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It was the Easter holidays when Penelope Croft
returned to Eastwold, and the Wynyard boys were all
at home. The household were glad to see her back,
for she was wont to be a merry little soul, and they
had need of all the life and gaiety and hopefulness
that she could bring. For Pennie to look sad was,
therefore, nothing short of a calamity ; and sad she
did look, with traces of tears and temper on her face
that did not vanish until she had enjoyed a sound
night's rest in her own room. Her trouble was not
precisely of that sort w^hich murders sleep, and in
the morning its propoiiiions were so far diminished
that it slipped every now and then out of the gi'ip of
her imagination, and left her to think of something
else. She was more like herself again, though still
not quite right.



ABOUT RINGS. 203

During the weeks of her absence, Farmer Dykes,
his ^ife and family, had taken possession of the
portion of the house assigned to them, and Mrs.
W}Tiyard and her children had vrorn down to the
tranquil level of their daily life. Nobody came to
visit — that was the first fact that impressed itself on
Pennie's mind. The gardens were left to grow into
wilderness. Sheep and cattle pastured in the park.
The few fine trees that had hitherto been spared for
beauty's sake, were now marked for the axe. The
faded splendour of the drawing-room, and the learned
luxury of the library remained to keep tastes and
traditions alive in the children's minds ; but the
regular expenditure of the household was reduced to
the narrowest limits, and besides old Jenny the
nurse, one maid and a woman in the kitchen, were
all that remained of the former establishment.

Mrs. Wynyard had many disquieting thoughts
about her husband's ward under these circumstances.
It was not to such a dull, restrained life as was now
led at Eastwold that her father had meant to con-
sign her ; and her fortune certainly entitled her to
taste something of the pleasures of the world while



204 MR. wynyard's ward.

her mind was fresli. A season in London, a conti-
nental tour were her due ; but how were they to be
obtained for her ? Her allowance was ample for all
expenses ; but where was the chaperone to escort
her? Mrs. "VYj^nyard caught herself wishing that
poor Pennie were well married and off her hands ;
and then thinking that perhaps she might meet with
an eligible somebody at Brackenfield, during the
wedding festivities of Millicent and Mr. Forester.
This marriage, long deferred, was to be celebrated on
the last day of April.

Meantime, Pennie took up the threads of her own
life quietly and contentedly enough. She walked
with Anna and Lois about the park, the fields, the
woods ; she rode a few miles every day with Francis
or Geoffrey, who borrowed a shaggy half-broken colt
from Farmer Dykes to accompany her; and she
spent a great many hours in the library, browsing at
will amongst the literary gleanings of a dozen
generations. She was blessed with an adaptable
mind, and she did not find this uneventful existence
insupportably heavy. Perhaps her patience was
increased by the reflection that Rood Abbey was not



ABOUT RINGS. 205

much more than four miles off, and that she might
happen some fortunate day to meet Mr. Tindal.
This fortunate day did not, however, arrive, and she
departed to Brackenfield T\-ithout an opportunity of
explanation. Penuie respected her mother's veto so
far that she did not dream of making an opportunity.
She had meditated once or t^ice on the expediency of
opening her counsel to Mrs. Wynyard, but recollect-
ing what had come of her confidence at Mayfield,
she was afraid, and finally determined to keep it to
herself. Besides what was there to tell, except that
Mr. Tindal had given her that ring ?

Pennie arrived at Brackenfield two days before
the great event by Millicent Hutton's express desire.
No other guest had then come, but on the morrow
appeared Sir Thomas and Lady Brooke, and Pennie
found herself brought into close and intimate com-
munion T^ith Mr. Tindal's faithless love, who was, in
fact, a niece of the dame — herself, before marriage,
a Curtis of Methley Towers. Pennie was not shy in
company ; she felt her personal insignificance as a
shield, and under its shelter, she gleaned from society



206

a vast deal of quiet enjoyment. Lady Brooke, who
fastened a character on all her acquaintance, told her
on the evening of their meeting that she was a quizj
and to the other familiar names by which she was
known at Brackenfield this was now added. Pennie
felt inclined to resent it, but did not ; Uncle Chris-
topher was there with his merry mockery, and her
new weapon might be turned to account.

