Copyright
Holme Lee.

Mr. Wynyard's ward (Volume 1) online

. (page 11 of 14)
Online LibraryHolme LeeMr. Wynyard's ward (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


that young man, to take the benefit of his views.

" Never look deep for a rogue's motives — some-
thing personal, probably pecuniary, they'll be,"
moralized the assistant. '' The least subtle explana-
tion of men's ways generally comes nearest the
truth." This oracular guide-post, though it only
pointed, yet i)ointed decisively, and Doctor Grey,
brightening up, said he thought he saw it.

" I'll turn over a new leaf of my trusteeship for
little Penelope Croft," was the resolution that
followed close on the thought. Suspicion, once
generated in an unsuspicious mind, breeds fast.
Last night Doctor Grey would have put his dearest
interests with implicit faith in Hargrove's hands ;
to-night he revoked all his former confidence, and
declared to himself that his old convive was a shifty,
crafty, double-faced pettifogger of an attorney, who
ought to be very sharply looked after. The pity was
he had not discovered it before.



( 225 )



XI.

A VISITOR AT ROOD.

To such a place as Allan Bridge any little event is a
godsend ; but tlie re-opening of the famous Rood
Abbey tragedy furnished talk for the whole county
and country. The London papers reverted to it with
tantalizing brevity, and it got into the Xorminster
Gazette at full length again. The Eskdale readers
of that news followed the case with gi-eedy interest.
They heard the story of Alice Pierce from the days
when she was " so TNinsome, so bonny," do-^n to the
hour when, the magistrates having seen her, and the
doctors having certified to her insanity, she was
removed by her afflicted father and a female keeper
from the sick ward of Allan Bridge poor-house to the
pauper lunatic asylum at Xorminster. After occupy-
ing a column or two for seven or eight weeks, the
VOL. I. 15



226 MR. wynyard's ward.

mystery was pronounced to be still unfathomed and
unfathomable, and it subsided once more into uneasy
oblivion.

In the magniloquent editorials, which furnished
the patrons of the Norminster Gazette with opinions
on its facts, Mr. Tindal had been very smartly
handled. Forcible allusions were made to the
cowardice, the unmanliness, of attempting to fix the
barbarous crime on a woman, who w^as as incapable
of defending herself as the dead. " The time was
cunningly chosen," said the leader, '' but truth had
prevailed over cunning ; the base plot had been
defeated ; and the burthen of suspicion lay where it
had originally fallen — where it must continue to lie
until some fuller disproof were offered than what had
lately been brought under the investigation of the
Allan Bridge board of magistrates."

The Gazette containing this article came to Rood
Abbey on a Sunday morning in June, as it came to
every other well-to-do house in Eskdale. Mr. Tindal
read his condemnation in it, and a present end to all
his dreams. He read it in the garden, and while he
read it, he let his pipe go out. '' That is over,"



A VISITOR AT ROOD. 227

said he, and di'opped the paper on the grass ; and
for the first time a chill of utter despondency crept
over him.

He had recovered his strength now, and his
natural colour ; but the torturing anxiety of the
recent inquiries had not passed over him without
making its mark. The sun shone with midsummer
glow, but he felt no warmth in its shining. While
hope was with him he had caused his house and
gardens to be swept and garnished, and now on the
soft turf there was spread a luxury of blossom and
beauty that mocked him with a reminder of his
short-lived joy. He had seen no friendly soul to
speak to, except Doctor Grey, since the turn the
investigation about Alice Pierce would take became
apparent. While it was doubtful, here and there a
man had drawn near to him, who had since di'awn
back again. Even Pierce had left him ; not in anger
on either side, but with mutual concession and
sorrow. Early on in the inquiry he had spoken to
the Vicar of his desire to restore the dreary, neglected
old church, and had been checked, and bidden to
stay until he was clear of the imputed guilt of

15—2



228 MR. WYNYARD'S WARD.

murder ; for Mr. Featherston and liis rosy wife were
not found impenetrable to the subtle influence of
public opinion, and each to the other had confessed
a doubt, a dread — had whispered awfully that it was
not fit a man with unrepented blood on his hands
should bring any gift to the altar. He had felt the
recoil in their promising acquaintance, and had come
no more in their way. With many besides them,
the stirring up of the stagnant pool had done him
more harm than good. The lively girls at the
Grange took heed not to cross his path ; men meet-
ing him in the road made only half obeisance : the
servants under his ow^n roof did him shy and
grudging service.

