Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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"Xothing is in worse taste than constraint," said Ave from
the corners of her mouth — " at least for those that can trust
their manners without it."

" I tell you, Ave, you are spoiling the boy. He is more
conceited than ever since the Mays noticed him."

" Leonard conceited ! "

" Yes ; he is getting as stuck up as Tom May himself —
your model, I believe ! "

" I thought he was yours ! "



"Yes; you always seem to aim at a poor imitation of

There was a blushing angry stammer in reply ; and she
suppressed her smile, but felt triumphant in having hit the
mark. Unready at retort, he gathered himself up, and said :
" Well, Ave, I have only this to say, that if you choose to
support that boy in his impertinences, there will be no bearing
it ; and I shall see what I shall do."

Seeing what shall be done is a threat stimulating to some,
but appalling to others ; and Averil was of the latter class,
with no desire for such a spectacle, be it what it might. She
did not apologize for the trifle — possible ink, a spot of wax,
a borrowed book, were far beneath an apology ; but she made
up her mind to humour Henry's follies magnanimously, and
avoid collisions, like an admirable peace-maker. As soon as
bed-time came, she repaired to Leonard's room ; and Henry,
as he went along the passage, heard the two young voices
ringing with laughter ! Her retort had been particularly
delightful to Leonard. " That's right, Ave ! I'm glad you
set him down, for I thought afterwards whether I ought not
to have stood by you, only his w^ay of pitching into me
through you puts me into such a rage : I shall do something
desperate some day ! "

" Never mind it, Leonard ; it does not hurt me ; and if it
did, I should like to bear a great deal for you."

" That's all the wrong way," said Leonard, smiling afi'ec-

" No ; men do and women suffer."

" That's trite ! " said Leonard, patting her fondly. " I like
you to do — as you call it — Miss May does, and everyone that


is worth anything. I say, Ave, when I go out to the islands,
you are coming too 1 "

" Oh yes ! I know I could do a great deal. If nothing else,
I could sing ; and they have a great aptitude for singing,
Mary was telling me. But that reminds me I must finish
copying the hymn for next Sunday ; Henry hindered me, and
I have six copies more to do."

" I'll do some of them," said Leonard. " Let us go down
now the coast is clear, if the fire is not out."

They went down softly, ^lab and all, nursed up the fire
that Henry had raked out ; and if Saturnalia could be held
over the writing out of a hymn tune, they did it ! At any
rate, it had the charm of an assertion of independence ; and
to Averil it was something like a midnight meeting of per-
secuted Christians — to Leonard it was "great fun."
That evening was not a solitary specimen.
Averil and Leonard intended to obviate causes of offence ;
but they were young and heedless, and did not feel bound to
obedience. A very little temptation made them forget or defy
Henry's fancies ; and Leonard was easily lashed into answers
really unbecoming and violent, for which he could not bring
himself to be sorry, when he thought over the petty interfer-
ence and annoyance that had caused them.

These small tjTannies and frets made Averil the more
devoted to the music, which was her rest, her delight, and
not only exalted her above cares, but sanctioned her oblivion
of them. The occupation grew upon her, never ending, still
beginning, with fresh occasions for practice and new lessons,
but though Bankside boys were willing to be taught, yet it
was chiefly in hope of preferment as choristers at the Minster ;
and she soon found that a scholar no sooner proved his voice


good for anything, than he went off to be trained for the
choir on the foundation, which fed, clothed, and apprenticed
its young singers. She found she must betake herself to an
elder race if she wanted a reliable staff of voices ; and some
young men and women showing themselves willing, a practice,
with Mr. Scudamour to keep order, was organized for late
evenings, twice in the week. This was rather much ! Henry
opposed at first, on the ground that the evening would be
broken up ; to which she answered that for such a purpose
they ought to be willing to sacrifice a little domestic comfort ;
and when he muttered a petulant " Pshaw," looked at him in
reproof for sacrilege. She was not going to be one of the
womankind sitting up in a row till their lords and masters
should be pleased to want them !

!N'ext, he insisted that he would not have her going about
the place after dark; but she was fortified by the curate's
promise to escort her safely, and reduced him to a semi-
imprecation which she again viewed as extremely wicked.
The existence of that meek little helpless Mrs. Scudamour,
always shut up in a warm room with her delicate baby, cut
off Henry from any other possible objection, and he was
obliged to submit.

