Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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bouEjhs off the laurels as he walked.

" A hasty word ought not to be kept."

His face looked rigid, and he answered not.

" Leonard," she said, " I have been very unhappy about
you, for I see you doing wilfully wi'ong, and entering a place
of temptation in a dangerous spirit."

" I have given my word," repeated Leonard.

" Leonard, it is pride that is speaking, not the love of
truth and constancy."


" I never defend myself," said Leonard.

Ethel felt deeply the obduracy and pride of these answers ;
her eyes filled with tears, and her hopes failed.

Perhaps Leonard saw the pain he was giving, for he softened,
and said, " ^liss May, I have thought it over, and I cannot
go back. I know I was carried away by passion at the first
moment, and I was willing to make amends. I was rejected,
as you know. Was it fit that we should go on living together 1 "

" I do not ask you to live together."

" When he reproached me with the cost of my maintenance,
and threatened me with the mill if I lost the scholarship,
which he knew I could not get, I said I would abide by those
words. I do abide by them."

" There is no reason that you should. AMiy should you
give up all your best and highest hopes, because you cannot
forgive your brother 1 "

" ]Miss May, if I lived with you and the Doctor, I could
have such aims. Henry has taken care to make them sacrilege
for me. I shall never be fit now, and there's an end of it."

" You might— "

" Xo, no, no ! A school, indeed ! I should be dismissed
for licking the boys before a week was out ! Besides, I want
the readiest way to get on in the world ; I must take care of
my sisters ; I don't trust one moment to Henry's afiection for
any of them. This is no home for me, and it soon may be no
home for them ! ' and the boy^s eyes were full of tears, though
his voice struggled for firmness and indifference.

**I am very sorry for you, Leonard," said Ethel, much
more affectionately, as she felt herself nearer her friend of
Coombe. " I am glad you have some better motives, but I do
not see how you will be more able to help them in this way."


" I shall be near tliem," said Leonard ; " I can watch, over
them. And if — if — it is true what they say about Henry
and Mrs. Pugh — then they could have a cottage near the
mill, and I could live with them. Don't you see, Miss

" Yes ; but I question whether, on further acquaintance,
you will wish for your sisters to be with their relations
there. The other course would put you in the way of a
better atmosphere for them."

" But not for six years," said Leonard. " Xo, Miss May ;
to show you it is not what you think in me, I will tell you
that I had resolved the last thing to ask Henry's pardon
for my share in this unhappy haK year ; but this is the only
resource for me or my sisters, and my mind is made up."

*' Leonard, are you not deceiving yourself 1 Are the
grapes ever so sour, or the nightshade below so sweet, as
when the fox has leapt too short, and is too proud to climb V

" Nightshade ! Why, pray 1 "

" My father would tell you ; I know he thinks your
cousin no safe companion."

" I know that already, but I can keep out of his way."

*'Then this is the end of it," said Ethel, feeling only
half justified in going so far, *' the end of all we thought
and talked of at Coombe ! "

There was a struggle in the boy's face, and she did not
know whether she had touched or angered him. *' I can't
help it," he said, as if he would have recalled liis former
hardness ; but then softenmg, " No, ]\Iiss ^lay ; why should
it be ? A man can do his duty in any state of life."

" In any state of life where God has placed him ; but
how when it is his own self-will 1 "


" There are times when one must judge for one's self."

" Very well, then, I have done, Leonard. If you can
conscientiously feel that you are acting for the best, and
not to gratify your pride, then I can only say I hope you
will be helped through the course you have chosen.

" But — Miss May — though I cannot take your advice — "
he hesitated, " this is not giving me up 1 "

" !N'ever, while you let me esteem 3"0U."

" Thank you/' he said, brightening ; " that is something
to keep my head above water, even if this place were all
you think it."

"My father thinks," said Ethel

" I am engaged now ; I cannot go back," said Leonard.
" Thank you. Miss May."

"Thank you for listening patiently," said Ethel. Good-

" And — and," he added earnestly, following her back to
the house, " you do not think the Coombe days cancelled ? "

" If you mean my hopes of you," said Ethel, with a
swelling heart, " as long as you do your duty — for — for
the highest reason, they will only take another course, and
I will try to think it the right one."

