The Three Brides
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 9 out of 11
as he could leave the Hall. "I am so glad," said the patient; "I
want to talk things over while my head is clearer than it ever may
"Don't begin by desponding. These fevers are much less severe now
than six weeks ago."
"Yes; but they always go the hardest with the great big strong young
fellows. I've buried twelve young men out of the whole forty-five."
"Poor lads, I doubt if their life had been such a preparation as
"Don't talk of my life. A stewardship I never set myself to
contemplate, and so utterly failed in. I've got nothing to carry to
my God but broken vows and a wasted year."
"Nothing can be brought but repentance."
"Yes, but look at others who have tried, felt their duties, and
cared for souls; while I thought only of my vows as a restraint, and
tried how much pleasure I could get in spite of them. A pretty
story of all the ministry I shall ever have."
"These last weeks!"
"Common humanity--nonsense! I should always have done as much;
besides, I was crippled everywhere, not merely by want of power as a
priest, but by having made myself such a shallow, thoughtless ass.
But that was not what I wanted to say. It was about Gadley and his
"O, Herbert! I am afraid I was very unkind that night. I did not
think of anything but our own trouble, nor see how much it had cost
"Of course not--nonsense. You had enough to think of yourself, and
I was only ashamed of having bored you."
"And when I think of the state of that room, I am afraid it was then
you took in the poison."
"Don't say _afraid_. If it was for Jenny, I shall have done some
good in the world. But the thing is--is it good? Will it clear
Douglas? I suppose what he said to you was under seal of
"Scarcely so, technically; but when a man unburthens himself on his
death-bed, and then, so far from consenting, shows terror and dismay
at the notion of his words being taken down as evidence, it seems to
me hardly right or honourable to make use of them--though it would
right a great wrong. But what did you get from him?"
"I gave Lady Rose the paper. He raved most horribly for an hour or
two, as if all the foul talk of his pot-house had got into his
brain," said Herbert, with a shudder. "Rector, Rector, pray for me,
that I mayn't come out with _that_ at any rate. It has haunted me
ever since. Well, at last he slept, and woke up sinking but
conscious, knew me, and began to ask if this was death, and was
frightened, clutching at me, and asking to be held, and what he
could do. I told him at least he could undo a wrong, if he would
only authorize us to use what he said to clear Douglas; and then, as
Sister Margaret had come across, I wrote as well as I could:
"George Gadley authorizes what he said to the Rev. Julius Charnock
to be used as evidence;" and I suppose he saw us sign it, if he
could see at all, for his sight was nearly gone."
Julius drew a long breath.
"And now, what was it?" said Herbert.
"Well, the trio--Moy, young Proudfoot, and Tom Vivian--detained a
letter of my mother's, with a cheque in it, and threw the blame of
it on Archie Douglas. They thought no one was in the office but
themselves; but Gadley was a clerk there, and was in the outer room,
where he heard all. He came to Moy afterwards, and has been preying
on him for hush-money ever since."
"And this will set things straight?"
"Yes. How to set about the public justification I do not yet see;
but with your father, and all the rest, Archie's innocence will be
as plain as it always has been to us."
"Where is he?"
"On an ostrich farm at Natal."
"Whew!--we must have him home. Jenny can't be spared. Poor Jenny,
when she hears that, it will make all other things light to her."
"What is their address?"
"No, don't write. Mamma has had a fresh cold, and neither my father
nor Jenny could leave her. Let them have a little peace till it
gets worse. There will be plenty of time, if it is to be a twenty-
eight days business like the others. Poor mamma!" and he rolled his
head away; then, after some minutes of tossing and shivering, he
asked for a prayer out of the little book in his pocket. "I should
know it, but my memory is muddled, I think."
The book--a manual for sick-rooms--was one which Julius had given
him new five weeks back. It showed wear already, having been used
as often in that time as in six ordinary years of parish work. By
the time the hard-pressed doctor came, it was plain that the fever
was setting in severely, aggravated no doubt by the dreadful night
at the 'Three Pigeons,' and the unrelaxed exertions ever since; for
he was made to allow that he had come home in the chill morning air,
cold, sickened, and exhausted; had not chosen to disturb anybody,
and had found no refreshment but a raw apple--the last drop of wine
having been bestowed on the sick; had lain down for a short sleep
worse than waking, and had neither eaten nor slept since, but worked
on by sheer strength of will and muscle. When Julius thought of the
cherishing care that he had received himself, he shuddered, with a
sort of self-reproach for his neglect; and the doctor, though good-
humouredly telling Herbert not to think he knew anything about his
own symptoms, did not conceal from Julius that enough harm had been
done in these few days to give the fine Bowater constitution a hard
"Grown careless," he said. "Regular throwing away of his life."
Careless Herbert might have been, but Julius wondered whether this
might not be losing of the life to find it.
Cranstoun or Cranky arrived, a charming old nurse, much gratified in
the midst of her grief, and inclination to scold. She summarily
sent off Mungo and Tartar by the conveyance that brought her, and
would have sent Rollo away, but that Herbert protested against it,
and no power short of an order from him would have taken the dog
from his bedside.
And Mr. Bindon returned from Wil'sbro' in unspeakable surprise.
"The heroes of the occasion," he said, "were Bowater and Mrs.
Duncombe! Every sick person I visited, and there were fourteen in
all stages, had something to say of one or other. Poor things, how
their faces fell when they saw me instead of his bright, honest
face! 'Cheering the very heart of one!' as a poor woman said;
'That's what I calls a true shepherd,' said an old man. You don't
really mean he was rejected at the Ordination?'"
"Yes, and it will make him the still truer shepherd, if he is only
"The Sisters can't say enough of him. They thought him very ill
yesterday, and implored him to take care of himself; but he declared
he could not leave these two funerals to you. But, after all, he is
less amazing to me than Mrs. Duncombe. She has actually been living
at the hospital with the Sisters. I should not have known her."
"Great revolutions have happened in your absence. Much that has
drawn out her sterling worth, poor woman."
"I shall never speak harshly again, I hope. It seems to be a
judgment on me that I should have been idling on the mountains,
while those two were thus devoting themselves to my Master in His
"We are thankful enough to have you coming in fresh, instead of
breaking down now. Have you a sermon? You will have to take
Wil'sbro' to-morrow. Driver won't come. He wrote to the
churchwardens that he had a cold, and that his agreement was with
"And you undertook the Sunday?"
"Yes. They would naturally have no Celebration, and I thought
Herbert's preaching in the midst of his work would be good for them.
You never heard such an apology and confession as the boy made to
our people the first Sunday here, begging them to bear with him."
"Then I can't spare you anything here?"
"Yes, much care and anxiety. The visitation has done its worst in
our house. We have got into the lull after the storm, and you need
not be anxious about me. There is peace in what I have to do now.
It is gathering the salvage after the wreck."
Then Julius went into his own house, where he found Terry alone,
and, as usual, ravenously hungry.
"Is Bowater really ill?" he asked.
"I am afraid there is no believing otherwise, Terry," said Julius.
"You will have to spare Rose to him sometimes, till some one comes
to nurse him."
"I would spare anything to him," said Terry, fervently. "Julius, it
is finer than going into battle!"
"I thought you did not care much for battles, Terry."
"If it was battles, I should not mind," said the boy; "it is
peaceful soldiering that I have seen too much of. But don't you
bother my father, Julius, I won't grumble any more; I made up my
mind to that."
"I know you did, my boy; but you did so much futile arithmetic, and
so often told us that a+b-c equalled Peter the Great, that Dr. Worth
said you must not be put to mathematics for months to come, and I
have told your father that if he cannot send you to Oxford, we will
A flush of joy lighted up the boy's face. "Julius, you are a brick
of a brother!" he said. "I'll do my best to get a scholarship."
"And the best towards that you can do now is to get well as soon as
"Yes. And you lie down on the sofa there, Julius, and sleep--Rose
would say you must. Only I want to say one thing more, please. If
I do get to Oxford, and you are so good, I've made up my mind to one
thing. It's not only for the learning that I'll go; but I'll try to
be a soldier in your army and Bowater's. That's all that seems to
me worth the doing now."
So Julius dropped asleep, with a thankworthy augury in his ears. It
is not triumph, but danger and death that lead generous spirits each
to step where his comrade stood!
Frank was certainly better. Ever since that sight of Eleonora he
had been mending. If he muttered her name, or looked distressed, it
was enough to guide his hand to her token, he smiled and slept
again; and on the Sunday morning his throat and mouth were so much
better, that he could both speak and swallow without nearly so much
pain; but one of his earliest sayings was, "Louder, please, I can't
hear. When does she come?"
Mrs. Poynsett raised her voice, Anne tried; but he frowned and
sighed, and only when Miles uttered a sea-captain's call close to
his ear, did he smile comprehension, adding, "Were you shouting?" a
fact only too evident to those around.
"Then I'm deaf," he said. And Anne wrote and set before him, "We
hope it will pass as you get better." He looked grateful, but there
was little more communication, for his eyes and head were still
weak, and signs and looks were the chief currency; however, Julius
met Eleonora after morning service, to beg her to renew her visit,
after having first prepared her for what she would find. Eleonora
was much distressed; then paused a minute, and said, "It does him
good to see me?"
"It seems to be the one thing that keeps him up," said Julius,
surprised at the question.
"O, yes! I can't--I could not stay away," she said. "It is all so
wrong together; yet this last time cannot hurt!"