Leonard would gladly have been his sister's companion on
her expeditions, but he must remain at home and prepare
for the morrow's school-work, and endure the first hour of
dreariness unenlivened by her smile and greeting, and, what
was worse, without the scanty infusion of peace produced by
her presence. Her rapid departure after dinner always dis-
composed Henry ; and the usual vent for his ill-humour was
either a murmur against the clergy and all their measures, or
the discovery of some of Leonard's trangressions of his code.


Fretted and irritable at the destruction of evening comfort,
he in his turn teazed the fiery temper of his brother. If
there were nothing worse, his grumbling remarks interrupted,
and too often they were that sort of censure that is expres-
sively called knagging. Leonard would reply angrily, and
the flashes of his passion generally produced silence. Neither
brother spoke to Averil of these evening interludes, which
were becoming almost habitual ; but they kept Leonard in a
constant sore sense of injury, yet of uneasy conscience. He
looked to the Randall scholarship as his best hope of leaving
home and its torments, but his illness had thrown him back :
he had not only lost the last quarter, but the acquirements of
the one before it were obscured ; and the vexations them-
selves so harassed and interrupted his evening studies, that
he knew it was unreasonable to hope for it at the next ex-
amination, which, from various causes, was to come after the
Christmas holidays ; and it would be well if he could even
succeed in the summer.

Linocent as the Mays were of the harmonium business,
Henry included them in the annoyance it gave. It was the
work of the curate — and was not Dr. May one in everything
with the clergy ? had he not been instrumental 'in building
the chapel 1 was it not the ^lays and the clergy who had
made Ave inconveniently religious and opinionative, to say
nothing of Leonard ? The whole town was priest-led and
bigoted ; and Dr. May was the despot to whom all bowed

This was an opinion Henry would hardly have originated :

it was the shaft of an abler man than he — no other than

Harvey Anderson, who had lately become known to the

I world by a book proving King John to have been the most


enlightened and patriotic of English, sovereigns, enduring the
Interdict on a pure principle of national independence, and
devising Magna Charta from his own generous brain — in fact,
presenting a magnificent and misunderstood anticipation of
the most advanced theories of the nineteenth century. The
book had made so much noise in the world, that the author
had been induced to quit his college tutorship, and become
editor of a popular magazine. He lived in London, but
often came down to spend Sunday with his mother, and had
begun to be looked on as rather the lion of the place. Henry
took in his magazine, and courted his notice, often bringing
him into Averil's way that she might hear her heroes treated
with irony more effectual than home-made satire ; but Ave
was staunch. She hated the sight of IMr. Anderson ; never
cut the leaves of his magazine ; and if driven to sing to him,
took as little pains as her musical nature would let her do.
But the very strength of her dislike gave it an air of preju-
dice, and it Avas set down less to principle than to party
spirit and May influence.

There was another cause for Henry's being soured. He was
not of the nature to be filial with Dr. May ; and therefore
gratitude oppressed, and patronage embittered him. The
first months of warm feeling at an end, the old spirit of inde-
pendence revived, and he avoided consulting the physician
as much as possible. More than once his management of a
case was not approved by Dr. May ; and the strong and
hasty language, and the sharp reproofs that ensued, were not
taken as the signs of the warm heart and friendly interest,
but as the greatest offences — sullenly, but not the less bitterly

Moreover, one of the Whitford surgeons had been called


in by a few of the out-lying families who had hitherto been
patients of the "Wards ; and worse than all, Mrs. Rivers took
her child up to London for three days in !N'oveniber, and it
became known — through a chain of tongues — that it was for
the enlargement of tonsils, on which ISIr. Ward had operated
a year before.

