No one would have more valiantly faced poverty than Elizabeth Delavie, had she alone been concerned. Cavalier and Jacobite blood was in her veins, and her unselfish character had been trained by a staunch and self-devoted mother. But her father’s age and Eugene’s youth made her waver. She might work her fingers to the bone, and live on oatmeal, to give her father the comforts he required; but to have Eugene brought down from his natural station was more than she could endure. His welfare must be secured at the cost not only of Aurelia’s sweet presence, but of her happiness; and Betty durst not ask herself what more she dreaded, knowing too that she would probably be quite incapable of altering her father’s determination whatever it might be, and that he was inclined to trust Lady Belamour. The only chance of his refusal was that he should take alarm at the manner of requiring his daughter from him.
CHAPTER V. THE SUMMONS.
But when the King knew that
the thing must be,
And that no help there was in this distress,
He bade them have all things in readiness
To take the maiden out.—MORRIS.
The second Sunday of suspense had come. The Sundays of good young ladies little resembled those of a century later, though they were not devoid of a calm peacefulness, worthy of the “sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright.” The inhabited rooms of the old house looked bright and festal; there were fresh flowers in the pots, honey as well as butter on the breakfast table. The Major and Palmer were both in full uniform, wonderfully preserved. Eugene, a marvel of prettiness, with his curled hair and little velvet coat, contrived by his sisters out of some ancestral hoard. Betty wore thick silk brocade from the same store; Harriet a fresh gay chintz over a crimson skirt, and Aurelia was in spotless white, with a broad blue sash and blue ribbons in her hat, for her father liked to see her still a child; so her hair was only tied with blue, while that of her sisters was rolled over a cushion, and slightly powdered.
The church was so near that the Major could walk thither, leaning on his stout crutch-handled stick, and aided by his daughter’s arm, as he proceeded down the hawthorn lane, sweet with the breath of May, exchanging greetings with whole families of the poor, the fathers in smock frocks wrought with curious needlework on the breast and back, the mothers in high-crowned hats and stout dark blue woollen gowns, the children, either patched or ragged, and generally barefooted, but by no means ill-fed.
No Sunday school had been invented. The dame who hobbled along in spectacles, dropping a low curtsey to the “quality,” taught the hornbook and the primer to a select few of the progeny of the farmers and artisans, and the young ladies would no more have thought of assisting her labours than the blacksmith’s. They only clubbed their pocket money to clothe and pay the schooling of one little orphan, who acknowledged them by a succession of the lowest bobs as she trotted past, proud as Margery Twoshoes herself of the distinction of being substantially shod.