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   Chapter 9 No.9

The Trial, Or, More Links of the Daisy Chain By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 36969

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


Too oft my anxious eye has spied

That secret grief thou fain wouldst hide-

The passing pang of humbled pride.-SCOTT

The winter was gay, between musical evenings, children's parties, clerical feastings of district visitors, soirees for Sunday-school teachers, and Christmas-trees for their scholars. Such a universal favourite as Harry, with so keen a relish for amusement, was sure to fall an easy prey to invitations; but the rest of the family stood amazed to see him accompanied everywhere by Tom, to whom the secular and the religious dissipations of Stoneborough had always hitherto been equally distasteful. Yet be submitted to a Christmas course of music, carpet-dances, and jeux de societe on the one hand, and on the other conferred inestimable obligations on the ecclesiastical staff by exhibitions of his microscope and of some of the ornamental sports of chemistry.

'The truth is,' was the explanation privately dropped out to Ethel, 'that some one really must see that those two don't make fools of themselves.'

Ethel stared; then, coming to the perception who 'those two' meant, burst out laughing, and said, 'My dear Tom, I beg your pardon, but, on the whole, I think that is more likely to befall some one else.'

Tom held his head loftily, and would not condescend to understand anything so foolish.

He considered Bankside as the most dangerous quarter, for Harry was enraptured with Miss Ward's music, extolled her dark eyes, and openly avowed her attraction; but there were far more subtle perils at Laburnum Grove. The fair widow was really pretty, almost elegant, her weeds becoming; and her disposition so good, so religious, so charitable, that, with her activity, intelligence, and curate-worship, she was a dangerous snare to such of mankind as were not sensible of her touch of pretension. As to womankind, it needed a great deal of submissiveness to endure her at all; and this was not Averil Ward's leading characteristic.

In fact, the ubiquity of Mrs. Pugh was a sore trial to that young lady, just so superior herself as to detect the flimsiness of the widow's attainments. It was vexatious to find that by means of age, assumption, and position, these shallow accomplishments made a prodigious show in the world, while her own were entirely overlooked. She thought she despised the admiration of the second-rate world of Stoneborough, but it nettled her to see it thus misplaced; and there was something provoking in the species of semi-homage paid in that quarter by the youths of the May family.

As to the sailor, Averil frankly liked him very much; he was the pleasantest young man, of the most open and agreeable manners, who had ever fallen in her way. He was worthy to be Mary's brother, for he was friendly to Leonard, and to herself had a truthfully flattering way that was delightful. Without any sentiment in the case, she always felt disappointed and defrauded if she were prevented from having a conversation with him; and when this happened, it was generally either from his being seized upon by Mrs. Pugh, or from her being baited by his brother Tom.

Averil was hard to please, for she was as much annoyed by seeing Tom May sitting courteous and deferential by the side of Mrs. Pugh, as by his attentions to herself. She knew that he was playing the widow off, and that, when most smooth and bland in look and tone, he was inwardly chuckling; and to find the identical politeness transferred to herself, made her feel not only affronted but insulted by being placed on the same level. Thus, when, at a 'reunion' at Laburnum Grove, she had been looking on with intense disgust while Tom was admiring Mrs. Pugh's famous book of devices from letters, translating the mottoes, and promising contributions, the offence was greatly increased by his coming up to her (and that too just as Harry was released by the button-holding Mr. Grey) and saying,

'Of course you are a collector too, Miss Ward; I can secure some duplicates for you.'

She hoard such fooleries? She have Mrs. Pugh's duplicates? No wonder she coldly answered, 'My little sister has been slightly infected, thank you, but I do not care for such things.'

'Indeed! Well, I always preserve as many as I can, as passports to a lady's favour.'

'That depends on how much sense the lady has,' said Averil, trusting that this was a spirited set down.

