Charlotte Mary Yonge.

The trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) online

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"^ ~ ** Quand on vent dessecher un marais, on ne fait pas voter les
v^ grenouilles. " — Mnie. Emile de Girardin.

" Richard'? Thafs right ! Here's a tea-cup waiting for
you," as tTie almost thirty-year-old Incumbent of (Jocks-
moor, still lookiug like a young deacon, entered the room
with his quiet step, and silent greeting to its four inmates.

" Thank you, Ethel. Is papa gone out ?"

" I have not seen him since dinner-time. You said he
was gone out with Dr. Spencer, Aubrey V

" Yes, I heard Dr. Spencer s voice — ' I say Dick ' —
like three notes of consternation," said Aubrey ; " and olF
they went. I fancy there's some illness about in the
Lower Pond Buildings, that Dr. Spencer has been raging
so long to get drained."

" The knell has been ringing for a little child there,
added Mary ; " scarlatina, I believe — "

" But, Richard," burst forth the merry voice of tlie
youngest, " you must see our letters from Edinburgh."



" You have heard, then ? It was the very thing I came
to ask."

" Oh, yes ! there were five notes in one cover," said
Gertrude. " Papa says they are to be laid up in the family
archives, and labelled * The Infants' Honeymoon/ "

" Papa is very happy with his own share," said Ethel.
" It was signed, ' Still his o^vn AATiite Flower,' and it had
two Calton Hill real daisies in it. I don't know when I
have seen him more pleased."

" And Hector's letter — I can say that by heart," con-
tinued Gertrude. * Mj dear Father, This is only to say
that she is the darlint, and for the pleasure of subscribing
myself Your loving Son,' — the son as big as aU. the rest
put together."

" I tell Blanche that he only took her for the pleasure

of being my father's son," said Aubrey, in his low lazy voice.

" WeU," said Mary " even to the last, I do believe he

had as soon drive papa out as walk with Blanche. Flora

was quite scandalized at it."

" I should not imagine that George had often driven my
father out," said Aubrey, again looking lazily up from
balancing his spoon.

Ethel laughed ; and even Eichard smiled ; then recovering
herself, she said, " Poor Hector, he never could call himseK
son to any one before."

" He has not been much otherwise here," said Eichard.
" No," said Ethel ; " it is the peculiar hardship of our
weddings to break us up by pairs, and carry off two instead
of one. Did you ever see me with so shabby a row of
tea-cups ? WTien shall I have them come in riding double
again r'


The recent wedding was the third in the family ; the
first after a five years' respite. It ensued upon an attach-
ment that had grown up with the young people, so that
they had been entirely one with each other ; and there
had been little of formal demand either of the maiden's
afiection or her father's consent ; but both had been implied
from the first. The bridegroom was barely of age, the
bride not seventeen, and Dr. May had owned it was very
shocking, and told Eichard to say nothing about it !
Hector had coaxed and pleaded, pathetically talked of liis
great empty house at Maplewood, and declared that till
he might take Blanche away, he would not leave Stone-
borough ; he would bring down all sorts of gossip on his
courtship, he would worry Ethel and take care she finished
nobody's education. What did Blanche want with more
education? She knew enough for him. Couldn't Ethel
be satisfied with Aubrey and Gertrude ? or he dared say
she might have Mary too, if she was insatiable. If Dr.
!May was so unnatural as to forbid him to hang about the
house, why, he would take rooms at the Swan. In fact,
as Dr. May observed, he treated him to a modern red-
haired Scotch version of " Make me a willow cabin at
your gate ;" and as he heartily loved Hector and entirely
trusted him — and Blanche's pretty head was a wise and
prudent one, what was the use of keeping the poor lad
unsettled %

So Mrs. Rivers, the eldest sister and the member's wife,
had come to arrange matters and help Ethel, and a very
brilliant wedding it had been. Blanche was too entirely
at home with Hector for flutterings or agitations, and was
too peacefully happy for grief at the separation, which

B 2


completed the destiny that she had always seen hefore
her. She was a picture of a hride ; and when she and
Hector hung round the Doctor, insisting that Edinburgh
should be the first place they should visit, and calling forth
minute directions for their pilgrimage to the scenes of his
youth, promising to come home and tell him all ; no wonder
he felt himself rather gaining a child than losing one. He
was very bright and happy ; and no one but Ethel under-
stood how all the time there was a sensation that the present
was but a strange dreamy parody of that marriage which
had been the theme of earlier hopes.