"Yes; did you not know that papa has set his heart on going to
London to-morrow? Yes, early to-morrow. And it will be for ever.
We shall never see Sirenwood again."
She stood still, almost bent with the agony of suppressed grief.
"I am very sorry; but I do not wonder he wishes for change."
"He has been in an agony to go these three days. It was all I could
do to get him to stay to-day. You don't think it will do Frank
harm? Then I would stay, if I took lodgings in the village; but
otherwise--poor papa--I think it is my duty--and he can't do without
"I think Frank is quite capable of understanding that you are forced
to go, and that he need not be the worse for it."
"And then," she lowered her voice, "it does a little reconcile me
that I don't think we ought to go further into it till we can
understand. I did make that dreadful vow. I know I ought not now;
but still I did, in so many words."
"You mean against a gambler?"
"If it had only been against a gambler; but I was stung, and wanted
to guard myself, and made it against any one who had ever betted!
If I go on, I must break it, you see, and if I do might it not bring
mischief on him? I don't even feel as if it were _true_ to have
come to him on Friday, and now--yet they said it was the only chance
for his life."
"Yes, I think it saved him then, and to disappoint him now might
quite possibly bring a relapse," said Julius. "It seems to me that
you can only act as seems right at the moment. When he is his own
man again, you will better have the power of judging about this vow,
and if it ought to bind you. And so, it may really be well you do
not see more of him, and that his weakness does not lead you further
than you mean."
A tottering step, and an almost agonized, though very short sob
under the crape veil, proved to Julius that his counsel, though
chiming in with her stronger, sterner judgment, was terrible to her,
nor would he have given it, if he had not had reason to fear that
while she had grown up, Frank had grown down; and that, after this
illness, it would have to be proved whether he were indeed worthy of
the high-minded girl whom he had himself almost thrown over in a
But there was no room for such misgivings when the electric shock of
actual presence was felt--the thin hollow-cheeked face shone with
welcome, the liquid brown eyes smiled with thankful sweetness, the
fingers, fleshless, but cool and gentle, were held out; and the
faint voice said, "My darling! Once try to make me hear."
And when, with all her efforts, she could only make him give a sort
of smile of disappointment, she would have been stonyhearted indeed
if she had not let him fondle her hand as he would, while she
listened to his mother's report of his improvement. With those eyes
fixed in such content on her face, it seemed absolutely barbarous to
falter forth that she could come no more, for her father was taking
"My dear, you must be left with us," cried Mrs. Poynsett. "He
cannot spare you."
"Ah! but my poor father. He is lost without me. And I came of age
on Tuesday, and there are papers to sign."
"What is it?" murmured Frank, watching their faces.
Mrs. Poynsett gave her the pen, saying, "You must tell him, if it is
She wrote: "My father takes me to London to-morrow, to meet the
His face fell; but he asked, "Coming back--when?"
She shook her head, and her eyes filled with tears, as she wrote:
"Sirenwood is to be put up to auction."
"Your sister?" began Frank, and then his eye fell on her crape
trimmings. He touched her sleeve, and made a low wail. "Oh! is
every one dead?"
It was the first perception he had shown of any death, though
mourning had been worn in his room. His mother leant down to kiss
him, bidding Lena tell him the truth; and she wrote:
"I am left alone with poor papa. Let me go--now you can do without
"Can I?" he asked, again grasping her hand.
She pointed to his mother and Anne; but he repeated, "You--you!"
"When you are better we will see how it is to be," she wrote.
He looked sadly wistful. "No, I can't now. Something was very
wrong; but it won't come back. By and by. If you wouldn't go--"
But his voice was now more weak and weary, tired by the effort, and
a little kneeling by him, allowing his tender touch, soothed him,
enough to say submissively, "Good-bye, then--I'll come for you"--
wherewith he faltered into slumber.
Rosamond had just seen her off in the pony carriage, and was on the
way up-stairs, when she stumbled on a little council, consisting of
Dr. Worth, Mr. Charnock, and Grindstone, all in the gallery. "A
widow in her twenty-second year. Good heavens!" was the echo she
heard; and Grindstone was crying and saying, "She did it for the
best, and she could not do it, poor lamb, not if you killed her for
it;" and Dr. Worth said, "Perhaps Lady Rosamond can. You see, Lady
Rosamond, Mrs. Grindstone, whose care I must say has been devoted,
has hitherto staved off the sad question from poor young Mrs.
Poynsett, until now it is no longer possible, and she is becoming so
Cecil's bell rang sharply.
"I cannot--I cannot! In her twenty-second year!" cried her father,
wringing his hands.
Grindstone's face was all tears and contortions; and Rosamond,
recollecting her last words with poor Cecil, sprang forward, both
men opening a way for her.
Cecil was sitting up in bed, very thin, but with eager eyes and
flushed cheeks, as she held out her hands. "Rosamond! Oh! But
aren't you afraid?"
"No, indeed, I'm always in it now," said Rosamond, kissing her, and
laying her down; "it has been everywhere."
"Ah! then they sent him away--Raymond?" then clutching Rosamond's
hand, and looking at her with searching eyes, "Tell me, has his
mother any right! Would you bear it if she kept _you_ apart?"
"Ah! Cecil, it was not her doing."
"You don't mean it was his own? Papa is not afraid. You are not
afraid. If it had been he, I wouldn't have feared anything. I
would have nursed him day and night till--till I made him care for
"Hush, dear Cecil," said Rosamond, with great difficulty. "I know
you would, and so would he have done for you, only the cruel fever
kept you apart."
"The fever! He had it?"
"Yes, he _had_ it."
"But he is better. I am better. Let me be taken to him. His
mother is not there now. I heard them say she was in Frank's room.
Call papa. He will carry me."
"Oh! poor, poor Cecil. His mother only went to Frank when he did
not need her any more." And Rosamond hid her face on the bed,
afraid to look.
Cecil lay back so white, that Grindstone approached with some drops,
but this made her spring up, crying, "No, no, don't come near me!
You never told me! You deceived me!"
"Don't, don't, ma'am--my dear Miss Charnock--now. It was all for
the best. You would not have been here now."
"And then I should be with him. Rosamond, send her away, I can't
bear her. She sent him away from me that night. I heard her."
"My dear Cecil, this will not do. You are making your father
dreadfully unhappy. Dear Raymond stayed with you till he really
could not sit up any longer, and then he kissed you."
"Kissed me! Oh, where? Did you see? No, don't ask Grindstone.
She made me think he had left me, and fancy--oh, Rosamond! such--
such things! And all the time--"
The moaning became an anguish of distress, unable to weep, like
terrible pain, as the poor young thing writhed in Rosamond's arms.
It was well that this one sister understood what had been in Cecil's
heart, and did believe in her love for Raymond. Rosamond, too, had
caressing power beyond any other of the family, and thus she could
better deal with the sufferer, striving, above all, to bring tears
by what she whispered to her as she held her to her bosom. They
were a terrible storm at last, but Cecil clung to Rosamond through
all, absolutely screaming when Grindstone came near; poor Grindstone
who had been so devoted, though mistaken. Weakness, however, after
the first violent agitation was soothed, favoured a kind of stunned
torpor, and Cecil lay still, except when her maid tried to do
anything for her, and then the passion returned. When old Susan
Alston came with a message, she was at once recognized and
monopolized, and became the only servant whom she would suffer about
The inconvenience was great, but relapse was such an imminent
danger, that it was needful to give up everything to her; and Mr.
Charnock, regarding his daughter's sufferings as the only ones worth
consideration, seemed to pursue Rosamond the instant she had sat
down by the still feeble, weary, convalescent Terry, imploring her
to return to Cecil with the irresistible force of tearful eyes and
piteous descriptions; and as Terry had a week's start in recovery,
and was not a widow under twenty-two, he had to submit, and lie as
contentedly as he could in his solitude.
Susan could be better spared to Cecil's morbid fancy of being waited
on by her who had attended her husband, for Miles and Anne were
sufficient for Mrs. Poynsett and Frank. The long-sundered husband
and wife scarcely saw each other, except over Frank's bed, and Mr.
Charnock was on the Captain's hands whenever he came beyond it. On
the Wednesday, however, Julius, who had only once spoken to his
brother alone, came up to the breakfast-table where he and Mr.
Charnock were sitting, and hurt the feelings of the latter by first
asking for Frank. "He had slept all night, and only half woke when
Miles and Anne changed watch and gave him beef-tea. Cecil, very
moaning and restless--more fever about her, poor dear. When would
Lady Rosamond come up?--she was asking for her." When she had seen
to a few things at home, given her brother his breakfast, and seen
to poor Herbert; he had had a dreadful night, and that Cranstoun
_would_ shut the window unless some one defended him. Mr. Charnock
began to resume his daughter's symptoms, when Julius, at the first
"Have you finished, Miles? Could you speak to me in the library a
minute? I beg your pardon, Mr. Charnock, but my time is short."
"I hope--I quite understand. Do not let me be in your way." And
the brothers repaired to the library, where Julius's first words
were, "Miles, you must make up your mind. They are getting up a
requisition to you to stand for Wil'sbro'."
"You are the most obvious person, and the feeling for dear Raymond
is so strong as to prevent any contest. Whitlock told Bindon
yesterday that you should have no trouble."
"I can't. It is absurd. I know nothing about it. My poor mother
bred up Raymond for nothing else. Don't you remember how she made
him read history, volumes upon volumes, while I was learning nothing
but the ropes? I declare, Julius, there he goes."