It was in the drawing-room after dinner that this
occurred. Millicent and Michael Forester were con-
versing apart ; the rest of the circle were assembled
about the hearth drinking their cups of coffee. Lady
Brooke covered the central ottoman with her flowing
skirts, and was as useful as a second lamp for lighting
up the room with her glowing complexion and moun-
tainous white figure. Anything so fat, or anything
so fair, Pennie had never seen, and her great eyes
lightened with appreciative fun as she contemplated
this heroine of a story, seated solid under the
nimbus of airs, graces and affectations with which she
was always pleased to crown herself in compan3\
Pennie tried mentally to reduce her shape to girlish
proportions, and her visage to the tender roundness



ABOUT RINGS. 207

and bloom of youth, but all to no purpose. Fancy
can expand more easily than she can compress, and a
faint sentiment of wonder, unleavened by admiration,
was all she felt towards this once paragon of beauty
that Mr. Tindal had loved.

Pennie was reposing in a low chair very com-
fortably, sipping her coffee and thinking her thoughts,
when Mrs. Blake who was close by on a couch with
the dame, suddenly bent forward, and said aloud :
"What an exquisite old diamond ring you have on,
Pennie ! " Pennie coloured, murmured yes, and
w^ent on sipping her coffee.

"Pray let me look at it; I do so admire dia-
monds," cried Lady Brooke eagerly. Pennie had
nothing for it but to extend her hand ; the ring was
rather large for her finger, and in an instant the
admirer of diamonds had drawn it off, had shrieked
for love of the precious stones, had read the "posie"
engraved inside, and had said in a voice that made
everybody stare, she did not think there had been
more than one ring like that in the world ! Pennie
put out her hand to receive it again, but somebody
else had asked to look at it, and it was being passed



208 ]Vm. WYNYARD'S WARD.

from one to another, and commented on as curious,
costly, quaint, lovely, antique. When it came back
to her she put it on without a word, and proceeded
to finish her coffee, but the hand that carried the
cup to her lips shook visibly, the lips themselves
quivered, and a burning glow, enough to melt ice,
covered her face, her neck, her arms. Poor Pennie,
she could not have looked guiltier if she had stolen
the ring !

Mr. Tindal's accident, and his nursing at Mayfield
during Pennie's visit to her mother, were well-known
here, for they had been the chief theme of Pennie's

•4

recent letters to her friend Millicent. Blushes so
fiery must, of course, have an interpretation. The
women longed to know what ; the men had no doubt.
They retreated very slowh', and Pennie writhed under
the sensation of being a mark, and a wonder to all
eyes. She quite loved Uncle Christopher when, after
turning over the leaves of a volume of Cuitt's beau-
tiful etchings, he wheeled his chair half round to
hers, and bade her come and look at them too ;
which gave her a chance of moving from under
Lady Brooke's discontented watchfulness, and of



ABOUT RINGS. • 209

concealing her treacherous face. She did not discern
the pictures very distinctly until they came to one
of the gateway at Eood Abbey ; and then rallying
her wits with determination, she remarked that it
was a fine fragment, but that it appeared in better
preservation in the etching than in reality. After
she had managed her own voice once more, she got
on better, and really finished the evening creditably.
But, oh, what would she not have given for one of
those faces, good as masks, which never betray their
owners !

Millicent Hutton's wedding was not very gay, but
it w-ent ofi" in a highly satisfactory manner. She
was a handsome, happy bride, and Michael Forester
had recovered to some extent the natural colour
and air of a wholesome English gentleman. During
his long absence he had gone through a century of
adventures ; had been a hunter in the wild woods, a
prisoner, a fugitive, a slave, where the voices around
him had no more significance than the cry of
animals, and the manners and customs were worse
than those of animals. So many days, so many

VOL. I. 14



210 MR. wynyard's ward.

weeks, so many months, so many years wandering
amongst the savage tribes of central Africa, until he
lost all reckoning of time, and was found by two
adventurous travellers — pioneers of commerce and
Christianity — so levelled to his lonely existence, that
he had not energy left to endeavour an escape from
it. They took him away with them, nursed him at
the mission-house on the coast, and shipped him
home to England — to take up again the broken
strands of his life and his love, and to weave them
into the orthodox, every-day pattern. That was the
conclusion of Millicent's caprice.

The breakfast, the tedious afternoon, the dinner
and the dance in the evening, were all according to
rule, — pleasant, natural, proper, and pretty. The
Squire and the dame bore the parting bravely ; in the
first place because Millicent was to live at the Lodge,
and in the second, because John, Theodora, and the
three boys were going now to take up their abode
at BrackenfieLl, that grandpapa and grandmamma
might not feel lonely and forsaken in their old age.

