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   Chapter 4 No.4

The Trial, Or, More Links of the Daisy Chain By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 35691

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04

Griefs hidden in the mind like treasures,

Will turn with time to solemn pleasures.

On the Monday morning, the two convalescents shook hands in the waiting-room at the station, surveying each other rather curiously; while Ethel, trying to conquer her trepidation, gave manifold promises to Averil of care and correspondence.

Dr. Spencer acted escort, being far more serviceable on the railway than his untravelled friend, whose lame arm, heedless head, and aptitude for missing trains and mistaking luggage, made him a charge rather than an assistant. He was always happiest among his patients at home; and the world was still ill enough to employ him so fully, that Ethel hoped to be less missed than usual. Indeed, she believed that her absence would be good in teaching him Mary's full-grown worth, and Mary would be in the full glory of notability in the purification of the house.

The change was likewise for Dr. Spencer's good. He had almost broken down in the height of the labour, and still looked older and thinner for it; and after one night at Coombe, he was going to refresh himself by one of his discursive tours.

He was in high spirits, and the pink of courtesy; extremely flattered by the charge of Ethel, and making her the ostensible object of his attention, to the relief of the boys, who were glad to be spared the sense of prominent invalidism. The change was delightful to them. Aubrey was full of life and talk, and sat gazing from the window, as if the line from Stoneborough to Whitford presented a succession of novelties.

'What's that old place on the river there, with crow-stepped gables and steep roofs, like a Flemish picture?'

'Don't you know?' said Leonard, 'it is the Vintry mill, where my relative lives, that wants to make a dusty miller of me.'

'No fear of that, old fellow,' said Aubrey, regarding him in some dismay, 'you've got better things to grind at.'

'Ay, even if I don't get the Randall next time, I shall be sure of it another.'

'You'll have it next.'

'I don't know; here is a quarter clean gone, and the other fellows will have got before me.'

'Oh, but most of them have had a spell of fever!'

'Yes, but they have not had it so thoroughly,' said Leonard. 'My memory is not properly come back yet; and your father says I must not try it too soon.'

'That's always his way,' said Aubrey. 'He would not let Ethel so much as pack up my little Homer.'

Leonard's quick, furtive glance at Ethel was as if he suspected her of having been barely prevented from torturing him.

'Oh, it was not her doing,' said Aubrey, 'it was I! I thought Tom would find me gone back; and, you know, we must keep up together, Leonard, and be entered at St. John's at the same time.'

For Aubrey devoutly believed in Tom's college at Cambridge, which had recovered all Dr. May's allegiance.

The extra brightness was not of long duration. It was a very hot day, such as exactly suited the salamander nature of Dr. Spencer; but the carriage became like an oven. Aubrey curled himself up in a corner and went to sleep, but Leonard's look of oppressed resignation grieved Ethel, and the blue blinds made him look so livid, that she was always fancying him fainting, and then his shyness was dreadful-it was impossible to elicit from him anything but 'No, thank you.'

He did nearly faint when they left the train; and while Aubrey was eagerly devouring the produce of the refreshment room, had to lie on a bench under Dr. Spencer's charge, for Ethel's approach only brought on a dangerous spasm of politeness. How she should get on with him for a month, passed her imagination.

There was a fresher breeze when they drove out of the station, up a Dorset ridge of hill, steep, high, terraced and bleak; but it was slow climbing up, and every one was baked and wearied before the summit was gained, and the descent commenced. Even then, Ethel, sitting backwards, could only see height develop above height, all green, and scattered with sheep, or here and there an unfenced turnip-field, the road stretching behind like a long white ribbon, and now and then descending between steep chalk cuttings in slopes, down which the carriage slowly scrooped on its drag, leaving a broad blue-flecked trail. Dr. Spencer was asleep, hat off, and the wind lifting his snowy locks, and she wished the others were; but Aubrey lamented on the heat and the length, and Leonard leant back in his corner, past lamentation.

Down, down! The cuttings were becoming precipitous cliffs, the drag made dismal groans; Aubrey, after a great slip forward, looking injured, anchored himself, with his feet against the seat, by Ethel; and Dr. Spencer was effectually wakened by an involuntary forward plunge of his opposite neighbour. 'Can this be safe?' quoth Ethel; 'should not some of us get out?'

