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Title: Ravenshoe
Author: Kingsley, Henry, 1830-1876
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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RAVENSHOE


[Illustration: CHARLES IN THE BALACLAVA CHARGE.

_Drawn by R. Caton Woodville._

_Ravenshoe._ _Page 355._]


RAVENSHOE

by

HENRY KINGSLEY

New Edition--Third Thousand

With a Frontispiece by R. Caton Woodville



London
Ward, Lock and Bowden, Limited
Warwick House, Salisbury Square, E.C.
New York and Melbourne
1894

[All rights reserved]



To

MY BROTHER,

CHARLES KINGSLEY,

I DEDICATE THIS TALE,
IN TOKEN OF A LOVE WHICH ONLY GROWS STRONGER
AS WE BOTH GET OLDER.



PREFACE.


The language used in telling the following story is not (as I hope the
reader will soon perceive) the Author's, but Mr. William Marston's.

The Author's intention was, while telling the story, to develop, in the
person of an imaginary narrator, the character of a thoroughly
good-hearted and tolerably clever man, who has his fingers (as he would
say himself) in every one's pie, and who, for the life of him, cannot
keep his own counsel--that is to say, the only person who, by any
possibility, could have collected the mass of family gossip which makes
up this tale.

Had the Author told it in his own person, it would have been told with
less familiarity, and, as he thinks, you would not have laughed quite so
often.



CONTENTS.


                                                                    PAGE


CHAPTER I
AN ACCOUNT OF THE FAMILY OF RAVENSHOE                                  1

CHAPTER II.
SUPPLEMENTARY TO THE FOREGOING                                        10

CHAPTER III.
IN WHICH OUR HERO'S TROUBLES BEGIN                                    14

CHAPTER IV.
FATHER MACKWORTH                                                      20

CHAPTER V.
RANFORD                                                               23

CHAPTER VI.
THE "WARREN HASTINGS"                                                 34

CHAPTER VII.
IN WHICH CHARLES AND LORD WELTER DISTINGUISH
THEMSELVES AT THE UNIVERSITY                                          44

CHAPTER VIII.
JOHN MARSTON                                                          50

CHAPTER IX.
ADELAIDE                                                              57

CHAPTER X.
LADY ASCOT'S LITTLE NAP                                               63

CHAPTER XI.
GIVES US AN INSIGHT INTO CHARLES'S DOMESTIC RELATIONS,
AND SHOWS HOW THE GREAT CONSPIRATOR
SOLILOQUISED TO THE GRAND CHANDELIER                                  69

CHAPTER XII.
CONTAINING A SONG BY CHARLES RAVENSHOE, AND ALSO
FATHER TIERNAY'S OPINION ABOUT THE FAMILY                             79

CHAPTER XIII.
THE BLACK HARE                                                        86

CHAPTER XIV.
LORD SALTIRE'S VISIT, AND SOME OF HIS OPINIONS                        92

CHAPTER XV.
CHARLES'S "LIDDELL AND SCOTT"                                         99

CHAPTER XVI.
MARSTON'S ARRIVAL                                                    104

CHAPTER XVII.
IN WHICH THERE IS ANOTHER SHIPWRECK                                  107

CHAPTER XVIII.
MARSTON'S DISAPPOINTMENT                                             114

CHAPTER XIX.
ELLEN'S FLIGHT                                                       121

CHAPTER XX.
RANFORD AGAIN                                                        124

CHAPTER XXI.
CLOTHO, LACHESIS, AND ATROPOS                                        131

CHAPTER XXII.
THE LAST GLIMPSE OF OXFORD                                           139

CHAPTER XXIII.
THE LAST GLIMPSE OF THE OLD WORLD                                    142


CHAPTER XXIV.
THE FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE NEW WORLD                                   146

CHAPTER XXV.
FATHER MACKWORTH BRINGS LORD SALTIRE TO BAY, AND WHAT CAME OF IT     152

CHAPTER XXVI.
THE GRAND CRASH                                                      160

CHAPTER XXVII.
THE COUP DE GRACE                                                    167

CHAPTER XXVIII.
FLIGHT                                                               176

CHAPTER XXIX.
CHARLES'S RETREAT UPON LONDON                                        180

CHAPTER XXX.
MR. SLOANE                                                           185

CHAPTER XXXI.
LIEUTENANT HORNBY                                                    190

CHAPTER XXXII.
SOME OF THE HUMOURS OF A LONDON MEWS.                                194

CHAPTER XXXIII.
A GLIMPSE OF SOME OLD FRIENDS                                        200

CHAPTER XXXIV.
IN WHICH FRESH MISCHIEF IS BREWED                                    203

CHAPTER XXXV.
IN WHICH AN ENTIRELY NEW, AND, AS WILL BE SEEN
HEREAFTER, A MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTER IS
INTRODUCED                                                           211

CHAPTER XXXVI.
THE DERBY                                                            219

CHAPTER XXXVII.
LORD WELTER'S MÉNAGE                                                 227

CHAPTER XXXVIII.
THE HOUSE FULL OF GHOSTS                                             235

CHAPTER XXXIX.
CHARLES'S EXPLANATION WITH LORD WELTER                               242

CHAPTER XL.
A DINNER PARTY AMONG SOME OLD FRIENDS                                246

CHAPTER XLI.
CHARLES'S SECOND EXPEDITION TO ST. JOHN'S WOOD                       252

CHAPTER XLII.
RAVENSHOE HALL, DURING ALL THIS                                      261

CHAPTER XLIII.
THE MEETING                                                          270

CHAPTER XLIV.
ANOTHER MEETING                                                      275

CHAPTER XLV.
HALF A MILLION                                                       285

CHAPTER XLVI.
TO LUNCH WITH LORD ASCOT                                             288

CHAPTER XLVII.
LORD HAINAULT'S BLOTTING-BOOK                                        302

CHAPTER XLVIII.
IN WHICH CUTHBERT BEGINS TO SEE THINGS IN A NEW LIGHT                309

CHAPTER XLIX.
THE SECOND COLUMN OF "THE TIMES" OF THIS DATE, WITH OTHER MATTERS    317

CHAPTER L.
SHREDS AND PATCHES                                                   320

CHAPTER LI.
IN WHICH CHARLES COMES TO LIFE AGAIN                                 327

CHAPTER LII.
WHAT LORD SALTIRE AND FATHER MACKWORTH SAID
WHEN THEY LOOKED OUT OF THE WINDOW                                   335

CHAPTER LIII.
CAPTAIN ARCHER TURNS UP                                              343

CHAPTER LIV.
CHARLES MEETS HORNBY AT LAST                                         349

CHAPTER LV.
ARCHER'S PROPOSAL                                                    358

CHAPTER LVI.
SCUTARI                                                              369

CHAPTER LVII.
WHAT CHARLES DID WITH HIS LAST EIGHTEEN SHILLINGS                    374

CHAPTER LVIII.
THE NORTH SIDE OF GROSVENOR SQUARE                                   379

CHAPTER LIX.
LORD ASCOT'S CROWNING ACT OF FOLLY                                   391

CHAPTER LX.
THE BRIDGE AT LAST                                                   400

CHAPTER LXI.
SAVED                                                                411

CHAPTER LXII.
MR. JACKSON'S BIG TROUT                                              415

CHAPTER LXIII.
IN WHICH GUS CUTS FLORA'S DOLL'S CORNS                               420

CHAPTER LXIV.
THE ALLIED ARMIES ADVANCE ON RAVENSHOE                               423

CHAPTER LXV.
FATHER MACKWORTH PUTS THE FINISHING TOUCH ON
HIS GREAT PIECE OF EMBROIDERY                                        427

CHAPTER LXVI.
GUS AND FLORA ARE NAUGHTY IN CHURCH, AND THE
WHOLE BUSINESS COMES TO AN END                                       438



RAVENSHOE.



CHAPTER I.

AN ACCOUNT OF THE FAMILY OF RAVENSHOE.


I had intended to have gone into a family history of the Ravenshoes,
from the time of Canute to that of her present Majesty, following it
down through every change and revolution, both secular and religious;
which would have been deeply interesting, but which would have taken
more hard reading than one cares to undertake for nothing. I had meant,
I say, to have been quite diffuse on the annals of one of our oldest
commoner families; but, on going into the subject, I found I must either
chronicle little affairs which ought to have been forgotten long ago, or
do my work in a very patchy and inefficient way. When I say that the
Ravenshoes have been engaged in every plot, rebellion, and civil war,
from about a century or so before the Conquest to 1745, and that the
history of the house was marked by cruelty and rapacity in old times,
and in those more modern by political tergiversation of the blackest
dye, the reader will understand why I hesitate to say too much in
reference to a name which I especially honour. In order, however, that I
may give some idea of what the hereditary character of the family is, I
must just lead the reader's eye lightly over some of the principal
events of their history.

The great Irish families have, as is well known, a banshee, or familiar
spirit, who, previous to misfortune or death, flits moaning round the
ancestral castle. Now although the Ravenshoes, like all respectable
houses, have an hereditary lawsuit; a feud (with the Humbys of Hele); a
ghost (which the present Ravenshoe claims to have repeatedly seen in
early youth); and a buried treasure: yet I have never heard that they
had a banshee. Had such been the case, that unfortunate spirit would
have had no sinecure of it, but rather must have kept howling night and
day for nine hundred years or so, in order to have got through her work
at all. For the Ravenshoes were almost always in trouble, and yet had a
facility of getting out again, which, to one not aware of the cause, was
sufficiently inexplicable. Like the Stuarts, they had always taken the
losing side, and yet, unlike the Stuarts, have always kept their heads
on their shoulders, and their house over their heads. Lady Ascot says
that, if Ambrose Ravenshoe had been attainted in 1745, he'd have been
hung as sure as fate: there was evidence enough against him to hang a
dozen men. I myself, too, have heard Squire Densil declare, with great
pride, that the Ravenshoe of King John's time was the only Baron who did
not sign Magna Charta; and if there were a Ravenshoe at Runnymede, I
have not the slightest doubt that such was the case. Through the Rose
wars, again, they were always on the wrong side, whichever that might
have been, because your Ravenshoe, mind you, was not bound to either
side in those times, but changed as he fancied fortune was going. As
your Ravenshoe was the sort of man who generally joined a party just
when their success was indubitable--that is to say, just when the
reaction against them was about to set in--he generally found himself
among the party which was going down hill, who despised him for not
joining them before, and opposed to the rising party, who hated him
because he had declared against them. Which little game is common enough
in this present century among some men of the world, who seem, as a
general rule, to make as little by it as ever did the Ravenshoes.

Well, whatever your trimmers make by their motion nowadays, the
Ravenshoes were not successful either at liberal conservatism or
conservative liberalism. At the end of the reign of Henry VII. they were
as poor as Job, or poorer. But, before you have time to think of it,
behold, in 1530, there comes you to court a Sir Alured Ravenshoe, who
incontinently begins cutting in at the top of the tune, swaggering,
swearing, dressing, fighting, dicing, and all that sort of thing, and,
what is more, paying his way in a manner which suggests successful
burglary as the only solution. Sir Alured, however, as I find, had done
no worse than marry an old maid (Miss Hincksey, one of the Staffordshire
Hinckseys) with a splendid fortune; which fortune set the family on its
legs again for some generations. This Sir Alured seems to have been an
audacious rogue. He made great interest with the king, who was so far
pleased with his activity in athletic sports that he gave him a post in
Ireland. There our Ravenshoe was so fascinated by the charming manners
of the Earl of Kildare that he even accompanied that nobleman on a
visit to Desmond; and, after a twelvemonth's unauthorised residence in
the interior of Ireland, on his return to England he was put into the
Tower for six months to "consider himself."

This Alured seems to have been a deuce of a fellow, a very good type of
the family. When British Harry had that difference we wot of with the
Bishop of Rome, I find Alured to have been engaged in some five or six
Romish plots, such as had the king been in possession of facts, would
have consigned him to a rather speedy execution. However, the king seems
to have looked on this gentleman with a suspicious eye, and to have been
pretty well aware what sort of man he was, for I find him writing to his
wife, on the occasion of his going to court--"The King's Grace looked
but sourly upon me, and said it should go hard, but that the pitcher
which went so oft to the well should be broke at last. Thereto I making
answer, 'that that should depend on the pitcher, whether it were iron or
clomb,' he turned on his heel, and presently departed from me."

He must have been possessed of his full share of family audacity to
sharpen his wits on the terrible Harry, with such an unpardonable amount
of treason hanging over him. I have dwelt thus long on him, as he seems
to have possessed a fair share of the virtues and vices of his family--a
family always generous and brave, yet always led astray by bad advisers.
This Alured built Ravenshoe House, as it stands to this day, and in
which much of the scene of this story is laid.

They seem to have got through the Gunpowder Plot pretty well, though I
can show you the closet where one of the minor conspirators, one Watson,
lay _perdu_ for a week or so after that gallant attempt, more I suspect
from the effect of a guilty conscience than anything else, for I never
heard of any distinct charge being brought against him. The Forty-five,
however, did not pass quite so easily, and Ambrose Ravenshoe went as
near to lose his head as any one of the family since the Conquest. When
the news came from the north about the alarming advance of the
Highlanders, it immediately struck Ambrose that this was the best
opportunity for making a fool of himself that could possibly occur. He
accordingly, without hesitation or consultation with any mortal soul,
rang the bell for his butler, sent for his stud-groom, mounted every man
about the place (twenty or so), armed them, grooms, gardeners, and all,
with crossbows and partisans from the armoury, and rode into the cross,
at Stonnington, on a market-day, and boldly proclaimed the Pretender
king. It soon got about that "the squire" was making a fool of himself,
and that there was some fun going; so he shortly found himself
surrounded by a large and somewhat dirty rabble, who, with cries of
"Well done, old rebel!" and "Hurrah for the Pope!" escorted him, his
terror-stricken butler and his shame-stricken grooms, to the Crown and
Sceptre. As good luck would have it, there happened to be in the town
that day no less a person than Lord Segur, the leading Roman Catholic
nobleman of the county. He, accompanied by several of the leading
gentlemen of the same persuasion, burst into the room where the Squire
sat, overpowered him, and, putting him bound into a coach, carried him
off to Segur Castle, and locked him up. It took all the strength of the
Popish party to save him from attainder. The Church rallied right
bravely round the old house, which had always assisted her with sword
and purse, and never once had wavered in its allegiance. So while nobler
heads went down, Ambrose Ravenshoe's remained on his shoulders.

Ambrose died in 1759.

John (Monseigneur) in 1771.

Howard in 1800. He first took the Claycomb hounds.

Petre in 1820. He married Alicia, only daughter of Charles, third Earl
of Ascot, and was succeeded by Densil, the first of our dramatis
personæ--the first of all this shadowy line that we shall see in the
flesh. He was born in the year 1783, and married, first in 1812, at his
father's desire, a Miss Winkleigh, of whom I know nothing; and second,
at his own desire, in 1823, Susan, fourth daughter of Lawrence
Petersham, Esq., of Fairford Grange, county Worcester, by whom he had
issue--

Cuthbert, born 1826;

Charles, born 1831.

Densil was an only son. His father, a handsome, careless, good-humoured,
but weak and superstitious man, was entirely in the hands of the
priests, who during his life were undisputed masters of Ravenshoe. Lady
Alicia was, as I have said, a daughter of Lord Ascot, a Staunton, as
staunchly a Protestant a house as any in England. She, however, managed
to fall in love with the handsome young Popish Squire, and to elope with
him, changing not only her name, but, to the dismay of her family, her
faith also, and becoming, pervert-like, more actively bigoted than her
easy-going husband. She brought little or no money into the family; and,
from her portrait, appears to have been exceedingly pretty, and
monstrously silly.

To this strong-minded couple was born, two years after their marriage, a
son who was called Densil.

This young gentleman seems to have got on much like other young
gentlemen till the age of twenty-one, when it was determined by the
higher powers in conclave assembled that he should go to London, and see
the world; and so, having been cautioned duly how to avoid the flesh and
the devil, to see the world he went. In a short time intelligence came
to the confessor of the family, and through him to the father and
mother, that Densil was seeing the world with a vengeance; that he was
the constant companion of the Right Honourable Viscount Saltire, the
great dandy of the Radical Atheist set, with whom no man might play
picquet and live; that he had been upset in a tilbury with Mademoiselle
Vaurien of Drury-lane at Kensington turnpike; that he had fought the
French _émigré_, a Comte de Hautenbas, apropos of the Vaurien
aforementioned--in short, that he was going on at a deuce of a rate: and
so a hurried council was called to deliberate what was to be done.

"He will lose his immortal soul," said the priest.

"He will dissipate his property," said his mother.

"He will go to the devil," said his father.

So Father Clifford, good man, was despatched to London, with post
horses, and ordered to bring back the lost sheep _vi et armis_.
Accordingly, at ten o'clock one night, Densil's lad was astounded by
having to admit Father Clifford, who demanded immediately to be led to
his master.

Now this was awkward, for James well knew what was going on upstairs;
but he knew also what would happen, sooner or later, to a Ravenshoe
servant who trifled with a priest, and so he led the way.

The lost sheep which the good father had come to find was not exactly
sober this evening, and certainly not in a very good temper. He was
playing _écarté_ with a singularly handsome, though supercilious-looking
man, dressed in the height of fashion, who, judging from the heap of
gold beside him, had been winning heavily. The priest trembled and
crossed himself--this man was the terrible, handsome, wicked, witty,
Atheistical, radical Lord Saltire, whose tongue no woman could
withstand, and whose pistol no man dared face; who was currently
believed to have sold himself to the deuce, or, indeed, as some said, to
be the deuce himself.

A more cunning man than poor simple Father Clifford would have made some
common-place remark and withdrawn, after a short greeting, taking
warning by the impatient scowl that settled on Densil's handsome face.
Not so he. To be defied by a boy whose law had been his word for ten
years past never entered into his head, and he sternly advanced towards
the pair.

Densil inquired if anything were the matter at home. And Lord Saltire,
anticipating a scene, threw himself back in his chair, stretched out his
elegant legs, and looked on with the air of a man who knows he is going
to be amused, and composes himself thoroughly to appreciate the
entertainment.

"Thus much, my son," said the priest; "your mother is wearing out the
stones of the oratory with her knees, praying for her first-born, while
he is wasting his substance, and perilling his soul, with debauched
Atheistic companions, the enemies of God and man."

Lord Saltire smiled sweetly, bowed elegantly, and took snuff.

"Why do you intrude into my room, and insult my guest?" said Densil,
casting an angry glance at the priest, who stood calmly like a black
pillar, with his hands before him. "It is unendurable."

"_Quem Deus vult_," &c. Father Clifford had seen that scowl once or
twice before, but he would not take warning. He said--

"I am ordered not to go westward without you. I command you to come."

"Command me! command a Ravenshoe!" said Densil, furiously.

Father Clifford, by way of mending matters, now began to lose _his_
temper.

"You would not be the first Ravenshoe who has been commanded by a
priest; ay, and has had to obey too," said he.

"And you will not be the first jack-priest who has felt the weight of a
Ravenshoe's wrath," replied Densil, brutally.

Lord Saltire leant back, and said to the ambient air, "I'll back the
priest, five twenties to one."

This was too much. Densil would have liked to quarrel with Saltire, but
that was death--he was the deadest shot in Europe. He grew furious, and
beyond all control. He told the priest to go (further than purgatory);
grew blasphemous, emphatically renouncing the creed of his forefathers,
and, in fact, all other creeds. The priest grew hot and furious too,
retaliated in no measured terms, and finally left the room with his ears
stopped, shaking the dust off his feet as he went. Then Lord Saltire
drew up to the table again, laughing.

"Your estates are entailed, Ravenshoe, I suppose?" said he.

"No."

"Oh! It's your deal, my dear fellow."

Densil got an angry letter from his father in a few days, demanding full
apologies and recantations, and an immediate return home. Densil had no
apologies to make, and did not intend to return till the end of the
season. His father wrote declining the honour of his further
acquaintance, and sending him a draft for fifty pounds to pay
outstanding bills, which he very well knew amounted to several
thousands. In a short time the great Catholic tradesmen, with whom he
had been dealing, began to press for money in a somewhat insolent way;
and now Densil began to see that, by defying and insulting the faith and
the party to which he belonged, he had merely cut himself off from rank,
wealth, and position. He had defied the _partie prêtre_, and had yet to
feel their power. In two months he was in the Fleet prison.

His servant (the title "tiger" came in long after this), a half groom,
half valet, such as men kept in those days--a simple lad from Ravenshoe,
James Horton by name--for the first time in his life disobeyed orders;
for, on being told to return home by Densil, he firmly declined doing
so, and carried his top boots and white neckcloth triumphantly into the
Fleet, there pursuing his usual avocations with the utmost nonchalance.

"A very distinguished fellow that of yours, Curly" (they all had
nicknames for one another in those days), said Lord Saltire. "If I were
not Saltire, I think I would be Jim. To own the only clean face among
six hundred fellow-creatures is a pre-eminence, a decided pre-eminence.
I'll buy him of you."

For Lord Saltire came to see him, snuff-box and all. That morning Densil
was sitting brooding in the dirty room with the barred windows, and
thinking what a wild free wind would be sweeping across the Downs this
fine November day, when the door was opened, and in walks me my lord,
with a sweet smile on his face.

He was dressed in the extreme of fashion--a long-tailed blue coat with
gold buttons, a frill to his shirt, a white cravat, a wonderful short
waistcoat, loose short nankeen trousers, low shoes, no gaiters, and a
low-crowned hat. I am pretty correct, for I have seen his picture, dated
1804. But you must please to remember that his lordship was in the very
van of the fashion, and that probably such a dress was not universal for
two or three years afterwards. I wonder if his well-known audacity would
be sufficient to make him walk along one of the public thoroughfares in
such a dress, to-morrow, for a heavy bet--I fancy not.

He smiled sardonically--"My dear fellow," he said, "when a man comes on
a visit of condolence, I know it is the most wretched taste to say, 'I
told you so;' but do me the justice to allow that I offered to back the
priest five to one. I had been coming to you all the week, but Tuesday
and Wednesday I was at Newmarket; Thursday I was shooting at your
cousin Ascot's: yesterday I did not care about boring myself with you;
so I have come to-day because I was at leisure and had nothing better to
do."

Densil looked up savagely, thinking he had come to insult him: but the
kindly compassionate look in the piercing grey eye belied the cynical
curl of the mouth, and disarmed him. He leant his head upon the table
and sobbed.

Lord Saltire laid his hand kindly on his shoulder, and said--

"You have been a fool, Ravenshoe; you have denied the faith of your
forefathers. Pardieu, if I had such an article I would not have thrown
it so lightly away."

"_You_ talk like this? Who next? It was your conversation led me to it.
Am I worse than you? What faith have you, in God's name?"

"The faith of a French Lycée, my friend; the only one I ever had. I have
been sufficiently consistent to that, I think."

"Consistent indeed," groaned poor Densil.

"Now, look here," said Saltire; "I may have been to blame in this. But I
give you my honour, I had no more idea that you would be obstinate
enough to bring matters to this pass, than I had that you would burn
down Ravenshoe House because I laughed at it for being old-fashioned. Go
home, my poor little Catholic pipkin, and don't try to swim with iron
pots like Wrekin and me. Make submission to that singularly
_distingué_-looking old turkey-cock of a priest, kiss your mother, and
get your usual autumn's hunting and shooting."

"Too late! too late, now!" sobbed Densil.

"Not at all, my dear fellow," said Saltire, taking a pinch of snuff;
"the partridges will be a little wild of course--that you must expect;
but you ought to get some very pretty pheasant and cock-shooting. Come,
say yes. Have your debts paid, and get out of this infernal hole. A week
of this would tame the devil, I should think."

"If you think you could do anything for me, Saltire."

Lord Saltire immediately retired, and re-appeared, leading in a lady by
her hand. She raised the veil from her head, and he saw his mother. In a
moment she was crying on his neck; and, as he looked over her shoulder,
he saw a blue coat passing out of the door, and that was the last of
Lord Saltire for the present.

It was no part of the game of the priests to give Densil a cold welcome
home. Twenty smiling faces were grouped in the porch to welcome him
back; and among them all none smiled more brightly than the old priest
and his father. The dogs went wild with joy, and his favourite
peregrine scolded on the falconer's wrist, and struggled with her
jesses, shrilly reminding him of the merry old days by the dreary salt
marsh, or the lonely lake.

The past was never once alluded to in any way by any one in the house.
Old Squire Petre shook hands with faithful James, and gave him a watch,
ordering him to ride a certain colt next day, and see how well forward
he could get him. So next day they drew the home covers, and the fox,
brave fellow, ran out to Parkside, making for the granite walls of
Hessitor. And, when Densil felt his nostrils filled once more by the
free rushing mountain air, he shouted aloud for joy, and James's voice
alongside of him said--

"This is better than the Fleet, sir."

And so Densil played a single-wicket match with the Holy Church, and,
like a great many other people, got bowled out in the first innings. He
returned to his allegiance in the most exemplary manner, and settled
down to the most humdrum of young country gentlemen. He did exactly what
every one else about him did. He was not naturally a profligate or
vicious man; but there was a wild devil of animal passion in him, which
had broken out in London, and which was now quieted by dread of
consequences, but which he felt and knew was there, and might break out
again. He was a changed man. There was a gulf between him and the life
he had led before he went to London. He had tasted of liberty (or
rather, not to profane that Divine word, of licentiousness), and yet not
drunk long enough to make him weary of the draught. He had heard the
dogmas he was brought up to believe infallible turned to unutterable
ridicule by men like Saltire and Wrekin; men who, as he had the wit to
see, were a thousand times cleverer and better informed than Father
Clifford or Father Dennis. In short, he had found out, as a great many
others have, that Popery won't hold water, and so, as a _pis aller_, he
adopted Saltire's creed--that religion was necessary for the government
of States, that one religion was as good as another, and that, _cæteris
paribus_, the best religion was the one which secured the possessor
£10,000 a year, and therefore Densil was a devout Catholic.

It was thought by the allied powers that he ought to marry. He had no
objection and so he married a young lady, a Miss Winkleigh--Catholic, of
course--about whom I can get no information whatever. Lady Ascot says
that she was a pale girl, with about as much air as a milkmaid; on which
two facts I can build no theory as to her personal character. She died
in 1816, childless; and in 1820 Densil lost both his father and mother,
and found himself, at the age of thirty-seven, master of Ravenshoe and
master of himself.

He felt the loss of the old folks most keenly, more keenly than that of
his wife. He seemed without a stay or holdfast in the world, for he was
a poorly educated man, without resources; and so he went on moping and
brooding until good old Father Clifford, who loved him dearly, got
alarmed, and recommended travels. He recommended Rome, the cradle of the
faith, and to Rome he went.

He stayed at Rome a year; at the end of which time he appeared suddenly
at home with a beautiful young wife on his arm. As Father Clifford,
trembling and astonished, advanced to lay his hand upon her head, she
drew up, laughed, and said, "Spare yourself the trouble, my dear sir; I
am a Protestant."

I have had to tell you all this, in order to show you how it came about
that Densil, though a Papist, bethought of marrying a Protestant wife to
keep up a balance of power in his house. For, if he had not married this
lady, the hero of this book would never have been born; and this greater
proposition contains the less, "that if he had never been born, his
history would never have been written, and so this book would have had
no existence."



CHAPTER II.

SUPPLEMENTARY TO THE FOREGOING.


The second Mrs. Ravenshoe was the handsome dowerless daughter of a
Worcester squire, of good standing, who, being blessed with an
extravagant son, and six handsome daughters, had lived for several years
abroad, finding society more accessible, and consequently, the
matrimonial chances of the "Petersham girls" proportionately greater
than in England. She was a handsome proud woman, not particularly
clever, or particularly agreeable, or particularly anything, except
particularly self-possessed. She had been long enough looking after an
establishment to know thoroughly the value of one, and had seen quite
enough of good houses to know that a house without a mistress is no
house at all. Accordingly, in a very few days the house felt her
presence, submitted with the best grace to her not unkindly rule, and in
a week they all felt as if she had been there for years.

Father Clifford, who longed only for peace, and was getting very old,
got very fond of her, heretic as she was. She, too, liked the handsome,
gentlemanly old man, and made herself agreeable to him, as a woman of
the world knows so well how to do. Father Mackworth, on the other hand,
his young coadjutor since Father Dennis's death, an importation of Lady
Alicia's from Rome, very soon fell under her displeasure. The first
Sunday after her arrival, she drove to church, and occupied the great
old family pew, to the immense astonishment of the rustics, and, after
afternoon service, caught up the old vicar in her imperious off-hand
way, and will he nil he, carried him off to dinner--at which meal he was
horrified to find himself sitting with two shaven priests, who talked
Latin and crossed themselves. His embarrassment was greatly increased by
the behaviour of Mrs. Ravenshoe, who admired his sermon, and spoke on
doctrinal points with him as though there were not a priest within a
mile. Father Mackworth was imprudent enough to begin talking at him, and
at last said something unmistakably impertinent; upon which Mrs.
Ravenshoe put her glass in her eye, and favoured him with such a glance
of haughty astonishment as silenced him at once.

This was the beginning of hostilities between them, if one can give the
name of hostilities to a series of infinitesimal annoyances on the one
side, and to immeasurable and barely concealed contempt on the other.
Mackworth, on the one hand, knew that she understood and despised him,
and he hated her. She on the other hand knew that he knew it, but
thought him too much below her notice, save now and then that she might
put down with a high hand any, even the most distant, approach to a
tangible impertinence. But she was no match for him in the arts of
petty, delicate, galling annoyances. There he was her master; he had
been brought up in a good school for that, and had learnt his lesson
kindly. He found that she disliked his presence, and shrunk from his
smooth, lean face with unutterable dislike. From that moment he was
always in her way, overwhelming her with oily politeness, rushing across
the room to pick up anything she had dropped, or to open the door, till
it required the greatest restraint to avoid breaking through all forms
of politeness, and bidding him begone. But why should we go on detailing
trifles like these, which in themselves are nothing, but accumulated are
unbearable?

So it went on, till one morning, about two years after the marriage,
Mackworth appeared in Clifford's room, and, yawning, threw himself into
a chair.

"Benedicite," said Father Clifford, who never neglected religious
etiquette on any occasion.

Mackworth stretched out his legs and yawned, rather rudely, and then
relapsed into silence. Father Clifford went on reading. At last
Mackworth spoke.

"I'll tell you what, my good friend, I am getting sick of this; I shall
go back to Rome."

"To Rome?"

"Yes, back to Rome," repeated the other impertinently, for he always
treated the good old priest with contemptuous insolence when they were
alone. "What is the use of staying here, fighting that woman? There is
no more chance of turning her than a rock, and there is going to be no
family."

"You think so?" said Clifford.

"Good heavens, does it look like it? Two years, and not a sign; besides,
should I talk of going, if I thought so? Then there would be a career
worthy of me; then I should have a chance of deserving well of the
Church, by keeping a wavering family in her bosom. And I could do it,
too: every child would be a fresh weapon in my hands against that woman.
Clifford, do you think that Ravenshoe is safe?"

He said this so abruptly that Clifford coloured and started. Mackworth
at the same time turned suddenly upon him, and scrutinised his face
keenly.

"Safe!" said the old man; "what makes you fear otherwise?"

"Nothing special," said Mackworth; "only I have never been easy since
you told me of that London escapade years ago."

"He has been very devout ever since," said Clifford. "I fear nothing."

"Humph! Well, I am glad to hear it," said Mackworth. "I shall go to
Rome. I'd sooner be gossiping with Alphonse and Pierre in the cloisters
than vegetating here. My talents are thrown away."

He departed down the winding steps of the priest's turret, which led to
the flower garden. The day was fine, and a pleasant seat a short
distance off invited him to sit. He could get a book he knew from the
drawing-room, and sit there. So, with habitually noiseless tread, he
passed along the dark corridor, and opened the drawing-room door.

Nobody was there. The book he wanted was in the little drawing-room
beyond, separated from the room he was in by a partly-drawn curtain. The
priest advanced silently over the deep piled carpet and looked in.

The summer sunlight, struggling through a waving bower of climbing
plants and the small panes of a deeply mullioned window, fell upon two
persons, at the sight of whom he paused, and, holding his breath, stood,
like a black statue in the gloomy room, wrapped in astonishment.

He had never in his life heard these twain use any words beyond those of
common courtesy towards one another; he had thought them the most
indifferent, the coldest pair, he had ever seen. But now! now, the
haughty beauty was bending from her chair over her husband, who sat on a
stool at her feet; her arm was round his neck, and her hand was in his;
and, as he looked, she parted the clustering black curls from his
forehead and kissed him.

He bent forward and listened more eagerly. He could hear the surf on the
shore, the sea-birds on the cliffs, the nightingale in the wood; they
fell upon his ear, but he could not distinguish them; he waited only for
one of the two figures before him to speak.

At last Mrs. Ravenshoe broke silence, but in so low a voice that even
he, whose attention was strained to the uttermost, could barely catch
what she said.

"I yield, my love," said she; "I give you this one, but mind, the rest
are mine. I have your solemn promise for that?"

"My solemn promise," said Densil, and kissed her again.

"My dear," she resumed, "I wish you could get rid of that priest, that
Mackworth. He is irksome to me."

"He was recommended to my especial care by my mother," was Densil's
reply. "If you could let him stay I should much rather."

"Oh, let him stay!" said she; "he is too contemptible for me to annoy
myself about. But I distrust him, Densil. He has a lowering look
sometimes."

"He is talented and agreeable," said Densil; "but I never liked him."

The listener turned to go, having heard enough, but was arrested by her
continuing--

"By the by, my love, do you know that that impudent girl Norah has been
secretly married this three months?"

The priest listened more intently than ever.

"Who to?" asked Densil.

"To James, your keeper."

"I am glad of that. That lad James stuck to me in prison, Susan, when
they all left me. She is a fine, faithful creature, too. Mind you give
her a good scolding."

Mackworth had heard enough apparently, for he stole gently away through
the gloomy room, and walked musingly upstairs to Father Clifford.

That excellent old man took up the conversation just where it had left
off.

"And when," said he, "my brother, do you propose returning to Rome?"

"I shall not go to Rome at all," was the satisfactory reply, followed by
a deep silence.

In a few months, much to Father Clifford's joy and surprise, Mrs.
Ravenshoe bore a noble boy, which was named Cuthbert. Cuthbert was
brought up in the Romish faith, and at five years old had just begun to
learn his prayers of Father Clifford, when an event occurred equally
unexpected by all parties. Mrs. Ravenshoe was again found to be in a
condition to make an addition to her family.



CHAPTER III.

IN WHICH OUR HERO'S TROUBLES BEGIN.


If you were a lazy yachtsman, sliding on a summer's day, before a gentle
easterly breeze, over the long swell from the Atlantic, past the
south-westerly shores of the Bristol Channel, you would find, after
sailing all day beneath shoreless headlands of black slate, that the
land suddenly fell away and sunk down, leaving, instead of beetling
cliffs, a lovely amphitheatre of hanging wood and lawn, fronted by a
beach of yellow sand--a pleasing contrast to the white surf and dark
crag to which your eye had got accustomed.

This beautiful semicircular basin is about two miles in diameter,
surrounded by hills on all sides, save that which is open to the sea.
East and west the headlands stretch out a mile or more, forming a fine
bay open to the north; while behind, landward, the downs roll up above
the woodlands, a bare expanse of grass and grey stone. Half way along
the sandy beach, a trout-stream comes foaming out of a dark wood, and
finds its way across the shore in fifty sparkling channels; and the eye,
caught by the silver thread of water, is snatched away above and beyond
it, along a wooded glen, the cradle of the stream, which pierces the
country landward for a mile or two, till the misty vista is abruptly
barred by a steep blue hill, which crosses the valley at right angles. A
pretty little village stands at the mouth of the stream, and straggles
with charming irregularity along the shore for a considerable distance
westward; while behind, some little distance up the glen, a handsome
church tower rises from among the trees. There are some fishing boats at
anchor, there are some small boats on the beach, there is a coasting
schooner beached and discharging coal, there are some fishermen
lounging, there are some nets drying, there are some boys bathing, there
are two grooms exercising four handsome horses; but it is not upon
horses, men, boats, ship, village, church, or stream, that you will find
your eye resting, but upon a noble, turreted, deep-porched, grey stone
mansion, that stands on the opposite side of the stream, about a hundred
feet above the village.

On the east bank of the little river, just where it joins the sea,
abrupt lawns of grass and fern, beautifully broken by groups of birch
and oak, rise above the dark woodlands, at the culminating point of
which, on a buttress which runs down from the higher hills behind,
stands the house I speak of, the north front looking on the sea, and the
west on the wooded glen before mentioned--the house on a ridge dividing
the two. Immediately behind again the dark woodlands begin once more,
and above them is the moor.

The house itself is of grey stone, built in the time of Henry VIII. The
façade is exceedingly noble, though irregular; the most striking feature
in the north or sea front being a large dark porch, open on three sides,
forming the basement of a high stone tower, which occupies the centre of
the building. At the north-west corner (that towards the village) rises
another tower of equal height; and behind, above the irregular groups of
chimneys, the more modern cupola of the stables shows itself as the
highest point of all, and gives, combined with the other towers, a
charming air of irregularity to the whole. The windows are mostly long,
low, and heavily mullioned, and the walls are battlemented.

On approaching the house you find that it is built very much after the
fashion of a college, with a quadrangle in the centre. Two sides of
this, the north and west, are occupied by the house, the south by the
stables, and the east by a long and somewhat handsome chapel, of greater
antiquity than the rest of the house. The centre of this quad, in place
of the trim grass-plat, is occupied by a tan lunging ring, in the middle
of which stands a granite basin filled with crystal water from the
hills. In front of the west wing, a terraced flower-garden goes step by
step towards the stream, till the smooth-shaven lawns almost mingle with
the wild ferny heather turf of the park, where the dappled deer browse,
and the rabbit runs to and fro busily. On the north, towards the sea,
there are no gardens; but a noble gravel terrace, divided from the park
only by a deep rampart, runs along beneath the windows; and to the east
the deer-park stretches away till lawn and glade are swallowed up in the
encroaching woodland.

Such is Ravenshoe Hall at the present day, and such it was on the 10th
of June, 1831 (I like to be particular), as regards the still life of
the place; but, if one had then regarded the living inhabitants, one
would have seen signs of an unusual agitation. Round the kitchen door
stood a group of female servants talking eagerly together; and, at the
other side of the court, some half-dozen grooms and helpers were
evidently busy on the same theme, till the appearance of the stud-groom
entering the yard suddenly dispersed them right and left; to do nothing
with superabundant energy.

To them also entered a lean, quiet-looking man, aged at this time
fifty-two. We have seen him before. He was our old friend Jim, who had
attended Densil in the Fleet prison in old times. He had some time
before this married a beautiful Irish Catholic waiting-maid of Lady
Alicia's, by whom he had a daughter, now five years old, and a son aged
one week. He walked across the yard to where the women were talking, and
addressed them.

"How is my lady to-night?" said he.

"Holy Mother of God!" said a weeping Irish housemaid, "she's worse."

"How's the young master?"

"Hearty, a darling; crying his little eyes out, he is, a-bless him."

"He'll be bigger than Master Cuthbert, I'll warrant ye," said a portly
cook.

"When was he born?" asked James.

"Nigh on two hours," said the other speaker.

At this conjuncture a groom came running through the passage, putting a
note in his hat as he went; he came to the stud-groom, and said
hurriedly, "A note for Dr. Marcy at Lanceston, sir. What horse am I to
take?"

"Trumpeter. How is my lady?"

"Going, as far as I can gather, sir."

James waited until he heard him dash full speed out of the yard, and
then till he saw him disappear like a speck along the mountain road far
aloft; then he went into the house, and, getting as near to the sick
room as he dared, waited quietly on the stairs.

It was a house of woe, indeed! Two hours before, one feeble, wailing
little creature had taken up his burthen, and begun his weary pilgrimage
across the unknown desolate land that lay between him and the grave--for
a part of which you and I are to accompany him; while his mother even
now was preparing for her rest, yet striving for the child's sake to
lengthen the last few weary steps of her journey, that they two might
walk, were it never so short a distance, together.

The room was very still. Faintly the pure scents and sounds stole into
the chamber of death from the blessed summer air without; gently came
the murmur of the surf upon the sands; fainter and still fainter came
the breath of the dying mother. The babe lay beside her, and her arm was
round its body. The old vicar knelt by the bed, and Densil stood with
folded arms and bowed head, watching the face which had grown so dear to
him, till the light should die out from it for ever. Only those four in
the chamber of death!

The sighing grew louder, and the eye grew once more animated. She
reached out her hand, and, taking one of the vicar's, laid it upon the
baby's head. Then she looked at Densil, who was now leaning over her,
and with a great effort spoke.

"Densil, dear, you will remember your promise?"

"I will swear it, my love."

A few more laboured sighs, and a greater effort: "Swear it to me, love."

He swore that he would respect the promise he had made, so help him God!

The eyes were fixed now, and all was still. Then there was a long sigh;
then there was a long silence; then the vicar rose from his knees, and
looked at Densil. There were but three in the chamber now.

       *       *       *       *       *

Densil passed through the weeping women, and went straight to his own
study. There he sat down, tearless, musing much about her who was gone.

How he had grown to love that woman, he thought--her that he had married
for her beauty and her pride, and had thought so cold and hard! He
remembered how the love of her had grown stronger, year by year, since
their first child was born. How he had respected her for her firmness
and consistency; and how often, he thought, had he sheltered his
weakness behind her strength! His right hand was gone, and he was left
alone to do battle by himself!

One thing was certain. Happen what would, his promise should be
respected, and this last boy, just born, should be brought up a
Protestant as his mother had wished. He knew the opposition he would
have from Father Mackworth, and determined to brave it. And, as the name
of that man came into his mind, some of his old fierce, savage nature
broke out again, and he almost cursed him aloud.

"I hate that fellow! I should like to defy him, and let him do his
worst. I'd do it, now she's gone, if it wasn't for the boys. No, hang
it, it wouldn't do. If I'd told him under seal of confession, instead of
letting him grab it out, he couldn't have hung it over me like this. I
wish he was--"

If Father Mackworth had had the slightest inkling of the state of mind
of his worthy patron towards him, it is very certain that he would not
have chosen that very moment to rap at the door. The most acute of us
make a mistake sometimes; and he, haunted with vague suspicions since
the conversation he had overheard in the drawing-room before the birth
of Cuthbert, grew impatient, and determined to solve his doubts at once,
and, as we have seen, selected the singularly happy moment when poor
passionate Densil was cursing him to his heart's content.

"Brother, I am come to comfort you," he said, opening the door before
Densil had time, either to finish the sentence written above, or to say
"Come in." "This is a heavy affliction, and the heavier because--"

"Go away," said Densil, pointing to the door.

"Nay, nay," said the priest, "hear me--"

"Go away," said Densil, in a louder tone. "Do you hear me? I want to be
alone, and I mean to be. Go!"

How recklessly defiant weak men get when they are once fairly in a rage?
Densil, who was in general civilly afraid of this man, would have defied
fifty such as he now.

"There is one thing, Mr. Ravenshoe," said the priest, in a very
different tone, "about which I feel it my duty to speak to you, in spite
of the somewhat unreasonable form your grief has assumed. I wish to know
what you mean to call your son."

"Why?"

"Because he is ailing, and I wish to baptise him."

"You will do nothing of the kind, sir," said Densil, as red as a
turkey-cock. "He will be baptised in proper time in the parish church.
He is to be brought up a Protestant."

The priest looked steadily at Densil, who, now brought fairly to bay,
was bent on behaving like a valiant man, and said slowly--

"So my suspicions are confirmed, then, and you have determined to hand
over your son to eternal perdition" (he didn't say perdition, he used a
stronger word, which we will dispense with, if you have no objection).

"Perdition, sir!" bawled Densil; "how dare you talk of a son of mine in
that free-and-easy sort of way? Why, what my family has done for the
Church ought to keep a dozen generations of Ravenshoes from a
possibility of perdition, sir. Don't tell me."

This new and astounding theory of justification by works, which poor
Densil had broached in his wrath, was overheard by a round-faced,
bright-eyed, curly-headed man about fifty, who entered the room
suddenly, followed by James. For one instant you might have seen a smile
of intense amusement pass over his merry face; but in an instant it was
gone again, and he gravely addressed Densil.

"My dear Mr. Ravenshoe, I must use my authority as doctor, to request
that your son's spiritual welfare should for the present yield to his
temporal necessities. You must have a wet-nurse, my good sir."

Densil's brow had grown placid in a moment beneath the doctor's kindly
glance. "God bless me," he said, "I never thought of it. Poor little
lad! poor little lad!"

"I hope, sir," said James, "that you will let Norah have the young
master. She has set her heart upon it."

"I have seen Mrs. Horton," said the doctor, "and I quite approve of the
proposal. I think it, indeed, a most special providence that she should
be able to undertake it. Had it been otherwise, we might have been
undone."

"Let us go at once," said the impetuous Densil. "Where is the nurse?
where is the boy?" And, so saying, he hurried out of the room, followed
by the doctor and James.

Mackworth stood alone, looking out of the window, silent. He stood so
long that one who watched him peered from his hiding-place more than
once to see if he were gone. At length he raised his arm and struck his
clenched hand against the rough granite window-sill so hard that he
brought blood. Then he moodily left the room.

As soon as the room was quiet, a child about five years old crept
stealthily from a dark corner where he had lain hidden, and with a look
of mingled shyness and curiosity on his face, departed quietly by
another door.

Meanwhile, Densil, James, and the doctor, accompanied by the nurse and
baby, were holding their way across the court-yard towards a cottage
which lay in the wood beyond the stables. James opened the door, and
they passed into the inner room.

A beautiful woman was sitting propped up by pillows, nursing a week-old
child. The sunlight, admitted by a half-open shutter, fell upon her,
lighting up her delicate features, her pale pure complexion, and
bringing a strange sheen on her long loose black hair. Her face was bent
down, gazing on the child which lay on her breast; and at the entrance
of the party she looked up, and displayed a large lustrous dark blue
eye, which lighted up with infinite tenderness, as Densil, taking the
wailing boy from the nurse, placed it on her arm beside the other.

"Take care of that for me, Norah," said Densil. "It has no mother but
you, now."

"Acushla ma chree," she answered; "bless my little bird. Come to your
nest, alanna, come to your pretty brother, my darlin'."

The child's wailing was stilled now, and the doctor remarked, and
remembered long afterwards, that the little waxen fingers, clutching
uneasily about, came in contact with the little hand of the other child,
and paused there. At this moment, a beautiful little girl, about five
years old, got on the bed, and nestled her peachy cheek against her
mother's. As they went out, he turned and looked at the beautiful group
once more, and then he followed Densil back to the house of mourning.

Reader, before we have done with those three innocent little faces, we
shall see them distorted and changed by many passions, and shall meet
them in many strange places. Come, take my hand, and we will follow them
on to the end.



CHAPTER IV.

FATHER MACKWORTH.


I have noticed that the sayings and doings of young gentlemen before
they come to the age of, say seven or eight, are hardly interesting to
any but their immediate relations and friends. I have my eye, at this
moment, on a young gentleman of the mature age of two, the instances of
whose sagacity and eloquence are of greater importance, and certainly
more pleasant, to me, than the projects of Napoleon, or the orations of
Bright. And yet I fear that even his most brilliant joke, if committed
to paper, would fall dead upon the public ear; and so, for the present,
I shall leave Charles Ravenshoe to the care of Norah, and pass on to
some others who demand our attention more.

The first thing which John Mackworth remembered was his being left in
the _loge_ of a French school at Rouen by an English footman. Trying to
push back his memory further, he always failed to conjure up any
previous recollection to that. He had certainly a very indistinct one of
having been happier, and having lived quietly in pleasant country places
with a kind woman who talked English; but his first decided impression
always remained the same--that of being, at six years old, left
friendless, alone, among twenty or thirty French boys older than
himself.

His was a cruel fate. He would have been happier apprenticed to a
collier. If the man who sent him there had wished to inflict the
heaviest conceivable punishment on the poor unconscious little innocent,
he could have done no more than simply left him at that school. We shall
see how he found out at last who his benefactor was.

English boys are sometimes brutal to one another (though not so often as
some wish to make out), and are always rough. Yet I must say, as far as
my personal experience goes, the French boy is entirely master in the
art of tormenting. He never strikes; he does not know how to clench his
fist. He is an arrant coward, according to an English schoolboy's
definition of the word: but at pinching, pulling hair, ear pulling, and
that class of annoyance, all the natural ingenuity of his nation comes
out, and he is superb; add to this a combined insolent studied sarcasm,
and you have an idea of what a disagreeable French schoolboy can be.

To say that the boys at poor John Mackworth's school put all these
methods of torture in force against him, and ten times more, is to give
one but a faint idea of his sufferings. The English at that time were
hated with a hatred which we in these sober times have but little idea
of; and, with the cannon of Trafalgar ringing as it were in their ears,
these young French gentlemen seized on Mackworth as a lawful prize
providentially delivered into their hands. We do not know what he may
have been under happier auspices, or what he may be yet with a more
favourable start in another life; we have only to do with what he was.
Six years of friendless persecution, of life ungraced and uncheered by
domestic love, of such bitter misery as childhood alone is capable of
feeling or enduring, transformed him from a child into a heartless,
vindictive man.

And then, the French schoolmaster having roughly finished the piece of
goods, it was sent to Rome to be polished and turned out ready for the
market. Here I must leave him; I don't know the process. I have seen the
article when finished, and am familiar with it. I know the trade mark on
it as well as I know the Tower mark on my rifle. I may predicate of a
glass that it is Bohemian ruby, and yet not know how they gave it the
colour. I must leave descriptions of that system to Mr. Steinmetz, and
men who have been behind the scenes.

The red-hot ultramontane thorough-going Catholicism of that pretty
pervert, Lady Alicia, was but ill satisfied with the sensible, old
English, cut and dried notions of the good Father Clifford. A comparison
of notes with two or three other great ladies, brought about a
consultation, and a letter to Rome, the result of which was that a young
Englishman of presentable exterior, polite manners, talking English with
a slight foreign accent, made his appearance at Ravenshoe, and was
installed as her ladyship's confessor, about eighteen months before her
death.

His talents were by no means ordinary. In very few days he had gauged
every intellect in the house, and found that he was by far the superior
of all in wit and education; and he determined that as long as he stayed
in the house he would be master there.

Densil's jealous temper sadly interfered with this excellent resolution;
he was immensely angry and rebellious at the slightest apparent
infringement of his prerogative, and after his parents' death treated
Mackworth in such an exceedingly cavalier manner, that the latter feared
he should have to move, till chance threw into his hand a whip wherewith
he might drive Densil where he would. He discovered a scandalous liaison
of poor Densil's, and in an indirect manner let him know that he knew
all about it. This served to cement his influence until the appearance
of Mrs. Ravenshoe the second, who, as we have seen, treated him with
such ill-disguised contempt, that he was anything but comfortable, and
was even meditating a retreat to Rome, when the conversation he
overheard in the drawing-room made him pause, and the birth of the boy
Cuthbert confirmed his resolution to stay.

For now, indeed, there was a prospect open to him. Here was this child
delivered over to him like clay to a potter, that he might form it as he
would. It should go hard but that the revenues and county influence of
the Ravenshoes should tend to the glory of the Church as heretofore.
Only one person was in his way, and that was Mrs. Ravenshoe; after her
death he was master of the situation with regard to the eldest of the
boys. He had partly guessed, ever since he overheard the conversation
of Densil and his wife, that some sort of bargain existed between them
about the second child; but he paid little heed to it. It was,
therefore, with the bitterest anger that he saw his fears confirmed, and
Densil angrily obstinate on the matter; for supposing Cuthbert were to
die, all his trouble and anxiety would avail nothing, and the old house
and lands would fall to a Protestant heir, the first time in the history
of the island. Father Clifford consoled him.

Meanwhile, his behaviour towards Densil was gradually and insensibly
altered. He became the free and easy man of the world, the amusing
companion, the wise counsellor. He saw that Densil was of a nature to
lean on some one, and he was determined it should be on him; so he made
himself necessary. But he did more than this; he determined he would be
beloved as well as respected, and with a happy audacity he set to work
to win that poor wild foolish heart to himself, using such arts of
pleasing as must have been furnished by his own mother wit, and could
never have been learned in a hundred years from a Jesuit college. The
poor heart was not a hard one to win; and, the day they buried poor
Father Clifford in the mausoleum, it was with a mixture of pride at his
own talents, and contemptuous pity for his dupe, that Mackworth listened
to Densil as he told him that he was now his only friend, and besought
him not to leave him--which thing Mackworth promised, with the deepest
sincerity, he would not do.



CHAPTER V.

RANFORD.


Master Charles, blessed with a placid temper and a splendid appetite,
throve amazingly. Before you knew where you were, he was in tops and
bottoms; before you had thoroughly realized that, he was learning his
letters; then there was hardly time to turn round, before he was a
rosy-cheeked boy of ten.

From the very first gleam of reason, he had been put solely and entirely
under the care of Mr. Snell, the old vicar, who had been with his mother
when she died, and a Protestant nurse, Mrs. Varley. Faithfully had these
two discharged their sacred trust; and, if love can repay such services,
right well were they repaid.

A pleasant task they had, though, for a more lovable little lad than
Charles there never was. His little heart seemed to have an infinite
capacity of affection for all who approached him. Everything animate
came before him in the light of a friend, to whom he wished to make
himself agreeable, from his old kind tutor and nurse down to his pony
and terrier. Charles had not arrived at the time of life when it was
possible for him to quarrel about women; and so he actually had no
enemies as yet, but was welcomed by pleasant and kind faces wherever he
went. At one time he would be at his father's knee, while the
good-natured Densil made him up some fishing tackle; next you would find
him in the kennel with the whipper-in, feeding the hounds,
half-smothered by their boisterous welcome; then the stables would own
him for a time, while the lads were cleaning up and feeding; then came a
sudden flitting to one of the keeper's lodges; and anon he would be down
on the sands wading with half a dozen fisher-boys as happy as
himself--but welcome and beloved everywhere.

Sunday was a right pleasant day for him. After seeing his father shave,
and examining his gold-topped dressing-case from top to
bottom--amusements which were not participated in by Cuthbert, who had
grown too manly--he would haste through his breakfast, and with his
clean clothes hurry down the village towards the vicarage, which stood
across the stream near the church. Not to go in yet, you will observe,
because the sermon, he well knew, was getting its finishing touches, and
the vicar must not be disturbed. No, the old stone bridge would bring
him up; and there he would stay looking at the brown crystal-clear water
rushing and seething among the rocks, lying dark under the oak-roots,
and flashing merrily over the weir, just above the bridge; till "flick!"
a silver bar would shoot quivering into the air, and a salmon would
light on the top of the fall, just where the water broke, and would
struggle on into the still pool above, or be beaten back by the force,
to resume his attempt when he had gained breath. The trout, too, under
the bridge, bless the rogues, they knew it was Sunday well enough--how
they would lie up there in the swiftest places, where glancing liquid
glorified the poor pebbles below into living amber, and would hardly
trouble themselves to snap at the great fat, silly stoneflies that came
floating down. Oh! it was a terrible place for dawdling was that stone
bridge, on a summer sabbath morn.

But now would the country folks come trooping in from far and near, for
Ravenshoe was the only church for miles, and however many of them there
were, every one had a good hearty West-country greeting for him. And,
as the crowd increased near the church door, there was so much to say
and hear, that I am afraid the prayers suffered a little sometimes.

The villagers were pleased enough to see the lad in the old carved
horsebox (not to be irreverent) of a pew, beneath the screen in the
chancel, with the light from the old rose window shining on his curly
brown hair. The older ones would think of the haughty beautiful lady who
sat there so few years ago, and oftentimes one of the more sagacious
would shake his head and mutter to himself, "Ah! if _he_ were heir."

Any boy who reads this story, and I hope many will read it, is hereby
advertised that it is exceedingly wrong to be inattentive in church in
sermon time. It is very naughty to look up through the windows at the
white clouds flying across the blue sky, and think how merrily the
shadows are sweeping over the upland lawn, where the pewits' nests are,
and the blackcock is crowing on the grey stones among the heather. No
boy has any right to notice another boy's absence, and spend sermon-time
in wondering whether he is catching crabs among the green and crimson
seaweed on the rocks, or bathing in the still pool under the cliff. A
boy had better not go to church at all if he spends his time in thinking
about the big trout that lies up in one of the pools of the woodland
stream, and whether he will be able to catch a sight of him again by
creeping gently through the hazel and king fern. Birds' nests, too, even
though it be the ringousel's, who is to lay her last egg this blessed
day, and is marked for spoliation to-morrow, should be banished from a
boy's mind entirely during church time. Now, I am sorry to say, that
Charley was very much given to wander in church, and, when asked about
the sermon by the vicar next day, would look rather foolish. Let us hope
that he will be a warning to all sinners in this respect.

Then, after church, there would be dinner, at his father's lunch time,
in the dark old hall, and there would be more to tell his father and
brother than could be conveniently got through at that meal; then there
was church again, and a long stroll in the golden sunshine along the
shore. Ah, happy summer sabbaths!

The only two people who were ever cold to Charley, were his brother and
Mackworth. Not that they were openly unkind, but there was between both
of them and himself an indefinable gulf, an entire want of sympathy,
which grieved him sometimes, though he was as yet too young to be much
troubled by it. He only exhausted all his little arts of pleasing
towards them to try and win them; he was indefatigable in running
messages for Cuthbert and the chaplain; and once, when kind grandaunt
Ascot (she was a Miss Headstall, daughter of Sir Cingle Headstall, and
married Lord George Ascot, brother of Lady Alicia, Densil's mother) sent
him a pineapple in a box, he took it to the priest and would have had
him take it. Mackworth refused it, but looked on him not unkindly for a
few minutes, and then turned away with a sigh. Perhaps he was trying to
recall the time so long, long ago, when his own face was as open and as
innocent as that. God knows! Charles cried a little, because the priest
wouldn't take it, and, having given his brother the best slice, ate the
rest in the stable, with the assistance of his foster brother and two of
the pad grooms. Thereby proving himself to be a lad of low and
dissipated habits.

Cuthbert was at this time a somewhat good-looking young fellow of
sixteen. Neither of the brothers was what would be called handsome,
though, if Charley's face was the most pleasing, Cuthbert certainly had
the most regular features. His forehead was lofty, although narrow, and
flat at the sides; his cheek bones were high, and his nose was aquiline,
not ill-formed, though prominent, starting rather suddenly out below his
eyes; the lips were thin, the mouth small and firmly closed, and the
chin short and prominent. The _tout ensemble_ was hardly pleasing even
at this youthful period; the face was too much formed and decided for so
young a man.

Cuthbert was a reserved methodical lad, with whom no one could find
fault, and yet whom few liked. He was studious and devout to an extent
rare in one so young; and, although a capital horseman and a good shot,
he but seldom indulged in those amusements, preferring rather a walk
with the steward, and soon returning to the dark old library to his
books and Father Mackworth. There they two would sit, like two owls,
hour after hour, appearing only at meals, and talking French to one
another, noticing Charley but little; who, however, was always full of
news, and would tell it, too, in spite of the inattention of the strange
couple. Densil began to respect and be slightly afraid of his eldest
son, as his superior in learning and in natural abilities; but I think
Charles had the biggest share in his heart.

Aunt Ascot had a year before sent to Cuthbert to pay her a visit at
Ranford, her son's, Lord Ascot's place, where she lived with him, he
being a widower, and kept house for him. Ranford, we all know, or ought
to know, contains the largest private racing stud in England, and the
Ascot family for many generations had given themselves up entirely to
sporting--so much so, that their marriages with other houses have been
to a certain extent influenced by it; and so poor Cuthbert, as we may
suppose, was quite like a fish out of water. He detested and despised
the men he met there, and they, on their parts, such of them as chose to
notice him, thought him a surly young bookworm; and, as for his
grandaunt, he hated the very sound of that excellent lady's voice. Her
abruptness, her homoeopathic medicines, her Protestantism (which she
was always airing), and her stable-talk, nearly drove him mad; while
she, on the other hand, thought him one of the most disagreeable boys
she had ever met with in her life. So the visit was rather a failure
than otherwise, and not very likely to be repeated. Nevertheless, her
ladyship was very fond of young faces, and so in a twelvemonth, she
wrote to Densil as follows:--

"I am one mass of lumbago all round the small of my back, and I find
nothing like opodeldoc after all. The pain is very severe, but I suppose
you would comfort me, as a heretic, by saying it is nothing to what I
shall endure in a few years' time. Bah! I have no patience with you
Papists, packing better people than yourselves off somewhere in that
free-and-easy way. By-the-bye, how is that father confessor of yours,
Markworth, or some such name--mind me, Ravenshoe, that fellow is a
rogue, and you being, like all Ravenshoes, a fool, there is a pair of
you. Why, if one of Ascot's grooms was to smile as that man does, or to
whine in his speech as that man does, when he is talking to a woman of
rank, I'd have him discharged on the spot, without warning, for
dishonesty.

"Don't put a penny on Ascot's horse at Chester; he will never stay over
the Cup course. Curfew, in my opinion, looks by no means badly for the
Derby; he is scratched for the Two Thousand--which was necessary, though
I am sorry for it, &c., &c., &c.

"I wish you would send me your boy, will you? Not the eldest: the
Protestant one. Perhaps he mayn't be such an insufferable coxcomb as his
brother."

At which letter Densil shook his honest sides with uproarious laughter.
"Cuthbert, my boy," he said, "you have won your dear aunt's heart
entirely; though she, being determined to mortify the flesh with its
affection, does not propose seeing you again, but asks for Charley. The
candour of that dear old lady increases with her age. You seem to have
been making your court, too, father; she speaks of your smile in the
most unqualified terms."

"Her ladyship must do me the honour to quiz me," said Mackworth. "If it
is possible to judge by her eye, she must like me about as well as a mad
dog."

"For my part, father," said Cuthbert, curling up the corners of his
thin lips sardonically, "I shall be highly content to leave my dear aunt
in the peaceable enjoyment of her favourite society of grooms,
horse-jockeys, blacklegs, dissenting ministers, and such-like. A month
in that house, my dear Charley, will qualify you for a billiard-marker;
and, after a course of six weeks, you will be fit to take the situation
of croupier in a low hell on a race-course. How you will enjoy yourself,
my dear!"

"Steady, Cuthbert steady," said his father; "I can't allow you to talk
like that about your cousin's house. It is a great house for field
sports, but there is not a better conducted house in the kingdom."

Cuthbert lay over the sofa to fondle a cat, and then continued speaking
very deliberately, in a slightly louder voice,--

"I will allow my aunt to be the most polite, intellectual,
delicate-minded old lady in creation, my dearest father, if you wish it;
only, not having been born (I beg her pardon, dropped) in a racing
stable, as she was herself, I can hardly appreciate her conversation
always. As for my cousin, I consider him a splendid sample of an
hereditary legislator. Charley, dear, you won't go to church on Sunday
afternoon at Ranford; you will go into the croft with your cousin Ascot
to see the chickens fed. Ascot is very curious in his poultry,
particularly on Sunday afternoon. Father, why does he cut all the cocks'
tails square?"

"Pooh, pooh," said Densil, "what matter? many do it, besides him. Don't
you be squeamish, Cuthbert--though, mind you, I don't defend
cock-fighting on Sunday."

Cuthbert laughed and departed, taking his cat with him.

Charles had a long coach journey of one day, and then an awful and
wonderful journey on the Great Western Railway as far as
Twyford--alighting at which place, he was accosted by a
pleasant-looking, fresh-coloured boy, dressed in close-fitting cord
trousers, a blue handkerchief, spotted with white, and a Scotch cap; who
said--

"Oh! I'm your cousin Welter. I'm the same age as you, and I'm going to
Eton next half. I've brought you over Tiger, because Punch is lame, and
the station-master will look after your things; so we can come at once."

The boys were friends in two minutes; and, going out, there was a groom
holding two ponies--on the prettiest of which Charley soon found himself
seated, and jogging on with his companion towards Henley.

I like to see two honest lads, just introduced, opening their hearts to
one another, and I know nothing more pleasant than to see how they
rejoice as each similarity of taste comes out. By the time these two
had got to Henley Bridge, Lord Welter had heard the name of every horse
in the Ravenshoe stables, and Charley was rapidly getting learned in
Lord Ascot's racing stud. The river at Henley distracted his attention
for a time, as the biggest he had seen, and he asked his cousin, "Did he
think the Mississippi was much bigger than that now?" and Lord Welter
supposed, "Oh dear yes, a great deal bigger," he should say. Then there
was more conversation about dogs and guns, and pleasant country places
to ride through; then a canter over a lofty breezy down, and then the
river again, far below, and at their feet the chimneys of Ranford.

The house was very full; and, as the boys came up there was a crowd of
phaetons, dog-carts, and saddle-horses, for the people were just
arriving home for dinner after the afternoon drive; and, as they had all
been to the same object of attraction that afternoon, they had all come
in together and were loitering about talking, some not yet dismounted,
and some on the steps. Welter was at home at once, and had a word with
every one; but Charles was left alone, sitting on his pony, feeling very
shy; till, at last, a great brown man with a great brown moustache, and
a gruff voice, came up to him and lifted him off the horse, holding him
out at arm's length for inspection.

"So you are Curly Ravenshoe's boy, hey?" said he.

"Yes, sir."

"Ha!" said the stranger, putting him down, and leading him towards the
door; "just tell your father you saw General Mainwaring, will you? and
that he wanted to know how his old friend was."

Charles looked at the great brown hand which was in his own, and thought
of the Affghan war, and of all the deeds of renown that that hand had
done, and was raising his eyes to the general's face, when they were
arrested half-way by another face, not the general's.

It was that of a handsome, grey-headed man, who might have been sixty,
he was so well _conservé_, but who was actually far more. He wore his
own white hair, which contrasted strongly with a pair of delicate thin
black eyebrows. His complexion was florid, with scarcely a wrinkle, his
features were fine and regular, and a pair of sparkling dark grey eyes
gave a pleasant light to his face. His dress was wondrously neat, and
Charles, looking on him, guessed, with a boy's tact, that he was a man
of mark.

"Whose son did you say he was, general?" said the stranger.

"Curly's!" said Mainwaring, stopping and smiling.

"No, really!" said the other; and then he looked fixedly at Charles,
and began to laugh, and Charley, seeing nothing better to do, looked up
at the grey eyes and laughed too, and this made the stranger worse; and
then, to crown the joke, the general began to laugh too, though none of
them had said a syllable more than what I have written down; and at last
the ridiculous exhibition finished up by the old gentleman taking a
great pinch of snuff from a gold box, and turning away.

Charles was much puzzled, and was still more so when, in an hour's time,
having dressed himself, and being on his way downstairs to his aunt's
room, who had just come in, he was stopped on a landing by this same old
gentleman, beautifully dressed for dinner, who looked on him as before.

He didn't laugh this time, but he did worse. He utterly "dumbfoundered"
Charley, by asking abruptly--

"How's Jim?"

"He is very well, thank you, sir. His wife Norah nursed me when mamma
died."

"Oh, indeed," said the other; "so he hasn't cut your father's throat
yet, or anything of that sort?"

"Oh dear no," said Charles, horrified; "bless you, what can make you
think of such things? Why, he is the kindest man in the world."

"I don't know," said the old gentleman, thoughtfully; "that excessively
faithful kind of creature is very apt to do that sort of thing. I should
discharge any servant of mine who exhibited the slightest symptoms of
affection as a dangerous lunatic;" with which villainous sentiment he
departed.

Charles thought what a strange old gentleman he was for a short time,
and then slid down the banisters. They were better banisters than those
at Ravenshoe, being not so steep, and longer: so he went up, and slid
down again;[1] after which he knocked at his aunt's door.

It was with a beating heart that he waited for an answer. Cuthbert had
described Lady Ascot as such a horrid old ogress, that he was not
without surprise when a cheery voice said, "Come in;" and entering a
handsome room, he found himself in presence of a noble-looking old lady,
with grey hair, who was netting in an upright, old-fashioned chair.

"So you are Charles Ravenshoe, eh?" she began. "Why, my dear, you must
be perished with cold and hunger. I should have come in before, but I
didn't expect you so soon. Tea will be here directly. You ain't a
beauty, my dear, but I think I shall like you. There never was but one
really handsome Ravenshoe, and that was poor Petre, your grandfather.
Poor Alicia made a great fool of herself, but she was very happy with
him. Welter, you naughty boy, be still."

The Right Honourable Viscount Welter wanted his tea, and was
consequently troublesome and fractious. He had picked a quarrel with his
grandmother's terrier, which he averred had bitten him in the leg, and
he was now heating the poker, in order, he informed the lady, to burn
the place out, and prevent hydrophobia. Whether he would have done so or
not, we shall never know now, for, tea coming in at that moment, he
instantly sat down at table, and called to Charles to do likewise.

"Call Miss Adelaide, will you, Sims?" said Lady Ascot; and presently
there came tripping into the room the loveliest little blonde fairy,
about ten years old, that ever you saw. She fixed her large blue eyes on
Charley, and then came up and gave him a kiss, which he, the rogue,
returned with interest, and then, taking her seat at the table, she
turned to Welter, and hoped he was going to be good.

Such, however, it soon appeared, was not his lordship's intention. He
had a guest at table, and he was bound in honour to show off before him,
besides having to attend to his ordinary duty of frightening his
grandmother as nearly into fits as was safe. Accordingly, he began the
repast by cramming buns into his mouth, using the handle of his knife as
a rammer, until the salvation of his life appeared an impossibility, at
which point he rose and left the room with a rapid, uneven step. On his
re-appearance he began drinking, but, having caught his grandmother's
eye over his teacup, he winked at her, and then held his breath till he
was purple, and she begun to wring her hands in despair. All this time
he was stimulated by Charles's laughter and Adelaide's crying out,
continually, "Oh, isn't he a naughty boy, Lady Ascot? oh, do tell him
not to do it." But the crowning performance of this promising young
gentleman--the feat which threw everything else into the shade, and
which confirmed Charley in his admiration of his profound talents--was
this. Just as a tall, grave, and handsome footman was pouring water into
the teapot, and while her ladyship was inspecting the operation with all
the interest of an old tea-maker, at that moment did Lord Welter
contrive to inflict on the unfortunate man a pinch on the leg, of such a
shrewdly agonising nature as caused him to gnash his teeth in Lady
Ascot's face, to cry aloud, "Oh, Lord!" to whirl the kettle within an
inch of her venerable nose, and finally, to gyrate across the room on
one leg, and stand looking like the king of fools.

Lady Ascot, who had merely seen the effect, and not the cause, ordered
him promptly to leave the room, whereupon Welter explained, and
afterwards continued to Charles, with an off-hand candour quite his own,
as if no such person as his grandmother was within a hundred miles--

"You know, Charley, I shouldn't dare to behave like this if my tutor was
at home; she'd make nothing of telling him, now. She's in a terrible
wax, but she'll be all right by the time he comes back from his
holidays; won't you, grandma?"

"You wicked boy," she replied, "I hope Hawtrey will cure you; Keate
would have, I know."

The boys slid on the banisters; then they went to dessert. Then they
went upstairs, and looked over Welter's cricket apparatus, fishing
tackle, and so on; and then they went into the billiard-room, which was
now lighted up and full of guests.

There were two tables in the room, at one of which a pool was getting
up, while the other was empty. Welter was going to play pool, and
Charles would have liked to do so too, being a very tolerable player;
only he had promised his old tutor not to play for money till he was
eighteen, and so he sat in the corner by the empty table, under the
marking-board, with one leg gathered under him, and instantly found
himself thinking about the little girl he had seen upstairs.

Once or twice he was surprised to find himself thinking so much about
her, but he found it a pleasant subject, too, for he had sat in his
corner more than half an hour without changing it, when he became aware
that two men were taking down cues from the rack, and were going to play
at his table.

They were his two friends of the afternoon, General Mainwaring and the
grey-headed man who laughed. When they saw him they seemed glad, and the
old gentleman asked him why he wasn't playing.

"I musn't play pool," he answered. "I should like to mark for you."

"Well said, my hero," said the general: "and so Jim's an honest man, is
he?"

Charles saw that the old gentleman had told the general what had passed
on the stairs, and wondered why he should take such an interest in him;
but he soon fell to thinking about little Adelaide again, and marking
mechanically though correctly.

He was aroused by the general's voice--"Who did you mark that last miss
to, my little man?" he said.

"To the old gentleman," said Charles, and then blushed at the
consciousness of having said a rude thing.

"That is one for you, Methuselah," said the general.

"Never mind," said the old gentleman, "I have one great source of pride,
which no one can rob me of; I am twelve years older than I look."

They went on playing. "By-the-bye," said the general, "who is that
exceedingly pretty child that the old lady has got with her?"

"A child she has adopted," said the old gentleman. "A grand-daughter of
an old friend who died in poverty. She is a noble-hearted old soul, the
jockey, with all her absurdities."

"Who was she?" said the general. "(That was rather a fluke, was it
not?)"

"She? Why, a daughter of old Cingle Headstall's, the mad old Cheshire
baronet--you don't remember him, of course, but your father knew him.
Drove his tandem round and round Berkeley square for four hours on a
foggy night, under the impression he was going home to Hounslow, and
then fired at the watchman who tried to put him right, taking him for a
highwayman. The son went to France, and was lost sight of in the
revolution; so the girl came in for what money there was: not very much,
I take it. This poor thing, who was pretty and clever enough, but
without education, having been literally brought up in a stable,
captivated the sagacious Ascot, and made him a capital wife."

"I suppose she'll portion this girl, then; you say she had money?"

"H'm," said the old gentleman, "there's a story about the aforesaid
money, which is told in different ways, but which amounts to this, that
the money is no more. Hallo, our marker is getting sleepy."

"Not at all, sir," said Charles. "If you will excuse me a moment, I will
come back."

He ran across to Lord Welter, who was leaning on his cue. "Can you tell
me," said he, "who is that old gentleman?"

"Which old gentleman?"

"That one, with the black eyebrows, playing with General Mainwaring.
There, he is taking snuff."

"Oh _him_?" said Welter; "that is Lord Saltire."



CHAPTER VI.

THE "WARREN HASTINGS."


Time, the inexorable, kept mowing away at poor Charles's flowers until
the disagreeable old creature had cut them all down but two or three,
and mowed right into the morning when it was necessary that he should go
home; and then Charles, looking forward through his tears, could see
nothing at first but the very commonest grass. For was he not going to
leave Adelaide, probably never to see her again? In short, Charles was
in love, and going to separate from the object of his affections for the
first time; at which I request you not to laugh, but just reflect how
old you were yourself when you first fell in love.

The little flirt, she must have waited till she heard him coming out of
his room, and then have pretended to be coming upstairs all in a hurry.
He got a kiss or a dozen, though, and a lock of hair, I believe; but he
hadn't much time to think about it, for Lord Ascot was calling out for
him, and when he got into the hall, there was all the household to see
him off. Everybody had a kind word for him; the old lady cried; Lord
Saltire and the general shook hands; Lord Welter said it was a beastly
sell; and Lord Ascot hummed and hawed, and told him to tell his father
he had been a good boy. They were all sorry he was going, and he felt as
though he was leaving old friends; but the carriage was there, and the
rain was pouring down; and, with one last look at the group of faces, he
was in the carriage and away.

It was a terrible day, though he did not notice it at first. He was
thinking how pleasant it was that the people were all so kind to him,
just as kind as they were at home. He thought of Adelaide, and wondered
whether she would ever think of him. He was rather glad that Welter was
a naughty boy (not really naughty, you know), because she would be less
likely to like him. And then he thought how glad the people at home
would be to see him; and then he looked out of the window. He had left
Lord Ascot's carriage and got into the train some time before this. Now
he saw that the train was going very slowly, and nothing was visible
through the driving rain. Then he tried to remember whether he had heard
his father speak of Lord Saltire, and what he had heard about him; and
thinking about this, the train stopped.--Swindon.

He got out to go to the refreshment room, and began wondering what the
noise was which prevented him from hearing any one when they spoke, and
why the people looked scared, and talked in knots. Then he found that it
was the wind in the roof; and some one told him that a chimney had been
blown across the line, and they must wait till it was removed.

All the day the brave engine fought westward against the wind, and two
hours after time Charles found himself in the coach which would take him
to Stonnington. The night crept on, and the coach crawled on its way
through the terrible night, and Charles slept. In the cold pitiless
morning, as they were going over a loftily exposed moor, the coach,
though only going foot's pace, stood for a moment on two wheels, and
then fell crashing over on to a heap of road-side stones, awaking
Charles, who, being unhurt, lay still for a minute or so, with a faint
impression of having been shaken in his sleep, and, after due
reflection, made the brilliant discovery that the coach was upset.

He opened the door over his head and jumped out. For an instant he was
blinded by the stinging rain, but turned his back to it; and then, for
the first time, he became aware that this was the most terrible gale of
wind he had ever seen in his lifetime.

He assisted the coachman and guard, and the solitary outside passenger,
to lead the poor horses along the road. They fought on for about two
hundred yards, and came to an alehouse, on the sight of which Charles
knew that they were two stages short of where he thought they had been,
for this was the Watershed Inn, and the rain from its roof ran partly
into the Bristol Channel and partly into the British.

After an hour's rest here Charles was summoned to join the coach in the
valley below, and they crawled on again. It was a weary day over some
very bleak country. They saw in one place a cottage unroofed on a moor,
and the terrified family crouched down beneath the tottering walls. In
the valleys great trees were down across the road, which were cross-cut
and moved by country men, who told of oaks of three hundred years fallen
in the night, and of corn stacks hurried before the blast like the
leaves of autumn. Still, as each obstacle was removed, there was the
guard up blowing his horn cheerily, and Charles was inside with a jump,
and on they went.

At last, at three o'clock, the coach drove under the gate of the
"Chichester Arms," at Stonnington, and Charles, jumping out, was
received by the establishment with the air of people who had done a
clever thing, and were ready to take their meed of praise with humility.
The handsome landlady took great credit to herself for Charles's
arrival--so much so, that one would have thought she herself had
singlehanded dragged the coach from Exeter. "_She_ had been sure all
along that Mr. Charles would come"--a speech which, with the cutting
glance that accompanied it, goaded the landlord to retort in a voice
wheezy with good living, and to remind her that she had said, not ten
minutes before, that she was quite sure he wouldn't; whereupon the
landlady loftily begged him not to expose himself before the servants.
At which the landlord laughed, and choked himself; at which the landlady
slapped him on the back, and laughed too; after which they went in.

His father, the landlord told him, had sent his pony over, as he was
afraid of a carriage on the moor to-day, and that, if he felt at all
afraid to come on, he was to sleep where he was. Charles looked at the
comfortable parlour and hesitated; but, happening to close his eyes an
instant, he saw as plain as possible the library at home, and the
flickering fire-light falling on the crimson and oak furniture, and his
father listening for him through the roaring wind; and so he hesitated
no longer, but said he would push on, and that he would wish to see his
servant while he took dinner.