"Why, that old ass, down to hunt up poor Rosamond; I don't believe
he thinks there's any one in the world but his daughter. I declare
I'll hail him and stop him."
"No, no, Miles, Rosamond can take care of herself. She won't come
till she has seen to her patients down there; and, after all,
Cecil's is the saddest case, poor thing. To return. If you don't
take to politics in the end, I think you should let them put you in
now, if only as a stop-gap, or we shall get some one whom it may not
be easy to get rid of."
"There's something in that, but I can't accept without knowing my
position, and I would not utter a word to disturb my mother till it
occurs to her of herself."
"Now that Frank is better?"
"No. It will all come on her soon enough."
"Would you stand if she made it right for you?"
"I can't tell. There would be no punishment so great to my poor
Anne as to be dragged into society, and I don't know how she would
bear it, even if she had no scruples. We never thought of anything
but settling in Glen Fraser, only I wanted her to know you all. If
that poor Cecil only had a child we could be free to go back. Poor
"Do you think she is still as homesick as at first?"
"Well, not quite, perhaps; but I never can get to talk to her, and I
know it is a terrible sacrifice to her to live here at all, and I
won't have her forced into a style of thing against her conscience.
If they come to me, I shall tell them to take Mr. Bowater."
"Poor Mr. Bowater! He will have little heart."
"Who else is there? That fellow Moy would like it, I suppose."
"That fellow Moy may have to change his note," said Julius. "I
think we have the means of clearing Archie, when we can see how to
Miles gave a sort of leap as he stood by the fire. "Tell me.
Archie! I had no heart to write to him, poor fellow."
"Write to him by all means, but say nothing here." And Julius
briefly repeated what Gadley had said.
"I don't see that the scoundrel Moy deserves any consideration."
"I don't know whether he does; but he has a good wife, ailing and
sickly, and a daughter. He has lived in good report these many
years, and I think it is due to him and to old Proudfoot not to
spread the report before giving him warning. In fact, I am not sure
whether we could proceed against him as things stand."
"It is just what Raymond would have known," said Miles, with a sigh;
"but you are right, Julius, one ought to give him fair play. Ah!
what's that, Jenkins?--Note from Lord Belfort? Wait for an answer.
Can't they give one any peace?"
While Miles was reluctantly answering his note, Julius, resolving to
act before he was forbidden, mounted to Frank's room, requested to
speak with his mother, and propelled her into the outer room,
leaving Anne on guard.
"Now then, my dear," she said, "I have known a talk must soon come.
You have all been very good to me to leave it so long."
"I am come now without poor Miles's knowledge or consent," said
Julius, "because it is necessary for him to know what to do."
"He will give up the navy," said his mother. "O, Julius! does he
require to be told that he--?" and she laid her head on her son's
"It is what he cannot bear to be told; but what drives me on is that
Whitlock tells me that the Wil'sbro' people want to bring him in at
once, as the strongest proof of their feeling for Raymond."
"Yes," she raised her head proudly, "of course he must come forward.
He need have no doubt. Send him to me, Julius, I will tell him to
open letters, and put matters in train. Perhaps you will write to
Graves for me, if he does not like it, poor boy."
She had roused herself into the woman of business, and when Miles,
after some indignation at her having been disturbed, obeyed the
summons, she held out her arms, and became the consoler.
"Come, my boy," she said, "we must face it sooner or later. You
must stand foremost and take up his work for him."
"Oh, mother! mother! you know how little I am able," said Miles,
covering his face with his hands.
"You do not bring his burthened heart to the task," she said. "If
you had watched and felt with him, as perhaps only his mother could,
you would know that I can be content that the long heartache should
have ceased, where the weary are at rest. Yes, Miles, I feel as if
I had put him to sleep after a long day of pain, as when he was a
They hardened themselves to the discussion, Mrs. Poynsett explaining
what she thought the due of her eldest son, only that Cecil's
jointure would diminish the amount at her disposal. Indeed, when
she was once aroused, she attended the most fully; but when Miles
found her apologizing for only affording him the little house in the
village, he cried out with consternation.
"My dear," she said, "it is best so; I will not be a burthen on you
young ones. I see the mistake."
"I know," stammered Miles, "my poor Anne is not up to your mark--not
clever like you or Jenny--but I thought you did like her pretty
"I feel them and love them with all my heart; but I cannot have her
happiness and yours sacrificed to me. Yes, you boys love the old
nest; but even Julius and Rose rejoice in their own, and you must
see what she really wishes, not what she thinks her duty. Take her
out walking, you both need it badly enough."
They ventured to comply, and eluding Mr. Charnock, went into the
park, silvery with the unstanched dews, and the leaves floating down
one by one like golden rain. "Not much like the Bush," said Miles.
"No," was all Anne durst say.
"Poor Nan, how dreary it must have looked to you last year!"
"I am afraid I wrote very complaining letters!"
"Not complaining, but a direful little effort at content, showing
the more piteously, because involuntarily, what a mistake I had
"No, no mistake. Indeed, Miles, it was not. Nothing else would
have cured me of the dreadful uncharitableness which was the chief
cause of my unhappiness, and if I had not been so forlorn, I should
never have seen how good and patient your mother was with me. Yes,
I mean it. I read over my old diary and saw how tiresome and
presumptuous I was, and how wonderfully she bore with me, and so did
Julius and Rosamond, while all the time I fancied them--no
"Ah! you child! You know I would never have done it if I had known
you were to be swamped among brides. At any rate, this poor old
place doesn't look so woefully dismal and hateful to you now."
"It could not, where you are, and where I have so many to know and
"You can bear the downfall of our Bush schemes?"
"Your duty is here now."
"Are you grieved, little one?"
"I don't know. I should like to have seen mamma; but she does not
need me now as your mother does."
"Then you are willing to be her daughter?"
"I have tried hard, and she is very kind; but I am far too dull and
ignorant for her. I can only wait upon her; but when she has you
and Julius to talk to, my stupidity will not matter."
"Would you be content to devote yourself to her, instead of making a
home of our own?"
"She can't be left alone in that great house."
"The question is, can you be happy in it? or do you wish for a house
"You don't, Miles, it is your own home."
"That's not the question."
"Miles, why do you look at me so?"
"I was told to ascertain your wishes."
"I don't wish anything--now I have you--but to be a comfort to your
mother. That is my first earthly wish just now."
"If that be earthly, it has a touch of the heavenly," muttered Miles
to himself. "You will make it clear to mother then that you like to
go on with her?"
"If she does not mind having me."
"And Julius says it really cheered our dear Raymond to think you
would be the one to look after her! But that's not all, Nanny, I've
only till to-morrow to decide whether I am to be Member for
"Is that a duty?"
"Not such a duty as to bind me if it were altogether repugnant to
you. I was not brought up for it, and may be a mere stop-gap, but
it is every man's duty to come to the front when he is called for,
and do his utmost for his country in Parliament, I suppose, as much
as in action."
"I see; but it would be leaving your mother alone a great deal."
"Not necessarily. You could stay here part of the time, and I go
backwards and forwards, as Raymond did before his marriage."
"It would be better than your being at sea."
"But remember," he added, "there is much that can't be shirked. I
don't mean currying popularity, but if one is in that position,
there's no shutting oneself up. It becomes a duty to keep society
going, and give it the sort of tone that a nice woman can do. Do
"I think I do. Julius said so once."
"So if we are to have such tears and despair as there were about the
ball in the Chimaera, then--"
"I was wrong then," said Anne. "I did not behave at all well to you
all that time, dear Miles; I have been sorry for it ever since I
"It was not you, little one, it was Mr. Pilgrim."
"No, it was not Mr. Pilgrim who made me cross."
"Yes, it was. He exacted pledges that he had no right to lay on
your conscience, and your poor little conscience was in terrible
straits, and I was too angry to feel for it. Never mind all that;
you have done with the fellow, and understand better now."
"He thought he was right, and that only such abstinence could guard
me. And, Miles, a promise is a promise, and I do not think I ought
to dance or play at cards. It is not that I think them wrong for
others, but I cannot break my word. Except those--I will do
whatever is fitting for your wife."
"Spoken like a heroine!"
"I don't think I could ever give a tone. Rosamond could, if she
tried, but I have no readiness and no training; but I do see that
there is more good in being friendly like Jenny Bowater, than in
avoiding everything, and as long as one does it because it is right
and loving, it can't be the world or worldliness."
It was not lucidly expressed, but it satisfied the Captain.
"All right, my bonnie Nance, I'll promise on my side never to ask
you to go against your real conscience, and if you must have a Pope,
I had rather it were Pope Julius than Pope Pilgrim."
"Don't, Miles. Popes are all wrong, and I don't know whether Mr.
Pilgrim would give the right hand of fellowship to Julius."
Miles chuckled. "You may think yourself lucky you have not to
adjust that question, Madame Nan."
"There's the quarter chiming, Frank will want his beef-tea."
Presently after Miles laid his hand on his mother's shoulder, and
said, "Mother, here's a daughter who thinks you want to turn us out
because she is too slow and stupid for your home child." And he
drew Anne up blushing as if she were his freshly-won bride.
"My dear, are you sure you don't want to go away from the old woman?
Should you not be happier with him all to yourself?"
"I could not be happy if you were left," said Anne. "May I go on as
we did last winter? I will try to do better now I have him to help
"My own dear child!"
That was the way Anne forgot her own people and her father's house.
