« السابقةمتابعة »
Or those who are invited to pay a visit to Beechcroft, there are some, who, honestly acknowledging that amusement is their object, will be content to feel with Lilias, conjecture with Jane, and get into scrapes with Phyllis, without troubling themselves to extract any moral from their proceedings; and to these the Mohun family would only apologize for having led a very humdrum life during the eighteen months spent in their company.
There may, however, be more unreasonable visitors, who, professing only to come as parents and guardians, expect entertainment for themselves, as well as instruction for those who had rather it was out of sight, look for antiques in carved cherry stones, and require plot, incident, and catastrophe in a chronicle of small beer.
To these, the Mohuns beg respectfully to observe, that they hope their examples may not be altogether devoid of indirect instruction; and lest it should be supposed that they lived without object, aim, or principle, they would observe that the maxim which has influenced the delineation of the different "Scenes and Characters," is, that feeling, unguided and unrestrained, soon becomes mere selfishness; while the simple endeavour to fulfil each immediate claim of duty, may lead to the highest acts of self-devotion.
New Court, Beechcroft,
SCENES AND CHARACTERS;
EIGHTEEN MONTHS AT BEECHCROFT.
THE ELDER SISTER.
"Return, and in the daily round
Of duty and of love,
Thou best wilt find that patient faith
ELEANOR Mohun was the eldest child of a gentleman of old family, and good property, who had married the sister of his friend and neighbour, the Marquis of Rotherwood. The first years of her life were marked by few events. She was a quiet, steady, useful girl, finding her chief pleasure in nursing and teaching her brothers and sisters, and her chief annoyance in her mamma's attempts to make her a fine lady; but as she grew older, she began to learn what real troubles were. Claude, her third brother, was attacked by a dangerous complaint in the head; and her mother,
always delicate, suffered greatly from her exertions and anxiety during his long illness, and was afterwards thrown back by grief for the loss of her two brothers, Lord Robert Devereux and Lord Rotherwood, who died within a year of each other of decline. As Lady Emily Mohun showed symptoms of the same complaint, her husband hurried her away to Italy, accompanied only by Eleanor, who was then nearly eighteen. William, the next in age, was at Sandhurst, and Henry at Eton, where he was now joined by Claude, who, his father hoped, might improve in health and vigour, by mixing with other boys, instead of being constantly watched and petted by his anxious mother.
The school-room girls, Emily, Lilias and Jane, the nursery boys, Maurice and Reginald, and the baby Phyllis, were left at home, to the care of a governess and purse; and all were under the superintendence of their aunt, Lady Robert, who lived near Beechcroft.
In the third year after the travellers left England, Lady Emily was so much better, as to be able to enter into society during a winter spent at Florence, and it was there that an engagement commenced between Eleanor and Mr. Francis Hawkesworth, who had come to Italy in company with a sister in delicate health.
Lady Emily wondered how he had been able to discover her daughter's real worth beneath her formal and retiring manner, and to admire features, which though regular had no claim to beauty, from the thinness of the lips, the light grey of the eyes, and a
want of light and animation about the whole countenance.
It was settled that the family should return home in the spring, that the marriage should then take place, and that Eleanor should accompany her husband to India. But clouds again gathered over the Mohun family; very alarming accounts reached them of the health of Lady Robert Devereux, and they were hastening home to relieve her of her charge, when Lady Emily was attacked with a sudden illness, which made such rapid progress, that, at the end of a very few days, she died, leaving the little Adeline, about eight months old, to accompany Eleanor and her father on their mournful journey. They arrived in England only just in time to attend the death-bed of Lady Robert, Mr. Mohun's only sister, and the person on whom he most relied for assistance in the education of his daughters. Her death made a great change in the views of Eleanor, who, as she considered the cares and annoyances which would fall on her father, when left to bear the whole burthen of the management of the children and household, felt it was her duty to give up her own prospects of happiness and to remain at home. How could she leave the tender little ones to the care of servantstrust her sisters to a governess, and make her brothers' home yet more dreary? She knew her father to be strong in sense and firm in judgement, but indolent, indulgent, and inattentive to details, and she could not bear to leave him to be harassed by the petty cares of a numerous family, especially when broken in spirits and weighed down with sorrow.