The wedding had taken place shortly after Easter ;
and immediately after, the Eivers family had departed for
London, and Tom May had returned to Cambridge, leaving
the home party at the minimum of four, since, Cocksmoor
Parsonage being complete, Eichard had become only a daily
visitor instead of a constant inhabitant.

There he sat, occupying his never idle hands with a net
that he kept for such moments, whilst Ethel sat behind
her urn, now giving out its last sighs, profiting by the
leisure to read the county newspaper, while she continually
filled up her cup -with tea or milk as occasion served, in-
different to the increasing pallor of the liquid.

Mary, a " fine young woman," as George Eivers called
her, of blooming face and sweet open expression, had begun,
at Gertrude's entreaty, a game of French billiards. Gertrude
had still her childish sunny face and bright hair, and even
at the trying age of twelve was pleasing, chiefl}'' owing to
the caressing freedom of manner belonging to an unspoilable
pet. Her request to Aubrey to join the sport had been
answered with a half petulant shake of the head, and he


flung himself into his father's chair, his long legs hanging
over one arm — an attitude that those who had ever been
under Mrs. May's discipline thought impossible in the
drawing-room; but Aubrey was a rival pet, and with the
family characteristics of aquiline features, dark grey eyes,
and beautiful teeth, had an air of fragility and easy languor,
that showed his exercise of the immunities of ill-health.
He had been Ethel's pupil till Tom's last year at Eton,
when he was sent thither, and had taken a good place ;
but his brother's vigilant and tender care could not save
him from an attack on the chest, that settled his public-
school education for ever, to his severe mortification, just
when Tom's shower of honours was displaying to him the
sweets of emulation and success. Ethel regained her pupil,
and put forth her utmost powers for his benefit, causing
Tom to examine him at each vacation, -svith adjurations to
let her know the instant he discovered that her task of
tuition was getting beyond her. In truth, Tom fraternally
held her cheap, and would have enjoyed a triumph over
her scholarship ; but to this he had not attained ; and in
spite of his desire to keep his brother in a salutary state
of humiliation, candour wrung from him the admission that,
even in verses, Aubrey did as well as other fellows of his

Conceit was not Aubrey^s fault. His father was more
guarded than in the case of his elder sons, and the home
atmosphere was not such as to give the boy a sense of
superiority, especially when diligently kept down by his
brother. Even the half year at Eton had not produced
superciliousness, though it had given Eton polish to the
home-bred manners : it had made sisters valuable, and


awakened a desire for masculine companionsliip. He did
not rebel against his sister's ride ; she was nearly a mother
to him, and had always been the most active president of his
studies and pursuits ; and he was perfectly obedient and
dutiful to her, only asserting his equality, in imitation of
Harry and Tom, by a little of the good-humoured raillery
and teazing that treated Ethel as the family butt, while she
was really the family authority.

" All gone, Ethel," he said, with a lazy smile, as Ethel
mechanically, with her eyes on the newspaper, tried all her
vessels round, and found cream-jug, milk-jug, tea-pot, and
urn, exhausted ; " will you have in the river next ? "

" What a shame ! " said Ethel, awakening and laughing.
" Those are the tea-maker's snares."

" Do send it away then," said Aubrey, " the urn oppresses
the atmosphere."

"Very well; I'll make a fresh brew when papa comes
home, and perhaps you'll have some then. You did not
half finish to-night."

Aubrey yawned ; and after some speculation about their
father's absence, Gertrude went to bed ; and Aubrey, calling
himself tired, stood up, stretched every limb portentously,
and said he should go off too. Ethel looked at him anxiously,
felt his hand, and asked if he were sure he had not a cold
coming on. " You are always thinking of colds," was all the
satisfaction she received.

" What has he been doing ? " said Eichard.

