his subordinates one step, and
left them pleased and hopeful; and he could make the usual
complimentary speeches with more sincerity than is common at public
dinners. He had also introduced the new laird of Cross Hall to his wife
and family on equal terms, and they had been very much pleased with
him. But when Miss Melville again gravely asked for the vacant
clerkship, his habitual courtesy could scarcely prevent him from
"It would never do, my dear madam," said he; "young ladies have quite a
different sphere from that of ledgers and pass-books."
"But I would do the work," said Jane, opening a ponderous volume that
lay on the manager's table, and running up a column of figures with a
rapidity and precision which he could not but admire. Then on a piece
of loose paper she wrote in a beautiful, clear, businesslike hand an
entry as she would put it in the book, showing that she perfectly well
understood the RATIONALE of the Dr. and the Cr. side of the ledger; and
then gravely turning to Mr. Rennie, she asked him why she would not do.
"It is not the custom, my dear young lady; I can get young men
in plenty who want the place."
"I have no doubt that you can, but I want it too; and, in consideration
of the prejudice against my sex, I will take the place, and accept the
salary you would give to a raw lad of sixteen, though I am an educated
and experienced woman of twenty-three. I want something that I can rise
by. I could be satisfied with the career of my cousin, without the
fortune at the end. Young women in Paris are clerks and bookkeepers;
why should they not be so here?"
"France is not Scotland, or Auld Reekie Paris. We consider our customs
very much better than the French. Why, you know quite well it would
never do. You would turn the heads of all my clerks, and make them idle
away their time and neglect their work. You do not see the danger of
"No, I do not," answered Jane. "Do I look like a person who would turn
any man's head? If I do such mischief, turn me off; but I ask,
in the name of common sense and common justice, a fair trial. If I do
not give satisfaction I will stand the consequences."
The serious earnestness with which Jane pleaded for so strange an
employment--the matter-of-fact way in which she stood upon her
capabilities, without regarding suitabilities--impressed Francis
Hogarth while it embarrassed Mr. Rennie. It was impossible to
out-reason so extraordinary an applicant, but it was still more
impossible to grant her request. Skilled as the banker was in the
delicate and difficult art of saying "No," it had to be said oftener
and more distinctly to Jane Melville than to the most pertinacious of
customers, to whom discount must be refused.
"I admire your spirit, Miss Melville. If one thing cannot be
accomplished you must try another. But in an establishment like this,
you see, I could not possibly take you in. A private employer might
admire your undoubted ability; but I am responsible to a Board of
Directors, and they would decidedly oppose such an innovation.
Your sex, you are aware, are not noted for powers of secrecy. I dare
say it is a prejudice; but bank directors and bank customers have
prejudices, and no one likes any additional chance of having his
affairs made public."
"You know you are talking nonsense, my good sir," said Jane. "It is
because women have never had any responsibilities that they have been
supposed to be unworthy of trust. Where they have been honoured with
confidence they have been quite as faithful to it as any men."
"But, my dear madam," said Mr. Rennie, "what would be the consequence
if all the clever women like yourself were to thrust themselves into
masculine avocations? Do you not see that the competition would reduce
the earnings of men, and then there would be fewer who could afford to
marry? The customs of society press hard upon the exceptional women who
court a wider field of usefulness, but I believe the average happiness
is secured by-----"
"By a system that makes forty-five educated women eager to give
their life's work for 12 pounds a-year, and fifty applying for the
magnificent salary of 30 pounds for a most exhausting and responsible
situation. These are not all exceptional women, Mr. Rennie, but many of
the average women whose happiness you are so careful of. You know there
are enormous numbers of single women and widows in this country who
must be supported, either by their own earnings or by those of the
other sex, for they MUST live, you know."
Mr. Rennie smiled at Jane's earnestness.
"You smile, 'ON NE VOIT PAS LA NECESSITE'," said Jane. "I dare say it
would really be better for us to die."
"I am sure nothing was further from my lips than either the language or
the sentiment. I think your case especially hard--ESPECIALLY hard."
"I thought it was, till I heard of these numerous applications; and the
sad thing to me is, that it is NOT especially hard. Some innovation
must be made: have you and your directors not the courage to
begin? I am willing to endure all the ridicule that may be cast on
"There are other departments of business where your unquestionable
abilities and skill might be employed and well paid for; but here, I
must repeat, it is impossible--impossible--perfectly impossible. Mr.
