Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Magnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) online

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though many a longing eye was cast at the sweet
green wilderness, and many regrets spent on the
rambles, the sketches, the plants, and the creatures
that had seemed the certain entertainment of the

To one class of the population the prohibition only
gave greater zest — namely, the boys. Should there


be birds' nests in Belforest unscathed by the youth of
St. Kenelm's ? What were notice-boards, palings, or
walls to boys with arms and legs ready to defy even
the celebrated man-traps of EUangowan, " which, if a
man goes in, they will break a horse's leg ? " The
terrific bloodhound alarmed a few till his existence
was denied by Alfred Richards, the agent's son ; and
dodging the keepers was a new and exciting sport.
At first, these men were not solicitous for captures, but
their negligence was so often detected, that they began
to believe that their master kept telescopes that could
penetrate through trees, and their vigilance increased.

Bobus, in quest of green hellebore, got off with a
warning ; but a week later, Robin and Jock were in-
specting the heronry, when they caught sight of a
keeper, and dashed off to find themselves running into
the jaws of another. Swift as lightning, Jock sprung
up into an ivied ash ; but the less ready Bob was
caught by the leg as he mounted, and pulled down
again, while his captor shouted, "If there's any more
of you young varmint up yonder, you'd best come
down before I fires up into the hoivy."

He made a click and pointed his gun, and Robin
shrieked, " Oh, don't ! We are Colonel Brownlow's
sons ; at least, I mean nephews. Don't ! I say.
Skipjack, come down."

"You ass!" muttered Jack, as he crackled down,
and was collared by the keeper. " Hollo ! what's that


"Now, young gents, why will you come larking
here to get a poor chap out of his situation. It's as
much as my place is worth not to summons you, and
yet I don't half like to do it to young gents like you."

" What could they do to us } " asked Jock.

"Well, sir, may be they'd keep you in the lock-up
all night ; and what would your papa and mamma say
to that ? "

" My father is Colonel Brownlow," growled Robin.

" More shame for you, sir, to want to get a poor
man out of his place."

"Look here, my man," said Jock with London
sharpness and impudence, "if you want to bully us
into tipping you, it's no go. We've only got one
copper between us, and nothing else but our knives ;
and if we had, we wouldn't do such a sneaking thing ! "

" I never meant no such thing, sir," said the keeper ;
"only in case Mr. Barnes should hear of our good

" Come along, Robin," said Jock ; " if we are had
up, we'll let 'em know how Leggings wanted us to
buy off 1"

Wherewith Jock made a rush, Rob plunged after
him into the brambles, and they never halted till they
had tumbled over the park wall, and lay in a breathless
heap on the other side. The adventure was the
fruitful cause of mirth at the Folly, but not a word
was breathed of it at Kencroft.

A few other lads did actually pay toll to the


keepers, and some penniless ones were brought before
the magistrates and fined for trespass, " because they
could not afford it," as Caroline said, and to the
Colonel's great disgust she sent two sovereigns by
Allen to pay their fines and set them free.

" It was my own money," she said, in self-defence,
" earned by my models of fungi."

The Colonel thought it an unsatisfactoiy justifi-
cation, and told her that she would lay up trouble
for herself by thus encouraging insubordination. He
little thought that the laugh in her eyes was at his
complacent ignorance of his own son's narrow escape.

Allen was at home for Easter, when Eton gave
longer holidays than did St. Kenelm, so that his
brothers were at work again long before he was. One
afternoon, which had ended in a soaking mist, the two
pairs of Roberts and Johns encountered him at the
Folly gate so disguised in mud that they hardly
recognised the dainty Etonian.

" That brute Barnes," he ejaculated ; " I had to
come miles round through a disgusting lane. I wish I
had gone on. I'd have proved the right of way if he
chose to prosecute me ! "

" Father says that's no go," said Robin.

" I say, Allen, what a guy you are," added Johnny.

"And he's got his swell trousers on," cried Jock,
capering with glee.

" I see," gravely observed Bobus, " he had got
himself up regardless of expense for his Undine, and


she has treated him to another dose of her native

" She had nothing to do with it," asseverated Allen,
" she was as good as gold "

" Ah ! I knew he wasn't figged out for nothing,"
put in Jock.

"Don't be ashamed, AH, my boy," added Bobus.
" We all understand her little tokens."

