Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Scenes and Characters online

. (page 15 of 20)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 15 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

could not feel by any means certain that he would not do something
imprudent. At last a promise was extracted from him that he would
not again enter the parsonage, but he would not gratify Lady
Rotherwood so far as to abstain from going to Beechcroft, a place
which she began to regard with horror. He now was almost constantly
at the New Court, talking over the reports, and quite provoking Emily
by never desponding, and never choosing to perceive how bad things
really were. Every day which was worse than the last was supposed to
be the crisis, and every restless sleep that they heard of he
interpreted into the beginning of recovery. At last, however, after
ten days of suspense, the report began to improve, and Claude came to
the New Court with a more cheerful face, to say that his cousin was
munch better. The world seemed immediately to grow brighter, people
went about with joyful looks, Lord Rotherwood declared that from the
first he had known all would be well, and Lily began to hope that now
she had been spared so heavy a punishment, it was a kind of earnest
that other things would mend, that she had suffered enough. The
future no longer hung before her in such dark colours as before Mr.
Devereux's illness, though still the New Court was in no satisfactory
state, and still she had reason to expect that her father and Eleanor
would be disappointed and grieved. Thankfulness that Mr. Devereux
was recovering, and that Claude had escaped the infection, made her
once more hopeful and cheerful; she let the morrow take thought for
the things of itself, rejoicing that it was not her business to make


'You must be father, mother, both,
And uncle, all in one.'

Mr. Mohun had much business to transact in London which he could not
leave undone, and as soon as his nephew began to recover he thought
of setting off to meet Mr. and Mrs. Hawkesworth, who had already been
a week at Lady Rotherwood's house in Grosvenor Square, which she had
lent to them for the occasion. Claude had intended to stay at home,
as his cousin was not yet well enough to leave the room; but just at
this time a college friend of the Rector's, hearing of his illness,
wrote to propose to come and stay with him for a month or six weeks,
and help him in serving his church. Mr. Devereux was particularly
glad to accept this kind offer, as it left him no longer dependent on
Mr. Stephens and the Raynham curates, and set Claude at liberty for
the London expedition. All was settled in the short space of one
day. The very next they were to set off, and in great haste; Lily
did all she could for the regulation of the house, packed up her
goods, and received the commissions of her sisters.

Ada gave her six shillings, with orders to buy either a doll or a
book - the former if Eleanor did not say it was silly; and Phyllis put
into her hands a weighty crown piece, begging for as many things as
it could buy. Jane's wants and wishes were moderate and sensible,
and she gave Lily the money for them. With Emily there was more
difficulty. All Lily's efforts had not availed to prevent her from
contracting two debts at Raynham. More than four pounds she owed to
Lily, and this she offered to pay her, giving her at the same time a
list of commissions sufficient to swallow up double her quarter's
allowance. Lily, though really in want of the money for her own use,
thought the debts at Raynham so serious, that she begged Emily to let
her wait for payment till it was convenient, and to pay the shoemaker
and dressmaker immediately.

Emily thanked her, and promised to do so as soon as she could go to
Raynham, and Lily next attempted to reduce her list of London
commissions to something more reasonable. In part she succeeded, but
it remained a matter of speculation how all the necessary articles
which she had to buy for herself, and all Emily's various orders,
were to come out of her own means, reduced as they were by former

The next day Lilias was on her way to London; feeling, as she left
Beechcroft, that it was a great relief that the schoolroom and
storeroom could not follow her. She was sorry that she should miss
seeing Alethea Weston, who was to come home the next day, but she
left various messages for her, and an affectionate note, and had
received a promise from her sisters that the copy of the music should
be given to her the first day that they saw her. Her journey
afforded her much amusement, and it was not till towards the end of
the day that she had much time for thinking, when, her companions
being sleepily inclined, she was left to her own meditations and to a
dull country. She began to revolve her own feelings towards Eleanor,
and as she remembered the contempt and ingratitude she had once
expressed, she shrank from the meeting with shame and dread, and knew
that she should feel reproached by Eleanor's wonted calmness of
manner. And as she mused upon all that Eleanor had endured, and all
that she had done, such a reverence for suffering and sacrifice took
possession of her mind that she was ready to look up to her sister
with awe. She began to recollect old reproofs, and found herself
sitting more upright, and examining the sit of the folds of her dress
with some uneasiness at the thought of Eleanor's preciseness. In the
midst of her meditations her two companions were roused by the
slackening speed of the train, and starting up, informed her that
they were arriving at their journey's end. The next minute she heard
her father consigning her and the umbrellas to Mr. Hawkesworth's
care, and all was bewilderment till she found herself in the hall of
her aunt's house, receiving as warm and affectionate a greeting from
Eleanor as Emily herself could have bestowed.

