Page images
PDF
EPUB

manner.

high intellectual pleasure, the gratification to A CASTLE IN THE AIR. the taste and the affections, which our renewed

intercourse with persons so accomplished and “Can any one tell me of a house to be let so amiable, could not fail to afford; both hereabouts?” asked I, this afternoon, coming agreeing that Hatherden was the very place into the room, with an open letter in my hand, we wanted, the very situation, the very dis. and an unusual animation of feeling and of tance, the very size. In agreeing with me,

" Our friends, the Camdens, want however, my companion could not help reto live amongst us again, and have commis- minding me rather maliciously, how very sioned me to make inquiries for a residence.” much, in our late worthy neighbours', the

This announcement, as I expected, gave Norris's time, I had been used to hate and general delight; for Mr. Camden is the inost shun this paragon of places; how frequently excellent and most agreeable person under the I had declared Hatherden too distant for a sun, except his wife, who is even more amia- walk, and too near for a drive; how constantly ble than her amiable husband : to regain such 1 had complained of fatigue in mounting the neighbours was felt to be an universal benefit, hill, and of cold in crossing the common; and more especially to us who were so happy as how, finally, my half-yearly visits of civility to call them friends. My own interest in the bad dwindled first into annual, then into bienhouse question was participated by all around nial calls, and would doubtless have extended me, and the usual enumeration of vacant man- themselves into triennial marks of rememsions, and the several objections to each (for brance, if our neighbours had but remained where ever was a vacant mansion without its long enough. “To be sure," added he, recol.' objection ?) began with zeal and rapidity. lecting, probably, how he, with his stricter “ Cranley Hall,” said one.

sense of politeness, used to stave off a call “ Too large !"

for a month together, taking shame to himself “ Hinton Park ?"

every evening for his neglect, retaining at “ Too much land."

once the conscience and the sin!'“ To be “ The White House at Hannonby—the Bel- sure, Norris was a sad bore! We shall find videre, as the late people called it?"

the hill easier to climb when the Camdens "What! Is that flourishing establishment live on the top of it." An observation to done up? But Hannonby is too far off-ten which I assented most heartily. miles at least."

On we went gaily; just pausing to admire · Queen's-bridge Cottage ?"

Master Keep, the shoemaker's farming, who * Ay, that sweet place would have suited having a bit of garden-ground to spare, sowed exactly, but it's let. The Browns took it it with wheat instead of planting it with potaonly yesterday.”

toes, and is now, aided by his lame apprentice, “Sydenham Court ?"

very literally carrying his crop. I fancy they “ That might have done too, but it is not in mean to thresh their corn in the wood-house, the market. The Smiths intend to stay." at least there they are depositing the sheares. i “ Lanton Abbey ?"

The produce may amount to four bushels. My “ Too low; grievously damp.”

companion, a better judge, says to three; and By this time, however, we had arrived at it has cost the new farmer two superb scarethe end of our list; nobody could remember crows, and gunpowder enough for a review, another place to be let, or likely to be let, and to keep off the sparrows. Well, it has been confessing ourselves too fastidious, we went amusement and variety, however! and gives again over our catalogue raisonné with expecta- him an interest in the agricultural corner of tions much sobered, and objections much modi- the county newspaper. Master Keep is well fied, and were beginning to find out that Cran- to do in the world, and can afford himself such ley Hall was not so very · Jarge, nor Lanton a diversion. For my part, I like these little Abbey so exceedingly damp, when one of our experiments, even if they be not over-gainful., party exclaimed suddenly, “We never thought They show enterprise: a shoemaker of less of Hatherden Hill! surely that is small genius would never have got beyond a crop of enough and dry enough!” and it being im- turnips. mediately recollected that Hatherden was only On we went down the lane, over the a mile off, we lost sight of all faults in this bridge, up the hill-for there really is a hill, great recommendation, and wrote immediately and one of some steepness for Berkshire, and to the lawyer who had the charge of letting across the common, once so dreary, but now the place, whilst I myself and my most effi- bright and glittering, under the double influcient assistant, sallied forth to survey it on the ence of an August sun, and our own good instant.

