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MAY AND HER FRIENDS.

Front.

^The prettiest thing Vve ever seen* P. 3.

MAY

ANl>

HER FRIENDS

BY

E. M. B.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY F. W. LAWSON.

* He that walkcth uprightly walketh surely.'

Prei'. X. 9.

LONDON :

Frederick Warne and Co.,

BEDFORD STREET, COVENT GARDEN.

NEW YORK : SCRIBNER AND CO.

1867.

iJT/. 'i^. S2.

PREFACE.

has been long thought by the Authoress of the present volume, that the copious stream of fiction which is being continually issued from the press does not include in sufficient proportion a class of books especially designed for the beneficial amuse- ment of girls ; and the following tale, based upon actual - life incidents, is offered as a contribution towards supplying the deficiency.

The tone and style of thought of the reading multi- tude is, in a very great degree, influenced for good or for evil by the publications that arc perused ; and there- fore, while producing it, the writer has kept in mind her conviction that those who write for the amusement or instruction of others, and especially those whose literary productions are intended for young people, take upon themselves a serious responsibility.

^^

4. ^l>^)Vva.^-

ILLUSTRATIONS.

Pnpe

'The prettiest thing I've ever seen: (Front.) . . 3

V/ must be dam for effect: 102

Election titne, . »4^

May's opinion watited, ^99

Nurse and Patient. 229

May's apprehension, 299

The welcome home, 329

Son and Brotlier, 39 1

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

Page

The Old Park House An offer of adoption Scotswood Warren May's welcome After-dinner amusements. i

CHAPTER II.

Wandering habits In a predicament A sad occurrence Late for dinner Ruffled minds An eventful ride. ijj

CHAPTER III.

Renewed friendships ^A sad visit ^Wounded sensitiveness ^The old abbey Olden times ^The misery of nervousness 27

CHAPTER IV.

A model governess May at her lessons Unappreciated talent An at- tempt at conciliation An aspirant for favour An ungeneroas prompt- ing suppressed Sworn friends. 41

CHAPTER V.

An intruder expelled ^A fairy bower Unduly elated ^The blindness of love ^A gentle reproof Sir Lionel's shade 56

CHAPTER VI.

The damaged dock ^As honest as beautiful Under suspicion Stung to insurrection Pride gives strength Clouds on the horizon Tender reminiscences. 68

CHAPTER VII.

A true knight Fun in the market-place A suspicious acquaintance ^A iledge ride— Moravian missions Sport on the ice 81

X CONTENTS,

CHAPTER VIII.

Fage

I*reparing for a ball Awaiting the guests Doing the honours Sarcastic pleasantry A mournful summons. ....... 96

CHAPTER IX.

Friendly correspondence At Scotswood again Suspicion awakened Disturbed meditations May's Ivle noir, . . . . . .107

CHAPTER X.

A visit to friends At luncheon More popes than one The emptied

basket Gossiping suggestions Candidates for Parliament. .118

CHAPTER XI. Helen in trouble A letter from India Attempt at reconciliation. . i.^i

CHAPTER XII.

An unfortunate shot Playing the old soldier Snugly ensconced Not yet convalescent A conflict with inclination Business at the lodge. . 142

CHAPTER Xlll.

Plans acquiesced in Adicux l^ris cries At church in Paris Stirring thoughts The pastor's invitation ^The pastor's home The disrobing of pride. 155

CHAPTER XIV.

Emulation aroused Proposal to travel Watching the sunset Outstaying a welcome The invalid leaves Scotswood In the cathedral at Amiens Arrival in Paris An early stroll Startling ingratitude Hotel St. Jullien. . . . . . . . . . . .172

CHAPTER XV.

Friendly converse Letters from home A recherchv toilette Propitiation An adventure An interesting instructor Motives analysed. . •19.^

CHAPTER XVI.

Ominous whisperings Caution A letter from Reginald An invitation Presentiments realized Condolence God's arrows. . . . 209

CHAPTER XVII.

A letter at the camp Self-denying efforts Camp nursing Coincidences Casuahies of war. 224

CHAPTER XVIIl.

