Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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be all right again, and though he is a dear, good little
fellow, maybe the lesson may have been good for

" How can you treat it so lightly } " cried poor
Ellen, in her agitated indignation. " It was a mercy
that the child did not catch his death ; and as to

Rob ! And when Mr. Ogilvie always said the

boys were so improved, and that there was no bully-
ing ! It just shows how much he knows about it I
To think what they have made of my poor Rob I


His father will be so grieved ! I should not wonder
if he had a fit of the gout ! "

The shock was far greater to her than to one who
had never kept her boys at a distance, and who
understood their ways, characters, and code of honour ;
and besides Rob was her eldest, and she had credited
him with every sterling virtue. Jessie and Johnny
stood aghast. They had only meant to defend their
little cousin, and had never expected either that she
would be so much overcome, or that she would insist
on their father knowing all, as she did with increasing
anger and grief at each of their attempts at persuading
her to the contrary. Caroline thought he ought to
know. Her children's father would have known long
ago, but then his wrath would have been a different
thing from what seemed to be apprehended from his
brother ; and she understood the distress of Jessie and
John, though her pity for Rob was but small. What-
ever she tried to say in the way of generous mediation
or soothing only made it worse ; and poor Ellen, far
from being her Serene Highness, was, between scolding
and crying, in an almost hysterical state, so that
Caroline durst not leave her or the frightened Jessie,
and was relieved at last to hear the Colonel coming
into the house, when, thinking her presence would do
more harm than good, and longing to return to her
little son, she slipped away, and was joined at the
door by her own John, who asked —
" What's up, mother ? "


"Did you know all about this dreadful business,
Jock ? "

"Afterwards, of course, but I was shut up in school,
writing three hundred disgusting lines of Virgil, or I'd
have got the brutes off some way."

" And so little Armie is the brave one of all ! "

" Well, so he is," said Jock ; " but I say, mother,
don't go making him cockier. You know he's only
fit to be stitched up in one of Jessie's little red Sunday
books, and he must learn to keep a civil tongue in his
head, and not be an insufferable little donkey."

" You would not have had him give in and do it !
Never, Jock ! "

" Why no, but he could have got off with a little
chaff instead of coming out with his testimony like
that, and so I've been telling him. So don't you set
him up again to think himself forty martyrs all in
one, or there will be no living with him." •

" If all boys were like him."

Jock made a sound of horror and disgust that made
her laugh.

" He's all very well," added he in excuse ; " but to
think of all being like f/iat. The world would be only
one big muff."

" But, Jock, what's this about Bobus being paid for
doing people's exercises .'' "

" Bobus is a cute one," said Jock.

" I thought he had more uprightness," she sighed.
" And you, Jock .? "


" I should think not ! " he laughed. " Nobody
would trust me."

" Is that the only reason ? " she said, sadly, and
he looked up in her face, squeezed her hand, and
muttered —

" One mayn't like dirt without making such a row."

" That's like father's boy," she said, and he wrung
her hand again.

They found Armine coiled up before the fire with a
book, and Jock greeted him with —

" Well, you little donkey, there's such a shindy at
the Croft as you never heard."

" Mother, you know ! " cried Armine, running into
her outstretched arms and being covered with her
kisses. " But who told ? " he asked.

" John and Jessie," said Jock. " They always said
they would if anyone said anything against you to
mother or Uncle Robert."

" Against me .? " said Armine.

" Yes," said Jock. " Didn't you know it got about
through some of the juniors or their sisters that it was
Brownlow maximus gently chastising you for bad
language, and of course Mrs. Coffinkey told Aunt

" Oh, but Jock," cried Armine, turning round in
consternation, " I hope Rob does not know."

And on further pressing it was extracted that Rob,
when sent home with him, had threatened him with
the great black vaulted cellars of Kencroft if he


divulged the truth. When Jock left them the relief of
pouring out the whole history to the mother was
'evidently great.

" You know, mother, I couldn't," he cried, as if there
had been a physical impossibility.

" Why, dear child. How did you bear their horrid
cruelty ? "

" I thought it could not be so bad as it was for the
forty soldiers on the Lake. Dear grandmamma read
us the story out of a little red book one Sunday
evening when you were gone to church. They froze,
you know, and it was only cold and nasty for me."