Nobody had come- to the wedding from Eastwold
but Pennie, and the next dav but one after it was



ABOUT KINGS. 211

over, she left to return home, still in possession
of her secret about the ring, notwithstanding the
many attacks made upon her b}^ Lady Brooke's
curiosity to learn under what circumstances it had
been given to her. None of the other witnesses
of her confasion had asked or even hinted a single
inquiry, for Lady Brooke had whispered it through
the house that this wonderful ring had certainly
been worn by Mr. Tindal's mother ; that she had
seen it often on her hand, and that the unhappy
lady had said to her once (before the shocking family
tragedy occurred), that it might come to be her own ;
for it had been the betrothal gift of the heir of Rood
Abbey to his mistress for generations. Pennie had
dreaded lest she might be made the object of Uncle
Christopher's teasing; but he showed no sign of
remembering her rosy confession w^hen it was past,
neither did any one else. On the contrary, she w^as
treated with more observance and respect, and she
liked the change : for she had gi'own shy of comments
on her peculiarities since she had taken on her the
status of a come-out young woman. Besides, she
was beginning now to consider and cultivate them,

14-2



212 ]MK. wynyakd's ward.

and even to turn them to account as attractions ;
in which study she had that wise guide, Love.

But though nothing was said to Pennie, there
was a good deal said over dressing-room fires about
the ring, and in other seckided corners for gossip.
The dame trusted that her Mary knew, and that
Pennie put confidence in her ; and in a letter she
wrote to her daughter at Eastwold the day after the
wedding, she made distinct allusion to her ward's
intimacy with the unfortunate master of Rood. This
letter only preceded Pennie's arrival by a few hours,
and by the same post had come another on the same
subject from Mr. Wynyard in Normandy, to whom
Mr. Hargrove had sent a curiously exaggerated
statement of the late events at Mayfield. Mrs.
Wynyard felt hurt that Pennie had told her nothing,
and that such intelligence should have been left to
find its way to her from two such distant quarters,
but she carefully dissembled her annoyance ; for she
had knowledge enough of Pennie's character to be
aware that though her confidence might be won, it
never could be commanded.

It was to this position of her little afiairs that



ABOUT RINGS. 213

Pennie came home — far from sorry to come ; for how
much nearer to Eood was Eastwold than Bracken-
field ? As she sat at tea with the children, giving
them a detailed account of the late festivities at
grandpapa's house, Mrs. Wynyard observed that the
ring which had been reported to her was not on her
hand. Pennie had, in fact, resolved not to risk any
more abrupt questions thereanent, and so she had
strung it on a ribbon round her neck, and hidden it
underneath her dress. i

It was not thus, however, that she could escape
Mrs. Wynyard's dutiful anxiety. When the children
were gone to bed, she was left alone with their
mother, who plunged at once in medias res, and
asked, — " Pennie, what is this that I hear about your
having accepted fi'om Mr. Tindal a diamond ring —
the ring that all the world of hereabouts knows as
the bride-ring of Eood ? "

" I told my mother, and she told it again to Mr.
Hargrove," replied Pennie, in a defensive tone, as
much as to say, " If my own mother cannot keep my
counsel, to whom then shall I entrust it ? "

" Mr. Hargi-ove has made it his business to write



214 MR. wynyard's ward.

about it to Normandy. Of course, on such a gift,
men j^lace only one construction." Mrs. Wynyard
waited a moment for confession, but none was fortli-
coming. She continued : ''If all were straight and
fair in Mr. Tindal's history, there could be no objec-
tion, unless it were on the score of age — he must be
fourteen or fifteen years your elder — but there are
circumstances which would make us very, very re-
luctant to consent."

'' No one is required to consent to anything,"
interrupted Pennie, in some heat. '' I know the
circumstances you allude to, and they will never
influence the opinion I had formed of Mr. Tindal
before I knew them. I will not pretend to mis-
understand you. When he gave me this ring,"
touching the bosom of her dress, " he told me that
he had received it from his mother, to give to the
woman he married ; but as he could not ask any
woman to be his wife, tied and bound as he is, he
would give it to me — the only creature who had
shown him genuine faith and love since he lost
her."

" It comes all to the same thing, Pennie. He



ABOUT RINGS. t^lo

will look that you should redeem the pledge you have
accepted."

