Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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the house. Come, though, cheer up, Phyl, it is a bad business, but
it might have been worse; you will know better next time. Don't cry,
Phyl, I will explain to you all about the patent rocket.'

'But do you really think that I blew up Ada?'

'Blew up Ada! caused the powder to ignite. The inflammable matter - '

As he spoke he followed Phyllis to the nursery, and there was so much
shocked, that he could no longer lord it over her, but shrinking
back, shut himself up in his room, and bolted the door.

Nearly an hour passed away before the arrival of Emily, Jane, and Mr.
Saunders. Phyllis ran down, and meeting them at the door, exclaimed,
'Oh! Emily, poor Ada! I am so sorry.'

The sisters hurried past her to the nursery, where Ada was lying on
the bed, half undressed, and her face, neck, and arm such a spectacle
that Emily turned away, ready to faint. Mr. Saunders was summoned,
and Phyllis thrust out of the room. She sat down on the step of the
stairs, resting her forehead on her knees, and trembling, listened to
the sounds of voices, and the screams which now and then reached her
ears. After a time she was startled by hearing herself called from
the stairs BY BELOW a voice which she had not heard for many weeks,
and springing up, saw Mr. Devereux leaning on the banisters. The
great change in his appearance frightened her almost as much as the
accident itself, and she stood looking at him without speaking.
'Phyllis,' said he, in a voice hoarse with agitation, 'what is it?
tell me at once.'

She could not speak, and her wild and frightened air might well give
him great alarm. She pointed to the nursery, and put her finger to
her lips, and he, beckoning to her to follow him, went downstairs,
and turning into the drawing-room, said, as he sank down upon the
sofa, 'Now, Phyllis, what has happened?'

'The gunpowder - I made it go off, and it has burnt poor Ada's face!
Mr. Saunders is there, and she screams - '

Phyllis finding herself ready to roar, left off speaking, and laying
her head on the table, burst into an agony of crying, while Mr.
Devereux was too much exhausted to address her; at last she
exclaimed: 'I hear the nursery door; he is going!'

She flew to the door, and listened, and then called out, 'Emily,
Jane, here is Cousin Robert!'

Jane came down, leaving Emily to finish hearing Mr. Saunders's
directions. She was even more shocked at her cousin's looks than
Phyllis had been, and though she tried to speak cheerfully, her
manner scarcely agreed with her words. 'It is all well, Robert, I am
sorry you have been so frightened. It is but a slight affair, though
it looks so shocking. There is no danger. But, oh, Robert! you
ought not to be here. What shall we do for you? you are quite
knocked up.'

'Oh! no,' said Mr. Devereux, 'I am only a little out of breath. A
terrible report came to me, and I set off to learn the truth. I
should like to hear what Mr. Saunders says of her.'

'I will call him in here before he goes,' said Jane; 'how tired you
are; you have not been out before.'

'Only to the gate to speak to Rotherwood yesterday, and prevent him
from coming in,' said Mr. Devereux, 'but I have great designs for
Sunday. They come home to-morrow, do not they?'

Jane was much relieved by hearing her cousin talk in this manner, and
answered, 'Yes, and a dismal coming home it will be; it is too late
to let them know.'

Mr. Saunders now entered, and gave a very favourable account of the
patient, saying that even the scars would probably disappear in a few
weeks. His gig had come from Raynham, and he offered to set Mr.
Devereux down at the parsonage, a proposal which the latter was very
glad to accept. Emily and Jane had leisure, when they were gone, to
inquire into the manner of the accident. Phyllis answered that
Maurice said that her banging the door had made the powder go off.
Jane then asked where Maurice was, and Phyllis reporting that he was
in his own room, she repaired thither, and knocked twice without
receiving an answer. On her call, however, he opened the door; she
saw that he had been in tears, and hastened to tell him Mr.
Saunders's opinion. He fastened the door again as soon as she had
entered. 'If I could have thought it!' sighed he. 'Fool that I was,
not to lock the door!'

'Then you were not there? Phyllis says that she did it by banging
the door. Is not that nonsense?'

'Not at all. Did I not read to you in the Year Book of Facts about
the patent signal rockets, which explode with the least vibration,
even when a carriage goes by? Now, mine was on the same principle.
I was making an experiment on the ingredients; I did not expect to
succeed the first time, and so I took no precautions. Well!
Pyrotechnics are a dangerous science! Next time I study them it
shall be at the workshop at the Old Court.'

