Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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you trusted his word. The moment I told him that, he took
comfort and energy."

Ethel's lips moved into a strange half smile, and she took
^lab on her lap, and fondled her. " Yes," she said, " I
believe I stand for a good deal in his imagination. I was
afraid he would have been wrecked upon that horrid place ;
but after all, this may be the saving of him."

" Ah ! if that story of his would only be more vraisem-

There was only time briefly to narrate it before coming
home, where the first person they met was Aubrey, ex-
ceeding pale, and in great distress. "Papa, I must tell
you," he said, dra\ving him into the study. " I have done
terrible harm, I am afraid." And he explained, that in the
morning, when Mrs. Pugh had come down full of inquiries
and conjectures, and had spoken of the possibility of Leo-
nard's having been drowned while bathing, he had un-
guardedly answered that it could be no such thing ; Leonard
had always meant to run away, and by that very window, if
the Axworthys grew too bad.

Prudent Tom had silenced him at the time, but had since
found that it had got abroad that the evasion had long been


meditated with Aubrey's privity, and had been asked by one
of the constabulary force if his brother would not be an im-
portant witness. Tom had replied that he knew nothing
about it ; but Aubrey was in great misery, furious with Mrs.
Pugh, and only wanting his father to set off at once to assure
them it was all nonsense.

"!N'o, Aubrey, they neither would, nor ought to, take my

"Just hear, papa, and you would know the chaff it was."

"I cannot hear, Aubrey. If we were to discuss it, we
might give it an unconscious colouring. You must calm
your mind, and exactly recall what passed ; but do not talk
about it to me or to any one else. You must do nothing to
impair the power of perfect truth and accuracy, which is a
thing to be prayed for. If any one — even the lawyer who
may have to get up the case against him — asks you about it,
you must refuse to answer till the trial ; and then — why, the
issue is in the hands of Him that judgeth righteously."

" I shall never remember nor speak Avith his eyes on me,
seeing me betray him ! "

" You will be no worse off than I, my boy, for I see I am
in for identifying Hector's rifle ; the Mill people can't swear
to it, and my doing it mil save his brother something."

"!N'o, it is not like me. Oh ! I wish I had stayed at
Eton, even if I had died of it ! Tom says it all comes of
living with women that I can't keep my mouth shut; and
Leonard will be so hurt that I — "

"Nay, any tolerable counsel will make a capital defence
out of the mere fact of his rhodomontading. What, is that
no comfort to you ? "

" What ! to be the means of making a fool of him before


all the court — seeing him hear our talk by the river-side
sifted by those horrid lawyers 1 "

The doctor looked even graver, and his eye fixed as on a
thought far away, as the boy's grief brought to his mind the
Great Assize, when all that is spoken in the ear shall indeed
be proclaimed on the house-tops.

There was something almost childish in this despair of
Aubrey, for he had not become alarmed for the result of the
trial. His misery was chiefly shame at his supposed treason
to friendship, and failure in manly reserve ; and he could not
hold up his head all the evening, but silently devoted himself
to Mab, endeavouring to make her at home, and meeting
with tolerable success.

Tom was no less devoted to Ella "Ward. It was he who
had brought her home, and he considered her therefore as his
charge. It was curious to see the difference that a year had
made between her and ]\rinna. They had the last summer
been like one child, and had taken the stroke that had
orphaned them in the same childish manner ; but whether
the year from eight to nine had been of especial growth to
jMinna, or whether there had been a stimulus in her constant
association with Averil, the present sorrow fell on her as on
one able to enter into it, think and feel, and assume her sweet
mission of comfort ; whilst Ella, though neither hard nor in-
sensible, was still child enough to close her mind to what she
dreaded, and flee willingly from the pain and tedium of
affliction. She had willingly accepted " IMr. Tom's " invita-
tion, and as willingly responded to his attentions. Gertrude
did not like people in the " little girl " stage, and the elder
sisters had their hands and hearts full, and could only care
for her in essentials j but Tom undertook her amusement,


treated her to an exhibition of his microscope, and played at
French billiards with her the rest of the evening, till she was
carried off to bed in Mary's room, when he pronounced her a
very intelligent child.

"I think her a very unfeeling little thing," said Gertrude.
"Very unbecoming behaviour under the circumstances."

