Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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But when our father came not here,

I thought if we could find the sea
We should be sure to meet him there,

And once again might happy be. — Ballad.

" What was Dr. Lucas saying to you } " asked Carey,
sitting up in bed after her breakfast.

"He said, my dear, that you were really well now,"
said Mrs. Lucas, tenderly ; " and that you only wanted

She clasped her hands together.

"Yes, I know it. I have been knowing it all
yesterday and last night. It hasn't been right of me,
keeping you all this time, and not facing it."

" I don't think you could, my dear."

" Not at first. It seems to me like having been in a
whirlpool, and those two went down in it." She put her
hands to her temples. " But I must do it all now, and
I will. I'll get up now. Oh! dear, if they only would
let me come down and go about quietly." Then smiling
a piteous smile. " It is very naughty, but of all things
I dread the being cried over and fondled by Ellen ! "


Mrs. Lucas shook her head, though the tears were
in her eyes, and bethought her whether she could
caution Mrs. Robert Brownlow not to be too de-
monstrative ; but it was a deHcate matter in which
to interfere, and after all, whatever she might think
beforehand, Caroline might miss these tokens of

She had sat up for some hours the evening before,
so that there was no fear of her not being strong
enough to get up as she proposed ; but how would it
be when she left her room, and beheld all that she
could not have realised .''

However, matters turned out contrary to all expec-
tation. Mrs. Lucas was in the drawingf-room, talkinq;
to the Colonel's wife, and Janet up stairs helping her
mother to dress, when there was a sound of feet on the
stairs, the door hastily opened for a moment, and two
rough-headed, dusty little figures were seen for one
moment, startling Mrs. Brownlow with the notion of
little beggars ; but they vanished in a moment, and
were heard chattering up stairs with calls of " Mother !
Mother Carey ! " And looking out, they beheld at the
top of the stairs the two little fellows hanging one on
each side of Carey, who was just outside her door,
with her hair down, in her white dressing gown,
kneeling between them, all the three almost devouring
one another.

" Jockie ! Armie ! my dears ! How did you come ?
Where are the rest } "


" Still at Kyve," said Jock. " Mother we have done
such a thing — we came to tell you of it."

" We've lost the man's boat," added Armine, " and
we must give him the money for another."

"What is it } What is it, Caroline ? " began her sister-
in-law ; but Mrs. Lucas touched her arm, and as a
mother herself, she saw that mother and sons had best
be left to one another, and let them retreat into the bed-
room, Carey eagerly scanning her two little boys, who
had a battered, worn, unwashed look that puzzled her as
much as their sudden appearance, which indeed chimed
in with the strange dreamy state in which she had
lived ever since that telegram. But their voices did
more to restore her to ordinary life than anything
else could have done ; and their hearts were so full of
their own adventure, that they poured it out before
remarking anything, —

" How did you come, my dear boys } "
"We walked, after the omnibus set us down at
Charing Cross, because we hadn't any more money,"
said Armine. " I'm so tired." And he nestled into
her lap, seeming to quell the beating of her aching
heart by his pressure.

"This is it, mother," said Jock, pulling her other
arm round him. " We two went down to the beach
yesterday, and we saw a little boat — Peter Lary's
pretty little boat, you know, that is so light — and Ave
got in to rock in her, and then I thought I would pull
about in her a little."


" Oh ! Jock, Jock, how could you ? "
" I'd often done it with Allen and Young Pete," said
Jock, defensively.

" But by yourselves ! " she said in horror.

" Nobody told us not," said Jock rather defiantly ;
and Armine, who, with his little sister Barbara, always
seemed to live where dreamland and reality bordered on
each other, looked up in her face and innocently said —

" Mrs. Acton read us about the Rocky Island, and
she said father and granny had brought their boats to
the beautiful country, and that we ought to go after
them, and there was the bright path along the sea^
and I thought we would go too, and that it would be
nicer if Jock went with me."

" I knew it did not mean that," said Jock, hanging his
mischievous black head a little, as he felt her shudder ;
" but I thought it would be such fun to be Columbus."

" And then .? Oh ! my boys, what a fearful thing L
Thank God I have you here."

