Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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rather curiously ; while Ethel, trjing to conquer her tre-
]3idation, gave manifold promises to Averil of care and

Dr. Spencer acted escort, being far more serviceable on
the railway than his untravelled friend, whose lame arm,
heedless head, and aptitude for missing trains and mistaking
luggage, made him a charge rather than an assistant. He
was always happiest among his patients at home ; and the
world was still ill enough to employ him so fully, that Ethel
hoped to be less missed than usual. Indeed, she believed
that her absence would be good in teaching him Mary's
full-grown worth, and Mary would be in the full glory of
notability in the purification of the house.

The change was likewise for Dr. Spencer's good. He had
almost broken down in the height of the labour, and still
looked older and thinner for it ; and after one night at


Coombe, he was going to refresli himself by one of his
discursive tours.

He was in high spirits, and the pink of courtesy ; ex-
tremely flattered by the charge of Ethel, and making her
the ostensible object of his attention, to the relief of the
boys, who were glad to be spared the sense of prominent
invalidism. The change was delightful to them. Aubrey
was full of life and talk, and sat gazing from the window,
as if the line from Stoneborough to Whitford presented a
succession of novelties.

""What's that old place on the river there, wdth crow^-
stepped gables and steep roofs, like a Flemish picture ? "

" Don't you know ? " said Leonard, " it is the Yintry mill,
where my relative lives, that wants to make a dusty miller
of me."

" "No fear of that, old fellow," said Aubrey, regarding him
in some dismay, "you've got better things to grind at."

" Ay ; even if I don't get the Eandall next time, I shall
be sure of it another."

"You'll have it next."

" I don't know; here is a quarter clean gone, and the other
fellows will have got before me."

*' Oh, but most of them have had a spell of fever ! "

"Yes, but they have not had it so thoroughly," said
Leonard. " My memory is not properly come back yet; and
your father says I must not try it too soon."

"That's aiw^ays his way," said Aubrey. "He would not
let Ethel so much as pack up my little Homer."

Leonard's quick, furtive glance at Ethel was as if he sus-
pected her of having been barely prevented from torturiiig


" Oh, it was not her doing," said Aubrey, " it was I ! I
thought Tom would find me gone back ; and, you know,
we must keep up together, Leonard, and be entered at St.
Jolin's at the same time."

For Aubrey devoutly believed in Tom's college at Cam-
bridge, which had recovered all Dr. May's allegiance.

The extra brightness was not of long duration. It was
a very hot day, such as exactly suited the salamander nature
of Dr. Spencer ; but the carriage became like an oven.
Aubrey curled himself up in a comer and went to sleep ;
but Leonard's look of oppressed resignation grieved Ethel,
and the blue blinds made him look so livid, that she was
always fancying him fainting ; and then his shyness was
dreadful — it was impossible to elicit from him any thing but
*'Xo thank you."

He did nearly faint when they left the train ; and while
Aubrey was eagerly devouring the produce of the refresh-
ment room, had to lie on a bench under Dr. Spencer's charge,
for Ethel's approach only brought on a dangerous spasm of
politeness. How she should get on with him for a month,
passed her imagination.

There was a fresher breeze when they drove out of the
station, up a Dorset ridge of hill, steep, high, terraced and
bleak ; but it was slow climbing up, and everyone was
baked and wearied before the summit was gained, and the
descent commenced. Even then, Ethel, sitting backwards,
could only see height develop above height, all green, and
scattered with sheep, or here and there an unfenced turnip-
field, the road stretching behind like a long white ribbon,
and now and then descending between steep chalk cuttings
in slopes, down which the carriage slowly scrooped on its



drag, leaving a broad blue-flecked trail. Dr. Spencer was
asleep, hat off, and the wind lifting his snowy locks ; and
she wished the others were, but Aubrey lamented on the
heat and the length, and Leonard leant back in his corner,
past lamentation.

Down, down ! The cuttings were becoming precipitous
cliffs, the drag made dismal groans ; Aubrey, after a great
slip forward, looking injured, anchored himself, with his feet
against the seat, by Ethel ; .and Dr. Spencer was effectually
wakened by an involuntary forward plunge of his opposite
neighbour. " Can this be safe 1 " quoth Ethel, " should not
some of us get out 1 "

" Much you know of hills, you level landers ! " was the
answer ; and just then they were met and passed by four
horses dragging up a stage coach, after the fashion of a fly on
a window-pane — a stage coach ! delightful to the old-world
eyes of Dr. Spencer, recalling a faint memory to Ethel, and
presenting a perfect novelty to Aubrey.

