secret ā that he had done something out of her know-
ledge, and had something of the most momentous
character to tell her, and yet could not tell it to her.
It would be different with Hugh. He waited loitering
about upon the dusty summer roads, biting his nails to
the quick, and labouring hard through a sea of thought.
This telling was disagreeable, even when it was only
Hugh that had to be told ā more disagreeable than
anything else about the business, far more disagreeable,
certainly, than he had anticipated it would be; and
Wilfrid did not quite make out how it was that a
simple fact should be so difficult to communicate. It
enlarged his views so far, and gave him a glimpse into
the complications of maturer life., but it did not in any
way divert him from his purpose, or change his ideas
158 MADONNA MARY,
about his riglits. At length the train appeared by
which it was certain Hugh must come home. Wilfrid
sauntered along the road within sight of the little sta-
tion to meet his brother, and yet when he saw Hugh
actually approaching, his heart gave a jump in his
breast. The moment had come, and he must do it,
which was a very different thing from thinking it over,
and planning what he was to say.
"You here, Will!" said Hugh. "I looked for you
in Carlisle. Why didn't you go to Mrs. Askell's and
wait for me?"
"I had other things to do," said Will, briefly.
Hugh laughed. "Very important things, I have
no doubt," he said; "but still you might have waited for
me, all the same. How is Aunt Winnie? I saw that
fellow, ā that husband of hers, ā at the station. I
should like to know what he wants hanging about
"He wants her, perhaps," said Will, though with
another jump of his heart.
"He had better not come and bother her," said
Hugh. "She may not be perfect herself, but I won't
stand it. She is my mother's sister, after all, and she
is a woman. I hope you wont encourage him to hang
"/.'" cried Will, with amazement and indignation.
' "Yes," said Hugh, with elder-brotherly severity.
"Not that I think you would mean any harm by it,
Will; it is not a sort of thing you can be expected to
understand. A fellow like that should be kept at a
distance. When a man behaves badly to a woman
ā to his wife ā to such a beautiful creature as she
has been ā "
MADONNA MARY. 159
"I don't see auy thing very beautiful about her,"
"That doesn't matter," said Hugh, who was hot
and excited, having been taken into Winnie's con-
fidence. "She has been beautiful, and that's enough.
Indeed, she ouglit to be beautiful now, if that fellow
hadn't been a brute. And if he means to come back
here ā "
"Perhaps it is not her he wants," said Will, whose
profound self-consciousness made him play quite a new
part in the dialogue.
"What could he want else?" said Hugh, with scorn.
"You may be sure it is no afiection for any of us that
brings him here."
Here was the opportunity, if Will could but have
taken it. Now was tlie moment to tell him that some-
thing other than Winnie might be in Percival's mind
ā that it was his own fortune, and not hers, that hung
in the balance. But Will was dumb; his lips were
sealed; his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. It
was not his will that was in fault. It was a rebellion
of all his physical powers, a rising up of nature against
his purpose. He was silent in spite of himself; he said
not anotlier word as they walked on together. He
suftered Hugh to stray into talk about the Askells,
about the Museum, about anything or nothing. Once
or twice he interrupted the conversation abruptly with
some half-dozen words, which brought it to a sudden
stop, and gave him the opportunity of broaching his
own subject. But when he came to that point he was
struck dumb. Hugh, all innocent and unconscious, in
serene elderly-brotherly superiority, good humoured and
condescending, and carelessly affectionate, was as dif-
160 MADONNA MARY.
ficult to deal with as Mary herself. Without with-
drawing from his undertaking, or giving up his "rights,"
Wilfrid felt himself helpless; he could not say it out.
It seemed to him now that so far from giving in to it,
as he once imagined, without controversy, Hugh equally
without controversy would set it aside as something
monstrous, and that his new hope would be extinguished
and come to an end if his elder brother had the op-
portunity of thus putting it down at once. When they
reached home, Will withdrew to his own room, with a
sense of being baffled and defeated ā defeated before
he had struck a blow. He did not come downstairs
again, as they remembered afterwards ā he did not
want any tea. He hjid not a headache, as Aunt Agatha,
now relieved from attendance upon Winnie, immediately
suggested. All he wanted was to be left alone, for
he had something to do. This was the message that
came downstairs. "He is working a great deal too
much," said Aunt Agatha, "you will see he will hurt
his brain or something;" while Hugh, too, whispered to
his mother, "You shall see! /never did much, but
Will will go in for all sorts of honours," the generous
fellow whispered in his mother's ear; and Mary smiled,
in her heart thinking so too. If they had seen Will at
the moment sitting with his face supported by both his
hands, biting his nails and knitting his brows, and
pondering more intently than any man ever pondered
over classic puzzle or scientific problem, they might
have been startled out of those pleasant thoughts.