And of our scholars let us learn
Our own forgotten lore.--KEBLE
"Joan, Jenny, dearest old Joanie!" It was eagerly spoken, though
the voice was strangely altered that came from behind the flowered
curtain of that big bed, while the fingers drew it back, and Rollo
raised his black muzzle near at hand. "Oh, Jenny! have you come to
"My dear, dear, poor boy!"
"No kissing--it's not safe," and he burrowed under the sheet.
"As if I did not mean to do more for you than that! Besides, it is
"So I said, till it caught me. What a jolly cold hand! You've not
come in cold and hungry though?"
"No, indeed, Rosamond forced me to sit down to a whole spread. As
if one could eat with a knot in one's throat."
"Mind you do, Jenny--it was what did for me. The Rector ordered me
never to go about unfed; but one could not always--and there was
something I have to tell you that drove all the rest out--"
"Dear Herbs! Papa can't talk of what you have done without tears.
He longed to come, but we could not leave mamma without one of us,
and he thought I could do the most for you. I have a note for you."
"I should _think_ so. It is in my bag--"
"No, not this moment; I like to know it. And mammy--poor mammy--"
"She is as comforted as she can be that you have Cranky and me; and
then papa's being proud of you has cheered her--oh! so much."
"I'm glad they can comfort themselves--"
"But, Herbert, dear, you must be much better; I did not expect to
see you so well."
"I am not so bad between whiles," said Herbert, wearily. "And,
while I can, I've got something to tell you that will make it up to
you, and a great deal more."
"Make it up?" said Jenny, looking with bewildered eyes at the dear
"Yes, I made Gadley consent. The Rector has it in writing, and it
will do quite as well if I die. O, Jenny, woman, think of my never
knowing what you had gone through!"
"Is it about Archie?" said Jenny, beginning to tremble.
"Yes. It will clear him."
"I always knew he was clear."
"Yes, but he can come back now all right. Eh! what an ass I am!
I've begun at the wrong end. He wasn't drowned--it was all a
mistake; Miles saw him in Africa--Cranky, I say, come to her."
"Yes, Master Herbert, you've been talking a great deal too much for
your sister just off a journey. You'll get the fever on again.
Miss Joanna, you ought to know better than to let him run on; I
sha'n't be able to let you do nothing for him if this is the way."
"Was it too sudden, Joan?" said Herbert, wistfully, as she bent to
kiss his brow with trembling lips. "I couldn't let any one tell you
but myself, while I could; but I don't seem able to go on. Is the
Rector there, Cranky?"
"Yes, sir, waiting in the parlour."
"Rector," and Julius hurried in at once, "take her and tell her. I
can't do it after all."
"Is he alive?" whispered Jenny, so much overcome that Julius had to
hold her up for a moment as he led her into the other room.
"Really! She thinks me delirious," said Herbert, rather amused.
"Tell her all, Rector."
"Really, Joan," said Julius, putting her into the great chair, and
holding her trembling hand. "Miles has seen him, has had him in his
"And you never told me!"
"He made Miles promise not to tell."
"But he told you!"
"Yes, because it was Anne who gave the clue which led to his
discovery; but when he found we all thought him dead, he laid Miles
under the strictest charge to say nothing. He is on an ostrich farm
in Natal, Jenny, well, and all that he ever was, and more too. He
took your photograph from Miles's book."
"And I never knew," moaned Jenny, quite overcome.
"He would not be persuaded that it was not more for your peace not
to know of his life, and when Miles was put on honour, what could we
do? But now it is all changed. Since Herbert's discovery he need
not be a banished man any more." And Julius told Jenny the manner
of the discovery. She listened, evidently gathering all in, and
then she asked: "And what have you done?"
"Nothing as yet."
"Nothing! while there is this blot on Archie's name, and he is
living in exile, and that Moy is revelling in prosperity. Nothing!
Why don't you publish it to every one?"
"My dear Jenny, I have only known it a week, and I have not been
able to find out where Mr. Moy is."
"What, to have him taken up?"
"Taken up, no; I don't imagine he could be prosecuted after this
length of time and on this kind of evidence. No, to give him
"Warning? To flee away, and never clear Archie! What are you
about, Julius? He ought to be exposed at once, if he cannot be made
to suffer otherwise."
"Nay, Jenny, that would be hard measure."
"Hard measure!" she interrupted; "what has my innocent Archie had?"
"Think of the old man, his wife and daughter, Jenny."
"She's a Proudfoot.--And that girl the scandal of the country! You
want to sacrifice Archie to them, Julius?"
"You are tired and shaken, Jenny, or you would see that all I want
to do is to act with common consideration and honour."
She interrupted again. "What honour do you mean? You are not
making it a secret of the confessional?"
"You are misunderstanding me, Joanna," Julius gently said.
"Herbert's vigil spared me from that difficulty, but--"
"Then you would have sacrificed Archie to this imaginary--"
"Hush, Jenny! I fear he is wandering again. Alas! it is the sad
As they came to the door together, Herbert's voice, under that
strange change which wandering brings, was heard muttering, "Give an
account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward."
And Mrs. Cranstoun received them, with her head shaking, and tearful
eyes. "It has come on again, sir; I was afraid it would be too much
Herbert's prayer had been granted, inasmuch as the horrible ravings
that he feared repeating never passed his lips. If he had gone down
to the smoke of Tartarus to restore his sister's lover, none of its
blacks were cleaning to him; but whether conscious or wandering, the
one thought of his wasted year seemed to be crushing him. It was a
curious contrast between poor Mr. Fuller's absence of regret for a
quarter of a century's supineness, and this lad's repentance for
twelve months' idleness. That his follies had been guileless in
themselves might be the very cause that his spirit had such power of
repentance. His admiration of Lady Tyrrell had been burnt out, and
had been fancy, not heart, and no word of it passed his lips, far
less of the mirth with the Strangeways. Habit sometimes brought the
phrases of the cricket-field, but these generally ended in a shudder
of self-recollection and prayer.
The delirium only came with the accesses of fever, and when
sensible, he was very quiet and patient, but always as one weighed
down by sense of failure in a trust. He never seemed to entertain a
hope of surviving. He had watched too many cases not to be aware
that his symptoms were those that had been almost uniformly fatal,
and he noted them as a matter of course. Dr. Easterby came to see
him, and was greatly touched; Herbert was responsive, but it was not
the ordinary form of comfort that he needed, for his sorrow was
neither terror nor despair. His heart was too warm and loving not
to believe that his heavenly Father forgave him as freely as did his
earthly father; but that very hope made him the more grieved and
ashamed of his slurred task, nor did he view his six weeks at
Wil'sbro' as any atonement, knowing it was no outcome of repentance,
but of mere kindliness, and aware, as no one else could be, how his
past negligence had hindered his full usefulness, so that he only
saw his failures. As to his young life, he viewed it as a mortally
wounded soldier does, as a mere casualty of the war, which he was
pledged to disregard. He _did_ perhaps like to think that the fatal
night with Gadley might bring Archie back, and yet Jenny did not
give him the full peace in her happiness which he had promised
Joanna had suffered terribly, far more than any one knew, and her
mind did not take the revulsion as might have been expected. Her
lighthouse was shining again when she thought it extinguished for
ever, but her spirits could not bear the uncertainty of the spark.
She could not enter into what Miles and Julius both alike told her,
of the impossibility of their mother beginning a prosecution for
money embezzled ten years back, when no living witness existed,
nothing but the scrap of paper written by Herbert, and signed by him
and Margaret Strangeways, authorizing Julius Charnock to use what
had been said by the dying, half-delirious man. What would a jury
say to such evidence? And when Julius said it only freed himself
morally from the secrecy, poor Jenny was bitter against his
scruples, even though he had never said more than that he should
have been perplexed. The most bitter anti-ritualist could hardly
have uttered stronger things than she thought, and sometimes said,
against what seemed to her to be keeping Archie in banishment; while
the brothers' reluctance to expose Mr. Moy, and blast his reputation
and that of his family, was in her present frame of mind an
incomprehensible weakness. People must bear the penalty of their
misdeeds, families and all, and Mrs. and Miss Moy did not deserve
consideration: the pretensions of the mother had always been half
scorn, half thorn, to the old county families, and the fast airs of
the daughter had been offensive enough to destroy all pity for her.
If an action in a Court of Justice were, as Miles and Julius told
her, impossible,--and she would not believe it, except on the word
of a lawyer,--public exposure was the only alternative for righting
Archie, and she could not, or would not, understand that they would
have undergone an action for libel rather than not do their best to
clear their cousin, but that they thought it due to Mr. Moy to give
him the opportunity of doing the thing himself; she thought it
folly, and only giving him time and chance for baffling them.
The strange thing was, that not only when she argued with the two
brothers, but when she brooded and gave way to these thoughts as she
kept her watch, it probably made her less calm--for an access of
restlessness and fever never failed to come on--with Herbert.
