Mount of Hope: A Victorian Tale of Young Love, страница 1
Mount of Hope:
A Victorian Tale of Young Love
Mount of Hope:
A Victorian Tale of Young Love
First published in the United States in 2015 by Vintage Volumes
Copyright © Jamie Michele 2015
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, Vintage Volumes, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
With all my heart,
I wish you were still here to read this.
I know you are.
If you would be so kind as to permit me, I should like to tell you something before you begin your journey back to 19th century England. What I mean to say, dear reader, is that you are not being ushered back to a bygone era by a 21st century storyteller. You are, in fact, about to embark on a tale of Victorian love, written by a Victorian author—during the Victorian era—for her Victorian readers.
In short, dear reader, the unabridged, original version of this book was published in 1844 as Mrs. Trollope's Young Love. It was sold in three lovely volumes and totaled an impressive 1,064 pages before, alas, it went out of print.
Having acquired these facts, you might now be asking—who, then, are you? I, esteemed reader, am the 21st century author who endeavored to abridge and rework this piece of forgotten 19th century literature. I did so with the greatest hope that, perhaps, the language and length of this redraft might prove more accessible to contemporary readers. As a custodian of her manuscript, I took special care to keep Mrs. Trollope's lyrical style and omniscient point of view largely intact.
And with that, dear reader, I must leave you to enjoy Mount of Hope: A Victorian Tale of Young Love, and beg to subscribe myself,
Your dutiful and humble scribe,
Happy is the man who, wishing to live and die in the bliss of country greatness, has his acres situated in a neighborhood where there is no nobleman’s seat to be seen.
Colonel William Henry Dermont of the Mount was a happy man. For, in this essential particular, he was blessed beyond the common lot of English country gentlemen, having no duke, marquis, earl, viscount, baron, baronet—not even a knight—within many miles of him. With a snug wooded estate producing easy rents of nearly four thousand a year, he knew himself to be the greatest man in the neighborhood.
The Mount was situated in the parish of Stoke; a comfortable, pretty place with plenty of wood, water, and every suitable accommodation for a family possessed of the Dermont revenues. The soil was kindly, and grateful for the care bestowed upon it, producing good returns of corn and butter, fruit and flowers.
Neither Colonel Dermont nor his wife wished for more. They were of that happily born class of people who are inclined to think that everything they possess is a good deal better than anything of the same possessed by anyone else. In no degree could they be considered unusually stately in their demeanor, or in any way overbearing in the consciousness of their superiority. The very worst that could be said of them was that they were aware of their many advantages. It must be an ill tempered being who could find fault in them with this.
They had been married six years and had but one child, a boy. He was thought to be exceedingly handsome and intelligent, although at times a little headstrong—which his nurse thought might be owing to his being rather indulged more than other children. She also thought his generous and affectionate nature atoned for his occasional naughtiness.
Their want of a daughter was, by some degree, supplied by the presence of a little orphan girl who had been thrown upon their protection under the most honorable of circumstances.
In Colonel Dermont’s younger years he had insisted, like a good many other young men, upon being permitted to put on a red coat. His parents conceded reluctantly and to India he went. He most assuredly would never have lived to come back again had it not been for the timely aid of a brother officer, who galloped to his side exactly in time to save his life.
Major Drummond, the gallant officer who performed this service for him, did not survive it long. A wound received in the same action caused his death after a lingering confinement of four months. Upon his death, Colonel Dermont attended to Major Drummond’s widow and young daughter, escorting them home to England.
Colonel Dermont married within a few months of his return to England, the early loss of both his parents having put him in possession of his estate. Four years after their marriage, the sudden death of Major Drummond’s daughter in childbirth—her husband and mother already in their graves—resulted in the orphan baby girl being consigned to the guardianship of Colonel Dermont and his kind wife.
