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   Chapter 17 No.17

The Trial, Or, More Links of the Daisy Chain By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 36892

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


Scorn of me recoils on you.

E. B. BROWNING

After the first relief, the relaxation of his brother's sentence had by no means mitigated Henry Ward's sense of disgrace, but had rather deepened it by keeping poor Leonard a living, not a dead, sorrow.

He was determined to leave England as soon as possible, that his sisters might never feel that they were the relative of a convict; and bringing Ella home, he promulgated a decree that Leonard was never to be mentioned; hoping that his existence might be forgotten by the little ones.

To hurry from old scenes, and sever former connections, was his sole thought, as if he could thus break the tie of brotherhood. There was a half-formed link that had more easily snapped. His courtship had been one of prudence and convenience, and in the overwhelming period of horror and suspense had been almost forgotten. The lady's attempts at sympathy had been rejected by Averil without obstruction from him, for he had no such love as could have prevented her good offices from becoming oppressive to his wounded spirit, and he had not sufficient energy or inclination to rouse himself to a response.

And when the grant of life enabled him to raise his head and look around him, he felt the failure of his plans an aggravation of his calamity, though he did not perceive that his impatience to rid himself of an encumbrance, and clear the way for his marriage, had been the real origin of the misfortune. Still he was glad that matters had gone no further, and that there was no involvement beyond what could be handsomely disposed of by a letter, resigning his pretensions, and rejoicing that innate delicacy and prudence had prevented what might have involved the lady's feelings more deeply in the misfortune of his family: representing himself in all good faith as having retreated from her proffered sympathy out of devoted consideration for her, and closing with elaborate thanks for her exertions on behalf of 'his unhappy brother.'

The letter had the honour of being infinitely lauded by Mrs. Ledwich, who dwelt on its nobleness and tenderness in many a tete-a-tete, and declared her surprise and thankfulness at the immunity of her dear Matilda's heart. In strict confidence, too, Dr. Spencer (among others) learnt that-though it was not to be breathed till the year was out, above all till the poor Wards were gone-the dear romantic girl had made her hand the guerdon for obtaining Leonard's life.

'So there's your fate, Dick,' concluded his friend.

'You forget the influence of the press,' returned Dr. May. 'People don't propose such guerdons without knowing who is to earn them.'

'Yes, she has long believed in King John,' said Ethel.

Meantime Averil Ward was acquiescing in all Henry's projects with calm desperate passiveness. She told Mary that she had resolved that she would never again contend with Henry, but would let him do what he would with herself and her sisters. Nor had his tenderness during her illness been in vain; it had inspired reliance and affection, such as to give her the instinct of adherence to him as the one stay left to her. With Leonard shut up, all places were the same to her, except that she was in haste to escape from the scenes connected with her lost brother; and she looked forward with dull despairing acquiescence to the new life with which Henry hoped to shake off the past.

A colony was not change enough for Henry's wishes; even there he made sure of being recognized as the convict's brother, and was resolved to seek his new home in the wide field of America, disguising his very name, as Warden, and keeping up no communication with the prisoner except under cover to Dr. May.

To this unfailing friend was committed the charge of the brother. He undertook to watch over the boy, visit him from time to time, take care of his health, and obtain for him any alleviations permitted by the prison rules; and as Henry reiterated to Averil, it was absolutely certain that everything possible from external kindness was thus secured. What more could they themselves have done, but show him their faces at the permitted intervals? which would be mere wear and tear of feeling, very bad for both parties.

Averil drooped, and disputed not-guessing, though not yet understanding, the heart hunger she should feel even for such a dreary glimpse.

Every hour seemed to be another turn of the wheel that hurried on the departure. The successor wished to take house and furniture as they stood, and to enter into possession as soon as possible, as he already had taken the practice. This coincided with Henry's burning impatience to be quit of everything, and to try to drown the sense of his own identity in the crowds of London. He was his sisters' only guardian, their property was entirely in his hands, and no one had the power of offering any obstacle, so that no delay could be interposed; and the vague design passed with startling suddenness to a fixed decision, to be carried into execution immediately. It came in one burst upon the May household that Averil and her sisters were coming to spend a last evening before their absolute packing to go on the Saturday to London, where they would provide their outfit, and start in a month for America.