Maurice was sincerely sorry for the consequence of his disobedience,
and would have been much to be pitied had it not been for his secret
satisfaction in the success of his art. He called his sister into
the schoolroom to explain how it happened. The room was a dismal
sight, blackened with smoke, and flooded with water, the table and
part of the floor charred, a mass of burnt paper in the midst, and a
stifling smell of fire. A pane of glass was shattered, and Maurice
ran down to the lawn to see if he could find anything there to
account for it. The next moment he returned, the powder-horn in his
hand. 'See, Jenny, how fortunate that this was driven through the
window with the force of the explosion. The whole place might have
been blown to atoms with such a quantity as this.'

'Then what was it that blew up?' asked Jane.

'What I had put out for my rocket, about two ounces. If this half-
pound had gone there is no saying what might have happened.'

'Now, Maurice,' said Jane, 'I must go back to Ada, and will you run
down to the parsonage with a parcel, directed to Robert, that you
will find in the hall?'

This was a device to occupy Maurice, who, as Jane saw, was so
restless and unhappy that she did not like to leave him, much as she
was wanted elsewhere. He went, but afraid to see his cousin, only
left the parcel at the door. As he was going back he heard a shout,
and looking round saw Lord Rotherwood mounted on Cedric, his most
spirited horse, galloping up the lane. 'Maurice!' cried he, 'what is
all this? they say the New Court is blown up, and you and half the
girls killed, but I hope one part is as true as the other.'

'Nobody is hurt but Ada,' said Maurice, 'but her face is a good deal

'Eh? then she won't be fit for the 30th, poor child! tell me how it
was, make haste. I heard it from Mr. Burnet as I came down to
dinner. We have a dozen people at dinner. I told him not to mention
it to my mother, and rode off to hear the truth. Make haste, half
the people were come when I set off.'

The horse's caperings so discomposed Maurice that he could scarcely
collect his wits enough to answer: 'Some signal rocket on a new
principle - detonating powder, composed of oxymuriate - Oh!
Rotherwood, take care!'

'Speak sense, and go on.'

'Then Phyllis came in, banged the door, and the vibration caused the
explosion,' said Maurice, scared into finishing promptly.

'Eh! banging the door? You had better not tell that story at

'But, Rotherwood, the deton - Oh! that horse - you will be off!'

'Not half so dangerous as patent rockets. Is Emily satisfied with
such stuff?'

'Don't you know that fulminating silver - '

'What does Robert Devereux say?'

'Really, Rotherwood, I could show you - '

'Show me? No; if rockets are so perilous I shall have nothing to do
with them. Stand still, Cedric! Just tell me about Ada. Is there
much harm done?'

'Her face is scorched a good deal, but they say it will soon be

'I am glad - we will send to inquire to-morrow, but I cannot come - ha,
ha! a new infernal machine. Good-bye, Friar Bacon.'

Away he went, and Maurice stood looking after him with complacent
disdain. 'There they go, Cedric and Rotherwood, equally well
provided with brains! What is the use of talking science to either?'

It was late when he reached the house, and his two sisters shortly
came down to tea, with news that Adeline was asleep and Phyllis was
going to bed. The accident was again talked over.

'Well,' said Emily, 'I do not understand it, but I suppose papa

'The telling papa is a bad part of the affair, with William and
Eleanor there too,' said Jane.

'I do not mean to speak to Phyllis about it again,' said Emily, 'it
makes her cry so terribly.'

'It will come out fast enough,' sighed Maurice. 'Good-night.'

More than once in the course of the night did poor Phyllis wake and
cry, and the next day was the most wretched she had ever spent; she
was not allowed to stay in the nursery, and the schoolroom was
uninhabitable, so she wandered listlessly about the garden, sometimes
creeping down to the churchyard, where she looked up at the old
tower, or pondered over the graves, and sometimes forgetting her
troubles in converse with the dogs, in counting the rings in the
inside of a foxglove flower, or in rescuing tadpoles stranded on the
broad leaf of a water-lily.

Her sisters and brothers were not less forlorn. Emily sighed and
lamented; Adeline was feverish and petulant; and Jane toiled in vain
to please and soothe both, and to comfort Maurice; but with all her
good-temper and good-nature she had not the spirit which alone could
enable her to be a comfort to any one. Ada whined, fretted, and was
disobedient, and from Maurice she met with nothing but rebuffs; he
was silent and sullen, and spent most of the day in the workshop,
slowly planing scraps of deal board, and watching with a careless eye
the curled shavings float to the ground.