Influences Rest after work An unfortunate history Religion in practice Indirect influences A deliberative inquiry ^Troubles. . . . 234

CONTENTS, xi

CHAPTER XIX.

Page The sick-room The lesson Unsatisfactory epistles An unwelcome rencontre ^The lost letter Ceremonies disca«jscd Illogical argument The missing maid A search 250

CHAPTER XX.

An adventure Locked in A friend in need A clue to the lost Diplo- macy in progress A moral lecture Truth comes out A searching inquiry. 268

CHAPTER XXI.

Sir Lionel at Rome An alarming seizure Ill-founded confidence Dis- interested attentions A bed-side group 284

CHAPTER XXII.

An unsatis^ctory escort PreparatioiLS for travel Nervous misgivings Unsuspicious of evil A home face Old feelings revived Friendly counsel. ........... 294

CHAPTER XXIII.

A successful effort An unexpected visit Misinterpretation Seeing things as they were A pleasant chat No news of Reginald A quiet wedding. 309

CHAPTER XXIV.

Travellers An excitement ^The welcome A pleasant home party A mournful ride Scotswood Prospect of law 324

CHAPTER XXV.

The Knight of the Merry Laugh Old memories A well-regulated household ^A bluff old tar In a merry mood A mischievous mon- key— ^The world everywhere A song for the admiral. . . . 338

CHAPTER XXVI.

Goppo again ^Triumphal preparations In consultation Nautical tactics A cottage visitor Fussy visitors Motives for travel Scandalmongers. 3 5 5

CHAPTER XXVII.

A summons to London A birthday gift ^The birthday moming The heart's misgivings A strange visitor ^Thc effects of idleness In con- sultation ............ 373

CHAPTER XXVIII. Maternal anxiety— Surgeons at work Anxieties relieved. . . . 389

xii CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XXIX.

At I he Crystal Palace Motives analysed Friendly chat Remini:tcenccs At death's door Remorse Expected honours 397

CHAPTER XXX.

Commencing to live Acceptable counsel A mind disordered ^At the abbey ag;ain Wealth utilized ^The old, old story 412

CHAPTER XXXI.

Self-forgetfulness Brother and sister Lessons become irksome Partings A cool fiircwell 425

CHAPTER XXXll.

Caase and eflect Another climax Brought to bay A riddle solved ^The prayer answered ^To the war again 4.^6

CHAPTER XXXIIl.

Fiiendshi|)s Miss Aberlc)' arrives Lovers in consultation ^Thc weddings May at home Points of perfection 44R

MAY AND HER FRIENDS.

CHAPTER I.

* Go with me ; I'll give thee ^ries to attend on thee, And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep, And sing, while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep.'

||R AVO, young Hercules ! ' exclaimed Sir Lionel Shelley, as, on a cold, bleak January evening, he was ushered into the family apartment of some dis- tant relatives, who resided in the north of England. *My word ! I shall pity the poor partridges ten years hence ! *

This remark was addressed to a boy of about nine years of age, who, after scanning the visitor for a moment with child- like but inquiring scrutiny, laid down a gun he had for some minutes previously been perseveringly trying to shoulder, and, taking up a book, retired to a window-seat, as if wishing to avoid hirther notice.

* And how are my good cousins ?' continued the gentleman, crossing the apartment to where a lady with a baby on her knee, formed the most striking figure of a picturesque group.

A sweet smile of welcome was Mrs. Bosanquet's reply, while her husband rose in surprised haste, to greet his unexpected

2 MAY AND HER FRIENDS.

guest, upon whose entrance a little girl, disturbed in her after- dinner romp, half hid herself behind her mother's chair, and with coquettish espiiglerie revealed enough of her winsome face to invite a continuation of the play that had been unexpectedly brought to a close.

Sir Lionel looked around him with evident satisfaction, and after exchanging some old-fashioned courtesies with Mrs. Bosan- quet, said, * The very sight of such a nest as this sets my frozen blood circulating ;' but by drawing his chair close to the fire, he showed that some other sense than that of sight was not unwill- ing to be gratified.