He thought often of Pennie, and wondered, did
she think of him ? and if she thought, hoiv did she
think ? It could only be with pain, at the best, he
knew, even if her faith had escaped the common
taint. Trust in her was the last stay left him.
After perusing that oracular denunciation, he could
not bring his mind into any sort of tune. He felt
like a prisoner w^ho, in trying to escape, falls and
wounds himself cruelly, or who is crippled by a shot



A VISITOR AT ROOD. 229

from the sentry just as he gets a ghmpse of freedom.
He heard the solemn roll of the organ and ' the
singing in church, as he had heard them in the
spring, but with dull ears now, and an unresponsive
soul, to which nothing spake peace. It seemed im-
possible that he could return to the vague, wandering
life of the last seven years ; it seemed equally im-
possible that he could remain at Eood, banned from
society, friendless, and alone. He had not even
Pierce to open his heart to now ; and Doctor Grey's
daily visits had been intermitted for some weeks.
He rose in the morning without expectation, and he
went to his restless rest at night weary of the tedium
of the day, in which a newspaper, a book, and a pipe
had been his sole company. Beyond this, he could
discern no hope, unless in Pennie. Would she hold
out to him a helping hand, or would she, like all the
rest, avert her eyes, and pass him by on the other
side.

What a long, blank day it was, that golden day
of June, on which the Norminster Gazette announced
to Eskdale the solemn renewal of the old fiat on his
case. "Sullen the afternoon melted into evening,



230 MR. WYNYARD'S WARD.

and the evening mellowed into soft summer night,
he thanked God that it was done, and groping in the
darkness of his destiny, prayed that he might see
light soon or die.

As that day was, so was the morrow, only so
much the heavier as the chain dragged longer, and
wore down his strength. He felt to have no power,
no nerve left. He could not sleep or eat ; wine could
not warm, nor smoke solace him. He opened no
book ; he made no more effort to relieve the oppres-
sion of his misery. When Dr. Grey called, he could
scarcely get from him a word. He avoided the face
of his servants, and ceased to answer when they
spoke. He sat indoors, and shut out the brightness
of the day. It was as if there were death in the
house.

The next morning it rained at intervals, but the
merry splash and patter of the sudden showers on
the thick leaves, and the fragrance of the sunshiny
gleams between did not win him one moment from
his brooding melancholy. After noon it cleared for
good, but the tenderness of tears was in the sky, and
the cool freshness of them was over all the fields.



A VISITOR AT ROOD. 231

He had seated himself mechanically before his
'^Titing-table 'in the window, but during all the hours
of the day he had done nothing, and had attempted
nothing. He had, in fact, no correspondence like
other men, to while away time. Still he sat in the
same place, vacant, nerveless, helpless, when about
four o'clock, the man who had replaced Pierce
opened the door and looked in. His master took no
notice. It did not appear that he even heard, for he
never moved. His arms were stretched across the
table, his hands clasped, his head bent down on
them, and his face hidden. He started however, and
\isibly, when a familiar voice, only a pace or two off,
said shyly; "Mr. Tindal, I have come to see you."

It was Pennie — Pennie in splashed habit, with
the soft glow rapid riding brought always into her
cheeks, and the deep swimming lustre that air and
exercise put into dark eyes quite as often as sentiment
or emotion. She looked almost pretty under her
hat — he thought she looked lovely. She did not
speak again after those first words, nor did he for a
minute, while he held her hands ; both of them
trembling, both of them with mist in their \ision.



282 MR. wynyard's waed.

"You are my salvation, Pennie," lie said at
last, in a voice that lie could not trust above his
breath.

She was bewildered and confused by the strength
of her own feelings ; she had meant to say so many
comforting, loving things, and behold she was dumb.
After all it was the sight of her that was the con-
solation, and Mr. Tindal came to a command of
himself first. He said something (she was never
quite sure what) and she replied to it by explaining
her \dsit : " Doctor Grey brought me, and he will
call for me in about an hour on his way back from
Beckby — Mr. Jones is ill of his rheumatic gout.''
Prosaic this, but a convenient bridge over the gulf
of emotion that had almost swallowed up their power
of speech. Mr. Tindal blessed Doctor Grey in his
heart, and then they began to talk, not very fluently,
as regarded Pennie, for her sensations of shyness,
sorrow, and sympathy were perpetually in her way,
but very effectively as regarded him she came to
comfort.

"You still keep your faith in me, Pennie?"
said he.



A VISITOR AT ROOD. 233

" Yes ; and I shall keep it always, though nothing
should ever be made clearer than it is to-day."