'And the baby, Eleanor?'

'Asleep, but you shall see him; and how is Ada? and all of them? why,
Claude, how well you look! Papa, let me help you to take off your
greatcoat - you are cold - will you have a fire?'

Never had Lily heard Eleanor say so much in a breath, or seen her eye
so bright, or her smile so ready, yet, when she entered the drawing-
room, she saw that Mrs. Hawkesworth was still the Eleanor of old. In
contrast with the splendid furniture of the apartments, a pile of
shirts was on the table, Eleanor's well-known work-basket on the
floor, and the ceaseless knitting close at hand.

Much news was exchanged in the few minutes that elapsed before
Eleanor carried off her sister to her room, indulging her by the way
with a peep at little Harry, and one kiss to his round red cheek as
he lay asleep in his little bed. It was not Eleanor's fault that she
did not entirely dress Lily, and unpack her wardrobe; but Lilias
liked to show that she could manage for herself; and Eleanor's praise
of her neat arrangements gave her as much pleasure as in days of

The evening passed very happily. Eleanor's heart was open, she was
full of enjoyment at meeting those she loved, and the two sisters sat
long together in the twilight, talking over numerous subjects, all
ending in Beechcroft or the baby.

Yet when Lily awoke the next morning her awe of Eleanor began to
return, and she felt like a child just returned to school. She was,
however, mistaken; Eleanor assumed no authority, she treated Lily as
her equal, and thus made her feel more like a woman than she had ever
done before. Lily thought either that Eleanor was much altered, or
that in her folly she must have fancied her far more cold and grave
than she really was. She had, however, no time for studying her
character; shopping and sight-seeing filled up most of her time, and
the remainder was spent in resting, and in playing with little Henry.

One evening, when Mr. Mohun and Claude were dining out, Lilias was
left alone with Mr. and Mrs. Hawkesworth. Lily was very tired, but
she worked steadily at marking Eleanor's pocket-handkerchiefs, until
her sister, seeing how weary she was, made her lie down on the sofa.

'Here is a gentleman who is tired too,' said Eleanor, dancing the
baby; 'we will carry you off, sir, and leave Aunt Lily to go to

'Aunt Lily is not so tired as that,' said Lily; 'pray keep him.'

'It is quite bedtime,' said Eleanor, in her decided tone, and she
carried him off.

Lilias took up the knitting which she had laid down, and began to
study the stitches. 'I should like this feathery pattern,' said she,
'(if it did not remind me so much of the fever); but, by the bye,
Frank, have you completed Master Henry's outfit? I looked forward to
helping to choose his pretty little things, but I see no preparation
but of stockings.'

'Why, Lily, did not you know that he was to stay in England?'

'To stay in England? No, I never thought of that - how sorry you must

At this moment Eleanor returned, and Mr. Hawkesworth told her he had
been surprised to find Lily did not know their intentions with regard
to the baby.

'If we had any certain intentions we should have told her,' said
Eleanor; 'I did not wish to speak to her about it till we had made up
our minds.'

'Well, I know no use in mysteries,' said Mr. Hawkesworth, 'especially
when Lily may help us to decide.'

'On his going or staying?' exclaimed Lily, eagerly looking to Mr.
Hawkesworth, who was evidently more disposed to speak than his wife.

'Not on his going or staying - I am sorry to say that point was
settled long ago - but where we shall leave him.'

Lily's heart beat high, but she did not speak.

'The truth is,' proceeded Mr. Hawkesworth, 'that this young gentleman
has, as perhaps you know, a grandpapa, a grandmamma, and also six or
seven aunts. With his grandmamma he cannot be left, for sundry
reasons, unnecessary to mention. Now, one of his aunts is a staid
matronly lady, and his godmother besides, and in all respects the
person to take charge of him, - only she lives in a small house in a
town, and has plenty of babies of her own, without being troubled
with other people's. Master Henry's other five aunts live in one
great house, in a delightful country, with nothing to do but make
much of him all day long, yet it is averred that these said aunts are
a parcel of giddy young colts, amongst whom, if Henry escapes being
demolished as a baby he will infallibly be spoilt as he grows up.
Now, how are we to decide?'