" That is what I was thinking. He was about all yester-
day afternoon with Leonard Ward, and perhaps may have
done sometliing imprudent in the damp. I never know
what to do. I can't bear him to be a coddle ; yet he is


always catching cold if I let hini alone. The question is,
whether it is worse for him to run risks, or to be thinkinL^
of himself."

" He need not be doing that," said Eichard ; " he may be
thinking of your wishes and papa's."

" Very pretty of him and you, Eitcliie ; but he is not
three parts of a boy or man who thinks of his womankind's
wishes when there is anything spirited before him."

" Well, I suppose one may do one's duty without bein
three parts of a boy," said Richard gravely.

" I know it is true that some of the most saintly charac-
ters have been the more spiritual because their animal frame
was less vigorous ; but still it does not content me."

" Xo, the higher the power, the better, of course, should
the service be. I was only putting you in mind that there
is compensation. Eut I must be off. I am sorry I cannot
wait for papa. Let me know what is the matter to-morrow,
and how Aubrey is."

Eichard went ', and the sisters took up their employments
— Ethel writing to the Kew Zealand sister-in-law her history
of the wedding, Mary copying parts of a Xew Zealand letter
for her brother, the lieutenant in command of a gun-boat
on the Chinese coast. Those letters, whether from Xorman
May or his wife, were very delightful, they were so full of
a cheerful tone of trustful exertion and resolution, though
there had been perhaps more than the natural amount of
disappointments. J^orman's powers were not thought of the
description calculated for regular mission work, and some of
the chief aspirations of the young couple had had to be
relinquished at the voice of authority without a trial. They
had received the charge of persons as much in need of them


as unreclaimed savages, but to whom there was less apparent
glory in ministering. A wide-spread district of very colonial
colonists, and the charge of a college for their uncultivated
sons, was quite as troublesome as the most ardent self-
devotion could desire ; and the hardships and disagreeables,
though severe, made no figure in history — nay, it required
ingenuity to gather their existence from Meta's bright letters,
although from !Mrs. Arnott's accounts, it was clear that
the wife took a quadruple share. Mrs. Rivers had been
heard to say that Norman need not have gone so far, and
sacrificed so much, to obtain an under-bred English congre-
gation ; and even the Doctor had sighed once or twice at
having relinquished his favourite son to what was dull and
distasteful ; but Ethel could trust that this unmurmuring
acceptance of the less striking career, might be another step
in the discipline of her brother's ardent and ambitious
nature. It is a great thing to sacrifice, but a greater to
consent not to sacrifice in. one's own way.

Ethel sat up for her father, and Mary would not go to bed
and leave her, so the two sisters waited till they heard the
latch-key. Ethel ran out, but her father was already on the
stairs, and waved her back.

" Here is some tea. Are you not coming. Papa 1 — it is
all here."

" Thank you, I'll just go and take off this coat ; " and he
passed on to his room.

" I don't like that," said Ethel, returning to the drawing-
room, where Mary was boiling up the kettle, and kneeling
down to make some toast.

" Why, what's the matter ? "

"I have never known him go and change his coat but


when some infectious thing has been about. Besides, he
did not wait to let me help him off with it."

In a few seconds the Doctor came down in his dressincr-


gown, and let himself be put into his easy chaii- ; his two
daughters waiting on him with fond assiduity, their eyes
questioning his fagged weary face, but reading there fatigue
and concern that made them — rather awe-struck — bide then-
time till it should suit him to speak. Mary was afraid he
would wait till she was gone ; dear old Mary, who at twenty-
two never dreamt of regarding herself as on the same footing
with her three years' senior, and had her toast been browner,
would have relieved them of her presence at once. How-
ever, her father spoke after his first long draught of tea.

" Well ! How true it is that judgments are upon us while
we are marrying and giving in marriage ! "

" What is it. Papa 1 Xot the scarlatina ? "

" Scarlatina, indeed ! " he said contemptuously. ^' Scarlet-
fever in the most aggravated form. Two deaths in one
house, and I am much mistaken if there will not be another
before morning."

" WTio, Papa 1 " asked Mary.

