In the Roar of the Sea/Chapter 23

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In the Roar of the Sea by Sabine Baring-Gould
Chapter 23

CHAPTER XXIII.


ALL IS FOR THE BEST IN THE BEST OF WORLDS.


Judith returned to the cottage of Mr. Menaida, troubled in mind, for Aunt Dunes had been greatly incensed at the taking of the tobacco by Jamie, and not correspondingly gratified by the return of it so promptly by Judith. Miss Trevisa was a woman who magnified and resented any wrong done, but minimized and passed over as unworthy of notice whatever was generous, and every attempt made to repay an evil. Such attempts not only met with no favor from her, but were perverted in her crabbed mind into fresh affronts or injuries. That the theft of Jamie would not have been discovered had not Judith spoken of it and brought back what had been taken, was made of no account by Aunt Dionysia; she attacked Judith with sharp reproach for allowing the boy to be mischievous, for indulging him and suffering him to run into danger through his inquisitiveness and thoughtlessness, "For," said Aunt Dionysia, "had the master or any of his men found out what Jamie had done there is no telling how he might have been served." Then she had muttered: "If you will not take precautions, other folk must, and the boy must be put where he can be properly looked after and kept from interfering with the affairs of others."

On reaching Mr. Menaida's cottage, Judith called her brother, but as she did not receive an answer, she went in quest of him, and was met by the servant, Jump. "If you please, miss," said Jump, "there's been two gen'lemen here, as said they was come from Mrs. Trevisa, and said they was to pack and take off Master Jamie's clothes. And please, miss, I didn't know what to do—they was gen'lemen, and the master—he was out, and you was out, miss—and Master Jamie, he wasn't to home n'other."

"Taken Jamie's clothes!" repeated Judith, in amazement.

"Yes, miss, they brought a portmantle a-purpose; and they'd a gig at the door; and they spoke uncommon pleasant, leastwise one o' them did."

"And where is Jamie? Has he not come home?"

"No, miss."

At that moment Mr. Menaida came in.

"What is it, Judith? Jamie? Where Jamie is?—why, having a ride, seated between the two Scantlebrays, in their gig. That is where he is."

"Oh, Mr. Menaida, but they have taken his clothes!"

"Whose clothes?"

"Jamie's."

"I do not understand."

"The two gentlemen came to this house when you and I were out, and told Jump that they were empowered by my aunt to pack up and carry off all Jamie's clothing, which they put into a portmanteau they had brought with them."

"And then picked up Jamie. He was sitting on the portmanteau," said Uncle Zachie; then his face became grave. "They said that they acted under authority from Mrs. Trevisa?"

"So Jump says."

"It can surely not be that he has been moved to the asylum."

"Asylum, Mr. Menaida?"

"The idiot asylum."

Judith uttered a cry, and staggered back against the wall.

"Jamie! my brother Jamie!"

"Mr. Obadiah Scantlebray has such a place at Wadebridge."

"But Jamie is not an idiot."

"Your aunt authorized them—" mused Uncle Zachie. "Humph! you should see her about it. That is the first step, and ascertain whether she has done it, or whether they are acting with a high hand for themselves. I’ll look at my law-books—if the latter it would be actionable."

Judith did not hesitate for a moment. She hastened to Pentyre. That her aunt had left Othello Cottage she was pretty sure, as she was preparing to leave it when Judith returned with the tobacco. Accordingly she took the road to Pentyre at once. Tears of shame and pain welled up in her eyes at the thought of her darling brother being beguiled away to be locked up among the imbecile in a private establishment for the insane. Then her heart was contracted with anger and resentment at the scurvy trick played on her and him: She did not know that the Scantlebrays had been favored by pure accident. She conceived that men base enough to carry off her brother would watch and wait for the opportunity when to do it unobserved and unopposed. She hardly walked. She ran till her breath failed her, and the rapid throbbing of her heart would no longer allow her to run. Her dread of approaching the Glaze after the declaration made by Captain Cruel was overwhelmed in her immediate desire to know something about Jamie, in her anguish of fear for him. On Coppinger she did not cast a thought—her mind was so fully engrossed in her brother.

She saw nothing of the Captain. She entered the house, and proceeded at once to her aunt's apartment. She found Miss Trevisa there, seated near the window, engaged on some chintz that she thought would do for the window at Othello Cottage, when she took possession of it. She had measured the piece, found that it was suitable, and was turning down a hem and tacking it. It was a pretty chintz, covered with springs of nondescript pink and blue flowers.

Judith burst in on her, breathless, her brow covered with dew, her bosom heaving, her face white with distress, and tears standing on her eyelashes. She threw herself on her knees before Miss Trevisa, half crying out and half sobbing:

"Oh, aunt! they have taken him!"

"Who have taken whom?" asked the elderly lady, coldly.

She raised her eyes and cast a look full of malevolence at Judith. She never had, did not, never would feel toward that girl as a niece. She hated her for her mother's sake, and now she felt an unreasonable bitterness against her, because she had fascinated Coppinger—perhaps, also, because in a dim fashion she was aware that she herself was acting toward the child in an unworthy, unmerciful manner, and we all hate those whom we wrong.

