Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

. (page 15 of 21)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

except to supply him with food ; but presently Dr. May said,
not at all in the tone in which he had talked of his son's
journey, "You might as well have told me of your intentions,

" I didn't think they mattered to anybody," said Aubrey ;
" we generally go our own way in the afternoon."

" Oh ! " said Dr. INIay. " Interference with the liberty of
the subject ? "

Aubrey coloured, and felt he had not quite spoken truth.
" I could not give him up, father," he said, less defiantly.

" No, certainly not ; but I had rather you only saw him at
home. It will be more for our peace of mind/'

" Well father," said Aubrey, " I am not going there any
more. He told me not himself : " and then with laughing
eyes he added, " He said you would not like it, Ethel."

" Poor boy ! " said Ethel, greatly touched.

"Very right of him," said Dr. May, well pleased. " He is
a fine lad, and full of proper feeling. AVhat sort of a berth
has the old rogue given him, Aubrey % "

Much relieved that matters had taken this course, Aubrey
tried to tell only as much as his friend would approve, but
the medium was not easily found, and pretty nearly the
whole came out. Dr. May was really delighted to hear how
8am treated him.

" If that fellow takes the oppressive line, there may be
si)me hope," he said. " His friendship is the worse danger
than his enmity.''


When the sisters had bidden good night, the doctor detained
Aubrey to say very kindly, " My boy I do not like to hear of
your running counter to your sister."

" I'm not going there again," said Aubrey, willing to

" Wait a minute, Aubrey," said Dr. May ; "I want to tell
you that I feel for you in this matter more than my way of
talking may have made it seem to you. I have a great regard
for your friend Leonard, and think he has been scandalously
used, and I don't want to lessen your attachment to liim.
Far be it from me to think lightly of a friendship, especially
of one formed at your age. Your very name, my boy, shows
that I am not likely to do that ! "

Aubrey smiled frankly, his offended self-assertion entirely

" I know it is very hard on you, but you can understand
that the very reasons that made me so averse to Leonard's
taking this situation, would make me anxious to keep you
away from his relations there, not necessarily from hiuL As
long as he is what he is now, I would not lift a finger to keep
you from him. Have I ever done so, Aubrey ] "

":N'o, papa."

" Xor vnU. I, as long as he is what I see him now. After
this, Aubrey, is it too much to ask of you to keep out of the
way of the persons with whom he is thrown ? "

" I will do so, papa. He wishes it himself.'^ Then Avith
an effort, he added, " I am sorry I went to-day ; I ought not,
but — " and he l<)oked a little foolish.

" You did not like taking orders from the girls ? Xo
wonder, Aubrey ; I have been very thankful to you for
bearing it as you have done. It is the worst of home educa-


tion that these spirits of manliness generally have no vent
but mischief. But you are old enough now to be thankful
for such a friend and adviser as Ethel, and I don't imagine
that she orders you."

" Xo," said Aubrey, smiling and mumbling ; " but Daisy — "

'' Oh, I can quite understand the aggravation of Daisy
happening to be right ; but you must really be man enough
to mind your own conscience, even if Daisy it imprudent
enough to enforce it."

" It was not only that," said Aubrey, " but I could not
have Ward thinking I turned up my nose at his having got
into business."

" Xo, Aubrey, he need never fancy it is the business that
I object to, but the men. Make that clear to him, and ask
him to this house as much as 3'ou please. The more
* thorough ' he is in his business, the more I shall respect

Aubrey smiled, and thanked his father with a cleared
brow, wondering at himself for having gone without con-
sulting him.

" Good night, my boy. May this friendship of yours be a
life-long stay and blessing to you both, even though it may
cost you some pain and self-command, as all good things
must, Aubrey."

That evening Ethel had been writing to Cambridge. Tom
had passed his examination with great credit, and taken an
excellent degree, after which he projected a tour in Germany,
for which he had for some time been economizing, as a well-
earned holiday before commencing his course of hospitals and
lectures. Tom was no great correspondent, and had drilled
his sisters into putting nothing but the essential into their


letters, instead, as lie said, of concealing it in flummery. This
is a specimen of tlie way Tom liked to be written to.

