Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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but to Ethel's private entreaty that he would not add to her
father's distress in the freshness of Margaret's death, and the
parting with Norman. He had never ceased to mourn over
the lost opportunity, and to cast up to his friend the dis-
coveries he might have made ; while Dr. May declared that
if by any strange chance he had come back at all, he would
have been so rabid on improved nursing and sanatory
measures, that there would have been no living with him.

It must be owned that Dr. May was not very sensible to
what his friend called Stoneborough stinks. The place was
fairly healthy, and his " town councillor's conservatism," and
hatred of change, as well as the amusement of skirmishing,
had always made him the champion of things as they were ;
and in the present emergency the battle whether the enemy
had travelled by infection, or was the product of the Pond
Buildings' miasma, was the favourite enlivenment of the dis-
agreeing doctors, in their brief intervals of repose in the stern
conflict which they were waging with the fever — a conflict in
which they had soon to strive by themselves, for the disease
not only seized on young Ward, but on his father ; and till


medical assistance was sent from London, they had the whole
town on their hands, and for nearly a week lived without a
night's rest.

The care of the sick was a still greater difficulty. Though
Aubrey was never in danger, and Dr. Spencer's promise of
the effects of " intelligent nursing" was fully realized, Ethel
and Mary were so occupied by him, tliat it was a fearful
thing to guess how it must fare with those households where
the greater number were laid low, and in want of all the
comforts that could do little.

The clergy worked to the utmost ; and a letter of Mr.
Wilmot's obtained the assistance of two ladies from a nursing
sisterhood, who not only worked incredible wonders with
their own hands among the poor, but made efficient nurses
of rough girls and stupid old women. Dr. May, who had at
first, in his distrust of innovation, been averse to the importa-
tion — as likely to have no effect but j)utting nonsense into
girls' heads, and worrying the sick poor — was so entirely con-
quered, that he took off his hat to them across the street,
importuned them to drink tea with his daughters, and never
came home without dilating on their merits for the few
minutes that intervened between his satisfying himself about
Aubrey and dropping asleep in his chair. The only counter
demonstration he reserved to himself was that he always
called them " Miss What-d'ye-call-her," and " Those gems of
women," instead of Sister Katherine and Sister Frances.



*• Good words are silver, but good deeds are gold."

Cecil and Mary.

*• It has been a very good day, Papa ; lie has enjoyed all
his meals, indeed was quite ravenous. He is asleep now,
and looks as comfortable as possible," said Ethel, five weeks
after Aubrey's illness had begun.

"Thank God for that, and all His mercy to us, Ethel; "
and the long sigh, the kiss, and dewy eyes, would have
told her that there had been more to exhaust him than his
twelve hours' toil, even had she not partly known what
weighed him down.

" Poor things ! " she said.

" Both gone, Ethel, both ! both ! " and as he entered the
drawing-room, he threw himself back m liis chair, and gasped
with the long restrained feeling.

" Both ! " she exclaimed. ** You don't mean that
Leonard — "

" Xo, Ethel ; his mother ! Poor children, poor children ! "

" Mrs. Ward ! I thought she had only been taken ill
yesterday evening."

VOL. 1. C


" She only then gave way — but she never had any con-
stitution — she was done up with nursing — nothing to fall
"back on — sudden collapse and prostration — and that poor
gii'l, called every way at once, fancied her asleep, and took
no alarm till I came in this morning and found her pulse all
but gone. We have been pouring down stimulants all day,
but there was no rousing her, and she was gone the first."
" And Mr. "Ward— did he know it ? "
" I thought so fi'om the way he looked at me ; but speech
had long been lost, and that throat was dreadful suffering.
AVell, ' In their death they were not divided.' "

He shaded his eyes with his hand ; and Ethel, leaning
against his chair, could not hinder herself from a shudder
at the longing those words seemed to convey. He felt her
movement, and put his arm round her, saying, " Xo, Ethel,
do not think I envy them. I might have done so once — I
had not then learnt the meaning of the discipline of being
without her — no, nor what you could do for nie, my child,
my children."

