Page images

drawing-room, regardless of or not remembering its unfurnished condition. It is a good room with two windows, and for Lincolnshire a pleasant view. It is a pretty home-like room now; but then desolate and empty, except for some boxes that had arrived from Wellhurst. A trifling delay had occurred at the gate, and I sat down alone on one of the boxes, that bore my still unfamiliar name in my sister's familiar hand ; overcome with fatigue, and in sudden shyness and embarrassment, it seemed a cold welcome. I was already dispirited, and a trifle was too much, so that, though utterly ashamed of myself, I could not restrain my weakness ; and when my husband came in, saying, “My poor child, how wretched for you! I burst into tears. He did not speak, but went out, and I heard him sending the servants, one to prepare my room and the other to light the study fire; then he came back, and lifting me quite up, carried me into the brightest and cosiest of kitchens, with cat and kettle, and firelight dancing on burnished brass and gleaming tin, new paint, white floor, well-scrubbed tables, and polished chairs. I knew quite enough of kitchens to be sure that this one was all it ought to be. Mr. Ashton deposited me in Cook's arm-chair before the fire, found me a foot-stool, took off my damp shawls, and excused, petted, and consoled me till he had a reasonable woman to speak to, and then, there on his own hearth-stone, bade me most kindly and warmly welcome. Greatly comforted by the warmth and cheery place, as well as by John's kindness, I repented of my discontent on the spot; my heart went out afresh to my good husband, and I resolved once more that, God helping my weakness, I would be a good wife to him; his work and his interest should be mine, and his country should be my country. Later in the evening, when we were snug in the study over our tea, surrounded with familiar pictures and Oakhurst furniture, we both began to feel really at home, and could laugh over our disasters, and fancy how my father, with his dislike of ceremony, would applaud the prosaic fashion in which John had succeeded in bringing home his bride.

The next morning we took a careful surrey, indoors and out ; my spirits had quite returned, but my husband was surprised to find how much more dreary everything looked than when he left it; a month of autumn bad weather had brought us to the verge of winter, though it was early yet in October, and the glory of geraniums in the garden at Wellhurst was seldom dimmed till November. He repented that he had yielded to me, and not had the house at least put in order before I came. I was not a bit sorry, and liked the idea of arranging and improving; it would make us more at home when we were surrounded with our own works; and I had already a plan for a carriage drive through the present potato ground in front of the house, for which there was plenty of room. It was a long time before my plan was carried out, for when we went to the church I had hardly eyes for the fine tower and beautiful arches that

my husband pointed out, every fitting and arrangement was either in a deplorable condition or in very bad taste; it was evident that VOL. 6.


PART 33.

improvement must begin here, and our spare money would be absorbed for some time to come. 'I should like to begin to-morrow, John, and pull up the pews and pull down the gallery.'

It would take you all your life to finish, if you did, Carrie ; it must be done, of course, but it will take a good deal of tact and patience to manage it without debt or quarreling ; things must remain as they are for this winter, and I must not let the people think that I wish to cast a shadow of blame on my predecessor, or I shall never have the place in their hearts that he held. I wish I may be half as much to them as he has been; he was obliged to build the house, and no doubt would have done something here had he lived; we must carry on his work, but we must wait till the people and I are a little better acquainted, and learn each other's ways, which are diverse, I suspect.'

So they were; and my husband had a good deal of opposition at first, partly to try what lie was made of, I think, but the material


satisfaction in the end, and having lived in several parts of England he knew how to adapt himself to local peculiarities. It was much longer before I could make any way with the poor people; their dialect was a great puzzle to me. I had to learn the names for the commonest things, gaining meanwhile an undeserved reputation for being learned and stuck up, whereas I was only ignorant and shy. My husband still laughs at the story of my bewilderment, when I was applied to by the gardener for leave to order a 'besom’and a 'skep;' how was I to know that he meant a broom and a basket? The manners of the people too were embarrassing; their freedom and independence, and loud voices, sounded like abuse and incivility, to one accustomed to the quiet tones, and, in comparison, polished deference of the south. This I soon got over, but the colloquial difficulties lasted longer; however, I persevered, and I think the women soon grew to like me, and I at least learned to listen, sitting often rather shy and silent in what seemed to me terribly wretched cottages. I found that these people were really better off than most of my Wellhurst friends—at least, they earned more money ; but the pride of cleanliness and tidiness was not theirs, while they had plenty of a pride that rendered any hint at improvement very difficult; they have their virtues, though, and I have plenty to say for them when my mother and sisters come to see us, and draw comparisons in their turn.

