Copyright
Holme Lee.

Mr. Wynyard's ward (Volume 1) online

. (page 7 of 14)
Online LibraryHolme LeeMr. Wynyard's ward (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


vista from the violets, and the Alpine sunsets ?

He was dreadfully excited, half mad for a moment.
His mouth writhed and quivered, then his eyes filled,
and tears quenched that ominous spark of the devil.
His passion overawed Pennie, though it endured but
a few seconds. She saw it, and it was gone ; but
it was never forgotten. There was silence in the
air for a little while after, both wrestling for
composure.

Presently Mr. Tindal said : ''I have vowed to
myself again and again, that recollection shall not
master me — but it does, it does yet ! Mine is no
better than a dead life, Pennie, and I began it with
all manner of high hopes. Don't you forsake me,
child. See here — I made Pierce bring it from Rood
a day or two since — it is a ring my mother wore.
She told me on her death -bed to give it to the woman
I married. No woman would venture to be my wife
now, so I will give it you — a thank-offering for the
only genuine bit of love and faith I have found since
I lost her." He put it on a finger of her small brown
right hand, wrung it, and let it go.



A THORN AND FLOWER PIECE. 137

Tlie April morning went on shining, the hirds
went on singing, and those two, suddenly and sin-
gularly allied, went on talking. A new and solemn
interest had entered into Pennie's life. She was
excited still, and did not see all its bearings, hut she
felt that something had come which she would not
for the world have had pass her by, though there was
such a strong under-current of trouble and mystery
in it. Mr. Tindal reposed himself T\ith watching her.
It was not love, like his passionate young love, that he
felt for Pennie, but only a longing for what would love
him, and give him rest ; be a medium through which,
perhaps, he might return to the common pleasures,
joys and cares of common life. For " that cottage-
smoke, that confounded inclination towards sitting-
still comfort," which Piichter says, gnaw at a man's
heart, had gnawed keenly at his for the last year or
two of his vagabondage. He had been made origin-
ally of good metal that bends without breaking ; and
there was spring in him yet, though the weight that
held him down had hung about his neck, until the
best and hopefulest of the years of his life had
drifted away, and he could even now, for the aching



138 MR. wynyard's ward.

weariness of it, only lift his eyes at distant moments
to the sky. Since he had been at Mayfield he had
won a little ease by grace of Pennie ; had indulged a
dream of entire freedom for an hour, but had lost it
again in her frightened gaze. He could meditate
calmly now.

" I have no right to ask her to share my burthen;
but if the day should ever come that it falls off, and
she is free, I will ask her to share my rest."

It was the first bit of planning and promising
that he had made to himself during eight years that
he had lain in bondage to an accusation of which
there was neither proof nor disproof to be had. The
world did not give him the benefit of the doubt,
however. Pennie had dimly discerned in many
speeches of her mother that some great peril hung
suspended above his head, which might at any
moment fall and crush him ; but since he had spoken
of it, and had given her that passionate asseveration
of his innocence, the sense of unrest and perplexity
had left her. She gave her mind now consciously to
lo\-ing and trusting him ; and if there seemed in her
devotion something of sacrifice, to Pennie's temper



A THORN AND FLOWER PIECE. 139

that was only a reason the more for persevering and
being staunch.

The clock on the stairs struck twelve, and a
minute or two later, Pierce, Mr. Tindal's man, came
to the door, and Pennie left him with his master.
The servant was worn and anxious-looking to a degree
that pained kind folks to see him ; as if at some time
or other of his life he had had a blow that had broken
him down, body, soul, and spirit. And that was the
fact. He had been born and bred about Eood Abbe}',
had served Mr. Tindal's father and mother, had made
the honour and fortunes of the house his own, as
hereditary retainers of old families occasionally will.
The calamity that had destroyed his young master's
happiness had crushed him to the earth, and he had
never risen from it since. He entered the parlour
with his accustomed face of woeful astonishment,
bovred respectfully to Pennie as he held the door
open for her to pass, and then turned to the occupant
of the sofa.

"How do you find yourself, sir?" said he ten-
derly, as one might addi-ess a friend lying in the
shadow of death.



14:0 MR. WYN yard's WARD.

" Keady to go home. I want you to bring the
drag over at four o'clock for me." Mr. Tindal spoke
firmly and cheerfully : he never fell into his servant's
despondent tone.

" You must take another turn abroad, sir, to set you
up. Change of air and scene is good after an illness."

" I don't intend to go abroad again at present,
Pierce. I shall do very well at Eood this summer."
Pierce sighed unconsciously, and after a few more
mournful words retired.