In the course of the afternoon Alethea and Marianne came to inquire
after the patient. Jane came down to them and talked very fast, but
when they asked for a further explanation of the cause of the
accident, Jane declared that Maurice said it was impossible that any
one who did not understand chemistry should know how it happened, and
Alethea went away strongly reminded that it was no affair of hers.

Notes passed between the New Court and the vicarage, but Mr. Devereux
was feeling the effect of his yesterday's exertion too much to repeat
it, and no persuasion of the sisters could induce Maurice to visit


'Still in his eyes his soul revealing,
He dreams not, knows not of concealing,
Does all he does with single mind,
And thinks of others that are kind.'

The travellers were expected to arrive at about seven o'clock in the
evening, and in accordance with a well-known taste of Eleanor's,
Emily had ordered no dinner, but a substantial meal under the name of
tea. When the sound of carriage wheels was heard, Jane was with
Adeline, Maurice was in his retreat at the Old Court, and it was with
no cheerful alacrity that Emily went alone into the hall. Phyllis
was already at the front door, and the instant Mr. Mohun set foot on
the threshold, her hand grasped his coat, and her shrill voice cried
in his ear, 'Papa, I am very sorry I blew up the gunpowder and burnt

'What, my dear? where is Ada?'

'In bed. I blew up the gunpowder and burnt her face,' repeated

'We have had an accident,' said Emily, 'but I hope it is nothing very
serious, only poor Ada is a sad figure.'

In another moment Mr. Mohun and Eleanor were on the way to the
nursery; Lilias was following, but she recollected that a general
rush into a sickroom was not desirable, and therefore paused and came
back to the hall. The worst was over with Phyllis when the
confession had been made. She was in raptures at the sight of the
baby, and was presently showing the nurse the way upstairs, but her
brother William called her back: 'Phyllis, you have not spoken to
any one.'

Phyllis turned, and came down slowly in her most ungainly manner,
believing herself in too great disgrace to be noticed by anybody, and
she was quite surprised and comforted to be greeted by her brothers
and Lily just as usual.

'And how did you meet with this misfortune?' asked Mr. Hawkesworth.

'I banged the door, and made it go off,' said Phyllis.

'What can you mean?' said William, in a tone of surprise, which
Phyllis took for anger, and she hid her face to stifle her sobs.

'No, no, do not frighten her,' said Claude's kind voice.

'Run and make friends with your nephew, Phyllis,' said Mr.
Hawkesworth; 'do not greet us with crying.'

'First tell me what is become of Maurice,' said Claude, 'is he blown
up too?'

'No, he is at the Old Court,' said Phyllis. 'Shall I tell him that
you are come?'

'I will look for him,' said Claude, and out he went.

The others dispersed in different directions, and did not assemble
again for nearly half an hour, when they all met in the drawing-room
to drink tea; Claude and Maurice were the last to appear, and, on
entering, the first thing the former said was, 'Where is Phyllis?'

'In the nursery,' said Jane; 'she has had her supper, and chooses to
stay with Ada.'

'Has any one found out the history of the accident?' said William.

'I have vainly been trying to make sense of Maurice's account,' said

'Sense!' said William, 'there is none.'

'I am perfectly bewildered,' said Lily; 'every one has a different
story, only consenting in making Phyllis the victim.'

'And,' added Claude, 'I strongly suspect she is not in fault.'

'Why should you doubt what she says herself?' said Eleanor.

'What does she say herself?' said William, 'nothing but that she shut
the door, and what does that amount to? - Nothing.'

'She says she touched the powder,' interposed Jane.

'That is another matter,' said William; 'no one told me of her
touching the powder. But why do you not ask her? She is publicly
condemned without a hearing.'

'Who accuses her?' said Mr. Mohun.

'I can hardly tell,' said Emily; 'she met us, saying she was very
sorry. Yes, she accuses herself. Every one has believed it to be

'And why?'

There was a pause, but at last Emily said, 'How would you account for
it otherwise?'

'I have not yet heard the circumstances. Maurice, I wish to hear
your account. I will not now ask how you procured the powder.
Whoever was the immediate cause of the accident, you are chiefly to
blame. Where was the powder?'

Maurice gave his theory and his facts, ending with the powder-horn
being driven out of the window upon the green.