In spite of all my efforts and resolutions, I felt the loneliness and isolation

much that first winter, and had to suppress many a longing for cheerful Oakhurst; the house was soon in order, nothing could be done in the garden till the spring, my husband was much absorbed in his parish work, having many difficulties at starting; he did not wish me to undertake much visiting until he knew the people better himself ; thus I was unavoidably left much to my own resources, which were less extensive than I had imagined them to be—a wholesome discovery, no doubt, but unpleasant in the making. I used to spend a good deal of time at the schools, where I was the most at home, and I resolutely walked alone, when, as it often happened, John could not go with me, or I with him; it was rather an effort, the roads being so dull, and there were few foot-paths in the fields; one always sees where one is going to in Lincolnshire, and this absence of mystery makes exploring the country like reading a story of which one knows the plot : my favourite walk was to the great river, I was never tired of watching the strong swift current of the


Full fed river winding slow,
By herds upon an endless plain.'

We had some neighbours, very few at first; a fortnight would then often pass without a single caller; and being both fond of society, and accustomed to a good share of it, we missed what had been a daily element of our lives more than we even expected to do ; a little more change and intercourse with his kind, would have enabled my husband to take his cares and worries much more lightly. After a time we learned to think much less of distance, and people were glad to see us in proportion to the difficulty we had in getting to them. There were many cases far worse than ours; clergymen who had lived, often on very straitened means, year after year, seldom leaving their parishes, and seeing so few congenial people, that they had grown moody or eccentric: or perhaps, school and college days retreating still farther into the distance, they had become quite sons of the soil, on week-days little to be distinguished from the farmers among whom they lived. And their poor wives had grown peevish and complaining, or slatternly and careless of appearance, in those lonely places to which they had perhaps gone as full of hope and life as I was now : sad cases these, happily far rarer now than when we first went to Willowden; we always saw them with much compassion, and a little fear lest we too should lack spirit and strength to struggle against the influence of our position.

Christmas was rather a trying time, in a strange country and far from our own people, but we were very happy in each other; and with the New Year we had our first visitor in Henry Ashton, one of my

husband's brothers. His view of our affairs was very cheering; nothing could be better, he said; a beautiful country, first-rate for hunting, shooting, and growing corn ; such fine air, and such good farming. A capital house, well contrived and well built, and not too much smothered in trees; Caroline could have the garden laid out to her own taste. Then we were well off in not having too many neighbours, people were generally bores ; and at Oakhurst, with friends abroad and friends at home, it was of no use going to see John, here one could enjoy his society! It was good to borrow Henry's spectacles, and by degrees we began to see through them a good deal.

One day in March, John drove me to Low Marsh, to visit a clergyman and his wife with whom we were now well acquainted, people who suited us both; Mrs. Graham was not at home, but we found an invalid relative



of hers on the sofa in the drawing-room, a Mrs. Syddon, whose pleasant face and soft voice attracted me at once. Mr. Graham shortly carried

my husband to give him an opinion in the garden, while I remained with Mrs. Syddon. We had been speaking of mutual friends near Wellhurst, and she asked me if I knew that part of the country.

Oh yes, it was my home, and my husband lived near.' “Ah, I remember now, you were Miss Greybrook; I have met your father and mother more than once in old days.'

Have you? I am so glad; it is pleasant to meet anyone who knows them, even a little.'

“What a lonely country it is after living there, Mrs. Ashton ; I fear you do not like Lincolnshire yet.'

