Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie
A KIND enchantress one day put into my hand a mystic
volume prettily let tered and bound in green, saying, "I am so fond
of this book. It has all the dear old fairy tales in it; one never tires
of them. Do take it."
I carried the little book away with me, and spent a very
pleasant, quiet evening at home by the fire, with H. at the opposite corner,
and other old friends, whom I felt I had somewhat neglected of late. Jack
and the Bean stalk, Puss in Boots, the gallant and quixotic Giant-killer,
and dearest Cinderella, whom we every one of us must have loved, I should
think, ever since we first knew her in her little brown pinafore: I wondered,
as I shut them all up for the night between their green boards, what it
was that made these stories so fresh and so vivid, Why did not they fall
to pieces, vanish, explode, disappear, like so many of their contemporaries
and descendants? And yet, far from being forgotten and passing away, it
would seem as if each generation in turn, as it came into the world, looks
to be delighted still by the brilliant pageant, and never tires or wearies
of it. And on their side princes and princesses never seem to grow any
older; the castles and the lovely gardens flourish without need of repair
or whitewash, or plumbers or glaziers. The princesses' gowns, too, -sun,
moon, and star color, -do not Wear out or pass out of fashion or require
altering. Even the seven-leagued boots do not appear to be the worse for
wear. Numbers of realistic stories for children have passed away. Little
Henry and his Bearer, Poor Harry and Lucy, have very nearly given up their
little artless ghosts and prattle, and ceased making their own beds for
the instruction of less excellently brought up little boys and girls;
and, notwithstanding a very interesting article in the Saturday Review,
it must be owned that Harry Sandford and Tommy Merton2 are not familiar
playfellows in our nurseries and school-rooms, and have passed somewhat
out of date. But not so all these centenarians, -Prince Riquet, Carabas,
Little Red Riding-hood, Bluebeard, and others. They seem as if they would
never grow old. They play with the children, they amuse the elders, there
seems no end to their fund of spirits and perennial youth.
H., to whom I made this remark, said, from the opposite
chimney-corner, "No wonder; the stories are only histories of real,
living persons turned into fairy princes and princesses. Fairy stories
are everywhere and every day. We are all princes and princesses in disguise,
or ogres or wicked dwarfs. All these histories are the histories of human
nature, which does not seem to change very much in a thousand years or
so, and we don't get tired of the fairies because they are so true to
After this little speech of H.'s, we spent an unprofitable
half-hour reviewing our acquaintance, and classing them under their real
characters and qualities. We had dined with Lord Carabas only the day
before, and met Puss in Boots; Beauty and the Beast were also there. We
uncharitably counted up, I am ashamed to say, no less than six Bluebeards.
Jack and the Beanstalk we had met just starting on his climb. A Red Riding-hood;
a girl with toads dropping from her mouth: we knew three or four of each.
Cinderellas-alas! who does not know more than one dear, poor, pretty Cinderella;
and as for sleeping princesses in the woods, how many one can reckon up!
Young, old, ugly, pretty, awakening, sleeping still.
"Do you remember Cecilia Lulworth," said H.,
"and Dorlicote? Poor Cecilia!"
Some lives are couleur de rose, people say; others seem
to be, if not couleur de rose all through, yet full of bright, beautiful
tints, blues, pinks, little bits of harmonious cheerfulness. Other lives,
if not so brilliant, and seeming more or less gray at times, are very
sweet and gentle in tone, with faint gleams of gold or lilac to brighten
them. And then again others, alas! are black and hopeless from the beginning.
Besides these, there are some which have always appeared to me as if they
were of a dark, dull hue; a dingy, heavy brown, which no happiness, or
interest, or bright color could ever enliven. Blues turn sickly, roses
seem faded, and yellow lilacs look red and ugly upon these heavy backgrounds.
Poor Cecilia, -as H. called her, - hers had always seemed to me one of
these latter existences, unutterably dull, commonplace, respectable, stinted,
ugly, and useless.
Lulworth Hall, with the great, dark park bounded by limestone
walls, with iron gates here and there, looked like a blot upon the bright
and lovely landscape. The place from a distance, compared with the surrounding
country, was a blur and a blemish as it were, -sad, silent, solitary.