'You have heard the true state of the case, Lily,' said Mrs.
Hawkesworth. 'I did not wish to harass papa by speaking to him till
something was settled; you are certainly old enough to have an

'Yes, Lily,' said Frank; 'do you think that the hospitable New Court
will open to receive our poor deserted child, and that these said
aunts are not wild colts but discreet damsels?'

Playful as Mr. Hawkesworth's manner was, Lily saw the earnestness
that was veiled under it: she felt the solemnity of Eleanor's
appeal, and knew that this was no time to let herself be swayed by
her wishes. There was a silence. At last, after a great struggle,
Lily's better judgment gained the mastery, and raising her head, she
said, 'Oh! Frank, do not ask me - I wish - but, Eleanor, when you see
how much harm we have done, how utterly we have failed - '

Lily's newly-acquired habits of self-command enabled her to subdue a
violent fit of sobbing, which she felt impending, but her tears
flowed quietly down her cheeks.

'Remember,' said Frank, 'those who mistrust themselves are the most

'No, Frank, it is not only the feeling of the greatness of the
charge, it is the knowledge that we are not fit for it - that our own
faults have forfeited such happiness.'

Again Lily was choked with tears.

'Well,' said Frank, 'we shall judge at Beechcroft. At all events,
one of those aunts is to be respected.'

Eleanor added her 'Very right.'

This kindness on the part of her brother-in-law, which Lily felt to
be undeserved, caused her tears to flow faster, and Eleanor, seeing
her quite overcome, led her out of the room, helped her to undress,
and put her to bed, with tenderness such as Lily had never
experienced from her, excepting in illness.

In spite of bitter regrets, when she thought of the happiness it
would have been to keep her little nephew, and of importunate and
disappointing hopes that Mrs. Ridley would find it impossible to
receive him, Lily felt that she had done right, and had made a real
sacrifice for duty's sake. No more was said on the subject, and Lily
was very grateful to Eleanor for making no inquiries, which she could
not have answered without blaming Emily.

Sight-seeing prospered very well under Claude's guidance, and Lily's
wonder and delight was a constant source of amusement to her friends.
Her shopping was more of a care than a pleasure, for, in spite of the
handsome equipments which Mr. Mohun presented to all his daughters,
it was impossible to contract Emily's requirements within the limits
of what ought to be her expenditure, and the different views of her
brother and sister were rather troublesome in this matter. Claude
hated the search for ladies' finery, and if drawn into it, insisted
on always taking her to the grandest and most expensive shops; while,
on the other hand, though Eleanor liked to hunt up cheap things and
good bargains, she had such rigid ideas about plainness of dress,
that there was little chance that what she approved would satisfy


'Suddenly, a mighty jerk
A mighty mischief did.'

In the meantime Emily and Jane went on very prosperously at home,
looking forward to the return of the rest of the party on Saturday,
the 17th of July. In this, however, they were doomed to
disappointment, for neither Mr. Mohun nor Mr. Hawkesworth could wind
up their affairs so as to return before the 24th. Maurice's holidays
commenced on Monday the 19th, and Claude offered to go home on the
same day, and meet him, but in a general council it was determined to
the contrary. Claude was wanted to stay for a concert on Thursday,
and both Mr. Mohun and Eleanor thought Maurice, without Reginald,
would not be formidable for a few days.

At first he seemed to justify this opinion. He did not appear to
have any peculiar pursuit, unless such might be called a very earnest
attempt to make Phyllis desist from her favourite preface of 'I'll
tell you what,' and to reform her habit of saying, 'Please for,'
instead of 'If you please.' He walked with the sisters, carried
messages for Mr. Devereux, performed some neat little bits of
carpentry, and was very useful and agreeable.

On Wednesday afternoon Lord Rotherwood and Florence called, their
heads the more full of the 30th because the Marquis had not once
thought of it while Mr. Devereux was ill. Among the intended
diversions fireworks were mentioned, and from that moment rockets,
wheels, and serpents, commenced a wild career through Maurice's
brain. Through the whole evening he searched for books on what he
was pleased to call the art of pyrotechnics, studied them all
Wednesday, and the next morning announced his intention of making
some fireworks on a new plan.