'Indeed, no,' I said, tears inclined to come to my eyes at this touch of sympathy; everyone else seemed to think I ought to be delighted to have got here.

And you are a little home-sick sometimes ? Nay, my dear, it is nothing to be ashamed of; I often wonder at the easy way in which girls leave their homes and every old association when they marry, I cannot believe that they make better wives for it.'

'I loved my home very dearly, and so did my husband; he had the living of Oakhurst, quite near, and we expected to live there; we both feel the change a good deal.'

The kind old lady soon drew from me the little history of my troubles, with many a sympathizing word and look.

'I feel quite ashamed to complain like this, and there is really so little to tell,' I said, as I finished.

'It has been more than a little to bear, I am sure, with your disposition; bút you must take courage, my dear, the worst part is over, you must have time to get acclimatized in every way; I am sure you struggle against the feelings of exile and distress, and that will bring its own reward.'

“Thank you for saying so; yes, it is better than it was, and I do not think I am really discontented, for I would not have it otherwise, except in little things,' I answered, not very intelligibly. Then

you must not let yourself be dull—or yourselves, I should say, for it chiefly depends upon you; you must not get into dull ways; as you are situated at Willowden, it is so very easy to fall into hum-drum ways, and next to impossible to get out of them.'

But what shall I do, Mrs. Syddon ?' I said, smiling at the energy of the little pale invalid, who must pass so many lonely weary hours, and yet seemed to think dullness a vice.

*First, you must take care not to be dull yourself, plenty of employment will come to you in a little time; meanwhile, you must make occupation for yourself—draw, read, practise, if you like these things ; undertake pieces of work, learn to cook, and manage your house yourself instead of letting a treasure of a servant do it for you ; you are not like a


stupid person, you will find abundance of interest in all or any of these things, and when you are busy and interested, your spirits will be good, and then you will have plenty of pleasant talk for your husband when he is at liberty ; he will take care that nothing comes in the way


your more serious duties. Then you must keep a cheerful house; money will be well spent in new books and pap or a subscription to a London library, to keep you up to the doings of the outside world, and prevent your getting local; then you should keep as much company as you conveniently can, and at least have people to stay with you, and cultivate your neighbours both for their sakes and your own. These are but trifles; but, if you will excuse so much advice, you will find them of some importance in the end. Take courage, my dear, and you will soon learn to like Lincolnshire. Here comes Mr. Ashton; I hope he will not ask you what we have been talking about; I shall be anxious to hear how you have got on if I live to. come and see my niece again.'

Mrs. Syddon never did revisit the Grahams, she died within a year of the only time I saw her; but I often think of her, for I tried hard to follow her counsels, and her prophecy has certainly been fulfilled; for now, after living for more than twelve years in Lincolnshire, we have both become very much attached to our home, and I am sure if we had to leave Willowden now, it would be a great grief to us. My husband sees much return for his labours, not only the inward work that can never be estimated, but the parish is much improved; the people of all classes are most kind and friendly to us both, and help us in all our work; we have a beautiful church, and it is well filled; the schools prosper; and the choir, my especial pride, far overpasses that of Oakhurst, or indeed of any country one I knew in the less musical South; the people, too, are intellectually better developed, and more eager to learn, though with all our efforts we cannot teach the order, cleanliness, and general civilization that seem to be indigenous in what Mr. Graham calls our beautiful Baotia.

It is both strange and pleasant to me, a south-countrywoman, to find how thoroughly Lincolnshire our children are; and though my sons look on a visit to Wellhurst as the summit of human felicity, and have a tender regard for the place where Mamma was a little girl, I fear when there they indulge largely in disparaging comments on south-country ways, and arguments with Grandpapa and Uncle Philip on the general superiority of Lincolnshire.

For me, I am very happy; the old days of my home-sickness and disgust have long passed away. I hope my husband does not remember that such ever existed; and I have only recalled them in the hope that my experience and short-comings may warn and instruct some who may be in a similar situation, trusting they may find, as I have surely done, that

• Light flashes in the gloomiest sky,
And music in the dullest plain.'

M. E.

« PreviousContinue »