'I hear,' said Mr. Mohun. 'But, Maurice, did you not say that
Phyllis touched the powder? How do you reconcile that with this
incomprehensible statement?'

'She might have done that before,' said Maurice.

'Now call Phyllis,' said his father.

'Is it not very formidable for her to be examined before such an
assembly?' said Emily.

'The accusation has been public, and the investigation shall be the
same,' said Mr. Mohun.

'Then you do not think she did it, papa?' cried Lily.

'Not by shutting the door,' said William.

Phyllis entered, and Mr. Mohun, holding out both hands to her, drew
her towards him, and placing her with her back to the others, still
retained her hands, while he said, 'Phyllis, do not be frightened,
but tell me where you were when the powder exploded?'

'Coming into the room,' said Phyllis, in a trembling voice.

'Where had you been?'

'Fetching a wafer out of the drawing-room.'

'What was the wafer for?'

'To put on Emily's letter, which she told us to send.'

'And where was Ada?'

'In the schoolroom, reading the direction of the letter.'

'Tell me exactly what happened when you came back.'

'I opened the door, and there was a flash, and a bang, and a smoke,
and Ada tumbled down.'

'I have one more question to ask. When did you touch the powder?'

'Then,' said Phyllis.

'When it had exploded? Take care what you say.'

'Was it naughty? I am very sorry,' said Phyllis, beginning to cry.

'What powder did you touch? I do not understand you, tell me

'I touched the powder-horn. What went off was only a little in a
paper on the table, and there was a great deal more. When the rocket
blew up there was a great noise, and Ada and I both screamed, and
Hannah ran in and took up Ada in her arms. Then I saw a great fire,
and looked, and saw Emily's music-book, and all the papers blazing.
So I thought if it got to the powder it would blow up again, and I
laid hold of the horn and threw it out of the window. That is all I
know, papa, only I hope you are not very angry with me.'

She looked into his face, not knowing how to interpret the unusual
expression she saw there.

'Angry with you!' said he. 'No, my dear child, you have acted with
great presence of mind. You have saved your sister and Hannah from
great danger, and I am very sorry that you have been unjustly

He then gave his little daughter a kiss, and putting his hand on her
head, added, 'Whoever caused the explosion, Phyllis is quite free
from blame, and I wish every one to understand this, because she has
been unjustly accused, without examination, and because she has borne
it patiently, and without attempting to justify herself.'

'Very right,' observed Eleanor.

'Shake hands, Phyllis,' said William.

The others said more with their eyes than with their lips. Phyllis
stood like one in a dream, and fixing her bewildered looks upon
Claude, said, 'Did not I do it?'

'No, Phyllis, you had nothing to do with it,' was the general

'Maurice said it was the door,' said Phyllis.

'Maurice talked nonsense,' said Claude; 'you were only foolish in
believing him.'

Phyllis went up to Claude, and laid her head on his arm; Mr.
Hawkesworth held out his hand to her, but she did not look up, and
Claude withdrawing his arm, and raising her head, found that she was
crying. Eleanor and Lilias both rose, and came towards her but
Claude made them a sign, and led her away.

'What a fine story this will be for Reginald,' said William.

'And for Rotherwood,' said Mr. Mohun.

'I do not see how it happened,' said Eleanor.

'Of course Ada did it herself,' said William.

'Of course,' said Maurice. 'It was all from Emily's setting them to
seal her letter, that is plain now.'

'Would not Ada have said so?' asked Eleanor.

Lily sighed at the thought of what Eleanor had yet to learn.

'Did you tell them to seal your letter, Emily?' said Mr. Mohun.

'I am sorry to say that I did tell them to send it,' said Emily, 'but
I said nothing about sealing, as Jane remembers, and I forgot that
Maurice's gunpowder was in the room.'

Eleanor shook her head sorrowfully, and looked down at her knitting,
and Lily knew that her mind was made up respecting little Henry's

It was some comfort to have raised no false expectations.

'Ada must not be frightened and agitated to-night,' said Mr. Mohun,
'but I hope you will talk to her to-morrow, Eleanor. Well, Claude,
have you made Phyllis understand that she is acquitted?'

'Scarcely,' said Claude; 'she is so overcome and worn out, that I
thought she had better go to bed, and wake in her proper senses to-

'A very unconscious heroine,' said William. 'She is a wonder - I
never thought her anything but an honest sort of romp.'

