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some people. Wouldn't I have had fun! But of course he saw you were a poor little not-comc-out thing, and never spoke to you. Oh! if Miss Charlecote would ask me to London!"
"And me !" chimed in Maria.
"Well, what would you do?"
"Not act like a goose, and bring home dry abstracts. I'd make Miss Charlecote take me everywhere, and quite forget all my science, unless I wanted to amaze some wonderful genius. Oh, dear! wont I make Augusta look foolish some of these days? She really thinks that steel attracts lightning! Do yon think Miss Charlecote's society will appreciate me, Phcebe?"
"And me ?" again asked Maria.
Phoebe laughed heartily, but did not like Bertha's scoffing mirth at Maria's question. Olad as she was to be at home, her glimpse of the outer world had so enlarged her perceptions, that she could not help remarking the unchildlike acuteness of the younger girl, and the obtuse comprehension of the elder; and she feared that she had become discontented and fault-finding after her visit.
At nine, when she rose as usual to wish good-night, Miss Fennimore told her that she need not for the future retire before ten, the hour to which she had of late become accustomed. It was a great boon, especially as she was assured that the additional hour should be at her own disposal.
"You have shown that you can be trusted with your time, my dear. But not to-night," as Phoebe was turning to her desk; "remember how long I have suffered a famine of conversation. What! were you not sensible of your own value in that respect?"
"I thought you instructed me, I did not know you conversed with me."
"There's a difference between one susceptible of instruction, and any thing so flippant and volatile as Bertha," said Miss Fennimore, smiling. "And poor Maria!"
"She is so good and kind! If she could only see a few things, and people, and learn to talk!"
"Silence and unobtrusivencss are the only useful lessons for her, poor girl!" then observing Phoebe's bewildered looks, "My dear, I was forced to speak to Bertha because she was growing jealous of Maria's exemptions j but you, who have been constantly shielding and supplying her defi
ciencies, you do not tell me that you were not aware of them?"
"I always knew she was not clever," said Phoebe, her looks of alarmed surprise puzzling Miss Fennimore, who in all her philosophy had never dreamt of the intuitive sagacity and watchful instinct of affection,
"I could not have thought it," she said.
"Thought whatP Pray tell me! Oh, what is the matter with poor Maria?"
"Then, my dear, you really had never perceived that poor Maria is not—has not the usual amount of capacity—that she cannot be treated as otherwise than deficient."
"Does mamma know it?" faintly asked Phoebe, tears slowly filling her eyed.
Miss Fennimore paused, inwardly rating Mrs. Fulmort's powers little above those of her daughter. "I am not sure," she said; "your sister Juliana certainly does, and in spite of the present pain, I believe it is best that your eyes should be opened."
"That I may take care of her."
"Yes; you can do much in developing her faculties, as well as in sheltering her from being thrust into positions to which she would be unequal. You do so already. Though her weakness was apparent to me the first week I was in the house, yet owing to your kind guardianship, I never perceived its extent till you were absent. I could not have imagined so much tact and vigilance could have been unconscious. Nay, dear child, it is no cause for tears. Her life may perhaps be happier than that of many of more complete intellect."
"I ought not to cry," owned Phoebe, the tears quietly flowing all the time. "Such people cannot do wrong in the same way as we can."
"Ah! Phoebe, till we come to the infinite, how shall the finite pronounce what is wrong."
Phoebe did not understand, but she felt that she was not in Miss Charlecote's atmosphere, and from the heavenly, "from him to whom little is given, little will be required," came to the earthly, and said imploring, " and you will never be hard on her again!"
"I trust I have not been hard on her. I
shall task her less, and only endeavor to
j give her habits of quiet occupation, nnd
j make her manners retiring. It was this re
I taxation of discipline, together with Bertha's sad habit of teasing, which was intolerable in your absence, that induced me to explain to her the state of the case."
"How shocked she must have been!"
"Not quite as you were. Her first remark was that it was as if she were next in age to you."
"She is not old enough to understand.".
The governess shook her head. "Nay, when I found her teasing again, she told me it was a psychological experiment. Little monkey, she laid hold of some books of mine, and will never rest till she has come to some conclusion as to what is wanting in Maria."
"Too young to feel what it means," repeated Phoebe.
She was no great acquisition as a companion, for she neither spoke nor stirred, so that the governess would have thought her drowsy but for the uprightness of the straight back, and the steady fold of the fingers on the knee. Much as Miss Fennimore detested the sight of inaction, she respected the reverie consequent on the blow she had given. It was a refreshing contrast with Bertha's levity; and she meditated why her system had made the one sister only accurate and methodical, while the other seemed to be losing heart in mind, and becoming hard and shrewd. .