'Camilla is not worse?' asked Mr. Bosanquet,. in a voice betokening apprehension.

'Much the same much the same,' was the musing reply. ' She seems to possess some counter-charm against life's ills. I should like to get at her talisman for content 1 I see how it is,' he further remarked : ' you think I should account for my intru- sion here this evening.'

Without giving his host time to disown any such inhospitable curiosity, the visitor went on to explain, that the discovery of coal-fields on his estate had been the unusual cause of his leaving home during that inclement season ; and that Camilla had extorted fi-om him a promise that he would take a bed at ' The Old Park House,' and so get possession of all family news ; in short, he had come to * act as a sort of a spy on what was going on.' He laughed and talked very fast, and the little girl already introduced, finding that the conversation was becoming engrossing, and not inheriting her aunt's taste for * family news,' emerged firom her hiding-place, crept stealthily up to her father, and abstracted a handkerchief from his pocket, with which she invited a game at hide with Sir Lionel.

THE OLD PARK HOUSE, 3

Delighted at this voluntary sociability, the elderly gentleman, quite at sea as to the orthodox way of amusing children, entered into the pastime with extravagant drollery, and so excited the little maiden as to cause Mrs. Bosanquet's apprehension, lest she should laugh more than was good for her. The child's joyous humoiu: was just at its height when nurse came to announce * Miss May's bed-time !' and the cheery aspect of the softly lighted chamber being much more to her taste than the cold and shadowy outside, she clung so tenaciously to Sir Lionel, to save her from being carried off by * force of arms,' that Mrs. Bosanquet had to promise that she would come and look at her after she was in bed ; but it was not until Sir Lionel said that he too would have a peep at her with her nightcap on, that she could be reconciled to the parting ; but this satis- fied her, and she nodded a friendly farewell until the closing of the door shut her off from view.

Sir Lionel was fascinated, and so entirely was his bachelor theory, that children were necessarily troublesome, subverted, that when Mrs. Bosanquet, who was rigorous in the performance of promises, and would never let any considerations of cere- mony interfere with their ftdfilment, rose to visit the nursery, he readily accepted an invitation to accompany her. As she led the way up stairs, laughing at her guest's finding himself in so unusual a territory, his speculations turned upon the question as to which was the most .charming of the two, mother or child ; but another sight of May seemed to bring him to a decision ; for, as he looked at her litde graceful form, her face flushed and lovely as only sleeping children's are, he exclaimed with unaf- fected earnestness, * My word ! it is the prettiest thing I 've ever seen in my life.'

Meanwhile Reginald, the litde fellow first addressed, took

1—3

4 MAY AND HER FRIENDS,

advantage of their absence from the room to refer to his father for a solution of the puzzle, as to what Hercules had to do with partridge shooting; but on being informed that Sir Lionel's allusion referred rather to the general strength than to any par- ticular exploit of that hero, and on Mr. Bosanquet's adding, laughingly, that it was possible the birds Hercules is reputed first to have frightened with his rattle and afterwards to have shot with his bow and arrow might have been partridges, the boy's spirit of inquiry seemed satisfied, and he announced his readiness to follow where May had led.

Sir Lionel returned to the room looking very animated. The circumstances in which he found himself were unlike any- thing he was in the habit of witnessing at home, for his mother, who with Camilla, a sister of Mr. Bosanquet's, formed part of his permanent household, was a very ancient and stately dame. His evening's experience was as pleasant to him as it was novel, and finding himself with only the elder members of the family, he became very chatty and communicative matters on various subjects were freely discussed, and the bell rang for prayer before he was aware that the evening hours were so nearly at their close.

When he retired for the night his thoughts recurred to the pleasant scenes of which he had been a spectator, and he fell asleep indulging in a vision of Scotswood peopled by such little cherubs as May Bosanquet.

