Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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for my chaperon. Bonnie Blanche is little changed by her
four months' matrimony, and only looks prettier and more
stylish, but she is painfully meek and younger-sisterish,
asking my leave instead of her husband's, and distressed at
her smartness in her pretty shady hat and undyed silk,
because I was in trim for lias-grubbing. Her appearance
ought to be an example to all the brides in the place with
skirts in the water, and nothing on to keep off eyes, sun, or
wind from their faces. I give Flora infinite credit for it.
Blanche and Aubrey walk arm in arm in unceasing talk, and
that good feUow, Hector, has included Leonard in the general


fraternity. They are highly complimentary, saying they
should have taken Aubrey for Harry, he is so much stouter
and rosier, and that Leonard is hugely grown. Here come
these three boys shouting that the boat is ready ; I really
think Hector is more boyish and noisy than ever.

* Five precious souls and all agog,
To dash through thick or thin.'

I'll take the best care of them in my power. Good-bye."

" A ugust 2nd. — Safe back, without adventure, only a great
deal of enjo}Tnent, for which I am doubly thankful, as I
almost fancied we were fey, one of the many presentiments
that come to nothing, but perhaps do us rather good than
harm for all that. I hope I did not show it in my letter,
and communicate it to you. Even when safe landed, I could
not but think of the Cobb and Louisa Musgrove, as I suppose
everyone does. We slept at the inn ; drove with the Emes-
cliffes to the station this morning, and came back to this place
an hour ago, after having been steeped in j)leasure. I shall
send the description of Lyme to Daisy to-morrow, having no
time for it now, as I want an answer from you about our going
to Maplewood. The ' married babies ' are bent upon it, and
Hector tries to demonstrate that it is the shortest way home,
to which I can't agree ; but as it may save another journey,
and it will be nice to see them in their glory, I told them
that if you could spare us, we would go from the 29th to the
4th of September, lids will bring Leonard home four days
before the end of the holidays, for he has been most warmly
invited. Hector adopting him into the brotherhood of papa's
pets. I am glad he is not left out ; and 'Ma.iy had better
prove to Averil that he will be much happier for having no


time at liome before the half year begins. He still shrinks
from the very name being brouglit before him. Let me
know, if you please, whether this arrangement will suit, as
1 am to write to Blanche. Dear little woman, I hope Hector
won't make a spoilt child of her, they are so very young, and
their means seem so unlimited to them both. Hector wanting
to make her and us presents of whatever we admired, and
when she civilly praised Mab, vehemently declaring that she
should have just such another if money could purchase, or if
not, he would find a way. * Thank you. Hector dear, I had
rather not,' placidly responds Blanche, making his vehemence
fall so flat, and Leonard's almost exulting alarm glide into
such semi-mortification, that I could have laughed, though I
remain in hopes that her ' rather not ' may always be as
prudent, for I believe it is the only limit to Hector's gifts.

" 29th, 8 A.M. — Farewell to the Coombe of Coombes. I
write wliile waiting for the fly, and shall post this at Wey-
mouth, where we are to be met. We have been so happy
here, that I could be sentimental, if Leonard were not tete-a-
tete with me, and on the verge of that predicament. ' Never
so happy in his life,' quotha, ' and never will be again —
wonders when he shall see this white cliff again.' But,
happily, in tumbles Aubrey with the big claw of a crab, which
he insists on Leonard's wearing next his heart as a souvenir
of Mrs. Gisborne ; he is requited with an attempt to pinch
his nose therewith, and —

'•2.30. P.M. Weymouth. — The result was the upset of my
ink, whereof you see the remains ; and our last moments
were spent in reparations and apologies. My two squires are
in different plight from what they were ten weeks ago, racing


up hills that it then half killed them to come down, and
lingering wistfully on the top for last glimpses of our bay. I
am overwhelmed with their courtesies, and though each is
lugging about twenty pounds weight of stones, and Mab
besides in Leonard's pocket, I am seldom allowed to carry
my own travelling bag. Hector has been walking us about
while his horses are resting after their twenty miles, but we
think the parade and pier soon seen, and are tantalized by
ha^ang no time for Portland Island, only contenting our-
selves with an inspection of shop fossils, which in company
with Hector, is a sort of land of the ' Three Wishes,' or
worse ; for on my chancing to praise a beautiful lump of
Purbeck stone, stuck as full of paludince as a pudding with
plums, but as big as my head and much heavier, he brought
out his purse at once ; and when I told him he must either
enchant it on to my nose, or give me a negro slave as a means
of transport, Leonard so earnestly volunteered to be the bearer,
that I was thankful for my old rule against collecting curio-
sities that I do not find and carry myself.