The landlord eyed him admiringly with his head on one side, and
proceeded to remark that corn was down another shilling; that Squire
West had sold his chesnut mare for one hundred and twenty pounds; and
that if he kept well under the walls going home he would be out of the
wind; that his missis was took poorly in the night with spasms, and had
been cured by two wine-glasses of peppermint; that a many chimney-pots
was blown down, and that old Jim Baker had heard tell as a pig was
blowed through a church window. After which he poked the fire and
retired.

Charles was hard at his dinner when his man came in. It was the oldest
of the pad grooms--a man with grizzled hair, looking like a white
terrier; and he stood before him smoothing his face with his hand.

"Hallo, Michael," said Charley, "how came you to come?"

"Master wouldn't send no other, sir. It's a awful day down there;
there's above a hundred trees down along the road."

"Shall we be able to get there?"

"As much as we shall, sir."

"Let us try. Terrible sea, I suppose?"

"Awful to look at, sir. Mr. Mackworth and Mr. Cuthbert are down to look
at it."

"No craft ashore?"

"None as yet. None of our boats is out. Yesterday morning a Pill boat,
52, stood in to see where she was, and beat out again, but that was
before it came on so bad."

So they started. They pushed rapidly out of the town, and up a narrow
wooded valley which led to the moor which lay between them and
Ravenshoe. For some time they were well enough sheltered, and made
capital way, till the wood began to grow sparer, and the road to rise
abruptly. Here the blast began to be more sensibly felt, and in a
quarter of mile they had to leap three uprooted trees; before them they
heard a rushing noise like the sea. It was the wind upon the moor.

Creeping along under the high stone walls, and bending down, they pushed
on still, until, coming to the open moor, and receiving for the first
time the terrible tornado full in their faces, the horses reared up and
refused to proceed; but, being got side by side, and their heads being
homeward, they managed to get on, though the rain upon their faces was
agonising.

As they were proceeding thus, with Michael on the windward side, Charles
looked up, and there was another horseman beside him. He knew him
directly; it was Lloyd's agent.

"Anything wrong, Mr. Lewis? Any ship ashore?" he shouted.

"Not yet, sir," said the agent. "But there'll be many a good sailor gone
to the bottom before to-morrow morning, I am thinking. This is the
heaviest gale for forty years."

By degrees they descended to more sheltered valleys, and after a time
found themselves in the court-yard of the hall. Charles was caught up by
his father; Lloyd's agent was sent to the housekeeper's room; and very
soon Charles had forgotten all about wind and weather, and was pouring
into his father's ear all his impressions of Ranford.

"I am glad you liked it," said Densil, "and I'll be bound they liked
you. You ought to have gone first, Cuthbert don't suit them."

"Oh, Cuthbert's too clever for them," said Charles; "they are not at all
clever people, bless you!" And only just in time too, for Cuthbert
walked into the room.

"Well, Charley," he said, coolly, "so you're come back. Well, and what
did you think of Welter, eh? I suppose he suited you?"

"I thought him very funny, Cuthbert," said Charles, timidly.

"I thought him an abominable young nuisance," said Cuthbert. "I hope he
hasn't taught you any of his fool's tricks."

Charles wasn't to be put off like this; so he went and kissed his
brother, and then came back to his father. There was a long dull
evening, and when they went to complines, he went to bed. Up in his
room he could hear that the wind was worse than ever, not rushing up in
great gusts and sinking again, as in ordinary gales, but keeping up one
continued unvarying scream against the house, which was terrible to
hear.

He got frightened at being alone; afraid of finding some ghostly thing
at his elbow, which had approached him unheard through the noise. He
began, indeed, to meditate upon going down stairs, when Cuthbert, coming
into the next room, reassured him, and he got into bed.

This wasn't much better, though, for there was a thing in a black hood
came and stood at the head of his bed; and, though he could not see it,
he could feel the wind of its heavy draperies as it moved. Moreover, a
thing like a caterpillar, with a cat's head, about two feet long, came
creep--creeping up the counterpane, which he valiantly smote, and found
it to be his handkerchief; and still the unvarying roar went on till it
was unendurable.

He got up and went to his brother's room, and was cheered to find a
light burning; he came softly in and called "Cuthbert."

"Who is there?" asked he, with a sudden start.

"It's I," said Charles; "can you sleep?"

"Not I," saith Cuthbert, sitting up. "I can hear people talking in the
wind. Come into bed; I'm so glad you're come."

Charles lay down by his brother, and they talked about ghosts for a long
time. Once their father came in with a light from his bedroom next door,
and sat on the bed talking, as if he, too, was glad of company, and
after that they dozed off and slept.

It was in the grey light of morning that they awoke together and started
up. The wind was as bad as ever, but the whole house was still, and they
stared terrified at one another.

"What was it?" whispered Charles.

Cuthbert shook his head, and listened again. As he was opening his mouth
to speak it came again, and they knew it was that which woke them. A
sound like a single footstep on the floor above, light enough, but which
shook the room. Cuthbert was out of bed in an instant, tearing on his
clothes. Charles jumped out too, and asked him, "What is it?"

"A gun!"

Charles well knew what awful disaster was implied in those words. The
wind was N.W., setting into the bay. The ship that fired that gun was
doomed.

He heard his father leap out of bed, and ring furiously at his bell.
Then doors began to open and shut, and voices and rapid footsteps were
heard in the passage. In ten minutes the whole terrified household were
running hither and thither, about they hardly knew what. The men were
pale, and some of the women were beginning to whimper and wring their
hands; when Densil, Lewis the agent, and Mackworth came rapidly down the
staircase and passed out. Mackworth came back, and told the women to put
on hot water and heat blankets. Then Cuthbert joined him, and they went
together; and directly after Charles found himself between two
men-servants, being dragged rapidly along towards the low headland which
bounded the bay on the east.

When they came to the beach, they found the whole village pushing on in
a long straggling line the same way as themselves. The men were walking
singly, either running or going very fast; and the women were in knots
of twos and threes, straggling along and talking excitedly, with much
gesticulation.

"There's some of the elect on board, I'll be bound," Charles heard one
woman say, "as will be supping in glory this blessed night."

"Ay, ay," said an old woman. "I'd sooner be taken to rest sudden, like
they're going to be, than drag on till all the faces you know are gone
before."

"My boy," said another, "was lost in a typhoon in the China sea. Darn
they lousy typhoons! I wonder if he thought of his mother afore he went
down."

Among such conversation as this, with the terrible, ceaseless thunder of
the surf upon the left, Charles, clinging tight to his two guardians,
made the best weather of it he could, until they found themselves on the
short turf of the promontory, with their faces seaward, and the water
right and left of them. The cape ran out about a third of a mile, rather
low, and then abruptly ended in a cone of slate, beyond which, about two
hundred yards at sea, was that terrible sunken rock, "the Wolf," on to
which, as sure as death, the flowing tide carried every stick which was
embayed. The tide was making; a ship was known to be somewhere in the
bay; it was blowing a hurricane; and what would you more?

They hurried along as well as they could among the sharp slates which
rose through the turf, until they came to where the people had halted.
Charles saw his father, the agent, Mackworth, and Cuthbert together,
under a rock; the villagers were standing around, and the crowd was
thickening every moment. Every one had his hand over his eyes, and was
peering due to windward, through the driving scud.

They had stopped at the foot of the cone, which was between them and the
sea, and some more adventurous had climbed partly up it, if, perhaps,
they might see further than their fellows; but in vain: they all saw and
heard the same--a blinding white cauldron of wind-driven spray below,
and all around, filling every cranny, the howling storm.

A quarter of an hour since she fired last, and no signs of her yet. She
must be carrying canvas and struggling for life, ignorant of the
four-knot stream. Some one says she may have gone down--hush! who spoke?

Old Sam Evans had spoken. He had laid his hand on the squire's shoulder,
and said, "There she is." And then arose a hubbub of talking from the
men, and every one crowded on his neighbour and tried to get nearer. And
the women moved hurriedly about, some moaning to themselves, and some
saying, "Ah, poor dear!" "Ah, dear Lord! there she is, sure enough."

She hove in sight so rapidly that, almost as soon as they could be sure
of a dark object, they saw that it was a ship--a great ship about 900
tons; that she was dismasted, and that her decks were crowded. They
could see that she was unmanageable, turning her head hither and thither
as the sea struck her, and that her people had seen the cliff at the
same moment, for they were hurrying aft, and crowding on to the
bulwarks.

Charles and his guardians crept up to his father's party. Densil was
standing silent, looking on the lamentable sight; and, as Charles looked
at him, he saw a tear run down his cheek, and heard him say, "Poor
fellows!" Cuthbert stood staring intently at the ship, with his lips
slightly parted. Mackworth, like one who studies a picture, held his
elbow in one hand, and kept the other over his mouth; and the agent
cried out, "A troop-ship, by gad. Dear! dear!"

It is a sad sight to see a fine ship beyond control. It is like seeing
one one loves gone mad. Sad under any circumstances; how terrible it is
when she is bearing on with her, in her mad Bacchante's dance, a freight
of living human creatures to untimely destruction!

As each terrible feature and circumstance of the catastrophe became
apparent to the lookers-on, the excitement became more intense. Forward,
and in the waist, there was a considerable body of seamen clustered
about under the bulwarks--some half-stripped. In front of the cuddy
door, between the poop and the mainmast, about forty soldiers were drawn
up, with whom were three officers, to be distinguished by their blue
coats and swords. On the quarter-deck were seven or eight women, two
apparently ladies, one of whom carried a baby. A well-dressed man,
evidently the captain, was with them; but the cynosure of all eyes was
a tall man in white trousers, at once and correctly judged to be the
mate, who carried in his arms a little girl.

The ship was going straight upon the rock, now only marked as a whiter
spot upon the whitened sea, and she was fearfully near it, rolling and
pitching, turning her head hither and thither, fighting for her life.
She had taken comparatively little water on board as yet; but now a
great sea struck her forward, and she swung with her bow towards the
rock, from which she was distant not a hundred yards. The end was
coming. Charles saw the mate slip off his coat and shirt, and take the
little girl again. He saw the lady with the baby rise very quietly and
look forward; he saw the sailors climbing on the bulwarks; he saw the
soldiers standing steady in two scarlet lines across the deck; he saw
the officers wave their hands to one another; and then he hid his face
in his hands, and sobbed as if his heart would break.

They told him after how the end had come: she had lifted up her bows
defiantly, and brought them crashing down upon the pitiless rock as
though in despair. Then her stem had swung round, and a merciful sea
broke over her, and hid her from their view, though above the storm they
plainly heard her brave old timbers crack; then she floated off, with
bulwarks gone, sinking, and drifted out of sight round the headland,
and, though they raced across the headland, and waited a few breathless
minutes for her to float round into sight again, they never saw her any
more. The _Warren Hastings_ had gone down in fifteen fathoms. And now
there was a new passion introduced into the tragedy to which it had
hitherto been a stranger--Hope. The wreck of part of the mainmast and
half the main-topmast, which they had seen, before she struck, lumbering
the deck, had floated off, and there were three, four, five men clinging
to the futtock shrouds; and then they saw the mate with the child hoist
himself on to the spar, and part his dripping hair from his eyes.

The spar had floated into the bay, into which they were looking, into
much calmer water; but, directly too leeward, the swell was tearing at
the black slate rocks, and in ten minutes it would be on them. Every man
saw the danger, and Densil, running down to the water's edge, cried--

"Fifty pounds to any one who will take 'em a rope! Fifty gold sovereigns
down to-night! Who's going?"

Jim Matthews was going, and had been going before he heard of the fifty
pounds--that was evident; for he was stripped, and out on the rocks,
with the rope round his waist. He stepped from the bank of slippery
seaweed into the heaving water, and then his magnificent limbs were in
full battle with the tide. A roar announced his success. As he was seen
clambering on to the spar, a stouter rope was paid out; and very soon it
and its burden were high and dry upon the little half-moon of land which
ended the bay.

Five sailors, the first mate, and a bright-eyed little girl, were their
precious prize. The sailors lay about upon the sand, and the mate,
untying the shawl that bound her to him, put the silent and frightened
child into the hands of a woman that stood close by.

The poor little thing was trembling in every limb. "If you please," she
said to the woman, "I should like to go to mamma. She is standing with
baby on the quarter-deck. Mr. Archer, will you take me back to mamma,
please? She will be frightened if we stay away."

"Well, a-deary me," said the honest woman, "she'll break my heart, a
darling; mamma's in heaven, my tender, and baby too."

"No, indeed," said the child eagerly; "she's on the quarter-deck. Mr.
Archer, Mr. Archer!"

The mate, a tall, brawny, whiskerless, hard-faced man, about
six-and-twenty, who had been thrust into a pea-coat, now approached.

"Where's mamma, Mr. Archer?" said the child.

"Where's mamma, my lady-bird? Oh, dear! oh, dear!"

"And where's the ship, and Captain Dixon, and the soldiers?"

"The ship, my pretty love?" said the mate, putting his rough hand on the
child's wet hair; "why the good ship, _Warren Hastings_, Dixon master,
is a-sunk beneath the briny waves, my darling; and all on board of her,
being good sailors and brave soldiers, is doubtless at this moment in
glory."

The poor little thing set up a low wailing cry, which went to the hearts
of all present; then the women carried her away, and the mate, walking
between Mackworth and Densil, headed the procession homeward to the
hall.

"She was the _Warren Hastings_, of 900 tons," he said, "from Calcutta,
with a detachment of the 120th on board. The old story--dismasted, both
anchors down, cables parted, and so on. And now I expect you know as
much as I do. This little girl is daughter to Captain Corby, in command
of the troops. She was always a favourite of mine, and I determined to
get her through. How steady those sojers stood, by jingo, as though they
were on parade! Well, I always thought something was going to happen,
for we had never a quarrel the whole voyage, and that's curious with
troops. Capital crew, too. Ah, well, they are comfortable enough now,
eh, Sir?"

That night the mate arose from his bed like a giant refreshed with wine,
and posted off to Bristol to "her owners," followed by a letter from
Densil, and another from Lloyd's agent of such a nature that he found
himself in command of a ship in less than a month. Periodically, unto
this day, there arrive at Ravenshoe, bows and arrows (supposed to be
poisoned), paddles, punkahs, rice-paper screens; a malignant kind of
pickle, which causeth the bowels of him that eateth of it to burn;
wicked-looking old gods of wood and stone; models of Juggernaut's car;
brown earthenware moonshees, translating glazed porcelain Bibles; and
many other Indian curiosities, all of which are imported and presented
by the kind-hearted Archer.

In a fortnight the sailors were gone, and, save a dozen or so of new
graves in the churchyard, nothing remained to tell of the _Warren
Hastings_ but the little girl saved so miraculously--little Mary Corby.

She had been handed over at once to the care of the kind-hearted Norah,
Charles's nurse, who instantaneously loved her with all her great warm
heart, and about three weeks after the wreck gave Charles these
particulars about her, when he went to pay her a visit in the cottage
behind the kennels.

After having hugged him violently, and kissed him till he laughingly
refused to let her do it again till she had told him the news, she
began--"The beauty-boy, he gets handsomer every day" (this might be
true, but there was great room for improvement yet), "and comes and sees
his old nurse, and who loves him so well, alanna? It's little I can tell
ye about the little girl, me darlin'. She's nine years old, and a
heretic, like yer own darlin' self, and who's to gainsay ye from it?
She's book-learned enough, and play she says she can, and I axed her
would she like to live in the great house, and she said no. She liked
me, and wanted to stay with me. She cries about her mother, a dear, but
not so much as she did, and she's now inside and asleep. Come here,
avick."

She bent down her handsome face to Charles's ear and whispered, "If my
boy was looking out for a little wee fairy wife, eh?"

Charles shook his hair, and laughed, and there and then told Norah all
about Adelaide, which attachment Norah highly approved of, and remarked
that he'd be old enough to be married before he knew where he was.

In spite of Densil's letters and inquiries, no friends came forward to
claim little Mary. Uncle Corby, when in possession of facts, was far too
much a man of business to do anything of the kind. In a very short time
Densil gave up inquiring, and then he began dreading lest she should be
taken from him, for he had got wonderfully fond of the quiet, pale,
bright-eyed little creature. In three months she was considered as a
permanent member of the household, and the night before Charles went to
school he told her of his grand passion. His lordship considered this
step showed deep knowledge of the world, as it would have the effect of
crushing in the bud any rash hopes which Mary might have conceived; and,
having made this provision for her peace of mind, he straightway
departed to Shrewsbury school.



CHAPTER VII.

IN WHICH CHARLES AND LORD WELTER DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES AT THE
UNIVERSITY.


It is a curious sensation, that of meeting, as a young man of two or
three-and-twenty, a man one has last seen as a little lad of ten, or
thereabouts. One is almost in a way disappointed. You may be asked out
to dinner to meet a man called, say, Jones (or, if you like the name
better, Delamere D'Eresby), whom you believe to be your old friend
Jones, and whom you have not seen for a month or so; and on getting to
the house find it is not your Jones at all, but another Jones whom you
don't know. He may be cleverer, handsomer, more agreeable than your old
friend--a man whom you are glad to know; and yet you are disappointed.
You don't meet the man you expected, and you are rather disposed to be
prejudiced against his representative.

So it is when you meet a friend in manhood whom you have not seen since
you were at school. You have been picturing to yourself the sort of man
your friend must have developed into, and you find him different from
what you thought. So, instead of foregathering with an old friend, you
discover that you have to make a new acquaintance.

You will now have to resume the acquaintance of Charles Ravenshoe at two
and twenty. I hope you will not be much disappointed in him. He was a
very nice boy, if you remember, and you will see immediately that he has
developed into a very nice young man indeed. It is possible that I may
not be about to introduce him to you under the most favourable
circumstances; but he created those circumstances for himself, and must
abide by them. As it is not my intention to follow him through any part
of his University life, but only to resume his history when he quits it,
so it becomes imperatively necessary for me to state, without any sort
of disguise, the reason why he did leave it. And, as two or three other
important characters in the story had something to do with it, I shall
do so more at length than would at first seem necessary.

It was nine o'clock on the 6th of November. The sun, which had been
doing duty for her Majesty all night at Calcutta, Sydney, &c., had by
this time reached Oxford, and was shining aslant into two pretty little
Gothic windows in the inner or library quadrangle of St. Paul's College,
and illuminating the features of a young man who was standing in the
middle of the room, and scratching his head.

He was a stout-built fellow, not particularly handsome, but with a very
pleasing face. His hair was very dark brown, short, and curling; his
forehead was broad and open, and below it were two uncommonly
pleasant-looking dark grey eyes. His face was rather marked, his nose
very slightly aquiline, and plenty of it, his mouth large and
good-humoured, which, when opened to laugh, as it very frequently was,
showed a splendid set of white teeth, which were well contrasted with a
fine healthy brown and red complexion. Altogether a very pleasant young
fellow to look on, and looking none the worse just now for an expression
of droll perplexity, not unmixed with a certain amount of terror, which
he had on his face.

It was Charles Ravenshoe.

He stood in his shirt and trousers only, in the midst of a scene of
desolation so awful, that I, who have had to describe some of the most
terrible scenes and circumstances conceivable, pause before attempting
to give any idea of it in black and white. Every moveable article in the
room--furniture, crockery, fender, fire-irons--lay in one vast heap of
broken confusion in the corner of the room. Not a pane of glass remained
in the windows; the bedroom-door was broken down; and the door which
opened into the corridor was minus the two upper panels. Well might
Charles Ravenshoe stand there and scratch his head!

"By George," he said at last, soliloquising, "how deuced lucky it is
that I never get drunk! If I had been screwed last night, those fellows
would have burnt the college down. What a devil that Welter is when he
gets drink into him! and Marlowe is not much better. The fellows were
mad with fighting, too. I wish they hadn't come here and made hay
afterwards. There'll be an awful row about this. It's all up, I am
afraid. It's impossible to say though."

At this moment, a man appeared in the passage, and, looking in through
the broken door, as if from a witness-box, announced, "The dean wishes
to see you at once, sir." And exit.

Charles replied by using an expression then just coming into use among
our youth, "All serene!" dressed himself by putting on a pilot coat, a
pair of boots, and a cap and gown, and with a sigh descended into the
quadrangle.

There were a good many men about, gathered in groups. The same subject
was in everybody's mouth. There had been, the night before, without
warning or apparent cause, the most frightful disturbance which, in the
opinion of the porter, had graced the college for fifty years. It had
begun suddenly at half-past twelve, and had been continued till three.
The dons had been afraid to come and interfere, the noise was so
terrible. Five out-college men had knocked out at a quarter to three,
refusing to give any name but the dean's. A rocket had been let up, and
a five-barrel revolver had been let off, and--Charles Ravenshoe had been
sent for.

A party of young gentlemen, who looked very seedy and guilty, stood in
his way, and as he came up shook their heads sorrowfully; one, a tall
one, with large whiskers, sat down in the gravel walk, and made as
though he would have cast dust upon his head.

"This is a bad job, Charley," said one of them.

"Some heads must fall," said Charles; "I hope mine is not among the
number. Rather a shame if it is, eh?"

The man with the big whiskers shook his head. "The state of your room,"
he said.

"Who has seen it?" eagerly asked Charles.

"Sleeping innocent!" replied the other, "the porter was up there by
eight o'clock, and at half-past the dean himself was gazing on your
unconscious face as you lay peacefully sleeping in the arms of
desolation."

Charles whistled long and loud, and proceeded with a sinking heart
towards the dean's rooms.

A tall, pale man, with a hard, marked countenance, was sitting at his
breakfast, who, as soon as he saw his visitor, regarded him with the
greatest interest, and buttered a piece of toast.

"_Well_, Mr. Ravenshoe," was his remark.

"I believe you sent for me, sir," said Charles, adding to himself,
"Confound you, you cruel old brute, you are amusing yourself with my
tortures."

"This is a pretty business," said the dean.

Charles would be glad to know to what he alluded.

"Well," said the dean, laughing, "I don't exactly know where to begin.
However, I am not sure it much matters. You will be wanted in the common
room at two. The proctor has sent for your character also. Altogether, I
congratulate you. Your career at the University has been brilliant; but,
your orbit being highly elliptical, it is to be feared that you will
remain but a short time above the horizon. Good morning."

Charles rejoined the eager knot of friends outside; and, when he spoke
the awful word, "common room," every countenance wore a look of dismay.
Five more, it appeared, were sent for, and three were wanted by the
proctor at eleven. It was a disastrous morning.

There was a large breakfast in the rooms of the man with the whiskers,
to which all the unfortunates were of course going. One or two were in a
state of badly-concealed terror, and fidgeted and were peevish, until
they got slightly tipsy. Others laughed a good deal, rather nervously,
and took the thing pluckily--the terror was there, but they fought
against it; but the behaviour of Charles extorted applause from
everybody. He was as cool and as merry as if he was just going down for
the long vacation; he gave the most comical account of the whole
proceedings last night from beginning to end, as he was well competent
to do, being the only sober man who had witnessed them; he ate heartily,
and laughed naturally, to the admiration of every one.

One of the poor fellows who had shown greatest signs of terror, and who
was as near crying as he could possibly be without actually doing so,
looked up and complimented him on his courage, with an oath.

"In me, my dear Dick," said Charles, good-naturedly, "you see the
courage of despair. Had I half your chances, I should be as bad as you.
I know there are but a few more ceremonies to be gone through, and
then--"

The other rose and left the room. "Well," said he, as he went, with a
choking voice, "I expect my old governor will cut his throat, or
something; I'm fifteen hundred in debt." And so the door closed on the
poor lad, and the party was silent.

There came in now a young man, to whom I wish especially to call your
attention. He was an ordinary young man enough, in the morning livery of
a groom. He was a moderately well-looking fellow, and there seems at
first nothing in any way remarkable about him. But look at him again,
and you are struck with a resemblance to some one you know, and yet at
first you hardly know to whom. It is not decidedly, either, in any one
feature, and you are puzzled for a time, till you come to the conclusion
that everyone else does. That man is a handsome likeness of Charles
Ravenshoe.

This is Charles's foster-brother William, whom we saw on a former
occasion taking refreshment with that young gentleman, and who had for
some time been elevated to the rank of Mr. Charles's "lad." He had come
for orders.

There were no orders but to exercise the horses, Charles believed; he
would tell him in the afternoon if there were, he added sorrowfully.

"I saw Lord Welter coming away from the proctor's, sir," said William.
"He told me to ask what train you were going down by. His lordship told
me to say, sir, that Lord Welter of Christchurch would leave the
University at twelve to-morrow, and would not come into residence again
till next Michaelmas term."

"By Jove," said Charles, "he has got a dose! I didn't think they'd have
given him a year. Well, here goes."

Charles went to the proctor's, but his troubles there were not so severe
as he had expected. He had been seen fighting several times during the
evening, but half the University had been doing the same. He had been
sent home three times, and had reappeared; that was nothing so very bad.
On his word of honour he had not tripped up the marshal; Brown himself
thought he must have slipped on a piece of orange-peel. Altogether it
came to this; that Ravenshoe of Paul's had better be in by nine for the
rest of term, and mind what he was about for the future.

But the common room at two was the thing by which poor Charles was to
stand or fall. There were terrible odds against him--the master and six
tutors. It was no use, he said, snivelling, or funking the thing; so he
went into battle valiantly.

THE MASTER opened the ball, in a voice suggestive of mild remonstrance.
In all his experience in college life, extending over a period of
forty-five years, he had never even heard of proceedings so
insubordinate, so unparalleled, so--so--monstrous, as had taken place
the night before, in a college only a twelvemonth ago considered to be
the quietest in the University. A work of fiction of a low and vicious
tendency, professing to describe scenes of headlong riot and debauchery
at the sister University, called, he believed, "Peter Priggins," had
been written, and was, he understood, greatly read by the youth of both
seats of learning; but he was given to understand that the worst
described in that book sank into nothing, actually dwindled into
insignificance, before last night's proceedings. It appeared, he
continued (referring to a paper through his gold eye-glasses), that at
half-past twelve a band of intoxicated and frantic young men had rushed
howling into the college, refusing to give their names to the porter
(among whom was recognised Mr. Ravenshoe); that from that moment a scene
of brutal riot had commenced in the usually peaceful quadrangle, and had
continued till half-past three; loaded weapons had been resorted to, and
fireworks had been exhibited; and, finally, that five members of another
college had knocked out at half-past three, stating to the porter
(without the slightest foundation) that they had been having tea with
the dean. Now you know, really and truly, it simply resolved itself into
this. Were they going to keep St. Paul's College open, or were they not?
If the institution which had flourished now for above five hundred years
was to continue to receive undergraduates, the disturbers of last night
must be sternly eliminated. In the last case of this kind, where a man
was only convicted of--eh, Mr. Dean?--pump handle--thank you--was only
convicted of playfully secreting the handle of the college pump,
rustication had been inflicted. In this case the college would do its
duty, however painful.

Charles was understood to say that he was quite sober, and had tried to
keep the fellows out of mischief.

THE MASTER believed Mr. Ravenshoe would hardly deny having let off a
rocket on the grass-plat.

Charles was ill-advised enough to say that he did it to keep the fellows
quiet; but the excuse fell dead, and there was a slight pause. After
which,

THE DEAN rose, with his hands in his pockets, and remarked that this
sort of thing was all mighty fine, you know; but they weren't going to
stand it, and the sooner this was understood the better. He, for one, as
long as he remained dean of that college, was not going to have a parcel
of drunken young idiots making a row under his windows at all hours in
the morning. He should have come out himself last night, but that he was
afraid, positively afraid, of personal violence; and the odds were too
heavy against him. He, for one, did not want any more words about it. He
allowed the fact of Mr. Ravenshoe being perfectly sober, though whether
that could be pleaded in extenuation was very doubtful. (Did you speak,
Mr. Bursar? No. I beg pardon, I thought you did.) He proposed that Mr.
Ravenshoe should be rusticated for a year, and that the Dean of
Christchurch should be informed that Lord Welter was one of the most
active of the rioters. That promising young nobleman had done them the
honour to create a disturbance in the college on a previous occasion,
when he was, as last night, the guest of Mr. Ravenshoe.

Charles said that Lord Welter had been rusticated for a year.

THE DEAN was excessively glad to hear it, and hoped that he would stay
at home and give his family the benefit of his high spirits. As there
were five other gentlemen to come before them, he would suggest that
they should come to a determination.

THE BURSAR thought that Mr. Ravenshoe's plea of sobriety should be taken
in extenuation. Mr. Ravenshoe had never been previously accused of
having resorted to stimulants. He thought it should be taken in
extenuation.

THE DEAN was sorry to be of a diametrically opposite opinion.

No one else taking up the cudgels for poor Charles, the Master said he
was afraid he must rusticate him.

Charles said he hoped they wouldn't.

THE DEAN gave a short laugh, and said that, if that was all he had to
say, he might as well have held his tongue. And then the Master
pronounced sentence of rustication for a year, and Charles, having
bowed, withdrew.



CHAPTER VIII.

JOHN MARSTON.

Charles returned to his room, a little easier in his mind than when he
left it. There still remained one dreadful business to get over--the
worst of all; that of letting his father know. Non-University men sneer
at rustication; they can't see any particular punishment in having to
absent yourself from your studies for a term or two. But do they think
that the Dons don't know what they are about? Why, nine spirited young
fellows out of ten would snap their fingers at rustication, if it wasn't
for the _home_ business. It is breaking the matter to the father, his
just anger, and his mother's still more bitter reproaches. It must all
come out, the why and the wherefore, without concealment or palliation.
The college write a letter to justify themselves, and then a mine of
deceit is sprung under the parents' feet, and their eyes are opened to
things they little dreamt of. This, it appears, is not the first
offence. The college has been long-suffering, and has pardoned when it
should have punished repeatedly. The lad who was thought to be doing so
well has been leading a dissipated, riotous life, and deceiving them
all. This is the bitterest blow they have ever had. How can they trust
him again?--And so the wound takes long to heal, and sometimes is never
healed at all. That is the meaning of rustication.

A majority of young fellows at the University deceive their parents,
especially if they come of serious houses. It is almost forced upon them
sometimes, and in all cases the temptation is strong. It is very unwise
to ask too many questions. Home questions are, in some cases,
unpardonable. A son can't tell a father, as one man can tell another, to
mind his own business. No. The father asks the question suddenly, and
the son lies, perhaps, for the first time in his life. If he told the
truth, his father would knock him down.

Now Charles was a little better off than most young fellows in this
respect. He knew his father would scold about the rustication, and still
more at his being in debt. He wasn't much afraid of his father's anger.
They two had always been too familiar to be much afraid of one another.
He was much more afraid of the sarcasms of Mackworth, and he not a
little dreaded his brother; but with regard to his father he felt but
slight uneasiness.

He found his scout and his servant William trying to get the room into
some order, but it was hopeless. William looked up with a blank face as
he came in, and said--

"We can't do no good, sir; I'd better go for Herbert's man, I suppose?"

"You may go, William," said Charles, "to the stables, and prepare my
horses for a journey. Ward, you may pack up my things, as I go down
to-morrow. I am rusticated."

They both looked very blank, especially William, who, after a long
pause, said--

"I was afraid of something happening yesterday after Hall, when I see my
lord----" here William paused abruptly, and, looking up, touched his
head to some one who stood in the doorway.

It was a well-dressed, well-looking young man of about Charles's age,
with a handsome, hairless, florid face, and short light hair. Handsome
though his face was, it was hardly pleasing in consequence of a certain
lowering of the eyebrows which he indulged in every moment--as often,
indeed, as he looked at any one--and also of a slight cynical curl at
the corners of the mouth. There was nothing else noticeable about Lord
Welter except his appearance of great personal strength, for which he
was somewhat famous.

"Hallo, Welter!" shouted Charles, "yesterday was an era in the annals of
intoxication. Nobody ever was so drunk as you. I did all I could for
you, more fool I, for things couldn't be worse than they are, and might
be better. If I had gone to bed instead of looking after you, I
shouldn't have been rusticated."

"I'm deuced sorry, Charley, I am, 'pon my soul. It is all my confounded
folly, and I shall write to your father and say so. You are coming home
with me, of course?"

"By Jove, I never thought of it. That wouldn't be a bad plan, eh? I
might write from Ranford, you know. Yes, I think I'll say yes. William,
you can take the horses over to-morrow. That is a splendid idea of
yours. I was thinking of going to London."

"Hang London in the hunting season," said Lord Welter. "By George, how
the governor will blow up. I wonder what my grandmother will say.
Somebody has told her the world is coming to an end next year. I hope
there'll be another Derby. She has cut homoeopathy and taken to
vegetable practice. She has deuced near slaughtered her maid with an
overdose of Linum Catharticum, as she calls it. She goes digging about
in waste places like a witch, with a big footman to carry the spade. She
is a good old body, though; hanged if she ain't."

"What does Adelaide think of the change in Lady Ascot's opinions,
medical and religious?"

"She don't care, bless you. She laughs about the world coming to an end,
and as for the physic, she won't stand that. She has pretty much her own
way with the old lady, I can tell you, and with every one else, as far
as that goes. She is an imperious little body; I'm afraid of her.--How
do, Marston?"

This was said to a small, neatly-dressed, quiet-looking man, with a
shrewd, pleasant face, who appeared at this moment, looking very grave.
He returned Welter's salutation, and that gentleman sauntered out of the
room, after having engaged Charles to dinner at the Cross at six. The
new comer then sat down by Charles, and looked sorrowfully in his face.

"So it has come to this, my poor boy," said he, "and only two days after
our good resolutions. Charley, do you know what Issachar was like?"

"No."

"He was like a strong ass stooping between two burdens," replied the
other, laughing. "I know somebody who is, oh, so very like him. I know
a fellow who could do capitally in the schools and in the world, who is
now always either lolling about reading novels, or else flying off in
the opposite extreme, and running, or riding, or rowing like a madman.
Those are his two burdens, and he is a dear old ass also, whom it is
very hard to scold, even when one is furiously angry with him."

"It's all true, Marston; it's all true as Gospel," said Charles.

"Look how well you did at Shrewsbury," continued Marston, "when you were
forced to work. And now, you haven't opened a book for a year. Why don't
you have some object in life, old fellow? Try to be captain of the
University Eight or the Eleven; get a good degree; anything. Think of
last Easter vacation, Charley. Well, then, I won't----Be sure that
pot-house work won't do. What earthly pleasure can there be in herding
with men of that class, your inferiors in everything except strength?
and you can talk quite well enough for any society?"

"It ain't my fault," broke in Charles, piteously. "It's a good deal more
the fault of the men I'm with. That Easter vacation business was planned
by Welter. He wore a velveteen shooting-coat and knee-breeches, and
called himself----"

"That will do, Charley; I don't want to hear any of that gentleman's
performances. I entertain the strongest personal dislike for him. He
leads you into all your mischief. You often quarrel; why don't you break
with him?"

"I can't."

"Because he is a distant relation? Nonsense. Your brother never speaks
to him."

"It isn't that."

"Do you owe him money?"

"No, it's the other way, by Jove! I can't break with that man. I can't
lose the run of Ranford. I must go there. There's a girl there I care
about more than all the world beside; if I don't see her I shall go
mad."

Marston looked very thoughtful. "You never told me of this," he said;
"and she has--she has refused you, I suppose?"

"Ay! how did you guess that?"

"By my mother wit. I didn't suppose that Charles Ravenshoe would have
gone on as he has under other circumstances."

"I fell in love with her," said Charley, rocking himself to and fro,
"when she was a child. I have never had another love but her; and the
last time I left Ranford I asked her--you know--and she laughed in my
face, and said we were getting too old for that sort of nonsense. And
when I swore I was in earnest, she only laughed the more. And I'm a
desperate beggar, by Jove, and I'll go and enlist, by Jove."

"What a brilliant idea!" said Marston. "Don't be a fool, Charley. Is
this girl a great lady?"

"Great lady! Lord bless you, no; she's a dependant without a sixpence."

"Begin all over again with her. Let her alone a little. Perhaps you took
too much for granted, and offended her. Very likely she has got tired of
you. By your own confession, you have been making love to her for ten
years; that must be a great bore for a girl, you know. I suppose you are
thinking of going to Ranford now?"

"Yes, I am going for a time."

"The worst place you could go to; much better go home to your father.
Yours is a quiet, staid, wholesome house; not such a bear-garden as the
other place--but let us change the subject. I am sent after you."

"By whom?"

"Musgrave. The University Eight is going down, and he wants you to row
four. The match with Cambridge is made up."

"Oh, hang it!" said poor Charles; "I can't show after this business. Get
a waterman; do, Marston. They will know all about it by this time."

"Nay, I want you to come; do come, Charles. I want you to contrast these
men with the fellows you were with last night, and to see what effect
three such gentlemen and scholars as Dixon, Hunt, and Smith have in
raising the tone of the men they are thrown among."

On the barge Charles met the others of the Eight--quiet, staid,
gentlemanly men, every one of whom knew what had happened, and was more
than usually polite in consequence. Musgrave, the captain, received him
with manly courtesy. He was sorry to hear Ravenshoe was going down--had
hoped to have had him in the Eight at Easter; however, it couldn't be
helped; hoped to get him at Henley; and so on. The others were very
courteous too, and Charles soon began to find that he himself was
talking in a different tone of voice, and using different language from
that which he would have been using in his cousin's rooms; and he
confessed this to Marston that night.

Meanwhile the University Eight, with the little blue flag at her bows,
went rushing down the river on her splendid course. Past heavy barges
and fairy skiffs; past men in dingys, who ran high and dry on the bank
to get out of the way; and groups of dandys, who ran with them for a
time. And before any man was warm--Iffley. Then across the broad
mill-pool and through the deep crooks, out into the broads, and past the
withered beds of reeds which told of coming winter. Bridges, and a
rushing lasher--Sandford. No rest here. Out of the dripping well-like
lock. Get your oars out and away again, past the yellowing willows, past
the long wild grey meadows, swept by the singing autumn wind. Through
the swirling curves and eddies, onward under the westering sun towards
the woods of Nuneham.

It was so late when they got back, that those few who had waited for
them--those faithful few who would wait till midnight to see the Eight
come in--could not see them, but heard afar off the measured throb and
rush of eight oars as one, as they came with rapid stroke up the
darkening reach. Charles and Marston walked home together.

"By George," said Charles, "I should like to do that and nothing else
all my life. What a splendid stroke Musgrave gives you, so marked, and
so long, and yet so lively. Oh, I should like to be forced to row every
day like the watermen."

"In six or seven years you would probably row as well as a waterman. At
least, I mean, as well as some of the second-rate ones. I have set my
brains to learn steering, being a small weak man; but I shall never
steer as well as little Tims, who is ten years old. Don't mistake a
means for an end--"

Charles wouldn't always stand his friend's good advice, and he thought
he had had too much of it to-day. So he broke out into sudden and
furious rebellion, much to Marston's amusement, who treasured up every
word he said in his anger, and used them afterwards with fearful effect
against him.

"I don't care for you," bawled Charles; "you're a greater fool than I
am, and be hanged to you. You're going to spend the best years of your
life, and ruin your health, to get a first. _A first! A first!_ Why that
miserable little beast, Lock, got a first. A fellow who is, take him all
in all, the most despicable little wretch I know! If you are very
diligent you may raise yourself to _his_ level! And when you have got
your precious first, you will find yourself utterly unfit for any trade
or profession whatever (except the Church, which you don't mean to
enter). What do you know about modern languages or modern history? If
you go into the law, you have got to begin all over again. They won't
take you in the army; they are not such _muffs_. And this is what you
get for your fifteen hundred pounds!"

Charles paused, and Marston clapped his hands and said, "hear, _hear_!"
which made him more angry still.

"I shouldn't care if I _was_ a waterman. I'm sick of all this
pretension and humbug; I'd sooner be anything than what I am, with my
debts, and my rustication, and keeping up appearances. I wish I was a
billiard marker; I wish I was a jockey; I wish I was Alick Reed's
Novice; I wish I was one of Barclay and Perkins's draymen. Hang it! I
wish I was a cabman! Queen Elizabeth was a wise woman, and she was of my
opinion."

"Did Queen Elizabeth wish she was a cabman?" asked Marston, gravely.

"No, she didn't," said Charles, very tartly. "She wished she was a
milkmaid, and I think she was quite right. Now, then."

"So you would like to be a milkmaid?" said the inexorable Marston. "You
had better try another Easter vacation with Welter. Mrs. Sherrat will
get you a suit of cast-off clothes from some of the lads. Here's the
'Cross,' where you dine. Bye, bye!"

John Marston knew, and knew well, nearly every one worth knowing in the
University. He did not appear particularly rich; he was not handsome; he
was not brilliant in conversation; he did not dress well, though he was
always neat; he was not a cricketer, a rower, or a rider; he never spoke
at the Union; he never gave large parties; no one knew anything about
his family; he never betted; and yet he was in the best set in the
University.

There was, of course, some reason for this; in fact, there were three
good and sufficient reasons, although above I may seem to have exhausted
the means of approach to good University society. First, He had been to
Eton as a town boy, and had been popular there. Second, He had got one
of the great open scholarships. And third, His behaviour had always been
most correct and gentlemanly.

A year before this he had met Charles as a freshman in Lord Welter's
rooms, and had conceived a great liking for him. Charles had just come
up with a capital name from Shrewsbury, and Marston hoped that he would
have done something; but no. Charles took up with riding, rowing,
driving, &c., &c., not to mention the giving and receiving of parties,
with all the zest of a young fellow with a noble constitution, enough
money, agreeable manners, and the faculty of excelling to a certain
extent in every sport he took in hand.

He very soon got to like and respect Marston. He used to allow him to
blow him up, and give him good advice when he wouldn't take it from any
one else. The night before he went down Marston came to his rooms, and
tried to persuade him to go home, and not to "the training stables," as
he irreverently called Ranford; but Charles had laughed and laughed, and
joked, and given indirect answers, and Marston saw that he was
determined, and discontinued pressing him.



CHAPTER IX.

ADELAIDE.


The next afternoon Lord Welter and Charles rode up to the door at
Ranford. The servants looked surprised; they were not expected. His
lordship was out shooting; her ladyship was in the poultry-yard; Mr.
Pool was in the billiard-room with Lord Saltire.

"The deuce!" said Lord Welter; "that's lucky, I'll get him to break it
to the governor."

The venerable nobleman was very much amused by the misfortunes of these
ingenuous youths, and undertook the commission with great good nature.
But, when he had heard the cause of the mishap, he altered his tone
considerably, and took on himself to give the young men what was for him
a severe lecture. He was sorry this had come out of a drunken riot; he
wished it ... which, though bad enough, did not carry the disgrace with
it that the other did. Let them take the advice of an old fellow who had
lived in the world, ay, and moved with the world, for above eighty
years, and take care not to be marked, even by their own set, as
drinking men. In his day, he allowed, drinking was entirely _de
rigueur_; and indeed nothing could be more proper and correct than the
whole thing they had just described to him, if it had happened fifty
years ago. But now a drunken row was an anachronism. Nobody drank now.
He had made a point of watching the best young fellows, and none of them
drank. He made a point of taking the time from the rising young fellows,
as every one ought to, who wished to go with the world. In his day, for
instance, it was the custom to talk with considerable freedom on sacred
subjects, and he himself had been somewhat notorious for that sort of
thing; but look at him now: he conformed with the times, and went to
church. Every one went to church now. Let him call their attention to
the fact that a great improvement had taken place in public morals of
late years.

So the good-natured old heathen gave them what, I daresay, he thought
was the best of advice. He is gone now to see what his system of
morality was worth. I am very shy of judging him, or the men of his
time. It gives me great pain to hear the men of the revolutionary era
spoken of flippantly. The time was so exceptional. The men at that time
were a race of giants. One wonders how the world got through that time
at all. Six hundred millions of treasure spent by Britain alone! How
many millions of lives lost none may guess. What wonder if there were
hell-fire clubs and all kinds of monstrosities. Would any of the present
generation have attended the fête of the goddess of reason, if they had
lived at that time, I wonder? Of course they wouldn't.

Charles went alone to the poultry-yard; but no one was there except the
head keeper, who was administering medicine to a cock, whose appearance
was indictable--that is to say, if the laws against cock-fighting were
enforced. Lady Ascot had gone in; so Charles went in too, and went
upstairs to his aunt's room.

One of the old lady's last fancies was sitting in the dark, or in a
gloom so profound as to approach to darkness. So Charles, passing out of
a light corridor, and shutting the door behind him, found himself unable
to see his hand before him. Confident, however, of his knowledge of
localities, he advanced with such success that he immediately fell
crashing headlong over an ottoman; and in his descent, imagining that he
was falling into a pit or gulf of unknown depth, uttered a wild cry of
alarm. Whereupon the voice of Lady Ascot from close by answered, "Come
in," as if she thought she heard somebody knock.

"Come up, would be more appropriate, aunt," said Charles. "Why do you
sit in the dark? I've killed myself, I believe."

"Is that you, Charles?" said she. "What brings you over? My dear, I am
delighted. Open a bit of the window, Charles, and let me see you."

Charles did as he was desired; and, as the strong light from without
fell upon him, the old lady gave a deep sigh.

"Ah, dear, so like poor dear Petre about the eyes. There never was a
handsome Ravenshoe since him, and there never will be another. You were
quite tolerable as a boy, my dear; but you've got very coarse, very
coarse and plain indeed. Poor Petre!"

"You're more unlucky in the light than you were in the darkness,
Charles," said a brisk, clear, well-modulated voice from behind the old
lady. "Grandma seems in one of her knock-me-down moods to-day. She had
just told me that I was an insignificant chit, when you made your
graceful and noiseless entrance, and saved me anything further."

If Adelaide had been looking at Charles when she spoke, instead of at
her work, she would have seen the start which he gave when he heard her
voice. As it was, she saw nothing of it; and Charles, instantly
recovering himself, said in the most nonchalant voice possible:

"Hallo, are you here? How do you contrive to work in the dark?"

"It is not dark to any one with eyes," was the curt reply. "I can see to
read."

Here Lady Ascot said that, if she had called Adelaide a chit, it was
because she had set up her opinion against that of such a man as Dr.
Going; that Adelaide was a good and dutiful girl to her; that she was a
very old woman, and perhaps shouldn't live to see the finish of next
year; and that her opinion still was that Charles was very plain and
coarse, and she was sorry she couldn't alter it.

Adelaide came rapidly up and kissed her, and then went and stood in the
light beside Charles.

She had grown into a superb blonde beauty. From her rich brown crêpé
hair to her exquisite little foot, she was a model of grace. The nose
was delicately aquiline, and the mouth receded slightly, while the chin
was as slightly prominent; the eyes were brilliant, and were
concentrated on their object in a moment; and the eyebrows surmounted
them in a delicately but distinctly marked curve. A beauty she was, such
as one seldom sees; and Charles, looking on her, felt that he loved her
more madly than ever, and that he would die sooner than let her know it.

"Well, Charles," she said, "you don't seem overjoyed to see me."

"A man can't look joyous with broken shins, my dear Adelaide. Aunt, I've
got some bad news for you. I am in trouble."

"Oh dear," said the old lady, "and what is the matter now? Something
about a woman, I suppose. You Ravenshoes are always--"

"No, no, aunt. Nothing of the kind. Adelaide, don't go, pray; you will
lose such a capital laugh. I've got rusticated, Aunt."

"That is very comical, I dare say," said Adelaide, in a low voice; "but
I don't see the joke."

"I thought you would have had a laugh at me, perhaps," said Charles; "it
is rather a favourite amusement of yours."

"What, in the name of goodness, makes you so disagreeable and cross
to-day, Charles? You were never so before, when anything happened. I am
sure I am very sorry for your misfortune, though I really don't know its
extent. Is it a very serious thing?"

"Serious, very. I don't much like going home. Welter is in the same
scrape; who is to tell her?"

"This is the way," said Adelaide; "I'll show you how to manage her."

All this was carried on in a low tone, and very rapidly. The old lady
had just begun in a loud, querulous, scolding voice to Charles, when
Adelaide interrupted her with--

"I say, grandma, Welter is rusticated too."

Adelaide good-naturedly said this to lead the old lady's wrath from
Charles, and throw it partly on to her grandson; but however good her
intentions, the execution of them was unsuccessful. The old lady fell to
scolding Charles; accusing him of being the cause of the whole mishap,
of leading Welter into every mischief, and stating her opinion that he
was an innocent and exemplary youth, with the fault only of being too
easily led away. Charles escaped as soon as he could, and was followed
by Adelaide.

"This is not true, is it?" she said. "It is not your fault?"

"My fault, partly, of course. But Welter would have been sent down
before, if it hadn't been for me. He got me into a scrape this time. He
mustn't go back there. You mustn't let him go back."

"I let him go back, forsooth! What on earth can I have to do with his
lordship's movements?" she said, bitterly, "Do you know who you are
talking to?--a beggarly orphan."

"Hush! don't talk like that, Adelaide. Your power in this house is very
great. The power of the only sound head in the house. You could stop
anything you like from happening."

They had come together at a conservatory door; and she put her back
against it, and held up her hand to bespeak his attention more
particularly.

"I wish it was true, Charles; but it isn't. No one has any power over
Lord Ascot. Is Welter much in debt?"

"I should say, a great deal," was Charles's reply. "I think I ought to
tell you. You may help him to break it to them."

"Ay, he always comes to me for that sort of thing. Always did from a
child. I'll tell you what, Charles, there's trouble coming or come on
this house. Lord Ascot came home from Chester looking like death; they
say he lost fearfully both there and at Newmarket. He came home quite
late, and went up to grandma; and there was a dreadful scene. She hasn't
been herself since. Another blow like it will kill her. I suspect my
lord's bare existence depends on this colt winning the Derby. Come and
see it gallop," she added, suddenly throwing her flashing eyes upon his,
and speaking with an animation and rapidity very different from the
cold stern voice in which she had been telling the family troubles.
"Come, and let us have some oxygen. I have not spoken to a man for a
month. I have been leading a life like a nun's; no, worse than any
nun's; for I have been bothered and humiliated by--ah! such wretched
trivialities. Go and order horses. I will join you directly."

So she dashed away and left him, and he hurried to the yard. Scarcely
were the horses ready when she was back again, with the same stem, cold
expression on her face, now more marked, perhaps, from the effect of the
masculine habit she wore. She was a consummate horsewoman, and rode the
furious black Irish mare, which was brought out for her, with ease and
self-possession, seeming to enjoy the rearing and plunging of the
sour-tempered brute far more than Charles, her companion, did, who would
rather have seen her on a quieter horse.

A sweeping gallop under the noble old trees, through a deep valley, and
past a herd of deer, which scudded away through the thick-strewn leaves,
brought them to the great stables, a large building at the edge of the
park, close to the downs. Twenty or thirty long-legged, elegant,
nonchalant-looking animals, covered to the tips of their ears with
cloths, and ridden each by a queer-looking brown-faced lad, were in the
act of returning from their afternoon exercise. These Adelaide's mare,
"Molly Asthore," charged and dispersed like a flock of sheep; and then,
Adelaide pointing with her whip to the downs, hurried past the stables
towards a group they saw a little distance off.

There were only four people--Lord Ascot, the stud-groom, and two lads.
Adelaide was correctly informed; they were going to gallop the Voltigeur
colt (since called Haphazard), and the cloths were now coming off him.
Lord Ascot and the stud-groom mounted their horses, and joined our pair,
who were riding slowly along the measured mile the way the horse was to
come.

Lord Ascot looked very pale and worn; he gave Charles a kindly greeting,
and made a joke with Adelaide; but his hands fidgeted with his reins,
and he kept turning back towards the horse they had left, wondering
impatiently what was keeping the boy. At last they saw the beautiful
beast shake his head, give two or three playful plunges, and then come
striding rapidly towards them, over the short, springy turf.

Then they turned, and rode full speed: soon they heard the mighty
hollow-sounding hoofs behind, that came rapidly towards them, devouring
space. Then the colt rushed by them in his pride, with his chin on his
chest, hard held, and his hind feet coming forward under his girth every
stride, and casting the turf behind him in showers. Then Adelaide's
horse, after a few mad plunges, bolted, overtook the colt, and actually
raced him for a few hundred yards; then the colt was pulled up on a
breezy hill, and they all stood a little together talking and
congratulating one another on the beauty of the horse.

Charles and Adelaide rode away together over the downs, intending to
make a little détour, and so lengthen their ride. They had had no chance
of conversation since they parted at the conservatory door, and they
took it up nearly where they had left it. Adelaide began, and, I may
say, went on, too, as she had most of the talking.

"I should like to be a duchess; then I should be mistress of the only
thing I am afraid of."

"What is that?"

"Poverty," said she; "that is my only terror, and that is my inevitable
fate."

"I should have thought, Adelaide, that you were too high spirited to
care for that, or anything."

"Ah, you don't know; all my relations are poor. _I_ know what it is; _I_
know what it would be for a beauty like me."

"You will never be poor or friendless while Lady Ascot lives."

"How long will that be? My home now depends very much on that horse; oh,
if I were only a man, I should welcome poverty; it would force me to
action."

Charles blushed. Not many days before, Marston and he had had a battle
royal, in which the former had said, that the only hope for Charles was
that he should go two or three times without his dinner, and be made to
earn it, and that as long as he had a "mag" to bless himself with, he
would always be a lazy, useless humbug; and now here was a young lady
uttering the same atrocious sentiments. He called attention to the
prospect.

Three hundred feet below them, Father Thames was winding along under the
downs and yellow woodlands, past chalk quarry and grey farm-house,
blood-red beneath the setting sun; a soft, rich, autumnal haze was over
everything; the smoke from the distant village hung like a curtain of
pearl across the valley; and the long, straight, dark wood that crowned
the high grey wold, was bathed in a dim purple mist, on its darkest
side; and to perfect the air of dreamy stillness, some distant bells
sent their golden sound floating on the peaceful air. It was a quiet day
in the old age of the year; and its peace seemed to make itself felt on
these two wild young birds; for they were silent more than half the way
home; and then Charles said, in a low voice--

"Dear Adelaide, I hope you have chosen aright. The time will come when
you will have to make a more important decision than any you have made
yet. At one time in a man's or woman's life, they say, there is a choice
between good and evil. In God's name think before you make it."

"Charles," she said, in a low and disturbed voice, "if a conjurer were
to offer to show you your face in a glass, as it would be ten years
hence, should you have courage to look?"

"I suppose so; would not you!"

"Oh, no, no, no! How do you know what horrid thing would look at you,
and scare you to death? Ten years hence; where shall we be then?"



CHAPTER X.

LADY ASCOT'S LITTLE NAP.


There was a very dull dinner at Ranford that day, Lord Ascot scarcely
spoke a word; he was kind and polite--he always was that--but he was
very different from his usual self. The party missed his jokes; which,
though feeble and sometimes possibly "rather close to the wind," served
their purpose, served to show that the maker of them was desirous to
make himself agreeable to the best of his ability. He never once laughed
during dinner, which was very unusual. It was evident that Lord Saltire
had performed his commission, and Charles was afraid that he was
furiously angry with Welter; but, on one occasion, when the latter
looked up suddenly and asked him some question, his father answered him
kindly in his usual tone of voice, and spoke to him so for some time.

Lady Ascot was a host in herself. With a noble self-sacrifice, she, at
the risk of being laughed at, resolved to attract attention by airing
some of her most remarkable opinions. She accordingly attacked Lord
Saltire on the subject of the end of the world, putting its total
destruction by fire at about nine months from that time. Lord Saltire
had no opinion to offer on the probability of Dr. Going's theory, but
sincerely hoped that it might last his time, and that he might be
allowed to get out of the way in the ordinary manner. He did not for a
moment doubt the correctness of her calculations; but he put it to her
as a woman of the world, whether or no such an occurrence as she
described would not be in the last degree awkward and disconcerting?

Adelaide said she didn't believe a word of it, and nothing should induce
her to do so until it took place. This brought the old lady's wrath down
upon her and helped the flagging conversation on a little. But, after
dinner, it got so dull in spite of every one's efforts, that Lord
Saltire confided to his young friend, as they went upstairs, that he had
an idea that something was wrong; but at all events, that the house was
getting so insufferably dull that he must rat, pardieu, for he couldn't
stand it. He should rat into Devon to his friend Lord Segur.

Welter took occasion to tell Charles that Lord Ascot had sent for him,
and told him that he knew all about what had happened, and his debts.
That he did not wish the subject mentioned (as if I were likely to talk
about it!); that his debts should, if possible, be paid. That he had
then gone on to say, that he did not wish to say anything harsh to
Welter on the subject--that he doubted whether he retained the right of
reproving his son. That they both needed forgiveness one from the other,
and that he hoped in what was to follow they would display that courtesy
and mutual forbearance to one another which gentlemen should. "And what
the deuce does he mean, eh? He never spoke like this before. Is he going
to marry again? Ay, that's what it is, depend upon it," said this
penetrating young gentleman; "that will be rather a shame of him, you
know, particularly if he has two or three cubs to cut into my fortune;"
and so from that time Lord Welter began to treat his father with a
slight coolness, and an air of injured innocence most amusing, though
painful, to Charles and Adelaide, who knew the truth.

As for Adelaide, she seemed to treat Charles like a brother once more.
She kept no secret from him; she walked with him, rode with him, just as
of old. She did not seem to like Lord Welter's society, though she was
very kind to him; and he seemed too much taken up with his dogs and
horses to care much for her. So Charles and she were thrown together,
and Charles's love for her grew stronger day by day, until that studied
indifferent air which he had assumed on his arrival became almost
impossible to sustain. He sustained it, nevertheless, treating Adelaide
almost with rudeness, and flinging about his words so carelessly, that
sometimes she would look suddenly up indignant, and make some passionate
reply, and sometimes she would rise and leave the room--for aught I
know, in tears.

It was a sad house to stay in; and his heart began to yearn for his
western home in spite of Adelaide. After a short time came a long letter
from his father, a scolding loving letter, in which Densil showed
plainly that he was trying to be angry, and could not, for joy at
having his son home with him--and concluded by saying that he should
never allude to the circumstance again, and by praying him to come back
at once from that wicked, cock-fighting, horse-racing, Ranford. There
was an inclosure for Lord Saltire, the reading of which caused his
lordship to take a great deal of snuff, in which he begged him, for old
friendship's sake, to send his boy home to him, as he had once sent him
home to his father. And so Lord Saltire appeared in Charles's
dressing-room before dinner one day, and, sitting down, said that he was
come to take a great liberty, and, in fact, was rather presuming on his
being an old man, but he hoped that his young friend would not take it
amiss from a man old enough to be his grandfather, if he recommended him
to leave that house, and go home to his father's. Ranford was a most
desirable house in every way, but, at the same time, it was what he
believed the young men of the day called a fast house; and he would not
conceal from his young friend that his father had requested him to use
his influence to make him return home; and he did beg his old friend's
son to believe that he was actuated by the best of motives.

"Dear Lord Saltire," said Charles, taking the old man's hand; "I am
going home to-morrow; and you don't know how heartily I thank you for
the interest you always take in me."

"I know nothing," said Lord Saltire, "more pleasing to a battered old
fellow like myself than to contemplate the ingenuousness of youth, and
you must allow me to say that your ingenuousness sits uncommonly well
upon you--in fact, is very becoming. I conceived a considerable interest
in you the first time I saw you, on that very account. I should like to
have had a son like you, but it was not to be. I had a son, who was all
that could be desired by the most fastidious person, brought up in a far
better school than mine; but he got shot in his first duel, at
one-and-twenty. I remember to have been considerably annoyed at the
time," continued the old gentleman, taking a pinch of snuff, and looking
steadily at Charles without moving a muscle, "but I dare say it was all
for the best; he might have run in debt, or married a woman with red
hair, or fifty things. Well, I wish you good day, and beg your
forgiveness once more for the liberty I have taken."

Charles slipped away from the dinner-table early that evening, and,
while Lady Ascot was having her after-dinner nap, had a long
conversation with Adelaide in the dark, which was very pleasant to one
of the parties concerned, at any rate.

"Adelaide, I am going home to-morrow."

"Are you really? Are you going so suddenly?"

"I am, positively. I got a letter from home to-day. Are you very sorry
or very glad?"

"I am very sorry, Charles. You are the only friend I have in the world
to whom I can speak as I like. Make me a promise."

"Well?"

"This is the last night we shall be together. Promise that you won't be
rude and sarcastic as you are sometimes--almost always, now, to poor
me--but talk kindly, as we used to do."

"Very well," said Charles. "And you promise you won't be taking such a
black view of the state of affairs as you do in general. Do you remember
the conversation we had the day the colt was tried?"

"I remember."

"Well, don't talk like that, you know."

"I won't promise that. The time will come very soon when we shall have
no more pleasant talks together."

"When will that be?"

"When I am gone out for a governess."

"What wages will you get? You will not get so much as some girls,
because you are so pretty and so wilful, and you will lead them such a
deuce of a life."

"Charles, you said you wouldn't be rude."

"I choose to be rude. I have been drinking wine, and we are in the dark,
and aunt is asleep and snoring, and I shall say just what I like."

"I'll wake her."

"I should like to see you. What shall we talk about? What an old Roman
Lord Saltire is. He talked about his son who was killed, to me to-day,
just as I should talk about a pointer dog."

"Then he thought he had been showing some signs of weakness. He always
speaks of his son like that when he thinks he has been betraying some
feeling."

"I admire him for it," said Charles.--"So you are going to be a
governess, eh?"

"I suppose so."

"Why don't you try being barmaid at a public-house? Welter would get you
a place directly; he has great influence in the licensed victualling
way. You might come to marry a commercial traveller, for anything you
know."

"I would not have believed this," she said, in a fierce, low voice. "You
have turned against me and insult me, because----Unkind, unjust,
ungentlemanlike."

He heard her passionately sobbing in the dark, and the next moment he
had her in his arms, and was covering her face with kisses.

"Lie there, my love," he said; "that is your place. All the world can't
harm or insult my Adelaide while she is there. Why did you fly from me
and repulse me, my darling, when I told you I was your own true love?"

"Oh, let me go, Charles," she said, trying, ever so feebly, to repulse
him. "Dear Charles, pray do; I am frightened."

"Not till you tell me you love me, false one."

"I love you more than all the world."

"Traitress! And why did you repulse me and laugh at me?"

"I did not think you were in earnest."

"Another kiss for that wicked, wicked falsehood. Do you know that this
rustication business has all come from the despair consequent on your
wicked behaviour the other day?"

"You said Welter caused it, Charles. But oh, please let me go."

"Will you go as a governess now?"

"I will do nothing but what you tell me."

"Then give me one, your own, own self, and I will let you go."

Have the reader's feelings of horror, indignation, astonishment,
outraged modesty, or ridicule, given him time to remember that all this
went on in the dark, within six feet of an unconscious old lady? Such,
however, was the case. And scarcely had Adelaide determined that it was
time to wake her, and barely had she bent over her for that purpose,
when the door was thrown open, and--enter attendants with lights. Now,
if the reader will reflect a moment, he will see what an awful escape
they had; for the chances were about a thousand to one in favour of two
things having happened: 1st, the groom of the chambers might have come
into the room half a minute sooner; and 2nd, they might have sat as they
were half a minute longer; in either of which cases, Charles would have
been discovered with his arm round Adelaide's waist, and a fearful
scandal would have been the consequence. And I mention this as a caution
to young persons in general, and to remind them that, if they happen to
be sitting hand in hand, it is no use to jump apart and look very red
just as the door opens, because the incomer can see what they have been
about as plain as if he had been there. On this occasion, also, Charles
and Adelaide set down as usual to their own sagacity what was the result
of pure accident.

Adelaide was very glad to get away after tea, for she felt rather guilty
and confused. On Charles's offering to go, however, Lady Ascot, who had
been very silent and glum all tea-time, requested him to stay, as she
had something serious to say to him. Which set the young gentleman
speculating whether she could possibly have been awake before the
advent of candles, and caused him to await her pleasure with no small
amount of trepidation.

Her ladyship began by remarking that digitalis was invaluable for
palpitation, and that she had also found camomile, combined with gentle
purgatives, efficient for the same thing, when suspected to proceed from
the stomach. She opined that, if this weather continued, there would be
heavy running for the Cambridgeshire, and Commissioner would probably
stand as well as any horse. And then, having, like a pigeon, taken a few
airy circles through stable-management, theology, and agriculture, she
descended on her subject, and frightened Charles out of his five wits by
asking him if he didn't think Adelaide a very nice girl.

Charles decidedly thought she was a very nice girl; but he rather
hesitated, and said--"Yes, that she was charming."

"Now, tell me, my dear," said Lady Ascot, manoeuvring a great old fan,
"for young eyes are quicker than old ones. Did you ever remark anything
between her and Welter?"

Charles caught up one of his legs, and exclaimed, "The devil!"

"What a shocking expression, my dear! Well, I agree with you. I fancy I
have noticed that they have entertained a decided preference for one
another. Of course, Welter will be throwing himself away, and all that
sort of thing, but he is pretty sure to do that. I expect, every time he
comes home, that he will bring a wife from behind the bar of a
public-house. Now, Adelaide--"

"Aunt! Lady Ascot! Surely you are under a mistake. I never saw anything
between them."

"H'm."

"I assure you I never did. I never heard Welter speak of her in that
sort of way, and I don't think she cares for him."

"What reason have you for thinking _that_?"

"Well--why, you know it's hard to say. The fact is, I have rather a
partiality for Adelaide myself, and I have watched her in the presence
of other men."

"Oho! Do you think she cares for you? Do you know she won't have a
sixpence?"

"We shall have enough to last till next year, aunt; and then the world
is to come to an end, you know, and we shan't want anything."

"Never you mind about the world, sir. Don't you be flippant and
impertinent, sir. Don't evade my question, sir. Do you think Adelaide
cares for you, sir?"

"Charles looked steadily and defiantly at his aunt, and asked her
whether she didn't think it was very difficult to find out what a
girl's mind really was--whereby we may conclude that he was profiting by
Lord Saltire's lesson on the command of feature."

"This is too bad, Charles," broke out Lady Ascot, "to put me off like
this, after your infamous and audacious conduct of this evening--after
kissing and hugging that girl under my very nose--"

"I thought it!" said Charles, with a shout of laughter. "I thought it,
you were awake all the time!"

"I was not awake all the time, sir--"

"You were awake quite long enough, it appears, aunty. Now, what do you
think of it?"

At first Lady Ascot would think nothing of it, but that the iniquity of
Charles's conduct was only to be equalled by the baseness and
ingratitude of Adelaide's; but by degrees she was brought to think that
it was possible that some good might come of an engagement; and, at
length, becoming garrulous on this point, it leaked out by degrees, that
she had set her heart on it for years, that she had noticed for some
time Charles's partiality for her with the greatest pleasure, and
recently had feared that something had disturbed it. In short, that it
was her pet scheme, and that she had been coming to an explanation that
very night, but had been anticipated.



CHAPTER XI.

GIVES US AN INSIGHT INTO CHARLES'S DOMESTIC RELATIONS, AND SHOWS HOW THE
GREAT CONSPIRATOR SOLILOQUISED TO THE GRAND CHANDELIER.


It may be readily conceived that a considerable amount of familiarity
existed between Charles and his servant and foster-brother William. But,
to the honour of both of them be it said, there was more than this--a
most sincere and hearty affection; a feeling for one another which, we
shall see, lasted through everything. Till Charles went to Shrewsbury,
he had never had another playfellow. He and William had been allowed to
paddle about on the sand, or ride together on the moor, as they would,
till a boy's friendship had arisen, sufficiently strong to obliterate
all considerations of rank between them. This had grown with age, till
William had become his confidential agent at home, during his absence,
and Charles had come to depend very much on his account of the state of
things at head-quarters. He had also another confidential agent, to whom
we shall be immediately introduced. She, however, was of another sex and
rank.

William's office was barely a pleasant one. His affection for his master
led him most faithfully to attend to his interests; and, as a Catholic,
he was often brought into collision with Father Mackworth, who took a
laudable interest in Charles's affairs, and considered himself injured
on two or three occasions by the dogged refusal of William to
communicate the substance and result of a message forwarded through
William, from Shrewsbury, to Densil, which seemed to cause the old
gentleman some thought and anxiety. William's religious opinions,
however, had got to be somewhat loose, and to sit somewhat easily upon
him, more particularly since his sojourn to Oxford. He had not very long
ago confided to Charles, in a private sitting, that the conviction which
was strong on his mind was, that Father Mackworth was not to be trusted.
God forgive him for saying so; and, on being pressed by Charles to state
why, he point-blank refused to give any reason whatever, but repeated
his opinion with redoubled emphasis. Charles had a great confidence in
William's shrewdness, and forbore to press him, but saw that something
had occurred which had impressed the above conviction on William's mind
most strongly.

He had been sent from Oxford to see how the land lay at home, and had
met Charles at the Rose and Crown, at Stonnington, with saddle horses.
No sooner were they clear of the town than William, without waiting for
Charles's leave, put spurs to his horse and rode up alongside of him.

"What is your news, William?"

"Nothing very great. Master looks bothered and worn."

"About this business of mine."

"The priest goes on talking about it, and plaguing him with it, when he
wants to forget it."

"The deuce take him! He talks about me a good deal."

"Yes; he has begun about you again. Master wouldn't stand it the other
day, and told him to hold his tongue, just like his own self. Tom heard
him. They made it up afterwards, though."

"What did Cuthbert say?"

"Master Cuthbert spoke up for you, and said he hoped there wasn't going
to be a scene, and that you weren't coming to live in disgrace, for that
would be punishing every one in the house for you."

"How's Mary?"

"She's well. Master don't trust her out of his sight much. They will
never set him against you while she is there. I wish you would marry
her, Master Charles, if you can give up the other one."

Charles laughed and told him he wasn't going to do anything of the sort.
Then he asked, "Any visitors?"

"Ay; one. Father Tiernay, a stranger."

"What sort of man?"

"A real good one. I don't think our man likes him, though."

They had now come to the moor's edge, and were looking down on the
amphitheatre which formed the domain of Ravenshoe. Far and wide the
tranquil sea, vast, dim, and grey, flooded bay and headland, cave and
islet. Beneath their feet slept the winter woodlands; from whose brown
bosom rose the old house, many-gabled, throwing aloft from its chimneys
hospitable columns of smoke, which hung in the still autumn air, and
made a hazy cloud on the hill-side. Everything was so quiet that they
could hear the gentle whisper of the ground-swell, and the voices of the
children at play upon the beach, and the dogs barking in the kennels.

"How calm and quiet old home looks, William," said Charles; "I like to
get back here after Oxford."

"No wine parties here. No steeplechases. No bloomer balls," said
William.

"No! and no chapels and lectures, and being sent for by the Dean," said
Charles.

"And none of they dratted bones, neither," said William, with emphasis.

"Ahem! why no! Suppose we ride on."

So they rode down the road through the woodland to the lodge, and so
through the park--sloping steeply up on their left, with many a clump of
oak and holly, and many a broad patch of crimson fern. The deer stood
about in graceful groups, while the bucks belled and rattled noisily,
making the thorn-thickets echo with the clatter of their horns. The
rabbits scudded rapidly across the road, and the blackbird fled
screaming from the mountain-ash tree, now all a-fire with golden fruit.
So they passed on until a sudden sweep brought them upon the terrace
between the old grey house and the murmuring sea.

Charles jumped off, and William led the horses round to the stable. A
young lady in a straw hat and brown gloves, with a pair of scissors and
a basket, standing half-way up the steps, came down to meet him,
dropping the basket, and holding out the brown gloves before her. This
young lady he took in his arms, and kissed; and she, so far from
resenting the liberty, after she was set on her feet again, held him by
both hands, and put a sweet dark face towards his, as if she wouldn't
care if he kissed her again. Which he immediately did.

It was not a very pretty face, but oh! such a calm, quiet, pleasant one.
There was scarcely a good feature in it, and yet the whole was so gentle
and pleasing, and withal so shrewd and _espiègle_, that to look at it
once was to think about it till you looked again; and to look again was
to look as often as you had a chance, and to like the face the more each
time you looked. I said there was not a good feature in the face. Well,
I misled you; there was a pair of calm, honest, black eyes--a very good
feature indeed, and which, once seen, you were not likely to forget.
And, also, when I tell you that this face and eyes belonged to the
neatest, trimmest little figure imaginable, I hope I have done my work
sufficiently well to make you envy that lucky rogue Charles, who, as we
know, cares for no woman in the world but Adelaide, and who, between you
and me, seems to be much too partial to this sort of thing.

"A thousand welcomes home, Charley," said the pleasant little voice
which belonged to this pleasant little personage. "Oh! I am so glad
you're come."

"You'll soon wish me away again. I'll plague you."

"I like to be plagued by you, Charley. How is Adelaide?"

"Adelaide is all that the fondest lover could desire" (for they had no
secrets, these two), "and either sent her love or meant to do so."

"Charles, dearest," she said, eagerly, "come and see him now! come and
see him with me!"

"Where is he?"

"In the shrubbery, with Flying Childers."

"Is he alone?"

"All alone, except the dog."

"Where are _they_?"

"They are gone out coursing. Come on; they will be back in an hour, and
the Rook never leaves him. Come, come."

It will be seen that these young folks had a tolerably good
understanding with one another, and could carry on a conversation about
"third parties" without even mentioning their names. We shall see how
this came about presently; but, for the present, let us follow these
wicked conspirators, and see in what deep plot they are engaged.

They passed rapidly along the terrace, and turned the corner of the
house to the left, where the west front overhung the river glen, and the
broad terraced garden went down step by step towards the brawling
stream. This they passed, and opening an iron gate, came suddenly into a
gloomy maze of shrubbery that stretched its long vistas up the valley.

Down one dark alley after another they hurried. The yellow leaves
rustled beneath their feet, and all nature was pervaded with the smell
of decay. It was hard to believe that these bare damp woods were the
same as those they had passed through but four months ago, decked out
with their summer bravery--an orchestra to a myriad birds. Here and
there a bright berry shone out among the dull-coloured twigs, and a
solitary robin quavered his soft melancholy song alone. The flowers were
dead, the birds were flown or mute, and brave, green leaves were stamped
under foot; everywhere decay, decay.

In the dampest, darkest walk of them all, in a far-off path, hedged with
holly and yew, they found a bent and grey old man walking with a
toothless, grey old hound for his silent companion. And, as Charles
moved forward with rapid elastic step, the old man looked up, and
tottered to meet him, showing as he did so the face of Densil Ravenshoe.

"Now the Virgin be praised," he said, "for putting it in your head to
come so quick, my darling. Whenever you go away now, I am in terror lest
I should die and never see you again. I might be struck with paralysis,
and not know you, my boy. Don't go away from me again."

"I should like never to leave you any more, father dear. See how well
you get on with my arm. Let us come out into the sun; why do you walk in
this dismal wood?

"Why?" said the old man, with sudden animation, his grey eye kindling as
he stopped. "Why? I come here because I can catch sight of a woodcock,
lad! I sprang one by that holly just before you came up. Flip flap, and
away through the hollies like a ghost! Cuthbert and the priest are away
coursing. Now you are come, surely I can get on the grey pony, and go up
to see a hare killed. You will lead him for me, won't you? I don't like
to trouble _them_."

"We can go to-morrow, dad, after lunch, you and I, and William. We'll
have Leopard and Blue-ruin--by George, it will be like old times again."

"And we'll take our little quiet bird on _her_ pony, won't we?" said
Densil, turning to Mary. "She's such a good little bird, Charley. We sit
and talk of you many an hour. Charley, can't you get me down on the
shore, and let me sit there? I got Cuthbert to take me down once; but
Father Mackworth came and talked about the Immaculate Conception through
his nose all the time. I didn't want to hear him talk; I wanted to hear
the surf on the shore. Good man! he thought he interested me, I dare
say."

"I hope he is very kind to you, father?"

"Kind! I assure you, my dear boy, he is the kindest creature; he never
lets me out of his sight; and so attentive!"

"He'll have to be a little less attentive in future, confound him!"
muttered Charles. "There he is. Talk of the devil! Mary, my dear," he
added aloud, "go and amuse the Rooks for a little, and let us have
Cuthbert to ourselves."

The old man looked curious at the idea of Mary talking to the rooks; but
his mind was drawn off by Charles having led him into a warm, southern
corner, and set him down in the sun.

Mary did her errand well, for in a few moments Cuthbert advanced rapidly
towards them. Coming up, he took Charles's hand, and shook it with a
faint, kindly smile.

He had grown to be a tall and somewhat handsome young man--certainly
handsomer than Charles. His face, even now he was warmed by exercise,
was very pale, though the complexion was clear and healthy. His hair was
slightly gone from his forehead, and he looked much older than he really
was. The moment that the smile was gone his face resumed the expression
of passionless calm that it had borne before; and sitting down by his
brother, he asked him how he did.

"I am as well, Cuthbert," said Charles, "as youth, health, a conscience
of brass, and a whole world full of friends can make me. _I'm_ all
right, bless you. But you look very peaking and pale. Do you take
exercise enough?"

"I? Oh, dear, yes. But I am very glad to see you, Charles. Our father
misses you. Don't you, father?"

"Very much, Cuthbert."

"Yes. I bore him. I do, indeed. I don't take interest in the things he
does. I can't; it's not my nature. You and he will be as happy as kings
talking about salmon, and puppies, and colts."

"I know, Cuthbert; I know. You never cared about those things as we do."

"No, never, brother; and now less than ever. I hope you will stay with
me--with us. You are my own brother. I will have you stay here," he
continued in a slightly raised voice; "and I desire that any opposition
or impertinence you may meet with may be immediately reported to me."

"It will be immediately reported to those who use it, and in a way they
won't like, Cuthbert. Don't you be afraid; I shan't quarrel. Tell me
something about yourself, old boy."

"I can tell you but little to interest you, Charles. You are of this
world, and rejoice in being so. I, day by day, wean myself more and more
from it, knowing its worthlessness. Leave me to my books and my
religious exercises, and go on your way. The time will come when your
pursuits and pleasures will turn to bitter dust in your mouth, as mine
never can. When the world is like a howling wilderness to you, as it
will be soon, then come to me, and I will show you where to find
happiness. At present you will not listen to me."

"Not I," said Charles. "Youth, health, talent, like yours--are these
gifts to despise?"

"They are clogs to keep me from higher things. Study, meditation, life
in the past with those good men who have walked the glorious road before
us--in these consist happiness. Ambition! I have one earthly
ambition--to purge myself from earthly affections, so that, when I hear
the cloister-gate close behind me for ever, my heart may leap with joy,
and I may feel that I am in the antechamber of heaven."

Charles was deeply affected, and bent down his head. "Youth, love,
friends, joy in this beautiful world--all to be buried between four dull
white walls, my brother!"