The tidings were brought by Mary, who had, as usual, been spending part of the morning with Averil. No one seemed to be so much taken by surprise as Tom, whose first movement was to fall on his sisters for not having made him aware of such a preposterous scheme. They thought he knew. He knew that all the five quarters of the world had been talked of in a wild sort of a way; but how could he suppose that any man could be crazed enough to prefer to be an American citizen, when he might remain a British subject?

Repugnance to America was naturally strong in Tom, and had of late been enhanced by conversations with an Eton friend, who, while quartered in Canada, had made excursions into the States, and acquired such impressions as high-bred young officers were apt to bring home from a superficial view of them. Thus fortified, he demanded whether any reasonable person had tried to bring Henry Ward to his senses.

Ethel believed that papa had advised otherwise.

'Advised! It should have been enforced! If he is fool enough to alter his name, and throw up all his certificates what is to become of him? He will get no practice in any civilized place, and will have to betake himself to some pestilential swamp, will slave his sisters to death, spend their money, and destroy them with ague. How can you sit still and look on, Ethel?'

'But what could I do?'

'Stir up my father to interfere.'

'I thought you always warned us against interfering with Henry Ward.'

He treated this speech as maliciously designed to enrage him. 'Ethel!' he stammered, 'in a case like this-where the welfare-the very life-of one-of your dearest friend-of Mary's, I mean-I did think you would have been above-'

'But, Tom, I would do my utmost, and so would papa, if it were possible to do anything; but it is quite in vain. Henry is resolved against remaining under British rule, and America seems to be the only field for him.'

'Much you know or care!' cried Tom. 'Well, if no one else will, I must!'

With which words he departed, leaving his sister surprised at his solicitude, and dubious of the efficacy of his remonstrance, though she knew by experience that Tom was very different in a great matter from what he was in a small one.

Tom betook himself to Bankside, and the first person he encountered there was his little friend Ella, who ran up to him at once.

'Oh, Mr. Tom, we are going to America! Shall you be sorry?'

'Very sorry,' said Tom, as the little hand was confidingly thrust into his.

'I should not mind it, if you were coming too, Mr. Tom!'

'What, to play at French billiards?'

'No, indeed! To find objects for the microscope. I shall save all the objects I meet, and send them home in a letter.'

'An alligator or two, or a branch of the Mississippi,' said Tom, in a young man's absent way of half-answering a pet child; but the reply so struck Ella's fancy, that, springing through the open French window, she cried, 'Oh, Ave, Ave, here is Mr. Tom saying I am to send him a branch of the Mississippi in a letter, as an object for his microscope!'

'I beg your pardon,' said Tom, shocked at Averil's nervous start, and still more shocked at her appearance. She looked like one shattered by long and severe illness; her eyes were restless and distressed, her hair thrust back as if it oppressed her temples, her manner startled and over-wrought, her hand hot and unsteady-her whole air that of one totally unequal to the task before her. He apologized for having taken her by surprise, and asked for her brother. She answered, that he was busy at Mr. Bramshaw's, and she did not know when he would come in. But still Tom lingered; he could not bear to leave her to exertions beyond her strength. 'You are tiring yourself,' he said; 'can I do nothing to help you?'

'No, no, thank you; I am only looking over things. Minna is helping me, and I am making an inventory.'

'Then you must let me be of use to you. You must be as quiet as possible. You need rest.'

'I can't rest; I'm better busy!' she said hastily, with quick, aimless, bustling movements.

But Tom had his father's tone, as he gently arrested the trembling hand that was pulling open a drawer, and with his father's sweet, convincing smile, said, 'What's that for?' then drew up a large arm-chair, placed her in it, and, taking pen and list, began to write-sometimes at her suggestion, sometimes at his own-giving business-like and efficient aid.

The work was so grave and regular, that Ella soon found the room tedious, and crept out, calling Minna to aid in some of their own personal matters.

Slowly enumerating the articles they came to the piano. Averil went up to it, leant fondly against it, and softly touched the keys. 'My own,' she said, 'bought for a surprise to me when I came home from school! And oh, how he loved it!'

'Every one had reason to love it,' said Tom, in a low voice; but she did not heed or hear.

'I cannot-cannot part with it! When I sit here, I can almost feel him leaning over me! You must go-I will pay your expenses myself! I wonder if we should have such rough roads as would hurt you,' she added, caressingly toying with the notes, and bringing soft replies from them, as if she were conversing with a living thing.

'Ah!' said Tom, coming nearer, 'you will, I hope, take care to what your brother's impetuosity might expose either this, or yourself.'

