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Desmond, who came to spend a few days in it on her way from Bath to Ireland, chiefly to see her daughter, and a little, perhaps, to see the famous beauties of that corner of Wales.
She was a very pretty old lady, prettily dressed, but with a brown "front" concealing her own white hair, held in position by a band of black velvet lest it should shift awry and the parting not be duly in the centre. Her complexion was still good, and, in spite of her seventeen children, she had hardly any wrinkles; nor were her eyes at all dim, but clear and bright. Her cap was of delicate old lace, with ribbons of a delicate colour, and she sat still in her arm-chair with a serene air of never walking except downstairs to be driven out. She was plump, but not fat, and her beautiful hands were rosy-white, not pale; slim, but not thin or bony; she held them, with the tips of the long, extraordinarily pointed fingers (like Fernando's mother's) just touching, on the lower part of her chest, and they did not look as if they ever did anything-if my small uncles had ever depended on her making knickerbockers for them, I fancy they would have gone like little Highlanders without any kilts. I have
understood since that those placid-looking hands had been well accustomed to ply a birch-rod with relentless vigour; but to her grandchildren she was all gentleness and indulgence; her whipping days were over, and maybe she felt by then that it would have been as well had they not lasted nearly so long. There were no birch-rods in our immediate branch of the family.
She did not stay long, and I do not remember her coming to our lodgings, though she very likely did: perhaps she found it pleasanter to see her daughter and her daughter's children in her own handsome rooms at the hotel. I never saw her afterwards, though she lived for many years, and to me she is only a dream of pleasant and amiable prosperity. All the same I believe she had troubles of her own, and she was only rich by comparison. Had she been really wealthy her daughter would not have been poor.
Not far from "The Hand" was the church, which I recollect quite well. There I first saw a lady in an enormous crinoline (under a Garibaldi-scarlet gown with an immense Greek-key pattern border of black velvet), and hard work had she to slip into her pew
she was a fashionable visitor and arrived very late. There, too, I first heard my sovereign publicly prayed for as "Our most religious and gracious Queen," which I understood to be a personal, as it was a just description, not being aware at that time that Her Majesty's uncle, George IV, had also been "most religious." The Prince of Wales was mentioned as Albert Edward, and I thought it was "Edwards" which was the vicar's family name, and I concluded they were related. The Prince Consort was no longer prayed for, as he was dead, and people who did not get new dresses very often were still in mourning for him-we were in mourning for him and Grandpapa Burscough, too, who had died about the same time. I had never seen him, though I was destined to confront his widow pretty often, and always with deep alarm.
I remember a good many of our acquaintances at Llanberwyn, especially a very old gentleman called Mr. Minshall, a widower with a pretty mature daughter; they lodged nearly opposite us, but they had silver teathings, and had muffins as if it was almost nothing, whenever you went to tea there, and caraway cake, also cream out of a heavy silver
jug of much Mr. Minshall's figure. I understood that he often had gout (as both my grandfathers had) and that it was a rich sort of disease. They were kind, friendly people, and I like them still very much. There was a doctor (not our own doctor) whom I could not abide, and if my mother were aware of my feelings, she did not endeavour to correct them. Once he took me on his knee (a slippery concern, not a lap at all) and kissed me saying I had beautiful blue eyes like my
"And 'oo," said I, examining his, "have uggy g'een eyes like oor mother.”
I do not defend the remark for I had never seen his mother, and the undoubted greenness of his own sly eyes may not have been. inherited. But it relieved me from being kissed any more, and my mother from further oblique and impertinent compliments. Anyway I was not scolded. This striking anecdote, however, is not a very happy illustration of the good manners I mentioned above: remember I was only three years old then, and learned better presently.
There was a very nice family called Stuart, of whom we saw a great deal. They were, like their name, Scotch, and I made up my
mind then that the Scotch were all delightful people, and have never changed it since. Mr. Stuart was an elderly widower, and there were two daughters, not quite girls, one of whom was a close friend of my mother's; she was supposed to resemble Queen Victoria, who was then only arriving at middle age, and Miss Stuart must have been a dozen or fifteen years younger than Her Majesty. This likeness to her sovereign ("especially in a photograph" said Llanberwyn) was considered rather a distinction; but what made Miss Stuart and my mother friends was the love they had in common for natural historyferns, mosses, botany, geology, conchology, entomology and so on. It would be hard to convince lazy people that a lady with two children, who devoted herself so closely to them, and made their clothes and her own, could have had time for all these pursuits; but she had, for she never wasted any. I often hear people declare that they love reading, but have no time for it, though they spend most of their waking hours in talkabout nothing in particular.
During those years in Wales, and afterwards as well, Fernando's mother made collections of ferns and mosses, of plants,