'Much you know of hills, you level landers!' was the answer; and just then they were met and passed by four horses dragging up a stage coach, after the fashion of a fly on a window-pane-a stage coach! delightful to the old-world eyes of Dr. Spencer, recalling a faint memory to Ethel, and presenting a perfect novelty to Aubrey.

Then came a sudden turn upon flat ground, and a short cry of wonder broke from Aubrey. Ethel was sensible of a strange salt weedy smell, new to her nostrils, but only saw the white-plastered, gray-roofed houses through which they were driving; but, with another turn, the buildings were only on one side-on the other there was a wondrous sense of openness, vastness, freshness-something level, gray, but dazzling; and before she could look again, the horses stopped, and close to her, under the beetling, weather-stained white cliff, was a low fence, and within it a verandah and a door, where stood Flora's maid, Barbara, in all her respectability.

Much wit had been expended by Aubrey on being left to the tender mercy of cruel Barbara Allen, in whom Ethel herself anticipated a tyrant; but at the moment she was invaluable. Every room was ready and inviting, and nothing but the low staircase between Leonard and the white bed, which was the only place fit for him; while for the rest, the table was speedily covered with tea and chickens; Abbotstoke eggs, inscribed with yesterday's date; and red mail-clad prawns, to prove to touch and taste that this was truly sea-side. The other senses knew it well: the open window let in the indescribable salt, fresh odour, and the entire view from it was shore and sea, there seemed nothing to hinder the tide from coming up the ridge of shingle, and rushing straight into the cottage; and the ear was constantly struck by the regular roll and dash of the waves. Aubrey, though with the appetite of recovery and sea-air combined, could not help pausing to listen, and, when his meal was over, leant back in his chair, listened again, and gave a sigh of content. 'It is one constant hush, hushaby,' he said; 'it would make one sleep pleasantly.'

His companions combined their advice to him so to use it; and in less than half an hour Ethel went to bid him good night, in the whitest of beds and cleanest of tiny chambers, where he looked the picture of sleepy satisfaction, when she opened his window, and admitted the swell and dash that fascinated his weary senses.

'My child is all right,' said Ethel, returning to Dr. Spencer; 'can you say the same of yours?'

'He must rest himself into the power of sleeping. I must say it was a bold experiment; but it will do very well, when he has got over the journey. He was doing no good at home.'

'I hope he will here.'

'Depend on it he will. And now what are you intending?'

'I am thirsting to see those waves near. Would it be against the manners and customs of sea-places for me to run down to them so late?'

'Sea-places have no manners and customs.'

Ethel tossed on her hat with a feeling of delight and freedom. 'Oh, are you coming, Dr. Spencer? I did not mean to drag you out. You had rather rest, and smoke.'

'This is rest,' he answered.

The next moment, the ridge of the shingle was passed, and Ethel's feet were sinking in the depth of pebbles, her cheeks freshened by the breeze, her lips salted by the spray tossed in by the wind from the wave crests. At the edge of the water she stood-as all others stand there-watching the heaving from far away come nearer, nearer, curl over in its pride of green glassy beauty, fall into foam, and draw back, making the pebbles crash their accompanying 'frsch.' The repetition, the peaceful majesty, the blue expanse, the straight horizon, so impressed her spirit as to rivet her eyes and chain her lips; and she receded step by step before the tide, unheeding anything else, not even perceiving her companion's eyes fixed on her, half curiously, half sadly.

'Well, Ethel,' at last he said.

'I never guessed it!' she said, with a gasp. 'No wonder Harry cannot bear to be away from it. Must we leave it?' as he moved back.

'Only to smooth ground,' said Dr. Spencer; 'it is too dark to stay here among the stones and crab-pots.'

The summer twilight was closing in; lights shining in the village under the cliffs, and looking mysterious on distant points of the coast; stars were shining forth in the pale blue sky, and the young moon shedding a silver rippled beam on the water.

'If papa were but here!' said Ethel, wakening from another gaze, and recollecting that she was not making herself agreeable.

'So you like the expedition?'

'The fit answer to that would be, "It is very pretty," as the Cockney said to Coleridge at Lodore.'

'So I have converted a Stoneborough fungus!'

'What! to say the sea is glorious? A grand conversion!'

'To find anything superior to Minster Street.'

'Ah, you are but half reclaimed! You are a living instance that there is no content unless one has begun life as a fungus.'

She was startled by his change of tone. 'True, Ethel. Content might have been won, if there had been resolution to begin without it.'

