Both of One Mind

By Charles E. Pearce

This story was first published in the Northern Warder and Bi-Weekly Courier and Argus (known to the British Newspaper Archive as the Dundee Courier) on Friday 31 December 1875.

The London train which stopped at Rodwell, a little out-of-the-way station, some twenty miles from town, was half an hour late. There had been a heavy fall of snow the previous night, the train was a long one, and as the engine drew up at the platform it groaned and snorted as if complaining at the hard task it had to perform.

Only one passenger alighted. A young man, fresh coloured and fair, bright eyes and well cut, decisive features. He was evidently well known at the station, for the porter touched his cap when he got out of the carriage, and the stationmaster saluted him respectfully.

“The carriage is here of course, Jones,” said he.

“Yes, sir;” and the porter, expectant of future sixpences, hastened to deposit a small leather bag in a brougham that was waiting outside.

“Good morning, John,” said the traveller, in a clear, pleasant voice to the coachman, an old man, with a face like a withered apple.

“Mornin’, Master Robert. A little latish this mornin’, sir.”

“Yes; but you must make up for it. It wants half an hour of four yet.”

“Oh, we can do it Master Robert. We can do it,” chuckled the old man. “But Mr Jonathan do like his dinner punctual​—​that he do. And so he ought, with such a appetite as he’s got.”

“Then mind you don’t spoil it,” said the young man laughingly, as he stepped into the carriage.

Old John settled his hat with a knowing cock, whipped up his horses with the precise degree of force necessary to inform them that he would have no nonsense, and away went the carriage over the hard snow at the rate of ten miles an hour.

Robert Hanford was considered by his friends a very fortunate young man. He was three-and-twenty, had a splendid constitution, not a care in the world, and above all (in his friends’ estimation his best qualification) was a nephew and sole relative of old Jonathan Barton, a retired merchant in the Turkey and Levant trade.

Owing to the liberal allowance made him by his uncle, he had never had occasion to trouble his head about a profession. But he did not allow himself to be idle on this account, and having a decided inclination towards art, he had, by dint of hard work, already become a very respectable painter, although not quite the genius his admirers would have made him out to be.

The only person who thought little of his productions was his uncle, who all his life had never had a thought beyond commerce. Jonathan Barton had married young, but his wife died a year after the marriage, and since then he had taken no interest in anything but his business. During ten years he had spent abroad, he had made sufficient money to commence in London on his own account. Fortune had favoured him, and after thirty years close application he had retired with a fortune which, so it was whispered on ’Change, could not be much less than a million. On retiring he had bought an estate at Rodwell, where he intended to spend the last years of his life.

He was much attached to his nephew, Robert, who had lived with him ever since a boy of ten, and there were very few things the latter wished for that he was denied. But with all his indulgence the old man had a decided will of his own, and if he made up his mind to anything, it was no easy matter to turn him. The only point upon which he had ever seriously quarrelled with his nephew was in relation to the lad’s fondness for painting, and that, as he said, he could not understand. Had it been shooting, or hunting, or fishing (the old man was very fond of fishing), there would have been some sense in it, but to shut himself up in a pigstye (the irreverent term he applied to the disorder of a studio so beloved by artists) and to go on day after day trying to paint on canvass that which was done a thousand times better by nature, seemed to him an utter waste of time. However, in spite of his objection, he allowed Robert to have his own way, and after the first protest never again interfered with his fancy.

On his side it may be fairly said that the young man did what he could to please his uncle. He never missed dining with him at least once a week. He submitted cheerfully to the old man’s somewhat prosy stories, most of them relating to smart business transactions of bygone days, he went out fishing with him occasionally, and he even made the fourth at a rubber at whist, in company with an old white-headed fellow who had been head clerk of Jonathan Barton & Co. for many a long year, and the clergyman of the parish, whom Barton had known in his youth, and with whom he had even since maintained a friendship. In addition he put up with his frequent irritability, endured his whims, and this not for any interested motive, but because he really had a strong affection for his uncle.

