MoboReader> Literature > The Trial, Or, More Links of the Daisy Chain

   Chapter 26 No.26

The Trial, Or, More Links of the Daisy Chain By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 35440

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


And Bishop Gawain as he rose,

Said, 'Wilton, grieve not for thy woes,

Disgrace and trouble;

For He who honour best bestows,

Can give thee double.'-Marmion

Dr. May had written to Portland, entreating that no communication might be made to Leonard Ward before his arrival; and the good physician's affection for the prisoner had been so much observed, that no one would have felt it fair to anticipate him. Indeed, he presented himself at the prison gates only two hours after the arrival of the documents, when no one but the governor was aware of their contents.

Leonard was as usual at his business in the schoolmaster's department; and thither a summons was sent for him, while Dr. May and the governor alone awaited his arrival. Tom's visit was still very recent; and Leonard entered with anxious eyes, brow drawn together, and compressed lips, as though braced to meet another blow; and the unusual room, the presence of the governor instead of the warder, and Dr. May's irrepressible emotion, so confirmed the impression, that his face at once assumed a resolute look of painful expectation.

'My boy,' said Dr. May, clasping both his hands in his own, 'you have borne much of ill. Can you bear to hear good news?'

'Am I to be sent out to Australia already?' said Leonard-for a shortening of the eight years before his ticket-of-leave was the sole hope that had presented itself.

'Sent out, yes; out to go wherever you please, Leonard. The right is come round. The truth is out. You are a free man! Do you know what that is? It is a pardon. Your pardon. All that can be done to right you, my boy-but it is as good as a reversal of the sentence.'

The Doctor had spoken this with pauses; going on, as Leonard, instead of answering, stood like one in a dream, and at last said with difficulty, 'Who did it then?'

'It was as you always believed.'

'Has he told?' said Leonard, drawing his brows together with the effort to understand.

'No, Leonard. The vengeance he had brought on himself did not give space for repentance; but the pocket-book, with your receipt, was upon him, and your innocence is established.'

'And let me congratulate you,' added the governor, shaking hands with him; 'and add, that all I have known of you has been as complete an exculpation as any discovery can be.'

Leonard's hand was passive, his cheek had become white, his forehead still knit. 'Axworthy!' he said, still as in a trance.

'Yes. Hurt in a brawl at Paris. He was brought to the Hotel Dieu; and my son Tom was called to see him.'

'Sam Axworthy! repeated Leonard, putting his hand over his eyes, as if one sensation overpowered everything else; and thus he stood for some seconds, to the perplexity of both.

They showed him the papers: he gazed, but without comprehension; and then putting the bag, provided by Tom, into his hand, they sent him, moving in a sort of mechanical obedience, into the room of one of the officials to change his dress.

Dr. May poured out to the governor and chaplain, who by this time had joined them, the history of Leonard's generous behaviour at the time of the trial, and listened in return to their account of the growing impression he had created-a belief, almost reluctant, that instead of being their prime specimen, he could only be in their hands by mistake. He was too sincere not to have confessed had he been really guilty; and in the long run, such behaviour as his would have been impossible in one unrepentant. He had been the more believed from the absence of complaint, demonstration, or assertion; and the constant endeavour to avoid notice, coupled with the quiet thorough execution of whatever was set before him with all his might.

This was a theme to occupy the Doctor for a long time; but at last he grew eager for Leonard's return, and went to hasten him. He started up, still in the convict garb, the bag untouched.

'I beg your pardon,' he said, when his friend's exclamation had reminded him of what had been desired of him; and in a few minutes he reappeared in the ordinary dress of a gentleman, but the change did not seem to have made him realize his freedom-there was the same submissive manner, the same conventional gesture of respect in reply to the chaplain's warm congratulation.

'Come, Leonard, I am always missing the boat, but I don't want to do so now. We must get home to-night. Have you anything to take with you?'

'My Bible and Prayer-Book. They are my own, sir;' as he turned to the governor. 'May I go to my cell for them?'