Probably she was less calm externally, and the fret of face and
manner communicated itself to him, for the consequences were so
invariable that Cranstoun thought they proved additionally what she
of course believed, that Miss Joan could not be trusted with her
brother. At last Jenny, in her distress and unwillingness to
abandon Herbert to Cranky's closed windows, traced cause and effect,
and made a strong resolution to banish the all-pervading thought,
and indeed his ever-increasing weakness and danger filled her mind
so as to make this easier and easier, so that she might no longer
have to confess to herself that Rollo was a safer companion, since
Herbert, with a hand on that black head, certainly only derived
soothing influences from those longing sympathetic eyes. And he
could not but like the testimony of strong affection that came to
him. The whole parish was in consternation, and inquiries, and very
odd gifts, which he was supposed to 'fancy,' came from all over
Compton as well as from Strawyers, and were continually showering
upon his nurses, so that Mrs. Hornblower and Dilemma spent their
lives in mournful replies over the counter, and fifty times a day he
was pronounced to be 'as bad as he could be to be alive.' Old
servants and keepers made progresses from Strawyers, to see Master
Herbert, and were terribly aggrieved because Miss Bowater kept them
out of his room, as much for their sake as his; and Mrs. Cranstoun
pointed to the open lattice which she believed to be killing him, as
surely as it gave aches to her rheumatic shoulder.
Julius thought almost as much as Jenny could do of the means of
recalling Archie; but it was necessary to wait until he could
communicate with Mr. Moy, and his hands were still over-full, for
though much less fatal, the fever smouldered on, both in Wil'sbro'
and Compton, and as St. Nicholas was a college living which had
hitherto been viewed as a trump card, it might be a long time going
the round of the senior fellows.
Julius had just been at poor Mrs. Fuller's, trying to help her to
put her complicated affairs in order, so as to be ready for a move
as soon as one daughter, who had the fever slightly, could be taken
away, and he was driving home again, when he overtook Mrs. Duncombe
and offered her a lift, for her step was weary. She was indeed
altered, pale, with cheek-bones showing, and all the lustre and
sparkle gone out of her, while her hat was as rigidly dowdy as Miss
She roused herself to ask feebly after the remaining patients.
"Cecil is really getting better at last," he said. "Her father
wants to take her to Portishead next week."
"And young Bowater?"
"No change. His strength seems to be going."
"I wouldn't pity him," sighed Bessie Duncombe; "he has only seen the
best end of life, and has laid it down for something worth! I'm
sure he and your brother are the enviable ones."
"Nay, Mrs. Duncombe, you have much to work for and love in this
"And I must go away from everything just as I had learnt to value
it. Bob has taken a house at Monaco, and writes to me to bring the
children to join him there!"
"At Monaco! Yes, and I know that it is all my own fault. I might
have done anything with him if I had known how. But what could you
expect? I never saw my mother; I never knew a home; I was bred up
at a French school, where if one was not a Roman Catholic there was
not a shred of religion going. I married after my first ball.
Nobody taught me anything; but I could not help having brains, so I
read and caught the tone of the day, and made my own line, while he
went on his."
"And now there is a greater work for you to do, since you have
learnt to do it."
"Ah! learnt too late. When habits are confirmed, and home station
forfeited--What is there left for him or my poor boys to do?"
"A colony perhaps--"
"Damaged goods," she said, smiling sadly.
"Then are you going?"
"As soon as I have seen this fever out, and can dispose of the
things here. I have just been to Moy's office to see about getting
rid of the lease."
"Is Mr. Moy come home?"
"Yes. Have you not heard?"
"What?--Not the fever?"
"No. Worse I should say. Gussie has gone off and got married to
"The man at the training stables?"
"Yes. They put up their banns at the Union at Brighton, and were
married by the Registrar, then went off to Paris. They say it will
kill her mother. The man is a scoundrel, who played Bob false, and
won largely by that mare. And the girl has had the cheek to write
to me," said Mrs. Duncombe, warming into her old phraseology--"to
_me_!--to thank me for opportunities of meeting, and to tell me she
has followed up the teaching of last year."
"What--the rights of women?"
"Ay. This is a civil marriage--not mocking her with antiquated
servile vows," she says. "Ah, well, it was my doing, I suppose.
Clio Tallboys held forth in private, I believe, to poor Gussie, on
theories that were mere talk in her, but which this poor girl has
taken in earnest."
"Very sad earnest she may find it, I fear. Can I do anything for
you?" as they reached the gate of Aucuba Villa.
"No, thank you, unless to get the house off my hands."
"You are alone. Will you not come and spend the evening with us?"
"That is very kind, but I have too much to do, and besides, Sister
Margaret is coming to spend the night with me."
"I am glad to hear it."
"Yes, Mr. Charnock, I trust I have learnt something in this spell of
work. I've not been for nothing in such scenes with those Sisters
and young Bowater. I'm more ignorant than half the poor things that
I've heard talk of their faith and hope; but I see it is not the
decorous humbug it once looked like. And now that I would have
learnt, here I go to Monaco."
"You will learn. You have a work before you that will teach you."
"My boys are young enough to start with on a different tack," she
said. "You will tell me--no--I'll not hinder you now. I shall see
Julius was too anxious to get home to refuse to be released, much as
he felt for this brave woman. The day before, Herbert had been
frightfully faint and exhausted by the morning's attack of fever,
but had been so still ever since that there was a shade of hope that
the recurrence might not take place; and this hope grew stronger,
when Jenny came into the outer room to say that the usual time for
the fever was passing so quietly in a sort of sleep that Dr. Worth
seemed to think rally possible, if only there was no fresh access.
They stood over the fire, and Julius asked, "Can't you lie on the
sofa, Jenny? I can stay."
"No," said Jenny, restlessly. "No, I can't. I know you have
something to tell me."
"Moy has come home, Jenny. He is in terrible trouble. His daughter
has eloped with young Simmonds at the training stables."
"The most appropriate end of her bringing up," said Jenny, in the
hard tone it was so difficult to answer--it was so unlike herself--
and her thought was that weak pity and forbearance would hinder
exertions in Archie's cause. "Generous at other folks' expense,"
said she to herself. "Sparing the guilty and leaving the innocent
But a moaning murmur, and Cranstoun's movement at once summoned them
both to the bedside.
Alas! here was the attack that the doctor had evidently apprehended
as likely to be fatal. Hour after hour did sister, nurse, and
friend stand watching, and doing their best, their piteously little
best, while consciousness, if there was any, was far out of their
Late into the night it went on, and then followed the collapse, with
locked teeth, which could hardly be drawn asunder to put the
stimulus hopelessly between them, and thus came the tardy December
dawn, when the church-bell made Jenny bid Julius not stay, but only
first read the commendatory prayer.
"I thought there was a little more revival just now," he said; "his
hands are warmer, and he really did swallow."
The old nurse shook her head. "That's the way before they go," said
she. "Don't ye wish him, poor lamb, it makes it the harder for
Julius prayed the prayer, and as he tenderly laid his hand on the
brow, he wondered whether he should find the half-closed eyes shut
for ever on his return.
But as he went, there was a quiver of lip and flicker of eyelid, the
lightening, as Cranky called it, was evidently gaining ground.
Herbert's faint whisper was heard again--"Jenny!"
"The Lord's Prayer!"
She began,--his fingers tightened on hers. "Pray it for old Moy,"
he said; and as she paused, scarce hearing or understanding, "He--he
wants it," gasped Herbert. "No! One can't pray it, without--"
another pause. "Help me, Jenny. Say it--O Lord, who savedst us--
forgive us. Help us to forgive from our hearts that man his
Jenny said it. Herbert's voice sank in the Amen. He lay breathing
in long gasps; but he thus breathed still when Julius came back, and
Jenny told him that a few words had passed, adding--
"Julius, I will say nothing bitter again. God help me not to think
Did Herbert hear? Was that the reason of the calm which made the
white wasted face so beautiful, and the strange soft cool hush
throughout the room?
And how should I your true love know
From another man?--Friar of Orders Gray
"Please God, I can try again."
Those were the words with which Herbert Bowater looked into his
Rector's face on awaking in the evening of that same December day
from one of a series of sleeps, each sweeter and longer than the
last, and which had borne him over the dreaded hours, without fever,
and with strengthening pulse.
Julius had not ventured to leave the sick-room that whole day, and
when at last he went home and sank into the chair opposite Terry,
for the first time through all these weeks of trouble and tension,
he burst into a flood of tears.
He had hardly made the startled lad understand that life, not death,
had thus overcome him, when the door flew open, and in rushed
Rosamond, crying, "Julius, Julius, come! It is he or his ghost!"
"It is your hair! At Mrs. Douglas's grave! He'll be gone! Make
He started up, letting her drag him along, but under protest. "My
dear, men _do_ come to have hair like mine."
"I tell you it was at our graves--our own--I touched him. I had
this wreath for Raymond, and there he was, with his hat off, at the
railing close to Mrs. Douglas's. I thought his back was yours, and
called your name, and he started, and I saw--he had a white beard,
but he was not old. He just bowed, and then went off very fast by
the other gate, towards Wil'sbro'. I did call, 'Wait, wait,' but he
didn't seem to hear. Oh, go, go, Julius! Make haste!"
Infected by the wild hope, Julius hurried on the road where his wife
had turned his face, almost deriding himself for obeying her, when
he would probably only overtake some old family retainer; but as,
under the arch of trees that overhung the road, he saw a figure in
the moonlight, a thrill of recognition came over him as he marked
the vigorous tread of the prime of life, and the white hair visible
in the moonlight, together with something utterly indescribable, but
which made him call out, "Archie! Archie Douglas! wait for me!"
The figure turned. "Julius!" came in response; the two cousins'
hands clasped, and there was a sob on either side as they kissed one
another as brothers.
"Archie! How could you!--Come back!" was all that Julius could say,
leaning breathlessly against him and holding him tight.