'You do not consider. Philosophically treated, they become a perfect school in historical heraldry, nay, in languages, in mathematical drawing, in illumination, said Tom, looking across to the album in which Mrs. Pugh's collection was enshrined, each device appropriately framed in bright colours. His gravity was intolerable. Was this mockery or not? However, as answer she must, she said,

'A very poor purpose for which to learn such things, and a poor way of learning them.'

'True,' said Tom, 'one pastime is as good as another; and the less it pretends to, the better. On the whole, it may be a beneficial outlet for the revival of illumination.'

Did this intolerable person know that there was an 'illuminator's guide' at home, and a great deal of red, blue, and gold paint, with grand designs for the ornamentation of Bankside chapel? Whether he knew it or not, she could not help answering, 'Illumination is desecrated by being used on such subjects.'

'And is not that better than the subjects being desecrated by illumination?'

Mrs. Pugh came to insist on that 'sweet thing of Mendelssohn's' from her dear Miss Ward; and Averil obeyed, not so glad to escape as inflamed by vexation at being prevented from fighting it out, and learning what he really meant; though she was so far used to the slippery nature of his arguments as to know that it was highly improbable that she should get at anything in earnest.

'If his sisters were silly, I should not mind,' said she to Leonard; 'then he might hold all women cheap from knowing no better; but when they like sensible things, why is every one else to be treated like an ape?'

'Never mind,' said Leonard, 'he sneers at everybody all alike! I can't think how Dr. May came to have such a son, or how Aubrey can run after him so.'

'I should like to know whether they really think it irreverent to do illuminations.'

'Nonsense, Ave; why should you trouble yourself about what he says to tease you? bad luck to him!'

Nevertheless, Averil was not at ease till she had asked Mary's opinion of illumination, and Mary had referred to Ethel, and brought back word that all depended on the spirit of the work; that it was a dangerous thing, for mere fashion, to make playthings of texts of Scripture; but that no one could tell the blessing there might be in dwelling on them with loving decoration, or having them placed where the eye and thought might be won by them. In fact, Ethel always hated fashion, but feared prejudice.

The crown of the whole carnival was to be the Abbotstoke entertainment on the enrolment of the volunteers. Preparations went on with great spirit, and the drill sergeant had unremitting work, the target little peace, and Aubrey and Leonard were justly accused of making fetishes of their rifles. The town was frantic, no clothes but uniforms could be had, and the tradesmen forgot their customers in the excitement of electing officers.

Averil thought it very officious of Mrs. Pugh to collect a romantic party of banner-working young ladies before the member's wife or the mayor's family had authorized it; and she refused to join, both on the plea of want of time, and because she heard that Mr. Elvers, a real dragoon, declared colours to be inappropriate to riflemen. And so he did; but his wife said the point was not martial correctness, but popular feeling; so Mary gratified the party by bringing her needle, Dr. Spencer took care the blazonry of the arms of the old abbey was correct, and Flora asked the great lady of the county to present the banner, and gave the invitation to Mrs. Pugh, who sighed, shook her head, dried her eyes, and said something about goodness and spirits; and Mrs. Rivers professed to understand, and hope Mrs. Pugh would do exactly as best suited her.

Was this manoeuvring, or only living in the present?

Mary accompanied Harry for a long day of shopping in London when he went to report himself, starting and returning in the clouds of night, and transacting a prodigious amount of business with intense delight and no fatigue; and she was considered to have fitted out the mayor's daughters suitably with his municipal dignity, of which Ethel piqued herself on being proud.

The entertainment was not easy to arrange at such a season, and Blanche's 'experience,' being of early autumn, was at fault; but Flora sent for all that could embellish her conservatories, and by one of the charities by which she loved to kill two birds with one stone, imported a young lady who gained her livelihood by singing at private concerts, and with her for a star, supported by the Minster and Cathedral choirs, hoped to get up sufficient music to occupy people till it should be late enough to dance. She still had some diplomacy to exercise, for Mrs. Ledwich suggested asking dear Ave Ward to sing, her own dearest Matilda would not object on such an occasion to assist the sweet girl; and Mrs. Rivers, after her usual prudent fashion, giving neither denial nor assent, Mrs. Ledwich trotted off, and put Averil into an agony that raised a needless storm in the Bankside house; Leonard declaring the request an insult, and Henry insisting that Ave ought to have no scruples in doing anything Mrs. Pugh thought proper to be done. And finally, when Ave rushed with her despair to Mary May, it was to be relieved at finding that Mrs. Rivers had never dreamt of exposing her to such an ordeal.

