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The Carbonels   By: (1823-1901)

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The Carbonels

By Charlotte M. Yonge





"For thy walls a pretty slight drollery." The Second Part of King Henry IV .

"A bad lot. Yes, sir, a thoroughly bad lot."

"You don't mean it."

"Yes, ma'am, a bad lot is the Uphill people. Good for nothing and ungrateful! I've known them these thirty years, and no one will do anything with them."

The time was the summer of 1822. The place was a garden, somewhat gone to waste, with a gravel drive running round a great circle of periwinkles with a spotted aucuba in the middle. There was a low, two storied house, with green shutters, green Venetian blinds, and a rather shabby verandah painted in alternate stripes of light and darker green. In front stood a high gig, with a tall old, bony horse trying to munch the young untrimmed shoots of a lilac in front of him as he waited for the speaker, a lawyer, dressed as country attorneys were wont to dress in those days, in a coat of invisible green, where the green constantly became more visible, brown trousers, and under them drab gaiters. He was addressing a gentleman in a blue coat and nankeen trousers, but evidently military, and two ladies in white dresses, narrow as to the skirts, but full in the sleeves. One had a blue scarf over her shoulders and blue ribbons in her very large Leghorn bonnet; the other had the same in green, and likewise a green veil. Her bonnet was rather more trimmed, the dress more embroidered, the scarf of a richer, broader material than the other's, and it was thus evident that she was the married sister; but they were a good deal alike, with the same wholesome smooth complexion, brown eyes, and hair in great shining rolls under their bonnet caps, much the same pleasant expression, and the same neat little feet in crossed sandalled shoes and white stockings showing out beneath their white tambour worked gowns.

With the above verdict, the lawyer made his parting bow, and drove off along a somewhat rough road through two pasture fields. The first gate, white and ornamental, was held open for him by an old man in a short white smock and long leathern gaiters, the second his own servant opened, the third was held by half a dozen shock headed children, with their backs against it and hands held out, but in vain; he only smacked his driving whip over their heads, and though he did not strike any of them, they requited it with a prolonged yell, which reached the ears of the trio in front of the house.

"I'm afraid it is not far from the truth," said the green lady.

"Oh no; I am sure he is a horrid man," said her blue sister. "I would not believe him for a moment."

"Only with a qualification," rejoined the gentleman.

"But, Edmund, couldn't you be sure that it is just what he would say, whatever the people were?"

"I am equally sure that the exaction of rents is not the way to see people at their best."

"Come in, come in! We have all our settling in to do, and no time for you two to fight."

Edmund, Mary, Dorothea, and Sophia Carbonel were second cousins, who had always known one another in the house of the girls' father, a clergyman in a large country town. Edmund had been in the army just in time for the final battles of the Peninsular war, and had since served with the army of occupation and in Canada. He had always meant that Mary should be his wife, but the means were wanting to set up housekeeping, until the death of an old uncle of his mother's made him heir to Greenhow Farm, an estate bringing in about 500 pounds a year. Mary and her next sister Dora had in the meantime lost their parents, and had been living with some relations in London, where their much younger sister Sophy was at school, until Edmund, coming home, looked over the farm, decided that it would be a fit home for the sisters, and retired from the army forthwith... Continue reading book >>

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