“Mary’s back won’t be worth a farthing, and we have always been quite famous for our back.”
“Humph!—that’s the reason people are always so glad to see them, child.”
With regard to Mary’s looks, opinions were not so decided. Mrs. Douglas thought her, what she was, an elegant, interesting-looking girl. The Laird, as he peered at her over his spectacles, pronounced her to be but a shilpit thing, though weel eneugh, considering the ne’er-do-weels that were aught her. Miss Jacky opined that she would have been quite a different creature had she been brought her like any other girl. Miss Grizzy did not know what to think; she certainly was pretty—nobody could dispute that. At the same time, many people would prefer Bella’s looks; and Baby was certainly uncommonly comely. Miss Nicky thought it was no wonder she looked pale sometimes. She never supped her broth in a wiselike way at dinner; and it was a shame to hear of a girl of Mary’s age being set up with tea to her breakfast, and wearing white petticoats in winter—and such roads, too!
Lady Maclaughlan pronounced (and that was next to a special revelation) that the girl would be handsome when she was forty, not a day sooner; and she would be clever, for her mother was a fool; and foolish mothers had always wise children, and vice versa, “and your mother was a very clever woman, girls—humph!”
Thus passed the early years of the almost forgotten twin; blest in the warm affection and mild authority of her more than mother. Sometimes Mrs. Douglas half formed the wish that her beloved pupil should mix in society and become known to the world; but when she reflected on the dangers of that world, and on the little solid happiness its pleasures afford, she repressed the wish, and only prayed she might be allowed to rest secure in the simple pleasures she then enjoyed. “Happiness is not a plant of this earth,” said she to herself with a sigh; “but God gives peace and tranquillity to the virtuous in all situations, and under every trial. Let me then strive to make Mary virtuous, and leave the rest to Him who alone knoweth what is good for us!”
“Th’ immortal line
in sure succession reigns,
The fortune of the family remains,
And grandsires’ grandsons the long list contains.”
“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
BUT Mary’s back and Mary’s complexion now ceased to be the first objects of interest at! Glenfern; for, to the inexpressible delight and amazement of the sisters, Mrs. Douglas, after due warning, became the mother of a son. How this event had been brought about without the intervention of Lady Maclaughlan was past the powers of Miss Grizzy’s comprehension. To the last moment they had been sceptical, for Lady Maclaughlan had shook her head and humphed whenever the subject was mentioned. For several months they had therefore vibrated between their own sanguine hopes and their oracle’s disheartening doubts; and even when the truth was manifest, a sort of vague tremor took possession of their mind, as to what Lady Maclaughlan would think of it.