"This beautiful earth, which is beautiful indeed--alas! how I love it
still! shall become a burden to us in a few years. Love! the greater the
love, the greater the bitterness. Charles, remember _that_, one day,
will you, when your heart is torn to shreds? I shall have ceased to love
you then more than any other fellow-creature; but remember my words. You
are leading a life which can only end in misery, as even the teachers of
the false and corrupt religion which you profess would tell you. If you
were systematically to lead the life you do now, it were better almost
that there were no future. You are not angry, Charles?"

There was such a spice of truth in what Cuthbert said that it would have
made nine men in ten angry. I am pleased to record of my favourite
Charles that he was not; he kept his head bent down, and groaned.

"Don't be hard on our boy, Cuthbert," said Densil; "he is a good boy,
though he is not like you. It has always been so in our family--one a
devotee and the other a sportsman. Let us go in, boys; it gets chill."

Charles rose up, and, throwing his arms round his brother's neck,
boisterously gave him a kiss on the cheek; then he began laughing and
talking at the top of his voice, making the nooks and angles in the grey
old façade echo with his jubilant voice.

Under the dark porch they found a group of three--Mackworth; a
jolly-looking, round-faced, Irish priest, by name Tiernay; and Mary.
Mackworth received Charles with a pleasant smile, and they joined in
conversation together heartily. Few men could be more agreeable than
Mackworth, and he chose to be agreeable now. Charles was insensibly
carried away by the charm of his frank, hearty manner, and for a time
forgot who was talking to him.

Mackworth and Charles were enemies. If we reflect a moment, we shall see
that it could hardly be otherwise.

Charles's existence, holding as he did the obnoxious religion, was an
offence to him. He had been prejudiced against him from the first; and,
children not being very slow to find out who are well disposed towards
them, or the contrary, Charles had early begun to regard the priest with
distrust and dislike. So a distant, sarcastic line of treatment, on the
one hand, and childish insolence and defiance, on the other, had grown
at last into something very like hatred on both sides. Every soul in the
house adored Charles but the priest; and, on the other hand, the
priest's authority and dignity were questioned by none but Charles. And,
all these small matters being taken into consideration, it is not
wonderful, I say, that Charles and the priest were not good friends even
before anything had occurred to bring about any open rupture.

Charles and Mackworth seldom met of late years without a "sparring
match." On this day, however--partly owing, perhaps, to the presence of
a jolly good-humoured Irish priest--they got through dinner pretty well.
Charles was as brave as a lion, and, though by far the priest's inferior
in scientific "sparring," had a rough, strong, effective method of
fighting, which was by no means to be despised. His great strength lay
in his being always ready for battle. As he used to tell his crony
William, he would as soon fight as not; and often, when rebuked by
Cuthbert for what he called insolence to the priest, he would exclaim,
"I don't care; what did he begin at me for? If he lets me alone, I'll
let him alone." And, seeing that he had been at continual war with the
reverend gentleman for sixteen years or more, I think it speaks highly
for the courage of both parties that neither had hitherto yielded. When
Charles afterwards came to know what a terrible card the man had held in
his hand, he was struck with amazement at his self-possession in not
playing it, despite his interest.

Mackworth was hardly so civil after dinner as he was before; but
Cuthbert was hoping that Charles and he would get on without a
battle-royal, when a slight accident brought on a general engagement,
and threw all his hopes to the ground. Densil and Mary had gone up to
the drawing-room, and Charles, having taken as much wine as he cared
for, rose from the table, and sauntered towards the door, when Cuthbert
quite innocently asked him where he was going.

Charles said also in perfect good faith that he was going to smoke a
cigar, and talk to William.

Cuthbert asked him, Would he get William or one of them to give the grey
colt a warm mash with some nitre in it; and Charles said he'd see it
done for him himself; when, without warning or apparent cause, Father
Mackworth said to Father Tiernay,

"This William is one of the grooms. A renegade, I fancy! I believe the
fellow is a Protestant at heart. He and Mr. Charles Ravenshoe are very
intimate; they keep up a constant correspondence when apart, I assure
you."

Charles faced round instantly, and confronted his enemy with a smile on
his lips; but he said not a word, trying to force Mackworth to continue.

"Why don't you leave him alone?" said Cuthbert.

"My dear Cuthbert," said Charles, "pray don't humiliate me by
interceding; I assure you I am greatly amused. You see he doesn't speak
to me; he addressed himself to Mr. Tiernay."

"I wished," said Mackworth, "to call Father Tiernay's attention, as a
stranger to this part of the world, to the fact of a young gentleman's
corresponding with an illiterate groom in preference to any member of
his family."

"The reason I do it," said Charles, speaking to Tiernay, but steadily
watching Mackworth to see if any of his shafts hit, "is to gain
information. I like to know what goes on in my absence. Cuthbert here is
buried in his books, and does not know everything."

No signs of flinching there. Mackworth sat with a scornful smile on his
pale face, without moving a muscle.

"He likes to get information," said Mackworth, "about his village
amours, I suppose. But, dear me, he can't know anything that the whole
parish don't know. I could have told him that that poor deluded fool of
an underkeeper was going to marry Mary Lee, after all that had happened.
He will be dowering a wife for his precious favourite some day."

"My precious favourite, Father Tiernay," said Charles, still closely
watching Mackworth, "is my foster-brother. He used to be a great
favourite with our reverend friend; his pretty sister Ellen is so still,
I believe."

This was as random an arrow as ever was shot, and yet it went home to
the feather. Charles saw Mackworth give a start and bite his lip, and
knew that he had smote him deep; he burst out laughing.

"With regard to the rest, Father Tiernay, any man who says that there
was anything wrong between me and Mary Lee tells, saving your presence,
a lie. It's infernally hard if a man mayn't play at love-making with the
whole village for a confidant, and the whole matter a merry joke, but
one must be accused of all sorts of villainy. Isn't ours a pleasant
household, Mr. Tiernay?"

Father Tiernay shook his honest sides with a wondering laugh, and said,
"Faix it is. But I hope ye'll allow me to put matters right betune you
two. Father Mackworth begun on the young man; he was going out to his
dudeen as peaceful as an honest young gentleman should. And some of the
best quality are accustomed to converse their grooms in the evening over
their cigar. I myself can instance Lord Mountdown, whose hospitality I
have partook frequent. And I'm hardly aware of any act of parliament,
brother, whereby a young man shouldn't kiss a pretty girl in the way of
fun, as I've done myself, sure. Whist now, both on ye! I'll come with
ye, ye heretic, and smoke a cigar meeself."

"I call you to witness that he insulted me," said Mackworth, turning
round from the window.

"I wish you had let him alone, Father," said Cuthbert, peevishly; "we
were getting on very happily till you began. Do go, Charles, and smoke
your cigar with Father Tiernay."

"I am waiting to see if he wants any more," said Charles, with a laugh.
"Come on, Father Tiernay, and I'll show you the miscreant, and his
pretty sister, too, if you like."

"I wish he hadn't come home," said Cuthbert, as soon as he and Mackworth
were alone together. "Why do you and he fight like cat and dog? You make
me perfectly miserable. I know he is going to the devil, in a worldly
point of view, and that his portion will be hell necessarily as a
heretic; but I don't see why you should worry him to death, and make the
house miserable to him."

"It is for his good."

"Nonsense," rejoined Cuthbert. "You make him hate you; and I don't think
you ought to treat a son of this house in the way you treat him, You are
under obligations to this house. Yes, you are. I won't be contradicted
now. I will have my say when I am in this temper, and you know it. The
devil is not dead yet by a long way, you see. Why do you rouse him?"

"Go on, go on."

"Yes, I will go on. I'm in my own house, I believe. By the eleven
thousand virgins, more or less, of the holy St. Ursula, virgin and
martyr, that brother of mine is a brave fellow. Why, he cares as much
for you as for a little dog barking at him. And you're a noble enemy for
any man. You'd better let him alone, I think; you won't get much out of
him. Adieu."

"What queer wild blood there is in these Ravenshoes," said Mackworth to
himself, when he was alone. "A younger hand than myself would have been
surprised at Cuthbert's kicking after so much schooling. Not I. I shall
never quite tame him, though he is broken in enough for all practical
purposes. He will be on his knees to-morrow for this. I like to make him
kick; I shall do it sometimes for amusement; he is so much easier
managed after one of these tantrums. By Jove! I love the man better
every day; he is one after my own heart. As for Charles, I hate him, and
yet I like him after a sort. I like to break a pointless lance with that
boy, and let him fancy he is my equal. It amuses me.

"I almost fancy that I could have fallen in love with that girl Ellen. I
was uncommon near it. I must be very careful. What a wild hawk she is!
What a magnificent move that was of hers, risking a prosecution for
felony on one single throw, and winning. How could she have guessed that
there was anything there? She couldn't have guessed it. It was an effort
of genius. It was a splendid move.

"How nearly that pigheaded fool of a young nobleman has gone to upset my
calculations! His namesake the chessplayer could not have done more
mischief by his talents than his friend had by stupidity. I wish Lord
Ascot would get ruined as quickly as possible, and then my friend would
be safe out of the way. But he won't."



CHAPTER XII.

CONTAINING A SONG BY CHARLES RAVENSHOE, AND ALSO FATHER TIERNAY'S
OPINION ABOUT THE FAMILY.


Charles and the good-natured Father Tiernay wandered out across the old
court-yard, towards the stables--a pile of buildings in the same style
as the house, which lay back towards the hill. The moon was full,
although obscured by clouds, and the whole court-yard was bathed in a
soft mellow light. They both paused for a moment to look at the fine old
building, standing silent for a time; and then Charles startled the
contemplative priest by breaking into a harsh scornful laugh, as unlike
his own cheery Ha! Ha! as it was possible to be.

"What are you disturbing a gentleman's meditations in that way for?"
said the Father. "Is them your Oxford manners? Give me ye'r cigar-case,
ye haythen, if ye can't appreciate the beauties of nature and art
combined--laughing like that at the cradle of your ancestors too."

Charles gave him the cigar-case, and trolled out in a rich bass voice--

            "The old falcon's nest
            Was built up on the crest
      Of the cliff that hangs over the sea;
            And the jackdaws and crows,
            As every one knows,
      Were confounded respectful to he, to he--e--e."

"Howld yer impudence, ye young heretic doggrel-writer; can't I see what
ye are driving at?"

            "But the falcon grew old,
            And the nest it grew cold,
      And the carrion birds they grew bolder;
            So the jackdaws and crows,
            Underneath his own nose,
      Gave both the young falcons cold shoulder."

"Bedad," said the good-natured Irishman, "some one got hot shoulder
to-day. Aren't ye ashamed of yourself, singing such ribaldry, and all
the servants hearing ye?"

"Capital song, Father; only one verse more.

            "The elder was quelled,
            But the younger rebelled;
      So he spread his white wings and fled over the sea.
            Said the jackdaws and crows,
            'He'll be hanged I suppose,
      But what in the deuce does that matter to we?'"

There was something in the wild, bitter tone in which he sang the last
verse that made Father Tiernay smoke his cigar in silence as they
sauntered across the yard, till Charles began again.

"Not a word of applause for my poor impromptu song? Hang it, I'd have
applauded anything you sang."

"Don't be so reckless and bitter, Mr. Ravenshoe," said Tiernay, laying
his hand on his shoulder. "I can feel for you, though there is so little
in common between us. You might lead a happy peaceful life if you were
to come over to us; which you will do, if I know anything of my trade,
in the same day that the sun turns pea-green. _Allons_, as we used to
say over the water; let us continue our travels."

"Reckless! I am not reckless. The jolly old world is very wide, and I am
young and strong. There will be a wrench when the tooth comes out; but
it will soon be over, and the toothache will be cured."

Tiernay remained silent a moment, and then in an absent manner sang this
line, in a sweet low voice--

      "For the girl of my heart that I'll never see more."

"She must cast in her lot with me," said Charles. "Ay, and she will do
it, too. She will follow me to the world's end, sir. Are you a judge of
horses? What a question to ask of an Irishman! Here are the stables."

The lads were bedding down, and all the great building was alive with
the clattering of busy feet and the neighing of horses. The great
Ravenshoe Stud was being tucked up for the night; and over that two
thousand pounds' worth of horse-flesh at least six thousand pounds'
worth of fuss was being made, under the superintendence of the stud
groom, Mr. Dickson.

The physical appearance of Mr. Dickson was as though you had taken an
aged Newmarket jockey, and put a barrel of oysters, barrel and all,
inside his waistcoat. His face was thin; his thighs were hollow; calves
to his legs he had none. He was all stomach. Many years had elapsed
since he had been brought to the verge of dissolution by severe
training; and since then all that he had eaten, or drunk, or done, had
flown to his stomach, producing a tympanitic action in that organ,
astounding to behold. In speech he was, towards his superiors, courteous
and polite; towards his equals, dictatorial; towards his subordinates,
abusive, not to say blasphemous. To this gentleman Charles addressed
himself, inquiring if he had seen William: and he, with a lofty, though
courteous, sense of injury, inquired, in a loud tone of voice, of the
stablemen generally, if any one had seen Mr. Charles's pad-groom.

In a dead silence which ensued, one of the lads was ill-advised enough
to say that he didn't exactly know where he was; which caused Mr.
Dickson to remark that, if that was all he had to say, he had better go
on with his work, and not make a fool of himself--which the man did,
growling out something about always putting his foot in it.

"Your groom comes and goes pretty much as he likes, sir," said Mr.
Dickson. "I don't consider him as under my orders. Had he been so, I
should have felt it my duty to make complaint on more than one occasion;
he is a little too much of the gentleman for _my_ stable, sir."

"Of course, my good Dickson," interrupted Charles, "the fact of his
being my favourite makes you madly jealous of him; that is not the
question now. If you don't know where he is, be so good as to hold your
tongue."

Charles was only now and then insolent and abrupt with servants, and
they liked him the better for it. It was one of Cuthbert's rules to be
coldly, evenly polite, and, as he thought, considerate to the whole
household; and yet they did not like him half so well as Charles, who
would sometimes, when anything went wrong, "kick up," what an
intelligent young Irish footman used to call "the divvle's own shindy."
Cuthbert, they knew, had no sympathy for them, but treated them, as he
treated himself, as mere machines; while Charles had that infinite
capacity of goodwill which none are more quick to recognise than
servants and labouring people. And on this occasion, though Mr. Dickson
might have sworn a little more than usual after Charles's departure, yet
his feeling, on the whole, was that he was sorry for having vexed the
young gentleman by sneering at his favourite.

But Charles, having rescued the enraptured Father Tiernay from the
stable, and having listened somewhat inattentively to a long description
of the Curragh of Kildare, led the worthy priest round the back of the
stables, up a short path through the wood, and knocked at the door of a
long, low keeper's lodge, which stood within a stone's throw of the
other buildings, in an open, grassy glade, through which flowed a
musical, slender stream of water. In one instant, night was hideous with
rattling chains and barking dogs, who made as though they would tear the
intruders to pieces; all except one foolish pointer pup, who was loose,
and who, instead of doing his duty by barking, came feebly up, and cast
himself on his back at their feet, as though they were the car of
Juggernaut, and he was a candidate for paradise. Finding that he was not
destroyed, he made a humiliating feint of being glad to see them, and
nearly overthrew the priest by getting between his legs. But Charles,
finding that his second summons was unanswered, lifted the latch, and
went into the house.

The room they entered was dark, or nearly so, and at the first moment
appeared empty; but, at the second glance, they made out that a figure
was kneeling before the dying embers of the fire, and trying to kindle a
match by blowing on the coals.

"Hullo!" said Charles.

"William, my boy," said a voice which made the priest start, "where have
you been, lad?"

At the same moment a match was lit, and then a candle; as the light
blazed up, it fell on the features of a grey-headed old man, who was
peering through the darkness at them, and the priest cried, "Good God!
Mr. Ravenshoe!"

The likeness for one moment was very extraordinary; but, as the eye grew
accustomed to the light, one saw that the face was the face of a taller
man than Densil, and one, too, who wore the dress of a gamekeeper.
Charles laughed at the priest, and said--

"You were struck, as many have been, by the likeness. He has been so
long with my father that he has the very trick of his voice, and the
look of the eye. Where have you been to-night, James?" he added,
affectionately. "Why do you go out so late alone? If any of those mining
rascals were to be round poaching, you might be killed."

"I can take care of myself yet, Master Charles," said the old man,
laughing; and, to do him justice, he certainly looked as if he could.

"Where is Norah?"

"Gone down to young James Holby's wife; she is lying-in."

"Pretty early, too. Where's Ellen?"

"Gone up to the house."

"See, Father, I shall be disappointed in showing you the belle of
Ravenshoe; and now you will go back to Ireland, fancying you can compete
with us."

Father Tiernay was beginning a story about five Miss Moriartys, who were
supposed to rival in charms and accomplishments any five young ladies in
the world, when his eye was attracted by a stuffed hare in a glass case,
of unusual size and very dark colour.

"That, sir," said James, the keeper, in a bland, polite, explanatory
tone of voice, coming and leaning over him, "is old Mrs. Jewel, that
lived in the last cottage on the right-hand side, under the cliff. I
always thought that it had been Mrs. Simpson, but it was not. I shot
this hare on the Monday, not three hundred yards from Mrs. Jewel's
house; and on the Wednesday the neighbours noticed the shutters hadn't
been down for two days, and broke the door open; and there she was, sure
enough, dead in her bed. I had shot her as she was coming home from some
of her devilries. A quiet old soul she was, though. No, I never thought
it had been she."

It would be totally impossible to describe the changes through which the
broad, sunny face of Father Tiernay went during the above astounding
narration; horror, astonishment, inquiry, and humour were so strangely
blended. He looked in the face of the old gamekeeper, and met the
expression of a man who had mentioned an interesting fact, and had
contributed to the scientific experience of the listener. He looked at
Charles, and met no expression whatever; but the latter said--

"Our witches in these parts, Father, take the form of some inferior
animal when attending their Sabbath or general meetings, which I believe
are presided over by an undoubted gentleman, who is not generally named
in polite society. In this case, the old woman was caught sneaking home
under the form of a hare, and promptly rolled over by James; and here
she is."

Father Tiernay said, "Oh, indeed!" but looked as if he thought the more.

"And there's another of them out now, sir," said the keeper; "and,
Master Charles, dear, if you're going to take the greyhounds out
to-morrow, do have a turn at that big black hare under Birch Tor----"

"A black hare!" said Father Tiernay, aghast.

"Nearly coal-black, your reverence," said James. "She's a witch, your
reverence, and who she is the blessed saints only know. I have seen her
three or four times. If the master was on terms with Squire Humby to
Hele, we might have the harriers over and run her down. But that can't
be, in course. If you take Blue-ruin and Lightning out to-morrow, Master
Charles, and turn her out of the brambles under the rocks, and leave the
Master and Miss Mary against the corner of the stone wall to turn her
down the gully, you must have her."

The look of astonishment had gradually faded from Father Tiernay's face.
It is said that one of the great elements of power in the Roman Catholic
priesthood is that they can lend themselves to any little bit of--well,
of mild deception--which happens to be going. Father Tiernay was up to
the situation. He looked from the keeper to Charles with a bland and
stolid expression of face, and said--

"If she is a witch, mark my words, the dogs will never touch her. The
way would be to bite up a crooked sixpence and fire at her with that. I
shall be there to see the sport. I never hunted a witch yet."

"Has your reverence ever seen a white polecat?" said the keeper.

"No, never," said the priest; "I have heard of them though. My friend,
Mr. Moriarty, of Castledown (not Mountdown Castle, ye understand; that
is the sate of my Lord Mountdown, whose blessed mother was a Moriarty,
the heavens be her bed), claimed to have seen one; but, bedad, no one
else ever saw it, and he said it turned brown again as the season came
round. May the--may the saints have my sowl if I believe a word of it."

"_I_ have one, your reverence; and it is a rarity, I allow. Stoats turn
white often in hard winters, but polecats rarely. If your reverence and
your honour will excuse me a moment, I will fetch it. It was shot by my
Lord Welter when he was staying here last winter. A fine shot is my
lord, your reverence, for so young a man."

He left the room, and the priest and Charles were left alone together.

"Does he believe all this rubbish about witches?" said Father Tiernay.

"As firmly as you do the liquefaction of the blood of----"

"There, there; we don't want all that. Do you believe in it?"

"Of course I don't," said Charles; "but why should I tell him so?"

"Why do you lend yourself to such humbug?"

"Why do you?"

"Begorra, I don't know. I am always lending. I lent a low-browed,
hang-jawed spalpeen of a Belgian priest two pound the other day, and
sorra a halfpenny of it will me mother's son ever see again. Hark!"

There were voices approaching the lodge--the voices of two uneducated
persons quarrelling; one that of a man, and the other of a woman. They
both made so much out in a moment. Charles recognised the voices, and
would have distracted the priest's attention, and given those without
warning that there were strangers within; but, in his anxiety to catch
what was said, he was not ready enough, and they both heard this.

The man's voice said fiercely, "You did."

The woman's voice said, after a wild sob, "I did not."

"You did. I saw you. You are a liar as well as----"

"I swear I didn't. Strike me dead, Bill, if there's been anything
wrong."

"No. If I thought there had, I'd cut his throat first and yours after."

"If it had been _him_, Bill, you wouldn't have used me like this."

"Never you mind that."

"You want to drive me mad. You do. You hate me. Master Charles hates me.
Oh, I wish I was mad."

"I'd sooner see you chained by the waist in the straw than see what I
saw to-night." Then followed an oath.

The door was rudely opened, and there entered first of all our old
friend, Charles's groom, William, who seemed beside himself with
passion, and after him a figure which struck the good Irishman dumb with
amazement and admiration--a girl as beautiful as the summer morning,
with her bright brown hair tangled over her forehead, and an expression
of wild terror and wrath on her face, such as one may conceive the old
sculptor wished to express when he tried, and failed, to carve the face
of the Gorgon.

She glared on them both in her magnificent beauty only one moment. Yet
that look, as of a lost soul of another world, mad, hopeless, defiant,
has never past from the memory of either of them.

She was gone in an instant into an inner room, and William was standing
looking savagely at the priest. In another moment his eyes had wandered
to Charles, and then his face grew smooth and quiet, and he said--

"We've been quarrelling, sir; don't you and this good gentleman say
anything about it. Master Charles, dear, she drives me mad sometimes.
Things are not going right with her."

Charles and the priest walked thoughtfully home together.

"Allow me to say, Ravenshoe," said the priest, "that, as an Irishman, I
consider myself a judge of remarkable establishments. I must say
honestly that I have seldom or never met with a great house with so many
queer elements about it as yours. You are all remarkable people. And, on
my honour, I think that our friend Mackworth is the most remarkable man
of the lot."



CHAPTER XIII.

THE BLACK HARE.


It was a glorious breezy November morning; the sturdy oaks alone held on
to the last brown remnants of their summer finery; all the rest of the
trees in the vast sheets of wood which clothed the lower parts of the
downs overhanging Ravenshoe had changed the bright colours of autumn for
the duller, but not less beautiful, browns and purples of winter. Below,
in the park, the deer were feeding among the yellow fern brakes, and the
rabbits were basking and hopping in the narrow patches of slanting
sunlight, which streamed through the leafless trees. Aloft, on the hill,
the valiant blackcock led out his wives and family from the
whortle-grown rocks, to flaunt his plumage in the warmest corner beneath
the Tor.

And the Tors, too, how they hung aloft above the brown heather, which
was relieved here and there by patches of dead, brown, king-fern; hung
aloft like brilliant, clearly-defined crystals, with such mighty
breadths of light and shadow as Sir Charles Barry never could
accomplish, though he had Westminster Abbey to look at every day.

Up past a narrow sheep-path, where the short grass faded on the one side
into feathery broom, and on the other into brown heather and grey stone,
under the shadow of the Tor which lay nearest to Ravenshoe, and overhung
those dark woods in which we saw Densil just now walking with his old
hound; there was grouped, on the morning after the day of Charles's
arrival, a happy party, every one of whom is already known to the
reader. Of which circumstance I, the writer, am most especially glad.
For I am already as tired of introducing new people to you as my lord
chamberlain must be of presenting strangers to her Majesty at a levée.

Densil first, on a grey cob, looking very old and feeble, straining his
eyes up the glen whither Charles, and James, the old keeper, had gone
with the greyhounds. At his rein stood William, whom we knew at Oxford.
Beside the old man sat Mary on her pony, looking so radiant and happy,
that, even if there had been no glorious autumn sun overhead, one glance
at her face would have made the dullest landscape in Lancashire look
bright. Last, not least, the good Father Tiernay, who sat on his horse,
hatless, radiant, scratching his tonsure.

"And so you're determined to back the blue dog, Miss Mary," said he.

"I have already betted a pair of gloves with Charles, Mr. Tiernay," said
Mary, "and I will be rash enough to do so with you. Ruin is the quickest
striker we have ever bred."

"I know it; they all say so," said the priest; "but come, I must have a
bet on the course. I will back Lightning."

"Lightning is the quicker dog," said Densil; "but Ruin! you will see him
lie behind the other dog all the run, and strike the hare at last.
Father Mackworth, a good judge of a dog, always backs him against the
kennel."

"Where is Father Mackworth?"

"I don't know," said Densil. "I am surprised he is not with us; he is
very fond of coursing."

"His reverence, sir," said William, "started up the moor about an hour
ago. I saw him going."

"Where was he going to?"

"I can't say, sir. He took just over past the rocks on the opposite side
of the bottom from Mr. Charles."

"I wonder," said Father Tiernay, "whether James will find his friend,
the witch, this morning."

"Ah," said Densil, "he was telling me about that. I am sure I hope not."

Father Tiernay was going to laugh, but didn't.

"Do you believe in witches, then, Mr. Ravenshoe?"

"Why, no," said Densil, stroking his chin thoughtfully, "I suppose not.
It don't seem to me now, as an old man, a more absurd belief than this
new electro-biology and table-turning. Charles tells me that they use
magic crystals at Oxford, and even claim to have raised the devil
himself at Merton; which, at this time of day, seems rather like
reverting to first principles. But I am not sure I believe in any of it.
I only know that, if any poor old woman has sold herself to Satan, and
taken it into her head to transform herself into a black hare, my
greyhounds won't light upon her. She must have made such a deuced hard
bargain that I shouldn't like to cheat her out of any of the small space
left her between this and, and--thingamy."

William, as a privileged servant, took the liberty of remarking that old
Mrs. Jewel didn't seem to have been anything like a match for Satan in
the way of a bargain, for she had had hard times of it seven years
before she died. From which--

Father Tiernay deduced the moral lesson, that that sort of thing didn't
pay; and--

Mary said she didn't believe a word of such rubbish, for old Mrs. Jewel
was as nice an old body as ever was seen, and had worked hard for her
living, until her strength failed, and her son went down in one of the
herring-boats.

Densil said that his little bird was too positive. There was the witch
of Endor, for instance--

Father Tiernay, who had been straining his eyes and attention at the
movements of Charles and the greyhounds, and had only caught the last
word, said with remarkable emphasis and distinctness--

      "A broomstick of the Witch of Endor,
      Well shod wi' brass,"

and then looked at Densil as though he had helped him out of a
difficulty, and wanted to be thanked. Densil continued without noticing
him--

"There was the witch of Endor. And 'thou shalt not suffer a witch to
live.' If there weren't such things as witches, you know, St. Paul
wouldn't have said that."

"I don't think it was St. Paul, papa, was it?" said Mary.

"It was one of them, my love; and, for that matter, I consider St. Peter
quite as good as St. Paul, if not better. St. Peter was always in
trouble, I know; but he was the only one who struck a blow for the good
cause, all honour to him. Let me see, he married St. Veronica, didn't
he?"

"Marry St. Veronica, virgin and martyr?" said the priest, aghast. "My
good sir, you are really talking at random."

"Ah, well, I may be wrong; she was virgin, but she was no martyr."

"St. Veronica," said Father Tiernay, dogmatically, and somewhat sulkily,
"was martyred under Tiberius; no less than that."

"I bet you what you like of it," cried Densil, "she died----"

But what was Densil's opinion about the last days of St. Veronica will
for ever remain a mystery; for at this moment there came a "See, HO!"
from Charles; in the next a noble hare had burst from a tangled mass of
brambles at his feet; in another the two dogs were on her haunches, and
Charles, carrying two little flags furled in his hand, had dashed at the
rough rocks on the bottom of the valley, had brought his horse on his
nose, recovered him, and was half way up the hill after the flying
greyhounds.

It was but a short course. Puss raced for some broken ground under the
hill, opposite to where our party stood. She was too close pressed, and
doubled back for the open, but, meeting James, turned as a last
desperate chance back to her first point. Too late; the dogs were upon
her. There was a short scuffle, and then Charles, rising in his saddle,
unfurled his blue flag, and waved it.

"Hurrah!" cried Mary, clapping her hands, "two pairs of gloves this
morning; where will he try now, I wonder? Here comes James; let us ask
him."

James approached them with the dead hare, and Densil asked where he was
going to try. He said, just where they were.

Densil asked, had he seen Father Mackworth? and he was in the act of
saying that he was gone over the down, when a shout from Charles, and a
still louder one from James, made them all start. A large _black hare_
had burst from the thorns at Charles's feet, and was bowling down the
glen straight toward them, with the dogs close behind her.

"The witch," shouted James, "the witch! we shall know who she is now."

It seemed very likely indeed. Densil broke away from William, and,
spurring his pony down the sheep-path at the risk of his neck, made for
the entrance of the wood. The hare, one of such dark colour that she
looked almost black, scudded along in a parallel direction, and dashed
into the grass ride just in front of Densil; they saw her flying down
it, just under the dog's noses, and then they saw her dash into a cross
ride, one of the dogs making a strike at her as she did so; then hare
and greyhounds disappeared round the corner.

"She's dead, sir, confound her; we shall have her now, the witch!"

They all came round the corner pell-mell. Here stood the dogs, panting
and looking foolishly about them, while in front of them, a few yards
distant, stood Father Mackworth, looking disturbed and flushed, as
though he had been running.

Old James stared aghast; William gave a long whistle; Mary, for a
moment, was actually terrified. Densil looked puzzled, Charles amused;
while Father Tiernay made the forest ring with peal after peal of
uproarious laughter.

"I am afraid I have spoilt sport, Mr. Ravenshoe," said Mackworth, coming
forward; "the hare ran almost against my legs, and doubled into the
copse, puzzling the dogs. They seemed almost inclined to revenge
themselves on me for a moment."

"Ha, ha!" cried the jolly priest, not noticing, as Charles did, how
confused the priest was. "So we've caught you sneaking home from your
appointment with your dear friend."

"What do you mean, sir, by appointment? You are over-stepping the bounds
of decorum, sir. Mr. Ravenshoe, I beg you to forgive me for
inadvertently spoiling your sport."

"Not at all, my dear Father," said Densil, thinking it best, from the
scared look of old James, to enter into no further explanations; "we
have killed one hare, and now I think it is time to come home to lunch."

"Don't eat it all before I come; I must run up to the Tor; I have
dropped my whip there," said Charles. "James, ride my horse home; you
look tired. I shall be there on foot in half the time."

He had cast the reins to James, and was gone, and they all turned
homewards together.

Charles, fleet of foot, was up on the Tor in a few minutes, and had
picked up his missing property; then he sat him down on a stone,
thinking.

"There is something confoundedly wrong somewhere, and I should like to
find out what it is. What had that Jack priest been up to, that made him
look so queer? And also, what was the matter between Ellen and William
last night? Whom has she been going on with? I will go down. I wish I
could find some trace of him. One thing I know, and one thing only, that
he hates me worse than poison; and that his is not likely to be a
passive hatred."

The wood into which Charles descended was of very large extent, and
composed of the densest copse, intersected by long straight grass rides.
The day had turned dark and chilly; and a low moaning wind began to
sweep through the bare boughs, rendering still more dismal the prospect
of the long-drawn vistas of damp grass and rotting leaves.

He passed musing on from one ride to another, and in one of them came in
sight of a low, white building, partly ruinous, which had been built in
the deepest recesses of the wood for a summer-house. Years ago Cuthbert
and Charles used to come and play there on happy summer holidays--play
at being Robinson Crusoe and what not; but there had been a fight with
the poachers there, and one of their young men had been kicked in the
head by one of the gang, and rendered idiotic; and Charles had seen the
blood on the grass next morning; and so they voted it a dismal place,
and never went near it again. Since then it had been taken possession of
by the pheasants to dust themselves in. Altogether it was a solitary,
ghostly sort of place; and, therefore, Charles was considerable
startled, on looking in at the low door, to see a female figure, sitting
unmoveable in the darkest corner.

It was not a ghost, for it spoke. It said, "Are you come back to upbraid
me again? I know my power, and you shall never have it." And Charles
said, "Ellen!"

She looked up, and began to cry. At first a low, moaning cry, and
afterwards a wild passionate burst of grief.

He drew her towards him, and tried to quiet her, but she drew away. "Not
to-day," she cried, "not to-day."

"What is the matter, pretty one? What is the matter, sister?" said
Charles.

"Call me sister again," she said, looking up. "I like that name. Kiss
me, and call me sister, just for once."

"Sister dear," said Charles kindly, kissing her on the forehead, "What
is the matter?"

"I have had a disagreement with Father Mackworth, and he has called me
names. He found me here walking with Master Cuthbert."

"With Cuthbert?"

"Ay, why not? I might walk with you or him any time, and no harm. I must
go."

Before Charles had time to say one word of kindness, or consolation, or
wonder, she had drawn him towards her, given him a kiss, and was gone
down the ride towards the house. He saw her dress flutter round the last
corner, and she disappeared.



CHAPTER XIV.

LORD SALTIRE'S VISIT, AND SOME OF HIS OPINIONS.


There followed on the events above narrated two or three quiet months--a
time well remembered by Charles, as one of the quietest and most
peaceful in his life, in all the times which followed. Every fine day
there was a ramble with his father through the kennels and stables, and
down through the wood, or over the farm. Charles, who at Oxford thought
no day complete, after riding with the drag, or Drakes, or rowing to
Sandford; without banquier, vingt-et-un, or loo, till three oclock in
the morning, now found, greatly to his astonishment, that he got more
pleasure by leaning over a gate with his father, and looking at fat
beasts and pigs, chewing a straw the while. A noisy wine-party, where he
met the same men he had met the night before, who sang the same songs,
and told the same silly stories, was well enough; but he began to find
that supper in the oak dining-room, sitting between Mary and his father,
and talking of the merest trifles, was a great deal pleasanter. Another
noticeable fact was that Father Mackworth's sarcasms were turned off
with a good-natured laugh, and that battle was on all occasions refused
to the worthy priest. In short, Charles, away from company and
dissipation, was himself. The good, worthy fellow, whom I learnt to like
years ago. The man whose history I am proud to write.

Lord Saltire had arrived meanwhile; he had written to Densil, to say
that he was horribly bored; that he wished, as an ethical study, to
settle, once for all, the amount of boredom a man could stand without
dying under it; that, having looked carefully about him, to select a
spot and a society where that object could be obtained, he had selected
Ravenshoe, as being the most eligible; that he should wish his room to
have a south aspect; and that his man would arrive with his things three
days after date. To this Densil had written an appropriate reply,
begging his kind old friend to come and make his house his home; and
Lord Saltire had arrived one evening, when every one was out of the way
but Mary, who received him in the hall.

She was in some little trepidation. She had read and heard enough of
"the wild prince and Poyns," and of Lord Saltire's powers of sarcasm, to
be thoroughly frightened at her awful position. She had pictured to
herself a terrible old man, with overhanging eyebrows, and cruel
gleaming eyes beneath them. Therefore she was astonished to see a
gentleman, old it is true, but upright as a young oak, of such
remarkable personal beauty, and such a pleasant expression of
countenance, as she had never seen before.

She was astonished, I said; but, mind you, Mary was too much of a lady
to show too much of it. She sailed towards him through the gloom of the
old hall with a frank smile, and just that amount of admiration in her
sweet eyes which paid Lord Saltire the truest compliment he had had for
many a day.

"Mr. Ravenshoe will be sorry to have missed receiving you, my lord," she
said.

"If Mr. Ravenshoe is sorry," he said, "I certainly am not. Mr. Ravenshoe
has done me the honour to show me the most beautiful thing in his house
first. I rather think that is a pretty compliment, Miss Corby, unless I
am getting out of practice."

"That is a very pretty compliment, indeed," she answered, laughing. "I
most heartily thank you for it. I know nothing in life so pleasant as
being flattered. May I introduce Father Mackworth?"

Lord Saltire would be delighted. Father Mackworth came forward, and Mary
saw them look at one another. She saw at a glance that either they had
met before, or there was some secret which both of them knew. She never
forgot Mackworth's defiant look, or Lord Saltire's calm considerate
glance, which said as plain as words, "This fellow knows it."

This fellow knew it--had known it for years. The footman who had left
Mackworth at the lodge of the French Lycée, the nameless domestic, who
formed the last link with his former life--this man had worn Lord
Saltire's livery, and he remembered it.

"I see," said Lord Saltire, "that Miss Corby is prepared for walking. I
guess that she is going to meet Mr. Ravenshoe, and, if my surmise is
correct, I beg to be allowed to accompany her."

"You are wonderfully correct, my lord. Cuthbert and Charles are shooting
pheasants in the wood, and Mr. Ravenshoe is with them on his pony. If
you will walk with me, we shall meet them."

So the grand old eagle and the pretty sweet-voiced robin passed out on
to the terrace, and stood looking together, under the dull December sky,
at the whispering surges. Right and left the misty headlands seemed to
float on the quiet grey sea, which broke in sighs at their feet, as the
long majestic ground-swell rolled in from the ocean; and these two stood
there for a minute or more without speaking.

"The new school of men," said Lord Saltire at last, looking out to sea,
"have perhaps done wisely, in thinking more of scenery and the mere
externals of nature than we did. We lived the life of clubs and crowds,
and we are going to our places one after another. There are but few left
now. These Stephensons and Paxtons are fine men enough. _They_ are
fighting inert matter, but _we_ fought the armies of the Philistine. We
had no time for botany and that sort of thing; which was unfortunate.
You young folks shouldn't laugh at us though."

"I laugh at you!" she said, suddenly and rapidly; "laugh at the giants
who warred with the gods. My lord, the men of our time has not shown
themselves equal to their fathers."

Lord Saltire laughed.

"No, not yet," she continued; "when the time comes they will. The time
has not come yet."

"Not yet, Miss Corby. It will come,--mind the words of a very old man;
an old fellow who has seen a confounded deal of the world."

"Are we to have any more wars, Lord Saltire?"

"Wars such as we never dreamt of, young lady."

"Is all this new inauguration of peace to go for nothing?"

"Only as the inauguration of a new series of wars, more terrible than
those which have gone before."

"France and England combined can give the law to Europe."

Lord Saltire turned upon her and laughed. "And so you actually believe
that France and England can really combine for anything more important
than a raid against Russia. Not that they will ever fight Russia, you
know. There will be no fight. If they threaten loud enough, Russia will
yield. Nicholas knows his weakness, and will give way. If he is fool
enough to fight the Western powers, it will end in another _duel à
l'outrance_ between France and England. They will never work together
for long. If they do, Europe is enslaved, and England lost."

"But why, Lord Saltire?"

"Well, well; I think so. Allow me to say that I was not prepared to find
a deep-thinking, though misguided politician in such an innocent-looking
young lady. God defend the dear old land, for every fresh acre I see of
it confirms my belief that it is the first country in the world."

They were crossing the old terraced garden towards the wood, when they
heard the guns going rapidly, and both were silent for a minute or so.
The leafless wood was before them, and the village at their feet. The
church spire rose aloft among the trees. Some fisherman patriarch had
gone to his well-earned rest that day, and the bell was tolling for him.
Mary looked at the quiet village, at the calm winter sea, and then up at
the calm stern face of the man who walked beside her, and said--

"Tell me one thing, Lord Saltire; you have travelled in many countries.
Is there any land, east or west, that can give us what this dear old
England does--settled order, in which each man knows his place and his
duties? It is so easy to be good in England."

"Well, no. It is the first country in the world. A few bad harvests
would make a hell of it, though. Has Ravenshoe got many pheasants down
here?"

And, so talking, this strange pair wandered on towards the wood, side by
side.

Charles was not without news in his retirement, for a few friends kept
him pretty well _au fait_ with what was going on in the world. First,
there was news from Oxford; one sort of which was communicated by
Charles Marston, and another sort by one Marker of Brazenose, otherwise
known as "Bodger," though why, I know not, nor ever could get any one to
tell me. He was purveyor of fashionable intelligence, while Charles
Marston dealt more in example and advice. About this time the latter
wrote as follows:--

"How goes Issachar? Is the ass stronger or weaker than formerly? Has my
dearly-beloved ass profited, or otherwise, by his stay at Ranford? How
is the other ass, my Lord Welter? He is undoubtedly a fool, but I think
an honest one, so long as you keep temptation out of his way. He is
shamefully in debt; but I suppose, if their horse wins the Derby, he
will pay; otherwise I would sooner be my lord than his tradesmen. How
goes the 'grand passion,'--has Chloe relented? She is a great fool if
she does. Why, if she refuses you, she may marry Lord Welter, and he may
settle his debts on her. A word in your ear. I have an invitation to
Ranford. I must go, I suppose. The dear old woman, whose absurdities
your honour is pleased to laugh at, has been always kind to me and mine;
and I shall go. I shall pay my just tribute of flattery to the noble
honest old soul, who is struggling to save a falling house. Don't you
laugh at Lady Ascot, you impudent young rascal. I have no doubt that
she offers some prominent points for the exercise of your excellency's
wit, but she is unmeasurably superior to you, you young scapegrace.

"Bless your dear old face; how I long to see it again! I am coming to
see it. I shall come to you at the beginning of the Christmas vacation.
I shall come to you a beaten man, Charley. I shall only get a second.
Never mind; I would sooner come to you and yours and hide my shame, than
to any one else.

"Charles, old friend, if I get a third, I shall break my heart. Don't
show this letter to any one. I have lost the trick of Greek prose. Oh,
old Charley! believe this, that the day once lost can never, never come
back any more! They preach a future hell; but what hell could be worse
than the eternal contemplation of opportunities thrown away--of
turning-points in the affairs of a man's life, when, instead of rising,
he has fallen--not by a bold stroke, like Satan, but by laziness and
neglect?"

Charles was very sorry, very grieved and vexed, to find his shrewd old
friend brought to this pass by over-reading, and over-anxiety about a
subject which, to a non-university man, does not seem of such vital
importance. He carried the letter to his father, in spite of the
prohibition contained in it, and he found his father alone with the
good, honest Father Tiernay; to whom, not thinking that thereby he was
serving his friend ill, he read it aloud.

"Charley dear," said his father, half rising from his chair, "he must
come to us, my boy; he must come here to us, and stay with us till he
forgets his disappointment. He is a noble lad. He has been a good friend
to my boy; and, by George, the house is his own."

"I don't think, dad," said Charles, looking from Densil to Father
Tiernay, "that he is at all justified in the dark view he is taking of
matters. The clever fellows used to say that he was safe of his first.
You know he is going in for mathematics as well."

"He is a good young man, any way," said Father Tiernay; "his sentiments
do honour to him; and none the worst of them is his admiration for my
heretic young friend here, which does him most honour of all. Mr.
Ravenshoe, I'll take three to one against his double first; pity he
ain't a Catholic. What the divvle do ye Prothestants mean by absorbing
(to use no worse language) the rints and revenues left by Catholic
testators for the good of the hooly Church, for the edication of
heretics? Tell me that, now."

The other letter from Oxford was of a very different tenor. Mr. Marker,
of Brazenose, began by remarking that--

"He didn't know what was come over the place; it was getting
confoundedly slow, somehow. They had had another Bloomer ball at
Abingdon, but the thing was a dead failure, sir. Jemmy Dane, of
University, had driven two of them home in a cart, by way of Nuneham. He
had passed the Pro's at Magdalen turnpike, and they never thought of
stopping him, by George. Their weak intellects were not capable of
conceiving such glorious audacity. Both the Proctors were down at
Coldharbour turnpike, stopping every man who came from Abingdon way.
Toreker, of Exeter, was coming home on George Simmond's Darius, and,
seeing the Proctors in the light of the turnpike-gate, had put his horse
at the fence (Charles would remember it, a stubbed hedge and a ditch),
and got over the back water by the White House, and so home by the
Castle. Above forty men had been rusticated over this business, and some
good fellows too." (Here followed a list of names, which I could
produce, if necessary; but seeing that some names on the list are now
rising at the bar, or in the Church, think it better not.) "Pembroke had
won the fours, very much in consequence of Exeter having gone round the
flag, and, on being made to row again, of fouling them in the gut. The
water was out heavily, and had spoilt the boating. The Christchurch
grind had been slow, but the best that year. L--n was going down, and
they said was going to take the Pychley. C--n was pretty safe of his
first--so reading men said. Martin, of Trinity, had got his testamur, at
which event astonishment, not unmixed with awe, had fallen on the
University generally. That he himself was in for his _vivâ voce_ two
days after date, and he wished himself out of the hands of his enemies."

There was a postscript, which interested Charles as much as all the rest
of the letter put together. It ran thus:--

"By the by, Welter has muckered; you know that by this time. But, worse
than that, they say that Charles Marston's classical first is fishy. The
old cock has overworked himself, they say."

Lord Saltire never went to bed without having Charles up into his
dressing-room for a chat. "Not having," as his lordship most truly said,
"any wig to take off, or any false teeth to come out, I cannot see why I
should deny myself the pleasure of my young friend's company at night.
Every evening, young gentleman, we are one day older, and one day wiser.
I myself have got so confoundedly wise with my many years, that I have
nothing left to learn. But it amuses me to hear your exceedingly
_naïve_ remarks on things in general, and it also flatters and soothes
me to contrast my own consummate wisdom with your folly. Therefore, I
will trouble you to come up to my dressing-room every night, and give me
your crude reflections on the events of the day."

So Charles came up one night with Mr. Marker's letter, which he read to
Lord Saltire, while his valet was brushing his hair; and then Charles,
by way of an easily-answered question, asked Lord Saltire, What did he
think of his friend's chances?

"I must really remark," said Lord Saltire, "even if I use
unparliamentary language, which I should be very sorry to do, that that
is one of the silliest questions I ever had put to me. When I held
certain seals, I used to have some very foolish questions put to me
(which, by the way, I never answered), but I don't know that I ever had
such a foolish question put to me as that. Why, how on earth can I have
any idea of what your friend's chances are? Do be reasonable."

"Dear Lord Saltire, don't be angry with me. Tell me, as far as your
experience can, how far a man who knows his work, by George, as well as
a man can know it, is likely to fail through nervousness. You have seen
the same thing in Parliament. You know how much mischief nervousness may
do. Now, do give me your opinion."

"Well, you are putting your question in a slightly more reasonable form;
but it is a very silly one yet. I have seen a long sort of man, with
black hair, and a hook nose, like long Montague, for instance, who has
been devilishly nervous till he got on his legs, and then has astonished
every one, and no one more than myself, not so much by his power of
declamation as by the extraordinary logical tenacity with which he clung
to his subject. Yes, I don't know but what I have heard more telling and
logical speeches from unprepared men than I ever have from one of the
law lords. But I am a bad man to ask. I never was in the Lower House.
About your friend's chance;--well, I would not give twopence for it; in
after-life he may succeed. But from what you have told me, I should
prepare myself for a disappointment."

Very shortly after this, good Lord Saltire had to retire for a time into
the upper chambers; he had a severe attack of gout.

There had been no more quarrelling between Father Mackworth and Charles;
peace was proclaimed--an armed truce; and Charles was watching, watching
in silence. Never since he met her in the wood had he had an opportunity
of speaking to Ellen. She always avoided him. William, being asked
confidentially by Charles what he thought was the matter, said that
Ellen had been "carrin on" with some one, and he had been blowing her
up; which was all the explanation he offered. In the meantime, Charles
lived under the comforting assurance that there was mischief brewing,
and that Mackworth was at the bottom of it.



CHAPTER XV.

CHARLES'S "LIDDELL AND SCOTT."


A growing anxiety began to take possession of Charles shortly before
Christmas, arising from the state of his father's health. Densil was
failing. His memory was getting defective, and his sense dulled. His eye
always was searching for Charles, and he was uneasy at his absence. So
it was with a vague sense of impending misfortune that he got a letter
from the Dean of his college, summoning him back after the Christmas
vacation.

Mr. Dean said, "That Mr. Ravenshoe's case had been reconsidered, and
that at the warm, and, he thought, misguided, intercession of the
Bursar, a determination had been come to, to allow Mr. Ravenshoe to come
into residence again for the Lent term. He trusted that this would be a
warning, and that, while there was time, he would arrest himself in that
miserable career of vice and folly which could only have one
termination--utter ruin in this world and in the next."

A college "Don," by long practice, acquires a power of hurting a young
man's feelings, utterly beyond competition, save by a police magistrate.
Charles winced under this letter; but the same day Mary, coming singing
downstairs as was her wont, was alarmed by the descent of a large opaque
body of considerable weight down the well of the staircase, which lodged
in the wood basket at the bottom, and which, on examination, she found
to be a Liddell and Scott's Lexicon. At which she rejoiced; for she
concluded that Charles had taken to reading again, though why he should
begin by throwing his books downstairs she could not well understand,
until he joined her, and explained that he had been dusting it on the
landing, and that it had slipped out of his hand.

"What a crack it came down," added he; "I wish Father Mackworth's head
had been underneath it."

"I have no doubt of it, young gentleman," said the priest quietly from
behind; and there he was with his hand on the library door, and in he
went and shut it behind him.

Mary and Charles were both awfully disconcerted. Mary felt horribly
guilty; in fact, if the priest had remained quiet one moment more, he
would undoubtedly have heard one or two candid and far from
complimentary remarks about himself from that young lady, which would
have made his ears tingle.

"Confound him," said Charles; "how he glides about! He learned that
trick, and a few others, at that precious Jesuit College of his. They
teach them that sort of thing as the old Jews teach the young
pickpockets. The old father inquisitor puts the door ajar with a bell
against it, and they all have to come in one after another. The one who
rings it gets dropped on to like blazes."

Mary was going to ask what exact amount of personal suffering being
dropped on to like blazes involved; but Charles stopped her, and took
her hand.

"Mary dear," he said, "do you ever think of the future?"

"Night and day, Charles,--night and day."

"If he dies, Mary? When he dies?"

"Night and day, brother," she answered, taking one of his great brown
hands between her two white little palms. "I dream in my sleep of the
new regime which is to come, and I see only trouble, and again trouble."

"And then?"

"There is a God in heaven, Charles."

"Ay, but Mary, what will you do?"

"I?" and she laughed the merriest little laugh ever you heard. "Little
me? Why, go for a governess, to be sure. Charles, they shall love me so
that this life shall be a paradise. I will go into a family where there
are two beautiful girls; and, when I am old and withered, there shall be
two nurseries in which I shall be often welcome, where the children
shall come babbling to my knee, the darlings, and they shall tell me how
they love me, almost as well as their mother. There is my future. Would
you change it?"

Charles was leaning against the oak banister; and, when he saw her there
before him, when he saw that valiant, true-hearted face, in the light
which streamed from the old window above, he was rebuked, and bent down
his head on the rail. The Dean's letter of that morning had done
something; but the sight of that brave little woman, so fearless with
all the world before her, did more. She weak, friendless, moneyless, and
so courageous! He with the strong arm, so cowardly! It taught him a
lesson indeed, a lesson he never forgot. But oh! for that terrible
word--too late!

Ah! too late! What word is so terrible as that? You will see what I mean
soon. That is the cry which one writer puts in the mouths of the lost
spirits in hell. God's mercy is infinite, and it is yet a question
whether it were better for Charles to have fallen into the groove of
ordinary life, or to have gone through those humiliating scenes through
which we must follow him.

"Charley dear," said Mary, laying her hand on his shoulder, "it is not
about myself I am thinking; it is about you. What are you going to do
when he has gone? are you going into the Church?"

"Oh, no!" said Charles, "I couldn't bear the idea of that."

"Then why are you at Oxford?"

"To get an education, I suppose."

"But what use will a university education be to you, Charles! Have you
no plans?"

"I give you my word, my dear Mary, that I am as much in the dark about
the future as a five days old puppy."

"Has he made any provision for you?"

"Oh, yes! I am to have six thousand."

"Do you know that the estate is involved, Charles?"

"No."

"I believe it is. There has been a great deal of state kept up here, and
I believe it is the case."

"Cuthbert would soon bring that round."

"I tremble to think of the future, Charles. Are your debts at Oxford
heavy?"

"Pretty well. Five hundred would clear me."

"Don't get any more in debt, that's a dear."

"No, Mary dear, I won't. I don't care for the future. I shall have £180
a year. That will be enough for William and me. Then I shall go to the
bar, and make a deuce of a lot of money, and marry Adelaide. Then you
will come to live with us, and we shall have such jolly times of
it.--Take that, you villain!"

This last elegant apostrophe was addressed to William (who at that
moment had come in by the side door), and was accompanied by the
dexterous delivery of the Liddell and Scott, in the manner of a cricket
ball. Our friend William stood to catch it in a style worthy of Box,
with his knees a yard apart, and one palm over the other; but as luck
would have it, he missed it, and it alighted full on the shins of Father
Mackworth, who had selected that time for coming out of the library; and
so it lay sillily open at [Greek: lam, gem.] at his feet.

Mackworth really thought that it was intentional, and was furious. He
went back into the library; and Charles, seeing what must come, followed
him, while Mary fled upstairs. There was no one in the room but Cuthbert
and Father Tiernay.

"I will be protected from insult in this house," began Mackworth; "twice
to-day I have been insulted by Mr. Charles Ravenshoe, and I demand
protection."

"What have you been doing, Charley?" said Cuthbert. "I thought you two
had given up quarrelling. You will wear my life out. Sometimes, what
with one thing and another, I wish I were dead. Oh! if the great problem
were solved! Surely my brother may avoid brawling with a priest, a man
sacred by his office, though of another faith. Surely my brother has
taste enough to see the propriety of that."

"Your brother has no taste or sense, sir," said Father Mackworth. "He
has no decency. He has no gentlemanly feeling. Within ten minutes he has
dropped a book downstairs, and lamented, to my face, that it hadn't
fallen on my head; and just now he has thrown the same book at me, and
hit me with it."

"I thank God, Charles," said poor weary Cuthbert, "that our father is
spared this. It would kill him. Brother, brother, why do you vex me like
this? I have always stood on your side, Charley. Don't let me be killed
with these ceaseless brawls."

"They will soon cease, sir," said Father Mackworth; "I leave this house
to-morrow."

"Cuthbert, hear me now. I never intended to insult him."

"Why did you throw your book at him, Charley? It is not decorous. You
must know when you wound him you wound me. And I have fought such
battles for you, Charley."

"Cuthbert! brother! do hear me. And let him hear me. And let Father
Tiernay hear me. Cuthbert, you know I love you. Father Tiernay, you are
a good and honest man; hear what I have to say. You, Mackworth, you are
a scoundrel. You are a double-dyed villain. What were you doing with
that girl in the wood, the day you hunted the black hare a month ago?
Cuthbert, tell me, like an honest gentleman, did you ever walk in the
wood with Ellen?"

"I?" said Cuthbert, scared; "I never walked with Ellen there. I have
walked with Mary there, brother. Why should I not?"

"There, look at the lie that this man has put into her mouth. She told
me that he had found you and her walking together there."

"I am not answerable for any young woman's lies," said Father
Mackworth. "I decline to continue this discussion. It is humiliating. As
for you, you poor little moth," he said, turning to Charles, "when the
time comes, I will crush you with my thumb against the wall. My liking
for your father prevents my doing my duty as yet. In that I err. Wait."

Charles had been in a passion before this; but, seeing danger, and real
danger, abroad, he got cool, and said--

"Wait."

And they both waited, and we shall see who waited the longest.

"I have done it now, Mary dear," said Charles, returning upstairs with
the unlucky lexicon. "It is all over now."

"Has there been a scene?"

"A terrible scene. I swore at him, and called him a villain."

"Why did you do that, Charles? Why are you so violent? You are not
yourself, Charles, when you give way to your temper like that."

"Well, I'll tell you, my robin. He is a villain."

"I don't think so, Charles. I believe he is a high-minded man."

"I know he is not, birdie. At least, I believe he is not."

"I believe him to be so, Charles."

"I know him to be otherwise; at least, I think so."

"Are you doing him justice, Charley dear? Are you sure you are doing him
justice?"

"I think so."

"Why?"

"I cannot tell you, Mary. When the end of all things comes, and you and
I are thrown abroad like two corks on the great sea, you will know. But
I cannot tell you."

"I believe, dear, that you are so honest that you would not do injustice
even to him. But, oh! be sure that you are right. Hush! Change the
subject. What were you going to read when that unlucky book fell
downstairs?"

"Demosthenes."

"Let me come in and sit with you, Charley dear, and look out the words;
you don't know how clever I am. Is it the 'De Coronâ'?"

Charles took her hand and kissed it; and so they two poor fools went on
with their Demosthenes.



CHAPTER XVI.

MARSTON'S ARRIVAL.


The night after the terrible lexicon quarrel, which, you will observe,
arose entirely from Charles's good resolution to set to work
reading--whereby we should take warning not to be too sanguine of good
resolutions, taken late, bringing forth good fruit--the very evening, I
say, after this fracas, Charles, his father, and Mary, were sitting in
the library together. Of course Densil had heard nothing of the
disturbance, and was, good old gentleman, as happy as you please; all
his elements of pleasure were there. Father Mackworth was absent. Father
Tiernay was throwing his whole hearty soul into a splendid copy of
Bewick's birds, date 1799. Cuthbert was before the upper fireplace,
beyond the pillar, poring over goodness only knows what monkish lore;
while close to him was bird Mary sewing, and Charles reading aloud a
book, very often quoted in everyday life unconsciously.

Charles read how Mr. Quilp begged Mr. Brass would take particular care
of himself, or he would never forgive him; how there was a dog in the
lane who had killed a boy on Tuesday, and bitten a man on Friday; how
the dog lived on the right-hand side, but generally lurked on the left,
ready for a spring; and they were laughing over Mr. Brass's horror, when
there came a noise of wheels on the gravel.

"That is Marston, father, for a thousand pounds," said Charles.

He hurried into the hall, as the men were undoing the door; Mary,
dropping her work, went after him; and Densil taking his stick, came
too. Cuthbert looked up from the further end of the room, and then bent
his head over his book again. Father Tiernay looked up, inquisitive and
interested, but sat still. They who followed into the hall saw this.

Charles stood in front of the hall door, and out of the winter's
darkness came a man, with whom, as Mary once playfully said, she had
fallen in love at once. It was Marston.

Charles went up to him quickly with both hands out, and said--

"We are so glad."

"It is very kind of you. God bless you; how did you know it?"

"We know nothing, my dear Marston, except that you are welcome. Now put
me out of my pain."

"Why, well," said the other, "I don't know how it has happened: but I
have got my double first."

Charles gave a wild cheer, and the others were all on him
directly--Densil, Tiernay, Cuthbert, and all. Never was such a welcome;
not one of them, save Charles, had ever seen him before, yet they
welcomed him as an old friend.

"You have not been to Ranford, then?" said Charles.

"Why, no. I did not feel inclined for it after so much work. I must take
it on my way back."

Lord Saltire's gout was better to-night, and he was downstairs. He
proceeded to remark that, having been in----; well, he wouldn't shock
Miss Corby by saying where--for a day or so, he had suddenly, through no
merit of his own, got promoted back into purgatory. That, having fought
against the blue devils, and come downstairs, for the sole purpose of
making himself disagreeable, he had been rewarded, for that display of
personal energy and self-sacrifice, by most unexpectedly meeting a son
of his old friend, Jackdaw Marston. He begged to welcome his old
friend's son, and to say that, by Jove, he was proud of him. His young
friend's father had not been a brilliant scholar, as his young friend
was; but had been one of the first whist-players in England. His young
friend had turned his attention to scholastic honours, in preference to
whist, which might or might not be a mistake: though he believed he was
committing no breach of trust in saying that the position had been
thrust on his young friend from pecuniary motives. Property had an
infernal trick of deteriorating. His own property had not happened to
deteriorate (none knew why, for he had given it every chance); but the
property of his young friend's father having deteriorated in a
confounded rapid sort of way, he must say that it was exceedingly
creditable in his young friend to have made such a decided step towards
bringing matters right again as he had.

"My father's son, my lord, thanks you for your kind remembrance of his
father. I have always desired to see and meet my father's old friends,
of whom you, Mr. Ravenshoe, were among the kindest. We have given up the
greater vices lately, my lord, but we do our best among the smaller
ones."

There was a quiet supper, at which Lord Saltire consented to stay,
provided no one used the expression "cheese"; in which case he said he
should have to retire. There wasn't cheese on the table, but there was
more than cheese; there was scolloped cockles, and Lord Saltire ate
some. He said at the time that they would have the same effect on him as
swallowing the fire-shovel. But, to relieve your mind at once, I may
tell you that they didn't do him any harm at all, and he was as well as
ever next morning.

Father Tiernay said grace; and, when the meal was half over, in came
Father Mackworth. Densil said, "Father Mackworth, Mr. Marston;" and
Marston said, after a moment's glance at him, "How do you do, sir?"

Possibly a more courteous form of speaking to a new acquaintance might
have been used. But Marston had his opinions about Father Mackworth, and
had no objection that the holy father should know them.

"We got, Mary," said Cuthbert, suddenly, "more cocks than pheasants
to-day. Charles killed five couple, and I four. I was very vexed at
being beaten by Charles, because I am so much the better shot."

Charles looked up and met his eyes--a look he never forgot. Accompanying
the apparent petulance of the remark was a look of love and pity and
sorrow. It pleased him, above everything, during the events which were
to come, to-recall that look, and say, "Well, he liked me once."

That evening Charles and Marston retired to Charles's study (a deal of
study had been carried on there, you may depend), and had a long talk
over future prospects. Charles began by telling him all about Madam
Adelaide, and Marston said, "Oh, indeed! what are you going to do,
Charley, boy, to keep her? She comes out of an extravagant house, you
know."

"I must get called to the bar."

"Hard work for nothing, for many years, you know."

"I know. But I won't go into the Church; and what else is there?"

"Nothing I know of, except billiard marking and steeplechase riding."

"Then, you approve of it?"

"I do, most heartily. The work will be good for you. You have worked
before, and can do it again. Remember how well you got on at
Shrewsbury."

Then Charles told him about the relations between himself and Father
Mackworth, and what had happened that day.

"You and he have had disgraceful scenes like this before, haven't you?"

"Yes, but never so bad as this."

"He is a very passionate man, isn't he? You took utterly wrong grounds
for what you did to-day. Don't you see that you have no earthly grounds
for what you said, except your own suspicions? The girl's own account of
the matter seems natural enough. That she was walking with your most
saint-like brother, and the priest found them, and sent them to the
right-about with fleas in their ears."

"I believe that man to be a great villain," said Charles.

"So may I," said the other, "but I shan't tell him so till I can prove
it. As for that quarrel between William and his sister the night you
came home, that proves nothing, except that she has been going too far
with some one. But who? What have you been doing that empowers him to
say that he will crush you like a moth?"

"Oh, bravado, I take it! You should have seen how mad he looked when he
said it."

"I am glad I did not. Let us talk no more about him; Is that sweet
little bird Mary Corby?"

"You know it is."

"Well, so I do know, but I wanted an excuse for saying the name over
again. Charles, you are a fool."

"That is such a very novel discovery of yours," said Charles, laughing.
"What have I been a-doing on now?"

"Why didn't you fall in love with Mary Corby instead of Madam Adelaide?"

"I am sure I don't know. Why, I never thought of such a thing as that."

"Then you ought to have done so. Now go to bed."



CHAPTER XVII.

IN WHICH THERE IS ANOTHER SHIPWRECK.


Time jogged on very pleasantly to the party assembled at Ravenshoe that
Christmas. There were woodcocks and pheasants in the woods; there were
hares, snipes, and rabbits on the moor. In the sea there were fish; and
many a long excursion they had in the herring-boats--sometimes standing
boldly out to sea towards the distant blue island in the main, sometimes
crawling lazily along under the lofty shoreless cliffs which towered
above their heads from 200 to 1,100 feet high.

It was three days before Christmas-day, and they were returning from
fishing along the coast, and were about ten miles or so from home. I say
returning, though in fact there was not a breath of wind, and the boat
was drifting idly along on the tide. Two handsome simple-looking young
men were lolling by the useless tiller; an old man, hale and strong as a
lion, with a courteous high-bred look about him, was splicing a rope;
and a tall, pale, black-haired man was looking steadily seaward, with
his hands in his pockets, while Charles and Marston were standing in the
bows smoking.

"What a curious, dreamy, dosy, delicious kind of winter you have down
here," said Marston.

"I am very fond of it," said Charles; "it keeps you in continual hope
for the spring that is coming. In the middle of frost and snow and ice
one is apt to lose one's faith in waving boughs and shady pools."

"I have had such a quiet time with you down here, Charley. I am so
pleased with the way in which you are going on. You are quite an altered
man. I think we shall both look back to the last few quiet weeks as a
happy time."

Here the tall dark man, who was looking out to sea, suddenly said--

"Rain and hail, snow and tempest, stormy wind fulfilling His word."

"Ay, ay," said the old man; "going to blow to-night, I expect."

"We shall go home pretty fast, may be."

"Not us, Master Charles, dear," said the tall man. "We are going to have
it from south and by west, and so through west round to north. Before
which time there'll be souls in glory, praise be to God."

The old man took off his hat reverently.

"There won't be amuch surf on when we beaches she," said one of the
young men. "It won't get up afore the wind be full round west for an
hour."

"You're a spaking like a printed buke, Jan," said the old man.

"I'm a thinking differently, Master Evans," said the dark man. "It will
chop round very sudden, and be west before we know where we are. I speak
with humility to a man who has seen the Lord's wonders in the deep so
many years longer nor me. But I think, under God, I am right."

"You most in general be right. They as converses with the Lord night and
day, day and night, like as you do, knows likely more of His works nor
we, as ain't your gifts."

"The Lord has vouchsafed me nothing in the way of a vision, about this
afternoon, Master Evans."

"Didn't 'ee dream never at all last night?" said one of the young men:
"Think 'ee now."

"Nought to bear on wind or weather, Jan. I judges from the glass. It's a
dropping fast."

Jan would have had more faith in one of Matthew's dreams, and didn't
seem to think much of the barometer. Meanwhile Marston had whispered
Charles--

"Who is Matthews? What sect is he?"

"Oh, he's a Brianite."

"What is that?"

"A sort of Ranter, I believe."

Marston looked up, and saw the two great black eyes under the lofty
forehead fixed full upon him. With the instinct of a gentleman, he said
at once--

"I was asking Mr. Charles what sect you were of; that was all. He tells
me you are a Brianite, and I had never heard of that sect before. I hope
you will let me talk to you about your matters of belief some day."

Matthews took off his hat, and said--That with the Lord's will he would
speak to his honour. "Will your honour bear with a poor fisherman,
ignorant of the world's learning, but who has had matters revealed to
him by the Lord in dreams and visions of the night? Peter was only a
fisherman, your honour, and, oh, if we could only hear him speak now!"

He paused, and looked again to seaward. Charles had gone again into the
bow, and Marston was standing among the men right aft. Suddenly Matthews
turned again upon him and said--

"In the beaching of this here boat to-night, your honour, there may be
danger. In such case my place will be alongside of him," pointing to
Charles. "There'd be a many kind hearts aching, if aught happened to
him. You stick close to these young men. They'll see after you, sir."

"You keep close alongside of we, sir. You hold on of we, sir. We'll see
you all right, sir," said the two young men.

"But, my dear good souls, I am as good a swimmer as any in England, and
as active as a cat. Pray, don't mind me."

"You keep hold of we and run, sir," said one of the young men, "that's
all you're a'got to do, sir."

"I shall most certainly run," said Marston, laughing, "but I decline
drowning any one but myself--"

Charles said at this moment, "Do come here and look at this."

It was worth looking at, indeed. They were about a mile from shore,
floating about anyhow on an oily smooth sea; for the tide had changed,
and they were making no headway. Before them one of the noblest
headlands on the coast, an abrupt cone of slate, nigh a thousand feet
high, covered almost entirely with grass, sloped suddenly into the
water; and in advance of it, but slightly on one side, a rugged mound of
black rock, nearly six hundred feet, stood out into the sea, and
contrasted its horrid jagged lines with the smooth green of the peak
behind. Round its base, dividing it from the glossy sea, ran a delicate
line of silver--the surf caused by the ground-swell; and in front the
whole promontory was dimly mirrored in the quietly heaving ocean.

"What a noble headland," said Marston; "is that grass on the further
peak too steep to walk upon?"

"There's some one a'walking on it now," said old Evans. "There's a woman
a'walking on it."

None could see it but he, except Matthews, who said he couldn't tell if
it was a sheep or no.

Charles got out his glass, and the old man was right. A woman was
walking rapidly along the peak, about the third of the way down.

"What a curious place for a woman to be in!" he remarked. "It is almost
terrible to look at."

"I never saw any one there before, save the shepherd," said the old man.

"It's a sheep-path," said one of the young ones. "I have been along
there myself. It is the short way round to Coombe."

Charles would have thought more of the solitary female figure on that
awful precipice, but that their attention was diverted by something
else. From the south-westward black flaws of wind began to creep towards
them, alternated with long irregular bands of oily calm. Soon the calm
bands disappeared, and the wind reached them. Then they had steerage,
and in a very short time were roaring out to sea close hauled, with a
brisk and ever-increasing breeze.

They saw that they would have to fetch a very long leg, and make a great
offing, in order to reach Ravenshoe at all. The wind was freshening
every moment, changing to the west, and the sea was getting up. It took
them three hours to open Ravenshoe Bay; and, being about five miles from
the shore, they could see that already there was an ugly side-surf
sweeping in, and that the people were busy on the beach hauling up their
boats out of harm's way.

"How beautifully these craft sail," said Marston, as they were all
hanging on by her weather gunwale, and the green sea was rushing past to
leeward, almost under their feet, in sheets of angry foam.

"It is amazing what speed is got out of them on a wind," said Charles,
"but they are dangerous craft."

"Why so?"

"These lug-sails are so awkward in tacking, you will see."

They ran considerably past Ravenshoe and about six miles to sea, when
the word was given to go about. In an instant the half deck was lumbered
with the heavy red sails; and, after five minutes of unutterable
confusion, she got about. Marston was expecting her to broach to every
moment during this long five minutes, but fortune favoured them. They
went freer on this tack, for the wind was now north of west, and the
brave little craft went nearly before it at her finest pace. The men
kept on her as much sail as she could stand, but that was very little;
fast as they went, the great seas went faster, as though determined to
be at the dreadful rendezvous before the boat. Still the waves rose
higher and the wind howled louder. They were nearing the shore rapidly.

Now they began to see, through the mist, the people gathered in a crowd
on the shore, densest at one point, but with a few restless stragglers
right and left of that point, who kept coming and going. This spot was
where they expected to come ashore. They were apparently the last boat
out, and all the village was watching them with the deepest anxiety.

They began to hear a sound other than the howling of the wind in the
rigging, and the rush of waters around them--a continuous thunder,
growing louder each moment as the boat swept onward. The thunder of the
surf upon the sand. And, looking forward, they could see just the top of
it as it leapt madly up.

It was a nervous moment. They stood ready in their shirts and trousers,
for a rush, should it be necessary. And the old man was at the helm.
They saw the seas begin to curl. Then they were in the middle of them.
Then the water left them on the sand, and three brave fellows from the
shore dashed to hook on the tackles; but they were too late. Back with a
roar like a hungry lion came the sea; the poor boat broached to, and
took the whole force of the deluge on her broadside. In a moment more,
blinded and stunned, they were all in the water, trying to stand against
the backward rush which took them near midthigh. Old Master Evans was
nearest to Marston; he was tottering to fall when Marston got hold of
him, and saved him. The two young men got hold of both of them. Then
three men from the shore dashed in and got hold of Charles; and then, as
the water went down and they dared move their feet, they all ran for
their lives. Marston and his party got on to dry land on their feet,
but Charles and his assistants were tumbled over and over, and washed up
ignominiously covered with sand. Charles, however, soon recovered
himself, and, looking round to thank those who had done him this
service, found that one of them was William, who, when the gale had come
on, had, with that bland indifference to the stud-groom's personal
feelings which we have seen him exhibit before, left his work, and
dressed in a Jersey and blue trousers, and come down to lend a hand. He
had come in time to help his foster-brother out of the surf.

"I am so very thankful to you," said Charles to the two others. "I will
never forget you. I should have been drowned but for you. William, when
I am in trouble I am sure to find you at my elbow."

"You won't find me far off, Master Charles," said William. They didn't
say any more to one another those two. There was no need.

The tall man, Matthews, had been cast up with a broken head, and, on the
whole, seemed rather disappointed at not finding himself in paradise. He
had stumbled in leaping out of the boat, and hurt his foot, and had had
a hard time of it, poor fellow.

As Charles and William stood watching the poor boat breaking up, and the
men venturing their lives to get the nets out of her, a hand was laid on
Charles's shoulder, and, turning round, he faced Cuthbert.

"Oh, Charles, Charles, I thought I had lost you! Come home and let us
dry you, and take care of you. William, you have risked your life for
one who is very dear to us. God reward you for it! Brother, you are
shivering with cold, and you have nothing but your trousers and Jersey
on, and your head and feet are bare, and your poor hair is wet and full
of sand; let me carry you up, Charles, the stones will cut your feet.
Let me carry you, Charles. I used to do it when you were little."

There was water in Charles's eyes (the salt water out of his hair, you
understand), as he answered:--

"I think I can walk, Cuthbert; my feet are as hard as iron."

"No, but I must carry you," said Cuthbert. "Get up, brother."

Charles prepared to comply, and Cuthbert suddenly pulled off his shoes
and stockings, and made ready.

"Oh, Cuthbert, don't do that," said Charles, "you break my heart."

"Do let me, dear Charles. I seldom ask you a favour. If I didn't know
that it was acceptable to God, do you think I would do it?"

Charles hesitated one moment; but he caught William's eye, and William's
eye and William's face said so plainly "do it," that Charles hesitated
no longer, but got on his brother's back. Cuthbert ordered William, who
was barefoot, to put on his discarded shoes and stockings, which William
did; and then Cuthbert went toiling up the stony path towards the hall,
with his brother on his back--glorying in his penance.

Is this ridiculous? I cannot say I can see it in this light. I may laugh
to scorn the religion that teaches men that, by artificially producing
misery and nervous terror, and in that state flying to religion as a
comfort and refuge, we in any way glorify God, or benefit ourselves. I
can laugh, I say, at a form of religion like this; but I cannot laugh at
the men who believe in it, and act up to it. No. I may smoke my pipe,
and say that the fool Cuthbert Ravenshoe took off his shoes, and gave
them to the groom, and carried a twelve-stone brother for a quarter of a
mile barefoot, and what a fool he must be, and so forth. But the sneer
is a failure, and the laugh dies away; and I say, "Well, Cuthbert, if
you are a fool, you are a consistent and manly one at all events."

Let us leave these three toiling up the steep rocky path, and take a
glance elsewhere. When the gale had come on, little Mary had left
Densil, and putting on her bonnet, gone down to the beach. She had asked
the elder fishermen whether there would be any danger in beaching the
boat, and they had said in chorus, "Oh, bless her sweet ladyship's
heart, no. The young men would have the tackles on her and have her up,
oh, ever so quick;" and so she had been reassured, and walked up and
down. But, as the wind came stronger and stronger, and she had seen the
last boat taken in half full of water--and as the women kept walking up
and down uneasily, with their hands under their aprons--and as she saw
many an old eagle eye, shaded by a horny hand, gazing anxiously seaward
at the two brown sails plunging about in the offing--she had lost heart
again, and had sat her down on a windlass apart, with a pale face, and a
sick heart.

A tall gaunt brown woman came up to her and said,

"My lady musn't fret. My lady would never do for a fisherman's wife.
Why, my dear tender flesh, there's a hundred strong arms on the beach
now, as would fetch a Ravenshoe out of anywhere a'most. 'Tis a cross
surf, Miss Mary; but, Lord love ye, they'll have the tackles on her
afore she's in it. Don't ye fret, dear, don't ye fret."

But she had sat apart and fretted nevertheless; and, when she saw the
brown bows rushing madly through the yellow surf, she had shut her eyes
and prayed, and had opened them to see the boat on her beam ends, and a
dozen struggling figures in the pitiless water.

Then she had stood up and wrung her hands.

They were safe. She heard that, and she buried her face in her hands,
and murmured a prayer of thanksgiving.

Some one stood beside her. It was Marston, bareheaded and barefooted.

"Oh, thank God!" she said.

"We have given you a sad fright."

"I have been terribly frightened. But you must not stand dripping there.
Please come up, and let me attend you."

So she got him a pair of shoes, and they went up together. The penance
procession had passed on before; and a curious circumstance is this,
that although on ordinary occasions Marston was as lively a talker as
need be, on this occasion he was an uncommonly stupid one, as he never
said one word all the way up to the hall, and then separated from her
with a formal little salutation.



CHAPTER XVIII.

MARSTON'S DISAPPOINTMENT.


Mary did not wonder at Marston's silence. She imagined that perhaps he
had been sobered by being cast on the shore so unceremoniously, and
thought but little more of it. Then she dressed for dinner, and went and
stood in one of the deep windows of the hall, looking out.

The great fire which leapt and blazed in the hall chimney was fast
superseding the waning daylight outside. It was very pleasant to look at
the fire, and the fire-light on wall and ceiling, on antler and armour,
and then to get behind the curtain, and look out into the howling
winter's evening, over the darkening, raging sea, and the tossing trees,
and think how all the boats were safe in, and the men sitting round the
pleasant fires with their wives and children, and that the dogs were
warm in the kennels, and the horses in the stable; and to pity the poor
birds, and hope they had good warm nooks and corners to get to; and
then to think of the ships coming up the channel, and hope they might
keep a good offing.

This brought her to thinking, for the first time, of her own little
self--how, so many years ago, she had been cast up like a little piece
of seaweed out of that awful ocean. She thought of the _Warren
Hastings_, and how she and Charles, on summer days, when out gathering
shells on the rocks, used to look over to where the ship lay beneath the
sea, and wonder whereabout it was. Then she had a kindly smile on her
face as she thought of Mr. Archer, the brave and good (now I am happy to
say Captain Archer), and looked over the hall to a hideous and
diabolical graven image, which he had sent the year before, among some
very valuable presents, and had begged her to be particularly careful
of, as he had risked his life in getting it; and which she and Charles
had triumphantly placed in the hall, and maintained there, too, in spite
of the sarcasms of Father Mackworth, and the pious horror of the
servants and villagers. And so she went on thinking--thinking of her
dead parents, of the silence maintained by her relations, of old
Densil's protection, and then of the future. That protection must cease
soon, and then--

A governess! There were many stories about governesses not being well
treated. Perhaps it was their own fault, or they were exceptional cases.
She would like the nursery best, and to keep away from the drawing-room
altogether. "Yes," she said, "I will _make_ them love me; I will be so
gentle, patient, and obliging. I am not afraid of the children--I know I
can win _them_--or of my mistress much; I believe I can win _her_. I am
most afraid of the superior servants; but, surely, kindness and
submission will win them in time.