Ethel's thrill of bliss was so intense, that it gave her a
sense of selfishness in indulging personal joy at such a
moment ; and indeed it was true that her father had over-
lived the first pangs of change and separation, had formed
new and congenial habits, saw the future hope before him ;
and since poor jNIargaret had been at rest, had been without
present anxiety, or the sight of decay and disap^^ointment.
Her only answer was a mute smoothing of his bowed
shoulders, as she said, " If I could be of any use or comfort
to poor Averil Ward, I could go to-night. Mary is enough
for Aubrey."

" Not now, my dear. She can't stir from the boy, they


are giving him champagne every ten minutes, she has the
nurse, and Spencer is backwards and forwards ; I think
they will pull him through, but it is a near, a very near
touch. Good, patient, unselfish boy he is too."

" He always was a very nice boy," said Ethel, " I do hope
he will get well. It would be a terrible grief to Aubrey."

"Yes, I got Leonard to open his lips to-day by telling
him that Aubrey had sent him the grapes. I think he
will get through. I hope he will. He is a good friend for
Aubrey. So touching it was this morning to hear him
trying to ask pardon for all his faults, poor fellow — fits of
temper, and the like."

" That is his fault, I believe," said Ethel, " and I always
think it a wholesome one, because it is so visible and un-
justifiable, that people strive against it. And the rest?
"Was Henry able to see his father or mother 1 "

*' 'No, he can scarcely sit up in bed. It was piteous to see
him lying with his door open, listening. He is full of warm
sound feeling, poor fellow. You would like to have heard
the fervour with which he begged me to tell his father to
have no fears for the younger ones, for it should be the most
precious task of his life to do a parent's part by them."

" Let me see, he is just of Harry's age," said Ethel
thoughtfully, as if she had not the strongest faith in
Harry's power of supplying a parent's place.

" Well," said her father, " remember, a medical student is
an older man than a lieutenant in the navy. One sees as
much of the interior as the other does of the surface. We
must take this young Ward by the hand, and mind he does
not lose his father's practice, Eurdon, that young prig that
Spencer got down from London, met me at Gavin's, when I

c 2


looked in there on my way home, and came the length of
Minster Street with me, asking what I thought of an opening
for a medical man — partnership with young Ward, &c. I
snubbed him so short, that I fancy I left him thinking
whether his nose was on or off his face."

" He ivas rather premature."

" I've settled him any way. I shall do my best to keep
the town clear for that lad ; there's not much more for him,
as things are now, and it will be only looking close after him
for a few years, which Spencer and I can very well manage."

"If he will let you."

" There ! that's the spitefulness of women ! Must you
be casting up that little natural spirt of independence
against him after the lesson he has had ? I tell you, he has
been promising me to look on me as a father ! Poor old
Ward ! he was a good friend and fellow-worker. I owe a
great deal to him."

Ethel wondered if he forgot how much of the unservice-
ableness of his maimed arm had once been attributed to
Mr. Ward's dulness, or how many times he had come home
boiling with annoyance at having been called in too late to
remedy the respectable apothecary's half measures. She
believed that the son had been much better educated than
the father, and after the fearful lesson he had received,
thought he might realize Dr. May's hopes, and appreciate his
kindness. They discussed the relations.

" Ward came as assistant to old Axworthy, and married
his daughter ; he had no relations that his son knows of,
except the old aunt who left Averil her 2000Z."

" There are some Axworthys still," said Ethel, " but not
very creditable people."


"You may say that," said Dr. May emphatically. "There
was a scapegrace brother that ran away, and was heard of no
more till he turned up, a wealthy man, ten or fifteen years
ago, and bought what they call the Yintry Mill, some way on
this side of Whitford. He has a business on a large scale ; but
AVard had as little intercourse with him as possible. A
terrible old heathen."

" And the boy that was expelled for bullying Tom is in
the business."

" I hate the thought of that ! " said the doctor. " If he
had stayed on, who knows but he might have turned out
as well as Ned Anderson."

" Has not he % "

" I'm sure I have no right to say he has not, but he is a
flashy slang style of youth, and I hope the young Wards
will keep out of his way."

" What will become of them ] Is there likely to be any
provision for them ? "

" Not much, I should guess. Poor Ward did as we are
all tempted to do when money goes through our hands, and
spent more freely than I was ever allowed to do. Costly
house, garden, greenhouses — he'd better have stuck to old
Axworthy's place in Minster Street — daughter at that grand
school, where she cost more than the whole half-dozen ot
you put together."