'' Then I shall Hve and not die ! — my good little
nurse ! my good Kttle nurse that I love, and who
loves me — it is so, Pennie. I know it is, but I
want to hear it from your lips, one sweet, one tender
word after so many hard blows."

She gave it him, and a few tears with it — for his
passion frightened her — and then a bit of counsel.

" You should not stay here alone. Look up as
you did before, and hope for good days by-
and-by."

"Ah! Pennie, these things take the strength
out of a man at last, and leave him without energy or
power to hope."

"Don't let them beat you, don't."

There was short silence. Pennie was a child in
experience, if she was a woman in sympathy. She
could not conceive of what his life really was— how
dull, how bare, how utterly denuded of the interests,
occupations, pleasures, and cares of common hu-
manity. Her idea of him was of a virtuous man
persecuted, whose innocent conscience ought to set



234 MR. WYNYARD'S WARD.

liim above the clamour and unjust condemnation of
a cruel world. She loved him, and she would have
liked to show the world how little she valued its
opinion by standing by him in his isolation. That
sort of sacrifice at which her soul would have kindled
had she read it recorded as a golden deed in story,
she was herself capable of making and of esteeming
no sacrifice at all.

" I meant to stay at Eood, though it were in
hermit fashion. I had begun to lay plans of re-
storing the church, building a school, and some new
cottages — all in the air. I had almost persuaded
myself into a belief that I might live down my bad
name, and make it fragrant by good deeds." Mr.
Tindal spoke with a sad, wistful smile. " For a
few days past I have been asking, is there a just
God that judges the earth, or is there only a random
providence that lets its machinery get out of gear,
and fall upon mischief, as our governing powers do
here below? "

Pennie sighed. ^'If you do stay at Eood I shall
see you sometimes, and Dr. Grey is your friend ; but
it would not be the best plan. You must break



A VISITOR AT ROOD. 235

away from yourself when you are mo\dng about,
seeing fresh places and faces."

" If I could only carry you with me, Pennie, then
I should be glad to go ! "

*' I should like it too, but I am not my own
mistress," said she naively.

" My dear little Pennie, that you never will be !
Have not I a lien on your love, when your guardian
gives you your release ? Do you wear my ring ? "
Mrs. Wynyard was right then !

" Here. Not on my hand, where you put it,
because it is so curious and beautiful that at Bracken-
field it was recognized. But if you would like me to
wear it openly, I will."

"Have the courage, my darling. lam disposed
to think, Pennie, you may infect others with your
own faith, and that I may win back peace and honour
by means of you ; though I know the common
sentiment will be that I have done wickedly and
selfishly in binding you to me while I am w^hat I
am. You will have to hear stinging things said
of me."

" I shall not listen to them. No one will speak



236 MR. wynyard's ward.

to me unkindly of you twice." As Pennie said this
her mouth closed with the unconscious resolution
that characterized her, and the softness of her eyes
became a cold brightness. Both coldness and firm-
ness vanished the next moment, there being no
present need of them, and she spake comfortably
again. *' If you go away, you will write me a long,
long letter — and first you will come to Eastwold to
say good-by."

" May I come to Eastwold ? — doors don't open
hospitably for me, Pennie. Ah ! child, you don't
know ! "

'' If you may not come to Eastwold, Doctor Grey
will bring me again to Kood. He and I believe in
you, and we shall not follow any one's lead who doubts.
It would be worse to know you innocent, and act as if
we thought you guilty, than to condemn you outright
— it would be cowardly too, and I hate a coward ! "
Pennie grew quite vehement. She did hate a coward.
She had a strong natural repulsion for meanness,
baseness. If the choice had been put before her, she
would rather have been stoned by the whole of her
little world for sticking to Mr. Tindal, than she would



A VISITOR AT ROOD. 237

have endured an hour of her own self- contempt for
denying and forsaking her love.

It seemed but a very short hour before Doctor
Grey appeared. " I trust you will never say again
that my advice does you no good, Tindal," said he,
coming forward to the window in which the host and
guest were. He then without waiting for reply,
glanced from table to table, and added, — '' Have you
not given her a cup of tea or coffee after her ride ?
Have you entertained her with dry conversation all
this while ? See if I bring my ward to this house
again of an afternoon ! " Mr. Tindal rang the bell,
asking Pennie which it should be — tea or coffee ?

" Dr. Grey speaks more for himself than for me.
He likes kettle-drum — coffee, please, we both prefer
it," said Pennie.