'I beg your pardon,' she faltered, 'I ought not to have said it. I forgot there was such a cause.'

'Cause-you know nothing about it.'

She was silent, distressed, dismayed, fearing that she had spoken wrongly, and had either mistaken or been misunderstood.

'Tell me, Ethel,' he presently said, 'what can you know of what made me a wanderer?'

'Only what papa told me.'

'He-he was the last person to know.'

'He told me,' said Ethel, hurrying it out in a fright, 'that you went away-out of generosity-not to interfere with his happiness.'

Then she felt as if she had done a shocking thing, and waited anxiously, while Dr. Spencer deliberately made a deep hole in the shingle with his stick. 'Well,' at last he said, 'I thought that matter was unknown to all men-above all to Dick!'

'It was only after you were gone, that he put things together and made it out.'

'Did-she-know?' said Dr. Spencer, with a long breath.

'I cannot tell,' said Ethel.

'And how or why did he tell you?' (rather hurt.)

'It was when first you came. I am sure no one else knows it. But he told me because he could not help it; he was so sorry for you.'

They walked the whole length of the parade, and had turned before Dr. Spencer spoke again; and then he said, 'It is strange! My one vision was of walking on the sea-shore with her; and that just doing so with you should have brought up the whole as fresh as five-and-thirty years ago!'

'I wish I was more like her,' said Ethel.

No more was wanting to make him launch into the descriptions, dear to a daughter's heart, of her mother in her sweet serious bloom of young womanhood, giving new embellishments to the character already so closely enshrined in his hearer's heart, the more valuable that the stream of treasured recollection flowed on in partial oblivion of the person to whom it was addressed, or, at least, that she was the child of his rival; for, from the portrait of the quiet bright maiden, he passed to the sufferings that his own reserved nature had undergone from his friend's outspoken enthusiasm. The professor's visible preference for the youth of secure prospects, had not so much discouraged as stung him; and in a moment of irritation at the professor's treatment, and the exulting hopes of his unconscious friend, he had sworn to himself, that the first involuntary token of regard from the young lady towards one or the other, should decide him whether to win name and position for her sake, or to carry his slighted passion to the utmost parts of the earth, and never again see her face.

'Ethel,' he said, stopping short, 'never threaten Providence-above all, never keep the threat.'

Ethel scarcely durst speak, in her anxiety to know what cast the die, though with all Dr. Spencer's charms, she could not but pity the delusion that could have made him hope to be preferred to her father-above all, by her mother. Nor could she clearly understand from him what had dispelled his hopes. Something it was that took place at the picnic on Arthur's Seat, of which she had previously heard as a period of untold bliss. That something, still left in vague mystery, had sealed the fate of the two friends.

'And so,' said Dr. Spencer, 'I took the first foreign appointment that offered. And my poor father, who had spent his utmost on me, and had been disappointed in all his sons, was most of all disappointed in me. I held myself bound to abide by my rash vow; loathed tame English life without her, and I left him to neglect in his age.'

'You could not have known or expected!' exclaimed Ethel.

'What right had I to expect anything else? It was only myself that I thought of. I pacified him by talk of travelling, and extending my experience, and silenced my conscience by intending to return when ordinary life should have become tolerable to me-a time that never has come. At last, in the height of that pestilential season in India, came a letter, warning me that my brother's widow had got the mastery over my poor father, and was cruelly abusing it, so that only my return could deliver him. It was when hundreds were perishing, and I the only medical man near; when to have left my post would have been both disgraceful and murderous. Then I was laid low myself; and while I was conquering the effects of cholera, came tidings that made it nothing to me whether they or I conquered. This,' and he touched one of his white curling locks, 'was not done by mere bodily exertion or ailment.'

'You would have been too late any way,' said Ethel.

'No, not if I had gone immediately. I might have got him out of that woman's hands, and made his life happy for years. There was the sting, but the crime had been long before. You know the rest. I had no health to remain, no heart to come home; and then came vagrancy indeed. I drifted wherever restlessness or impulse took me, till all my working years were over, and till the day when the sight of your father's wedding-ring showed me that I should not break my mad word by accepting the only welcome that any creature gave me.'

'And, oh! surely you have been comforted by him?'

