Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

not looked pleasant in vain, the whole family had by twos and threes strayed out upon it. On the seat under the broad-leaved, close-foliaged catalpa were the very master and mistress themselves ; the happy hum and lovely beauty of the summer evening brightening the one into loving cheerfulness and softening the other into loving stillness. Thus the London merchant and his wife sat hand in hand watching their many children or talking softly of old days.

Behind them stood the house in which the five last of their children had been born : the home of all for now nearly sixteen years. Just off the village green it lay, built of red brick, which some hundred and twenty years had now pagsed over and much improved ; formal and precise it is, as are all the good, oldfashioned houses which for nearly a century and a half have skirted either side of the village green with their sweep drives, iron gates, and bounding evergreens. There are three high, narrow sill-less windows, on each side of the massive door; on the next story seven, and above these seven more. The hall door is openfor if Fordbam be but six miles from London, it bears an honest name; and the hall, paved in lozenges of black and white, runs through the house; thus if that door at the further end were open we should gaze into the flower garden, with its groups of young and old. But entering at the front door, let us look up the broad oak staircase to the half-way landing, with its sunny western window and pleasant window-seat, and then just glancing at the white-painted panels of the hall itself, turn to our left.

Here is the parlour. The common parlour of four sets of happy opulent owners has that room been: four sets of children have often stood wonderingly tracing one Scripture tale after another in the Dutch tiles of the fire-place : four sets of children have played, scrambled or quarrelled on those three deep windowseats. Well, some of these have been laid in their graves long, long ago; some few others are now grandmothers instead of grandchildren ; the petted plaything of the last owner's heart is now earning her daily bread as a governess, no easy task. Yet all you women at ease envy her, “ Laborare est orare.”

There is a pleasant home look about this room. The carpet of Brussels and pleasant sober colours, is worn and faded, the table-cover is shabby and inkstained, but the whole air of the room proves never. theless that poverty has nought to do with retaining these in use; they are familiar and dear from many memories, and so are suffered to stay on from year to year. Perhaps they will be condemned soon, for a whisper ominous to many a shabby thing throughout this house is now becoming daily of more frequent recurrence ; Ah, it will do very well till Hetty is married.” Crossing the hall

, its door opposite to that of the parlour, is the schoolroom with its druggeted floor and doubly inkstained table-cover, upon which a schoolboy's bag of books and cricket ball and squirt, are lying side by side with Elizabeth's neat work-box and Laura's doll. Altogether this room is many shades shabbier and more untidy than its opposite neighbour; and get there is not one of those who have here once grumbled over returned lessons, or cried over hopelessly wrong long-division sums, that does not often steal in, book or work in hand, for a pleasant hour; and whilst their younger brothers and sisters look up from their Greek and Italian, longing to be as free from lessons as they are, sometimes wish themselves that they were once more children within it.

Behind the schoolroom is the dining-room, with its rich Turkey carpet, handsome curtains, and oak pa. nelled walls—for here Hetty has persuaded her father to have the disfiguring salmon-coloured paint scraped off, asking it as her last birthday present : not that this was her father's only present, there is a ring on the third finger of her right hand, which never leaves

it, whilst that of her betrothal above this she sometimes plays with, and has more than once lost. Over the modern marble mantelpiece hangs a portrait of Mrs. Wynne in her wedding dress, by Lawrence, looking as uncomfortable and ungraceful as the frightful costume of thirty years back makes even the loveliest of our mothers now appear, but the face full of the sweet prettiness of all Sir Thomas's portraits. In the panels opposite the three high narrow windows overlooking the garden, are three other pictures ; a most uninteresting fruit piece forms the centre, Mr. Wynne's grandfather and grandmother hanging on either side of this. Reader, can you forgive him ? Mr. Wynne can trace his pedigree no further back than to this Harry Wynne, who came up to London with three shillings in his pocket when eight years of age, and died when eighty, leaving a large sum behind him, but also the tradition that he had run away from home because his father, a country grocer, beat him for a lie be never told.