Then came a sudden turn upon flat ground, and a short
cry of wonder broke from Aubrey. Ethel was sensible of
a strange salt weedy smell, new to her nostrils, but only
saw the white-plastered, grey-roofed houses through which
they were driving ; but, with another turn, the buildings
were only on one side — on the other there was a wondrous
sense of openness, vastness, freshness — something level,
grey, but dazzling ; and before she could look again, the
horses stopped, and close to her, under the beetling, weather-
stained white cliff, was a low fence, and within it a verandah
and a door, where stood Flora's maid, Barbara, in all her

Much wit had been expended by Aubrey on being left



to the tender mercy of cruel Barbara Allen, in whom Ethel
herself anticipated a tyrant ; but at the moment she was
invaluable. Every room was ready and inviting, and no-
thing but the low staircase between Leonard and the white
bed, which was the only place fit for him ; while for the
rest, the table was speedily covered with tea and chickens ;
Abbotstoke eggs, inscribed with yesterday's date ; and red
mail-clad prawns, to prove to touch and taste that this was
truly sea-side. The other senses knew it well : the open
mndow let in the indescribable salt, fresh odour, and the
entire view from it was shore and sea ; there seemed nothing
to hinder the tide from coming up the ridge of shingle, and
rushing straight into the cottage ; and the ear was constantly
struck by the regular roll and dash of the waves. Aubrey,
though with the appetite of recovery and sea air combined,
could not help pausing to listen ; and, when his meal was
over, leant back in his chair, listened again, and gave a sigh
of content. *' It is one constant hush, hushaby," he said ;
" it would make one sleep pleasantly."

His companions combined their advice to him so to use
it ; and in less than half an hour Ethel went to bid him
good-night, in the whitest of beds and cleanest of tiny
chambers, where he looked the picture of sleepy satisfac-
tion, when she opened his window, and admitted the swell
and dash that fascinated his weary senses.

" My child is all right," said Ethel, returning to Dr.
Spencer ; " can you say the same of yours ? "

"He must rest himself into the power of sleeping. I
must say it was a bold experiment ; but it will do very well,
when he has got over the journey. He was doing no good
at home."


'' I hope he will here."

" Depend on it he will And now what are you in-
tending ? "

" I am thirsting to see those waves near. 'Would it he
against the manners and customs of sea-places for me to
run do^^'n to them so late ? "

" Sea-places have no manners and customs."

Ethel tossed on her hat with a feeling of delight and
freedom. " Oh, are you coming, Dr. Spencer 1 I did not
mean to drag you out. You had rather rest, and smoke."

" Tliis is rest," he answered.

The next moment, the ridge of the shingle was passed,
and Ethel's feet were sinking in the depth of pebbles, her
cheeks freshened by the breeze, her lips salted by the spray
tossed in by the wind from the wave crests. At the edge of
the water she stood — as all others stand there — watching the
heaving from far away come nearer, nearer, curl over in its
pride of green glassy beauty, fall into foam, and draw back,
making the pebbles crash their accompanying " fi-sch." The
repetition, the peaceful majesty, the blue expanse, the straight
horizon, so impressed her spirit as to rivet her eyes and chain
her lips ; and she receded step by step before the tide, un-
heeding anything else, not even perceiving her companion's
eyes fixed on her, half curiously, half sadly.

" Well, Ethel," at last he said.

" I never guessed it I " she said, with a gasp. " Xo won-
der Harry cannot bear to be away from it. Must we leave
it ? " as he moved back.

" Only to smooth ground,'* said Dr. Spencer ; " it is too
dark to stay here among the stones and crab-pots."

The summer twdight was closing in ; lights shining in the

F 2


village under the cliffs, and looking mysterious on distant
points of the coast ; stars were shining forth in the pale blue
sky, and the young moon shedding a silver rippled beam on
the "water.

" If papa were but here ! " said Ethel, wakening from
another gaze, and recollecting that she was not making her-
self agreeable.

" So you like the expedition 1 "

" The fit answer to that would be, ' It is very pretty,' as
the Cockney said to Coleridge at Lodore."