Though it was the year 1860, the sun shone on the great day, and there were exhilarating tokens of spring, singing birds, opening buds, sparkling drops, and a general sense of festivity; as the gray and green began to flit about the streets, and while Mr. Mayor repaired to the Town Hall to administer the oaths to the corps, his unmartial sons and his daughters started for the Grange to assist Flora in the reception of her guests.

The Lord Lieutenant's wife and daughters, as well as the Ernescliffes, had slept there, and Ethel found them all with Flora in the great hall, which looked like a winter garden, interspersed with tables covered with plate and glass, where eating and drinking might go on all day long. But Ethel's heart sank within her at the sight of Flora's haggard face and sunken eyes. 'What is the matter?' she asked Blanche, an image of contented beauty.

'Matter? Oh, they have been stupid in marking the ground, and Hector is gone to see about it. That's all. He is not at all tired.'

'I never supposed he was,' said Ethel, 'but what makes Flora look so ill?'

'Oh, that tiresome child has got another cold, and fretted half the night. It is all their fault for giving way to her; and she has done nothing but whine this whole morning because she is not well enough to go out and see the practice! I am sure it is no misfortune that she is not to come down and be looked at.'

Ethel crossed over to Flora, and asked whether she should go up and see little Margaret.

'I should be so thankful,' said poor Flora; 'but don't excite her. She is not at all well, and has had very little sleep.'

Ethel ran up-stairs, and found herself in the midst of a fight between the governess and Margaret, who wanted to go to the draughty passage window, which she fancied had a better view than that of her nursery. Luckily, Aunt Ethel was almost the only person whom Margaret did not like to see her naughty; and she subsided into a much less objectionable lamentation after Uncle Harry and his anchor buttons. Ethel promised to try whether he could be found, and confident in his good-nature, ran down, and boldly captured him as he was setting out to see Hector's operations. He came with a ready smile, and the child was happy throughout his stay. Flora presently stole a moment's visit, intending her sister's release as well as his; but Ethel, in pity to governess as well as pupil, declared the nursery window to be a prime post of observation, and begged to be there left.

Margaret began to believe that they were very snug there, and by the time the bugles were heard, had forgotten her troubles in watching the arrivals.

Up came the gray files, and Ethel's heart throbbed and her eye glistened at their regular tread and military bearing. Quickly Margaret made out papa; but he was too real a soldier to evince consciousness of being at his own door, before the eyes of his wife and daughter; and Aubrey's young face was made up in imitation of his impassiveness. Other eyes were less under control, and of these were a brown pair that wandered restlessly, till they were raised to the nursery window, and there found satisfaction.

The aunt and niece were too immediately above the terrace to see what passed upon it, nor could they hear the words; so they only beheld the approach of the Ensign, and after a brief interval, his return with the tall green silk colours, with the arms of the old abbey embroidered in the corner, and heard the enthusiastic cheer that rang out from all the corps.

Then the colours led the way to the ground for practice, for manoeuvres were as yet not ready for exhibition. Almost all the gentlemen followed; and such ladies as did not object to gunpowder or damp grass, thither betook themselves, guided by the ardent Mrs. Ernescliffe. Having disposed of the others in the drawing-rooms and gardens, Flora and her father came to the nursery, and Ethel was set at liberty to witness the prowess of her young champions, being assured by Flora that she would be of more use there in keeping the youthful population out of danger than in entertaining the more timid in the house.

