A GOOD MATCH.*
WE wish that no one with less ability than Miss Perrier—we assume the "Miss "—ever presented the public with his or her literary productions. We should then, at least, be able to count upon many a genuine smile, and now and then a hearty laugh, and be safe from yawns, weariness, and vexation. And the standard would, even then, be sufficiently modest to include every one with some knowledge of life and some power of lively description. Miss Perrier's pen is perfectly unlaboured ; she writes with ease, and apparently, out of a merry heart, in which the humour is untainted by cynicism ; and it is a relief to sit down with two little volumes like these—trifling though the story is—after wearying through novels and tales innumerable, wrought, with much painstaking difficulty, out of their authors' profound mis- conception of their own ability, or out of their vain ambition ; or perhaps out of a sad necessity, which, though the mother of inven- tion, is, like other mothers, quite unable to warrant its child attrac- tive. We may as well at once catalogue the defects of this offspring of Miss Perrier's genius, and admit that it is free-spoken beyond the verge of coarseness, abounds in provincialisms, loose English,
• A Good Maga. By Amelia Perrier. 2 vole London: Henry S. King and Co.
and bad grammar, and is as improbable in its denouement as stories "ancient and modern" generally are. But it reads like what it pre- tends to be, the autobiography of a healthy-minded, handsome girl, too courageous to be cowed by the kicks and cuffs of unloving rela- tives, and not too sensitive to pay them back with hot indignation ; too honest-hearted to follow their lead of shameless barter, but not too refined—as she is not likely to be—to be made unhappy by the coarseness of nature of the utterly common though well-born people by whom she has been reared. As we might expect from a sharp girl with a turn for ridicule, the character-sketching is clever, but not deep, and with a leaning towards caricature. From the absent-minded clergyman to the gross-minded pork merchant, in- cluding the three Miss Bright's, who sit in a row in white tarlatan, all are touched with a slight but life-like truthfulness and humour, unless we except the mysterious Mr. Stillington, who is merely the stock-providence always provided to make things right at the end. Not that we object to these good and solid genii—far from it—but what can we expect in those who always do the right thing at the right time, and who are only created to say, "Bless you, my child- ren," and to bless them themselves substantially when the curtain is about to fall ?
But we will let our authoress speak pretty much for herself. Miss Crawdour resides at Crawdour Castle, with a brutal uncle and worldly aunt, who are both too selfish to risk their position in the county by allowing their orphan niece to go to the workhouse, otherwise they would only be too glad :— " The way I had been brought up was this. For some years I was let run wild about Crawdour, as ignorant and untamed as a young savage. Then, one day—luckily for me—I tumbled out of a tree that I had climbed for a bird's nest, and broke two of my fingers. Dr. Jones, who mended them, said I had had a very narrow escape of breaking my neck ; and this remark apparently roused Sir John and Lady Crawdour to the necessity of making some reform. The young wife of the curate of the parish was appointed as my governess ; and, instead of birds'- nesting, I was every morning despatched to the cottage, which was just outside the gate, with a bag of books and a roll of music, to be educated. I did not like the change at first; but, fortunately for me, Mrs. Thayer, besides being cheap, which was her principal recommendation as a governess to my uncle and aunt, was a very sensible and fairly-educated young woman ; either of which it is quite within the bounds of possi- bility for a governess not to be. By means of her good sense she soon reconciled me to the new state of things ; and then she did her best to teach me all she knew. This continued until I was about seventeen, when my cousin Mountiford coming home one time, remarked with sur- prise that I had, grown a very handsome girl,' but also added that I was 'dressed like a guy ;' which was an allusion to my hair, which still hung about me a tangled mass of brown curls ; and my frocks cut down by Mrs. Lukins, her waiting-maid, out of Lady Crawdour's old gowns, and which painfully exposed my ankles and elbows to public derision. Lady Crawdour took instant fright, and triad to persuade Mounti ford that I was not a handsome girl, but he was unpersuadable ; and then she succumbed to circumstances. I was desired to turn up my hair ; a few inexpensive dresses were bought, and made for me by the Longhamptou dressmaker ; and I was brought out,'"
—notwithstanding which promotion she disgusts her worthy rela- tives by refusing several gentlemen in marriage, and especially one Mr. Auchterlony, of whom her aunt observes :—
"Any other girl in the country would have accepted him gladly.—' In- deed, I'm sure they wouldn't! '1 exclaimed.—' Don't contradict me, miss ; I say they would. You know as well as I do, that Lady Geraldine Landor would have accepted him.'—' But Lady Fannie wouldn't.'—' Yes, she would. She was much too good and religious a girl not to do anything her
family wished her to do.' 'But Lady Fannie is married to Major Thavies now,' I said triumphantly, and thinking this a clincher.—' Yes, she is married to him now,' said my aunt ; calmly, because she was going to bring forward a clincher that she believed would clinch mine ; 'but I beg you to remember that his eldest brother only broke his back in August, and Major Thavies was not invited down to Lander Court until creeping paralysis had decidedly set in.'"