** So I have converted a Stoneborough fungus ! "
" 'Whs.t ! to say the sea is glorious 1 A grand con-
version ! "

" To find anything superior to Minster Street."
" Ah, 3'ou are but half reclaimed ! You are a living
instance that there is no content unless one has begun life
as a fungus."

She was startled by his change of tone. "True, Ethel.
Content might have been won, if there had been resolution
to begin without it."

" I beg your pardon," she faltered, " I ought not to have
said it. I forgot there was such a cause."
" Cause — you know nothing about it."
She was silent, distressed, dismayed, fearing that she had
spoken wrongly, and had either mistaken or been misunder-

" Tell me, Ethel," he presently said, " what can you know
of what made me a wanderer 1 "
" Only what papa told me."
** He — he was the last person to know."
" He told me," said Ethel, hurrying it out in a fright,


" that you went away — out of generosity — not to interfere
with, his happiness."

Then she felt as if she had done a shocking thing, and
waited anxiously, while Dr. Spencer deliberately made a
deep hole in the shingle with his stick. " Well," at last
he said, *' I thought that matter was unknown to all men —
above all to Dick ! "

" It was only after you were gone, that he put things
together and made it out."

" Did — she — know ? " said Dr. Spencer, with a long

" I cannot tell," said Ethel.

" And how or why did he tell you 1 " (rather hurt.)

" It was when first you came. I am sure no one else
knows it. But he told me because he could not help it j
he was so sorry for you."

They walked tlie whole length of the parade, and had
turned before Dr. Spencer spoke again; and then he said,
" It is strange ! My one vision was of walking on the sea-
shore with her ; and that just doing so with you, should
have brought up the whole as fresh as five-and-thirty years
ago ! "

" I msh I was more like her," said Ethel.

Xo more was wanting to make him launch into the de-
scriptions, dear to a daughter's heart, of her mother in her
sweet serious bloom of young womanhood, giving new em-
bellishments to the character already so closely enshrined in
his hearer's heart, the more valuable that the stream of
treasured recollection flowed on in partial oblivion of the
person to whom it was addressed, or, at least, that she was
the child of his rival; for, from the portrait of the quiet


briglit maiden, lie passed to the sufferings that his o^vn
reserved nature had undergone from his friend's out-spoken
enthusiasm. The professor's visible preference for the youth
of secure prospects, had not so much discouraged as stung
him ; and in a moment of irritation at the professor's treat-
ment, and the exulting hopes of his unconscious friend, he
had sworn to himself, that the first involuntary token of
regard from the young lady towards one or the other, should
decide him whether to win name and position for her sake,
or to carry his slighted passion to the utmost parts of the
earth, and never again see her face.

" Ethel," he said, stopping short, " never threaten Provi-
dence — above all, never keep the tlireat."

Ethel scarcely durst speak, in her anxiety to know what
cast the die ; though with all Dr. Spencer's charms, she
could not but pity the delusion that could have made him
hope to be preferred to her father — above all, by her mother.
!N"or could she clearly understand from him what had dis-
pelled his hopes. Something it was that took place at the
pic-nic on Arthur's Seat, of which she had previously heard
as a period of untold bliss. That something, still left in
vague mystery, had sealed the fate of the two friends.

" And so," said Dr. Spencer, " I took the first foreign
appointment that offered. And my poor father, who had
spent liis utmost on me, and had been disappointed in all his
sons, was most of all disappointed in me. I held myself
bound to abide by my rash vow ; loathed tame Enghsh life
without her, and I left him to neglect in his age."

" You could not have kno\^'n or expected ! " exclaimed

" What right had I to expect anything else ? It was only


myself that I thought o£. I pacihed him by talk of traveUing,
and extending my experience, and silenced my conscience by
intending to return when ordinary life should hare become
tolerable to me — ^a time that never has coma At last, in the
height of that pestilential season in India, came a letter,
•warning me that my brother's widow had got the masteij
over my poor father, and was cruelly abusing i^ so that only
my return could deliver him. It was when hundreds were
perishing, and I the only medical man near ; when to have
left my post would have been both disgraceful and murderous.
Then I was laid low myself ; and while I was conquering the
ejects of cholera, came tidings that made it nothing to me
whether they or I conquered* This," and he touched one of
his white curling locks, "was not done by mere bodily
exertion or ailment."