" Stop that ! " cried Allen, catching hold of Jock's
ear so as to end his war-dance in a howl, bringing the
ponderous Rob to the rescue, and there was a general
uieleey ending by all the five rolling promiscuously on
the gravel drive. They scrambled up with recovered
tempers, and at the sight of an indignant housemaid
rushed in a general stampede to the two large attics
opening into one another, which served as the lair of
the Folly lads. There, while struggling, with Jock's
assistance, to pull off his boots, Allen explained how
he had been waylaid " by a beast in velveteens," and
walked off to the nearest gate.

" Will he summons you, Ali } We'll all go and
see the Grand Turk in the dock," cried Jock.

" Don't flatter yourself ; he wouldn't think of it."

'' How much did you fork out } " asked Bobus.

Allen declaimed in the last refinement of Eton slang
(carefully treasured up by the others for reproduction)
against the spite of the keeper, who he declared had
erinned with malice as he turned him out at a little


back gate into a lane with a high stone wall on each
side, and two ruts running like torrents with water,
leading in the opposite direction to Kenminster, and
ending in a bottom where he was up to the ankles in
red clay.

" The Eton boots, oh my ! " cried Jock, falling
backwards with one of them, which he had just
pulled off.

" And then," added Allen, " as I tried to get along
under the wall by the bank, what should a miserable
stone do, but turn round with me and send me squash
into the mud and mire, floundering like a hippo-
potamus. I should like to get damages from that
villain ! I should ! "

Allen was much more angry than was usual with
him, and the others, though laughing at his Etonian
airs, fully sympathised with his wrath.

" He ought to be sei-ved out."

" We zvill serve him out ! "

" How } "

"Get all our fellows and make a jolly good row
under his windows," said Robin.

" Decidedly low," said Allen.

" And impracticable besides," said Bobus. " They'd
kick you out before you could say Jack Robinson."

"There was an old book of father's," suggested
Jock, " with an old scamp who starved and licked his
apprentices, till one of them dressed himself up in a


bullock's hide, horns and hoofs, and tail and all, and
stood over his bed at night and shouted —

** ' Old, man, old man, for thy cruelty,
Body and soul thou art given to me ;
Let me but hear those apprentices' cries,
And I'll toss thee, and gore thee, and bore out thine eyes.*

And he was quite mild to the apprentices ever after.'*
Jock acted and roared with such effect as to be

encored, but Rob objected. "He ain't got any


" It might be altered," said Allen.

" Old man, old man, thy gates thou must ope,"

Bobus chimed in.

** Nor force Eton swells in quagmire to grope."

" Bother you, don't humbug and put me out.

*' Old man, old man, if for aught thou wouldst hope.
Thy heart, purse, and gates thou must instantly ope.
Let me but "

"Get Mother Carey to write it," suggested his
cousin John.

" No ; she must know nothing about it," said Bobus.

" She'd think it a jolly lark," said Jock.

" When it's over," said Allen. " But it's one of the
things that the old ones are sure to stick at before-
hand, if they are ever so rational and jolly."

" 'Tis a horrid pity she is not a fellow," sighed

" And who'll do the verses } " said Rob.


" Oh, any fool can do them," returned Bobus. "The
point is to bell the cat."

" There'd be no getting in to act the midnight
ghost," said Allen.

" No," said Jock ; " but one could hide in the big
rhododendron in the wolf-skin rug, and jump out on
him in his chair."

In Allen's railway rug, Jock rehearsed the scene,
and was imitated if not surpassed by both cousins ;
but Allen and Bobus declared that it could not be
carried out in the daylight.

" I could do it still better," said Jock, " if I blacked
myself all over, not only my face, but all the rest,
and put on nothing but my red flannel drawers and
a turban. They'd take me for the ghost of the little
nigger he flogged to death, and Allen could write
something pathetic and stunning."

" You might cut human ears out of rabbit-skins and
hang them round your neck," added Bobus.

'' You'd be awfully cold," said Allen.

" You could mix in a little iodine," suggested Bobus.
"" That stings like fun, and a coppery tinge would be
more natural."

There was great acclamation, but the difficulty was
that the only time for eflecting an entrance into the
garden was between four and five in the morning,
and it would be needful to lurk there in this light
costume till Mr. Barnes went out. No one would be
at liberty from school but Allen, and he declined


the oil and lamp-black even though warmed up with

" Could it not be done by deputy ? " said Bobus ;
" we might blacken the little fat boy riding on a swan^
the statue, I mean."

