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A Happy Family
by [?]

CHAPTER I.

“If solid happiness we prize,
Within our breast this jewel lies.

* * * * *

From our own selves our joys must flow,
And peace begins at home.”

COTTON.

The family–our family, not the Happy Family–consisted of me and my brothers and sisters. I have a father and mother, of course.

I am the eldest, as I remind my brothers; and of the more worthy gender, which my sisters sometimes forget. Though we live in the village, my father is a gentleman, as I shall be when I am grown up. I have told the village boys so more than once. One feels mean in boasting that one is better born than they are; but if I did not tell them, I am not sure that they would always know.

Our house is old, and we have a ghost–the ghost of my
great-great-great-great-great-aunt.

She “crossed her father’s will,” nurse says, and he threatened to flog her with his dog-whip, and she ran away, and was never heard of more. He would not let the pond be dragged, but he never went near it again; and the villagers do not like to go near it now. They say you may meet her there, after sunset, flying along the path among the trees, with her hair half down, and a knot of ribbon fluttering from it, and parted lips, and terror in her eyes.

The men of our family (my father’s family, my mother is Irish) have always had strong wills. I have a strong will myself.

People say I am like the picture of my great-grandfather (the great-great-great-nephew of the ghost). He must have been a wonderful old gentleman by all accounts. Sometimes nurse says to us, “Have your own way, and you’ll live the longer,” and it always makes me think of great-grandfather, who had so much of his own way, and lived to be nearly a hundred.

I remember my father telling us how his sisters had to visit their old granny for months at a time, and how he shut the shutters at three o’clock on summer afternoons, and made them play dummy whist by candle light.

“Didn’t you and your brothers go?” asked Uncle Patrick, across the dinner-table. My father laughed.

“Not we! My mother got us there once–but never again.”

“And did your sisters like it?”

“Like it? They used to cry their hearts out. I really believe it killed poor Jane. She was consumptive and chilly, but always craving for fresh air; and granny never would have open windows, for fear of draughts on his bald head; and yet the girls had no fires in their room, because young people shouldn’t be pampered.”

“And ye never-r offer-r-ed–neither of ye–to go in the stead of them?”

When Uncle Patrick rolls his R’s in a discussion, my mother becomes nervous.

“One can’t expect boys to consider things,” she said. “Boys will be boys, you know.”

“And what would you have ’em be?” said my father. Uncle Patrick turned to my mother.

“Too true, Geraldine. Ye don’t expect it. Worse luck! I assure ye, I’d be aghast at the brutes we men can be, if I wasn’t more amazed that we’re as good as we are, when the best and gentlest of your sex–the moulders of our childhood, the desire of our manhood–demand so little for all that you alone can give. There were conceivable uses in women preferring the biggest brutes of barbarous times, but it’s not so now; and boys will be civilised boys, and men will be civilised men, sweet sister, when you do expect it, and when your grace and favours are the rewards of nobleness, and not the easy prize of selfishness and savagery.”

My father spoke fairly.