After this, her uncle takes the matter into his own hands, and conspires with a widower, Mr. Duchesne (late Duggins, dealer in pickled pork for exportation), to marry her to him, on condition that he should give his daughter and eighty thousand pounds, or rather eighty thousand pounds and his daughter, to his (Sir John Craw- dour's) good-natured, good-for-nothing son, Mountiford. Mounti- ford turns traitor, and tells Lila what is on foot :—
"We were out walking when these disclosures were made ; and I sat down on a stile and cried, until my own little cambric pocket-handker- chief, and my cousin's more substantial one, which I was forced to borrow, were quite soaked through ; and then I covered my face-with my hands' and wept until the tears ran through my fingers down on my dress ; while Mountiford kindly spread the pocket-handkerchiefs on the grass to dry My tears at last ceased to flow, and then we picked up the dried pocket-handkerchiefs and returned home. But after what Mound- fordhad told me, I looked on my uncle and aunt less in the light of a father and mother than even I had done before. They have wiped out any small score of love or gratitude I owed them, by this,' I said; now it will be a fair field and no favour, and I'll fight the battle to the death.' —That's right,' said Mountiford ; 'keep your pecker up ; it's much better than spoiling your eyes, whining and crying.'"
But things grow more cheerful after this, for Lille meets her fate
in a thunder-storm, under an oak tree, in the shape of a handsome young pedestrian with a knapsack, and soon after receives a note from her late governess, the Rector's wife, inviting her to "Bob- bie's birth-night" tea -party — which, by the- way, is very amusingly described—but warning her not to flirt with her husband's new pupil:— " I had expected this invitation. Indeed, in anticipation of it I had purchased in Longhampton, the last time I was there, a box containing a troop of dragoons, with a zig-zag machine on which they were accus- tomed to take exercise, as a gift for Bobbie. But when I read this note, I really for a moment or two almost resolved not to go."
However, she does not carry out this threat, but modifies it by determining not to "dress," only to "clothe," herself, and of course she looks especially pretty in the grey gown and linen collar which she selects in dudgeon. Of course, the new pupil is the pedestrian, and the intimacy progresses so favourably that they find themselves alone in the Rectory drawing-room,—alone, that is, with Bobbie :—
" So that painfully observant child remained, seated on a high chair, with his hands deep in the pockets of his knickerbockers, and watching tis both with the eyes of a juvenile basilisk. I took up some needlework. 'Won't you go out and play, Bobbie ?' said Philip, in a winningly confidential manner.—' No, I won't,' said Bobbie, hitting his heels alternately against the legs of the chair, and putting an end to all suspense by the straightforward candour of his reply.—' Then don't make that noise,' said Philip, slightly vexed ; for how could he entertain me under Bobbie's surveillance ?—' I aren't making a noise,' said Bobbie ; then to me,—'I'll tell you something—'—' No, you won't!' cried Philip, getting very red, and starting from his seat.—' Hold your tongue, sir.' —' No, I won't,' said Bobbie, not in the slightest degree awed, and hitting his heels harder ; 'and I will tell Lille. Lille, he took away the picture what you drawed for me.'—'You ungrateful little fellow T' exclaimed Philip, I did no such thing ; you gave it to me.'—' Oh, fie, Bobbie,' I
said, shaking my head ominously, 'to tell stories ! Oh, fie I didn't give it to him,' said Bobbie ; 'I gelled it to him for half-a-crown.'"
After this comes the proposal—too good to spoil by extracts— and the consequent treasuring-up of little trifles :—
" Judged by my past experience, I am now inclined to think that the accumulating of a museum of small and worthless articles that have in some way appertained to, or had some sort of connection with, some individual of the opposite sex, is a highly dangerous symptom of the state of mind of any young person, male or female. I. always strongly suspected Philiphad possessed himself of the glove I lost at Mrs. Duchesne's ball. I knew he had my last year's pocket almanac, for he had asked for it, seeing me about to throw it away ; and had he not given Bobbie Thayer half-a-crown for the cartoon I had executed for him ? I made the violets and the envelope the nucleus of what afterwards became a very respectable collection.
Sensible Philip at length goes away to gain a livelihood, and a little modest self-distrust on his part calls forth the following reflections on hers, savouring of an honest but innocent self- appreciation :—
" It had never surprised me that Philip should fall in love with me ; but Philip had been very much surprised to find that I had fallen in love with him. So no doubt he had some shadowy dread of some individual, endowed with gifts far above his fellows, coming some day to supplant him in my affection. But while I thought Philip far above all other men, I had no fear of his meeting any one at all nicer than myself. I considered it quite natural that he should have been sur- prised to find that I loved him ; I had been rather taken aback by it myself, in fact. This was vanity. I own it; and that I was vain. I could hardly help being vain ; all my relations, friends, and acquaint- ances bad conspired together to make me so. Lady Crawdour's fears for her son, Mountiford's regrets, Mrs. Thayer's lectures, all tended to the same purpose ; and every man I met, nearly, gave help, more or less, to that end. But vain though I might be, I was very fond of Philip. So fond, that it was 1139.4 quite a pleasure to me to think that he was going to get so nice a wife."