Auntie! tell me it is not so. Mr. Scantlebray and his brother have carried my darling Jamie away." "Well, and what of that?"

"But—will they let me have him back?"

Miss Trevisa pulled at the chintz. "I will trouble you not to crumple this," she said.

"Aunt! dear aunt! you did not tell Mr. Scantlebray to take Jamie away from me?"

The old lady did not answer, she proceeded to release the material at which she was engaged from under the knees of Judith. The girl, in her vehemence, put her hands to her aunt's arms, between the elbows and shoulders, and held and pressed them back, and with imploring eyes looked into her hard face.

"Oh, auntie! you never sent Jamie to an asylum?"

"I must beg you to let go my arms," said Miss Trevisa. "This conduct strikes me as most indecorous toward one of my age and relationship."

She avoided Judith's eye, her brow wrinkled, and her lips contracted. The gall in her heart rose and overflowed.

"I am not ashamed of what I have done."

"Auntie!" with a cry of pain. Then Judith let go the old lady's arms, and clasped her hands over her eyes.

"Really," said Miss Trevisa, with asperity, "you are a most exasperating person. I shall do with the boy what I see fit. You know very well that he is a thief."

"He never took anything before to-day—never—and you had settled this before you knew about the tobacco!" burst from Judith, in anger and with Hoods of tears.

"I knew that he has always been troublesome and mischievous, and he must be placed where he can be properly managed by those accustomed to such cases."

"There is nothing the matter with Jamie."

"You have humored and spoiled him. If he is such a plague to all who know him, it is because he has been treated injudiciously, He is now with men who are experienced, and able to deal with the like of Jamie."

"Aunt, he must not be there. I promised my papa to be ever with him, and to look after him."

"Then it is a pity your father did not set this down in writing. Please to remember that I, and not you, am constituted his guardian, by the terms of the will."

"Oh, aunt! aunt! let him come back to me!"

Miss Trevisa shook her head.

"Then let me go to him!"

"Hoity-toity! here's airs and nonsense. Really, Judith, you are almost imbecile enough to qualify for the asylum. But I cannot afford the cost of you both. Jamie's cost in that establishment will be £70 in the year, and how much do you suppose that you possess?"

Judith remained kneeling upright, with her hands clasped, looking earnestly through her tears at her aunt.

"You have in all, between you, but £45 or £50. When the dilapidations are paid, and the expenses of the funeral, and the will-proving, and all that, I do not suppose you will be found to have a thousand pounds between you, and that put out to interest will not bring you more than I have said; so I shall have to make up the deficiency. That is not pleasing to me, you may well suppose. But I had rather pay £25 out of my poor income, than have the name of the family disgraced by Jamie."

"Jamie will never, never disgrace the name. He is too good. And—it is wicked, it is cruel to put him where you have. He is not an idiot."

"I am perhaps a better judge than you; so also is Mr. Obadiah Scantlebray, who has devoted his life to the care and study of the imbecile. Your brother has weak intellects."

"He is not clever, that is all. With application——"

"He cannot apply his mind. He has no mind that can be got to be applied."

"Aunt, he's no idiot. He must not be kept in that place."

"You had best go back to Polzeath. I have decided on what I considered right. I have done my duty."

"It cannot be just. I will see what Mr. Menaida says. He must be released; if you will not let him out, I will."

Miss Trevisa looked up at her quickly between her half-closed lids; a bitter, cruel smile quivered about her lips. "If any one can deliver him, it will be you."

Judith did not understand her meaning, and Aunt Dionysia did not care at that time to further enlighten her thereon. Finding her aunt inflexible, the unhappy girl left Pentyre Glaze and hurried back to Polzeath, where she implored Mr. Menaida to accompany her to Wadebridge. Go there she would—she must—that same evening. If he would not attend her, she would go alone. She could not rest, she could not remain in the house, till she had been to the place where Jamie was, and seen whether she could not release him thence by her entreaties, her urgency.

Mr. Menaida shook his head. But he was a kindhearted old man, and was distressed at the misery of the girl, and would not hear of her making the expedition alone, as she could not well return before dark. So he assumed his rough and shabby beaver hat, put on his best cravat, and sallied forth with Judith upon her journey to Wadebridge, one that he assured her must be fruitless, and had better be postponed till the morrow.

"I cannot! I cannot!" she cried. "I cannot sleep, thinking of my darling brother in that dreadful place, with such people about him, he crying, frightened, driven mad by the strangeness of it all, and being away from me. I must go. If I cannot save him and bring him back with me, I can see him and console him, and bid him wait in patience and hope."