^'-August 30th, Maplewood. — I wonder w^hether these good
children can be happier, unless it may be when they receive
you ! How much they do make of us ! and what a goodly
sight at their own table they are ! They are capable in them-
selves of making any place charming, though the man must
have been enterprising who sat down five-and- twenty years
ago to reclaim this park from irreclaimable do^^^l. I asked
where were the maples ? and where was the wood 1 and was
shown five stunted ones in a cage to defend them from the
sheep, the only things that thrive here, except little white
snails!, with purple lines round their shells. ' There now,
isn't it awfully bleak ? ' says Hector, with a certain comical


exultation. * How was a man ever to live here without
her ? ' And the best of it is, that Blanche thinks it beautiful
— delicious free air, open space, view over five counties, &c.
Inside, one traces Flora's presiding genius. Hector would
never have made the concern so perfect without her help ;
and Blanche is no child in her own house, but is older and
more at home than Hector, so that one would take her for
the heiress, maldng him welcome and at ease. 'Not that it is
like the Grange, Blanche is furious if I remark any little un-
conscious imitation or similarity — *As if we could be like
Flora and George indeed ! ' Nor will they. If Blanche
rules, it ^vill be unawares to herself. And where Hector is,
there will always be a genial house, overflowing with good
humour and good nature. He has actually kept the 1st of
September clear of shooting parties that he may take these
two boys out, and give them a thorough day's sport in his
turnip fields. 'License? Konsense, he thought of that
before, and now Aubrey may get some shooting out of George
Rivers.' After such good nature my mouth is shut, though,
ay di me, all the world and his wife are coming here on
Monday evening, and unless I borrow of Blanche, Mrs.

Ernescliffe's sister mil 'look like ane scrub.'"


" Septemler 2nd. — Train at Stoneborough, G.30. That's the
best news I have to give. Oh, it has been a weary while to
be out of sight of you all, though it has been pleasant enough,
and the finale is perfectly brilliant. Blanche, as lady of the
house, is a sight to make a sister proud ; she looks as if she
were born to nothing else, and is a model of prettiness and
elegance. Hector kept coming up to me at every opportunity
to admire her. ' JS^ow, old Ethel, look at her ! Doesn't she


look like a picture? / chose that gown, you know;' then
again after dinner, * Well, old Ethel, didn't it go ofif well 1
Did you ever see anything like her 1 There, just watch her
among the old ladies. I can't think where she learnt it all, can
3'ou V And it certainly was too perfect to have been learnt.
It was not the oppression that poor dear Flora gives one by
doing ever^-thing so well, as if she had perfectly balanced what
was due to herself and everybody else ; it was just Blanche,
simple and ready, pleasing herself by doing what people
liked, and seeing what they did Hke. It was particularly
pretty to see how careful both she and Hector were not to
put Leonard aside — indeed, they make more of him than of
Aubrey, who is quite able to find his own level. Even his
tender feelings as to Mab are respected, and Blanche always
takes care to invite her to a safe seat on a fat scarlet cushion
on the sofa, (Mrs. Ledwich's wedding present,) when the
footmen with the tea might be in danger of demolishing her.
Leonard, and his fine eyes, and his dog, were rather in fashion
yesterday evening. Blanche put out his Coombe sketches
for a company trap, and people talked to him about them,
and he was set to sing with Blanche, and then with some of
the young ladies. He seemed to enjoy it, and his nice modest
gentlemanhke manner told. The party was not at all amiss
in itself. I had a very nice clerical neighbour, and it is a
very diiferent thing to see and hear Hector at the bottom of
the table from having poor dear George there. But oh !
only one dinner more before we see our own table again, and
Tom at the bottom of it. Hurrah ! I trust this is the last
letter you will have for many a day, from

" Your loving and dutiful daughter,

"Etheldred May."




" The XII. statute remember to observe
For all the paiue thou hast for love and wo
All is too lite her mercie to deserve
Thou musten then thinke wher er thou ride or go
And mortale wounds suffre thou also
All for her sake, and thinke it well besette
Upon thy love, for it male not be bette."