Hogarth is going to favour us with his company this evening, and Mrs.
Rennie and my daughter Eliza would be most happy to see you. I would
like to introduce my daughter to a young lady who knows business so
well. You will be good enough to pardon my necessary incivility: most
painful to me it has been to refuse your request, backed by such
excellent reasons,--but you will accompany Mr. Hogarth, and show you
are not unforgiving."
Jane accepted the invitation willingly. Francis was not pressed for
time; the bank had released him without the usual notice, so he offered
to accompany his cousin wherever she chose to go to.
"Do you think," said she, when they were again in the street,
"that I could get employment with any bookseller or publisher? I will
try that next. Will you go with me to a respectable house in that line
There was no situation vacant for any one in the first two
establishments they called at. In the third there was a reader wanted
to correct manuscripts and proofs, and as Mr. Hogarth was supposed to
be the person applying for the employment, he was asked his
qualifications. When he somewhat awkwardly put forward Miss Melville,
the publisher respectfully but firmly declined to engage her.
"Whatever I could or could not do--whatever salary I might ask--you
object on account of my being a woman?" said Jane.
"Just so," said the publisher; "it is not the custom of the trade to
employ LADIES OF THE PRESS. You do not know the terms or the routine of
"I suppose I could learn them in an hour or two; but I see you do not
wish to employ me, even if I had them at my finger-ends. Do you
employ women in no way in your large establishment?"
"Yes, as authors; for we find that many books written by ladies sell
quite as well as others."
"But in no other way?"
"Only in this," said the publisher, taking the cousins into a small
room at the back of his large front shop, where eight or ten
nice-looking girls were busily engaged in stitching together pamphlets
and sheets to be ready for the bookbinder. "It is light work; they have
not such long hours or such bad air, nor do they need much taste or
skill as dressmakers do."
"So their wages are proportionally lower," said Jane.
"Just so," said the publisher; "and quite right they should be so."
"Of course; but do they not rise from stitching to bookbinding?"
"Ah! that is man's work. I have bookbinders on the premises, to finish
the work that the girls have begun."
"And they spend their lives in this stitching--no progress--no
improvement--mere mechanical drudgery."
"Yes; and in time they get very expert. You would be amazed at the
rapidity with which they turn the work out of their hands. The division
of labour reduces the price of binding materially."
"No doubt--for you have girls at low wages to do what is tedious, and
men at higher to do what is artistic; that is a very fair division of
labour," said Jane, bitterly.
"Nay, nay; I believe our profession, or rather trade, is more liberal
to the sex than any other. Write a good book, and will give you a good
price for it: design a fine illustration, and that has a market value
independent of sex."
"I can neither write nor draw," said Jane, "but I would fain have been
a corrector of the press; from that I might have risen to criticism,
and become a reader and a judge of manuscript; but I see the case is
hopeless. I suppose it is not you, but society who is to blame.
Perhaps I may be reduced to the book-stitching yet; if so, will you
give me a trial? In the meantime, I wish you good morning."
The publisher smiled and nodded. "A most eccentric young woman, and, I
daresay, a deserving one; but she takes hold of the world at the wrong
end," said he, as she went out to pursue her inquiry elsewhere.
"Now," said Jane, "I can release you, for I will make my next
application myself. If I fail here I really will be surprised, for I
make it to one who knows me."
Mrs. Dunn, the head of the dressmaking and millinery establishment
where the Miss Melvilles had been initiated into these arts, had been
very handsomely paid for instructing them, had always praised Jane's
industry and Elsie's taste, and had held them up as patterns for all
her young people. Of course she knew, as all the world knew, that they
had been disinherited by their uncle, but she fancied they had other
influential friends or relatives; so when Miss Melville was
announced, she thought more of an order for mourning then of a request
for employment. But the young lady, in her own plain way, went at once
to the point.
"You were accustomed at the time I was with you to have a bookkeeper,
who came regularly to make up your bills and your accounts. Have you
the same arrangement still?"
"Yes, and the same gentleman; a first-rate hand at his figures;
employed by many beside me," said Mrs. Dunn.
"Then he cannot miss one customer. Will you give the business to me on
the same terms, for the sake of old times?"
"To you, Miss Melville! it is not worth your having. It is only by his
having so many that he makes it pay, though he is as good an accountant
as any in Edinburgh."