" What would you think becoming behaviour ? " asked

" I won't encourage it," returned Daisy, with dignified
decision, that gave her father his lirst approach to a laugh on
that day ; but nobody was in spirits to desire Miss Daisy to
define from what her important sanction was withdrawn.

Mary gave up her Sunday-school class to see how Averil
was, and found Henry much perturbed. He had seen her
fast asleep at night, and in the morning Minna had carried
up her breakfast, and he was about to follow it, as soon as
his own was finished, when he found that she had slipped
out of the house, leaving a message that she was gone to
practise on the harmonium.

He was of the mind that none of the family could or
ought to be seen at church ; and though Mary could not
agree with him, she willingly consented to go to the chapel
and try what she could do with his sister. She met Mrs.
Ledwich on the way, coming to inquire and see whether she
or dear Matilda could do anything for the " sw^eet sufferer."
Even ]Mary could not help thinking that this was not the
epithet most befitting poor Ave ; and perhaps Mrs. Ledwich's
companionship made her the less regret that Ave had locked
herseK in, so that there was no making her hear, though the
solemn chants, played with great fervour, reached them as
they waited in the porch. They had their own seats in the


Minster, and therefore could not wait till the sexton should
come to open the church.

There was no time for another visit till after the second
service, and then Dr. May and Mary, going to Eankside,
found that instead of returning home, Ave had again locked
herself up between the services, and that Minna, who had
ventured on a mission of recall, had come home crying
heartily both at the dreary disappointment of knocking in
vain, and at the grand mournful sounds of funeral marches
that had fallen on her ear. Every one who had been at the
chapel that day w^as speaking of the wonderful music, the
force and the melody of the voluntary at the dismissal of the
congregation ; no one had believed that such power resided
in the harmonium. Mr. Scudamore had spoken to Miss
Ward most kindly both before and after evening service, but
his attempt to take her home had been unavailing ; she had
answered that she w^as going presently, and he was obliged to
leave her.

Evening was coming on, and she had not come ; so the
other keys were fetched from the sexton's, and Dr. May and
his daughter set off to storm her fortress. Like Minna, the
doctor was almost overpowered by the wonderful plaintive
sweetness of the notes that were floating through the atmo-
sphere, like a Availing voice of supplication. They had
almost unnerved him, as he waited while Mary unlocked
the door.

The sound of its opening hushed the music ; Averil turned
her head, and recognizing them, came to them, very pale,
and with sunken eyes. " You are coming home, dear Ave,"
said ^lary ; and she made no resistance or objection, only
saying, " Yes. It has been so nice here ! "


" You must come now, though," said the doctor. " Your
brother is very much grieved at your leaving him."

*' I did not mean to be unkind to him," said Averil, in a
low subdued voice ; " he was very good to me last night.
Only — this is peace — this," pointing to her instrument, " is
such a soothing friend. And surely this is the place to
"wait in ! "

" The place to wait in indeed, my poor child, if you are
not increasing the distress of others by staying here. Besides,
you must not exhaust yourself, or how are you to go and
cheer Leonard ? "

" Oh ! there is no fear but that I shall go to-morrow," said
Averil ; " I mean to do it ! " the last words being spoken in
a resolute tone, unlike the weariness of her former replies.

And with this purpose before her, she consented to be
taken back by ^lary to rest on the sofa, and even to try to
eat and drink. Her brother and sister hung over her, and
waited on her ^vith a tender assiduous attention that showed
how they had missed her all day; and she received their
kindness gratefully, as far as her broken wearied state per-

Several inquiries had come throughout the day from the
neighbours ; and while Mary was still with Ave, a message
was brought in to ask whether Miss AVard would like to see
Mrs. Pugh.

" Oh no, no, thank her, but indeed I cannot," said Averil,
shivering uncontrollably as she lay.

Mary felt herself blushing, in the wonder what would be
kindest to do, and her dread of seeing Henry's face. She
was sure that he too shrank, and she ventured to ask, " Shall
I go and speak to her ?"


" Oh, do, do," said Averil, shuddering with eagerness.