Again they tarried long for him, and became afraid that he had fallen into another reverie; but going to fetch him, found that the delay was caused by the farewells of all who had come in his way. The tidings of his full justification had spread, and each official was eager to wish him good speed, and thank him for the aid of his example and support. The schoolmaster, who had of late treated him as a friend, kept close to him, rejoicing in his liberation, but expecting to miss him sorely; and such of the convicts as were within reach, were not without their share in the general exultation. He had never galled them by his superiority; and though Brown, the clerk, had been his only friend, he had done many an act of kindness; and when writing letters for the unlearned, had spoken many a wholesome simple word that had gone home to the heart. His hand was as ready for a parting grasp from a fellow-prisoner as from a warder; and his thought and voice were recalled to leave messages for men out of reach; his eyes moistened at the kindly felicitations; but when he was past the oft-trodden precincts of the inner court and long galleries, the passiveness returned, and he received the last good-byes of the governor and superior officers, as if only half alive to their import. And thus, silent, calm, and grave, his composure like that of a man walking in his sleep, did Leonard Ward pass the arched gateway, enter on the outer world, and end his three and a half years of penal servitude.

'I'm less like an angel than he is like St. Peter,' thought Dr. May, as he watched the fixed dreamy gaze, 'but this is like "yet wist he not that it was true, but thought he saw a vision." When will he realize liberty, and enjoy it? I shall do him a greater kindness by leaving him to himself.'

And in spite of his impatience, Dr. May refrained from disturbing that open-eyed trance all the way down the long hill, trusting to the crowd in the steamer for rousing him to perceive that he was no longer among russet coats and blue shirts; but he stood motionless, gazing, or at least his face turned, towards the Dorset coast, uttering no word, making no movement, save when summoned by his guide-then obeying as implicitly as though it were his jailor.

So they came to the pier; and so they walked the length of Weymouth, paced the platform, and took their places in the train. Just as they had shot beyond the town, and come into the little wooded valleys beyond, Leonard turned round, and with the first sparkle in his eye, exclaimed, 'Trees! Oh, noble trees and hedges!' then turned again to look in enchantment at the passing groups-far from noble, though bright with autumn tints-that alternated with the chalk downs.

Dr. May was pleased at this revival, and entertained at the start and glance of inquiring alarm from an old gentleman in the other corner. Presently, in the darkness of a cutting, again Leonard spoke: 'Where are you taking me, Dr. May?'

'Home, of course.'

Whatever the word might imply to the poor lad, he was satisfied, and again became absorbed in the sight of fields, trees, and hedgerows; while Dr. May watched the tokens of secret dismay in their fellow-traveller, who had no doubt understood 'home' to mean his private asylum. Indeed, though the steady full dark eyes showed no aberration, there was a strange deep cave between the lid and the eyebrow, which gave a haggard look; the spare, worn, grave features had an expression-not indeed weak, nor wandering, but half bewildered, half absorbed, moreover, in spite of Tom's minute selection of apparel, it had been too hasty a toilette for the garments to look perfectly natural; and the cropped head was so suspicious, that it was no wonder that at the first station, the old gentleman gathered up his umbrella, with intense courtesy squeezed gingerly to the door, carefully avoiding any stumble over perilous toes, and made his escape-entering another carriage, whence he no doubt signed cautions against the lunatic and his keeper, since no one again invaded their privacy.

Perhaps this incident most fully revealed to the Doctor, how unlike other people his charge was, how much changed from the handsome spirited lad on whom the trouble had fallen; and he looked again and again at the profile turned to the window, as fixed and set as though it had been carved.

'Ah, patience is an exhausting virtue!' said he to himself. 'Verily it is bearing-bearing up under the full weight; and the long bent spring is the slower in rebounding in proportion to its inherent strength. Poor lad, what protracted endurance it has been! There is health and force in his face; no line of sin, nor sickness, nor worldly care, such as it makes one's heart ache to see aging young faces; yet how utterly unlike the face of one and-twenty! I had rather see it sadder than so strangely settled and sedate! Shall I speak to him again? Not yet: those green hill-sides, those fields and cattle, must refresh him better than my clavers, after his grim stony mount of purgatory. I wish it were a brighter day to greet him, instead of this gray damp fog.'

The said fog prevented any semblance of sunset; but through the gray moonlit haze, Leonard kept his face to the window, pertinaciously clearing openings in the bedewed glass, as though the varying outline of the horizon had a fascination for him. At last, after ten minutes of glaring gas at a junction had by contrast rendered the mist impenetrable, and reduced the view to brightened clouds of steam, and to white telegraphic posts, erecting themselves every moment, with their wires changing their perspective in incessant monotony, he ceased his gaze, and sat upright in his place, with the same strange rigid somnambulist air.