"My sheet-anchor is old Lady Ascot. She got very fond of me during that
six months I stayed with her; and she is very kind. Surely she will get
me a place where I shall be well treated! and, if not, why then--I shall
only be in the position of thousands of other girls. I must fight
through it. There is another life after this.

"It will be terribly hard parting from all the old friends though! After
that, I think I shall have no heart left to suffer with. Yes; I suppose
the last details of the break-up will be harder to bear than anything
which will follow. That will tear one's heart terribly. That over, I
suppose my salary will keep me in drawing materials, and give me the
power, at every moment of leisure, of taking myself into fairy land.

"I suppose actual destitution is impossible. I should think so. Yes,
yes; Lady Ascot would take care of that. If that were to come though?
They say a girl can always make four-pence a day by her needle. How I
would fight, and strive, and toil! And then how sweet death would be!"

She paused, and looked out on the darkened ocean. "And yet," she thought
again, "I would follow--follow him to the world's end:--

      "'Across the hills, and far away,
          Beyond their utmost purple rim;
        Beyond the night, across the day,
          The happy princess followed him.'"

A door opened into the hall, and a man's step was on the stone-floor;
she raised the curtain to see who it was. It was Marston; and he came
straight towards her, and stood beside her, looking out over the wild
stormy landscape.

"Miss Corby," he said, "I was coming to try and find you."

"You are very lucky in your search," she said, smiling on him. "I was
alone here with the storm; and, if I had not raised the curtain, you
would never have seen me. How it blows! I am glad you are not out in
this. This is one of your lucky days."

"I should be glad to think so. Will you listen to me for a very few
minutes, while I tell you something?"

"Surely," she said. "Who is there that I would sooner listen to?"

"I fear I shall tire your patience now, though. I am a comparatively
poor man."

"And what of that, my dear Mr. Marston? You are rich in honour, in
future prospects. You have a noble future before you."

"Will you share it, Mary?"

"Oh! what do you mean?"

"Will you be my wife? I love you beyond all the riches and honours of
the world--I love you as you will never be loved again. It is due to you
and to myself to say that, although I call myself poor, I have enough to
keep you like a lady, and all my future prospects beside. Don't give me
a hasty answer, but tell me, is it possible you can become my wife?"

"Oh, I am so sorry for this!" said poor Mary. "I never dreamt of this.
Oh, no! it is utterly and entirely impossible, Mr. Marston--utterly and
hopelessly impossible! You must forgive me, if you can; but you must
never, never think about me more."

"Is there no hope?" said Marston.

"No hope, no hope!" said Mary. "Please never think about me any more,
till you have forgiven me; and then, with your children on your knee,
think of me as a friend who loves you dearly."

"I shall think of you till I die. I was afraid of this: it is just as I
thought."

"What did you think?"

"Nothing--nothing! Will you let me kiss your hand?"

"Surely; and God bless you!"

"Are we to say good-bye for ever, then?" said poor Marston.

"I hope not. I should be sorry to think that," said poor Mary, crying.
"But you must never speak to me like this again, dear Mr. Marston. God
bless you, once more!"

Charles was dressing while this scene was going on, and was thinking,
while brushing his hair, what there was for dinner, and whether there
would be a turbot or not, and whether the cook would send in the breast
of the venison. The doe, Charles sagely reflected, had been killed five
days before, and the weather had been warm: surely That Woman would let
them have the breast. He was a fool not to have told her of it in the
morning before he went out; but she was such an obstinate old catamaran
that she very likely wouldn't have done it. "There was no greater
mistake," this young Heliogabalus proceeded to remark, "than hanging
your breasts too long. Now your haunch, on the other hand----" but we
cannot follow him into such a vast and important field of speculation.
"There would be a couple of cocks, though--pretty high, near about the
mark----"

The door opened, and in walked Father Mackworth.

"Hallo, Father!" said Charles. "How are you? Did you hear of our spill
to-day? We were deuced near done for, I assure you."

"Charles," said the priest, "your nature is frank and noble. I was in
terror to-day lest you should go to your account bearing me malice."

"A Ravenshoe never bears malice, Father," said Charles.

"A Ravenshoe never does, I am aware," said Father Mackworth, with such a
dead equality of emphasis, that Charles could not have sworn that he
laid any on the word "Ravenshoe."

"But I have got an apology to make to you, Father," said Charles: "I
have to apologise to you for losing my temper with you the other day,
and breaking out into I can't say what tirade of unjust anger. I pray
you to forgive me. We don't love one another, you know. How can we? But
I behaved like a blackguard, as I always do when I am in a passion.
Will you forgive me?"

"I had forgotten the circumstance." ("Good heaven!" said Charles to
himself, "can't this man help lying!") "But, if I have anything to
forgive, I freely do so. I have come to ask for a peace. As long as your
father lives, let there be outward peace between us, if no more."

"I swear there shall," said Charles. "I like you to-night, sir, better
than ever I did before, for the kindness and consideration you show to
my father. When he is gone there will be peace between us, for I shall
leave this house, and trouble you no more."

"I suppose you will," said Father Mackworth, with the same deadness of
emphasis remarked before. And so he departed.

"That is a manly young fellow, and a gentleman," thought Father
Mackworth. "Obstinate and headstrong, without much brains; but with more
brains than the other, and more education. The other will be very
troublesome and headstrong; but I suppose I shall be able to manage
him."

What person do you think Father Mackworth meant by the "other"? He
didn't mean Cuthbert.

At dinner Densil was garrulous, and eager to hear of their shipwreck. He
had made a great rally the last fortnight, and was his old self again.
Lord Saltire, whose gout had fled before careful living and moderate
exercise, informed them, after the soup, that he intended to leave them
after four days' time, as he had business in another part of the
country. They were rather surprised at his abrupt departure, and he said
that he was very sorry to leave such pleasant society, in which he had
been happier than he had been for many years.

"There is a pleasant, innocent, domestic sort of atmosphere which
radiates from you, my old friend," he said, "such as I seldom or never
get away from you or Mainwaring, grim warrior though he be (you remember
him at Ranford, Charles?). But the law of the Medes and Persians is not
amenable to change, and I go on Thursday."

The post arrived during dinner, and there was a letter for Charles. It
was from Ranford. "Welter comes on Thursday, father--the very day Lord
Saltire goes. How annoying!"

"I must try to bear up under the affliction!" said that nobleman, taking
snuff, and speaking very drily.

"Where is he to go, I wonder?" mused Mary, aloud. "He must go into the
west wing, for he always smokes in his bedroom."

Charles expected that Cuthbert would have had a sneer at Welter, whom he
cordially disliked; but Cuthbert had given up sneering lately. "Not much
more reading for you, Charles!" he said.

"I am afraid not," said Charles. "I almost wish he wasn't coming; we
were very happy before."

Charles was surprised to see Marston so silent at dinner. He feared he
might have offended him, but couldn't tell how. Then he wondered to see
Mary so silent, too, for she generally chirruped away like a lark; but
he didn't refer the two similar phenomena to a common cause, and so he
arrived at no conclusion.

When Lord Saltire went to bed that night, he dismissed Charles from
attendance, and took Marston's arm; and, when they were alone together,
he thus began:--

"Does your shrewdness connect my abrupt departure with the arrival of
Lord Welter?"

"I was inclined to, my lord; but I do not see how you were to have known
it."

"I heard yesterday from Lady Ascot."

"I am sorry he is coming," said Marston.

"So am I. I can't stay in the house with him. The contrast of his loud,
coarse voice and stable slang to the sort of quiet conversation we have
had lately would be intolerable; besides, he is an atrocious young
ruffian, and will ruin our boy if he can."

"Charles won't let him now, Lord Saltire."

"Charles is young and foolish. I am glad, however, that Welter does not
go back to Oxford with him. But there will be Welter's set in their
glory, I suppose, unless some of them have got hung. I would sooner see
him at home. He is naturally quiet and domestic. I suppose he was in a
sad set up there."

"He was in a very good set, and a very bad one. He was a favourite
everywhere."

"He had made some acquaintances he ought to be proud of, at least," said
Lord Saltire, in a way which made honest Marston blush. "I wish he
wasn't going to Ranford."

"Report says," said Marston, "that affairs are getting somewhat shaky
there: Welter's tradesmen can't get any money."

Lord Saltire shook his head significantly, and then said, "Now I want to
speak to you about yourself. Did not you have a disappointment to-day?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Ha!"

They both sat silent for a moment.

"How did you guess that, Lord Saltire?"

"I saw what was going on; and, by your manner and hers to-day, I guessed
something had taken place. Is there no hope for you?"

"None."

"I feared not: but what right had I to tell you so?"

"Perhaps, my lord, I should not have believed you if you had," said
Marston, smiling.

"What man would have? You are not angry?"

"How could I be? The world is out of joint, that is all."

"You are a true gentleman. I swear to you," said the old man, eagerly,
"that there is no one in fault. She has given her honest little heart
away--and what wonder!--but believe me that you are behaving as a man
should behave, in not resenting it. If you were a heathen and a
Frenchman (synonymous terms, my dear boy), you might find it your duty
to cut somebody's throat; but, being a Christian and a gentleman, you
will remain a true friend to somebody who loves you dearly, and is worth
loving in return. This sort of thing cuts a man up confoundedly. It
happened to me once; but, believe me, you will get over it."

"I mean to do so. How kind and generous you are to me! How shall I ever
repay you?"

"By kindness to those I love," said the old man. "I take this
opportunity of telling you that your fortunes are my particular care. I
cannot get you the wife you love, but I am rich and powerful, and can do
much. Not another word. Go to bed, sir--to bed."

Marston, sitting on his bedside that night, said aloud to himself, "And
so that is that dicing old _roué_, Saltire, is it? Well, well; it is a
funny world. What a noble fellow he would have been if he had had a
better chance. Nay, what a noble fellow he is. I am ten years older
since this morning" (he wasn't, but he thought it). And so he said his
prayers like an honest man, and prayed for the kind old heathen who had
such a warm heart; and then, being nowise ashamed to do so, he prayed
that he might sleep well; and, for a time, he forgot all about his
disappointment, and slept like a child.

Lord Saltire's valet was a staid and sober-minded gentleman of
sixty-four. Generally, when he was putting his lordship to bed, he used
to give him the news of the day; but to-night Lord Saltire said, "Never
mind the news, Simpson, if you please; I am thinking of something." My
lord used to wear a sort of muffler, like a footless stocking, to keep
his old knees warm in bed. He remained silent till he got one on, and
then, without taking the other from the expectant Simpson, he addressed
the fire-irons aloud:

"This is a pretty clumsy contrivance to call a world!" he said, with
profound scorn. "Look here (to the poker), here's as fine a lad as ever
you saw, goes and falls in love with a charming girl, who cares no more
for him than the deuce. He proposes to her, and is refused. Why? because
she has given her heart away to another fine young fellow, who don't
care twopence for her, and has given _his_ heart away to the most
ambitious young Jezebel in the three kingdoms, who I don't believe cares
so very much for him. I am utterly disgusted with the whole system of
mundane affairs! Simpson, give me that muffler, if you please; and pray
don't wake me before nine. I must try to sleep off the recollection of
some of this folly."



CHAPTER XIX.

ELLEN'S FLIGHT.


After all the fatigues and adventures of the day before, Charles slept
well--long pleasant dreams of roaming in sunny places on summer days
fell to his happy lot--and so he was not pleased when he found himself
shaken by the shoulder.

It was William come to wake him. Charles was at once alarmed to see him
there, and started up, saying--

"Is anything the matter, Will? Is my father ill?"

"The Master's well, I trust, Master Charles. I want to tell you
something that I want others to find out for themselves."

"What is it?" said Charles, seriously alarmed, for he had had his
suspicions lately, though he had dreaded to give them a name.

"Ellen is gone!"

"My dear lad," said Charles, hurriedly, "what makes you think so? Since
when have you missed her?"

"Since yesterday afternoon."

"Have you been in her room?"

"Yes. She has not been to bed, and the window is open just as it was
yesterday morning at bed-making time."

"Hush--wait! There may be time yet. Go down and saddle two horses at
once. I will tell you what I know as we ride, but there is not time now.
Tell me only one thing, Is there any one she would be likely to go to at
Coombe?"

"No one that I know of."

William departed to get the horses. Charles had suddenly thought of the
solitary female figure he had seen passing along the dizzy sheep-path
the day before, and he determined to follow that till he lost sight of
it.

"For the poor dear girl's sake--for the honour of this old house--I
wonder who is at the bottom of all this? I must tell Marston," he said,
when he was out on the landing. "George, tell them to get me some coffee
instantly. I am going out hunting."

Marston thought as Charles did. The right thing to do would be to follow
her, see that she wanted for nothing, and leave her brother with her for
a time. "He won't quarrel with her now, you'll see. He is a good fellow,
mind you, Charles, though he did lose his temper with her that night."

So they rode forth side by side into the wild winter's morning. The rain
had ceased for a time, but the low dark clouds were hurrying swiftly
before the blast, and eddying among the loftier tors and summits. The
wind was behind them, and their way was east, across the lofty downs.

"William," said Charles, at last, "who is at the bottom of this?"

"I don't know, Master Charles. If I did there would be mischief, unless
it was one of two."

"Ay, Will, but it ain't. You don't think it is Cuthbert?"

"No, no! He, forsooth! Father Mackworth knows, I believe, more than we
do."

"You do not suspect him?"

"Certainly not. I did, but I don't now. I suspect he knows, as I said,
more than we do. He has been speaking harshly to her about it."

They had arrived at the hill round which Charles suspected he had seen
her pass the day before. It was impossible to pass round the promontory
on horseback in the best of weathers; now doubly so. They would have to
pass inland of it. They both pulled up their horses and looked. The
steep slope of turf, the top of which, close over head, was hid by
flying mists, trended suddenly downwards, and disappeared. Eight hundred
feet below was the raging sea.

As they stood there, the same thought came across both of them. It was a
dreadful place. They neither spoke at all, but spurred on faster, till
the little grey village of Coombe, down at their feet, sheltered from
the storm by the lofty hills around, opened to their view; and they
pushed on down the steep rocky path.

No. No one had seen her yesterday at such a time. The streets would have
been full of the miners coming from work; or, if she had come earlier,
there would have been plenty of people to see her. It was a small place,
and no stranger, they said, could ever pass through it unnoticed.

And, though they scoured the country far and wide, and though for months
after the fishermen fished among the quiet bays beneath the cliffs in
fear, lest they should find there something which should be carried in
silent awe up the village, and laid quietly in the old churchyard,
beneath the elm; yet Ellen was gone--gone from their ken like a summer
cloud. They thought it a pious fraud to tell Densil that she was
gone--with some excuse, I forget what, but which satisfied him. In a
conclave held over the matter, Cuthbert seemed only surprised and
shocked, but evidently knew nothing of the matter. Father Mackworth said
that he expected something of the kind for some little time, and William
held his peace. The gossips in the village laid their heads together,
and shook them. There was but one opinion there.

      "Never again shall she put garland on;
      Instead of it she'll wear sad cypress now,
      And bitter elder broken from the bough."

Nora--poor old Nora--took to her bed. Father Mackworth was with her
continually, but she sank and sank. Father Mackworth was called away
across the moors, one afternoon, to an outlying Catholic tenant's
family; and, during his absence, William was sent to Charles to pray him
to come, in God's name, to his mother. Charles ran across at once, but
Nora was speechless. She had something to say to Charles; but the great
Sower, which shall sow us all in the ground, and tread us down, had His
hand heavy on her, and she could not speak. In the morning, when the
gale had broken, and the white sea-birds were soaring and skimming
between the blue sky and the noble green, rolling sea, and the ships
were running up channel, and the fishing-boats were putting out gaily
from the pier, and all nature was brilliant and beautiful, old Nora lay
dead, and her secret with her.

"Master Charles," said William, as they stood on the shore together,
"she knew something, and Ellen knows it too, I very much suspect. The
time will come, Master Charles, when we shall have to hunt her through
the world, and get the secret from her."

"William, I would go many weary journeys to bring poor Ellen back into
the ways of peace. The fact of her being your sister would be enough to
make me do that."



CHAPTER XX.

RANFORD AGAIN.


Charles, though no genius, had a certain amount of common sense, and,
indeed, more of that commodity than most people gave him credit for.
Therefore he did not pursue the subject with William. Firstly, because
he did not think he could get any more out of him (for William had a
certain amount of sturdy obstinacy in his composition); and secondly,
because he knew William was, in the main, a sensible fellow, and loved
the ground he stood on. Charles would never believe that William would
serve him falsely; and he was right.

He told Marston of the curious words which William had used, and Marston
had said--

"I don't understand it. The devil is abroad. Are you coming into any
money at your father's death?"

"I am to have £180 a year."

"I wouldn't give £50 a year for your chance of it. What is this property
worth?"

"£9,000 a year. The governor has lived very extravagantly. The stable
establishment is fit for a duke now; and, then, look at the servants!"

"He is not living up to ten thousand a year now, I should say."

"No; but it is only the other day he gave up the hounds. They cost him
two thousand a year; and, while he had them, the house was carried on
very extravagantly. The governor has a wonderful talent for muddling
away money; and, what is more, I believe he was bit with the railways.
You know, I believe, the estate is involved."

"Bathershin. But still, Cuthbert won't marry, and his life is a bad one,
and you are a heretic, my poor little innocent."

"And then?"

"Heaven only knows what then. I am sure I don't. At what time does the
worthy and intellectual Welter arrive?"

"He will be here about six."

"Two hours more rational existence for one, then. After that a smell as
of ten thousand stables and fifty stale copies of _Bell's Life_ in one's
nose, till his lordship takes his departure. I don't like your cousin,
Charles."

"What an astounding piece of news! He says you are a conceited prig, and
give yourself airs."

"He never said a wiser or truer thing in his life. I am exactly that;
and he is a fifth-class steeple chaserider, with a title."

"How you and he will fight!"

"So I expect. That is, if he has the courage for battle, which I rather
doubt. He is terribly afraid of me."

"I think you are hard on poor Welter," said Charles; "I do, indeed. He
is a generous, good-hearted fellow."

"Oh! we are all generous, good-hearted fellows," said Marston, "as long
as we have plenty of money and good digestions. You are right, though,
Charley. He is what you say, as far as I know; but the reason I hate him
is this:--You are the dearest friend I have, and I am jealous of him. He
is in eternal antagonism to me. I am always trying to lead you right,
and he is equally diligent in leading you into wrong."

"Well, he sha'n't lead me into any more, I promise you now. Do be civil
to him."

"Of course I will, you gaby. Did you think I was going to show fight in
your house?"

When Marston came down to dinner, there was Lord Welter, sitting beside
old Densil, and kindly amusing him with all sorts of gossip--stable and
other.

"How do, Marston?" said he, rising and coming forward.

"How d'ye do, Lord Welter?" said Marston.

"I am very glad to meet you here," said Lord Welter, with a
good-humoured smile, "although I am ashamed to look you in the face.
Marston, my dear Mr. Ravenshoe, is Charles's good genius, and I am his
evil one; I am always getting Charles into mischief, and he is always
trying to keep him out of it. Hitherto, however, I have been completely
successful, and he has made a dead failure."

Old Densil laughed. "You are doing yourself injustice, Welter," he said.
"Is he not doing himself an injustice, Mr. Marston?"

"Not in the least, sir," said Marston. And the two young men shook hands
more cordially than they had ever done before.

That evening Lord Welter fulfilled Mary's prophecy, that he would smoke
in his bedroom, and not only smoked there himself, but induced Charles
to come and do so also. Marston was not in the humour for the style of
conversation he knew he should have there, and so he retired to bed, and
left the other two to themselves.

"Well, Charles," said Welter. "Oh, by the by, I have got a letter for
you from that mysterious madcap, Adelaide. She couldn't send it by post;
that would not have been mysterious and underhand enough for her. Catch
hold."

Charles caught hold, and read his letter. Welter watched him curiously
from under the heavy eyebrows, and when he had finished, said--

"Come, put that away, and talk. That sort of thing is pretty much the
same in all cases, I take it. As far as my own experience goes, it is
always the same. Scold and whine and whimper; whimper, whine, and scold.
How's that old keeper of yours?"

"He has lost his wife."

"Poor fellow! I remember his wife--a handsome Irish woman."

"My nurse?"

"Ay, ay. And the pretty girl, Ellen; how is she?"

"Poor Ellen! She has run away, Welter; gone on the bad, I fear."

Lord Welter sat in just the same position, gazing on the fire. He then
said, in a very deliberate voice:--

"The deuce she is! I am very sorry to hear that. I was in hopes of
renewing our acquaintance."

The days flew by, and, as you know, there came no news from Ellen. The
household had been much saddened by her disappearance and by Norah's
death, though not one of the number ever guessed what had passed between
Mary and Marston. They were not a very cheerful household; scarce one of
them but had some secret trouble. Father Tiernay came back after a week
or so; and, if good-natured, kindly chatter could have cheered them at
all, he would have done it. But there was a settled gloom on the party,
which nothing could overcome. Even Lord Welter, boisterous as his
spirits usually were, seemed often anxious and distraught; and, as for
poor Cuthbert, he would, at any time, within the knowledge of man, have
acted as a "damper" on the liveliest party. His affection for Charles
seemed, for some reason, to increase day by day, but it was sometimes
very hard to keep the peace between Welter and him. If there was one man
beyond another that Cuthbert hated, it was Lord Welter; and sometimes,
after dinner, such a scene as this would take place.

You will, perhaps, have remarked that I have never yet represented
Cuthbert as speaking to Mary. The real fact is, that he never did speak
to her, or to any woman, anything beyond the merest commonplaces--a
circumstance which made Charles very much doubt the truth of Ellen's
statement--that the priest had caught them talking together in the wood.
However, Cuthbert was, in this way, fond enough of the bonny little soul
(I swear I am in love with her myself, over head and ears); and so, one
day, when she came crying in, and told him--as being the first person
she met--that her little bantam-cock had been killed by the Dorking,
Cuthbert comforted her, bottled up his wrath, till his father had gone
into the drawing-room with her after dinner, and the others were sitting
at their wine. Then he said, suddenly--

"Welter, did you have any cock-fighting to-day?"

"Oh, yes, by the by, a splendid turn-up. There was a noble little bantam
in an inclosed yard challenging a great Dorking, and they both seemed so
very anxious for sport that I thought it would be a pity to baulk them;
so I just let the bantam out. I give you my word, it is my belief that
the bantam would have been the best man, but that he was too old. His
attack was splendid; but he met the fate of the brave."

"You should not have done that, Welter," said Charles; "that was Mary's
favourite bantam."

"I don't allow any cock-fighting at Ravenshoe, Welter," said Cuthbert.

"You don't allow it!" said Lord Welter, scornfully.

"No, by heaven," said Cuthbert, "I don't allow it!"

"Don't you?" said Welter; "you are not master here, nor ever will be. No
Ravenshoe was ever master of his own house yet."

"I am absolute master here," said Cuthbert, with a rising colour. "There
is no appeal against me here."

"Only to the priest," said Welter. (I must do him justice to say that
neither Mackworth nor Tiernay was in the room, or he would not have said
it.)

"You are insolent, Welter, and brutal. It is your nature to be so," said
Cuthbert, fiercely.

Marston, who had been watching Welter all this time, saw a flash come
from his eyes, and, for one moment, a terrible savage setting of the
teeth. "Ha, ha! my friend," thought he, "I thought that stupid face was
capable of some such expression as that. I am obliged to you, my friend,
for giving me one little glimpse of the devil inside."

"By gad, Cuthbert," said Lord Welter, "if you hadn't been at your own
table, you shouldn't have said that, cousin or no cousin, twice."

"Stop, now," said Charles, "don't turn the place into a bear-pit.
Cuthbert, do be moderate. Welter, you shouldn't have set the cocks
fighting. Now don't begin quarrelling again, you two, for heaven's
sake!"

And so the peace was made: but Charles was very glad when the time came
for the party to break up; and he went away to Ranford with Welter,
preparatory to his going back to Oxford.

His father was quite his own old self again, and seemed to have rallied
amazingly; so Charles left him without much anxiety; and there were
reasons we know of why his heart should bound when he heard the word
Ranford mentioned, and why the raging speed of the Great Western Railway
express seemed all too slow for him. Lord Ascot's horses were fast, the
mail-phaeton was a good one, and Lord Welter's worst enemies could not
accuse him of driving slow; yet the way from Didcot to Ranford seemed so
interminably long that he said:--

"By Jove, I wish we had come by a slower train, and gone on to Twyford!"

"Why so?"

"I don't know. I think it is pleasanter driving through Wargrave and
Henley."

Lord Welter laughed, and Charles wondered why. There were no visitors at
Ranford; and, when they arrived, Welter of course adjourned to the
stables, while Charles ran upstairs and knocked at Lady Ascot's door.

He was bidden to come in by the old lady's voice. Her black-and-tan
terrier, who was now so old that his teeth and voice were alike gone,
rose from the hearth, and went through the motion and outward semblance
of barking furiously at Charles, though without producing any audible
sound. Lady Ascot rose up and welcomed him kindly.

"I am so glad to see your honest face, my dear boy. I have been sitting
here all alone so long. Ascot is very kind, and comes and sits with me,
and I give him some advice about his horses, which he never takes. But I
am very lonely."

"But where is Adelaide, aunt, dear?"

"She's gone."

"Gone! My dear aunt, where to?"

"Gone to stay ten days with Lady Hainault."

Here was a blow.

"I know you are very disappointed, my poor boy, and I told Welter so
expressly to tell you in my last letter. He is so shockingly careless
and forgetful!"

"So Welter knew of it," said Charles to himself. "And that is what made
him laugh at my hurry. It is very ungentlemanly behaviour."

But Charles's anger was like a summer cloud. "I think, aunt," he said,
"that Welter was having a joke with me; that was all. When will she be
back?"

"The end of next week."

"And I shall be gone to Oxford. I shall ride over to Casterton and see
her."

"You knew Hainault at Shrewsbury? Yes. Well, you had better do so,
child. Yes, certainly."

"What made her go, aunt, I wonder?"

"Lady Hainault was ill, and would have her, and I was forced to let her
go."

Oh, Lady Ascot, Lady Ascot, you wicked old fibster! Didn't you hesitate,
stammer, and blush, when you said that? I am very much afraid you
didn't. Hadn't you had, three days before, a furious _fracas_ with
Adelaide about something, and hadn't it ended by her declaring that she
would claim the protection of Lady Hainault? Hadn't she ordered out the
pony-carriage and driven off with a solitary bandbox, and what I choose
to call a crinoline-chest? And hadn't you and Lady Hainault had a
brilliant passage of arms over her ladyship's receiving and abetting the
recalcitrant Adelaide?

Lady Ascot was perfectly certain of one thing--that Charles would never
hear about this from Adelaide; and so she lied boldly and with
confidence. Otherwise, she must have made a dead failure, for few people
had practised that great and difficult art so little as her ladyship.

That there had been a furious quarrel between Lady Ascot and Adelaide
about this time, I well know from the best authority. It had taken place
just as I have described it above. I do not know for certain the cause
of it, but can guess; and, as I am honestly going to tell you all I
know, you will be able to make as good a guess as I hereafter.

Lady Ascot said, furthermore, that she was very uneasy in her mind about
Ascot's colt, which she felt certain would not stay over the Derby
course. The horse was not so well ribbed up as he should be, and had
hardly quarter enough to suit her. Talking of that, her lumbago had set
in worse than ever since the frost had come on, and her doctor had had
the impudence to tell her that her liver was deranged, whereas, she knew
it proceeded from cold in the small of her back. Talking of the frost,
she was told that there had been a very good sheet of ice on the
carp-pond, where Charles might have skated, though she did hope he would
never go on the ice till it was quite safe--as, if he were to get
drowned, it would only add to her vexation, and surely she had had
enough of that, with that audacious chit of a girl, Adelaide, who was
enough to turn one's hair grey; though for that matter it had been grey
many years, as all the world might see.

"Has Adelaide been vexing you, aunt, dear?" interrupted Charles.

"No, my dear boy, no," replied the old woman. "She is a little tiresome
sometimes, but I dare say it is more my fault than hers."

"You will not be angry with her, aunt, dear? You will be long-suffering
with her, for my sake?"

"Dear Charles," said the good old woman, weeping, "I will forgive her
till seventy times seven. Sometimes, dear, she is high-spirited, and
tries my temper. And I am very old, dear, and very cross and cruel to
her. It is all my fault, Charles, all my fault."

Afterwards, when Charles knew the truth, he used to bless the memory of
this good old woman, recalling this conversation, and knowing on which
side the fault lay. At this time, blindly in love as he was with
Adelaide, he had sense enough left to do justice.

"Aunt, dear," he said, "you are old, but you are neither cross nor
cruel. You are the kindest and most generous of women. You are the only
mother I ever had, aunt. I dare say Adelaide is tiresome sometimes; bear
with her for my sake. Tell me some more about the horses. God help us,
they are an important subject enough in this house now!"

Lady Ascot said, having dried her eyes and kissed Charles, that she had
seen this a very long time: that she had warned Ascot solemnly, as it
was a mother's duty to do, to be careful of Ramoneur blood, and that
Ascot would never listen to her; that no horse of that breed had ever
been a staying horse; that she believed, if the truth could be got at,
that the Pope of Rome had been, indirectly, perhaps, but certainly, the
inventor of produce stakes, which had done more to ruin the breed of
horses, and consequently the country, than fifty reform bills. Then her
ladyship wished to know if Charles had read Lord Mount E----'s book on
the Battle of Armageddon, and on receiving a negative answer, gave a
slight abstract of that most prophetical production, till the gong
sounded, and Charles went up to dress for dinner.



CHAPTER XXI.

CLOTHO, LACHESIS, AND ATROPOS.


The road from Ranford to Casterton, which is the name of Lord Hainault's
place, runs through about three miles of the most beautiful scenery.
Although it may barely come up to Cookham or Cliefden, yet it surpasses
the piece from Wargrave to Henley, and beats Pangbourne hollow. Leaving
Ranford Park, the road passes through the pretty village of Ranford. And
in the street of Ranford, which is a regular street, the principal inn
is the White Hart, kept by Mrs. Foley.

Here, in summer, all through the long glorious days, which seem so hard
to believe in in winter time, come anglers, and live. Here they order
their meals at impossible hours, and drive the landlady mad by not
coming home to them. Here, too, they plan mad expeditions with the
fishermen, who are now in all their glory, wearing bright-patterned
shirts, scornful of half-crowns, and in a general state of obfuscation,
in consequence of being plied with strange liquors by their patrons, out
of flasks, when they are out fishing. Here, too, come artists, with
beards as long as your arm, and pass the day under white umbrellas, in
pleasant places by the waterside, painting.

The dark old porch of the inn stands out in the street, but the back of
the house goes down to the river. At this porch there is generally a
group of idlers, or an old man sunning himself, or a man on horseback
drinking. On this present occasion there were all three of these things,
and also Lord Ascot's head-keeper, with a brace of setters.

As Charles rode very slowly towards the group, the keeper and the groom
on horseback left off talking. Charles fancied they had been talking
about him, and I, who know everything, also know that they had. When
Charles was nearly opposite him, the keeper came forward and said--

"I should like to show you the first trout of the season, sir. Jim, show
Mr. Ravenshoe that trout."

A beautiful ten-pounder was immediately laid on the stones.

"He would have looked handsomer in another month, Jackson," said
Charles.

"Perhaps he would, sir. My lady generally likes to get one as soon as
she can."

At this stage the groom, who had been standing apart, came up, and,
touching his hat, put into Charles's hand a note.

It was in Adelaide's handwriting. The groom knew it, the keeper knew it,
they all knew it, and Charles knew they knew it; but what cared he?--all
the world might know it. But they knew and had been talking of something
else before he came up, which Charles did not know. If anything is going
wrong, all the country side know it before the person principally
concerned. And all the country side knew that there had been a great and
scandalous quarrel between Adelaide and Lady Ascot--all, except Charles.

He put the note in his pocket without opening it; he gave the groom
half-a-crown; he bade good-bye to the keeper; he touched his hat to the
loiterers; and then he rode on his way towards Casterton, down the
village street. He passed the church among the leafless walnut trees,
beneath the towering elms, now noisy with building rooks; and then, in
the broad road under the lofty chalk downs, with the elms on his left,
and glimpses of the flashing river between their stems, there he pulled
up his horse, and read his love-letter.

      "DEAR CHARLES,--Ain't you very cross at my having been away
      when you came? I don't believe you are, for you are never
      cross. I couldn't help it, Charles, dear. Aunt wanted me to
      go.

      "Aunt is very cross and tiresome. She don't like me as well
      as she used. You mustn't believe all she says, you know. It
      ain't one word of it true. It is only her fancy.

      "Do come over and see me. Lord Hainault" (this I must tell
      you, reader, is the son, not the husband, of Lady Ascot's
      most cherished old enemy,) "is going to be married, and
      there will be a great wedding. She is that long Burton
      girl, whom you may remember. I have always had a great
      dislike for her; but she has asked me to be bridesmaid, and
      of course one can't refuse. Lady Emily Montfort is 'with
      me,' as the lawyers say, and of course she will have her
      mother's pearls in her ugly red hair."--

      Charles couldn't agree as to Lady Emily's hair being red.
      He had thought it the most beautiful hair he had ever seen
      in his life.--

      "_Pour moi_, I shall wear a camelia, if the gardener will
      give me one. How I wish I had jewels to beat hers! She
      can't wear the Cleveland diamonds as a bridesmaid; that is
      a comfort. Come over and see me. I am in agony about what
      aunt may have said to you.

                                  "ADELAIDE."

The reader may see more in this letter than Charles did. The reader may
see a certain amount of selfishness and vanity in it: Charles did not.
He took up his reins and rode on; and, as he rode, said, "By Jove,
Cuthbert shall lend me the emeralds!"

He hardly liked asking for them; but he could not bear the idea of Lady
Emily shining superior to Adelaide in consequence of her pearls. Had he
been a wise man (which I suppose you have, by this time, found out that
he is decidedly not. Allow me to recommend this last sentence in a
grammatical point of view), he would have seen that, with two such
glorious creatures as Adelaide and Lady Emily, no one would have seen
whether they were clothed in purple and fine linen, or in sackcloth and
ashes. But Charles was a fool. He was in love, and he was riding out to
see his love.

The Scotchman tells us about Spey leaping out a glorious giant from
among the everlasting hills; the Irishman tells you of Shannon rambling
on past castle and mountain, gathering new beauty as he goes; the
Canadian tells you of the great river which streams over the cliff
between Erie and Ontario; and the Australian tells you of Snowy pouring
eternally from his great curtain of dolomite, seen forty miles away by
the lonely traveller on the dull grey plains; but the Englishman tells
you of the Thames, whose valley is the cradle of Freedom, and the
possessors of which are the arbiters of the world.

And along the Thames valley rode Charles. At first the road ran along
beneath some pleasant sunny heights; but, as it gradually rose, the
ground grew more abrupt, and, on the right, a considerable down, with
patches of gorse and juniper, hung over the road; while, on the left,
the broad valley stretched away to where a distant cloud of grey smoke
showed where lay the good old town of Casterton. Now the road entered a
dark beech wood beneath lofty banks, where the squirrels, merry fellows,
ran across the road and rattled up the trees, and the air was faint with
the scent of last year's leaves. Then came a break in the wood to the
right, and a vista up a long-drawn valley, which ended in a chalk cliff.
Then a break in the wood to the left, and a glance at the flat meadows,
the gleaming river, and the dim grey distance. Then the wood again,
denser and darker than ever. Then a sound, at first faint and
indistinct, but growing gradually upon the ear until it could be plainly
heard above the horse's footfall. Then suddenly the end of the wood, and
broad open sunlight. Below, the weirs of Casterton, spouting by a
hundred channels, through the bucks and under the mills. Hard by,
Casterton town, lying, a tumbled mass of red brick and grey flint,
beneath a faint soft haze of smoke, against the vast roll in the land
called Marldown. On the right, Casterton Park, a great wooded
promontory, so steep that one can barely walk along it, clothed with
beech and oak from base to summit, save in one place, where a bold lawn
of short grass, five hundred feet high, stoops suddenly down towards the
meadows, fringed at the edges with broom and fern, and topped with three
tall pines--the landmark for ten miles along the river.

A lodge, the white gate of which is swung open by a pretty maiden; a
dark oak wood again, with a long vista, ended by the noble precipitous
hill on which the house stands; a more open park, with groups of deer
lying about and feeding; another dark wood, the road now rising rapidly;
rabbits, and a pot-valiant cock-pheasant standing in the middle of the
way, and "carrucking," under the impression that Charles is in
possession of all his domestic arrangements, and has come to disturb
them; then the smooth gravel road, getting steeper and steeper; then the
summit; one glimpse of a glorious panorama; then the front door and
footmen.

Charles sent his card in, and would be glad to know if Lady Hainault
could see him. While he waited for an answer, his horse rubbed its nose
against its knee, and yawned, while the footmen on the steps looked at
the rooks. They knew all about it too. (The footmen, I mean, not the
rooks; though I wouldn't swear against a rook's knowing anything, mind
you.)

Lady Hainault would see Mr. Ravenshoe--which was lucky, because, if she
wouldn't have done so, Charles would have been obliged to ask for
Adelaide. So Charles's horse was led to the stable, and Charles was led
by the butler through the hall, and shown into a cool and empty library,
to purge himself of earthly passions, before he was admitted to The
Presence.

Charles sat himself down in the easiest chair he could find, and got
hold of "Ruskin's Modern Painters." That is a very nice book: it is
printed on thick paper, with large print; the reading is very good, full
of the most beautiful sentiments ever you heard; and there are also
capital plates in it. Charles looked through the pictures: he didn't
look at the letterpress, I know--for, if he had, he would have been so
deeply enchained with it that he wouldn't have done what he did--get up,
and look out of the window. The window looked into the flower-garden.
There he saw a young Scotch gardener, looking after his rose-trees. His
child, a toddling bit of a thing, four years old (it must have been his
first, for he was a very young man), was holding the slips of matting
for him; and glancing up between whiles at the great façade of the
house, as though wondering what great people were inside, and whether
they were looking at him. This was a pretty sight to a good
whole-hearted fellow like Charles; but he got tired of looking at that
even, after a time; for he was anxious and not well at ease. And so,
after his watch had told him that he had waited half an hour he rang the
bell.

The butler came almost directly.

"Did you tell Lady Hainault that I was here?" said Charles.

"My lady was told, sir."

"Tell her again, will you?" said Charles, and yawned.

Charles had time for another look at Ruskin, and another look at the
gardener and his boy, before the butler came back and said, "My lady is
disengaged, sir."

Charles was dying to see Adelaide, and was getting very impatient; but
he was, as you have seen, a very contented sort of fellow: and, as he
had fully made up his mind not to leave the house without a good
half-hour with her, he could afford to wait. He crossed the hall behind
the butler, and then went up the great staircase, and through the
picture-gallery. Here he was struck by seeing the original of one of the
prints he had seen downstairs, in the book, hanging on the wall among
others. He stopped the butler, and asked, "What picture is that?"

"That, sir," said the butler, hesitatingly, "that, sir--that is the
great Turner, sir. Yes, sir," he repeated, after a glance at a Francia
on the one side, and a Rembrandt on the other, "yes, sir, that _is_ the
great Turner, sir."

Charles was shown into a boudoir on the south side of the house, where
sat Lady Hainault, an old and not singularly agreeable looking woman,
who was doing crotchet-work, and her companion, a strong-minded and
vixenish-looking old maid, who was also doing crotchet-work. They looked
so very like two of the Fates, weaving woe, that Charles looked round
for the third sister, and found her not.

"How d'ye do, Mr. Ravenshoe?" said Lady Hainault. "I hope you haven't
been kept waiting?"

"Not at all," said Charles; and if that was not a deliberate lie, I want
to know what is.

If there was any one person in the world for whom Charles bore a
cherished feeling of dislike, it was this virtuous old lady. Charles
loved Lady Ascot dearly, and Lady Hainault was her bitterest enemy. That
would have been enough; but she had a horrid trick of sharpening her wit
upon young men, and saying things to them in public which gave them a
justifiable desire to knock her down and jump on her, as the Irish
reapers do to their wives; and she had exercised this talent on Charles
once at Ranford, and he hated her as much as he could hate any one, and
that was not much. Lord Saltire used to say that he must give her the
credit of being the most infernally disagreeable woman in Europe.
Charles thought, by the twitching of her long fingers over her work,
that she was going to be disagreeable now, and he was prepared. But, to
Charles's great astonishment, the old lady was singularly gracious.

"And how," she said, "is dear Lady Ascot? I have been coming, and
coming, for a long time, but I never have gone so far this winter."

"Lucky for aunt!" thought Charles. Then there was a pause, and a very
awkward one.

Charles said, very quietly, "Lady Hainault, may I see Miss Summers?"

"Surely! I wonder where she is. Miss Hicks, ring the bell."

Charles stepped forward and rang; and Miss Hicks, as Clotho, who had
half-risen, sat down again, and wove her web grimly.

Atropos appeared, after an interval, looking as beautiful as the dawn.
So Charles was looking too intently at her to notice the quick, eager
glances that the old woman threw at her as she came into the room. His
heart leapt up as he went forward to meet her; and he took her hand and
pressed it, and would have done so if all the furies in Pandemonium were
there to prevent him.

It did not please her ladyship to see this; and so Charles did it once
more, and then they sat down together in a window.

"And how am I looking?" said Adelaide, gazing at him full in the face.
"Not a single pretty compliment for me after so long? I require
compliments; I am used to them. Lady Hainault paid me some this
morning."

Lady Hainault, as Lachesis, laughed and woved. Charles thought, "I
suppose she and Adelaide have been having a shindy. She and aunt fall
out sometimes."

Adelaide and Charles had a good deal of quiet conversation in the
window; but what two lovers could talk with Clotho and Lachesis looking
on, weaving? I, of course, know perfectly well what they talked of, but
it is hardly worth setting down here. I find that lovers' conversations
are not always interesting to the general public. After a decent time,
Charles rose to go, and Adelaide went out by a side door.

Charles made his adieux to Clotho and Lachesis, and departed at the
other end of the room. The door had barely closed on him, when Lady
Hainault, eagerly thrusting her face towards Miss Hicks, hissed out--

"Did I give her time enough? Were her eyes red? Does he suspect
anything?"

"You gave her time enough, I should say," said Miss Hicks, deliberately.
"I didn't see that her eyes were red. But he must certainly suspect that
you and she are not on the best of terms, from what she said."

"Do you think he knows that Hainault is at home? Did he ask for
Hainault?"

"I don't know," said Miss Hicks.

"She shall not stop in the house. She shall go back to Lady Ascot. I
won't have her in the house," said the old lady, furiously.

"Why did you have her here, Lady Hainault?"

"You know perfectly well, Hicks. You know I only had her to spite old
Ascot. But she shall stay here no longer."

"She must stay for the wedding now," said Miss Hicks.

"I suppose she must," said Lady Hainault; "but, after that, she shall
pack. If the Burton people only knew what was going on, the match would
be broken off."

"I don't believe anything is going on," said Miss Hicks; "at least, not
on his side. You are putting yourself in a passion for nothing, and you
will be ill after it."

"I am not putting myself in a passion, and I won't be ill, Hicks! And
you are impudent to me, as you always are. I tell you that she must be
got rid of, and she must marry that young booby, or we are all undone. I
say that Hainault is smitten with her."

"I say he is not, Lady Hainault. I say that what there is is all on her
side."

"She shall go back to Ranford after the wedding. I was a fool to have
such a beautiful vixen in the house at all."

We shall not see much more of Lady Hainault. Her son is about to marry
the beautiful Miss Burton, and make her Lady Hainault. We shall see
something of her by and by.

The wedding came off the next week. A few days previously Charles rode
over to Casterton and saw Adelaide. He had with him a note and
jewel-case. The note was from Cuthbert, in which he spoke of her as his
future sister, and begged her to accept the loan of "these few poor
jewels." She was graciously pleased to do so; and Charles took his leave
very soon, for the house was turned out of the windows, and the next day
but one "the long Burton girl" became Lady Hainault, and Lady Ascot's
friend became Dowager. Lady Emily did not wear pearls at the wedding.
She wore her own splendid golden hair, which hung round her lovely face
like a glory. None who saw the two could say which was the most
beautiful of these two celebrated blondes--Adelaide, the imperial, or
Lady Emily, the gentle and the winning.

But, when Lady Ascot heard that Adelaide had appeared at the wedding
with the emeralds, she was furious. "She has gone," said that deeply
injured lady--"she, a penniless girl, has actually gone, and, without my
consent or knowledge, borrowed the Ravenshoe emeralds, and flaunted in
them at a wedding. That girl would dance over my grave, Brooks."

"Miss Adelaide," said Brooks, "must have looked very well in them, my
lady!" for Brooks was good-natured, and wished to turn away her
ladyship's wrath.

Lady Ascot turned upon her and withered her. She only said, "Emeralds
upon pink! Heugh!" But Brooks was withered nevertheless.

I cannot give you any idea as to how Lady Ascot said "Heugh!" as I have
written it above. We don't know how the Greeks pronounced the amazing
interjections in the Greek plays. We can only write them down.

"Perhaps the jewels were not remarked, my lady," said the maid, making a
second and worse shot.

"Not remarked, you foolish woman!" said the angry old lady. "Not remark
a thousand pounds' worth of emeralds upon a girl who is very well known
to be a pensioner of mine. And I daren't speak to her, or we shall have
a scene with Charles. I am glad of one thing, though; it shows that
Charles is thoroughly in earnest. Now let me get to bed, that's a good
soul; and don't be angry with me if I am short tempered, for heaven
knows I have enough to try me! Send one of the footmen across to the
stable to know if Mahratta has had her nitre. Say that I insist on a
categorical answer. Has Lord Ascot come home?"

"Yes, my lady."

"He might have come and given me some news about the horse. But there,
poor boy, I can forgive him."



CHAPTER XXII.

THE LAST GLIMPSE OF OXFORD.


Oxford. The front of Magdalen Hall, about which the least said the
soonest mended. On the left, further on, All Souls, which seems to have
been built by the same happy hand which built the new courts of St.
John's, Cambridge (for they are about equally bad). On the right, the
Clarendon and the Schools, blocking out the western sky. Still more to
the right, a bit of Exeter, and all Brazenose. In front, the Radcliff,
the third dome in England, and, beyond, the straight façade of St.
Mary's, gathering its lines upward ever, till tired of window and
buttress, of crocket, finial, gargoyle, and all the rest of it, it leaps
up aloft in one glorious crystal, and carries up one's heart with it
into the heaven above.

Charles Ravenshoe and Marston. They stood side by side on the pavement,
and their eyes roamed together over the noble mass of architecture,
passing from the straight lines, and abrupt corner of the Radcliffe, on
to the steeple of St. Mary's. They stood silent for a moment, and then
Marston said--

"Serve him right."

"Why?" said Charles.

"Because he had no business to be driving tandem at all. He can't afford
it. And, besides, if he could, why should he defy the authorities by
driving tandem? Nobody would drive tandem if it wasn't forbidden."

"Well, he is sent down, and therefore your virtue may spare him."

"Sent down!" said Marston, testily, "he never ought to have come up. He
was only sent here to be pitchforked through the Schools, and get a
family living."

"Well, well," said Charles; "I was very fond of him."

"Pish!" said Marston. Whereat Charles laughed uproariously, and stood in
the gutter. His mirth was stopped by his being attacked by a toothless
black-and-tan terrier, who was so old that he could only bark in a
whisper, but whose privilege it was to follow about one of the first
divinity scholars of the day, round the sunniest spots in the town. The
dog having been appeased, Charles and Marston stood aside, and got a
kindly smile from the good old man, in recognition of their having
touched their caps to him.

"Charley," said Marston, "I am so glad to hear of your going on so
well. Mind you, if you had stuck to your work sooner, you would have had
more than a second in Moderations. You must, and you shall, get a first,
you know. I will have it."

"Never, my boy, never;" said Charles: "I haven't head for it."

"Nonsense. You are a great fool; but you may get your first."

Thereupon Charles laughed again, louder than before, and wanted to know
what his friend had been eating to upset his liver. To which Marston
answered "Bosh!" and then they went down Oriel Lane, "And so by Merton,"
as the fox-hunters say, to Christ Church Meadow.

"I am glad you are in the University eight," said Marston; "it will do
you a vast deal of good. You used to over-value that sort of thing, but
I don't think that you do so now. You can't row or ride yourself into a
place in the world, but that is no reason why you should not row or
ride. I wish I was heavy enough to row. Who steers to-day?"

"The great Panjandrum."

"I don't like the great Panjandrum. I think him slangy. And I don't
pardon slang in any one beyond a very young bachelor."

"I am very fond of him," said Charles, "and you are bilious, and out of
humour with every one in heaven and earth, except apparently me. But,
seriously speaking, old man, I think you have had something to vex you,
since you came up yesterday. I haven't seen you since you were at
Ravenshoe, and you are deucedly altered, do you know?"

"I am sure you are wrong, Charles. I have had nothing--Well, I never
lie. I have been disappointed in something, but I have fought against it
so, that I am sure you must be wrong. I cannot be altered."

"Tell me what has gone wrong, Marston. Is it in money matters? If it is,
I know I can help you there."

"Money. Oh! dear no;" said Marston. "Charley, you are a good fellow. You
are the best fellow I ever met, do you know? But I can't tell you what
is the matter now."

"Have I been doing anything?" said Charles, eagerly.

"You have been doing a great deal to make me like and respect you,
Charles; but nothing to make me unhappy. Now answer me some questions,
and let us change the subject. How is your father?"

"Dear old dad is very well. I got a letter from him to-day."

"And how is your brother?"

"Well in health, but weak in mind, I fear. I am very much afraid that I
shall be heir of Ravenshoe."

"Why? is he going mad?"

"Not a bit of it, poor lad. He is going into a religious house, I am
afraid. At least he mentioned that sort of thing the last time he wrote
to me, as if he were trying to bring me face to face with the idea; and
be sure my dearly beloved Father Mackworth will never let the idea
rest."

"Poor fellow! And how is Adelaide the beautiful?"

"_She's_ all right," said Charles. "She and aunt are the best friends in
the world."

"They always were, weren't they?"

"Why, you see," said Charles, "sometimes aunt was cross, and Adelaide is
very high-spirited, you know. Exceedingly high-spirited."

"Indeed?"

"Oh, yes, very much so; she didn't take much nonsense from Lady
Hainault, I can tell you."

"Well," said Marston, "to continue my catechising, how is William?"

"He is very well. Is there no one else you were going to ask after?"

"Oh, yes. Miss Corby?"

"She is pretty well, I believe, in health, but she does not seem quite
so happy as she was," said Charles, looking at Marston, suddenly.

He might as well have looked at the Taylor building, if he expected any
change to take place in Marston's face. He regarded him with a stony
stare, and said--

"Indeed. I am sorry to hear that."

"Marston," said Charles, "I once thought that there was something
between you and her."

"That is a remarkable instance of what silly notions get into vacant
minds," said Marston, steadily. Whereat Charles laughed again.

At this point, being opposite the University barge, Charles was hailed
by a West-countryman of Exeter, whom we shall call Lee, who never met
with Charles without having a turn at talking Devonshire with him. He
now began at the top of his voice, to the great astonishment of the
surrounding dandies.

"Where be gwine? Charles Ravenshoe, where be gwine?"

"We'm gwine for a ride on the watter, Jan Lee."

"Be gwine in the 'Varsity eight, Charles Ravenshoe?"

"Iss, sure."

"How do'e feel? Dont'e feel afeard?"

"Ma dear soul, I've got such a wambling in my innards, and--"

"We are waiting for you, Ravenshoe," said the Captain; and, a few
minutes after, the University eight rushed forth on her glorious career,
clearing her way through the crowd of boats, and their admiring rowers,
towards Iffley.

And Marston sat on the top of the University barge, and watched her
sweeping on towards the distance, and then he said to himself--

"Ah! there goes the man I like best in the world, who don't care for the
woman I love best in the world, who is in love with the man before
mentioned, who is in love with a woman who don't care a hang for him.
There is a certain left-handedness in human affairs."



CHAPTER XXIII.[2]

THE LAST GLIMPSE OF THE OLD WORLD.


Putney Bridge at half an hour before high tide; thirteen or fourteen
steamers; five or six thousand boats, and fifteen or twenty thousand
spectators. This is the morning of the great University race, about
which every member of the two great Universities, and a very large
section of the general public, have been fidgeting and talking for a
month or so.

The bridge is black, the lawns are black, every balcony and window in
the town is black; the steamers are black with a swarming, eager
multitude, come to see the picked youths of the upper class try their
strength against one another. There are two friends of ours nearly
concerned in the great event of the day. Charles is rowing three in the
Oxford boat, and Marston is steering. This is a memorable day for both
of them, and more especially for poor Charles.

Now the crowd surges to and fro, and there is a cheer. The men are
getting into their boats. The police-boats are busy clearing the
course. Now there is a cheer of admiration. Cambridge dashes out, swings
round, and takes her place at the bridge.

Another shout. Oxford sweeps majestically out and takes her place by
Cambridge. Away go the police-galleys, away go all the London
club-boats, at ten miles an hour down the course. Now the course is
clear, and there is almost a silence.

Then a wild hubbub; and people begin to squeeze and crush against one
another. The boats are off; the fight has begun! then the thirteen
steamers come roaring on after them, and their wake is alive once more
with boats.

Everywhere a roar and a rushing to and fro. Frantic crowds upon the
towing-path, mad crowds on the steamers, which make them sway and rock
fearfully. Ahead Hammersmith Bridge, hanging like a black bar, covered
with people as with a swarm of bees. As an eye-piece to the picture, two
solitary flying boats, and the flashing oars, working with the rapidity
and regularity of a steam-engine.

"Who's in front?" is asked by a thousand mouths; but who can tell? We
shall see soon. Hammersmith Bridge is stretching across the water not a
hundred yards in front of the boats. For one half-second a light shadow
crosses the Oxford boat, and then it is out into the sunlight beyond. In
another second the same shadow crosses the Cambridge boat. Oxford is
ahead.

The men with light-blue neckties say that, "By George, Oxford can't keep
that terrible quick stroke going much longer;" and the men with
dark-blue ties say, "Can't she, by Jove?" Well, we shall know all about
it soon, for here is Barnes Bridge. Again the shadow goes over the
Oxford boat, and then one, two, three, four seconds before the Cambridge
men pass beneath it. Oxford is winning! There is a shout from the people
at Barnes, though the [Greek: polloi] don't know why. Cambridge has made
a furious rush, and drawn nearly up to Oxford; but it is useless. Oxford
leaves rowing, and Cambridge rows ten strokes before they are level.
Oxford has won!

Five minutes after, Charles was on the wharf in front of the Ship Inn at
Mortlake, as happy as a king. He had got separated from his friends in
the crowd, and the people round him were cheering him, and passing
flattering remarks on his personal appearance, which caused Charles to
laugh, and blush, and bow, as he tried to push through his good-natured
persecutors, when he suddenly, in the midst of a burst of laughter
caused by a remark made by a drunken bargeman, felt somebody clasp his
arm, and, turning round, saw William.

He felt such a shock that he was giddy and faint. "Will," he said, "what
is the matter?"

"Come here, and I'll tell you."

He forced his way to a quieter place, and then turned round to his
companion,--"Make it short, Will; that's a dear fellow. I can stand the
worst."

"Master was took very bad two days ago, Master Charles; and Master
Cuthbert sent me off for you at once. He told me directly I got to
Paddington to ask for a telegraph message, so that you might hear the
last accounts; and here it is."

He put what we now call a "telegram" into Charles's hand, and the burden
of it was mourning and woe. Densil Ravenshoe was sinking fast, and all
that steam and horse-flesh could do would be needed, if Charles would
see him alive.

"Will, go and find Mr. Marston for me, and I will wait here for you. How
are we to get back to Putney?"

"I have got a cab waiting."

William dashed into the inn, and Charles waited. He turned and looked at
the river.

There it was winding away past villa and park, bearing a thousand boats
upon its bosom. He looked once again upon the crowded steamers and the
busy multitude, and even in his grief felt a rush of honest pride as he
thought that he was one of the heroes of the day. And then he turned,
for William was beside him again. Marston was not to be found.

"I should like to have seen him again," he said; "but we must fly, Will,
we must fly!"

Had he known under what circumstances he was next to see a great
concourse of people, and under what circumstances he was next to meet
Marston, who knows but that in his ignorance and short-sightedness he
would have chosen to die where he stood in such a moment of triumph and
honour?

In the hurry of departure he had no time to ask questions. Only when he
found himself in the express train, having chosen to go second-class
with his servant, and not be alone, did he find time to ask how it had
come about.

There was but little to be told. Densil had been seized after breakfast,
and at first so slightly that they were not much alarmed. He had been
put to bed, and the symptoms had grown worse. Then William had been
despatched for Charles, leaving Cuthbert, Mary, and Father Mackworth at
his bedside. All had been done that could be done. He seemed to be in no
pain, and quite contented. That was all. The telegraph told the rest.
Cuthbert had promised to send horses to Crediton, and a relay forty
miles nearer home.

The terrible excitement of the day, and the fact that he had eaten
nothing since breakfast, made Charles less able to bear up against the
news than he would otherwise have been. Strange thoughts and fears began
to shape themselves in his head, and to find voices in the monotonous
jolting of the carriage.

Not so much the fear of his father's death. That he did not fear,
because he knew it would come; and, as to that, the bitterness of death
was past, bitter, deeply bitter, as it was; but a terror lest his father
should die without speaking to him--that he should never see those dear
lips wreathe into a smile for him any more.

Yesterday he had been thinking of this very journey--of how, if they won
the race, he would fly down on the wings of the wind to tell them, and
how the old man would brighten up with joy at the news. Yesterday he was
a strong, brave man; and now what deadly terror was this at his heart?

"William, what frightens me like this?"

"The news I brought you, and the excitement of the race. And you have
been training hard for a long time, and that don't mend a man's nerves;
and you are hungry."

"Not I."

"What a noble race it was! I saw you above a mile off. I could tell the
shape of you that distance, and see how you was pulling your oar
through. I knew that my boy was going to be in the winning boat, Lord
bless you! before the race was rowed. And when I saw Mr. C---- come in
with that tearing, licking quick stroke of his, I sung out for old
Oxford, and pretty nearly forgot the photograph for a bit."

"Photograph, Will? what photograph?"

"Telegraph, I mean, It's all the same."

Charles couldn't talk, though he tried. He felt an anxiety he had never
felt before. It was so ill-defined that he could not trace it to its
source. He had a right to feel grief, and deep anxiety to see his father
alive; but this was sheer terror, and at what?

At Swindon, William got out and returned laden with this and with that,
and forced Charles to eat and drink. He had not tasted wine for a long
time; so he had to be careful with it; but it seemed to do him no good.
But, at last, tired nature did something for him, and he fell asleep.

When he awoke it was night, and at first he did not remember where he
was. But rapidly his grief came upon him; and up, as it were out of a
dark gulf, came the other nameless terror and took possession of his
heart.

There was a change at Exeter; then at Crediton they met with their first
relay of horses, and, at ten o'clock at night, after a hasty supper,
started on their midnight ride. The terror was gone the moment Charles
was on horseback.

The road was muddy and dark, often with steep banks on each side; but a
delicious April moon was overhead, and they got on bravely. At Bow there
was a glimpse of Dartmoor towering black, and a fresh puff of westerly
wind, laden with scents of spring. At Hatherleigh, there were fresh
horses, and one of the Ravenshoe grooms waiting for them. The man had
heard nothing since yesterday; so at one o'clock they started on again.
After this, there were none but cross-country roads, and dangerous steep
lanes; so they got on slowly. Then came the morning with voice of ten
thousand birds, and all the rich perfume of awaking nature. And then
came the woods of home, and they stood on the terrace, between the old
house and the sea.

The white surf was playing and leaping around the quiet headlands; the
sea-birds were floating merrily in the sunshine; the April clouds were
racing their purple shadows across the jubilant blue sea; but the old
house stood blank and dull. Every window was closed, and not a sound was
heard.

For Charles had come too late. Densil Ravenshoe was dead.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE NEW WORLD.


In the long dark old room with the mullioned windows looking out on the
ocean, in the room that had been Charles's bedroom, study, and
play-room, since he was a boy, there sat Charles Ravenshoe, musing,
stricken down with grief, and forlorn.

There were the fishing-rods and the guns, there were the books and the
homely pictures in which his soul had delighted. There was "The
Sanctuary and the Challenge," and Bob Coombes in his outrigger. All were
there. But Charles Ravenshoe was not there. There was another man in his
place, bearing his likeness, who sat and brooded with his head on his
hands.

Where was the soul which was gone? Was he an infant in a new cycle of
existence? or was he still connected with the scenes and people he had
known and loved so long? Was he present? Could he tell at last the deep
love that one poor foolish heart had borne for him? Could he know now
the deep, deep grief that tore that poor silly heart, because its owner
had not been by to see the last faint smile of intelligence flutter over
features that he was to see no more?

"Father! Father! Where are you? Don't leave me all alone, father." No
answer! only the ceaseless beating of the surf upon the shore.

He opened the window, and looked out. The terrace, the woods, the
village, and beyond, the great unmeasurable ocean! What beyond that?

What was this death, which suddenly made that which we loved so well, so
worthless? Could they none of them tell us? One there was who triumphed
over death and the grave, and was caught up in His earthly body. Who is
this Death that he should triumph over us? Alas, poor Charles! There are
evils worse than death. There are times when death seems to a man like
going to bed. Wait!

There was a picture of Mary's, of which he bethought himself. One we all
know. Of a soul being carried away by angels to heaven. They call it St.
Catherine, though it had nothing particular to do with St. Catherine,
that I know of; and he thought he would go see it. But, as he turned,
there stood Mary herself before him.

He held out his hands towards her, and she came and sat beside him, and
put her arm round his neck. He kissed her! Why not? They were as brother
and sister.

He asked her why she had come.

"I knew you wanted me," she said.

Then she, still with her arm round his neck, talked to him about what
had just happened. "He asked for you soon after he was taken on the
first day, and told Father Mackworth to send off for you. Cuthbert had
sent two hours before, and he said he was glad, and hoped that Oxford
would win the race----"

"Charles," said Mary again, "do you know that old James has had a fit,
and is not expected to live?"

"No."

"Yes, as soon as he heard of our dear one's death he was taken. It has
killed him."

"Poor old James!"

They sat there some time, hand in hand, in sorrowful communion, and then
Charles said suddenly--

"The future, Mary! The future, my love?"

"We discussed that before, Charles, dear. There is only one line of life
open to me."

"Ah!"

"I shall write to Lady Ascot to-morrow. I heard from Adelaide the other
day, and she tells me that young Lady Hainault is going to take charge
of poor Lord Charles's children in a short time; and she will want a
nursery governess; and I will go."

"I would sooner you were there than here, Mary. I am very glad of this.
She is a very good woman. I will go and see you there very often."

"Are you going back to Oxford, Charles?"

"I think not."

"Do you owe much money there?"

"Very little, now. He paid it almost all for me."

"What shall you do?"

"I have not the remotest idea. I cannot possibly conceive. I must
consult Marston."

There passed a weary week--a week of long brooding days and sleepless
nights, while outside the darkened house the bright spring sun flooded
all earth with light and life, and the full spring wind sang pleasantly
through the musical woods, and swept away inland over heather and crag.

Strange sounds began to reach Charles in his solitary chamber; sounds
which at first made him fancy he was dreaming, they were so mysterious
and inexplicable. The first day they assumed the forms of solitary notes
of music, some almost harsh, and some exquisitely soft and melodious. As
the day went on they began to arrange themselves into chords, and sound
slightly louder, though still a long way off. At last, near midnight,
they seemed to take form, and flow off into a wild, mournful piece of
music, the like of which Charles had never heard before; and then all
was still.

Charles went to bed, believing either that the sounds were supernatural
or that they arose from noises in his head. He came to the latter
conclusion, and thought sleep would put an end to them; but, next
morning, when he had half opened the shutters, and let in the blessed
sunlight, there came the sound again--a wild, rich, triumphant melody,
played by some hand, whether earthly or unearthly, that knew its work
well.

"What is that, William?"

"Music."

"Where does it come from?"

"Out of the air. The pixies make such music at times. Maybe it's the
saints in glory with their golden harps, welcoming Master and Father."

"Father!"

"He died this morning at daybreak; not long after his old master, eh? He
was very faithful to him. He was in prison with him once, I've heard
tell. I'll be as faithful to you, Charles, when the time comes."

And another day wore on in the darkened house, and still the angelic
music rose and fell at intervals, and moved the hearts of those that
heard it strangely.

"Surely," said Charles to himself, "that music must sound louder in one
place than another." And then he felt himself smiling at the idea that
he half believed it to be supernatural.

He rose and passed on through corridor and gallery, still listening as
he went. The music had ceased, and all was still.

He went on through parts of the house he had not been in since a boy.
This part of the house was very much deserted; some of the rooms he
looked into were occupied as inferior servants' bedrooms; some were
empty, and all were dark. Here was where he, Cuthbert, and William would
play hide-and-seek on wet days; and well he remembered each nook and
lair. A window was open in one empty room, and it looked into the
court-yard. They were carrying things into the chapel, and he walked
that way.

In the dark entrance to the dim chapel a black figure stood aside to let
him pass; he bowed, and did so, but was barely in the building when a
voice he knew said, "It is Charles," and the next moment he was clasped
by both hands, and the kind face of Father Tiernay was beaming before
him.

"I am so glad to see you, Father Tiernay. It is so kind of you to come."

"You look pale and worn," said the good man; "you have been fretting. I
won't have that, now that I am come. I will have you out in the air and
sunshine, my boy, along the shore----"

The music again! Not faint and distant as heretofore, but close
overhead, crashing out into a mighty jubilate, which broke itself
against rafter and window in a thousand sweet echoes. Then, as the noble
echoes began to sink, there arose a soft flute-like note, which grew
more intense until the air was filled with passionate sound; and it
trilled and ran, and paused, and ran on, and died you knew not where.

"I can't stand much of that, Father Tiernay," said Charles. "They have
been mending the organ, I see. That accounts for the music I have heard.
I suppose there will be music at the funeral, then."

"My brother Murtagh," said Father Tiernay, "came over yesterday morning
from Lord Segur's. He is organist there, and he mended it. Bedad he is
a sweet musician. Hear what Sir Henry Bishop says of him."

There came towards them, from the organ-loft, a young man, wearing a
long black coat and black bands with white edges, and having of his own
one of the sweetest, kindliest faces eye ever rested on. Father Tiernay
looked on him with pride and affection, and said--

"Murty, my dear brother, this is Mr. Charles Ravenshoe, me very good
friend, I hope you'll become acquaintances, for the reason that two good
fellows should know one another."

"I am almost afraid," said the young man, with a frank smile, "that
Charles Ravenshoe has already a prejudice against me for the
disagreeable sounds I was making all day yesterday in bringing the old
organ into work again."

"Nay, I was only wondering where such noble bursts of melody came from,"
said Charles. "If you had made all the evil noises in Pandemonium, they
would have been forgiven for that last piece of music. Do you know that
I had no idea the old organ could be played on. Years ago, when we were
boys, Cuthbert and I tried to play on it; I blew for him, and he sounded
two or three notes, but it frightened us, and we ran away, and never
went near it again."

"It is a beautiful old instrument," said young Tiernay; "will you stand
just here, and listen to it?"

Charles stood in one of the windows, and Father Tiernay beside him. He
leant his head on his arm, and looked forth eastward and northward, over
the rolling woods, the cliffs, and the bright blue sea.

The music began with a movement soft, low, melodious, beyond expression,
and yet strong, firm, and regular as of a thousand armed men marching to
victory. It grew into volume and power till it was irresistible, yet
still harmonious and perfect. Charles understood it. It was the life of
a just man growing towards perfection and honour.

It wavered and fluttered, and threw itself into sparkling sprays and
eddies. It leapt and laughed with joy unutterable, yet still through all
the solemn measure went on. Love had come to gladden the perfect life,
and had adorned without disturbing it.

Then began discords and wild sweeping storms of sound, harsh always, but
never unmelodious: fainter and fainter grew the melody, till it was
almost lost. Misfortunes had come upon the just man, and he was bending
under them.

No. More majestic, more grand, more solemn than ever the melody
re-asserted itself: and again, as though purified by a furnace, marched
solemnly on with a clearness and sweetness greater than at first. The
just man had emerged from his sea of troubles ennobled. Charles felt a
hand on his shoulder. He thought it had been Father Tiernay. Father
Tiernay was gone. It was Cuthbert.

"Cuthbert! I am so glad you have come to see me. I was not surprised
because you would not see me before. You didn't think I was offended,
brother, did you? I know you. I know you!"

Charles smoothed his hair and smiled pleasantly upon him. Cuthbert stood
quite still and said nothing.

"Cuthbert," said Charles, "you are in pain. In bodily pain I mean."

"I am. I spent last night on these stones praying, and the cold has got
into my very bones."

"You pray for the dead, I know," said Charles. "But why destroy the
health God has given you because a good man has gone to sleep?"

"I was not praying for him so much as for you."

"God knows I want it, dear Cuthbert. But can you benefit me by killing
yourself?"

"Who knows? I may try. How long is it since we were boys together,
Charles?"

"How long? Let me see. Why, it is nineteen years at least since I can
first remember you."

"I have been sarcastic and distant with you sometimes, Charles, but I
have never been unkind."

"Cuthbert! I never had an unkind word or action from you. Why do you say
this?"

"Because----Charles, do you remember the night the _Warren Hastings_
came ashore?"

"Ay," said Charles, wonderingly.

"In future, when you call me to mind, will you try to think of me as I
was then, not as I have been lately? We slept together, you remember,
through the storm, and he sat on the bed. God has tried me very hard.
Let us hope that heaven will be worth the winning. After this you will
see me no more in private. Good-bye!"

Charles thought he knew what he meant, and had expected it. He would not
let him go for a time.



CHAPTER XXV.

FATHER MACKWORTH BRINGS LORD SALTIRE TO BAY, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.


Old James was to be buried side by side with his old master in the vault
under the altar. The funeral was to be on the grandest scale, and all
the Catholic gentry of the neighbourhood, and most of the Protestant
were coming. Father Mackworth, it may be conceived, was very busy, and
seldom alone. All day he and the two Tiernays were arranging and
ordering. When thoroughly tired out, late at night, he would retire to
his room and take a frugal supper (Mackworth was no glutton), and sit
before the fire musing.

One night, towards the middle of the week, he was sitting thus before
the fire, when the door opened, and some one came in; thinking it was
the servant, he did not look round; but, when the supposed servant came
up to the fireplace and stood still, he cast his eyes suddenly up, and
they fell upon the cadaverous face of Cuthbert.

He looked deadly pale and wan as he stood with his face turned to the
flickering fire, and Mackworth felt deep pity for him. He held an open
letter towards Mackworth, and said--

"This is from Lord Saltire. He proposes to come here the night before
the funeral and go away in Lord Segur's carriage with him after it is
over. Will you kindly see after his rooms, and so on? Here is the
letter."

"I will," said Mackworth. "My dear boy, you look deadly ill."

"I wish I were dead."

"So do all who hope for heaven," said Mackworth.

"Who would not look worn and ill with such a scene hanging over their
heads?"

"Go away and avoid it."

"Not I. A Ravenshoe is not a coward. Besides, I want to see him again.
How cruel you have been! Why did you let him gain my heart? I have
little enough to love."

There was a long pause--so long that a bright-eyed little mouse ran out
from the wainscot and watched. Both their eyes were bent on the fire,
and Father Mackworth listened with painful intentness for what was to
come.

"He shall speak first," he thought. "How I wonder----"

At last Cuthbert spoke slowly, without raising his eyes--

"Will nothing induce you to forego your purpose?"

"How can I forego it, Cuthbert, with common honesty? I have foregone it
long enough."

"Listen now," said Cuthbert, unheedingly: "I have been reckoning up what
I can afford, and I find that I can give you five thousand pounds down
for that paper, and five thousand more in bills of six, eight, and
twelve months. Will that content you?"

Father Mackworth would have given a finger to have answered promptly
"No," but he could not. The offer was so astounding, so unexpected, that
he hesitated long enough to make Cuthbert look round, and say--

"Ten thousand pounds is a large sum of money, Father."

It was, indeed; and Lord Saltire coming next week! Let us do the man
justice; he acted with a certain amount of honour. When you have read
this book to the end you will see that ten thousand pounds was only part
of what was offered to him. He gave it all up because he would not lower
himself in the eyes of Cuthbert, who had believed in him so long.

"I paused," said he, "from astonishment, that a gentleman could have
insulted me by such a proposition."

"Your pause," said Cuthbert, "arose from hesitation, not from
astonishment. I saw your eyes blaze when I made you the offer. Think of
ten thousand pounds. You might appear in the world as an English Roman
Catholic of fortune. Good heavens! with your talent you might aspire to
the cardinal's chair!"

"No, no, no!" said Mackworth, fiercely. "I did hesitate, and I have lied
to you; but I hesitate no longer. I won't have the subject mentioned to
me again, sir. What sort of a gentleman are you to come to men's rooms
in the dead of night, with your father lying dead in the house, and
tempt men to felony? I will not."

"God knows," said Cuthbert, as he passed out, "whether I have lost
heaven in trying to save him."

Mackworth heard the door close behind him, and then looked eagerly
towards it. He heard Cuthbert's footsteps die along the corridor, and
then, rising up, he opened it and looked out. The corridor was empty. He
walked hurriedly back to the fireplace.

"Shall I call him back?" he said. "It is not too late. Ten thousand
pounds! A greater stake than I played for; and now, when it is at my
feet, I am throwing it away. And for what? For honour, after I have
acted the----" (he could not say the word). "After I have gone so far. I
must be a gentleman. A common rogue would have jumped at the offer. By
heaven! there are some things better than money. If I were to take his
offer he would know me for a rogue. And I love the lad. No, no! let the
fool go to his prayers. I will keep the respect of one man at least.

"What a curious jumble and puzzle it all is, to be sure. Am I any worse
than my neighbours? I have made a desperate attempt at power, for a
name, and an ambition; and then, because the ball comes suddenly at my
feet, from a quarter I did not expect, I dare not strike it because I
fear the contempt of one single pair of eyes from which I have been used
to receive nothing but love and reverence.

"Yet he cannot trust me, as I thought he did, or he would not have made
the offer to me. And then he made it in such a confident way that he
must have thought I was going to accept it. That is strange. He has
never rebelled lately. Am I throwing away substance for shadow? I have
been bound to the Church body and soul from my boyhood, and I must go
on. I have refused a cardinal's chair this night, but who will ever know
it?

"I must go about with my Lord Saltire. I could go at him with more
confidence if I had ten thousand pounds in the bank though, in case of
failure. I am less afraid of that terrible old heretic than I am of
those great eyes of Cuthbert's turned on me in scorn. I have lived so
long among gentlemen that I believe myself to be one. He knows, and he
shall tell.

"And, if all fails, I have served the Church, and the Church shall serve
me. What fools the best of us are! Why did I ever allow that
straightforward idiot Tiernay into the house? He hates me, I know. I
rather like the fool. He will take the younger one's part on Monday; but
I don't think my gentleman will dare to say too much."

After this soliloquy, the key to which will appear very shortly, Father
Mackworth took off his clothes and got into bed.

The day before the funeral, Cuthbert sent a message to Charles, to beg
that he would be kind enough to receive Lord Saltire; and, as the old
man was expected at a certain hour, Charles, about ten minutes before
the time, went down to the bottom of the hall-steps on to the terrace,
to be ready for him when he came.

Oh, the glorious wild freshness of the sea and sky after the darkened
house! The two old capes right and left; the mile-long stretch of sand
between them; and the short crisp waves rolling in before the westerly
wind of spring! Life and useful action in the rolling water; budding
promise in the darkening woods; young love in every bird's note!

William stood beside him before he had observed him. Charles turned to
him, and took his arm in his.

"Look at this," he said.

"I am looking at it."

"Does it make you glad and wild?" said Charles. "Does it make the last
week in the dark house look like twenty years? Are the two good souls
which are gone looking at it now, and rejoicing that earth should still
have some pleasure left for us?"

"I hope not," said William, turning to Charles.

"And why?" said Charles, and wondering rather what William would say.

"I wouldn't," said William, "have neither of their hearts broke with
seeing what is to come."

"Their hearts broke!" said Charles, turning full round on his
foster-brother. "Let them see how we behave under it, William. That will
never break their hearts, my boy."

"Charles," said William, earnestly, "do you know what is coming?"

"No; nor care."

"It is something terrible for you, I fear," said William.

"Have you any idea what it is?" said Charles.

"Not the least. But look here. Last night, near twelve, I went down to
the chapel, thinking to say an ave before the coffin, and there lay
Master Cuthbert on the stones. So I kept quiet and said my prayer. And
of a sudden he burst out and said, 'I have risked my soul and my fortune
to save him: Lord, remember it!'"

"Did he say that, William?"

"The very words."

"Then he could not have been speaking of me," said Charles. "It is
possible that by some means I may not come into the property I have been
led to expect; but that could not have referred to me. Suppose I was to
leave the house, penniless, to-morrow morning, William, should I go
alone? I am very strong, and very patient, and soon learn anything.
Cuthbert would take care of me. Would you come with me, or let me go
alone?"

"You know. Why should I answer?"

"We might go to Canada and settle. And then Adelaide would come over
when the house was ready; and you would marry the girl of your choice;
and our boys would grow up to be such friends as you and I are. And then
my boy should marry your girl, and----"

Poor dreaming Charles, all unprepared for what was to come!

A carriage drove on to the terrace at this moment, with Lord Saltire's
solemn servant on the box.

Charles and William assisted Lord Saltire to alight. His lordship said
that he was getting devilish stiff and old, and had been confoundedly
cut up by his old friend's death, and had felt bound to come down to
show his respect to the memory of one of the best and honestest men it
had ever been his lot to meet in a tolerably large experience. And then,
standing on the steps, went on--

"It is very pleasant to me to be greeted by a face I like as yours,
Charles. I was gratified at seeing your name in the _Times_ as being one
of the winners of the great boat-race the other day. My man pointed it
out to me. That sort of thing is very honourable to a young fellow, if
it does not lead to a neglect of other duties, in which case it becomes
very mischievous; in yours it has not. That young man is, I believe,
your foster-brother. Will he be good enough to go and find Miss Corby,
and tell her that Lord Saltire wants her to come and walk with him on
the terrace? Give me your shoulder." William ran right willingly on his
errand.