'No, you must not,' said Emily, 'you will be sure to do mischief.'

'I am going to ask Wat for some powder,' was Maurice's reply, and he
walked off.

'Stop him, Jane, stop him,' cried Emily. 'Nothing can be so
dangerous. Tell him how angry papa would be.'

Though Jane highly esteemed her brother's discretion, she did not
much like the idea of his touching powder, and she ran after him to
suggest that he had better wait till papa's return.

'Then Redgie will be at home,' said Maurice, 'and I could not be
answerable for the consequence of such a careless fellow touching

This great proof of caution quite satisfied Jane, but not so Wat
Greenwood, who proved himself a faithful servant by refusing to let
Master Maurice have one grain of gunpowder without express leave from
the squire. Maurice then had recourse to Jane, and his power over
her was such as to triumph over strong sense and weak notions of
obedience, so that she was prevailed upon to supply him with the
means of making the dangerous and forbidden purchase.

Emily was both annoyed and alarmed when she found that the gunpowder
was actually in the house, and she even thought of sending a note to
the parsonage to beg Mr. Devereux to speak to Maurice; but Jane had
gone over to the enemy, and Emily never could do anything
unsupported. Besides, she neither liked to affront Maurice nor to
confess herself unable to keep him in order; and she, therefore,
tried to put the whole matter out of her head, in the thoughts of an
expedition to Raynham, which she was about to make in the manner she
best liked, with Jane in the close carriage, and the horses
reluctantly spared from their farm work.

As they were turning the corner of the lane they overtook Phyllis and
Adeline on their way to the school with some work, and Emily stopped
the carriage, to desire them to send off a letter which she had left
on the chimney-piece in the schoolroom. Then proceeding to Raynham,
they made their visits, paid Emily's debts, performed their
commissions, and met the carriage again at the bookseller's shop, at
the end of about two hours.

'Look here, Emily!' exclaimed Jane. 'Read this! can it be Mrs.

'The truly charitable,' said Emily, contemptuously. 'Mrs. Aylmer is
above - '

'But read. It says "unbeneficed clergyman and deceased nobleman,"
and who can that be but Uncle Rotherwood and Mr. Aylmer.'

'Well, let us see,' said Emily, 'those things are always amusing.'

It was an appeal to the 'truly charitable,' from the friends of the
widow of an unbeneficed clergyman of the diocese, one of whose sons
had, it was said, by the kindness of a deceased nobleman, received
the promise of an appointment in India, of which he was unable to
avail himself for want of the funds needful for his outfit. This
appeal was, it added, made without the knowledge of the afflicted
lady, but further particulars might be learnt by application to E.
F., No. 5 West Street, Raynham.

'E. F. is plainly that bustling, little, old Miss Fitchett, who wrote
to papa for some subscription,' said Emily. 'You know she is a
regular beggar, always doing these kind of things, but I can never
believe that Mrs. Aylmer would consent to appear in this manner.'

'Ah! but it says without her knowledge,' said Jane. 'Don't you
remember Rotherwood's lamenting that they were forgotten?'

'Yes, it is shocking,' said Emily; 'the clergyman that married papa
and mamma!'

'Ask Mr. Adam what he knows,' said Jane.

Emily accordingly applied to the bookseller, and learnt that Mrs.
Aylmer was indeed the person intended. 'Something must be done,'
said she, returning to Jane. 'Our name will be a help.'

'Speak to Aunt Rotherwood,' said Jane. 'Or suppose we apply to Miss
Fitchett, we should have time to drive that way.'

'I am sure I shall not go to Miss Fitchett,' said Emily, 'she only
longs for an excuse to visit us. What can you be thinking of? Lend
me your pencil, Jenny, if you please.'

And Emily wrote down, 'Miss Mohun, 5 pounds,' and handed to the
bookseller all that she possessed towards paying her just debts to
Lilias. While she was writing, Jane had turned towards the window,
and suddenly exclaiming, 'There is Ben! Oh! that gunpowder!' darted
out of the shop. She had seen the groom on horseback, and the next
moment she was asking breathlessly, 'Is it Maurice?'

'No, Miss Jane; but Miss Ada is badly burnt, and Master Maurice sent
me to fetch Mr. Saunders.'

'How did it happen?'

'I can't say, Miss; the schoolroom has been on fire, and Master
Maurice said the young ladies had got at the gunpowder.'