She slipped out and hurried down a narrow path towards the scene of action, presently becoming aware of four figures before her, which her glass resolved into Harry and Tom, a lady in black, and a child. Evidently the devoted Tom was keeping guard over one of the enchantresses, for the figure was that of Averil Ward, though, as Ethel said, shaking hands, she was hardly to be known with only one sister.

'We have been delayed,' said Averil; 'poor little Ella was in an agony about the firing, and we could not leave her till your brother'-indicating Harry-'was so kind as to take her to Gertrude.'

'True to the Englishwoman's boast of never having seen the smoke of an engagement,' said Tom.

'A practising is not an engagement,' said Ethel.

'There may be quite as many casualties,' quoth Tom, indulging in some of the current ready-made wit on the dangers of volunteering, for the pure purpose of teasing; but he was vigorously fallen upon by Harry and Ethel, and Averil brightened as she heard him put to the rout. The shots were already heard, when two more black figures were seen in the distance, going towards the gate.

'Is that Richard?' exclaimed Tom.

'Ay, and I do believe, the widow!' rejoined Harry.

'Oh, yes,' said Averil. 'I heard her talking about Abbotstoke Church, and saying how much she wished to see it. She must have got Mr. May to show it to her.'

Ethel, who had no real fears for Richard herself, looked on amused to watch how the guardian spirit was going to act. He exclaimed, 'By the bye, Miss Ward, would you not like to see it? They have a very nice brass to old Mr. Rivers, and have been doing up the chancel.'

'Thank you, said Ave, 'I should prefer going to see how Leonard is getting on.'

'Right, Miss Ward,' said Harry; 'the church won't run away.'

'Well, then,' said Tom, after a moment's hesitation, 'I think I shall just run down, as the church is open, and see what sort of work they have made of the chancel.'

Ethel had the strongest fancy to try what he would do if she were to be seized with a desire to inspect the chancel; but she did not wish to let Harry and Averil appear on the ground under no escort but Minna's, and so permitted Tom to leave them to her keeping, and watched him hasten to break up the tete-a-tete.

Coming among the spectators, who, chiefly drawn up on the carriage drive, were watching from a safe distance the gray figures in turn take aim and emit from their rifles the flash and cotton-wool-like tuft of smoke, Ethel's interest was somewhat diminished by hearing that all the other marksmen had been distanced by the head keepers of Abbotstoke and Drydale, between whom the contest really lay.

'The rest is a study of character,' said Dr. Spencer, taking a turn up and down the road with her. 'I have been watching the various pairs of brothers; and I doubt if any stand the test as well as the house of May.'

'There's only one in the field to-day.'

'Yes, but I've seen them together before now, and I will say for even Tom that he has no black looks when his junior shoots better than he does.'

'Oh, yes! But then it is Aubrey.'

Dr. Spencer laughed. 'Lucky household where that "it is" accounts for all favours to the youngest, instead of for the countenance falling at his successes.'

'I am afraid I know whom you mean. But he has no generosity in him.'

'And his sister helps to make him jealous.'

'I am afraid she does; but though it is very sad, one can't wonder at her preference of the great to the small.'

'Poor girl, I wonder how she will get on when there is a new inmate in the happy family.'

'Ha! you shocking old gossip, what have you found out now?'

'Negotiation for the introduction of a Pug dog from the best circles-eh?'

'Well, if he were alone in the world, it would be a capital match.'

'So she thinks, I fancy; but £600 a year might do better than purchase so many incumbrances. Depend upon it, the late lamented will remain in the ascendant till there are no breakers ahead.'

In process of time, ladies, volunteers, and all, were assembled in the great music-room for the concert; and Ethel, having worked hard in the service of the company, thought her present duty lay with the sick child, and quietly crept away, taking, however, one full view of the entire scene, partly for her own satisfaction, partly in case Margaret should be inclined to question her on what every one was doing.