" I wasn't frightened," said Jock, with uplifted head ;
"we could both row, couldn't we, Armie .? and the tide
was going out, and it was so jolly ; it seemed to take
us just where we wanted to go, out to that great
rock, you know, mother, that Bobus called the Asses'

Carey knew that the current at the mouth of the
river did, at high tide, carry much drift to the base of
this island, and she could understand how her two
boys had been floated thither. Jock went on —


"We had a boat-hook, and I pulled up to the
island ; I did, mother, and I made fast the boat to a
little stick, and we went out to explore the island."

" It has a crater in the top, mother, and we think it
must be an instinct volcano," said Armine, looking up

"And there were such lots of jolly little birds," went
on Jock.

" Never mind that now. What happened ? "

" Why, the brute of a boat got away," said Jock,
much injured, "when I'd made her ever so fast. She
pulled up the stick, I'm sure she did, for I can tie a
knot as well as Pete."

" So you could not get away ? "

"No, and we'd got nothing to eat but chocolate
creams and periwinkles, and Armie wouldn't look at
them, and I don't think I could while they were alive.
So I hoisted a signal of distress, made of my tie, for
we'd lost our pocket-handkerchiefs. I was afraid they
would think we were pirates, and not venture to come
near us, for we'd only got black flags, and it was a
v^ery, very long time, but at last, just as it got a little
darkish, and Armie was crying — poor little chap — that
steamer came by that always goes between Port-
hole and Kyvemouth on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I
hailed and I hailed, and they saw or heard, and sent a
boat and took us on board. The people all came and
looked at us, and one of them said I was a plucky
little chap ; he did, mother, and that I'd the making


of an admiral in me ; and a lady gave us such a jolly
paper of sandwiches. But you see the steamer was
going to Porthole, and the captain said he could not
anyhow put back to Kyve, but he must take us on,
and we must get back by train."

Mother Carey understood this, for the direct line
ran to Pbrthole, and there was a small junction station
whence a branch ran to Kyvemouth, from which Kyve
St. Clements was some three miles distant.

" Were you carried on ^ " she asked.

" Well, yes, but we meant it," said Jock. " I re-
membered the boat. I knew father would say we
must buy another, so I asked the captain what was
the price of one, for Armine and I had each got

" How was that } "

"An old gentleman the day before was talking to
Mr. Acton. I think he is some great swell, for he has
got a yacht, and servants, and a carriage, and lots of
things ; and he said, ' What ! are those poor Brow^n-
low's boys } bless me ! ' and he tipped us each. Allen
and Bobus were to go with Mr. Acton and have a sail
in his yacht, but they said we should be too many, so
we thought we'd get a new boat, but the Captain "

" Said your money would go but a little way," put
in Caroline.

" He laughed ! " said Jock, as a great offence ; " and
said that was a matter for our governor, and we had
better go home and tell as fast as we could. There


was a train just starting when we got in to Porthole,
and somebody got our tickets for us, and Armie went
fast off to sleep, and I, when I came to think about it,
thought we would not get out at the junction, but
come on home at once. Mother Carey, and tell you all
about it. When Armie woke — why, he's asleep now —
he said he would rather come home than to Kyve."
" Then you travelled all night ? "
"Yes, there was a jolly old woman who made us a
bed with her shawl, only I tumbled off three times and
bumped myself, and she gave us gooseberries, and
cake, and once when we stopped a long time a porter
got us a cup of tea. Then when we came to where
they take the tickets, I think the man was going to
make a row, but the guard came up and told him all
about it, and I gave him my two half-sovereigns, and
he gave me back fourteen shillings change, for he said
we were only half-price and second class. Then when
once I was in London," said Jock, as if his foot was on
his native heath, " of course I knew what to be at."
" Have you had nothing to eat .'* "
" We had each a bun when we got out at Charing
Cross, but I'm awfully hungry, mother ! "

" I should think so. Janet, my dear, go and order
some breakfast for them."

"And," said Janet, "must not the others be
dreadfully frightened about them at Kyve .? "

That question startled her mother into instant action.
" Of course they must ! Poor Clara ! poor Allen !


They must be in a dreadful state. I must telegraph
to them at once."