For twenty minutes longer they were quite a
pleasant, cheerful little group in the beautiful Abbey
di'a wing-room. A stranger entering unawares would
not have discerned amongst them the shadow of any
special trouble. Pennie already knew Mr. Tindal's
turn for the minor social amenities, she thought
again now that he would be very happy to live with, for



238 MR. wynyakd's ward.

though his face was haggard and lean, his countenance
had cleared, and the dull despondency had left his
voice. Misery had not effected a permanent settle-
ment on him ; despair had taken no firm grip of his
heart and hrain. If the outer wall of his prison were
breached speedily, he would come forth of it able and
eager to enjoy the sun, and do a fair day's work in the
world still. At last, the doctor said it was time to go,
and on the plea of seeing that Pennie's pony was all
right and ready for her, he left them to make their
farewells alone.

"You will answer me when I write, Pennie?"
said Mr. Tindal holding her hands as she stood up to
depart.

'' Surely I will. No one need forbid me. I shall
tell Mrs. Wynward, of course."

" That is right. Give her your confidence— live
openly. Must you go, Pennie 7 " She only answered
him with her eyes, and he answered her again as the
happiest of lovers might. Doctor Grey inquired
from a remote part of the hall if Pennie was not
coming, and the next moment she came, and Mr.
Tindal with her.



A VISITOR AT ROOD. 239

He gave her a hand up on her pony, straightened
her hahit, and was rather long ; but even these little
cares could not be spun out beyond a minute or two
under the wooden regard of Pierce's successor, and the
impatience of the doctor's horse. He walked beside
her, his hand on the bridle, to the great gateway, and
then let her go ; waiting to see if she would look back,
at a turn the road made twenty paces off or so. Yes,
she looked back ; and then he went round to the garden,
and lit a cigar to help him to enjoy the recollection
and the wholesome immediate results of her ^isit.

Doctor Grey provoked Pennie to a gallop as soon
as they were out of sight of the Abbey. "Come, Miss
Penelope, I have given you more time than was your
due ; you did not use it ill, but you must make up
for it by riding fast. I hope you are contented now

that you have had your own way, and have seen Mr.
Tindal for yourself ! " Pennie expressed herself as
entirely satisfied, and as very grateful to her second
guardian, whom hitherto she had hardly kno\^Ti
except as a purveyor of draughts, powders, and other
detestable compounds.



240 MR. wynyard's ward.

It was a lovely ride to Allan Bridge, where the
doctor made her over to Francis Wynyard, who had
come thus far to meet her ; and while waiting at the
surgery had heen entertained by Mr. Buckhurst with
some serious jokes on natural histor}^, which had
profoundly puzzled his young wits. His musing over
these novelties, presented to him as interesting facts
not generally known, kept him silent, which Pennie
could not regret ; for she, too, wished to think over
the event of the afternoon, and to consider its possible
consequences.

It had been made with the knowledge, but hardly
with the consent of Mrs. Wynyard. Indeed that poor
lady, whose decision of manner much trouble had
weakened, was becoming sorely perplexed and dis-
tressed by the dif&culty of managing her husband's
young ward. Mild ad-vice and gentle reasoning had
failed to convince Pennie of her folly, and Mrs.
Wynyard was not prepared to appeal to severe argu-
ment or to authority. During Pennie's absence that
afternoon Mr. Hargrove had been at Eastwold on
business, and when told whither she was gone, and
with whom, had expressed the strongest disapproval,



A VISITOR AT ROOD. 241

and had designated Dr. Grey, '' a pretty trustee,
indeed, for an heiress." At these words Mrs. Wyn-
yard felt, for a moment, as if her cares were becoming
a burden too heavy to be borne. She had received a
dismal melancholy letter from Normandy in the
morning ; it was the Midsummer holidays, and the
two younger boys were distracting for noise and
tearing their clothes ; Anna was out-growing her
strength ; Lois was wilful and passionate by fits ; old
Jenny was over-worked ; and here was Penelope Croft,
worse than all, obstinately running counter to every
propriety, and, backed by one guardian, setting herself
in steady opposition to the opinion of the other, and of
all the rest of the world.