There was the orchestra, whose erectio

n Richard had superintended; there was the conductor in his station, and the broad back of the Cathedral organist at the piano, the jolly red visages of the singing men in their ranks, the fresh faces of the choristers full of elation, the star from London, looking quiet and ladylike, courteously led to her place by George Rivers himself. But, for all his civility, how bored and sullen he looked! and how weary were poor Flora's smiles, though her manner was so engaging, and her universal attention so unremitting! What a contrast to the serene, self-enfolded look of happiness and prosperity on the pretty youthful face of Blanche, her rich delicate silk spreading far beyond the sofa where she sat among the great ladies; and her tall yellow-haired husband leaning against the wall behind her, in wondering contemplation of his Blanche taking her place in her own county.

Farther back, among the more ordinary herd, Ethel perceived Mrs. Pugh, bridling demurely, with Tom on guard over her on one side, and Henry Ward looking sulky on the other, with his youngest sister in his charge. The other was looking very happy upon Leonard's knee, close to Averil and Mary, who were evidently highly satisfied to have coalesced. Averil was looking strikingly pretty-the light fell favourably on her profuse glossy hair, straight features, and brilliant colouring; her dark eyes were full of animation, and her lips were apart with a smile as she listened to Leonard's eager narration; and Ethel glanced towards Harry to see whether he were admiring. No; Harry was bringing in a hall arm-chair in the background, for a vary large, heavy, vulgar-looking old man, who seemed too ponderous and infirm for a place on the benches. Richard made one of a black mass of clergy, and Aubrey and Gertrude had asserted their independence by perching themselves on a window-seat, as far as possible from all relations, whence they nodded a merry saucy greeting to Ethel, and she smiled back again, thinking her tall boy in his gray tunic and black belt, and her plump girl in white with green ribbons, were as goodly a pair as the room contained.

But where was the Doctor?

Ethel had a shrewd suspicion where she should find him; and in the nursery he was, playing at spillekens with his left hand.

It was not easy to persuade him that the music would be wasted on her, and that he ought to go down that it might receive justice; but Margaret settled the question. 'You may go, grandpapa. Aunt Ethel is best to play at spillekens, for she has not got a left hand.'

'There's honour for me, who used to have two!' and therewith Ethel turned him out in time for the overture.

Margaret respected her aunt sufficiently not to be extra wayward with her, and between the spillekens, and a long story about Cousin Dickie in New Zealand, all went well till bed-time. There was something in the child's nervous temperament that made the first hours of the night peculiarly painful to her, and the sounds of the distant festivity added to her excitability. She fretted and tossed, moaned and wailed, sat up in bed and cried, snapped off attempts at hymns, would not listen to stories, and received Ethel's attempts at calm grave commands with bursts of crying, and calls for mamma and papa. The music had ceased, tuning of violins was heard, and Ethel dreaded the cries being heard down-stairs. She was at her wits' end, and was thinking who would most avail, and could be fetched with least sensation, when there was a soft knock at the door, and Harry's voice said, 'Hollo, what's the matter here?' In he came with his white glove half on, and perceiving the state of the case said, 'Can't go to sleep?'

'Oh, Uncle Harry, take me;' and the arms were stretched out, and the tear-stained face raised up.

'We'll put you to sleep as sound as if you were in a hammock just off middle watch,' said Harry; and the next moment he had her rolled up in her little blue dressing-gown, nestling on his broad shoulder, while he walked up and down the room, crooning out a nautical song, not in first-rate style, but the effect was perfect; the struggles and sobs were over, and when at the end of a quarter of an hour Harry paused and looked at the little thin sharp face, it was softened by peaceful sleep.

Ethel pointed to the door. There stood Flora, her eyes full of tears.

Harry laid the little sleeper on her bed, and covered her up. Flora laid her arm on his shoulder and gave him such a kiss as she had not given even when he had come back as from the dead. Then she signed to them to come, but sped away before them, not trusting herself to speak. Ethel tarried with Harry, who was in difficulties with gloves too small for his broad hand, and was pshawing at himself at having let Tom get them for him at Whitford.