Travellers passing by sometimes asked if the place was
uninhabited, and were told, "No, shure, -fam'ly lives thear all the
yeaurr round." Some charitable souls might wonder what life could
be like behind those dull gates. One day a young fellow riding by saw
rather a sweet woman's face gazing for an instant through the bars, and
he went on his way with a momentary thrill of pity. Need I say that it
was poor Cecilia who looked out vacantly to see who was passing along
the high-road. She was surrounded by hideous moreen, oil-cloth, punctuality,
narrow-mindedness, horsehair, and mahogany. Loud bells rang at intervals,
regular, monotonous. Surly but devoted attendants waited upon her. She
was rarely alone; her mother did not think it right that a girl in Cecilia's
position should "race" about the grounds unattended; as for
going outside the walls it was not to be thought of. When Cecilia went
out with her gloves on, and her goloshes, her mother's companion, Miss
Bowley, walked beside her up and down the dark laurel walk at the back
of the house, -up and down, down and up, up and down. "I think I
am getting tired, Maria," Miss Lulworth would say at last. "If
so we had better return to the hall," Maria would reply, "although
it is before our time." And then they would walk home in silence,
between the iron railings and laurel-bushes.
As Cecilia walked erectly by Miss Bowley's side, the rooks
went whirling over their heads, the slugs crept sleepily along the path
under the shadow of the grass and the weeds; they heard no sounds except
the cawing of the birds, and the distant monotonous, hacking noise of
the gardener and his boy digging in the kitchen-garden.
Cecilia, peeping into the long drab drawing-room on her
return, might, Perhaps, see her mother, erect and dignified, at her open
desk, composing, writing, crossing, re-reading, an endless letter to an
indifferent cousin in Ireland, with a single candle and a small piece
of blotting-paper; and a pen- wiper made of ravellings, all spread out
"You have come home early, Cecil," says the
lady, without looking up. "You had better make the most of your time,
and practise till the dressing- bell rings. Maria will kindly take up
And then in the chill twilight Cecilia sits down to the
jangling instrument, with the worn silk flutings. A faded rack it is upon
which her fingers had been distended ever since she can remember. A great
many people think there is nothing in the world so good for children as
scoldings, whippings, dark cupboards, and dry bread and water; upon which
they expect them to grow up into tall, fat, cheerful, amiable men and
women; and a great many people think that for grown-up young people the
silence, the chillness, the monotony and sadness of their own fading twilight
days is all that is required. Mrs. Lulworth and Maria Bowley, her companion,
Cecilia's late governess, were quite of this opinion. They themselves,
when they were little girls, had been slapped, snubbed, locked up in closets,
thrust into bed at all sorts of hours, flattened out on backboards, set
on high stools to play the piano for days together; made to hem frills
five or six weeks long, and to learn immense pieces of poetry, so that
they had to stop at home all the afternoon. And though Mrs. Lulworth had
grown up stupid, suspicious, narrow- minded, soured, and overbearing,
and had married for an establishment, and Miss Bowley, her governess's
daughter, had turned out nervous, undecided, melancholy, and anxious,
and had never married at all, yet they determined to bring up Cecilia
as they themselves had been brought up, and sincerely thought they could
not do better.
When Mrs. Lulworth married, she said to Maria, "You
must come and live with me, and help to educate my children some day,
Maria. For the present I shall not have a home of my own; we are going
to reside with my husband's aunt, Mrs. Dormer. She is a very wealthy person,
far advanced in years. She is greatly annoyed with Mr. and Mrs. John Lulworth's
vagaries, and she has asked me and my husband to take their places at
Dorlicote Hall." At the end of ten years Mrs. Lulworth wrote again:
"We are now permanently established in our aunt's house. I hear you
are in want of a situation; pray come and superintend the education of
my only child, Cecilia (she is named after her godmother; Mrs. Dormer).
She is now nearly three years old, and I feel that she begins to require
This letter was written at that same desk twenty-two years
before Cecilia began her practising that autumn evening. She was twenty-five
years old now, but like a child in inexperience, in ignorance, in placidity;
a fortunate stolidity and slowness of temperament had saved her from being
crushed and nipped in the bud, as it were. She was not bored because she
had never known any other life. It seemed to her only natural that all
days should be alike, rung in and out by the jangling breakfast, lunch,
dinner; and prayer- bells. Mr. Dormer-a little chip of a man-read prayers
suitable for every day in the week; the servants filed in, maids first,
then the men. Once Cecilia saw one of the maids blush and look down smiling
as she marched out after the others. Miss Dormer wondered a little, and
thought she would ask Susan why she looked so strangely; but Susan married
the groom soon after; and went away, and Cecilia never had an opportunity
of speaking to her.
