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   Chapter 5 MAUD HARCOURT.

Hayslope Grange / A Tale of the Civil War By Emma Leslie Characters: 11447

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Mistress Mabel, with all her sternness, had some difficulty in parrying the children's questions about Harry, when they assembled in the keeping room the morning of his departure. Mary, too, felt anxious about her brother; but she dared not question her aunt as the children did; and from her answers to them little could be gathered beyond this, that Harry had disgraced himself through making unworthy friendships, and the children at once jumped to the conclusion that it was Gilbert Clayton to whom their aunt referred. Mary, however, indignantly repelled this insinuation. She had had several conversations with Clayton, and had learned to esteem him very highly, so that how Harry could have disgraced himself while with him, or what the wild words he had uttered the previous evening fully meant, she could not tell.

At dinner time Maud came down looking very pale but quite calm, until Master Drury, noticing that Harry's chair had been placed at the table as usual, ordered it to be carried away without mentioning his name, and said, "That seat will not be wanted again." Then Maud trembled with agitation, and Bertram asked quickly, "Where has brother Harry gone?"

"My boy, you have no brother," said Master Drury, coldly.

"Oh, Harry's dead!" screamed Bessie, pushing aside her pewter plate, and laying her head on the table in a burst of uncontrollable anguish.

Maud, however, knew that he was not dead, but without noticing Bessie's distress or Mary's look of mute agony, she rose from her seat, and walking round to the side of Master Drury, she said, "You will tell me where Harry has gone."

It was a demand rather than a question, and Mistress Mabel, as well as her brother, opened her eyes wide with astonishment on hearing it. "He has disgraced himself and all who bear his name," said the lady, quickly.

"Prithee, Maud, go and sit down," said Master Drury, tenderly.

But Maud shook her head. "You will tell me where Harry is, first," she said, still in the same quiet tone of command.

"I know not, unless he be travelling towards London with his false friend, who has turned his head with his stories of the traitor Parliament. He hath done this much; he confessed it to me this morning ere they departed," added Master Drury.

He thought this would satisfy Maud, and all questioning would be at an end now, but the young lady asked, "What did you mean, Master Drury, by saying Bertram had no brother now?"

Mistress Mabel looked horrified at the impertinence of the question, but Maud stood still and waited for an answer.

Calming his emotion with a violent effort, he turned to Maud and said, "By my faith, you should be thankful this day that you are not a Drury, to be disgraced by this traitor caitiff, who was my son. This must be the last time he is ever spoken of in this house, for I have renounced him-cast him off for ever; and you children must do the same," he said, turning towards Bertram and Bessie.

The little girl had dried her tears, and both sat with white frightened faces gazing at Maud and their father.

Maud staggered back to her seat and bowed her face in her hands, and the dinner went on in silence among those who cared to eat. Maud and Mary sat with their plates before them, but left the table without tasting anything, and as soon as they could escape went up to their own room.

Here Maud's firmness quite forsook her, and laying her head on Mary's shoulder, she burst into tears, moaning, "Oh, Mary, what shall I do? I cast him off as well."

Mary could not understand her. "I think you ought to be very glad you are not a Drury, to share in his disgrace," she said, with a sigh.

Maud lifted her face, her eyes flashing with indignation. "Glad!" she said; "nay, nay, I wish I were a Drury, that I might go and seek him now. Think of it, Mary; all have cast him off."

"He has disgraced us all," said Mary. "I have heard my father say it was his proudest boast that the Drurys had ever been true to the king and state, and never taken part with any riotous mob, and now Harry has dragged our family honour to the very dust. Everybody will know it soon, and every village wench will pity me because I am the sister of a traitor. I shall never hold up my head again," and Mary burst into tears at the picture of humiliation she had drawn.

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Maud was quite incapable of understanding this self-pity, and seating herself at the little table by the window, she indulged her own self-reproachful thoughts on her conduct of the morning. She had no idea then that his father had treated him so harshly, or she would have been more tender, and her heart was sad as she thought of his words, that he must be true to his conscience.

But her musing was broken in upon by Mary saying, "It is so wicked, so wilful, to rebel against the King."

"But suppose he had to do this, or rebel against his conscience," said Maud, giving some expression to her own thoughts.

Mary started. "What can you mean? prithee, it cannot be right for us to rebel against the King?"

"Certainly not for us," said Maud. "But we are not to make ourselves a conscience to other people; and if Harry sees that serving the King would be wrong--"

"But it cannot be wrong," interrupted Mary. "God's Word says, 'Fear God, honour the king.'"

"Yes, fearing God comes first," said Maud, but speaking more to herself than to Mary; "and it seems to me that it is out of this fear Harry has been led to adopt these new views. I can't see how they are right; but then I suppose living here in this quiet village, and having everything we want, we do not understand things as men do who go out into the world and

learn what Acts of Parliament mean."