The next morning found him paying an early visit to the nursery, which his little friend was ready to quit. Eager to renew his acquaintance, she accepted his proffered hand with winning confidence, and trotted away in a highly satisfied frame of mind, looking triumphantly at her nurse, whom she evidently thought likely to object to such a subversion of rules, the pit-a- pat of her little feet sounding very musical to the unaccustomed

S

AN OFFER OF ADOPTION. 5

ears of Sir Lionel as she descended with him to the breakfast- room. Soon afterwards he made an expedition with her to the toy-shop in the town. The morning's proceedings were repeated for several days, until there was such an accession of playthings in nurse's territory, that she said, in her Scotch tongue, she should be 'up to her knees in 'em.'

As on the first evening of his arrival Sir Lionel had repre- sented his visit even for one night as requiring an unusual effort, Mr. Bosanquet was at a loss to account for his lengthened stay; especially as he seemed uneasy, and grew more and more so each day, although he showed no intention of leaving. At last, concluding that business must be detaining him against his will, he asked if there were anything that he could do for him on his return home.

This offer opened the way for a proposition little expected by Mr. Bosanquet, but one upon the answer to which the content of his guest weightily depended Su- Lionel at once replied to the effect that it was no business matter that was detaining him that gold and silver were not among his wants that his nest was already deeply feathered ; but that he wanted a little bird to lie in it. He spoke long and continuously, as if wishing to set forth all the advantages incident upon the acceptance of the offer he was about to make, before subjecting himself to a refusal, and wound up by expressing his wish to adopt little May, and to make her his heiress.

A quick expression of pain no less than of astonishment passed over the father's face; but the prospect of an ample provision for his daughter was a great allurement to him, and he hesitated in his reply. As a cadet of a younger branch of his family, his patrimony had been small, and having married in very early life, he had known something of pecuniary anxiety.

6 MAY AND HER FRIENDS.

The lady on whom he bestowed his affection happened to be a ward in Chancery, and he had the audacity to elope with her while she was yet a minor. The I^rd Chancellor did not allow the affront to his guardianship to pass unresented, but impri- soned the heiress-stealer for contempt of court, and withheld the wife's very moderate fortune as long as the law could allow.

During the early years of married life, Mr. Bosanquet lost caste in the rich and fashionable circles to which he by right of birth belonged, and proved the truth of the proverb that * the poor is separated from his neighbour;' but in spite of his com- pulsory retirement from the world, he was a happy man, and for many years ere this story commences had learned to live con- tentedly on his income. At the time of Sir Lionel's visit there was one great cause of family anxiety his own confirmed ill health. A few days previously his physicians had given it as their opinion that if he could spend his winters in Madeira, his life might be considerably prolonged ; and although he had then treated the proposition as impracticable on the score of expense, a home in England for May would lighten the difficulty ; and as he stood listening to what Sir Lionel had to say, these thoughts passed through his mind. He promised to confer on the subject with Mrs. Bosanquet; and, improbable as it may appear, the result of the conference was that May was given up to the care of an easy, characterless man of the world, the arrangement being that in the autumn of that year, subsequent to Sir Lionel's annual visit abroad, she should be introduced into her new home.

* Scotswood Warren ' was situate just above the brow of a chalk hill in one of the most beautiful of our English counties^ and from any part of the estate so called a gazer might take in one of the loveliest of lovely landscapes, combining at once the

SCOTSWOOD WARREN. 7

grand, the wild, and the sylvan. It formed part of an extensive tract of waste land that had been enclosed under the authority of an Act of Parliament, and derived its name from that by which the surrounding neighboiurhood had been known from time immemoriaL Enclosures of other large portions of the district were afterwards made; but they all had other names assigned them,'and the house and grounds of Sir Lionel Shelley were called, par excellence^ * The Warren/ The mansion was visible for many miles around, being conspicuous not only by reason of its elevated site, but for its extensive frontage of only one storey in height. It had two wings, to each of which extensive conservatories and aviaries were attached.