Night after night Mr. Dormer replaced his spectacles with
a click, and pulled up his shirt-collar when the service was ended. Night
after night old Mrs. Dormer coughed a little moaning cough. If she spoke,
it was generally to make some little, bitter remark. Every night she shook
hands with her nephew and niece, kissed Cecilia's blooming cheek, and
patted out of the room. She was a little woman with starling eyes. She
had never got over her husband's death. She did not always know when she
moaned. She dressed in black, and lived alone in her turret, where she
had various old- fashioned occupations, -tatting, camphor-boxes to sort,
a real old spinning- wheel and distaff among other things, at which Cecilia,
when she was a child, had pricked her fingers trying to make it whirr
as her aunt did. Spinning-wheels have quite gone out, but I know of one
or two old ladies who still use them. Mrs. Dormer would go nowhere, and
would see no one. So at least her niece, the master-spirit, declared,
and the old lady got to believe it at last. I don't know how much the
fear of the obnoxious John and his wife and children may have had to do
with this arrangement.
When her great aunt was gone it was Cecilia's turn to
gather her work together at a warning sign from her mother; and walk away
through the long, chilly passages to her slumbers in the great green four-post
bed. And so time passed. Cecilia grew up. She had neither friends nor
lovers. She was not happy nor unhappy. She could read, but she never cared
to open a book. She was quite contented; for she thought Lulworth Hall
the finest place, and its inmates the most important people in the world.
She worked a great deal, embroidering interminable quilts and braided
toilet-covers and fish-napkins. She never thought of anything but the
utterest commonplaces and platitudes. She considered that being respectable
and decorous, and a little pompous and overbearing, was the duty of every
well-brought-up lady and gentleman. To-night she banged away very placidly
at Rhodes' air, for the twentieth time breaking down in the same passage
and making the same mistake, until the dressing-bell rang, and Cecilia,
feeling she had done her duty, then extinguished her candle, and went
upstairs across the great, chill hall, up the bare oil-cloth gallery,
to her room.
Most young women have some pleasure, whatever their troubles
may be, in dressing, and pretty trinkets and beads and ribbons and necklaces.
An unconscious love of art and intuition leads some of them, even plain
ones, to adorn themselves. The colors and ribbon ends brighten bright
faces, en liven dull ones, deck what is already lovable, or, at all events,
make the most of what materials there are. Even a Maypole, crowned and
flowered and tastily ribboned, is a pleasing object. And, indeed, the
art of decoration seems to me a charming natural instinct, and one which
is not nearly enough encouraged, and a gift which every woman should try
to acquire. Some girls, like birds, know how to weave, out of ends of
rags, of threads and morsels and straws, a beautiful whole, a work of
real genius for their habitation. Frivolities, say some; waste of time,
say others, -expense, vanity. The strong-minded dowagers shake their heads
at it all, -Mrs. Lulworth among them; only why had Nature painted Cecilia's
cheeks of brightest pink, in stead of bilious orange, like poor Maria
Bowley's? why was her hair all crisp and curly? and were her white, even
teeth, and her clear, gray eyes, vanity and frivolity too? Cecilia was
rather too stout for her age; she had not much expression in her face.