"No! Do not know that I have been here. I was sent to London on
business. I could not help running home in the dark. No one must
know it. I am dead to them."
"No, Archie, you are not. Gadley has confessed and cleared you.
"Cleared me!" The two arms were stretched up to the sky, and there
was the sound of a mighty sob, as though the whole man, body, soul,
and spirit, were relieved from an unspeakable burthen. "Say it
"Gadley, on his death-bed, has confessed that Moy and Proudfoot took
that money, incited by Tom Vivian."
Archie Douglas could not speak, but he turned his face towards
Compton again, strode swiftly into the churchyard, and fell on his
knees by his mother's grave. When at last he rose, he pointed to
the new and as yet unmarked mound, and said, "Your mother's?"
"Oh no! Raymond's! We have had a terrible fever here--almost a
pestilence--and we are scarcely breathing after it."
"Ah! some one in the train spoke of sickness at Wil'sbro', but I
would ask no questions, for I saw faces I knew, and I would lead to
no recognition. I could not stay away from getting one sight of the
old place. Miles made it all burn within me; but here's my return-
ticket for the mail-train."
"Never mind return-tickets. Come home with me."
"I shall startle your mother."
"I meant my home--the Rectory. It was my wife who saw you in the
churchyard, and sent me after you. She is watching for you."
Archie, still bewildered, as if spell-bound by his ticket, muttered,
"I thought I should have time to walk over and look at Strawyers."
"Joanna is here."
"Julius! It is too much. You are sure I am awake? This is not the
old dream!" cried the exile, grasping his cousin's arm quite
"I am a waking man, and I trust you are," said Julius. "Come into
the light. No, that is not Jenny on the step. It is my Rose. Yes,
here he is!"
And as they came into the stream of light from the porch, Irish
Rosamond, forgetting that Archie was not a brother, caught him by
both hands, and kissed him in overpowering welcome, exclaiming, "Oh,
I am so glad! Come in--come in!"
There he stood, blinking in the lamplight, a tall, powerful, broad-
chested figure, but hardly a hero of romance to suit Terry's fancy,
after a rapid summary of the history from Rosamond. His hair and
beard were as white as Julius's, and the whole face was tanned to
uniform red, but no one could mistake the dazed yet intense gladness
of the look. He sank into a chair, clasped his hands over his face
for a moment, then surveyed them all one by one, and said, "You told
me she was here."
"She is with her brother Herbert, at Mrs. Hornblower's lodgings.
No, you must wait, Archie; he has barely in the last few hours, by
God's great mercy, taken a turn for the better in this fever, and I
don't see how she can leave him."
"But she must hear it," cried Rosamond. "I'm going to make her or
Cranky get some rest; but you ought to be the one to tell her,
Julius, you that have stood by her through all."
"And aren't you burning to do so, Rosey, woman? and I think you had
better, rather than that I should startle Herbert by returning; but
stay, mind your own rules--eat and drink before you go, and give the
same to Archie. I shall send up a note to Miles. How is Cecil?"
"Very silent and broken, poor thing. She is to see your mother to-
morrow. How well it was that she kept me so late over her wreath of
Archie submitted to wait for food and fuller information,--indeed
the lady of the house manifested more impatience than he did, as she
flitted about making preparations, and he sat with hands locked
together over his knee, gazing fixedly at Julius, scarcely speaking,
though eagerly listening; and when the meal was brought in, he could
not eat, only eagerly drank off a cup of scalding tea, and watched
Rosamond, as if jealous of any delay over her cutlet. She did not
abuse his patience.
"Now then?" she said, rising. "You shall hear something of her
"Let me come to her door," entreated Archie.
And as the light shone from the window of the sick-room, Rosamond
said, "Stand under that tree in the moonlight, and I will make her
All was intensely quiet; Cranky fast asleep in the arm-chair in the
outer-room, and Jenny sitting by the bed, watching the smooth quiet
"You are to lie down on the sofa and sleep," said Rosamond, kissing
her, and she shook her head, "You must. People want strength for
joy as well as grief. Trust him to me, for there is some one for
you to see to-morrow."
"Not papa!" said Jenny, startled. "No, nor Phil! Tell me,
Rosamond. There is only one you could look at me like that for!"
"Look out at the window."
Trembling all over, Jenny went and put her face to the lattice. The
figure under the tree came nearer. Archie must have been able
clearly to see her face in the moonlight. He stretched up his arms
to her, then folded them together on his breast, and let himself be
led away by Julius, while Jenny slid down on her knees, with her
face buried, and the suppressed choking sobs made Herbert look up at
Rosamond, and whisper, "It is?"
"It is," repeated Rosamond, who had thought him asleep, or entirely
absorbed in the trouble of living.
"Go to her," he added.
Rosamond put her arm round her, and supported her into the next
room; for, after the month of hopeless watching, the long
sleeplessness and the struggle of this silent day to force her
spirit to the forgiveness she had promised, and then the sudden
reaction, had overpowered her, and the suppression and silence were
beyond endurance. She did not even know that Herbert was awake when
Rosamond brought her out into Mrs. Hornblower's room, and said,
"Have it out now, my dear, no one will hear. Scream comfortably.
It will do you good."
But Jenny could not even scream. She was in the excited agony when
the mind is far too much for the body, and joy, unrealized, is like
grief. If her brother had that day passed away, and if nothing had
been heard of her lover, she would have been all calmness and
resignation; but the revulsion had overcome her, and at the moment
she was more conscious of strangulation than of anything else.
Rosamond tended her for full half an hour, and then she seemed
almost asleep, though she resisted the attempt to undress her, with
the words, "I must go to Herbert."
"I will take care of Herbert," and Jenny was too much spent not to
acquiesce, and fell asleep almost before she was laid down on the
bed their landlady had given up to the watchers.
Rosamond's task was a comfortable one, for every hour of sleep,
every mouthful of food seemed to do its work of restoration on the
sound, healthy frame, and a smile and word of thanks met her
whenever she roused her patient with the inevitable spoon.
When he awoke towards morning, he asked what day it was, and when
she told him, answered, "So I thought. Then I have not lost count
"No, you have been wonderfully clear-headed."
"I can't see how there can have been time to write," he said. "It
is true that he is come, is it not?"
"Quite true; but he came independently on business," and Rosamond
told of Julius's chase, bringing a look of amusement on his face.
Jenny came in with the rising sun, pale indeed, but another creature
after her rest and in the sight of the restful countenance that
greeted her with a smile. The moaning, hoarse voice was gone too,
it was a faint shadow of Herbert's own tones that said, "Is not this
good, Jenny? I didn't think to have seen it."
"My Herbert, you have given him back! You have given me the heart
to be glad!"
"You must go and see him," said Herbert.
Jenny looked wistful and undecided; but Julius entered to say that
she must come at once, for Archie must go back to London by the ten
o'clock train to an appointment, and could not return for two days.
Herbert smiled her away, for he was still in a state where it was
not possible to bear any engrossing of his head-nurse, and the
lover's absence was, even to his unselfishness, good news.
Rosamond could not refrain from the pleasure of peeping down the
little dark stair as Archie and his Jenny met in the doorway, and
she walked demurely in their rear, wondering whether other eyes saw
as much as she did in the manner in which Jenny hung on his arm.
She left them to their dewy walk in the Rectory garden to the last
minute at which breakfast could be swallowed, and told Jenny that
she was to drive him in the pony-carriage to Hazlett's Gate; she
would take care of Herbert.
"You ought to be asleep, you know," said Jenny.
"My dear, I couldn't sleep! There's a great deal better than sleep!
Is not Herbert going to get well? and aren't you jolly again and
Archie back again? Sleep!--why I want to have wings and clap them--
and more than all, is not Mr. Charnock off and away to-morrow?
Sleep indeed!--I should like to see myself so stupid."
"Mr. Charnock?" interrogatively said Archie.
"The head of the family--the original Charnock of Dunstone," said
Rosamond, who was in wild spirits, coming on a worn-out body and
mind, and therefore perfectly unguarded. "Don't shake your head at
me, Jenny, Archie is one of the family, and that makes you so, and I
must tell you of his last performance. You know he is absolutely
certain that his dear daughter is more infallible than all the
Popes, even since the Council, or than anybody but himself, and that
whatever goes wrong here is the consequence of Julius's faith in Dr.
Easterby. So, when poor Cecil, uneasy in her mind, began asking
about the illness at Wil'sbro', he enlivened her with a prose about
misjudging, through well-intentioned efforts of clerical
philanthropy to interfere with the sanitary condition of the town--
so that wells grew tainted, &c., all from ignorant interference.
Poor man he heard a little sob, and looked round, and there was
Cecil in a dead faint. He set all the bells ringing, and sent an
express for me."
"But wasn't he furious with Anne for mentioning drains at all?"
"My dear Joan, don't you know how many old women there are of both
sorts, who won't let other people look over the wall at what they
gloat on in private? However, he had his punishment, for he really
thought that the subject had been too much for her delicacy, and
simply upset her nerves."
"When was this?"
"Four or five days ago. She is better, but has said not a word more
about it. She is nothing like strong enough, even for so short a
journey as to Portishead; but they say change will be the best thing
for her, and the coming down into the family would be too sad."
"Poor thing! Yes indeed," said Jenny; and feeling universally
benevolent, she added, "give her my love," a thing which so sincere
a person could hardly have said a few weeks ago.