" Stoneborough, Feb. 20th.
" My dear Tom,

" Dr. Spencer says nothing answers so well as

a knapsack. Get one at . The price is £ s. d. Order

extra fittings as required, including a knife and fork. Letters
from X. Z. of the 1st of !N'ovember ; all well. I wish Aubrey
was going with you ; he misses Leonard Ward so sorely, as
to be tempted to follow him to the Vintry Mill. I suspect
your words are coming true, and the days of petticoat govern-
ment ending. However, even if he would not be in your way,
he could not afford to lose six months' study before going into

" Your affectionate sister,

"Etheldked May."

Tom wrote that he should spend a night in London and
come home. When he came, the family exclaimed that his
microscope, whose handsome case he carried in his hand, was
much grown. " And improved too, I hope," said Tom, pro-
ceeding to show off various new acquisitions and exchanges in
the way of eye-pieces, lenses, and other appliances of the most
expensive order, till his father exclaimed,

" Eeally, Tom, I wish I had the secret of your purse."

" The fact is," said Tom, " that I thought more would be
gained by staying at home, so I turned my travels into a
binocular tube," &c,

Aubrey and Gertrude shouted that Tom certainly did love

220 THE rrjAL,

the microscope better than any earthly thing ; and he coolly
accepted the inference.

Somewhat later, he announced that he had decided that
he shouhl be better able to profit by the London lectures
and hospitals, if he first studied for half a year at the one
at Stoneborough, under the direction of his father and
Dr. Spencer.

Di'. ]\ray was extremely gratified, and really esteemed this
one of the grea4}est compliments his science had ever received ;
Dr. Spencer could not help observing, ''I did not think it
was in him to do such a wise tiling. I never can fathom
the rogue. I hope he was not bitten during his benevolent
exertions last winter."

^Meantime, Tom had observed that he had time to see that
Aubrey was decently prepared for Cambridge, and further
promoted the boy to be his out-of-door companion, removing
all the tedium and perplexity of the last few weeks, though
apparently merely indulging his own inclinations. Ethel
recognised the fruit of her letter, and could well forgive the
extra care in housekeeping required for Tom's critical tastes,
nay, the cool expulsion of herself and Gertrude from her
twenty years' home, the school-room, and her final severance
from Aubrey's studies, though at the cost of a pang that
reminded her of her gu'lhood's sorrow at letting Norman
shoot ahead of her. She gave no hint ; she knew that
implicit reserve was the condition of his strange silent con-
fidence in her, and that it would be utterly forfeited unless
she allowed his fraternal sacrifice to pass for mere long-headed

Aubrey's Saturday and Sunday meetings with his friend
were not yielded, even to Tom, who endeavoui-ed to interfere



with tliem, anil would fain liave cut tlie connexion with tlio
entire family, treating Miss "Ward with the most distant and
supercilious bows on the unpleasantly numerous occasions of
meeting her in the street, and contriving to be markedly
scornful in his punctilious civility to Henry Ward when they
met at the hosi^ital. His very look appeared a sarcasm, to
the fancy of the Wards ; and he had a fashion of kindly
inquiring after Leonard, that seemed to both a deliberate
reproach and insult.

Disputes had become less frequent at Bankside since
Leonard's departure, and few occasions of actual dissension
arose ; but tlie spirit of party was not extinguished, and the
brother and sister had adopted lines that perhaps clashed
less because they diverged more.

Averil had, in reply to the constant exhortations to econo-
mize, resolved to decline all invitations, and this kept her
constantly at home, or with her harmonium ; whereas Henry
made such constant engagements, that their, dining together
was the exception, not the rule. After conscientiously teach-
ing her sisters in the morning, she devoted the rest of her
day to their walk, and to usefulness in the parish. She liked
her tasks, and would have been very happy in them, but for
the constant anxiet\' that hung over her lest her home should
soon cease to be her home.

Henry's devotion to Mrs. Piigli could no longer be mis-
taken. The conviction of his intentions grew upon his
sister, first from a mere absurd notion, banished from her
mind with derision, then from a misgiving angrily silenced,
to a fixed expectation, confirmed by the evident opinion of
all around her, and calling for decision and self-command on
her own part.