Grocer's son or not, the face of Henry Wynne as thus pourtrayed by Gainsborough's pencil, in middle life, is honest and upright, if plain; whilst of that of his wife much more may be said. That she was a lady by birth, is recognizable in the first glance. The portrait, which is but a half-length, is the likeness of so tall, slender, fragile-looking a creature (at eightand-forty Harry Wynne had married a girl of eighteen) that the tale connected with that picture seldom causes wonder. Henrietta Hargrave died of decline six months after the birth of her first babe, the future father of the middle-aged man who now owns Ford House. Her hair, fair and bright, is drawn tight off her forehead; her eyes are blue and open; her cheeks pink and white; her mouth full and smiling. Poor thing, to the very last she could hardly beliere she was dying, and talked to a husband whose heart was breaking with his coming loss, of plans and pleasures, and the future of their little son, some of which truly

came to pass,—but when she who had formed them, she who had given birth to the darling of the old man's heart, had long since passed away.

There is nothing more worthy of notice in this room, and the drawing-room opposite is so handsome and modern in paper, walls and furniture, that nothing need be described save the broad stone steps which stretch from one window to another of this room, and lead down into the garden; for in the very midst of the flat meadows and low marshes of Essex, Fordham boasts of a little bill, at the top of which lies the green. The garden is large and square, near the house bright with scarlet geraniums and yellow calceolarias ; Dearer the northern wall which divides it from its kitcheu neighbour, pleasant with soberer flowers ; against that dark belt of ilex, hollyhocks, pink, yellow, and red, are holding their stately heads erect in solemn beauty, marigolds, sweet-peas, mignionette, and stocks, growing luxuriantly and sending forth sweet fragrance beneath them. In that corner is a mulberry-tree, as old as the house itself, full of its rich-coloured fruit; and on the grass below no flowers, but Mr. Wynne's eldest son and daughter, Frank tilting the berries down' with his stick, Henrietta sometimes picking them up, at others stretching up on tiptoe to gather for herself.

She is scarcely one-and-twenty summers old; her dress a light muslin ; if any colour at all be spotted over it, it is blue, the colour of the bow at her throat. Her figure is full of blooming strength, tall, but bonnie; and if she has the fair complexion and blue eyes of the Henrietta Wynne whose name she bears, " Thank God !” thinks her father as he looks at her, “she has not my grandmother's figure.” Her face too is fuller and bonnier, her air lighter and gayer, a dash of carelessness and indolence nevertheless run. ning through all her merry buoyancy.

Xer companion is a tall slight young man, a year her senior, who in a few weeks will be returning to keep his last term at Oxford. His hair is dark and soft, his features as straight as Hetty's, but his complexion sallow. Greatly does the fastidious undergraduate of Exeter admire his pretty, graceful sister.

On a seat near them sits no other than Mr. Cradock, the Liverpool merchant to whom Henrietta Wynne has been now six months engaged. He is a finelooking man, with a great deal of brown hair and whiskers, a somewhat cold eye, a somewhat anxious forehead and sharp mouth ; across which, however, many a pleasant smile now flits, as from time to time he looks up from his book for a minute to watch his future bride, a girl ten years younger than himself.

A little nearer the house are another pair, Barbara and Paul; she a brown-haired, quick-eyed girl of eighteen, whose complexion looks as if it ought to be fair, but is muddy; whilst her figure, though upright and well-built, is a little too sturdy for beauty. Paul, a young man or boy (as you will), of a year and a half older, merits a longer description. His hair is short, crisp, and curling, of a light brown, not dark yellow; his eye brown and clear; his nose aquiline, but short and decided ; his mouth small, firm, and merry, and (rare event) the best feature in a face that, far from handsome, was just as good-looking as one ever cares for that of a man to be.

Not far from these, stretched at their length upon the ground, were Hargrave, Will, David, and Gordon, boys ranging from fifteen to nine; and not far from them again, on the shallow steps under the drawingroom windows-(steps on the right hand and left edged with vases of mignionette) sat the two girls who completed this large family : Elizabeth, a neat, pale-faced girl of sixteen, and Laura.

The first movement in the whole party was a despairing one made by David, who after trying in vain for nearly a quarter of an hour to stop his ears from the merry laughs and remarks of Hargrave and Wil

« AnteriorContinuar »