'We shall all fare alike,' she said, carelessly.

'But how?' said Tom.

'Henry will take care of that.'

'Do you know, Miss Ward, I came down here with the purpose of setting some matters before your brother that might dissuade him from making the United States his home. You have justly more influence than I. Will you object to hear them from me?'

Ave could not imagine why Tom May, of all people in the world, should thrust himself into the discussion of her plans; but she could only submit to listen, or more truly to lean back with wandering thoughts and mechanical signs of assent, as he urged his numerous objections. Finally, she uttered a meek 'Thank you,' in the trust that it was over.

'And will you try to make your brother consider these things?'

Poor Ave could not have stood an examination on 'these things,' and feeling inadequate to undertake the subject, merely said something of 'very kind, but she feared it would be of no use.'

'I assure you, if you would persuade him to talk it over with me, that I could show him that he would involve you all in what would be most distasteful.'

'Thank you, but his mind is made up. No other course is open.'

'Could he not, at least, go and see what he thinks of it, before taking you and your sisters?'

'Impossible!' said Averil. 'We must all keep together; we have no one else.'

'No, indeed, you must not say that,' cried Tom, with a fire that startled Averil in the midst of her languid, dreary indifference.

'I did not mean,' she said, 'to be ungrateful for the kindness of your family-the Doctor and dear Mary, above all; but you must know-'

'I know,' he interrupted, 'that I cannot see you exiling yourself with your brother, because you think you have no one else to turn to-you, who are so infinitely dear-'

'This is no time for satire,' she said, drawing aside with offence, but still wearily, and as if she had not given attention enough to understand him.

'You mistake me,' he exclaimed; 'I mean that no words can tell how strong the feeling is that-that-No, I never knew its force till now; but, Averil, I cannot part with you-you who are all the world to me.'

Lifting her heavy eyelids for a moment, she looked bewildered, and then, moving towards the door, said, 'I don't know whether this is jest or earnest-any way, it is equally unsuitable.'

'What do you see in me,' cried Tom, throwing himself before her, 'that you should suppose me capable of jesting on such a subject, at such a moment?'

'I never saw anything but supercilious irony,' she answered, in the same dreamy, indifferent way, as if hardly aware what she was saying, and still moving on.

'I cannot let you go thus. You must hear me,' he cried, and he wheeled round an easy-chair, with a gesture of entreaty; which she obeyed, partly because she was hardly alive to understand his drift, partly because she could scarcely stand; and there she sat, in the same drowsy resignation with which she had listened to his former expostulation.

Calm collected Tom was almost beside himself. 'Averil! Averil!' he cried, as he sat down opposite and bent as close to her as possible, 'if I could only make you listen or believe me! What shall I say? It is only the honest truth that you are the dearest thing in the whole world to me! The very things that have given you most offence arose from my struggles with my own feelings. I tried to crush what would have its way in spite of me, and now you see its force.' He saw greater life and comprehension in her eye as he spoke, but the look was not encouraging; and he continued: 'How can I make you understand! Oh! if I had but more time!-but-but it was only the misery of those moments that showed me why it was that I was always irresistibly drawn to you, and yet made instinctive efforts to break the spell; and now you will not understand.'

'I do understand,' said Averil, at length entirely roused, but chiefly by resentment. 'I understand how much a country surgeon's daughter is beneath an M. D.'s attention, and how needful it was to preserve the distance by marks of contempt. As a convict's sister, the distance is so much widened, that it is well for both that we shall never meet again.'

Therewith she had risen, and moved to the door. 'Nay, nay,' he cried; 'it is for that very reason that all my past absurdity is trampled on! I should glory in a connection with such as Leonard! Yes, Averil,' as he fancied he saw her touched, 'you have never known me yet; but trust yourself and him to me, and you will give him a true brother, proud of his nobleness. You shall see him constantly-you shall keep your sisters with you. Only put yourself in my hands, and you shall know what devotion is.'

He would have said more, but Averil recalled herself, and said: 'This is mere folly; you would be very sorry, were I to take you at your word. It would be unworthy in me towards your father, towards Henry, towards you, for me to listen to you, even if I liked you, and that you have taken good care to prevent me from doing.' And she opened the door, and made her way into the hall.