"Your position here, Charles," continued Lord Saltire, "will be a
difficult one."

"It will, indeed, my lord."

"I intend you to spend most of your time with me in future. I want some
one to take care of me. In return for boring you all day, I shall get
you the run of all the best houses, and make a man of you. Hush! not a
word now! Here comes our Robin Redbreast. I am glad I have tempted her
out into the air and the sunshine. How peaked you look, my dear! How are
you?"

Poor Mary looked pale and wan, indeed, but brightened up at the sight of
her old friend. They three walked and talked in the fresh spring morning
an hour or more.

That afternoon came a servant to Lord Saltire with a note from Father
Mackworth, requesting the honour of ten minutes' conversation with Lord
Saltire in private.

"I suppose I must see the fellow," said the old man to himself.

"My compliments to Mr. Mackworth, and I am alone in the library. The
fool," continued he, when the man had left the room, "why doesn't he let
well alone? I hate the fellow. I believe he is as treacherous as his
mother. If he broaches the subject, he shall have the whole truth."

Meanwhile, Father Mackworth was advancing towards him through the dark
corridors, and walking slower, and yet more slow, as he neared the room
where sat the grim old man. He knew that there would be a fencing match;
and of all the men in broad England he feared his lordship most. His
determination held, however; though, up to the very last, he had almost
determined to speak only about comparatively indifferent subjects, and
not about that nearest to his heart.

"How do you do, my good sir," said Lord Saltire, as he came in; "I have
to condole with you on the loss of our dear old friend. We shall neither
of us ever have a better one, sir."

Mackworth uttered some commonplaces; to which Lord Saltire bowed,
without speaking, and then sat with his elbows on the arms of his chair,
making a triangle of his two fore-fingers and thumbs, staring at Father
Mackworth.

"I am going, Lord Saltire, to trouble you with some of my early
reminiscences as a boy."

Lord Saltire bowed, and settled himself easily in his chair, as one does
who expects a good story. Mackworth went on--

"One of my earliest recollections, my lord, is of being at a French
lycée."

"The fault of those establishments," said Lord Saltire, pensively, "is
the great range of subjects which are superficially taught. I ask pardon
for interrupting you. Do you take snuff?"

Mackworth declined, with great politeness, and continued--

"I was taken to that school by a footman in livery."

"Upon my honour, then, I owe you an apology. I thought, of course, that
the butler had gone with you. But, in a large house, one never really
knows what one's people are about."

Father Mackworth did not exactly like this. It was perfectly evident to
him, not only that Lord Saltire knew all about his birth and parentage,
but also was willing to tell.

"Lord Saltire," he said, "I have never had a parent's care, or any name
but one I believe to be fictitious. You can give me a name--give me,
perhaps, a parent--possibly, a brother. Will you do this for me?"

"I can do neither the one thing nor the other, my good sir. I entreat
you, for your own sake, to inquire no further."

There was a troubled expression in the old man's face as he answered.
Mackworth thought he was gaining his point, and pressed on.

"Lord Saltire, as you are a gentleman, tell me who my parents were;"
and, as he said this, he rose up and stood before him, folding his arms.

"Confound the impudent, theatrical jackanapes!" thought Lord Saltire.
"His mother all over. I will gratify your curiosity sir," he said aloud,
angrily. "You are the illegitimate son of a French ballet-dancer!"

"But who was my father, my lord? Answer me that, on your honour."

"Who was your father? _Pardieu_, that is more than I can tell. If any
one ever knew, it must have been your mother. You are assuming a tone
with me, sir, which I don't intend to put up with. I wished to spare you
a certain amount of humiliation. I shall not trouble myself to do so
now, for many reasons. Now listen to me, sir--to the man who saved you
from the kennel, sir--and drop that theatrical attitude. Your mother was
my brother's mistress, and a clever woman in her way; and meeting her
here and there, in the green-room and where not, and going sometimes to
her house with my brother, I had a sort of acquaintance with her, and
liked her as one likes a clever, brilliant woman of that sort. My
brother died. Some time after your mother fell into poverty and disgrace
under circumstances into which I should advise you not to inquire, and
on her death-bed recommended you to my care as an old acquaintance,
praying that you might be brought up in her own religion. The request
was, under the circumstances, almost impudent; but remembering that I
had once liked the woman, and calling to mind the relation she had held
to poor dear John, I complied, and did for you what I have done. You
were a little over a twelvemonth old at the time of your mother's death,
and my brother had been dead nearly or quite five years. Your mother had
changed her protector thrice during that time. Now, sir!"

Mackworth stood before Lord Saltire all this time as firm as a rock. He
had seen from the old man's eye that every word was terribly true, but
he had never flinched--never a nerve in his face had quivered; but he
had grown deadly pale. When Lord Saltire had finished he tried to speak,
but found his mouth as dry as dust. He smiled, and, with a bow, reaching
past Lord Saltire, took up a glass of lemonade which stood at his elbow
and drank it. Then he spoke clearly and well.

"You see how you have upset me, my lord. In seeking this interview, I
had some hopes of having forced a confession from your lordship of my
relationship with you, and thereby serving my personal ambition. I have
failed. It now remains to me to thank you heartily and frankly for the
benefits I have received from you, and to beg you to forgive my
indiscretion."

"You are a brave man, sir," said Lord Saltire. "I don't think you are an
honest one. But I can respect manliness."

"You have a great affection for Charles Ravenshoe, my lord?"

"Yes," said Lord Saltire; "I love Charles Ravenshoe more than any other
human being."

"Perhaps the time may come, my lord, when he will need all your love and
protection."

"Highly possible. I am in possession of the tenor of his father's will;
and those who try to set that will aside, unless they have a very strong
case, had better consider that Charles is backed up by an amount of
ready money sufficient to ruin the Ravenshoe estate in law."

"No attempt of the kind will be made, my lord. But I very much doubt
whether your lordship will continue your protection to that young man. I
wish you good afternoon."

"That fellow," said Lord Saltire, "has got a card to play which I don't
know of. What matter? I can adopt Charles, and he may defy them. I wish
I could give him my title; but that will be extinct. I am glad little
Mary is going to Lady Hainault. It will be the best place for her till
she marries. I wish that fool of a boy had fallen in love with her. But
he wouldn't."

Mackworth hurried away to his room; and, as he went, he said, "I have
been a fool--a fool. I should have taken Cuthbert's offer. None but a
fool would have done otherwise. A cardinal's chair thrown to the dogs!

"I could not do it this morning; but I can do it now. The son of a
figurante, and without a father! Perhaps he will offer it again.

"If he does not, there is one thing certain. That young ruffian Charles
is ruined. Ah, ah! my Lord Saltire, I have you there! I should like to
see that old man's face when I play my last card. It will be a finer
sight than Charles's. You'll make him your heir, will you, my lord? Will
you make him your groom?"

He went to his desk, took out an envelope, and looked at it. He looked
at it long, and then put it back. "It will never do to tempt him with
it. If he were to refuse his offer of this morning, I should be ruined.
Much better to wait and play out the ace boldly. I can keep my hold over
_him_: and William is mine, body and soul, if he dies."

With which reflections, the good Father dressed for dinner.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE GRAND CRASH.


The funeral was over. Charles had waited with poor weeping Mary to see
the coffin carried away under the dark grim archway of the vault, and
had tried to comfort her who would not be comforted. And, when the last
wild wail of the organ had died away, and all the dark figures but they
two had withdrawn from the chapel, there stood those two poor orphans
alone together.

It was all over, and they began for the first time to realise it; they
began to feel what they lost. King Densil was dead, and King Cuthbert
reigned. When a prime minister dies, the world is shaken; when a county
member dies, the county is agitated, and the opposition electors, till
lately insignificant, rise suddenly into importance, and the possible
new members are suddenly great men. So, when a mere country gentleman
dies, the head of a great family dies, relations are changed entirely
between some score or two of persons. The dog of to-day is not the dog
of yesterday. Servants are agitated, and remember themselves of old
impertinences, and tremble. Farmers wonder what the new Squire's first
move will be. Perhaps even the old hound wonders whether he is to keep
his old place by the fire or no; and younger brothers bite their nails,
and wonder, too, about many things.

Charles wondered profoundly in his own room that afternoon, whither he
had retired after having dismissed Mary at her door with a kiss. In
spite of his grief, he wondered what was coming, and tried to persuade
himself that he didn't care. From this state of mind he was aroused by
William, who told him that Lord Segur was going, and Lord Saltire with
him, and that the latter wanted to speak to him.

Lord Saltire had his foot on the step of the carriage. "Charles, my dear
boy," he said, "the moment things are settled come to me at Segur
Castle. Lord Segur wants you to come and stay there while I am there."

Lord Segur, from the carriage, hoped Charles would come and see them at
once.

"And mind, you know," said Lord Saltire, "that you don't do anything
without consulting me. Let the little bird pack off to Lady Ascot's, and
help to blow up the grooms. Don't let her stay moping here. Now,
good-bye, my dear boy. I shall see you in a day or so."

And so the old man was gone. And, as Charles watched the carriage, he
saw the sleek grey head thrust from the window, and the great white hand
waved to him. He never forgot that glimpse of the grey head and the
white hand, and he never will.

A servant came up to him, and asked him, Would he see Mr. Ravenshoe in
the library? Charles answered Yes, but was in no hurry to go. So he
stood a little longer on the terrace, watching the bright sea, and the
gulls, and the distant island. Then he turned into the darkened house
again, and walked slowly towards the library door.

Some one else stood in the passage--it was William, with his hand on the
handle of the door.

"I waited for you, Master Charles," he said; "they have sent for me too.
Now you will hear something to your advantage."

"I care not," said Charles, and they went in.

Once, in lands far away, there was a sailor lad, a good-humoured,
good-looking, thoughtless fellow, who lived alongside of me, and with
whom I was always joking. We had a great liking for one another. I left
him at the shaft's mouth at two o'clock one summer's day, roaring with
laughter at a story I had told him; and at half-past five I was helping
to wind up the shattered corpse, which when alive had borne his name. A
flake of gravel had come down from the roof of the drive and killed him,
and his laughing and story-telling were over for ever. How terrible
these true stories are! Why do I tell this one? Because, whenever I
think of this poor lad's death, I find myself not thinking of the
ghastly thing that came swinging up out of the darkness into the summer
air, but of the poor fellow as he was the morning before. I try to think
how he looked, as leaning against the windlass with the forest behind
and the mountains beyond, and if, in word or look, he gave any sign of
his coming fate before he went gaily down into his tomb.

So it was with Charles Ravenshoe. He remembers part of the scene that
followed perfectly well; but he tries more than all to recall how
Cuthbert looked, and how Mackworth looked before the terrible words were
spoken. After it was all over he remembers, he tells me, every trifling
incident well. But his memory is a little gone about the first few
minutes which elapsed after he and William came into the room. He says
that Cuthbert was sitting at the table very pale, with his hands clasped
on the table before him, looking steadily at him without expression on
his face; and that Mackworth leant against the chimney-piece, and looked
keenly and curiously at him.

Charles went up silently and kissed his brother on the forehead.
Cuthbert neither moved nor spoke. Charles greeted Mackworth civilly, and
then leant against the chimney-piece by the side of him, and said what a
glorious day it was. William stood at a little distance, looking
uneasily from one to another.

Cuthbert broke silence. "I sent for you," he said.

"I am glad to come to you, Cuthbert, though I think you sent for me on
business, which I am not very well up to to-day."

"On business," said Cuthbert: "business which must be gone through with
to-day, though I expect it will kill me."

Charles, by some instinct (who knows what? it was nothing reasonable, he
says) moved rapidly towards William, and laid his hand on his shoulder.
I take it, that it arose from that curious gregarious feeling that men
have in times of terror. He could not have done better than to move
towards his truest friend, whatever it was.

"I should like to prepare you for what is to come," continued Cuthbert,
speaking calmly, with the most curious distinctness; "but that would be
useless. The blow would be equally severe whether you expect it or not.
You two who stand there were nursed at the same breast. That groom, on
whose shoulder you have your hand now, is my real brother. You are no
relation to me; you are the son of the faithful old servant whom we
buried to-day with my father."

Charles said, Ho! like a great sigh. William put his arm round him, and,
raising his finger, and looking into his face with his calm, honest
eyes, said with a smile--

"This was it then. We know it all now."

Charles burst out into a wild laugh, and said, "Father Mackworth's ace
of trumps! He has inherited a talent for melodrama from his blessed
mother. Stop. I beg your pardon, sir, for saying that; I said it in a
hurry. It was blackguardly. Let's have the proofs of this, and all that
sort of thing, and witnesses too, if you please. Father Mackworth, there
have been such things as prosecutions for conspiracy. I have Lord
Saltire and Lord Ascot at my back. You have made a desperate cast, sir.
My astonishment is that you have allowed your hatred for me to outrun
your discretion so far. This matter will cost some money before it is
settled."

Father Mackworth smiled, and Charles passed him, and rang the bell. Then
he went back to William and took his arm.

"Fetch the Fathers Tiernay here immediately," said Charles to the
servant who answered the bell.

In a few minutes the worthy priests were in the room. The group was not
altered. Father Mackworth still leant against the mantel-piece, Charles
and William stood together, and Cuthbert sat pale and calm with his
hands clasped together.

Father Tiernay looked at the disturbed group and became uneasy. "Would
it not be better to defer the settlement of any family disagreements to
another day? On such a solemn occasion----"

"The ice is broken, Father Tiernay," said Charles. "Cuthbert, tell him
what you have told me."

Cuthbert, clasping his hands together, did so, in a low, quiet voice.

"There," said Charles, turning to Father Tiernay, "what do you think of
that?"

"I am so astounded and shocked, that I don't know what to say," said
Father Tiernay; "your mind must be abused, my dear sir. The likeness
between yourself and Mr. Charles is so great that I cannot believe it.
Mackworth, what have you to say to this?"

"Look at William, who is standing beside Charles," said the priest,
quietly, "and tell me which of those two is most like Cuthbert."

"Charles and William are very much alike, certainly," said Tiernay;
"but----"

"Do you remember James Horton, Tiernay?" said Mackworth.

"Surely."

"Did you ever notice the likeness between him and Densil Ravenshoe?"

"I have noticed it, certainly; especially one night. One night I went to
his cottage last autumn. Yes--well?"

"James Horton was Densil Ravenshoe's half-brother. He was the
illegitimate son of Petre."

"Good God."

"And the man whom you call Charles Ravenshoe, whom I call Charles
Horton, is his son."

Charles was looking eagerly from one to the other, bewildered.

"Ask him, Father Tiernay," he said, "what proofs he has. Perhaps he will
tell us."

"You hear what Mr. Charles says, Mackworth. I address you because you
have spoken last. You must surely have strong proofs for such an
astounding statement."

"I have his mother's handwriting," said Father Mackworth.

"My mother's, sir," said Charles, flushing up, and advancing a pace
towards him.

"You forget who your mother was," said Mackworth. "Your mother was
Norah, James Horton's wife. She confessed to me the wicked fraud she
practised, and has committed that confession to paper. I hold it. You
have not a point of ground to stand on. Fifty Lord Saltires could not
help you one jot. You must submit. You have been living in luxury and
receiving an expensive education when you should have been cleaning out
the stable. So far from being overwhelmed at this, you should consider
how terribly the balance is against you."

He spoke with such awful convincing calmness that Charles's heart died
away within him. He knew the man.

"Cuthbert," he said, "you are a gentleman. Is this true?"

"God knows how terribly true it is," said Cuthbert, quietly. Then there
was a silence, broken by Charles in a strange thick voice, the like of
which none there had heard before.

"I want to sit down somewhere. I want some drink. Will, my own boy, take
this d----d thing from round my neck? I can't see; where is there a
chair? Oh, God!"

He fell heavily against William, looking deadly white, without sense or
power. And Cuthbert looked up at the priest, and said, in a low voice--

"You have killed him."

Little by little he came round again, and rose on his feet, looking
round him as a buck or stag looks when run to soil, and is watching to
see which dog will come, with a piteous wild look, despairing and yet
defiant. There was a dead silence.

"Are we to be allowed to see this paper?" said Charles, at length.

Father Mackworth immediately handed it to him, and he read it. It was
completely conclusive. He saw that there was not a loophole to creep out
of. The two Tiernays read it, and shook their heads. William read it and
turned pale. And then they all stood staring blankly at one another.

"You see, sir," said Father Mackworth, "that there are two courses open
to you. Either, on the one hand, to acquiesce in the truth of this
paper; or, on the other, to accuse me in a court of justice of
conspiracy and fraud. If you were to be successful in the latter course,
I should be transported out of your way, and the matter would end so.
But any practical man would tell you, and you would see in your calmer
moments, that no lawyer would undertake your case. What say you, Father
Tiernay?"

"I cannot see what case he has, poor dear," said Father Tiernay.
"Mackworth," he added, suddenly.

Father Mackworth met his eye with a steady stare, and Tiernay saw there
was no hope of explanation there.

"On the other hand," continued Father Mackworth, "if this new state of
things is quietly submitted to (as it must be ultimately, whether
quietly or otherwise you yourself will decide), I am authorised to say
that the very handsomest provision will be made for you, and that, to
all intents and purposes, your prospects in the world will not suffer in
the least degree. I am right in saying so, I believe, Mr. Ravenshoe?"

"You are perfectly right, sir," said Cuthbert in a quiet, passionless
voice. "My intention is to make a provision of three hundred a year for
this gentleman, whom, till the last few days, I believed to be my
brother. Less than twenty-four hours ago, Charles, I offered Father
Mackworth ten thousand pounds for this paper, with a view to destroy it.
I would, for your sake, Charles, have committed an act of villainy which
would have entailed a life's remorse, and have robbed William, my own
brother, of his succession. You see what a poor weak rogue I am, and
what a criminal I might become with a little temptation. Father
Mackworth did his duty and refused me. I tell you this to show you that
he is, at all events, sincere enough in his conviction of the truth of
this."

"You acted like yourself, Cuthbert. Like one who would risk body and
soul for one you loved."

He paused; but they waited for him to speak again. And very calmly, in a
very low voice, he continued--

"It is time that this scene should end. No one's interest will be served
by continuing it. I want to say a very few words, and I want them to be
considered as the words, as it were, of a dying man; for no one here
present will see me again till the day when I come back to claim a right
to the name I have been bearing so long--and that day will be never."

Another pause. He moistened his lips, which were dry and cracked, and
then went on--

"Here is the paper, Father Mackworth; and may the Lord of Heaven be
judge between us if that paper be not true!"

Father Mackworth took it, and, looking him steadily in the face,
repeated his words, and Charles's heart sank lower yet as he watched
him, and felt that hope was dead.

"May the Lord of Heaven be judge between us two, Charles, if that paper
be not true! Amen."

"I utterly refuse," Charles continued, "the assistance which Mr.
Ravenshoe has so nobly offered. I go forth alone into the world to make
my own way, or to be forgotten. Cuthbert and William, you will be sorry
for a time, but not for long. You will think of me sometimes of dark
winter nights when the wind blows, won't you? I shall never write to
you, and shall never return here any more. Worse things than this have
happened to men, and they have not died."

All this was said with perfect self-possession, and without a failure in
the voice. It was magnificent despair. Father Tiernay, looking at
William's face, saw there a sort of sarcastic smile, which puzzled him
amazingly.

"I had better," said Charles, "make my will. I should like William to
ride my horse Monté. He has thrown a curb, sir, as you know" he said,
turning to William; "but he will serve you well, and I know you will be
gentle with him."

William gave a short, dry laugh.

"I should have liked to take my terrier away with me, but I think I had
better not. I want to have nothing with me to remind me of this place.
My greyhound and the pointers I know you will take care of. It would
please me to think that William had moved into my room, and had taken
possession of all my guns, and fishing-rods, and so on. There is a
double-barrelled gun left at Venables', in St. Aldate's, at Oxford, for
repairs. It ought to be fetched away.

"Now, sir," he said, turning to Cuthbert, "I should like to say a few
words about money matters. I owe about £150 at Oxford. It was a great
deal more at one time, but I have been more careful lately. I have the
bills upstairs. If that could be paid----"

"To the utmost farthing, my dear Charles," said Cuthbert; "but----"

"Hush!" said Charles, "I have five-and-twenty pounds by me. May I keep
that?"

"I will write you a check for five hundred. I shall move your
resolution, Charles," said Cuthbert.

"Never, so help me God!" said Charles; "it only remains to say good-bye.
I leave this room without a hard thought towards any one in it. I am at
peace with all the world. Father Mackworth, I beg your forgiveness. I
have been often rude and brutal to you. I suppose that you always meant
kindly to me. Good-bye."

He shook hands with Mackworth, then with the Tiernays; then he offered
his hand to William, who took it smiling; and, lastly, he went up to
Cuthbert, and kissed him on the cheek, and then walked out of the door
into the hall.

William, as he was going, turned as though to speak to Cuthbert, but
Cuthbert had risen, and he paused a moment.

Cuthbert had risen, and stood looking wildly about him; then he said,
"Oh, my God, he is gone!" And then he broke through them, and ran out
into the hall, crying, "Charles, Charles, come back. Only one more word,
Charles." And then they saw Charles pause, and Cuthbert kneel down
before him, calling him his own dear brother, and saying he would die
for him. And then Father Tiernay hastily shut the library door, and left
those two wild hearts out in the old hall together alone.

Father Tiernay came back to William, and took both his hands. "What are
you going to do?" he said.

"I am going to follow him wherever he goes," said William. "I am never
going to leave him again. If he goes to the world's end, I will be with
him."

"Brave fellow!" said Tiernay. "If he goes from here, and is lost sight
of, we may never see him again. If you go with him, you may change his
resolution."

"That I shall never do," said William; "I know him too well. But I'll
save him from what I am frightened to think of. I will go to him now. I
shall see you again directly; but I must go to him."

He passed out into the hall. Cuthbert was standing alone, and Charles
was gone.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE COUP DE GRACE.


In the long watches of the winter night, when one has awoke from some
evil dream, and lies sleepless and terrified with the solemn pall of
darkness around one--on one of those deadly, still dark nights, when the
window only shows a murky patch of positive gloom in contrast with the
nothingness of the walls, when the howling of a tempest round chimney
and roof would be welcomed as a boisterous companion--in such still dead
times only, lying as in the silence of the tomb, one realises that some
day we shall lie in that bed and not think at all: that the time will
come soon when we must die.

Our preachers remind us of this often enough, but we cannot realise it
in a pew in broad daylight. You must wake in the middle of the night to
do that, and face the thought like a man, that it will come, and come to
ninety-nine in a hundred of us, not in a maddening clatter of musquetry
as the day is won; or in carrying a line to a stranded ship, or in such
like glorious times, when the soul is in mastery over the body, but in
bed, by slow degrees. It is in darkness and silence only that we realise
this; and then let us hope that we humbly remember that death has been
conquered for us, and that in spite of our unworthiness we may defy him.
And after that sometimes will come the thought, "Are there no evils
worse even than death?"

I have made these few remarks (I have made very few in this story, for I
want to suggest thought, not to supply it ready-made) because Charles
Ravenshoe has said to me in his wild way, that he did not fear death,
for he had died once already.

I did not say anything, but waited for him to go on.

"For what," he continued, "do you make out death even at the worst? A
terror, then a pang, more or less severe; then a total severance of all
ties on earth, an entire and permanent loss of everything one has loved.
After that, remorse, and useless regret, and the horrible torture of
missed opportunities without number thrust continually before one. The
monotonous song of the fiends, 'Too late! too late!' I have suffered all
these things! I have known what very few men have known, and
lived--despair; but perhaps the most terrible agony for a time was the
feeling of _loss of identity_--that I was not myself; that my whole
existence from babyhood had been a lie. This at times, at times only,
mind you, washed away from me the only spar to which I could cling--the
feeling that I was a gentleman. When the deluge came, that was the only
creed I had, and I was left alone as it were on the midnight ocean, out
of sight of land, swimming with failing strength."

I have made Charles speak for himself. In this I know that I am right.
Now we must go on with him through the gathering darkness without
flinching; in terror, perhaps, but not in despair as yet.

It never for one moment entered into his head to doubt the truth of what
Father Mackworth had set up. If he had had doubts even to the last, he
had none after Mackworth had looked him compassionately in the face, and
said, "God judge between us if this paper be not true!" Though he
distrusted Mackworth, he felt that no man, be he never so profound an
actor, could have looked so and spoken so if he were not telling what he
believed to be the truth. And that he and Norah were mistaken he justly
felt to be an impossibility. No. He was the child of Petre Ravenshoe's
bastard son by an Irish peasant girl. He who but half an hour before had
been heir to the proud old name, to the noble old house, the pride of
the west country, to hundreds of acres of rolling woodland, to mile
beyond mile of sweeping moorland, to twenty thriving farms, deep in
happy valleys, or perched high up on the side of lofty downs, was now
just this--a peasant, an impostor.

The tenantry, the fishermen, the servants, they would come to know all
this. Had he died (ah! how much better than this), they would have
mourned for him, but what would they say or think now? That he, the
patron, the intercessor, the condescending young prince, should be the
child of a waiting-woman and a gamekeeper. Ah! mother, mother, God
forgive you!

Adelaide: what would she think of this? He determined that he must go
and see her, and tell her the whole miserable story. She was ambitious,
but she loved him. Oh yes, she loved him. She could wait. There were
lands beyond the sea, where a man could win a fortune in a few years,
perhaps in one. There were Canada, and Australia, and India, where a man
needed nothing but energy. He never would take one farthing from the
Ravenshoes, save the twenty pounds he had. That was a determination
nothing could alter. But why need he? There was gold to be won, and
forest to be cleared, in happier lands.

Alas, poor Charles! He has never yet set foot out of England, and
perhaps never will. He never thought seriously about it but this once.
He never had it put before him strongly by any one. Men only emigrate
from idleness, restlessness, or necessity; with the two first of these
he was not troubled, and the last had not come yet. It would, perhaps,
have been better for him to have gone to the backwoods or the diggings;
but, as he says, the reason why he didn't was that he didn't. But at
this sad crisis of his life it gave him comfort for a little to think
about; only for a little, then thought and terror came sweeping back
again.

Lord Saltire? He would be told of this by others. It would be Charles's
duty not to see Lord Saltire again. With his present position in
society, as a servant's son, there was nothing to prevent his asking
Lord Saltire to provide for him, except--what was it? Pride? Well,
hardly pride. He was humble enough, God knows; but he felt as if he had
gained his goodwill, as it were, by false pretences, and that duty would
forbid his presuming on that goodwill any longer. And would Lord Saltire
be the same to a lady's-maid's son, as he would to the heir presumptive
of Ravenshoe? No; there must be no humiliation before those stern grey
eyes. Now he began to see that he loved the owner of those eyes more
deeply than he had thought; and there was a gleam of pleasure in
thinking that, when Lord Saltire heard of his fighting bravely
unassisted with the world, he would say, "That lad was a brave fellow; a
gentleman after all."

Marston? Would this terrible business, which was so new and terrible as
to be as yet only half appreciated--would it make any difference to him?
Perhaps it might. But, whether or no he would humble himself there, and
take from him just reproaches for idleness and missed opportunities,
however bitter they might be.

And Mary? Poor little Mary! Ah! she would be safe with that good Lady
Hainault. That was all. Ah, Charles! what pale little sprite was that
outside your door now, listening, dry-eyed, terrified, till you should
move? Who saw you come up with your hands clutched in your hair, like a
madman, an hour ago, and heard you throw yourself upon the floor, and
has waited patiently ever since to see if she could comfort you, were it
never so little? Ah, Charles! Foolish fellow!

Thinking, thinking--now with anger, now with tears, and now with
terror--till his head was hot and his hands dry, his thoughts began to
run into one channel. He saw that action was necessary, and he came to a
great and noble resolution, worthy of himself. All the world was on one
side, and he alone on the other. He would meet the world humbly and
bravely, and conquer it. He would begin at the beginning, and find his
own value in the world, and then, if he found himself worthy, would
claim once more the love and respect of those who had been his friends
hitherto.

How he would begin he knew not, nor cared, but it must be from the
beginning. And, when he had come to this resolution, he rose up and
faced the light of day once more.

There was a still figure sitting in his chair, watching him. It was
William.

"William! How long have you been here?"

"Nigh on an hour. I came in just after you, and you have been lying on
the hearthrug ever since, moaning."

"An hour? Is it only an hour?"

"A short hour."

"It seemed like a year. Why, it is not dark yet. The sun still shines,
does it?"

He went to the window and looked out. "Spring," he said, "early spring.
Fifty more of them between me and rest most likely. Do I look older,
William?"

"You look pale and wild, but not older. I am mazed and stunned. I want
you to look like yourself and help me, Charles. We must get away
together out of this house."

"You must stay here, William; you are heir to the name and the house.
You must stay here and learn your duty; I must go forth and dree my
weary weird alone."

"You must go forth, I know; but I must go with you."

"William, that is impossible."

"To the world's end, Charles; I swear it by the holy Mother of God."

"Hush! You don't know what you are saying. Think of your duties."

"I know my duty. My duty is with you."

"William, look at the matter in another point of view. Will Cuthbert let
you come with me?"

"I don't care. I am coming."

William was sitting where he had been in Charles's chair, and Charles
was standing beside him. If William had been looking at Charles, he
would have seen a troubled thoughtful expression on his face for one
moment, followed by a sudden look of determination. He laid his hand on
William's shoulder, and said--

"We must talk this over again. I _must_ go to Ranford and see Adelaide
at once, before this news gets there from other mouths. Will you meet me
at the old hotel in Covent Garden, four days from this time?"

"Why there?" said William. "Why not at Henley?"

"Why not at London, rather?" replied Charles. "I must go to London. I
mean to go to London. I don't want to delay about Ranford. No; say
London."

William looked in his face for a moment, and then said,--

"I'd rather travel with you. You can leave me at Wargrave, which is only
just over the water from Ranford, or at Didcot, while you go on to
Ranford. You must let me do that, Charles."

"We will do that, William, if you like."

"Yes, yes!" said William. "It must be so. Now you must come downstairs."

"Why?"

"To eat. Dinner is ready. I am going to tea in the servant's hall."

"Will Mary be at dinner, William?"

"Of course she will."

"Will you let me go for the last time? I should like to see the dear
little face again. Only this once."

"Charles! Don't talk like that. All that this house contains is yours,
and will be as long as Cuthbert and I are here. Of course you must go.
This must not get out for a long while yet--we must keep up
appearances."

So Charles went down into the drawing-room. It was nearly dark; and at
first he thought there was no one there, but, as he advanced towards the
fireplace, he made out a tall, dark figure, and saw that it was
Mackworth.

"I am come, sir," he said, "to dinner in the old room for the last time
for ever."

"God forbid!" said Mackworth. "Sir, you have behaved like a brave man
to-day, and I earnestly hope that, as long as I stay in this house, you
will be its honoured guest. It would be simply nonsensical to make any
excuses to you for the part I have taken. Even if you had not
systematically opposed your interest to mine in this house, I had no
other course open. You must see that."

"I believe I owe you my thanks for your forbearance so long," said
Charles; "though that was for the sake of my father more than myself.
Will you tell me, sir, now we are alone, how long have you known this?"

"Nearly eighteen months," said Father Mackworth, promptly.

Mackworth was not an ill-natured man when he was not opposed, and, being
a brave man himself, could well appreciate bravery in others. He had
knowledge enough of men to know that the revelation of to-day had been
as bitter a blow to a passionate, sensitive man like Charles, as he
could well endure and live. And he knew that Charles distrusted him, and
that all out-of-the-way expressions of condolence would be thrown away;
and so, departing from his usual rule of conduct, he spoke for once in a
way naturally and sincerely, and said: "I am very, very sorry. I would
have done much to avoid this."

Then Mary came in and the Tiernays. Cuthbert did not come down. There
was a long, dull dinner, at which Charles forced himself to eat, having
a resolution before him. Mary sat scared at the head of the table, and
scarcely spoke a word, and, when she rose to go into the drawing-room
again, Charles followed her.

She saw that he was coming, and waited for him in the hall. When he shut
the dining-room door after him she ran back, and putting her two hands
on his shoulders, said--

"Charles! Charles! what is the matter?"

"Nothing, dear; only I have lost my fortune; I am penniless."

"Is it all gone, Charles?"

"All. You will hear how, soon. I just come out to wish my bird good-bye.
I am going to London to-morrow."

"Can't you come and talk to me, Charles, a little?"

"No; not to-night. Not to-night."

"You will come to see me at Lady Hainault's in town, Charles?"

"Yes, my love; yes."

"Won't you tell me any more, Charles?"

"No more, my robin. It is good-bye. You will hear all about it soon
enough."

"Good-bye."

A kiss, and he was gone up the old staircase towards his own room. When
he gained the first landing he turned and looked at her once more,
standing alone in the centre of the old hall in the light of a solitary
lamp. A lonely, beautiful little figure, with her arms drooping at her
sides, and the quiet, dark eyes turned towards him, so lovingly! And
there, in his ruin and desolation, he began to see, for the first time,
what others, keener-eyed, had seen long ago. Something that might have
been, but could not be now! And so, saying, "I must not see her again,"
he went up to his own room, and shut the door on his misery.

Once again he was seen that night. William invaded the still-room, and
got some coffee, which he carried up to him. He found him packing his
portmanteau, and he asked William to see to this and to that for him, if
he should sleep too long. William made him sit down and take coffee and
smoke a cigar, and sat on the footstool at his feet, before the fire,
complaining of cold. They sat an hour or two, smoking, talking of old
times, of horses and dogs, and birds and trout, as lads do, till Charles
said he would go to bed, and William left him.

He had hardly got to the end of the passage, when Charles called him
back, and he came.

"I want to look at you again," said Charles; and he put his two hands on
William's shoulders, and looked at him again. Then he said, "Good
night," and went in.

William went slowly away, and, passing to a lower storey, came to the
door of a room immediately over the main entrance, above the hall. This
room was in the turret above the porch. It was Cuthbert's room.

He knocked softly, and there was no answer; again, and louder. A voice
cried querulously, "Come in," and he opened the door.

Cuthbert was sitting before the fire with a lamp beside him and a book
on his knee. He looked up and saw a groom before him, and said,
angrily--

"I can give no orders to-night. I will not be disturbed to-night."

"It is me, sir," said William.

Cuthbert rose at once. "Come here, brother," he said, "and let me look
at you. They told me just now that you were with our brother Charles."

"I stayed with him till he went to bed, and then I came to you."

"How is he?"

"Very quiet--too quiet."

"Is he going away?"

"He is going in the morning."

"You must go with him, William," said Cuthbert, eagerly.

"I came to tell you that I must go with him, and to ask you for some
money."

"God bless you. Don't leave him. Write to me every day. Watch and see
what he is inclined to settle to, and then let me know. You must get
some education too. You will get it with him as well as anywhere. He
must be our first care."

William said yes. He must be their first care. He had suffered a
terrible wrong.

"We must get to be as brothers to one another, William," said Cuthbert.
"That will come in time. We have one great object in common--Charles;
and that will bring us together. The time was, when I was a fool, that I
thought of being a saint, without human affections. I am wiser now.
People near death see many things which are hidden in health and youth."

"Near death, Cuthbert!" said William, calling him so for the first time.
"I shall live, please God, to take your children on my knee."

"It is right that you should know, brother, that in a few short years
you will be master of Ravenshoe. My heart is gone. I have had an attack
to-night."

"But people who are ill don't always die," said William. "Holy Virgin!
you must not go and leave me all abroad in the world like a lost sheep."

"I like to hear you speak like that, William. Two days ago, I was moving
heaven and earth to rob you of your just inheritance."

"I like you the better for that. Never think of that again. Does
Mackworth know of your illness?"

"He knows everything."

"If Charles had been a Catholic, would he have concealed this?"

"No; I think not. I offered him ten thousand pounds to hush it up."

"I wish he had taken it. I don't want to be a great man. I should have
been far happier as it was. I was half a gentleman, and had everything I
wanted. Shall you oppose my marrying when Charles is settled?"

"You must marry, brother. I can never marry, and would not if I could.
You must marry, certainly. The estate is a little involved; but we can
soon bring it right. Till you marry, you must be contented with four
hundred a year."

William laughed. "I will be content and obedient enough, I warrant you.
But, when I speak of marrying, I mean marrying my present sweetheart."

Cuthbert looked up suddenly. "I did not think of that. Who is she?"

"Master Evans's daughter, Jane."

"A fisherman's daughter," said Cuthbert. "William, the mistress of
Ravenshoe ought to be a lady."

"The master of Ravenshoe ought to be a gentleman," was William's reply.
"And, after your death (which I don't believe in, mind you), he won't
be. The master of Ravenshoe then will be only a groom; and what sort of
a fine lady would he buy with his money, think you? A woman who would
despise him and be ashamed of him. No, by St. George and the dragon, I
will marry my old sweetheart or be single!"

"Perhaps you are right, William," said Cuthbert; "and, if you are not, I
am not one who has a right to speak about it. Let us in future be honest
and straightforward, and have no more miserable _esclandres_, in God's
name. What sort of a girl is she?"

"She is handsome enough for a duchess, and she is very quiet and shy."

"All the better. I shall offer not the slightest opposition. She had
better know what is in store for her."

"She shall; and the blessing of all the holy saints be on you! I must go
now. I must be up at dawn."

"Don't go yet, William. Think of the long night that is before me. Sit
with me, and let me get used to your voice. Tell me about the horses, or
anything--only don't leave me alone yet."

William sat down with him. They sat long and late. When at last William
rose to go, Cuthbert said--

"You will make a good landlord, William. You have been always a patient,
faithful servant, and you will make a good master. Our people will get
to love you better than ever they would have loved me. Cling to the old
faith. It has served us well so many hundred years. It seems as if God
willed that Ravenshoe should not pass from the hands of the faithful.
And now, one thing more; I must see Charles before he goes. When you go
to wake him in the morning, call me, and I will go with you. Good
night!"

In the morning they went up together to wake him. His window was open,
and the fresh spring air was blowing in. His books, his clothes, his
guns and rods, were piled about in their usual confusion. His dog was
lying on the hearthrug, and stretched himself as he came to greet them.
The dog had a glove at his feet, and they wondered at it. The curtains
of his bed were drawn close. Cuthbert went softly to them and drew them
aside. He was not there. The bed was smooth.

"Gone! gone!" cried Cuthbert. "I half feared it. Fly, William, for God's
sake, to Lord Ascot's, to Ranford; catch him there, and never leave him
again. Come, and get some money, and begone. You may be in time. If we
should lose him after all--after all!"

William needed no second bidding. In an hour he was at Stonnington. Mr.
Charles Ravenshoe had arrived there at daybreak, and had gone on in the
coach which started at eight. William posted to Exeter, and at eleven
o'clock in the evening saw Lady Ascot at Ranford. Charles Ravenshoe had
been there that afternoon, but was gone. And then Lady Ascot, weeping
wildly, told him such news as made him break from the room with an oath,
and dash through the scared servants in the hall and out into the
darkness, to try to overtake the carriage he had discharged, and reach
London.

The morning before, Adelaide had eloped with Lord Welter.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

FLIGHT.


When William left Charles in his room at Ravenshoe, the latter sat down
in his chair and began thinking.

The smart of the blow, which had fallen so heavily at first, had become
less painful. He knew by intuition that it would be worse on the morrow,
and on many morrows; but at present it was alleviated. He began to dread
sleeping, for fear of the waking.

He dreaded the night and dreams; and, more than all, the morrow and the
departure. He felt that he ought to see Cuthbert again, and he dreaded
that. He dreaded the servants seeing him go. He had a horror of parting
from all he had known so long, formally. It was natural. It would be so
much pain to all concerned; were it not better avoided? He thought of
all these things, and tried to persuade himself that these were the
reasons which made him do what he had as good as determined to do an
hour or two before, what he had in his mind when he called William back
in the corridor--to go away alone, and hide and mope like a wounded stag
for a little time.

It was his instinct to do so. Perhaps it would have been the best thing
for him. At all events, he determined on it, and packed up a portmanteau
and carpet-bag, and then sat down again, waiting.

"Yes," he said to himself, "it will be better to do this. I must get
away from William, poor lad. He must not follow my fortunes, for many
reasons."

His dog had been watching him, looking, with his bright loving eyes,
first at him and then at his baggage, wondering what journey they were
going on now. When Charles had done packing, and had sat down again in
his chair, before the fire, the dog leapt up in his lap unbidden, and
laid his head upon his breast.

"Grip, Grip!" said Charles, "I am going away to leave you for ever,
Grip. Dogs don't live so long as men, my boy; you will be quietly under
the turf and at rest, when I shall have forty long years more to go
through with."

The dog wagged his tail, and pawed his waistcoat. He wanted some
biscuit. Charles got him some, and then went on talking.

"I am going to London, old dog. I am going to see what the world is
like. I sha'n't come back before you are dead, Grip, I expect. I have
got to win money and a name for the sake of one who is worth winning it
for. Very likely I shall go abroad, to the land where the stuff comes
from they make sovereigns of, and try my luck at getting some of the
yellow rubbish. And she will wait in the old house at Ranford."

He paused here. The thought came upon him, "Would it not be more
honourable to absolve Adelaide from her engagement? Was he acting
generously in demanding of her to waste the best part of her life in
waiting till a ruined man had won fortune and means?"

The answer came. "She loves me. If I can wait, why not she?"

"I have wronged her by such a thought, Grip. Haven't I, my boy?"--and
so on. I needn't continue telling you the nonsense Charles talked to his
dog. Men will talk nonsense to their dogs and friends when they are in
love; and such nonsense is but poor reading at any time. To us who know
what had happened, and how worthless and false Adelaide was, it would be
merely painful and humiliating to hear any more of it. I only gave you
so much to show you how completely Charles was in the dark, poor fool,
with regard to Adelaide's character, and to render less surprising the
folly of his behaviour after he heard the news at Ranford.

Charles judged every one by his own standard. She had told him that she
loved him; and perhaps she did, for a time. He believed her. As for
vanity, selfishness, fickleness, calculation, coming in and conquering
love, he knew it was impossible in his own case, and so he conceived it
impossible in hers. I think I have been very careful to impress on you
that Charles was not wise. At all events, if I have softened matters so
far hitherto as to leave you in doubt, his actions, which we shall have
to chronicle immediately, will leave not the slightest doubt of it. I
love the man. I love his very faults in a way. He is a reality to me,
though I may not have the art to make him so to you. His mad, impulsive
way of forming a resolution, and his honourable obstinacy in sticking to
that resolution afterwards, even to the death, are very great faults;
but they are, more or less, the faults of men who have made a very great
figure in the world, or I have read history wrong. Men with Charles
Ravenshoe's character, and power of patience and application superadded,
turn out very brilliant characters for the most part. Charles had not
been drilled into habits of application early enough. Densil's
unthinking indulgence had done him much harm, and he was just the sort
of boy to be spoilt at school--a favourite among the masters and the
boys; always just up to his work and no more. It is possible that Eton
in one way, or Rugby in another, might have done for him what Shrewsbury
certainly did not. At Eton, thrown at once into a great, free republic,
he might have been forced to fight his way up to his proper place,
which, I believe, would not have been a low one. At Rugby he would have
had his place to win all the same; but to help him he would have had all
the traditionary school policy which a great man has left behind him as
an immortal legacy. It was not to be. He was sent to a good and manly
school enough, but one where there was for him too little of
competition. Shrewsbury is, in most respects, the third of the _old_
schools in England; but it was, unluckily, not the school for him. He
was too great a man there.

At Oxford, too, he hardly had a fair chance. Lord Welter was there
before him, and had got just such a set about him as one would expect
from that young gentleman's character and bringing up. These men were
Charles's first and only acquaintances at the University. What chance
was there among them for correcting and disciplining himself? None. The
wonder was, that he came out from among them without being greatly
deteriorated. The only friend Charles ever had who could guide him on
the way to being a man was John Marston. But John Marston, to say the
truth, was sometimes too hard and didactic, and very often roused
Charles's obstinacy through want of tact. Marston loved Charles, and
thought him better than the ninety and nine who need no repentance; but
it did not fall to Marston's lot to make a man of Charles. Some one took
that in hand who never fails.

This is the place for my poor apology for Charles's folly. If I had
inserted it before, you would not have attended to it, or would have
forgotten it. If I have done my work right, it is merely a statement of
the very conclusion you must have come to. In the humiliating scenes
which are to follow, I only beg you to remember that Charles Horton was
Charles Ravenshoe once; and that, while he was a gentleman, the people
loved him well.

Once, about twelve o'clock, he left his room, and passed through the
house to see if all was quiet. He heard the grooms and footmen talking
in the servants' hall. He stole back again to his room, and sat before
the fire.

In half an hour he rose again, and put his portmanteau and carpet-bag
outside his room door. Then he took his hat, and rose to go.

One more look round the old room! The last for ever! The present
overmastered the past, and he looked round almost without recognition. I
doubt whether at great crises men have much time for recollecting old
associations. I looked once into a room, which had been my home, ever
since I was six years old, for five-and-twenty years, knowing I should
never see it again. But it was to see that I had left nothing behind me.
The coach was at the door, and they were calling for me. Now I could
draw you a correct map of all the blotches and cracks in the ceiling, as
I used to see them when I lay in bed of a morning. But then, I only shut
the door and ran down the passage, without even saying "good-bye, old
bedroom." Charles Ravenshoe looked round the room thoughtlessly, and
then blew out the candle, went out, and shut the door.

The dog whined and scratched to come after him; so he went back again.
The old room bathed in a flood of moonlight, and, seen through the open
window, the busy chafing sea, calling to him to hasten.

He took a glove from the table, and, laying it on the hearthrug, told
the dog to mind it. The dog looked wistfully at him, and lay down. The
next moment he was outside the door again.

Through long moonlit corridors, down the moonlit hall, through dark
passages, which led among the sleeping household, to the door in the
priest's tower. The household slept, old men and young men, maids and
matrons, quietly, and dreamt of this and of that. And he, who was
yesterday nigh master of all, passed out from among them, and stood
alone in the world, outside the dark old house, which he had called his
home.

Then he felt the deed was done. Was it only the night-wind from the
north that laid such a chill hand on his heart? Busy waves upon the
shore talking eternally--"We have come in from the Atlantic, bearing
messages; we have come over foundered ships and the bones of drowned
sailors, and we tell our messages and die upon the shore."

Shadows that came sweeping from the sea, over lawn and flower-bed, and
wrapped the old mansion like a pall for one moment, and then left it
shining again in the moonlight, clear, pitiless. Within, warm rooms,
warm beds, and the bated breath of sleepers, lying secure in the lap of
wealth and order. Without, hard, cold stone. The great world around
awaiting to devour one more atom. The bright unsympathising stars, and
the sea, babbling of the men it had rolled over, whose names should
never be known.

Now the park, with herds of ghostly startled deer, and the sweet scent
of growing fern; then the rush of the brook, the bridge, and the vista
of woodland above; and then the sleeping village.



CHAPTER XXIX.

CHARLES'S RETREAT UPON LONDON.


Passing out of the park, Charles set down his burden at the door of a
small farm-house at the further end of the village, and knocked. For
some time he stood waiting for an answer, and heard no sound save the
cows and horses moving about in the warm straw-yard. The beasts were in
their home. No terrible new morrow for them. He was without in the
street; his home irrevocable miles behind him; still not a thought of
flinching or turning back. He knocked again.

The door was unbarred. An old man looked out, and recognised him with
wild astonishment.

"Mr. Charles! Good lord-a-mercy! My dear tender heart, what be doing out
at this time a-night? With his portmantle, too, and his carpet-bag! Come
in, my dear soul, come in. An' so pale and wild! Why, you'm overlooked,
Master Charles."

"No, Master Lee, I ain't overlooked. At least not that I know of----"

The old man shook his head, and reserved his opinion.

"----But I want your gig to go to Stonnington."

"To-night?"

"Ay, to-night. The coach goes at eight in the morning; I want to be
there before that."

"Why do'ee start so soon? They'll be all abed in the Chichester Arms."

"I know. I shall get into the stable. I don't know where I shall get. I
must go. There is trouble at the Hall."

"Ay! ay! I thought as much, and you'm going away into the world?"

"Yes."

The old man said, "Ay! ay!" again, and turned to go upstairs. Then he
held his candle over his head, and looked at Charles; and then went
upstairs muttering to himself.

Presently was aroused from sleep a young Devonshire giant, half
Hercules, half Antinoüs, who lumbered down the stairs, and into the
room, and made his obeisance to Charles with an air of wonder in his
great sleepy black eyes, and departed to get the gig.

Of course his first point was Ranford. He got there in the afternoon. He
had in his mind at this time, he thinks (for he does not remember it all
very distinctly), the idea of going to Australia. He had an idea, too,
of being eminently practical and business-like; and so he did a thing
which may appear to be trifling, but which was important--one cannot say
how much so. He asked for Lord Ascot instead of Lady Ascot.

Lord Ascot was in the library. Charles was shown in to him. He was
sitting before the fire, reading a novel. He looked very worn and
anxious, and jumped up nervously when Charles was announced. He dropped
his book on the floor, and came forward to him, holding out his right
hand.

"Charles," he said, "you will forgive me any participation in this. I
swear to you----"

Charles thought that by some means the news of what had happened at
Ravenshoe had come before him, and that Lord Ascot knew all about Father
Mackworth's discovery. Lord Ascot was thinking about Adelaide's flight;
so they were at cross purposes.

"Dear Lord Ascot," said Charles, "how could I think of blaming you, my
kind old friend?"

"It is devilish gentlemanly of you to speak so, Charles," said Lord
Ascot. "I am worn to death about that horse, Haphazard, and other
things; and this has finished me. I have been reading a novel to
distract my mind. I must win the Derby, you know; by Gad, I must."

"Whom have you got, Lord Ascot?"

"Wells."

"You couldn't do better, I suppose?"

"I suppose not. You don't know--I'd rather not talk any more about it,
Charles."

"Lord Ascot, this is, as you may well guess, the last time I shall ever
see you. I want you to do me a favour."

"I will do it, my dear Charles, with the greatest pleasure. Any
reparation----"

"Hush, my lord! I only want a certificate. Will you read this which I
have written in pencil, and, if you conscientiously can, copy in your
own hand, and sign it. Also, if I send to you a reference, will you
confirm it?"

Lord Ascot read what Charles had written, and said--

"Yes, certainly. You are going to change your name then?"

"I must bear that name, now; I am going abroad."

Lord Ascot wrote--

      "The undermentioned Charles Horton I have known ever since
      he was a boy. His character is beyond praise in every way.
      He is a singularly bold and dexterous rider, and is
      thoroughly up to the management of horses.

"ASCOT."

"You have improved upon my text, Lord Ascot," said Charles. "It is like
your kindheartedness. The mouse may offer to help the lion, my lord;
and, although the lion may know how little likely it is that he should
require help, yet he may take it as a sign of goodwill on the part of
the poor mouse. Now good-bye, my lord; I must see Lady Ascot, and then
be off."

Lord Ascot wished him kindly good-bye, and took up his novel again.
Charles went alone up to Lady Ascot's room.

He knocked at the door, and received no answer; so he went in. Lady
Ascot was there, although she had not answered him. She was sitting
upright by the fire, staring at the door, with her hands folded on her
lap. A fine brave-looking old lady at all times, but just now, Charles
thought, with that sweet look of pity showing itself principally about
the corners of the gentle old mouth, more noble-looking than ever!

"May I come in, Lady Ascot?" said Charles.

"My dearest own boy! You must come in and sit down. You must be very
quiet over it. Try not to make a scene, my dear. I am not strong enough.
It has shaken me so terribly. I heard you had come, and were with Ascot.
And I have been trembling in every limb. Not from terror so much of you
in your anger, as because my conscience is not clear. I may have hidden
things from you, Charles, which you ought to have known." And Lady Ascot
began crying silently.

Charles felt the blood going from his cheeks to his heart. His interview
with Lord Ascot had made him suspect something further was wrong than
what he knew of, and his suspicions were getting stronger every moment.
He sat down quite quietly, looking at Lady Ascot, and spoke not one
word. Lady Ascot, wiping her eyes, went on; and Charles's heart began to
beat with a dull heavy pulsation, like the feet of those who carry a
coffin.

"I ought to have told you what was going on between them before she went
to old Lady Hainault. I ought to have told you of what went on before
Lord Hainault was married. I can never forgive myself, Charles. You may
upbraid me, and I will sit here and make not one excuse. But I must say
that I never for one moment thought that she was anything more than
light-headed. I,--oh Lord! I never dreamt it would have come to this."

"Are you speaking of Adelaide, Lady Ascot?" said Charles.

"Of course I am," she said, almost peevishly. "If I had ever----"

"Lady Ascot," said Charles, quietly, "you are evidently speaking of
something of which I have not heard. What has Adelaide done?"

The old lady clasped her hands above her head. "Oh, weary, weary day!
And I thought that he had heard it all, and that the blow was broken.
The cowards! they have left it to a poor old woman to tell him at last."

"Dear Lady Ascot, you evidently have not heard of what a terrible fate
has befallen me. I am a ruined man, and I am very patient. I had one
hope left in the world, and I fear that you are going to cut it away
from me. I am very quiet, and will make no scene; only tell me what has
happened."

"Adelaide!--be proud, Charles, be angry, furious--you Ravenshoes
can!--be a man, but don't look like that. Adelaide, dead to honour and
good fame, has gone off with Welter!"

Charles walked towards the door.

"That is enough. Please let me go. I can't stand any more at present.
You have been very kind to me and to her, and I thank you and bless you
for it. The son of a bastard blesses you for it. Let me go--let me go!"

Lady Ascot had stepped actively to the door, and had laid one hand on
the door, and one on his breast. "You shall not go," she said, "till you
have told me what you mean!"

"How? I cannot stand any more at present."

"What do you mean by being the son of a bastard?"

"I am the son of James, Mr. Ravenshoe's keeper. He was the illegitimate
son of Mr. Petre Ravenshoe."

"Who told you this?" said Lady Ascot.

"Cuthbert."

"How did he know it!"

Charles told her all.

"So the priest has found that out, eh?" said Lady Ascot. "It seems
true;" and, as she said so, she moved back from the door. "Go to your
old bedroom, Charles. It will always be ready for you while this house
is a house. And come down to me presently. Where is Lord Saltire?"

"At Lord Segur's."

Charles went out of the room, and out of the house, and was seen no
more. Lady Ascot sat down by the fire again.

"The one blow has softened the other," she said. "I will never keep
another secret after this. It was for Alicia's sake and for Petre's that
I did it, and now see what has become of it. I shall send for Lord
Saltire. The boy must have his rights, and shall, too."

So the brave old woman sat down and wrote to Lord Saltire. We shall see
what she wrote to him in the proper place--not now. She sat calmly and
methodically writing, with her kind old face wreathing into a smile as
she went on. And Charles, the madman, left the house, and posted off to
London, only intent on seeking to lose himself among the sordid crowd,
so that no man he had ever called a friend should set eyes on him
again.



CHAPTER XXX.

MR. SLOANE.


Charles Ravenshoe had committed suicide--committed suicide as
deliberately as any maddened wretch had done that day in all the wide
miserable world. He knew it very well, and was determined to go on with
it. He had not hung himself, or drowned himself, but he had committed
deliberate suicide, and he knew--knew well--that his obstinacy would
carry him through to the end.

What is suicide, nine cases out of ten? Any one can tell you. It is the
act of a mad, proud coward, who flies, by his own deed, not from
humiliation or disgrace, but, as he fancies, from feeling the
consequences of them--who flies to unknown, doubtful evils, sooner than
bear positive, present, undoubted ones. All this had Charles done,
buoying him up with this excuse and that excuse, and fancying that he
was behaving, the cur, like Bayard, or Lieutenant Willoughby--a greater
than Bayard--all the time.

The above is Charles's idea of the matter himself, put in the third
person for form's sake. I don't agree with all he says about himself. I
don't deny that he did a very foolish thing, but I incline to believe
that there was something noble and self-reliant in his doing it. Think a
moment. He had only two courses open to him--the one (I put it coarsely)
to eat humble-pie, to go back to Cuthbert and Mackworth, and accept
their offers; the other to do as he had done--to go alone into the
world, and stand by himself. He did the latter, as we shall see. He
could not face Ravenshoe, or any connected with it, again. It had been
proved that he was an unwilling impostor, of base, low blood; and his
sister--ah! one more pang, poor heart!--his sister Ellen, what was she?

Little doubt--little doubt! Better for both of them if they had never
been born! He was going to London, and, perhaps, might meet her there!
All the vice and misery of the country got thrown into that cesspool.
When anything had got too foul for the pure country air, men said, Away
with it; throw it into the great dunghill, and let it rot there. Was he
not going there himself? It was fit she should be there before him! They
would meet for certain!

How would they meet? Would she be in silks and satins, or in rags?
flaunting in her carriage, or shivering in an archway? What matter? was
not shame the heritage of the "lower orders"? The pleasures of the rich
must be ministered to by the "lower orders," or what was the use of
money or rank? He was one of the lower orders now. He must learn his
lesson; learn to cringe and whine like the rest of them. It would be
hard, but it must be learnt. The dogs rose against it sometimes, but it
never paid.

The devil was pretty busy with poor Charles in his despair, you see.
This was all he had left after three and twenty years of careless
idleness and luxury. His creed had been, "I am a Ravenshoe," and lo! one
morning, he was a Ravenshoe no longer. A poor crow, that had been
fancying himself an eagle. A crow! "by heavens," he thought, "he was not
even that." A nonentity, turned into the world to find his own value!
What were honour, honesty, virtue to him? Why, nothing--words! He must
truckle and pander for his living. Why not go back and truckle to Father
Mackworth? There was time yet.

No!

Why not? Was it pride only? We have no right to say what it was. If it
was only pride, it was better than nothing. Better to have that straw
only to cling to, than to be all alone in the great sea with nothing. We
have seen that he has done nothing good, with circumstances all in his
favour; let us see if he can in any way hold his own, with circumstances
all against him.

"America?" he thought once. "They are all gentlemen there. If I could
only find her, and tear her jewels off, we would go there together. But
she must be found--she must be found. I will never leave England till
she goes with me. We shall be brought together. We shall see one
another. I love her as I never loved her before. What a sweet, gentle
little love she was! My darling! And, when I have kissed her, I never
dreamed she was my sister. My pretty love! Ellen, Ellen, I am coming to
you. Where are you, my love?"

He was alone, in a railway carriage, leaning out to catch the fresh
wind, as he said this. He said it once again, this time aloud. "Where
are you, my sister?"

Where was she? Could he have only seen! We may be allowed to see, though
_he_ could not. Come forward into the great Babylon with me, while he is
speeding on towards it; we will rejoin him in an instant.

In a small luxuriously furnished hall, there stands a beautiful woman,
dressed modestly in the garb of a servant. She is standing with her arms
folded, and a cold, stern, curious look on her face. She is looking
towards the hall-door, which is held open by a footman. She is waiting
for some one who is coming in; and two travellers enter, a man and a
woman. She goes up to the woman, and says, quietly, "I bid you welcome,
madam." Who are these people? Is that waiting-woman Ellen? and these
travellers, are they Lord Welter and Adelaide? Let us get back to poor
Charles; better be with him than here!

We must follow him closely. We must see why, in his despair, he took the
extraordinary resolution that he did. Not that I shall take any
particular pains to follow the exact process of his mind in arriving at
his determination. If the story has hitherto been told well it will
appear nothing extraordinary, and, if otherwise, an intelligent reader
would very soon detect any attempt at bolstering up ill-told facts by
elaborate, soul-analysing theories.

He could have wished the train would have run on for ever; but he was
aroused by the lights growing thicker and more brilliant, and he felt
that they were nearing London, and that the time for action was come.

The great plunge was taken, and he was alone in the cold street--alone,
save for the man who carried his baggage. He stood for a moment or so,
confused with the rush of carriages of all sorts which were taking the
people from the train, till he was aroused by the man asking him where
he was to go to.

Charles said, without thinking, "The Warwick Hotel," and thither they
went. For a moment he regretted that he had said so, but the next moment
he said aloud, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die!"

The man turned round and begged his pardon. Charles did not answer him;
and the man went on, wondering what sort of a young gentleman he had got
hold of.

The good landlord was glad to see him. Would he have dinner?--a bit of
fish and a lamb chop, for instance? Then it suddenly struck Charles that
he was hungry--ravenous. He laughed aloud at the idea; and the landlord
laughed too, and rubbed his hands. Should it be whiting or smelts now?
he asked.

"Anything," said Charles, "so long as you feed me quick. And give me
wine, will you, of some sort; I want to drink. Give me sherry, will you?
And I say, let me taste some now, and then I can see if I like it. I am
very particular about my wine, you must know."

In a few minutes a waiter brought in a glass of wine, and waited to know
how Charles liked it. He told the man he could go, and he would tell
him at dinner-time. When the man was gone, he looked at the wine with a
smile. Then he took it up, and poured it into the coal-scuttle.

"Not yet," he said, "not yet! I'll try something else before I try to
drink my troubles away." And then he plunged into the _Times_.

He had no sooner convinced himself that Lord Aberdeen was tampering with
the honour of the country by not declaring war, than he found himself
profoundly considering what had caused that great statesman to elope
with Adelaide, and whether, in case of a Russian war, Lady Ascot would
possibly convict Father Mackworth of having caused it. Then Lady Ascot
came into the room with a large bottle of medicine and a testament,
announcing that she was going to attend a sick gun-boat. And then, just
as he began to see that he was getting sleepy, to sleep he went, fast as
a top.

Half an hour's sleep restored him, and dinner made things look
different. "After all," he said, as he sipped his wine, "here is only
the world on the one side and I on the other. I am utterly reckless, and
can sink no further. I will get all the pleasure out of life that I can,
honestly; for I am an honest man still, and mean to be. I love you
Madame Adelaide, and you have used me worse than a hound, and made me
desperate. If he marries you, I will come forward some day, and disgrace
you. If you had only waited till you knew everything, I could have
forgiven you. I'll get a place as a footman, and talk about you in the
servant's hall. All London shall know you were engaged to me."

"Poor dear, pretty Adelaide: as if I would ever hurt a hair of your
head, my sweet love! Silly----"

The landlord came in. There was most excellent company in the
smoking-room. Would he condescend to join them?

Company and tobacco! Charles would certainly join them; so he had his
wine carried in.

There was a fat gentleman, with a snub nose, who was a Conservative.
There was a tall gentleman, with a long nose, who was Liberal. There was
a short gentleman, with no particular kind of nose, who was Radical.
There was a handsome gentleman, with big whiskers, who was commercial;
and there was a gentleman with bandy legs, who was horsy.

I strongly object to using a slang adjective, if any other can be got to
supply its place; but by doing so sometimes one avoids a periphrasis,
and does not spoil one's period. Thus, I know of no predicate for a
gentleman with a particular sort of hair, complexion, dress, whiskers,
and legs, except the one I have used above, and so it must stand.

As Providence would have it, Charles sat down between the landlord and
the horsy man, away from the others. He smoked his cigar, and listened
to the conversation.

The Conservative gentleman coalesced with the Liberal gentleman on the
subject of Lord Aberdeen's having sold the country to the Russians; the
Radical gentleman also come over to them on that subject; and for a time
the Opposition seemed to hold an overwhelming majority, and to be merely
allowing Aberdeen's Government to hold place longer, that they might
commit themselves deeper. In fact, things seemed to be going all one
way, as is often the case in coalition ministries just before a grand
crash, when the Radical gentleman caused a violent split in the cabinet,
by saying that the whole complication had been brought about by the
machinations of the aristocracy--which assertion caused the Conservative
gentleman to retort in unmeasured language; and then the Liberal
gentleman, trying to trim, found himself distrusted and despised by both
parties. Charles listened to them, amused for the time to hear them
quoting, quite unconsciously, whole sentences out of their respective
leading papers, and then was distracted by the horsy man saying to him--

"Darn politics. What horse will win the Derby, sir?"

"Haphazard," said Charles, promptly. This, please to remember, was Lord
Ascot's horse, which we have seen before.

The landlord immediately drew closer up.

The horsy man looked at Charles, and said, "H'm; and what has made my
lord scratch him for the Two Thousand, sir?"

And so on. We have something to do with Haphazard's winning the Derby,
as we shall see; and we have still more to do with the result of
Charles's conversation with the "horsy man." But we have certainly
nothing to do with a wordy discussion about the various horses which
stood well for the great race (wicked, lovely darlings, how many souls
of heroes have they sent to Hades!), and so we will spare the reader.
The conclusion of their conversation was the only important part of it.

Charles said to the horsy man on the stairs, "Now you know everything. I
am penniless, friendless, and nameless. Can you put me in the way of
earning my living honestly?"

And he said, "I can, and I will. This gentleman is a fast man, but he is
rich. You'll have your own way. Maybe, you'll see some queer things, but
what odds?"

"None to me," said Charles; "I can always leave him."

"And go back to your friends, like a wise young gentleman, eh?" said the
other, kindly.

"I am not a gentleman," said Charles. "I told you so before. I am a
gamekeeper's son; I swear to you I am. I have been petted and pampered
till I look like one, but I am not."

"You are a deuced good imitation," said the other. "Good night; come to
me at nine, mind."

       *       *       *       *       *

At this time, Lady Ascot had despatched her letter to Lord Saltire, and
had asked for Charles. The groom of the chambers said that Mr. Ravenshoe
had left the house immediately after his interview with her ladyship,
three hours before.

She started up--"Gone!--Whither?"

"To Twyford, my lady."

"Send after him, you idiot! Send the grooms after him on all my lord's
horses. Send a lad on Haphazard, and let him race the train to London.
Send the police! He has stolen my purse, with ten thousand gold guineas
in it!--I swear he has. Have him bound hand and foot, and bring him
back, on your life. If you stay there I will kill you!"

The violent old animal nature, dammed up so long by creeds and formulas,
had broken out at last. The decorous Lady Ascot was transformed in one
instant into a terrible, grey-headed, magnificent old Alecto, hurling
her awful words abroad in a sharp, snarling voice, that made the hair of
him that heard it to creep upon his head. The man fled, and shut Lady
Ascot in alone.

She walked across the room, and beat her withered old hands against the
wall. "Oh, miserable, wicked old woman!" she cried aloud. "How surely
have your sins found you out! After concealing a crime for so many
years, to find the judgment fall on such an innocent and beloved head!
Alicia, Alicia, I did this for your sake. Charles, Charles, come back to
the old woman before she dies, and tell her you forgive her."



CHAPTER XXXI.

LIEUTENANT HORNBY.


Charles had always been passionately fond of horses and of riding. He
was a consummate horseman, and was so perfectly accomplished in
everything relating to horses, that I really believe that in time he
might actually have risen to the dizzy height of being stud-groom to a
great gentleman or nobleman. He had been brought up in a great
horse-riding house, and had actually gained so much experience, and had
so much to say on matters of this kind, that once, at Oxford, a
promising young nobleman cast, so to speak, an adverse opinion of
Charles's into George Simmond's own face. Mr. Simmonds looked round on
the offender mildly and compassionately, and said, "If any undergraduate
_could_ know, my lord, that undergraduate's name would be Ravenshoe of
Paul's. But he is young, my lord; and, in consequence, ignorant." His
lordship didn't say anything after that.

I have kept this fact in the background rather, hitherto, because it has
not been of any very great consequence. It becomes of some consequence
now, for the first time. I enlarged a little on Charles being a rowing
man, because rowing and training had, for good or for evil, a certain
effect on his character. (Whether for good or for evil, you must
determine for yourselves.) And I now mention the fact of his being a
consummate horseman, because a considerable part of the incidents which
follow arise from the fact.

Don't think for one moment that you are going to be bored by
stable-talk. You will have simply none of it. It only amounts to
this--that Charles, being fond of horses, took up with a certain line of
life, and in that line of life met with certain adventures which have
made his history worth relating.

When he met the "horsy" man next morning, he was not dressed like a
gentleman. In his store he had some old clothes, which he used to wear
at Ravenshoe, in the merry old days when he would be up with daylight to
exercise the horses on the moor--cord trousers, and so on--which, being
now old and worn, made him look uncommonly like a groom out of place.
And what contributed to the delusion was, that for the first time in his
life he wore no shirt collar, but allowed his blue-spotted neckcloth to
border on his honest red face, without one single quarter of an inch of
linen. And, if it ever pleases your lordship's noble excellence to look
like a blackguard for any reason, allow me to recommend you to wear a
dark necktie and no collar. Your success will be beyond your utmost
hopes.

Charles met his new friend in the bar, and touched his hat to him. His
friend laughed, and said, that would do, but asked how long he thought
he could keep that sort of thing going. Charles said, as long as was
necessary; and they went out together.

They walked as far as a street leading out of one of the largest and
best squares (I mean B--lg--e Sq--e, but I don't like to write it at
full length), and stopped at the door of a handsome shop. Charles knew
enough of London to surmise that the first floor was let to a man of
some wealth; and he was right.

The door was opened, and his friend was shown up stairs, while he was
told to wait in the hall. Now Charles began to perceive, with
considerable amusement, that he was acting a part--that he was playing,
so to speak, at being something other than what he really was, and that
he was, perhaps, overdoing it. In this house, which yesterday he would
have entered as an equal, he was now playing at being a servant. It was
immensely amusing. He wiped his shoes very clean, and sat down on a
bench in the hall, with his hat between his knees, as he had seen grooms
do. It is no use wondering; one never finds out anything by that. But I
do wonder, nevertheless, whether Charles, had he only known in what
relation the master of that house stood to himself, would or would not
have set the house on fire, or cut its owner's throat. When he did find
out, he did neither the one thing nor the other; but he had been a good
deal tamed by that time.

Presently a servant came down, and, eyeing Charles curiously as a
prospective fellow-servant, told him civilly to walk up stairs. He went
up. The room was one of a handsome suite, and overlooked the street.
Charles saw at a glance that it was the room of a great dandy. A dandy,
if not of the first water, most assuredly high up in the second. Two
things only jurred on his eye in his hurried glance round the room.
There was too much bric-a-brac, and too many flowers. "I wonder if he is
a gentleman," thought Charles. His friend of the night before was
standing in a respectful attitude, leaning on the back of a chair, and
Charles looked round for the master of the house, eagerly. He had to
cast his eyes downward to see him, for he was lying back on an easy
chair, half hidden by the breakfast table.

There he was--Charles's master: the man who was going to buy him.
Charles cast one intensely eager glance at him, and was satisfied. "He
will do at a pinch," said he to himself.

There were a great many handsome and splendid things in that room, but
the owner of them was by far the handsomest and most splendid thing
there.

He was a young man, with very pale and delicate features, and a
singularly amiable cast of face, who wore a moustache, with the long
whiskers which were just then coming into fashion; and he was dressed
in a splendid uniform of blue, gold, and scarlet, for he had been on
duty that morning, and had just come in. His sabre was cast upon the
floor before him, and his shako was on the table. As Charles looked at
him, he passed his hand over his hair. There was one ring on it, but
_such_ a ring! "That's a high-bred hand enough," said Charles to
himself. "And he hasn't got too much jewellery on him. I wonder who the
deuce he is?"

"This is the young man, sir," said Charles's new friend.

Lieutenant Hornby was looking at Charles, and after a pause, said--

"I take him on your recommendation, Sloane. I have no doubt he will do.
He seems a good fellow. You are a good fellow, ain't you?" he continued,
addressing Charles personally, with that happy graceful insolence which
is the peculiar property of prosperous and entirely amiable young men,
and which charms one in spite of oneself.

Charles replied, "I am quarrelsome sometimes among my equals, but I am
always good-tempered among horses."

"That will do very well. You may punch the other two lads' heads as much
as you like. They don't mind me; perhaps they may you. You will be over
them. You will have the management of everything. You will have
unlimited opportunities of robbing and plundering me, with an entire
absence of all chance of detection. But you won't do it. It isn't your
line, I saw at once. Let me look at your hand."

Charles gave him the great ribbed paw which served him in that capacity.
And Hornby said--

"Ha! Gentleman's hand. No business of mine. Don't wear that ring, will
you? A groom mustn't wear such rings as that. Any character?"

Charles showed him the letter Lord Ascot had written.

"Lord Ascot, eh? I know Lord Welter, slightly."

"The deuce you do," thought Charles.

"Were you in Lord Ascot's stables?"

"No, sir. I am the son of Squire Ravenshoe's gamekeeper. The Ravenshoes
and my Lord Ascot's family are connected by marriage. Ravenshoe is in
the west country, sir. Lord Ascot knows me by repute, sir, and has a
good opinion of me."

"It is perfectly satisfactory. Sloane, will you put him in the way of
his duties? Make the other lads understand that he is master, will you?
You may go."



CHAPTER XXXII.

SOME OF THE HUMOURS OF A LONDON MEWS.


So pursuing the course of our story, we have brought ourselves to the
present extraordinary position. That Charles Ravenshoe, of Ravenshoe, in
the county Devonshire, Esquire, and some time of St. Paul's College,
Oxford, has hired himself out as groom to Lieutenant Hornby, of the
140th Hussars, and that also the above-named Charles Ravenshoe was not,
and never had been Charles Ravenshoe at all, but somebody else all the
time, to wit, Charles Horton, a gamekeeper's son, if indeed he was even
this, having been christened under a false name.

The situation is so extraordinary and so sad, that having taken the
tragical view of it in the previous chapter, we must of necessity begin
to look on the brighter side of it now. And this is the better art,
because it is exactly what Charles began to do himself. One blow
succeeded the other so rapidly, the utter bouleversement of all that he
cared about in the world. Father, friends, position, mistress, all lost
in one day, had brought on a kind of light-hearted desperation, which
had the effect of making him seek company, and talk boisterously and
loud all day. It was not unnatural in so young and vigorous a man. But
if he woke in the night, there was the cold claw grasping his heart.
Well, I said we would have none of this at present, and we won't.

Patient old earth, intent only on doing her duty in her set courses, and
unmindful of the mites which had been set to make love or war on her
bosom, and the least of whom was worth her whole well-organised mass,
had rolled on, and on, until by bringing that portion of her which
contains the island of Britain, gradually in greater proximity to the
sun, she had produced that state of things on that particular part of
her which is known among mortals as spring. Now, I am very anxious to
please all parties. Some people like a little circumlocution, and for
them the above paragraph was written; others do not, and for them, I
state that it was the latter end of May, and beg them not to read the
above flight of fancy, but to consider it as never having been written.

It was spring. On the sea-coast, the watchers at the lighthouses and the
preventive stations began to walk about in their shirt-sleeves, and trim
up their patches of spray-beaten garden, hedged with tree-mallow and
tamarisk, and to thank God that the long howling winter nights were
past for a time. The fishermen shouted merrily one to another as they
put off from the shore, no longer dreading a twelve hours' purgatory of
sleet and freezing mist and snow; saying to one another how green the
land looked, and how pleasant mackerel time was after all. Their wives,
light-hearted at the thought that the wild winter was past, and that
they were not widows, brought their work out to the doors, and gossiped
pleasantly in the sun, while some of the bolder boys began to paddle
about in the surf, and try to believe that the Gulf Stream had come in,
and that it was summer again, and not only spring.

In inland country places the barley was all in and springing, the
meadows were all bush-harrowed, rolled, and laid up for hay; nay, in
early places, brimful of grass, spangled with purple orchises, and in
moist rich places golden with marsh marigold, over which the south-west
wind passed pleasantly, bringing a sweet perfume of growing vegetation,
which gave those who smelt it a tendency to lean against gates, and
stiles, and such places, and think what a delicious season it was, and
wish it were to last for ever. The young men began to slip away from
work somewhat early of an evening, not (as now) to the parade ground, or
the butts, but to take their turn at the wicket on the green, where Sir
John (our young landlord) was to be found in a scarlet flannel shirt,
bowling away like a catapult, at all comers, till the second bell began
to ring, and he had to dash off and dress. Now lovers walking by
moonlight in deep banked lanes began to notice how dark and broad the
shadows grew, and to wait at the lane's end by the river, to listen to
the nightingale, with his breast against the thorn, ranging on from
height to height of melodious passion, petulant at his want of art, till
he broke into one wild jubilant burst, and ceased, leaving night silent,
save for the whispering of new-born insects, and the creeping sound of
reviving vegetation.

Spring. The great renewal of the lease. The time when nature-worshippers
made good resolutions, to be very often broken before the leaves fall.
The time the country becomes once more habitable and agreeable. Does it
make any difference in the hundred miles of brick and mortar called
London, save, in so far as it makes every reasonable Christian pack up
his portmanteau and fly to the green fields, and lover's lanes
before-mentioned (though it takes two people for the latter sort of
business)? Why, yes; it makes a difference to London certainly, by
bringing somewhere about 10,000 people, who have got sick of shooting
and hunting through the winter months, swarming into the west end of
it, and making it what is called full.

I don't know that they are wrong after all, for London is a mighty
pleasant place in the season (we don't call it spring on the
paving-stones). At this time the windows of the great houses in the
squares begin to be brilliant with flowers; and, under the awnings of
the balconies, one sees women moving about in the shadow. Now, all
through the short night, one hears the ceaseless low rolling thunder of
beautiful carriages, and in the daytime also the noise ceases not. All
through the west end of the town there is a smell of flowers, of
fresh-watered roads, and Macassar oil; while at Covent Garden, the scent
of the peaches and pine-apples begins to prevail over that of rotten
cabbage-stalks. The fiddlers are all fiddling away at concert pitch for
their lives, the actors are all acting their very hardest, and the men
who look after the horses have never a minute to call their own, day or
night.

It is neither to dukes nor duchesses, to actors nor fiddlers, that we
must turn our attention just now, but to a man who was sitting in a
wheelbarrow, watching a tame jackdaw.

The place was a London mews, behind one of the great squares--the time
was afternoon. The weather was warm and sunny. All the proprietors of
the horses were out riding or driving, and so the stables were empty,
and the mews were quiet.

This was about a week after Charles's degradation, almost the first hour
he had to himself in the daytime, and so he sat pondering on his unhappy
lot.

Lord Ballyroundtower's coachman's wife was hanging out the clothes. She
was an Irishwoman off the estate (his lordship's Irish residences, I
see, on referring to the peerage, are, "The Grove," Blarney, and
"Swatewathers," near Avoca). When I say that she was hanging out the
clothes, I am hardly correct, for she was only fixing the lines up to do
so, and being of short stature, and having to reach was naturally
showing her heels, and the jackdaw, perceiving this, began to hop
stealthily across the yard. Charles saw what was coming, and became
deeply interested. He would not have spoken for his life. The jackdaw
sidled up to her, and began digging into her tendon Achilles with his
hard bill with a force and rapidity which showed that he was fully aware
of the fact, that the amusement, like most pleasant things, could not
last long, and must therefore be made the most of. Some women would have
screamed and faced round at the first assault. Not so our Irish friend.
She endured the anguish until she had succeeded in fastening the
clothes-line round the post, and then she turned round on the jackdaw,
who had fluttered away to a safe distance, and denounced him.