And no wonder. There was not much to be expressive about in her poor little
stinted life. She could not go into raptures over the mahogany sideboard,
the camphene lamp in the drawing-room, the four- post beds indoors, the
laurel-bushes without, the Moorish temple with yellow glass windows, or
the wigwam summer-house, which were the alternate boundaries of her daily
Cecilia was not allowed a fire to dress herself by; a
grim maid, however, attended, and I suppose she was surrounded, as people
say, by every com fort. There was a horsehair sofa, everything was large,
solid, brown as I have said, grim, and in its place. The rooms at Lulworth
Hall did not take the impression of their inmate; the inmate was moulded
by the room. There were in Cecilia's no young lady-like trifles lying
here and there; upon the chest of drawers there stood a mahogany workbox,
square, with a key, - that was the only attempt at feminine elegance,
-a little faded chenille, I believe, was to be seen round the clock on
the chimney-piece, and a black and white check dressing-gown and an ugly
little pair of slippers were set out before the toilet-table. On the bed,
Cecilia's dinner-costume was lying, -a sickly green dress, trimmed with
black, -and a white flower for her hair. On the toilet-table an old-fashioned
jasper serpent-necklace and a set of amethysts were displayed for her
to choose from, also mittens and a couple of hair-bracelets. The girl
was quite content, and she would go down gravely to dinner, smoothing
out her hideous toggery.
Mrs. Dormer never came down before dinner. All day long
she stayed up in her room, dozing and trying remedies, and occasionally
looking over old journals and letters until it was time to come downstairs.
She liked to see Cecilia's pretty face at one side of the table, while
her nephew carved, and Mrs. Lulworth recounted any of the stirring events
of the day. She was used to the life, -she was sixty when they came to
her, she was long past eighty now, -the last twenty years had been like
a long sleep, with the dream of what happened when she was alive and in
the world continually passing be fore her.
When the Lulworths first came to her she had been in a
low and nervous state, only stipulated for quiet and peace, and that no
one was to come to her house of mourning. The John Lulworths, a cheery
couple, broke down at the end of a month or two, and preferred giving
up all chance of their aunt's great inheritance to living in such utter
silence and seclusion. Upon Charles, the younger brother and his wife,
the habit had grown, until now anything else would have been toil and
misery to them. Except the old rector from the village, the doctor now
and then, no other human creature ever crossed the threshold. For Cecilia's
sake Miss Bowley once ventured to hint,-
"Cecilia with her expectations has the whole world
"Maria!" said Mrs. Lulworth, severely; and,
indeed, to this foolish woman it seemed as if money would add more to
her daughter's happiness than the delights, the wonders, the interests,
the glamours of youth. Charles Lulworth, shrivelled, selfish, dull, worn-out,
did not trouble his head about Cecilia's happiness, and let his wife do
as she liked with the girl.
This especial night when Cecilia came down in her ugly
green dress, it seemed to her as if something unusual had been going on.
The old lady's eyes looked bright and glittering, her father seemed more
animated than usual, her mother looked mysterious and put out. It might
have been fancy, but Cecilia thought they all stopped talking as she came
into the room; but then dinner was announced, and her father offered Mrs.
Dormer his arm immediately, and they went into the dining-room.
It must have been fancy. Everything was as usual. "They
have put up a few hurdles in Dairon's field, I see," said Mrs. Lulworth.
"Charles, you ought to give orders for repairing the lock of the
"Have they seen to the pump-handle?" said Mr.
"I think not." And then there was a dead silence.
"Potatoes," said Cecilia, to the footman. "Mamma,
we saw ever so many slugs in the laurel walk, Maria and 1,-didn't we,
Maria? I think there are a great many slugs in our place."
Old Mrs. Dormer looked up while Cecilia was speaking,
and suddenly interrupted her in the middle of her sentence. "How
old are you, child?" she said; "are you seventeen or eighteen?"
"Eighteen! Aunt Cecilia. I am five-and-twenty,"
said Cecilia, staring.
"Good gracious! is it possible?" said her father,
"Cecil is a woman now," said her mother.
"Five-and-twenty!" said the old lady, quite
crossly. "I had no idea time went so fast. She ought to have been
married long ago; that is, if she means to marry at all."
"Pray, my dear aunt, do not put such ideas-"
Mrs. Lulworth began.
"I don't intend to marry," said Cecilia, peeling
an orange, and quite un moved, and she slowly curled the rind of her orange
in the air. "I think people are very stupid to marry. Look at poor
Jane Simmonds; her husband beats her; Jones saw her."
"So you don't intend to marry?" said the old
lady, with an odd inflection in her voice. "Young ladies were not
so wisely brought up in my early days," and she gave a great sigh.
"I was reading an old letter this morning from your poor father,
Charles, -all about happiness, and love in a cot, and two little curly-headed
boys, -Jack, you know, and yourself. I should rather like to see John
"What, my dear aunt, after his unparalleled audacity?
