Charlotte Mary Yonge.

The young step-mother : or A chronicle of mistakes (Volume 2) online

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Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive

in 2010 witii funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign







Fail — yet rejoice, because no less
The failure that makes thy distress
May teach another full success.

.Nor with thy share of work be vexed^
Though incomplete and even perplexed
It fits exactly to the next.

Adelaide A. Proctor.




443 & 445 BEOADWAY,





It was a beautiful July afternoon, the air musical Avith
midsummer hum, the flowers basking in the suiishine, the
turf cool and green in the shade, and the breeze redolent
of indescribable freshness and sweetness compounded of
all fragrant odours, the present legacy of a past day's
shower. Like the flowers themselves, Albinia was feeling
the delicious repose of refreshed nature, as in her pretty
pink muslin, her white drapery folded round her, and her
bright hair unbonneted, she sat reclining in a low garden
5P chair, at the door of the conservatory, a little pale, a lit-
tle weak, but with a sweet happy languor, a soft tender

There was a step in the conservatory, and before she
tould turn round, her brother Maurice bent over her, and
kissed her.

' Maurice ! you have come after all ! '

* Yes, the school inspection is put off. How are you ? '
as he sat down on the grass by her side.

' Oh, quite well ! What a delicious afternoon we shall
have ! Edmund will be at home directly. Mrs. Meadows
has absolutely let Gilbert take her to drink tea at the
Drurys ! Only I am sorry Sophy should miss you, for



she was so good about going, because Lucy wanted to do
something to her fernery. Of course you are come for
Sunday, and the christening ? '
. I Yes, — that is, to throw myself on Dusautoy's mercy.'

< We will send Mr. Hope to Fairmead,' said Albinia,
'and see whether Winifred can make him speak. We
can't spare the Vicar, for he is our godfather, and you
must christen the little maiden.'

' I thought the three elder ones were to be sponsors.'

' Gilbert is shy,' said Albinia, ' afraid of the respon-
sibility, and perhaps he is almost too near, the very next
to ourselves. His father would have preferred Mr. Du-
sautoy from the first, and only yielded to my wish.^ I
wish you had come two minutes sooner, she was being
paraded under that wall, but now she is gone in asleep.'

' Her father writes grand things of her.'

' Does he ? ' said Albinia, colouring and smiling at
what could not be heard too often ; ' he is tolerably satis-
fied with the young woman ! And he thinks her like Ed-
mund, and so she must be, for she is just like him. She
will have such beautiful eyes. It is very good of her to
take after him, since Maurice won't ! '

' And she is to be another Albinia.'

*I represented the confusion, and how I always
meant my daughter to be Winifred, but there's no doing
anything with him ! It is only to be a second name.
A. W. K. ! Think if she should marry a Mr. Ward ! '

'No, she would not be awkward, if she were so
a — warded.'

' It won't spell, Maurice,' cried Albinia, laughing as
their nonsense, as usual, rose to the surface, ' but how is
Winifred ? '

' As well as could be hoped under the afiliction of not
being able to come and keep you in order.'

*She fancied me according to the former pattern,'
said Albinia, smiling ; ' I could have shown her a better
specimen, not that it was any merit, for there were no
worries, and Edmund was so happy, that it was pleasure
enough to watch him.'

* I was coming every day to judge for myself, but I


thought things could not be very bad, while he wrote such
flourishing accounts.'

' Xo, there were no more ponds ! ' said Albinia, < and
grandmamma happily was quite well, cured, I believe, by
the excitement. Lucy took care of her, and Sophy read
to me — how we have enjoyed those readings ! Oh ! and
Aunt Gertrude has found a delightful situation for Gene-
vieve, a barrister's family, with lots of little children —
eighty pounds a year, and quite ready to value her, so she
is off my mind.'

' Maurice, boy ! come here,' she called, as she caught
sight of a creature prancing astride on one stick, and
waving another. On perceiving a visitor, the urchin came
careering up, bouncing full tilt upon her, and clasping her
round with both his stalwart arms. ' Gently, gently, boy,'
she said, bending down, and looking with proud delight
at her brother, as she held between her hands a face much
like her own, as fair and freshly tinted, but with a pecu-
liar squareness of contour, large blue eyes, with dark
fringes, brimming over with mischief and fun, a bold,
broad brow, and thick, light curls. There was a spring
and vigour as of perpetual irrepressible life about the
whole being, and the moment he had accepted his uncle's
kiss, he poised his lance, and exclaimed, * You are Bona-
parte, I'm the Duke ! '

* Indeed,' said Mr. Ferrars, at once seizing a wand,
and bestriding the nearest bench. Two or three charges
rendered the boy so uproarious, that presently he was
ordered off, and to use the old apple tree as Bonaparte.