It was one of these weekly visits he was paying when he is introduced to the reader, and as by this time he had reached Shrublands (for so the estate was called), we may as well follow him thither.

The dinner was over, and uncle and nephew drew near the fire to enjoy their wine and dessert. A strong contrast did they present, the old man with his withered wrinkled face, thin silvery hair, and shrunken limbs, and the young one with his fresh open looks, cheery laugh, and well knit, if slight, frame. And yet there was a likeness between them, for each had the same resolute mouth and chin, and at times there was a striking similarity in their voices, allowing, of course, for the difference in age.

It was very cold, and Jonathan Barton was sitting close to the fire in a massive arm chair, quaintly carved, and the back, arms, and seat was covered with crimson velvet, whose warm tint seemed to bring out the pearly tint of his hair in greater relief. He had a rug thrown over his knees, and was sipping his port with great contentment.

“Ah, when I was your age, Bob, I thought nothing of walking five miles through the frost and snow to business, sometimes without my breakfast too. Nowadays you young men must have their first class carriages and omnibuses, ay, and a cigar to boot.”

“And they are not so well off as some others I could name,” returned Robert laughing. “There’s an idle dog I know who, thanks to an indulgent old uncle, doesn’t even have any business to go to.”

“He’s not idle, Bob; no, I’ll give him that due. He’s not idle, only mistaken. And that reminds me of something I’ve been going to speak to you about for a long time.”

“Indeed, and what is it?”

“Just fill my glass, lad, and I’ll tell you. Thank you. Well, it’s just this. I’m seventy-two next Christmas Eve, and though I’m pretty hale and hearty, I cannot expect to live for ever. Now, you know I’m very fond of you, and would like to see you fairly started in life before I go. I’ve let you have your own way in everything hitherto, and want you to let me have my own way in this.”

“My dear uncle,” said Robert, leaning forward and shaking the old man by the hand, “your only fault is that you are too good to me. Of course you shall have your own way if it’s anything reasonable.”

“Reasonable, Bob,” said Jonathan a little sharply, “why you don’t think I’d ask you to do anything unreasonable, do you?”

“Oh, certainly not,” observed Robert, inwardly ejaculating that there was nothing more likely.

“Very well, then. I’m sure you’ll say when you hear what I’m going to ask you that nothing in the world could be more reasonable. The fact is, Bob, I want you to get married.”

“Married, sir,” exclaimed Robert with a start.

“Ah, I thought it would be a pleasant surprise for you,” chuckled the old man.

“But, really, uncle,” began Bob confusedly.

“Why, you don’t object, do you; confound it, sir, you’re old enough.”

“Yes, I’m old enough; but you took me rather unawares. Curiously enough, only I didn’t like to open the matter to you, it was a subject upon which I​—​I was going to speak to you myself.”

“So much the better, Bob, then we can come at once to business. There’s nothing like business, you know. Now, the lady I’ve got in my eye for you is ——”

“I beg your pardon, uncle,” exclaimed Robert, his cigar dropping from his hand unheeded. “What did you say?”

“The lady I have in my mind’s eye for you,” repeated Mr Barton, slowly, “is Miss Leslie, the daughter of my old friend, Jack Leslie of Crutched Friars.”

The young man did not at once reply, but stared at his uncle in bewilderment. “Surely,” he faltered at last, “you must be joking.”

“Joking, sir? What should I joke for? No, I’m perfectly serious, and what is more, I’ve written this very morning to ask them to spend Christmas with me. Confound it, Bob, you’re a lucky dog if she only turns out half as pretty as she bid fair to be two years ago. She’s none of your boarding school misses I can tell you, but a sensible woman, and clever too into the bargain.”

Robert rose from his chair somewhat disturbed in manner. “My dear uncle,” said he, “I would do anything rather than this. I have never seen the lady, in the first place. She may not like me; besides, I’ve no particular wish to get married.”