She lifted Armine off gently to her bed, scarcely
disturbing him, twisted up her hair in summary fashion,
and the dress, which her friends had dreaded her
seeing, was on, she hardly knew how, as she bade old
nurse see to Jock's washing, dressing, and making
himself tidy, and then amazed the other ladies by
running into the drawing-room crying breathlessly —

" I must telegraph to the Actons," and plunging to
the depths of a drawer in the davenport.

" Caroline, your cap ! "

For it was on the back of the head that had never
worn a cap before. And not only then, but for the
most part w^henever they met, those tears and caresses,
that poor Mother Carey so much feared, were checked
midway by the instinct that made Aunt Ellen run at
her with a great pin and cry —

" Caroline, your cap."

She was still, after having had it fixed, kneeling
down, searching for a form for telegraphing, when the
door was opened, and in came Colonel Brownlow,
looking very pale and fearfully shocked.

'' Ellen ! " he began, " how shall I ever tell that poor
child } Here is Mr. Acton."

But at that moment up sprang Mother Carey, and
as Mr. Acton entered the room she leapt forward —

" Oh ! I was just going to telegraph ! They arc
safe ! they are here ! Jock, Jock ! "


And downstairs came tumbling and rushing that
same little imp, while theastonishment of his uncle and
aunt only allowed them to utter the one word, " John ! "

Mr. Acton drew a long breath, and said, " You have
given us a pretty fright, boy."

" Here's the paper," added Carey ; " telegraph to
Clara at once. Ring the bell, Jock ; I'll send to the

All questions were suspended while Mr. Acton
wrote the telegram, and then it appeared that the boat
had been picked up empty, with Armine's pocket-
handkerchief full of shells in it, and the boys had been
given up for lost, it having been concluded that, if
they had been seen, the boat also would have been
taken in tow, and not cast loose to tell the tale. The
two elder boys were almost broken-hearted, and would
have been wild to come back to their mother, had it
not been impossible to leave poor little Barbara, who
clung fast to them, as the only shreds left to her of
home and protection. They would at least be com-
forted in the space of a quarter of an hour !

Carey was completely herself and full of vigour
while Mr. Acton was there, consoling him when he
lamented not having taken better care, and refusing
when he tried to persuade her to accompany him
back to Kyve. Neither would Janet return with
him, feeling it impossible to relax such watch as she
could keep over the Magmim Bomun papers, even
though she much longed for her brothers.


*'I should insist on her going," said Aunt Ellen,
" after all she has gone through."

"I don't think I can," said Carey. "You would
not send away your Jessie ?"

Ellen did not quite say that her pretty, sweet,
caressing Jessie was different, but she thought it all
the same.

Carey did not fulfil her intentions of going into
matters of business with her brother-in-law that day,
for little Armine, always delicate, had been so much
knocked up by his course of adventures, that he
needed her care all the rest of the day. Nor would
she have been fit for anything else, for when his aunt
recommended a totally different treatment for his
ailments, she had no spirit to argue, but only looked
pale and determined, being too weary and dejected
to produce her arguments.

Jock was sufficiently tired to be quiescent in the
nursery, where she kept him with her, feeling, in his
wistful eyes, and even in poor little Armine's childish
questions, something less like blank desolation than
her recent apathy had been, as if she were waking to
thrills of pain after the numbness of a blow.

Urged by a restless night and an instinctive longing
for fresh air, she took a long walk in the park before
anyone came down the next morning, with only Jock
for her companion, and she came to the breakfast
table with a freshened look, though with a tremulous
faintness in her voice, and she let Janet continue tea-


maker, scarcely seeming to hear or understand the
casual remarks around her ; but afterwards she said
in a resolute tone, " Robert, I am ready whenever you
wish to speak to me."

So in the drawing-room the Colonel, with the two
wills in his hand, found himself face to face with her.
He was the more nervous of the two, being much
afraid of upsetting that composure which scandalised
his wife, but which he preferred to tears ; and as he
believed her to be a mere child in perception, he ex-
plained down to her supposed level, while she listened
in a strange inert way, feeling it hard to fix her at-
tention, yet half-amused by the simplicity of his
elucidations. " Would Ellen need to be told what an
executor meant ? " thought she.