'But, Averil!-Miss Ward!' he continued, pursuing her, 'if, as I swear I will, I track out the real offender, bring him to justice, proclaim Leonard's innocence? Then-'

She was half-way up the stairs. He had no alternative but to take his hat and stride off in a tumult of dismay, first of all at the rejection, and next at his own betrayal of himself. Had he guessed what it would come to, would he ever have trusted himself in that drawing-room? This was the meaning of it all, was it? He, the sensible man of the family, not only to be such an egregious ass, but to have made such a fool of himself! For he was as furious at having committed himself to himself, as he was at his avowal to Averil-he, who had always been certain of loving so wisely and so well, choosing an example of the true feminine balance of excellence, well born, but not too grand for the May pretensions; soundly religious, but not philanthropically pious; of good sense and ability enough for his comfort, but not of overgrown genius for his discomfort; of good looks enough for satisfaction, but not for dangerous admiration; of useful, but not overwhelming wealth; of creditable and not troublesome kindred-that he should find himself plunged headlong into love by those brown eyes and straight features, by the musical genius, talents anything but domestic, ill-regulated enthusiasm, nay, dislike to himself, in the very girl whose station and family he contemned at the best, and at the very time when her brother was a convict, and her sisters dependent! Was he crazed? Was he transformed? What frenzy had come over him to endear her the more for being the reverse of his ideal? And, through all, his very heart was bursting at the thought of the wounds he had given her in his struggles against the net of fascination. He had never imagined the extent of the provocation he gave; and in truth, his habitual manner was such, that it was hard to distinguish between irony and genuine interest. And now it was too late! What should he be henceforth to her? What would Stoneborough and his future be to him? He would, he believed, have taught himself to acquiesce, had he seen any chance of happiness before her; but the picture he drew of her prospects justified his misery, at being only able to goad her on, instead of drawing her back. He was absolutely amazed at himself. He had spoken only the literal truth, when he said that he had been unconscious of the true nature of the feelings that always drew him towards her, though only to assert his independence, and make experiments by teasing in his ironically courte

ous way. Not until the desolate indifference of her tone had incited him to show her that Henry was not all that remained to her, had he arrived at the perception that, in the late weeks of anxiety, she had grown into his heart, and that it was of no use to argue the point with himself, or think what he would do, the fact was accomplished-his first love was a direct contradiction to his fixed opinions, he had offended her irrevocably and made a fool of himself, and she was going away to dreariness!

At first he had rushed off into the melancholy meadows, among the sodden hay-cocks still standing among the green growth of grass; but a shower, increasing the damp forlornness of the ungenial day, made him turn homewards. When, late in the afternoon, Ethel came into the schoolroom for some Cocksmoor stores, she found him leaning over his books on the table. This was his usual place for study; and she did not at once perceive that the attitude was only assumed on her entrance, so kneeling in front of her cupboard, she asked, 'What success?'

'I have not seen him.'

'Oh! I thought I saw you going-'

'Never mind! I mean,' he added with some confusion, 'I wish for a little peace. I have a horrid headache.'

'You!' exclaimed Ethel; and turning round, she saw him leaning back in his chair, a defenceless animal without his spectacles, his eyes small and purpled ringed, his hair tossed about, his spruceness gone. 'I am sure you are not well,' she said.

'Quite well. Nonsense, I only want quiet.'

'Let me give you some of Aubrey's camphor liniment.'

'Thank you,' submitting to a burning application to his brow; but as she lingered in anxiety, 'I really want nothing but quiet.'

How like Norman he looks! thought Ethel, as she cast her last glance and departed. Can he be going to be ill? If he would only tell when anything is the matter! I know papa says that some of us feel with our bodies, and some with our minds; but then I never knew Tom much affected any way, and what is all this to him? And a sigh betrayed the suppressed heartache that underlaid all her sensations. I am afraid it must be illness; but any way, he will neither tell nor bear to have it noticed, so I can only watch.

Enter the two little Wards, with a message that Ave was sorry, but that she was too much tired to come that evening; and when Mary regretted not having been able to come and help her, Ella answered that 'Mr. Tom had come and helped her for a long time.'

'Yes,' said Minna; 'but I think he must have done it all wrong, for, do you know, I found the list he had made torn up into little bits.

Ethel almost visibly started, almost audibly exclaimed. At tea-time Tom appeared, his trimness restored, but not his usual colouring; and Ella hailed him with reproaches for having gone away without telling her. The soft attention of which the child had a monopoly did not fail, though he bent down, trying to keep her to himself, and prevent their colloquy from attracting notice; but they were so close behind Ethel's chair, that she could not help hearing: 'We were only gone to dig up the violets that you are to have, and if you had only stayed you would have seen Henry, for he came in by the little gate, and when I went to tell you, you were gone.'