spirits, until we were stopped by the gate of It was a bright cool afternoon about the the lawn, which was of course locked, and middle of August, and we proceeded in high obliged to wait until a boy should summon spirits towards our destination, talking as we the old woman who had charge of the house, went, of the excellence and agreeableness of and who was now at work in a neighbouring our delightful friends, and anticipating the harvest-field, to give us entrance.

Boys in plenty were there. The fine black , lation flourishing. A good gardener can move headed lad, George Ropley-who, with his any thing now-a-days, whether in bloom or olive complexion, his bright dark eyes, and not," thought I, with much complacency, his keen intelligent features, looks so Italian, “and Clarke's a man to transplant Windsor but who is yet in all his ways so thoroughly forest without withering a leaf. We'll have and genially English—had been gathering in him to-morrow." his father's crop of apples, and was amusing The same happy disposition continued after himself with tossing some twenty amongst as I entered the house. And when left alone in many urchins of either sex who had collected the echoing empty breakfast-room, with only round him, to partake of the fruit and the one shutter opened, whilst Dame Wheeler sport. There he stood tossing the ripe ruddy was guiding the companion of my survey to apples ; some high in the air for a catch, some the stable-yard, I amused myself with making low amongst the bushes for a hunt; some one in my own mind, comparisons between what way, some another, puzzling and perplexing had been, and what would be. There she the rogues, but taking care that none should used to sit, poor Mrs. Norris, in this large go appleless in the midst of his fun. And airy room, in the midst of its solid handsome what fun it was to them all, thrower and catch-furniture, in a great chair at a great table, ers! What infinite delight! How they laughed busily at work for one of her seven small and shouted, and tumbled and ran! How they children; the table piled with frocks, trouwatched every motion of George Ropley's sers, petticoats, shirts, pinafores, hats, bonnets, hand; the boys and the girls, and the “tod- all sorts of children's gear, masculine and dling wee things," of whom one could not feminine, together with spelling-books, copydistinctly make out whether they were the one books, ivory alphabets, dissected maps, dolls, or the other! And how often was that hand toys, and gingerbread, for the same small tossed up empty, flinging nothing, in order to people. There she sate, a careful mother,

cheat the wary watchers !--Now he threw an fretting over their naughtiness and their ailapple into the inidst of the group, and what a ments; always in fear of the sun, or the seramble! Then at a distance, and what a wind, or the rain, of their running to heat race! 'The five nearest started; one, a great themselves, or their standing still to catch boy, stumbled over a mole-hill, and was flung cold: not a book in the house fit for a person out; two of the little ones were distanced ; turned of eight years old ! not a grown-up and it was a neck-and-neck heat between a girl idea! not a thought beyond the nursery ! in a pink frock (my acquaintance Liddy One wondered what she could have talked of Wheeler) and a boy in a tattered jacket, name before she had children. Good Mrs. Norris, unknown. With fair play Liddy would have such was she. Good Mr. Norris was, for all : beaten, but he of the ragged jacket pulled her purposes of neighbourhood, worse still. He back by her new pink frock, rushed forward, was gapy and fidgety, and prosy and dozy, and conquered, -George gallantly flinging his kept a tool-chest and a medicine-chest, weighlast apple into her lap to console her for her ed out manna and magnesia, constructed fishdefeat,

ing-flies, and nets for fruit-trees, turned nulBy this time the aged portress (Dame meg-graters, lined his wife's work-box, and Wheeler, Liddy's grandmother) had given us dressed his little daughter's doll; and had a

admittance, and we soon stood on the steps in tone of conversation perfectly in keeping with front of the house, in calm survey of the his tastes and pursuits, abundantly tedious,