* What a stout fellow ! ' said Mr. Ferrars, as he went
off at a plunging gallop, * I should have taken him for at
least five years old ! '

SSo he might be,' said Albinia, «for strength and
spirit — ^he is utterly fearless, and never cries, much as he
knocks himself about! He will do anything but learn.
The rogue ! he once knew all his letters, but no sooner
did he find they were the work of life, than he forgot
every one, and was never so obstreperous as when called
upon to say them. I gave up the point, but I foresee
some fine scenes.'


' His minding no one but you is an old story. I hope
at least the exception continues/

* I have avoided testing it. I want all my forces for a
decisive battle. I never heard of such a masterful imp/
she continued, with much more exultation than anxiety,
' his sisters have no chance with him, he rules them like a
young Turk. There's the pony ! Sophy will let him have it as
a, right, and it is the work of my life to see that she is not
defrauded of her rides.'

^ You don't mean that that child rides anything but a

' One would think he had been born in boots and
spurs. Legitimately he only rides with some one leading
the pony, but I have my suspicions that by some preter-
natural means he has been on the pony's back, and round
the yard alone, and that papa prudentially concealed it
from me ! '

*I confess I should not like it,' said her brother

* Oh ! I don't mind that kind of thing. A real boy
can't be hurt, and I don't care how wild he runs, so long
as he is obedient and truthful. And true I think he is to
the backbone, and I know he is reverend. We had such
a disturbance because he would not say his prayers.'

' Proof positive ! '

* Yes it was,' said Albinia. * It did not seem to him
orthodox without me, and when he was let into my room
again, it was the prettiest sight ! When he had been
told of his little sister, all he said was that he did not
want little girls — girls were stupid — '

' Ah ! that came of your premature introduction to my

' Not at all. It was partly as William's own nephew,
and partly because pleasure was expected from him. But
when he actually saw the little thing, that sturdy face
grew- so very soft and sweet, and when we told him he
was her protector, he put both his hands tight together,
and said, " I'll be so good ! " When he is with her, an-
other child seems to shine out under the bluff pickle he
generally is — he walks so quietly, and thinks it such an
honour to touch her.'


* She will be his best tutor,' said Maurice, smiling but
breaking off —

A sudden shriek of deadly terror rang out over the
garden from the river ! A second or two sufficed to show
them Lucy at the other end of the foot-bridge that led
across the canal to the towing-path. She did not look
round, till Albinia clutching her, demanded, 'Where
is he?'

Unable to speak, Lucy pointed down the towing-path,
along which a horse was seen rushing wildly — a figure
pursuing it. *It was hitched up here — ^he must have
scrambled up by the gate ! Oh ! mamma ! mamma ! He
has run after him, but oh ! '

Mr. Ferrars gave Lucy's arm a squeeze, a hint not to
augment the horror. Something he said of ' Let me —
and you had better — ' but Albinia heard nothing, and
was only bent on pressing forward.

The canal and path took a v/ide sweep round the
meadow, and the horse was still in sight, galloping at full
speed, with a small heap on his back, as they trusted,
but the rapid motion, and their eyes strained and misty
with alarm, caused an agony of uncertainty.

Albinia pointed across the meadows in anguish at not
being able to make herself understood, and hoarsely said,
' the gate ! '

Mr. Ferrars caught her meaning, and the next moment
had leaped over the gutter, and splashed into the water
meadow, but in utter hopelessness of being beforehand
with the runaway steed ! How could that gate be other
than fatal ? The horse was nearing it — the pursuer far
behind — Mr. Ferrars not half way over the fields.

There was a loud cry from Lucy. — ' He is caught !
caught ! '

A loud shout came back, was caught up, and sent on
by both the pursuers, ' All right ! '

Albinia had stood in an almost annihilation of conscious
feeling. Even when her brother strode back to her re-
peating ' All safe, thanks be to God,' she neither spoke
nor relaxed that intensity of watching. A few seconds
more, and she sprang forward again as the horse was led


np by a young man at his side ; and on his back, laugh-
ing and chattering, sat Master Maurice. Algernon Du-
sautoy strode a few steps behind, somewhat aggrieved,
but that no one saw.