She was left sole guardian of the children, " the
greatest proof of confidence a parent can give," im-
pressively observed the Colonel, wondering at the
languor of her acquiescence, and not detecting the
thought, " Dear Joe ! of course ! as if he would have
done anything else ! "

" Of course," continued the Colonel, " he never ex-
pected that it would have proved more than a nominal
matter, a mere precaution. For my own part, I can
only say that I shall be always ready to assist you
with advice or authority if ever you should find the
charge too onerous for you."

" Thank you," was all she could bring herself to say
at that moment, feeling that her boys were her own.


though the next she was recollecting that this was no
doubt the reason Joe had bidden her live at Ken-
minster, and in a pang of self-reproach, was hardly
attending to the technicalities of the matters of
property which were being explained to her.

Her husband had not been able to save much, but
his life insurance was for a considerable sum, and there
was also the amount inherited from his parents. A
portion of the means which his mother had enjoyed
passed to the elder brother, and Mrs. Brownlow had
sunk most of her individual property in the purchase
of the house in which they lived. By the terms of
Joseph's will, everything was left to Caroline un-
reservedly, save for a stipulation that all, on her death,
should be divided among the children, as she should
appoint. The house was not even secured to Allen, so
that she could let or sell it as she thought advisable.

" I could not sell it," said Carey quickly, feehng it
her first and only home. " I hope to see Allen
practising there some day."

" It is not in a situation where you could sell it to
so much advantage as you would have by letting it to
whoever takes the practice."

She winced, but it was needful to listen, as he told
her of the offers that had been made for the house and
the good-will of the practice. What he had thought
the best offer was, however, rejected by her with
vehemence. She was sure that Joe would never stand
that man coming in upon his patients, and when asked



for her reasons, would only reply, that " None of us
could bear him."

" That is no reason why he should not be a good
practitioner and respectable man. He may not be
what you like in society, and yet "

" Ask Dr. Lucas," hastily interrupted Carey.

" Perhaps that will be the best way," said the
Colonel gravely. " Will you promise to abide by his
decision ? "

" I don't know ! I mean, if everyone decided against
me, nothing should induce me to let tJiat Vaughan
into Joe's house to meddle with his patients."

Colonel Brownlow made a sign of displeased ac-
quiescence, so like his brother when Carey was a little
impetuous or naughty, that she instantly felt shocked
at herself, and faltered, " I beg your pardon."

He seemed not to notice this, but went on, " As you
say, it may be wise to consult Dr. Lucas. Perhaps,
putting it up to competition would be the best way."

" Oh, no," said Caroline. " Have you a letter from
Dr. Drake 1 "

'' No."

" Then depend upon it he must have too much
delicacy to begin about it so soon. I had rather he
had it than anyone else."

" Can he make a fair offer for it 1 You cannot afford
to throw away a substantial benefit for preferences,"
said the Colonel. " At the outside, you will not have
more than ;^500 a year, and I fear you will feel much


straitened after what you are used to, with four boys,
and such ideas as to their education," he added

" I don't know, but I am sure it is what Joe would
wish. He had rather trust his patients to Harry — to
Dr. Drake — than to anyone, and he is just going
to be married, and wants a practice ; I shall write
to him. It is so nice of him not to have pressed

"You will not commit yourself.^" said Colonel
Brownlow. " Remember that your children's interests
are at stake, and must not be sacrificed to a pre-

Again Caroline felt fiery and furious, and less in-
clined than ever to submit her judgment as she said,
"You can inquire, but I know what Joe thought of

" His worthiness is not the point, but whether he
can indemnify you."

" His worthiness not the point ! " cried Caroline,
indignantly. " I think it all the point."

" You misunderstand me ; you totally misunder-
stand me," exclaimed the Colonel, trying hard to be
gentle. " I never meant to recommend an unworthy

"You wanted Vaughan," murmured iMother Carey,
but he did not regard the words, perhaps did not hear
them, for he went on : " My brother in such a case
would have taken a reasonable view, and placed the

F 2


good of his children before any amiable desire to
benefit a — a — one unconnected with him. However,"
he added, " there is no reason against writing to him,
provided you do not commit yourself."