"I might in time get a good many too. Surely women might put all their
work in the way of their own sex. I am quite competent; I convinced a
bank manager to-day that I was fit for a situation in his
establishment, but he did not like the idea of taking a young woman
amongst his clerks. You can have no objection on that score. You know I
will be quiet, careful, and methodical."
Mrs. Dunn was very sorry, but really nobody ever thought of having
young ladies to make up their books. It was not the custom of any
trade. A gentleman coming in gave confidence both to herself and to the
public; and she had no fault to find with Mr. McDonald--a most
gentlemanly man, with a wife and family, too--it would not be fair to
part with him without any cause. And, indeed, the business was not what
it used to be--it needed the most careful management to get along, and
she could not risk having a change in her establishment just at
present; perhaps by-and-by.
"While grass grows horses starve," said Jane. "If I establish a
reputation and get employment from others you could not object to me.
Everyone is alike; neither man nor woman will give me a chance.
"I cannot blame you, Mrs. Dunn, for thinking and acting so much
like other people."
"I am sure it would be better for you to take a nice comfortable
situation; but I thought you had friends. If there was any other way
that I could serve you in I would be so happy. If you had asked to be
taken into the work-room--but I suppose you look higher."
"I do not know how low I may look ere long, Mrs. Dunn. It is quite
possible I may trouble you again, but in the meantime-----"
"In the meantime I want you to come into the show-room and see the new
sleeve just out from Paris--it would improve the dress you have on
amazingly. I suppose that was made in Swinton. And you must see
Mademoiselle; she is with us still, and as positive as ever; and many
of the young people you will recognise. How we have all talked about
you and Miss Alice lately. It was such an extraordinary settlement!"
Jane forced herself into the show-room, listened mechanically to the
exclamations and remarks of Mademoiselle, the forewoman, shook
hands with all the work-girls she had known, looked with vacant eyes on
the new sleeve, and heard its merits descanted on very fully; then went
back into Mrs. Dunn's parlour, and had a glass of ginger wine and a
piece of seed-cake with her; after which she took leave, and Mrs. Dunn
felt satisfied, for she had paid Miss Melville a great deal of
attention in spite of her altered circumstances.
"Where am I to go to now?" said Jane to herself as she again trod the
pavement of Princes Street and walked along it, then turned up into the
quieter parts of the town where professions are carried on. She passed
by shops, and warehouses, banks and insurance companies' offices,
commission agencies, land agencies, lawyer's offices.
"Every one seems busy, every place filled, and there appears to be no
room for me," she said to herself. "I must try Mr. MacFarlane, however;
he knows something of me, and will surely feel friendly. I hope he will
not be so much astonished at my views as other people have
Mr MacFarlane, however, was quite as much surprised as Mr. Rennie, or
the publisher, when Jane asked him for employment as a copying or
engrossing clerk, either indoors or out of doors. He was quite as much
disposed to exaggerate the difficulties she herself would feel from not
understanding the forms of law, or not being able to write the
particular style of caligraphy required for legal instruments. He had
heard of the singular education Henry Hogarth, an old crony and
contemporary of his own, had given to his nieces, and as his own
old-bachelor crotchets lay in quite another direction, he had never
thought of that education doing anything but adding to their
difficulties, and preventing them from getting married. When the girls
had been left in poverty he only thought of their trying for the nice
quiet situations that every one recommended, but which seemed so hard
to obtain, and then sinking into obscure old maidenhood in the bosom of
a respectable family. When Jane mentioned the matronship, Mr.
MacFarlane strongly advised her to apply for it, for the salary was
more than she could look for in a situation, and she would probably be
more independent. But as for him employing a girl as a law-writer, what
would the profession say to that? It was quite out of the question.
"I fear I have no turn for teaching, but I suppose I must try for
something better than a situation. Could I not get up classes?"
"Oh! yes, certainly--classes if you feel competent."
"Not quite for French or Italian. My uncle was never satisfied with our
accent; and we must advertise French acquired on the Continent
now-a-days, if we want to succeed in Edinburgh. The things I could
teach best--English grammar and composition, writing and arithmetic,
history, and the elements of science--are monopolized by men; but I
must make an effort. I am sorry my dear old friend, Mr. Wilson, is no
more, he would have recommended me strongly; but I will go to
Mr. Bell. I studied under him for four winters, and though I am
threatening him with competition, I know I was his favourite pupil, and
I hope he will help me. I never would encroach on his field if I could
find any elbow-room elsewhere."