Perhaps her feelings were unnecessarily strong, and in
some degree unjust to IMrs. Pugh ; but she had the mis-
fortune to be naturally proud and sensitive, as well as by
breeding too refined in tone for most of those who sur-
rounded her. She had taken a personal dislil^e to Mrs. Pugh
from the first ; she regarded pretension as insincerity, and
officiousness as deliberate insult, and she took the recoil of
her taste for the judgment of principle. To see such a
woman ruling in her mother's, her own, home would be bad
enough ; but to be ruled by her, and resign to her the
management of the children, would be intolerable beyond
measure. Too unhappy to speak of her anticipations even to
Leonard or to Mary jMay, she merely endeavoured to throw
them off from day to day ; till one evening, when the days
had grown so long that she could linger in the twilight in
the garden before her singing practice, she was joined by
Henry, with the long apprehended " I want to speak to you,

Was it coming ? Her heart beat so fast, that she could
hardly hear his kind commencement about her excellent
endeavours, and the house's unhappy want of a mistress, the
children's advantage, and so on. She knew it could only
tend to one point, and longed to have it reached and passed.
Of course she would be prepared to hear who was the object
of his choice, and she could not but murmur " Yes " and
'' Well."

" And, Ave, you will, I hope, be gratified to hear that I
am not entirely rejected. The fact is, that I spoke too soon."
Averil could have jumped for joy, and was glad it was too
dusk for her face to be seen. " I do not believe that her late
husband could have had any strong hold on her afi'ections ;


but she has not recovered the shock of his loss, and entreated,
as a favour granted to her sentiments of respect for his
memory, not to hear the subject mentioned for at least
another year. I am permitted to visit at the house as usual,
and no difference is to be made in the terms on which we
stand. Now, Ave, will you — may I ask of you, to do what
you can to remove any impression that she might not be
welcome in the family 1 "

" I never meant — " faltered Averil, checked by sincerity.

" You have always been — so — so cold and backward in
cultivating her acquaintance, that I cannot wonder if she
should think it disagreeable to you ; but, Ave, when you
consider my happiness, and the immense advantage to all of
yon, I am sure you will do what is in your power in my
behalf" He spoke more affectionately and earnestly than he
had done for months ; and Averil was touched, and felt that
to hang back would be unkind.

" I will try," she said. " I do hope it may turn out for
your happiness, Henry."

" For all our happiness," said Henry, walking down to the
gate and along the road with her, proving all the way that he
was acting solely for the good of the others, and that Averil
and the children would find their home infinitely happier.

A whole year — a year's reprieve — was the one thought in
Averil's head, that made her listen so graciously, and answer
so amiably, that Henry parted with her full of kind, warm

As the sage said, who was to be beheaded if he could not
in a year teach the king's ass to speak — what might not
happen in a year ; the king might die, the ass might die, or
he might die — any way there was so much gained : and


Averil, for the time, felt as light-hearted as if IMrs. Pugh had
vanished into empt}' air. To be sure, her own life had, of
late, been far from happy ; but this extemsion of it was hailed
with suppressed ecstasy — almost as an answer to her prayers.
All, Ave, little did you know what you wished in hoping for
anything to prevent the marriage !

She did obey her brother so far as to call upon Mrs. Pugh,
whom she found in ordinar}^ mourning, and capless — a sign
that dismayed her ; but, on the other hand, the lady, though
ver}^ good-natured and patronizing, entertained her with the
j)raises of King John, and showed her a copy of Magna
Charta in process of illumination. Also, during her call,
Tom May walked in with a little book on drops of water ;
and Averil found the lady had become inspired w^ith a micro-
scopic furore, and was thinking of setting up a lens, and
preparing objects for herseK, under good tuition.

Though Averil was very desii'ous that Mrs. Pugh should
refuse her brother, yet this was the last service she wished
the May family to render her. She w^as sure Tom May must
dislike and despise the widow as much as she did ; and since
the whole town T^'as unluckily aware of Henry's intentions,
any interference with them was base and malicious, if in the
way of mere amusement and flirtation. She was resolved to
see what the game was, but only did see that her presence
greatly disconcerted " Mr. Thomas May."

Henry was wretched and irritable in the velvet paw^s of
the widow, who encouraged him enough to give him hope,
and then held him aloof, or w^as equally amiable to some one
else. Perhaps the real interpretation was, that she loved
attention. She was in all sincerity resolved to observe a
proper period of widowhood, and not determined whether,


when, or hovr, it should terminate : courtship amused her,
and though attracted by Henry and his good house, the
evidences of temper and harshness had made her unwilling
to commit herself; besides that, she was afraid of Averil,
and she was more flattered by the civilities of a lioncel like
Harvey Anderson ; or if she could be sure of what Mr.
Thomas May's intentions were, she would have preferred an
embryo physician to a full-grown surgeon — at any rate, it
was right by her poor dear ]\Ir. Pugh to wait.