'Comforted! Cut to the heart would be truer. One moment, I could only look at him as having borne off my treasure to destroy it; but then there rose on me his loving, patient, heartbroken humility and cheerfulness; and I saw such a character, such a course, as showed me how much better he had deserved her, and filled me with shame at having ever less esteemed him. And through all, there was the same dear Dick May, that never, since the day we first met at the pump in the school court, had I been able to help loving with all my heart-the only being that was glad to see me again. When he begged me to stay and watch over your sister, what could I do but remain while she lived?'

'So he bound you down! Oh, you know how we thank you! no, you can't, nor what you have been to him, and to all of us, through the worst of our sad days. And though it was a sacrifice, I do not think it was bad for you.'

'No, Ethel. When you implored me to give up my Crimean notion, to spare your father pain, I did feel for once that you at least thought me of value to some one.'

'I cannot bear you to speak so,' cried Ethel. 'You to talk of having been of no use!'

'No honest man of principle and education can be utterly useless; but when, three days ago, I recollected that it was my sixtieth birthday, I looked back, and saw nothing but desultory broken efforts, and restless changes. Your father told me, when I thought him unaware of the meaning of his words, that if I had missed many joys, I had missed many sorrows; but I had taken the way to make my one sorrow a greater burden than his many.'

'But you do not grieve for my mother still?' said Ethel, anxiously. 'Even his grief is a grave joy to him now; and one is always told that such things, as it was with you, are but a very small part of a man's life.'

'I am not one of the five hundred men, whom any one of five hundred women might have equally pleased,' said Dr. Spencer; 'but it is so far true, that the positive pain and envy wore out, and would not have interfered with my after life, but for my own folly. No, Ethel; it was not the loss of her that embittered and threw away my existence; it was my own rash vow, and its headstrong fulfilment, which has left me no right to your father's peaceful spirit.'

'How little we guessed!' said Ethel. 'So cheerful and ready as you always are.'

'I never trouble others, he said abruptly. 'Neither man nor woman ever heard a word of all this; and you would not have heard it now, but for that sea; and you have got your mother's voice, and some of her ways, since you have grown older and more sedate.'

'Oh, I am so glad!' said Ethel, who had been led

to view her likeness to her father as natural, that to her mother as acquired.

Those were the last words of the conversation; but Ethel, leaning from her window to listen to the plash of the waves, suspected that the slowly moving meteor she beheld, denoted that a cigar was soothing the emotions excited by their dialogue. She mused long over that revelation of the motives of the life that had always been noble and generous in the midst of much that was eccentric and wayward, and constantly the beat of the waves repeated to her the half-comprehended words, 'Never threaten Providence.'

After superintending Aubrey's first bath, and duly installing the vice-M. D. and her charges, Dr. Spencer departed; and Ethel was launched on an unknown ocean, as pilot to an untried crew. She had been told to regard Leonard's bashfulness as a rare grace; but it was very inconvenient to have the boy wretchedly drooping, and owning nothing amiss, apparently unacquainted with any English words, except 'Thank you' and 'No, thank you.' Indeed, she doubted whether the shyness were genuine, for stories were afloat of behaviour at Stoneborough parties which savoured of audacity, and she vainly consulted Aubrey whether the cause of his discomfiture were her age or her youth, her tutorship or her plain face. Even Aubrey could not elicit any like or dislike, wish or complaint; and shrugging up his shoulders, decided that it was of no use to bother about it; Leonard would come to his senses in time. He was passive when taken out walking, submissive when planted on a three-cornered camp-stool that expanded from a gouty walking-stick, but seemed so inadequately perched, and made so forlorn a spectacle, that they were forced to put him indoors out of the glare of sea and sky, and hoping that he would condescend to the sofa when Ethel was out of sight.

Punctilio broke down the next morning; and in the midst of breakfast, he was forced to lie down, and allow Ethel to bathe his face with vinegar and water; while she repented of the 'make-the-best-of-it' letter of the yesterday, and sent Aubrey out on a secret commission of inquiry about medical men, in case of need. Aubrey was perfectly well, and in such a state of desultory enjoyment and sea-side active idleness, that he was quite off her mind, only enlivening her morning of nursing by his exits and entrances, to tell of fresh discoveries, or incidents wonderful to the inland mind.

