And so ends my study of the manners of my nieces, convincing me the more that as the manners are, so is the man or woman. The heart, or rather the soul, forms the manners, and they ARE the man.
‘Take care! Oh, take care!’
Whisk, swish, click, click, through the little crowd at Stokesley on a fine April afternoon, of jocund children just let loose from school, and mothers emerging from their meeting, collecting their progeny after the fashion of old ewes with their lambs; Susan Merrifield in a huge, carefully preserved brown mushroom hat, with a big basket under one arm, and a roll of calico under the other; her sister Elizabeth with a book in one hand, and a packet of ambulance illustrations; the Vicar, Mr. Doyle, and his sister likewise loaded, talking to them about the farmer’s wedding of the morning, for which the bells had been ringing fitfully all day, and had just burst out again. Such was the scene, through which, like a flash, spun a tricycle, from which a tiny curly-haired being in knickerbockers was barely saved by his mother’s seizing him by one arm.
‘A tricycle!’ exclaimed the Vicar.
‘A woman! Oh!’ cried Susan in horror, ’and she’s stopping—at the Gap. Oh!’
‘My dear Susie, you must have seen ladies on tricycles before,’ whispered her sister.
’No, indeed, I am thankful to say I have not! If it should be Miss Arthuret!’ said Susan, with inexpressible tones in her voice.
‘She was bowing right and left,’ said the Vicar, a little maliciously; ’depend upon it, she thought this was a welcome from the rural population.’
‘Hark! here’s something coming.’
The Bonchamp fly came rattling up, loaded with luggage, and with a quiet lady in black seated in it, which stopped at the same gate.
‘The obedient mother, no doubt,’ said Elizabeth. ’She looks like a lady.’
There had been a good deal of excitement at Stokesley about the property known by the pleasing name of the Gap. An old gentleman had lived there for many years, always in a secluded state, and latterly imbecile, and on his death in the previous year no one had for some time appeared as heir; but it became known that the inheritrix was a young lady, a great-niece, living with a widowed mother in one of the large manufacturing towns in the north of England. Her father had been a clergyman and had died when she was an infant. That was all that was known, and as the house had become almost uninhabitable, the necessary repairs had prevented the heiress from taking possession all this time. It was not a very large inheritance, only comprising a small farm, the substantial village shop, four or five cottages, and a moderate-sized house and grounds, where the neglected trees had grown to strange irregular proportions, equally with the income, which, owing to the outgoings being small, had increased to about 800 or 900 pounds a year, and of course it was a subject of much anxiety with Admiral Merrifield’s family to know what sort of people the newcomers would prove.