Dr. May resolved to rouse him.

'Well, Leonard,' he said, 'this has been a very long fever; but we are well through it at last-with the young doctor from Paris to our aid.'

Probably Leonard only heard the voice, not the words, for he passed his hand over his face, and looked up to the Doctor, saying dreamily, 'Let me see! Is it all true?' and then, with a grave wistful look, 'It was not I who did that thing, then?'

'My dear!' exclaimed the Doctor, starting forward, and catching hold of his hand, 'have they brought you to this?'

'I always meant to ask you, if I ever saw you alone again,' said Leonard.

'But you don't mean that you have imagined it!'

'Not constantly-not when any one was with me,' said Leonard, roused by Dr. May's evident dismay; and drawn on by his face of anxious inquiry. 'At Milbank, I generally thought I remembered it just as they described it in court, and that it was some miserable ruinous delusion that hindered my confessing; but the odd thing was, that the moment any one opened my door, I forgot all about it, resolutions and all, and was myself again.'

'Then surely-surely you left that horror with the solitude?'

'Yes, till lately; but when it did come back, I could not be sure what was recollection of fact, and what of my own fancy;' and he drew his brows together in painful effort. 'Did I know who did it, or did I only guess?'

'You came to a right conclusion, and would not let me act on it.'

'And I really did write the receipt, and not dream it?'

'That receipt has been in my hand. It was what has brought you here.' And now to hearing ears, Dr. May went over the narrative; and Leonard stood up under the little lamp in the roof of the carriage to read the papers.

'I recollect-I understand,' he said, presently, and sat down, grave and meditative-no longer dreamy, but going over events, which had at last acquired assurance to his memory from external circumstances. Presently his fingers were clasped together over his face, his head bent, and then he looked up, and said, 'Do they know it-my sister and brother?'

'No. We would not write till you were free. You must date the first letter from Stoneborough.'

The thought had brought a bitter pang. 'One half year sooner-' and he leant back in his seat, with fingers tightly pressed together, and trembling with emotion.

'Nay, Leonard; may not the dear child be the first to rejoice in the fulfilment of her own sweet note of comfort? They could not harm the innocent.'

'Not innocent,' he said, 'not innocent of causing all the discord that has ended in their exile, and the dear child's death.'

'Then this is what has preyed on you, and changed you so much more of late,' said Dr. May.

'When I knew that I was indeed guilty of her death,' said Leonard, in a calm full conviction of too long standing to be accompanied with agitation, though permanently bowing him down.

'And you never spoke of this: not to the chaplain?'

'I never could. It would have implied all the rest that he could not believe. And it would not have changed the fact.'

'The aspect of it may change, Leonard. You know yourself how many immediate causes combined, of which you cannot accuse yourself-your brother's wrongheadedness, and all the rest. And,' added the Doctor, recovering himself, 'you do see it in other aspects, I know. Think of the spirit set free to be near you-free from the world that has gone so hard with you!'

'I can't keep that thought long; I'm not worthy of it.'

Again he was silent; but presently said, as with a sudden thought, 'You would have told me if there were any news of Ave.'

'No, there has been no letter since her last inclosure for you,' and then Dr. May gave the details from the papers on the doings of Henry's division of the army.

'Will Henry let me be with them?' said Leonard, musingly.

'They will come home, depend upon it. You must wait till you hear.'

Leonard thought a little while, then said, 'Where did you say I was to go, Dr. May?'

'Where, indeed? Home, Leonard-home. Ethel is waiting for us. To the High Street.'

Leonard looked up again with his bewildered face, then said, 'I know what you do with me will be right, but-'

'Had you rather not?' said the Doctor, startled.

'Rather!' and the Doctor, to his exceeding joy, saw the fingers over his eyes moist with the tears they tried to hide; 'I only meant-' he added, with an effort, 'you must think and judge-I can't think-whether I ought.'

'If you ask me that,' said Dr. May, earnestly, 'all I have to say is, that I don't know what palace is worthy of you.'

There was not much said after that; and the Doctor fell asleep, waking only at the halts at stations to ask where he was.