"What, and gild the swan, to show how far his
golden goose can carry him ^ " said Jock.

" Or," said Allen, "^there's the statue they say is
himself, though that's all nonsense. We could make
a pair of donkey's ears in Mother Carey's clay, and
clap them on him, and gild the thing in his hand."

" What would be the good of that .? " asked Robert.

However, the fun was irresistible, and the only
wonder was that the secret was kept for the whole
day, while Allen moulded in the studio two things
that might pass for ass's ears, and secreted cement
enough to fasten them on. The performance elicited
such a rapture of applause that the door had to be
fast locked against the incursion of the little ones to
learn the cause of the mirth. When Mother Carey
asked at tea what they were having so much fun
about they only blushed, sniggled, and wriggled in
their chairs in a way that would have alarmed a more
suspicious mother, but only made her conclude that
some delightful surprise was preparing, for which she
must keep her curiosity in abeyance.

Nor was she dismayed by the creaking of boots on
the attic stairs before dawn, and when the boys ap-
peared at breakfast with hellebore, blue periwinkle


and daffodils, clear indications of where they had
been, she only exclaimed —

" Forbidden sweets ! O you naughty boys ! " when
ecstatic laughter alone replied.

She heard no more till the afternoon, when the
return from school was notified by shouts from Allen,
and the boys rushed up to the verandah where he
was reading.

" I say ! here's a go. He thinks Richards has
done it, and has written to Ogilvie to have him

" How do you know ? "

" He told me himself."

" But Ogilvie has too much sense to expel him ! "

" Of course, but there's worse, for old Barnes means
to turn off his father. Nothing will persuade the old
fellow that it wasn't his work, for he says that it must
be a grammar-school boy."

" Does Dicky Bird guess } "

" Yes, but he's all right, as close as wax. He says
he was sure no one but ourselves could have done it,
for nobody else could have thought of such things or
made them either."

" Then he has seen it ? "

" Yes, and he was fit to kill himself with laughing,
though his father and old Barnes were mad with
rage and fur}^ His father believes him, but old
Barnes believes neither of them, and swears his father
shall go."


"We shall have to split on ourselves," elegantly
observed Johnny.

"We had better tell Mother Carey. Hullo! here
she is, inside the window."

" Didn't you know that," said Allen.

Therefore the boys, leaning and sprawling round
her, half in and half out of the window, told the story,
the triumph overcoming all compunction, as they
described the morning raid, the successful scaling of
the park-wall, the rush across the sward, the silence of
the garden, the hoisting up of Allen to fasten on the
ears, and the wonderful charms of the figure when it
wore them and held a golden apple in its hand.
" Right of Way," and " Let us in," had been written
in black on all the pedestals.

" It is a peculiar way of recommending yout
admission," said Caroline.

"That's Rob's doing," said Allen. "I couldn't
look after him while I was gilding the apple or I
would have stopped him. He half blacked the little
boy on the swan too "

" And broke the swan's bill off, worse luck," added

"Yes," said Allen, "that was altogether low and
unlucky ! I meant the old fellow simply to have
thought that his statue had grown a pair of ears in
the night."

" And what would have been the use of that } "
said Robin.


" What was the use of all your scrawlmg," said
Allen, "except just to show it was not the natural
development of statues."

" Yes," added Bobus, " it all came of you that poor
Dickey Bird is suspected and it is all blown up."

"As if he would have thought it was done by
nobody," said Rob.

" Why not } " said Jock. " I'm sure I'd never
wonder to see ass's ears growing on you. I think
they are coming."

There was a shout of laughter as Rob hastily put
up his hands to feel for them, adding in his slow,
gruff voice —

" A statue ain't alive."

" It made a fool of the whole matter," proceeded
Bobus. " I wish we'd kept a lout like you out of it."

" Hush, hush, Bobus," put in his mother, " no matter
about that. The question is what is to be done about
poor Mr. Richards and Alfred."

"Write a poetical letter," said Allen, beginning to
extemporise in Hiawatha measure.

** O thou mighty man of money,
Barnes, of Belforest, Esquire,
Innocent is Alfred Richards ;
Innocent his honest father j
Innocent as unborn baby
Of development of Midas,
Of the smearing of the Cupid,
Of the fracture of the goose-bill,
Of the writing of the mottoes.
All the Brownlows of St. Kenelm's,
From the Follv and from Kencroft.


