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round her face, make it very evident that Mrs Vivian of the Grange is the Squire's mother, and no longer, what she has been for thirty years, the Squire's wife. The easy-chair is by no means a low chair, and the footstool is rather higher than usual, from which you may divine that this representative of domestic sovereignty is a very little woman. Little in stature, though by means of high heels and other innocent devices this good gentlewoman makes the most of what she has, and most becomingly little are those lady-like and delicate hands, and the small feet which Mrs As Vivian slippers so handsomely. nimble as they are small, you would never fancy these active fingers had seen fifty years' good service, nor this alert little figure travelled the ways of mortal care so long. Mrs Vivian will tell you that she has had "her own share" of trouble, but for all that there is not a lighter foot in the household than belongs to the mother of all.
At the table near her sits a stately personage, whom it is a perpetual wonder to Mrs Vivian, and all Mrs Vivian's friends, to call her first-born. Five feet ten at the smallest measure, with the bearing, as she has the manner, of a princess! Elizabeth Vivian could carry her mother under And then her arm like a child.
Elizabeth's great dark liquid eyes, her hair so very dark brown that the universal opinion calls it black, her lofty features, and her air of unconscious queenliness, which neither comes from the good Saxon Squire, who has slept at rest for two years now in the chancel of Briarford Church, nor from the little brisk mother who sits by her side-whence did they spring, those stately beauties? But no one can explain the mystery, and Elizabeth's mother consoles herself with the resemblance of mind which her daughter bears to various members of the family; and, very proud of her daughter's distinguished looks and singular grace, manages to
Busily knitting a purse at the window is Margaret, a pensive beauty, just touched with sentimentalism. Both these young ladies have had the evil fortune to be born older than the
heir, so that Margaret is actually twoand-twenty at this present writing, and Elizabeth full two years older -a state of matters very dreadful in the estimation of wild pretty seventeen-year old Sophy, who lies on the carpet playing with the oldest and shaggiest of greyhounds, a privileged visitor of the drawing-room. There is no mistake about Sophy's sunny eyes and golden hair, her lilies and roses of sweet complexion, and her gay simplicity of heart; her mother has had no difficulty in finding out hosts of kindred whom she resembles, and Sophy is the family darling, the beloved of the house.
The heir has not quite attained his majority. Yonder he sits in his father's chair reading the newspaper, which was his father's oracle, and absorbed with a young man's eagerness in the political news of the day; an impatient start and "pshaw " now and then, tempts one to suspect that Philip Vivian does not quite feel the force of his father's principles; but the dreadful thought has not yet dawned upon his mother, who looks up at him now and then with motherly admiration, thinking, with a smile upon her kind lip, and some unshed tears about her heart, how well he fills his father's place, and what credit he does to his father's name.
Still another member of the family, whose age is half-way between the ages of Philip and of Sophy, has a corner and a writing-table to himself. This son is the least handsome of the whole, though his eyes are finer than Elizabeth's, and his head a nobler head than even that lofty one, clustered all over with rich brown curls, which Philip carries like a young prince. But a great deal of frolic and mischief are lurking in Percy Vivian's eye, and he has a doubtful wavering smile, which is sometimes so very bright and tender, sometimes so scornful, sometimes as pensive and sad as Margaret's. Everybody knows he is very clever, but what more he is nobody does very well know.
Are these all? Still one little personage remains yonder coiled up in a corner, embracing a book; a girl of fourteen, in the angular development peculiar to her age, which may turn
out either ugly or beautiful for any thing that can be prophesied. Not such a little personage either,-half a head taller than Aunt Vivian, with long arms, long fingers, long hair, and eyes that shine in fitful brightnesseyes that, shadowed by Zaidee's long eye-lashes, are stars never visible to strangers. Percy says these same eyes are liable to eclipse any day if but a new book arrives, or an old one is discovered; but Zaidee, with her odd name, her odd ways, and her girlish romance, has a supreme contempt for Percy's wickedness. poor little portionless orphan cousin, heretofore the plaything, now the wonder and favourite of the house, endowed with every nickname into which her own very unusual name can be twisted, indulged in most of
And this is what Mrs Vivian says"I wish you would put down your paper, Philip; I do wish, Percy, you would be done with that perpetual scribbling; and, Elizabeth, just put those accounts aside-lay them in my room; I'll get through them in half the time. Where is Margaret? Come here, all of you, children, and tell me what we are to do when Philip comes of age."
"Oh, mamma, such a dance we could have in the hall," cried Sophy, deserting her shaggy playfellow. Sophy had a true genius for advice, and never failed to be first in a family consultation.