scene before us. Hatherden was just the thin and small. One talked down to him, place to like or not to like, according to the worthy gentleman, as one would to his son

feeling of the hour; a respectable, comfortable Willy. These were the neighbours that had country house, with a lawn before, a paddock been. What wonder that the hill was steep, on one side, a shrubbery on the other; offices and the way long, and the common dreary? and a kitchen garden behind, and the usual | Then came pleasant thoughts of the neighornaments of villas and advertisements, a bours that were to be. The lovely and acgreen-house and a verandah. Now my thoughts complished wife, so sweet and womanly ; were couleur de rose, and Hatherden was charm- the elegant and highly-informed husband, so ing. Even the beds intended for flowers on spirited and manly! Art and literature, and the lawn, but which, under a summer's neglect, wisdom and wit, adorning with a wreathy and were now dismal receptacles of seeds and garlandy splendour all that is noblest in mind weeds, did not shock my gardening eye so and purest in heart ! What wonder that I much as my companion evidently expected. Hatherden became more and more interesting “We must get my factotum, Clarke, here to- in its anticipated charms, and that I went morrow," so ran my thoughts, “ to clear away gaily about the place, taking note of all that that rubbish, and try a little bold transplani- could contribute to the comfort of its future ing: late hollyhocks, late dahlias, a few pots inhabitants. of lobelias and chrysanthemums, a few patch Home I came, a glad and busy creature, es of coreopsis and china-asters, and plenty of revolving in my mind the wants of the house scarlet geraniums, will soon make this deso- and their speediest remedies-new paper for

[ocr errors]

the drawing-room ; new wainscoting for the dining parlour; a stove for the laundry ; a THE TWO SISTERS. lock for the wine-cellar; baizing the door of the library ; and new painting the hall ;-10 The pretty square Farm-house, standing at say nothing of the grand design of Clarke and the corner where Kibes Lane crosses the the flower-beds.

brook, or the brook crosses Kibes Lane, (for So full was I of busy thoughts, and so de- the first phrase, although giving by far the sirous to put my plans in train without the closest picture of the place, does, it must be loss of a moment, that although the tossing confessed, look rather Irish,) and where the of apples had now resolved itself into a most aforesaid brook winds away by the side of irregular game of cricket, - George Ropley another lane, until it spread into a river-like being batting at one wicket, with little Sam dignity, as it meanders through the sunny Coper for his mate at the other ;-Sam, an plain of Hartley Common, and finally disapurchin of seven years old, but the son of an pears amidst the green recesses of Pinge old player, full of cricket blood, born, as it Wood--that pretty square Farm-house, half were, with a bat in his hand, getting double hidden by the tall elms in the flower court

the notches of his tall partner,-an indignity before it, which, with the spacious garden and which that well-natured stripling bore with orchard behind, and the extensive barn-yards surprising good-humour: and although the and out-buildings, so completely occupies one opposite side consisted of Liddy Wheeler of the angles formed by the crossing of the bowling at one end, her old competitor of the lane and the stream,--that pretty Farm-house ragged jacket at the other, and one urchin in contains one of the happiest and most prostrousers, and one in petticoats, standing out; perous families in Aberleigh, the large and in spite of the temptation of watching this thriving family of Farmer Evans. comical parody on that manly exercise, render- Whether from skill or from good fortune, or ed doubly amusing by the scientific manner as is most probable, from a lucky mixture of in which little Sam stood at his wicket, the hoth, every thing goes right in his great farm. perfect gravity of the fieldsman in petticoats, His crops are the best in the parish; his hay and the serious air with which those two is never spoiled ; his cattle never die ; his worthies called Liddy to order whenever she servants never thieve; his children are never transgressed any rule of the game: Sam | ill. He buys cheap, and sells dear: money will certainly be a great player some day or gathers about him like a snow-ball; and yet, other, and so (if he be not a girl, for really in spite of all this provoking and intolerable there 's no telling) will the young gentleman prosperity, every body loves Farmer Evans. standing out. In spite, however, of the great He is so hospitable, so good-natured, so gentemptation of overlooking a favourite divertise- erous,—so homely! There, after all, lies the ment, with variations so truly original, home charm. Riches have not only not spoill the we went, hardly pausing to observe the hous- man, but they have not altered him. He is ing of Master Keep's wheat harvest. Home just the same in look, and word, and way, we went, adding at every step a fresh story to that he was thirty years ago, when he and his our Castle in the Air, anticipating happy wife, with two sorry horses, one cow, and mornings and joyous evenings at dear Hather three pigs, began the world at Dean-Gate, a den; in love with the place and all about it, little bargain of twenty acres, two miles off: and quite convinced that the hill was nothing, -ay, and his wife is the same woman !-the the distance nothing, and the walk by far the same frugal, tidy, industrious, good-natured prettiest in this neighbourhood.