" Old May , was playing him false ! " was Henry^s cry.
" His professions were humbug ! He would endure no one
who did not submit to his chctation ; and he would bring in
a stranger to ruin them all ! "

Little did Henry laiow of Dr. May's near approach to
untruth in denying that he had a house to let to the
opposition surgeon — of his attestations to his daughter that
young Ward was a skilful operator — or of his vexation
when she professed herself ready to undergo anything for his
pleasure, but said that little Margaret's health was another

Yet even this might have been forgiven, but for that
worst rub of all — Tom May's manners. His politeness was
intense — most punctilious and condescending in form —
and yet provoking beyond measure to persons who, like
Henry and Averil, had not playfulness enough to detect
with certainty whether they were being made game of or
not, nor whether his smoothly-uttered compliments were
not inuendos. Henr}^ was certain of being despised, and
naturally chafed against the prospect of the future connexion
between the two medical men of the town ; and thoucrh Tom
was gone back to Cambridge, it was the rankling remembrance
of his supercilious looks that, more than any present offence
or independence of spirit, made the young surgeon kick against
direction from the physician. Here, too, Averil was of the



same mind. She had heard Tom May observe that his sister
Gertrude would play quite well enough for a lady ; for the
mission of a lady's music was to put one to sleep at home, and
cover conversation at a party ; as to the rest — unprofessionals
were a mistake !

After that, the civil speeches with which Tom would
approach the piano only added insult to injury.



** Ne'er readier at alarm-bell's call.
Thy burghers rose to man thy wall,
Than now in danger shall be thine,
Thy dauntless voluntary line. "


*' Drive fast, "Will," said Dr. May, hastily stepping into
his carriage in the early darkness of a December evening.
" Five already, and he is to be there by 5.25."

" He " was no other than Harry May, and " there " was
the station. "With the tidings of the terrible fight of Peiho
had come a letter from a messmate of Harry's with an
account of his serious wound in the chest, decribing it as
just short of immediately dangerous. Another letter had
notified his amendment, and that he was invalided home, a
few cheery words from Harry himself scrawled at the end
showing that his power was far less than his good will : and
after two months' waiting and suspense, a telegram had come
from Plymouth, with the words, 'SStoneborough, 5.25."

In ignorance as to the state of the traveller, and expecting
to find him in a condition requiring great care and watching,
Dr. May had laid his injunctions on the eager family not to

K 2


rush up to the station en masse to excite and overwhelm, but to
leave the meeting there entirely to himself and his brougham.
He had, therefore, been exceedingly'- annoyed that one of
Henry Ward's pieces of self-assertion had delayed him unne-
cessarily at a consultation ; and when at last he had escaped,
he spent most of his journey with his body half out of window,
hurrying Will Adams, and making noises of encouragement
to the horse ; or else in a strange tumult of sensation
between hope and fear, pain and pleasure, suspense and
thankfulness, the predominant feeling being vexation at not
having provided against this contingency by sending Eichard
to the station.

After all the best efforts of the stout old chesnut, he and
the train were simultaneously at the station, and the pas-
sengers were getting out on the opposite platform. The
Doctor made a dash to cross in the rear of the train but was
caught and held fast by a porter with the angry exclamation,
" She's backing. Sir : " and there he stood in an agony,
feeling all Harry's blank disappointment, and the guilt of it
besides, and straining his eyes through the narrow gaps
between the blocks of carriages.

The train rushed on, and he was across the line the same
instant, but the blank was his. Up and down the gas-lighted
platform he looked in vain among the crowd, only his eye
suddenly lit on a black case close to his feet, with the three
letters MAY; and the next moment a huge chest appeared
out of the darkness, bearing the same letters, and lifted on a
truck by the joint strength of a green porter, and a pair of
broad blue shoulders. Too ill to come on — telegraph, mail
train — rushed through the poor doctor's brain as he stepped
forward as if to interrogate the chest. The blue shoulders



turned, a ruddy sun-burnt face lighted up, and the inarticulate
exclamation on either side was of the most intense relief and

"AYhere are the rest?" said Harry, holding his father's
hand in no sick man's grasp.

" At home ; I told them not to come up ; I thought — "

** Well, we'll walk down together ! Tve got you all to
myself. I thought you had missed my telegram. Hollo,
"Will, how d'ye do ? what, this thing to drive down in ? "

"I thought you were an invalid, Harry," said Dr. May,
with a laughing yet tearful ring in his agitated tone, as he
packed himself and his son in.

" Ay ! I wished I could have let you know sooner how
well I had got over it," said Harry, in the deep full voice
of strong healthy manhood. "I am afraid you have been
very anxious."