" She was more worth it," said Ethel ; " her music and
drawing are first-rate. Harry was frantic about her singing
last time he was at home — one evening when Mrs. Anderson
abused his good nature and got him to a tea-party — I began
to be afraid of the consequences."

" Pish ! " said the doctor.


" And really they kept her there to enable her to educate
her sisters," said Ethel. "The last time I called on poor
Mrs. AVard, she told me all about it, apologizing in the
pretty way mothers do, saying she was looking forward to
Averil's coming home, but that while she profited so much,
they felt it due to her to give her every advantage ; and did
not I think — with my experience — that it was all so much
for the little ones' benefit 1 I assured her, from my personal
experience, that ignorance is a terrible thing in governessing
one's sisters. Poor thing ! And Averil had only come home
this very Easter."

" And with everything to learn, in such a scene as that !
The first day, when only the boys were ill, there sat the
girl, dabbling with her water-colours, and her petticoats
reaching half across the room, looking like a milliner's doll,
and neither she nor her poor mother dreaming of her doing
a useful matter."

"Who is spiteful now. Papal That's all envy at not
having such an accomplished daughter. When she came
out in time of need so grandly, and showed all a woman's
instinct — "

" Woman's nonsense ! Instinct is for irrational brutes,
and the more you cultivate a woman, the less she has of
it, unless you work up her practical common sense too."

" Some one said she made a wonderful nurse."

" Wonderful ? Perhaps so, considering her opportunities,
and she does better with Spencer than with me ; I may have
called her to order impatiently, for she is nervous with me,
loses her head, and knocks everything down with her petti-
coats. Then — not a word to any one, Ethel — but imagine
her perfect blindness to her poor mother's state all yesterday?


and last night, not even calling Burdon to look at her ; why,
those ten hours may have made all the difference ! "

" Poor thing, how is she getting on now ? "

" Concentrated upon Leonard, too much stunned to admit
another idea — no tears — hardly full comprehension. One
can't take her away, and she can't bear not to do everything,
and yet one can't trust her any more than a child."

" As she is," said Ethel, " but as she won't be any longer.
And the two little ones 1 "

"It breaks one's heart to see them, just able to sit by
their nursery fii-e, murmuring in that weary, resigned, sick
child's voice, ' I wish nurse would come.' ' I wish sister
would come.' ' I wish mamma would come.' I went up to
them the last thing, and told them how it was, and let them
cry themselves to sleep. That was the worst business of alL
Ethel, are they too big for Mary to dress some dolls for them ? "

" I will try to find out their tastes the first thing to-
morrow," said Ethel ; " at any rate we can help them, if not
poor Averil."

Ethel, however, was detained at home to await Dr. Spencer's
visit, and Mary, Avhose dreams had all night been haunted
by the thought of the two little nursery prisoners, entreated
to go with her father, and see what could be done for them.

Off they set together, ]\Iary with a basket in her hand,
which was replenished at the toy shop in Minster Street
with two china-faced dolls, and, a little farther on, parted
with a couple of rolls, interspersed with strata of cold beef
and butter, to a household of convalescents in the stage for
kitchen physic.

Passing the school, still taking its enforced holiday, the
father and daughter traversed the bridge and entered the


growing suburb known as Bankside, wbere wretched cottages
belonging to needy, grasping proprietors, formed an uncom-
fortable contrast to the villa residences interspersed among

One of these, with a well-kept lawn, daintily adorned
with the newest pines and ornamental shrubs, and with
sheets of glass glaring in the sun from the gardens at the
back, was the house that j)oor Mr. and Mrs. "\Yard had
bought and beautified ; " because it was so much better for
the children to be out of the town." The tears sprang into
Mary's eyes at the veiled Avindows, and the unfeeling con-
trast of the spring glow of flowering thorn, lilac, laburnum,
and, above all, the hard, flashing brightness of the glass ;
but tears were so unlike Ethel that Mary always was
ashamed of them, and disposed of them quietly.

They rang, but in vain. Two of the servants were ill,
and all in confusion ; and after waiting a few moments
among the azaleas in the glass porch, Dr. May admitted
himself, and led the way upstairs with silent footfalls, Mary
following with breath held back. A voice from an ojDen
door called, " Is that Dr. May ? " and he paused to look in
and say, " I'll be with you in one minute, Henry ; how is
Leonard ? "

" No worse, they tell me ; I say. Dr. May — "

" One moment ; " and turning back to Mary, he pointed
along a dark passage. " Up there, first door to the right.
You can't mistake ; " then disappeared, drawing the door
after him.