Mrs. Evans, so noted for her activity of tongue Home we came, and there we found two and limb, her good looks, and her plain dressletters: one from Mr. Camden, sent per coach, ing: as frugal, as good-natured, as active, and to say that he found they must go abroad im- as plain dressing a Mrs. Evans at forty-five mediately, and that they could not therefore as she was at nineteen, and, in a different think of coming into Berkshire for a year or

way,

almost as good-looking. more; one from the lawyer left in charge of Their children — six “ boys," as Farmer Hatherden, to say, that we could not have the Evans promiscuously calls them, whose ages place, as the Norris's were returning to their vary from eight to eight-and-twenty - and old house forthwith. And my Castle is knock-three girls, two grown up, and one not yet ed down, blown up—which is the right word seven, the youngest of the family, are just for the demolishing of such airy edifices? what might be expected from pårents so simAnd Hatherden is as far off, and the hill as ple and so good. The young men, intelligent steep, and the common as dreary as ever. and well-conducted; the boys, docile and

promising; and the little girl as pretty a curlyheaded, rosy-cheeked poppet, as ever was the pet and plaything of a large family. It is, however, with the eldest daughters that we have to do.

Jane and Fanny Evans were as much alike

as hath often befallen any two sisters not born In short, from their school-days, when Jane at one time ;-for in the matter of twin chil- was chidden for Fanny's bad work, and Fanny dren, there has been a series of puzzles ever slapped for Jane's bad spelling, down to this,

since the days of the Dromios. Nearly of an their prime of womanhood, there had been no age, (I believe that at this moment both are end to the confusion produced by this remarkturned of nineteen, and neither have reached able instance of family likeness.

twenty,) exactly of a stature, (so high that And yet Nature, who sets some mark of inFrederick would have coveted them for wives dividuality upon even her meanest productions, for his tall regiment)—with hazel eyes, large making some unnoted difference between the mouths, full lips, white teeth, brown hair. Jambs dropped from one ewe, the robins bred clear healthy complexions, and that sort of in one nest, the flowers growing on one stalk, nose which is neither Grecian nor Roman, nor and the leaves hanging from one tree, had not aquiline, nor le petit nez retroussé that some left these young maidens without one great

persons prefer to them all; but a nose which, and permanent distinction—a natural and strikmoderately prominent, and sufficiently well. ing dissimilarity of temper. Equally indus

shaped, is yet, as far as I know, anonymous, trious, affectionate, happy, and kind; each | although it be perhaps as common and as well. was kind, happy, affectionate, and industrious looking a feature as is to be seen on an Eng- in a different way. Jane was grave; Fanny lish face.