I declare the thought of his impudent letter makes my blood boil,"
exclaimed Mrs. Lulworth.
"Does it?" said the old lady. "Cecilia,
my dear, you must know that your uncle has discovered that the entail
was not cut off from a certain property which my father left me, and which
I brought to my husband. He has there fore written me a very business-like
letter, in which he says he wishes for no alteration at present, but begs
that, in the event of my making my will, I should remember this, and not
complicate matters by leaving it to yourself, as had been my intention.
I see nothing to offend in the request. Your mother thinks differently."
Cecilia was so amazed at being told anything that she
only stared again, and, opening a wide mouth, popped into it such a great
piece of orange that she could not speak for some minutes.
"Cecilia has certainly attained years of discretion,"
said her great-aunt; "she does not compromise herself by giving any
opinion on matters she does not understand."
Notwithstanding her outward imperturbability, Cecilia
was a little stirred and interested by this history, and by the little
conversation which had pre ceded it. Her mother was sitting upright in
her chair as usual, netting with vigorous action; her large foot outstretched,
her stiff, bony hands working and jerking monotonously. Her father was
dozing in his arm-chair. Old Mrs. Dormer, too, was nodding in her corner.
The monotonous Maria was stitching in the lamplight. Gray and black shadows
loomed all round her. The far end of the room was quite dark; the great
curtains swept from their ancient cornices. Cecilia, for the first time
in all her life, wondered whether she should ever live all her life in
this spot, -ever go away? It seemed impossible, unnatural, that she should
ever do so. Silent, dull as it was, she was used to it, and did not know
what was amiss.
Young Frank Lulworth, the lawyer of the family-John Lulworth's
eldest son-it was who had found it all out. His father wrote that with
Mrs. Dormer's permission he proposed coming down in a day or two to show
her the papers, and to explain to her personally how the matter stood.
"My son and I," said John Lulworth, "both feel that this
would be far more agreeable to our feelings, and perhaps to yours, than
having recourse to the usual professional intervention; for we have no
desire to press our claims for the present; and we only wish that in the
ultimate disposal of your property you should be aware how the matter
really stands. We have always been led to Suppose that the estate actually
in question has been long destined by you for your grand-niece, Cecilia
Lulworth. I hear from our old friend, Dr. Hicks, that she is remarkably
pretty and very amiable. Perhaps such vague possibilities are best unmentioned;
but it has occurred to me that in the event of a mutual understanding
springing up between the young folks, -my son and Your grand-niece, -the
connection might be agreeable to us all, and lead to a renewal of that
family intercourse which has been, to my great regret, Suspended for some
Old Mrs. Dormer, in her shaky Italian handwriting, answered
her nephew's letter by return of post: -
"My DEAR NEPHEW, -I must acknowledge the receipt
of your epistle of the 13th instant. By all means invite your son to pay
us his proposed visit. We can then talk over business matters at our leisure,
and young Francis can be introduced to his relatives. Although a long
time has elapsed since we last met, believe me, my dear nephew, not unmindful
of by-gone associations, and yours, very truly, always,
The letter was in the postman's bag when old Mrs. Dormer
informed Mrs. Charles of what she had done.
Frank Lulworth thought that in all his life he had never
seen anything so dismal, so silent, so neglected, as Dorlicote Park, when
he drove up, a few days after, through the iron gates and along the black
laurel wilderness which led to the house. The laurel branches, all unpruned,
untrained, were twisting savagely in and out, wreathing and interlacing
one another, clutching tender shootings, wrestling with the young oak-trees
and the limes. He passed by black and sombre avenues leading to mouldy
temples, to crumbling summer-houses; he saw what had once been a flower-garden,
now all run to seed, -wild, straggling, forlorn; a broken-down bench,
a heap of hurdles lying on the ground, a field-mouse darting across the
road, a desolate autumn sun shining upon all this mouldering ornament
and confusion. It seemed more forlorn and melancholy by contrast, somehow,
coming as he did out of the loveliest country and natural sweetness into
the dark and tangled wilderness within these limestone walls of Dorlicote.
The parish of Dorlicote-cum-Rockington looks prettier
in the autumn than at any other time. A hundred crisp tints, jewelled
rays,-grays, browns, purples, glinting golds, and silvers, -rustle and
sparkle upon the branches of the nut-trees, of the bushes and thickets.