" You would have I : : ^ :v" 7

"Xo, not if I had gone immediatclT. I : .: ! _ :

him out of that woman's hands, and : - le happy iut

years. There was the sting, but th '.. ■ ^ een long

before. You know the rest. I had nu L 7 . r-::n,no

heart to come home ; and then came t I

drifted wherever restlessness or impulse : t

working years were over, and till the day wL :. ■_. .: ::

your father's wedding-ring showed me :„i: I should not
break my mad word by accepting the only welcome that any
creature gave me."

" And, oh ! surely you have been comforted by him I **

" Comforted I Cut to the heart would be truer. One

moment, I could only look at him as having borne off my

treasore to destroy it ; but then there rose on me his loving

patient, heart-broken humility and cheerfulness ; and I saw


such a character, such a course, as showed me how much
better he had deserved her, and filled me with shame at
having ever less esteemed him. And through all, there was
the same dear Dick May, that never, since the day we first
met at the pump in the school court, had I been able to
help loving with all my heart — the only being that was
glad to see me again. AVTien he begged me to stay and
watch over your sister, what could I do but remain while
she lived ? "

"So he bound you down ! Oh, you know how we thank
you ! no, you can't, nor what you have been to him, and
to all of us, through the worst of our sad days. And
though it was a sacrifice, I do not think it was bad for

"]S'o, Ethel. '^^"llen you implored me to give up my
Crimean notion, to spare your father pain, I did feel for once
that you at least thought me of value to some one."

" I cannot bear you to speak so," cried Ethel. " You to
talk of having been of no use ! "

" Xo honest man of principle and education can be utterly
useless ; but w^hen, three days ago, I recollected that it was
my sixtieth birthday, I looked back, and saw nothing but
desultory broken efforts, and restless changes. Your father
told me, when I thought him unaware of the meaning of his
words, that if I had missed many joys, I had missed many
sorrows ; but I had taken the way to make my one sorrow a
greater burden than his many."

" But you do not grieve for my mother still 1 " said Ethel
anxiously. "Even his grief is a grave joy to him now ; and
one is always told that such things, as it was with you, are
but a very small part of a man's life."


" I am not one of the five hundred men, whom any one
of five hundred women might have equally pleased/' said
Dr. Spencer; "but it is so far true, that the positive pain
and em-y wore out, and would not have interfered with my
after hfe, but for my own folly. Xo, Ethel ; it was not
the loss of her that embittered and threw away my existence ;
it was my own rash vow, and its headstrong fulfilment, which
has left me no right to your father's peaceful spirit."

" How little we guessed ! " said Ethel. " So cheerful and
ready as you always are."

" I never trouble others," he said abruptly. " Xeither
man nor woman ever heard a word of all this j and you
would not have heard it now, but for that sea ; and you have
got your mother's voice, and some of her ways, since you
have groAvn older and more sedate."

'* Oh, I am so glad ! " said Ethel, who had been led to
view her likeness to her father as natural, that to her mother
as acquired.

Those were the last words of the conversation ; but Ethel,
leaning from her window to listen to the plash of the waves,
suspected that the slowly moving meteor she beheld, denoted
that a cigar was soothing the emotions excited by their
dialogue. She mused long over that revelation of the
motives of the life that had always been noble and generous,
in the midst of much that was eccentric and way^'ard ; and
constantly the beat of the waves repeated to her the half-
comprehended words, " !N"ever threaten Providence."

After superintending Aubrey's first bath, and duly in-
stalling the vice-M.D. and her charges. Dr. Spencer departed;
and Ethel was launched on an unknown ocean, as pilot to
an untried crew. She had been told to regard Leonard's


bashfulness as a rare grace ; but it was very inconvenient to
have the boy wretchedly drooping, and owning nothing amiss,
apparently unacquainted with any English words, except
' Thank you ' and ' Xo, thank you.' Indeed, she doubted
whether the shjTiess were genuine, for stories were afloat
of behaviour at Stoneborough parties, which savoured of
audacity; and she vainly consulted Aubrey whether the
cause of his discomfiture were her age or her youth, her
tutorship or her plain face. Even Aubrey could not elicit
any like or dislike, wish or complaint ; and shrugging up his
shoulders, decided that it was of no use to bother about it ;
Leonard would come to his senses in time. He was passive
when taken out walking, submissive when planted on a three-
cornered camp-stool that expanded from a gouty walking-
stick, but seemed so inadequately perched, and made so
forlorn a spectacle, that they were forced to put him in-doors
out of the glare of sea and sky, and hoping that he would
condescend to the sofa when Ethel was out of sight.