After dinner, which had driven Leonard to lie on his bed, Aubrey persuaded his sister to come to see his greatest prize; a quaint old local naturalist, a seafaring man, with a cottage crammed with pans of live wonders of the deep in water, and shelves of extinct ones, 'done up in stane pies,' not a creature, by sea or land, that had haunted Coombe for a few million of ages, seemed to have escaped him. Such sea-side sojourns as the present, are the prime moments for coquetries with the lighter branches of natural science, and the brother and sister had agreed to avail themselves of the geological facilities of their position, the fascinations of Hugh Miller's autobiography having entirely gained them during Aubrey's convalescence. Ethel tore herself away from the discussion of localities with the old man, who was guide as well as philosopher, boatman as well as naturalist, and returned to her patient, whom she found less feverish, though sadly low and languid.

'I wish I knew what to do for you,' she said, sitting down by him. 'What would your sister do for you?'

'Nothing,' he wearily said, 'I mean, a great deal too much.' The tone so recalled Norman's dejected hopelessness, that she could not help tenderly laying her cold hands on the hot brow, and saying, 'Yes, I know how little one can do as a sister-and the mockery it is to think that one place can ever be taken!'

The brown eyes looked at her with moist earnestness that she could hardly bear, but closed with a look of relief and soothing, as she held her hand on his forehead. Presently, however, he said, 'Don't let me keep you in.'

'I have been out, thank you. I am so glad to try to do anything for you.'

'Thank you. What o'clock is it, please? Ah, then I ought to take that draught! I forgot it in the morning.'

He permitted her to fetch it and pour it out, but as she recognized a powerful tonic, she exclaimed, 'Is this what you are taking? May it not make you feverish?'

'No doubt it does,' he said, lying down again; 'it was only Henry-'

'What! did not my father know of it?'

'Of course he does not, as it seems to be poison.'

'Not exactly that,' said Ethel; 'but I was surprised, for it was talked of for Aubrey; but they said it wanted watching.'

'Just like Henry,' observed Leonard.

'Well,' said Ethel, repressing her indignation, 'I am glad, at least, to find a possible cause for your bad night. We shall see you refreshed to-morrow, and not wishing yourself at home.'

'Don't think that I wish that. Home is gone for ever.'

'Home may be gone higher-up to the real Home,' said Ethel, blushing with the effort at the hint, and coming down to earthlier consolations, 'but even the fragments will grow into home again here, and you will feel very differently.'

Leonard did not answer; but after a pause said, 'Miss May, is not it a horrid pity girls should go to school?'

'I am no judge, Leonard.'

'You see,' said the boy, 'after the little girls were born, my mother had no time for Ave, and sent her to Brighton, and there she begged to stay on one half after another, learning all sorts of things; but only coming home for short holidays, like company, for us to wonder at her and show her about, thinking herself ever so much in advance of my poor mother, and now she knows just nothing at all of her!'

'You cannot tell, Leonard, and I am sure she has been devoted to you.'

'If she had stayed at home like you, she might have known how to let one alone. Oh, you can't think what peace it was yesterday!'

'Was it peace? I feared it was desertion.'

'It is much better to be by oneself, than always worried. To have them always at me to get up my spirits when the house is miserable-'

'Ah,' said Ethel, 'I remember your mother rejoicing that she had not to send you from home, and saying you were always so kind and gentle to her.'

'Did she!' cried the boy, eagerly. 'Oh, but she forgot-' and he hid his face, the features working with anguish.

'So pleased and proud she used to look, walking with you on Saturday afternoons.'

'Those Saturdays! They were the only walks she ever would take; but she would always come with me.'

More followed in the same strain, and Ethel began to gather more distinct impressions of the Ward family. She saw that her present charge was warm and sound-hearted, and that the strength of his affections had been chiefly absorbed by the homely housewifely mother, comparatively little esteemed by the modernized brother and sister. Of the loss of his father he seemed to think less; it seemed, indeed, rather to reconcile him to that of his mother, by the grief it spared her; and it confirmed Ethel's notion, that Mr. Ward, a busy and dull man, paid no great attention to his children between the plaything period and that of full development. The mother was the home; and Averil, though Leonard showed both love for and pride in her, had hitherto been a poor substitute, while as to Henry, there was something in each mention of him which gave Ethel an undefined dread of the future of the young household, and a doubt of the result of her father's kind schemes of patronage.

At any rate, this conversation had the happy effect of banishing constraint, and satisfying Ethel that the let-alone system was kindness, not neglect. She was at ease in discussing fossils, though he contributed no word, and she let him sleep or wake as he best liked; whilst Aubrey read to her the 'Cruise of the Betsey.'