"Bad cess to ye, ye impident divvle, sure it's Sathan's own sister's
son, ye are, ye dirty prothestant, pecking at the hales of an honest
woman, daughter of my lord's own man, Corny O'Brine, as was a dale
bether nor them as sits on whalebarrows, and sets ye on too't--" (this
was levelled at Charles, so he politely took off his cap, and bowed).

"Though, God forgive me, there's some sitting on whalebarrows as should
be sitting in drawing-rooms, may be (here the jackdaw raised one foot,
and said 'Jark'). Get out, ye baste; don't ye hear me blessed lady's own
bird swearing at ye, like a gentleman's bird as he is. A pretty dear."

This was strictly true. Lord Ballyroundtower's brother, the Honourable
Frederick Mulligan, was a lieutenant in the navy. A short time before
this, being on the Australian station, and wishing to make his
sister-in-law a handsome present, he had commissioned a Sydney Jew
bird-dealer to get him a sulphur-crested cockatoo, price no object, but
the best talker in the colony. The Jew faithfully performed his behest;
he got him the best talking cockatoo in the colony, and the Hon. Fred
brought it home in triumph to his sister-in-law's drawing-room in
Belgrave Square.

The bird was a beautiful talker. There was no doubt about that. It had
such an amazingly distinct enunciation. But then the bird was not always
discreet. Nay, to go further, the bird never _was_ discreet. He had been
educated by a convict bullock-driver, and finished off by the sailors on
board H.M.S. _Actæon_; and really, you know, sometimes he did say things
he ought not to have said. It was all very well pretending that you
couldn't hear him, but it rendered conversation impossible. You were
always in agony at what was to come next. One afternoon, a great many
people were there, calling. Old Lady Hainault was there. The bird was
worse than ever. Everybody tried to avoid a silence, but it came
inexorably. That awful old woman, Lady Hainault, broke it by saying that
she thought Fred Mulligan must have been giving the bird private lessons
himself. After that, you know, it wouldn't do. Fred might be angry, but
the bird must go to the mews.

So there the bird was, swearing dreadfully at the jackdaw. At last, her
ladyship's pug-dog, who was staying with the coachman for medical
treatment, got excited, bundled out of the house, and attacked the
jackdaw. The jackdaw formed square to resist cavalry, and sent the dog
howling into the house again quicker than he came out. After which the
bird barked, and came and sat on the dunghill by Charles.

The mews itself, as I said, was very quiet, with a smell of stable,
subdued by a fresh scent of sprinkled water; but at the upper end it
joined a street leading from Belgrave Square towards the Park, which was
by no means quiet, and which smelt of geraniums and heliotropes.
Carriage after carriage went blazing past the end of the mews, along
this street, like figures across the disk of a magic lanthorn. Some had
scarlet breeches, and some blue; and there were pink bonnets, and yellow
bonnets, and Magenta bonnets; and Charles sat on the wheelbarrow by the
dunghill, and looked at it all, perfectly contented.

A stray dog lounged in out of the street. It was a cur dog--that any one
might see. It was a dog which had bit its rope and run away, for the
rope was round its neck now; and it was a thirsty dog, for it went up to
the pump and licked the stones. Charles went and pumped for it, and it
drank. Then, evidently considering that Charles, by his act of good
nature, had acquired authority over its person, and having tried to do
without a master already, and having found it wouldn't do, it sat down
beside Charles, and declined to proceed any further.

There was a public-house at the corner of the mews, where it joined the
street; and on the other side of the street you could see one house, No.
16. The footman of No. 16 was in the area, looking through the railings.
A thirsty man came to the public-house on horseback, and drank a pot of
beer at a draught, turning the pot upside down. It was too much for the
footman, who disappeared.

Next came a butcher with a tray of meat, who turned into the area of No.
16, and left the gate open. After him came a blind man, led by a dog.
The dog, instead of going straight on, turned down the area steps after
the butcher. The blind man thought he was going round the corner.
Charles saw what would happen; but, before he had time to cry out, the
blind man had plunged headlong down the area steps and disappeared,
while from the bottom, as from the pit, arose the curses of the butcher.

Charles and others assisted the blind man up, gave him some beer, and
sent him on his way. Charles watched him. After he had gone a little
way, he began striking spitefully at where he thought his dog was, with
his stick. The dog was evidently used to this amusement, and dexterously
avoided the blows. Finding vertical blows of no avail, the blind man
tried horizontal ones, and caught an old gentleman across the shins,
making him drop his umbrella and catch up his leg. The blind man
promptly asked an alms from him, and, not getting one, turned the
corner; and Charles saw him no more.

The hot street and, beyond, the square, the dusty lilacs and laburnums,
and the crimson hawthorns. What a day for a bathe! outside the gentle
surf, with the sunny headlands right and left, and the moor sleeping
quietly in the afternoon sunlight, and Lundy, like a faint blue cloud on
the Atlantic horizon, and the old house----He was away at Ravenshoe on a
May afternoon.

They say poets are never sane; but are they ever mad? Never. Even old
Cowper saved himself from actual madness by using his imagination.
Charles was no poet; but he was a good day-dreamer, and so now, instead
of maddening himself in his squalid brick prison, he was away in the old
bay, bathing and fishing, and wandering up the old stream, breast high
among king-fern under the shadowy oaks.

Bricks and mortar, carriages and footmen, wheelbarrows and dunghills,
all came back in one moment, and settled on his outward senses with a
jar. For there was a rattle of horse's feet on the stones, and the clank
of a sabre, and Lieutenant Hornby, of the 140th Hussars (Prince Arthur's
Own), came branking into the yard, with two hundred pounds' worth of
trappings on him, looking out for his servant. He was certainly a
splendid fellow, and Charles looked at him with a certain kind of pride,
as on something that he had a share in.

"Come round to the front door, Horton, and take my horse up to the
barracks" (the Queen had been to the station that morning, and his guard
was over).

Charles walked beside him round into Grosvenor Place. He could not avoid
stealing a glance up at the magnificent apparition beside him; and, as
he did so, he met a pair of kind grey eyes looking down on him.

"You mustn't sit and mope there, Horton," said the lieutenant; "it never
does to mope. I know it is infernally hard to help it, and of course you
can't associate with servants, and that sort of thing, at first; but you
will get used to it. If you think I don't know you are a gentleman, you
are mistaken. I don't know who you are, and shall not try to find out.
I'll lend you books or anything of that sort; but you mustn't brood over
it. I can't stand seeing my fellows wretched, more especially a fellow
like you."

If it had been to save his life, Charles couldn't say a word. He looked
up at the lieutenant and nodded his head. The lieutenant understood him
well enough, and said to himself--

"Poor fellow!"

So there arose between these two a feeling which lightened Charles's
servitude, and which, before the end came, had grown into a liking.
Charles's vengeance was not for Hornby, for the injury did not come from
him. His vengeance was reserved for another, and we shall see how he
took it.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

A GLIMPSE OF SOME OLD FRIENDS.


Hitherto I have been able to follow Charles right on without leaving him
for one instant: now, however, that he is reduced to sitting on a
wheelbarrow in a stable-yard, we must see a little less of him. He is,
of course, our principal object; but he has removed himself from the
immediate sphere of all our other acquaintances, and so we must look up
some of them, and see how far they, though absent, are acting on his
destiny--nay, we must look up every one of them sooner or later, for
there is not one who is not in some way concerned in his adventures past
and future.

By reason of her age, her sex, and her rank, my Lady Ascot claims our
attention first. We left the dear old woman in a terrible taking on
finding that Charles had suddenly left the house and disappeared. Her
wrath gave way to tears, and her tears to memory. Bitterly she blamed
herself now for what seemed, years ago, such a harmless deceit. It was
not too late. Charles might be found; would come back, surely--would
come back to his poor old aunt! He would never--hush! it won't do to
think of that!

Lady Ascot thought of a brilliant plan, and put it into immediate
execution. She communicated with Mr. Scotland Yard, the eminent
ex-detective officer, forwarding a close description of Charles, and a
request that he might be found, alive or dead, immediately. Her efforts
were crowned with immediate and unlooked-for success. In a week's time
the detective had discovered, not one Charles Ravenshoe, but three, from
which her ladyship might take her choice. But the worst of it was that
neither of the three was Charles Ravenshoe. There was a remarkable point
of similarity between Charles and them, certainly; and that point was
that they were all three young gentlemen under a cloud, and had all
three dark hair and prominent features. Here the similarity ended.

The first of the cases placed so promptly before her ladyship by
Inspector Yard presented some startling features of similarity with that
of Charles. The young gentleman was from the West of England, had been
at college somewhere, had been extravagant ("God bless him, poor dear!
when lived a Ravenshoe that wasn't?" thought Lady Ascot), had been
crossed in love, the inspector believed (Lady Ascot thought she had got
her fish), and was now in the Coldbath Fields Prison, doing two years'
hard labour for swindling, of which two months were yet to run. The
inspector would let her ladyship know the day of his release.

This could not be Charles: and the next young gentleman offered to her
notice was a worse shot than the other. He also was dark-haired; but
here at once all resemblance ceased. This one had started in life with
an ensigncy in the line. He had embezzled the mess funds, had been to
California, had enlisted, deserted, and sold his kit, been a
billiard-marker, had come into some property, had spent it, had enlisted
again, had been imprisoned for a year and discharged--here Lady Ascot
would read no more, but laid down the letter, saying, "Pish!"

But the inspector's cup was not yet full. The unhappy man was acting
from uncertain information, he says. He affirmed, throughout all the
long and acrimonious discussion which followed, that his only
instructions were to find a young gentleman with dark hair and a hook
nose. If this be the case, he may possibly be excused for catching a
curly-headed little Jew of sixteen, who was drinking himself to death in
a public-house off Regent Street, and producing him as Charles
Ravenshoe. His name was Cohen, and he had stolen some money from his
father and gone to the races. This was so utterly the wrong article,
that Lady Ascot wrote a violent letter to the ex-inspector, of such an
extreme character, that he replied by informing her ladyship that he had
sent her letter to his lawyer. A very pretty quarrel followed, which I
have not time to describe.

No tidings of Charles. He had hidden himself too effectually. So the old
woman wept and watched--watched for her darling who came not, and for
the ruin that she saw settling down upon her house like a dark cloud,
that grew evermore darker.

And little Mary had packed up her boxes and passed out of the old house,
with the hard, bitter world before her. Father Mackworth had met her in
the hall, and had shaken hands with her in silence. He loved her, in
his way, so much, that he cared not to say anything. Cuthbert was
outside, waiting to hand her to her carriage. When she was seated he
said, "I shall write to you, Mary, for I can't say all I would." And
then he opened the door and kissed her affectionately; then the carriage
went on, and before it entered the wood she had a glimpse of the grey
old house, and Cuthbert on the steps before the porch, bareheaded,
waving his hand; then it was among the trees, and she had seen the last
of him for ever; then she buried her face in her hands, and knew, for
the first time, perhaps, how well she had loved him.

She was going, as we know, to be nursery-governess to the orphan
children of Lord Hainault's brother. She went straight to London to
assume her charge. It was very late when she got to Paddington. One of
Lord Hainault's carriages was waiting for her, and she was whirled
through "the season" to Grosvenor Square. Then she had to walk alone
into the great lighted hall, with the servants standing right and left,
and looking at nothing, as well-bred servants are bound to do. She
wished for a moment that the poor little governess had been allowed to
come in a cab.

The groom of the chambers informed her that her ladyship had gone out,
and would not be home till late; that his lordship was dressing; and
that dinner was ready in Miss Corby's room whenever she pleased.

So she went up. She did not eat much dinner; the steward's-room boy in
attendance had his foolish heart moved to pity by seeing how poor an
appetite she had, when he thought what he could have done in that line
too.

Presently she asked the lad where was the nursery. The second door to
the right. When all was quiet, she opened her door, and thought she
would go and see the children asleep. At that moment the nursery-door
opened, and a tall, handsome, quiet-looking man came out. It was Lord
Hainault; she had seen him before.

"I like this," said she, as she drew back. "It was kind of him to go and
see his brother's children before he went out;" and so she went into the
nursery.

An old nurse was sitting by the fire sewing. The two elder children were
asleep; but the youngest, an audacious young sinner of three, had
refused to do anything of the kind until the cat came to bed with him.
The nursery cat being at that time out a-walking on the leads, the
nurserymaid had been despatched to borrow one from the kitchen. At this
state of affairs Mary entered. The nurse rose and curtsied, and the
rebel clambered on her knee, and took her into his confidence. He told
her that that day, while walking in the square, he had seen a
chimney-sweep; that he had called to Gus and Flora to come and look;
that Gus had been in time and seen him go round the corner, but that
Flora had come too late, and cried, and so Gus had lent her his hoop,
and she had left off, &c., &c. After a time he requested to be allowed
to say his prayers to her: to which the nurse objected on the
theological ground that he had said them twice already that evening,
which was once more than was usually allowed. Soon after this the little
head lay heavy on Mary's arm, and the little hand loosed its hold on
hers, and the child was asleep.

She left the nursery with a lightened heart; but, nevertheless, she
cried herself to sleep. "I wonder, shall I like Lady Hainault; Charles
used to. But she is very proud, I believe. I cannot remember much of
her.--How those carriages growl and roll, almost like the sea at dear
old Ravenshoe." Then, after a time, she slept.

There was a light in her eyes, not of dawn, which woke her. A tall,
handsome woman, in silk and jewels, came and knelt beside her and kissed
her; and said that, now her old home was broken up, she must make one
there, and be a sister to her, and many other kind words of the same
sort. It was Lady Hainault (the long Burton girl, as Madam Adelaide
called her) come home from her last party; and in such kind keeping I
think we may leave little Mary for the present.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

IN WHICH FRESH MISCHIEF IS BREWED.


Charles's duties were light enough; he often wished they had been
heavier. There were such long idle periods left for thinking and
brooding. He rather wondered at first why he was not more employed. He
never was in attendance on the lieutenant, save in the daytime. One of
the young men under him drove the brougham, and was out all night and in
bed all day; and the other was a mere stable-lad from the country.
Charles's duty consisted almost entirely in dressing himself about two
o'clock, and loitering about town after his master; and, after he had
been at this work about a fortnight, it seemed to him as if he had been
at it a year or more.

Charles soon found out all he cared to know about the lieutenant. He was
the only son and heir of an eminent solicitor, lately deceased, who had
put him into the splendid regiment to which he belonged in order to get
him into good society. The young fellow had done well enough in that
way. He was amazingly rich, amazingly handsome, and passionately fond of
his profession, at which he really worked hard; but he was terribly
fast. Charles soon found that out; and the first object which he placed
before himself, when he began to awaken from the first dead torpor which
came on him after his fall, was to gain influence with him and save him
from ruin.

"He is burning the candle at both ends," said Charles. "He is too good
to go to the deuce. In time, if I am careful, he may listen to me."

And, indeed, it seemed probable. From the very first, Hornby had treated
Charles with great respect and consideration. Hornby knew he was a
gentleman. One morning, before Charles had been many days with him, the
brougham had not come into the mews till seven o'clock; and Charles,
going to his lodgings at eight, had found him in uniform, bolting a cup
of coffee before going on duty. There was a great pile of money,
sovereigns and notes, on the dressing-table, and he caught Charles
looking at it.

Hornby laughed. "What are you looking at with that solemn face of
yours?" said he.

"Nothing, sir," said Charles.

"You are looking at that money," said Hornby; "and you are thinking that
it would be as well if I didn't stay out all night playing--eh?"

"I might have thought so, sir," said Charles. "I did think so."

"Quite right, too. Some day I will leave off, perhaps."

And then he rattled out of the room, and Charles watched him riding down
the street, all blue, and scarlet, and gold, a brave figure, with the
world at his feet.

"There is time yet," said Charles.

The first time Charles made his appearance in livery in the street he
felt horribly guilty. He was in continual terror lest he should meet
some one he knew; but, after a time, when he found that day after day he
could walk about and see never a familiar face, he grew bolder. He
wished sometimes he could see some one he knew from a distance, so as
not to be recognised--it was so terrible lonely.

Day after day he saw the crowds pass him in the street, and recognised
no one. In old times, when he used to come to London on a raid from
Oxford, he fancied he used to recognise an acquaintance at every step;
but now, day after day went on, and he saw no one he knew. The world had
become to him like a long uneasy dream of strange faces.

After a very few days of his new life, there began to grow on him a
desire to hear of those he had left so abruptly; a desire which was at
first mere curiosity, but which soon developed into a yearning regret.
At first, after a week or so, he began idly wondering where they all
were, and what they thought of his disappearance; and at this time,
perhaps, he may have felt a little conceited in thinking how he occupied
their thoughts, and of what importance he had made himself by his sudden
disappearance. But his curiosity and vanity soon wore away, and were
succeeded by a deep gnawing desire to hear something of them all--to
catch hold of some little thread, however thin, which should connect him
with his past life, and with those he had loved so well. He would have
died in his obstinacy sooner than move one inch towards his object; but
every day, as he rode about the town, dressed in the livery of
servitude, which he tried to think was his heritage, and yet of which he
was ashamed, he stared hither and thither at the passing faces, trying
to find one, were it only that of the meanest servant, which should
connect him with the past.

At last, and before long, he saw some one.

One afternoon he was under orders to attend his master on horseback, as
usual. After lunch, Hornby came out, beautifully dressed, handsome and
happy, and rode up Grosvenor Place into the park. At the entrance to
Rotten Row he joined an old gentleman and his two daughters, and they
rode together, chatting pleasantly. Charles rode behind with the other
groom, who talked to him about the coming Derby, and would have betted
against Haphazard at the current odds. They rode up and down the Row
twice, and then Hornby, calling Charles, gave him his horse and walked
about by the Serpentine, talking to every one, and getting a kindly
welcome from great and small, for the son of a great attorney, with
wealth, manners, and person, may get into very good society, if he is
worth it; or, quite possibly, if he isn't.

Then Hornby and Charles left the park, and, coming down Grosvenor Place,
passed into Pall Mall. Here Hornby went into a club, and left Charles
waiting in the street with his horse half an hour or more.

Then he mounted again, and rode up St. James's Street, into Piccadilly.
He turned to the left; and, at the bottom of the hill, not far from
Half-moon Street, he went into a private house, and, giving Charles his
reins, told him to wait for him; and so Charles waited there, in the
afternoon sun, watching what went by.

It was a sleepy afternoon, and the horses stood quiet, and Charles was a
contented fellow, and he rather liked dozing there and watching the
world go by. There is plenty to see in Piccadilly on an afternoon in the
season, even for a passer-by; but, sitting on a quiet horse, with
nothing to do or think about, one can see it all better. And Charles had
some humour in him, and so he was amused at what he saw, and would have
sat there an hour or more without impatience.

Opposite to him was a great bonnet-shop, and in front of it was an
orange-woman. A grand carriage dashed up to the bonnet-shop, so that he
had to move his horses, and the orange-woman had to get out of the way.
Two young ladies got out of the carriage, went in, and (as he believes)
bought bonnets, leaving a third, and older one, sitting in a back seat,
who nursed a pug dog, with a blue riband. Neither the coachman nor
footman belonging to the carriage seemed to mind this lady. The footman
thought he would like some oranges; so he went to the orange-woman. The
orange-woman was Irish, for her speech bewrayed her, and the footman was
from the county Clare; so those two instantly began comparing notes
about those delectable regions, to such purpose, that the two ladies,
having, let us hope, suited themselves in the bonnet way, had to open
their own carriage-door and get in, before the footman was recalled to a
sense of his duties--after which he shut the door, and they drove away.

Then there came by a blind man. It was not the same blind man that
Charles saw fall down the area, because that blind man's dog was a brown
one, with a curly tail, and this one's dog was black with no tail at
all. Moreover, the present dog carried a basket, which the other one did
not. Otherwise they were so much alike (all blind men are), that Charles
might have mistaken one for the other. This blind man met with no such
serious accident as the other, either. Only, turning into the
public-house at the corner, opposite Mr. Hope's, the dog lagged behind,
and, the swing-doors closing between him and his master, Charles saw him
pulled through by his chain, and nearly throttled.

Next there came by Lord Palmerston, with his umbrella on his shoulder,
walking airily arm-in-arm with Lord John Russell. They were talking
together; and, as they passed, Charles heard Lord Palmerston say that it
was much warmer on this side of the street than on the other. With
which proposition Lord John Russell appeared to agree; and so they
passed on westward.

After this there came by three prize fighters, arm-in-arm; each of them
had a white hat and a cigar; two had white bull-dogs, and one a
black-and-tan terrier. They made a left wheel, and looked at Charles and
his horses, and then they made a right wheel, and looked into the
bonnet-shop; after which they went into the public-house into which the
blind man had gone before; and, from the noise which immediately arose
from inside, Charles came to the conclusion that the two white bull-dogs
and the black-and-tan terrier had set upon the blind man's dog, and
touzled him.

After the prize-fighters came Mr. Gladstone, walking very fast. A large
Newfoundland dog with a walking-stick in his mouth blundered up against
him, and nearly threw him down. Before he got under way again, the Irish
orange-woman bore down on him, and faced him with three oranges in each
hand, offering them for sale. Did she know, with the sagacity of her
nation, that he was then on his way to the house, to make a Great
Statement, and that he would want oranges? I cannot say. He probably got
his oranges at Bellamy's for he bought none of her. After him came a
quantity of indifferent people; and then Charles's heart beat high--for
here was some one coming whom he knew with a vengeance.

Lord Welter, walking calmly down the street, with his big chest thrown
out, and his broad, stupid face in moody repose. He was thinking. He
came so close to Charles that, stepping aside to avoid a passer-by, he
whitened the shoulder of his coat against the pipe-clay on Charles's
knee; then he stood stock still within six inches of him, but looking
the other way towards the houses.

He pulled off one of his gloves and bit his nails. Though his back was
towards Charles, still Charles knew well what expression was on his face
as he did that. The old cruel lowering of the eyebrows, and pinching in
of the lips was there, he knew. The same expression as that which
Marston remarked the time he quarrelled with Cuthbert once at
Ravenshoe--mischief!

He went into the house where Charles's master, Hornby, was; and Charles
sat and wondered.

Presently there came out on to the balcony above, six or seven
well-dressed young men, who lounged with their elbows on the red
cushions which were fixed to the railing, and talked, looking at the
people in the street.

Lord Welter and Lieutenant Hornby were together at the end. There was no
scowl on Welter's face now; he was making himself agreeable. Charles
watched him and Hornby; the conversation between them got eager, and
they seemed to make an appointment. After that they parted, and Hornby
came down stairs and got on his horse.

They rode very slowly home. Hornby bowed right and left to the people he
knew but seemed absent. When Charles took his horse at the door, he said
suddenly to Charles--

"I have been talking to a man who knows something of you, I
believe--Lord Welter."

"Did you mention me to him, sir?"

"No; I didn't think of it."

"You would do me a great kindness if you would not do so, sir."

"Why," said Hornby, looking suddenly up.

"I am sorry I cannot enter into particulars, sir; but, if I thought he
would know where I was, I should at once quit your service and try to
lose myself once more."

"Lose yourself?"

"Yes, sir."

"H'm!" said Hornby, thoughtfully. "Well, I know there is something about
you which I don't understand. I ain't sure it is any business of mine
though. I will say nothing. You are not a man to chatter about anything
you see. Mind you don't. You see how I trust you." And so he went in,
and Charles went round to the stable.

"Is the brougham going out to night?" he asked of his fellow-servant.

"Ordered at ten," said the man. "Night-work again, I expect, I wanted to
get out too. Consume the darned card-playing. Was you going anywhere
to-night?"

"Nowhere," said Charles.

"It's a beautiful evening," said the man. "If you should by chance
saunter up towards Grosvenor Square, and could leave a note for me, I
should thank you very much; upon my soul I should."

I don't think Charles ever hesitated at doing a good-natured action in
his life. A request to him was like a command. It came as natural to him
now to take a dirty, scrawled love-letter from a groom to a
scullery-maid as in old times it did to lend a man fifty pounds. He said
at once he would go with great pleasure.

The man (a surly fellow enough at ordinary times) thanked him heartily;
and, when Charles had got the letter, he sauntered away in that
direction slowly, thinking of many things.

"By Jove," he said to himself, "my scheme of hiding does not seem to be
very successful. Little more than a fortnight gone, and I am thrown
against Welter. What a strange thing!"

It was still early in the afternoon--seven o'clock, or thereabouts--and
he was opposite Tattersall's. A mail phaeton, with a pair of splendid
horses, attracted his attention and diverted his thoughts. He turned
down. Two eminent men on the turf walked past him up the nearly empty
yard, and he heard one say to the other--

"Ascot will run to win; that I know. He _must_. If Haphazard can stay,
he is safe."

To which the other said, "Pish!" and they passed on.

"There they are again," said Charles, as he turned back. "The very birds
of the air are talking about them. It gets interesting, though--if
anything could ever be interesting again."

St. George's Hospital. At the door was a gaudily-dressed, handsome young
woman, who was asking the porter could she see some one inside. No. The
visiting hours were over. She stood for a few minutes on the steps,
impatiently biting her nails, and then fluttered down the street.

What made him think of his sister Ellen? She must be found. That was the
only object in the world, so to speak. There was nothing to be done,
only to wait and watch.

"I shall find her some day, in God's good time."

The world had just found out that it was hungry, and was beginning to
tear about in wheeled vehicles to its neighbours' houses to dinner. As
the carriages passed Charles, he could catch glimpses of handsome girls,
all a mass of white muslin, swan's-down fans, and fal-lals, going to
begin their night's work; of stiff dandies, in white ties, yawning
already; of old ladies in jewels, and old gentlemen buttoned up across
the chest, going, as one might say, to see fair play among the young
people. And then our philosophical Charles pleased himself by picturing
how, in two months more, the old gentlemen would be among their turnips,
the old ladies among their flowers and poor folks, the dandies creeping,
creeping, weary hours through the heather, till the last maddening
moment when the big stag was full in view, sixty yards off; and
(prettiest thought of all), how the girls, with their thick shoes on,
would be gossiping with old Goody Blake and Harry Gill, or romping with
the village school-children on the lawn. Right, old Charles, with all
but the dandies! For now the apotheosis of dandies was approaching. The
time was coming when so many of them should disappear into that black
thunder-cloud to the south, and be seen no more in park or club, in
heather or stubble.

But, in that same year, the London season went on much as usual; only
folks talked of war, and the French were more popular than they are now.
And through the din and hubbub poor Charles passed on like a lost sheep,
and left his fellow-servant's note at an area in Grosvenor Square.

"And which," said he to the man who took it, with promises of instant
delivery, "is my Lord Hainault's house, now, for instance?"

Lord Hainault's house was the other side of the square; number
something. Charles thanked the man, and went across. When he had made it
out he leant his back against the railings of the square, and watched
it.

The carriage was at the door. The coachman, seeing a handsomely-dressed
groom leaning against the rails, called to him to come over and alter
some strap or another. Charles ran over and helped him. Charles supposed
her ladyship was going out to dinner. Yes, her ladyship was now coming
out. And, almost before Charles had time to move out of the way, out she
came, with her head in the air, more beautiful than ever, and drove
away.

He went back to his post from mere idleness. He wondered whether Mary
had come there yet or not. He had half a mind to inquire, but was afraid
of being seen. He still leant against the railings of the gate, as I
said, in mere idleness, when he heard the sound of children's voices in
the square behind.

"That woman," said a child's voice, "was a gipsy-woman. I looked through
the rails, and I said, 'Hallo, ma'am, what are you doing there?' And she
asked me for a penny. And I said I couldn't give her anything, for I had
given three halfpence to the Punch and Judy, and I shouldn't have any
more money till next Saturday, which was quite true, Flora, as you
know."

"But, Gus," said another child's voice, "if she had been a gipsy-woman
she would have tried to steal you, and make you beg in the streets; or
else she would have told your fortune in coffee-grounds. I don't think
she was a real gipsy."

"I should like to have my fortune told in the coffee-grounds," said Gus;
"but, if she had tried to steal me, I should have kicked her in the
stomach. There is a groom outside there; let us ask him. Grooms go to
the races, and see heaps of gipsies! I say, sir."

Charles turned. A child's voice was always music to him. He had such a
look on his face as he turned to them, that the children had his
confidence in an instant. The gipsy question was laid before him
instantly, by both Gus and Flora, with immense volubility, and he was
just going to give an oracular opinion through the railings, when a
voice--a low, gentle voice, which made him start--came from close by.

"Gus and Flora, my dears, the dew is falling. Let us go in."

"There is Miss Corby," said Gus. "Let us run to her."

They raced to Mary. Soon after the three came to the gate, laughing, and
passed close to him. The children were clinging to her skirt and talking
merrily. They formed a pretty little group as they went across the
street, and Mary's merry little laugh comforted him. "She is happy
there," he said; "best as it is!"

Once, when half-way across the street, she turned and looked towards
him, before he had time to turn away. He saw that she did not dream of
his being there, and went on. And so Charles sauntered home through the
pleasant summer evening, saying to himself, "I think she is happy; I am
glad she laughed."

"Three meetings in one day! I shall be found out, if I don't mind. I
must be very careful."



CHAPTER XXXV.

IN WHICH AN ENTIRELY NEW, AND, AS WILL BE SEEN HEREAFTER, A MOST
IMPORTANT CHARACTER IS INTRODUCED.


The servants, I mean the stable servants, who lived in the mews where
Charles did, had a club; and, a night or two after he had seen Mary in
the square, he was elected a member of it. The duke's coachman, a wiry,
grey, stern-looking, elderly man, waited upon him and informed him of
the fact. He said that such a course was very unusual--in fact, without
precedent. Men, he said, were seldom elected to the club until they were
known to have been in good service for some years; but he (coachman) had
the ear of the club pretty much, and had brought him in triumphant. He
added that he could see through a brick wall as well as most men, and
that when he see a _gentleman_ dressed in a livery, moping and brooding
about the mews, he had said to himself that he wanted a little company,
such as it was, to cheer him up, and so he had requested the club, &c.;
and the club had done as he told them.

"Now this is confoundedly kind of you," said Charles; "but I am not a
gentleman; I am a gamekeeper's son."

"I suppose you can read Greek, now, can't you?" said the coachman.

Charles was obliged to confess he could.

"Of course," said the coachman; "all gamekeepers' sons is forced to
learn Greek, in order as they may slang the poachers in an unknown
tongue. Fiddle-dedee! I know all about it; least-wise, guess. Come along
with me; why, I've got sons as old as you. Come along."

"Are they in service?" said Charles, by way of something to say.

"Two of 'em are, but one's in the army."

"Indeed!" said Charles, with more interest.

"Ay; he is in your governor's regiment."

"Does he like it?" said Charles. "I should like to know him."

"Like it?--don't he?" said the coachman. "See what society he gets into.
I suppose there ain't no gentlemen's sons troopers in that regiment, eh?
Oh dear no. Don't for a moment suppose it, young man. Not at all."

Charles was very much interested by this news. He made up his mind there
and then that he would enlist immediately. But he didn't; he only
thought about it.

Charles found that the club was composed of about a dozen coachmen and
superior pad-grooms. They were very civil to him, and to one another.
There was nothing to laugh at. There was nothing that could be tortured
into ridicule. They talked about their horses and their business quite
naturally. There was an air of kindly fellowship, and a desire for
mutual assistance among them, which, at times, Charles had not noticed
at the university. One man sang a song, and sang it very prettily, too,
about stag-hunting. He had got as far as--

      "As every breath with sobs he drew,
      The labouring buck strained full in view,"

when the door opened, and an oldish groom came in.

The song was not much attended to now. When the singer had finished, the
others applauded him, but impatiently; and then there was a general
exclamation of "Well?"

"I've just come down from the Corner. There has been a regular run
against Haphazard, and no one knows why. Something wrong with the horse,
I suppose, because there's been no run on any other in particular, only
against him."

"Was Lord Ascot there?" said some one.

"Ah, that he was. Wouldn't bet though, even at the long odds. Said he'd
got every sixpence he was worth on the horse, and would stand where he
was; and that's true, they say. And master says, likewise, that Lord
Welter would have taken 'em, but that his father stopped him."

"That looks queerish," said some one else.

"Ay, and wasn't there a jolly row, too?"

"Who with?" asked several.

"Lord Welter and Lord Hainault. It happened outside, close to me. Lord
Hainault was walking across the yard, and Lord Welter came up to him and
said, 'How d'ye do, Hainault?' and Lord Hainault turned round and said,
quite quiet, 'Welter, you are a scoundrel!' And Lord Welter said,
'Hainault, you are out of your senses;' but he turned pale, too, and he
looked--Lord! I shouldn't like to have been before him--and Lord
Hainault says, 'You know what I mean;' and Lord Welter says, 'No, I
don't; but, by Gad, you shall tell me;' and then the other says, as
steady as a rock, 'I'll tell you. You are a man that one daren't leave a
woman alone with. Where's that Casterton girl? Where's Adelaide Summers?
Neither a friend's house, nor your own father's house, is any protection
for a woman against you.' 'Gad,' says Lord Welter, 'you were pretty
sweet on the last-named yourself, once on a time.'"

"Well!" said some one, "and what did Lord Hainault say?"

"He said, 'you are a liar and a scoundrel, Welter.' And then Lord Welter
came at him; but Lord Ascot came between them, shaking like anything,
and says he, 'Hainault, go away, for God's sake; you don't know what you
are saying.--Welter, be silent.' But they made no more of he than----"
(here our friend was at a loss for a simile).

"But how did it end?" asked Charles.

"Well," said the speaker, "General Mainwaring came up, and laid his hand
on Lord Welter's shoulder, and took him off pretty quiet. And that's all
I know about it."

It was clearly all. Charles rose to go, and walked by himself from
street to street, thinking.

Suppose he _was_ to be thrown against Lord Welter, how should he act?
what should he say? Truly it was a puzzling question. The anomaly of his
position was never put before him more strikingly than now. What could
he say? what could he do?

After the first shock, the thought of Adelaide's unfaithfulness was not
so terrible as on the first day or two; many little unamiable traits of
character, vanity, selfishness, and so on, unnoticed before, began to
come forth in somewhat startling relief. Anger, indignation, and love,
all three jumbled up together, each one by turns in the ascendant, were
the frames of mind in which Charles found himself when he began thinking
about her. One moment he was saying to himself, "How beautiful she was!"
and the next, "She was as treacherous as a tiger; she never could have
cared for me." But, when he came to think of Welter, his anger
overmastered everything, and he would clench his teeth as he walked
along, and for a few moments feel the blood rushing to his head and
singing in his ears. Let us hope that Lord Welter will not come across
him while he is in that mood, or there will be mischief.

But his anger was soon over. He had just had one of these fits of anger
as he walked along; and he was, like a good fellow, trying to conquer
it, by thinking of Lord Welter as he was as a boy, and before he was a
villain, when he came before St. Peter's Church, in Eaton Square, and
stopped to look at some fine horses which were coming out of Salter's.

At the east end of St. Peter's Church there is a piece of bare white
wall in a corner, and in front of the wall was a little shoeblack.

He was not one of the regular brigade, with a red shirt, but an "Arab"
of the first water. He might have been seven or eight years old, but was
small. His whole dress consisted of two garments; a ragged shirt, with
no buttons, and half of one sleeve gone, and a ragged pair of trousers,
which, small as he was, were too small for him, and barely reached below
his knees. His feet and head were bare; and under a wild, tangled shock
of hair looked a pretty, dirty, roguish face, with a pair of grey,
twinkling eyes, which was amazingly comical. Charles stopped, watching
him, and, as he did so, felt what we have most of us felt, I dare
say--that, at certain times of vexation and anger, the company and
conversation of children is the best thing for us.

The little man was playing at fives against the bare wall, with such
tremendous energy, that he did not notice that Charles had stopped, and
was looking at him. Every nerve in his wiry, lean little body was braced
up to the game; his heart and soul were as deeply enlisted in it, as
though he were captain of the eleven, or stroke of the eight.

He had no ball to play with, but he played with a brass button. The
button flew hither and thither, being so irregular in shape, and the boy
dashed after it like lightning. At last, after he had kept up
five-and-twenty or so, the button flew over his head, and lighted at
Charles's feet.

As the boy turned to get it, his eyes met Charles's, and he stopped,
parting the long hair from his forehead, and gazing on him, till the
beautiful little face--beautiful through dirt and ignorance and
neglect--lit up with a smile, as Charles looked at him, with the kind,
honest old expression. And so began their acquaintance, almost comically
at first.

Charles don't care to talk much about that boy now. If he ever does, it
is to recall his comical, humorous sayings and doings in the first part
of their strange friendship. He never speaks of the end, even to me.

The boy stood smiling at him, as I said, holding his long hair out of
his eyes; and Charles looked on him and laughed, and forgot all about
Welter and the rest of them at once.

"I want my boots cleaned," he said.

The boy said, "I can't clean they dratted top-boots. I cleaned a groom's
boots a Toosday, and he punched my block because I blacked the tops.
Where did that button go?"

And Charles said, "You can clean the lower part of my boots, and do no
harm. Your button is here against the lamp-post."

The boy picked it up, and got his apparatus ready. But, before he began,
he looked up in Charles's face, as if he was going to speak; then he
began vigorously, but in half a minute looked up again, and stopped.

Charles saw that the boy liked him, and wanted to talk to him; so he
began, severely--

"How came you to be playing fives with a brass button, eh?"

The boy struck work at once, and answered, "I ain't got no ball."

"If you begin knocking stamped pieces of metal about in the street,"
continued Charles, "you will come to chuck-farthing, and from
chuck-farthing to the gallows is a very short step indeed, I can assure
you."

The boy did not seem to know whether Charles was joking or not. He cast
a quick glance up at his face; but, seeing no sign of a smile there, he
spat on one of his brushes, and said--

"Not if you don't cheat, it aint."

Charles suffered the penalty, which usually follows on talking nonsense,
of finding himself in a dilemma; so he said imperiously--

"I shall buy you a ball to-morrow; I am not going to have you knocking
buttons about against people's walls in broad daylight, like that."

It was the first time that the boy had ever heard nonsense talked in his
life. It was a new sensation. He gave a sharp look up into Charles's
face again, and then went on with his work.

"Where do you live, my little manikin?" said Charles directly, in that
quiet pleasant voice I know so well.

The boy did not look up this time. It was not very often, possibly, that
he got spoken to so kindly by his patrons; he worked away, and answered
that he lived in Marquis Court, in Southwark.

"Why do you come so far, then?" asked Charles.

The boy told him why he plodded so wearily, day after day, over here in
the West-end. It was for family reasons, into which I must not go too
closely. Somebody, it appeared, still came home, now and then, just once
in a way, to see her mother, and to visit the den where she was bred;
and there was still left one who would wait for her, week after
week--still one pair of childish feet, bare and dirty, that would patter
back beside her--still one childish voice that would prattle with her,
on her way to her hideous home, and call her sister.

"Have you any brothers?"

Five altogether. Jim was gone for a sojer, it appeared, and Nipper was
sent over the water. Harry was on the cross--

"On the cross?" said Charles.

"Ah!" the boy said, "he goes out cly-faking, and such. He's a prig, and
a smart one, too. He's fly, is Harry."

"But what is cly-faking?" said Charles.

"Why a-prigging of wipes, and sneeze-boxes, and ridicules, and such."

Charles was not so ignorant of slang as not to understand what his
little friend meant now. He said--

"But _you_ are not a thief, are you?"

The boy looked up at him frankly and honestly, and said--

"Lord bless you, no! I shouldn't make no hand of that. I ain't brave
enough for that!"

He gave the boy twopence, and gave orders that one penny was to be spent
in a ball. And then he sauntered listlessly away--every day more
listless, and not three weeks gone yet.

His mind returned to this child very often. He found himself thinking
more about the little rogue than he could explain. The strange babble of
the child, prattling so innocently, and, as he thought, so prettily,
about vice, and crime, and misery; about one brother transported, one a
thief--and you see he could love his sister even to the very end of it
all. Strange babble indeed from a child's lips.

He thought of it again and again, and then, dressing himself plainly,
he went up to Grosvenor Square, where Mary would be walking with Lord
Charles Herries's children. He wanted to hear _them_ talk.

He was right in his calculations; the children were there. All three of
them this time; and Mary was there too. They were close to the rails,
and he leant his back on them, and heard every word.

"Miss Corby," said Gus, "if Lady Ascot is such a good woman, she will go
to heaven when she dies?"

"Yes, indeed, my dear," said Mary.

"And, when grandma dies, will she go to heaven, too?" said the artful
Gus, knowing as well as possible that old Lady Hainault and Lady Ascot
were deadly enemies.

"I hope so, my dear," said Mary.

"But does Lady Ascot hope so? Do you think grandma would be happy
if----"

It became high time to stop master Gus, who was getting on too fast.
Mary having bowled him out, Miss Flora had an innings.

"When I grow up," said Flora, "I shall wear knee-breeches and top-boots,
and a white bull-dog, and a long clay pipe, and I shall drive into
Henley on a market-day and put up at the Catherine Wheel."

Mary had breath enough left to ask why.

"Because Farmer Thompson at Casterton dresses like that, and he is such
a dear old darling. He gives us strawberries and cream; and in his
garden are gooseberries and peacocks; and the peacock's wives don't
spread out their tails like their husbands do--the foolish things. Now,
when I am married----"

Gus was rude enough to interrupt her here. He remarked--

"When Archy goes to heaven, he'll want the cat to come to bed with him;
and, if he can't get her, there'll be a pretty noise."

"My dears," said Mary, "you must not talk anymore nonsense; I can't
permit it."

"But, my dear Miss Corby," said Flora, "we haven't been talking
nonsense, have we? I told you the truth about Farmer Thompson."

"I know what she means," said Gus; "we have been saying what came into
our heads, and it vexes her. It is all nonsense, you know, about your
wearing breeches and spreading out your tail like a peacock; we mustn't
vex her."

Flora didn't answer Gus, but answered Mary by climbing on her knee and
kissing her. "Tell us a story, dear," said Gus.

"What shall I tell?" said Mary.

"Tell us about Ravenshoe," said Flora; "tell us about the fishermen, and
the priest that walked about like a ghost in the dark passages; and
about Cuthbert Ravenshoe, who was always saying his prayers; and about
the other one who won the boat race."

"Which one?" said silly Mary.

"Why, the other; the one you like best. What was his name?"

"Charles!"

How quietly and softly she said it! The word left her lips like a deep
sigh. One who heard it was a gentleman still. He had heard enough,
perhaps too much, and walked away towards the stable and the
public-house, leaving her in the gathering gloom of the summer's evening
under the red hawthorns, and laburnums, among the children. And, as he
walked away, he thought of the night he left Ravenshoe, when the little
figure was standing in the hall all alone. "She might have loved me, and
I her," he said, "if the world were not out of joint; God grant it may
not be so!" And although he said, "God grant that she may not," he
really wished it had been so; and from this very time Mary began to take
Adelaide's place in his heart.

Not that he was capable of falling in love with any woman at this time.
He says he was crazy, and I believe him to a certain extent. It was a
remarkably lucky thing for him that he had so diligently neglected his
education. If he had not, and had found himself in his present position,
with three or four times more of intellectual cravings to be satisfied,
he would have gone mad, or taken to drinking. I, who write, have seen
the thing happen.

But, before the crash came, I have seen Charles patiently spending the
morning cutting gun-wads from an old hat, in preference to going to his
books. It was this interest in trifles which saved him just now. He
could think at times, and had had education enough to think logically;
but his brain was not so active but that he could cut gun-wads for an
hour or so; though his friend William could cut one-third more gun-wads
out of an old hat than he.

He was thinking now, in his way, about these children--about Gus and
Flora on the one hand, and the little shoeblack on the other. Both so
innocent and pretty, and yet so different. He had taken himself from the
one world and thrown himself into the other. There were two worlds and
two standards--gentlemen and non-gentlemen. The "lower orders" did not
seem to be so particular about the character of their immediate
relations as the upper. That was well, for he belonged to the former
now, and had a sister. If one of Lord Charles Herries's children had
gone wrong, Gus and Flora would never have talked of him or her to a
stranger. He must learn the secret of this armour which made the poor so
invulnerable. He must go and talk to the little shoeblack.

He thought that was the reason why he went to look after the little
rogue next day; but that was not the real reason. The reason was, that
he had found a friend in a lower grade than himself, who would admire
him and look up to him. The first friend of that sort he had made since
his fall. What that friend accidentally saved him from, we shall see.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE DERBY.


Hornby was lying on his back on the sofa in the window and looking out.
He had sent for Charles, and Charles was standing beside him; but he had
not noticed him yet. In a minute Charles said, "You sent for me, sir."

Hornby turned sharply round. "By Jove, yes," he said, looking straight
at him; "Lord Welter is married."

Charles did not move a muscle, and Hornby looked disappointed. Charles
only said--

"May I ask who she is, sir?"

"She is a Miss Summers. Do you know anything of her?"

Charles knew Miss Summers quite well by sight--had attended her while
riding, in fact. A statement which, though strictly true, misled Hornby
more than fifty lies.

"Handsome?"

"Remarkably so. Probably the handsomest (he was going to say 'girl,' but
said 'lady') I ever saw in my life."

"H'm!" and he sat silent a moment, and gave Charles time to think. "I am
glad he has married her, and before to-morrow, too."

"Well," said Hornby again, "we shall go down in the drag to-morrow.
Ferrers will drive, he says. I suppose he had better; he drives better
than I. Make the other two lads come in livery, but come in black
trousers yourself. Wear your red waistcoat; you can button your coat
over it, if it is necessary."

"Shall I wear my cockade, sir?"

"Yes; that won't matter. Can you fight?"

Charles said to himself, "I suppose we shall be in Queer Street
to-morrow, then;" but he rather liked the idea. "I used to like it,"
said he aloud. "I don't think I care about it now. Last year, at Oxford,
I and three other University men, three Pauls and a Brazenose, had a
noble stramash on Folly-bridge. That is the last fighting I have seen."

"What College were you at?" said Hornby, looking out at the window;
"Brazenose?"

"Paul's," said Charles without thinking.

"Then you are the man Welter was telling me about--Charles Ravenshoe."

Charles saw it was no good to fence, and said, "Yes."

"By Jove," said Hornby, "yours is a sad story. You must have ridden out
with Lady Welter more than once, I take it."

"Are you going to say anything to Lord Welter, sir?"

"Not I. I like you too well to lose you. You will stick by me, won't
you?"

"I will," said Charles, "to the death. But oh, Hornby, for any sake mind
those d----d bones!"

"I will. But don't be an ass: I don't play half as much as you think."

"You are playing with Welter now, sir; are you not?"

"You are a pretty dutiful sort of a groom, I don't think," said Hornby,
looking round and laughing good-naturedly. "What the dickens do you mean
by cross-questioning me like that? Yes, I am. There--and for a noble
purpose too."

Charles said no more, but was well pleased enough. If Hornby had only
given him a little more of his confidence!

"I suppose," said Hornby, "if Haphazard don't win to-morrow, Lord Ascot
will be a beggar."

"They say," said Charles, "that he has backed his own horse through
thick and thin, sir. It is inconceivable folly; but things could not be
worse at Ranford, and he stands to win some sum on the horse, as they
say, which would put everything right; and the horse is a favourite."

"Favourites never win," said Hornby; "and I don't think that Lord Ascot
has so much on him as they say."

So the next day they went to the Derby. Sir Robert Ferrer, of the Guards
drove (this is Inkerman Bob, and he has got a patent cork leg now, and
a Victoria Cross, and goes a-shooting on a grey cob); and there was Red
Maclean, on furlough from India; and there was Lord Swansea, youngest of
existing Guardsmen, who blew a horn, and didn't blow it at all well; and
there were two of Lieutenant Hornby's brother-officers, besides the
Lieutenant: and behind, with Hornby's two grooms and our own Charles,
dressed in sober black, was little Dick Ferrers, of the Home Office, who
carried a peashooter, and pea-shot the noses of the leading horses of a
dragful of Plungers, which followed them--which thing, had he been in
the army, he wouldn't have dared to do. And the Plungers swore, and the
dust flew, and the wind blew, and Sir Robert drove, and Charles laughed,
and Lord Swansea gave them a little music, and away they went to the
Derby.

When they came on the course, Charles and his fellow-servants had enough
to do to get the horses out and see after them. After nearly an hour's
absence he got back to the drag, and began to look about him.

The Plungers had drawn up behind them, and were lolling about. Before
them was a family party--a fine elderly gentleman, a noble elderly lady,
and two uncommonly pretty girls; and they were enjoying themselves. They
were too well bred to make a noise; but there was a subdued babbling
sound of laughter in that carriage, which was better music than that of
a little impish German who, catching Charles's eye, played the accordion
and waltzed before him, as did Salome before Herod, but with a different
effect.

The carriage beyond that was a very handsome one, and in it sat a lady
most beautifully dressed, alone. By the step of the carriage were a
crowd of men--Hornby, Hornby's brother-officers, Sir Robert Ferrers, and
even little Dick Ferrers. Nay, there was a Plunger there; and they were
all talking and laughing at the top of their voices.

Charles, goose as he was, used to be very fond of Dickens's novels. He
used to say that almost everywhere in those novels you came across a
sketch, may be unconnected with the story, as bold and true and
beautiful as those chalk sketches of Raphael in the Taylor--scratches
which, when once seen, you could never forget any more. And, as he
looked at that lady in the carriage, he was reminded of one of Dickens's
master-pieces in that way, out of the "Old Curiosity Shop"--of a lady
sitting in a carriage all alone at the races, who bought Nell's poor
flowers, and bade her go home and stay there, for God's sake.

Her back was towards him, of course; yet he guessed she was beautiful.
"She is a fast woman, God help her!" said he; and he determined to go
and look at her.

He sauntered past the carriage, and turned to look at her. It was
Adelaide.

As faultlessly beautiful as ever, but ah--how changed! The winning
petulance, so charming in other days, was gone from that face for ever.
Hard, stern, proud, defiant, she sat there upright, alone. Fallen from
the society of all women of her own rank, she knew--who better?--that
not one of those men chattering around her would have borne to see her
in the company of his sister, viscountess though she were, countess and
mother of earls as she would be. They laughed, and lounged, and joked
before her; and she tolerated them, and cast her gibes hither and
thither among them, bitterly and contemptuously. It was her first
appearance in the world. She had been married three days.

Not a woman would speak to her: Lord Welter had coarsely told her so
that morning; and bitterness and hatred were in her heart. It was for
this she had bartered honour and good fame. She had got her title, flung
to her as a bone to a dog by Welter; but her social power, for which she
had sold herself, was lower, far lower, than when she was poor Adelaide
Summers.

It is right that it should be so, as a rule; in her case it was doubly
right.

Charles knew all this well enough. And at the first glance at her face
he knew that "the iron had entered into her soul" (I know no better
expression), and he was revenged. He had ceased to love her, but revenge
is sweet--to some.

Not to him. When he looked at her, he would have given his life that she
might smile again, though she was no more to him what she had been. He
turned, for fear of being seen, saying to himself,--

"Poor girl! Poor dear Adelaide! She must lie on the bed she has made.
God help her!"

Haphazard was the first favourite--_facile princeps_. He was at two and
a half to one. Bill Sykes, at three and a half, was a very dangerous
horse. Then came Carnarvon, Lablache, Lick-pitcher, Ivanhoe, Ben Caunt,
Bath-bun, Hamlet, Allfours, and Colonel Sibthorp. The last of these was
at twenty to one. Ben Caunt was to make the running for Haphazard, so
they said; and Colonel Sibthorp for Bill Sykes.

So he heard the men talking round Lady Welter's carriage. Hornby's voice
was as loud as any one's, and a pleasant voice it was; but they none of
them talked very low. Charles could hear every word.

"I am afraid Lady Welter will never forgive me," said Hornby, "but I
have bet against the favourite."

"I beg your pardon," said Adelaide.

"I have bet against your horse, Lady Welter."

"My horse?" said Adelaide, coolly and scornfully. "My horses are all
post-horses, hired for the day to bring me here. I hope none of them are
engaged in the races, as I shall have to go home with a pair only, and
then I shall be disgraced for ever."

"I mean Haphazard."

"Oh, that horse?" said Adelaide; "that is Lord Ascot's horse, not mine.
I hope you may win. You ought to win something, oughtn't you? Welter has
won a great deal from you, I believe."

The facts were the other way. But Hornby said no more to her. She was
glad of this, though she liked him well enough, for she hoped that she
had offended him by her insolent manner. But they were at
cross-purposes.

Presently Lord Welter came swinging in among them; he looked terribly
savage and wild, and Charles thought he had been drinking. Knowing what
he was in this mood, and knowing also the mood Adelaide was in, he
dreaded some scene. "But they cannot quarrel so soon," he thought.

"How d'ye do?" said Lord Welter to the knot of men round his wife's
carriage. "Lady Welter, have your people got any champagne, or anything
of that sort?"

"I suppose so; you had better ask them."

She had not forgotten what he had said to her that morning so brutally.
She saw he was madly angry, and would have liked to make him commit
himself before these men. She had fawned, and wheedled, and flattered
for a month; but now she was Lady Welter, and he should feel it.

Lord Welter looked still more savage, but said nothing. A man brought
him some wine; and, as he gave it to him, Adelaide said, as quietly as
though she were telling him that there was some dust on his coat--

"You had better not take too much of it; you seem to have had enough
already. Sir Robert Ferrers here is very taciturn in his cups, I am
told; but you make such a terrible to-do when you are drunk."

They should feel her tongue, these fellows! They might come and dangle
about her carriage-door, and joke to one another, and look on her beauty
as if she were a doll; but they should feel her tongue; Charles's heart
sank within him as he heard her. Only a month gone, and she desperate.

But of all the mischievous things done on that race-course that day--and
they were many--the most mischievous and uncalled-for was Adelaide's
attack upon Sir Robert Ferrers, who, though very young, was as sober,
clever, and discreet a young man as any in the Guards, or in England.
But Adelaide had heard a story about him. To wit, that, going to dinner
at Greenwich with a number of friends, and having taken two glasses or
so of wine at his dinner, he got it into his head that he was getting
tipsy; and refused to speak another word all the evening for fear of
committing himself.

The other men laughed at Ferrers. And Lord Welter chose to laugh too; he
was determined that his wife should not make a fool of him. But now
every one began to draw off and take their places for the race. Little
Dick Ferrers, whose whole life was one long effort of good nature,
stayed by Lady Welter, though horribly afraid of her, because he did not
like to see her left alone. Charles forced himself into a front position
against the rails, with his friend Mr. Sloane, and held on thereby,
intensely interested. He was passionately fond of horse-racing; and he
forgot everything, even his poor, kind old friend Lord Ascot, in
scrutinising every horse as it came by from the Warren, and guessing
which was to win.

Haphazard was the horse, there could be no doubt. A cheer ran all along
the line, as he came walking majestically down, as though he knew he was
the hero of the day. Bill Sykes and Carnarvon were as good as good could
be; but Haphazard was better. Charles remembered Lady Ascot's tearful
warning about his not being able to stay; but he laughed it to scorn.
The horse had furnished so since then! Here he came, flying past them
like a whirlwind, shaking the earth, and making men's ears tingle with
the glorious music of his feet on the turf. Haphazard, ridden by Wells,
must win! Hurrah for Wells!

As the horse came slowly past again, he looked up to see the calm stern
face; but it was not there. There were Lord Ascot's colours, dark blue
and white sash; but where was Wells? The jockey was a smooth-faced young
man, with very white teeth, who kept grinning and touching his cap at
every other word Lord Ascot said to him. Charles hurriedly borrowed
Sloane's card, and read,

"Lord Ascot's Haphazard----J. Brooks."

Who, in the name of confusion, was J. Brooks? All of a sudden he
remembered. It was one of Lord Ascot's own lads. It was the very lad
that rode Haphazard on the day that Adelaide and he rode out to the
Downs, at Ranford, to see the horse gallop. Lord Ascot must be mad.

"But Wells was to have ridden Haphazard, Mr. Sloane," said Charles.

"He wouldn't," said Sloane, and laughed sardonically. But there was no
time for Charles to ask why he laughed, for the horses were off.

Those who saw the race were rather surprised that Ben Caunt had not
showed more to the front at first to force the running; but there was
not much time to think of such things. As they came round the corner,
Haphazard, who was lying sixth, walked through his horses and laid
himself alongside of Bill Sykes. A hundred yards from the post, Bill
Sykes made a push, and drew a neck a-head; in a second or so more
Haphazard had passed him, winning the Derby by a clear length; and poor
Lord Ascot fell headlong down in a fit, like a dead man.

Little Dicky Ferrers, in the excitement of the race, had climbed into
the rumble of Adelaide's carriage, peashooter and all; and, having
cheered rather noisily as the favourite came in winner, he was beginning
to wonder whether he hadn't made a fool of himself, and what Lady Welter
would say when she found where he had got to, when Lord Welter broke
through the crowd, and came up to his wife, looking like death.

"Get home, Adelaide! You see what has happened, and know what to do.
Lady Welter, if I get hold of that boy Brooks, to-night, in a safe
place, I'll murder him, by----!"

"I believe you will, Welter. Keep away from him, unless you are a
madman. If you anger the boy it will all come out. Where is Lord Ascot?"

"Dead, they say, or dying. He is in a fit."

"I ought to go to him, Welter, in common decency."

"Go home, I tell you. Get the things you know of packed, and taken to
one of the hotels at London Bridge. Any name will do. Be at home
to-night, dressed, in a state of jubilation; and keep a couple of
hundred pounds in the house. Here, you fellows! her ladyship's
horses--look sharp!"

Poor little Dicky Ferrers had heard more than he intended; but Lord
Welter, in his madness, had not noticed him. He didn't use his
peashooter going home, and spoke very little. There was a party of all
of them in Hornby's rooms that night, and Dicky was so dull at first,
that his brother made some excuse to get him by himself, and say a few
eager, affectionate words to him.

"Dick, my child, you have lost some money. How much? You shall have it
to-morrow."

"Not half a halfpenny, Bob; but I was with Lady Welter just after the
race, and I heard more than I ought to have heard."

"You couldn't help it, I hope."

"I ought to have helped it; but it was so sudden, I couldn't help it.
And now I can't ease my mind by telling anybody."

"I suppose it was some rascality of Welter's," said Sir Robert,
laughing. "It don't much matter; only don't tell any one, you know." And
then they went in again, and Dicky never told any one till every one
knew.

For it came out soon that Lord Ascot had been madly betting, by
commission, against his own horse, and that forty years' rents of his
estates wouldn't set my lord on his legs again. With his usual
irresolution, he had changed his policy--partly owing, I fear, to our
dear old friend Lady Ascot's perpetual croaking about "Ramoneur blood,"
and its staying qualities. So, after betting such a sum on his own horse
as gave the betting world confidence, and excusing himself by pleading
his well-known poverty from going further, he had hedged, by commission;
and, could his horse have lost, he would have won enough to have set
matters right at Ranford. He dared not ask a great jockey to ride for
him under such circumstances, and so he puffed one of his own lads to
the world, and broke with Wells. The lad had sold him like a sheep.
Meanwhile, thinking himself a man of honour, poor fool, he had raised
every farthing possible on his estate to meet his engagements on the
turf in case of failure--in case of his horse winning by some mischance,
if such a thing could be. And so it came about that the men of the turf
were all honourably paid, and he and his tradesmen were ruined. The
estates were entailed; but for thirty years Ranford must be in the hands
of strangers. Lord Welter, too, had raised money, and lost fearfully by
the same speculation.

There are some men who are always in the right place when they are
wanted--always ready to do good and kind actions--and who are generally
found "to the fore" in times of trouble. Such a man was General
Mainwaring. When Lord Ascot fell down in a fit, he was beside him, and,
having seen him doing well, and having heard from him, as he recovered,
the fearful extent of the disaster, he had posted across country to
Ranford and told Lady Ascot.

She took it very quietly.

"Win or lose," she said, "it is all one to this unhappy house. Tell them
to get out my horses, dear general, and let me go to my poor darling
Ascot. You have heard nothing of Charles Ravenshoe, general?"

"Nothing, my dear lady."

Charles had brushed his sleeve in the crowd that day, and had longed to
take the dear old brown hand in his again, but dared not. Poor Charles!
If he had only done so!

So the general and Lady Ascot went off together, and nursed Lord Ascot;
and Adelaide, pale as death, but beautiful as ever, was driven home
through the dust and turmoil, clenching her hands impatiently together
at every stoppage on the road.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

LORD WELTER'S MÉNAGE.


There was a time, a time we have seen, when Lord Welter was a merry,
humorous, thoughtless boy. A boy, one would have said, with as little
real mischief in him as might be. He might have made a decent member of
society, who knows? But to do him justice, he had had everything against
him from his earliest childhood. He had never known what a mother was,
or a sister. His earliest companions were grooms and gamekeepers; and
his religious instruction was got mostly from his grandmother, whose
old-fashioned Sunday-morning lectures and collect learnings, so rigidly
pursued that he dreaded Sunday of all days in the week, were succeeded
by cock-fighting in the Croft with his father in the afternoon, and
lounging away the evening among the stable-boys. As Lord Saltire once
said, in the former part of this story, "Ranford was what the young men
of the day called an uncommon fast house."

Fast enough, in truth. "All downhill and no drag on." Welter soon defied
his grandmother. For his father he cared nothing. Lord Ascot was so
foolishly fond of the boy that he never contradicted him in anything,
and used even to laugh when he was impudent to his grandmother, whom, to
do Lord Ascot justice, he respected more than any living woman. Tutors
were tried, of whom Welter, by a happy combination of obstinacy and
recklessness, managed to vanquish three, in as many months. It was
hopeless. Lord Ascot would not hear of his going to school. He was his
only boy, his darling. He could not part with him; and, when Lady Ascot
pressed the matter, he grew obstinate, as he could at times, and said he
would not. The boy would do well enough; he had been just like him at
his age, and look at him now!

Lord Ascot was mistaken. He had not been quite like Lord Welter at his
age. He had been a very quiet sort of boy indeed. Lord Ascot was a great
stickler for blood in horses, and understood such things. I wonder he
could not have seen the difference between the sweet, loving face of his
mother, capable of violent, furious passion though it was, and that of
his coarse, stupid, handsome, gipsy-looking wife, and judged
accordingly. He had engrafted a new strain of blood on the old Staunton
stock, and was to reap the consequences.

What was to become of Lord Welter was a great problem, still unsolved;
when, one night, shortly before Charles paid his first visit to Ranford,
vice Cuthbert, disapproved of, Lord Ascot came up, as his custom was,
into his mother's dressing-room, to have half-an-hour's chat with her
before she went to bed.

"I wonder, mother dear," he said, "whether I ought to ask old Saltire
again, or not? He wouldn't come last time you know. If I thought he
wouldn't come, I'd ask him."

"You must ask him," said Lady Ascot, brushing her grey hair, "and he
will come."

"_Very_ well," said Lord Ascot. "It's a bore; but you must have some one
to flirt with, I suppose."

Lady Ascot laughed. In fact, she had written before, and told him that
he _must_ come, for she wanted him; and come he did.

"Now, Maria," said Lord Saltire, on the first night, as soon as he and
Lady Ascot were seated together on a quiet sofa, "what is it? Why have
you brought me down to meet this mob of jockeys and gamekeepers? A
fortnight here, and not a soul to speak to, but Mainwaring and yourself.
After I was here last time, dear old Lady Hainault croaked out in a
large crowd that some one smelt of the stable."

"Dear old soul," said Lady Ascot. "What a charming, delicate wit she
has. You will have to come here again, though. Every year, mind."

"Kismet," said Lord Saltire. "But what is the matter?"

"What do you think of Ascot's boy?"

"Oh, Lord!" said Lord Saltire. "So I have been brought all this way to
be consulted about a schoolboy. Well, I think he looks an atrocious
young cub, as like his dear mamma as he can be. I always used to expect
that she would call me a pretty gentleman, and want to tell my fortune."

Lady Ascot smiled: _she_ knew her man. She knew he would have died for
her and hers.

"He is getting very troublesome," said Lady Ascot. "What would you
reco----"

"Send him to Eton," said Lord Saltire.

"But he is very high-spirited, James, and----"

"_Send him to Eton._ Do you hear, Maria?"

"But Ascot won't let him go," said Lady Ascot.

"Oh, he won't, won't he?" said Lord Saltire. "Now, let us hear no more
of the cub, but have our picquet in peace."

The next morning Lord Saltire had an interview with Lord Ascot, and two
hours afterwards it was known that Lord Welter was to go to Eton at
once.

And so, when Lord Welter met Charles at Twyford, he told him of it.

At Eton, he had rapidly found other boys brought up with the same tastes
as himself, and with these he consorted. A rapid interchange of
experiences went on among these young gentlemen; which ended in Lord
Welter, at all events, being irreclaimably vicious.

Lord Welter had fallen in love with Charles, as boys do, and their
friendship had lasted on, waning as it went, till they permanently met
again at Oxford. There, though their intimacy was as close as ever, the
old love died out, for a time, amidst riot and debauchery. Charles had
some sort of a creed about women; Lord Welter had none. Charles drew a
line at a certain point, low down it might be, which he never passed;
Welter set no bounds anywhere. What Lord Hainault said of him at
Tattersall's was true. One day, when they had been arguing on this point
rather sharply, Charles said--

"If you mean what you say, you are not fit to come into a gentleman's
house. But you don't mean it, old cock; so don't be an ass."

He did mean it, and Charles was right. Alas! that ever he should have
come to Ravenshoe!

Lord Welter had lived so long in the house with Adelaide that he never
thought of making love to her. They used to quarrel, like Benedict and
Beatrice. What happened was her fault. She was worthless. Worthless. Let
us have done with it. I can expand over Lord Saltire and Lady Ascot, and
such good people, but I cannot over her, more than is necessary.

Two things Lord Welter was very fond of--brawling and dicing. He was an
arrant bully, very strong, and perfect in the use of his fists, and of
such courage and tenacity that, having once began a brawl, no one had
ever made him leave it, save as an unqualified victor. This was getting
well known now. Since he had left Oxford and had been living in London,
he had been engaged in two or three personal encounters in the terribly
fast society to which he had betaken himself, and men were getting
afraid of him. Another thing was, that, drink as he would, he never
played the worse for it. He was a lucky player. Sometimes, after winning
money of a man, he would ask him home to have his revenge. That man
generally went again and again to Lord Welter's house, in St. John's
Wood, and did not find himself any the richer. It was the most beautiful
little gambling den in London, and it was presided over by one of the
most beautiful, witty, fascinating women ever seen. A woman with whom
all the men fell in love; so staid, so respectable, and charmingly
behaved. Lord Welter always used to call her Lady Welter; so they all
called her Lady Welter too, and treated her as though she were.

But this Lady Welter was soon to be dethroned to make room for Adelaide.
A day or two before they went off together, this poor woman got a note
from Welter to tell her to prepare for a new mistress. It was no blow to
her. He had prepared her for it for some time. There might have been
tears, wild tears, in private; but what cared he for the tears of such
an one? When Lord Welter and Adelaide came home, and Adelaide came with
him into the hall, she advanced towards her, dressed as a waiting-woman,
and said quietly,

"You are welcome home, madam."

It was Ellen, and Lord Welter was the delinquent, as you have guessed
already. When she fled from Ravenshoe, she was flying from the anger of
her supposed brother William; for he thought he knew all about it; and,
when Charles Marston saw her passing round the cliff, she was making her
weary way on foot towards Exeter to join him in London. After she was
missed, William had written to Lord Welter, earnestly begging him to
tell him if he had heard of her. And Welter had written back to him that
he knew nothing, on his honour. Alas for Welter's honour, and William's
folly in believing him!

Poor Ellen! Lord Welter had thought that she would have left the house,
and had good reason for thinking so. But, when he got home, there she
was. All her finery cast away, dressed plainly and quietly. And there
she stayed, waiting on Adelaide, demure and quiet as a waiting-woman
should be. Adelaide had never been to Ravenshoe, and did not know her.
Lord Welter had calculated on her going; but she stayed on. Why?

You must bear with me, indeed you must, at such times as these. I touch
as lightly as I can; but I have undertaken to tell a story, and I must
tell it. These things are going on about us, and we try to ignore them,
till they are thrust rudely upon us, as they are twenty times a year. No
English story about young men could be complete without bringing in
subjects which some may think best left alone. Let us comfort ourselves
with one great, undeniable fact--the immense improvement in morals which
has taken place in the last ten years. The very outcry which is now
raised against such relations shows plainly one thing at least--that
undeniable facts are being winked at no longer, and that some reform is
coming. Every younger son who can command £200 a year ought to be
allowed to marry in his own rank in life, whatever that may be. They
will be uncomfortable, and have to save and push; and a very good thing
for them. They won't lose caste. There are some things worse than mere
discomfort. Let us look at bare facts, which no one dare deny. There is
in the great world, and the upper middle-class world too, a crowd of
cadets; younger sons, clerks, officers in the army, and so on;
non-marrying men, as the slang goes, who are asked out to dine and dance
with girls who are their equals in rank, and who have every opportunity
of falling in love with them. And yet if one of this numerous crowd were
to dare to fall in love with, and to propose to, one of these girls, he
would be denied the house. It is the fathers and mothers who are to
blame, to a great extent, for the very connexions they denounce so
loudly. But yet the very outcry they are raising against these
connexions is a hopeful sign.

Lieutenant Hornby, walking up and down the earth to see what mischief he
could get into, had done a smart stroke of business in that way, by
making the acquaintance of Lord Welter at a gambling-house. Hornby was a
very good fellow. He had two great pleasures in life. One, I am happy to
say, was soldiering, at which he worked like a horse, and the other, I
am very sorry to say, was gambling, at which he worked a great deal
harder than he should. He was a marked man among professional players.
Every one knew how awfully rich he was, and every one in succession had
a "shy" at him. He was not at all particular. He would accept a battle
with any one. Gaming men did all sorts of dirty things to get introduced
to him, and play with him. The greater number of them had their wicked
will; but the worst of it was that he always won. Sometimes, at a game
of chance, he might lose enough to encourage his enemies to go on; but
at games of skill no one could touch him. His billiard playing was
simply masterly. And Dick Ferrers will tell you, that he and Hornby,
being once, I am very sorry to say, together at G--n--ch F--r, were
accosted in the park by a skittle-sharper, and that Hornby (who would,
like Faust, have played chess with Old Gooseberry) allowed himself to be
taken into a skittle-ground, from which he came out in half an hour
victorious over the skittle-sharper, beating him easily.

In the heyday of his fame, Lord Welter was told of him, and saying,
"Give me the daggers," got introduced to him. They had a tournament at
_écarté_, or billiards, or something or another of that sort, it don't
matter; and Lord Welter asked him up to St. John's Wood, where he saw
Ellen.

He lost that night liberally, as he could afford to; and, with very
little persuasion, was induced to come there the next. He lost liberally
again. He had fallen in love with Ellen.

Lord Welter saw it, and made use of it as a bait to draw on Hornby to
play. Ellen's presence was, of course, a great attraction to him, and he
came and played; but unluckily for Lord Welter, after a few nights his
luck changed, or he took more care, and he began to win again; so much
so that, about the time when Adelaide came home, my Lord Welter had had
nearly enough of Lieutenant Hornby, and was in hopes that he should have
got rid of Ellen and him together; for his lordship was no fool about
some things, and saw plainly this--that Hornby was passionately fond of
Ellen, and, moreover, that poor Ellen had fallen deeply in love with
Hornby.

So, when he came home, he was surprised and angry to find her there. She
would not go. She would stay and wait on Adelaide. She had been asked to
go; but had refused sharply the man she loved. Poor girl, she had her
reasons; and we shall see what they were. Now you know what I meant when
I wondered whether or no Charles would have burnt Hornby's house down if
he had known all. But you will be rather inclined to forgive Hornby
presently, as Charles did when he came to know everything.

But the consequence of Ellen's staying on as servant to Adelaide brought
this with it, that Hornby determined that he would have the _entrée_ of
the house at St. John's Wood, at any price. Lord Welter guessed this,
and guessed that Hornby would be inclined to lose a little money in
order to gain it. When he brushed Charles's knee in Piccadilly he was
deliberating whether or no he should ask him back there again. As he
stood unconsciously, almost touching Charles, he came to the
determination that he would try what bargain he could make with the
honour of Charles's sister, whom he had so shamefully injured already.
And Charles saw them make the appointment together in the balcony. How
little he guessed for what!

Lord Hainault was right. Welter was a scoundrel. But Hornby was not, as
we shall see.

Hornby loved play for play's sake. And, extravagant dandy though he was,
the attorney blood of his father came out sometimes so strong in him
that, although he would have paid any price to be near, and speak to
Ellen, yet he could not help winning, to Lord Welter's great disgust,
and his own great amusement. Their game, I believe, was generally
_picquet_ or _écarté_, and at both these he was Lord Welter's master.
What with his luck and his superior play, it was very hard to lose
decently sometimes; and sometimes, as I said, he would cast his plans to
the winds and win terribly. But he always repented when he saw Lord
Welter get savage, and lost dutifully, though at times he could barely
keep his countenance. Nevertheless the balance he allowed to Lord Welter
made a very important item in that gentleman's somewhat precarious
income.

But, in spite of all his sacrifices, he but rarely got even a glimpse of
Ellen. And, to complicate matters, Adelaide, who sat by and watched the
play, and saw Hornby purposely losing at times, got it into her silly
head that he was in love with her. She liked the man--who did not? But
she had honour enough left to be rude to him. Hornby saw all this, and
was amused. I often think that it must have been a fine spectacle, to
see the honourable man playing with the scoundrel, and give him just as
much line as he chose. And, when I call Hornby an honourable man, I mean
what I say, as you will see.

This was the state of things when the Derby crash came. At half-past
five on that day, the Viscountess Welter dashed up to her elegant
residence in St. John's Wood, in a splendid barouche, drawn by four
horses, and, when "her people" came and opened the door and let down the
steps, lazily descended, and followed by her footman bearing her
fal-lals, lounged up the steps as if life were really too _ennuyant_ to
be borne any longer. Three hours afterwards, a fierce, eager woman,
plainly dressed, with a dark veil, was taking apartments in the Bridge
Hotel, London Bridge, for Mr. and Mrs. Staunton, who were going abroad
in a few days; and was overseeing, with her confidential servant, a
staid man in black, the safe stowage of numerous hasped oak boxes, the
most remarkable thing about which was their great weight. The lady was
Lady Welter, and the man was Lord Welter's confidential scoundrel. The
landlord thought they had robbed Hunt and Roskell's, and were off with
the plunder, till he overheard the man say, "I think that is all, my
lady;" after which he was quite satisfied. The fact was, that all the
Ascot race plate, gold salvers and épergnes, silver cups rough with
designs of the chase, and possibly also some of the Ascot family jewels,
were so disgusted with the state of things in England, that they were
thinking of going for a little trip on the Continent. What should a
dutiful wife do but see to their safe stowage? If any enterprising
burglar had taken it into his head to "crack" that particular "crib"
known as the Bridge Hotel, and got clear off with the "swag," he might
have retired on the hard-earned fruits of a well-spent life into happier
lands--might have been "run" for M.L.C., or possibly for Congress in a
year or two. Who can tell?

And, also, if Lord Welter's confidential scoundrel had taken it into his
head to waylay and rob his lordship's noble consort on her way
home--which he was quite capable of doing--and if he also had got clear
off, he would have found himself a better man by seven hundred and
ninety-four pounds, three half-crowns, and a threepenny-piece; that is,
if he had done it before her ladyship had paid the cabman. But both the
burglars and the valet missed the tide, and the latter regrets it to
this day.

At eleven o'clock that night, Lady Welter was lolling leisurely on her
drawing-room sofa, quite bored to death. When Lord Welter, and Hornby,
and Sir Robert Ferrers, and some Dragoons came in, she was yawning, as
if life was really too much of a plague to be endured. Would she play
loo? Oh, yes; anything after such a wretched, lonely evening. That was
the game where you had three cards, wasn't it, and you needn't go on
unless you liked. Would Welter or some one lend her some money. She had
got a threepenny-piece and a shilling somewhere or another, but that
would not be enough, she supposed. Where was Sir Robert's little
brother! Gone to bed? How tiresome; she had fallen in love with him, and
had set her heart on seeing him to-night. And so on.

Lord Welter gave her a key, and told her there was some money in his
dressing-case. As she left the room, Hornby, who was watching them, saw
a quick look of intelligence pass between them, and laughed in his
sleeve.

I have been given to understand that guinea unlimited loo is a charming
pursuit, soothing to the feelings, and highly improving to the moral
tone. I speak from hearsay, as circumstances over which I have no
control have prevented my ever trying it. But this I know--that, if Lord
Welter's valet had robbed his master and mistress, when they went to bed
that night, instead of netting seven hundred and ninety-four, seven,
nine, he would have netted eleven hundred and forty-six, eight, six;
leaving out the threepenny-piece. But he didn't do it; and Lord and Lady
Welter slept that sleep which is the peculiar reward of a quiet
conscience undisturbed.

But, next morning, when Charles waited on Hornby, in his dressing-room,
the latter said--

"I shall want you to-night, lad. I thought I might have last night; but,
seeing the other fellows went, I left you at home. Be ready at half-past
six. I lost a hundred and twenty pounds last night. I don't mean to
afford it any longer. I shall stop it."

"Where are we to go to, sir?"

"To St. John's Wood. We shall be up late. Leave the servant's hall, and
come up and lie in the hall, as if you were asleep. Don't let yourself
be seen. No one will notice you."

Charles little thought where he was going.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE HOUSE FULL OF GHOSTS.


Charles had really no idea where he was going. Although he knew that
Hornby had been playing with Lord Welter, yet he thought, from what
Hornby had said, that he would not bring him into collision with him;
and indeed he did not--only taking Charles with him as a reserve in case
of accidents, for he thoroughly distrusted his lordship.

At half-past six in the evening Hornby rode slowly away, followed by
Charles. He had told Charles that he should dine in St. John's Wood at
seven, and should ride there, and Charles was to wait with the horses.
But it was nearly seven, and yet Hornby loitered, and seemed
undetermined. It was a wild, gusty evening, threatening rain. There were
very few people abroad, and those who were rode or walked rapidly. And
yet Hornby dawdled irresolutely, as though his determination were hardly
strong enough yet.

At first he rode quite away from his destination, but by degrees his
horse's head got changed into the right direction; then he made another
détour, but a shorter one; at last he put spurs to his horse, and rode
resolutely up the short carriage-drive before the door, and giving the
reins to Charles, walked firmly in.

Charles put up the horses and went into the servants' hall, or the room
which answered that end in the rather small house of Lord Welter. No
one was there. All the servants were busy with the dinner and Charles
was left unnoticed.