At last came 'Blewer!' and as the light shone on the clock, Leonard said, 'A quarter past twelve! It is the very train I went by! Is it a dream?'

Ten minutes more, and 'Stoneborough' was the cry. Hastily springing out, shuffling the tickets into the porter's hand, and grappling Leonard's arm as if he feared an escape, Dr. May hurried him into the empty streets, and strode on in silence.

The pull at the door-bell was answered instantly by Ethel herself. She held out her hand, and grasped that which Leonard had almost withheld, shrinking as from too sudden a vision; and then she ardently exchanged kisses with her father.

'Where's Tom? Gone to bed?' said Dr. May, stepping into the bright drawing-room.

'No,' said Ethel, demurely; 'he is gone-he is gone to America.'

The Doctor gave a prodigious start, and looked at her again.

'He went this afternoon.' she said. 'There is some matter about the 'Diseases of Climate' that he must settle before the book is published; and he thought he could best be spared now. He has left messages that I will give you by and by; but you must both be famished.'

Her looks indicated that all was right, and both turned to welcome the guest, who stood where the first impulse had left him, in the hall, not moving forward, till he was invited in to the fire, and the meal already spread. He then obeyed, and took the place pointed out; while the Doctor nervously expatiated on the cold, damp, and changes of train; and Ethel, in the active bashfulness of hidden agitation, made tea, cut bread, carved chicken, and waited on them with double assiduity, as Leonard, though eating as a man who had fasted since early morning, was passive as a little child, merely accepting what was offered to him, and not even passing his cup till she held out her hand for it.

She did not even dare to look at him; she could not bear that he should see her do so; it was enough to know that he was free-that he was there-that it was over. She did not want to see how it had changed him; and, half to set him at ease, half to work off her own excitement, she talked to her father, and told him of the little events of his absence till the meal was over; and, at half-past one, good nights were exchanged with Leonard, and the Doctor saw him to his room, then returned to his daughter on her own threshold.

'That's a thing to have lived for,' he said.

Ethel locked her hands together, and looked up.

'And now, how about this other denouement? I might have guessed that the wind sat in that quarter.'

'But you're not to guess it, papa. It is really and truly about the 'Disease

s of Climate'.'

'Swamp fevers, eh! and agues!'

The 'if you can help it,' was a great comfort now; Ethel could venture on saying, 'Of course that has something to do with it; but he really does make the book his object; and please-please don't give any hint that you suspect anything else.'

'I suppose you are in his confidence; and I must ask no questions.'

'I hated not telling you, and letting you tease him; but he trusted me just enough not to make me dare to say a word; though I never was sure there was a word to say. Now do just once own, papa, that Tom is the romantic one after all, to have done as he did in the height of the trouble.'

'Well in his place so should I,' said the Doctor, with the perverseness of not satisfying expectations of amazement.

'You would,' said Ethel; 'but Tom! would you have thought it of Tom?'

'Tom has more in him than shows through his spectacles,' answered Dr. May. 'So! That's the key to his restless fit. Poor fellow! How did it go with him? They have not been carrying it on all this time, surely!'

'Oh, no, no, papa! She cut him to the heart, poor boy! thought he was laughing at her-told him it had all been irony. He has no notion whether she will ever forgive him.'

'A very good lesson, Master Doctor Thomas,' said Dr. May, with a twinkle in his eye; 'and turn out as it will, it has done him good-tided him over a dangerous time of life. Well, you must tell me all about it to-morrow; I'm too sleepy to know what I'm talking of.'

The sleepiness that always finished off the Doctor's senses at the right moment, was a great preservative of his freshness and vigour; but Ethel was far from sharing it, and was very glad when the clock sounded a legitimate hour for getting up, and dressing by candle-light, briefly answering Gertrude's eager questions on the arrival. It was a pouring wet morning, and she forbade Daisy to go to church-indeed, it would have been too bad for herself on any morning but this-any but this, as she repeated, smiling at her own spring of thankfulness, as she fortified herself with a weight of waterproof, and came forth in the darkness of 7.45, on a grim November day.

A few steps before her, pacing on, umbrellaless, was a figure which made her hurry to overtake him.

'O, Leonard! after your journey, and in this rain!'

He made a gesture of courtesy, but moved as if to follow, not join her. Did he not know whether he were within the pale of humanity?