Henry's prescription was sent to invigorate the fishes, when its cessation was found to be followed by the recovery of sleep and appetite, and in the cool of the evening, by a disposition to stroll on the beach, and lie under the lee of a rock upon a railway rug, which Ethel had substituted for the 'three-legged delusion.'

There he was left, while his companions went fossil-hunting, and stayed so long as to excite their compunction, and quicken their steps when they at length detached themselves from the enticing blue lias.

'What has he got there?' cried Aubrey. 'Hillo, old fellow! have you fallen a prey to a black cat?'

'Cat!' returned Leonard, indignantly; 'don't you see it is the jolliest little dog in the world?'

'You call that a dog?' said the other boy with redoubled contempt; 'it is just big enough for little Margaret's Noah's Ark!'

'It really is a beauty!' said Ethel. 'I have known one of Flora's guests bring a bigger one in her muff.'

'It is the most sensible little brute,' added Leonard. 'See; beg, my man, beg!'

And the beauteous little black-coated King Charles erected itself on its hind legs, displaying its rich ruddy tan waistcoat and sleeves, and beseeching with its black diamond eyes for the biscuit, dropped and caught in mid-air. It was the first time Leonard had looked bright.

'So you expect us to sanction your private dog stealing?' said Aubrey.

'I have been watching for his mistress to come back,' said Leonard; 'but she must have passed an hour ago, and she does not deserve to have him, for she never looked back for him; and he had run up to me, frisking and making much of me, as if he had found an old friend.'

'Perhaps it will run home when we move.'

No such thing; it trotted close at Leonard's heels, and entered the house with them. Barbara was consulted, and on Leonard's deposition that the dog's mistress was in deep mourning, opined that she could be no other than the widow of an officer, who during his lingering illness had been often laid upon the beach, and had there played with his little dogs. This one, evidently very young, had probably, in the confusion of its puppy memory, taken the invalid for its lost master.

'Stupid little thing,' said Aubrey; 'just like an undersized lady's toy.'

'It knows its friends. These little things have twice the sense of overgrown dogs as big and as stupid as jackasses.'

A retort from Leonard was welcome in Ethel's ears, and she quite developed his conversational powers, in an argument on the sagacity of all canine varieties. It was too late to send the little animal home; and he fondled and played with it till bed-time, when he lodged it in his own room; and the attachment was so strong, that it was with a deep sigh, that at breakfast he accepted Aubrey's offer of conveying it home.

'There she is! he exclaimed in the midst, gazing from the window.

'And see the perfection of the animal!' added Aubrey, pointing to a broad-backed waddling caricature of the little black fairy.

'Restitution must be made, little as she deserves you, you little jewel,' said Leonard, picking up the object of his admiration. 'I'll take you out.'

'No, no; I am not so infectious,' said Ethel, tying on her hat; 'I had better do it.'

And after Leonard's parting embrace to his favourite, she received it; and quickly overtaking the pensive steps of the lady, arrested her progress with, 'I beg your pardon, but I think this is your dog.'

'Poor little Mab! as the dog struggled to get to her, and danced gladly round her. 'I missed her last night, and was coming to look for her.'

'She joined one of our party,' said Ethel; 'and he was not strong enough to follow you. Indeed, he has had scarlet fever, so perhaps it was better not. But he has taken great care of the little dog, and hopes it is not the worse.'

'Thank you. I wish poor Mab may always meet such kind friends,' said the lady, sadly.

'She secured her welcome,' said Ethel. 'We were very grateful to her, for it was the first thing that has seemed to interest him since his illness; and he has just lost both his parents.'

'Ah! Thank you.'

Ethel wondered at herself for having been so communicative; but the sweet sad face and look of interest had drawn her words out; and on her return she made such a touching history of the adventure, that Leonard listened earnestly, and Aubrey looked subdued.

When they went out Leonard refused to spread his rug in that only bed of pulverized shingle; and Ethel respected his avoidance of it as delicacy to her whose husband had no doubt often occupied that spot.

'He is a thorough gentleman,' said she, as she walked away with Aubrey.

'He might be an Eton fellow,' was the significant reply.

'I wonder what made him so!' said Ethel, musingly.

'Looking at Tom,' returned Aubrey, not in jest.

'Even with that advantage, I don't quite see where he learnt that refined consideration.'

'Pshaw, Ethel! The light of nature would show that to any one but a stupex.'

