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The Trial, Or, More Links of the Daisy Chain By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 28581

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04

The XII statute remember to observe

For all the paine thou hast for love and wo

All is too lite her mercie to deserve

Thou musten then thinke wher er thou ride or go

And mortale wounds suffre thou also

All for her sake, and thinke it well besette

Upon thy love, for it maie not be bette.

-Chaucer's 'Court of Love'

'Good-bye, Leonard,' said Ethel, as the two families, after mustering strong at the station, parted at the head of Minster Street; and as she felt the quivering lingering pressure of his hand, she added with a smile, 'Remember, any Saturday afternoon. And you will come for the books.'

Glad as she was to be anchored on her father's arm, and clustered round with rejoicing brothers and sisters, she could not be devoid of a shade of regret for the cessation of the intimate intercourse of the last nine weeks, and a certain desire for the continuance of the confidential terms that had arisen. The moment's pang was lost in the eager interchange of tidings too minute for correspondence, and in approval of the renovation of the drawing-room, which was so skilful that her first glance would have detected no alteration in the subdued tones of paper, carpet, and chintz, so complete was their loyalty to the spirit of perpetuity. Flora told no one of the pains that, among her many cares, she had spent upon those tints, not so much to gratify Ethel, as because her own wearied spirit craved the repose of home sameness, nor how she had finally sent to Paris for the paper that looked so quiet, but was so exquisitely finished, that the whole room had a new air of refinement.

The most notable novelty was a water-coloured sketch, a labour of love from the busy hands in New Zealand, which had stolen a few hours from their many tasks to send Dr. May the presentment of his namesake grandson. Little Dickie stood before them, a true son of the humming-bird sprite, delicately limbed and featured, and with elastic springiness, visible even in the pencilled outline. The dancing dark eyes were all Meta's, though the sturdy clasp of the hands, and the curl that hung over the brow, brought back the reflection of Harry's baby days.

It would have been a charming picture, even if it had not been by Meta's pencil, and of Norman's child, and it chained Ethel for more than one interval of longing loving study.

Tom interrupted her in one of these contemplations. 'Poor Flora,' he said, with more feeling than he usually allowed to affect his voice, 'that picture is a hard trial to her. I caught her looking at it for full ten minutes, and at last she turned away with her eyes full of tears.'

'I do not wonder,' said Ethel. 'There is a certain likeness to that poor little Leonora, and I think Flora misses her more every year.'

'Such a child as Margaret is just the thing to cause the other to be missed.'

'What do you think of Margaret this time?' said Ethel, for Tom alone ever durst seriously touch on the undefined impression that all entertained of Flora's only child.

'If Flora were only silly about her,' said Tom, 'one might have some hope; but unluckily she is as judicious there as in everything else, and the child gets more deplorable every year. She has got the look of deformity, and yet she is not deformed; and the queer sullen ways of deficiency, but she has more wit than her father already, and more cunning.'

'As long as there is a mind to work on, one hopes' said Ethel.

'I could stand her better if she were foolish!' exclaimed Tom, 'but I can't endure to see her come into the room to be courted by every one, and be as cross as she dares before her mother. Behind Flora's back, I don't know which she uses worst, her father or her grandfather. I came down upon little Miss at last for her treatment of the Doctor, and neither he nor Rivers have forgiven me.'

'Poor child! I don't believe she has ever known a moment's thorough health or comfort! I always hope that with Flora's patience and management she may improve.'

'Pshaw, Ethel! she will always be a misfortune to herself and everybody else.'

'I have faith in good coming out of misfortunes.'

'Illustrated, I suppose, by ravings about your young Ward. Mary is crazy about his sister, and the Doctor lunatic as to the brother, who will soon kick at him for his pains.'

'I own to thinking Leonard capable of great things.'

Tom made a grimace equal to what Ethel could do in that way, thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and philosophically observed, 'Behold the effects of patronage! Blind Cupid is nothing to him.'

Ethel let it pass, caring too much for Leonard to set him up as a mark for Tom's satire, which was as different from Aubrey's as quinine from orange-peel, though properly used, it was a bracing tonic, such as she often found wholesome. A cynical younger brother is a most valuable possession to a woman who has taken a certain position in her own world.

Tom was a sterling character, highly and deeply principled, though not demonstrative, and showing his Scots descent. None of the brothers had been extravagant, but Tom, with the income of his lately achieved fellowship, performed feats of economy, such as attaining to the purchase of an ultra perfect microscope, and he was consistently industrious, so exactly measuring his own powers that to undertake was with him to succeed, and no one suffered anxiety on his account. As Dr. Spencer said, he was as sure to fall on his legs as a sandy cat, and so nobody cared for him. At home he was sufficient to himself, properly behaved to his father, civil to Richard, unmerciful in ridicule, but merciful in dominion over the rest, except Ethel, whom he treated as an equal, able to retort in kind, reserving for her his most highly-flavoured sallies, and his few and distant approaches to such confidence as showed her how little she knew him. His father esteemed but did not 'get on with' him, and his chief and devoted adherent was Aubrey, to whom he was always kind and helpful. In person Tom was tall and well-made, of intelligent face, of which his spectacles seemed a natural feature, well-moulded fine-grained hand, and dress the perfection of correctness, though the precision, and dandyism had been pruned away.

Ethel would have preferred that Leonard and Averil should not have walked in on the Saturday after her return, just when Tom had spread his microscope apparatus over the table, and claimed Mary's assistance in setting up objects; and she avoided his eye when Mary and Averil did what he poetically called rushing into each other's arms, whilst she bestowed her greetings on Leonard and Mab.

'Then she may come in?' said Leonard. 'Henry has banished her from the drawing-room, and we had much ado to get her allowed even in the schoolroom.'

'It is so tiresome,' said his sister, 'just one of Henry's fancies.' Ethel, thinking this disloyal, remarked that those who disliked dogs in the house could not bear them, and did not wonder that Tom muttered 'Original.'

'But such a little darling as this!' cried Averil, 'and after Mrs. Ernescliffe had been so kind. Mary, you must see how clever she is. Leonard is teaching her to play on the piano.'

'I congratulate you,' quietly said Tom; and somehow Ethel felt that those three words were a satire on her 'capable of great things;' while Leonard drew up, and Averil coloured, deferring the exhibition of Mab's accomplishments till 'another time,' evidently meaning out of Tom's presence.

'Aubrey is gone to the Grange with papa,' Ethel said, glad to lead away from Mab.

'He told me he was going,' said Leonard, 'but he said you would be at home.'

Ethel knew that the intonation of that 'you' had curled Tom's lip with mischief, and dreading that Leonard should discover and resent his mood, she said, 'We think one of your sea eggs has got among ours; will you come to the schoolroom and see?'

And leaving Tom to tease and be bored by the young ladies, she led the way to the schoolroom, where Aubrey's fossils, each in its private twist of paper, lay in confusion on the floor, whence they were in course of being transferred to the shelf of a cupboard.

Leonard looked at the disorder with astonished admiration.

'Yes,' said Ethel, 'it is a great mess, but they are to have a regular cabinet, when Richard has time, or Aubrey has money, two equally unlikely chances.'

'How much does a cabinet cost?'

'Jones would make a plain deal one for about five-and-twenty shillings.'

'I can't unpack mine properly,' said Leonard, disconsolately. 'Ave is going to make a place for them, but Henry votes them rubbish.'

'They are dreadful rubbish,' said Ethel. 'It goes against my conscience to guard them from the house-maid, and if my sister Flora came in here, I should be annihilated.'

'Of course one expects that in women.'

'Oh, Richard would be as much distracted! It is a provision of Nature that there should be some tidy ones, or what would the world come to?'

'It would be a great deal less of a bore.'

'Not at all; we should stifle ourselves at last if we had our own way. Never mind, Leonard, we make them go through quite as much as they make us.'

'I am sure I hope so.'

'No, no, Leonard,' she said, becoming less playful, 'we must not do it on purpose. Even unconsciously, we plague the spirits of order quite enough, and they have the right on their side after all.'

'I think a lady is the person to say what one may do or not in the drawing-room; don't you?' said Leonard.

'That depends.'

'And you let your brother spread his things all over yours!'

'So I do; but I would not if papa minded it, or even if this were Richard's house, and he did not like it. Don't begin with worries about trifles, pray, Leonard.'

'It is not I that care about trifles,' returned the boy. 'How was one to reckon on a man setting up a monomania about dogs' paws in the hall?'

'I have feared we were rather foolish; I ought to have reminded you to ask whether Mab would be welcome.'

'I was not going to ask leave, I have no one whose leave to ask,' said Leonard, in tones at first proud, then sad.

'That's a bad beginning,' returned Ethel. 'As master of the house, your brother has a right to your compliance, and if you do not all give way to each other, you will have nothing but dissension and misery.'

'All to each other; yes, that is fair.'

'He must have given way to you in letting you keep the dog at all in the house' said Ethel. 'It is a real instance of kindness, and you are bound to let her be as little in his way as possible.'

'He does mean well, I suppose,' said Leonard; 'but he is an awful bother, and poor Ave gets the worst of it. One has no patience with finikin ways in a man.'

'There's no telling how much I owe to my finikin brother Richard,' said Ethel; 'and if you teach Ave to be loyal to the head of your family, you will do her as much good as you will do harm by chafing against his ordinances.'

'Don't you hate such nonsense, Miss May?'

'I can't love order as much as I honour it. Set tastes aside. The point is, that if you are to hold together, Leonard, it must be by bearing and forbearing, and above all, to your elder brother.'

'Well, it is a blessing that I shall be in school on Monday.'

'So it is,' said Ethel; 'but, barring these fidgets, Leonard, tell me,' and she looked kindly at him, 'how is it at home? Better than you expected, I hope.'

'Blank enough' said Leonard; 'I didn't think I should have minded the sound of the surgery door so much.'

'You will have Sunday to help you.'

'Yes, Ave and I have been down to the churchyard; Ave does care, poor girl. She knows better what it is now, and she was glad to have me to talk to again, though Miss Mary has been so kind to her.'

'Oh, nobody can be so much to her as you.'

'Poor Ave!' said Leonard, tenderly. 'And look here, this is my father's watch, and she made me this chain of my mother's hair. And they have given me a photograph of my mother's picture; Henry had it done long ago, but thought it would upset me to give it before I went away. If he could but have guessed how I lay and wished for one!'

'Those are the things one never can guess, even when one would give worlds to do so.'

'You-O, Miss May, you always know the thing that is comfortable.'

'Well,' said Ethel, 'what will be comfortable now is that you should be the man above being affronted by other people's nonsense-the only way to show we did not all spoil each other at Coombe. Now, here is Woodstock for you, and tell me if this be not your Cidaris. Oh, and we have found out the name of your funny spiked shell.'

Ten minutes of palaeontology ensued; and she was leading the way back to the drawing-room, when he exclaimed, 'Have you heard about the match, Miss May?'

'Match? Oh, the cricket match?'

'Stoneborough against All England, on St. Matthew's Day, so I shall have got my hand in.'

'All England meaning every one that can be scraped up that is not Stoneborough,' returned Ethel. 'George Larkins has been over here canvassing Tom and Aubrey. But you can't be going to play, Leonard; papa does not half like it for Aubrey.'

'Perhaps not for Aubrey,' said Leonard; 'but I am as well as ever, and luckily they can't make up a decent eleven without me. You will come and see us, Miss May? I'll find you the jolliest place between the old lime and the cloister door.'

'As if I had not known the meads ages before your time!' said Ethel.

'I thought you never came to the matches?'

'Ah! you don't remember my brothers' Stoneborough days, when Norman was cricket mad, and Harry after him, and my father was the best cricketer in Stoneborough till his accident.

'Yes, Dr. May always comes to see the matches,' said Leonard. 'You will, won't you now, Miss May? I didn't think you knew anything about cricket, but it will be all the better now.'

Ethel laughed, and half promised.

Cocksmoor existed without Ethel on that holiday; and indeed she was self-reproachful, though pleased, at finding her presence so great a treat to her father. Leonard might do the honours of the lime-tree nook, but she spent but little time there, for Dr. May made her walk about with him a

s he exchanged greetings with each and all, while Gertrude led Richard about at her will, and Mary consorted with the Ward girls. With no one on her mind, Ethel could give free attention to the smoothly-shaven battle-field, where, within the gray walls shaded by the overhanging elms, the young champions were throwing all the ardour and even the chivalry of their nature into the contest.

The annual game had been delayed by the illness in the spring, and the school had lost several good players at the end of the half year; but, on the other hand, the holidays being over, George Larkins had been unable to collect an eleven either in full practice or with public school training; and the veteran spectators were mourning the decay of cricket, and talking of past triumphs. The school had the first innings, which resulted in the discomfiture of Fielder, one of their crack champions, and with no great honour to any one except Folliot, the Dux, and Leonard Ward, who both acquitted themselves so creditably, that it was allowed that if others had done as well, Stoneborough might have had a chance.

But when 'All England' went in, the game seemed to be more equally balanced. Aubrey May, in spite of devoted practice under Tom's instructions, was, from nervous eagerness, out almost as soon as in, and in his misery of shame and despair felt like the betrayer of his cause. But in due time, with the sun declining, and the score still low, Tom May came forward, as the last hope of 'All England,' lissom, active, and skilled, walking up to his wicket with the easy confidence of one not greatly caring, but willing to show the natives what play might be.

And his play was admirable; the fortunes of the day began to tremble in the balance; every one, spectators and all, were in a state of eager excitement; and Aubrey, out of tone and unable to watch for the crisis, fairly fled from the sight, rushed through the cloister door, and threw himself with his face down upon the grass, shivering with suspense. There he lay till a sudden burst of voices and cheers showed that the battle was over.

The result? He could not believe eyes or ears as he opened the door, to behold the triumphant gestures of Stoneborough, and the crestfallen air of his own side, and heard the words, 'Folliot missed two chances of long-leg-Ward-tremendous rush-caught him out-with only one run to tie.'

Dr. May was shaking hands with Leonard in congratulation, not solely generous, for let his sons be where they would, Stoneborough triumphs were always the Doctor's, and he was not devoid of gratitude to any one who would defeat Tom. Noting, however, the flitting colour, fluttering breath, and trembling limbs, that showed the effect of the day's fatigue and of the final exertion, he signed back the boys, and thrust Leonard within the cloister door, bidding Aubrey fetch his coat, and Ethel keep guard over him, and when he was rested and cooled, to take him home to the High Street, where his sisters would meet him.

'But-sir-the-supper!' gasped Leonard, leaning against the door-post, unable to stand alone.

'I dare say. Keep him safe, Ethel.'

And the Doctor shut the door, and offered himself to appease the lads who were clamouring for the hero of their cause; while Leonard sank back on the bench, past words or looks for some moments.

'You have redeemed your pennon with your last gasp,' said Ethel, half reproachfully.

'I was determined,' panted the boy. 'I don't know how I did it. I couldn't fail with you looking on. You did it by coming.'

Reply was spared by Aubrey's return, with the coat in one hand, and a glass of ale in the other. 'You are to go home with Ethel at once,' he pronounced with the utmost zest, 'that is, as soon as you are rested. My father says you must not think of the supper, unless you particularly wish to be in bed for a week; but we'll all drink your health, and I'll return thanks-the worst player for the best.'

This was the first time Aubrey had been considered in condition for such festivities, and the gratification of being superior to somebody might account for his glee in invaliding his friend.

Cricket suppers were no novelties to Leonard; and either this or his exhaustion must have made him resign himself to his fate, and walk back with Ethel as happily as at Coombe.

The sisters soon followed, and were detained to drink tea. The cricketers' mirth must have been fast and furious if it exceeded that at home, for the Doctor thought himself bound to make up for the loss to Leonard, put forth all his powers of entertainment, and was comically confidential about 'these Etonians that think so much of themselves.'

Averil was lively and at ease, showing herself the pleasant well-informed girl whom Ethel had hitherto only taken on trust, and acting in a pretty motherly way towards the little sisters. She was more visibly triumphant than was Leonard, and had been much gratified by a request from the Bankside curate that she would entirely undertake the harmonium at the chapel. She had been playing on it during the absence of the schoolmaster, and with so much better effect than he could produce, that it had been agreed that he would be best in his place among the boys.

'Ah!' said the Doctor, 'two things in one are apt to be like Aubrey's compromise between walking-stick and camp-stool-a little of neither.'

'I don't mean it to be a little of neither with me, Dr. May,' said Averil. 'I shall have nothing to do with my choir on week-days, till I have sent these pupils of mine to bed.'

'Are you going to train the choir too?' asked Leonard.

'I must practise with them, or we shall not understand one another; besides, they have such a horrid set of tunes, Mr. Scudamour gave me leave to change them. He is going to have hymnals, and get rid of Tate and Brady at once.'

'Ah! poor Nahum!' sighed the Doctor with such a genuine sigh, that Averil turned round on him in amazement.

'Yes,' said Ethel, 'I'm the only one conservative enough to sympathize with you, papa.'

'But does any one approve of the New Version?' cried Averil, recovering from her speechless wonder.

'Don't come down on me,' said the Doctor, holding up his hands. 'I know it all; but the singing psalms are the singing psalms to me-and I can't help my bad taste-I'm too old to change.'

'Oh! but, papa, you do like those beautiful hymns that we have now?' cried Gertrude.

'Oh! yes, yes, Gertrude, I acquiesce. They are a great improvement; but then, wasn't it a treat when I got over to Woodside Church the other day, and found them singing, "No change of times shall ever shock"!' and he began to hum it.

'That is the Sicilian Mariners' hymn,' said Averil. 'I can sing you that whenever you please.'

'Thank you; on condition you sing the old Tate and Brady, not your "O Sanctissma, O Purissima,"' said the Doctor, a little mischievously.

'Which is eldest, I wonder?' said Ave, smiling, pleased to comply with any whim of his; though too young to understand the associations that entwine closely around all that has assisted or embodied devotion.

The music went from the sacred to the secular; and Ethel owned that the perfectly pronounced words and admirable taste made her singing very different from that which adorned most dinner-parties. Dr. May intensely enjoyed, and was between tears and bravos at the charge of the Six Hundred, when the two brothers entered, and stood silently listening.

That return brought a change. Aubrey was indeed open and bright, bursting out with eager communications the moment the song ceased, then turning round with winning apologies, and hopes that he was not interrupting; but Tom looked so stiff and polite as to chill every one, and Averil began to talk of the children's bed-time.

The Doctor and Aubrey pressed for another song so earnestly that she consented; but the spirit and animation were gone, and she had no sooner finished than she made a decided move to depart, and Dr. May accompanied the party home.

'Is my father going to put that fellow to bed?' said Tom, yawning, as if injured by the delay of bed-time thus occasioned.

'Your courtesy does not equal his,' said Ethel.

'Nor ever will,' said Tom.

'Never,' said Ethel, so emphatically that she nettled him into adding,

'He is a standing warning against spoiling one's patients. I wouldn't have them and their whole tag-rag and bobtail about my house for something!'

'O, Tom, for shame!' cried Mary, bursting out in the wrath he had intended to excite.

'Ask him which is tag, which rag, and which bobtail,' suggested Ethel.

'Mab, I suppose,' said Gertrude, happily closing the discussion, but it was re-animated by her father's arrival.

'That's a nice girl,' he said, 'very nice; but we must not have her too often in the evening, Mary, without Henry. It is not fair to break up people's home party.'

'Bobber than bobtail,' murmured Tom, with a gesture only meant for Ethel.

'Ave said he would be out till quite late, papa,' said Mary, in self-defence.

'She ought to have been back before him,' said Dr. May. 'He didn't seem best pleased to have found her away, and let me tell you, young woman, it is hard on a man who has been at work all day to come home and find a dark house and nobody to speak to.'

Mary looked melancholy at this approach to reproof, and Tom observed in an undertone,

'Never mind, Mary, it is only to give papa the opportunity of improving his pupil, while you exchange confidence with your bosom friend. I shall be gone in another month, and there will be nothing to prevent the perfect fusion of families.'