This was another long walk, and to no purpose, for Mr. Bell was away
from home, in bad health, for an indefinite period, leaving his classes
in the care of a young man, who had been strongly recommended to him.
The other masters she had had were not likely to take nearly so much
interest in her as Mr. Bell; but she was resolved to leave no stone
unturned, and went to see several of them. They gave Miss Melville very
faint hopes of success. Edinburgh was overdone with masters and
mistresses, rents were very high, and classes the most uncertain things
possible. But she might apply at one of the institutions. Thither she
went, and found that her want of accomplishments prevented her from
getting a good situation; and her want of experience was objected
to for any situation at all. With a few more lessons, and a
little training, she might suit by-and-by.
She was glad that those long walks and many interviews occupied the
whole day till the time Francis had appointed for dinner; she had not
courage to face the empty house and the respectable woman-servant till
she was sure her cousin would be at home to receive her. Heartsick,
weary, and footsore she felt, when she reached the cottage where
Francis was standing at the door to welcome her return.
"Well, friend," said he, "what news?"
"No good news. I suppose I must advertise. Perhaps there is one person
in England or Scotland who would fancy I was worth employing, even
though I am apparently very much at a discount."
"Are you much disheartened?"
"I am very tired," said she; "Rome was not built in a day. I was a fool
to expect success at once."
"You are not too tired to go to Mrs. Rennie's with me this
evening. I have ordered a carriage to call for us."
"Thank you, I will need it, and my dinner, too, in spite of the wine
and cake at Mrs. Dunn's."
Her cousin's quiet sympathy and kindness soothed the girl's aching and
anxious heart; she told him her experiences; and though he was not very
much surprised at the result, he felt keenly for her disappointment.
She had brought a little piece of needlework to fill up vacant hours,
and after dinner she took it out, and soothed her excited feelings by
the quiet feminine employment. There was an hour or more to be passed
before the carriage came for them, and Francis sat on the other side of
the fire cutting the leaves of a new book, and occasionally reading a
passage that struck him. Had any one looked in at the time, he could
not have guessed at the grief and anxiety felt by both of the cousins.
No; it was like a quiet domestic picture of no recent date, not likely
to be soon ended. Jane's sad face lighted up with an occasional
smile at something said or something read; and Francis Hogarth saw more
beauty in her countenance that evening than William Dalzell had ever
seen in all the days he had spent with the supposed heiress whom he
meant to marry.
An Evening At Mr. Rennie's
After an hour spent in this quiet way, Jane Melville was sufficiently
rested and tranquillized to go among strangers, in spite of her knowing
the idle curiosity with which she was likely to be regarded. There was
a small party at Mr. Rennie s; but excepting herself and the ladies of
the family, it was composed entirely of gentlemen. Now that Mr. Hogarth
had come into a good landed property, he had spent more than one
evening in the family of the bank manager, and had been discovered to
be presentable anywhere; that he had very tolerable manners and good
literary taste; and both Mrs. and Miss Rennie recollected well how
often papa had spoken highly of him when he was only a clerk in
the bank. Miss Rennie was about nineteen, the eldest of the family,
rather pretty, slightly romantic, and a little fond of showing off her
extensive acquaintance with modern literature. Her interest in Mr.
Hogarth was great, though of recent date; and now to see one of the
cousins whom he was forbidden to marry, on pain of losing all his
newly-acquired wealth and consequence, was an exciting thing to a young
lady who had suffered much from want of excitement. Her father had been
able to tell her nothing of Miss Melville s personal appearance, though
he had dwelt upon her abilities and her eccentric character, and told
her age. Among the party was the publisher to whom Jane had applied for
a situation, who had contributed his share of information about her; a
young Edinburgh advocate, who had not very much to do at the bar; a
Leith merchant, an old gentleman of property in the neighbourhood of
the city, and two college students, all anxious to see people who were
so much talked about.
"Decidedly plain and common-looking, and looks twenty-seven at
least," was Miss Rennie's verdict on seeing Miss Melville.
"Plain, but uncommon-looking," was the opinion of the gentlemen on the
subject. The open, intelligent, and womanly expression of countenance--the
well-turned neck and shoulders--the easy, well-proportioned
figure--though not of the slight ethereal style which Mr. Hawthorne
admires, but rather of the healthy, well-developed flesh-and-blood
character of British feminine beauty--might redeem a good deal of
irregularity of features.