To Mrs. Wynyard thus depressed, Pennie came
home, herself in chastened mood, fitter for cheering
than aught else. Notwithstanding her romance, she
felt the roads of life thorny to her feet, and saw the
roses promised to bloom but sparsely. " I'm very
tired," said she to Anna at the door, and went
straight up to her room. She was more of a woman,
more serious, reflective, and sad, away from Mr.
Tindal, than it was possible for her to be in the
VOL. I. 16



242 MR. wynyard's ward.

half confusion, half exaltation, of feeling occasioned
by his presence. When she had taken off her habit,
she took off also the ribbon round her neck, by which
his ring was suspended, and put it on her hand
again, murmuring over to herself in prayerful spirit
as she did so, its quaint posy — " God send me well
to keep ! God send me well to keep ! "

Lois came presently to call her down to tea, and
after the healthy racket of it, while the children
went out to play, Mrs. Wynyard invited her to speak
of her visit by silently taking up her hand, and
looking at the ring.

" You understand what it means ? " said Pennie,
softly. " It means that I don't care who knows now
that I love Mr. Tindal, and that I shall be his wife
some day — if I were my own mistress it should be
now."

" You speak out, Pennie. Perhaps it is happy
for you that you cannot carry your pity at once into
practice. I do not doubt that you have a strong
feeling for Mr. Tindal, for the circumstances of your
acquaintance were quite such as favour the growth
of a youthful passion ; but, when you see a httle



A VISITOE AT ROOD. 243

more of men and of society, you will find there are
others pleasant as well as he, though they may lack
the charm of a gi-eat calamity."

Mrs. Wynyard did not mean to he sarcastic.
She hit on that vein unawares, hut Pennie winced at
the touch of irony, and made no answer. She had
resolved that the fact of her wearing that ring must
he testimony enough of sentiment that deserved to
he respected, and that as far as mortal patience
would endure, she ought to hear -^-ithout retort every
insinuation and every attack made on her hecause of
the giver. She hegan hy airing her little stern
dignity on anxious, heart-aching Mrs. Wynyard, and
it proved quite effectual. That distressed lady had
no desire to wound her, no desire in the world, on
her hehalf, but that she might be good and happy.
Perceiving that she had somehow spoken amiss, she
judged it -wdse to let the subject drop, and only said
further, " You shall write to Mr. Wynyard yourself,
Pennie dear. You will be able to put your views in
a fairer light than I could possibly do ; " and then
she left her, and went out on the terrace before the
house where her own children were at i^lay.

16—2



244 MK. WYNYARD'S WARD.

Pennie had no fear of her absent guardian, but
when she thought of the revelation that must be
made to her mother, her heart was like to fail her.
It was already made if she had but known. Mr.
Hargrove had carried the intelligence he had gleaned
at Eastwold straight to Mayfield ; and the widow,
amidst her anger, had melted into tears to think that
her daughter could have ridden to Eood, within a
mile of home, without coming on to see her. She
ascribed the neglect, not to the difficulty Pennie
must have had in cutting short her visit of Christian
consolation to one in misery, but to the few words
they had had in the spring ; and, full of this fear, as
soon as the lawyer was gone, she took her pen and
paper, and wrote off a letter to Eastwold, very tender,
remorseful, and slightly incoherent, which she sent
t)ver in the morning by a special messenger.

It came to Pennie 's hand before breakfast, and
drew a few tears to her eyes. They had begun to
cut the grass in the low meadows, it said, and was
she not going over for a week ? She was not to
think any more of those sharp words about her ring
— it was only her mother's way, and who loved her



A VISITOR AT EOOD. 245

better ? She had heard of her being at the Abbey,
and thought it strange. Pennie must remember she
was her mother, and a duty was laid on her to speak,
if she saw her going wrong. Finally she was to
"WTite by the messenger when she would go to May-
field — the sooner the better.

Pennie appeared at the breakfast-table with this
document in her hand, and laid it before Mrs. Wyn-
yard, who asked her what she wished to do. Pennie
said she wished to go. That was conclusive. Mrs.
Wynyard had taken counsel with herself, and had
decided that it would be safest not to thwart Pennie,
at present, with any obvious contradiction, lest she
should be driven to some sudden and irretrievable
step. She went to Mayfield the next day.



'24:6 MK. WYNYARD'S WARD.



XII.

A FAREWELL.

When Doctor Grey bethought him that it was his
duty to take an active interest in the affairs of
Penelope Croft, he was rather puzzled where to
begin. While the renewed investigation into the
Rood tragedy was in progress he remained passive ;
but when it was over he wrote to his co-trustee,
Mr. Wynyard, and gave his version of the attach-
ment that had arisen between Mr. Tindal and their
ward, ending with a notice that, believing Mr. Tindal
a cruelJy injured man, as free of the crime imputed


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14

Online LibraryHolme LeeMr. Wynyard's ward (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 14)