Reserve was part of Cecil's nature, and besides, her father was
almost always with her; but when she had been for the first time
dressed in crape up to her waist, with the tiniest of caps perched
toy-like on the top of her passive head, the sight upset him
completely, and muttering, "Good heavens!--a widow at twenty-two!"
he hid himself from the sight over some business transactions with
Mrs. Poynsett and Miles.
Rosamond seized the opportunity of bringing Julius in to pay his
farewell visit, and presently Cecil said, "Julius, I should be much
obliged if you would tell me the real facts about this illness."
"Do," said Rosamond. "Her half knowledge is most wearing."
He gently told her what science had pronounced.
"Then it was Pettitt's well?" she said.
"They tell us that this was the immediate cause of the outbreak; but
there would probably have been quite as much fatal illness the first
time any infectious disease came in. The whole place was in a
shameful state, and you were the only people who tried to mitigate
"And did worse harm, because we would not listen to advice," said
Cecil. "Julius, I have a great deal of money; can't I do anything
now? My father wants me to give a donation to the church as a
memorial of _him_, but, somehow, I don't feel as if I deserved to do
"I see what you mean, Cecil, but the town is being rated to set the
drainage to rights, and it will thus be done in the most permanent
and effectual way. There are some orphans who might be saved from
the Union, about whom I thought of asking you to help."
Cecil asked the details of the orphans, and the consultation over
them seemed to be prolonged by her because, even now, she could not
resolve to go below the surface. It lasted until her father came to
ask whether she were ready to go with him to Mrs. Poynsett's
sitting-room. She looked very fragile and childish as she stood up,
clinging to his arm to help her wavering, uncertain step, holding
out her hand to Julius and saying, "I shall see you again."
He was a little disappointed to see her no older, and no warmer;
having gone thus far, it seemed as if she might have gone further
and opened more. Perhaps he did not understand how feelings,
naturally slow, were rendered slower by the languor of illness,
which made them more oppressive than acute. As Mr. Charnock and his
daughter knocked, the door was opened by Miles, who merely gave his
hand, and went down. Frank, who had been reading in a low easy-
chair by the fire, drew it close to his mother for her, and
retreated to another seat, and the mother and daughter-in-law
exchanged a grave kiss. Cecil attempted some civility about the
chair, to which poor Frank replied, "I'm afraid it is of no use to
speak to me, Cecil, Miles can only just make me hear."
Regret for his misfortune, and inquiry as to the chance of
restoration, were a possible topic. Mr. Charnock gave much advice
about aurists, and examples of their success or non-success; and
thence he diverged to the invalid-carriage he had secured, and his
future plans for expediting his daughter's recovery. Meanwhile Mrs.
Poynsett and Cecil sat grave, dry-eyed, and constrained, each
feeling that in Mr. Charnock's presence the interview was a nullity,
yet neither of them able to get rid of him, nor quite sure that she
would have done so if she could.
He, meanwhile, perfectly satisfied with his own considerate tact,
talked away the allotted half-hour, and then pronounced his daughter
pale and tired. She let him help her to rise, but held Mrs.
Poynsett's hand wistfully, as if she wished to say something but
could not; and all Mrs. Poynsett could bring out was a hope of
hearing how she bore the journey. It was as if they were both
frozen up. Yet the next moment Cecil was holding Frank's hand in a
convulsive clasp, and fairly pulling him down to exchange a kiss,
when he found her tears upon his cheek. Were they to his
misfortune, or to his much-increased resemblance to his brother?
Mr. Charnock kept guard over her, so that her other farewells were
almost as much restrained as these, and though she hung on
Rosamond's neck, and seemed ready to burst forth with some fervent
exclamation, he hovered by, saying, "My dear child, don't, don't
give way to agitation. It does you honour, but it cannot be
permitted at such a moment. Lady Rosamond, I appeal to your
unfailing good sense to restrain her emotion."
"I haven't any good sense, and I think it only hurts her to restrain
her emotion," said Rosamond, with one of her little stamps, pressing
Cecil in her arms. "There, there, my dear, cry,--never mind, if it
will comfort your poor heart."
"Lady Rosamond! This is--Cecil, my dear child! Your resolution--
your resignation. And the boxes are packed, and we shall be late
for the train!"
Mr. Charnock was a little jealous of Lady Rosamond as a comforter
preferred to himself, and he spoke in a tone which Cecil had never
resisted. She withdrew herself from Rosamond, still tearless,
though her chest heaved as if there were a great spasm in it; she
gave her hand to Miles, and let him lead her to the carriage; and so
Raymond's widowed bride left Compton Poynsett enfolded in that
strange silence which some called sullenness and pride; others, more
merciful, stunned grief.
Poor Cecil! there was less pity to be spared to her because of the
intense relief it was to be free from her father, and to be able to
stand in a knot consulting on the steps, without his coming out to
find out what they were talking about, and to favour them with some
The consultation was about Mr. Moy. It was determined that since
Archie was in England, it would be better not to wait till Herbert
was recovered, but that Miles and Julius should go together at once
to see what effect they could produce on him.
They drove together to his office. He was a tall man, a few years
over forty, and had hitherto been portly and well-preserved, with a
certain serene air of complacent prosperity about him, that had
always been an irritation to the county families, with whom he tried
to assert an equality; but as he rose to greet the brothers, there
was a bent and shrunken look about him: the hair on his temples had
visibly whitened, his cheeks seemed to have sunk in, and there were
deep furrows on them. Altogether he had grown full twenty years
older in appearance since he had stood proposing a popular toast at
the dinner at the town-hall. There was something nervous and
startled in his gray eye, as he saw them enter, though he tried to
assume his usual half-bland, half-easy, manner.
"Good morning, Captain Charnock Poynsett. Good morning, Mr.
Charnock, I hope I see you well?" the words faltering a little, as
neither sailor nor clergyman took notice of his proffered hand; but
he continued his inquiries after the convalescents, though neither
inquired in return after Mrs. Moy, feeling, perhaps, that they would
rather not hear a very sad account of her state just before letting
their inevitable Nemesis descend; also, not feeling inclined for
reciprocal familiarity, and wanting to discourage the idea that
Miles came for political purposes.
"It has been a terrible visitation," said Moy, when he had been
reduced to replying to himself.
"It has," said Julius. "Perhaps you have heard that your tenant,
Gadley, is dead?"
"Yes, I did hear it. A very melancholy thing--the whole family
swept-away," said Mr. Moy, his eye again betraying some uneasiness,
which Julius increased by saying--
"We thought it right that you should hear that he made a disclosure
on his death-bed."
"Indeed!" Mr. Moy sat erect--the hard, keen, watchful lawyer.
"A disclosure that nearly affects the character of Mr. Archibald
Douglas," proceeded Julius.
"May I ask what this may be?"
"Mr. Gadley then informed me that he had been in the outer room,
behind his desk, at the time when Mr. Douglas brought in the letter
from my mother, containing the missing cheque, and that after
Douglas was gone, he heard Mr. Vivian propose to those within to
appropriate the amount to their own debts."
"Pardon me, Mr. Charnock, this is a very serious charge to bring on
the authority of a man in a raving fever. Was any deposition taken
before a magistrate?"
"No," said Julius. "Mr. Lipscombe was fetched, but he was unable to
speak at the time. However, on reviving, he spoke as is thus
attested," and he showed Herbert Bowater's slip of paper.
"Mr. Charnock," said Mr. Moy, "without the slightest imputation on
the intentions of yourself or of young Mr. Bowater, I put it to
yourself and Captain Charnock Poynsett, whether you could go before
a jury with no fuller attestation than you have in your hand. We
know what Mr. Charnock and Mr. Bowater are. To a jury they would
simply appear--pardon me--a young clergyman, his still more youthful
curate, and a sister of mercy, attaching importance to the words of
a delirious man; and juries have become very incredulous in such
"We shall see that," said Miles sharply.
"The more cautious," added Mr. Moy, "when it is the raking up of a
matter eleven years old, where the witnesses are mostly dead, and
where the characters of two gentlemen, also deceased, would be
implicated. Believe me, sir, this firm--I speak as its present
head--will be rejoiced to make any compensation to Mrs. Poynsett for
what went astray while coming to their hands. It has been our
desire to do so from the very first, as letters of which I have
copies testify; but our advances were met in a spirit of enmity,
which may perhaps be laid aside now."
"No so-called compensation can be accepted, but the clearing of
Douglas's character," said Miles.
"It is a generous feeling," said Mr. Moy, speaking apparently most
dispassionately, though Julius saw his hands trembling below the
table; "but even if the word of this delirious man were sufficient,
have you reflected, Captain Charnock Poynsett, on the unequal
benefit of justifying--allowing that you could justify--a young man
who has been dead and forgotten these eleven years, and has no
relation living nearer than yourself, at the expense of those also
gone, but who have left relations who could ill bear to suffer from
such a revelation?"
"Justice is justice, whether a man be dead or alive," said Miles;
"and Douglas is alive to demand his right."
"Alive!" cried Mr. Moy, starting violently. "Alive! Archie Douglas
"Alive, and in England," said Julius. "He slept in my house the
night before last. He never was in the Hippolyta, at all, but has
been living in Africa all these years of exile."
Mr. Moy's self-command and readiness were all gone. He sank back in
his chair, with his hands over his face. The brothers looked at one
another, fearing he might have a stroke; but he revived in a moment,
yet with a totally different expression on his countenance. The
keen, defensive look was gone, there was only something piteously
worn and supplicating in the face, as he said--
"Then, gentlemen, I cannot resent anything you may do. Believe me,
but for the assurance of his death, I should have acted very
differently long ago. I will assist you in any way you desire in
reinstating Mr. Douglas in public opinion, only, if it be possible,
let my wife be spared. She has recently had the heaviest possible
blow; she can bear no more."