Though her self-possession had been sorely tried on this day, though
she had been disappointed, and was now worn out and perplexed, and
though her faith in human nature had been shaken, she made an effort to
recover the equanimity necessary for such an evening as this, and
succeeded. Her quiet and lady-like manner surprised Mr. Rennie; he had
thought her masculine in the morning. She listened with patience and
pleasure to Miss Rennie's playing and singing, and then looked
over some books of engravings and prints with the old gentleman, who
was a connoisseur. And when the advocate and the publisher, between
whom there seemed to be a good understanding, entered into conversation
on literary matters, and successful and unsuccessful works, she,
thinking of her sister and her hopes, listened most attentively.
"Well," said the legal gentleman, "I like smart, clever writing, and
don't object to a little personality now and then. It pays, too."
"Those things certainly take well," said the publisher, "but there are
other things that take better."
"What are they?"
"Not at all in your way, Mr. Malcolm; but yet at the present time there
is nothing that pays so well as an exciting religious novel on
evangelical principles. Make all your unbelievers and worldly people
villians, and crown your heroine, after unheard-of perils and
persecutions, with the conversion of her lover, or the lover with the
conversion of the heroine--the one does nearly as well as the
other; but do not let them marry before conversion, on any account.
Settle the hero down in the ministry, to which he dedicates talents
that you may call as splendid as you please; make your fashionable
conversation of your worldly people slightly blackguardly, and that of
your pets very inane, with spots of religion coming out very strong now
and then, and you will have more readers than Dickens, Bulwer, or
Thackeray. Well-meaning mothers will put the book without fear into the
hands of their daughters. It is considered harmless Sunday reading for
those who find Sunday wearisome, and it is thought an appropriate
birth-day present for young people of both sexes. I dare say these
books are harmless enough, but their success is wonderfully
disproportioned to their merits. They must be such easy writing, too,
for you need never puzzle yourself as to whether it would be natural or
consistent for such a character to steal, or for another to murder.
'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,' and
the novelist at least takes no pains to know it."
"You fire me with a noble zeal and emulation," said Mr. Malcolm. "Is it
true that the trumpery thing my sister Anne tormented me to order from
you last week has gone through five editions?"
"Just about to bring out a sixth," said the publisher; "and the curious
thing is that it is not at all exciting: but these American domestic
quasi-religious novels (though novel is not a proper term for them) are
the rage at present. If one could trust to their details of every-day
life being correct, they might be useful as giving us the Americans
painted by themselves; but there is so much that is false and
improbable in plot and character, that one is tempted to doubt even the
cookery, of which we have QUANTUM SUFF."
"The conversation is the greatest twaddle I ever saw," said Mr.
Malcolm. "If the American people talk like that, how fatiguing it would
be to live among them! I could not write so badly, or such bad
English. I must take a successful English novel as my model."
"Mr. Malcolm is literary himself," said Miss Rennie, who had left the
two students to amuse each other, and now joined the more congenial
group. "He writes such clever things in magazines, Miss Melville, I
quite delight to come on anything of his, they are so amusing."
"Miss Rennie, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your good opinion.
Then you like my style? Do you hear that, you ogre? Publishers, you
know, Miss Melville, are noted for living upon the bones of unfortunate
authors, and never saying grace either before or after the meal. This
Goth, this Vandal, this Jacob Tonson, has had the barbarity to find
fault with the last thing I put into the "Mag"."
"Well, I thought you had never done anything so good. It was so funny;
papa laughed till he shook the spectacles off his face, and then all
the children laughed too."
"Listen, thou devourer of innocents, thou fattener on my labour and
groans. My work was good, and my style better, fashionable as
Miss Rennie's flounces, and piquant as the sauce we will have from our
host at supper."
"The style has been fashionable," said the publisher, "but it is
getting overdone. Everybody is trying the allusive style now, and
wandering from the subject in hand to quote a book, or to refer to
something very remotely connected with it. Every word or sentence is
made a peg to hang something else on. Our authors are too fond of
showing off reading or curious information; the style of the old
"Bald and tame, with very little knowledge of the finer shades of
character," interrupted Mr. Malcolm. "I wonder why you, as a critic,
can compare our brilliant modern literature to such poor performances."
"They have their deficiencies, certainly; but there was a simplicity
and directness in these old writings that we would do well to imitate."