The elder Maurice lifted down the younger one, who,
as he was clasped by his mother, exclaimed, 'Oh! mam-
ma, Bamfylde went so fast I I am to ride home again !
He said so — ^he's my cousin ! '

Albinia scarcely heard ; her brother however had
turned to thank the stranger for her, and exclaimed, ' I
should say you were an O'More.'

' I'm Ulick, from the Loughside Lodge,' was the an-
swer. * Is cousin Winifred here ^ '

* No, this is my sister, Mrs. Kendal, but — '

Albinia held out her hand, and grasped his ; 'I can't
— Maurice, speak,' she said.

The little Maurice persisted in his demand to be re-
mounted for the twelve yards to their own gate, but no-
body heard him ; his uncle was saying a few words of
explanation to the stranger, and Algernon Dusautoy was
enunciating something intended as a gracious reception
of the apologies which no one was making. All Albinia
thought of was that the little unruly hand was warm and
struggling, prisoned in her own ; all her brother cared for
was to have her safely at home. He led her across the
bridge, and into the garden, where they met Mr. Kendal,
who had taken alarm from her absence ; Lucy ran up
with her story, and almost at the same moment, Albinia,
springing to him, murmured, ' Oh ! Edmund, the great
mercy — Maurice ; ' but there she found herself making a
hoarse shriek ; with a mingled sense of fright and shame,
she smothered it, but there was an agony of suffocation,
she felt her husband's arms round her, heard his voice, and
her boy's scream of terror — felt them all unable to help
her, and sank into unconsciousness.

Mr. Ferrars helped Mr. Kendal to carry his wife's in-
animate form to her room. They used all means of res-
toration, but it was a long, heavy swoon, and a slow,
painful revival. Mr. Kendal would have been in utter
despair at hearing that the doctor was out, but for his


brother, with his ready resources and cheerful encourage-
ment ; and finally, she lifted her eyelids, and as she felt
the presence of her two dearest guardians, whispered,
* Where is he ? '

Lucy reported that he was with Susan, and Albinia,
after hearing her husband again assure her that he was
quite safe, lay still from exhaustion, but so calm, that her
brother thought them best alone, and drew Lucy away.

In about a quarter of an hour Mr. Kendal came dov»'n,
saying that she was quietly asleep, and he had left the
nurse with her. He had yet to hear the story, and when
he understood that the child had been macQy careering
along the towing-path, on the back of young Dusautoy's
most spirited hunter, and had been only stopped when
the horse was just about to leap the tall gate, he was com-
pletely overcome. When he spoke again, it was with the
abrupt exclamation, ' That child! Lucy, bring him down!*

In marched the boy, full of life and mischief, though
with a large red spot beneath each eye.

' Maurice ! ' Gilbert had often heard that tone, but
Maurice never, and he tossed back his head with an inno-
cent look of fearless wonder. ' Maurice, I find you have
been a very naughty, disobedient boy. When you rode
the pony round the yard, did not I order you never to do
so again ? '

' I did not do it again,' boldly rejoined Maurice.

* Speak the truth, sir. What do you mean by deny-
ing what you have done ? ' exclaimed his father, angrily.

< I didn't ride the pony,' indignantly cried the child ;
* I rode a horse, saddled and bridled ! '

' Don't answer me in that way ! ' thundered Mr. Ken-
dal, and much incensed by the nice distinction, and not
appreciating the sincerity of it, he gave the child a shake,
rough enough to bring the red into his face, but not a
tear. 'You knew it was very wrong, and you were as
near as possible breaking your neck. You have frighten-
ed your mamma, so as to make her very ill, and I am
sorry to find you most mischievous and unruly, not to be
trusted out of sight. Now, listen to me, I shall punish


you 7ery severely if you act in this disobedient way

Papa angry, was a novel spectacle, at which Maurice
looked as innocently and steadily as ever, so completely
without fear or contrition, that he provoked a stern, ' Do
you hear me, sir ? ' and another shake. Maurice flushed,
and his chest heaved, though he did not sob, and his
father, uncomfortable at such sharp dealing with so young
a child, set him aside, with the words, ' There now, recol-
lect what I have told you ! ' and walked to the window,
where he stood silent for some seconds, while the boy stood
with rounded shoulders, perplexed eye, and finger on his
pouting lip, and Mr. Ferrars, newspaper in hand, watched
him under his eyelids, and speculated what would be the
best sort of mediation, or whether the young gentleman
yet deserved it. He knew that his own Willie would
have been a mere quaking, sobbing mass of terror, under
such a shake, and he would like to have been sure whether
that sturdy silence were obstinacy or fortitude.

