It came about, as I have oft noted things to do, after a metely deal of talk, yet right suddenly in the end.
Aunt Joyce, Milly, Edith, and I, were in the long gallery. We had been talking a while touching olden times (whereof Aunt Joyce is a rare hand at telling of stories), and Mother’s chronicle she was wont to keep, and hath shown us, and such like matter. When all at once quoth Edith—
“Why should not we keep a chronicle?”
“Ay, why not?” saith Aunt Joyce, busied with her sewing.
Milly fell a-laughing.
“Dear heart, Edith, and what should we put in a chronicle?” saith she. “‘Monday, the cat washed her face. Tuesday, it rained. Wednesday, Nell made a tansy pudding. Thursday, I lost my temper. Friday, I found it again. Saturday, Edith looked in the mirror, and Aunt Joyce made an end of a piece of sewing.’ Good lack, it shall be a rare jolly book!”
“Nay, I would never set down such stuff as that,” answered Edith.
“Why, what else is there?” saith Milly. “We have dwelt hither ever since we were born, saving when we go to visit Aunt Joyce, and one day is the very cut of an other. Saving when Master Stuyvesant came hither, nought never happened in this house since I was born.”
“Would’st love better a life wherein matters should happen, Milly?” saith Aunt Joyce, looking up at her, with a manner of face that I knew. It was a little mirthful, yet sorrowful withal.
“Ay, I would so!” quoth she.
“Child,” Aunt Joyce makes answer, “‘happy is the man that hath no history.’”
“But things do happen, Milly,” saith Edith. “Thou hast forgot Anstace her wedding.”
“That something happening!” pouts Milly. “Stupid humdrum business! Do but think, to wed a man that dwelleth the next door, which thou hast known all thy life! Why, I would as lief not be wed at all, very nigh.”
“It seemed to suit Anstace,” puts in Edith.
“Aught should do that.”
“Ay,” saith Aunt Joyce, something drily, “‘godliness is great riches, if a man be content with that he hath.’” (Note 1.)
“Easy enough, trow, when you have plenty,” quoth Milly.
“Nay, it is hardest then,” saith she. “‘Much would have more.’”
“What wist Aunt Joyce thereabout?” murmurs Milly, so that I could just hear. “She never lacked nought she wanted.”
“Getting oldish, Milly, but not going deaf, thank God,” saith Aunt Joyce, of her dry fashion. “Nay, child, thou art out there. Time was when I desired one thing, far beyond all other things in this world, and did not get it.”
“Never, Milly.” And a somewhat pained look came into her face, that is wont to seem so calm.
“What was it, Aunt Joyce, sweet heart?”
“Well, I took it for fine gold, and it turned out to be pinchbeck,” saith she. “There’s a deal of that sort of stuff in this world.”
Methought Milly feared to ask further, and all was still till Edith saith—
“Would you avise us, Aunt Joyce, to keep a chronicle, even though things did not happen?”
“Things will happen, trust me,” she made answer. “Ay, dear maids, methinks it should be profitable for you.”
“Now, Aunt Joyce, I would you had not said that!”
“By reason that things which be profitable be alway dry and gloomsome.”
“Not alway, Lettice Eden’s daughter.”
I could not help but smile when Aunt Joyce said this. For indeed, Mother hath oft told us how, when she was a young maid like Milly, she did sorely hate all gloom and sorrowfulness, nor could not abide for to think thereon. And Milly is much of that turn.
“Then which of us shall keep the grand chronicle?” saith Edith, when we had made an end of laughing.
“Why not all of you?” quoth Aunt Joyce. “Let each keep it a month a-piece, turn about.”
“And you, Aunt Joyce?”
“Nay, I will keep no chronicles. I would not mind an’ I writ my thoughts down of the last page, when it was finished.”
“But who shall read it?” said I.
“There spake Nell!” quoth Milly. “‘Who shall read it?’ Why, all the world, for sure, from the Queen’s Majesty down to Cat and Kitling.”
These be our two serving-maids, Kate and Caitlin, which Milly doth affect dearly to call Cat and Kitling. And truly the names come pat, the rather that Kate is tall and big, and fair of complexion, she being Westmoreland born; while Caitlin, which is Cumberland born, is little and wiry, and of dark complexion. “The Queen’s Majesty shall have other fish to fry, I reckon,” saith Aunt Joyce. “And so shall Kate and Caitlin,—if they could read.”
“But who is to make a beginning of this mighty chronicle?” saith Edith. “Some other than I, as I do trust, for I would never know what to set down first.”
“Let Nell begin, then, as she is eldest of the three,” quoth Aunt Joyce.
So here am I, making this same beginning of the family chronicle. For when Father and Mother heard thereof, both laughed at the first, and afterward grew sad. Then saith Mother—
“Methinks, dear hearts, it shall be well for you,—at the least, an’ ye keep it truly. Let each set down what verily she doth think.”
“And not what she reckons she ought to think,” saith Aunt Joyce.
“Then, Father, will it please you give us some pens and paper?” said I. “For I see not how, elsewise, we shall write a chronicle.”
“That speech is right, Nell!” puts in Milly.
“Why, if we dwelt on the banks of the Nile, in Egypt,” saith Father, “reeds and bulrushes should