"Those wretched Martins, in Lower Pond Buildings, are
the worst. Xo wonder, living in voluntary filth ; but it is
all over the street — will be all over the town unless there's
some special mercy on the place."

" But how has it grown so bad," said Ethel, " without our
having even heard of it 1 "

" Why — partly I take shame to myself — this business of
Hector and Blanche kept Spencer and me away last dis-
pensary day ; and partly it was that young coxcomb, Henry
Ward, thought it not worth while to trouble me about a


simple epidemic. Simple epidemic indeed ! " repeated Dr.
Ma}", changing his tone from ironical mimicry to hot indigna-
tion. " I hope he Avill be gratified with its simplicity ! I
wonder how long he would have gone on if it had not laid
hold on him."

*' You don't mean that he has it 1 "

" I do. It will give him a practical lesson in simple

'' And Henry Ward has it ! " repeated Mary, looking so
much dismayed that her father laughed, saying —

*'What, Mary thinks when it comes to fevers being so
audacious as to lay hold of the doctors, it is time that they
should be put a stop to."

" He seems to have petted it and made much of it," said
Ethel ; " so no wonder ! What could have possessed him?"

'•' Just this, Ethel ; and it is only human nature after all.
This young lad comes down, as Master Tom will do some
day, full of his lectures and his hospitals, and is nettled and
displeased to find his father content to have Spencer or me
called in the instant anything serious is the matter."

"But you are a physician, Papa," said ]\Iary.

" ]S"o matter for that, to Mr. Henry I'm an old fogie, and
depend upon it, if it were only the giving a dose of salts, he
would like to have the case to himself. These poor creatures
were parish patients, and I don't mean that his treatment
was amiss. Spencer is right, it was an atmosphere where
there was no saving any one ; but if he had not been so
delighted with his own way, and I had known what was
going on, I'd have got the Guardians and the Town Council
and routed out the place. Seventeen cases, and most of them
the worst form ! "


" Eut what was Mr. Ward about 1 "

*' * Says I to myself, here's a lesson for me ;
This man's but a picture of what I shall be '

when Master Tom gets the upper hand of me," returned Dr.
May. *' Poor Ward, who has run to me in all his difficulties
these thirty years, didn't like it at all ; but Mr. Henry was
so confident with his simple epidemic, and had got him in
such order, that he durst not speak."

*' And what brought it to light at last ? "

" Everything at once. First the clerics go to see about
the family where the infant died, and report to Spencer ; he
comes after me, and we start to reconnoitre. Then I am
called in to see Shearman's daughter — a very ugly case that
— and coming out I meet poor Ward himself, wanting me to
see Henry, and there's the other boy sickening too. Then I
went down and saw all those cases in the Lower Ponds, and
have been running about the town ever since to try what can
be done, hunting up nurses, whom I can't get, stirring dishes
of skim milk, tr}dng to get the funerals over to-morrow
morning by daybreak. I declare I have hardly a leg to
stand on."

" Where was Dr. Spencer 1 "

" Pve nearly quarrelled with Spencer. Oh ! he is in
high feather ! he tvoQ have it that the fever rose up bodily,
like Kuhleborn, out of that unhappy drain he is always
worrying about, when it is a regular case of scarlet fever,
brought in by a girl at home fi'om service ; but he will have
it that his theory is proved. Then I meant him to keep
clear of it. He has always been liable to malaria and .all
that sort of thin^^, and has not strength for an illness. I


told him to mind the ordinary practice for me ; and what do
I find him doing the next thing, but operating upon one of
the worst throats he could find ! I told him he was as bad
as young Ward ; I hate his irregular practice. I'll tell you
what," he said, vindictively, as if gratified to have what must
obey him, "you shall all go off to Cocksmoor to-morrow
morning at seven o'clock."

" You forget that we two have had it," said Mary.

"Which of you?"

" AU down to Blanche."

" !N'ever mind for that. I shall have enough to do without
a sick house at home. You can perform quarantine with
Richard, and then go to Flora, if she will have you. Well,
what are you dawdling about 1 Go and pack up."

" Papa," said Ethel, who had been abstracted through all the
latter part of the conversation, " if you please, we had better
not settle my going till to-morrow morning,"

" Come, Ethel, you have too much sense for panics. Don't
take nonsense into your head. The children can't have been
in the way of it."

