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   Chapter 12 HARRY'S RETURN.

Hayslope Grange / A Tale of the Civil War By Emma Leslie Characters: 12449

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Suddenly stepping out of the darkness into the lighted room, Maud could not distinguish any object at first, and only heard as in a dream Dame Coppins's words, "Be calm, Mistress Maud, for he is very weak, I trow." Then, looking across the room, she saw some one lying on a bed with hands eagerly outstretched towards her, and a faint voice uttered, "Maud, Maud, come to me; let me hold your hand once more." The sound of that feeble pleading voice brought back Maud's bewildered senses. "Harry," she gasped, "Oh, my Harry!" and she was kneeling by the low bed, kissing the thin white hands.

* * *

MEETING OF MAUD AND HARRY.

* * *

For a few minutes no one came near them, and Maud knelt there sobbing, for her overstrained feelings would have vent, in spite of her effort to control them.

Harry was the first to regain composure, and smoothing the soft braids of her hair, he said, "I began to fear you would never forgive me, Maud; and I could not die without your forgiveness."

"Forgive you!" repeated Maud. "I have wanted to ask you to forgive me for speaking as I did the morning you went away."

"I have nothing to forgive," said Harry. "You could not but believe I was a traitor, as you said, in refusing to serve the King."

"Nay, nay, but I ought to have believed you were acting conscientiously, although I could not see things as you saw them. I was hard, uncharitable, cruel, Harry."

"Nay, nay, Maud; cruel, when at Oxford you saved my life?"

"I did not know it was to save you," murmured Maud.

Harry looked disappointed, and dropped the hand he was holding. "Maud, when I saw you there, riding through the soldiers, I thought it was for me you came, although you had given your heart and hand to another."

Maud stared. "Given heart and hand to another!" she repeated.

"Hush! hush!" said Harry, "my secret shall die with me. I would not even ask about you when I came here, but suffer me to call you Maud the little while I stay."

"What other name should I be called?" asked Maud, in surprise.

"Nay, nay, I cannot play now, Maud," said Harry, "I would not even suffer a word to be spoken about you until I heard Captain Stanhope and his wife were coming from Oxford, and then I roused myself to write that letter, for I longed to see you once again, as the companion of my childhood and the friend--"

"Prithee, I have received no letter," said Maud.

"Marry, but I sent one, and the messenger said he had delivered it into the hand of Mistress Stanhope herself," said Harry.

"But I am not Mistress Stanhope," said Maud, smiling.

Harry raised himself in bed, and looked earnestly into her face. "You are not the wife of Captain Stanhope?" he repeated.

"No, it is Mary who is married," said Maud.

Harry fell back on his pillow, and Roger and Dame Coppins were obliged to administer some restoratives; but the moment he had revived he looked round for Maud, and feebly murmured her name.

"I am with you, Harry dear," she whispered, and took his hand, while Dame Coppins told the story of how he had been brought there in a litter some weeks before by Roger and the messenger, who had fled to her cottage from the violence of the villagers. The man had remained with her until he recovered from his wound, and had told her who were the prisoners at Oxford, and the certainty of their release if the letters were only delivered in time; and the old woman's joy on hearing from Bertram that Maud had reached Oxford as she did, unloosed her tongue and thus brought upon herself the charge of witchcraft. Maud felt heartily ashamed of her hasty judgment now, and when she heard how greatly Harry had longed to see her, she felt more grieved than ever that she had stayed away from the cottage. Dame Coppins had felt anxious, when day after day passed and no one came from the Grange, for she began to fear some of them had heard she had strange visitors, for it was the messenger who had been with her that informed Harry it was dangerous for him to go to the village even to see his father, and persuaded him to come to Dame Coppins's cottage, and wait for some chance to send to his father secretly. Roger came with him, for Harry was too ill when he left London to travel alone, and all Dame Coppins's herb tea had failed to do him any good; and so at last, feeling sure he had not long to live, he wrote a letter to Maud, enclosing one to be given to his father, asking his forgiveness, and begging he would come and see him. This was addressed to Mistress Stanhope, and delivered to her, but which she took care no one else should hear of, destroying her father's letter as well as her own.

Maud did not hear this all at once. Harry could say but little more that night beyond how he had longed for her after the letter was sent, and how disappointed he was that she did not come.

"But what made you think I was Mistress Stanhope?" asked Maud.

"Roger told me you were about to be married when he left the village last summer. We met in a slight skirmish soon after I recovered from my wounds, and enemies though we ought to have been, we could not help exchanging a few friendly words; and it was because I knew he loved me truly, despite of the King's quarrel, that I asked his release, to attend me when I came home."

"Yes, Harry, you must come home," said Maud, in a determined tone.

"Yes, I am almost there," murmured Harry; "but it is harder to leave now, Maud, than before I saw you, and heard about this mistake."

"Nay, nay, but it is to the Grange you must come, Harry," said Maud, with a faint blush. "Your father is ill, but the sight of you will do him more good than all the physician can do; and if you are there the doctor can attend to your wants as well."

But Harry shook his head. "I have longed to see my father and the old Grange, Maud; but you must ask his forgiveness and blessing now. I cannot move from here."

"Nay, nay, but you must try, Harry," said Maud, almost wildly; "for my sake," she added, in a whisper.