And yet the problem he was considering was one
that racked his brain, and made his head ache, had he
been sufficiently at leisure to feel it. The more im-
possible he felt it to explain himself and make his
MADONNA MAIiY. 161
claim, the more obstinately tletcrmiaed was lie to make
it, and Lave what belonged to him. His discourage-
ment and sense of defeat did but intensify his resolu-
tion. He had fsiilcd to sjDcak, notwithstanding his op-
portunities; but he could write, or he could employ an-
other voice as his interpreter. With all his egotism
and determinatiou, Wilfrid was young, nothing but a
boy, and inexpei'ienced, and at a loss what to do.
Everything seemed easy to him until he tried to do it;
and when he tried, everything seemed impossible. He
had thought it the most ordinary affair in the world to
tell his discovery to his mother and brother, until the
moment came which in both cases proved the commu-
nication to be beyond his powers. And now he thought
he could write. After long pondering, he got up and
opened the little desk upon which he had for years
written his verses and exercises, troubled by nothing-
worse than a doubtful quantity, and made an endeavour
to carry out his last idea. Will's style was not a bad
style. It was brief and terse, and to the point, ā a
remarkable kind of diction for a boy, ā but he did
not find that it suited his present purpose. He put
himself to torture over his letters. He tried it first in
one way, and then in another; but however he put it,
he felt within himself that it would not do. He had
no sort of harsh or unnatural meaning in his mind.
They were still his mother and brother to whom he
wanted to write, and he had no inclination to wound
their feelings, or to be disrespectful or unkind. In
short, it only required this change, and his establish-
ment in what he supposed his just position, to make
him the kindest and best of sons and brothers. He
toiled over his letters as he had never toik^d over any-
Madonua Mary. II. 11
162 MADONNA MARY.
thiug in his life. He could not tell how to express
himself, nor even what to say. He addressed his
mother first, and then Hugh, and then his mother
again; but the more he laboured the more impos-
sible he found his task. When Mrs. Ochterlony
came upstairs and opened his door to see what her boy
was about, Wilfrid stumbled up from his seat red and
heated, and shut up his desk, and faced her with an
air of confusion and trouble which she could not under-
stand. It was not too late even then to bring her in
and tell her all; and this possibility bewildered Will,
and filled him with agitation and excitement, to which
naturally his mother had no clue.
"What is the matter?" she said, anxiously; "are
you ill. Will? Have you a headache? I thought you
were in bed."
"No, I am all right," said Will, facing her with a
look, which in its confusion seemed sullen. "I am
busy. It is too soon to go to bed."
"Tell me what is wrong," said Mary, coming a
step further into the room. "Will, my dear boy, I am
sure you are not well. You have not been quarrelling
with any one ā with Hugh ?"
"With Hugh!" said Will, with a little scorn; "why
should I quarrel with Hugh?"
"Why, indeed!" said Mrs. Ochterlony, smiling
faintly; "but you do not look like yourself. Tell me
what you have been doing, at least."
Will's heart thumped against his breast. He might
put her into the chair by which she was standing, and
tell her everything, and have it over. This possibility
still remained to him. He stood for a second and looked
MADONNA :\rARY. 1C3
at lier, and grew breatliless with excitement, but then
somehow his voice seemed to die away in his throat.