Ethel was not sorry that such were Aubrey's views of courtesy, but all thought of that subject was soon lost in the pursuit of ammonites.

'I wonder what Leonard will have picked up now?' they speculated, as they turned homewards with their weighty baskets, but what was their amazement, when Leonard waved his hand, pointing to the little black dog again at his feet!

'She is mine!' he exclaimed, 'my own! Mrs. Gisborne has given her to me; and she is to be the happiest little mite going!'


'Yes. She came as soon as you were gone, and sat by me, and talked for an hour, but she goes to-morrow to live with an old hag of an aunt.'

'Really, you seem to have been on confidential terms.'

'I mean that she must be a nuisance, because she doesn't like dogs; so that Mrs. Gisborne can only take the old one, which she could never part with. So she wanted to give Mab to some one who would be kind to her; and she has come to the right shop; hasn't she, my little queen?'

'I thought she almost wished it this morning,' said Ethel, 'when she heard how you and Mab had taken to each other: but it is a very choice present; the creature looks to me to be of a very fine sort.'

'Now, Miss May, how could you know that?'

'Why, by her own deportment! Don't you know the aristocratic look that all high-bred animals have-even bantams?'

Leonard looked as if this were the most convincing proof of Ethel's wisdom, and proceeded. 'Well, she is descended from a real King Charles, that Charles II. brought from France, and gave to Mrs. Jane Lane; and they have kept up the breed ever since.'

'So that Mab will have the longest pedigree in Stoneborough; and we must all respect her!' said Ethel, stroking the black head.

'I am only surprised at Leonard's forgetting his place,' said Aubrey. 'Walking before her majesty, indeed!'

'Oh, attendants do come first sometimes.'

'Then it should be backwards! I have a mind to try lying on the beach to-morrow, looking interesting, to see what will descend upon me!'

'A great yellow mongrel,' said Ethel, 'as always befalls imitators in the path of the hero.'

'What? You mean that it was all the work of Leonard's beaux yeux?'

Leonard gave a sort of growl, intimating that Aubrey was exciting his displeasure; and Ethel was glad to be at home, and break off the conversation; but in a few minutes Aubrey knocked at her door, and edging himself in, mysteriously said, 'Such fun! So it was your beaux yeux, not Leonard's, that made the conquest!'

'I suppose she was touched with what I said of poor Leonard's circumstances, and the pleasure the creature gave him.'

'That is as prosy as Mary, Ethel. At any rate, the woman told Leonard yours was the most irresistibly attractive countenance she ever saw, short of beauty; and that's not the best of it, for he is absolutely angry.

'No wonder,' laughed Ethel.

'No, but it's about the beauty! He can't conceive a face more beautiful than yours.'

'Except the gargoyle on the church tower,' said Ethel, gaping into as complete a model of that worthy as flesh and blood could perpetrate.

'But he means it,' persisted Aubrey, fixing his eyes critically on his sister's features, but disturbed by the contortions into which she threw them. 'Now don't, don't. I never saw any fellow with a hundredth part of your gift for making faces,' he added, between the unwilling paroxysms of mirth at each fresh grimace; but I want to judge of you; and-oh! that solemn one is worse than all; it is like Julius Caesar, if he had ever been photographed!-but really, when one comes to think about it, you are not so very ugly after all; and are much better looking than Flora, whom we were taught to believe in.'

'Poor Flora! You were no judge in her blooming days, before wear and tear came.'

'And made her like our Scotch grandfather.'

'But Blanche! your own Blanche, Aubrey? She might have extended Leonard's ideas of beauty.'

'Blanche has a pretty little visage of her own; but it's not so well worth looking at as yours,' said Aubrey. 'One has seen to the end of it at once; and it won't light up. Hers is just the May blossom; and yours the-the-I know-the orchis! I have read of a woman with an orchidaceous face!'

Teeth, tongue, lips, eyes, and nose were at once made to serve in hitting off an indescribable likeness to an orchis blossom, which was rapturously applauded, till Ethel, relaxing the strain and permitting herself to laugh triumphantly at her own achievement, said, 'There! I do pride myself on being of a high order of the grotesque.'

'It is not the grotesque that he means.' said Aubrey, 'he is very cracked indeed. He declares that when you came and sat by him the day before yesterday, you were perfectly lovely.'

'Oh, then I understand, and it is no matter,' said Ethel.

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