Ethel wondered whether the blushes she felt burning all over her face and neck would be remarked by those before her, or would reveal to Tom, behind her, that the child was giving her the key to his mystery. Marvelling at the exemplary gentleness and patience of his replies to his little coquettish tormentor, she next set herself to relieve him by a summons to Ella to tea and cherries. Fortunately the fruit suggested Dr. May's reminiscences of old raids on cherry orchards now a mere name, and he thus engrossed all the younger audience not entirely preoccupied. He set himself to make the little guests forget all their sorrows, as if he could not help warming them for the last time in the magic of his own sunshine; but Ethel heard and saw little but one figure in the quietest corner of the room, a figure at which she scarcely dared to look.

'And there you are!' so went her thoughts. 'It is true then! Fairly caught! Your lofty crest vailed at last-and at such a time! O, Tom, generous and true-hearted, in spite of all your nonsense! How could she help being touched? In the net and against his will! Oh, triumph of womanhood! I am so glad! No, I'm not, it is best this way, for what an awkward mess it would have been! She is dear Leonard's sister, to be sure, and there is stuff in her, but papa does not take to her, and I don't know whether she would fit in with Tom himself! But oh! the fun it would have been to see Flora's horror at finding her one prudent brother no better than the rest of us! Dear old Tom! The May heart has been too strong for the old Professor nature! What a retribution for his high mightiness! Harry and Richard to be guarded from making fools of themselves! What a nice cloak for jealousy! But it is no laughing matter! How miserable, how thoroughly upset, he is! Poor dear Tom! If I could only go and kiss you, and tell you that I never loved you half so well; but you would rather die than let out one word, I know! Why, any one of the others would have had it all out long ago! And I don't know whether it is quite safe to screen the lamp from those aching eyes that are bearing it like a martyr! There! Well, maybe he will just stand the knowing that I know, provided I don't say a word; but I wish people would not be so "self-contained!"'

Self-contained Tom still continued in the morning, though looking sallow and wan; but, in a political argument with his father, he was snappish and overbearing, and in the course of the day gave another indication of being thrown off his balance, which was even harder for Ethel to endure.

Throughout the suspense on Leonard's account, Aubrey had been a source of anxiety to all, especially to Tom. The boy's sensitive frame had been so much affected, that tender dealings with him were needful, and all compulsion had been avoided. His father had caused him to be put on the sick-list of the volunteers; and as for his studies, though the books were daily brought out, it was only to prevent the vacuum of idleness; and Tom had made it his business to nurse his brother's powers, avoid all strain on the attention, and occupy without exciting, bearing with his fitful moods of despondence or of hope, whether they took the form of talking or of dreaming.

But now that all was over, every one knew that it was time to turn over a new leaf; and Tom, with his sore heart, did it with a vengeance, and on the first instance of carelessness, fell on the poor family pet, as a younger brother and legitimate souffre douleur, with vehemence proportioned to his own annoyance. It was a fierce lecture upon general listlessness, want of manliness, spirit, and perseverance, indifference to duties he had assumed. Nonsense about feelings-a fellow was not worth the snap of a finger who could not subdue his feelings-trash.

The sisters heard the storm from the drawing-room, and Gertrude grew hotly indignant, and wanted Ethel to rush in to the rescue; but Ethel, though greatly moved, knew that female interposition only aggravated such matters, and restrained herself and her sister till she heard Tom stride off. Then creeping in on tiptoe, she found the boy sitting stunned and confounded by the novelty of the thing.

'What can it be all about, Ethel? I never had such a slanging in my life?'

'I don't think Tom is quite well. He had a bad headache last night.'

Then I hope-I mean, I think-he must have made it worse! I know mine aches, as if I had been next door to the great bell;' and he leant against his sister.

'I am afraid you really were inattentive.'

'No worse than since the heart has gone out of everything. But that was not all! Ethel, can it really be a disgrace, and desertion, and all that, if I don't go on with those volunteers, when it makes me sick to think of touching my rifle?' and his eyes filled with tears.

'It would be a great effort, I know,' said Ethel, smoothing his hair; 'but after all, you volunteered not for pleasure, but because your country wanted defence.'

'The country? I don't care for it, since it condemned him, when he was serving it.'