Pennie did not appear so distressed as she ought
to have done. She was thinking, '' Well, and if he
does, what then ? "

" This is where it is, dear; wc slvo responsible for
you," Mrs. Wynyard went on. " We should like to
marry you honourably and happily, as if you were a
daughter of our own ; and I would rather lay my
girls in their coffins than give them to men of vviiom
such words have been spoken as have been spoken of
i^-thur Tindal. "WQiile you keep that ring, you are
virtually bound to him, and cannot honestly listen to
the addresses of any one besides."

Pennie's face flamed now. '^ I don't want to
listen to any one besides," said she.

" I must understand you plainly. Do you mean
to tell me that you have conceived a regard for
Mr. Tindal, which would be a bar against any other
attachment ? "

" That is the truth."

" Then I am sorry to hear it, Pennie ; for I am
afraid there is trouble before you."



216 MR. WYNYARD'S ward.

For all that prediction, Pennie went to her pillow
comforted rather than dejected. If the ring was a
fetter, it was a fetter from which she had no wish to
be free. She did not regret that Mrs. Wynyard
knew her heart ; there was no fear that the itch for
gossip would tempt her to a betrayal of confidence ;
and since Mr. Hargrove had taken upon him to write
to Normandy about her, it was better that her guar-
dian should learn the precise truth from his wife,
than that he should accept a garbled story from the
person who had been able already to make her taste
one sharp disappointment. It was curious thax,
whenever from that day Pennie fell into a muse on
her private affairs, the burly agent invariably intruded
as a meddler, a mischief-maker, a stone of offence in
her way — yet why should he ? What was it to him
ivho or hoiv she married, or 2vhen or ivhere ?

If Mr. Hargrove had not entertained so profoundly
careless a contempt for women, he would have been
very uneasy to know that Mr. Wynyard's Ward had
begun to ask herself, what her marriage could be
to him ?



( 217 )



DOCTOR GREY BEGINS TO SEE HIS DUTY.

Every day and often tvn.ce a day Dr. Grey visited
his patients in the parish poor-house. The child
died, and was buried. The mother continued much
the same ; now h igli — prating, laughing, babbling ;
now loic — weeping, silent, dejected. Each morning
new^s of her was carried to Rood, to her father and
Mr. Tindal. The latter was growing hourly more
impatient for the disclosures that he looked to, to
deliver himself, while Pierce with a strange fatuity
was retiring on his old doubts and dreads, and
repeating over and over again to himself, to the
doctor, and even to his master, that it was not a
certain thing his Alice was the guilty person. He
did not know she was. He might have feared ; he
would not denv anv lonirer that she was at Rood that



218 MR. WYNYAKD'S WARD.

fatal day, but more lie could not say. Was it
for liim to condemn his own flesh and blood ? If
they put it to him on his conscience, he did not
believe that it was in her ever to do such a deed ; no,
not for jealousy, nor for revenge.

'' Don't talk to me, Pierce, there is a moral
certainty that she did it," cried the doctor, in a rage.

" People said there was a moral certainty Mr.
Arthur did it ; but moral certainties don't stand
for proofs. I go back to my former ground, sir — I
don't know idio murdered Mr. Hugh Tindal, and I
don't leant to know."

" You have been taking counsel with somebody
besides yourself — that is the way in which you
damned your master.''

" I won't deceive you, sir; I have been consulting
Mr. Hargi'ove. He knows the law, he knows w^hat is
evidence, and w^hat isn't evidence, and he says he
sees no sound reason at present for reversing the
popular verdict."

" Mr. Hargi'ove ought to have more sense than to
talk about popular verdicts. However, if you have
opened the business to him, it might as well be



DOCTOR GREY BEGINS TO SEE HIS DUTY. 219

opened to all the world. You had better go and see
Alice ; I shall name her to the matron. The
guardians meet to-morrow, and you will hare to
remove her."

With that the doctor drove off, saying to himself
that whatever chance publicity would give Mr. Tindal,
he should not lack it. He went straight to the poor-
house, and saw Alice, who was, as he beheved,
drifting into the outer darkness of insanity, where
anguish could no more reach her. To screen her
longer, would be a sacrificing of the living to the
dead. The matron came at his call.

" This woman belongs to Eood, to decent people
there," said he. " I have let her father know the
state in which she is — Mr. Pierce, a servant at the
Abbey. In all probability you will have him over.
If he wishes to take her away — which most likely he
will — it ought to be only to an asylum. I will sign
her certificate, and so will Jackson, but he had better
not be in any hurry."

In crossing the market-place, the doctor met the
curate who had the spiritual care of the paupers at
Allan Bridge, and to him also he made his statement.