"If I were to tell you what 1 was doing, you would
not understand it," he said, repeating mechanically
words which he had used in good faith, with innocent
schoolboy arrogance, many a time before. As for
Mary, she looked at him wistfully, seeing something in
his eyes which she could not interpret. They had never
been candid, frank eyes like Hugh's. Often enough
before, they had been impatient of her scrutiny, and
had veiled their meaning with an apparent blank; but
yet there had never been any actual harm hid by the
artifice. Mary sighed; but she did not insist, knowing
how useless it was. If it was anything, perhaps it was
some boyish jealousy about Nelly, ā an imaginary
feeling which would pass away, and leave no trace be-
hind. But, whatever it was, it was vain to think of
finding it out by questions; and she gave him her
good-night kiss and left him , comforting herself with
the thought that most likely it was only one of Will's
uncomfortable moments, and would be over by to-
morrow. But when his mother went away, Will for
his part sank down, with the strangest tremor, in his
chair. Never before in his life had this sick and
breathless excitement, this impulse of the mind and re-
sistance of the flesh, been known to him, and he could
not bear it. It seemed to him he never could stand in
her presence, never feel his mother's eyes upon him,
without feeling that now was the moment that he must
and ought to tell her, and yet could not tell her, no
more than if he were speechless. He had never felt
very deeply all his life before, and the sense of this
struggle took all his strength from him. It made his
164 MADONNA MAliY.
lieart beat, so that the room and the house and the
very solid earth on which he stood seemed to throb
and tingle round him; it was like standing for ever on
the edge of a precipice over which the slightest move-
ment would throw him, and the very air seemed to rush
against his ears as it would do if he were falling. He
sank down into his chair, and his heart beat, and the
pulses thi-obbed in his temples. What was he to do? ā
he could not speak, he could not write, and yet it must
be told, and his rights gained, and the one change
made which should convert him into the tenderest son,
the most helpful brother, that ever man or woman had.
At last, in his despair and pertinacity, there came into
his mind that grand expedient which occurs naturally
to everything that is young and unreasonable under the
pressure of unusual trials. He would go away; ā he
couH not go on seeing them continually, with this com-
munication always ready to break from the lips which
Avould not utter it, ā nor could he write to them
while he was still with them, and when any letter must
be followed by an immediate explanation. But he
could fly; and when he was at a safe distance, then he
could tell them. No doubt it was cowardice to a cer-
tain extent; but there were other things as well. Partly
it was impatience, and partly the absoluteness and im-
perious temper of youth, and that intolerance of every-
thing painful which comes natural to it. He sat in his
chair, noiseless and thinking , in the stillness of night,
a poor young soul, tempted and yielding to temptation
sinful, yet, scarcely conscious how sinful he was, and
yet at the same time forlorn with that profound forlorn-
ness of egotism and ill-doing which is almost pathethic
in the young. He could consult nobody, take no one
MADONNA MARV. lOT)
into his confidcnco. The only counsellors he had known
in all his small experience were precisely those upon
whom he was about to txu-n. He was alone, and had
everything to plan, everything to do for himself.
And yet was there nobody whom he could take
into his confidence? Suddenly, in the stillness of the
night a certain prosperous, comfortable figure came into
the boy's mind ā one who thought it was well to get
money and wealth and power, anyhow except dis-
honestly, which of course was an impracticable and im-
politic way. When that idea came to him like an in-
spiration. Will gave a little start, and looked up, and
saw the blue dawn making all the bars of his window
visible against the white blind that covered it. Night
was gone with its dark counsels, and the day had
come. What he did after that was to take out his
boy's purse, and coiint over carefully all the money it
contained. It was not much, but yet it was enough.
Then he took his first great final step in life, with a
heart that beat in his ears, but not loud enough to be-
tray him. He went downstairs softly as the dawn
brightened, and all the dim staircase and closed doors
grew visible, revealed by the silent growth of the early
light. Nobody heard him, jiobody dreamed that any
secret step could ever glide down those stairs or out of
the innocent honest house. He was the youngest in it,
and should have been the most innocent; and he thought
he meant no evil. Was it not his right he was going
to claim? He went softly out, going through the
drawing-room Avindow, which it was safer to leave open
than the door, and across the lawn, which made no
sound beneath his foot. The air of the summer morn-
ing Avas like balm, and sootlmd liini , and the blueness
166 MADONNA MARY.
briglitened and grew rosy as he went his way among
the early dews. The only spot on which, like Gideon's
fleece, no dew had fallen, was poor Will's beating
heart, as he went away in silence and secrecy from his
The breakfast-table in the Cottage was as cheerful
as usual next morning, and showed no premonitory
shadow. Winnie did not come downstairs early; and
perhaps it was all the more cheerful for her absence.