'Here is half an umbrella. Won't you hold it for me?' she said; and as he followed his instinct of obedience, she put it into his hand, and took his arm, thinking that this familiarity would best restore him to a sense of his regained position; and, moreover, feeling glad and triumphant to be thus leaning, and to have that strong arm to contend with the driving blast that came howling round the corner of Minster Street, and fighting for their shelter. They were both out of breath when they paused to recover in the deep porch of the Minster.

'Is Dr. May come home?'

'Yes-and-'

Ethel signed, and Mr. Wilmot held out an earnest hand, with, 'This is well. I am glad to see you.'

'Thank you, sir,' said Leonard, heartily; 'and for all-'

'This is your new beginning of life, Leonard. God bless you in it.'

As Mr. Wilmot passed on, Ethel for the first time ventured to look up into the eyes-and saw their hollow setting, their loss of sparkle, but their added steadfastness and resolution. She could not help repeating the long-treasured lines: 'And, Leonard,

"-grieve not for thy woes,

Disgrace and trouble;

For He who honour best bestows,

Shall give thee double."'

'I've never ceased to be glad you read Marmion with me,' he hastily said, as they turned into church on hearing a clattering of choristers behind them.

Clara might have had such sensations when she bound the spurs on her knight's heels, yet even she could hardly have had so pure, unselfish, and exquisite a joy as Ethel's, in receiving the pupil who had been in a far different school from hers.

The gray dawn through the gloom, the depths of shadow in the twilight church, softening and rendering all more solemn and mysterious, were more in accordance than bright and beamy sunshine with her subdued grave thankfulness; and there was something suitable in the fewness of the congregation that had gathered in the Lady Chapel-so few, that there was no room for shyness, either in, or for, him who was again taking his place there, with steady composed demeanour, its stillness concealing so much.

Ethel had reckoned on the verse-'That He might hear the mournings of such as are in captivity, and deliver the children appointed unto death.' But she had not reckoned on its falling on her ears in the deep full-toned melodious bass, that came in, giving body to the young notes of the choristers-a voice so altered and mellowed since she last had heard it, that it made her look across in doubt, and recognize in the uplifted face, that here indeed the freed captive was at home, and lifted above himself.

When the clause, in the Litany, for all prisoners and captives brought to her the thrill that she had only to look up to see the fulfilment of many and many a prayer for one captive, for once she did not hear the response, only saw the bent head, as though there were thoughts went too deep to find voice. And again, there was the special thanksgiving that Mr. Wilmot could not refrain from introducing for one to whom a great mercy had been vouchsafed. If Ethel had had to swim home, she would not but have been there!

Charles Cheviot addressed them as they came out of church: 'Good morning-Mr. Ward, I hope to do myself the honour of calling on you-I shall see you again, Ethel.

And off he went over the glazy stones to his own house, Ethel knowing that this cordial salutation and intended call were meant to be honourable amends for his suspicions; but Leonard, unconscious of the import, and scarcely knowing indeed that he was addressed, made his mechanical gesture of respect, and looked up, down, and round, absorbed in the scene. 'How exactly the same it all looks,' he said; 'the cloister gate, and the Swan, and the postman in the very same waterproof cape.'

'Do you not feel like being just awake?'

'No; it is more like being a ghost, or somebody else.'

Then the wind drove them on too fast for speech, till as they crossed the High Street, Ethel pointed through the plane-trees to two round black eyes, and a shining black nose, at the dining-room window.

'My Mab, my poor little Mab!-You have kept her all this time! I was afraid to ask for her. I could not hope it.'

'I could not get my spoilt child, Gertrude, to bed without taking Mab, that she might see the meeting.'

Perhaps it served Daisy right that the meeting did not answer her expectations. Mab and her master had both grown older; she smelt round him long before she was sure of him, and then their content in one another was less shown by fervent rapture, than by the quiet hand smoothing her silken coat; and, in return, by her wistful eye, nestling gesture, gently waving tail.

And Leonard! How was it with him? It was not easy to tell in his absolute passiveness. He seemed to have neither will nor impulse to speak, move, or act, though whatever was desired of him, he did with the implicit obedience that no one could bear to see. They put books near him, but he did not voluntarily touch one: they asked if he would write to his sister, and he took the pen in his hand, but did not accomplish a commencement. Ethel asked him if he were tired, or had a headache.