There was a fresh element in Phoebe's life. The native respect for "the innocent " had sprung up within her, and her spirit seemed to expand into protecting wings with which to hover over her sister as a charge peculiarly her own. Here was the new impulse needed to help her when subsiding into the monotony and task-work of the schoolroom, and to occupy her in the stead of the more exciting hopes and fears that she had par. taken in London.
Miss Fennimore wisely relaxed her rules over Phoebe, since she had shown that liberty was regarded as no motive for idleness; so though the maiden still scrupulously accomplished a considerable amount of study she was allowed to portion it out as suited her inclination, and was no longer forbidden to interrupt herself for the sake of her sisters. It was infinite comfort to be no longer obliged to deafen her ears to the piteous whine of fretful incapacity, and to witness the sullen heaviness of faculties overtasked, and temper goaded into torpor. The fact
THIRD SERIES. LIVING AGE. £23
once faced, the result was relief, Maria was spared and considered, and Phoebe found the governess much kinder, not only to her sister but to herself. Absence had taught the value of the elder pupil, and friendly terms of equality were beginning to be established.
Phoebe's freedom did not include solitary walks, and on week days she seldom saw Miss Charlecotc, and then only to hear natural history, the only moderately safe ground between the two elder ladies. What was natural science with the one, was natural history with the other. One went deep in systems and classifications, and thrust Limueus into the dark ages; the other had observed, collected, and drawn specimens with the enthu- , siasm of a Londoner for the country, till she had a valuable little museum of her own gathering, and was a handbook for the county curiosities. Star, bird, flower, and insect, were more than resources, they were the friends of her lonely life, and awoke many a keen feeling of interest, many an aspiration of admiring adoration that carried her through her dreary hours. And though Miss Fennimore thought her science puerile, her credulity extensive, and her observations inaccurate, yet she deemed even this lady-like dabbling worthy of respect as an element of rational pleasure and self-training, and tried to make Bertha respect it, and abstain from inundating Miss Charlecote with sesquipedalian names for systems and families, and above all, from her principal delight, setting the two ladies together by the cars, by appealing to her governess to support her abuse of Linnxus as an old "dictionary maker," or for some bold, geological theory that poor Honor was utterly unprepared to swallow.
Bertha was somewhat like the wren, who, rising on the eagle's head, thought itself the monarch of the birds, but Honor was by no means convinced that she was not merely blindfolded on the back of Clavilcno Aligero. There was neither love nor admiration wasted between Honor and Miss Fennimore, and Phoebe preferred their being apart. She enjoyed her Sunday afternoons, short enough, for school must not be neglected, but Honor shyly acceded to Phoebe's entreaty to be allowed to sit by her class and learn by her teaching.
It was an effort. Honor shrank from exposing her own misty metaphors, hesitating repetitions, and trivial queries to -so clear a head, trained in distinct reasoning, but it was the very teaching that the squire's; daughter most desired, and she treasured up i every hint, afterwards pursuing the subject j with a resolution to complete the chain of evidence, and asking questions sometimes rather perplexing to Honor, accustomed as she was to take every thing for granted. Out came authorities, and Honor found herself examining into the grounds of her own half-knowledge, gaining fresh ideas, correcting old ones, and obtaining subjects of interest for many an hour after her young friend had left her.
While, at home, Phoebe, after running the gauntlet of Bertha's diversion at her putting herself to school, when Scripture lessons were long ago done with, would delight Maria with long, murmuring discourses, often stories about the scholars, but always conveying some point of religious instruction. It was a subject to which Maria was less impervious than to any other; she readily learned to croon over the simple hymns that Phoebe brought home, and when once a Scripture story had found entrance to her mind, would beg to have it marked in her Bible, and recur to it frequently.
Miss Fcnnimore left her entirely to Phoebe at these times, keeping Bertha from molesting her by sarcastic queries, or by remarks on the sing-song hymns, such as made Phoebe sometimes suspect that Maria's love for these topics rendered them the more distasteful to the younger girl. She tried to keep them as much sheltered as possible, but was still sometimes disconcerted by Bertha's mischievous laugh, or by finding Miss Fennimore's eyes fixed in attention.