The sound of the door-bell made Mr. Kendal turn
round, and laying his hand on the little fellow's fair head,
he said, ' There, Maurice, we'll say no more about it if
you will be a good boy. Run away now, but don't go
into your mamma's room.'

Maurice looked up, tossed his curls out of his eyes,
shook himself, felt the place on his arm where the grip
of the hand had been, and galloped off like the young colt
that he was.

Albinia awoke, refreshed, though still shaken and
feeble, and surprised to find that dinner was going on
downstairs. Her own meal presently put such new force
into her, that she felt able to speak Maurice's name without
bursting into tears ; and longing to see both her little
ones beside her, she told the nurse to fetch the boy, but
received for answer, ' No, Master Maurice said he would
not come,' and the manner conveyed that it had been de-
fiantly said. Master Maurice was no favourite in the
nursery, and he was still less so, when his mamma, dis-
regarding all mandates, set out to seek him. Already
she heard from the stairs the wrangling with Susan, that


accompanied all his toilettes, and she found him the picv
ture of firm, solid fiiirness, in his little robe de nuit,
growling through the combing of his tangled locks.
Though ordinarily scornful of caresses, he sprang to her
and hugged her, as she sat down on a low chair, and he
knelt in her lap, whispering with his head on her shoul-
der, and his arms round her neck, ' JSIamma, were you
dead ? '

No, ]\f aurice,' she answered with something of a sob,
* or I should not have my dear, dear little boy throttling
me now ! But why would you not come down to me ? '

* Papa said I must not.'

* Oh, that was quite right, my boy ; ' and though she
unclasped the tight arms, she drew him nestling into her
bosom. * Oh, Maurice, it has been a terrible day ! Does
my little boy know how good the great God has been to
him, and how near he was never seeing mamma nor his
little sister again.'

Her great object was to make him thankful for his
preservation, but with a child, knowing nothing of death,
and heedless of fear, this was very difficult. The rapid
motion had been delightful excitement, or if there had
been any alarm, it was forgotten in the triumph. She
had to change her note, and represent how the poor horse
might have run into the river, or against a post ! Mau-
rice looked serious, and then she came to the high moral
tone — mounting strangers' horses without leave — would
papa, would Gilbert, think of such a thing ? The full lip
was put out, as though under conviction, and he hung his
head. ' You won't do it again ? ' said she.


She told him to say his prayers, guiding the confession
and thanksgiving that she feared he did not fully follow.
As he rose up, and saw the tears on her cheeks, he whis-
pered, ' Mamma, did it make you so ? '

Cause and effect were a great puzzle to him, but that
swoon w^as the only thing that brought home to him that
he had been guilty of something enormous, and when she
owned that his danger had been the occasion, he stood
and looked; then, standing bolt upright, with clasped


hands, and rosy feet pressed close together, he said, with
a long breath, Til never get on Bamfylde again till I'm
a big boy.'

As he spoke, Mr. Kendal pushed open the half-closed
door, and Albinia, looking up said, ' Here's a boy w]io
knows he has done wrong, papa.'

Never was more welcome excuse for lifting the gal-
lant child to his breast, and lavishing caresses that would
have been tender but for the strong spirit of riot which
turned them into a game at romps, cut short by Mr.
Kendal, as soon as the noise grew very outrageous.
* That's enough to-night; good-night.' And when they
each had kissed the monkey face tossing about among the
clothes, Maurice might have heard more pride than pain
in the ' I never saw such a boy ! ' with which they shut
the door.

' This is not prudent ! ' said Mr. Kendal.

' Do you think I could have rested till I had seen
him ? and he said you had told him not to come down.'

* I would have brought him to you. You are looking
very ill ; you had better go to bed at once.'

* No, I should not sleep. Pray let me grow quiet
first. Now you know you trust !Maurice, — old ]\Iaurice,
and I'll lie on the sofa like any mouse, if you'll bring him
up and let him talk. You know it will be an interesting
novelty for you to talk, and me to listen ! and he has not
seen the baby.'