Robert,, the aspiring soldier,
Robert, too, the sucking chemist,
John, the Skipjack full of mischief,
John, the great originator,
Allen, the "

"Allen, the uncommon gaby," broke in Bobus.
"' Come, don't waste time, something must be done."

" Yes, a rational letter must be written and signed
by you all," said his mother. " The question is whether
it would be better to do it through your uncle or
Mr. Ogilvie."

" I don't see why my father should hear of it, or
Mr. Ogilvie either," growled Rob. " I didn't do those
donkeyfied ears."

" You did the writing, which was fiv^e hundred times
more donkeyfied," said Jock.

" It is quite impossible to keep either of them in
ignorance," said Caroline.

" Yes," repeated all her own three ; Jock adding
" Father would have known it as soon as you, and I
don't see that my uncle is much worse."

" He ain't so soft," exclaimed Johnny, roused to
loyal defence of his parent.

" Soft ! " cried Jock, indignantly ; " I can tell you
father did pitch into me when I caught the old lady's
bonnet out at the window with a fishing-rod."

"He never flogged you," said Johnny contemptu-

" He did ! " cried Jock, triumphantly. "At least he
flogged Bobus, when "



"Shut up, you little ape," thundered Bobus, not
choosing to be offered up to the manes of his father's

"You think you must explain it to my uncle,
mother," said Allen, rather ruefully.

" Certainly. He ought to be told first, and Mr.
Ogilvie next. Depend upon it, he will be far less
angry if it is freely confessed and put into his hands,
and what is more important, Mr. Barnes must attend
to him, and acquit the Richardses."

The general voice agreed, but Rob writhed and
muttered, " Can't you be the one to tell him, Mother
Carey .? "

''That's cool," said Allen, "to ask her to do what
you're afraid of"

"He couldn't do anything to her," said Rob.

However, public opinion went against Rob, and the
party of boys dragged him off in their train the less
reluctantly that Allen would be spokesman, and he
always got on well with his uncle. No one could tell
how it was, but the boy had a frank manner, with a
sort of address in the manner of narration, that always
w^ent far to disarm displeasure, and protected his
comrades as well as himself. So it was that, instead
of meeting with unmitigated wrath, the boys found
that they were allowed the honours and graces of
voluntary confession. Allen even thought that his
uncle showed a little veiled appreciation of the jol;e,
but this was not deemed possible by the rest.


To exonerate young Richards was the first requisite,
and Allen, under his uncle's eye, drew up a brief note
to this effect : —

" SlR^ — We beg to apologise for the mischief done
In your grounds, and to assure you on our word and
honour that it was suggested by no one, that no one
admitted us, and no one had any share In it except

"Allen Browxlow.

" Robert Friar Brownlow.

"Robert Otway Brownlow,

"John Friar Brownlow.

"John Lucas Brownlow\"'

This letter was taken up the next morning to Belforest
by Colonel Brownlow, and the two eldest delinquents,
one, curious, amused, and with only compunction
enough to flavour an apology, the other cross, dogged,
and sheepish, dragged along like a cur in a sling, "just
as though he were going to be hanged," said Janet.

The report of the expedition as given by Allen was
thus : — " The servant showed us into a sort of ante-
room, and said he would see whether his master would
see us. Uncle Robert sent In his card and my letter,
and we waited with the door open, and a great screen
in front, so that we couldn't help hearing every word.
First there was a great snarl, and then a deferential
voice, 'This alters the case, sir.' But the old man

o 2


swore down in his throat that he didn't care for Colonel
Brownlow or Colonel anybody. ' A gentleman, sir ; one
of the most respected.' ' Then he should bring up his
family better.' ' Indeed, sir, it might be better to
accept the apology. This might not be considered
actionable damage.' ' We'll see that ! ' ' Indeed,
don't you agree with me, Mr. Richards, the magistrates
would hardly entertain the case.' ' Then I'll appeal ;
I'll send a representation to the Home Office.' ' Is it
not to be considered, sir, whether some of these low
papers might not put it in a ludicrous light .'' ' Then,"
continued Allen, who had been most dramatically
mimicking the two voices, "we heard a crackling
as if he were opening my letter, and after an odd
noise or two he sent to call us in to where he was
sitting with Richards, and the attorney he had got to
prosecute us. He is a regular old wizened stick, the
perfect image of an old miser ; almost hump-backed,
and as yellow as a mummy. He looked just ready
to bite off our heads, but he was amazingly set on
finding out which was which among us, and seemed
uncommonly struck with my name and Bobus's. My
uncle told him I was called after your father, and
he made a snarl just like a dog over a bone. He
ended with, ' So you are Allen Brownlow ! You'll
remember this day's work, youngster.' I humbly
said I should, and so the matter ended."