By-and-by a page, noticing a strange servant in passing the door,
brought him some beer, and a volume of the Newgate Calendar. This young
gentleman called his attention to the print of a lady cutting up the
body of her husband with a chopper, assisted by a young Jew, who was
depicted "walking off with a leg," like one of the Fans (the use of
which seems to be, to cool the warm imagination of other travellers into
proper limits), while the woman was preparing for another effort. After
having recommended Charles to read the letterpress thereof, as he would
find it tolerably spicy, he departed, and left him alone.

The dinner was got over in time; and after a time there was silence in
the house--a silence so great that Charles rose and left the room. He
soon found his way to another; but all was dark and silent, though it
was not more than half-past nine.

He stood in the dark passage, wondering where to go, and determined to
turn back to the room from which he had come. There was a light there,
at all events.

There was a light, and the Newgate Calendar. The wild wind, that had
eddied and whirled the dust at the street corners, and swept across the
park all day, had gone down, and the rain had come on. He could hear it
drip, drip, outside; it was very melancholy. Confound the Newgate
Calendar!

He was in a very queer house, he knew. What did Hornby mean by asking
him the night before whether or no he could fight, and whether he would
stick to him? Drip, drip; otherwise a dead silence. Charles's heart
began to beat a little faster.

Where were all the servants? He had heard plenty of them half an hour
ago. He had heard a French cook swearing at English kitchen-girls, and
had heard plenty of other voices; and now--the silence of the grave. Or
of Christie and Manson's on Saturday evening; or of the Southern Indian
Ocean in a calm at midnight; or of anything else you like; similes are
cheap.

He remembered now that Hornby had said, "Come and lie in the hall as if
asleep; no one will notice you." He determined to do so. But where was
it? His candle was flickering in its socket, and as he tried to move it,
it went out.

He could scarcely keep from muttering on oath, but he did. His situation
was very uncomfortable. He did not know in what house he was--only that
he was in a quarter of the town in which there were not a few uncommonly
queer houses. He determined to grope his way to the light.

He felt his way out of the room and along a passage. The darkness was
intense, and the silence perfect. Suddenly a dull red light gleamed in
his eyes, and made him start. It was the light of the kitchen fire. A
cricket would have been company, but there was none.

He continued to advance cautiously. Soon a ghostly square of very dim
grey light on his left showed him where was a long narrow window. It was
barred with iron bars. He was just thinking of this, and how very queer
it was, when he uttered a loud oath, and came crashing down. He had
fallen upstairs.

He had made noise enough to waken the seven sleepers; but those
gentlemen did not seem to be in the neighbourhood, or, at all events, if
awakened gave no sign of it. Dead silence. He sat on the bottom stair
and rubbed his shins, and in spite of a strong suspicion that he had got
into a scrape, laughed to himself at the absurdity of his position.

"Would it be worth while, I wonder," he said to himself, "to go back to
the kitchen and get the poker? I'd better not, I suppose. It would be so
deuced awkward to be caught in the dark with a poker in your hand. Being
on the premises for the purpose of committing a felony--that is what
they would say; and then they would be sure to say that you were the
companion of thieves, and had been convicted before. No. Under this
staircase, in the nature of things, is the housemaid's cupboard. What
should I find there as a weapon of defence? A dust-pan. A great deal
might be done with a dust-pan, mind you, at close quarters. How would it
do to arrange all her paraphernalia on the stairs, and cry fire, so that
mine enemies, rushing forth, might stumble and fall, and be taken
unawares? But that would be acting on the offensive, and I have no safe
grounds for pitching into any one yet."

Though Charles tried to comfort himself by talking nonsense, he was very
uncomfortable. Staying where he was, was intolerable; and he hardly
dared to ascend into the upper regions unbidden. Besides, he had fully
persuaded himself that a disturbance was imminent, and, though a brave
man, did not like to precipitate it. He had mistaken the character of
the house he was in. At last, taking heart, he turned and felt his way
upstairs. He came before a door through the keyhole of which the light
streamed strongly; he was deliberating whether to open it or not, when a
shadow crossed it, though he heard no noise, but a minute after the
distant sound of a closing door. He could stand it no longer. He opened
the door, and advanced into a blaze of light.

He entered a beautiful flagged hall, frescoed and gilded. There were
vases of flowers round the walls, and strips of Indian matting on the
pavement. It was lit by a single chandelier, which was reflected in four
great pier-glasses reaching to the ground, in which Charles's top-boots
and brown face were re-duplicated most startlingly. The _tout ensemble_
was very beautiful; but what struck Charles was the bad taste of having
an entrance-hall decorated like a drawing-room. "That is just the sort
of thing they do in these places," he thought.

There were only two hats on the entrance table; one of which he was
rejoiced to recognise as that of his most respected master. "May the
deuce take his silly noddle for bringing me to such a place!" thought
Charles.

This was evidently the front hall spoken of by Hornby; and he remembered
his advice to pretend to go to sleep. So he lay down on three
hall-chairs, and put his hat over his eyes.

Hall-chairs are hard; and, although Charles had just been laughing at
the proprietor of the house for being so lavish in his decorations, he
now wished that he had carried out his system a little further, and had
cushions to his chairs. But no; the chairs were _de rigueur_, with
crests on the back of them. Charles did not notice whose.

If a man pretends to go to sleep, and, like the Marchioness with her
orange-peel and water, "makes believe very much," he may sometimes
succeed in going to sleep in good earnest. Charles imitated the thing so
well, that in five minutes he was as fast off as a top.

Till a night or two before this, Charles had never dreamt of Ravenshoe
since he had left it. When the first sharp sting of his trouble was in
his soul, his mind had refused to go back further than to the events of
a day or so before. He had dreamt long silly dreams of his master, or
his fellow-servants, or his horses, but always, all through the night,
with a dread on him of waking in the dark. But, as his mind began to
settle and his pain got dulled, he began to dream about Ravenshoe, and
Oxford, and Shrewsbury again; and he no longer dreaded the waking as he
did, for the reality of his life was no longer hideous to him. With the
fatal "plasticity" of his nature, he had lowered himself, body and soul,
to the level of it.

But to-night, as he slept on these chairs, he dreamt of Ravenshoe, and
of Cuthbert, and of Ellen. And he woke, and she was standing within ten
feet of him, under the chandelier.

He was awake in an instant, but he lay as still as a mouse, staring at
her. She had not noticed him, but was standing in profound thought.
Found, and so soon! His sister! How lovely she was, standing, dressed in
light pearl grey, like some beautiful ghost, with her speaking eyes
fixed on nothing. She moved now, but so lightly that her footfall was
barely heard upon the matting. Then she turned and noticed him. She did
not seem surprised at seeing a groom stretched out asleep on the
chairs--she was used to that sort of thing, probably--but she turned
away, gliding through a door at the further end of the hall, and was
gone.

Charles's heart was leaping and beating madly, but he heard another door
open, and lay still.

Adelaide came out of a door opposite to the one into which Ellen had
passed. Charles was not surprised. He was beyond surprise. But, when he
saw her and Ellen in the same house, in one instant, with the quickness
of lightning, he understood it all. It was Welter had tempted Ellen from
Ravenshoe! Fool! fool! he might have prevented it once if he had only
guessed.

If he had any doubt as to where he was now, it was soon dispelled. Lord
Welter came rapidly out of the door after Adelaide, and called her in a
whisper, "Adelaide."

"Well," she said, turning round sharply.

"Come back, do you hear?" said Lord Welter. "Where the deuce are you
going?"

"To my own room."

"Come back, I tell you," said Lord Welter, savagely, in a low voice.
"You are going to spoil everything with your confounded airs."

"I shall not come back. I am not going to act as a decoy-duck to that
man, or any other man. Let me go, Welter."

Lord Welter was very near having to let her go with a vengeance. Charles
was ready for a spring, but watched, and waited his time. Lord Welter
had only caught her firmly by the wrist to detain her. He was not
hurting her.

"Look you here, my Lady Welter," he said slowly and distinctly. "Listen
to what I've got to say, and don't try the shadow of a tantrum with me,
for I won't have it for one moment. I don't mind your chaff and nonsense
in public; it blinds people, it is racy and attracts people; but in
private I am master, do you hear? Master. You know you are afraid of me,
and have good cause to be, by Jove. You are shaking now. Go back to that
room."

"I won't, I won't, I won't. Not without you, Welter. How can you use me
so cruelly, Welter? Oh, Welter, how can you be such a villain?"

"You conceited fool," said Lord Welter, contemptuously. "Do you think he
wants to make love to you?"

"You know he does, Welter; you know it," said Adelaide, passionately.

Lord Welter laughed good-naturedly. (He could be good-natured.) He drew
her towards him and kissed her. "My poor little girl," he said, "if I
thought that, I would break his neck. But it is utterly wide of the
truth. Look here, Adelaide; you are as safe from insult as my wife as
you were at Ranford. What you are not safe from is my own temper. Let us
be friends in private and not squabble so much, eh? You are a good,
shrewd, clever wife to me. Do keep your tongue quiet. Come in and mark
what follows."

They had not noticed Charles, though he had been so sure that they
would, that he had got his face down on the chair, covered with his
arms, feigning sleep. When they went into the room again, Charles caught
hold of a coat which was on the back of a chair, and, curling himself
up, put it over him. He would listen, listen, listen for every word. He
had a right to listen now.

In a minute a bell rang twice. Almost at the same moment some one came
out of the door through which Lord Welter had passed, and stood silent.
In about two minutes another door opened, and some one else came into
the hall.

A woman's voice--Ellen's--said, "Oh, are you come again?"

A man's voice--Lieutenant Hornby's--said in answer, "You see I am. I got
Lady Welter to ring her bell twice for you, and then to stay in that
room, so that I might have an interview with you."

"I am obliged to her ladyship. She must have been surprised that I was
the object of attraction. She fancied herself so."

"She was surprised. And she was more so, when I told her what my real
object was."

"Indeed," said Ellen, bitterly. "But her ladyship's surprise does not
appear to have prevented her from assisting you."

"On the contrary," said Hornby, "she wished me God speed--her own
words."

"Sir, you are a gentleman. Don't disgrace yourself and me--if I can be
disgraced--by quoting that woman's blasphemy before me. Sir, you have
had your answer. I shall go."

"Ellen, you must stay. I have got this interview with you to-night, to
ask you to be my wife. I love you as I believe woman was never loved
before, and I ask you to be my wife."

"You madman! you madman!"

"I am no madman. I was a madman when I spoke to you before; I pray your
forgiveness for that. You must forget that. I say that I love you as a
woman was never loved before. Shall I say something more, Ellen?"

"Say on."

"You love me."

"I love you as man was never loved before; and I swear to you that I
hope I may lie stiff and cold in my unhonoured coffin, before I'll ruin
the man I love by tying him to such a wretch as myself."

"Ellen, Ellen, don't say that. Don't take such vows, which you will not
dare to break afterwards. Think, you may regain all that you have lost,
and marry a man who loves you--ah, so dearly!--and whom you love too."

"Ay; there's the rub. If I did not love you, I would marry you
to-morrow. Regain all I have lost, say you? Bring my mother to life
again, for instance, or walk among other women again as an honest one?
You talk nonsense, Mr. Hornby--nonsense. I am going."

"Ellen! Ellen! Why do you stay in this house? Think once again."

"I shall never leave thinking; but my determination is the same. I tell
you, as a desperate woman like me dare tell you, that I love you far too
well to ruin your prospects, and I love my own soul too well ever to
make another false step. I stayed in this house because I loved to see
you now and then, and hear your voice; but now I shall leave it."

"See me once more, Ellen--only once more!"

"I will see you once more. I will tear my heart once more, if you wish
it. You have deserved all I can do for you, God knows. Come here the day
after to-morrow; but come without hope, mind. A woman who has been
through what I have can trust herself. Do you know that I am a
Catholic?"

"No."

"I am. Would you turn Catholic if I were to marry you?"

God forgive poor Hornby! He said, "Yes." What will not men say at such
times?

"Did I not say you were a madman? Do you think I would ruin you in the
next world, as well as in this? Go away, sir; and, when your children
are round you, humbly bless God's mercy for saving you, body and soul,
this night."

"I shall see you again?"

"Come here the day after to-morrow; but come without hope."

She passed through the door, and left him standing alone. Charles rose
from his lair, and, coming up to him, laid his hand on his shoulder.

"You have heard all this," said poor Hornby.

"Every word," said Charles. "I had a right to listen, you know. She is
my sister."

"Your sister?"

Then Charles told him all. Hornby had heard enough from Lord Welter to
understand it.

"Your sister! Can you help me, Horton? Surely she will hear reason from
you. Will you persuade her to listen to me?"

"No," said Charles. "She was right. You are mad. I will not help you do
an act which you would bitterly repent all your life. You must forget
her. She and I are disgraced, and must get away somewhere, and hide our
shame together."

What Hornby would have answered, no man can tell; for at this moment
Adelaide came out of the room, and passed quickly across the hall,
saying good night to him as she passed. She did not recognise Charles,
or seem surprised at seeing Hornby talking to his groom. Nobody who had
lived in Lord Welter's house a day or two was surprised at anything.

But Charles, speaking to Hornby more as if he were master than servant,
said, "Wait here;" and, stepping quickly from him, went into the room
where Lord Welter sat alone, and shut the door. Hornby heard it locked
behind him, and waited in the hall, listening intensely, for what was to
follow.

"There'll be a row directly," said Hornby to himself; "and that
chivalrous fool, Charles, has locked himself in. I wish Welter did not
send all his servants out of the house at night. There'll be murder done
here some day."

He listened and heard voices, low as yet--so low that he could hear the
dripping of the rain outside. Drip--drip! The suspense was intolerable.
When would they be at one another's throats?



CHAPTER XXXIX.

CHARLES'S EXPLANATION WITH LORD WELTER.


There is a particular kind of Ghost, or Devil, which is represented by
an isosceles triangle (more or less correctly drawn) for the body;
straight lines turned up at the ends for legs; straight lines divided
into five at the ends for arms; a round O, with arbitrary dots for the
features, for a head; with a hat, an umbrella, and a pipe. Drawn like
this, it is a sufficiently terrible object. But, if you take an ace of
clubs, make the club represent the head, add horns, and fill in the body
and limbs as above, in deep black, with the feather end of the pen, it
becomes simply appalling, and will strike terror into the stoutest
heart.

Is this the place, say you, for talking such nonsense as this; If you
must give us balderdash of this sort, could not you do so in a chapter
with a less terrible heading than this one has? And I answer, Why not
let me tell my story my own way? Something depends even on this nonsense
of making devils out of the ace of clubs.

It was rather a favourite amusement of Charles's and Lord Welter's, in
old times at Ranford. They used, on rainy afternoon's, to collect all
the old aces of clubs (and there were always plenty of them to be had in
that house, God help it), and make devils out of them, each one worse
than the first. And now, when Charles had locked the door, and advanced
softly up to Welter, he saw, over his shoulder, that he had got an ace
of clubs, and the pen and ink, and was making a devil.

It was a trifling circumstance enough, perhaps; but there was enough of
old times in it to alter the tone in which Charles said, "Welter," as he
laid his hand on his shoulder.

Lord Welter was a bully; but he was as brave as a lion, with nerves of
steel. He neither left off his drawing, nor looked up; he only
said--"Charley, boy, come and sit down till I have finished this fellow.
Get an ace of clubs and try your own hand. I am out of practice."

Perhaps even Lord Welter might have started when he heard Charles's
voice, and felt his hand on his shoulder; but he had had one
instant--only one instant--of preparation. When he heard the key turn in
the door, he had looked in a pier-glass opposite to him, and seen who
and what was coming, and then gone on with his employment. Even allowing
for this moment's preparation, we must give him credit for the nerve of
one man in ten thousand; for the apparition of Charles Ravenshoe was as
unlooked-for as that of any one of Charles Ravenshoe's remote ancestors.

You see, I call him Charles Ravenshoe still. It is a trick. You must
excuse it.

Charles did not sit down and draw devils; he said, in a quiet, mournful
tone,

"Welter, Welter, why have you been such a villain?"

Lord Welter found that a difficult question to answer. He let it alone,
and said nothing.

"I say nothing about Adelaide. You did not use me well there; for, when
you persuaded her to go off with you, you had not heard of my ruin."

"On my soul, Charles, there was not much persuasion wanted there."

"Very likely. I do not want to speak about that, but about Ellen, my
sister. Was anything ever done more shamefully than that?"

Charles expected some furious outbreak when he said that. None came.
What was good in Lord Welter came to the surface, when he saw his old
friend and playmate there before him, sunk so far below him in all that
this world considers worth having, but rising so far above him in his
fearless honour and manliness. He was humbled, sorry, and ashamed.
Bitter as Charles's words were, he felt they were true, and had manhood
enough left not to resent them. To the sensation of fear, as I have said
before, Lord Welter was a total stranger, or he might have been nervous
at being locked up in a room alone, with a desperate man, physically his
equal, whom he had so shamefully wronged. He rose and leant against the
chimney-piece, looking at Charles.

"I did not know she was your sister, Charles. You must do me that
justice."

"Of course you did not. If----"

"I know what you are going to say--that I should not have dared. On my
soul, Charles, I don't know; I believe I dare do anything. But I tell
you one thing--of all the men who walk this earth, you are the last I
would willingly wrong. When I went off with Adelaide, I knew she did not
care sixpence for you. I knew she would have made you wretched. I knew
better than you, because I never was in love with her, and you were,
what a heartless ambitious jade it was! She sold herself to me for the
title I gave her, as she had tried to sell herself to that solemn prig
Hainault, before. And I bought her, because a handsome, witty, clever
wife is a valuable chattel to a man like me, who has to live by his
wits."

"Ellen was as handsome and as clever as she. Why did not you marry her?"
said Charles, bitterly.

"If you will have the real truth, Ellen would have been Lady Welter now,
but----"

Lord Welter hesitated. He was a great rascal, and he had a brazen front,
but he found a difficulty in going on. It must be, I should fancy, very
hard work to tell all the little ins and outs of a piece of villainy one
has been engaged in, and to tell, as Lord Welter did on this occasion,
the exact truth.

"I am waiting," said Charles, "to hear you tell me why she was not made
Lady Welter."

"What, you will have it, then? Well, she was too scrupulous. She was too
honourable a woman for this line of business. She wouldn't play, or
learn to play--d--n it, sir, you have got the whole truth now, if that
will content you."

"I believe what you say, my lord. Do you know that Lieutenant Hornby
made her an offer of marriage to-night?"

"I supposed he would," said Lord Welter.

"And that she has refused him?"

"I guessed that she would. She is your own sister. Shall you try to
persuade her?"

"I would see her in her coffin first."

"So I suppose."

"She must come away from here, Lord Welter. I must keep her and do what
I can for her. We must pull through it together, somehow."

"She had better go from here. She is too good for this hole. I must make
provision for her to live with you."

"Not one halfpenny, my lord. She has lived too long in dependence and
disgrace already. We will pull through together alone."

Lord Welter said nothing, but he determined that Charles should not have
his way in this respect.

Charles continued, "When I came into this room to-night I came to
quarrel with you. You have not allowed me to do so, and I thank you for
it." Here he paused, and then went on in a lower voice, "I think you are
sorry, Welter; are you not? I am sure you are sorry. I am sure you
wouldn't have done it if you had foreseen the consequences, eh?"

Lord Welter's coarse under-lip shook for half a second, and his big
chest heaved once; but he said nothing.

"Only think another time; that is all. Now do me a favour; make me a
promise."

"I have made it."

"Don't tell any human soul you have seen me. If you do, you will only
entail a new disguise and a new hiding on me. You have promised."

"On my honour."

"If you keep your promise I can stay where I am. How is--Lady Ascot?"

"Well. Nursing my father."

"Is he ill?"

"Had a fit the day before yesterday. I heard this morning from them. He
is much better, and will get over it."

"Have you heard anything from Ravenshoe?"

"Not a word. Lord Saltire and General Mainwaring are both with my
father, in London. Grandma won't see either me or Adelaide. Do you know
that she has been moving heaven and earth to find you?"

"Good soul! I won't be found, though. Now, good-night!"

And he went. If any one had told him three months before that he would
have been locked in the same room with a man who had done him such
irreparable injury, and have left it at the end of half an hour with a
quiet "good-night," he would most likely have beaten that man there and
then. But he was getting tamed very fast. Ay, he was already getting
more than tamed; he was in a fair way to get broken-hearted.

"I will not see her to-night, sir," he said to Hornby, whom he found
with his head resting on the table; "I will come to-morrow, and prepare
her for leaving this house. You are to see her the day after to-morrow;
but without hope, remember."

He roused a groom from above the stable to help him to saddle the
horses. "Will it soon be morning?" he asked.

"Morning," said the lad; "it's not twelve o'clock yet. It's a dark
night, mate, and no moon. But the nights are short now. The dawn will be
on us before we have time to turn in our beds."

He rode slowly home after Hornby. "The night is dark, but the dawn will
be upon us before we can turn in our beds!" Only the idle words of a
sleepy groom, yet they echoed in his ears all the way home. The night is
dark indeed; but it will be darker yet before the dawn, Charles
Ravenshoe.



CHAPTER XL.

A DINNER PARTY AMONG SOME OLD FRIENDS.


Lady Hainault (_née_ Burton, not the Dowager) had asked some one to
dinner, and the question had been whom to ask to meet him. Mary had been
called into consultation, as she generally was on most occasions, and
she and Lady Hainault had made up a list together. Every one had
accepted, and was coming; and here were Mary and Lady Hainault dressed
for dinner, alone in the drawing-room with the children.

"We could not have done better for him, Mary, I think. You must go in to
dinner with him."

"Is Mary going to stop down to dinner?" said the youngest boy; "what a
shame! I sha'n't say my prayers to-night if she don't come up."

The straightforward Gus let his brother know what would be the
consequences of such neglect hereafter, in a plain-spoken way peculiarly
his own.

"Gus! Gus! don't say such things," said Lady Hainault.

"The hymn-book says so, aunt," said Gus, triumphantly; and he quoted a
charming little verse of Dr. Watts's, beginning, "There is a dreadful
Hell."

Lady Hainault might have been puzzled what to say, and Mary would not
have helped her, for they had had an argument about that same hymn-book
(Mary contending that one or two of the hymns were as well left alone at
first), when Flora struck in and saved her aunt, by remarking.

"I shall save up my money and buy some jewels for Mary like aunt's, so
that when she stays down to dinner some of the men may fall in love with
her, and marry her."

"Pooh! you silly goose," said Gus, "those jewels cost sixty million
thousand pounds a-piece. I don't want her to be married till I grow up,
and then I shall marry her myself. Till then, I shall buy her a yellow
wig, like grandma Hainault's, and then nobody will want to marry her."

"Be quiet, Gus," said Lady Hainault.

It was one thing to say "be quiet Gus," and it was another thing to make
him hold his tongue. But, to do Gus justice, he was a good fellow, and
never acted "_enfant terrible_" but to the most select and private
audience. Now he had begun: "I wish some one would marry grandma," when
the door was thrown open, the first guest was announced, and Gus was
dumb.

"General Mainwaring." The general sat down between Lady Hainault and
Mary, and, while talking to them, reached out his broad brown hand and
lifted the youngest boy on his knee, who played with his ribands, and
cried out that he would have the orange and blue one, if he pleased;
while Gus and Flora came and stood at his knee.

He talked to them both sadly in a low voice about the ruin which had
come on Lord Ascot. There was worse than mere ruin, he feared. He feared
there was disgrace. He had been with him that morning. He was a wreck.
One side of his face was sadly pulled down, and he stammered in his
speech. He would get over it. He was only three-and-forty. But he would
not show again in society, he feared. Here was somebody else; they would
change the subject.

Lord Saltire. They were so glad to see him. Every one's face had a kind
smile on it as the old man came and sat down among them. His own smile
was not the least pleasant of the lot, I warrant you.

"So you are talking about poor Ascot, eh?" he said. "I don't know
whether you were or not; but, if you were, let us talk about something
else. You see, my dear Miss Corby, that my prophecy to you on the
terrace at Ravenshoe is falsified. I said they would not fight, and lo,
they are as good as at it."

They talked about the coming war, and Lord Hainault came in and joined
them. Soon after, another guest was announced.

Lady Ascot. She was dressed in dark grey silk, with her white hair
simply parted under a plain lace cap. She looked so calm, so brave, so
kind, so beautiful, as she came with firm strong step in at the door,
that they one and all rose and came towards her. She had always been
loved by them all; how much more deeply was she loved now, when her
bitter troubles had made her doubly sacred!

Lord Saltire gave her his arm, and she came and sat down among them with
her hands calmly folded before her. "I was determined to come and see
you to-night, my dear," she said. "I should break down if I couldn't see
some that I loved. And to-night, in particular" (she looked earnestly at
Lord Saltire). "Is he come yet?"

"Not yet, dear grandma," said Mary.

"No one is coming besides, I suppose?" asked Lady Ascot.

"No one; we are waiting for him."

The door was opened once more, and they all looked curiously round. This
time the servant announced, perhaps in a somewhat louder tone than
usual, as if he were aware that they were more interested,

"Mr. Ravenshoe."

A well-dressed, gentlemanly-looking man came into the room, bearing such
a wonderful likeness to Charles Ravenshoe, that Lady Hainault and
General Mainwaring, the only two who had never seen him before, started,
and thought they saw Charles himself. It was not Charles, though; it was
our old friend whilom pad-groom to Charles Ravenshoe, Esquire, now
himself William Ravenshoe, Esquire, of Ravenshoe.

He was the guest of the evening. He would be heir to Ravenshoe himself
some day; for they had made up their minds that Cuthbert would never
marry. Ravenshoe, as Cuthbert was managing it now, would be worth ten or
twelve thousand a year, and, if these new tin lodes came to anything,
perhaps twenty. He had been a stable-helper, said old Lady
Hainault--the companion of the drunken riots of his foster-brother
impostor, and that quiet gentlemanly creature Welter. If he entered the
house, she left it. To which young Lady Hainault had replied that some
one must ask him to dinner in common decency, if it was only for the
sake of that dear Charles, who had been loved by every one who knew him.
That she intended to ask him to dinner, and that, if her dear
mother-in-law objected to meet him, why the remedy lay with herself.
Somebody must introduce him to some sort of society; and Lord Hainault
and herself had made up their minds to do it, so that further argument
on the subject would be wasted breath. To which the Dowager replied that
she really wished, after all, that Hainault had married that pretty chit
of a thing, Adelaide Summers, as he was thinking of doing; as she, the
Dowager, could not have been treated with greater insolence even by her,
bold as she was. With which Parthian piece of spite she had departed to
Casterton with Miss Hicks, and had so goaded and snapped at that
unfortunate reduced gentlewoman by the way, that at last Hicks, as her
wont was, had turned upon her and given her as good as she brought. If
the Dowager could have heard Lady Hainault telling her lord the whole
business that night, and joking with him about his alleged _penchant_
for Adelaide, and heard the jolly laugh that those two good souls had
about it, her ladyship would have been more spiteful still.

But, nevertheless, Lady Hainault was very nervous about William. When
Mary was consulted, she promptly went bail for his good behaviour, and
pled his case so warmly, that the tears stood in her eyes. Her old
friend William! What innocent plots she and he had hatched together
against the priest in the old times. What a bond there was between them
in their mutual love for him who was lost to them.

But Lady Hainault would be on the safe side; and so only the party named
above were asked. All old friends of the family.

Before dinner was announced, they were all at their ease about him. He
was shy, certainly, but not awkward. He evidently knew that he was asked
there on trial, and he accepted his position. But he was so handsome
(handsomer than poor Charles), he was so gentle and modest,
and--perhaps, too, not least--had such a well-modulated voice, that,
before the evening was over, he had won every one in the room. If he
knew anything of a subject, he helped the conversation quietly, as well
as he could; if he had to confess ignorance (which was seldom, for he
was among well-bred people), he did so frankly, but unobtrusively. He
was a great success.

One thing puzzled him, and pleased him. He knew that he was a person of
importance, and that he was the guest of the evening. But he soon found
that there was another cause for his being interesting to them all, more
powerful than his curious position, or his prospective wealth; and that
was his connection with Charles Ravenshoe, now Horton. _He_ was the hero
of the evening. Half William's light was borrowed from him. He quickly
became aware of it, and it made him happy.

How strange it is that some men have the power of winning such love from
all they meet. I knew one, gone from us now by a glorious death, who had
that faculty. Only a few knew his great worth and goodness; and yet, as
his biographer most truly says, those who once saw his face never forgot
it. Charles Ravenshoe had that faculty also, though, alas! his value,
both in worth and utility, was far inferior to that of the man to whom I
have alluded above.[3] But he had the same infinite kindness towards
everything created; which is part of the secret.

The first hint that William had, as to how deeply important a person
Charles was among the present company, was given him at dinner. Various
subjects had been talked of indifferently, and William had listened,
till Lord Hainault said to William--

"What a strange price people are giving for cobs! I saw one sold to-day
at Tattersall's for ninety guineas."

William answered, "Good cobs are very hard to get, Lord Hainault. I
could get you ten good horses, over fifteen, for one good cob."

Lord Saltire said, "My cob is the best I ever had; and a sweet-tempered
creature. Our dear boy broke it for me at Ravenshoe."

"Dear Charles," said Lady Ascot. "What a splendid rider he was! Dear
boy! He got Ascot to write him a certificate about that sort of thing,
before he went away. Ah, dear!"

"I never thought," said Lord Saltire, quietly, "that I ever should have
cared half as much for anybody as I do for that lad. Do you remember,
Mainwaring," he continued, speaking still lower, while they all sat
hushed, "the first night I ever saw him, when he marked for you and me
at billiards, at Ranford? I don't know why, but I loved the boy from the
first moment I saw him. Both there and ever afterwards, he reminded me
so strongly of Barkham. He had just the same gentle, winning way with
him that Barkham had. Barkham was a little taller, though, I fancy," he
went on, looking straight at Lady Ascot, and taking snuff. "Don't you
think so, Maria?"

No one spoke for a moment.

Lord Barkham had been Lord Saltire's only son. He had been killed in a
duel at nineteen, as I have mentioned before. Lord Saltire very rarely
spoke of him, and, when he did, generally in a cynical manner. But
General Mainwaring and Lady Ascot knew that the memory of that poor boy
was as fresh in the true old heart, after forty years, as it was on the
morning when he came out from his dressing-room, and met them carrying
his corpse upstairs.

"He was a good fellow," said Lord Hainault, alluding to Charles. "He was
a very good fellow."

"This great disappointment which I have had about him," said Lord
Saltire, in his own dry tone, "is a just judgment on me for doing a
good-natured and virtuous action many years ago. When his poor father
Densil was in prison, I went to see him, and reconciled him with his
family. Poor Densil was so grateful for this act of folly on my part,
that I grew personally attached to him; and hence all this misery.
Disinterested actions are great mistakes, Maria, depend upon it."

When the ladies were gone upstairs, William found Lord Saltire beside
him. He talked to him a little time, and then finished by saying--

"You are modest and gentlemanly, and the love you bear for your
foster-brother is very pleasing to me indeed. I am going to put it to
the test. You must come and see me to-morrow morning. I have a great
deal to say to you."

"About him, my lord? Have you heard of him?"

"Not a word. I fear he has gone to America or Australia. He told Lord
Ascot he should do so."

"I'll hunt him to the world's end, my lord," said true William. "And
Cuthbert shall pray for me the while. I fear you are right. But we shall
find him soon."

When they went up into the drawing-room, Mary was sitting on a sofa by
herself. She looked up to William, and he went and sat down by her. They
were quite away from the rest, together.

"Dear William," said Mary, looking frankly at him, and laying her hand
on his.

"I am so glad," said William, "to see your sweet face again. I was down
at Ravenshoe last week. How they love you there! An idea prevails among
old and young that dear Cuthbert is to die, and that I am to marry you,
and that we are to rule Ravenshoe triumphantly. It was useless to
represent to them that Cuthbert would not die, and that you and I most
certainly never would marry one another. My dearest Jane Evans was
treated as a thing of nought. You were elected mistress of Ravenshoe
unanimously."

"How is Jane?"

"Pining, poor dear, at her school. She don't like it."

"I should think not," said Mary. "Give my dear love to her. She will
make you a good wife. How is Cuthbert?"

"Very well in health. No more signs of his heart complaint, which never
existed. But he is peaking at getting no tidings from Charles. Ah, how
he loved him! May I call you 'Mary'?"

"You must not dare to call me anything else. No tidings of him yet?"

"None. I feel sure he is gone to America. We will get him back, Mary.
Never fear."

They talked till she was cheerful, and at last she said--

"William, you were always so well-mannered; but how--how--have you got
to be so gentlemanly in so short a time?"

"By playing at it," said William, laughing. "The stud-groom at Ravenshoe
used always to say I was too much of a gentleman for him. In twenty
years' time I shall pass muster in a crowd. Good-night."

And Charles was playing at being something other than a gentleman all
the time. We shall see who did best in the end.



CHAPTER XLI.

CHARLES'S SECOND EXPEDITION TO ST. JOHN'S WOOD.


What a happy place a man's bed is--probably the best place in which he
ever finds himself. Very few people will like to deny that, I think;
that is to say, as a general rule. After a long day's shooting in cold
weather, for instance; or half a night on deck among the ice, when the
fog has lifted, and the ghastly cold walls are safe in sight; or after a
fifty mile ride in the bush, under a pouring rain; or after a pleasant
ball, when you have to pull down the blind, that the impudent sun may
not roast you awake in two hours; for in all these cases, and a hundred
more, bed is very pleasant; but you know as well as I do, that there
are times when you would sooner be on a frozen deck, or in the wildest
bush in the worst weather, or waltzing in the hall of Eblis with
Vathek's mama, or almost in your very grave, than in bed and awake.

Oh, the weary watches! when the soul, which in sleep would leave the
tortured body to rest and ramble off in dreams, holds on by a mere
thread, yet a thread strong enough to keep every nerve in tense agony.
When one's waking dreams of the past are as vivid as those of sleep, and
there is always present, through all, the dreadful lurking thought that
one is awake, and that it is all real. When, looking back, every kindly
impulsive action, every heartily spoken word, makes you fancy that you
have only earned contempt where you merit kindness. When the past looks
like a hell of missed opportunities, and the future like another black
hopeless hell of uncertainty and imminent misfortune of all kinds! Oh,
weary watches! Let us be at such times on the bleakest hill-side, in the
coldest night that ever blew, rather than in the warmest bed that money
will buy.

When you are going to have a night of this kind, you seldom know it
beforehand, for certain. Sometimes, if you have had much experience in
the sort of thing--if you have lost money, or gone in debt, or if your
sweetheart has cut you very often--you may at least guess, before you
get your boots off, that you are going to have a night of it; in which
case, read yourself to sleep _in bed_. Never mind burning the house down
(that would be rather desirable as a distraction from thought); but
don't read till you are sleepy with your clothes on, and then undress,
because, if you do, you will find, by the time you have undressed
yourself, that you are terribly wide awake, and, when the candle is
blown out, you will be all ready for a regular Walpurgis night.

Charles, poor lad, had not as yet had much experience of Walpurgis
nights. Before his catastrophe he had never had one. He had been used to
tumble tired into his bed, and sleep a heavy dreamless sleep till an
hour before waking. Then, indeed, he might begin to dream of his horses,
and his dogs, and so on, and then gradually wake into a state more sweet
than the sweetest dream--that state in which sense is awake to all
outward objects, but in which the soul is taking its few last airy
flutters round its home, before coming to rest for the day. But, even
since then, he had not had experience enough to make him dread the
night. The night he came home from St. John's Wood, he thought he would
go to bed and sleep it off. Poor fellow!

A fellow-servant slept in the same room with him--the younger and better
tempered of the two (though Charles had no complaint against either of
them). The lad was asleep; and, before Charles put out the light, he
looked at him. His cheek was laid on his arm, and he seemed so calm and
happy that Charles knew that he was not there, but far away. He was
right. As he looked the lad smiled, and babbled out something in his
dream. Strange! the soul had still sufficient connection with the body
to make it smile.

"I wonder if Miss Martineau or Mr. Atkinson ever watched the face of one
who slept and dreamt," said Charles, rambling on as soon as he had got
into bed. "Pish! why that fellow's body is the mere tool of his soul.
His soul is out a-walking, and his body is only a log. Hey, that won't
do; that's as bad as Miss Martineau. I should have said that his body is
only a fine piece of clockwork. But clockwork don't smile of itself. My
dear Madam, and Mr. Atkinson, I am going to leave my body behind, and be
off to Ravenshoe in five minutes. That is to say, I am going to sleep."

He was, was he? Why no, not just at present. If he had meant to do so,
he had, perhaps, better not have bothered himself about "Letters on the
laws of man's nature"; for, when he had done his profound cogitations
about them, as above, he thought he had got a----well, say a pulex in
his bed. There was no more a pulex than there was a scorpion; but he had
an exciting chase after an imaginary one, like our old friend Mr. Sponge
after an imaginary fox at Laverick Wells. After this, he had an
irritation where he couldn't reach, that is to say, in the middle of his
back: then he had the same complaint where he could reach, and used a
certain remedy (which is a pretty way of saying that he scratched
himself); then he had the cramp in his right leg; then he had the cramp
in his left leg; then he grew hot all over, and threw the clothes off;
then he grew cold all over, and pulled them on again; then he had the
cramp in his left leg again; then he had another flea hunt, cramp,
irritation in back, heat, cold, and so on, all over; and then, after
half an hour, finding himself in a state of feverish despondency, he
fell into a cheerful train of thought, and was quite inclined to look at
his already pleasant prospects from a hopeful point of view.

Poor dear fellow! You may say that it is heartless to make fun of him
just now, when everything is going so terribly wrong. But really my
story is so very sad, that we must try to make a little feeble fun where
we can, or it would be unreadable.

He tried to face the future, manfully. But lo! there was no future to
face--it was all such a dead, hopeless blank. Ellen must come away from
that house, and he must support her; but how? It would be dishonourable
for him to come upon the Ravenshoes for a farthing; and it would be
dishonourable for her to marry that foolish Hornby. And these two
courses, being dishonourable, were impossible. And there he was brought
up short.

But would either course be dishonourable? Yes, yes, was the answer each
weary time he put the question to himself; and there the matter ended.
Was there one soul in the wide world he could consult? Not one. All
alone in the weary world, he and she. Not one friend for either of them.
They had made their beds, and must lie on them. When would the end of it
all come? What would the end be?

There was a noise in the street. A noise of a woman scolding, whose
voice got louder and louder, till it rose into a scream. A noise of a
man cursing and abusing her; then a louder scream, and a sound of blows.
One, two, then a heavy fall, and silence. A drunken, homeless couple had
fallen out in the street, and the man had knocked the woman down. That
was all. It was very common. Probably the woman was not much hurt. That
sort of woman got used to it. The police would come and take them to the
station. There they were. The man and woman were being taken off by two
constables, scolding and swearing. Well, well!

Was it to come to that? There were bridges in London, and under them
runs the river. Charles had come over one once, after midnight. He
wished he had never seen the cursed place. He remembered a fluttering
figure which had come and begged a halfpenny of him to pay the toll and
get home. He had given her money, and then, by a sudden impulse,
followed her till she was safe off the bridge. Ugly thoughts, Charles!
ugly thoughts! Will the dawn never come? Why, the night is not half over
yet.

God in His mercy sets a limit to human misery in many ways. I do not
believe that the condemned man, waiting through the weary night for the
gallows, thinks all night through of his fate. We read generally in
those accounts of the terrible last night (which are so rightly
published in the newspapers--they are the most terrifying part of the
punishment), that they conversed cheerfully, or slept, or did something,
showing that they half forgot for a time what was coming. And so, before
the little window grew to a lighter grey, poor Charles had found some
relief from his misery. He was between sleep and waking, and he had
fulfilled his challenge to Miss Martineau, though later than he
intended. He had gone to Ravenshoe.

There it was, all before him. The dawn behind the eastern headland had
flooded the amphitheatre of hills, till the crags behind the house had
turned from grey to gold, and the vane upon the priest's tower shone
like a star. The sea had changed from black to purple, and the
fishing-boats were stealing lazily homewards, over the gentle rolling
ground-swell. The surf was whispering to the sand of their coming. As
window after window blazed out before the sun, and as woodland and
hill-side, stream and park, village and lonely farm in the distant
valley, waked before the coming day, Charles watched, in his mind's eye,
the dark old porch, till there came out a figure in black, and stood
solitary in the terrace gazing seawards. And as he said, "Cuthbert," he
fell into a dreamless, happy sleep.

He determined that he would not go to see Ellen till the afternoon.
Hornby was on duty in the morning, and never saw Charles all day; he
avoided him as though on purpose. Charles, on his part, did not want to
meet him till he had made some definite arrangement, and so was glad of
it. But, towards two o'clock, it came across his mind that he would
saunter round to St. Peter's Church, and see the comical little imp of a
boy who was generally to be found there, and beguile a quarter of an
hour by listening to his prattle.

He had given up reading. He had hardly opened a book since his
misfortune. This may seem an odd thing to have to record about a
gentleman, and to a certain extent a scholar; but so it was. He wanted
to lower himself, and he was beginning to succeed. There was an
essential honesty in him, which made him hate to appear what he was not;
and this feeling, carried to an absurd extent, prevented his taking
refuge in the most obvious remedy for all troubles except hunger--books.
He did not know, as I do, that determined reading--reading of anything,
even the advertisements in a newspaper--will stop all cravings except
those of the stomach, and will even soften them; but he guessed it,
nevertheless. "Why should I read?" said he. "I must learn to do as the
rest of them." And so he did as the rest of them, and "rather loafed
away his time than otherwise."

And he was more inclined to "loaf" than usual this day, because he very
much dreaded what was to come. And so he dawdled round to St. Peter's
Church, and came upon his young friend, playing at fives with the ball
he had given him, as energetically as he had before played with the
brass button. Shoeblacks are compelled to a great deal of unavoidable
"loafing;" but certainly this one loafed rather energetically, for he
was hot and frantic in his play.

He was very glad to see Charles. He parted his matted hair from his
face, and looked at him admiringly with a pleasant smile; then he
suddenly said--

"You was drunk last night, worn't you?"

Charles said, No--that he never got drunk.

"Worn't you really, though?" said the boy; "you look as tho' you had a
been. You looks wild about the eyes;" and then he hazarded another
theory to account for Charles's appearance, which Charles also negatived
emphatically.

"I gave a halpenny for this one," said the boy, showing him the ball,
"and I spent the other halpenny." Here he paused, expecting a rebuke,
apparently; but Charles nodded kindly at him, and he was encouraged to
go on, and to communicate a piece of intelligence with the air of one
who assumes that his hearer is _au fait_ with all the movements of the
great world, and will be interested.

"Old Biddy Flanigan's dead."

"No! is she?" said Charles, who, of course, had not the wildest idea who
she was, but guessed her to be an aged, and probably a dissipated
Irishwoman.

"Ah! I believe you," said the boy. "And they was a-waking on her last
night, down in our court (he said, "daone in aour cawt").
They waked me sharp enough; but, as for she! she's fast."

"What did she die of?" asked Charles.

"Well, she died mostly along of Mr. Malone's bumble foot, I fancy. Him
and old Biddy was both drunk a-fighting on the stairs, and she was a
step below he; and he being drunk, and bumble-footed too, lost his
balance, and down they come together, and the back of her head come
against the door scraper, and there she was. Wake she!" he added with
scorn, "not if all the Irish and Rooshans in France was to put stones in
their stockings, and howl a week on end, they wouldn't wake her."

"Did they put stones in their stockings?" asked Charles, thinking that
it was some papist form of penance.

"Miss Ophelia Flanigan, she put half a brick in her stocking end, so she
did, and come at Mr. Malone for to break his head with it, and there
were a hole in the stocking, and the brick flew out, and hit old Denny
Moriarty in the jaw, and broke it. And he worn't a doing nothink, he
worn't; but was sitting in a corner decent and quiet, blind drunk, a
singing to his self; and they took he to Guy's orspital. And the pleece
come in, and got gallus well kicked about the head, and then they took
they to Guy's orspital; and then Miss Flanigan fell out of winder into
the airy, and then they took she to Guy's orspital; and there they is,
the whole bilin of 'em in bed together, with their heads broke, a-eating
of jelly and a-drinking of sherry wind; and then in comes a mob from
Rosemary Lane, and then they all begins to get a bit noisy and want to
fight, and so I hooked it."

"Then there are a good many Irish in your court?" said Charles.

"Irish! ah! I believe you. They're all Irish there except we and Billy
Jones's lot. The Emperor of Rooshar is a nigger; but his lot is mostly
Irish, but another bilin of Irish from Mr. Malone's lot. And one on 'em
plays the bagpipes, with a bellus, against the water-butt of a Sunday
evening, when they're off the lay. And Mr. Malone's lot heaves crockery
and broken vegetables at him out of winder, by reason of their being
costermongers, and having such things handy; so there's mostly a shine
of a Sunday evening."

"But who are Mr. Malone, and Billy Jones, and the Emperor of Russia?"

"They keeps lodging houses," said the boy. "Miss Ophelia Flanigan is
married on Mr. Malone, but she keeps her own name, because her family's
a better one nor his'n, and she's ashamed of him. They gets on very well
when they're sober, but since they've been a making money they mostly
gets drunk in bed of a morning, so they ain't so happy together as they
was."

"Does she often attack him with a brick in the foot of a stocking?"
asked Charles.

"No," said the boy, "she said her papa had taught her that little game.
She used to fist hold of the poker, but he got up to that, and spouted
it. So now they pokes the fire with a mop-stick, which ain't so handy to
hit with, and softer."

Charles walked away northward, and thought what a charming sort of
person Miss Ophelia Flanigan must be, and how he would rather like to
know her for curiosity's sake. The picture he drew of her in his mind
was not exactly like the original, as we shall see.

It was very pleasant summer weather--weather in which an idle man would
be inclined to dawdle, under any circumstances; and Charles was the more
inclined to dawdle, because he very much disliked the errand on which he
went. He could loiter at street corners now with the best of them, and
talk to any one who happened to be loitering there too. He was getting
on.

So he loitered at street corners and talked. And he found out something
to-day for the first time. He had been so absorbed in his own troubles
that all rumours had been to him like the buzzing of bees; but to-day he
began to appreciate that this rumour of war was no longer a mere rumour,
but likely to grow into an awful reality.

If he were only free, he said to himself. If he could only provide for
poor Ellen. "Gad, if they could get up a regiment of fellows in the same
state of mind as I am!"

He went into a public-house, and drank a glass of ale. They were talking
of it there. "Sir Charles Napier is to have the fleet," said one man,
"and if he don't bring Cronstadt about their ears in two hours, I am a
Dutchman. As for Odessa----"

A man in seedy black, who (let us hope) had seen better days, suggested
Sebastopol.

The first man had not heard of Sebastopol. It could not be a place of
much importance, or he must have heard of it. Talk to him about
Petersburg and Moscow, and he would listen to you.

This sort of talk, heard everywhere on his slow walk, excited Charles;
and thinking over it, he came to the door of Lord Welter's house, and
rang.

The door was barely opened, when he saw Lord Welter himself in the hall,
who called to him by his Christian name, and bade him come in. Charles
followed Lord Welter into a room, and, when the latter turned round,
Charles saw that he was disturbed and anxious.

"Charles," he said, "Ellen is gone!"

Charles said "Where?" for he hardly understood him.

"Where? God knows! She must have left the house soon after you saw her
last night. She left this note for me. Take it and read it. You see I am
free from blame in this matter."

Charles took it and read it.

      "MY LORD,

      "I should have consented to accept the shelter of your roof
      for a longer period, were it not that, by doing so, I
      should be continually tempted to the commission of a
      dishonourable action--an action which would bring speedy
      punishment on myself, by ruining too surely the man whom,
      of all others in the world, I love and respect.

      "Lieutenant Hornby has proposed marriage to me. Your
      lordship's fine sense of honour will show you at once how
      impossible it is for me to consent to ruin his prospects by
      a union with such a one as myself. Distrusting my own
      resolution, I have fled, and henceforth I am dead to him
      and to you.

      "Ah! Welter, Welter! you yourself might have been loved as
      he is, once; but that time is gone by for ever. I should
      have made you a better wife than Adelaide. I might have
      loved you myself once, but I fell more through anger and
      vanity than through love.

      "My brother, he whom we call Charles Ravenshoe, is in this
      weary world somewhere. I have an idea that you will meet
      him. You used to love one another. Don't let him quarrel
      with you for such a worthless straw as I am. Tell him I
      always loved him as a brother. It is better that we should
      not meet yet. Tell him that he must make his own place in
      the world before we meet, and then I have something to say
      to him.

      "Mary, the Mother of God, and the blessed saints before the
      throne, bless you and him, here and hereafter!"

Charles had nothing to say to Lord Welter, not one word. He saw that the
letter was genuine. He understood that Welter had had no time to tell
her of his coming, and that she was gone; neither Welter nor he knew
where, or were likely to know; that was all. He only bid him good-bye,
and walked home again.

When you know the whole story, you will think that Charles's run of ill
luck at this time is almost incredible; but I shall call you to witness
that it is not so. This was the first stroke of real ill luck that he
had had. All his other misfortunes came from his mad determination of
alienating himself from all his friends. If he had even left Lord Welter
free to have mentioned that he had been seen, all might have gone well,
but he made him promise secrecy; and now, after having, so to speak,
made ill luck for himself, and lamented over it, here was a real stroke
of it with a vengeance, and he did not know it. He was not anxious about
Ellen's future; he felt sure at once that she was going into some Roman
Catholic refuge, where she would be quiet and happy. In fact, with a new
fancy he had in his head, he was almost content to have missed her. And
Ellen, meanwhile, never dreamt either of his position or state of mind,
or she would have searched him out at the end of the world. She thought
he was just as he always had been, or, perhaps, turning his attention to
some useful career with Cuthbert's assistance; and she thought she would
wait, and wait she did; and they went apart, not to meet till the valley
of the shadow of death had been passed, and life was not so well worth
having as it had been.

But as for our old friend Father Mackworth. As I said once before, "It's
no use wondering, but I do wonder," whether Father Mackworth, had he
known how near Ellen and Charles had been to meeting the night before,
would not have whistled "Lillibulero," as Uncle Toby did in times of
dismay; that is, if he had known the tune.



CHAPTER XLII.

RAVENSHOE HALL, DURING ALL THIS.


The villagers at Ravenshoe, who loved Charles, were very much puzzled
and put out by his sudden disappearance. Although they had little or no
idea of the real cause of his absence, yet it was understood to be a
truth, not to be gainsayed, that it was permanent. And as it was a
heavily-felt misfortune to them, and as they really had no idea why he
was gone, or where he was gone to, it became necessary that they should
comfort themselves by a formula. At which time Master Lee up to Slarrow,
erected the theory, that Master Charles was gone to the Indies--which
was found to be a doctrine so comfortable to the souls of those that
adopted it, as being hazy and vague, and as leaving his return an open
question, that it was unanimously adopted; and those who ventured to
doubt it, were treated as heretics and heathens.

It was an additional puzzle to them to find that William had turned out
to be a gentleman, and a Ravenshoe, a fact which could not, of course,
be concealed from them, though the other facts of the case were
carefully hushed up--not a very difficult matter in a simple feudal
village, like Ravenshoe. But, when William appeared, after a short
absence, he suffered greatly in popularity, from the belief that he had
allowed Charles to go to the Indies by himself. Old Master James Lee of
Tor Head, old Master James Lee of Withycombe Barton, and old Master
James Lee up to Slarrow, the three great quidnuncs of the village, were
sunning themselves one day under the wall which divides part of the
village from the shore, when by there came, talking earnestly together,
William and John Marston.

The three old men raised their hats, courteously. They were in no
distinguishable relation to one another, but, from similarity of name
and age, always hunted in a leash. (Sporting men will notice a confusion
here about the word "leash," but let it pass.) When no one was by, I
have heard them fall out and squabble together about dates, or such
like; but, when others were present, they would, so to speak, trump one
another's tricks to any amount. And if, on these occasions, any one of
the three took up an untenable position, the other two would lie him out
of it like Jesuits, and only fall foul of him when they were alone
together--which, to say the least of it, was neighbourly and decent.

"God save you, gentlemen," said old Master Lee up to Slarrow, who was
allowed to commit himself by the other two, who were waiting to be "down
on him" in private. "Any news from the Indies lately?"

William and Marston stopped, and William said--

"No, Master Lee, we have not heard from Captain Archer for seven months,
or more."

"I ask your pardon," said Lee up to Slarrow; "I warn't a speaking of he.
I was speaking of our own darling boy, Master Charles. When be he
a-coming back to see we?"

"When, indeed!" said William. "I wish I knew, Master Lee."

"They Indies," said the old man, "is well enough; but what's he there no
more than any other gentleman? Why don't he come home to his own. Who's
a-keeping on him away?"

William and John Marston walked on without answering. And then the two
other Master Lees fell on to Master Lee up to Slarrow, and verbally
ill-treated him--partly because he had got no information out of
William, and partly because, having both sat quiet and given him plenty
of rope, he had not hanged himself. Master Lee up to Slarrow had evil
times of it that blessed spring afternoon, and ended by "dratting" both
his companions, for a couple of old fools. After which, they adjourned
to the public-house and hard cider, sent them to drink for their sins.

"They'll never make a scholar of me, Marston," said William; "I will go
on at it for a year, but no more, I shall away soon to hunt up Charles.
Is there any police in America?"

Marston answered absently, "Yes; he believed so;" but was evidently
thinking of something else.

They had gone sauntering out for a walk together. Marston had come down
from Oxford the day before (after an examination for an Exeter
fellowship, I believe) for change of air; and he thought he would like
to walk with William up to the top of the lofty promontory, which
bounded Ravenshoe Bay on the west, and catch the pleasant summer breeze
coming in from the Atlantic.

On the loftiest point of all, with the whispering blue sea on three
sides of them, four hundred feet below, there they sat down on the short
sheep-eaten turf, and looked westward.

Cape after cape stretched away under the afternoon sun, till the last
seemed only a dark cloud floating on the sea. Beyond that cape there was
nothing but water for three thousand weary miles. The scene was
beautiful enough, but very melancholy; a long coastline trending away
into dim distance, on a quiet sunny afternoon, is very melancholy.
Indeed, far more melancholy than the same place in a howling gale: when
the nearest promontory only is dimly visible, a black wall, echoing the
thunder of bursting waves, and when sea, air, and sky, like the three
furies, are rushing on with mad, destructive unanimity.

They lay, these two, on the short turf, looking westward; and, after a
time, John Marston broke silence. He spoke very low and quietly, and
without looking at William.

"I have something very heavy on my mind, William. I am not a fool, with
a morbid conscience, but I have been very wrong. I have done what I
never can undo. I loved that fellow, William!"

William said "Ay."

"I know what you would say. You would say, that every one who ever knew
Charles loved him; and you are right. He was so utterly unselfish, so
entirely given up to trying to win others, that every one loved him, and
could not help it. The cleverest man in England, with all his
cleverness, could not gain so many friends as Charles."

William seemed to think this such a self-evident proposition, that he
did not think it worth while to say anything.

"And Charles was not clever. And what makes me mad with myself is this.
I had influence over him, and I abused it. I was not gentle enough with
him. I used to make fun of him, and be flippant, and priggish, and
dictatorial, with him. God help me! And now he has taken some desperate
step, and, in fear of my ridicule, has not told me of it. I felt sure he
would come to me, but I have lost hope now. May God forgive me--God
forgive me!"

In a few moments, William said, "If you pause to think, Marston, you
will see how unjust you are to yourself. He could not be afraid of me,
and yet he has never come near me."

"Of course not," said Marston. "You seem hardly to know him so well as
I. He fears that you would make him take money, and that he would be a
burthen on you. I never expected that he would come back to you. He
knows that you would never leave him. He knows, as well as you know
yourself, that you would sacrifice all your time and your opportunities
of education to him. And, by being dependent on you, he would be
dependent on Father Mackworth--the only man in the world he dislikes and
distrusts."

William uttered a form of speech concerning the good father, which is
considered by foreigners to be merely a harmless national _façon de
parler_--sometimes, perhaps, intensive, when the participle is used, but
in general no more than expletive. In this case, the speaker was, I
fear, in earnest, and meant what he said most heartily.

Marston never swore, but he certainly did not correct William for
swearing, in this case, as he should have done. There was a silence for
a time. After a little, William laid his hand on Marston's shoulder, and
said--

"He never had a truer friend than you. Don't you blame yourself?"

"I do; and shall, until I find him."

"Marston," said William, "what _has_ he done with himself? Where the
deuce is he gone?"

"Lord Saltire and I were over the same problem for two hours the other
night, and we could make nothing of it, but that he was gone to America
or Australia. He hardly took money enough with him to keep him till now.
I can make nothing of it. Do _you_ think he would be likely to seek out
Welter?"

"If he were going to do so, he would have done so by now, and we must
have heard of it. No," said William.

"He was capable of doing very odd things," said Marston. "Do you
remember that Easter vacation, when he and Lord Welter and Mowbray went
away together?"

"Remember!" said William. "Why I was with them; and glorious fun it was.
Rather fast fun though--too fast by half. We went up and lived on the
Severn and Avon Canal, among the bargeman, dressing accordingly. Charles
had nothing to do with that folly, beyond joining in it, and spending
the day in laughing. That was Lord Welter's doing. The bargees nicknamed
Lord Welter 'the sweep,' and said he was a good fellow, but a terrible
blackguard. And so he was--for that time, at all events."

Marston laughed, and, after a time, said, "Did he ever seem to care
about soldiering? Do you think he was likely to enlist?"

"It is possible," said William; "it is quite possible. Yes, he has often
talked to me about soldiering. I mind--I remember, I should say--that he
once was hot about going into the army, but he gave it up because it
would have taken him away from Mr. Ravenshoe too much."

They turned and walked homewards, without speaking a word all the way.
On the bridge they paused and leant upon the coping, looking into the
stream. All of a sudden, William laid his hand on Marston's arm, and
looking in his face, said--

"Every day we lose, I feel he is getting farther from us. I don't know
what may happen. I shall go and seek him. I will get educated at my
leisure. Only think of what may be happening now! I was a fool to have
given it up so soon, and to have tried waiting till he came to us. He
will never come. I must go and fetch him. Here is Cuthbert, too, good
fellow, fretting himself to death about it. Let us go and talk to him."

And John Marston said, "Right, true heart; let us go."

Of all their acquaintances, there was only one who could have given them
any information--Lord Welter; and he, of all others, was the very last
they dreamt of going to. You begin to see, I dare say, that, when
Charles is found, my story will nearly be at an end. But my story is not
near finished yet, I assure you.

Standing where they were on the bridge, they could look along the
village street. It was as neat a street as one ever sees in a fishing
village; that is to say, rather an untidy one, for of all human
employments, fishing involves more lumber and mess than any other.
Everything past use was "hit," as they say in Berkshire, out into the
street; and of the inorganic part of this refuse, that is to say, tiles,
bricks, potsherds, and so on, the children built themselves shops and
bazaars, and sold one another the organic orts, that is to say,
cabbage-stalks, fish-bones, and orange-peel, which were paid for in
mussel-shells. And, as Marston and William looked along this street, as
one may say, at high market time, they saw Cuthbert come slowly riding
along among the children, and the dogs, and the pigs, and the
herring-bones, and brickbats.

He was riding a noble horse, and was dressed with his usual faultless
neatness and good taste, as clean as a new pin from top to toe. As he
came along, picking his way gently among the children, the fishermen and
their wives came out right and left from their doors, and greeted him
kindly. In olden times they would not have done this, but it had got
about that he was pining for the loss of his brother, and their hearts
had warmed to him. It did not take much to make their hearts warm to a
Ravenshoe; though they were sturdy, independent rogues enough at times.
I am a very great admirer of the old feudal feeling, when it is not
abused by either party. In parts of Australia, where it, or something
near akin to it, is very strong indeed, I have seen it act on high and
low most beneficially; giving to the one side a sense of responsibility,
and to the other a feeling of trust and reliance. "Here's 'Captain
Dash,' or 'Colonel Blank,' or 'Mr. So-and-So,' and he won't see me
wronged, I know. I have served him and his father for forty year, and
he's a _gentleman_, and so were his father before him." That is a sort
of thing you will hear often enough in Australia. And even on the
diggings, with all the leaven of Americanism and European Radicalism one
finds there, it is much easier for a warden to get on with the diggers
if he comes of a known colonial family, than if he is an unknown man.
The old colonial diggers, the people of the greatest real weight, talk
of them, and the others listen and mark. All people, prate as they may,
like a guarantee for respectability. In the colonies, such a guarantee
is given by a man's being tolerably well off, and "come of decent
people." In England, it is given, in cases, by a man and a man's
forefathers having been good landlords and honest men. Such a guarantee
is given by such people as the Ravenshoes, but that is not the whole
secret of _their_ influence. That comes more from association--a feeling
strong enough, as one sees, to make educated and clever men use their
talents and eloquence towards keeping a school in a crowded unhealthy
neighbourhood, instead of moving it into the country; merely because, as
far as one can gather from their speeches, they were educated at it
themselves, twenty years ago. Hereby visiting the sins of the fathers on
the children with a vengeance!

"Somewhat too much of this." It would be stretching a point to say that
Cuthbert was a handsome man, though he was very near being so, indeed.
He was tall, but not too slender, for he had developed in chest somewhat
since we first knew him. His face was rather pale, but his complexion
perfectly clear; save that he had a black mark round his eyes. His
features were decidedly marked, but not so strongly as Charles's; and
there was an air of stately repose about him, showing itself in his way
of carrying his head perfectly upright, and the firm, but not harsh,
settling of his mouth, with the lower lip slightly pouting, which was
very attractive. He was a consummate horseman, too, and, as I said,
perfectly dressed; and, as he came towards them, looking apparently at
nothing, both William and Marston thought they had never seen a finer
specimen of a gentleman.

He had strangely altered in two months. As great a change had come over
him as comes over a rustic when the drill-sergeant gets him and makes a
soldier of him. There is the same body, the same features, the same hair
and eyes. Bill Jones is Bill Jones, if you are to believe his mother.
But Bill Jones the soldier is not Bill Jones the ploughboy. He is quite
a different person. So, since the night when Charles departed, Cuthbert
had not been the Cuthbert of former times. He was no longer wayward and
irritable; he was as silent as ever, but he had grown so staid, so
studiously courteous to every one, so exceedingly humble-minded and
patient with every one, that all save one or two wondered at the change
in him.

He had been passionately fond of Charles, though he had seldom shown it,
and was terribly cut up at his loss. He had greatly humiliated himself
to himself by what was certainly his felonious offer to Father
Mackworth; and he had found the estate somewhat involved, and had
determined to set to work and bring it to rights. These three causes had
made Cuthbert Ravenshoe a humbler and better man than he had ever been
before.

"William," he said, smiling kindly on him, "I have been seeing after
your estate for you. It does me good to have some one to work for. You
will die a rich man."

William said nothing. One of Cuthbert's fixed notions was, that he would
die young and childless. He claimed to have a heart-complaint, though it
really appeared without any foundation. It was a fancy which William had
combated at first, but now acquiesced in, because he found it useless to
do otherwise.

He dismounted and walked with him. "Cuthbert," said William, "we have
been thinking about Charles."

"I am always thinking about him," said Cuthbert; "is there no way of
finding him?"

"I am going. I want you to give me some money and let me go."

"You had better go at once, William. You had better try if the police
can help you. We are pretty sure that he has gone to America, unless he
has enlisted. In either case, it is very possible we may find him. Aunt
Ascot would have succeeded, if she had not lost her temper. Don't you
think I am right, my dear Marston?"

"I do, indeed, Ravenshoe," said Marston. "Don't you think now, Mr.
Mackworth, that, if a real push is made, and with judgment, we may find
Charles again?"

They had reached the terrace, and Father Mackworth was standing in front
of the porch. He said he believed it was perfectly possible. "Nay," he
said, "possible! I am as sure of seeing Charles Horton back here again
as I am that I shall eat my dinner to-day."

"And I," said Cuthbert, "am equally sure that we shall see poor Ellen
back some day. Poor girl! she shall have a warm welcome."

Father Mackworth said he hoped it might be so. And the lie did not choke
him.

"We are going to send William away again to look after him, Father,"
said Cuthbert.

"He had much better stay at home and mind his education," said
Mackworth.

William had his back towards them, and was looking out to sea,
whistling. When the priest spoke he turned round sharply, and said--

"Hey? what's that?"

The priest repeated it.

"I suppose," said William, "that that is more my business than yours, is
it not? I don't intend to go to school again, certainly not to you."

Cuthbert looked from one to the other of them, and said nothing. A few
days before this William and the priest had fallen out; and Mackworth,
appealing, had been told with the greatest kindness and politeness by
Cuthbert that he could not interfere. That William was heir to
Ravenshoe, and that he really had no power over him whatever. Mackworth
had said nothing then, but now he had followed Cuthbert into the
library, and, when they were alone, said--

"Cuthbert, I did not expect this from you. You have let him insult me
twice, and have not corrected him."

Cuthbert put his back against the door, and said--

"Now you don't leave this room till you apologise for these wicked
words. My dear old fellow, what a goose you are! Have not you and he
always squabbled? Do fight it out with him, and don't try and force me
to take a side. I ain't going to do it, you know, and so I tell you
plainly. Give it to him. Who can do it so well as you? Remember what an
altered position he is in. How can you expect me to take your part
against him?"

Father Mackworth cleared his brow, and said, laughing, "You are right,
Cuthbert. I'll go about with the rogue. He is inclined to kick over the
traces, but I'll whip him in a little. I have had the whip-hand of every
Ravenshoe I have had to deal with yet, yourself included, and it's hard
if I am to be beat by this new whipper-snapper."

Cuthbert said affectionately to him, "I think you love me, Mackworth.
Don't quarrel with him more than you can help. I know you love me." And
so Cuthbert went to seek John Marston.

Love him! Ay, that he did. John Mackworth could be cruel, hard, false,
vindictive. He could cheat, and he could lie, if need were. He was
heartless and ambitious. But he loved Cuthbert. It was a love which had
taken a long time growing, but there it was, and he was half ashamed of
it. Even to himself he would try to make out that it was mere
selfishness and ambition--that he was gentle with Cuthbert, because he
must keep his place at Ravenshoe. Even now he would try to persuade
himself that such was the case--perhaps the more strongly because he
began to see now that there was a soft spot in his heart, and that
Cuthbert was master of it. Since the night when Cuthbert had offered him
ten thousand pounds, and he had refused it, Cuthbert had never been the
same to him. And Mackworth, expecting to find his influence increased,
found to his astonishment that from that moment it was _gone_.
Cuthbert's intensely sensitive and proud nature revolted from the
domination of a man before whom he had so lowered himself; and firmly,
though humbly now, for he was altered by seeing how nearly he had been a
villain, he let him see that he would walk in future in his own
strength. Father Mackworth saw soon that Ravenshoe was a comfortable
home for him, but that his power was gone. Unless!

And yet he knew he could exercise a power little dreamt of. It is in the
power, possibly, of a condemned man to burn the prison down, and
possibly his interest; but he has compunctions. Mackworth tried to
persuade himself that the reason he did not use his power was that it
would not be advisable. He was a cipher in the house, and knew by
instinct that he would never be more. But in reality, I believe, he let
his power sleep for Cuthbert's sake.

"Who could have thought," he said, "that the very thing which clenched
my power, as I thought, should have destroyed it? Are not those people
fools who lay down rules for human action? Why, no. They are possibly
right five times out of ten. But as for the other five! Bah!

"No, I won't allow that. It was my own fault. I should have known his
character better. But there, I could not have helped it, for he did it
himself. I was passive."

And Cuthbert followed Marston into the hall, and said, "You are not
going away because William goes, Marston?"

"Do you want me?" said Marston.

"Yes," said Cuthbert. "You must stay with me. My time is short, and I
must know as much of this world as I may. I have much to do; you must
help me. I will be like a little child in your hands. I will die in the
old faith; but I will learn something new."

And so Marston stayed with him, and they two grew fast friends. Cuthbert
had nothing to learn in this management of his estate; there he was
Marston's master; but all that a shrewd young man of the world could
teach a bookworm, so much Cuthbert got from Marston.

Marston one day met the village doctor, the very man whom we saw at the
beginning of the book, putting out William (whom we then supposed to be
Charles) to nurse. Marston asked him, "Was there any reality in this
heart-complaint of Cuthbert's?"

"Not the very faintest shadow of a reality," said the doctor. "It is the
most tiresome whimsy I ever knew. He has persuaded himself of it,
though. He used to be very hypochondriac. He is as likely to live till
eighty as you are."



CHAPTER XLIII.

THE MEETING.


There was ruin in the Ascot family, we know. And Lord Ascot, crippled
with paralysis at six-and-forty, was lying in South Audley Street,
nursed by Lady Ascot. The boxes, which we saw packed ready for their
foreign tour at the London Bridge Hotel, were still there--not gone
abroad yet, for the simple reason that Herodias had won the Oaks, and
that Lord Welter had won, some said seven, others said seventy thousand
pounds. (He had really won nine). So the boxes might stay where they
were a few days, and he might pursue his usual avocations in peace, all
his debts of honour being satisfied.

He had barely saved himself from being posted. Fortunately for him, he
had, on the Derby, betted chiefly with a few friends, one of whom was
Hornby; and they waited and said nothing till after the Oaks, when they
were paid, and Welter could hold up his head again. He was indebted to
the generosity of Hornby and Sir Charles Ferrars for his honour--the
very men whom he would have swindled. But he laughed and ate his
dinner, and said they were good fellows, and thought no more of it.

The bailiffs were at Ranford. The servants were gone, and the horses
were advertised at Tattersall's already. It was reported in the county
that an aged Jew, being in possession, and prowling about the premises,
had come into the poultry-yard, and had surreptitiously slain, cooked,
and essayed to eat, the famous cock "Sampson," the champion bird of
England, since his match with "Young Countryman." On being informed by
the old keeper that my lord had refused sixty guineas for him a few
weeks before, he had (so said the county) fled out of the house, tearing
his hair, and knocked old Lady Hainault, who had also come prowling over
in her pony-carriage, down the steps, flat on her back. Miss Hicks, who
was behind with her shawls, had picked her up, they said, and "caught
it."

If Adelaide was beautiful everywhere, surely she was more beautiful on
horseback than anywhere else, and no one knew it better than herself.
She was one of the few who appeared in the park in a low-crowned hat--a
"wide-awake." They are not _de rigueur_ even yet, I believe; but
Adelaide was never very particular, so long as she could look well. She
had found out how splendid her perfect mask looked under the careless,
irregular curves of such a head-dress, and how bright her banded hair
shone in contrast with a black ostrich feather which drooped on her
shoulder. And so she had taken to wear one since she had been Lady
Welter, and had appeared in the park in it twice.

Lord Welter bethought himself once in these times--that is, just after
the Oaks--that he would like to take his handsome wife out, and show her
in the park. His Hornby speculation had turned out ill; in fact, Hornby
had altogether made rather a handsome sum out of him, and he must look
for some one else. The some one else, a young Austrian, Pscechenyi by
name, a young fellow of wealth, had received his advances somewhat
coldly, and it became necessary to hang out Adelaide as a lure.

Lord Welter was aware that, if he had asked Adelaide to come and ride
with him, on the ground of giving her an afternoon's amusement, and
tried to persuade her to it by fair-spoken commonplaces, she would
probably not have come; and so he did nothing of the kind. He and his
wife thoroughly understood one another. There was perfect confidence
between them in everything. Towards one another they were perfectly
sincere; and this very sincerity begot a feeling of trust between them,
which ultimately ripened into something better. They began life together
without any professions of affection; but out of use, and a similarity
of character, there grew a liking in the end. She knew everything about
Lord Welter, save one thing, which she was to know immediately, and
which was of no importance; and she was always ready to help him,
provided, as she told him, "he didn't humbug," which his lordship, as we
know, was not inclined to do, without her caution.

Lord Welter went into her dressing-room, in the morning, and said--

"Here's a note from Pscechenyi. He won't come to-night."

"Indeed!" said Adelaide, brushing her hair. "I did not give him credit
for so much sense. Really, you know, he can't be such a fool as he
looks."

"We must have him," said Lord Welter.

"Of course we must," said Adelaide. "I really cannot allow such a fat
goose to run about with a knife and fork in him any longer. Heigh ho!
Let's see. He affects Lady Brittlejug, don't he? I am going to her party
to-night, and I'll capture him for you, and bring him home to you from
under her very nose. Now, do try and make a better hand of him than you
did of Hornby, or we shall all be in the workhouse together."

"I'll do my best," said Lord Welter, laughing. "But look here. I don't
think you'll catch him so, you know. She looks as well as you by
candlelight; but she can't ride a hang. Come out in the park this
afternoon. He will be there."

"Very well," said Adelaide; "I suppose you know best. I shall be glad of
a ride. Half-past two, then."

So, at the time appointed, these two innocent lambkins rode forth to
take the air. Lord Welter, big, burly, red-faced, good-humoured,
perfectly dressed, and sitting on his horse as few others could sit, the
model of a frank English nobleman. Adelaide, beautiful and fragile
beyond description, perfect in dress and carriage, riding trustingly and
lovingly in the shadow of her lord, the happy, timid bride all over.
They had no groom. What should a poor simple couple like them want with
a groom? It was a beautiful sight, and many turned to look at them.

But Lord Saltire, who was looking out of the drawing-room window of Lord
Ascot's house in South Audley Street, as they passed, turned to Marston,
and said very emphatically--

"Now, I do really wonder what infernal mischief those two are after.
There is an air of pastoral simplicity about their whole get-up, which
forebodes some very great--very great"--here he paused, took snuff, and
looked Marston straight in the face--"obliquity of moral purpose."

Meanwhile the unconscious innocents sauntered on into the park, under
the Marble Arch, and down towards Rotten Row. When they got into the
Row, they had a canter. There was Pscechenyi riding with Hornby and Miss
Buckjumper, but they gave them the "go by," and went sortly on towards
Kensington Gate. "Who is the woman in the hat and feathers?" said
everybody who didn't know. "Lady Welter" said everybody who did; and,
whatever else they said of her, they all agreed that she was wonderfully
beautiful, and rode divinely. When they came slowly back, they found
Hornby and the Austrian were standing against the rail, talking to some
ladies. They drew close up, and entered into conversation; and Adelaide
found herself beside Miss Buckjumper, now Lady Handlycross.

Adelaide was somewhat pleased to find herself at the side of this famous
horsewoman and beauty. She was so sure that comparisons would be
favourable to herself. And they were. If ever an exquisitely-formed nose
was, so to speak put out of joint, that nose was in the middle of Miss
Buckjumper's face that day. Nevertheless, she did not show anything. She
had rather a respect for Adelaide, as being a successful woman. Was not
she herself cantering for a coronet? There was very soon a group round
them, and Lord Welter's hoarse, jolly laugh was heard continually.
People, who were walking in the park to see the great people, paused
outside the circle to look at her, and repassed again. Mr. Pelagius J.
Bottom, of New York, whose father emigrated to Athens, and made a great
fortune at the weaving business in the time of King Theseus, got on a
bench, and looked at her through a double-barrelled opera-glass. There
never was such a success. The Austrian thought no more of Hornby's
cautions, thought no more of Miss Buckjumper or Lady Brittlejug. He was
desperately in love, and was dying for some excuse to withdraw his
refusal of this morning. Pelagius Jas. Bottom would have come, and
mortgaged the paternal weaving business at the dice, but unfortunately
his letters of introduction, being all addressed to respectable people,
did not include one to Lord and Lady Welter. All the young fellows would
have come and played all night, till church-time next morning, for her
sake. As Lord Welter candidly told her that night, she was the best
investment he had ever made.

They did not want all the young fellows though. Too many cooks spoil the
broth. They only wanted the young Austrian, and so Lord Welter said,
after a time, "I was in hopes of seeing you at my house last night."
That was quite enough. Fifty Hornbys would not have stopped him now.

Still they stood there talking. Adelaide was almost happy. Which of
these staid women had such power as she? There was a look of pride and
admiration even on Lord Welter's stupid face. Yes, it was a great
success. Suddenly all people began to look one way and come towards the
rails, and a buzz arose, "The Queen--the Queen!"

Adelaide turned just as the outriders were opposite to her. She saw the
dark claret-coloured carriage, fifty yards off, and she knew that Lady
Emily Montford, who had been her sister bridesmaid at Lady Hainault's
wedding, was in waiting that day. Hornby declares the whole thing was
done on purpose. Let us be more charitable, and suppose that her horse
was startled at the scarlet coats of the outriders; however it was, the
brute took fright, stood on its hind legs, and bolted straight towards
the royal carriage. She reined it up within ten feet of the carriage
step, plunging furiously. Raising her whip hand to push her hat more
firmly on, she knocked it off, and sat there bareheaded, with one loop
of her hair fallen down, a sight which no man who saw it ever forgot.
She saw a look of amazed admiration in the Queen's face. She saw Lady
Emily's look of gentle pity. She saw her Majesty lean forward, and ask
who it was. She saw her name pass Lady Emily's lips, and then she saw
the Queen turn with a frown, and look steadily the other way.

Wrath and rage were in her heart, and showed themselves one instant in
her face. A groom had run out and picked up her hat. She bent down to
take it from him, and saw that it was Charles Ravenshoe.

Her face grew soft again directly. Poor thing! she must have had a kind
heart after all, crusted over as it was with vanity, pride, and
selfishness. Now, in her anger and shame, she could have cried to see
her old love so degraded. There was no time for crying, or for saying
more than a few sharp words, for they were coming towards her.

"What nonsense is this, Charles?" she said. "What is this masquerade?
Are you come to double my shame? Go home and take that dress off and
burn it. Is your pride dead, that you disgrace yourself like this in
public? If you are desperate, as you seem, why are you not at the war?
They want desperate men there. Oh! if I was a man!"

They parted then! no one but Lord Welter and Hornby knew who Charles
was. The former saw that Adelaide had recognised him, and, as they rode
simply home together, said--

"I knew poor Charles was a groom. He saw his sister the other night at
our house. I didn't tell you; I hardly know why. I really believe, do
you know, that the truth of the matter is, Adelaide, that I did not want
to vex you. Now!"

He looked at her as if he thought she would disbelieve him, but she
said--

"Nay, I do believe you, Welter. You are not an ill-natured man, but you
are selfish and unprincipled. So am I, perhaps to a greater extent than
you. At what time is that fool of a German coming?"

"At half-past eleven."

"I must go to that woman Brittlejug's party. I must show there, to keep
friends with her. She has such a terrible tongue, I will be back by
twelve or so."

"I wish you could stay at home."

"I really dare not, my dear Welter. I must go. I will be back in good
time."

"Of course you will please yourself about it," said Lord Welter, a
thought sulkily. And, when he was by himself he said--

"She is going to see Charles Ravenshoe. Well, perhaps she ought. She
treated him d----d bad! And so did I."