"Maud, you are half a traitor yourself," interrupted Mary, indignantly.

"Nay, nay, Mary! I am not that," said Maud. "I love the King, from what I have heard of his gentle courteous bearing and his loving care of his children; but even Master Drury denies not that he has oft-times broken his solemn promise, and 'tis said that his subsidies and exactions have well nigh ruined the nation."

"Maud, Maud! said I not that you were a traitor; and by my troth you must be, to speak thus of the King."

"Nay, I am no traitor. I would that I could speak to King Charles myself, and tell him how sorely grieved many of his subjects are at his want of truth and honest dealing," replied Maud, warmly.

"But the King cannot do evil," said Mary, in a tone of expostulation.

Maud put her hand to her forehead in some perplexity. "I know not what to think, sometimes," she said. "I like not to think it possible that the King can do wrong; but what am I to think when he breaks the Divine laws of truth and uprightness. He is not above these, if he is above those of the land, that he can make and unmake at his will."

"We have no business to think about such things at all," said Mary, impatiently.

"Marry, you may be right," answered Maud; "for women-folk have but little wit to the understanding of such weighty matters; but for men it is different, and that is why so many are carried away to the defending this rebellious Parliament, I trow."

"But they should not be carried away, now that they know how evil are its doings, and how it has laid violent hands on the Archbishop; and herein is Harry's sin the greater."

"Oh, say not so, Mary. Harry is right, I trow, although you and I see not how that may be," said Maud.

At this moment there was a knock at the door, and Bessie's tearful face appeared. Mistress Mabel had found it impossible to settle down to her usual spinning to-day, and telling the children she must look after the maids, to see they did not get gossiping about the family affairs, she had dismissed them.

"Oh, Maud, I have no brother Harry now," sobbed the little girl, throwing herself into her arms.

"But Harry is not dead," said Maud, smoothing back the tumbled hair from her hot forehead. "He has only gone away from home, and you can love him still."

"That's what Bertram says," sobbed the child; "but it isn't just the same; he was my brother before-my very own, and now"-and she burst into another passionate flood of tears.

"Prithee, now hush," said Maud. "Harry loves you all the same, I am sure, and you can love him; so that it need make no difference to you, Bessie."

"But it does make a difference," passionately exclaimed Bessie. "You said it did a little while ago."

Maud had forgotten the circumstance to which the girl referred, until she went on-"You said Harry was not your real brother, and now I am not his real sister. Has Harry got another name?" she suddenly asked.

Maud smiled, but Mary shook her head sorrowfully. "No, his name is Drury still," she said, "and he has disgraced it, Bessie-disgraced the good old name that you and I bear."

Bessie looked at Maud. "Are you glad your name is not Drury?" she said.

Maud shook her head. "I wish it was," she said, "and then I could make you understand better that I do not think Harry has disgraced it."

"Then it can be, can't it?" said Bessie, drying her tears.

"What, dear?"

"Drury. You can change your name, can't you?"

A momentary blush overspread Maud's pale face, but it quickly faded, and a sadder look than ever came into her eyes as she shook her head and said, "No, dear, I shall never change my name now." Then, seeing that her sadness had brought back the tears to Bessie's eyes, she asked where Bertram had gone.

"To look after Harry's horse," answered Bessie. "Aunt Mabel says it is to be his, now; but Bertram says he will never ride it, for it will be like robbing Harry."

"Suppose we go and look at Cavalier, too," said Maud. "He will miss his master almost as much as you do, Bessie," she added, trying to speak cheerfully.

They went through the painted gallery and out of the side door, as Harry went in the morning, the little girl wondering why they went that way. Bertram had sobbed out the first portion of his grief to his brother's dumb favourite, and now stood stroking its silky chestnut coat; but as Maud entered the paddock the noble creature pricked up its ears and gave a pleased whining of recognition.

"It is not Harry, Cavalier," said Bertram, sadly.

"Prithee, Cavalier is almost as fond of Maud as he is of Harry," said Bessie.

"Oh, Maud, then you have him," said Bertram, with a fresh burst of tears. "He is mine now, Aunt Mabel says; but I shall never be able to ride him, for thinking of Harry; but he'll like to have you on his back, and Harry will like it too, I know."

That Harry would like it Maud knew full well, but the appropriation of his things in this way she did not approve of at all; but Bertram's next words settled the matter.

"Aunt Mabel says Cavalier shall be sold, and a pony bought for me, if I don't like it; and I can't bear to part with Cavalier," sobbed the little boy.

"We won't part with it, Bertie," said Maud. "I will have Cavalier, and ride him every day, and I will buy you a pony instead, and you can ride with me."

Mistress Maud Harcourt possessed the sole right to a large fortune, and so she could do as she pleased in such a small matter as keeping a horse for her individual use. Mistress Mabel grumbled a little when she heard of this arrangement, but it did not alter matters, and in a few days Bertram's pony arrived.

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