" Thank you, Miss Mary,'' said Henry slowly. " She is
most kind — but — under the circumstances — "

Mary went, finding that he only hesitated. She had little
opportunity for saying anything; ]\Ir5. Pugh was full of
interest and eagerness, and poured out her sjinpathy and
perfect understanding of dear Averil's feelings ; and in the
midst Henry came out of the room^ with a stronger version
of their gratitude, but in tenible confusion. Mary would
fain have retreated, but could not, and was witness to the
lad}-' 3 urgent entreaties to take Minna home, and Henry^s
thankfulness; but he feared — and retreated to ask the
opinion of his sisters, while Mrs. Pugh told Mary that it
was so very bad for the poor child to remain, and begged to
have Ella if she were a moment's inconvenience to the May

Henry came back with repeated thanks, but Minna could
not bear to leave home ; and in fact, he owned, with a half
smile that gave sweetness to his face, she was too great a
comfort to be parted with. So Mrs. Pugh departed, with
doubled and trebled offers of service, and entreaties to be
sent for at any hour of the day or night when she could be
of use to Averil.

Mary could not but be pleased with her, officious as she
was. It looked as if she had more genuine feeling for Henry
than had been suspected, and the kindness was certain,
though some of it might be the busy activity of a not very-
delicate nature, eager for the importance conferred by in-
timacy with the subjects of a great calamity. Probably she
would have been gi*atified by the eclai of being the beloved
of the brother of the youth whose name was in every mouth,


and her real goodness and benevolent heart would have com-
mitted her affections and interest beyond recall to the Ward
family, had Averil leant upon her, or had Henry exerted
himself to take advantage of her advances.

But Henry's attachment had probably not been love, for it
seemed utterly crushed out of him by his shame and despair.
Everything connected with his past life was hateful to him ;
he declared that he could never show his face at Stone-
borough again, let the result be what it might — that he could
never visit another patient, and that he should change his
name and leave the country, beginning on that very Sunday
afternoon to write a letter to his principal rival to negotiate
the sale of his practice.

In fact, his first impression had returned on him, and
though he never disclaimed belief in Leonard's statement,
the entire failure of all confirmation convinced him that the
blow had been struck by his brother in sudden anger, and
that, defend him as he might and would, the stain was on
his house, and the guilt would be brought home.

Resolved, however, to do his utmost, he went with Mr.
Bramshaw for a consultation with Leonard on the Monday.
Averil could not go. She rose and dressed, and remained
resolute till nearly the last minute, when her feverish faint
giddiness overpowered her, and she was forced to submit to
lie on the sofa, under Minna's care ; and there she lay, rest-
less and wretched, till wise little Minna sent a message up to
the High-street, which brought down Mary and Dr. Spencer.
They found her in a state of ner\'ous fever, that sentenced
her to her bed, where Mary deposited her and watched over
her, till her brother's return, more desponding than ever.

Dr. May, with all Henry's patients on his hands as well as


his ovm, had "been forced to devote this entire day to his pro-
fession ; but on the next, leaving Henry to vratch over Averil,
who continued very feeble and feverish, he went to Whitford,
almost infected by Henry's forebodings and ^Ir. Bramshaw's
misgivings. " It is a bad case," the attorney had said to him,
confidentially. " But that there is always a great reluctance
to convict upon circumstantial evidence, I should have very
little hope, that story of his is so utterly impracticable ; and
yet he looks so innocent and earnest all the time, and sticks
to it so consistently, that I don't know what to make of it.
I can't do anything with him, nor can his brother either ;
but perhaps you might make him understand that we could
bring him clear off for manslaughter — youth, and charactei
and all I should not doubt of a verdict for a moment ! It
is awkward about the money, but the alarm would be con-
sidered in the sentence."

" You don't attend to hds account of the person he saw in
the court-yard ? "

" The less said about that the better," returned Mr. Bram-
shaw. " It would only go for an awkward attempt to shift
off the suspicion, unless he would give any description j and
that he can't, or won't do. Or even if he did, the case would
be all the stronger against his story — setting off, and leaving
a stranger to maraud about the place. Xo, Dr. May ; the
only thing for it is to persuade the lad to own to having
struck the old man in a passion : every one knows old
Axworthy could be? intolerably abusive, and the boy always
was passionate. Don't you remember his flying out at Mr.
Pdvers's, the night of the party, and that affair which was
the means of his going to the mill at all ? I don't mind
saying so to you in confidence, because I know you won't


repeat it, and I see his brother thinks so too ; hut nothing is
likely to turn out so well for him as that line of defence ; as
things stand now, the present one is good for nothing."