Harry looked at the pleading face. "You forget," he said, "I have vowed never to set foot inside the Grange again. I came to Hayslope to ask my father's forgiveness, but not to go to the Gra

nge."

"It was a proud, rash vow," said Maud. "Your father has much to give up in receiving you, and it is but right you should first seek him."

Harry did not know how much he had indulged this proud, bitter spirit, until now, and it was only after much pleading from Maud that he consented to give it up. She obtained a promise from him, however, that he would come to the Grange before she left, and then she went home again, under Roger's guidance, to perform the more difficult task of winning a welcome for him there. As Cavalier trotted along her brain was busy upon the question how she should do this, and at length she resolved to mention what had happened to no one but Master Drury. To Mistress Mabel's questioning she would answer she had been to see some one who was ill in the village, for if she and Mary heard Harry was likely to return to his home, they would oppose it, she knew. The household had become somewhat accustomed to Maud's erratic doings by this time, and so little wonder was expressed that she did not come into the keeping-room to supper. Every one supposed she was in her own room, and so at the usual hour the watch dogs were set upon their guard and the house locked up, and by the time Maud got there every light was extinguished but the little lamp burning in Master Drury's room. The approach of Cavalier, therefore, at that unseasonable hour, was the signal for all the dogs to set up a furious barking, and all the household was aroused. Captain Stanhope was the first to make his appearance at an open window, and demand the reason of the disturbance, warning the intruders that if they came a step nearer the house he would discharge his musket at them.

Maud hardly knew what to do, but begged Roger to let her reply, hoping the gentleman would recognise her voice; but he failed to do this for some time, until, assured it was a woman who was speaking, he consented to come down and open the door, as soon as all the servants were armed to resist any attack that might be made.

Maud could not help laughing, and yet the dilemma was a serious one just now, as she knew she should have to give an account of herself to everybody. At length the door was opened, and Maud walked in past the row of servants, and upstairs to where Mistress Mabel, with Bertram and Bessie, were shivering in the gallery with fright and cold.

Mistress Mabel was speechless with anger, and seizing Maud's wrist, marched her into Master Drury's room at once. "Now, Master Drury, you will nathless make this wilful girl give an account of herself," said the lady, and she sat down; while Captain Stanhope and the rest came into the room, and the servants crowded round the door to hear what had happened.

"Marry, I would speak to Master Drury alone," said Maud.

"Nay, nay, you must speak out before us all, unless it is some shameful deed you would tell of," said Mistress Mabel and Mary both in a breath.

Maud turned and looked at Mary. "You know what I have to tell," she said, angrily, "for you had a letter from Harry, telling his father he was dying, and craved his forgiveness."

Master Drury raised himself in bed. "You have seen my son-my Harry!" he exclaimed, eagerly, looking at Maud.

But Captain Stanhope stepped forward. "You forget," he whispered, "you have no children but Mary and Bessie. Even the boy Bertram has turned to follow his brother's way of thinking."

"Nay, nay," said the old man, pleadingly. "I must see my son, my Harry, before I die. Where is he? Where is he?" he asked of Maud.

"He will come to-morrow," replied Maud; "he is ill-very ill, but may get better if he has a physician."

"Tell me all about him, Maud; you saved his life, I know."

Bertram and Bessie were almost as eager as their father to hear all about their brother, and so in the hearing of them all, Maud told how she had been fetched to the cottage that evening to see Harry.

Master Drury would have had him brought to the Grange that night, had it been possible, but was at length persuaded to wait until the morning, on Maud promising to go down and prepare him for the removal as soon as it was light.

Captain Stanhope and his wife were the only ones who did not rejoice at the thought of Harry's return, and it was easy to see why they were so disappointed. The Captain, having an eye to Mary's wealth when he married her, had done all he could to increase Master Drury's anger against his son, and even persuaded him to disinherit Bertram in favour of Mary. Now the hopes this had raised were all crushed, and the next day, before the litter arrived with Harry, the disappointed pair had left for Oxford. Mistress Mabel, finding her nephew's return was inevitable, wisely made the best of it, and accorded a grim welcome, hoping they would not all be beheaded by-and-by for sheltering a traitor.

The meeting between the long-estranged father and son we will pass over in silence. Harry had not been at the Grange long before he began to improve, and soon hinted that, instead of a funeral, there would have to be a wedding for him. Master Drury too began to grow stronger, but the overthrow of his faith in King Charles was a blow he could not recover entirely; and although he confessed to his son that he believed he was right in espousing the cause of the Parliament, yet he begged him not to leave the Grange again while he lived, a promise Harry was the more willing to give since his health would not allow him to join the army again, and Maud had consented to be his wife early in the spring.

Mistress Mabel's fear of being beheaded for receiving her nephew was quite groundless, and even Captain Stanhope was glad to ask the interest and protection of the man he had sought to injure when the Royalists were ultimately defeated and the Commonwealth established. Before this, however, Harry succeeded his father as Master Drury of Hayslope Grange, for the old man never held up his head after the death of King Charles, and died a few months after the King was beheaded. His last days were calm and tranquil. "By the grace of Christ," he was wont to say-"he had conquered his pride and prejudice, which had brought such misery to Hayslope Grange."

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