And there were flowers on the table, and everything
looked bright. Will was absent, it is true, but nobody
took much notice of that as yet. He might be late,
or he might have gone out; and he was not a boy to
be long negligent of the necessities of nature. Aunt
Agatha even thought it necessary to order something
additional to.be kept hot for him. "He has gone out,
I suppose," Miss Seton said; "and it is rather cold this
morning, and a long walk in this air will make the
boy as hungry as a hunter. Tell Peggy not to cook
that trout till she hears him come in."
The maid looked perturbed and breathless; but she
said, "Yes, ma'am," humbly ā as if it was she who
was in the wrong; and the conversation and the meal
were resumed. A minute or two after, however, she
appeared once more: "If you please, there's somebody
asking for Mr. Hugh," said the frightened girl, stand-
ing, nervous and panting, with her hand upon the
"Somebody for me?" said Hugh. "The game-
MADONNA MARY. 167
keepei", I suppose; he need not Lave been in such a
hurry. Let him come in, and wait a little. I'll be
" But, my dear boy," said Aunt Agatha, "you must
not waste the man's time. It is Sir Edward's time, yoi;
know 5 and he may have quantities of things to do. Go
and see what he wants: and your mother will not fill
out your cofifee till you come back."
And Hugh went out, half laughing, half grumbling
ā but he laughed no more, when he saw Peggy stand-
ing severe and pale at the kitchen door, waiting for
him. "Mr. Hugh," said Peggy, with the aspect of a
chief justice, "tell me this moment, on youi* conscience,
is there any quarrel or disagreement between your
brother and you?"
"My brother and me? Do you mean Will?" said
Hugh, in amazement. "Not the slightest. What do
you mean? We were never better friends in our
"God be thanked!" said Peggy; and then she took
him by the arm, and led the astonished young man up-
stairs to Will's room. "He's never sleepit in that bed
this night. His little bag's gone, with a change in't.
He's putten on another pair of boots. Where is the
laddie gone? And me that'll have to face his mother,
and tell her she's lost her bairn!"
"Lost her bairn! Nonsense," cried Hugh, aghast;
" he's only gone out for a walk."
"When a boy like that goes out for a Avalk, he
does not take a change with him," said Peggy. "He
may be lying in Kirtell deeps for anything we can
tell. And me that will have to break it to his
mother . "
168 MADONNA MARY.
Hugh stood still in consternation for a moment, and
then he burst into an agitated laugh. "He would not
have taken a change with him, as you say, into Kirtell
tleeps," he said. "Nonsense, Peggy! Are you .sure he
has not been in bed? Don't you go and frighten
my mother. And, indeed, I daresay he does not
always go to bed. I see his light burning all the night
through, sometimes. Peggy, don't go and put such
ridiculous ideas into people's heads. Will has gone
out to walk, as usual. There he is, downstairs. I
hear him coming in: make haste, and cook his trout."
Hugh, however, was so frightened himself by all
the terrors of inexperience, that he precipitated himself
downstairs, to see if it was really Will who had en-
tered. It was not Will, however, but a boy from the
railway, with a note, in Will's handwriting, addressed
to his mother, which took all the colour out of Hugh's
cheeks ā for he was still a boy, and new to life, and
did not think of any such easy demonstration of dis-
content as that of going to visit Uncle Penrose. He
went into the breakfast-room with so pale a face, that
both the ladies got up in dismay, and made a rush at
him to know what it was.
"It is nothing," said Hugh, breathless, waving them
off, "nothing ā only a note ā I have not read it yet
ā - wait a little. Mother, don't be afraid."
"What is there to be afraid of?" asked Mary, in
amazement and dismay.
And then Hugh again burst into an unsteady and
tremulous laugh. He had read the note, and threw it
at his mother with an immense load lifted off his heart
and feeling wildly gay in the revulsion. "There's no-
thing to be frightened about," said Hugh. "By Jove!
MADONNA MARY. IGO
to think the feUow has no more taste ā gone off to
see Uncle Penrose. I wish them joy!"
"Who is it tliat has gone to visit Mr. Penrose?"
said Annt Agatha; and Hugh bui'st into an explana-
tion, while IMary, not by any means so much relieved,
read her boy's letter.
"I confess I got a fright," said Hugh. "Peggy
dragged me upstairs to show me that he had not slept
in his bed, and said his carpet-bag was gone, and in-
sinuated ā I don't know what ā that we had quar-
relled, and all sorts of horrors. But he's gone to see
Uncle Penrose. It's all right, motlier- I always thought
it was all right."