'I have long thought her a wonderful specimen of obedience,' said Mr.

William and Claude now walked to the parsonage, and the council broke
up; but it must not be supposed that this was the last that Emily and
Maurice heard on the subject.


'Complaint was heard on every part
Of something disarranged.'

The next day, Sunday, was one of the most marked in Lily's life. It
was the first time she saw Mr. Devereux after his illness, and though
Claude had told her he was going to church, it gave her a sudden
thrill of joy to see him there once more, and perhaps she never felt
more thankful than when his name was read before the Thanksgiving.
After the service there was an exchange of greetings, but Lily spoke
no word, she felt too happy and too awe-struck to say anything, and
she walked back to the New Court in silence.

In the afternoon she had hopes that a blessing would be granted to
her, for which at one time she had scarcely dared to hope; and she
felt convinced that so it would be when she saw that Mr. Devereux
wore his surplice, although, as in the morning, his friend read the
service. After the Second Lesson there was a pause, and then Mr.
Devereux left the chair by the altar, walked along the aisle, and
took his stand on the step of the font. Lily's heart beat high as
she saw who were gathering round him - Mrs. Eden, Andrew Grey, James
Harrington, and Mrs. Naylor, who held in her arms a healthy, rosy-
checked boy of a year old.

She could not have described the feelings which made her eyes
overflow with tears, as she saw Mr. Devereux's thin hand sprinkle the
drops over the brow of the child, and heard him say, 'Robert, I
baptize thee' - words which she had heard in dreams, and then awakened
to remember that the parish was at enmity with the pastor, the child
unbaptized, and herself, in part, the cause.

The name of the little boy was an additional pledge of
reconciliation, and at the same time it made her feel again what had
been the price of his baptism. When she looked back upon the dreary
feelings which she had so lately experienced, it seemed to her as if
she might believe that this christening was, as it were, a pledge of
pardon, and an earnest of better things.

Naylor, who had recovered much more slowly than Mr. Devereux, was at
church for the first time, and after the service Mr. Mohun sought him
out in the churchyard, and heartily shook hands with him. Lily would
gladly have followed his example, but she only stood by Eleanor and
Mrs. Weston, who were speaking to Mrs. Eden and Mrs. Naylor, admiring
the little boy, and praising him for his good behaviour in church.

Love of babies was a strong bond between Mrs. Weston and Mrs.
Hawkesworth, who seemed to become well acquainted from the first
moment that little Henry was mentioned; and Lily was well pleased to
see that in Jane's phrase Eleanor 'took to her friends so well.'

And yet this day brought with it some annoyances, which once would
have fretted her so much as to interfere even with such joy as she
now felt. The song, with which she had taken so much pains, ought to
have been sent home a week before, but owing to the delay caused by
Emily's carelessness, it had been burnt in the fire in the
schoolroom, and Lily could not feel herself forgiven till she had
talked the disaster over in private with her friend, and this was out
of her power throughout the day, for something always prevented her
from getting Alethea alone. In the morning Jane stuck close to her,
and in the afternoon William walked to the school gate with them.
But Alethea's manner was kinder towards her than ever, and she was
quite satisfied about her.

It gave her more pain to perceive that Emily in every possible manner
avoided being alone with her. It was by her desire that Phyllis came
to sleep in their room; she would keep Jane talking there, give
Esther some employment which kept her in their presence, linger in
the drawing-room while Lilias was dressing, and at bedtime be too
sleepy to say anything but good-night.

That Sunday was a sorrowful one to Eleanor; for in the course of the
conversation with Ada, which Mr. Mohun had desired her to hold, she
became conscious of the little girl's double-dealing ways. It was
only by a very close cross-examination that she was able to extract
from her a true account of the disaster, and though Ada never went so
far as actually to tell a falsehood, it was evident that she was
willing to conceal as much as possible, and to throw the blame on
other people. And when the real facts were confessed she did not
seem able to comprehend why she was regarded with displeasure; her
instinct of truth and obedience was lost for the time, and Eleanor
saw it with the utmost pain. Adeline had been her especial darling,
and cold as her manner had often been towards the others, it ever was
warm towards the motherless little one, whom she had tended and
cherished with most anxious care from her earliest infancy. She had
left her gentle, candid, and affectionate; a loving, engaging, little
creature, and how did she find her now? Her fair bright face
disfigured, her caresses affected, her mind turned to deceit and

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 16 of 20)