'O, Harry,' said Ethel, 'you are the most really like papa of us all! How did you come to think of it!'

'I'd have given a good deal if any one would have walked quarter-deck with me some nights last summer,' said Harry, still intent on the glove. 'What is to be done, Ethel! that rogue Tom always snaps up all the beauty. I dare say he has engaged Miss Ward and the widow both.'

It was no time for sentiment; so Ethel suggested getting half into one glove, and carrying the other.

'You'll be quite irresistible enough, Harry! And if all the beauty is engaged, I'll dance with you myself.'

'Will you?' cried the lieutenant, with sparkling eyes, 'then you are a jolly old Ethel! Come along, then;' and he took her on his arm, ran down-stairs with her, and before she well knew where she was, or what was going on, she found herself in his great grasp passive as a doll, dragged off into the midst of a vehement polka that took her breath away. She trusted to him, and remained in a passive, half-frightened state, glad he was so happy; but in the first pause heartily wishing he would let her go, instead of which she only heard, 'Well done, old Ethel, you'll be a prime dancer yet! you're as light as a feather;' and before she had recovered her breath, off he led her with 'Go it again!'

When at length, panting and bewildered, she was safely placed on a seat, with 'You've had enough, have you? mind, I shan't let you off another time,' she found that her aberration had excited a good deal of sensation in her own family. Blanche and Gertrude could not repress their amusement; and Dr. May, with merry eyes, declared that she was coming out in a new light. She had only time to confide to him the reason that she had let Harry do what he pleased with her, before two volunteers were at her side.

'Miss May, I did not think you ever danced!'

'Nor I,' said Ethel; 'but you see what sailors can do with one.'

'Now, Ethel' said the other over his shoulder, 'now you have danced with Harry, you must have this waltz with me.'

'A dangerous precedent, Ethel,' said the Doctor, laughing.

'I couldn't waltz to save my life, Aubrey,' said Ethel; 'but if you can bear me through a polka as well as Harry did, you may try the next.'

'And won't you-will you-for once dance with me? said his companion imploringly.

'Very well, Leonard, if I can get through a quadrille;' and therewith Ethel was seized upon by both boys to hear the story of every hit and miss, and of each of the difficulties that their unpractised corps had encountered in getting round the corners between Stoneborough and the Grange. Then came Leonard's quadrille, which it might be hoped was gratifying to him; but which he executed with as much solemn deference as if he had been treading a minuet with a princess, plainly regarding it as the great event of the day. In due time, he resigned her to Aubrey; but poor Aubrey had been deluded by the facility with which the strong and practised sailor had swept his victim along; and Ethel grew terrified at the danger of collisions, and released herself and pulled him aside by force, just in time to avoid being borne down by the ponderous weight of Miss Boulder and her partner.

'You did not come to grief with Harry!' muttered the discomfited boy.

'No more did the lamb damage the eagle; but remember the fate of the jackdaw, Mr. Gray-coat! I deserve some ice for my exertions, so come into the hall and get some, and tell me if you have had better luck elsewhere.'

'I have had no partner but Minna Ward, and she trips as if one was a dancing-master.'

'And how has Tom been managing?'

'Stunningly civil! He began with Ave Ward, in the Lancers, and it was such fun-he chaffed her in his solemn way, about music I believe it was, and her harmonium. I could not quite hear, but I could see she was in a tremendous taking, and she won't recover it all the evening.'

'What a shame it is of Tom!'

'Oh! but it is such fun! And since that he has been parading with Pug.'

'She has not danced!'

'Oh no! She got an audience into Meta's little sitting-room-Henry Ward, Harvey Anderson, and some of the curates; they shut the door, and had some music on their own hook.'

'Was Richard there!'

'At first; but either he could not bear to see Meta's piano profaned, or he thought it too strong when they got to the sacred line, for he bolted, and is gone home.'