“Why, didn’t you say just now you were going to speak to me on the subject?”

“Yes, but——”

“Very well, then, the matter’s settled. I tell you seriously, Bob, I’ve set my heart on this, and unless you wish to quarrel you’ll do what I ask you.”

“I do not wish to quarrel with you, uncle,” replied the young man firmly, “but I cannot marry Miss Leslie.”

“Stop, Bob,” cried the old man, his face flushing with excitement, “don’t irritate me. I mean what I say, mind,” and he emphasised his words with a thump of his stick on the ground.

“And I mean what I say,” returned Robert, a little nettled. “We may as well have it out. The fact is I cannot marry the lady you have chosen for me for the simple reason that I have chosen one for myself.”

At these words Mr Barton’s face grew redder, the veins in his forehead swelled, and his right hand clutched his stick convulsively. He attempted to speak; there was a gurgling sound in his throat, and the next moment he fell back in his chair.

In great alarm Robert rushed to him and undid his collar. Then, dashing some water in his face, he saw to his great relief the old man open his eyes, and his natural colour return.

“Forgive me, uncle,” he cried.

“You will do what I ask?”

“I cannot,” he returned, sadly, “without making myself a scoundrel.”

“Then you may go to the deuce if you like.”

He stretched out his left hand feebly and seized the bellrope. Upon the bell sounding the old butler entered the room.

“Parks,” said Mr Barton, in a hard, dry voice, “Mr Robert leaves this house to-night. Get the carriage ready in time for the next train.”

Parks stood rooted to the floor in great amazement at this speech. He stared first at his master, who with his face averted from his nephew was sitting with his body bent forward and his head resting on his hand, and then at Robert standing on the hearthrug, his back to the fire, his face pale and determined, and his eyes looking straight before him.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said he at last.

“Mr Robert leaves this house to-night. I spoke plainly enough,” replied Jonathan, impatiently.

“It’s quite right, Parks,” said Robert, in a low voice. “You can get my things ready.”

Again Parks looked from one to the other and then withdrew, apparently completely prostrated by the order he had received.

“Good-bye, uncle,” said Robert, holding out his hand.

Jonathan did not reply. There was, however, a little twitching of the muscles of the mouth and a slight movement of the right arm, but soon the lines in his face hardened and his face was as immoveable as before.

The young man waited a minute and then walked towards the door. When he reached it he looked back at the figure in the chair and paused irresolutely. It was only for a few seconds. “No,” he murmured, “not even for his sake.”

And the next moment he was gone.


“Do you really love me as much as you say, Robert?”

“More than I can say, darling.”

And he kissed the blushing face upturned to his as an earnest of his words.

“It does seem so strange, dear. What have I done that you should care for me?”

What had she done indeed! She might as well have asked why her eyes were soft and pleading, why her mouth seemed intended by nature to kiss and to be kissed, why her voice was music itself? Her whole being was womanly and tender, and Robert Hanford could no more help loving her than he could help breathing. There was no arguing the question as to why he did; it was part of his life, and to lose her would be to lose his better self.

“But what will your uncle say when he knows you have married only a poor music teacher?”

“I cannot say. Perhaps I never shall know.”

“Why do you not mean to tell him?”

“He knows already as much as he will know from my lips,” returned the young man gravely.

“You are keeping something back from me that is not right, dearest,” said she softly.

The fire burning low in the grate suddenly sent up a flicker that lighted up the old furniture with which the room was furnished, and made it look quite picturesque. Even Daisy Ashley, beautiful as she was, seemed more beautiful as it glanced on the harmonious lines of her figure. She was leaning against the mantelshelf, one small foot resting on the fender, its coquettish tip just peeping from beneath her dress, and as she spoke she turned her eyes upon Robert who was standing by her. It was a half-timid, half-trustful look, and the young man felt as if no secret would be safe in his breast with so lovely a confessor by his side.

