Upperwood House, May 4th, 1841.
‘Dear Nell,—I have been a long time without writing to you; but I think, knowing as you do how I am situated in the matter of time, you will not be angry with me. Your brother George will have told you that he did not go into the house when we arrived at Rawdon, for which omission of his Mrs. White was very near blowing me up. She went quite red in the face with vexation when she heard that the gentleman had just driven within the gates and then back again, for she is very touchy in the matter of opinion. Mr. White also seemed to regret the circumstance from more hospitable and kindly motives. I assure you, if you were to come and see me you would have quite a fuss made over you. During the last three weeks that hideous operation called “a thorough clean” has been going on in the house. It is now nearly completed, for which I thank my stars, as during its progress I have fulfilled the twofold character of nurse and governess, while the nurse has been transmuted into cook and housemaid. That nurse, by-the-bye, is the prettiest lass you ever saw, and when dressed has much more the air of a lady than her mistress. Well can I believe that Mrs. White has been an exciseman’s daughter, and I am convinced also that Mr. White’s extraction is very low. Yet Mrs. White talks in an amusing strain of pomposity about his and her family and connections, and affects to look down with wondrous hauteur on the whole race of tradesfolk, as she terms men of business. I was beginning to think Mrs. White a good sort of body in spite of all her bouncing and boasting, her bad grammar and worse orthography, but I have had experience of one little trait in her character which condemns her a long way with me. After treating a person in the most familiar terms of equality for a long time, if any little thing goes wrong she does p. 87not scruple to give way to anger in a very coarse, unladylike manner. I think passion is the true test of vulgarity or refinement.
‘This place looks exquisitely beautiful just now. The grounds are certainly lovely, and all is as green as an emerald. I wish you would just come and look at it. Mrs. White would be as proud as Punch to show it you. Mr. White has been writing an urgent invitation to papa, entreating him to come and spend a week here. I don’t at all wish papa to come, it would be like incurring an obligation. Somehow, I have managed to get a good deal more control over the children lately—this makes my life a good deal easier; also, by dint of nursing the fat baby, it has got to know me and be fond of me. I suspect myself of growing rather fond of it. Exertion of any kind is always beneficial. Come and see me if you can in any way get, I want to see you. It seems Martha Taylor is fairly gone. Good-bye, my lassie.—Yours insufferably,
‘May 9th, 1841.
‘I have just seen my little noisy charges deposited snugly in their cribs, and I am sitting alone in the school-room with the quiet of a Sunday evening pervading the grounds and gardens outside my window. I owe you a letter—can I choose a better time than the present for paying my debt? Now, Mr. Nussey, you need not expect any gossip or news, I have none to tell you—even if I had I am not at present in the mood to communicate them. You will excuse an unconnected letter. If I had thought you critical or captious I would have declined the task of corresponding with you. When I reflect, indeed, it p. 88seems strange that I should sit down to write without a feeling of formality and restraint to an individual with whom I am personally so little acquainted as I am with yourself; but the fact is, I cannot be formal in a letter—if I write at all I must write as I think. It seems Ellen has told you that I am become a governess again. As you say, it is indeed a hard thing for flesh and blood to leave home, especially a good home—not a wealthy or splendid one. My home is humble and unattractive to strangers, but to me it contains what I shall find nowhere else in the world—the profound, the intense affection which brothers and sisters feel for each other when their minds are cast in the same mould, their ideas drawn from the same source—when they have clung to each other from childhood, and when disputes have never sprung up to divide them.
‘We are all separated now, and winning our bread amongst strangers as we can—my sister Anne is near York, my brother in a situation near Halifax, I am here. Emily is the only one left at home, where her usefulness and willingness make her indispensable. Under these circumstances should we repine? I think not—our mutual affection ought to comfort us under all difficulties. If the God on whom we must all depend will but vouchsafe us health and the power to continue in the strict line of duty, so as never under any temptation to swerve from it an inch, we shall have ample reason to be grateful and contented.
‘I do not pretend to say that I am always contented. A governess must often submit to have the heartache. My employers, Mr. and Mrs. White, are kind worthy people in their way, but the children are indulged. I have great difficulties to contend with sometimes. Perseverance will perhaps conquer them. And it has gratified me much to find that the parents are well satisfied with their children’s improvement in learning since I came. But I am dwelling too much upon my own concerns and feelings. It is true they are interesting to me, but it is wholly impossible they should be so to you, and, therefore, I hope you will skip the last page, for I repent having written it.
p. 89‘A fortnight since I had a letter from Ellen urging me to go to Brookroyd for a single day. I felt such a longing to have a respite from labour, and to get once more amongst “old familiar faces,” that I conquered diffidence and asked Mrs. White to let me go. She complied, and I went accordingly, and had a most delightful holiday. I saw your mother, your sisters Mercy, Ellen, and poor Sarah, and your brothers Richard and George—all were well. Ellen talked of endeavouring to get a situation somewhere. I did not encourage the idea much. I advised her rather to go to Earnley for a while. I think she wants a change, and I dare say you would be glad to have her as a companion for a few months.—I remain, yours respectfully,
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