Albinia gained her point, but Mr. Kendal and Lucy
first tucked her up upon the sofa, till she cried out, * You
have swathed me hand and foot. How am I to show off
that little Awk % '

* I'll take care of that,' said Mr. Kendal ; and so he
did, fully doing the honours of the little daughter, who
had already fastened on his heart.

' But,' cried Albinia, breaking into the midst, * who
or what are we, ungrateful monsters, never to have
thought of the man who caught that dreadful horse ! '

' You shall see him as soon as you are strong enough,'
said Mr. Kendal ; 'your brother and I have been with


' Oh, I am glad ; I could not rest if he had not been
thanked. And can anything be done for him ? What is
he "? I thought he was a gentleman.'

Maurice smiled, and Mr. Kendal answered, ' Yes, he
is Mr. Goldsmith's nephew, and I am pleased to find that
he is a connexion of your brother.'

* One of the 0'j\Iores,' cried Albinia. ' Oh, Maurice,
is it really one of Winifred's O'Mores ? '

' Even so,' replied Mr. Ferrars ; ' the very last person
I should have expected to meet on the banks of the Baye !
It was that clever son of the captain's for whose education
Mr. Goldsmith paid, and it seems had sent for, to con-
sider of his future destination. He only arrived yester-

' A very fine young man,' said Mr. Kendal. ' I was
particularly pleased with his manner, and it was an act
of great presence of mind and dexterity.'

' It is all a maze and mystery to me,' said Albinia ;
* do tell me all about it. I can't make out how the horse
came there.'

' I understood that young Dusautoy was calling here,'
said Mr. Kendal ; ' I wondered at even his coolness in
coming in by that w^ay, and at your letting him in.'

' I saw nothing of him,' said Albinia. ' Perhaps he
was looking for Gilbert.'

' No,' said Lucy, looking up from her work, with a
slight blush, and demure voice of secret importance ; * he
had only stepped in for a minute, to bring me a new

' Indeed,' said her father ; ' I was not aware that he
took interest in your fernery.'

^ He knows everything about ferns,' said Lucy. * Mrs.
Cavendish Dusautoy once had a conservatory filled with
the rarest specimens, and he has given me a great many
directions how to manage them.'

* Oh ! if he could get you to listen to his maxims, I
don't wonder at anything,' exclaimed Albinia.

' He had only just come in with the Adiantium, and
was telling me how hydraulic power directed a stream
of water near the roots among his mother's Fuci,^ said


Lucy, rather hurt. ' He had fastened up his horse quite
securely, and nobody could have guessed that Maurice
could have opened that gate to cross the bridge, far lers
have climbed up the rail to the horse's back, I never
shall forget my fright^ when we heard the creature's feet,
and Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy began to run after it di-

' As foolish a thing as he could have done,' said Mr.
Kendal, not impressed with Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy's
condescension in giving chase. ' It was well poor little
Maurice was not abandoned to your discretion, and his

' It seems,' continued Mr. Ferrars, ' that young O'More
was taking a walk on the towing-path, and was just so far
off as to see, without being able to prevent it, this little
monkey scramble from the gate upon the horse's neck.
How it was that he did not go down between, 1 can't
guess ; the beast gave a violent start, as well it might,
jerked the reins loose, and set off full gallop. Seeing the
child clinging on like a young panther, he dashed across
the meadow, to cut him off at the turn of the river ; and
it was a great feat of swiftness, I assure you, to run so
lightly through those marshy meadows, so as to get the
start of the runaway ; then he crept up under cover of the
hedge, so as not to startle the horse, and had hold of the
bridle, just as he paused before leaping the gate ! He
said he could hardly believe his eyes when he saw the
urchin safe, and looking more excited than terrified.'

' Yes, he was exceedingly struck with Maurice's spirit,'
said Mr. Kendal, who, when the fright and anger were
over, could begin to be proud of the exploit.

* They fraternized at once,' said Mr. Ferrars. ' Mau-
rice imparted that his name was Maurice Ferrars Kendal,
and Ulick, in all good faith and Irish simplicity, discov-
ered that they were cousins ! '

* Oh ! Edmund, he must come to the christening
dinner ! '

'Mind,' said Maurice, ' you know he is not even my
wife's cousin ; only nephew to her second cousin's hus-


' For shame, Maurice ; cousin is that cousinly does ! '

' Very well ; only don't tell the aunts that "Winifred

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe young step-mother : or A chronicle of mistakes (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 25)