“My darling,” said he, placing his arm around her waist and drawing her to him, “I did not intend to tell you, at least not yet awhile, but perhaps it is for the best. You think me rich, do you not?”

“I cannot tell,” she said simply. “I have never thought about it. To know I had your love has been sufficient for me,” she added with a little blush.

He smoothed the wavy hair from the white forehead and kissed it. “My pet,” he whispered, “yesterday I had no care for wealth because it was in my grasp. To-day when I have it not I wish for it​—​for your sake not for my own.”

“Why how foolish that is now,” she returned with a bright smile. “Look at this room and tell me if any of your rich friends would care to have it. And yet I have been happy, very happy. If it were not for poor papa I should never miss the riches we once had.”

“Dare you then trust in one who had nothing but his own right hand to battle with poverty.”

“Yes,” said she fearlessly, “but I do not quite understand. You are not so poor as that, are you?”

“Yes,” he returned with a little sigh. “I have quarrelled with my uncle, and we have parted.”

“Quarrelled,” she repeated, as if to herself. Then turning upon him her large brown eyes, as if she would read his very soul, she drooped her head upon his breast and gave a little sob.

“You have done this for me, Robert. Your looks tell me so. Oh, how could you? I have been very wicked. No, you must not kiss me. You must go to your uncle, who loves you very much, and forget me.”

But he held her tighter in his arms, and whispered that he would not give her up for a thousand uncles. In a few words he told her how his uncle has wanted him to marry some one else, and how he had refused; and at this confession her love overcame the restraint she would have put upon it, and she nestled closer to his side, for she felt now that he indeed cared for her.

“There, you are a very bad boy, and I shall never forgive you,” said she, with a pretty shake of her head, as she disengaged herself from his arm. “And see, it is six o’clock, and papa will be home in a quarter of an hour, and there’ll be no tea ready for him, and all through you.”

And tripping lightly over the floor she busied herself in lighting the candles, filling the kettle, and arranging the tea table, all of which operations, prosaic enough under ordinary circumstances, seemed to Robert’s fascinated eyes to be invested with a poetry and grace he could not have believed possible.

And then Mr Ashley, a man evidently in weak health, with a weary look on his brow, came in, and the three sat down to tea, Daisy presiding in a way that was simply bewitching.


It wanted but a fortnight of Christmas, and to Robert and Daisy, absorbed in each other and their plans for the future, the hours flew by like minutes. Not so was it with Jonathan Barton. Since his quarrel with his nephew he had become quite a changed man. He lost his appetite, he took no interest in anything; the Times, once his constant delight and matutinal study, lay unopened on the breakfast table every morning, and whenever he moved about it was no longer with his former brisk step, but slowly and dejectedly.

“You ain’t got much appetite this morning again, sir,” said Parks, who took the dejection of his master much to heart. “Why don’t you have a change, sir? Send for Master Robert, sir.”

“Parks,” said Jonathan, in something like his old sharp tone, “Have the kindness not to mention my​—​that gentleman’s name again.”

“Very good, sir, only you did seem that low——”

“How dare you say I’m low?” shouted the old man irritably; “Hold your tongue.”

And Parks shuffled out of the room in some trepidation, although, as he said, when he reached the kitchen, the master talked more like old times than he had done since Master Robert left.

“And to-morrow’s my birthday,” muttered Jonathan, when he was left to himself. “Augh, a pretty fellow I am to have a birthday. Just tottering into the grave. What am I to do with myself? For thirteen years Bob​—​no I won’t call him Bob​—​the ungrateful dog, has dined with me and now of course he won’t be here. It’s his own fault. Obstinacy is the curse of all young men. I’ve half a mind to go to town and dine at the club. I can’t stay here. I begin to hate the place. Yes, I will dine at the club, and then perhaps I shall hear something of Leslie. How odd my letter should come back. I suppose he has been a fool like myself, given up business. Well, well, there’s no fool like an old fool they say. I wonder what that rascal​—​no I won’t think about him any longer.”