The grounds were laid out with artistic taste, from the rich mosaic of flower-beds tliat sloped from the terrace, to the clus- ters of graceful shrubs planted near the house as a relief to the intensity of the light There were two spots in them which were especially inviting : one, * The Hollow,' literally a hollow, with a few tall trees, a rich undergrowth of tangle, and such wild flowers as can live happily in the shade ; the other, * The Wood,' a thick plantation of box trees, with here and there an opening where the ground was covered with soft mossy grass of a lovely green a place in which Puck might be supposed to receive his friends, and follow them * about and around through bog, and bush, and brake, and brier.'

Such is a brief sketch of the home at which little May arrived, in company with her nurse and Sir Lionel, on a lovely September evening of the year in which this story begins.

When they reached the lodge, the gate was opened by a tottering old woman, who emerged from a pretty moss and rose- covered porch. This picturesque figure was known as Bettie Fr(^gatt ; her body was bent almost double, and her nose and

8 MAY AND HER FRIENDS,

chin were in close proximity. Her dress consisted of a mob- cap bound with black and kept in its place by a chinnmn, a short linsey gown, the body of which was crossed by a yellow kerchief, a check apron, white gaiters, and wooden shoes. Sir Lionel considered her an ornamental appendage to his grounds, and accorded her some distinction in consequence, always making it a rule to exchange a few good-natured words with her whenever opportunity offered.

. * How now, dame ? ' he inquired, as she stood fumbling at the gate. * Asleep, were you, in spite of the rheumatism ? Have you managed to frighten away the foxes ? Eh ? How get on the young turkeys ?'

Not one of these questions being heard, they were, as a mat- ter of course, unanswered ; and the old dame, concluding Sir Lionel's harangue to have consisted of a detailed inquiry after her health, began to unfold to view some hot tiles she had wound round her arm as a cure for rheumatism ; when the coachman, not thinking it necessary to await the completion of the cere- mony, drove quickly on, only leaving time for a good-natured nod from her master. The noise of the voices and the sudden halt awoke little May from a long slumber, and Sir Lionel lifted her up to the carriage window, to take in her first view of Scotswood.

It was an evening to be remembered, earth and sky combining to form one of Nature's loveliest pictures, but it was difficult to decide as to its effect upon May, for she only gave a deep sigh, such as often escapes from a little burdened heart in novel or exciting circumstances, and then relapsed into the slumber that had been abruptly disturbed.

The travellers were met in the hall by Mrs. Shelley and Miss Bosanquet : the former an erect, spare, stately lady, with a high

MAY'S WELCOME, 9

nose and piercing dark eyes ; the latter a delicate, gentle-looking creature, evidently a sufferer from some wasting illness.

Both looked pleased to welcome the little girl, although their welcome was characteristically different ; Mrs. Shelley proposing that she should have some supper and go to bed at once, ' in order that dinner might not longer be kept waiting ; ' while Miss Bosanquet, thinking only of the delight of having possession of her brother's child, tried to carry her away, when finding her strength insufficient, she placed her in her nurse's arms, and followed with her from the room.

Sir Lionel called out that May was to come down to dinner ; and accordingly, after the necessary time given to her toilet, in a room suggestive of one in a fairy palace, little May found her- self seated at table in a dazzling light, very bewildering to her sleepy senses, a position rather entertaining for its novelty than its agreeableness.

Mrs. Shelley was manifestly displeased at seeing her there, and, after putting on her spectacles and closely scrutinizing her, said reproachfully to Sir Lionel, *I suppose it's your folly having her brought here ?

May opened her eyes wide, and confronted the old lady with looks of doubtful inquiry, as if to decide whether she were her friend, and in her fit of abstraction upset one of the many per- plexing appurtenances that were put in her way; whereupon Mrs. Shelley started so frantically as to cause the blood to rush over the face, arms, and neck of the involuntary author of the mischief. Seeing the frightened look on the poor child's face. Sir Lionel went to her aid, saying, * She has more wine-glasses than she knows what to do with, so thinks it as well to dispose of a few. She knows how to manage matters, and to eat her dinner too, I can tell you.'

lo MA Y AND HER FRIENDS,

May restrained her rising tears with commendable self-control, a little hysterical sob being the only indication of unusual emo- tion, and proceeded to perform the duties of the table in a way to justify Su- Lionel's opinion as to her capabihties, until Miss Bosanquet, alarmed at the probable effect of the esculent varie- ties of which she was partaking, told her to say * Good night,* and that nurse should come and take her to bed.