She need not have feared having Averil as an inmate.
Averil talked it over with Leonard, and determined that no
power on earth should make her live with Mrs. Pugh, If
that were necessary to forward his suit, she would make it
plain that she was ready to depart.

" Oh, Leonard, if my uncle were but a nice sort of person,
how pleasant it would be for me and the children to live
there, and keep his house ; and I could make him so com-
fortable, and nurse him ! "

" ^N'ever, Ave ! " cried Leonard ; " don't let the thing be
talked o£"

" Oh no, I know it would not do with Samuel there ; but
should we be too young for your old scheme of having a
cottaf'e toc^ether near 1 "

o o

" I did not know what the Axworthys were hke," returned

" But need we see them much 1 "

" ril tell you what, Ave, I've heard them both — yes, the
old man the worst of the two — say things about women that
made my blood boil" Leonard was quite red as he spoke.
" My father never let my mother see any of the concern, and
now I know why, I'll never let you do so."



" Then there is only one other thing to be done," said
Averil ; " and that is for me to go back to school as a parlour
boarder, and taJce the children with me. It would be very-
good for them, and dear Mrs. AVood would be very glad to
have me."

" Yes," said Leonard, " that is the only right thing, Ave ;
and the Mays will say so, too. Have you talked it over with
them ? "

" ]N'o ; I hate talking of this thing."

" Well, you had better get their advice. It is the best
thing going ! " said Leonard, with a sigh that sounded as if he
wished he had taken it.

But it was not to Averil that he said so. To her he spoke
brightly of serving the time for which he was bound to his
uncle ; then of making a fresh engagement, that would open
a home to her ; or, better still, suppose Sam did not w^ish to
go on with the business, he might take it, and make the mill
the lovely place it might be. It was to Aubrey May that the
boy's real feelings came out, as, on the Sunday evening, they
slowly wandered along the bank of the river. Aubrey had
seen a specimen of his life at the mill, and been kept up to
the knowledge of its events ; and he well knew that Leonard
was heartily sick of it. That the occupation was uncongenial
and tedious in the extreme to a boy of good ability and
superior education — nay, that the drudgery was made un-
necessarily oppressive, was not the point he complained of,
though it was more trying than he had expected. That was
the bed that he had made, and that he must lie upon. It
was the suspicion of frauds and tricks of the trade, and, still
worse, the company that he lived in. Sam Axworthy hated
and tyrannized over him too much to make dissipation


alluring ; and he was only disgusted by the foul language,
coarse manners, and the remains of intemperance worked off
in violent temper.

The old man, though helpless and past active vice, was
even more coarse in mind and conversation than his nephew ;
and yet his feebleness, and Sam's almost savage treatment
of him, enlisted Leonard's pity on his side. In general, the
old man was kind to Leonard, but would abuse him roundly
when the evidences of his better principles and training, or
his allegiance to Dr. May, came forward ; and Leonard,
though greatly compassionating him, could not always bear
his reproaches with patience, and was held back from more
attention to him than common humanity required, by an
unlucky suggestion that he was currying favour in the hope
of supplanting Sam.

" Old Hardy is the only honest man in the place, I do be-
lieve," said Leonard. " I'll tell you what, Aubrey, I have
made up my mind, there is one thing I will not do. If ever
they want to make me a party to any of their cheatings, I'll
be off. That window and the cedar tree stand very handy.
I've been out there to bathe in the early summer mornings,
plenty of times already, so never you be surprised if some
fine day you hear — non est inventus.^'

"And where would you go ?"

" Get up to London, and see if my quarter's salary would
take me out in the steerai^e to some dif(^inf(s or other. What
would your brother say to me if I turned up at the Grange
—Xew Zealand?"

" Say ! Mention Ethel, and see what he would not say."

And the two boys proceeded to arrange the details of
the evasion in such ^ivid colouring, that they had nearly



forgotten all present troubles, above all when Leonard pro
ceeded to declare that Xew Zealand was too tame and too
settled for him, he should certainly find something to do in
the Feejee Isles, where the high spirit of tlie natives, their
painted visages, and marvellous head-dresses, as depicted in
(Jaj)tain Erskine's voyage, had greatly fired his fancy, and they
even settled how the gold fields should rebuild the jMarket

" And when I'm gone, Aubrey, mind you see to Mab," he
said, laughing.