Ethel had mentally made this interview the test of her
regard for Leonard. She had failed, and so had her test ;
her influence had not succeeded, but it had not snapped ;
the boy, in all his wilfulness, had been too much for her,
and she could no longer condemn and throw him ofl" !

Oh ! why will not the rights and wrongs of this world
be more clearly divided ?



** Tlie stream was deeper than I thought
When first I ventured here,
I stood upon its sloping edge
Without a rising fear.' '

H. Bonar.

It was a comfort to find that the brothers parted on good
terms. The elder was beholden to the younger for the
acquiescence that removed the odium of tyranny from the
expulsion ; and when the one great disturbance had silenced
the ephemeral dissensions that had kept both minds in a
constant state of irritation, Henry wanted, by kindness and
consideration, to prove to himself and the world that
Leonard's real interests were his sole object ; and Leonard
rejoiced in being at peace, so long as his pride and reso-
lution were not sacrificed. He went off as though his
employment had been the unanimous choice of the family,
carrying with him his dog, his rifle, his fishing-rod, his
fossils, and all his other possessions, but with the under-
standing that his Sundays were to be passed at home, by
way of safeguard to his religion and morals, bespeaking
the care and consideration of his senior, as Henry assured

THE TlilAL. 205

himself and IShs. Pugh, and tried to persuade his sister
and Dr. May.

But Dr. May ^yas more implacable than all the rest.
He called Henry's action the deed of Joseph's brethren, and
viewed the matter as the responsible head of a family ; he
had a more vivid contemporaneous knowledge of the Axworthy
antecedents, and he had been a witness to Henry's original
indignant repudiation of such a destiny for his brother.
He was in the mood of a man whose charity had endured
long, and refused to condemn, but whose condemnation,
when forced from him, was therefore doubly strong. The
displeasure of a loving charitable man is indeed a grave

iN'ever had he known a more selfish and unprincipled
measure, deliberately flying in the face of his parents' known
wishes before they had been a year in their graves, exposing
his brother to ruinous temptation with his eyes open. The
lad was destroyed body and soul, as much as if he had been
set down in Satan's own clutches ; and if they did not
mind what they were about, he would drag Aubrey after
him ! As sure as his name was Dick May, he would
sooner have cut his hand off than have sent the boys to
Coombe together, could he have guessed that this was to
be the result !

Such discourses did not tend to make Ethel comfortable.
If she had been silly enough to indulge in a dream of her
influence availing to strengthen Leonard against temptation,
she must still have refrained from exerting it through her
wonted medium, since it was her father's express desire
that Aubrey, for his own sake, should be detached from
his friend as much as possible.


Aubrey was the greatest present difficulty. Long before
their illness the boys had been the resource of each other's
leisure, and Coombe had made their intimacy a friendship
of the warmest nature. Aubrey was at an age peculiarly
dependent on equal companionship, and in the absence of
liis brothers, the loss of his daily intercourse with Leonard
took away all the zest of life. Even the volunteer practice
lost its charm without the rival with whom he chiefly
contended, yet whose success against others was better to
him than his own ; his other occupations all wanted partner-
ship, and for the first time in his life he showed weariness
and contempt of his sisters' society and pursuits. He rushed
off on Sunday evenings for a walk with Leonard; and
though Dr. May did not interfere, the daughters saw that
the abstinence was an effort of prudence, and were pro-
portionately disturbed when one day at dinner, in his Other's
absence, Aubrey, who had been overlooking his fishing-flies
with some reviving interest, refused all his sisters' proposals
for the afternoon, and when they represented that it was
not a good fishing-day, owned that it was not, but that he
was going over to consult Leonard Ward about some grey

" But you mustn't, Aubrey," cried Gertrude, aghast.

Aubrey made her a low mocking bow.

*'I am sure papa would be very much vexed," added
she, conclusively.

" I believe it was luckless Hal that the mill-wheel tore
in your nursery rhymes, eh, Daisy," said Aubrey.

" Xursery rhymes, indeed ! " returned the offended young
lady ; " you know it is a very wicked place, and papa
would be very angry at your going there." She looked at


Ethel, extremely shocked at her not having interfered, and
disregarding all signs to keep silence.

"Axworthy — worthy of the axe," said Aubrey, well
pleased to retort a little teasing by the way ; " young
Axworthy baiting the trap, and old Axworthy sitting up
in his den to grind the unwary limb from limb ! "

" Ethel, why don't you tell him not ? " exclaimed Gertrude.