Chaucer's Court of Love.

" Good-bye, Leonard," said Ethel, as tlie two families, after
mustering strong at the station, parted at the head of Minster
Street ; and as she felt the quivering lingering pressure of
his hand, she added with a smile, " Eemember, any Saturday
afternoon. And you will come for the books."

Glad as she was to be anchored on her father's arm, and
clustered round with rejoicing brothers and sisters, she could
not be devoid of a shade of regret for the cessation of the
intimate intercourse of the last nine weeks, and a certain
desire for the continuance of the confidential terms that had
arisen. The moment's pang was lost in the eager inter-
change of tidings too minute for correspondence, and in
approval of the renovation of the drawing-room, wliich was
so skilful that her first glance would have detected no alter-


ation in tlie subdued tones of paper, carpet, and cliintz, so
complete was their loyalty to the spirit of perpetuity. Flora
told no one of the pains that, among her many cares, she had
spent upon those tints, not so much to gratify Ethel, as
because her own wearied spirit craved the repose of home
sameness, nor how she had finally sent to Paris for the paper
that looked so quiet, but was so exquisitely finished, that the
whole room had a new air of refinement.

The most notable novelty was a water-coloured sketch, a
labour of love from the busy hands in l^ew Zealand, which
had stolen a few hours from their many tasks to send Dr.
May the presentment of his namesake grandson. Little
Dickie stood before them, a true son of the humming-bird
sprite, delicately limbed and featured, and with elastic
springiness, visible even in the pencilled outline. The
dancing dark eyes were all Meta's, though the sturdy clasp of
the hands, and the curl that hung over the brow, brought
back the reflection of Harry's baby days.

It would have been a charming picture, even if it had not
been by Meta's pencil, and of ISTorman's child, and it chained
Ethel for more than one interval of longing loving study.

Tom interrupted her in one of these contemplations.
" Poor Flora," he said, with more feeling than he usually
allowed to affect his voice, "that picture is a hard trial to
her. I caught her looking at it for full ten minutes, and at
last she turned away with her eyes full of tears."

" I do not wonder," said Ethel. " There is a certain
likeness to that poor little Leonora, and I think Flora misses
her more every year."

" Such a child as Margaret is just the thing to cause the
other to be missed."



"What do you think of Margaret this time?" said Ethel,
for Tom alone ever durst seriously touch on the undefined
impression that all entertained of Flora's only child.

" K Flora were only silly about her," said Tom, " one
might have some hope ; but unluckily she is as judicious
there as in everything else, and the child gets more deplorable
every year. She has got the look of deformity, and yet
she is not deformed ; and the queer sullen ways of deficiency,
but she has more wit than her father already, and more

" As long as there is a mind to work on, one hopes," said

" I could stand her better if she were foolish ! " exclaimed
Tom, "but I can't endure to see her come into the room to
be courted by every one, and be as cross as she dares before
her mother. Behind Flora's back, I don't know which she
uses worst, her father or her grandfather. I came down
upon little Miss at last for her treatment of the doctor, and
neither he nor Eivers have forgiven nie."

" Poor child ! I don't believe she has ever known a
moment's thorough health or comfort ! I always hope that
with Flora's patience and management she may improve."

" Pshaw, Ethel ! she will always be a misfortune to her-
self and everybody else."

" I have faith in good coming out of misfortunes."

" Illustrated, I suppose, by ravings about your young
Ward. Mary is crazy about his sister, and the doctor
lunatic as to the brother, who will soon kick at him for his

" I own to thinking Leonard capable of great things."

Tom made a grimace equal to what Ethel could do in that


way, thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and philoso-
phically observed, " Behold the effects of patronage ! Elind
Cupid is nothing to him."