Much discomfited, Mary nevertheless plunged bravely on,
concluding " there " to be up a narrow, uncarpeted stair,
with a nursery wicket at the top, in undoing which, she was


relieved of all doubts and scruples by a melancboly little
duet from •vdtliiii. " Xary Mary, we want our breakfast !
"We want to get up ! Mar}', Mary, do come ! please come I "

She was instantly in what might ordinarily have been a
light, cheerful room, but which was in all the dreariness
of grey cinders, exhausted night light, curtained windows,
and fragments of the last meal. In each of two cane cribs
was sitting up a forlorn cliilJ, with loose locks of dishevelled
hair, pale thin cheeks glazed with tears, staring eyes, and
mouths rounded with amaze at the apparition. One dropped
down and hid under the bed-clothes ; the other remained
transfixed, as her visitor advanced, saying, " T\"ell, my dear,
you called Mary, and here I am,"

" Xot our own Mary," said the child, distrustfully.

" See if I can't be your own Mary."

" You can't. You can't give us our breakfast."

" Oh, I am so hungry 1 " from the other crib ; and both
burst into the feeble sobs of exhaustion. Eecovering from
fever, and still fasting at half-past nine ! Mary was aghast,
and promised an instant supply.

" Don't go ; " and a bird-like httle hand seized her on
either side. " Mary never came to bed, and nobody has
been here all the morning, and we can't bear to be alone."

" I was only looking for the bell."

" It is of no use ; Minna did jump out and ring, but
nobody will come."

Mary made an ineffectual experiment, and then persuaded
the children to let her go by assurances of a speedy return.
She sped down, brimming over with pity and indignation
to communicate to her father this cruel neglect, and as she
passed Henry AVard's door, and heard several voices, she


ventured on a timid summons of " Papa," but, finding it
unheard, she perceived that she must act for herself. Going
down stairs, she tried the sitting-room doors, hoping that
breakfast might be laid out there, but all were locked ; and
at last she found her way to the lower regions, guided by
voices in eager tones of subdued gossip.

There, in the glow of the huge red fire, stood a well-
covered table, surrounded by cook, charwoman, and their
cavaliers, discussing a pile of hot-buttered toast, to which
the little kitchen-maid was contributing large rounds, toasted
at the fire.

JNIary's eyes absolutely flashed, as she said, " The children
have had no breakfast."

"I beg your pardon. Ma'am," and the cook rose, ''but
it is the nurse-maid that takes up the young ladies' meals,"

Mary did not listen to the rest ; she was desperate, and
pouncing on the bread with one hand, and the butter with
the other, ran away with them to tlie nursery, set them
down, and rushed off for another raid. She found that
the commotion she had excited was resulting in the prepara-
tion of a tray.

"I am sure, Ma'am, I am very sorry," said the cook, in-
sisting on carrying the kettle, "but we are in such con-
fusion ; and the nurse-maid, whose place it is, has been up
most of the night with Mr. Leonard, and must have just
dropped asleep somewhere, and I was just giving their
breakfast to the undertaker's young men, but I'll call her
directly. Ma'am."

" Oh, no, on no account. I am sure she ought to sleep,"
said Mary. " It was only because I found the little girls
quite starving that I came down. I will take care of them


now. Don't wake her, pray. Only I hope," and 'Mixvj
looked beseechingly, "that they will have something good
for their dinner, poor little things."

Cook was entirely pacified, and talked about roast chicken,
and presently the little sisters were sitting np in their beds,
each in her wrapper, being fed by tnrns with delicately-
buttered slices, Mary standing between like a mother-bird
feeding her young, and pleased to find the eyes grow brighter
and less hollow, the cheeks less wan, the voices less thin and
pipy, and a little laugh breaking out when she mistook
Minna for Ella.

^VTiile tidying the room, she was assailed with entreaties
to call their Mary, and let them get up, they were so tired
of bed. She undertook to be still their Mary, and made
them direct her to the housemaid's stores, went down on her
knees at the embers, and so dealt with matches, chips, and
coal, that to her own surprise and pride a fire was evoked.

" But," said Ella, " I thought you were a Miss May."