' She 's not going to bed yet, certainly not,' said Sir Lionel, decidedly.

* Tertainly not,' echoed the child ; at which sign of apprecia- tion Sir Lionel was of course delighted ; while Mrs. Shelley wondering whether all intervention in the management of the child was to be disallowed, and whether this treatment of her was to be a precedent for future occasions looked very severe, and gave her son, who had always been in the habit of deferring to her opinion in cases where his dilettanteism was not concerned, the uncomfortable feeling that he was setting her will at defiance. He was soon glad to make a move, and, without waiting for dessert, caught up a Brobdignagian bunch of grapes, and, giving them to May, carried her off to the drawing-room.

The accumulation of all sorts of knicknackeries, useless and expensive, had been hitherto Sir Lionel's hobby, and the style of furniture and ornaments in the Scotswood drawing-room were such as might be found in the houses of the old French mbkssc. For many years he had returned from abroad, laden with what Mrs. Shelley, in the strong language more in vogue in the last generation than the present, was pleased to call his foreign gim- cracks ; and so full was the house that it firequentiy happened that a choice marble or bronze could find a no more suitable standing-place than a shelf in a lumber-room or an outhouse*

AFTER-DINNER AMUSEMENTS, ii

Now he seemed about to find a new interest ; for, after placing May in a fanciful seat he had had covered for her with a leopard-skin, he proceeded to set in motion various mechanical toys collected for her amusement, showing an amount of energy such as the ladies had never before seen him display.

Figures were set to dance to the tune of a musical-box ; babies cried^ Mamma;' cats swallowed mice wholesale, and birds sang ; until May, quite bewildered with the multiplicity of novelties, turned for relief to a more familiar pastime, and began to play with a kitten that had crept into the room, and was then having a chase after her tail.

' Do you think to supply the child with toys at this rate ? * asked Mrs. Shelley, in a somewhat gruff and satirical tone of voice. *When one sees what is considered necessary for the amusement of the rising generation, it makes the elders wonder how they managed to get through their own childhood. I should have said these might be distributed over twelve months at least.'

' Would it not be better to reserve some of them for especial occasions?' suggested Miss Bosanquet. *When they seldom come they wished-for come,' she added, conciliating Sir Lionel by quoting his favourite author.

Here every one was attracted by the noise of a cock-crowing and a flapping of wings ; and, on discovering that it came from a French clock that stood in the comer of the room. May fairly screamed with delight.

Pleased at her pleasure, Sir Lionel laboured (as people unac- customed to children so often do labour) to describe mechanism quite beyond the child's comprehension ; but May was suffi- ciently amused with watching effects without troubling herself as to the cause. The jewelled bird was very attractive ; then

12

MA Y AND HER FRIENDS.

there were figures of two boys, one of which turned an hour- glass, while the other put forth a rod ; and as at the last stroke nurse made her appearance, she was quite satiated with delight, and glad to lay her head on nurse's shoulder on her way up to bed.

CHAPTER II.

'I learnt the royal genealogies Of Oviedo ; the internal laws Of the Burmese empire ; by how many feet Mount Chimborazo outsoars Teneriflfe ; What navigable river joins itself To Tara; and what census of the year five Was taken at Klagenfiirt, because she liked A general insight into usrful facts*

|ROM the time that May took up her abode at Scots- wood, she saw little of the pleasant home party at the Old Park House. During several years that followed, Mr. and Mrs. Bosanquet spent a great part of their time abroad ; their youngest child died soon after their leaving England, and Reginald was going through a course of study, first at school, and then at college ; so that home at the Old Park House was a thing of the past.