Soft blue mists and purple tints rest upon the distant hills; scarlet
berries glow among the brown leaves of the hedges; lovely mists fall and
vanish suddenly, revealing bright and sweet autumnal sights; blackberries,
stacks of corn, brown leaves crisping upon the turf, great pears hanging
sweetening in the sun over the cottage lintels, cows grazing and whisking
their tails, blue smoke curling from the tall farm chimneys; all is peaceful,
prosperous, golden. You can see the sea on clear days from certain knolls
Out of all these pleasant sights young Lulworth came into
this dreary splendor. He heard no sounds of life, -he saw no one. His
coachman had opened the iron gate. "They doan't keep no one to moind
the gate," said the driver; "only tradesmen cooms to th'ouse."
Even the gardener and his boy Were out of the way; and when they got sight
of the house at last, many of the blinds were down and shutters shut,
and only two chimneys were smoking. There was some one living in the place,
however, for a watch-dog who was lying asleep in his kennel woke up and
gave a heart-rending howl when Frank got out and rang at the bell.
He had to wait an immense time before anybody answered,
although a little page in buttons came and stared at him in blank amazement
from one of the basement windows, and never moved. Through the same window
Frank could see into the kitchen, and he was amused when a sleepy, fat
cook came up behind the little page and languidly boxed his ears, and
seemed to order him off the premises.
The butler, who at last answered the door seemed utterly
taken aback, -nobody had called for months past, and here was a perfect
stranger taking out his card, and asking for Mrs. Dormer, as if it was
the most natural thing in the world. The under-butler was half-asleep
in his pantry, and had not heard the door-bell. The page-the very same
whose ears had been boxed-came wondering to the door, and went to ascertain
whether Mrs. Dormer would see the gentleman or not.
"What a vault, what a catacomb, what an ugly old
place!" thought Frank, as he waited. He heard steps far, far away;
then came a long silence, and then a heavy tread slowly approaching, and
the old butler beckoned to him to follow, -through a cob-web-color room,
through a brown room, through a gray room, into a great, dim, drab drawing-room,
where the old lady was sitting alone. She had come down her back stairs
to receive him; it was years since she had left her room before dinner.
Even old ladies look kindly upon a tall, well-built, good-looking,
good- humored young man. Frank's nose was a little too long, his mouth
a little too straight; but he was a handsome young fellow, with a charming
manner. Only, as he came up, he was somewhat shy and undecided, -he did
not know exactly how to address the old lady. This was his great-aunt.
He knew nothing whatever about her, but she was very rich; she had invited
him to come, and she had a kind face, he thought; should he, -ought he
to embrace her? Perhaps he ought, and he made the slightest possible movement
in this direction. Mrs. Dormer, divining his object, pushed him weakly
away. "How do you do? No embraces, thank you. I don't care for kissing
at my age. Sit down, -there, in that chair opposite, -and now tell me
about your father, and all the family, and about this ridiculous discovery
of yours. I don't believe a word of it."
The interview between them was long and satisfactory on
the whole. The unconscious Cecilia and Miss Bowley returned that afternoon
from their usual airing, and, as it happened, Cecilia said, "O Maria!
I left my mittens in the drawing-room last night. I will go and fetch
them." And, little thinking of what was awaiting her, she flung open
the door and marched in through the ante-room, -mushroom hat and brown
veil, goloshes and dowdy gown, as usual. "What is this?" thought
young Lulworth; "why, who would have sup posed it was such a pretty
girl?" for suddenly the figure stopped short, and a lovely, fresh
face looked up in utter amazement out of the hideous disguise.
"There, don't stare, child," said the old lady.
"This is Francis Lulworth, a very intelligent young man, who has
got hold of your fortune and ruined all your chances, my dear. He wanted
to embrace me just now. Francis, you may as well salute your cousin instead:
she is much more of an age for such compliments," said Mrs. Dormer
waving her hand.