'He would not say that, Aubrey! He would only be vexed to hear that you gave in, and were fickle to your undertaking. Indeed, if I were the volunteer, I should think it due to him, not to shrink as if I were ashamed of what he was connected with.'

Aubrey tried to answer her sweet high-spirited smile, but he had been greatly hurt and distressed, and the late reproach to his manhood embittered his tears without making it easier to repress them; and pushing away his chair, he darted up-stairs.

'Poor dear fellow! I've been very hard on him, and only blamed instead of comforting,' thought Ethel sadly, as she slowly entered the passage, 'what shall I think of, to make a break for both of those two?'

'So you have been cockering your infant,' said Tom, meeting her. 'You mean to keep him a baby all his life.'

'Tom, I want to talk to you,' said she.

In expectation of her displeasure, he met it half way, setting his back against the passage wall, and dogmatically declaring, 'You'll be the ruin of him if you go on in this way! How is he ever to go through the world if you are to be always wiping his tears with an embroidered pocket-handkerchief, and cossetting him up like a blessed little sucking lamb?'

'Of course he must rough it,' said Ethel, setting her back against the opposite wall; 'I only want him to be hardened; but after a shock like this, one cannot go on as if one was a stock or stake. Even a machine would have its wheels out of order-'

'Well, well, but it is time that should be over.'

'So it is;' and as the sudden thought flashed on her, 'Tom, I want you to reconsider your journey, that you gave up in the spring, and take him-'

'I don't want to go anywhere,' he wearily said.

'Only it would be so good for him,' said Ethel earnestly; 'he really ought to see something taller than the Minster tower, and you are the only right person to take him, you are so kind to him.'

'For instance?' he said, smiling.

'Accidents will happen in the best regulated families; besides, he did want shaking up. I dare say he will be the better for it. There's the dinner-bell.'

To her surprise, she found his arm round her waist, and a kiss on her brow. 'I thought I should have caught it,' he said; 'you are not half a fool of a sister after all.'

Aubrey was not in the dining-room; and after having carved, Tom, in some compunction, was going to look for him, when he made his appearance in his uniform.

'Oho!' said the Doctor, surprised.

'There's to be a grand parade with the Whitford division,' he answered; and no more was said.

Not till the eight o'clock twilight of the dripping August evening did the family reassemble. Ethel had been preparing for a journey that Mary and Gertrude were to make to Maplewood; and she did not come down till her father had returned, when following him into the drawing-room, she heard his exclamation, 'Winter again!'

For the fire was burning, Tom was sitting crumpled over it, with his feet on the fender, and his elbows on his knees, and Aubrey in his father's arm-chair, his feet over the side, so fast asleep that neither entrance nor exclamation roused him; the room was pervaded with an odour of nutmeg and port wine, and a kettle, a decanter, and empty tumblers told tales. Now the Doctor was a hardy and abstemious man, of a water-drinking generation; and his wife's influence had further tended to make him-indulgent as he was-scornful of whatever savoured of effeminacy or dissipation, so his look and tone were sharp, and disregardful of Aubrey's slumbers.

'We got wet through,' said Tom; 'he was done up, had a shivering fit, and I tried to prevent mischief.'

'Hm! said the Doctor, not mollified. 'Cold is always the excuse. But another time don't teach your brother to make this place like a fast man's rooms.'

Ethel was amazed at Tom's bearing this so well. With the slightest possible wrinkle of the skin of his forehead, he took up the decanter and carried it off to the cellaret.

'How that boy sleeps!' said his father, looking at him.

'He has had such bad nights!' said Ethel. 'Don't be hard on Tom, he is very good about such things, and would not have done it without need. He is so careful of Aubrey!'

'Too careful by half,' said the Doctor, smiling placably as his son returned. 'You are all in a league to spoil that youngster. He would be better if you would not try your hand on his ailments, but would knock him about.'

'I never do that without repenting it,' said Tom; then, after a pause, 'It is not spirit that is wanting, but you would have been frightened yourself at his state of exhaustion.'

'Of collapse, don't you mean?' said the Doctor, with a little lurking smile. 'However, it is vexatious enough; he had been gaining ground all the year, and now he is regularly beaten down again.'

'Suppose I was to take him for a run on the Continent?'

'What, tired of the hospital?'

'A run now and then is duty, not pleasure,' replied Tom, quietly; while Ethel burnt to avert from him these consequences of his peculiar preference for appearing selfish.