" Oh ! I thought Mab was to act AYhittington's Cat."
" I'm afraid they would eat her up ; besides, there's the
voyage. No, you must keep her till I come home, even if
she is to end like Argus. Would you die of joy at seeing
me, eh, little black neb ?"



" Let us meet,
And question this most bloody piece of work,
To know it farther." Macbeth.

" If you please, sir. Master Hardy from the Yintry Mill
wants to see yoii," said a voice at Dr. May's door early in the
morning ; and the doctor completed his dressing in haste,
muttering to himself exclamations of concern that the old
man's malady should have returned.

On entering the stud}^, Hardy's appearance, whiter than
even the proverbial hue of his trade, his agitation of feature,
confused eye, and trembling lip, inspired fears that the case
was more alarming than had. been apprehended ; but to cheer
him, the doctor began, " Frightened about yourself, ]\ faster
Hardy, eh ? You've come out without breakfast, and that's
enough to put any man out of heart."

"^N"©, sir," said the old man, " it is nothing about myself;
I wish it were no worse ; but I've not got the heart to go to
tell the poor young gentleman, and I thought — "

" What — what has happened to the boy?" exclaimed Dr.
j\Iay, sharply, standing as if ready to receive the rifle shot
which he already believed had destroyed Leonard.


" That's Tvhat v:e can't say, sir," returned Hardy ; " but he
is gone, no one knows where. And, sir, my poor master Avas
found at five o'clock this morning, in his chair in his sitting-
room, stone dead from a blow^ on the head."

" !Mind what you are saying ! " shouted the doctor passion-
ately. " You old scoundrel, you don't mean to tell me that
you are accusing the lad ! "

" I accuse nobody, sir," said the old man, standing his
ground, and speaking steadily, but respectfully, " I wouldn't
say nothing to bring any one into trouble if I could help it ;
and I came to ask you what was to be done."

" Yes, yes ; I beg your pardon. Hardy, but it sounded
enough to overset one. Y'our poor master murdered, you

Hardy nodded assent.

" And young AVard missing 1 Why, the burglars must
have hurt the poor fellow in defending his uncle. Have you
searched the place 1 "

" I never thought of that, sir," said Hardy, his counte-
nance much relieved ; " it would be more like such a young
gentleman as Mr. Ward."

" Then w^e'll get over to the mill as fast as we can, and see
what can be done," said Dr. May, snatching up his hat and
gloves. " You come and walk with me to Bankside, and tell
me by the way about this terrible business. Good heavens !
they'll have thrown the boy into the river !"

And calling out that his carriage should follow to Bank-
side, the doctor dashed up-stairs, and knocked at Ethel's
door, "My dear," he said, "there has been a robbery or
something at the Yintry jNIill. I must go and see Henry Ward
about it. Poor old Axworthy is murdered, and I'm terribly


afraid Leonard has met with some foul play. You or Mary-
had better go and see about Ave presently, but don't believe
a word of anything tiU you see me again."

And shutting the door, while Ethel felt as if the room were
reeling round with her, Dr. ISIay was in a few seconds more
hastening along by Hardy's side, extracting from him the
little he had to tell. The old man had been unlocking the
door of the mill at five o'clock, when he was summoned by
loud shrieks from the window of Mr. Axworthy's sitting-
room, and found that the little maid had been appalled by
the sight of her master sunk forward from his gouty chair
upon the table, his hair covered with blood. Hardy had
been the first to touch him, and to perceive that he had long
been dead. The housekeeper, the only other servant who
slept in the house, had rushed in half-dressed ; but neither
nephew appeared. Young Axworthy had gone the previous
day to the county races, leaving the time of his return doubt-
ful ; and Leonard Ward did not answer when called. It
was then found that his room was empty, his bed untouched,
and the passage window outside his door left open. The
terrified servants held confused consultation, and while the
groom had hurried off to give the alarm at Whitford, and
ride on in search of Sam Axworthy, Hardy had taken
another horse and started to inform Henry AVard, but his
heart failing him, he had come to beg the doctor to break

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 21)