"Mr. Moy, we will do nothing vindictive. We can answer for my
mother and Douglas," began Julius; but Miles, more sternly, would
not let his brother hold out his hand, and said--
"You allow, then, the truth of Gadley's confession?"
"What has he confessed?" said Moy, still too much the lawyer not to
see that his own complicity had never yet been stated.
Julius laid before him his own written record of Gadley's words, not
only involving Moy in the original fraud, but showing how he had
bribed the only witness to silence ever since. The unhappy man read
it over, and said--
"Yes, Mr. Charnock, it is all true. I cannot battle it further. I
am at your mercy. I would leave you to proclaim the whole to the
world; if it were not for my poor wife and her father, I would be
glad to do so. Heaven knows how this has hung upon me for years."
"I can well believe it," said Julius, not to be hindered now from
grasping Mr. Moy's hand.
It seemed to be a comfort now to tell the whole story in detail.
Moy, the favoured and trusted articled clerk at first, then the
partner, the lover and husband of the daughter, had been a model of
steadiness and success so early, that when some men's youthful
follies are wearing off, he had begun to weary of the monotony of
the office, and after beginning as Mentor to his young brother-in-
law, George Proudfoot, had gradually been carried along by the
fascination of Tom Vivian's society to share in the same perilous
pursuits, until both had incurred a debt to him far beyond their
powers, while he was likewise so deeply involved, that no bonds of
George Proudfoot would avail him.
Then came the temptation of Mrs. Poynsett's cheque, suggested,
perhaps in jest, by Vivian, but growing on them as the feasibility
of using it became clear. It was so easy to make it appear to
Archie Douglas that the letter was simply an inquiry for the lost
one. Mr. Proudfoot, the father, was out of reach; Mrs. Poynsett
would continue to think the cheque lost in the post; and Tom Vivian
undertook to get it presented for payment through persons who would
guard against its being tracked. The sum exceeded the debt, but he
would return the overplus to them, and they both cherished the hope
of returning it with interest. Indeed, it had been but a half
consent on the part of either, elicited only by the dire alternative
of exposure; the envelope and letter were destroyed, and Vivian
carried off the cheque to some of the Jews with whom he had had only
too many transactions, and they never met him again.
Moy's part all along had been half cowardice, half ambition. The
sense of that act and of its consequences had gnawed at his heart
through all his success; but to cast himself down from his position
as partner and son-in-law of Mr. Proudfoot, the keen, clever,
trusted, confidential agent of half the families around--to let his
wife know his shame and that of her brother, and to degrade his
daughter into the daughter of a felon--was more than he could bear;
and he had gone on trying to drown the sense of that one lapse in
the prosperity of his career and his efforts to place his daughter
in the first ranks of society. No doubt the having done an injury
to the Poynsett family had been the true secret of that enmity, more
than political, which he had always shown to Raymond; and after
thinking Gadley safer out of that office, and having yielded to his
solicitations and set him up at the Three Pigeons, he had been
almost compelled to bid for popularity by using his position as a
magistrate to protect the blackguardism of the town. He had been
meant for better things, and had been dragged on against his
conscience and judgment by the exigencies of his unhappy secret; and
when the daughter, for whose sake he had sacrificed his better self,
had only been led by her position into the follies and extravagances
of the worst part of the society into which she had been introduced,
and threw herself into the hands of a dissipated gambler, to whom
her fortune made her a desirable prey--truly his sin had found him
His fight at first had been partly force of habit, but he was so
entirely crushed that they could only have pity on him when he put
himself so entirely in their hands, only begging for forbearance to
his wife and her aged father, and entreating that principal,
interest, and compound interest might at once be tendered to Mrs.
The brothers could answer for nothing. Archie must decide for
himself what he would accept as restoration of his character, and
Mrs. Poynsett could alone answer as to whether she would accept the
compensation. But neither of them could be hard on one so stricken
and sorrowful, and they did not expect hardness from their mother
and cousin, especially so far as old Mr. Proudfoot and his daughter
That the confession was made, and that Archie should be cleared, was
enough for Julius to carry to Herbert's room, while Miles repaired
to his mother. It was known in the sick-room where the brothers had
been, and Julius was watched as he crossed the street by Jenny's
eager eye, and she met him at the door of the outer room with a face
"Come in and tell us all," she said. "I see it is good news."
Herbert was quite well enough to bear good news in full detail as he
lay, not saying much, but smiling his welcome, and listening with
ears almost as eager as his sister's. And as Julius told of the
crushed and broken man, Jenny's tears rose to her eyes, and she
pressed her brother's hand and whispered, "Thanks, dear boy!"
"Small thanks to me."
"Yes, I can enjoy it now," said Jenny; "thanks to you for forcing
the bitterness out of me."
"Can you bear a little more good news, Herbert?" said Julius. "Who
do you think is to have St. Nicholas?"
"Not William Easterby? That's too good to be true."
"But so it is. All the Senior Fellows dropped it like a red-hot
"I thought Dwight wanted to marry?"
"Yes, but the lady's friends won't hear of his taking her there; so
it has come down to young Easterby. He can't be inducted of course
yet; but he has written to say he will come down on Saturday and
take matters in hand."
"The services on Sunday? Oh!" said Herbert, with as great a gasp of
relief as if he had been responsible for them; and, indeed, Rosamond
declared that both her husband and Mr. Bindon looked like new men
since Wil'sbro' was off their backs. Archie was coming back that
evening. Jenny much longed to show her two treasures to each other,
for it was a useless risk for the healthy man, and the sick one was
too weak and tired to wish for a new face, or the trouble of
speaking; nay, he could not easily bring himself to cheerful
acquiescence in even his favourite Lady Rose taking his sister's
place to set her free for an evening with Archie at the Hall.
Mrs. Poynsett was in the drawing-room. She had taken courage to
encounter the down-stair associations, saying she would make it no
sadder for the dear boy than she could help, and so Miles had
carried her down to meet one who had been always as one of her own
And thus it was that she gathered him into her embrace, while the
great strong man, only then fully realizing all the changes, sobbed
uncontrollably beside her.
"My boy, my poor Archie," she said, "you are come at last. Did you
not know you still had a mother to trust to?"
"I ought to have known it," said Archie, in a choked voice. "Oh
that I had seen Jenny in London!"
For indeed it had become plain that it had been his flight that had
given opportunity and substance to the accusation. If he had
remained, backed by the confidence of such a family as the
Poynsetts, Gadley would have seen that testimony in his favour would
be the safer and more profitable speculation; and Moy himself, as he
had said, would have testified to the innocence of a living man on
the spot, though he had let the blame rest on one whom he thought in
the depths of the sea. Archie's want of moral courage had been his
ruin. It had led him to the scene of temptation rather than resist
his companions, and had thus given colour to the accusation, and in
the absence of both Joanna and of his cousins, it had prevented him
from facing the danger.
This sense made him the more willing to be forbearing, when, after
dinner, the whole council sat round to hear in full the history of
the interview with Mr. Moy; Anne taking up her position beside
Frank, with whom, between her pencil and the finger-alphabet, she
had established such a language as to make her his best interpreter
of whatever was passing in the room.
"One could not help being sorry for Moy," said Miles, as he
concluded; "he turns out to be but half the villain after all, made
so rather by acquiescence than by his own free will."
"But reaping the profit," said Mrs. Poynsett.
"Yes, though in ignorance of the injury he was doing, and thus
climbing to a height that makes his fall the worse. I am sorry for
old Proudfoot too," added Julius. "I believe they have not ventured
to tell him of his granddaughter's marriage."
"I do not think the gain to me would be at all equal to the loss to
them," said Archie. "Exposure would be ruin and heartbreak there,
and I don't see what it would do for me."
"My dear Archie!" exclaimed both Mrs. Poynsett and Joanna, in
"So long as you and Mr. Bowater are satisfied, I care for little
else," said Archie.
"But your position, my dear," said Mrs. Poynsett.
"We don't care much about a man's antecedents, within a few years,
out in the colonies, dear Aunt Julia," said Archie, smiling.
"You aren't going back?"
"That depends," said Archie, his eyes seeking Joanna's; "but I don't
see what there is for me to do here. I'm spoilt for a solicitor
"We could find an agency, Miles, couldn't we?--or a farm--"
"Thank you, dear aunt," said Archie; "I don't definitely answer,
because Mr. Bowater must be consulted; but I have a business out
there that I can do, and where I can make a competence that I can
fairly offer to Jenny here. If I came home, as I am now, I should
only prey on you in some polite form, and I don't think Jenny would
wish for that alternative. I must go back any way, as I have told
her, and whether to save for her, or to make a home for her there,
it must be for her to decide."
They looked at Jenny. She was evidently prepared; for though her
colour rose a little, her frank eyes looked at him with a confiding
"But we must have justice done to you, my dear boy, whether you stay
with us or not," said Mrs. Poynsett.
"That might have been done if I had not been fool enough to run
away," said Archie; "having done so, the mass of people will only
remember that there has been something against me, in spite of any
justification. It is not worth while to blast Moy's character, and
show poor old Proudfoot what a swindler his son was, just for that.
The old man was good to me. I should like to let it rest while he
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