'Thank you, no,' he said; 'I'll write,' and made a dip in the ink.

'I did not mean to tease you,' she said; 'the mail is not going just yet, and there is no need for haste. I was only afraid something was wrong.'

'Thank you,' he said, submissively; 'I will-when I can think; but it is all too strange. I have not seen a lady, nor a room like this, since July three years.'

After that Ethel let him alone, satisfied that peace was the best means of recovering the exhaustion of his long-suffering.

The difficulty was that this was no house for quiet, especially the day after the master's return: the door-bell kept on ringing, and each time he looked startled and nervous, though assured that it was only patients. But at twelve o'clock in rushed Mr. Cheviot's little brother, with a note from Mary, lamenting that it was too wet for herself, but saying that Charles was coming in the afternoon, and that he intended to have a dinner-party of old Stoneborough scholars to welcome Leonard back.

Meanwhile, Martin Cheviot, wanting to see, and not to stare, and to unite cordiality and unconsciousness, made an awkward mixture of all, and did not know how to get away; and before he had accomplished it, Mr. Edward Anderson was announced. He heartily shook hands with Leonard, eagerly welcomed him, and talked volubly, and his last communication was, 'If it clears, you will see Matilda this afternoon.'

'I did not know she was here.'

'Yes; she and Harvey are come to Mrs. Ledwich's, to stay over Sunday;' and there was a laugh in the corner of his eye, that convinced Ethel that the torrents of rain would be no protection.

'Papa,' said she, darting out to meet her father in the hall, 'you must take Leonard out in your brougham this afternoon, if you don't want him driven distracted. If he is in the house, ropes won't hold Mrs. Harvey Anderson from him!'

So Dr. May invited his guest to share his drive; and the excitement began to seem unreal when the Doctor returned alone.

'I dropped him at Cocksmoor,' he said. 'It was Richard's notion that he would be quieter there-able to get out, and go to church, without being stared at.'

'Did he like it?' asked Gertrude, disappointed.

'If one told him to chop off his finger, he would do it, and never show whether he liked it. Richard asked him, and he said, "Thank you." I never could get an opening to show him that we did not want to suppress him; I never saw spirit so quenched.'

Charles Cheviot thought it was a mistake to do what gave the appearance of suppression-he said that it was due to Leonard to welcome him as heartily as possible, and not to encourage false shame, where there was no disgrace; so he set his wife to fill up her cards for his dinner-party, and included in it Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Anderson, for the sake of their warm interest in the liberated prisoner.

'However, Leonard was out of the scrape,' as the Doctor expressed it, for he had one of his severe sore throats, and was laid up at Cocksmoor. Richard was dismayed by his passive obedience-a novelty to the gentle eldest, who had all his life been submitting, and now was puzzled by his guest's unfailing acquiescence without a token of preference or independence: and comically amazed at the implicit fulfilment of his recommendation to keep the throat in bed-a wise suggestion, but one that the whole house of May, in their own persons, would have scouted. Nothing short of the highest authority ever kept them there.

The semblance of illness was perhaps a good starting-point for a return to the ways of the world; and on the day week of his going to Cocksmoor, Ethel found him by the fire, beginning his letters to his brother and sister, and looking brighter and more cheery, but so devoid of voice, that speech could not be expected of him.

She had just looked in again after some parish visiting, when a quick soldierly step was heard, and in walked Aubrey.

'No; I'm not come to you, Ethel; I'm only come to this fellow;' and he ardently grasped his hand. 'I've got leave till Monday, and I shall stay here and see nobody else.-What, a sore throat? Couldn't you get wrapped up enough between the two doctors?'

Leonard's eyes lighted as he muttered his hoarse 'Thank you,' and Ethel lingered for a little desultory talk to her brother, contrasting the changes that the three years had made in the two friends. Aubrey, drilled out of his home scholarly dreaminess by military and practical discipline, had exchanged his native languor for prompt upright alertness of bearing and speech; his eye had grown more steady, his mouth had lost its vague pensive expression, and was rendered sterner by the dark moustache; definite thought, purpose, and action, had moulded his whole countenance and person into hopeful manhood, instead of visionary boyhood. The other face, naturally the most full of fire and resolution, looked strangely different in its serious unsmiling gravity, the deeply worn stamp of patient endurance and utter isolation. There was much of rest and calm, and even of content-but withal a quenched look, as if the lustre of youth and hope had been extinguished, and the soul had been so driven in upon itself, that there was no opening to receive external sympathy-a settled expression, all the stranger on a face with the clear smoothness of early youth. One thing at least was unchanged-the firm friendship and affection-that kept the two constantly casting glances over one another, to assure themselves of the presence before them.