was gay. If you heard a laugh or song, be Altogether, they were a pair of tall and sure it was Fanny: she who smiled, for cercomely maidens, and being constantly attired tain was Fanny: she who jumped the stile in garments of the same colour and fashion, when her sister opened the gate, was Fanny: Hooked at all times so much alike, that no she who chased the pigs from the garden as stranger ever dreamed of knowing them apart; merrily as if she were running a race, so that and even their acquaintances were rather ac- the very pigs did not mind her, was Fanny. customed to think and speak of them generally On the other hand, she that so carefully was as “ the Evans's” than as the separate indi- making, with its own ravelled threads, an inviduals, Jane and Fanny. Even those who visible darn in her mother's handkerchief, and did pretend to distinguish the one from the hearing her little sister read the while; she other, were not exempt from mistakes, which that so patiently was feeding, one by one, two the sisters, Fanny especially, who delighted broods of young turkeys; she that so pensively in the fun so often produced by the unusual was watering her own bed of delicate and resemblance, were apt to favour by changing somewhat rare plants,-the pale stars of the

places in a walk, or slipping from one side to Alpine pink, or the alabaster blossoms of the the other at a country tea-party, or playing a white evening primrose, whose modest flowers, hundred innocent tricks to occasion at once a dying off into a blush, resembled her own grave blunder, and a merry laugh.

character, was Jane. Old Tabitha Goodwin, for instance, who, Some of the gossips of Aberleigh used to being rather purblind, was jealous of being assert, that Jane's sighing over the flowers, suspected of seeing less clearly than her as well as the early steadiness of her characneighbours, and had defied even the Evans's ter, arose from an engagement to my lord's to puzzle her discernment — seeking in vain head gardener, an intelligent, sedate, and on Fanny's hand the cut finger which she had sober young Scotchman. Of this I know dressed on Jane's, ascribed the incredible cure nothing. Certain it is, that the prettiest and

to the merits of her own incomparable salve, newest plants were always to be found in and could hardly be undeceived, even by the Jane's little flower-border, and if Mr. Archi

pulling off of Jane's glove, and the exhibition bald Maclane did sometimes come to look after of the lacerated digital sewed round by her them, I do not see that it was any business of own bandage.

anybody's. Young George Bailey too, the greatest beau In the mean time, a visiter of a different in the parish, having betted at a Christmas description arrived at the farm. A cousin of party that he would dance with every pretty Mrs. Evans's had been as successful in trade girl in the room, lost his wager (which Fanny as her husband had been in agriculture, and had overheard) by that saucy damsel's slip- he had now sent his only son to become acping into her sister's place, and persuading quainted with his relations, and to spend some her to join her own unconscious partner; so

weeks in their family. that George danced twice with Fanny and not Charles Foster was a fine young man,

at all with Jane ;-a flattering piece of malice, whose father was neither more nor less than which proved, as the young gentleman (a rus a rich linen-draper in a great town; but whose tic exquisite of the first water) was pleased to manners, education, mind, and character might assert, that Miss Fanny was not displeased have done honour to a far higher station. He

with her partner. How little does a vain man was, in a word, one of nature's gentlemen; know of woman-kind! If she had liked him, and in nothing did he more thoroughly show she would not have played the trick for the his own taste and good-breeding, than by enmines of Golconda.

