Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 109
Publication Date: 1850
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The Moorland Cottage is the chronicle of brother and sister Edward and Maggie Browne. Maggie dotes on her less than perfect brother. She receives a proposal from a handsome, rich man, and has to choose between her loyalty to her brother, and the man she loves.
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If you take the turn to the left, after you pass the lyke-gate at Combehurst Church, you will come to the wooden bridge over the brook; keep along the field-path which mounts higher and higher, and, in half a mile or so, you will be in a breezy upland field, almost large enough to be called a down, where sheep pasture on the short, fine, elastic turf. You look down on Combehurst and its beautiful church-spire. After the field is crossed, you come to a common, richly colored with the golden gorse and the purple heather, which in summer-time send out their warm scents into the quiet air. The swelling waves of the upland make a near horizon against the sky; the line is only broken in one place by a small grove of Scotch firs, which always look black and shadowed even at mid-day, when all the rest of the landscape seems bathed in sunlight. The lark quivers and sings high up in the air; too high — in too dazzling a region for you to see her. Look! she drops into sight; but, as if loth to leave the heavenly radiance, she balances herself and floats in the ether. Now she falls suddenly right into her nest, hidden among the ling, unseen except by the eyes of Heaven, and the small bright insects that run hither and thither on the elastic flower-stalks. With something like the sudden drop of the lark, the path goes down a green abrupt descent; and in a basin, surrounded by the grassy hills, there stands a dwelling, which is neither cottage nor house, but something between the two in size. Nor yet is it a farm, though surrounded by living things. It is, or rather it was, at the time of which I speak, the dwelling of Mrs. Browne, the widow of the late curate of Combehurst. There she lived with her faithful old servant and her only children, a boy and girl. They were as secluded in their green hollow as the households in the German forest-tales. Once a week they emerged and crossed the common, catching on its summit the first sounds of the sweet-toned bells, calling them to church. Mrs. Browne walked first, holding Edward’s hand. Old Nancy followed with Maggie; but they were all one party, and all talked together in a subdued and quiet tone, as beseemed the day. They had not much to say, their lives were too unbroken; for, excepting on Sundays, the widow and her children never went to Combehurst. Most people would have thought the little town a quiet, dreamy place; but to those two children if seemed the world; and after they had crossed the bridge, they each clasped more tightly the hands which they held, and looked shyly up from beneath their drooped eyelids when spoken to by any of their mother’s friends. Mrs. Browne was regularly asked by some one to stay to dinner after morning church, and as regularly declined, rather to the timid children’s relief; although in the week-days they sometimes spoke together in a low voice of the pleasure it would be to them if mamma would go and dine at Mr. Buxton’s, where the little girl in white and that great tall boy lived. Instead of staying there, or anywhere else, on Sundays, Mrs. Browne thought it her duty to go and cry over her husband’s grave. The custom had arisen out of true sorrow for his loss, for a kinder husband, and more worthy man, had never lived; but the simplicity of her sorrow had been destroyed by the observation of others on the mode of its manifestation. They made way for her to cross the grass toward his grave; and she, fancying that it was expected of her, fell into the habit I have mentioned. Her children, holding each a hand, felt awed and uncomfortable, and were sensitively conscious how often they were pointed out, as a mourning group, to observation.
“I wish it would always rain on Sundays,” said Edward one day to Maggie, in a garden conference.
“Why?” asked she.
“Because then we bustle out of church, and get home as fast as we can, to save mamma’s crape; and we have not to go and cry over papa.”
“I don’t cry,” said Maggie. “Do you?”
Edward looked round before he answered, to see if they were quite alone, and then said:
“No; I was sorry a long time about papa, but one can’t go on being sorry forever. Perhaps grown-up people can.”
“Mamma can,” said little Maggie. “Sometimes I am very sorry too; when I am by myself or playing with you, or when I am wakened up by the moonlight in our room. Do you ever waken and fancy you heard papa calling you? I do sometimes; and then I am very sorry to think we shall never hear him calling us again.”
“Ah, it’s different with me, you know. He used to call me to lessons.”
“Sometimes he called me when he was displeased with me. But I always dream that he was calling us in his own kind voice, as he used to do when he wanted us to walk with him, or to show us something pretty.”
Edward was silent, playing with something on the ground. At last he looked round again, and, having convinced himself that they could not be overheard, he whispered:
“Maggie — sometimes I don’t think I’m sorry that papa is dead — when I’m naughty, you know; he would have been so angry with me if he had been here; and I think — only sometimes, you know, I’m rather glad he is not.”
“Oh, Edward! you don’t mean to say so, I know. Don’t let us talk about him. We can’t talk rightly, we’re such little children. Don’t, Edward, please.”