Ethel let it pass, caring too much for Leonard to set him
up as a mark for Tom's satire, which was as different from
Aubrey's as quinine from orange peel, though properly used,
it was a bracing tonic, such as she often found wholesome.
A cynical younger brother is a most valuable possession
to a woman who has taken a certain position in her own

Tom was a sterling character, highly and deeply principled,
though not demonstrative, and showing his Scots descent.
None of the brothers had been extravagant, but Tom, with
the income of his lately achieved fellowship, performed feats
of economy, such as attaining to the purchase of an ultra
perfect microscope, and he was consistently industrious, so
exactly measuring his own powers that to undertake was
with him to succeed, and no one suffered anxiety on his
account. As Dr. Spencer said, he was as sure to fall on his
legs as a sandy cat, and so nobody cared for him. At home
he was sufficient to himself, properly behaved to his father,
civil to Eichard, unmerciful in ridicule, but merciful in do-
minion over the rest, except Ethel, whom he treated as an
equal, able to retort in kind, reserving for her his most highly
flavoured sallies, and his few and distant approaches to such
confidence as showed her how Httle she knew him. His
father esteemed but did not " get on with " him, and liis
chief and devoted adherent was Aubrey, to whom he was
always kind and helpful. In person Tom was tall and well-
made, of intelligent face, of which his spectacles seemed a
natural feature, well-moulded fine-grained hand, and dress


the perfection of correctness, though the precision and
dandyism had been pruned away.

Ethel would have preferred that Leonard and Averil
should not have walked in on the Saturday after her return,
just when Tom had spread his microscope apparatus over the
table, and claimed Mary's assistance in setting up objects ;
and she avoided his eye when Mary and Averil did what he
poetically called rushing into each other's arms, whilst she
bestowed her greetings on Leonard and Mab.

" Then she may come in 1 " said Leonard. " Henry has
banished her from the drawing-room, and we had much ado
to get her allowed even in the school-ioom."

" It is so tiresome," said his sister, "just one of Henry's

Ethel, thinking this disloyal, remarked that those who
disliked dogs in the house could not bear them, and did
not wonder that Tom muttered " Original."

" But such a little darling as this ! " cried Averil, " and
after Mrs. Ernescliffe had been so kind. Mary, you must
see how clever she is. Leonard is teaching her to play on
the piano."

" I congratulate you," quietly said Tom ; and somehow
Ethel felt that those three w^ords were a satire on her
" capable of great things ; " while Leonard drew up, and
Averil coloured, deferring the exhibition of Mab's accom-
plishments till "another time," evidently meaning out of
Tom's presence.

"Aubrey is gone to the Grange with papa," Ethel said,
glad to lead away from Mab.

" He told me he was going," said Leonard, " but he said
you would be at home."


Ethel knew tliat the intouation of that yrju had curled
Tom's lip with mischief, and dreading that Leonard should
discover and resent his mood, she said, " "We think one of
your sea eggs has got among ours ; will you come to the
school-room and see ? "

And leaving Tom to teaze and be bored by the young
ladies, she led the way to the school-room, where Aubrey's
fossils, each in its private twist of paper, lay in confusion on
the floor, whence they were in course of being transferred to
the shelf of a cupboard.

Leonard looked at the disorder with astonished admiration.

"Yes," said Ethel, "it is a great mess, but they are to
have a regular cabinet, when Eichard has time, or Aubrey
has money, two equally unlikely chances."

" How much does a cabinet cost ? "

"Jones would make a plain deal one for about five-and-
twenty shillings."

"I can't unpack mine properly," said Leonard discon-
solately. " Ave is going to make a place for them, but
Henry votes them rubbish."

" They are dreadful rubbish," said Ethel. " It goes
against my conscience to guard them from the housemaid,
and if my sister Elora came in here, I should be annihilated."

" Of course one expects that in women r

" Oh, Eichard would be as much distracted ! It is a
provision of Nature that there should be some tidy ones,
or what would the world come to ? "

" It would be a great deal less of a bore."

" Kot at all ; we should stifle ourselves at last if we had
our own way. Xever mind, Leonard, we make them go
through quite as much as they make us."


" I am sure I hope so."

" No, no, Leonard," she said, becoming less playful, " we
must not do it on purpose. Even unconsciously, we plague
the spirits of order quite enough, and they have the right on
their side after all."

" I think a lady is the person to say what one may do or
not in the dramng-room ; don't you 1 " said Leouard.

« That depends."

"And you let your brother spread his things all over
yours 1 "

" So I do ; but I would not if i)apa minded it, or even if
this were Richard's house, and he did not like it. Don't
begin with worries about trifles, pray, Leonard."

"It is not / that care about trifles," returned the boy.
" How was one to reckon on a man setting up a monomania
about dogs' paws in the hall 1 "

" I have feared we were rather foolish ; I ought to have
reminded you to ask whether Mab would be welcome."