Mr. Menaida with a soft heart and a weak will, was hung about with scraps of old-world polish, scraps only. In him nothing was complete—here and there a bare place of rustic uncouthness, there patches of velvet courtesy of the Queen Anne age; so, also, was he made up of fine culture, of classic learning alternating with boorish ignorance—here high principle, there none at all—a picture worked to a miniature in points, and in others rudely roughed in and neglected. Now he was moved as he had not been moved for years by the manifest unhappiness of the girl, and he was willing to do his utmost to assist her, but that utmost consisted in little more than accompanying her to Wadebridge and ringing at the house-bell of Mr. Obadiah Scantlebray's establishment. When it came to the interview that ensued with the proprietor of the establishment and jailer of Jamie, he failed altogether. Judith and Uncle Zachie were shown into the dreary parlor without ornaments, and presently to them entered Mr. Obadiah.

"Oh, sir, is he here?—have you got Jamie here?"

Mr. Scantlebray nodded his head, then went to the door and knocked with his fists against the wall. A servant maid appeared. "Send missus," said he, and returned to the parlor.

Again Judith entreated to be told if her brother were there with all the vehemence and fervor of her tattered heart.

Mr. Obadiah listened with stolid face and vacant eyes that turned from her to Mr. Menaida, and then back to her again. Presently an idea occurred to him and his face brightened. He went to a sideboard, opened a long drawer, brought out a large book, thrust it before Judith, and said, "Pictures." Then, as she took no notice of the book, he opened it.

"Oh, please sir," pleaded Judith, "I don't want that. I want to know about Jamie. I want to see him."

Then in at the door came a lady in black silk, with small curls about her brow. She was stout, but not florid.

"What!" said she, "my dear, are you the young lady whose brother is here? Don't you fret yourself. He is as comfortable as a chick in a feathered nest. Don't you worry your little self about him now. Now your good days have begun. He will not be a trouble and anxiety to you any more. He is well cared for. I dare be sworn he has given you many an hour of anxiety. Now, O be joyful! that is over, and you can dance and play with a light heart. I have lifted the load off you, I and Mr. Scantlebray. Here he will be very comfortable and perfectly happy. I spare no pains to make my pets snug, and Scantlebray is inexhaustible in his ability to amuse them. He has a way with these innocents that is quite marvellous. Wait a while—give him and me a trial, and see what the result is. You may believe me as one of long and tried experience. It never does for amateurs—for relations—to undertake these cases; they don't know when to be firm, or when to yield. We do—it is our profession. We have studied the half-witted."

"But my brother is not half-witted."

"So you say, and so it becomes you to say. Never admit that there is imbecility or insanity in the family. You are quite right, my dear; you look forward to being married some day, and you know very well it might stand in the way of an engagement, were it supposed that you had idiocy in the family blood. It is quite right. I understand all that sort of thing. We call it nervous debility, and insanity we term nervous excitement. Scantlebray, my poppet, isn't it so!"

Mr. Obadiah nodded.

"You leave all care to us; thrust it upon our shoulders. They will bear it; and never doubt that your brother will be cared for in body and in soul. In body—always something nice and light for supper, tapioca, rice-pudding, batter; to-night, rolly-poly. After that, prayers. We don't feed high, but we feed suitably. If you like to pay a little extra, we will feed higher. Now, my dear, you take all as for the best, and rely on it everything is right."

"But Jamie ought not to be locked up."

"My dear, he is at school under the wisest and most experienced of teachers. You have mismanaged him. Now he will be treated professionally; and Mr. Scantlebray superintends not the studies only, but the amusements of the pupils. He has such a fund of humor in him." Obadiah at once produced his pocket-handkerchief and began to fold it. "No, dear, no ducky, no rabbit now! You fond thing, you! always thinking of giving entertainment to some one. No, nor the parson preaching either." He was rolling his hands together and thrusting up his thumb as the representative of a sacred orator in his pulpit. "No, ducky darling! another time. My husband is quite a godsend to the nervously prostrate. He can amuse them by the hour; he never wearies of it; he is never so happy as when he is entertaining them. You cannot doubt that your brother will be content in the house of such a man. Take my word for it; there is nothing like believing that all is for the best as it is. Our pupils will soon be going to bed. Rolly-poly and prayers, and then to bed—that is the order."

"Oh, let me see Jamie now."

"No, my dear. It would be injudicious. He is settling in; he is becoming reconciled, and it would disturb him, and undo what has already been done. Don't you say so, poppet?"

The poppet nodded his head.

"You see, this great authority agrees with me. Now, this evening Jamie and the others shall have an extra treat. They shall have the pig eating out of the trough. There—what more can you desire? As soon as lights are brought in, then rolly-poly, prayers, and the pig and the trough. Another time you shall see him. Not to-night. It is inadvisable. Take my word for it, your brother is as happy as a boy can be. He has found plenty of companions of the same condition as himself."

"But he is not an idiot."

"My dear, we know all about that; very nice and sweet for you to say so—isn't it duckie?"

The duckie agreed it was so.

"There is the bell. My dear, another time. You will promise to come and see me again? I have had such a delightful talk with you. Good-night, good-night. 'All is for the best in the best of worlds.' Put that maxim under your head and sleep upon it."