" Because he knows papa's wishes as well as I do," said
Ethel ; " and it is to them that he must attend, not to you
or me."

Aubrey muttered something about his father having said
nothing to him ; and Ethel succeeded in preventing Daisy
from resenting this answer. She herself hoped to catch
him in private, but he easily contrived to baffle this attempt,
and was soon marching out of Stoneborough in a state
of rampant independence, manhood, and resolute friendship,
which nevertheless chose the way where he was least likely
to encounter a little broAvn brougham.

Otherwise he might have reckoned three and a half
miles of ploughed field, soppy lane, and water meadow, as
more than ec[uivalent to five miles of good turnpike road.

Be that as it might, he was extremely glad when, after
forcing his way through a sticky clayey path through a
hazel copse, his eye fell on a wide reach of meadow land,
the railroad making a hard line across it at one end, and
in the midst, about half a mile ofi", the river meandering
like a blue ribbon lying loosely across the green flat,
the handsome buildings of the Yintry 'Mill lying in its

Aubrey knew the outward aspect of the place, for the
foreman at the mill was a frequent patient of his father s,


and lie had often waited in the old gig at the cottage door
at no great distance ; but he looked with more critical eyes
at the home of his friend.

It was a place with much capacity, built, like the Grange,
by the monks of the convent, which had been the germ of
the cathedral, and showing the grand old monastic style in
the solidity of its stone bams and storehouses, all arranged
around a court, whereof tlie dwelling-house occupied one
side, the lawn behind it with fine old trees, and sloping
down to the water, which was full of bright ripples after its
agitation around the great mill-wheel. The house was of
more recent date, having been built by a wealthy yeoman
of Queen Anne's time, and had long ranges of square-
headed sash windows, surmounted by a pediment, carved
with emblems of Ceres and Bacchus, and a very tall front
door, also with a pediment, and with stone steps leading
up to it. Of the same era appeared to be the great gateway,
and the turret above it, containing a clock, the hands of
which pointed to 3.40.

Aubrey had rather it had been four, at which time the
office closed. He looked round the court, which seemed
very clean and rather empty — stables, barns, buildings,
and dwelling-house not showing much sign of life, excepting
the ceaseless hum and clack of the mill, and the dash of
the water which propelled it. The windows nearest to him
were so large and low, that he could look in and see that
the two or three first belonged to living rooms, and the
next two showed him business fittings, and a back that he
took to be Leonard's ; but he paused in doubt how to
present himself, and whether this were a welcome moment ;
and he was very glad_ to see in a doorway of the upper


ston' of the mill buildiiiixs, the honest floury face of his
father's old patient — the foreman.

Greeting him in the open cordial way common to all Dr.
Clay's children, Aubrey was at once recognised, and the old
man came down a step-ladder in the interior to welcome him,
and answer his question where he should find ISIr. Ward.

" He is in the office, sir, there, to the left lland as you go
in at the front door, but — " and he looked up at the clock,
" maybe, you would not mind waiting a bit till it strikes four.
I don't know whether master might be best pleased at young
gentlemen coming to see him in office hours."

" Thank you," said Aubrey. " I did not mean to be too
soon. Hardy, but I did not know how long the walk
would be."

Perhaps it would have been more true had he said that he
had wanted to elude his sisters, but he was glad to accept a
seat on a bundle of sacks tremulous with the motion of the
mill, and to enter into a conversation with the old foreman,
(me of those good old peasants whose integrity and skill
render them privileged persons, worth their weight in gold
long after their bodily strengfth has given way.

" AVeil, Hardy, do you mean to make a thorough good
miller of Mr. Ward 1 "

" Bless you, Master ^lay, he'll never stay here long


" Xo, nor his friends didn't ought to let him stay ! *' added

" Why 1 " said Aubrey. " Do you think so badly of yr.ur
own trade, Hardy ? "

But he could not get an answer from the oracle on this



head. Hardy continued, " He's a nice young gentleman, but
he'll never put up with it."

" Put up with what ? " asked Aubrey, anxiously ; but at
that instant a carter appeared at the door with a question
for Master Hardy, and Aubrey was left to his own devices,
and the hum and clatter of the mill, till the clock had struck
four ; and beginning to think that Hardy had forgotten him,
he was about to set out and reconnoitre, when to his great
joy Leonard himself came hurrying up, and heartily shook
him by the hand.

