He was so kind and sympathetic. We had just founded a Dorcas Society, and we were muddling hopelessly in an endeavour to make good sensible rules, so that we should do nothing to lessen the independent feeling of our people - and he came to our rescue, and took the whole thing in hand, and seemed to understand it all as thoroughly as if he had been establishing Dorcas Societies all his life.
My father said it was because the Captain had been sixth wrangler, and that it was the higher mathematics which made him so clever at making rules. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem?
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M. E. Braddon
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Project Gutenberg Titles by M. E. Braddon (Braddon, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth), )
Leonard would mend his ways before he was five-and-twenty, and would become interested in his estate, and develop into a model Squire, like his admirable father. That he had no love for scholarship mattered little — a country gentleman, with half a dozen manors to look after, could be but little advantaged by a familiar acquaintance with the integral calculus, or a nice appreciation of the Greek tragedians.
When Leonard Tregonell and the college Dons were mutually disgusted with each other to a point that made any further residence at Oxford impossible, the young man graciously announced his intention of making a tour round the world, for the benefit of his health, somewhat impaired by University dissipations, and the widening of his experience in the agricultural line.
I mean to make a good many reformations in the management of my farms and the conduct of my tenants when I come home. At first loth to part with him, very fearful of letting him so far out of her ken, Mrs. Tregonell ultimately allowed herself to be persuaded that sea voyages and knocking about in strange lands would be the making of her son; and there was no sacrifice, no loss of comfort and delight, which she would not have endured for his benefit.
She spent many sad hours in prayer, or on her knees before her open Bible; and at last it seemed to her that her friends and neighbours must be right, and that it would be for Leonard's good to go. If he stayed in England she could not hope to keep him always in Cornwall. He could go to London, and, no doubt, London vices would be worse than Oxford vices. Yes, it was good for him to go; she thought of Esau, and how, after a foolish and ill-governed youth, the son who had bartered his father's blessing, yet became an estimable member of society.
Why should not her boy flourish as Esau had flourished?
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That would be his to the end. He could not sin beyond her large capacity for pardon: he could not exhaust an inexhaustible love. So Leonard, who had suddenly found that wild Cornish coast, and even the long rollers of the Atlantic contemptibly insignificant as compared with the imagined magnitude of Australian downs, and the grandeurs of Botany Bay, hurried on the preparations for his departure, provided himself with everything expensive in gunnery, fishing-tackle, porpoise-hide thigh-boots, and waterproof gear of every kind, and departed rejoicing in the most admirably appointed Australian steamer.
The family doctor, who was one of the many friends in favour of this tour, had strongly recommended the rough-and-tumble life of a sailing-vessel; but Leonard preferred the luxury and swiftness of a steamer, and, suggesting to his mother that a sailing-vessel always took out emigrants, from whom it was more than likely he would catch scarlet-fever or small-pox, instantly brought Mrs. Tregonell to perceive that a steamer which carried no second-class passengers was the only fitting conveyance for her son.
He was gone — and, while the widow grieved in submissive silence, telling herself that it was God's will that she and her son should be parted, and that whatever was good for him should be well for her, Christabel and the rest of the household inwardly rejoiced at his absence.
Nobody openly owned to being happier without him; but the knowledge that he was far away brought a sense of relief to every one; even to the old servants, who had been so fond of him in his childhood, when the kitchen and servants' hall had ever been a happy hunting-ground for him in periods of banishment from the drawing-room. Tregonell had remonstrated, with assumed displeasure; "you all make so much of him. He has such a spirit. Tregonell's visits to the kitchen and servants' hall came to be less appreciated by his retainers.
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He no longer went there to be petted — to run riot in boyish liveliness, upsetting the housemaids' work-boxes, or making toffy under the cook's directions. As he became aware of his own importance, he speedily developed into a juvenile tyrant; he became haughty and overbearing, hectored and swore, befouled the snowy floors and flags with his muddy shooting-boots, made havoc and work wherever he went. The household treated him with unfailing respect, as their late master's son, and their own master, possibly, in the future; but their service was no longer the service of love.
His loud strong voice, shouting in the passages and lobbies, scared the maids at their tea. Grooms and stable-boys liked him; for with them he was always familiar, and often friendly. He and they had tastes and occupations in common; but to the women servants and the grave middle-aged butler his presence was a source of discomfort.
Next to her son in Mrs. Tregonell's affection stood her niece Christabel. That her love for the girl who had never given her a moment's pain should be a lesser love than that which she bore to the boy who had seldom given her an hour's unalloyed pleasure was one of the anomalies common in the lives of good women. To love blindly and unreasonably is as natural to a woman as it is to love: and happy she whose passionate soul finds its idol in husband or child, instead of being lured astray by strange lights outside the safe harbour of home.
Tregonell loved her niece very dearly; but it was with that calm, comfortable affection which mothers are apt to feel for the child who has never given them any trouble. Christabel had been her pupil: all that the girl knew had been learned from Mrs. Tregonell; and, though her education fell far short of the requirements of Girton or Harley Street, there were few girls whose intellectual powers had been more fully awakened, without the taint of pedantry.
Christabel loved books, but they were the books her aunt had chosen for her — old-fashioned books for the most part.
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She loved music, but was no brilliant pianist, for when Mrs. Tregonell, who had taught her carefully up to a certain point, suggested a course of lessons from a German professor at Plymouth, the girl recoiled from the idea of being taught by a stranger.
London was a far-away world, of which neither aunt nor niece ever thought. That wild northern coast is still two days' journey from the metropolis. Only by herculean labour, in the way of posting across the moor in the grey dawn of morning, can the thing be done in one day; and then scarcely between sunrise and sunset. So Mrs. Tregonell, who loved a life of placid repose, had never been to London since her widowhood, and Christabel had never been there at all. There was an old house in Mayfair, which had belonged to the Tregonells for the last hundred years, and which had cost them a fortune in repairs, but it was either shut up and in the occupation of a caretaker, or let furnished for the season; and no Tregonell had crossed its threshold since the Squire's death.
Tregonell talked of spending a season in London before Christabel was much older, in order that her niece might be duly presented at Court, and qualified for that place in society which a young lady of good family and ample means might fairly be entitled to hold. Christabel had no eager desire for the gaieties of a London season. She had spent six weeks in Bath, and had enjoyed an occasional fortnight at Plymouth. She had been taken to theatres and concerts, had seen some of the best actors and actresses, heard a good deal of the finest music, and had been duly delighted with all she saw and heard.
But she so fondly loved Mount Royal and its surroundings, she was so completely happy in her home life, that she had no desire to change that tranquil existence. She had a vague idea that London balls and parties must be something very dazzling and brilliant, but she was content to abide her aunt's pleasure and convenience for the time in which she was to know more about metropolitan revelries than was to be gathered from laudatory paragraphs in fashionable newspapers.
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Youth, with its warm blood and active spirit, is rarely so contented as Christabel was: but then youth is not often placed amidst such harmonious circumstances, so protected from the approach of evil. Christabel Courtenay may have thought and talked more about Mr. Hamleigh during the two or three days that preceded his arrival than was absolutely necessary, or strictly in accordance with that common-sense which characterized most of her acts and thoughts.