" He did not mean any prosecution } "

" O no, that was all quashed, even if it was begun.


He must have been under an hallucination that he
was a stem parent, cutting me off with a shilling."

The worcfs had also struck the Colonel, who
sought the first opportunity of asking his sister-in-law
whether she knew the names of any of her mother's

"Only that her name was Otway," said Caroline.
*' You know I lived with my father's aunt, who knew
nothing about her, and I have never been able to
find anything out. Do you know of any connection ?
Not this old man ! Then you would have known."

" That does not follow, for I was scarcely in Jamaica
at all. I had a long illness immediately after going
there, was sent home on leave, and then to the depot,
and only joined again after the regiment had gone
to Canada, when the marriage had taken place. I
may have heard the name of Mrs. Allen's uncle, but I
never bore it in my mind."

" Is there any way of finding out } "

" I will write to Norton. If he does not remember
all about it, his wife will."

" He is the present lieutenant-colonel, I think."

" Yes, and he was your father's chief friend. Now
that they are at home again, we must have him here
one of these days."

" It would be a wonderful thing if this freak were
an introduction to a relation," said Caroline.

*' There was no doubt of his being struck by the
combination of Allen and Otway. He chose to under-


stand which were my sons and which my nephews,
and when I said that Allen bore your maiden name
he assented as if he knew it before, and spoke of your
boy having cause to remember this ; I am afraid it
will not be pleasantly."

" No," said Caroline, " it sounded much like a threat.
But one would like to know, only I thought Farmer
Gould's little granddaughter was his niece."

" That might be without preventing your relation-
ship ; I will do my best to ascertain it."

Colonel Norton's letter gave decisive information
that Barnes was the name of the uncle with whom Caro-
line Otway had been living at the time of her marriage.
She had been treated as a poor relation, and seemed
to be half-slave, half-governess to the children of the
favoured sister, little semi- Spanish tyrants. This had
roused Captain Allen's chivalry, and his friend remem-
bered his saying that, though he had little or nothing
of his own, he could at least make her happier than
she was in such a family. The uncle was reported
to have grown rich in the mahogany trade, and like-
wise by steamboat speculations, coupled with judicious
stock-jobbing among the distressed West Indians,
after the emancipation.

" He was a sinister-looking old fellow," ended Colonel
Norton, " and I should think not very particular ; but
I should be glad to hear that he had done justice to
poor Allen's daughter. He was written to when she
was left an orphan, but vouchsafed no answer."


" Still he may have kept an eye upon you," added
Uncle Robert. *' I do not think it was new to him
that you had married into our family."

"If only those unfortunate boys have not ruined
everything," sighed Ellen.

" Little Elvira's father must have been one of those
cousins," said Caroline. " I wonder what became of
the others } She must be — let me see — my second

" Not very near," said Ellen.

" I never had a blood relation before since my old
aunt died. I am so glad that brilliant child belongs
to me ! "

" I daresay old Gould could tell you more," said
the Colonel.

" Is it wise to revive the connection } " asked his

"The Goulds are not likely to presume," said the
Colonel ; " and I think that if Caroline takes up the
one connection, she is bound to take up the other."

" How am I to make up to this cross old man T'
said Carey. " I can't go and fawn on him."

" Certainly not," said her brother-in-law ; " but I
think you ought to make some advance, merely as a

On the family vote, Caroline rather unwillingly wrote
a note, explaining that she had only just discovered
her kinship with Mr. Barnes, and offering to come
and see him ; but not the smallest notice was taken


of her letter, rather to her reHef, though she did not
like to hear Ellen augur ill for the future.

Another letter, to old Mr. Gould, begging him to
call upon her next market day, met with a far more
ready response. When at his entrance she greeted
him with outstretched hands, and — " I never thought

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMagnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 18)