When a request was made for May to visit her parents, Sir Lionel seemed to chafe at the thought of any rival influence, and manifested such evident repugnance to concur in the pro- position, that invitations were less and less frequent, until at last it became understood that she was not to leave Scotswood. Reginald never received an invitation to see her; so that, except for a passing interview with Mr. and Mrs. Bosanquet,

14 MAY AND HER FRIENDS.

which only took place at rare intervals, she was entirely alien- ated from all kith and kin standing nearer to her in relationship than her aunt or Sir Lionel.

It was evident that the old man intended as much as possible to concentrate the child's affections on himself; and if indul- gence and lavish gifts could have purchased love, he would have been eminently successful ; but he might have discovered that a little judiciously exercised moral influence on the part of her aunt did more to win May's real affection than all the treasures he was ready to lay at her feet.

During her early years, she was decidedly a favourite of for- tune. Miss Bosanquet was her sole teacher, and conveyed her lessons in the least irksome way possible ; and although Mrs. Shelley was of sterner mould, and sometimes scared May by her severe looks, even she made her a sort of pet, and would, to stimulate her attention and to save her invalid friend trouble, promise, as a reward for one half-hour of quiet attention, to tell her a story of long ago some incident of her own youthful days.

May delighted in all Mrs. Shelley's stories, savouring as they did of the olden times ; but some of them that were selected to form instructive contrasts to her o>vn thoughtlessness, asto- nished even more than they pleased her.

The old lady had been one of the maids of honour in Queen Charlotte's Court, and used so to represent the princesses as models of propriety and good manners, as to set May wondering she had never met with such. Although the picture of three demure girls, with high waists and Vandyke ruffs, became ste- reotyped m her mind, she never thought it possible to imitate them, but only came to the conclusion that that sort of people must be quite out of date.

WANDERING HABITS. 15

One of Sir Lionel's first presents to her had been a pony, and it was his delight to have her riding upon it by his side, attracting admiration for her beauty, and for the skilful way in which she controlled her spirited little steed. Without regard to times or seasons, he was constantly inviting her companion- ship, and, often when she had settled to some quiet employ- ment, the ladies would be annoyed by hearing the smack of his whip on the window-pane, and seeing her pony standing saddled, ready for her to mount, Aigus, a favourite wolf-hound, being always in waiting to accompany them.

It may be imagined that she was ever willing to leave the good little girls Mrs. Shelley used to hold up for her imita- tion to follow their own tastes, while she followed Sir Lionel, and the consequence was that nearly all her time was spent in rambling or riding about the country, to the entire neglect of her educational training. She fell into the habit, when not with Sir Lionel, of wandering away, no one knew whither, not only to the Hollow or to the Wood, both favourite haunts, but far beyond the precincts of the Warren. This made Mrs. Shelley very angry, Miss Bosanquet very anxious, and nurse indignant that Miss May was taken entirely out of her juris- diction; but no further ill effects arose from the habit, until two or three incidents occurred, which, though trivial in them- selves, may as well be referred to, as they were not only momentous ii) immediate result, but bore m some measure on the circumstances of her after life.

As an invalid. Miss Bosanquet's occupations were necessarily limited, and one of her pastimes was to arrange dried flowers on rice paper, to be afterwards mounted on card-cases, brace- lets, or other ornamental souvemrs. So artistic and minute was their ^^arrangement, that these floral compositions were not

K

i6 MAY AND HER FRIENDS.

unfrequently mistaken for painting or mosaic. May liked to watch the groups grow on the paper, and when particularly wishing to please Aunt Cam, would institute a diligent search for the tiny blossoms required for the work, which were often to be found hidden away among the short herbage on the hill-sides, where the grass was very slippery. One day, when thus engaged, she lost her footing, and sprained her ankle so seriously as to be unable to move. At length she was found and borne towards the house by a servant of the place. Miss Bosanquet saw her being carried across the lawn, and the fright experienced by that lady in consequence of the accident was so mischievous in its effect upon her weakened frame, that Miss May was taken seriously to task, and a promise required from her that in future she would confine herself to the grounds of the Warren. For some time she conscientiously kept to the length of her tether ; but on a subsequent occa- sion, hearing there was a forsaken hornet's nest in the hollow of a tree that stood about a hundred yards beyond the pre- scribed limits, she thoughtlessly broke her bounds, and followed her informer through some long thick grass that lay between her and the desired treasure. No sooner was she in possession of the nest than her wet feet and soiled dress reminded her of her broken promise : she felt very sorry, for her aunt had ex- plained to her the nature of a promise, and the thought of meeting a reproachful look from her sent her running to the lodge, to ask Dame Froggatt to help her out of her difficulty. But astonishment rendered the old dame quite helpless, and she stood looking aghast, without attempting to satisfy her necessities. May thereupon set to work herself to pull off her wet shoes and stockings \ but finding they clung so tena- ciously to her feet as to render help indispensable, and thinking