'So much for railway days! That will be a new doctrine at Stoneborough. Well, where do you want to go?'

'I don't want to go anywhere.'

Ethel would not have wondered to see him more sullen than he looked at that moment. It was lamentable that those two never could understand each other, and that either from Tom's childish faults, his resemblance to his grandfather, or his habitual reserve, Dr. May was never free from a certain suspicion of ulterior motives on his part. She was relieved at the influx of the rest of the party, including Richard; and Aubrey wakening, was hailed with congratulations on the soundness of his sleep, whilst she looked at Tom with a meaning smile as she saw her father quietly feel the boy's hand and brow. The whole family were always nursing the lad, and scolding one another for it.

Tom had put himself beside Ethel, under the shade of her urn, and she perceived that he was ill at ease, probably uncertain whether any confidences had been bestowed on her or Mary from the other side. There was no hope that the topic would be avoided, for Richard began with inquiries for Averil.

'She is working herself to death,' said Mary, sadly; 'but she says it suits her.'

'And it does,' said the Doctor; 'she is stronger every day. There is nothing really the matter with her.'

'Contrary blasts keep a ship upright,' said Gertrude, 'and she has them in abundance. We found her in the midst of six people, all giving diametrically opposite advice.'

'Dr. Spencer was really helping, and Mr. Wright was there about his own affairs,' said Ethel, in a tone of repression.

'And Mrs. Ledwich wanted her to settle on the Ohio to assist the runaway slaves,' continued Gertrude.

'It does not tease her as if she heard it,' said Mary.

'No,' said the Doctor, 'she moves about like one in a dream, and has no instinct but to obey her brother.'

'Well, I am glad to be going,' said Daisy; 'it will be flat when all the excitement is over, and we have not the fun of seeing Tom getting rises out of Ave Ward.'

This time Tom could not repress a sudden jerk, and Ethel silenced her sister by a hint that such references were not nice when people were in trouble.

'By the bye,' said Aubrey, 'speaking of going away, what were you saying while I was asleep? or was it a dream that I was looking through Tom's microscope at a rifle bullet in the Tyrol?'

'An inspiration from Tom's brew,' said the Doctor.

'Weren't you saying anything?' said Aubrey, eagerly. 'I'm sure there was something about duty and pleasure. Were you really talking of it?'

'Tom was, and if it is to put some substance into those long useless legs, I don't care if you do start off.'

Aubrey flashed into a fresh being. He had just been reading a book about the Tyrol, and Tom not caring at all where they were to go, this gave the direction. Aubrey rushed to borrow a continental Bradshaw from Dr. Spencer, and the plan rapidly took form; with eager suggestions thrown in by every one, ending with the determination to start on the next Monday morning.

'That's settled,' said Tom, wearily, when he and Ethel, as often happened, had lingered behind the rest; 'only, Ethel, there's one thing. You must keep your eye on the Vintry Mill, and fire off a letter to me if the fellow shows any disposition to bolt.'

'If I can possibly find out-'

'Keep your eyes open; and then Hazlitt has promised to let me know if that cheque of Bilson's is cashed. If I am away, telegraph, and meantime set my father on the scent. It may not hang that dog himself, but it may save Leonard.'

'Oh, if it would come!'

'And meantime-silence, you know-'

'Very well;' then lingering, 'Tom, I am sure you did the right thing by Aubrey, and so was papa afterwards.'

His brow darkened for a moment, but shaking it off he said, 'I'll do my best for your cosset lamb, and bring him back in condition.'

'Thank you; I had rather trust him with you than any one.'

'And how is it that no one proposes a lark for you, old Ethel?' said Tom, holding her so as to study her face. 'You look awfully elderly and ragged.'

'Oh, I'm going to be left alone with the Doctor, and that will be the greatest holiday I ever had.'

'I suppose it is to you,' said Tom, with a deep heavy sigh, perhaps glad to have some ostensible cause for sighing.

'Dear Tom, when you are living here, and working with him-'

'Ah-h!' he said almost with disgust, 'don't talk of slavery to me before my time. How I hate it, and everything else! Good night!'

'Poor Tom!' thought Ethel. 'I wish papa knew him better and would not goad him. Will Averil ever wake to see what she has done, and feel for him? Though I don't know why I should wish two people to be unhappy instead of one, and there is weight enough already. O, Leonard, I wonder if your one bitter affliction will shield you from the others that may be as trying, and more tempting!'

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