Dr. May was almost as much grieved at the notion of the
youth's persistence in denying such a crime, as at the danger
in wliich it involved him, and felt that if he were to be
brought to confession, it should be from repentance, not

In this mood he drove to Whitford Gaol, made application
at the gates, and was conducted up the stairs to the cell.

The three days of nearly entire solitude and of awful ex-
pectation had told like double the number of years ; and
there was a stamp of grave earnest coUectedness on the
young brow, and a calm resolution of aspect and movement,
free from all excitement or embarrassment, as Leonard Ward
stood up with a warm grateful greeting, so full of ingenuous
reliance, that every doubt vanished at the same moment.

His first question was for Averil ; and Dr. May made the
best of her state. " She slept a little more last night, and
her pulse are lower this morning ; but we keep her in bed,
half to hinder her from trying to come here before she is fit.
I believe this ailment is the best thing for her and Henry
both," added the doctor, seeing how much pain his words
were giving. " Henry is a very good nurse ; it occupies him,
and it is good for her to feel his kindness ! Then Minna has
come out in the prettiest way : she never fails in some sweet
little tender word or caress just when it is wanted."

Leonard tried to smile, but only succeeded in keeping back
a sob ; and the doctor discharged his memory of the messages
of love of which he had been the depository. Leonard re-
covered his composure during these, and was able to return


a smile on hearing of Ella's conquest of Tom, of tlieir Bible
prints on Sunday, and their unwearied French billiards in
the week. Then he asked after little Mab.

" She is all a dog should be," said Dr. ^lay. " Aubrey is
her chief friend, except when she is lying at her ease on
Ethel's dress."

The old test of dog-love perhaps occurred to Leonard, for
his lips trembled, and his eyes were de^vy, even while they
beamed with gladness.

" She is a great comfort to Aubrey," the doctor added.
" I must beg you to send that poor fellow your forgiveness,
for he is exceedingly unhapj^y about something he repeated
in the first unguarded moment."

" Mr. Bramshaw told me," said Leonard, with brow con-

" I cannot believe," said Dr. May, " that it can do you any
real harm. I do not think the prosecution ought to take
notice of it ; but if they do, it will be easy to sift it, and
make it tell rather in your favour."

" Maybe so," said Leonard, still coldly.

" Then you will cheer him with some kind message 1 "

" To be sure. It is the time for me to be forgiving every
one," he answered, with a long tightly-drawn breath.

Much distressed, the doctor paused, in uncertainty
whether Leonard were actuated by dread of the disclosure
or resentment at the breach of confidence ; but ere he spoke,
the struggle had been fought out, and a sweet sad face was
turned round to him, with the words, " Poor old Aubrey !
Tell him not to mind. There will be worse to be told out
than our romancings together, and he will feel it more than
I shall I Don't let him vex himself."


'^ Thank you," said the father, warmly. " I call that

** Kot that there is anything to forgive," said Leonard,
" only it is odd that one cares for it more .than — No, no,
don't tell him that, but that I know it does not signify. It
must not come between us, if this is to be the end ; and it
wiU make no difference. Xothing can do that but the finding
my receipt. I see that book night and day before my eyes,
•with the very blot that I made in the top of my L."

" You know they are searching the garden and fields, and
advertising a reward, in case of its having been thrown away
when rifled, or found to contain no valuables."

" Yes ! " and he rested on the word as though much lay

" Do you think it contained anything worth keeping ? "

*' Only by one person."

'' Ha ! " said the doctor, with a start.

Instead of answering, Leonard leant down on the narrow
bed on which he was seated, and shut in his face between
his hands.

The doctor waited, guessed, and grew impatient. "You
don't mean that feUow, Sam 1 Do you think he has it ? I
should like to throttle him, as sure as my name's Dick
May ! " (this in soliloquy between his teeth.) " Speak up,
Leonard, if you have any suspicion."

The lad lifted himself with grave resolution that gave him
dignity. '*Dr. May," he said, "I know that what I say is
safe with you, and it seems disrespectful to ask your word
and honour beforehand, but I think it will be better for us
both if you will give them not to make use of what I tell
you. It weighs on me so, that I shall be saying it to the


"^vrong person, unless I have it out with you. You promise
me 1 "

" To make no use of it without your consent," repeated
the doctor, with' rising hope; "but this is no case for
scruples — too much is at stake."

" You need not tell me that," Leonard repHed, w4th a
shudder ; " but I have no proof. I have thought again
and again and again, but can find no possible witness. He
was always cautious, and diink made him savage, but not

" Then you believe — " The silence told the rest.

" If I did not see how easy people find it to believe the
same of me on the mere evidence of circumstances, I should
have no doubt," said Leonard, deliberately.

" Then it was he that you saw in the yard 1 "

" Eemember, all I saw was that a man was there. I con-
cluded it was Andrews, waiting to take the horse ; and as he
is a great hanger-on of Sam, I wished to avoid liim, and not
keep my candle alight to attract his attention. That was the
whole reason of my getting out of window, and starting so
soon ; as unlucky a thing as I could have done."

" You are sure it w^as not Andrews 1 "

" jS^ow I am. You see Sam had sent home his horse from
the station, though I did not know it ; and, if you remember,
Andrews was shown to have been at his father's long before.
If he had been the man, he could speak to the time my light
was put out."

" The putting out of your light must have been the signal
for the deed to be done."

" ]\Iy poor uncle ! Well might he stare round as if he
thought the walls would betray him, and start at every chink-



ing of that unhappy gold in his helpless hands ! If we had
only known who was near — perhaps behind the bUnds — "
and Leonard gasped.

" Eut this secresy, Leonard, I cannot understand it. Do
you mean that the poor old man durst not do what he would
with his own 1 "

"■ Just so. "Whenever Sam knew that he had a sum of
money, he laid hands on it. ISTothing was safe from him that
^h. Axworthy had in the Whitford Bank."

" That can be proved from the accounts 1 "

" You recollect the little parlour between the office and
my uncle's sitting-room ? There I used to sit in the evening,
and to feel, rather than hear, the way Sam used to bully the
poor old man. Once — a fortnight ago, just after that talk
with Aubrey — I knew he had been drinking, and watched,
and came in upon them when there was no bearing it any
longer. I was sworn at for my pains, and almost kicked out
again ; but after that Mr. Axworthy made me sit in the
room, as if I were a protection ; and I made up my mind to
bear it as long as he lived."

" Surely the servants would bear witness to this state of
things 1 "

" I think not. Their rooms are too far off for overhearing,
and my uncle saw as little of them as possible. Mrs. Giles
was Sam's nurse, and cares for him more than any other
creature ; she would not say a word against him even if she
knew anything ; and my uncle would never have complained.
He was fond of Sam to the last, proud of his steeple chases
and his cleverness, and desperately afraid of him ; in a sort
of bondage, entirely past daring to speak."

'' I know," said Dr. May, remembering how his own Tom


had been fettered and tongue-tied bj^ that same tyrant in
boyhood. " But he spoke to you ? "

" Xo," said Leonard. " After that scene much was im-
plied between us, but nothing mentioned. I cannot even tell
whether he trusted me, or only made me serve as a protector.
I believe that row was about this money, which he had got
together in secret, and that Sam suspected, and wanted to
extort ; but it was exactly as I said at the inquest, he gave
no reason for sending me up to town with it. He knew that
I knew why, and so said no more than that it was to be
private. It was pitiful to see that man, so fierce and bold as
they say he once was, trembling as if doing something by
stealth, and the great hard knotty hands so crumpled and
shaky, that he had to leave all to me. And that they should
fancy / could go and hurt him ! " said Leonard, stretching
his broad chest and shoulders in conscious strength.

" Yes, considering who it was, I do not wonder that you
feel the passion-theory as insulting as the accusation."

" I ought not," said Leonard, reddening. " Every one
knows what my temper can do. I do not think that a poor
old feeble man like that could have provoked me to be so
cowardly, but I see it is no wonder they think so. Only
they might suppose I would not have been a robber, and go
on lying now, when they take good care to tell me that it is
ruinous ! "

" It is an intolerable shame that they can look you in the
face and imagine it for a moment," said the doctor, with aU

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 21)