The impassive Cecilia, perfectly bewildered, and not in
the least under standing, only turned her great, sleepy, astonished eyes
upon her cousin, and stood perfectly still as if she was one of those
beautiful wax-dolls one sees stuck up to be stared at. If she had been
surprised before, utter consternation can scarcely convey her state of
mind when young Lulworth stepped up and obeyed her aunt's behest. And,
indeed, a stronger-minded person than Cecilia might have been taken aback,
who had come into the drawing-room to fetch her mittens, and was met in
such an astounding fashion. Frank, half laughing, half kindly, seeing
that Cecilia stood quite still and stared at him, supposed it was expected,
and did as he was told.
The poor girl gave one gasp of horror, and blushed for
the first time, I believe, in the course of her whole existence. Bowley,
fixed and open- mouthed from the inner room, suddenly fled with a scream,
which recalled Cecilia to a sense of outraged propriety; for, blushing
and blinking more deeply, she at last gave three little sobs, and then,
O horror! burst into tears!
"Highty-tighty! what a much ado about nothing!"
said the old lady, losing her temper and feeling not a little guilty,
and much alarmed as to what her niece Mrs. Lulworth might say were she
to come on the scene.
"I beg your pardon. I am so very, very sorry,"
said the young man, quite confused and puzzled. "I ought to have
known better. I frightened you. I am your cousin, you know, and really,-pray,
pray excuse my stupidity," he said, looking anxiously into the fair,
placid face along which the tears were coursing in two streams, like a
"Such a thing never happened in all my life before,"
said Cecilia. "I know is wrong to cry, but really-really-"
"Leave off crying directly, miss," said her
aunt, testily, "and let us have no more of this nonsense." The
old lady dreaded the mother's arrival every instant. Frank, half laughing,
but quite unhappy at the poor girl's distress, had taken up his hat to
go that minute, not knowing what else to do.
"Ah! you're going," says old Mrs. Dormer; "no
wonder. Cecilia, you have driven your cousin away by your rudeness."
"I'm not rude," sobbed Cecilia. "I can't
"The girl is a greater idiot than I took her for,"
cried the old lady. "She has been kept here locked up until she has
not a single idea left in her silly noddle. No man of sense could endure
her for five minutes. You wish to leave the place, I see, and no wonder!"
"I really think," said Frank, "that under
the circumstances it is the best thing I can do. Miss Lulworth, I am sure,
would wish me to go."
"Certainly," said Cecilia. "Go away, pray
go away. Oh, how silly I am!"
Here was a catastrophe!
The poor old fairy was all puzzled and bewildered: her
arts were power less in this emergency. The princess had awakened, but
in tears. The prince still stood by, distressed and concerned, feeling
horribly guilty, and yet scarcely able to help laughing. Poor Cecilia!
her aunt's reproaches had only bewildered her more and more; and for the
first time in her life she was bewildered, discomposed, forgetful of hours.
It was the hour of calisthenics; but Miss Lulworth forgot everything that
might have been expected from a young lady of her admirable bringing-up.
Fairy tales are never very long, and this one ought to
come to an end. The princess was awake now; her simplicity and beauty
touched the young prince, who did not, I think, really intend to go, though
he took up his hat.
Certainly the story would not be worth the telling if
they had not been married soon after, and lived happily all the rest of
* * * * * * * *
It is not in fairy tales only that things fall out as
one could wish, and indeed, H. and T. agreed the other night that fairies,
although invisible, had not entirely vanished out of the land.
It is certainly like a fairy transformation to see Cecilia
nowadays in her Own home with her children and husband about her. Bright,
merry, full of Sympathy and interest, she seems to grow prettier every
When Frank fell in love with her and proposed, old Mrs.
Dormer insisted upon instantly giving up the Dorlicote Farm for the young
people to live in. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Lulworth are obliged to live in
London, but they go there every summer with their children; and for some
years after her marriage, Cecilia's godmother, who took the opportunity
of the wedding to break through many of her recluse habits, used to come
and see her every day in a magnificent yellow chariot.
Some day I may perhaps tell you more about the fairies
and enchanting princesses of my acquaintance.
Ritchie, Anne Isabella. "The Sleeping Beauty in
the Wood." The Cornhill Magazine. May 1866.
Also available with wonderful notes and commentary in:
Ritchie, Anne Thackeray. "The Sleeping Beauty
in the Wood."Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies
by Victorian Women Writers. Nina Auerbach & U. C. Knoepflmacher, editors.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Amazon.com: Buy the book in paperback.