"I had better imitate the style of the paying article at present, and
write an evangelical novel. I had better read up in it; but the
unlucky thing is that they invariably put me to sleep; so perhaps I
would do better to trust to my own original genius, and begin in an
"Is it not a treat," whispered Miss Rennie to Jane, "to get a peep
behind the scenes in this way? Mr. Malcolm is quite a genius. I am sure
he could write anything; but he really ought not to go to sleep over
those charming books. He is such a severe critic, I am quite afraid of
"Then you write yourself?" said Jane.
"Oh! how foolish of me to let you know in such a silly way. I write
nothing to speak of. I never thought any one would take me for an
authoress. But I do so doat on poetry, and it seems so natural to
express one's feelings in verse--not for publication, you know--only
for my friends. Once or twice--but this is a great secret--I have had
pieces brought out in the 'Ladies' Magazine.' If you read it, you may
have seen them; they had the signature of Ella--a pretty name,
is it not?--more uncommon than my own."
"Is it a fair question," said Jane, anxiously; "but did you receive
anything for your verses?"
"You have such a commercial turn of mind, Miss Melville, as papa says,
that you really ought to be in business. No; I did not receive or,
indeed, did I wish for any payment. I would mix no prose with my
"You are not in need of money," said Jane, with a slight sigh; and she
turned to the publisher, and asked if he brought out new poems as well
as new novels.
"Poetry is ticklish stuff to go off, particularly in Edinburgh," said
he. "I am very shy of it, except in bringing out cheap editions of
poems of established reputation, or reprints of American poets."
"Where there is no copyright to be paid for," said Mr. Malcolm; "I know
the tricks of the trade."
Mrs. Rennie had asked Jane to play and sing, which she could not do,
and then had engaged in conversation with Mr. Hogarth for a
considerable time. Now she supposed Jane must fancy she was not
receiving sufficient attention from her hostess, considering that she
was the only lady guest, so she came forward, and withdrew her from the
animated conversation of the gentlemen, and proceeded to entertain her
in the best way that she could. Her younger children (not her youngest,
for they were in bed) were gathered around her, and the conversation
was somewhat desultory, owing to their interruptions and little
delinquencies. It was now getting time for them, too, to go to bed, and
it was not without repeated orders from mamma, supported at last by a
forcible observation from papa, that they bade the company good-night,
and retired. They were all very nice-looking children, and not
ill-disposed, though somewhat refractory and dilatory about the vexed
question of going to bed.
Talking to them and about them naturally brought up the subject of
education; and Jane timidly inquired if Mrs. Rennie was in want
of a governess, or if she knew any one who was.
"No; the children are all at school or under masters--the best masters
in Edinburgh--for Mr. Rennie is extravagant in the matter of
education. The children get on better--there is more emulation; and
then there is such a houseful of ourselves, that we would not know
where to put a governess, though it might otherwise be an economy,"
said Mrs. Rennie.
"I should like to have classes," said Jane--trying to speak boldly for
herself; "to teach what I have learned under the same masters whom you
are so pleased with--English philologically, with the practice of
composition, writing, arithmetic, and mathematics. I can get
certificates of my competency from the professors under whom I have
studied. I must leave the neighbourhood of Swinton, where there is no
field for me, and start in this line; my sister can assist me, I have
"I never heard of such a thing, Miss Melville; you had much better take
a situation. The worry and uncertainty of taking rooms and
paying rent, when there are so many masters that you cannot expect but
a very few pupils, would wear you out in a twelvemonth. If I were to
send you my two girls--and I am sure I have every reason to be
satisfied with their present teachers--what would they do for you? Oh,
no, Miss Melville. Take my advice, and get a nice quiet situation, or
go into a school, where you might take music lessons in exchange for
what you can teach now."
"I am too old to learn music," said Jane, "and I have no natural talent
for it. As for a nice quiet situation, where am I to get it?"
"Surely, Miss Melville, you must have many friends, from the position
you have held in-----shire; you must know many leading people. Consult
with them. I am sure they would never advise you to take such a risk; I
cannot conscientiously advise you to do it myself. Mr. Rennie was
telling me about the matronship of the ----- Institution. Don't you
think that would be better? The salary is not high, but there
is no risk. I know one of the house-surgeons very well, and I know he
says everything is very comfortable, and he is one of the pleasantest
men I know."
"I am reconsidering the matter," said Jane. "I suppose if I make up my
mind to it, the sooner I apply the better."
"I should say so," said Mrs. Rennie. "I am sure Mr. Rennie will give
you all his influence, for he says you appear to be such a capable
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