" Hardy told me you were here," he said. " Well done,
old fellow, I didn't think they would have let you come and
see me."

" The girls did make a great row about it," said Aubrey,
triumphantly, "but I was not going to stand any nonsense."

Leonard looked a little doubtful ; tlien said, " Well, will
you see the place, or come and sit in my room ? There is
the parlour, but we shall not be so quiet there."

Aubrey decided for Leonard's room, and was taken
through the front door into a vestibule paved with white
stone, with black lozenges at the intersections. " There,"
said Leonard, " the office is here, you see, and my uncle's
rooms beyond, all on the ground floor, he is too infirm to go
np-stairs. This way is the dining-room, and Sam has got a
sitting-room beyond, then there are the servants' rooms. It
is a great place, and horridly empty."

Aubrey thought so, as his footsteps echoed up the hand-
some but ill-kept stone staircase, with its fanciful balusters
half choked with dust, and followed Leonard along a corridor,
with deep windows overlooking the garden and river, and
great panelled doors opposite, neither looking as if they were


often either cleaned or opened, and the jDassage smelling
very fusty.

'* Pah I " said Aubrey ; '' it puts me iu mind of the wings
of houses in books that get shut up because somebody has
been murdered ! Are you sure it is not haunted, Leonard ? "

" Only by the rats," he answered, laughing ; " they make
such an intolerable row, that poor little Mab is frightened
out of her wits, and I don't know whether they would not
eat her up if she did not creep up close to me. I'm tired of
going at them with the poker, and would poison every man
Jack of them if it were not for the fear of her getting the
dose by mistake."

"Is that what Hardy says you will never put up with ? "
asked Aubrey ; but instead of answering, Leonard turned to
one of the great windows, saving,

" Tliere now, would not this be a charming place if it were
properly kept 1 " and Aubrey looked out at the great cedar,
spreading out its straight limbs and flakes of dark foliage
over the sloping lawn, one branch so near the window as to
invite adventurous exits, and a little boat lying moored in the
dancing water below.

"Perfect!" said Aubrey. "What fish there must lie in
the mill tail ! "

" Ay, I mean to have a try at them some of these days, I
should like you to come and help, but perhaps — Ha, little
Mab, do you wonder what I'm after so long ? Here's a friend
for you : " as the little dog danced delighted round him, and
paid Aubrey her affectionate respects. Her delicate drawing-
room beauty did not match with the spacious but neglected-
looking room whence she issued. It had three great uncm-
tained windows looking into the court, with deep wdndow

p 2


seats, olive- coloured painted walls, tlie worse for damp and
wear, a small amount of old-fasliioned solid furniture, and a
Leonard's individual goods, chiefly disposed of in a cupboard
in the wall, but Averil's beautiful water-coloured drawings
hung over the chimney. To Aubrey's petted home-bred
notions it was very bare and dreary, and he could not help
exclaiming, " Well, they don't lodge you sumptuously ! "

" I don't fancy many clerks in her Majesty's dominions have
so big and airy an apartment to boast of," said Leonard,
"Let's see these flies of yours."

Their mysteries occupied the boys for some space ; but
Aubrey returned to the charge. "What is it that Hardy
says you'll never put up with, Leonard 1 "

" What did the old fellow say'?" asked Leonard, laughing ;
and as Aubrey repeated the conversation, ending with the
oracular prediction, be laughed again, but said proudly, " He'll
see himself wrong then. Lll put up with whatever I've un-

" But what does he mean 1 "

" Serving one's apprenticeship, I suppose," said Leonard ;
" they all think me a fine gentleman, and above the work, I
know, though I've never stuck at anything yet. If I take to
the business, I suppose it is capable of being raised up to me
— it need not pull me down to it, eh 1 "

" There need be no down in the case/' said Aubrey. " My
father always says there is no doivn except in meanness and
wrong. But," as if that mention brought a recollection to
his mind, " what o'clock is it ? I must not stay much longer."
" I'll walk a bit of the way home with you," said Leonard,
but I must be back by five for dinner. I go to rifle practice
two days in the wcelc, and I don't like to miss the others, for


Sam's often out, and the poor old man does not like being left
alone at meals."