'There's Harry dancing with Fanny Anderson. He has not got Miss Ward all this time.'

'Nor will,' said Aubrey. 'Tom had put her in such a rage that she did not choose to dance with that cousin of hers, Sam Axworthy, so she was obliged to refuse every one else; and I had to put up with that child!'

'Sam Axworthy! He does not belong to our corps. How does he come here?'

'Oh! the old man has some houses in the borough, and an omnium gatherum like this was a good time to do the civil thing to him. There he is; peep into the card-room, and you'll see his great porpoise back, the same old man that Harry in his benevolence assisted to a chair. He shook hands with Leonard, and told him there was a snug desk at the Vintry Mill for him.'

'I dare say!'

'And when Leonard thanked him, and said he hoped to get off to Cambridge, he laughed that horrid fat laugh, and told him learning would never put him in good case. Where shall I find you a place to sit down? Pug and her tail have taken up all the room,' whispered Aubrey, as by the chief of the glittering tables in the hall, he saw Mrs. Pugh, drinking tea, surrounded by her attendant gentlemen, and with her aunt and Ella Ward, like satellites, a little way from her.

'Here is a coign of vantage,' said Ethel, seating herself on a step a little way up the staircase. 'How those people have taken possession of that child all day!'

'I fancy Leonard is come to reclaim her,' said Aubrey, 'don't you see him trying to work through and get at her! and Miss Ward told me she was going home early, to put the children to bed. Ha! what's the row? There's Leonard flaring up in a regular rage! Only look at his eyes-and Henry just like Gertrude's Java sparrow in a taking-'

'It must not be,' cried Ethel, starting up to attempt she knew not what, as she heard Leonard's words, 'Say it was a mistake, Henry! You cannot be so base as to persist!'

There it became evident that Ethel and Aubrey were seen over the balusters; Leonard's colour deepened, but his eye did not flinch; though Henry quailed and backed, and the widow gave a disconcerted laugh; then Leonard pounced on his little sister and carried her off to the cloak-room. 'What treason could it have been?' muttered Aubrey; 'we shall get it all from Ward;' but when Leonard re-appeared it was with his sister cloaked and bonneted on his arm, each leading a little one; he took them to the entrance and was seen no more.

Nor was the true history of that explosion ever revealed in the May family, though it had grave consequences at Bankside.

Rumour had long declared at Stoneborough that the member's little daughter was carefully secluded on account of some deformity, and Mrs. Pugh had been one of many ladies who had hoped to satisfy their curiosity on this head upon the present occasion. She had asked Henry Ward whether it were so, and he had replied with pique that he had no means of judging, he had never been called in at the Grange. By way of salve to his feelings, the sympathizing lady had suggested that the preference for London advice might be from the desire of secrecy, and improbable as he knew this to be, his vanity had forbidden him to argue against it. When no little Miss Rivers appeared, the notion of her affliction gained ground, and Leonard, whose gray back was undistinguishable from other gray backs, heard Mrs. Pugh citing his brother as an authority for the misfortune which Mr. and Mrs. Rivers so carefully concealed as to employ no surgeon from their own neighbourhood.

Falsehood, slander, cruelty, ingratitude, breach of hospitality, were the imputations that fired the hot brain of Leonard, and writhed his lips, as he started round, confronted the lady, and assured her it was a-a-a gross mistake. His father had always attended the child, and she must have misunderstood his brother. Then, seeing Henry at a little distance, Leonard summoned him to contradict the allegation; but at that moment the sudden appearance of the two Mays put the whole conclave to silence.

Not aware that Mrs. Pugh had confounded together his intelligence and her surmise, and made him responsible for both, Henry was shocked and grieved at his brother's insulting and violent demeanour, and exhausted himself in apologies and denunciations; while the kind-hearted lady interceded, for the boy, declaring that she doted on his generous spirit, but not confessing the piece of female embroidery which had embroiled the matter; probably not even aware of it, though sincerely and kindly desirous to avert the brother's anger. Her amiability, therefore, only strengthened Henry's sense of his brothers outrage, and his resolve to call him to account.