Phoebe's last hour on these evenings was spent in laying up her new lore in her diligently kept note-book, weighing it and endeavoring to range it in logical sequence, which she had been duly trained to consider the test-of reasoning. If she sometimes became bewildered, and detected insufficient premises for true conclusions, if she could not think allegory or analogy the evidence it was made at the Sunday school, and which Miss Charlecote esteemed as absolute proof, her sound heart and loving faith always decided her that she should discover the link in time; and the doctrine had too strong a hold on her convictions and affections for
her to doubt that the chain of argument existed, though she had not yet found it. It was not the work for which so young a head was intended, and perhaps it was well that she was interrupted by the arrival at home of the heads of the family.
Augusta and her husband were to spend the winter abroad; Juliana had met some friends, whom she had accompanied to their home, and though she had exacted that Phoebe should no,t come out, yet the eldest daughter at home was necessarily brought somewhat forward. Phoebe was summoned to the family meals, and went out driving with her mother, or riding with her father, but was at other times in the schoolroom, where indeed she was the most happy.
The life down-stairs was new to her, and she had not been trained to the talk there expected of her. The one event of her life, her visit to London, gave evident dissatisfaction. There were growls whenever Robert was mentioned, and Phoebe found that though permission had been given for his taking the curacy, it had been without understanding his true intentions with regard to Whittingtonia. Something had evidently passed between him and his father and brother, while on their way through London, which had caused them to regard him as likely to be a thorn in their side; and Phoebe could not but fear that he would meet them in no spirit of conciliation, would rather prefer a little persecution, and would lean to the side of pastoral rather than filial duty, whenever they might clash. Even if he should refrain from speaking his full mind to his father, he was likely to use no precautions with his brother, and Phoebe was uneasy whenever either went. up for their weekly visits of inspection at the office.
Her mother gently complained. "Honora Charlecote's doing, I suppose. He should have considered more! Such a wretched place, no genteel family near! Your papa would never let me go near it. But he must buy an excellent living soon, where no one will know his connection with the trade."
The only sympathy Phoebe met with at home on Robert's ordination, was in an unexpected quarter. "Then your brother has kept his resolution," said Miss Fcnnimore. "Under his reserve there is the temper that formed the active ascetics of the middle ages. His doctrine has a strong mediaeval tinge, and with sufficient strength of purpose, may lead to the like results."
When Phoebe proudly told Miss Charlecote of this remark, they agreed that it was a valuable testimony, both to the doctrines and the results. Honor had had a letter from Robert, that made her feel by force of contrast that Owen was more than three years from a like conception of clerical duty.
The storm came at last. By order of the Court of Chancery, there was put up for sale a dreary section of Whittingtonia, in dire decay, and remote from civilization. The firm of Fulmort and Son had long had their eyes on it, as an eligible spot for a palace for the supply of their commodity; and what was their rage when their agent was outbidden, and the tenements knocked down to an unknown customer for a fancy price! After much alarm lest a rival distiller should be invading their territory, their wrath came to a height when it finally appeared that the new owner of the six ruinous houses, in Cicely Row was no other than the Reverend Robert Mervyn Fulmort, with the purpose of building a church and schools for Whittiugtonia at his own expense.
Mervyn came home furious. High words had passed between the brothers, and his report of them so _ inflamed Mr. Fulmort, that he inveighed violently against the malice and treachery that scrupled not to undermine a father. Never speaking to Robert again, casting him off, and exposing the vicar for upholding filial insolence and undutifulness, were*the mildest of his threats. They seemed to imagine that Robert was making this outlay, supposing that he would yet be made equal in fortune by his father to the others, and there was constant repetition that he was to expect not a farthing— he had had his share, and should have no more. There was only a scoff at Phoebe's innocence, when she expressed her certainty that he looked for no compensation, knowing that he had been provided for, and was to have nothing from his father j and Phoebe trembled under such abuse of her favorite brother, till she could bear it no longer, and seizing the moment of Mervyn's absence, she came up to her father, and said, in as coaxing a tone as she could, "Papa, should not every one work to the utmost in his trade?"
"What of that, little one?"
"Then pray don't be angry with Robert
for acting up to his," said Phot-be, clasping her hands, and resting them fondly on his shoulder.
"Act up to a fool's head! Parsons should mind their business, and not fly in their fathers' faces."
"Isn't their work to make people good?" continued Phoebe, with an unconscious wiliness, looking more simple than her wont.
"Let him begin with himself then! Learn his duty to his father! A jackanapes, trying to damage my business under my very nose."
"If those poor people are in such need of having good done to them—"
"Scum of the earth! Much use trying to do good to them!"
"Ah! but if it be his work to try? and if he wanted a place to build a school—"
"You're in league with him, I suppose."
"No, papa! It surprised me very much. Even Mr. Parsons knew nothing of his plans. Robert only wrote to me when it was done, that now he hoped to save a few of the children that are turned out in the streets to steal."