220 MR. WYNYARD'S WARD.

" There is small hope of her recovery," he added,
"if, indeed, it would be anything to hope for. It is
a miserable story — that child you buried was Hugh
Tindal's, and she was the undiscovered woman in the
wood that day he was shot. Her father has known
it from the first."

" You don't mean that she — I have always heard
it charged on his brother," stammered the clergyman.

*'Very unjustly, as I think." The doctor
nodded, and went on his way, left his gig at his
own door, and proceeded to the law^-er's office. Mr.
Hargrove was engaged at the moment, but would be
with him shortly, said his clerk ; and the doctor,
who had no patient watching for him, that he was
aware of, sat down to wait.

" Well, Grey, is it your will, this time ? " cried
the lawyer boisterously, as he appeared after the lapse
of about five minutes.

'' No, Hargrove, it is not my wdll A'et; it is that
old story Pierce has been to you about from Eood."
The lawyer immediately became serious, got behind
his desk, took up a paper-knife, and composed
himself to listen. A closer observer than Doctor



DOCTOR GREY BEGINS TO SEE HIS DUTY. 221

Grey might have discerned anxiety as well as
attention in his countenance. " Did Pierce tell you
his daughter is here, in the poor-house ? No ! I
thought as much. Crafty old knave, that can't
understand it is as necessary to he open with his man
of law as his man of physic. She is here, at all
events, and for what I can see, is likely to go to a
worse place — Norminster Asylum, most prohably."

Mr. Hargrove made an inarticulate noise expres-
sive of sui-prise and commiseration.

" If Pierce did not tell you she was here, what
case did he bring you ? This is what mine turns
on — she can't keep awa}^ from Eood. She has
confessed to me that she saw Hugh Tindal shot ;
she was, therefore, that woman who was lurking
about betw^een the Grange and the Abbey, of whom
there was some suspicion that she might have done
it — now I'll undertake to say that if it had been
known the woman was Alice Pierce, with her bundle
of wrongs and miseries on her back, the suspicion
would have become con^dction in the common mind."

The la-^Ter thoughtfully put up his lip, and
allowed that it might have become conviction in the



222 MR. wynyard's ward.

common mind, but protested that it would not have
become conviction in his. ''In fact," added he, with
an air of candour, " my prejudice went from the first
against Arthur Tindal, and it was very strong."

'' I never heard you say so before," answered the
doctor, aghast. " Never, and we have talked it over
a score of times."

" And may talk of it a score to that again," said
Hargrove.

" But my impression was that your opinion went
all the other way ! " persisted the doctor.

*' Then your impression was mistaken." The
lawyer was rather short, as if he disliked this
insistance, and would put a stop to it ; but his
present client had an excellent memory, and declined
to be stopped. He went on to quote instances in
which Hargrove had agreed with him in the confi-
dence of after-dinner chat, and had wished a happy
release to the falsely accused, and a swift despatch to
the assassin. " Ha ! ha ! after dinner over a bottle
of your excellent port, Grey ! " cried the lawj^er, with
a significant laugh — or a laugh meant to be
sicrnificant.



DOCTOR GREY BEGINS TO SEE HIS DUTY. 223

*' If a man tells lies in his wine, when does he
tell truth ? " growled the doctor, and got up to go.

Hargi'ove felt that he had blundered. He ought
to have known his man better, and he did know him
better; therefore that la,pse was as unpardonable as
it was unlucky ; and Grrey was not the man to forget
it, as he was well aware. Already from the glance of
his eye, and the knitting of his brow, he appeared to
be speculating on its origin or its motive ; and his
speculations were apt to be shrewd, and to hit home.
The lawyer endeavoured to detain him, and bring him
back to the point, but in vain ; the doctor was both
angry and dismayed at the turn the consultation had
taken, and he was not easily appeased. He walked
out of the office, and across to his own house in a
maze, and as he shut himself up in his study to
think the matter over, he ejaculated under his
breath, " He shall not put his legs under my table
again in a hurry ; I half think he may be the knave
Jacques declares he is. He was lying when he
talked about his prejudice, confound him ! "

The doctor's discomfited meditations carried him
about and about the subject, but not to the core of



224 MR. wynyard's ward.

it. He could not conjecture why Mr. Hargrove
should desire — as he evidently did — to perpetuate
the social outlawry of Mr. Tindal. Buckhurst was in
at dinner-time, and he went over all the history with


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