Little baby Julia was brought to the Mount and the nursery establishment for the two children was the same as if they had been the offspring of the same parents. Never had Colonel Dermont forgotten his moment of peril, in which the arm of his little ward’s gallant grandfather saved his life. But, notwithstanding these sentiments, they could neither of them forget that the fine, noble looking child Alfred was their own, and that little Julia was not. This distinction did not injure the girl or interfere with her happiness. She was as content as the petted dog Bingo himself, and was of little more consequence than he. This conviction brought no pain with it, nor ever caused her for a moment to wish to be as important a personage as Alfred. Even in the moments when he was most indulged, she did not wish to change places with him. She was a quick little thing and of so gay a temperament, she made up her mind that though she was only a girl, she was the best off of the two—permitted to trot here and there, while the idolized Alfred was watched every moment of the day. It was as if the welfare of the universe depended on his not being too hot or too cold, too fasting or too fed, too much in movement or at rest.
As to Alfred himself, he was by no means dull enough not to perceive how remarkably exalted a place he occupied. By the time he was eight years old, he was fully aware that there was nobody in the house of so much importance as himself.
Colonel and Mrs. Dermont were highly respected and liked in the neighborhood, and
Guests heartily agreed that the dinners were as well prepared as those beyond their reach in London and Paris could be. There was a pianoforte always in tolerable tune for the use of young ladies, when they were of the singing and playing class. There were always two Books of Beauty of the current year on the drawing room table, and in winter there was always a good fire—in summer an abundance of flowers. And, of course, there was always Alfred to be looked at.
The preparations for staying were equally perfect and rarely lasted less than three full days. Mrs. Dermont herself would accompany each lady guest to her chamber when she retired to make her toilet for dinner. She reminded ladies where the bell was that would bring her maid with hot water. On these occasions she never failed to say, “You must not give yourself any trouble dressing today. We shall have nobody but our good clergyman, but tomorrow, we hope to get some friends to meet you.”
On day two the young ladies were recommended, weather permitting, to walk in the shade of the woods as there were no rough paths to encounter. Older ladies were invited to look at the conservatory. For the gentlemen, both young and old, there were fishing rods in spring and summer, guns and shuttlecock in the autumn and winter, and the billiard table all year round.
On day three both Colonel and Mrs. Dermont would declare that their guests must not think of leaving, for their kind neighbors the A’s and B’s (and, if it was fine, the C’s and D’s also) would be joining in the evening, and perhaps they might get up a little dance or play charades. Moreover, Alfred had been promised that he could stay up as long as he liked, and so they positively must not go. All this was done with such kindness, that it was quite impossible not to declare the Dermonts the most delightful people in the world.
This routine went on with wonderful regularity for many years and Alfred mixed himself with the guests, sometimes with words and smiles, sometimes with cuffs and kicks. When the latter occurred, those who were sufficiently intimate with the family were aware that great relief might be obtained by employing the agency of little Julia. A good deal of familiarity with the interior of the establishment was required to learn this, as the diminutive and odd looking girl elicited little notice from anyone. Colonel and Mrs. Dermont knew the child was perfectly well and perfectly happy, and did not feel it necessary to drag her forward to notice.
Little Julia was constantly overlooked as there was really very little about her to attract an unobservant eye. She was not ugly, but most assuredly she was not pretty. Her features were small and her colorless complexion was devoid of the freshness so charming in children. Her pretty-enough little eyebrows and the size and shape of her richly lashed ebony eyes were in no way assisted by thick, coal black hair that would not part properly in front. The most marked observation that had been uttered upon her appearance was by a lively young lady who declared, “I have never seen another little creature so completely black and white!”
Her nurse was wont to say that she was a sharp little pin with a raven black head, however, the sharpness in which her nurse alluded was to Julia’s quickness of intellect. Alfred Dermont was nearly four years older than Julia Drummond, but their education went on together. When Alfred turned six, a governess was engaged to whom both children were consigned as pupils. If the education of Julia threatened to be prematurely advanced, Alfred appeared decidedly the reverse. His bright blue eyes had never been forced to fix themselves on the letters of the alphabet, a shock to the governess not lessened by him saying coolly, “I think you are a very ugly person, Miss Harding. I think your lesson is a very stupid lesson, and if you ever tell me to do it again I will kick you. Come along, Julia!”
Miss Harding had released a gentle sigh and watched the children run off, sitting immovably in the place they left her, in deep consideration of the ways and means that would be necessary for her to resort.