" I have eaten your salt a long while, Mrs. Croft ;
will you stop and break bread with me on Monday as
you take Pennie back to Eastwold?" asked Mr.
Tindal, when all else was said, and he was getting
into the drag.

" Well, sir, we will if you wish it," replied the
widow, not altogether graciously. Pennie stood with
her at the garden- door, watching their guest's de-
parture.

" Thank you very much," replied he, and smiled
at Pennie. This had been agreed on between them
previously.



A THORN AND FLOWER PIECE. 141

The horses began to move, and Mrs. Croft at once
drew Pennie back and shut the door. " Come in,
my girl," said she. '' How cold the east wind do
blow, to be sure, for all it is so sunny ! I wish
Mr. Tindal hadn't asked us to go to Kood. I doubt
we shall be the first that has been there since he fell
into his trouble. It would ha' sounded unchristian
to say him nay as he put it ; but it isn't much
appetite I shall have under his roof."

They went into the house, the mistress thereof
snuffing up disconsolately the odour of tobacco that
infected Pennie's parlour. " It must have a good
clean down, and the curtains and things must be
hanged out to sweeten for a day or two ; but we won't
begin on it till you're gone," said she, settling herself
by the fire-side for a chat, and feeling more relieved
to have her house to herself again than she knew how
to express. Pennie placed herself on the opposite
side of the hearth, and heard her mother recite what
a bonny deal of extra work she had had since Mr.
Tindal came, and what a bonny deal more there
would be to do in getting things to rights now he
was gone. "Not that I begrudge my trouble," said



142 MR. wynyard's ward.

she; ''nobodj^ that knows me 'ull think that; but
I'd a fear and a terror upon me all the time lest
something should be found out, and him taken while
he was here."

"I am quite in the dark, mother," replied Pennie.
*' What is it makes the mystery about a man, whose
nature it is to be easy and generous, open and kind ?"
He had bidden her hear the story ; and she felt that
it was not possible to live at peace with herself much
longer in ignorance of it.

"What is it? Ay, 3'ou were too little to be
tolled, of course you were ; but since you've made
friends, it is good 3'ou should know, that you may
take heed, and say nothing before him you shouldn't.
I'm sure, poor fellow, I pitied him for one, and it
laid his mother low. She never held up her head
after, and Pierce was a'most as bad. Your Aunt
Lister saved the Xorminster Gazettes that had it all
in. I dessay she'll lend 'em you to read."

" He gave me this ring for a keepsake," said
Pennie, with a sudden impulse of confidence towards
her mother, extending her hand with the old-fash-
ioned diamond hoop upon it. Mrs. Croft drew it off



A THORN AND FLOWER PIECE. 143

to look at it closer, and asked what were the words
engraven inside — she could not see them without her
glasses. " ' Grod send me well to keep;'" that is
what they are," replied Pennie. " * God send me
well to keep.' "

*' There's need He should keep us all," said the
T\idow, staring thoughtfully into the fire. " There's
a many unaccountable events happens in this world
that never gets cleared up. We want to trust some
one out and beyond of ourselves and of what's befallen
us, that we do. We're poor weak creturs, here to-day
and gone to-morrow." Mrs. Croft paused for a
minute or two in pious meditation, and then began
her story.

" I was at Rood when it was done, but who did
it is the mystery that isn't bottomed yet, and never
may be. We were all out in the gardens (and pretty
gardens they were when Mrs. Tindal was alive) after
lunch was over in the tent. Everybody had a story
after, no two of 'em alike, so I'll only say what I
saw myself. I was standing as it might be here,"
laying a hand on the table, *' talking to Mrs. Ray-
mond of Eskford (I should tell you it was at a



144 MR. WYNYARD'S WARD.

picnic at the Abbey, that Mrs. Tindal gave every
summer to her friends, and the big tenants), talking
to Mrs. Raymond in the shadow of some yew-trees,
that stands yet on the slope near the river. There
was a lot of low thick bushes behind us, and the
shrubbery, near a couple of acres of it laid out in
l^aths, and there the comj)any chiefly was, for the
day was August and melting. Not twenty steps off,
higher up on the grass, there was three gentlemen in
a group ; one was Mr. Wynyard of Eastwold, one
was Mr. Oxenden, parson at Berrythorpe, and the
other was Mr. Tindal' s brother, Hugh was his name,
and he was a year a two older than Arthur — him you
know. They was very merry all of 'em, talking as
I could hear by chance words, of Norminster races
that was to be the week after, and Hugh Tindal,
with a braggadocio way he had, was just giving a
toss with his left hand, when a gun was fired ofi" in
the bushes at the back of me. Hugh Tindal sprang
straight up, a foot or two into the air, and fell
forward, flat on his face — dead — shot through the
heart. Before one could breathe, Arthur ran out
from among the trees, and brushed by us, white and