Thus muttering to himself the old man sunk back in his chair and watched through his half-closed eyes the flames darting up the broad chimney. He felt very desolate and would in his heart have given all he possessed to have seen his nephew sitting once more in his old seat on the other side.

He carried out his intention of dining in town on his birthday. Accompanied by Parks and well wrapt up in rugs, for it was bitterly cold, he reached the terminus safely. As he was being led across the platform he stumbled, for his legs were stiff and numbed, and he would have fallen in spite of Park’s arm had not a stranger come to his assistance.

“Thank you​—​Why, bless my soul is it you Jack?”

And the next minute the two were shaking hands warmly.

“But, deuce take it, Jack, what have you been doing to yourself? Why, you look about as old as I do, and there’s ten years I know between us.”

“You haven’t heard, I suppose,” began the other hesitatingly.

“Haven’t heard, of course I haven’t. I wrote to you at Crutched Friars, but my letter came back. Nothing’s gone wrong, I hope?”

“Everything, my old friend; I’m a ruined man. All is gone.”

“No,” said Jonathan kindly; “poor fellow. But why didn’t you write to me? I’m so out of the world now, I hear nothing.”

“I could not; I couldn’t face my old friends; and if I had seen you in the street I think I should have avoided you.”

“No, no, you wouldn’t Jack. But there, come and dine with me, and tell me all about it.”

“Well, I should like to for the sake of old times, but I promised my daughter I would be home early. You see it’s Christmas Eve, and——”

“My birthday,” interrupted Jonathan, “and I’m determined to keep it somewhere. My neph​—​” but here his voice became a little shaky, and he turned what he was going to say into a cough.

“If you don’t mind coming to my poor place,” said Mr Leslie hesitatingly.

“Mind coming; I should think not indeed. And with your pretty daughter to welcome me, too. Ah, Jack, I once had a hope that​—​but there, that’s all over.”

Meanwhile, Parks had called a cab, and the two friends getting inside were soon proceeding rapidly in the direction of Islington, where Mr Leslie resided.

“Daisy, my dear, here is an old friend come to see us. You remember Mr Barton, do you not?”

The girl came forward to greet him, but singular enough he scarcely noticed her proffered hand. His gaze was directed fixedly on a young man who had been sitting by Daisy’s side, and who had risen on his entry.

“Are my old eyes deceiving me? Is it​—​is it really you, Bob?” faltered the old man, involuntarily stretching out his hand.

There could be little doubt of it, for the next moment his fingers were enclosed in a warm grasp, and a well-known voice exclaimed​—​

“You will forgive me now, uncle. Here is my best excuse,” and he drew Daisy forward to him as he spoke.

Jonathan put his hand to his head in a bewildered fashion, and looked from one to the other.

“I cannot understand it,” he murmured, “is not this Daisy Leslie?”

“No, no,” replied Robert, thinking for a moment his uncle’s brain was turned, and that he really fancied the lady he wanted him to marry was standing before him, “Daisy Ashley, you mean?”

“It is both,” said Daisy, with an appealing glance to her father. “Forgive me, Robert it is the only secret I ever kept from you, and you must have known that some day,” she added, with a pretty blush.

It was not Robert’s turn to be puzzled, but a few words from Mr Leslie soon explained the mystery. After his bankruptcy his pride would not allow him to retain his name, and so he had altered it to avoid any recognition from those he had known in former days.

“Now that I have obeyed you, uncle,” said Robert slyly, “you will forgive me, won’t you?”

“Forgive you, you dog, I’ve a good mind to order you to be married to-morrow, only I don’t want to punish my little Daisy by inflicting some obstinate a fellow upon her.”

“I think I know some one else who is obstinate,” observed Robert.

“Well, you both have your own way now,” said Daisy laughingly, “so be satisfied.”

And need I say that they were?