Ethel left them together; and her father, who made out that he should save time by going to Cocksmoor Church on Sunday morning, reported that the boys seemed very happy together in their own way; but that Richard reported himself to have been at the sole expense of conversation in the evening-the only time such an event could ever have occurred!

Aubrey returned home late on the Sunday evening; and Leonard set off to walk part of the way with him in the dusk, but ended by coming the whole distance, for the twilight opened their lips in this renewal of old habits.

'It is all right to be walking together again,' said Aubrey, warmly; 'though it is not like those spring days.'

'I've thought of them every Sunday.'

'And what are you going to do now, old fellow?'

'I don't know.'

'I hear Bramshaw is going to offer you to come into his office. Now, don't do that, Leonard, whatever you do!'

'I don't know.'

'You are to have all your property back, you know, and you could do much better for yourself than that.'

'I can't tell till I have heard from my brother.'

'But, Leonard, promise me now-you'll not go out and make a Yankee of yourself.'

'I can't tell; I shall do what he wishes.'

Aubrey presently found that Leonard seemed to have no capacity to think or speak of the future or the past. He set Aubrey off on his own concerns, and listened with interest, asking questions that showed him perfectly alive to what regarded his friend, but the passive inaction of will and spirits still continued, and made him almost a disappointment.

On Monday morning there was a squabble between the young engineer and the Daisy, who was a profound believer in the scientific object of Tom's journey, and greatly resented the far too obvious construction thereof.

'You must read lots of bad novels at Chatham, Aubrey; it is like the fag end of the most trumpery of them all!'

'You haven't gone far enough in your mathematics, you see, Daisy. You think one and one-'

'Make two. So I say.'

'I've gone into the higher branches.'

'I didn't think you were so simple and commonplace. It would be so stupid to think he must-just because he could not help making this discovery.'

'All for want of the higher branches of mathematics! One plus one-equals one.'

'One minus common sense, plus folly, plus romance, minus anything to do. Your equation is worthy of Mrs. Harvey Anderson. I gave her a good dose of the 'Diseases of Climate!''

Aubrey was looking at Ethel all the time Gertrude was triumphing; and finally he said, 'I've no absolute faith in disinterested philanthropy to a younger brother-whatever I had before I went to the Tyrol.'

'What has that to do with it?' asked Gertrude. 'Everybody was cut up, and wanted a change-and you more than all. I do believe the possibility of a love affair absolutely drives people mad: and now they must needs saddle it upon poor Tom-just the one of the family who is not so stupid, but has plenty of other things to think about.'

'So you think it a stupid pastime?'

'Of course it is. Why, just look. Hasn't everybody in the family turned stupid, and of no use, as soon at they went and fell in love! Only good old Ethel here has too much sense, and that's what makes her such a dear old gurgoyle. And Harry-he is twice the fun after he comes home, before he gets his fit of love. And all the story books that begin pleasantly, the instant that love gets in, they are just alike-so stupid! And now, if you haven't done it yourself, you want to lug poor innocent Tom in for it.'

'When your time comes, may I be there to see!'

He retreated from her evident designs of clapper-clawing him; and she turned round to Ethel with, 'Now, isn't it stupid, Ethel!'

'Very stupid to think all the zest of life resides in one particular feeling,' said Ethel; 'but more stupid to talk of what you know nothing about.'

Aubrey put in his head for a hurried farewell, and, 'Telegraph to me when Mrs. Thomas May comes home.'

'If Mrs. Thomas May comes home, I'll-'

'Give her that chair cover,' said Ethel; and her idle needlewoman, having been eight months working one corner of it, went off into fits of laughter, regarding its completion as an equally monstrous feat with an act of cannibalism on the impossible Mrs. Thomas May.

How different were these young things, with their rhodomontade and exuberant animation and spirits, from him in whom all the sparkle and aspiration of life seemed extinguished!

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares