Изображения страниц

fresh-water and sea-shells, butterflies, moths and fossils; and they gave her endless delight in the finding of them, and in their arrangement and classification; how well I remember the exquisite, tiny writing in which each specimen was labelled!

Mr. Stuart was an authority on most of these matters, and his elder daughter was an enthusiast Miss Jessie we saw less often, her talents, I fancy, lying more in the direction of music and embroidery-it was long afterwards that my mother became a wonderful embroiderer.

The Stuarts lived a good way out of Llanberwyn in a pretty, small country house that stood high above the road, on a sort of terrace of the hillside, with a hanging wood behind, and then the lower slopes of a high mountain. I went to stay there once for a fortnight, and took with me an enormous scrap-book that our mother had made for us in winter evenings and on wet afternoons. The leaves were over a yard square, of doubled stuff called, I think, "calico-lining," and the book was as tall as myself and much broader. It contained hundreds of pictures cut from the Illustrated London News, Punch, and odd numbers of magazines. As she cut

out and stuck each of them down, Fernando's mother told him and Peveril all about it.

All the Stuarts were very kind to me, and so was the Welsh cook, who used to tell me about the ancient Princes of Wales (not of the Edwards dynasty) while she made blancmange and custards. That kitchen was a cheerful, well-lighted prosperous place, with comfortable smells of hot jellies and fruit tarts in the making; it was brilliantly clean all day long and never untidy: Fernando sat in the high window and listened, while he watched the black cow (as unmistakably Welsh as Myffanwy herself) in her precipitous field outside, and thought how like a sheet flung over her the square white patch on her back looked. But there was someone else beside Myffanwy to show the picture book to. There was a short way down to the high road, leading from the carriage drive by dozens and dozens of limestone steps; and at the bottom of them was an iron gate inside which Fernando felt rather like a small lion in a cage. Opposite was another gate belonging to a house where a boy in a kilt lived, or was staying; and he used to come and look at the pictures through the iron bars while Fernando laid down the law about each

of them. His own picture books were more sumptuous but less interesting, each one dealing with a single subject-Cinderella, for instance-which tended to monotony. His name was Fergus, and something else besides very likely, but that is all of it I remember. His hair and eyes were much the colour of the cairngorm in the silver brooch of his plaid, and he had freckles, which I rather envied as a sign of advanced age-he must have been nearly eight, as was Peveril, who also had freckles.

Peveril always seemed to me very old, but the only distinction his four years' seniority gave him was a liability to toothache, and to tumbling downstairs, and sitting on waspnests, from one or other of which misfortunes he was, so far as I remember, generally suffering or recovering. He was always a very kind brother, and never snubbed me or teased me. He was graver than I was (as beseemed his advanced time of life) and did not talk so much: he, however, could talk Welsh, which I never could. He also had a more equable temper and did not fly into rages like Fernando. Usually summery and smiling, Fernando's temper was subject to violent thunder-storms : birch-rod would

have been the remedy for these disorders had he been one of his own maternal uncles or aunts, and his grandmamma Desmond the physician; as it was, the cure was milder (and perhaps violence is not the best cure for violence). Master Fernando was lifted (vehemently screaming) on to the top of a tall narrow-seated chair, intended for a music stool, and there left, apparently disregarded. It seemed to be a dizzy height, and the stamping area was horribly confined; to continue stamping threatened a fall not less painful than ignominious; to cease stamping the only way of security. Even to shake passionately from side to side, and bellow, was hard to combine with anything like a prudent regard to the centre of gravity.


Fernando will be good soon," his mother would confidently observe to Peveril, after a reasonable interval.

"He's good now, I think," Peveril might, with too hasty charity, decide.

"No! No!! No!!! I isn't," would cry Fernando, with a fierce (but guarded) attempt to prove it by another stamp. Then his mother went on sewing, with her back to him: Peveril went on warming his toothache by the fire, and reading Dr. Goldsmith's "Animated

Nature." Silence : and a growing consciousness on Fernando's part of dangerous and not meritorious elevation.


Are you good yet, Fernando?" "No."

Another silence, and a desperate desire to jump, abandoned as spirited but impracticable.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

I must say Peveril never crowed over me when I thus succumbed without the honours of war nor did he lecture and point out that he was never naughty. I knew it to be true, and those true things are very hard to hear. No more did our mother, afterwards, when tenderly reproaching me for my passionate temper, enforce it by a comparison with my brother she was too anxious that we should love each other to save herself trouble by that easy obvious course. It was of another Child she spoke, not taking on herself to threaten in His name that He would not love her baby if he went on thus, but fearing that

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »