The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
By Sarah Tytler.
Chapter I. Mamma's Little Girl.
"Bring her to me, nurse. Let me see my little daughter, my baby-girl. She will if she lives--God grant she may live--be her mother's chosen companion and friend. You know, nurse, what poor Marie Antoinette said when she was remonstrated with for lamenting too bitterly over the death of a little daughter?"
"No, ma'am, I never heard tell; but what I do know is that you are speaking too much, and exciting yourself. What will the doctor and Mr. Stanhope say if you are not so well tomorrow?"
"Oh! but just let me tell you this. Some of the ladies or gentlemen in attendance on the Queen took it upon them to ask her why she mourned so much for a mere infant, and she answered, if the infant had lived she might have been her friend, almost her nearest and dearest friend, and oh! nurse, the time came when poor Marie Antoinette stood in sore need of friends."
"Now, ma'am, you stop talking, and I'll bring missie and let you have another look at her before you settle down for your afternoon sleep."
Lured by this tempting bribe, Mrs. Stanhope lay very still among her pillows, trying even to control the longing, craving expression in her bright hazel eyes, till the small bundle of cambric and lace was lifted from her dainty cot and laid in the eager arms stretched out for her.
Then the mother began to coo over her child. "She is such a darling! Nurse, I don't think the other children had such dear, wee hands and feet. Boys are all very well, don't imagine that I am not grateful for my boys, and proud of them. I should have been so sorry if their father had not had a son to bear his name, and hand it down to the next generation, and to work with him when the time comes. I am very glad that my little girl will have brothers. But a daughter is doubly her mother's child. She grows up by her mother's side. All her little joys and sorrows are poured into her mother's ear. When she is old enough to share her mother's pleasures and cares, none can take the interest in them that a daughter will,--a girl never leaves her mother till she marries. I almost wish she may not marry, and yet I should not quite like her to be an old maid, for her own sake, the pet. But married or single she will be the stay of my old age. I cannot think her husband will distrust me, and hold me at arm's length, just because I am his mother-in-law," she entered the pathetic protest.
"Ma'am, you will be in a fever to-morrow--indeed, I ain't sure that you are not in a fever already. I must take the child away, and you must compose yourself to sleep without more ado," said the great authority peremptorily; and she at last exacted obedience from her subject for the time.
The nurse was not altogether wrong; Mrs. Stanhope, who was naturally a quiet woman, reserved in her sensitiveness, was carried quite out of herself, though happily no harm came of it, by the joy of the event which had happened to her.
It was a wonderful pleasure to dress the small maiden, after her first few birthdays, in all those exquisite garments which so soon grow unsuitable for a boy. No severe lines had to be drawn for a girl. Her fair curls might still frame her little face. Such pretty quaint bonnets might be provided for her curly head, and such dainty shoes for her dancing feet, as can only belong for the briefest space to a masculine toilet.
Mrs. Stanhope had a happy time all through the childhood of Tessie (named Theresa, after her mother); one of those times of unclouded affection and entire trust between parent and child to which mothers especially--fathers also, though, as a rule, not so often or so piteously--are apt to look back with wistful sadness, when the task of rearing their children is accomplished, and the elders ought to be reaping the fruit of their labour.
Mrs. Stanhope never wearied of Tessie, while she continued the baby-queen of the nursery--of the household. It was a positive treat to the woman to be at liberty to devote herself to the child for several hours, to be able to take her out for a drive, to have her toddling, by the aid of the mother's hand, round the garden of the London square, or across the lawn when the Stanhopes removed to a house in the suburbs.
To hear Tessie lisp her prayers, to steal to her cot to look at her asleep, were sacred duties and cherished privileges. It was not a greater holiday to Tessie than it was to Mrs. Stanhope to be packed off by an autocratically doctor for a week or two's change to the sea-side. It was about as great bliss to the mother as to the child to have each other's company without break or interruption, to pass the long summer days on the sands, with no other resources than were summed up in a fairy wheel-barrow, spade, and pail, a bit of needlework which was rarely unfolded, and a book which was seldom opened.
Chapter II. Miss Naismith's Pupil --The Young Brands' Playmate--Lennie's Sister.
It is an acknowledged fact that there is a stage of boyhood which does not recommend itself to the world at large. People have gone so far as to say that the hobble-de-hoy in his bashfulness, or bumptiousness, his raw-boned growth and mental ferment, remains truly adorable only to one person--his mother. It is not so generally admitted, but it is nevertheless true, that there is also a time in girls' lives when, if not so aggressively offensive as boys, they are still far from doing themselves justice. Girls appear then under a misleading mask. They can be tiresome and troublesome, morbid and meddlesome. They do not know what they want, and at the same time they are ready to quarrel with their natural guardians because these unhappy persons do not procure the roc's egg which the perverse maidens cannot so much as name.