" So the thought of them carried you through } "

" God carried me through," said the child reverently.
** I asked Him not to let me break His Command-

Just then the Colonel's heavy tread was heard, and
with him came Mr. Ogilvie, whom he had met on the
road and informed. The good man was indeed terribly
grieved, and his first words were, " Caroline, I cannot
tell you how much shocked and concerned I am ; "
and then he laid his hand on Armine's shoulder,
^saying — "My little boy, I am exceedingly sorry for
what you have suffered. One day Robert will be
so too. You have been a noble little fellow, and if
anything could console me for the part Robert has
played it would be the seeing one of my dear brother's
sons so like his father."

He gave the downcast brow a fatherly kiss, so really


like those of days gone by that the boy's overstrained
spirits gushed forth in sobs and tears, of which he was
so much ashamed that he rushed out of the room,
leaving his mother greatly overcome, his uncle dis-
tressed and annoyed, and his master not much less so,
at the revelation of so much evil, so hard either to
reach or to understand.

" I would have brought Robert to apologise," said
the Colonel, "if he had been as yet in a mood to do
so properly."

" Oh ! that would have been dreadful for us all,"
ejaculated CaroHne, under her breath.

"But I can make nothing of him," continued he.
" He is perfectly stolid and seems incapable of feeling
anything, though I have talked to him as I never
thought to have to speak to any son of mine ; but he
is deaf to all."

The Colonel, in his wrath, even while addressing
only Caroline and Mr. Ogilvie, had raised his voice as
if he were shouting words of command, so that both
shrank a little, and Carey said —

" I don't think he knew it was so bad."

" What ? Cheating his masters and torturing a
helpless child for not yielding to his tyranny } "

" People don't always give things their right names
even to themselves," said Mr. Ogilvie. " I should try
to see it from the boy's point of view."

" I have no notion of extenuating ill-conduct or
making excuses ! That's the modern way ! So prin-



ciples get lowered ! I tell you, sir, there are excuses
for everything. What makes the difference is only
the listening to them or not."

"Yes," ventured Caroline, "but is there not a
difference between finding excuses for oneself and for
other people } "

" All alike, lowering the principle," said the Colonel,
with something of the same slowness of comprehension
as his son. " If excuses are to be made for everything,
I don't wonder that there is no teaching one's boys
truth or common honesty and humanity."

" But, Robert," said Caroline, roused to defence ;
" do you really mean that in your time nobody bullied
or cribbed } "

" There was some shame about it if they did," said
the Colonel. "Now, I suppose, I am to be told that
it is an ordinary custom to be connived at."

" Certainly not by me," said Mr. Ogilvie. " I had
hoped that the standard of honour had been raised,
but it is very hard to mete the exact level of the
schoolboy code from the outside."

" And your John and mine have never given in to
it," added Caroline.

" What do you propose to do, Mr. Ogilvie .'' " said
the Colonel. " I shall do my part with my boy as a
father. What will you do with him and the other
bully, w^ho I find was Cripps."

" I shall see Cripps's father first. I think it might
be well if we both saw him before deciding on the


form of discipline. We have to think not only of
justice but of the effect on their characters."

"That's the modern system," said the Colonel
indignantly. " Fine work it would make in the army.
I know when punishment is deserved, I don't set up
to be Providence, to know exactly what work it is to
do. I leave that to my Maker and do my duty."

He was cut short by his son Joe rushing in head-
long, exclaiming —

" Papa, papa, please come ! Rob has knocked
Johnny down and he doesn't come round."

Colonel Brownlow hurried off, Caroline trying to
make him hear her offer to follow if she could be useful,
and sending Jock to see whether there was any opening
for her. Unless the emergency were very great indeed
she knew her absence would be preferred, and so she
and Mr. Ogilvie remained, talking the matter over,
with more pity for the delinquent than his own family
would have thought natural.

" It really is a terrible thing to be stupid," she said.
" I don't imagine that unlucky boy ever entered into
his father's idea of truth and honour, which really is
fine in its way."

"Very fine, and proved to have made many fine
fellows in its time. I dare say the lad will grow up to
it, but just now he simply feels cruelly injured by inter-
ference with a senior's claim to absolute submission."