A THORN AND FLOWER PIECE. 145

staring, to where liis brother hiy. It was, you may
believe, a terror and confusion. Some cried to keep
off the ladies, some to fetch a doctor, some to search
the plantations : everybody giving orders and nobody
doing anything to a purpose, till Pierce came totter-
ing down the lawn, and gave him one look. ' Cover
his face,' says he, 'he's gone before his Maker that
equally judges all.' I remember the words as if I'd
heard 'em yesterday. Arthur helped to carry him
in and lay him in his chamber. A fine-looking man
he'd been as all the Tindals were, but a grief to the
mother that bore him, and if he wasn't much belied,
a shame and sorrow to other women as well as her."

"And they sought through the plantations,
mother?" said Pennie with pulses almost at a
stand."

" They sought 'em through and through for
days, they raised a hue and cry all over the country.
Who was at odds with Hugh Tindal ? Who was to
gain by his death ? No one could ever tell whero
the first whisper came from that said his brother
Arthur was the man ; but before he was buried it
was loud enough. Folka caught it up like wild-fire.
VOL. I. 10



146 MR. WYN yard's WARD.

I won't deny, Pennie, that his look had struck me
at the time, and had haunted me after, for all I said
nothing. I won't deny either that I felt a prejudice
against him then, or that I have any douhts still."

It was growing gloomy in the parlour ; Mrs. Croft
stirred the fire, threw on more w^ood, and made a
blaze, while Pennie took up a newspaper, and held
it for a screen betwixt her face and the light.

" It was murder," said the widow, re-seating her-
self, " as black a murder as was ever done. If Ai'thur
Tindal did it, he has the devil's own fron,t to brazen
it out ; if he didn't, he's sufi'ered a world o' misery
for another man's crime. Dr. Grey said he won-
dered the lad didn't curse God and die ; for the
doctor never would hear a w^ord of Arthur's being
the villain. They had him up on a warrant before
the magistrates at Allan Bridge; every tittle they
could swear against him was sw^orn, and he was
committed to Norminster 'sizes. But w4ien the
'sizes came on, the grand jury found no evidence in
the bill likely to bring it home to him, and he was
let out of gaol ; for they said that if he was put on
his trial then, he was sure to be acquitted, and the



A THORN AND FLOWER PIECE. 147

law could never touch him after, though the best of
proofs might turn up. And that's how he stands to
this day, neither cleared nor condemned."

''It is a cruel case, mother. What cause was
there for his being suspected ? "

"Both he and Hugh were sweet on Miss Sylvia,
Squire Curtis's daughter at Methley Towers, and
though she was for Arthur, her family were all for
the elder brother who had the property. Here was
a sort of motive, if there had been enough to back
it. But though some folks said the brothers had
had words about her, it could not be made out that
they had ever really quarrelled in their lives. The
only stranger that had been seen about the place was
a woman with a bairn at her back : a poor lost
cretur who came, most likely, seeking harvest work.
There's a short cut through the Rood plantations
that leads to the Grange, and she was up and down,
and hanging about for a bit of victual, I daresay.
One of the lasses at the Abbey said she went to the
back-door to beg, and Pierce di-ove her off with bad
words. Then all of a sudden came the noise of
what had happened in the garden, and when she was

10—2



148 MR. WYNYAED'S WAED.

hunted for, she wasn't anywhere to be found. But
what could she have had to do with shooting Hugh
Tindal, if they'd found her ever so, as people said ?
— a tramp with a baby. We may talk and talk, but
we know nothing for certain, except that a deal of
folks held to their hard thoughts of Mr. Arthur
when all was said and done — ay, and holds to 'em
still."

"What did Miss Syhia do, and his mother?

What did he do himself afterwards ? " Pennie asked.

" His mother, poor thing, she died, a week or

two before he came back from Norminster. Miss

Sylvia believed what she was told, and that was the

worst. He took it all in a proud bitter way, and

stood his ground a goodish while at the Abbey before

he gave up. I've heard Dr. Grey tell of his riding

to the meet the Tsinter after, and finding never a man

but himself in the field to shake him by the hand.

Folks said he'd taken to the property as if he was

glad to get hold of it, and they kept him off" hke the

Dlague. He's been a capital landlord, I must say,

and has neglected nothing but his own place. He

stayed there through the spring and summer by



A THORN AND 1X0 WER PIECE. 149

himself, when it was newsed about that Miss Sylvia
was going to be married to a Sir Thomas Brooke,
a gentleman she'd met in London, and before the
wedding was, he took himself off to France. It
was only just before Christmas that he came back.
Some people pities him in their hearts, I do believe,
seeing him so forsaken, and yet holding his head up,
and looking 'em in the face, like a man that won't
let himself be killed by a lie if he can help it."