The mischief began in Tessie's case with her mother's anxiety to secure for her every advantage which mortal maiden could compass. There is not a word to be said against Tessie's mistress, Miss Naismith. She did her duty as she saw it, and who among us can be said to do more? She was an exceedingly clever, thoroughly-trained student, in a school in which the intellect comes first, and moral qualities--not to say domestic virtues--are confessedly left to shift for themselves. Tessie, with the home-training that ought still to have been hers, with her mother as well as Miss Naismith to appeal to, should have fared better than many modern girls. What hindered it? Unforeseen difficulties, unforeseen engagements, honourable scruples on Mrs. Stanhope's part. She felt precluded from interfering with a governess of Miss Naismith's high standing, who had been assured that her necessary authority should have the utmost parental support. When the little girl, who had known much indulgence and a large amount of liberty hitherto, rebelled against the strict discipline and incessant grind of lessons which Miss Naismith instituted, from the best of motives, Mrs. Stanhope, though her heart was wrung, felt unable to do anything. She could not interfere, she was obliged to suppose Miss Naismith knew her own business best.
If Tessie's health had perceptibly suffered from the regimen to which she was subjected, her father, as well as her mother, would have interposed, and caused it to be relaxed or relinquished, but any physical injury done was not clearly evident. It was only the child's temper and nervous system which suffered, and such suffering, however acute and wearing, is not always traced to overstrain and worry. Tessie was losing the sweet, serene temper of the child. That was all. She was more crossed and restricted inevitably, therefore she displayed occasional fits of fretfulness and irritability, which would disappear when she was older, and wiser. Tessie querulously begging off from a lesson, passionately protesting against an imposition which she had provoked, childishly seeking to intrude her presence where it was least desirable, could not be encouraged. Tessie teasing, resentful or sulky, silly, whimpering, was no longer the bright docile plaything of former years. At the bottom of her heart Mrs. Stanhope loved her daughter as dearly as ever, but she had not always patience with her and pleasure in her at this transitional period of her existence.
At this crisis it happened that Mr. Stanhope made unusual claims on his wife's attention. He was a man of taste, with hobbies, one of which was the collection of rare old prints. All at once it occurred to him to edit a book on the subject, in which his wife, who had an artistic faculty, could aid him. She was flattered by the suggestion, and soon entered with as much enthusiasm as he into the project. Before the pair were thus engrossed Tessie used to be in the drawing-room as soon as her lessons were finished, and she had been accustomed to have weekly half-holidays to spend apart from Miss Naismith, and with her mother, in doing what the little girl liked best, when it was practicable. But now those precious half-hours and afternoons of Tessie's came to a summary end.
Mrs. Stanhope wanted each spare moment for her private studies, or to accompany her husband to every place where favourable prints could be found. Tessie was constantly sent away with the information, "Mother is terribly busy to-night, darling," or "Mother is going out with father. Go back to the school-room, and ask Miss Naismith to let you amuse yourself with the kitten, or to give you a story-book. Or stay, run in next door to the Brands, the children there are not badly mannered, and their mother told me you might go in when you wished somebody to play with you."
Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope determined to spend his holiday from his Government office in running over to the Continent to get a glimpse at some of the foreign collections of prints, while Tessie had been looking forward to the family's annual visit to the seaside. Apart from that, she had been for some time allowed to nourish the hope of being taken over by her mother to Paris to see the splendour of its shops, and then transported to an enchanted region of cuckoo clocks, wooden toys, goats, and donkeys, and endless fairy tales in the Black Forest. The father and mother had, in a measure, forgotten this programme. They agreed that it was impossible to drag Tessie about with them to museums and galleries, while she was getting too old to be left behind with her nurse in a foreign hotel. It was equally impossible to send her to the seaside, since Miss Naismith had her own plans, which could not be overturned. The boys were more easily disposed of at their tutor's. The best thing would be to leave Tessie at home, where there was more than one trusty old servant. Luckily the season was not a hot one for London, and Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope would make their trip as short as possible.
As soon as Tessie's destination was settled, Mrs. Brand showed herself better-natured and more friendly than ever. "Send Tessie in to me," she begged, "We are all fond of the child, and we are not going out of town this year till late in autumn. Tessie will be all right with my girls, and I have promised to take them to the Zoo, and the Crystal Palace, and Kensington Museum, when we have London to ourselves."
Tessie brightened up immensely when the proposal was broached, so that her mother was fain to think it a good one. She altered her opinion a little when she and Mr. Stanhope returned, when their book was out, and a reaction followed on their bustle, when Tessie was home again, and the Brands had come back form their autumn holiday. Tessie was more at ease in Mrs. Brand's drawing-room than in her mother's. There was no longer a possibility of putting a stop to the intimacy between the young people, particularly as the Brands were not quick to take a hint, being simply very commonplace and a trifle second-rate. The result was that Miss Naismith complained that Tessie's companions, with their flimsy attainments and showy accomplishments, had a bad effect on the girl. She was losing what serious ambition and earnest application she had possessed. Her mind was less than ever in her work.
Later on in their lives a great misfortune befell the Stanhopes. Their elder son was in the civil service in India, and was doing well, but they had trouble with the younger. Leonard Stanhope fell into misconduct which planted daggers into the hearts of his father and mother, and ended by separating him from his family. Essie was not of an age to understand the situation. On the other hand, this was the brother next her in years, to whom she had been warmly attached. From the first she constituted herself his ignorant champion.
Typed by Jennifer Talsma, March 2016
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