"Steal! They'll steal all his property! A proper fool your uncle was to leave it all to a lad like that. The sure way to spoil him! I could have trebled all your fortunes if that capital had been in my hands, and now to see him throw it to the dogs! Phoebe, I can't stand it. Conscience? I hate such coxcombry! As if men would not make beasts of themselves whether his worship were in the business or not."
"Yes!" ventured Phoebe, "but at least he has no part in their doing so."
"Much you know about it," said her father, again shielding himself with his newspaper, but so much less angrily than she had dared to expect, that even while flushed and trembling, she felt grateful to him as more placable than Mervyn. She knew not the power of her own sweet face and gently honest manner, nor of the novelty of an attentive daughter.
When the neighbors remarked on Mrs. Fulmort's improved looks and spirits, and wondered whether they were the effect of the Rhine or of " getting off" her eldest daughter, they knew not how many fewer dull hours she had to spend. Phoebe visited her in her bedroom, talked at luncheon, amused her drives, coaxed her into the garden, read to her when she rested before dinner, and sang to her afterwards. Phoebe likewise brought her sister's attainments more into notice, though at the expense of Bertha's contempt for mamma's preference for Maria's staring fuschias and feeble singing, above her own bold chalks from models and scientific music, and indignation at Phoebe's constantly bringing Maria forward rather than her own clever self.
Droning narratives, long drawn out, had as much charm for Mrs. Fulmort as for Maria. If she did not always listen, eho liked the voice, and she sometimes awoke into descriptions of the dresses, parties, and acquaintance of her youth, before trifling had sunk into dreary insipidity under the weight of too much wealth, too little health, and " nothing to do."
. "My dear," she said, " I am glad you are not out. Quiet evenings are so good for my nerves; but you are a fine girl, and will soon want society."
"Not at all, mamma; I like being at home with you."
"No, my dear! I shall like to take you out and see you dressed. You must have advantages, or how are you to marry?"
"There's no hurry," said Phoebe, smiling.
"Yes, my dear, girls always get soured if they do not marry!"
"Not Miss Charlecote, mamma."
"Ah! but Honor Charlecote was an heiress, and could have had plenty of offers. Don't talk of not marrying, Phoebe, I beg."
"No," said Phoebe, gravely. "I should like to marry some one very good and wise, who could help me out of all my difficulties."
"Bless me, Phoebe! I hope you did not meet any poor curate at that place of Honor Charlecote's. Your papa would never consent."
"I never met anybody, mamma," said Phoebe, smiling. "I was only thinking what he should be like."
"Well, what?" said Mrs. Fulmort, with girlish curiosity. "Not that it's any use settling. I always thought I would marry a marquis' younger son, because it is such a pretty title, and that he should play on the guitar. But he must not be an officer, Phoebe, we have had trouble enough about that."
"I don't know what he is to be, mamma," said Phoebe, earnestly," except that he should be as sensible as Miss Fennimore, and as good as Miss Charlecote. Perhaps a man could put both into one, and then he could lead me, and always show me the reason of what is right."
"Phoebe, Phoebe! you will never get married if you wait for a philosopher. Your papa would never like a very clever genius or an author."
"I don't want him to be a genius, but he must bo wise."
"O my dear! That comes of the way young ladies are brought up. What would the Miss Berrilees have said, where I was at school at Bath, if one of their young ladies had talked of wanting to marry a wise man?"
Phoebe gave a faint smile, and said, "What was Mr. Charlecote like, mamma, whose brass was put up the day Robert was locked into the church?"
"Humfrcy Charlecote, my dear? The dearest, most good-hearted man that ever lived. Everybody liked him. There was no one that did not feel as if they had lost a brother when he was taken off in that sudden way."
"And was not he very wise, mamma?"
"Bless me, Phoebe, what could have put that into your head? Humfrey Charlecote a wise man? He was just a common, oldfashioned, hearty country squire. It was only that he was so friendly and kind-hearted that made every one trust^him, and ask his advice."
"I should like to have known him," said Phoebe, with a sigh.
"Ah, if you married any one like that! But there's no use waiting? There's nobody left like him, and I wont have you an old maid! You are prettier than either of your sisters—more like me when I came away from Miss Bcrrilees, and had a gold-sprigged muslin for the Assize Ball and Humfrey Charlecote danced with me!"
Phoebe fell into speculations on the wisdom whose counsel all asked, and which had left such an impression of affectionate honor. She would gladly lean on such an one, but if no one of the like mould remained, she thought she could never bear the responsibilities of marriage.
Meantime, she erected Humfrey Charle