It was impossible that night, for Leonard had gone home with the sisters, and was in bed long before his brother returned. But at breakfast Henry found the forces drawn up against him, and his first attempt to remonstrate was retorted by the demand what he could mean by spreading such an abominable report-cruel-unfounded-ungrateful-spiteful-

Averil indeed divined that it was Mrs. Pugh's invention; but Henry was not inclined to give up Mrs. Pugh, and continued in the belief that Leonard's fiery imagination had fabricated the sentence, and then most improperly charged it on the lady, and on himself. Had it been as Leonard stated, said Henry, his conduct was shameful and required an apology, whereupon Leonard burst out in passion at being disbelieved, and Averil was no less indignant. The storm raged till the business of the day interrupted it; and in Henry's absence, Averil and her brother worked up their wrath again, at the atrocity of the assertion regarding the child of their entertainers, the granddaughter of their truest, kindest friend.

Averil would have rushed to Mary with the whole story, but for Leonard's solemn asseveration that if ever it came to the ears of any one of the Mays, he should send back his rifle to Mr. Ernescliffe, and work his way out to one of the colonies rather than again look any of the family in the face.

Henry divided his opponents next time, asking Leonard, in his sister's absence, whether he had come to his senses and would apologize? Leonard hoped Henry had come to his! On the whole, the dispute had lost some asperity by the absence of Averil, and though Leonard held his ground, and maintained that he had every right to deny the statement, and that it was Henry's duty to make Mrs. Pugh contradict it everywhere, yet the two approached nearer together, and there was less misunderstanding, fewer personalities.

But Averil could not forget or forgive. She persisted in manifesting her displeasure, and recurred to the subject till her pertinacity wore out Leonard himself.

'Nonsense, Ave,' he said at last, 'it was a foolish woman's gossip that Henry ought to have quashed; but that is no reason you should treat them like toads.'

'Would you have me sanction vile slander?'

'As if you were sanctioning slander by being decently civil! Is not it an intolerable thing that we three should never sit down to a meal in peace together?'

'O, Leonard, don't you think I feel the misery?'

Put an end to it then, and don't pit those poor children one against the other. Just fancy Minna's saying to me, "I love you and sister, but Ella loves Mrs. Pugh and Henry."'

'Yes, they have set Ella against me. She always appeals to Henry, and I can do nothing with her.'

Leonard looked out of the window and whistled, then said, as if he had made a discovery, 'I'll tell you what, Ave, something must be done to set things to rights between us, and I believe the best thing will be to call on Mrs. Pugh.'

'Not to apologize! O, Leonard!'

'Stuff and nonsense! Only to show we don't bear malice. Henry had been at you to call ever so long before this, had he not?'

'I can't see any reason for intimacy.'

'I declare, Ave, you are too bad! I only want you just to keep the peace with your own brother. You have led him the life of a dog these three days, and now when I want you to be a little obliging, you talk of intimacy!'

'Only because I know how it will be. If I give that woman an inch, she will take an ell.'

'Let her then. It would be much better than always living at daggers-drawn with one's brother.' Then, after waiting for her to say something, he added, 'If you won't go with me, I shall go alone.'

Averil rose, subdued but not convinced, reverencing her brother, but afraid of his concessions.

However, the call turned out well. Mrs. Pugh had a talent for making herself agreeable, and probably had liked the boy for his outburst. She would not let Mab be excluded, loaded her with admiration, and was extremely interested in the volunteer practice, so that both the young people were subjugated for the time by her pleasant manners, and went away ashamed of their own rancour against one so friendly and good-natured, and considerably relieved of their burden of animosity.

Their greeting to their brother was so cordial that he perceived their good-will, and was sorry that the dread of an evening of warfare had induced him to accept an invitation to dine at the Swan with Sam Axworthy and a party of his friends.

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