It is needless to follow up the patient labors of Miss Harding as it was achieved at last, with assistance the governess derived from Julia. At age two she had spoken with perfect distinction. Before the age of four she could read any book set before her. Master Alfred eventually followed her example, with little more to be said until a dozen long years passed over their eight and four year old heads.
At twenty years old, Alfred Dermont was certainly a handsome young man. He stood over six feet, his features were magnificent, and had his countenance expressed a little less daring self confidence—it might have been charming. His large blue eyes were framed with brows that frequently arched to suggest his contempt for those around him, and his smile, though too often timed to be most impertinent, displayed teeth of perfection.
Alfred’s education had been strangely irregular. He certainly was not ignorant, and yet he could scarcely be said to be thoroughly well informed on any subject—for his studies rarely went beyond the point to which his inclination led him, and the moment he ceased to be amused, he ceased to continue studying. At age twelve there had been a great deal of half-hearted talk about sending him to Eton. But his father confessed to his mother, and his mother confessed to his father, that they could not part with him. Having separately and conjointly come to this decision, they determined, like sensible people, to act upon it.
Act upon it they did, and Alfred Dermont never left his paternal roof, either for school or college. Instead, tutors of English, French, and German were bestowed on him liberally; and as the boy was quick and some of the tutors quite clever, the result was a patchwork education. Some portions were brilliant and effective, others were a good deal the reverse.
As to Julia, Colonel Dermont continued steadfast in his resolution that not a single shilling of the seven thousand pound inheritance she was to receive at the age of majority—bequeathed to her in trust by Major Drummond and his descendant—neither principle nor interest, should ever be expended on her until she chose to expend it herself.
The home education of Alfred was an expensive one, for it included horses, dogs, and a town built cab for the younger gentleman’s own particular driving. His collection of books was continually increasing in the variety of languages he was taught. The colonel observed to his wife that when Miss Harding went, there could be no objection to Julia’s taking lessons with Alfred as she had always done. Little Julia, nor her friend Alfred, nor any of the learned professors concerned made any objection to the arrangement. The usual feminine accomplishments of music and drawing were left out, but Julia became possessed of a larger portion of information than would generally fall on most young ladies.
At sixteen Julia was still a queer looking little creature, so much so, that nobody thought it civil to discuss her appearance. As her intellectual acquirements were utterly unknown there was nothing to redeem her from the sort of easy oblivion which seemed to be her fate. But never did a happier creature exist on God’s earth. Her health was excellent and her spirits were high. She learned all that was set before her with equal facility and correctness, and she never for an instant made herself, her situation, her accomplishments, or her person the subject of her own thoughts. She lived in a state of the most delightful unconsciousness as to her own insignificance.
Good Colonel Dermont, when soothing himself as he occasionally did, by boasting that he had given Julia Drummond an excellent education, never guessed how excellent it actually had been. He didn’t know he had annihilated in the heart of his ward the most fatal weakness that can beset a person. Still less perhaps, he did not guess that while conferring this benefit upon her, he was overwhelming his son by fostering and cherishing in him the identical mental malady from which she had so happily escaped. Nevertheless, it did not follow that because Julia Drummond was free from all ill
“What a delightful summer we seem likely to have,” said Mrs. Dermont. She stood next to her husband and admired the vast lawn before them. "Don’t you think it would be a good scheme if this fine weather lasts, to invite the whole neighborhood together to breakfast on the lawn? Music and dancing—I think it would please Alfred. Yesterday he said he wished there was a bit more variety in our parties. He said it quite seriously.”
The colonel looked at his wife with interest. “Did he? Then I’m sure we ought to manage to get a little more variety, and a dance on the lawn would be quite new. But how shall we get enough young men together? Ladies cannot dance without gentlemen, you know.”
“There is but one way, my dear husband. You must ask the officers quartered at Overby, en masse. People of consequence in a neighborhood very often do that without having any personal introduction at all.”
“Yes, I know they do and I have no objection, if Alfred approves it. It will lead to no great danger of making disagreeable acquaintance, for I dare say they will be sent off again as soon as the talk of riots is over. Alfred and I can ride to Overby and speak to Major Sommerton about it. He is an old acquaintance and would let me know if there was any objection.”