No one was sorry that the evening here came to an end.

'I hope,' said Dr. May at the Sunday's dinner, 'that the cricket match has not done for that boy; I did not see him among the boys.'

'No,' said Mary, 'but he has met with some accident, and has the most terrible bruised face. Ave can't make out how he did it. Do you know, Aubrey?'

The Doctor and his two sons burst out laughing.

'I thought,' said Ethel, rather grieved, 'that those things had gone out of fashion.'

'So Ethel's protege, or prodigy, which is it?' said Tom, 'is turning out a muscular Christian on her hands.'

'Is a muscular Christian one who has muscles, or one who trusts in muscles?' asked Ethel.

'Or a better cricketer than an Etonian?' added the Doctor.

Tom and Aubrey returned demonstrations that Eton's glory was untarnished, and the defeat solely owing to 'such a set of sticks.'

'Aubrey,' said Ethel, in their first private moment, 'was this a fight in a good cause? for if so, I will come down with you and see him.'

Aubrey made a face of dissuasion, ending in a whistle.

'Do at least tell me it is nothing I should be sorry for,' she said anxiously.

He screwed his face into an intended likeness of Ethel's imitation of an orchis, winked one eye, and looked comical.

'I see it can't be really bad,' said Ethel, 'so I will rest on your assurance, and ask no indiscreet questions.'

'You didn't see, then?' said Aubrey, aggrieved at the failure of his imitation. 'You don't remember the beauty he met at Coombe?'

'Beauty! None but Mab.'

'Well, they found it out and chaffed him. Fielder said he would cut out as good a face out of an old knob of apple wood, and the doctor in petticoats came up again; he got into one of his rages, and they had no end of a shindy, better than any, they say, since Lake and Benson fifteen years ago; but Ward was in too great a passion, or he would have done for Fielder long before old Hoxton was seen mooning that way. So you see, if any of the fellows should be about, it would never do for you to be seen going to bind up his wounds, but I can tell him you are much obliged, and all that.'

'Obliged, indeed!' said Ethel. 'What, for making me the laughing-stock of the school?'

'No, indeed,' cried Aubrey, distressed. 'He said not a word-they only found it out-because he found that seat for you, and papa sent him away with you. They only meant to poke fun, and it was his caring that made it come home to him. I wonder you don't like to find that such a fellow stood up for you.'

'I don't like to be made ridiculous.'

'Tom does not know it, and shall not,' eagerly interposed Aubrey.

'Thank you,' said she, with all her heart.

'Then don't be savage. You know he can't help it if he does think you so handsome, and it is very hard that you should be affronted with him, just when he can't see out of one of his eyes.'

'For that matter,' said Ethel, her voice trembling, 'one likes generosity in any sort of a cause; but as to this, the only way is to laugh at it.'

Aubrey thought this 'only way' hardly taken by the cachinnation with which she left him, for he was sure that her eyes were full of tears; and after mature consideration he decided that he should only get into a fresh scrape by letting Leonard know that she was aware of the combat and its motive.

'If I were ten years younger, this might be serious,' meditated Ethel. 'Happily, it is only a droll adventure for me in my old age, and I have heard say that a little raving for a grown-up woman is a wholesome sort of delusion, at his time of life. So I need not worry about it, and it is pretty and touching while it lasts, good fellow!'

Ethel had, in fact, little occasion to worry herself; for all special manifestations of Leonard's devotion ceased. Whether it were that Tom with his grave satirical manner contrived to render the house disagreeable to both brother and sister, or whether Leonard's boyish bashfulness had taken alarm, and his admiration expended itself in the battle for her charms, there was no knowing. All that was certain was, that the Wards seldom appeared at Dr. May's, although elsewhere Mary and Aubrey saw a great deal of their respective friends, and through both, Ethel heard from time to time of Leonard, chiefly as working hard at school, but finding that his illness had cost him not only the last half year's learning, but some memory and power of application. He was merging into the ordinary schoolboy-a very good thing for him no doubt, though less beautiful than those Coombe fancies. And what were they worth?

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