" Stay, papa," said Ethel, her serious face arresting the
momentary impatience of fatigue and anxiety, " I am afraid
Aubrey was a good while choosing fishing-tackle at Shear-
man's yesterday with Leonard Ward ; and it may be nothing,
but he did seem heavy and out of order to-night ; I wish
you would look at him as you go up."

Dr. May stood stiU for a few moments, then gave one
long gasp, made a few inquiries, and went up to Aubrey's
room. The boy was fast asleep ; but there was that about
him which softened the weary sharpness of his father's
manner, and caused him to desire Ethel to look from the


window whence sTie could see wliether the lights were out in
Dr. Spencer's house. Yes, they were.

"Never mind. It will make no real odds, and he has
had enough on his hands to-day. The boy will sleep quietly
enough to-night, so let us all go to bed."

" I think I can get a mattress into his room without
waking him, if you will help me, Mary/' said EtheL

" ]S"onsense," said her father decidedly. " Mary is not to
go near him before she takes Gertrude to Cocksmoor ; and
you, go to your own bed and get a night's rest while you

" You won't stay up, Papa."

" I — why, it is all I can do not to fall asleep on my feet.
Good night, children."

'' He does not trust himself to think or to fear,'^ said Ethel.
" Too much depends on him to let himself be unstrung."

" Bat, Ethel, you will not leave dear Aubrey."

" I shall keep his door open and mine ; but papa is right,
and it will not do to w^aste one's strength. In case I should
not see you before you go "

" Oh, but, Ethel, I shall come back ! Don't, pray don't
tell me to stay away. Eichard will have to keep away for
Daisy's sake, and you can't do all alone — nurse Aubrey and
attend to papa. Say that I may come back."

""Well, Mary, I think you ougJit,'' said Ethel, after a
moment's thought. " If it were only Aubrey, I could
manage for him ; but I am more anxious about papa."

" You don't think he is going to have it ? "

" Oh no, no," said Ethel, '' he is what he calls himself, a
seasoned vessel ; but he will be terribly overworked, and un-
happy, and he must not come home and find no one to talk


to or to look clieerful. So, Mary, unless he gives any fresh
orders, or Eichard thinks it will only make things worse, I
shall be very glad of you."

Mary had never clung to her so gratefully, nor felt so much
honoured. " Do you think he will have it badly ? " she asked

" I don't think at all about it," said Ethel, something in
her father's manner. " If we are to get through all this,
Mary, it must not be by riding out on perhapses. JSTow let
us put Daisy's things together, for she must have as little
communication wdth home as possible."

Ethel silently and rapidly moved about, dreading to give an
interval for tremblings of heart. Five years of family pros-
perity had passed, and there had been that insensible feeling
of peace and immunity from care which is strange to look
back upon when one hour has drifted from smooth water to
turbid currents. There was a sort of awe in seeing the
mysterious gates of sorrow again unclosed ; yet, darling of
her own as Aubrey was, Ethel's first thoughts and fears were
primarily for her father. Grief and alarm seemed chiefly to
touch her through him, and she found herself praying above
all that he might be shielded from suffering, and might be
spared a renewal of the pangs that had before wrung his

By early morning every one was astir ; and Gertrude, be-
wildered and distressed, yet rather enjoying the fun of
staying with Eichard, was walking off with Mary.

Soon after, Dr. Spencer was standing by the bedside of his
old patient, Aubrey, who had been always left to his manage

" Ah, I see," he said, with a certain tone of satisfaction,


" for once there will be a case properly treated. 'Kovi', Ethel,
you and I will show what intelligent nursing can do."

" I believe you are delighted," growled Aubrey.

" So should you be, at the valuable precedent you will

" I've no notion of being experimented on to prove your
theory," said Aubrey, still ready for lazy mischief

For be it known that the roving-tempered Dr. Spencer
had been on fire to volunteer to the Crimean hospitals, and
had umnllingly sacrificed the project, not to Dr. May's con-
viction that it would be fatal in his present state of health,

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 21)