Emily had just arrived at the door, looking dreadfully pale, and
followed by numerous kind offers of salts and glasses of water; but
Jane, perceiving that at least she had strength to get into the
carriage, refused them all, helped her in, and with instant decision,
desired to be driven to the surgeon's. Emily obeyed like a child,
and threw herself back in the carriage without a word; Jane trembled
like an aspen leaf; but her higher spirit took the lead, and very
sensibly she managed, stopping at Mr. Saunders's door to offer to
take him to Beechcroft, and getting a glass of sal-volatile for Emily
while they were waiting for him. His presence was a great relief,
for Emily's natural courtesy made her exert herself, and thus warded
off much that would have been very distressing.

In the meantime we will return to Beechcroft, where Emily's request
respecting her letter had occasioned some discussion between the
little girls, as they returned from a walk with Marianne. Phyllis
thought that Emily meant them to wafer the letter, since they were
under strict orders never to touch fire or candle; but Ada argued
that they were to seal it, and that permission to light a candle was
implied in the order. At last, Phyllis hoped the matter might be
settled by asking Maurice to seal the letter, and meeting him at the
front door, she began, in fortunately, with 'Please, Maurice - '

'I never listen to anything beginning with please,' said Maurice, who
was in a great hurry, 'only don't touch my powder.'

Away he went, deaf to all his sister's shouts of 'Maurice, Maurice,'
and they went in, Ada not sorry to be unheard, as she was bent on the
grand exploit of lighting a lucifer match, but Phyllis still pleading
for the wafer. They found the schoolroom strewed with Maurice's
preparations for fireworks, and Emily's letter on the chimney-piece.

'Let us take the letter downstairs, and put on a wafer,' said
Phyllis. 'Won't you come, Ada?'

'No, the stamps are here, and so are the matches, I can do it

'But Ada, Ada, it would be naughty. Only wait, and I will show you
such a pretty wafer that I know of in the drawing-room. I will run
and fetch it.'

Phyllis went, and Ada stood a few moments in doubt, looking at the
letter. The recollection of duty was not strong enough to balance
the temptation, and she took up a match and drew it along the
sandpaper. It did not light - a second pull, and the flame appeared
more suddenly than she had expected, while at the same moment the
lock of the door turned, and fancying it was Maurice, she started,
and dropped the match. Phyllis opened the door, heard a loud
explosion and a scream, saw a bright flash and a cloud of smoke. She
started back, but the next moment again opened the door, and ran
forward. Hannah rushed in at the same time, and caught up Ada, who
had fallen to the ground. A light in the midst of the smoke made
Phyllis turn, and she beheld the papers on the table on fire.
Maurice's powder-horn was in the midst, but the flames had not yet
reached it, and, mindful of Claude's story, she sprung forward,
caught it up, and dashed it through the window; she felt the glow of
the fire upon her cheek, and stood still as if stunned, till Hannah
carried Ada out of the room, and screamed to her to come away, and
call Joseph. The table was now one sheet of flame, and Phyllis flew
to the pantry, where she gave the summons in almost inaudible tones.
The servants hurried to the spot, and she was left alone and
bewildered; she ran hither and thither in confusion, till she met
Hannah, eagerly asking for Master Maurice, and saying that the
surgeon must be instantly sent for, as Ada's face and neck were badly
burnt. Phyllis ran down, calling Maurice, and at length met him at
the front door, looking much frightened, and asking for Ada.

'Oh! Maurice, her face and neck are burnt, and badly. She does

'Did I not tell you not to meddle with the powder?' said Maurice.

'Indeed, I could not help it,' said Phyllis.

'Stuff and nonsense! It is very well that you have not killed Ada,
and I think that would have made you sorry.'

Phyllis with difficulty mentioned Hannah's desire that a surgeon
should be sent for: Maurice went to look for Ben, and she followed
him. Then he began asking how she had done the mischief.

'I do not know,' said she, 'I do not much think I did it.'

'Mind, you can't humbug me. Did you not say that you touched the

'Yes, but - '

'No buts,' said Maurice, making the most of his brief authority. 'I
hate false excuses. What were you doing when it exploded?'

'Coming into the room.'

'Oh! that accounts for it,' said Maurice, 'the slightest vibration
causes an explosion of that sort of rocket, and of course it was your
bouncing into the room! You have had a lesson against rushing about

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 15 of 20)