^' It is a lie, mother; nothing else. Be sure
of it. I am ! " cried Pennie with tears in her
voice.

" I wish I could be sure of it, joy ; I've ever spoke
him kindly for fear I was wronging him in my
thoughts ; but it is a real relief to my mind that
he's gone to his own house again, and left me mine
to myself. I wonder when Bessie's going to let
us have any tea. I must be seeing after her.
Pennie, love, if I was you I should say nothing
to your cousins or Aunt Lister about that ring Mr.
Tindal's given you ; it will be better not. It is
enough you've told me."

Pennie acquiesced, adding that she intended to



150 MR, WYNYARD'S AVARD.

solicit silence on her mother's part had she not
counselled it herself.

When Mrs. Croft rose the next morning Bessie
had news for her. The loveliest of Alderney cows
had just been led into the yard by Jacques, who was
in the kitchen waiting to see her.

" If Jacques expects me to ware money on his
lovely Alderney coo, he'll be disappointed," said the
widow. " What has he brought her here for ? I
may ha' wished for a Alderney coo, but I've no
thoughts o' buying one. Give him his breakfast,
and I'll speak to him when I come down."

After a brief interview with the grazier, Mrs.
Croft sought Pennie, her comely countenance all
a-glow with satisfaction and surprise.

"It is very handsome of Mr. Tiudal, I'm sure ;
and I never expected no return ! What do you
think, Pennie, love ? He's sent me a present of
a Alderney coo, a perfect picture she is ! Come
out and look at her — such a downright beauty as '11
make your Aunt Lister a'most jealous o' Mayfield
dairy."

Pennie did not need twice bidding. She seized



A THORX AND FLOWER PIECE. 151

her straw hat, and followed her raother across the
barnyard to the daisied pasture, into which Jacques
and old Jacob were inducting the Alderney.

" See ye here. Miss Penelope ! " cried Jacob,
*' see ye here, this pritty, sweet, dossil cretm-, you'll
ha' to larn milking, that you will."

" If Miss hasn't larnt milking yet, it's time she
did, and here's a rael coo that a queen might milk,"
added Jacques.

Pennie stepped into the deep dewy gi*ass to caress
the beautiful animah

"Let us call her Daisy, mother, the dainty,
prim thing," said she. " Oh, what soft, gentle eyes,
and a skin like satin ! "

" She'U tek to her : she'll larn milking uoo, she
will," chuckled Jacob ; Pennie's reluctance to " larn
milking " being a standing theme of argument
between him and the " young missis."

Second only to the pleasure of receiving Mr.
Tindal's munificent gift was the pleasure of telhng
about it. Pennie was in nowise astonished to hear
her mother propose that after dinner they should
take a walk over to the Grange to see her Aunt Lister.



l/:2 MR. WYN yard's WARD.

'' You'll fall to bid her good-by before you go,
and tins may be the last chance you'll have. But
you'll come for a week or so hi ha^dng time, Pennie,
love, won't you ? "

Pennie replied that she certainly would if it
depended only on herself to arrange it.

The report of the Alderney cow had flown to the
Grange before them, and Mrs. Lister was full primed
with congratulations.

" We have heard of your fine present, sister, and
I'm sure you're in luck," said she. " Jacques tells
Dick she's the very beautifulest young coo ever he
bought. His orders was not to stick at price, and I
dessay it is worth every penny he paid for it; for
Jacques is a judge of a coo. I shall step down to
Mayfield some day next week, and look at her. I've
always wanted a Alderney, though master likes his own
breed best ; Alderneys is such good uns for cream
and butter."

" They are. I'm right pleased, I can tell 3'ou.
But I never looked for no such return."

*' It is no more than right though, sister, that he
should make one. You must have had a sight 0'



A THORN AND FLOWER PIECE. 153

extry work — bad as a month's wash going on for six
or seven weeks."

" Naj^, nay, not such a harass as that. Since he
took the turn to mend, Pennie's had most o' the
watching, and keeping him quiet wi' reading. It
was sitting still got over me. But now, God he
thanked, he's all right, and is gone home to the
Abbey again."

" I'm sorry your cousins is out, Pennie," said her
aunt, turning to her with a little stiffness. " They've
rode over all three of 'em to Litherby Force. If
they'd known you was free, they'd ha' been glad o'
your company, I dessay. We have seen nothing
of you for a month an' better."