Punctilio broke down the next morning; and in the
midst of breakfast, he was forced to lie down, and allow
Ethel to bathe his face with vinegar and water ; while she
repented of the "make-the-best-of-it" letter of the yesterday,
and sent Aubrey out on a secret commission of inquiry about
medical men, in case of need. Aubrey was perfectly well,
and in such a state of desultory enjoyment and sea-side
active idleness, that he was quite off her mind, only en-
livening her morning of nursing by his exits and entrances,
to tell of fresh discoveries, or incidents wonderful to the
inland mind.

After dinner, which had driven Leonard to lie on his bed,
Aubrey persuaded his sister to come to see his greatest prize ;


a quaint old local naturalist, a seafaring man, with a cottage
crammed "vvitli pans of live wonders of the deep in water,
and shelves of extinct ones, " done up in stane pies," not a
creature, by sea or land, that had haunted Coombe for a few
million of ages, seemed to have escaped him. Such sea-side
sojourns as the present, are the prime moments for coquetries
with the lighter branches of natural science ; and the brother
and sister had agreed to avail themselves of the geological
facilities of their position, the fascinations of Hugh Miller's
autobiography having entirely gained them during Aubrey's
convalescence. Ethel tore herself away from the discussion
of localities with the old man, who was guide as well as
philosopher, boatman as well as naturalist, and returned to
her patient, whom she found less feverish, though sadly low
and languid.

" I wish I knew w^hat to do for you," she said, sitting
down by him. " AATiat would your sister do for you 1 "

" 1^0 thing," he wearily said ; " 1 mean, a great deal too

Tlie tone so recalled Gorman's dejected hopelessness, that
she could not help tenderly laying her cool hands on the hot
brow, and saying, " Yes, I know how little one can do as a
sister — and the mockery it is to think that one jjlace can ever
])e taken ! "

The brown eyes looked at her with moist earnestness that
she could hardly bear, but closed with a look of relief and
soothing, as she held her hand on his forehead. Presently,
however, he said, " Don't let me keep you in."

" I have been out, thank you. I am so glad to try to do
anything for you."

" Thank you. "What o'clock is it, please 1 Ali, then


I ought to take that draught ! I forgot it in the


He permitted her to fetch it and pour it out ; but as she
recognised a powerful tonic, she exclaimed, " Is this what
you are taking 1 May it not make you feverish 1 "

" Xo doubt it does," he said, lying down again ; " it was
only Henry — "

" What ! did not my father know of it ? "

" Of course he does not ; as it seems to be poison."

" ^N'ot exactly that," said Ethel ; " but I was surprised
for it was talked of for Aubrey ; but they said it wanted

" Just like Henry," observed Leonard.

"Well," said Ethel, repressing her indignation, "I am
glad, at least, to find a jDossible cause for your bad night.
"We shall see you refreshed to-morrow, and not wishing your-
self at home."

" Don't think that I "v\ish that. Home is gone for ever."

" Home may be gone higher — up to the real Home," said
Ethel, blushing with the effort at the hint, and coming
down to earthlier consolations ; " but even the fragments
will gTow into home again here, and you will feel very

Leonard did not answer ; but after a pause said, " Miss
May, is not it a horrid pity girls should go to school ? "

" I am no judge, Leonard."

" You see," said the boy, " after the little girls were born,
my mother had no time for Ave, and sent her to Brighton,
and there she begged to stay on one half after another,
learning all sorts of things ; but only coming home for short
holidays, like company, for us to wonder at her and show


her about, thinking herself ever so much in advance of my
poor mother ; and now she knows just nothing at all of
her ! "

" You cannot tell, Leonard, and I am sure she has been
devoted to you."

" If she had stayed at home like you, she might have
known how to let one alone. Oh, you can't think what
peace it was yesterday ! "

" "VVas it peace ? I feared it was desertion."

" It is much better to be by oneself, than always worried.
To have them always at me to get up my spiiits, when the
house is miserable — "

" Ah," said Ethel, " I remember your mother rejoicing
that she had not to send you from home, and saying you
were always so kind and gentle to her."'

" Did she ?" cried the boy eagerly. " Oh, but she forgot — "

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 21)