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- The Stokesley Secret - 4/37 -
"That I will."
"I want my money to buy some card-board--and some ribbon--and some real true paints. I've got some vermilion, but I want some real good blue. And then I want to make some beautiful bands with ties--like what Papa has for his letters--for all Mamma's letters in her desk. There's a bundle of Papa's when he was gone out to the Crimean War, and that's to have a frigate on it, because of the Calliope--his ship, you know; and there's one bundle of dear Aunt Sarah's--that's to have a rose, because I always think her memory is like the rose in my hymn, you know; and Grandmamma, she's to have--I think perhaps I could copy a bit of the tower of Westminster Abbey out of the print, because one sees it out of her window; and, oh! I thought of so many more, but you see I can't do it without a real good paint-box, and that costs three and sixpence. Now, Miss Fosbrook, is it stingy to wish to do that?"
"Not at all, my dear; but you could not expect the others to understand what they never were told."
"I'd have said something if they had not called me stingy," said Bessie.
"It certainly was rude and hasty; but if we bear such things good- naturedly, they become better; and they were very eager about their own plan."
"Such a disagreeable thing as a pig!" continued Bessie. "If it had been anything nice, I should not have minded so much."
"Yes; but, my dear, you must remember that the pig will be a more useful present than even your pretty contrivances. You cannot call them doing good, as the other will be."
"Then you are like them! You think I ought to spend all my money on a great horrid pig, when Mamma--" and the tears were in the little girl's eyes.
"No, indeed, my dear. I don't think anyone is called on to give their all, and it is very nice and quite right for a little girl to try to make a pretty present to please her mamma. There is plenty of time before you, and I think you will manage to have some share in the very kind action your brothers and sisters are contriving."
Elizabeth had not forgiven, as she should have done, the being called stingy; it rankled on her feelings far more than those who said the word understood; and she presently went on, "If they knew ever so much, they would only laugh at me, and call it all Bessie's nonsense. Miss Fosbrook, please, what is affectation?"
"I believe it is pretending to seem what we are not by nature," said Miss Fosbrook; "putting on manners or feelings that do not come to us of themselves."
"Then I shall tell them they make me affected," exclaimed she. "If I like to be quiet and do things prettily, they teaze me for being affected, and I'm forced to be as plain and blunt as their are, and I don't like it! I wish I was grown up. I wish I was Ida Greville!"
"And why, my dear?"
"Because then things might be pretty," said Elizabeth. "Everything is so plain and ugly, and one gets so tired of it! Is it silly to like things to be pretty?"
"No, far from it; that is, if we do not sacrifice better things to prettiness."
Elizabeth looked up with a light in her dark eyes, and said, "Miss Fosbrook, I like you!"
Miss Fosbrook was very much pleased, and kissed her.
She paused a moment, and then said, "Miss Fosbrook, may I ask one question? What is your name? Mamma said it must be Charlotte, because you signed your letter Ch. A. Fosbrook, but your little sister's letter that you showed us began 'My dear Bell.' If it is a secret, indeed I will keep it."
"It is no secret at all," said Miss Fosbrook, laughing. "My name is Christabel Angela."
Elizabeth opened her eyes, and said it by syllables. "Christabel Angela! that's a prettier name than Ida. Does it make you very glad to have it?"
"I like it for some reasons," said Miss Fosbrook, smiling.
"Oh, tell me!" cried Bessie. "Mamma always says we should not be a bit happier if our names were pretty ones; but I don't know, I feel as if one would; only the others like to make things plainer and uglier than they are."
"I never could call your name ugly; it is such a dignified, old, respectable name."
"Yes; but they call me Betty!"
"And they call me Bell, and sometimes Jelly-bag and Currant-jelly," said Miss Fosbrook, laughing and sighing, for she would have liked to have heard those funny names again.
"Then it is no good to you!" exclaimed Elizabeth.
"I don't know that we talk of good in such a matter. I like my name because of the reason it was given to me."
"Oh, why?" eagerly asked the little girl.
"When I was born, my papa was a very young man, and he was very fond of reading poetry."
"Why, I thought your papa was a doctor."
"I thought only ladies, and poets, and idle silly people, cared for poetry."
"They can hardly be silly if they care rightly for real poetry, Bessie," said Miss Fosbrook; "at least, so my papa would say. It has been one of his great helps. Well, in those days he was very fond of a poem about a lady called Christabel, who was so good and sweet, that when evil came near, it could not touch her so as to do her any harm; and so he gave his little daughter her name."
"How very nice!" cried Elizabeth.
"You must not envy me, my dear, for I have been a good deal laughed at for my pretty name, and so has Papa; and I do not think he would have chosen anything so fanciful if he had been a little older."
"Then isn't he--what is it you call it--poetical now?"
"Indeed he is, in a good way;" and as the earnest eyes looked so warmly at her, Christabel Fosbrook could not help making a friend of the little maiden. "He has very little time to read it; for you know he is a parish surgeon in a great parish in London, full of poor people, worse off than you can imagine, and often very ill. He is obliged to be always hard at work in the narrow close streets there, and to see everything sad, and dismal, and disagreeable, that can be found; but, do you know, Bessie, he always looks for the good and beautiful side; he looks at one person's patience, and another person's kindness, and at some little child's love for its mother or sister, that hinders it from being too painful for him."
"But is that poetry? I thought poetry meant verses."
"Verses are generally the best and most suitable way of expressing our feelings about what is good and beautiful; but they are not always poetry, any more than the verses they sang to-night about the bread and butter, because, you know, wanting thick butter was not exactly a beautiful feeling. I think the denying themselves their little indulgences for the sake of giving the poor woman a pig, is much more poetical, though nobody said a word in verse."
They both laughed; and Elizabeth said, "That wasn't what you meant about your papa. Susy cares for goodness."
"No, it was not all I meant; but it was seeing high and noble thoughts expressed in beautiful verses that gives him pleasure; and when he has a little bit of leisure, it is his great treat to open a book of that sort, and read a little bit to us, and tell us why we like it. He says it makes him young again, and takes him out of the dingy streets, and from all his cares as to how the bills are to be paid."
"Did you like coming here?" was Bessie's home question; and Miss Fosbrook winked away a little moisture, as she said,
"I was glad to be growing a woman, and to be able to help about some of those bills; and then I was glad to come into the beautiful country that Papa has so often told us about."
"I did not know there was anything beautiful here."
"O Bessie, you never lived in London! You can't think how many things are beautiful to me here! I want to be writing about them to Papa and Kate all day long."
"Are they?" said Bessie. "Mamma has pretty things in the drawing- room, but she keeps them out of the way; and everything here is so dull and stupid!" and the little girl gave a yawn.
Miss Fosbrook understood her. The wainscoted room in which they were sitting had been painted of a uniform creamy brown; the chairs were worn; the table was blistered and cracked; the carpet only covered the middle of the room, and was so threadbare, that only a little red showed here and there. All that was needful was there, but of the plainest kind; and where the other children only felt ease and freedom, and were the more contented and happy for the homely good sense of all around them, this little girl felt a want that she scarcely understood, but which made her uncomfortable and discontented, even when she had so much to be thankful for.
Miss Fosbrook moved nearer to the window. Down below there was certainly not much to be seen; only Pierce cleaning the knives in the knife-house, and Martha washing out her pans before the dairy-door; but that was not where she looked. She turned the little half-
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