Y

IN A PREDICAMENT. 17

the old lady's daughter might prove more helpful than the mother, asked if Mrs. Burton were at home.

Instead of replying to her question, Bettie continued to be- wail the misfortune, and seeing May dip her frock, which was besmeared with green bark, into a basin of water that stood at hand, her despair made itself audible in a way that tended to confirm May's opinion that she was the funniest old woman she had ever seen.

Encouraged by her listening attitude, the dame first enter- tained May with an account of her mother's specifics for cold, and then, mounting a chair, reached a bundle from an upper shelf. May stood speculating as to the nature of the treasure likely to be contained in a bundle of dirty kitchen towelling, and while the unrolling process was gradually going on her specula- tion had time to grow into excitement. At last Bettie got to the end of her roll, and revealed to May's wondering gaze a time-worn, moth-eaten, black-lettered volume, minus one clasp, which deficiency was remedied by a thick piece of rope.

* This were htr Bible. A good woman she were, poor soul,' remarked Bettie, reverently handling the volume.

May gazed with wide-open eyes, and losing sight of the sentiment, burst out into a merry laugh ; and turned round to behold the stately presence of Mrs. Shelley !

Amazed and shocked at discovering her, with stockingless feet, treading the floor of the cottage, Mrs. Shelley turned to Alsie, one of the dame's granddaughters, who was standing behmd her, and told her to ' take Miss May to the house at once, and to desire nurse to see her into bed immediately.'

She looked very dignified and severe : for once May felt a culprit; and hurrying on her stiff uncomfortable shoes and stockings, she walked quickly out of the cottage, as if anxious

i8 AfAV AND HER FRIENDS,

to avoid a more arbitrary ejectment. For the first few minutes she did not turn either to the right or to the left ; but seeing Phoebe, Alsie's little sister, looking among the leaves, eager in her search for something, she stopped, and asked her patron- izingly what she had lost. Whereupon, Alsie inquired eagerly what had become of their little brother.

' He went that way, to look for his fardin,' returned Phoebe, coolly.

But Alsie appeared to be overtaken with sudden fear, and hastened to a spot where a well had been opened, followed at a distance by May and Phoebe. No sign of the child was to be seen, and she could not inquire, for the men who had been working there had gone home to dinner.

Where could he be ? He had not had time to stray far from the spot ; and if he had fallen into the well, which she found had been left unguarded, she would see some sign.

Alas, poor Alsie ! she soon proved that the sign only wanted looking for, for a little handkerchief was clinging to the side of the well. She ran hither and thither, almost frantic, but there was no help at hand, and begging May to stand at a distance, and not let Phoebe go near the dreaded spot, she ran back to the lodge.

May stood where she was told to stand, entirely forgetful of her consignment to punishment, until brought to a sense of her position by the sight of Mrs. Shelley, pale and agitated, giving orders for the extrication of the child.

* Go home at once, my dear,' said the old lady. She spoke kindly now, and May went and delivered the message that had been entrusted to Alsie.

Nurse, although courteous while in Mrs. Shelley's presence, was always inclined to ignore her authority in her absence.

A SAD OCCURRENCE. 19

She had been piqued at her encroachment on her province, and seemed to find it healing to revolt, when she could do so without suffering from the consequences. So she answered curtly,

* It may be varra weel to put your