"We are used to it, my boy," said the doctor huskily,
stroking the great firm fingers that were lying lovingly on
his knee ; *• and if it always ends in this way, it ought to do
us more good than harm,"

"It has not done harm, I hope," said Harry, catching him
up quick. "aSoI to old Mary 1"

" Xo, Mary works things off, good girl. I flatter myself
you will find us all in high preservation."

" AU— aU at home ! That's right."

" Yes, those infants from Maplewood and all. You are
sure you are aU right, Harry ?"

" As sure as my own feelings can make me, and the
surgeon of the Dexter to back them," said Harry. " I don't
believe my lungs were touched after all, but you shall all
sit upon me when you like — Tom and all. It was a gi-eater


escape than I looked for," he added, in a lower voice. *• I
did not think to have had another Christmas here." •

The silence lasted for the few moments till the carriage
drew up behind the limes ; the doors were thrown open,
and the doctor shouted to the timid anxious figure that
alone was allowed to appear in the hall, " Come and lift
him out, Mary."

The dra-vving-room was a goodly sight that evening ;
and the doctor, as he sat leaning back in weary happiness,
might be well satisfied with the bright garland that still
clustered round his hearth, though the age of almost all
forbade their old title of Daisies. The only one who still
asserted her right to that name was perched on the sailor's
knee, insisting on establishing that there was as much room
for her there as there had been thi'ee years ago ; though, as
he had seated himself on a low foot-stool, her feet were
sometimes on the ground, and moreover her throne was
subject to sudden earthquakes, which made her, nothing
loth, cling to his neck, draw his arm closer round her,
and lean on his broad breast, proud that universal consent
declared her his likeness in the family ; and the two pre-
senting a pleasant contrasting similarity — the open honest
features, blue eyes, and smile, expressive of hearty good-will
and simple happiness, were so entirely of the same mould
in the plump, white- skinned, rosy-cheeked, golden-haired,
girl, and in the large powerful bronzed ruddy sailor, with
the thick mass of curls, at which Tom looked with hostility
as fixed, though less declared, than that of his Eton days.

Those were the idle members upon the hearth-rug. On
the sofa, with a small table to herself, and a tall embroidery
frame before her, nearly hiding her slight jDcrson, sat


Mrs. Ernescliffe, her 'pretty head occasionally looking out
over the top of her work to smile an answer, and her
artistically arranged hair and the crispness of her white
dress and broad blue ribbons marking that there was a
step in life between her and her sisters ; her husband sat
beside her on the sofa, with a red volume in his hand,
with "Orders," the only word visible above the fingers,
one of which was keeping his place. Hector looked very
happy and spirited, though his visage was not greatly
ornamented by a moustache, sandier even than his hair,
giving effect to every freckle on his honest face. A little
behind was Mary, winding one of Blanche's silks over the
back of a chair, and so often looking up to revel in the
contemplation of Harry's face, that her skein was in a wild
tangle, which she studiously concealed lest the sight should
compel Eichard to come and unravel it with those wonderful
fingers of his.

Eichard and Ethel were arranging the "sick albums,"
which they had constructed — one of cheap religious prints,
with texts and hymns, to be lent in cases of lingering
illness ; the other, commonly called the " profane," of such
scraps as might please a sick child, pictures from worn-out
books or advertisements, which Ethel was colouring — Aubrey
volunteering aid that was received rather distrustfully, as
his love of effect caused him to array the model school
children in colours .gaudy enough, as Gertrude complained,
" to corrupt a saint." Xor was his dilettante help more
appreciated at a small stand, well provided with tiny
drawers, and holding a shaded lamp, according to Gertrude,
" burning something horrible ending in gen, that would
kill anybody but Tom, who managed it, " but which threw


a beautiful liglit upon the various glass dishes, tubes, and
slides, and the tall brass microscope that Tom was said to
love better than all his kith and kin, and which afforded
him occupation for his leisure moments.

" I say, Harry," he asked, " did you get my letter '? "

" Your letter — of what date 1 I got none since Mary's
of the second of iMay, when every one was down in the
fever. Poor old Ward, I never was more shocked ; what
is become of the young ones 1 "

" Oh ! you must ask Mary, Miss Ward is a bosom friend
of hers."

" What ! the girl that sang like the lark 1 I must hear
her again. But she won't be in tune for singing now, poor
thing ! AMiat are they doing 1 Henry Ward taken to the
practice ? He used to be the dirtiest little sneak going, but
I hope he is mended now."