Caroline hated the word, but endured it, and the
rest of the interview was spent upon some needful
signatures, and on the question of her residence at
Kenminster, an outlook which she contemplated as
part of the darkness into which her life seemed to
have suddenly dashed forward. One place would be
much the same as another to her, and she could only
hear with indifference about the three houses possible,
and the rent, garden, and number of rooms.

She was very glad when it was over, and the
Colonel, saying he should go and consult Dr. Lucas,
gave her back the keys he had taken from Janet,
and said that perhaps she would prefer looking over
the papers before he himself did so, with a view to
accounts ; but he should much advise all professional
records to be destroyed.

It may be feared that the two executors did not
respect or like each other much the better for the
interview, which had made the widow feel herself even
more desolate and sore-hearted.

She ran downstairs, locked the door of the con-
sulting room, opened the lid of the bureau, and
kneeling down with her head among all the papers,
she sobbed with long-drawn, tearless sobs, " O father !
O Joe ! how could you bid me live there ? He makes


me worse ! They ivill make me worse and worse,
and now you are gone, and Granny is gone, there's
nobody to make me good ; and what will become ot
the children ? "

Then she looked drearily on the papers that lay
before her, as if his hand-writing at least gave a sort
of nearness. There was a memorandum book which
had been her birth-day present to him, and she felt
drawn to open it. The first she saw after her own
writing of his name was —

" ' Magnum Bonum. So my sweet wife insists on
calling this possibility, of which I will keep the notes
in her book.

" ' Magnum Bonum ! Whether it so prove, and
whether I may be the means of making it known,
must be as God may will. May He give me the
power of persevering, to win, or to fail, or to lay the
foundation for other men, whichever may be the best,
with a true heart, heeding His glory, and acting as
His servant to reveal His mysteries of science for the
good of His children.

"'And above all, may He give us all to know and
feel the true and only Magnum Bonum, the great good,
which alone makes success or failure, loss or gain, life
or death, alike blessed in Him and throug-h Him.' "

Carey gazed on those words, as she sat in the large
arm-chair, whither she had moved on opening the
book. She had always known that religion was
infinitely more to her husband than ever it had been


to herself. She had done what he led her to do, and
had a good deal of intellectual and poetical perception,
and an uprightness, affection, and loyalty of nature
that made her anxious to do right, but devotion was
duty, and not pleasure to her ; she was always glad
when it was over, and she was feeling that the thoughts
which were said to comfort others were quite unable
to reach her grief There was no disbelief nor rebellion
about her, only a dull weariness, and an inclination
which she could hardly restrain, even while it shocked
her, to thrust aside those religious consolations that
were powerless to soothe her. She knew it was not
their fault, she did not doubt of their reality ; it was
she who was not good enough to use them.

These words of Joe were to her as if he were
speaking to her again. She laid them on her knee,
murmured them over fondly, looked at them, and
finally, for she was weak still and had had a bad
night, fell fast asleep over them, and only wakened,
as shouts of " Mother " were heard over the house.

She locked the bureau in a hurry, and opened the
door, calling back to the boys, and then she found
that Aunt Ellen had taken all the three out walking,
when Jock and Armine, with the remains of their
money burning in their pockets, had insisted on
buying two little ships, which must necessarily be
launched in the Serpentine. Their aunt could by no
means endure this, and Janet did not approve, so
there seemed to have been a battle royal, in which


Jock would have been the victor, if his Httle brother
had not been led off captive between his aunt and
sister, when Jock went along on the opposite side of
the road, asserting his independence by every sort
of monkey trick most trying to his aunt's rural sense
of London propriety.

It was very ridiculous to see the tall, grave, stately
Mrs, Robert Brownlow standing there describing the
intolerable naughtiness of that imp, who, not a bit
abashed, sat astride on the balustrade in the comfort-
able conviction that he was not hers.

" I hope, at least," concluded the lady, " that you
will make them feel how bad their behaviour has been."

" Jock," said Carey mechanically, ** I am afraid you
have behaved very ill to your aunt."

" Why, Mother Carey," said that little wretch, " it is
just that she doesn't know anything about anything
in London."

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeMagnum bonum; or, Mother Carey's brood (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 18)