CHAPTER II.-A FAMILY PARLIAMENT.
"I should think now a great dinner of our large tenantry," said Percy, "with illuminations in our metropolis of Briarford, and a rustic ball out of doors. Eh, Philip? and the mightiest beer-barrel in the country broached for the occasion, and a holocaust of the great ox-there's a festival for you like a good old English gentleman. Don't you think so, mother?"
her caprices, laughed at for her romantic fancies, and permitted more of her own way than is perhaps quite good for her, Zaidee, in her character as pet, never comes at all in Sophy's way. Pretty, good, wild, merry Sophy, it is easy to laugh at, to caress, to spoil her-but nobody wonders at her or her devices, and her cousin and she have quite a different standing-ground.
"A rustic ball out of doors ?-but then everybody would be blown away; unless, indeed, it could be in mamma's flower-garden," said Sophy, taking the matter into serious but somewhat dismayed consideration; "for Philip's birthday is in November; and I'm sure the heaviest man
Thus dwelling in old-fashioned comfort, and thus grouped in their bright sitting-room, Mrs Vivian, as best becomes her, is the first to speak; but as it does not become a lady of Mrs Vivian's importance to come after so long a monologue of her obscure historian, we will turn another leaf, and transfer to another chapter what Mrs Vivian says.
in the parish could not dance out a gale there on the lawn ;—what do you think, mamma?-and as for a tent, you know, and they must have a tent to dine in-you couldn't put up such a thing for the wind-mamma, do you hear?"
"Percy, in his capacity of minstrel, singing the birthday ode to the assembled retainers," said the heir;
a great idea, mother; two public events in the family in one day-the advent of a poet, and my coming of age."
Now, boys, be quiet," said the mother; "nobody looks for good sense from you;-in household matters, Philip, ladies are the only judges; but though you cannot suggest, you may listen and advise. I don't say I have not my own plans; but, girls, speak out-let me hear yours."
"Yes; but what about the tent, mamma, and the ball out of doors?" said Sophy, who was somewhat pertinacious, and never rejected a proposition without a fair discussion of its merits.
"Nonsense, child," cried the brisk old lady. "Now, Elizabeth, what have you to say?"
"Only that I hope you will all make up your minds to something very pleasant, mamma," said the queenly beauty, with the sweetest of gentle voices, and an air that made
her almost childish words quite majestic; and then you may be sure I will do all I can to carry it out."
It seemed that every one was quite prepared for this speech-that nobody had the slightest expectation of a suggestion from Elizabeth; for, before she finished speaking, her mother had turned to the next in succession on the family roll.
"Oh, I think we could do' the hall like what it might be two hundred years ago," cried Margaret, eagerly; "and put John and the maids into those old livery dresses, and go into costume ourselves; and then Philip could sit in the old chair of state, with the old tapestry hangings round him, and receive all the guests, like an old country baron, as our forefathers were; and the great old table, and the silver flagons, mother; and all our ancestral things that nobody ever uses; and then, you know, after dinner we could take off our dresses, and come into the draw-"I'll ing-room and have Mr Powis to read poetry to us, and as much music as we can muster, and Percy's ode-and so end the evening with an intellectual party like what one reads of. If you would only all make an effort, I am sure we could do it if we tried."
"And have no dance at all;-nothing but songs and stupid verses, and talking of books no one cares about," said the disappointed Sophy. "Don't yield, mamma; oh, don't give up the tent, Percy! I would rather have a game at romps with all the children in Briarford;-an intellectual party!-don't, mamma!"
eat, and as much ale as everybody liked-that is to say, not too much," said Sophy, correcting herself, “or it would be no pleasure; and cakes, and apples, and oranges for the children, and perhaps some little ribbons, w books, or things to give away. Then, when they were all merry, we could send them home; and I suppose there would have to be somebody to diener; and then, after that, we could do what Margaret says, and dress up the hall, and as much tapestry and as many old-fashioned things as any body cares for; and musicians, and a proper great ball. Oh, mamma! where is one to see such a thing, unless it is at home?—and you that went to so many when you were young, and we that never see anything but Briarford and the Grange; - Mamma! don't you hear what I say?"
"If you've all finished," said Mrs Vivian, quietly, without any special response to this pathetic appeal, tell you what I've fixed upon myself."
A solemn silence ensued-an extremely brief one; and after this full stop the authoritative tones resumed
"I object to going into costume myself," said Philip, laughing. "All very well for you, girls; but you may as well recollect that this should be the beginning of all manner of sobrieties to me."