" I was not going to ask leave, I have no one whose
leave to ask," said Leonard, in tones at first proud, then

"That's a bad beginning," returned Ethel. "As master
of the house, your brother has a right to your compliance,
and if you do not all give way to each other, you will have
nothing but dissension and misery."

^^ All to each other ; yes, that is fair."

" He must have given way to you in letting you keep
the dog at all iu the house," said Ethel. "It is a real
instance of kindness, and you are bound to let her be as
little in his way as possible."

"He does mean well, I suppose," said Leonard; "but he


is an awful bother, and poor Ave gets the worst of it. One
has no patience with finikin ways in a man."

" There's no telling how much I owe to my finikin brother
Eichard," said Ethel ; '* and if you teach Ave to be loyal to
the head of your family, you will do her as much good as
you will do harm by chafing against his ordinances."

" Don't you hate such nonsense, ^liss May 1 "

" I can't love order as much as I honour it. Set tastes
aside. The point is, that if you are to hold together,
Leonard, it must be by bearing and forbearing, and above
all, to your elder brother."

"Well, it is a blessing that I shall be in school on

"So it is," said Ethel; "but, barring these fidgets,
Leonard, tell me," and she looked kindly at him, " how is it
at home 1 Better than you expected, I hope."

" Blank enough," said Leonard ; " I didn't think I should
have minded the sound of the surgery door so much."

"You will have Sunday to help you."

" Yes, Ave and I have been down to the churchyard ;
Ave does care, poor girl. She knows better what it is now,
and she was glad to have me to talk to again, though [Miss
^lary has been so kind to her."

" Oh, nobody can be so much to her as you.*'

" Poor Ave ! " said Leonard tenderly. " And look here,
this is my father's watch, and she made me this chain of
my mother's hair. And they have given me a photograph
of my mother's picture; Henry had it done long ago, but
thought it would upset me to give it before I went away.
If he could but have guessed how I lay and ^vished for
one ! "


"Those are the things one never can guess, even when
one would give worlds to do so."

" You — Miss May, you always know the thing that is

" Well," said Ethel, " what will be comfortable now is
that you should be the man above being affronted by other
people's nonsense — the only way to show we did not all spoil
each other at Coombe. 'Now, here is Woodstock for you,
and tell me if this be not your Cidaris. Oh, and we have
found out the name of your funny spiked shell."

Ten minutes of paloeontology ensued j and she was lead-
ing the way back to the drawing-room, when he exclaimed,
" Have you heard about the match. Miss May 1 "

" Match ? Oh, the cricket match % "

" Stoneborough against All England, on St. Matthew's
Day, so I shall have got my hand Iil"

" All England, meaning every one that can be scraped up
that is not Stoneborough," returned Ethel. " George
Larkins has been over here canvassing Tom and Aubrey.
But you can't be going to play, Leonard j papa does not half
like it for Aubrey."

" Perhaps not for Aubrey," said Leonard ; " but I am as
well as ever, and luckily they can't make up a decent eleven
without me. You will come and see us, ]\Ii5s May? I'll
find you the jolKest place between the old lime and the
cloister door."

"As if I had not known the meads ages before your
time ! " said Ethel.

" I thought you never came to the matches ?"

" Ah ! you don't rememl^er my brothers' Stoneborough
days, when IS^orman was cricket mad, and Harry after him,


and my fatlier was the best cricketer in Stoneborougli till
his accident."

" Yes, Dr. May always comes to see the matches," said
Leonard. " You will, won't you now, IMiss May 1 I didn't
think you knew anything about cricket, but it will be all the
better now."

Ethel laughed, and half promised.

Cocksmoor existed without Ethel on that holiday; and
indeed she was seK-reproachful, though pleased, at finding
her presence so great a treat to her father. Leonard might
do the honours of the lime tree nook, but she spent but
little time there, for Dr. May made her walk about with
him as he exchanged greetings with each and all, while
Gertrude led Eichard about at her will, and Mary con-
sorted with the Ward girls. With no one on her mind,
Ethel could give free attention to the smoothly shaven
battle field, where within the grey walls shaded by the
overhanging elms, the young champions were throwing
all the ardour and even the chivalry of their nature into
the contest.

The annual game had been delayed by the illness in the

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 21)