** Which he sees as singly as his father sees the
simple duty of justice."

T 2


" It would be comfortable if we poor moderns could
deal out our measures with that straightforward military-
simplicity. I cannot help seeing in that unfortunate
boy the victim of examinations for commissions. Boys
must be subjected to high pressure before they can
thoroughly enter into the importance of the issues that
depend upon it ; and when a sluggish, dull intellect is
forced beyond endurance, there is an absolute instinct
of escape, impelling to shifts and underhand ways of
eluding work. Of course the wrong is great, but the
responsibility rests with the taskmaster in the same
manner as the thefts of a starved slave might on his

** The taskmaster being the country ? "

'' Exactly so. Happy those boys who have avail-
able brains, like yours."

" Ah ! I am very sorry about Bobus ; what ought I
to do.?"

" Hardly more than write a few words of warning,
since the change may probably have put an end to
the practice."

Jock presently brought back tidings that his name-
sake was all right, except for a black eye, and was
growling like ten bears at having been sent to bed.

" Uncle Robert was more angry than ever, in a white
heat, quiet and terrible," said Jock, in an awe-struck
voice. " He has locked Rob up in his study, and here's
Joe, for Aunt Ellen is quite knocked up, and they want
the house to be very quiet."


No tragical consequences, however, ensued. Mother
and sons both appeared the next morning, and were
reported as " all right " by the first inquirer from the
Folly ; but Jessie came to her lessons with swollen
eyelids as if she had cried half the night ; and when
her aunt thanked her for defending Armine, she began
to cry again, and Essie imparted to Barbara that Rob
was "just like a downright savage with her."

" No ; hush, Essie, it is not that," said Jessie ; " but
papa is so dreadfully angry with him, and he is to be
sent away, and it is all my fault."

" But Jessie, dear, surely it is better for Rob to be
stopped from those deceitful ways."

" O yes, I know. But that I should have turned
against him ! " And Jessie was so thoroughly unhappy
that none of her lessons prospered and her German
exercise had three great tear blots on it.

Rob's second misdemeanour had simplified matters
by deciding his father on sending him from home at
once into the hands of a professed coach, who would
not let him elude study, and whose pupils were too big
to be bullied. To the last he maintained his sullen
dogged air of indifference, though there might be more
truth than the Folly was disposed to allow in his
sister's allegations that it was because he did feel it
so very much, especially mamma's looking so ill and

Ellen did in truth look thoroughly unhinged, though
no one saw her give way. She felt her boy's conduct


sorely, and grieved at the first parting in her family.
Besides, there was anxiety for the future. Rob's
manner of conducting his studies was no hopeful augury
of his success, and the expenses of sending him to a
tutor fell the more heavily because unexpectedly. A
horse and man were given up, and Jessie had to resign
the hope of her music lessons. These were the first
retrenchments, and the diminution of dignity was felt.

The Colonel showed his trouble and anxiety by
speaking and tramping louder than ever, ruling his
gardener with severe precision, and thundering at his
boys whenever he saw them idle. Both he and his
wife were so elaborately kind and polite that Caroline
believed that it was an act of magnanimous forgive-
ness for the ill luck that she and her boys had
brought them. At last the Colonel had the threatened
fit of the gout, which restored his equilibrium, and
brought him back to his usual condition of kindly,
if somewhat ponderous, good sense.

He had not long recovered before Number Nine
made his appearance at Kencroft, and thus his mother
had unusual facilities for inquiries of Dr. Leslie
respecting the master of Belforest.

The old man really seemed to be in a dying state.
A hospital nurse had taken charge of him, but there
was not a dependent about the place, from Mr. Richards
downwards, who was not under notice to quit, and
most were staying on without his. knowledge on the
advice of the London solicitor, to whom the agent had


written. There was even more excitement on the in-
telligence that Mr. Barnes had sent for Farmer Gould.
On this there was no doubt, for Mr. Gould, always
delicately honourable towards Mrs. Brownlow, came
himself to tell her about the interview. It seemed to
have been the outcome of a yearning of the dying
man towards the sole survivor of the companions of his
early days. He had talked in a feeble wandering
way of old times, but had said nothing about the
child, and was plainly incapable of sustained attention.
He had asked Mr. Gould to come again, but on this
second visit he was too far gone for recognition, and
had returned to his moody instinctive aversion to
visitors, and in three days more he was dead.