"And had you quarrelled?" asked Aunt Agatha, in
"I am not sure it is all right," said Mary;
"why has he gone to see Uncle Penrose? and
what has he heard? and Avithout saying a word to
Mary was angry with her boy, and it made her
heart sore ā it was the first time any of them had
taken a sudden step o\it of her knowledge ā and then
what had he heard? Something worse than any
simple offence or discontent might be lurking behind.
But Hugh, of course, knew nothing at all about
that. He sat down again to liis interrupted breakfast,
and laughed and talked, and made merry. "I wonder
what Uncle Penrose will say to him?" said Hugh. "I
suppose he has gone and spent all his money getting
to Liverpool; and what could his motive be, odd fellow
as he is? The girls arc all married "
"My dear boy. Will is not thinking of girls as you
are," said Mary, l^eguiled into a smile.
170 MADONNA MAKY.
Hugh laughed and grew red, and shook his abun-
dant youthful locks. "We are not talking of what I
think," he said-, "and I suppose a man may do worse
than think about girls ā a little: but the question is,
what was Will thinking about? Uncle Penrose cannot
have ensnared him with his odious talk about money?
By-the-way, I must send him some. We can't let an
Ochterlony be worried about a few miserable shillings
"I don't think we can let an Ochterlony, at least
so young ^ one as Will, stay uninvited," said Mary.
"I feel much disposed to go after him and bring him
home, or at least find out what he means."
"No, you shall do nothing of the kind," said Hugh,
hastily. "I suppose our mother can trust her sons out
of her sight. Nobody must go after him. Why, he is
seventeen ā almost grown up. He must not feel any
want of confidence "
"Want of confidence!" said Aunt Agatha. "Hugh,
you are only a boy yourself. What do you know
about it? I think Mary would be very wrong if she
let Will throw himself into temptation; and one knows
there is every kind of temptation in those large, wicked
towns," said Miss Seton, shuddering. It was she who
knew nothing about it, no more than a baby, and still
less did she know or guess the kind of temptation that
was acting upon the truant's mind.
"If that were all," said Mary, slowly, and then she
sighed. She was not afraid of the temptations of a
great town. She did not even know what she feared.
She wanted to bring back her boy, to hear from his
own lips what his motive was. It did not seem pos-
sible that there could be any harm meant by his boy-
MADONNA MARY. 171
isli secrecy. It was even hard for his mother to per-
suade herself that Will could think of any harm; but
still it was sti-ange. Wlien she thought of Percival's
visit and Will's expedition to Carlisle, her heart flut-
tered within her, though she scarcely knew why. Will
was not like other boys of his age; and then it was
"something he had heard." "I think," she said, with
hesitation, "that one of us should go ā either you or
"No," said Hugh. "No, mother, no; don't think
of it; as if he were a girl or a Frenchman! Why it's
Will! What harm can he do? If he likes to visit
Uncle Penrose, let him; it will not be such a wonderful
delight. I'll send him some money to-day."
This, of course, was how it was settled; for Mary's
terrors were not strong enough to contend with her
natural English prejudices against surveillavice and re-
straint, backed by Hugh's energetic remonstrances.
When Winnie heard of it, she dashed immediately at
the idea that her liusband's influence had something to
do with Will's strange flight, and was rather pleased
and flattered by the thought. "I said he would strike
me through my friends," she said to Aunt Agatha, who
was bewildered, and did not know what this could mean.
"My dear love, what good could it do him to inter-
fere with Will?" said Miss Seton. "A mere boy, and
who has not a penny. If he had wanted to injure us,
it would have been Hugh that he would have tried to
"To lead away?" said Winnie scornfully. "What
does he care for leading away? He wants to do harm,
real harm. He thinks he can strike me through my
172 MADONNA MARY.
When Aunt Agfitlia heard this she tiu'ned round to
Mary, who had just come into the room, and gave a
little deprecating shake of her head, and a pathetic
look. Poor Winnie! She could think of nothing but
her husband and his intentions; and how could he do
this quiet household real harm? Mary said nothing,
but her uneasiness increased more and more. She could
not sit down to her work, or take up any of her
ordinary occupations. She went to Will's room and
examined it througliout, and looked through his ward-
robe to see what he had taken with him, and searched
vainly for any evidence of his meaning; and then she
wrote him a long letter of questions and appeals, which