'' Ask my father," said mischievous Tom ; and Dr. May
answered not, nor revealed his day's annoyance with Henry.

" He is doing his best to make a home for his brother
and sisters," said Eichard.

" My letter," said Tom, " was written in Whitsun week ;
I wish you had had it."

*' Ay, it would have been precious from its rarity," said
Harry. " What commission did it contain, may I ask 1"

" You have not by good luck brought me home a Chinese
flea r

" He has all the fleas in creation," said Daisy confidentially ;
** cats', and dogs', and hedgehogs', and human ; and you
would have been twice as welcome if you had brought one."

" I've brought no present to nobody, I'd got my eye
on a splendid ivory junk, for Blanche's wedding present,


at Canton, but I couldn't even speak to send any one after
it. You have uncommon bad luck for a sailor's relatives."

" As long as you bring yourself home we don't care,"
said Blanche, treating the loss of the junk with far more
resi2:nation than did Tom that of the flea.

"If you only had a morsel of river mud sticking any-
wliere," added Tom, "you don't know the value the in-
fusoria might be."

"I had a good deal more than a morsel sticking to me
once," said Harry ; "it was owing to my boat's crew that I
am not ever so many feet deep in it now, like many better
men. They never lost sight of me, and somehow hauled
me out."

Gertrude gave him a hug, and ]\Iary's eyes got so misty,
that her skein fell into worse entanglements than ever.

" Were you conscious 1 " asked Ethel.

" I can't say. I'm clear of nothing but choking and
gasping then, and a good while after. It was a treacherous
unlucky affair, and I'm afraid I shaU miss the licking of
rascally John Chinaman. If all I heard at Plymouth is
true, we may have work handy to home."

" At home you may say," said his father, " Duke ef, <&c.
is our motto. Didn't you know what a nest of heroes we
have here to receive you ] Let me introduce you to Captain
Ernescliffe, of the Dorset Volunteer Eifle Corps ; Private
Thomas May, of the Cambridge University Corps ; and
Mr. Aubrey Spencer May, for whom I have found a riile,
and am expected to find a uniform as soon as the wise heads
have settled what colour will be most becoming."

'' Becoming ! Xo, papa ! " indignantly shouted Aubrey :
" it is the colour that will be most invisible in skirmishing."


" Grey, faced with scarlet," said Hector, decidedly.

" Yes, that is the colour of the invincible Dorsets," said
Dr. May. "There you see our great authority with his
military instructions in his hand."

" Xo, sir," replied Hector, " it's not military instructions,
it is Crauford's General Orders."

" And," added the doctor, " there's his bride working the
colours, and Mary wanting to emulate her."

"I don't think George will ever permit us to have
colours," said Ethel ; " he says that Rifles have no business
with them, for that they are of no use to skirmishers."

" The matter has been taken out of George's hands,"
said Aubrey ; " there would not have been a volunteer in
the country if he had his way."

" Yes," explained Ethel, " the real soldier can't believe in
volunteers, nor cavalry in infantry ; but he is thoroughly in
for it now."

" Owing to his Eoman matron," quoth Tom. " It was a
wonderful opening for public spirit when Lady Walkingham,
insisted on Sir Henry refusing the use of the park for
practice for fear we should make targets of the children.
So the Spartan mother at Abbotstoke, gallantly setting
Margaret aside, sent for the committee at once to choose
the very best place in the park."

" Papa is chairman of the committee," added Aubrey ;
" he is mayor this year, so we must encourage it."

"And Aubrey hit four times at a hundred yards," tri-
umphantly declared Gertrude, " when Edward Anderson
and Henry Ward only got a ball in by accident."

" Henry AA^'ard ought to be shot at himself," was Aubrey's
sentiment, " for not letting Leonard be in the corps."


" The fellow tliat you brought to Maplewood 1 " asked
Hector. " I thought he was at school."

" Didn't you know that old Hoxton has given leave to
any of the sixth form to drill and practice ? and that
trumpery fellow, Henry, says he can't afford the outfit,
though his sister would have given the uniform."

"Let me tell you, young folks," said the doctor, "that
you are not to suppose it always hails crack rifles on all
sorts of improved systems, as it does when Captain Hector
is in the house."

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 21)