Where is his golden heap ?

Divine Breathings.

Mrs. Robert Brownlow was churched with all
the expedition possible, in order that she might not
lose the sight of the funeral procession, which would
be fully visible from the studio in the top of the

The excitement was increased by invitations to
attend the funeral being sent to the Colonel and to
his two eldest nephews, who were just come home for
the holidays, also to their mother to be present at
the subsequent reading of the will.

A carriage was sent for her, and she entered it, not
knowing or caring to find out what she wished, and
haunted by the line, " Die and endow a college or a

Allen met her at the front door, whispering —
" Did you see, mother, he has still got his ears ? "
And the thought crossed her — " Will those ears cost
us dear V


She was the only woman present in the library — a
large room, but with an atmosphere as if the open air
had not been admitted for thirty years, and with an
enormous fire, close to which was the arm-chair whither
she w^as marshalled, being introduced to the two
solicitors, Mr. Rowse and Mr. Wakefield, who, with
Farmer Gould, the agent, Richards, the Colonel, and
the two boys, made up the audience.

The lawyers explained that the will had been sent
home ten years ago from Yucatan, and had ever since
been in their hands. Search had been made for a
later one, but none had been found, nor did they
believe that one could exist.

It was very short. The executors were Charles
Rowse and Peter Ball, and the whole property was
devised to them, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Robert
Brownlow, as trustees for the testator's great-niece,
Mrs. Caroline Otway Brownlow, daughter of John
and Caroline Allen, and wife of Joseph Brownlow,
Esq., M.D., F.R.C.S., the income and use thereof to
be enjoyed by her during her lifetime ; and the
property, after her death, to be divided among her
children in such proportions as she should direct.

That was all ; there was no legacy, no further

"Allow me to congratulate " began the elder


" No— no — oh, stay a bit," cried she, in breathless
dismay and bewilderment. "' It can't be ! It can't


mean only me. There must be something about
Elvira de Menella."

" I fear there is not," said Mr. Rowse ; '' I could
wish my late client had attended more to the claims
of justice, and had divided the property, which
could well have borne it ; but unfortunately it is
not so."

" It is exactly as he led us to expect," said Mr.
Gould. " We have no right to complain, and very
likely the child will be much happier without it.
You have a fine family growing up to enjoy it,
Mrs. Brownlow, and I am sure no one congratulates
you more heartily than I."

" Don't ; it can't be," cried the heiress, nearly crying,
and wringing the old farmer's hand. "He must have
meant Elvira. You know he sent for you. Has
everything been hunted over .? There must be a
later will."

" Indeed, Mrs. Brownlow," said the solicitor, " you
may rest assured that full search has been made.
Mr. Richards had the same impression, and we have:
been searching every imaginable receptacle."

" Besides," added Colonel Brownlow, " if he had
made another will there would have been witnesses."

" Yes," said Mr. Richards ; '' but to make matters
certain, I wrote to several of the servants to ask
whether they remembered any attestation, but no one
did ; and indeed I doubt whether, after his arrival
here, poor Mr. Barnes ever had sustained power


enough to have drawn up and executed a will without
my assistance, or that of any legal gentleman."

" It is too hard and unjust," cried Caroline ; " it
cannot be. I must halve it with the child, as if there
had been no will at all. Robert ! you know that is
what your brother would have done."

"That would be just as well as generous, indeed, if
it were practicable," said Mr. Rowse ; " but unfor-
tunately Colonel Brownlow and myself (for Mr. Bali
is dead) are in trust to prevent any such proceeding.
All that is in your power is to divide the property
among your own family by will, in such proportion as
you may think fit."

" Quite true, my dear sister," said the Colonel,
meeting her despairing appealing look, " as regards the
principal, but the ready money at the bank and the
income are entirely at your own disposal, and you
can, without difficulty, secure a very sufficient com-
pensation to the little girl out of them."
" No doubt," said Mr. Rowse.