The two boys were at the room door, when Aubrey heard
a step, felt the fustiness enlivened by the odour of a cigar, and
saw a figure at the top of the stairs.

" I say, Ward," observed Mr. Sam, in a rude domineering
voice, " Spelman's account must be all looked over to-night ;
he says that there is a blunder. D'ye hear ] "'

"Very well."

" A\Tio have you got there ? "

" It is Aubrey May."

" Oh ! good morning to you," making a kind of salutation ;
" have you been looking at the water ? We've got some fine
fish there, if you like to throw a line any day. — Well, that
account must be done to-night, and if you can't find the error,
you'll only have to do it over again."

Leonard's colour had risen a good deal, but he said nothing,
and his cousin ran down stairs and drove ofi" in his dog- carl

" Is it much of a business ? " said Aubrey, feeling extremely

" Look here," said Leonard, leading the way down stairs
and into the office, where he pointed to two huge account
books. " Every page in that one must I turn over this
blessed night ; and if he had only told me three hours ago,
I could have done the chief of it, instead of kicking my heels
all the afternoon."

" Has he any right to order you about, out of office hours,
and without a civil word either ? Why do you stand it ? "

" Because I can stand anything better than being returned
on Henry's hands," said Leonard, "and he has spite enough


for that. The thing must be done, and if he won't do it, I
must, that's all. Come along."

As they went out the unwieldly figure of the elder Mr.
Axworthy was seen, leaning out of his open window smoking
a clay pipe. He spoke in a much more friendly tone, as he
said, " Going out, eh '? Mind the dinner-time."

" Yes, sir," said Leonard, coming nearer, " I'm not going

"Who have you got there ? " was again asked.

" One of the young IMays, sir. I was going to walk part of
the way hack."

Aubrey thought the grunt not very civil ; and as the boys
and Mab passed under the gateway, Leonard continued,
" There's not much love lost between him and your father ;
he hates the very name."

" I should expect he would," said Aubrey, as if his hatred
were an honour.

" I fancy there's some old grievance," said Leonard, " where
he was wrong of course. jN^ot that that need hinder your
coming over, Aubrey ; I've a right to my own friends, but — "

" And so have I to mine," said Aubrey eagerly.

" But you see," added Leonard, " I wouldn't have you do
it — if — if it vexes your sister. I can see you every Sunday,
you know, and we can have some fun together on Saturdays
when the evenings get longer."

Aubrey's face fell ; he had a strong inclination for Leonard's
company, and likewise for the trout in the mill tail, and he
did not like his independence to be unappreciated.

" You see," said Leonard, laying his hand kindly on his
shoulder, "it is very jolly of you, but I know they would


hate it in the High Street if you were often here, and it is
not worth that. Besides, Aubrey, to tell the plam truth,
Sam's not fit company for any decent fellow."

" I can't think how he came to ask me to fish."

" Just to show he is master, because he kneAv the poor old
man would not like it ! It is one reason he is so savage with
me, because his uncle took me without his consent."

" But, Leonard, it must be worse than the living at home
ever was."

Leonard laughed. " Its different being ja^^-ed in the way
of business and at one's own home. I'd go through a good
deal more than I do here in the week to have home what it is
now on Sunday. AVhy, Henry really seems glad to see me,
and we have not had the shadow of a row since I came over
here. Don't you tell Ave all this, mind, and you may just
as well not talk about it at home, you know, or they will
think I'm going to cry ofi"."

Aubrey was going to ask what he looked to ; but Leonard
saw, or thought he saw, a weasel in the hedge, and the con-
sequent charge and pursuit finished the dialogue, the boys
parted, and Aubrey walked home, his satisfaction in his
expedition oozing away at every step, though his resolve to
assert his hberty grew in proportion.

Of course it had not been possible to conceal from Dr. May
where Aubrey was gone, and his annoyance had burst out
vehemently, the whole round of objurgations against the
Wards, the Vintry Mill, and his o^vn folly in fostering the
friendship, were gone through, and Ethel had come in for
more than she could easily bear, for not having prevented
the escapade. Gertrude had hardly ever seen her father so
angry, and sat quaking for her brother ; and Ethel meekly


avoided auswering again, Avitli the happy trustfulness of
experienced love.

At lust, as the tea was nearly over, Auhrey walkeil in,
(juite ready for self-defence. Xobody spoke for a little while,

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