'' Poor gel, she's been tied pretty close," said the
widow, rallying to the defence of her daughter whom
she felt that her Aunt Lister rather pecked at.
" When she's gone out, it has only been into th'
garden of a morning, or for a canter on the moor
of an afternoon, when I can best bear sitting still
myself. It hasn't been gay visiting at Mayfield this
time — always excepting your beautiful party and Mrs.
Jones's — but she's been a good lass, and a comfort



154 MR. wynyard's ward.

to lier mother, that she has, and I don't care who
knows it."

*' If I was to praise my Lucy to her face i' that
way, she'd be so set-up as never was. But I dessay
Pennie's got more sense. You'll stop and have a
cup o' tea, sister, w^on't you ? The master's gone
to Norminster for to-morrow's market, but Dick and
the gels 'uU be back by three."

Pennie was rather sorry to hear her mother con-
sent, but she did not show it ; and when she w^ent
upstairs to take off her bonnet, she put on her best
behaviour. And she had her reward. Dick and his
sisters came home in high good-humour, all more or
less tired, and pre-disposed to be quiet, and just as
tea w^as set on the table, in dropped a little brisk
gentleman with grizzled hair and whiskers — the new
vicar of Eood, whose predecessor had lately been pro-
moted to a parish and a canon's stall at Norminster.

The Rev. Harry Featherston was making his
first round of visits to his flock, and when he was
warmly invited to share the evening meal at the
Grange, he did not excuse himself by reason of
his dinner with his wife being at seven, but sat



A THORN AND FLOWER PIECE. 155

down like a man of the world, took a cup of tea, and
laid a good foundation of opinion in liis two leading
female parishioners' minds at once. He was already-
well up in the annals of his cure. When Mr. Tindal's
name was mentioned, he looked grave and passed no
remark; when Mrs. Lister caused him to discrimi-
nate between her owti daughters and her niece, he
showed his knowledge of Pennie's wardship, by
inquiring how Dr. Brown at Eastwold was, adding
that Eastwold had been his own first curacy. Half-
an-hour passed pleasantly and swiftly ; and when
Mrs. Croft intimated, as the yicar took his leave,
that she was losing her daughter on Monday, he
said : " Then I will bring my wife to see her to-
morrow. They ought to be acquainted." Pennie
was glad, thinldng how much more agreeable it
would be for her at Mayfield, if she had a friend
in the clergj^man's wife, than it was with only her
cousins and Mrs. Jones.

She and her mother did not stay long after Mr.
Featherston was gone, for the daylight was ah-eady
waning, and neither of them had any fancy for a walk
home in the dark. When they were ready to go,



156 MR. wynyard's ward.

Mrs. Lister called to her son : " Dick, j^ou'll set your
aunt and cousin Pennie, a piece of the way home,
won't you ? "

Of course he would, and his hat was on his good-
natured curly head in a minute. Pennie had kissed
her aunt and cousins good-by, and had gone a few
paces down the path towards the garden-gate, when
Dick issuing from the porch, said : " Not that way,
Pennie. We'll cut off a bit of the road by going
through the Abbey woods. It isn't dark yet, and I
dessay none of us is afraid o' ghosts."

" Not us ! " responded Mrs. Croft cheerfully.
" And we'll just ask at the lodge as we pass what
sort of day Mr. Tindal's had. You've heard of the
beautiful Alderney coo, he's given me, Dick ? " The
key-note of their conversation thus struck, Pennie let
her mother and cousin walk on before ; and thinking
her own thoughts, followed up the gloaming meadows
that lay between the Grange and the Abbey woods.



( 157 )



VII.

EOUND ABOUT KOOD ABBEY.

The way was not long. In rising the gradual ascent
from tlie river, Pennie could discern the front of the
Abbey, all the windows blank except one on the
ground floor, which shone with a red glow through the
twilight. She said to herself that there Mr. Tindal
was, and when she lost it again at the entering mto
the woods, she felt that the night had fallen dark all
at once. Under the fir-trees it was very gloomy, but
up near the Abbey, the plantations opened into glades,
and winding paths of shrubbery, through which
again were glimpses of the grey walls, the bright
window, and the shadowy gardens. At a certain
point, Mrs. Croft waited until Pennie came up, and
while professing to take breath, managed to intimate,
without calling Dick's attention, that hereabouts was



158 MK. WYN yard's WARD.

the place from whence had come the shot that killed
Hugh Tindal. Pemiie shivered irrepressibly as she
glanced round on the undistinguishable bushes


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryHolme LeeMr. Wynyard's ward (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 14)