tering entirely into the homely ways and old

fashioned habits of his country cousins. He shall refuse him most certainly ; — the false, was delighted with the simplicity, frugality, deceitful, ungrateful villain !" and industry, which blended well with the My dear father! He will be disappointed. sterling goodness and genuine abundance of So will my mother.” the great English farm-house. The young “They will both be disappointed, and both women especially pleased him much. They angry—but not at my refusal. Oh, how they formed a strong contrast with anything that will despise him!” added Jane; and poor he had met with before. No finery! no co- Fanny, melted by her sister's sympathy, and quetry ! no French! no piano! It is impos- touched by an indignation most unusual in sible to describe the sensation of relief and that mild and gentle girl, could no longer comfort with which Charles Foster, sick of command her feelings, but flung herself on musical Misses, ascertained that the whole the bed in that agony of passion and grief, dwelling did not contain a single instrument, which the first great sorrow seldom fails to except the bassoon, on which George Evans excite in a young heart. was wont, every Sunday at church, to excru After a while she resumed the conversation. ciate the ears of the whole congregation. He “We must not blame him too severely, Jane. liked both sisters. Jane's softness and con- Perhaps my vanity made me think his attensiderateness engaged his full esteem; but tions meant more than they really did, and Fanny's innocent playfulness suited best with you had all taken up the notion. But you his own high spirits, and animated conversa-, must not speak of him so unkindly. He has tion. He had known them apart from the done nothing but what is natural. You are first; and indeed denied that the likeness was so much wiser, and better than I am, my own at all puzzling, or more than is usual between dear Jane! He laughed and talked with me: sisters, and secretly thought Fanny as much but he felt your goodness,—and he was right. prettier than her sister, as she was avowedly I was never worthy of him, and you are ; and merrier. In doors and out, he was constantly if it were not for Archibald, I should rejoice at her side; and before he had been a month from the bottom of my heart," continued Fanin the house, all its inmates had given Charles ny, sobbing, “ if you would accept”—but unFoster, as a lover, to his young cousin; and able to finish her generous wish, she burst into she, when rallied on the subject, cried fie! a fresh flow of tears; and the sisters, mutually! and pish! and pshaw! and wondered how and strongly affected, wept in each other's people could talk such nonsense, and liked to arms, and were comforted. have such nonsense talked to her better than That night Fanny cried herself to sleep : any thing in the world.

but such sleep is not of long duration. BeAffairs were in this state, when one night fore dawn she was up, and pacing, with restJane appeared even graver and more thought- i less irritability, the dewy grass-walks of the ful than usual, and far, far sadder. She sighed garden and orchard. In less than half an deeply; and Fanny, for the two sisters shared hour, a light elastic step (she knew the sound the same little room, inquired tenderly, “ What well!) came rapidly behind her; a hand, (oh, ailed her?” The inquiry seemed to make how often had she thrilled at the touch of that Jane worse. She burst into tears, whilst hand!) tried to draw hers under his own; Fanny hung over her, and soothed her. At whilst a well-known voice addressed her in length, she roused herself by a strong effort ; the softest and tenderest accents : “ Fanny, and turning away from her affectionate com- my own sweet Fanny! have you thought of forter, said in a low tone: “I have had a what I said to you last night?" great vexation to-night, Fanny; Charles Fos “ To me ?”' replied Fanny with bitterness. ier has asked me to marry him.”

“Ay, to be sure, to your own dear self! “Charles Foster! Did you say Charles Do you not remember the question I asked Foster ?" asked poor Fanny, trembling, un-you, when your good father, for the first time willing even to trust her own senses against unwelcome, joined us so suddenly that you the evidence of her heart; “ Charles Foster ?" had no time to say, Yes? And will you not

“ Yes, our cousin, Charles Foster.” say Yes now?"

" And you have accepted him ?" inquired « Mr. Foster!" replied Fanny, with some Fanny, in a hoarse voice.

spirit, “ you are under a mistake here. It was “Oh no! no! Do you think I have forgot to Jane that you made a proposal yesterday ten poor Archibald ? Besides I am not the evening; and you re taking me for her at this person whom he ought to have asked to marry moment."

1 him ; false and heartless as he is. I would “ Mistake you for your sister! Propose to not be his wife; cruel, unfeeling, unmanly as Jane! Incredible! Impossible! You are jest. his conduct has been! No! not if he could ing." make me queen of England ?"

6. Then he mistook Jane for me, last night;! “ You refused him then ?"

and he is no deceiver !" thought Fanny to her. “No, my father met us suddenly, just as I self, as with smiles beaming brightly through was recovering from the surprise and indigna- her tears, she turned round at his reiterated tion, that at first struck me dumb. But I prayers, and yielded the hand he sought to his

« PreviousContinue »