"Now, mamma, if you would only hear me speak," said Sophy, with a slight air of injury;-" but everybody is always asked before me, as if it was my fault that I am the youngest. I think we should have all the Briarford people up here early-they could come with a procession and music, if they liked; and, if it was not very windy, the band could play upon the lawn; and then they might all come to the house, and have something to
"In the first place, we'll have a party to dinner-a larger party than we have ever had since you remember; and you can get pen and ink, Elizabeth, and put down the names. In the evening, we'll ask all the young people you know. I won't be so particular as usual, Sophy; everybody that is at all presentable may come; and any decoration that is reasonable I won't object to in the hall; and you can dance as long as you like, or till your company are tired. Somebody can look up an almanac, and see if it will be moonlight for the guests going home. The twenty-fifth of November, Percy; no one need forget the day. Of course, Philip's guardian will stay a few days, and probably have some of his family with him; and your uncle Blundell, and a few old friends, will do the same. You shall choose new dresses for yourselves, girls — the whole of you. Philip can give the Briarford children a feast next day, if he likes; and nobody shall want a glass of ale. So, now I've told you what I mean to do; and if anybody
has any improvement to make, I'll be very glad to hear it now."
"I wonder what's the use," said Sophy, half indignantly; " I do wonder what's the use of asking people, when mamma has made up her mind all the while!"
"And I wonder, for my part," said Percy, "how, after all our valuable suggestions, my mother should hit on so commonplace a plan, which any one might have foreseen from the first; and still more do I wonder how my mother can pretend to have consulted everybody, when yonder lies X, Y, Z, coiled in her corner, and not a word of wisdom required from her."
"Oh, Zaidee? she would like something picturesque as much as I would," said Margaret.
And there immediately rose a chorus of calls-" Zed! Zed!" from Philip, an impatient "Zay !" from Sophy, and the soft, quick" Zaidee, child!" distinct and authoritative, which came from the head of the house.
Zaidee's ears were as quick as a savage's buried in her book as she seemed those delicate organs had caught the first breath of Percy's allusion, and perfectly apprehended all that followed. Now she put down her book very swiftly and silently, and coming forward, stole into her place, by the shaggy side of Sérmonicus-called Sermo" for short," and famed as the wisest and gravest hound between the Mersey and the Dee. Sermo sat, very silent and deliberative, sweeping with his shaggy forelocks the footstool of his mistress, and between the ashy fawn colour of Sermo's profile, and the white marble of the mantelpiece, Zaidee interposed her kneeling person-long, lithe, and slender. The strange quick changes of attitude into which Zaidee threw this elastic figure of hers were the wonder of every observer; in the mean time, Zaidee knelt by the fireside in perfect stillness;-her dark hair, her plain, dark, girlish dress, and complexion not recovered from a summer's browning, standing out clear against the marble; while herself waited to be interrogated, and hear the cause of her summons, in breathless restrained impatience to return to her book.
"Zaidee Vivian, laggard and last in all the alphabets," said Percy, solemnly; "your vote and advice are required in a family council. True, my mother's mind is made up already; nevertheless, the moment of deliberation is not yet over, and now is your latest time."
"We are all about agreed, Zay," interposed Sophy. "We are to have a ball at night, and a dinner party. I don't mind that so much, considering what comes after-and we're all to have new dresses-so I don't see that there's anything to consult about now; for Percy's tent, you know, on the twenty-fifth of November, and on our lawn, the windiest hill in Cheshire! was quite impossible; and a feast next day to all the children, and the hall as fine as we can make it: I think mamma is the best planner, after all; and there's nothing more to say."
"Zaidee, you're to tell me what you think we should have on Philip's birthday, when he comes of age," said Mrs Vivian-"that's the questionnever mind what Sophy says."
Philip's birthday? Oh, I know what I should like," cried Zaidee eagerly, twining her long fingers into Sermo's shaggy locks; "but it's no good trying, Aunt Vivian, not the least; I could not do it, you know."
"Couldn't do what, child?"
A great flush of violent colour overspread poor Zaidee's cheeks. warm blood seemed to press, throbbing and swelling, under the thin and transparent texture which still owned the sunburning. "If I could only make anything, or find anything—no, finding would not do-if I only had anything in the world that would please Philip on his birthday!"
Philip bent forward to hear the words so rapid and hurried in their delivery. Zed! what a foolish child!" cried the heir, with a little moisture in his eyes. Mrs Vivian said nothing. She only put her little white hand on Zaidee's dark hair, to smooth down those locks which, to tell the truth, were seldom out of need of smoothing, and stretching over Sermo for this purpose, rested her arm on Sermo's patriarchal and most reverend head.
"Oh, we'll all have our presentsno fear. Zaidee, you can make some.