" So I am, my dear."

" But ladies don't light fires," said Minna, in open-eyed

" Oh," exclaimed the younger sister, "you know Henry
said he did not think any of the ]\Iiss Mays were first-rate,
and that our Ave beat them all to nothing."

The elder, Minna, began hushing ; and it must be con-
fessed that honest Mary was not superior to a certain crimson
flush of indignation, as she held her head into the grate,
and thought of Ethel, Elora, and Blanche, criticised by
Mr. Henry Ward. Little ungrateful chit ! Xo, it was not
a matter of laughing, but of forgiveness ; and the assertion
of the dignity of usefulness was speedily forgotten in the


toilette of the small light skin-and-bone frames, in the
course of which she received sundry compliments — " her
hands were so nice and soft," " she did not pull their hair
like their own Mary," " they wished she always dressed

The trying moment was when they asked if they might
kneel at her lap for their prayers. To Mary, the twelve
years seemed as nothing since her first prayers after the
day of terror and bereavement, and her eyes swam with
tears as the younger girl unthinkingly rehearsed her wonted
formula, and the elder, clinging to her, whispered gravely,
" Please, what shall I say V

With full heart, and voice almost unmanageable, Islaxj
prompted the few simple words that had come to her in
that hour of sorrow. She looked up, from stooping to the
child's ear, to see her father at the door, gazing at them
with face greatly moved. The children greeted him fondly,
and he sat down with one on each knee, and caressed them
as he looked them well over, drawing out their narration of
the wonderful things " she " had done, the fingers pointing
to designate who she was. His look at her over his spec-
tacles made Mary^s heart bound and feel compensated for
whatever Mr. Henry Ward might say of her. When the
children had finished their story, he beckoned her out of
the room, promising them that he would not keep her long.

" Well done, ^Slolly," he said smiling, " it is well to
have daughters good for something. You had better stay
with them till that poor maid has had her sleep out, and
can come to them."

"I should like to stay with them all day, only that
Ethel must want me."


"You liad better go home by dinner time, that Ethel
may get some air. Perhaps I shall want one of you in the
evening to be with them at the time of the funeral."

"So soon!"

"Yes, it must be. Better for all, and Henry is glad it
should be so. He is out on the sofa to-day, but he is
terribly cut up."

"And Leonard?"

" I see some improvement — Burdon does not — but I
think with Heaven's good mercy we may drag him through,
the pulse is rather better. Xow I must go. You'll not
wait dinner for me."

Mary spent the next hour in amusing the children by
the fabrication of the dolls' wardrobe, and had made them
exceedingly fond of her, so that there was a very poor
welcome when their own Mary at length appeared, much
shocked at the duration of her own slumbers, and greatly
obliged to ^liss May. The little girls would scarcely let
Mary go, though she pacified them by an assurance that
she or her si>ter would come in the evenino-.

"Don't let it be your sister. You come, and finish our
dolls' frocks ! " and they hung about her, kissing her, and
trying to extract a promise.

After sharing the burthen of depression, it was strange
to return home to so different a tone of spirits when she
found Aubrey installed in Ethel's room as his parlour, very
white and weak, but overflowing with languid fun. There
was grief and sympathy for the poor Wards, and anxious
inquiries for Leonard ; but it was not sorrow brought visibly
before him, and after the decorous space of commiseration,
the smiles were bright again, and Mary heard how her father


had popped in to boast of his daughter being " as good
as a housemaid, or as Miss AVhat's-her-name ;" and her foray
in the kitchen was more diverting to Aubrey than she was
as yet prepared to understand. " Eunning away with the
buttered toast from under the nose of a charwoman ! let
Harry never talk of taking a Chinese battery after that!"
her incapacity of perceiving that the deed was either valiant
or ludicrous, entertaining him particularly. " It had evidently
hit the medium between the sublime and ridiculous."

When evening came, Mary thought it Ethel's privilege
to go, as the most efficient friend and comforter ; but Ethel
saw that her sister's soul was with the "U^ards, and insisted
that she should go on as she had begun.

" Ethel, that was only with the little ones. K"ow jon
would be of use to poor Averil."

" And why should not you ? and of more use ? "

" You know I am only good for small children ; but if
you tell me — "

" You provoking girl," said Ethel. "All I tell you is,
that you are twenty- three years old, and I won't tell you

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