"You'll let me — you'll let me, Mr. Gould," implored
Caroline ; " you'll let me keep her, and do all I can
to make up to her. You see the Colonel thinks it is
only justice ; don't you, Robert }"

" Mrs. Brownlow is quite right," said the Colonel,
seeing that her vehemence was a little distrusted ; " it
will be only an act of justice to make provision for
your granddaughter."

" I am sure, Colonel Brownlow, nothing can be


handsomer than your conduct and Mrs. Brownlow's,"
said the old man ; " but I should not like to take
advantage of what she is good enough to say on the
spur of the moment, till she has had more time to
think it over."

Therewith he took leave, while Caroline exclaimed —

" I always say there is no truer gentleman in the
county than old Mr. Gould. I shall not be satisfied
about that will till I have turned everything over and
the partners have been written to."

Again she was assured that she might set her mind
at rest, and then the lawyers began to read a statement
of the property which made Allen utter, under his
breath, an emphatic " I say ! " but his mother hardly
took it in. The heated room had affected her from
the first, and the bewilderment of the tidings seemed
almost to crush her ; her heart and temples throbbed,
her head ached violently, and while the final words
respecting arrangements were passing between the
Colonel and the lawyers, she was conscious only of a
sickening sense of oppression, and a fear of committing
the absurdity of fainting.

However, at last her brother-in-law put her into
the brougham, desiring the boys to walk home, which
they did very willingly, and with a wonderful air of
lordship and possession.

" Well, Caroline," said the Colonel, " I congratulate
you on being the richest proprietor in the county."

" O Robert, don't ! If — if," said a suffocated voice,


SO miserable that he turned and took her hand kindly^
saying —

" My dear sister, this feeUng is very — it becomes
you well. This is a fearful responsibility."

She could not answer. She only leant back in the
carriage, with closed eyes, and moaned —

"Oh! Joe! Joe!"

" Indeed," said his brother, greatly touched, " we
want him more than ever."

He -did not try to talk any more to her, and when
they reached the Pagoda, all she could do was to
hurry up stairs, and, throwing off her bonnet, bury her
face in the pillow.

Janet and her aunt both followed, the latter with
kind and tender solicitude ; but Caroline could bear
nothing, and begged only to be left alone.

" Dear Ellen, it is very kind, but nothing does any
good to these headaches. Please don't — please leave
me alone."

They saw it was the only true kindness, and left
her, after all attempts at bathing her forehead, or
giving her sal volatile, proved only to molest her.
She lay on her bed, not able to think, and feeling
nothing but the pain of her headache and a general
weight and loneliness.

The first break was from Allen, who came in tenderly
with a cup of coffee, saying that they thought her
time was come for being ready for it. His manner
always did her good, and she sat up, pushed back


her hair, smiled, took the cup, and thanked him

" Uncle Robert is waiting to hear if you are better,"
he said.

" Oh yes," she said ; " thank him ; I am sorry I was
so silly."

"He wants me to dine there to-night, mother, to
meet Mr. Rowse and 'Mr. Wakefield," said Allen, with
a certain importance suited to a lad of fifteen, who
had just become "somebody."

" Ver}- well," she said, in weary acquiescence, as she
lay down again, just enough refreshed by the coffee to
become sleepy.

"And mother," said Allen, lingering in the dark,
" don't trouble about Elfie. I shall marry her as soon
as I am of age, and that will make all straight."

Her stunned sleepiness was scarcely alive to this
magnanimous announcement, and she dreamily said —
" Time enough to think of such things."
" I know," said Allen ; " but I thought you ought to
knovv- this."

He looked wistfully for another word on this great
avowal, but she was really too much stupefied to enter
into the purport of the boy's words, and soon after he
left her she fell sound asleep. She had a curious dream,
which she remembered long after. She seemed to
have identified herself with King IMidas, and to be
touching all her children, who turned into hard, cold,
solid golden statues fixed on pedestals in the Belforest


gardens, where she wandered about, vainly calling
them. Then her husband's voice, sad and reproachful,
seemed to say, " Magnum Bonum ! Magnum Bonum ! "
and she fancied it the elixir which alone could restore
them, and would have climbed a mountain in search
of it, as in the Arabian tale ; but her feet were cold,

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMagnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 18)