Meantime the pork merchant prosecutes his suit in person, and elicits, in a very spirited scene, Lilla's well-defined views of such a marriage, clothed in outspoken and not too refined language, but hitting the truth very nearly ; another, equally lively, follows between Sir John and the disappointed suitor :—
"'You haven't helped me, as you promised. You said, Sir John, as you would do your best, an' m' lady should do her best, an' your son here should do his best ; but now, at the end of the year, we're just where we was at the beginning.'—' I did what you wished, Mr. Dachesne, and so did my wife ; but the girl is as obstinate a jade as ever lived ! ' But one thing as you might all have done,' he said. You might have seed what was going on under yer noses, and got that young vagabond Staunton kicked out of the place.'—' You forget, Mr. Duchesne, that I have been away for more than a year. It did not go on under my nose.' It really signifies little or nothing to me.'—' Don't it ? ' said Mr Duchesne. 'You seem to forget, captain, that if I don't get your.eonsin, you don't get my daughter and eighty thousand pounds.'—' I don't for- get it at all,' said Mountiford ; and his lips seemed to add, though the words did not some forth, 'Your daughter be blowed.'—'0 Mountiford, Monntiford ! ' said Lady Crawdour, imploringly.—, Hold your tongue, Sir!' said his father.—' With pleasure, sir,' said Mountiford.—' But I must say, Mr. Duchene,' continued my uncle, that you are scarcely fair or reasonable in this. Even if this girl were not to marry you, that .could not make the match between my son and your daughter a less desirable one for both parties.'—' May be not, for your son,' said Mr. Duchesne, with an amusing grin ; bat my daughter is another question Lord John Randolph proposed for her this morning and the answer I give him just depends on how matters are settled now betwixt Miss Lilla an' me.'—'Whe-w ! ' said Mountiford.—' 0 Mr. Dunesne !' cried Lady Crawdour; while my uncle banged his fiat on the table, and exclaimed, 'Curse it I Mr. Duchesne ; you don't intend to go back of your word,—do you? '—' It ain't no going back of my word,' said Mr. Duchesne, doggedly. said from the fust as I would give my consent an' the money, if your niece married me ; but I never said as how I would do it, else.'—' Oh, but Mr. Duchesne!' cried Lady Craw- dour, 'you could never think of such a thing. He's such a character ! He's a lord; no' lady,' said Mr. Duchesne; and as to character, we mustn't look too close into that with nobody,' nodding significantly at my cousin Mountiford, who, if not very much worse, was certainly not at all better than a great many other young men in the world.'"
Crawdour Castle is now too hot to hold poor Lille, who accord- ingly takes refuge with Philip's guardian in London, and a chapter, meant to be specially amusing, describes her second- class journey to London ; it is the only forced attempt at humour, and therefore the only tiresome one in the book. But the story from this point loses in naturalness, and as a con- sequence, in interest ; so far the autobiography might have been taken from the real journal of a young lady dependent on a "county family ;" but the remainder, though containing many amusing passages and some very sensible ones on middle-rank happiness, is clearly made up and not within the experience of the writer, besides containing the improbable though anticipated dénoue- ment we have referred to. On her arrival in London, the mys- terious Mr. Stillington arranges for Lilla's marriage with Philip to whom he gives the situation and salary of confidential clerk— and sends them out with a hundred-pound note to buy a trousseau :
" We lunched at a restaurant down there, where there was the politest waiter in the world, who seemed never to have met before a human being in whose welfare he took so deep an interest as he did in mine. So kindly did he serve me with lamb, and cordially offer me mint-sauce, and affectionately recommend the peas and new potatoes, and so grieved to the soul was he when I would drink beer as Philip did, instead of any of the old and choice vintages whose excellent qualities he was so thoroughly acquainted with."
In order that these young people may learn the value of money
and what a real working life is, and perhaps also in order to leave the mysterious Mr. Stillington time to accumulate enough to recover a lost property, they are left alone, at this point, for some years, till we hear of them as the parents of nine boys, of whom the mother says :—
" Six are rather dreadful, but after six, one gets case-hardened, and does not mind much how many more there are. There was nothing very remarkable about these nine boys, except perhaps the first. He was remarkable,—all first babies are, and he was no exception to the rule."
And till one particular day, when they are tasting of the minor trials of life :—
"On this particular day the kitchen chimney was smoking, and the sweeps had disappointed ; the baby was cutting a tooth with vexation of spirit, and nurse and housemaid had quarrelled, and each given notice to quit if the other stayed, and the laundress had not brought home the clean clothes."
Then, at last, when they are proved worthy of wealth and great- ness, as well as able to appreciate them, and when they are experi- enced and sobered enough to bear their honours modestly, and yet with dignity ; then, of course, we find out who Mr. Stillington was and who Philip Staunton is. But we will not betray Miss Perrier by telling. Our readers must get the story. We will only say in addition, that we hope the authoress will study the English language more carefully, and not think that coarseness is a part of humour—we have omitted the coarsest passages from our extracts —and then her stories will be altogether pleasant.