CHAPTER XLIV.

ANOTHER MEETING.


Lord Ascot had been moved into South Audley Street, his town house, and
Lady Ascot was there nursing him. General Mainwaring was off for Varna.
But Lord Saltire had been a constant visitor, bringing with him very
often Marston, who was, you will remember, an old friend of Lady Ascot.

It was not at all an unpleasant house to be in. Lord Ascot was
crippled--he had been seized with paralysis at Epsom; and he was ruined.
But every one knew the worst, and felt relieved by thinking that things
could get no worse than worst, and so must get better.

In fact, every one admitted to the family party about that time
remembered it as a very happy and quiet time indeed. Lord Ascot was
their first object, of course; and a more gentle and biddable invalid
than the poor fellow made can hardly be conceived. He was passionately
fond of reading novels (a most reprehensible practice), and so was
easily amused. Lord Saltire and he would play picquet: and every evening
there would be three hours of whist, until the doctor looked in the
last thing, and Lord Ascot was helped to bed.

Marston was always set to play with Lord Ascot, because Lord Saltire and
Lady Ascot would not play against one another. Lord Saltire, was, of
course, one of the best players in Europe; and I really believe that
Lady Ascot was not the worst by any means. I can see the party now. I
can see Lady Ascot laying down a card, and looking at the same time at
her partner, to call his attention to her lead. And I can see Lord
Saltire take out his snuff-box threat, as if he were puzzled, but not
alarmed. William would come sometimes and sit quietly behind Marston, or
Lord Saltire, watching the game. In short, they were a very quiet
pleasant party indeed.

One night--it was the very night on which Adelaide had lost her hat in
the Park--there was no whist. Marston had gone down to Oxford suddenly,
and William came in to tell them so. Lady Ascot was rather glad, she
said, for she had a friend coming to tea, who did not play whist; so
Lord Saltire and Lord Ascot sat down to picquet, and William talked to
his aunt.

"Who is your friend, Maria?" asked Lord Saltire.

"A Mr. Bidder, a minister. He has written a book on the Revelations,
which you really ought to read, James; it would suit you."

They both laughed.

"About the seven seals, hey?" said Lord Saltire; "'_septem phocæ_,' as I
remember Machynleth translated it at Eton once. We called him 'Vitulina'
ever after. The name stuck to him through life with some of us. A
capital name for him, too! His fussy blundering in this war-business is
just like his old headlong way of looking out words in his dictionary.
He is an ass, Maria; and I will bet fifty pounds that your friend, the
minister, is another."

"How can you know? at all events, the man he brings with him is none."

"Another minister?"

"Yes, a Moravian missionary from Australia."

"Then certainly another ass, or he would have gone as missionary to a
less abominably detestable hole. They were all burnt into the sea there
the other day. Immediately after which the river rose seventy feet, and
drowned the rest of them."

Soon after were announced Mr. Bidder and Mr. Smith. Mr. Bidder was an
entirely unremarkable man; but Mr. Smith was one of the most remarkable
men I have ever seen, or rather heard--for externally there was nothing
remarkable about him, except a fine forehead, and a large expressive
grey eye, which, when he spoke to you, seemed to come back from a long
distance, and fix itself upon yours. In manners he was perfect. He was
rather taciturn, though always delighted to communicate information
about his travels, in a perfectly natural way. If one man wanted
information on botany, or what not, he was there to give it. If another
wanted to hear about missionary work, he was ready for him. He never
spoke or acted untruthfully for one instant. He never acted the free and
easy man of the world as some religious gentlemen of all sects feel it
necessary to do sometimes, imitating the real thing as well as Paul
Bedford would imitate Fanny Ellsler. What made him remarkable was his
terrible earnestness, and the feeling you had, that his curious language
was natural, and meant something; something very important indeed.

He has something to do with the story. The straws in the gutter have to
do with the history of a man like Charles, a man who leaves all things
to chance. And this man Smith is very worthy of notice, and so I have
said thus much about him, and am going to say more.

Mr. Bidder was very strong on the Russian war, which he illustrated by
the Revelations. He was a good fellow, and well-bred enough to see that
his friend Smith was an object of greater interest to Lady Ascot than
himself; so he "retired into" a book of prints, and left the field
clear.

Mr. Smith sat by Lady Ascot, and William drew close up. Lady Ascot began
by a commonplace, of course.

"You have suffered great hardships among those savages, Mr. Smith, have
you not?"

"Hardships! Oh, dear no, my dear lady. Our station was one of the
pleasantest places in the whole earth I believe; and we had a peaceful
time. When the old man is strong in me I wish I was back there."

"You did not make much progress with them, I believe?"

"None whatever. We found out after a year or two that it was hopeless to
make them understand the existence of a God; and after that we stayed on
to see if we could bring them to some knowledge of agriculture, and save
them from their inevitable extermination, as the New Zealanders have
been saved."

"And to no purpose?"

"None. For instance, we taught them to plant our potatoes for us. They
did it beautifully, but in the night they dug them up and ate them. And
in due season we waited that our potatoes should grow, and they grew
not. Then they came to Brother Hillyar, my coadjutor, an old man, now
ruling ten cities for his Master, and promised for rewards of flour to
tell him why the potatoes did not grow. And he, loving them, gave them
what they desired. And they told him that they dug them up while we
slept. And for two days I went about my business, laughing in secret
places, for which he tried to rebuke me, but could not, laughing
himself. The Lord kept him waiting long, for he was seventy-four; but,
doubtless, his reward is the greater."

William said, "You brought home a collection of zoological specimens, I
think. They are in the Museum."

"Yes. But what I could not bring over were my live pets. I and my wife
had a menagerie of our own--a great number of beasts----"

Mr. Bidder looking up from his book, catching the last sentence only,
said the number of the beast was 666; and, then turning round, held
himself ready to strike into the conversation, thinking that the time
was come when he should hide his light no longer.

"The natives are very low savages, are they not, Mr. Smith?" said
William. "I have heard that they cannot count above ten."

"Not so far as that," said Mr. Smith. "The tribe we were most among used
to express all large unknown quantities by 'eighty-four;'[4] it was as
_x_ and _y_ to them. That seems curious at first, does it not?"

William said it did seem curious, their choosing that particular number.
But Mr. Bidder, dying to mount his hobby-horse, and not caring how, said
it was not at all curious. If you multiplied the twelve tribes of Israel
into the seven cities of refuge, there you were at once.

Mr. Smith said he thought he had made a little mistake. The number, he
fancied, was ninety-four.

Lord Saltire, from the card-table, said that that made the matter
clearer than before, For if you placed the Ten Commandments to the
previous result you arrived at ninety-four, which was the number wanted.
And his lordship, who had lost, and was consequently possibly cross,
added that, if you divided the whole by the five foolish virgins, and
pitched Tobit's dog, neck and heels into the result, you would find
yourself much about where you started.

Mr. Bidder, who, as I said, was a good fellow, laughed, and Mr. Smith
resumed the conversation once more; Lord Saltire seemed interested in
what he said, and did not interfere with him.

"You buried poor Mrs. Smith out there," said Lady Ascot. "I remember her
well. She was very beautiful as a girl."

"Very beautiful," said the missionary. "Yes; she never lost her beauty,
do you know. That climate is very deadly to those who go there with the
seeds of consumption in them. She had done a hard day's work before she
went to sleep, though she was young. Don't you think so, Lady Ascot?"

"A hard day's work; a good day's work, indeed. Who knows better than I?"
said Lady Ascot. "What an awakening it must be from such a sleep as
hers!"

"Beyond the power of human tongue to tell," said the missionary, looking
dreamily as at something far away. "Show me the poet that can describe
in his finest language the joy of one's soul when one wakes on a
summer's morning. Who, then, can conceive or tell the unutterable
happiness of the purified soul, waking face to face with the King of
Glory?"

Lord Saltire looked at him curiously, and said to himself, "This fellow
is in earnest. I have seen this sort of thing before. But seldom! Yes,
but seldom!"

"I should not have alluded to my wife's death," continued the
missionary, in a low voice, "but that her ladyship introduced the
subject. And no one has a better right to hear of her than her kind old
friend. She fell asleep on the Sabbath evening after prayers. We moved
her bed into the verandah, Lady Ascot, that she might see the sunlight
fade out on the tops of the highest trees--a sight she always loved. And
from the verandah we could see through the tree stems Mount Joorma, laid
out in endless folds of woodland, all purple and gold. And I thought she
was looking at the mountain, but she was looking far beyond that, for
she said, 'I shall have to wait thirty years for you, James, but I shall
be very happy and very busy. The time will go quick enough for me, but
it will be a slow, weary time for you, my darling. Go home from here, my
love, into the great towns, and see what is to be done there.' And so
she went to sleep.

"I rebelled for three days. I went away into the bush, with Satan at my
elbow all the time, through dry places, through the forest, down by
lonely creeksides, up among bald volcanic downs, where there are slopes
of slippery turf, leading down to treacherous precipices of slag; and
then through the quartz ranges, and the reedy swamps, where the black
swans float, and the spur-winged plover hovers and cackles; all about I
went among the beasts and the birds. But on the third day the Lord
wearied of me, and took me back, and I lay on His bosom again like a
child. He will always take you home, my lord, if you come. After three
days, after thrice twenty years, my lord. Time is nothing to Him."

Lord Saltire was looking on him with kindly admiration.

"There is something in it, my lord. Depend upon it that it is not all a
dream. Would not you give all your amazing wealth, all your honours,
everything, to change places with me?"

"I certainly would," said Lord Saltire. "I have always been of opinion
that there was something in it. I remember," he continued, turning to
William, "expressing the same opinion to your father in the Fleet Prison
once, when he had quarrelled with the priests for expressing some
opinions which he had got from me. But you must take up with that sort
of thing very early in life if you mean it to have any reality at all. I
am too old now!"[5]

Lord Saltire said this in a different tone from his usual one. In a tone
that we have never heard him use before. There was something about the
man Smith which, in spite of his quaint language, softened every one who
heard him speak. Lady Ascot says it was the grace of God. I entirely
agree with her ladyship.

"I came home," concluded the missionary, "to try some city work. My
wife's nephew, John Marston, whom I expected to see here to-night, is
going to assist me in this work. There seems plenty to do. We are at
work in Southwark, at present."

Possibly it was well that the company, more particularly Lady Ascot,
were in a softened and forgiving mood. For, before any one had resumed
the conversation, Lord Ascot's valet stood in the door, and, looking at
Lady Ascot with a face which said as plain as words, "It is a terrible
business, my lady, but I am innocent," announced--

"Lady Welter."

Lord Saltire put his snuff-box into his right-hand trousers' pocket, and
his pocket handkerchief into his left, and kept his hands there, leaning
back in his chair, with his legs stretched out, and a smile of infinite
wicked amusement on his face. Lord Ascot and William stared like a
couple of gabies. Lady Ascot had no time to make the slightest change,
either in feature or position, before Adelaide, dressed for the evening
in a cloud of white and pink, with her bare arms loaded with bracelets,
a swansdown fan hanging from her left wrist, sailed swiftly into the
room, with outstretched hands, bore down on Lady Ascot, and began
kissing her, as though the old lady were a fruit of some sort, and she
were a dove pecking at it.

"Dearest grandma!"--peck. "So glad to see you!"--peck. "Couldn't help
calling in on you as I went to Lady Brittlejug's--and how well you are
looking!"--peck, peck. "I can spare ten minutes--do tell me all the
news, since I saw you. My dear Lord Ascot, I was so sorry to hear of
your illness, but you look better than I expected. And how do _you_ do,
my dear Lord Saltire?"

Lord Saltire was pretty well, and was delighted to see Lady Welter
apparently in the enjoyment of such health and spirits, and so on,
aloud. But, secretly, Lord Saltire was wondering what on earth could
have brought her here. Perhaps she only wanted to take Lady Ascot by
surprise, and force her into a recognition of her as Lady Welter. No. My
lord saw there was something more than that. She was restless and absent
with Lady Ascot. Her eye kept wandering in the middle of all her
rattling talk; but, wherever it wandered, it always came back to
William, of whom she had hitherto taken no notice whatever.

"She has come after him. For what?" thought my lord. "I wonder if the
jade knows anything of Charles."

Lady Ascot had steeled herself against this meeting. She had determined,
firstly, that no mortal power should ever induce her to set eyes on
Adelaide again; and, secondly, that she, Lady Ascot, would give her,
Adelaide, a piece of her mind, which she should never forget to her
dying day. The first of these rather contradictory determinations had
been disposed of by Adelaide's audacity; and as for the second--why, the
piece of Lady Ascot's mind which was to be given to Adelaide was somehow
not ready; but, instead of it, only silent tears, and withered,
trembling fingers, which wandered lovingly over the beautiful young
hand, and made the gaudy bracelets on the wrist click one against the
other.

"What could I say, Brooks? what could I do?" said Lady Ascot to her maid
that night, "when I saw her own self come back, with her own old way? I
love the girl more than ever, Brooks, I believe. She beat me. She took
me by surprise. I could not resist her. If she had proposed to put me in
a wheelbarrow, and wheel me into the middle of that disgraceful, that
detestable woman Brittlejug's drawing-room, there and then, I should
have let her do it, I believe. I might have begged for time to put on my
bonnet; but I should have gone."

She sat there ten minutes or more, talking. Then she said that it was
time to go, but that she should come and see Lady Ascot on the morrow.
Then she turned to William, to whom she had not been introduced, and
asked, would he see her to her carriage? Lord Saltire was next the bell,
and looking her steadily in the face, raised his hand slowly to pull it.
Adelaide begged him eagerly not to trouble himself; he, with a smile,
promptly dropped his hand, and out she sailed on William's arm, Lord
Saltire holding the door open, and shutting it after her, with somewhat
singular rapidity.

"I hope none of those fools of servants will come blundering upstairs
before she has said her say," he remarked, aloud. "Give us some of your
South African experiences, Mr. Smith. Did you ever see a woman beautiful
enough to go clip a lion's claws singlehanded, eh?"

William, convoying Adelaide downstairs, had got no farther than the
first step, when he felt her hand drawn from his arm; he had got one
foot on the step below, when he turned to see the cause of this.
Adelaide was standing on the step above him, with her glorious face bent
sternly, almost fiercely, down on his, and the hand from which the fan
hung pointed towards him. It was as beautiful a sight as he had ever
seen, and he calmly wondered what it meant. The perfect mouth was curved
in scorn, and from it came sharp ringing words, decisive, hard, clear,
like the sound of a hammer on an anvil.

"Are you a party to this shameful business, sir? you, who have taken his
name, and his place, and his prospects in society. You, who professed,
as I hear, to love him like another life, dearer than your own. You, who
lay on the same breast with him--tell me, in God's name, that you are
sinning in ignorance."

William, as I have remarked before, had a certain amount of shrewdness.
He determined to let her go on. He only said, "You are speaking of
Charles Ravenshoe."

"Ay," she said, sharply; "of Charles Ravenshoe, sir--ex-stable-boy. I
came here to-night to beard them all; to ask them did they know, and did
they dare to suffer it. If they had not given me an answer, I would have
said such things to them as would have made them stop their ears. Lord
Saltire has a biting tongue, has he? Let him hear what mine is. But when
I saw you among them, I determined to save a scene, and speak to you
alone. Shameful----"

William looked quietly at her. "Will your ladyship remark that I, that
all of us, have been moving heaven and earth to find Charles Ravenshoe,
and that we have been utterly unable to find him? If you have any
information about him, would it not be as well to consider that the
desperation caused by your treatment of him was the principal cause of
his extraordinary resolution of hiding himself? And, instead of scolding
me and others, who are doing all we can, to give us all the information
in your power?"

"Well, well," she said, "perhaps you are right. Consider me rebuked,
will you have the goodness? I saw Charles Ravenshoe to-day."

"To-day!"

"Ay, and talked to him."

"How did he look? was he pale? was he thin? Did he seem to want money?
Did he ask after me? Did he send any message? Can you take me to where
he is? Did he seem much broken down? Does he know we have been seeking
him? Lady Welter, for God's sake, do something to repair the wrong you
did him, and take me to where he is."

"I don't know where he is, I tell you. I saw him for just one moment. He
picked up my hat in the Park. He was dressed like a groom. He came from
I know not where, like a ghost from the grave. He did not speak to me.
He gave me my hat, and was gone. I do not know whose groom he is, but I
think Welter knows. He will tell me to-night. I dared not ask him
to-day, lest he should think I was going to see him. When I tell him
where I have been, and describe what has passed here, he will tell me.
Come to me to-morrow morning, and he shall tell you; that will be
better. You have sense enough to see why."

"I see."

"Another thing. He has seen his sister Ellen. And yet another thing.
When I ran away with Lord Welter, I had no idea of what had happened to
him--of this miserable _esclandre_. But you must have known that before,
if you were inclined to do me justice. Come to-morrow morning. I must go
now."

And so she went to her carriage by herself after all. And William stood
still on the stairs, triumphant. Charles was as good as found.

The two clergymen passed him on their way downstairs, and bade him
good-night. Then he returned to the drawing-room, and said--

"My lord, Lady Welter has seen Charles to-day, and spoken to him. With
God's help, I will have him here with us to-morrow night."

It was half-past eleven. What Charles, in his headlong folly and
stupidity, had contrived to do before this time, must be told in
another chapter--no, I have not patience to wait. My patience is
exhausted. One act of folly following another so fast would exhaust the
patience of Job. If one did not love him so well, one would not be so
angry with him. I will tell it here and have done with it. When he had
left Adelaide, he had gone home with Hornby. He had taken the horses to
the stable; he had written a note to Hornby. Then he had packed up a
bundle of clothes, and walked quietly off.

Round by St. Peter's Church--he had no particular reason for going
there, except, perhaps, that his poor foolish heart yearned that evening
to see some one who cared for him, though it were only a shoeblack.
There was still one pair of eyes which would throw a light for one
instant into the thick darkness which was gathering fast around him.

His little friend was there. Charles and he talked for a while, and at
last he said--

"You will not see me again. I am going to the war. I am going to Windsor
to enlist in the Hussars, to-night."

"They will kill you," said the boy.

"Most likely," said Charles. "So we must say good-bye. Mind, now, you go
to the school at night, and say that prayer I gave you on the paper. We
must say good-bye. We had better be quick about it."

The boy looked at him steadily. Then he began to draw his breath in long
sighs--longer, longer yet, till his chest seemed bursting. Then out it
all came in a furious hurricane of tears, and he leant his head against
the wall, and beat the bricks with his clenched hand.

"And I am never to see you no more! no more! no more!"

"No more," said Charles. But he thought he might soften the poor boy's
grief; and he did think, too, at the moment, that he would go and see
the house where his kind old aunt lived, before he went away for ever;
so he said--

"I shall be in South Audley Street, 167, to-morrow at noon. Now, you
must not cry, my dear. You must say good-bye."

And so he left him, thinking to see him no more. Once more, Charles,
only once more, and then God help you!

He went off that night to Windsor, and enlisted in the 140th Hussars.



CHAPTER XLV.

HALF A MILLION.


And so you see here we are all at sixes and sevens once more. Apparently
as near the end of the story as when I wrote the adventures of Alured
Ravenshoe at the Court of Henry the Eighth in the very first chapter. If
Charles had had a little of that worthy's impudence, instead of being
the shy, sensitive fellow he was, why, the story would have been over
long ago. In point of fact, I don't know that it would ever have been
written at all. So it is best as it is for all parties.

Although Charles had enlisted in Hornby's own regiment he had craftily
calculated that there was not the slightest chance of Hornby's finding
it out for some time. Hornby's troop was at the Regent's Park. The
head-quarters were at Windsor, and the only officer likely to recognise
him was Hornby's captain. And so he went to work at his new duties with
an easy mind, rather amused than otherwise, and wondering where and when
it would all end.

From sheer unadulterated ignorance, I cannot follow him during the first
week or so of his career. I have a suspicion almost amounting to a
certainty, that, if I could, I should not. I do not believe that the
readers of Ravenshoe would care to hear about sword-exercise,
riding-school, stable-guard, and so on. I can, however, tell you thus
much, that Charles learnt his duties in a wonderfully short space of
time, and was a great favourite with high and low.

When William went to see Adelaide by appointment the morning after his
interview with her, he had an interview with Lord Welter, who told him
in answer to his inquiries, that Charles was groom to Lieutenant Hornby.

"I promised that I would say nothing about it," he continued, "but I
think I ought; and Lady Welter has been persuading me to do so, if any
inquiries were made, only this morning. I am deuced glad, Ravenshoe,
that none of you have forgotten him. It would be a great shame if you
had. He is a good fellow, and has been infernally used by some of us--by
me, for instance."

William, in his gladness, said, "Never mind, my lord; let bygones be
bygones. We shall all be to one another as we were before, please God. I
have found Charles, at all events; so there is no gap in the old circle,
except my father's. I had a message for Lady Welter."

"She is not down; she is really not well this morning, or she could have
seen you."

"It is only this. Lady Ascot begs that she will come over to lunch. My
aunt wished she would have stopped longer last night."

"Your aunt?"

"My aunt, Lady Ascot."

"Ah! I beg pardon; I am not quite used to the new state of affairs. Was
Lady Welter with Lady Ascot last night?"

William was obliged to say yes, but felt as if he had committed an
indiscretion by having said anything about it.

"The deuce she was!" said Lord Welter. "I thought she was somewhere
else. Tell my father that I will come and see him to-day, if he don't
think it would be too much for him."

"Ah, Lord Welter! you would have come before, if you had known----"

"I know--I know. You must know that I had my reasons for not coming.
Well, I hope that you and I will be better acquainted in our new
positions; we were intimate enough in our old."

When William was gone, Lord Welter went up to his wife's dressing-room
and said--

"Lady Welter, you are a jewel. If you go on like this, you will be
recognised, and we shall die at Ranford--you and I--a rich and
respectable couple. If 'ifs and ands were pots and pans,' Lady Welter,
we should do surprisingly well. If, for instance, Lord Saltire could be
got to like me something better than a mad dog, he would leave my father
the whole of his landed estate, and cut Charles Horton, whilom
Ravenshoe, off with the comparatively insignificant sum of eighty
thousand pounds, the amount of his funded property. Eh! Lady Welter?"

Adelaide actually bounded from her chair.

"Are you drunk, Welter?" she said.

"Seeing that it is but the third hour of the day, I am not, Lady Welter.
Neither am I a fool. Lord Saltire would clear my father now, if he did
not know that it would be more for my benefit than his. I believe he
would sooner leave his money to a hospital than see me get one farthing
of it."

"Welter," said Adelaide, eagerly, "if Charles gets hold of Lord Saltire
again, he will have the whole; the old man adores him. I know it; I see
it all now; why did I never think of it before. He thinks he is like
Lord Barkham, his son. There is time yet. If that man William Ravenshoe
comes this morning, you must know nothing of Charles. Mind that.
Nothing. They must not meet. He may forget him. Mind, Welter, no
answer!"

She was walking up and down the room rapidly now, and Lord Welter was
looking at her with a satirical smile on his face.

"Lady Welter," he said, "the man William Ravenshoe has been here and got
his answer. By this time, Charles is receiving his lordship's blessing."

"Fool!" was all that Adelaide could say.

"Well, hardly that," said Lord Welter. "At least, _you_ should hardly
call me so. I understood the position of affairs long before you. I was
a reckless young cub not to have paid Lord Saltire more court in old
times; but I never knew the state of our affairs till very shortly
before the crash came, or I might have done so. In the present case, I
have not been such a fool. Charles is restored to Lord Saltire through
my instrumentality. A very good basis of operations, Lady Welter."

"At the risk of about half a million of money," remarked Adelaide.

"There was no risk in the other course, certainly," said Lord Welter,
"for we should never have seen a farthing of it. And besides, Lady
Welter----"

"Well!"

"I have your attention. Good. It may seem strange to you, who care about
no one in heaven or earth, but I love this fellow, this Charles Horton.
I always did. He is worth all the men I ever met put together. I am glad
to have been able to give him a lift this morning. Even if I had not
been helping myself, I should have done it all the same. That is
comical, is it not? For Lord Saltire's landed property I shall fight.
The campaign begins at lunch to-day, Lady Welter; so, if you will be so
good as to put on your full war-paint and feathers, we will dig up the
tomahawk, and be off on the war-trail in your ladyship's brougham.
Good-bye for the present."

Adelaide was beaten. She was getting afraid of her husband--afraid of
his strong masculine cunning, of his reckless courage, and of the
strange apparition of a great brutal _heart_ at the bottom of it all.
What were all her fine-spun female cobwebs worth against such a huge,
blundering, thieving hornet as he?



CHAPTER XLVI.

TO LUNCH WITH LORD ASCOT.


That same day, Lord Saltire and Lady Ascot were sitting in the
drawing-room window, in South Audley Street, alone. He had come in, as
his custom was, about eleven, and found her reading her great old Bible;
he had taken up the paper and read away for a time, saying that he would
not interrupt her; she, too, had seemed glad to avoid a _tête-à-tête_
conversation, and had continued; but, after a few minutes, he had
dropped the paper, and cried--

"The deuce!"

"My dear James," said she, "what is the matter?"

"Matter! why, we have lost a war-steamer, almost without a shot fired.
The Russians have got the _Tiger_, crew and all. It is unbearable,
Maria; if they are going to blunder like this at the beginning, where
will it end?"

Lord Saltire was disgusted with the war from the very beginning, in
consequence of the French alliance, and so the present accident was as
fuel for his wrath. Lady Ascot, as loyal a soul as lived, was possibly
rather glad that something had taken up Lord Saltire's attention just
then, for she was rather afraid of him this morning. She knew his great
dislike for Lord Welter, and expected to be scolded for her weakness
with regard to Adelaide the night before. Moreover, she had the guilty
consciousness that she had asked Adelaide to come to lunch that morning,
of which he did not yet know. So she was rather glad to have a subject
to talk of, not personal.

"And when did it happen, my dear James?" she asked.

"On the twelfth of last month, Lady Ascot. Come and sit here in the
window, and give an account of yourself, will you have the goodness?"

Now that she saw it must come, she was as cool and as careless as need
be. He could not be hard on her. Charles was to come home to them that
day. She drew her chair up, and laid her withered old hand on his, and
the two grey heads were bent together. Grey heads but green hearts.

"Look at old Daventry," said Lord Saltire, "on the other side of the
way. Don't you see him, Maria, listening to that organ? He is two years
older than I am. He looks younger."

"I don't know that he does. He ought to look older. She led him a
terrible life. Have you been to see him lately?"

"What business is that of yours? So you are going to take Welter's wife
back into your good graces, eh, my lady?"

"Yes, James."

"'Yes, James!' I have no patience with you. You are weaker than water.
Well, well, we must forgive her, I suppose. She has behaved generous
enough about Charles, has she not? I rather admire her scolding poor
William Ravenshoe. I must renew our acquaintance."

"She is coming to lunch to-day."

"I thought you looked guilty. Is Welter coming?"

Lady Ascot made no reply. Neither at that moment would Lord Saltire have
heard her if she had. He was totally absorbed in the proceedings of his
old friend Lord Daventry, before mentioned. That venerable dandy had
listened to the organ until the man had played all his tunes twice
through, when he had given him half-a-crown, and the man had departed.
Immediately afterwards, a Punch and Judy had come, which Punch and Judy
was evidently an acquaintance of his; for, on descrying him, it had
hurried on with its attendant crowd, and breathlessly pitched itself in
front of him, let down its green curtains, and plunged at once _in
medias res_. The back of the show was towards Lord Saltire; but, just as
he saw Punch look round the corner, to see which way the Devil was gone,
he saw two pickpockets advance on Lord Daventry from different quarters,
with fell intentions. They met at his tail-coat pocket, quarrelled, and
fought. A policeman bore down on them; Lord Daventry was still
unconscious, staring his eyes out of his head. The affair was becoming
exciting, when Lord Saltire felt a warm tear drop on his hand.

"James," said Lady Ascot, "don't be hard on Welter. I love Welter. There
is good in him; there is, indeed. I know how shamefully he has behaved;
but don't be hard on him, James."

"My dearest Maria," said Lord Saltire, "I would not give you one
moment's uneasiness for the world. I do not like Welter. I dislike him.
But I will treat him for your sake and Ascot's as though I loved
him--there. Now about Charles. He will be with us to-day, thank God.
What the deuce are we to do?"

"I cannot conceive," said Lady Ascot; "it is such a terrible puzzle. One
does not like to move, and yet it seems such a sin to stand still."

"No answer to your advertisement, of course?" said Lord Saltire.

"None whatever. It seems strange, too, with such a reward as we have
offered; but it was worded so cautiously, you see."

Lord Saltire laughed. "Cautiously, indeed. No one could possibly guess
what it was about. It was a miracle of obscurity; but it won't do to go
any further yet." After a pause, he said--"You are perfectly certain of
your facts, Maria, for the fiftieth time."

"Perfectly certain. I committed a great crime, James. I did it for
Alicia's sake. Think what my bringing up had been, how young I was, and
forgive me if you can; excuse me if you cannot."

"Nonsense about a great crime, Maria. It was a great mistake, certainly.
If you had only had the courage to have asked Petre one simple question!
Alicia never guessed the fact, of course?"

"Never."

"Do you think, Maria, that by any wild possibility James or Nora knew?"

"How could they possibly? What a foolish question."

"I don't know. These Roman Catholics do strange things," said Lord
Saltire, staring out of window at the crowd.

"If she knew, why did she change the child?"

"Eh?" said Lord Saltire, turning round.

"You have not been attending," said Lady Ascot.

"No, I have not," said Lord Saltire; "I was looking at Daventry."

"Do you still," said Lord Saltire, "since all our researches and
failures, stick to the belief that the place was in Hampshire?"

"I do indeed, and in the north of Hampshire too."

"I wonder," said Lord Saltire, turning round suddenly, "whether
Mackworth knows?"

"Of course he does," said Lady Ascot, quietly.

"Hum," said Lord Saltire, "I had a hold over that man once; but I threw
it away as being worthless. I wish I had made a bargain for my
information. But what nonsense; how can he know?"

"Know?" said Lady Ascot, scornfully; "what is there a confessor don't
know? Don't tell me that all Mackworth's power came from finding out
poor Densil's _faux pas_. The man had a sense of power other than that."

"Then he never used it," said Lord Saltire. "Densil, dear soul, never
knew."

"I said a _sense_ of power," said Lady Ascot, "which gave him his
consummate impudence. Densil never dreamt of it."

At this point the policeman had succeeded in capturing the two
pickpockets, and was charging them before Lord Daventry. Lord Daventry
audibly offered them ten shillings a-piece to say nothing about it; at
which the crowd cheered.

"Would it be any use to offer money to the priest--say ten thousand
pounds or so?" said Lord Saltire. "You are a religious woman, Maria, and
as such are a better judge of a priest's conscience than I. What do you
think?"

"I don't know," said Lady Ascot. "I don't know but what the man is
high-minded, in his heathenish way. You know Cuthbert's story of his
having refused ten thousand pounds to hush up the matter about Charles.
His information would be a blow to the Popish Church in the West. He
would lose position by accepting your offer. I don't know what his
position may be worth. You can try him, if all else fails; not
otherwise, I should say. We must have a closer search."

"When you come to think, Maria, he can't know. If Densil did not know,
how could he?"

"Old Clifford might have known, and told him."

"If we are successful, and if Adelaide has no children--two improbable
things--" said Lord Saltire, "why then----"

"Why then----" said Lady Ascot. "But at the worst you are going to make
Charles a rich man. Shall you tell William?"

"Not yet. Cuthbert should never be told, I say; but that is Charles's
business. I have prepared William."

"Cuthbert will not live," said Lady Ascot.

"Not a chance of it, I believe. Marston says his heart-complaint does
not exist, but I think differently."

At this moment, Lord Daventry's offer of money having been refused, the
whole crowd moved off in procession towards the police-station. First
came three little girls with big bonnets and babies, who, trying to do
two things at once--to wit, head the procession by superior speed,
and at the same time look round at Lord Daventry and the
pickpockets--succeeded in neither, but only brought the three babies'
heads in violent collision every other step. Next came Lord Daventry,
resigned. Next the policeman, with a pickpocket in each hand, who were
giving explanations. Next the boys; after them, the Punch and Judy,
which had unfortunately seen the attempt made, and must to the station
as a witness, to the detriment of business. Bringing up the rear were
the British public, who played practical jokes with one another. The
dogs kept a parallel course in the gutter, and barked. In turning the
first corner, the procession was cut into, and for a time thrown into
confusion, by a light-hearted costermonger, who, returning from a
successful market with an empty barrow, drove it in among them with
considerable velocity. After which, they disappeared like the baseless
fabric of a dream, only to be heard of again in the police reports.

"Lord and Lady Welter."

Lord Saltire had seen them drive up to the door; so he was quite
prepared. He had been laughing intensely; but quite silently, at poor
Lord Daventry's adventures, and so, when he turned round, he had a smile
on his face. Adelaide had done kissing Lady Ascot, and was still holding
both her hands with a look of intense mournful affection. Lord Saltire
was so much amused by Adelaide's acting, and her simplicity in
performing before himself, that, when he advanced to Lord Welter, he was
perfectly radiant.

"Well, my dear scapegrace, and how do _you_ do?" he said, giving his
hand to Lord Welter; "a more ill-mannered fellow I never saw in my life.
To go away and hide yourself with that lovely young wife of yours, and
leave all us oldsters to bore one another to death. What the deuce do
you mean by it, eh, sir?"

Lord Welter did not reply in the same strain. He said--

"It is very kind of you to receive me like this. I did not expect it.
Allow me to tell you, that I think your manner towards me would not be
quite so cordial if you knew everything; there is a great deal that you
don't know, and which I don't mean to tell you."

It is sometimes quite impossible, even for a writer of fiction, a man
with _carte blanche_ in the way of invention, to give the cause, for a
man's actions. I have thought and thought, and I cannot for the life of
me tell you why Lord Welter answered Lord Saltire like that, whether it
was from deep cunning or merely from recklessness. If it was cunning, it
was cunning of a high order. It was genius. The mixture of respect and
kindness towards the person, and of carelessness about his favour
was--well--very creditable. Lord Saltire did not think he was acting,
and his opinion is of some value, I believe. But then, we must remember
that he was prepared to think the best of Lord Welter that day, and must
make allowances. I am not prepared with an opinion; let every man form
his own. I only know that Lord Saltire tapped his teeth with his
snuff-box and remained silent. Lord Welter, whether consciously or no,
was nearer the half of a million of money than he had ever been before.

But Adelaide's finer sense was offended at her husband's method of
proceeding. For one instant, when she heard him say what he did, she
could have killed him. "Reckless, brutal, selfish," she said fiercely
to herself, "throwing a duke's fortune to the winds by sheer obstinacy."
(At this time she had picked up Lady Ascot's spectacles, and was
playfully placing them on her venerable nose.) "I wish I had never seen
him. He is maddening. If he only had some brains, where might not we
be?" But the conversation of that morning came to her mind with a jar,
and the suspicion with it, that he had more brains of a sort than she;
that, though they were on a par in morality, there was a strength about
him, against which her finesse was worthless. She knew she could never
deceive Lord Saltire, and there was Lord Saltire tapping him on the knee
with his snuff-box, and talking earnestly and confidentially to him. She
was beginning to respect her husband. _He_ dared face that terrible old
man with his hundreds of thousands; _she_ trembled in his presence.

Let us leave her, fooling our dear old friend to the top of her bent,
and hear what the men were saying.

"I know you have been, as they say now, 'very fast,'" said Lord Saltire,
drawing nearer to him. "I don't want to ask any questions which don't
concern me. You have sense enough to know that it is worth your while to
stand well with me. Will you answer me a few questions which do concern
me?"

"I can make no promises, Lord Saltire. Let me hear what they are, will
you?"

"Why," said Lord Saltire, "about Charles Ravenshoe."

"About Charles!" said Lord Welter, looking up at Lord Saltire. "Oh, yes;
any number. I have nothing to conceal there. Of course you will know
everything. I had sooner you knew it from me than another."

"I don't mean about Adelaide; let that go by. Perhaps I am glad that
that is as it is. But have you known where Charles was lately? Your wife
told William to come to her this morning; that is why I ask."

"I have known a very short time. When William Ravenshoe came this
morning, I gave him every information. Charles will be with you to-day."

"I am satisfied."

"I don't care to justify myself, but if it had not been for me you would
never have seen him. And more. I am not the first man, Lord Saltire, who
has done what I have done."

"No, of course not," said Lord Saltire. "I can't fling the first stone
at you; God forgive me."

"But you must see, Lord Saltire, that I could not have guessed that
Ellen was his sister."

"Hey?" said Lord Saltire. "Say that again."

"I say that, when I took Ellen Horton away from Ravenshoe, I did not
know that she was Charles's sister."

Lord Saltire fell back in his chair, and said--

"Good God!"

"It is very terrible, looked at one way, Lord Saltire. If you come to
look at it another, it amounts to this, that she was only, as far as I
knew, a gamekeeper's daughter. Do you remember what you said to Charles
and me when we were rusticated?"

"Yes. I said that one vice was considered more venial than another vice
nowadays; and I say so still. I had sooner that you had died of delirium
tremens in a ditch than done this."

"So had not I, Lord Saltire. When I became involved with Adelaide, I
thought Ellen was provided for; I, even then, had not heard this
_esclandre_ about Charles. She refused a splendid offer of marriage
before she left me."

"We thought she was dead. Where is she gone?"

"I have no idea. She refused everything. She stayed on as Adelaide's
maid, and left us suddenly. We have lost all trace of her."

"What a miserable, dreadful business!" said Lord Saltire.

"Very so," said Lord Welter. "Hadn't we better change the subject, my
lord?" he added, drily. "I am not at all sure that I shall submit to
much more cross-questioning. You must not push me too far, or I shall
get savage."

"I won't," said Lord Saltire. "But, Welter, for God's sake, answer me
two more questions. Not offensive ones, on my honour."

"Fifty, if you will; only consider my rascally temper."

"Yes, yes! When Ellen was with you, did she ever hint that she was in
possession of any information about the Ravenshoes?"

"Yes; or rather, when she went, she left a letter, and in it she said
that she had something to tell Charles."

"Good, good!" said Lord Saltire. "She may know. We must find her. Now,
Charles is coming here to-day. Had you better meet him, Welter?"

"We have met before. All that is past is forgiven between us."

"Met!" said Lord Saltire, eagerly. "And what did he say to you? Was
there a scene, Welter?"

Lord Welter paused before he answered, and Lord Saltire, the wise,
looked out of the window. Once Lord Welter seemed going to speak, but
there was a catch in his breath. The second attempt was more fortunate.
He said, in a low voice--

"Why, I'll tell you, my lord. Charles Ravenshoe is broken-hearted."

"Lord and Lady Hainault."

And Miss Corby, and Gus, and Flora, and Archy, the footman might have
added, but was probably afraid of spoiling his period.

It was rather awkward. They were totally unexpected, and Lord Hainault
and Lord Welter had not met since Lord Hainault had denounced Lord
Welter at Tattersall's. It was so terribly awkward that Lord Saltire
recovered his spirits, and looked at the two young men with a smile. The
young men disappointed him, however, for Lord Hainault said, "How d'ye
do, Welter?" and Lord Welter said, "How do, Hainault?" and the matter
was settled, at all events for the present.

When all salutations had been exchanged among the ladies, and Archy had
hoisted himself up into Mary's lap, and Lady Hainault had imperially
settled herself in a chair, with Flora at her knee, exactly opposite
Adelaide, there was a silence for a moment, during which it became
apparent that Gus had a question to ask of Lady Ascot. Mary trembled,
but the others were not quite sorry to have the silence broken. Gus,
having obtained leave of the house, wished to know whether or not Satan,
should he repent of his sins, would have a chance of regaining his
former position?

"That silly Scotch nursemaid has been reading Burns's poems to him, I
suppose," said Lady Hainault; "unless Mary herself has been doing so.
Mary prefers anything to Watts's hymns, Lady Ascot."

"You must not believe one word Lady Hainault says, Lady Ascot," said
Mary. "She has been shamefully worsted in an argument, and she is
resorting to all sorts of unfair means to turn the scales. I never read
a word of Burns's poems in my life."

"You will be pleased not to believe a single word Miss Corby says, Lady
Ascot," said Lady Hainault. "She has convicted herself. She sings, 'The
banks and braes of bonny Doon'--very badly, I will allow, but still she
sings it."

There was a laugh at this. Anything was better than the silence which
had gone before. It became evident that Lady Hainault would not speak to
Adelaide. It was very uncomfortable. Dear Mary would have got up another
friendly passage of arms with Lady Hainault, but she was too nervous.
She would have even drawn out Gus, but she saw that Gus, dear fellow,
was not in a humour to be trusted that morning. He evidently was aware
that the dogs of war were loose, and was champing the bit like a
war-horse. Lady Ascot was as nervous as Mary, dying to say something,
but unable. Lady Hainault was calmly inexorable, Adelaide sublimely
indifferent. If you will also consider that Lady Ascot was awaiting news
of Charles--nay, possibly Charles himself--and that, in asking Adelaide
to lunch, she had overlooked the probability that William would bring
him back with him--that Lord Welter had come without invitation, and
that the Hainaults wore totally unexpected--you will think that the dear
old lady was in about as uncomfortable a position as she could be, and
that any event, even the house catching fire, must change matters for
the better.

Not at all. They say that, when things come to the worst, they must
mend. That is undeniable. But when are they at the worst? Who can tell
that? Lady Ascot thought they were at the worst now, and was taking
comfort. And then the footman threw open the door, and announced--

"Lady Hainault and Miss Hicks."

At this point Lady Ascot lost her temper, and exclaimed aloud, "This is
too much!" They thought old Lady Hainault did not hear her; but she did,
and so did Hicks. They heard it fast enough, and remembered it too.

In great social catastrophes, minor differences are forgotten. In the
Indian mutiny, people spoke to one another, and made friends, who were
at bitterest variance before. There are crises so terrible that people
of all creeds and shades of political opinion must combine against a
common enemy. This was one. When this dreadful old woman made her
totally unexpected entrance, and when Lady Ascot showed herself so
entirely without discretion as to exclaim aloud in the way she did,
young Lady Hainault and Adelaide were so horrified, so suddenly
quickened to a sense of impending danger, that they began talking loudly
and somewhat affectionately to one another. And young Lady Hainault,
whose self-possession was scattered to the four winds by this last
misfortune, began asking Adelaide all about Lady Brittlejug's drum, in
full hearing of her mamma-in-law, who treasured up every word she said.
And, just as she became conscious of saying wildly that she was so sorry
she could not have been there--as if Lady Brittlejug would ever have had
the impudence to ask her--she saw Lord Saltire, across the room, looking
quietly at her, with the expression on his face of one of the idols at
Abou Simbel.

Turn Lady Ascot once fairly to bay, you would (if you can forgive slang)
get very little change out of her. She came of valiant blood. No
Headstall was ever yet known to refuse his fence. Even her poor brother,
showing as he did traces of worn-out blood (the men always go a
generation or two before the women), had been a desperate rider,
offered to kick Fouquier Tinville at his trial, and had kept Simon
waiting on the guillotine while he pared his nails. Her ladyship rose
and accepted battle; she advanced towards old Lady Hainault, and,
leaning on her crutched stick, began--

"And how do you do, my dear Lady Hainault?"

She thought Lady Hainault would say something very disagreeable, as she
usually did. She looked at her, and was surprised to see how altered she
was. There was something about her looks that Lady Ascot did not like.

"My dear Lady Ascot," said old Lady Hainault, "I thank you. I am a very
old woman. I never forget my friends, I assure you. Hicks, is Lord
Hainault here?--I am very blind, you will be glad to hear, Lady Ascot.
Hicks, I want Lord Hainault, instantly. Fetch him to me, you stupid
woman. Hainault! Hainault!"

Our Lady Hainault rose suddenly, and put her arm round her waist.
"Mamma," she said, "what do you want!"

"I want Hainault, you foolish girl. Is that him? Hainault, I have made
the will, my dear boy. The rogue came to me, and I told him that the
will was made, and that Britten and Sloane had witnessed it. Did I do
right or not, eh? Ha! ha! I followed you here to tell you. Don't let
that woman Ascot insult me, Hainault. She has committed a felony, that
woman. I'll have her prosecuted. And all to get that chit Alicia married
to that pale-faced papist, Petre Ravenshoe. She thinks I didn't know it,
does she? I knew she knew it well enough, and I knew it too, and I have
committed a felony too, in holding my tongue, and we'll both go to
Bridewell, and----"

Lord Saltire here came up, and quietly offered her his arm. She took it
and departed, muttering to herself.

I must mention here, that the circumstance mentioned by old Lady
Hainault, of having made a will, had nothing to do with the story. A
will had existed to the detriment of Lady Hainault and Miss Hicks, and
she had most honourably made another in their favour.

Lady Ascot would have given worlds to unsay many things she had
heretofore said to her. It was evident that poor old Lady Hainault's
mind was failing. Lady Ascot would have prayed her forgiveness on her
knees, but it was too late. Lady Hainault never appeared in public
again. She died a short time after this, and, as I mentioned before,
left poor Miss Hicks a rich woman. Very few people knew how much good
there was in the poor old soul. Let the Casterton tenantry testify.

On this occasion her appearance had, as we have seen, the effect of
reconciling Lady Hainault and Adelaide. A very few minutes after her
departure William entered the room, followed by Hornby, whom none of
them had ever seen before.

They saw from William's face that something fresh was the matter. He
introduced Hornby, who seemed concerned, and then gave an open note to
Lord Saltire. He read it over, and then said--

"This unhappy boy has disappeared again. Apparently his interview with
you determined him, my dear Lady Welter. Can you give us any clue? This
is his letter:"

      "DEAR LIEUTENANT,--I must say good-bye even to you, my last
      friend. I was recognised in your service to-day by Lady
      Welter, and it will not do for me to stay in it any longer.
      It was a piece of madness ever taking to such a line of
      life."

      [Here there were three lines carefully erased. Lord Saltire
      mentioned it, and Hornby quietly said, "I erased those
      lines previous to showing the letter to any one; they
      referred to exceedingly private matters." Lord Saltire
      bowed and continued.] "A hundred thanks for your kindness;
      you have been to me more like a brother than a master. We
      shall meet again, when you little expect it. Pray don't
      assist in any search after me; it will be quite useless.

                             CHARLES HORTON."

Adelaide came forward as pale as death. "I believe I am the cause of
this. I did not dream it would have made him alter his resolution so
suddenly. When I saw him yesterday he was in a groom's livery. I told
him he was disgracing himself, and told him, if he was desperate, to go
to the war."

They looked at one another in silence.

"Then," Lady Ascot said, "he has enlisted, I suppose. I wonder in what
regiment?--could it be in yours, Mr. Hornby?"

"The very last in which he would, I should say," said Hornby, "if he
wants to conceal himself. He must know that I should find him at once."

So Lady Ascot was greatly pooh-poohed by the other wiseacres, she being
right all the time.

"I think," said Lord Saltire to Lady Ascot, "that perhaps we had better
take Mr. Hornby into our confidence." She agreed, and, after the
Hainaults and Welters were gone, Hornby remained behind with them, and
heard things which rather surprised him.

"Inquiries at the depôts of various regiments would be as good a plan as
any. Meanwhile I will give any assistance in my power. Pray, would it
not be a good plan to advertise for him, and state all the circumstances
of the case?"

"Why, no," said Lord Saltire, "we do not wish to make known all the
circumstances yet. Other interests have to be consulted, and our
information is not yet complete. Complete! we have nothing to go on but
mere surmise."

"You will think me inquisitive," said Hornby. "But you little know what
a right (I had almost said) I have to ask these questions. Does the
present Mr. Ravenshoe know of all this?"

"Not one word."

And so Hornby departed with William, and said nothing at all about
Ellen. As they left the door a little shoeblack looked inquisitively at
them, and seemed as though he would speak. They did not notice the
child. He could have told them what they wanted to know, but how were
they to guess that?

Impossible. Actually, according to the sagacious Welter, half a million
pounds, and other things, going a-begging, and a dirty little shoeblack
the only human being who knew where the heir was! A pig is an obstinate
animal, likewise a sheep; but what pig or sheep was ever so provoking in
its obstinacy as Charles in his good-natured, well-meaning, blundering
stupidity? In a very short time you will read an advertisement put into
_The Times_ by Lady Ascot's solicitor, which will show the reason for
some of the great anxiety which she and others felt to have him on the
spot. At first Lady Ascot and Lord Saltire lamented his absence, from
the hearty goodwill they bore him; but, as time wore on, they began to
get deeply solicitous for his return for other reasons. Lady Ascot's
hands were tied. She was in a quandary, and, when the intelligence came
of his having enlisted, and there seemed nearly a certainty of his being
shipped off to foreign parts, and killed before she could get at him,
she was in a still greater quandary. Suppose, before being killed, he
was to marry some one? "Good heavens, my dear James, was ever an
unfortunate wretch punished so before for keeping a secret?"

"I should say not, Maria," said Lord Saltire, coolly. "I declare I love
the lad the better the more trouble he gives one. There never was such a
dear obstinate dog. Welter has been making his court, and has made it
well--with an air of ruffian-like simplicity, which was charming,
because novel. I, even I, can hardly tell whether it was real or not. He
has ten times the brains of his shallow-pated little wife, whose
manoeuvres, my dear Maria, I should have thought even you, not
ordinarily a sagacious person, might have seen through."

"I believe the girl loves me; and don't be rude, James."

"I believe she don't care twopence for you; and I shall be as rude as I
please, Maria."

Poor Lord Ascot had a laugh at this little battle between his mother and
her old friend. So Lord Saltire turned to him and said--

"At half-past one to-morrow morning you will be awakened by three
ruffians in crape masks, with pistols, who will take you out of bed with
horrid threats, and walk you upstairs and down in your shirt, until you
have placed all your money and valuables into their hands. They will
effect an entrance by removing a pane of glass, and introducing a small
boy, disguised as a shoeblack, who will give them admittance."

"Good Gad!" said Lord Ascot, "what are you talking about?"

"Don't you see that shoeblack over the way?" said Lord Saltire. "He has
been watching the house for two hours; the burglars are going to put him
in at the back-kitchen window. There comes Daventry back from the
police-station. I bet you a sovereign he has his boots cleaned."

Poor Lord Ascot jumped at the bet like an old war-horse. "I'd have given
you three to one if you had waited."

Lord Daventry had indeed re-appeared on the scene; his sole attendant
was one of the little girls with a big bonnet and a baby, before
mentioned, who had evidently followed him to the police-station, watched
him in, and then accompanied him home, staring at him as at a man of
dark experiences, a man not to be lost sight of on any account, lest
some new and exciting thing should befall him meanwhile. This young
lady, having absented herself some two hours on this errand, and having
thereby deprived the baby of its natural nourishment, was now suddenly
encountered by an angry mother, and, knowing what she had to expect, was
forced to "dodge" her infuriated parent round and round Lord Daventry,
in a way which made that venerable nobleman giddy, and caused him to
stop, shut his eyes, and feebly offer them money not to do it any more.
Ultimately the young lady was caught and cuffed, the baby was refreshed,
and his lordship free.

Lord Saltire won his pound, to his great delight. Such an event as a
shoeblack in South Audley Street was not to be passed by. Lord Daventry
entered into conversation with our little friend, asked him if he went
to school? if he could say the Lord's Prayer? how much he made in the
day? whether his parents were alive? and ultimately had his boots
cleaned, and gave the boy half-a-crown. After which he disappeared from
the scene, and, like many of our large staff of supernumeraries, from
this history for evermore--he has served his turn with us. Let us
dismiss the kind-hearted old dandy with our best wishes.

Lord Saltire saw him give the boy the half-crown. He saw the boy pocket
it as though it were a halfpenny: and afterwards continue to watch the
house, as before. He was more sure than ever that the boy meant no good.
If he had known that he was waiting for one chance of seeing Charles
again, perhaps he would have given him half-a-crown himself. What a
difference one word from that boy would have made in our story!

When they came back from dinner, there was the boy still lying on the
pavement, leaning against his box. The little girl who had had her ears
boxed came and talked to him for a time, and went on. After a time she
came back with a quartern loaf in her hand, the crumbs of which she
picked as she went along, after the manner of children sent on an errand
to the baker's. When she had gone by, he rose and leant against the
railings, as though lingering, loth to go.

Once more, later, Lord Saltire looked out, and the boy was still there.
"I wonder what the poor little rogue wants?" said Lord Saltire; "I have
half a mind to go and ask him." But he did not. It was not to be, my
lord. You might have been with Charles the next morning at Windsor. You
might have been in time if you had; you will have a different sort of
meeting with him than that, if you meet him at all. Beyond the grave, my
lord, that meeting must be. Possibly a happier one, who knows? who dare
say?

The summer night closed in, but the boy lingered yet, to see, if
perchance he might, the only friend he ever had; to hear, if he might,
the only voice which had ever spoken gently and kindly to him of higher
things: the only voice which had told him that strange, wild tale,
scarce believed as yet, of a glorious immortality.

The streets began to get empty. The people passed him--

                  "Ones and twos,
      And groups; the latest said the night grew chill,
      And hastened; but he loitered; whilst the dews
      Fell fast, he loitered still."



CHAPTER XLVII.

LADY HAINAULT'S BLOTTING-BOOK.


In the natural course of events, I ought now to follow Charles in his
military career, step by step. But the fact is that I know no more about
the details of horse-soldiering than a marine, and therefore I cannot.
It is within the bounds of possibility that the reader may congratulate
himself on my ignorance, and it may also be possible that he has good
reason for so doing.

Within a fortnight after Hornby's introduction to Lord Saltire and Lady
Ascot, he was off with the head-quarters of his regiment to Varna. The
depôt was at Windsor, and there, unknown to Hornby, was Charles,
drilling and drilling. Two more troops were to follow the head-quarters
in a short time, and so well had Charles stuck to his duty that he was
considered fit to take his place in one of them. Before his moustaches
were properly grown, he found himself a soldier in good earnest.

In all his troubles this was the happiest time he had, for he had got
rid of the feeling that he was a disgraced man. If he must wear a
livery, he would wear the Queen's; there was no disgrace in that. He was
a soldier, and he would be a hero. Sometimes, perhaps, he thought for a
moment that he, with his two thousand pounds' worth of education, might
have been better employed than in littering a horse, and
swash-bucklering about among the Windsor taverns; but he did not think
long about it. If there were any disgrace in the matter, there was a
time coming soon, by all accounts, when the disgrace would be wiped out
in fire and blood. On Sunday, when he saw the Eton lads streaming up to
the terrace, the old Shrewsbury days, and the past generally, used to
come back to him rather unpleasantly; but the bugle put it all out of
his head again in a moment. Were there not the three most famous armies
in the world gathering, gathering, for a feast of ravens? Was not the
world looking on in silence and awe, to see England, France, and Russia
locked in a death-grip? Was not he to make one at the merry meeting? Who
could think at such a time as this?

The time was getting short now. In five days they were to start for
Southampton, to follow the head-quarters to Constantinople, to Varna,
and so into the dark thunder-cloud beyond. He felt as certain that he
would never come back again, as that the sun would rise on the morrow.

He made the last energetic effort that he made at all. It was like the
last struggle of a drowning man. He says that the way it happened was
this. And I believe him, for it was one of his own mad impulses, and,
like all his other impulses, it came too late. They came branking into
some pot-house, half a dozen of them, and talked aloud about this and
that, and one young lad among them said, that "he would give a thousand
pounds, if he had it, to see his sister before he went away, for fear
she should think that he had gone off without thinking of her."

Charles left them, and walked up the street. As he walked, his purpose
grew. He went straight to the quarters of a certain cornet, son to the
major of the regiment, and asked to speak to him.

The cornet, a quiet, smooth-faced boy, listened patiently to what he had
to say, but shook his head and told him he feared it was impossible.
But, he said, after a pause, he would help him all he could. The next
morning he took him to the major while he was alone at breakfast, and
Charles laid his case before him so well, that the kind old man gave him
leave to go to London at four o'clock, and come back by the last train
that same evening.

The Duchess of Cheshire's ball was the last and greatest which was given
that season. It was, they say, in some sort like the Duchess of
Richmond's ball before Waterloo. The story I have heard is, that Lord
George Barty persuaded his mother to give it, because he was sure that
it would be the last ball he should ever dance at. At all events it was
given, and he was right; for he sailed in the same ship with Charles
four days after, and was killed at Balaclava. However, we have nothing
to do with that. All we have to do with is the fact, that it was a very
great ball indeed, and that Lady Hainault was going to it.

Some traditions and customs grow by degrees into laws, ay, and into laws
less frequently broken than those made and provided by Parliament. Allow
people to walk across the corner of one of your fields for twenty years,
and there is a right of way, and they may walk across that field till
the crack of doom. Allow a man to build a hut on your property, and live
in it for twenty years, and you can't get rid of him. He gains a right
there. (I never was annoyed in either of these ways myself, for reasons
which I decline to mention; but it is the law, I believe.) There is no
law to make the young men fire off guns at one's gate on the 6th of
November, but they never miss doing it. (I found some of the men using
their rifles for this purpose last year, and had to fulminate about
it.) To follow out the argument, there was no rule in Lord Hainault's
house that the children should always come in and see their aunt dress
for a ball. But they always did; and Lady Hainault herself, though she
could be perfectly determined, never dared to question their right.

They behaved very well. Flora brought in a broken picture-broom, which,
stuck into an old straw hat of Archy's, served her for feathers. She
also made unto herself a newspaper fan. Gus had an old twelfth-cake
ornament on his breast for a star, and a tape round his neck for a
garter. In this guise they represented the Duke and Duchess of Cheshire,
and received their company in a corner, as good as gold. As for Archy,
he nursed his cat, sucked his thumb, and looked at his aunt.

Mary was "by way of" helping Lady Hainault's maid, but she was very
clumsy about it, and her hands shook a good deal. Lady Hainault, at last
looking up, saw that she was deadly pale, and crying. So, instead of
taking any notice, she dismissed the children as soon as she could, as a
first step towards being left alone with Mary.

Gus and Flora, finding that they must go, changed the game, and made
believe that they were at court, and that their aunt was the Queen. So
they dexterously backed to the door, and bowed themselves out. Archy was
lord chamberlain, or gold stick, or what not, and had to follow them in
the same way. He was less successful, for he had to walk backwards,
sucking his thumb, and nursing his cat upside down (she was a patient
cat, and was as much accustomed to be nursed that way as any other). He
got on very well till he came to the door, when he fell on the back of
his head, crushing his cat and biting his thumb to the bone. Gus and
Flora picked him up, saying that lord chamberlains never cried when they
fell on the backs of their heads. But Archy, poor dear, was obliged to
cry a little, the more so as the dear cat had bolted upstairs, with her
tail as big as a fox's, and Archy was afraid she was angry with him,
which seemed quite possible. So Mary had to go out and take him to the
nursery. He would stop his crying, he said, if she would tell him the
story of Ivedy Avedy. So she told it him quite to the end, where the
baffled old sorcerer, Gongolo, gets into the plate-warmer, with his
three-farthings and the brass soup-ladle, shuts the door after him, and
disappears for ever. After which she went down to Lady Hainault's room
again.

Lady Hainault was alone now. She was sitting before her dressing-table,
with her hands folded, apparently looking at herself in the glass. She
took no notice of what she had seen; though, now they were alone
together, she determined that Mary should tell her what was the
matter--for, in truth, she was very anxious to know. She never looked at
Mary when she came in; she only said--

"Mary, my love, how do I look?"

"I never saw you look so beautiful before," said Mary.

"I am glad of that. Hainault is so ridiculously proud of me, that I
really delight in looking my best. Now, Mary, let me have the necklace;
that is all, I believe, unless you would like me to put on a little
rouge."

Mary tried to laugh, but could not. Her hands were shaking so that the
jewels were clicking together as she held them. Lady Hainault saw that
she must help her to speak, but she had no occasion; the necklace helped
her.

It was a very singular necklace, a Hainault heirloom, which Lady
Hainault always wore on grand occasions to please her husband. There was
no other necklace like it anywhere, though some folks who did not own it
said it was old-fashioned, and should be reset. It was a collar of nine
points, the ends of brilliants, running upwards as the points broadened
into larger rose diamonds. The eye, catching the end of the points, was
dazzled with yellow light, which faded into red as the rays of the
larger roses overpowered the brilliants; and at the upper rim the soft
crimson haze of light melted, overpowered, into nine blazing great
rubies. It seemed, however, a shame to hide such a beautiful neck by
such a glorious bauble.

Mary was trying to clasp it on, but her fingers failed, and down went
the jewels clashing on the floor. The next moment she was down too, on
her knees, clutching Lady Hainault's hand, and saying, or trying to say,
in spite of a passionate burst of sobbing, "Lady Hainault, let me see
him; let me see him, or I shall die."

Lady Hainault turned suddenly upon her, and laid her disengaged hand
upon her hair. "My little darling," she said, "my pretty little bird."

"You must let me see him. You could not be so cruel. I always loved him,
not like a sister, oh! not like a sister, woe to me. As you love Lord
Hainault; I know it now."

"My poor little Mary. I always thought something of this kind."

"He is coming to-night. He sails to-morrow or next day, and I shall
never see him again."

"Sails! where for?"

"I don't know; he does not say. But you must let me see him. He don't
dream I care for him, Lady Hainault. But I must see him, or I shall
die."

"You shall see him; but who is it? Any one I know?"

"Who is it? Who could it be but Charles Ravenshoe?"

"Good God! Coming here to-night! Mary, ring the bell for Alwright. Send
round to South Audley Street for Lord Saltire, or William Ravenshoe, or
some of them. They are dying to catch him. There is something more in
their eagerness than you or I know of. Send at once, Mary, or we shall
be too late. When does he come? Get up, my dear. My poor little Mary. I
am so sorry. Is he coming here? And how soon will he come, dear? Do be
calm. Think what we may do for him. He should be here now. Stay, I will
write a note--just one line. Where is my blotting-book? Alwright, get my
blotting-book. And stay; say that, if any one calls for Miss Corby, he
is to be shown into the drawing-room at once. Let us go there, Mary."

Alwright had meanwhile, not having heard the last sentence, departed to
the drawing-room, and possessed herself of Lady Hainault's portfolio,
meaning to carry it up to the dressing-room; then she had remembered the
message about any one calling being shown up to the drawing-room, and
had gandered down to the hall to give it to the porter; after which she
gandered upstairs to the dressing-room again, thinking that Lady
Hainault was there, and missing both her and Mary from having gone
downstairs. So, while she and Mary were looking for the blotting-book
impatiently in the drawing-room, the door was opened, and the servant
announced, "A gentleman to see Miss Corby."

He had discreetly said a gentleman, for he did not like to say an
Hussar. Mary turned round and saw a man all scarlet and gold before her,
and was frightened, and did not know him. But when he said "Mary," in
the old, old voice, there came such a rush of bygone times, bygone
words, scenes, sounds, meetings and partings, sorrows and joys, into her
wild, warm little heart, that, with a low, loving, tender cry she ran to
him and hid her face on his bosom.[6]

And Lady Hainault swept out of the room after that unlucky
blotting-book. And I intend to go after her, out of mere politeness, to
help her to find it. I will not submit to be lectured for making an
aposiopesis. If any think they could do this business better than I, let
them communicate with the publishers, and finish the story for
themselves. I decline to go into that drawing-room at present. I shall
wander upstairs into my lady's chamber, after that goosey-gander
Alwright, and see what she has done with the blotting-book.

Lady Hainault found the idiot of a woman in her dressing-room, looking
at herself in the glass, with the blotting-book under her arm. The maid
looked as foolish as people generally do who are caught looking at
themselves in the glass. (How disconcerting it is to be found standing
on a chair before the chimney-glass, just to have a look at your entire
figure before going to a party!)[7] But Lady Hainault said nothing to
her; but, taking the book from under her arm, she sat down and fiercely
scrawled off a note to Lord Saltire, to be opened by any of them, to say
that Charles Ravenshoe was then in her house, and to come in God's name.

"I have caged their bird for them," she said out loud when she had just
finished and was folding up the letter; "they will owe me a good turn
for this."

The maid, who had no notion anything was the matter, had been
surreptitiously looking in the glass again, and wondering whether her
nose was really so very red after all. When Lady Hainault spoke thus
aloud to herself, she gave a guilty start, and said, "Immediately, my
lady," which you will perceive was not exactly appropriate to the
occasion.

"Don't be a goose, my good old Alwright, and don't tread on my necklace,
Alwright; it is close at your feet."

So it was. Lying where Mary had dropped it. Alwright thought she must
have knocked it off the dressing-table; but when Lady Hainault told her
that Miss Corby had dropped it there, Alwright began to wonder why her
Ladyship had not thought it worth while to pick it up again.

"Put it on while I seal this letter will you? I cannot trust you,
Alwright; I must go myself." She went out of the room and quickly down
stairs to the hall. All this had taken but a few minutes; she had
hurried as much as was possible, but the time seems longer to us,
because, following my usual plan of playing the fool on important
occasions, I have been telling you about the lady's-maid's nose. She
went down quickly to the hall, and sent off one of the men to South
Audley Street, with her note, giving him orders to run all the way, and
personally to see Lady Ascot, or some one else of those named. After
this she came upstairs again.

When she came to the drawing-room door, Charles was standing at it.
"Lady Hainault," he said, "would you come here, please? Poor Mary has
fainted."

"Poor thing," said Lady Hainault. "I will come to her. One word, Mr.
Ravenshoe. Oh, do think one instant of this fatal, miserable resolution
of yours. Think how fond we have all been of you. Think of the love that
your cousin and Lady Ascot bear for you, and communicate with them. At
all events, stay ten minutes more, and see one of them. I must go to
poor Mary."

"Dear Lady Hainault, you will not change my resolution to stand alone.
There is a source of disgrace you probably know nothing of. Besides,
nothing short of an Order in Council could stop me now. We sail for the
East in twenty-four hours."

They had just time for this, very hurriedly spoken, for poor little Mary
had done what she never had done before in her life, fainted away. Lady
Hainault and Charles went into the drawing-room.

Just before this, Alwright, coming downstairs, had seen her most sacred
mistress standing at the drawing-room door, talking familiarly and
earnestly to a common soldier. Her ladyship had taken his hand in hers,
and was laying her other hand upon his breast. Alwright sat down on the
stairs.

She was a poor feeble thing, and it was too much for her. She was
Casterton-bred, and had a feeling for the honour of the family. Her
first impulse was to run to Lord Hainault's dressing-room door and lock
him in. Her next was to rock herself to and fro and moan. She followed
the latter of these two impulses. Meanwhile, Lady Hainault had succeeded
in bringing poor Mary to herself. Charles had seen her bending over the
poor little lifeless body, and blessed her. Presently Lady Hainault
said, "She is better now, Mr. Ravenshoe; will you come and speak to
her?" There was no answer. Lady Hainault thought Charles was in the
little drawing-room, and had not heard her. She went there. It was dimly
lighted, but she saw in a moment that it was empty. She grew frightened,
and hurriedly went out on to the stairs. There was no one there. She
hurried down, and was met by the weeping Alwright.

"He is safe out of the house, my lady," said that brilliant genius. "I
saw him come out of the drawing-room, and I ran down and sent the hall
porter on a message, and let him out myself. Oh, my lady! my lady!"

Lady Hainault was a perfect-tempered woman, but she could not stand
this. "Alwright," she said, "you are a perfect, hopeless, imbecile
idiot. Go and tell his lordship to come to me instantly. Instantly! do
you hear? I wouldn't," she continued to herself when Alwright was gone,
"face Lord Saltire alone after this for a thousand pounds."

What was the result of Charles's interview with Mary? Simply this. The
poor little thing had innocently shown him, in a way he could not
mistake, that she loved him with all her heart and soul. And, when he
left that room, he had sworn an oath to himself that he would use all
his ingenuity to prevent her ever setting eyes on him again. "I am low
and degraded enough now," he said to himself; "but if I gave that poor
innocent child the opportunity of nourishing her love for me, I should
be too low to live."

He did not contemplate the possibility, you see, of raising himself to
her level. No. He was too much broken down for that. Hope was dead
within him. He had always been a man of less than average strength of
will; and two or three disasters--terrible disasters they were,
remember--had made him such as we see him, a helpless, drifting log upon
the sea of chance. What Lord Welter had said was terribly true, "Charles
Ravenshoe is broken-hearted." But to the very last he was a just,
honourable, true, kind-hearted man. A man in ten thousand. Call him
fool, if you will. I cannot gainsay you there. But when you have said
that you have finished.

Did he love Mary? Yes, from this time forward, he loved her as she loved
him; and, the darker the night grew, that star burned steadily and more
steadily yet. Never brighter, perhaps, than when it gleamed on the
turbid waters, which whelm the bodies of those to whose eyesight all
stars have set for ever.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

IN WHICH CUTHBERT BEGINS TO SEE THINGS IN A NEW LIGHT.


The stream at Ravenshoe was as low as they had ever seen it, said the
keeper's boys, who were allowed to take artists and strangers up to see
the waterfall in the wood. The artists said that it was more beautiful
than ever; for now, instead of roaring headlong over the rocks in one
great sheet beneath the quivering oak leaves, it streamed and spouted
over and among the black slabs of slate in a million interlacing jets.
Yes, the artists were quite satisfied with the state of things; but the
few happy souls who had dared to ask Cuthbert for a day or so of
salmon-fishing were not so well satisfied by any means. While the
artists were saying that this sort of thing, you know, was the sort of
thing to show one how true it was that beauty, life, and art, were terms
co-ordinate, synonymous, inseparable--that these made up the sum of
existence--that the end of existence was love, and what was love but the
worship of the beautiful (or something of this sort, for your artist is
but a mortal man, like the rest of us, and is apt, if you give him
plenty of tobacco on a hot day, to get uncommon hazy in his
talk)--while, I say, the artists were working away like mad, and
uttering the most beautiful sentiments in the world, the anglers were,
as old Master Lee up to Slarrow would have said, "dratting" the scenery,
the water, the weather, the beer, and existence generally, because it
wouldn't rain. If it had rained, you see, the artists would have left
talking about the beautiful, and begun "dratting" in turn; leaving the
anglers to talk about the beautiful as best they might. Which fact gives
rise to moral reflections of the profoundest sort. But every one, except
the discontented anglers, would have said that it was heavenly summer
weather. The hay was all got in without one drop of rain on it. And now,
as one glorious, cloudless day succeeded another, all the land seemed
silently swelling with the wealth of the harvest. Fed by gentle dews at
night, warmed by the genial sun by day, the corn began to turn from grey
to gold, and the distant valleys which spread away inland, folded in the
mighty grey arms of the moor, shone out gallantly with acre beyond acre
of yellow wheat and barley. A still, happy time.

And the sea! Who shall tell the beauty of the restless Atlantic in such
weather? For nearly three weeks there was a gentle wind, now here, now
there, which just curled the water, and made a purple shadow for such
light clouds as crept across the blue sky above. Night and morning the
fishing-boats crept out and in. Never was such a fishing season. The
mouth of the stream was crowded with salmon, waiting to get up the first
fresh. You might see them as you sailed across the shallow sand-bank,
the delta of the stream, which had never risen above the water for forty
years, yet which now, so still had been the bay for three weeks, was
within a foot of the surface at low tide.

A quiet, happy time. The three old Master Lees lay all day on the sand,
where the fishing-boats were drawn up, and had their meals brought to
them by young male relatives, who immediately pulled off every rag of
clothes they had, and went into the water for an hour or two. The
minding of these 'ere clothes, and the looking out to sea, was quite
enough employment for these three old cronies. They never fell out once
for three weeks. They used to talk about the war, or the cholera, which
was said to be here, or there, or coming, or gone. But they cared little
about that. Ravenshoe was not a cholera place. It had never come there
before, and they did not think that it was coming now. They were quite
right; it never came. Cuthbert used his influence, and got the folks to
move some cabbage stalks, and rotten fish, just to make sure, as he
said. They would have done more for him than that just now; so it was
soon accomplished. The juvenile population, which is the pretty way of
saying the children, might have offered considerable opposition to
certain articles of merchandise being removed without due leave obtained
and given; but, when it was done, they were all in the water as naked as
they were born. When it was over they had good sense enough to see that
it could not be helped. These sweeping measures of reform, however, are
apt to bear hard on particular cases. For instance, young James Lee,
great-grandson of Master James Lee up to Slarrow, lost six dozen (some
say nine, but that I don't believe) of oyster-shells, which he was
storing up for a grotto. Cuthbert very properly refunded the price of
them, which amounted to twopence.

"Nonsense, again," you say. Why, no! What I have written above is not
nonsense. The whims and oddities of a village; which one has seen with
one's own eyes, and heard with one's own ears, are not nonsense. I knew,
when I began, what I had to say in this chapter, and I have just
followed on a train of images. And the more readily, because I know that
what I have to say in this chapter must be said without effort to be
said well.

If I thought I was writing for a reader who was going to criticise
closely my way of telling my story, I tell you the honest truth, I
should tell my story very poorly indeed. Of course I must submit to the
same criticism as my betters. But there are times when I feel that I
must have my reader go hand in hand with me. To do so, he must follow
the same train of ideas as I do. At such times I write as naturally as I
can. I see that greater men than I have done the same. I see that
Captain Marryat, for instance, at a particular part of his noblest
novel, "The King's Own," has put in a chapter about his grandmother and
the spring tides, which, for perfect English and rough humour, it is
hard to match anywhere.

I have not dared to play the fool, as he has, for two reasons. The
first, that I could not play it so well, and the second, that I have no
frightful tragedy to put before you, to counterbalance it, as he had.
Well, it is time that this rambling came to an end. I hope that I have
not rambled too far, and bored you. That would be very unfortunate just
now.

Ravenshoe Bay again, then--in the pleasant summer drought I have been
speaking of before. Father Mackworth and the two Tiernays were lying on
the sand, looking to the sea. Cuthbert had gone off to send away some
boys who were bathing too near the mouth of the stream and hunting his
precious salmon. The younger Tiernay had recently taken to collect
"common objects of the shore"--a pleasant, healthy mania which prevailed
about that time. He had been dabbling among the rocks at the western end
of the bay, and had just joined his brother and Father Mackworth with a
tin-box full of all sorts of creatures, and he turned them out on the
sand and called their attention to them.

"A very good morning's work, my brother," he said. "These anemones are
all good and rare ones."

"Bedad," said the jolly priest, "they'd need be of some value, for they
ain't pretty to look at; what's this cockle now wid the long red spike
coming out of him?"

"Cardium tuberculatum."

"See here, Mackworth," said Tiernay, rolling over toward him on the sand
with the shell in his hand.

"Here's the rid-nosed oysther of Carlingford. Ye remember the legend
about it, surely?"

"I don't, indeed," said Mackworth, angrily, pretty sure that Father
Tiernay was going to talk nonsense, but not exactly knowing how to stop
him.

"Not know the legend!" said Father Tiernay. "Why, when Saint Bridget was
hurrying across the sand, to attend St. Patrick in his last illness,
poor dear, this divvle of a oysther was sunning himself on the shore,
and, as she went by, he winked at her holiness with the wicked eye of
'um, and he says, says he, 'Nate ankles enough, anyhow,' he says. 'Ye're
drunk, ye spalpeen,' says St. Bridget, 'to talk like that to an honest
gentlewoman.' 'Sorra a bit of me,' says the oysther. 'Ye're always
drunk,' says St. Bridget. 'Drunk yourself,' says the oysther; 'I'm
fastin from licker since the tide went down.' 'What makes your nose so
red, ye scoundrel?' says St. Bridget: 'No ridder nor yer own,' says the
oysther, getting angry. For the Saint was stricken in years, and
red-nosed by rayson of being out in all weathers, seeing to this and to
that. 'Yer nose is red through drink,' says she, 'and yer nose shall
stay as rid as mine is now, till the day of judgment.' And that's the
legend about St. Bridget and the Carlingford oysther, and ye ought to be
ashamed that ye never heard it before."

"I wish, sir," said Mackworth, "that you could possibly stop yourself
from talking this preposterous, indecent nonsense. Surely the first and
noblest of Irish Saints may claim exemption from your clumsy wit."

"Begorra, I'm catching it, Mr. Ravenshoe," said Tiernay.

"What for?" said Cuthbert, who had just come up.

"Why, for telling a legend. Sure, I made it up on the spot. But it is
none the worse for that; d'ye think so, now?"

"Not much the better, I should think," said Cuthbert, laughing.

"Allow me to say," said Mackworth, "that I never heard such shameless,
blasphemous nonsense in my life."

The younger Tiernay was frightened, and began gathering up his shells
and weeds. His handsome weak face was turned towards the great, strong,
coarse face of his brother, with a look of terror, and his fingers
trembled as he put the sea-spoils into his box. Cuthbert, watching them
both, guessed that sometimes Father Tiernay could show a violent,
headlong temper, and that his brother had seen an outbreak of this kind
and trembled for one now. It was only a guess, probably a good one; but
there were no signs of such an outbreak now. Father Tiernay only lay
back on the sand and laughed, without a cloud on his face.

"Bedad," he said, "I've been lying on the sand, and the sun has got into
my stomach and made me talk nonsense. When I was a gossoon, I used to
sleep with the pig; and it was a poor, feeble-minded pig, as never got
fat on petaty skins. If folly's catchin', I must have caught it from
that pig. Did ye ever hear the legend of St. Laurence O'Toole's
wooden-legged sow, Mackworth?"

It was evident, after this, that the more Mackworth fulminated against
good Father Tiernay's unutterable nonsense, the more he would talk; so
he rose and moved sulkily away. Cuthbert asked him, laughing, what the
story was.

"Faix," said Tiernay, "I ain't sure, principally because I haven't had
time to invent it; but we've got rid of Mackworth, and can now discourse
reasonable."

Cuthbert sent a boy up to the hall for some towels, and then lay down on
the sand beside Tiernay. He was very fond of that man in spite of his
reckless Irish habit of talking nonsense. He was not alone there. I
think that every one who knew Tiernay liked him.

They lay on the sand together those three; and, when Father Mackworth's
anger had evaporated, he came back and lay beside him. Tiernay put his
hand out to him, and Mackworth shook it, and they were reconciled. I
believe Mackworth esteemed Tiernay, though they were so utterly unlike
in character and feeling. I know that Tiernay had a certain admiration
for Mackworth.

"Do you think, now," said Tiernay, "that you Englishmen enjoy such a
scene and such a time as this as much as we Irishmen do? I cannot tell.
You talk better about it. You have a dozen poets to our one. Our best
poet, I take it, is Tommy Moore. You class him as third-rate; but I
doubt, mind you, whether you feel nature as acutely as we do."

"I think we do," said Cuthbert, eagerly. "I cannot think that you can
feel the beauty of the scene we are looking at more deeply than I do.
You feel nature as in 'Silent O'Moyle'; we feel it as in Keats' 'St.
Agnes' Eve!'"

He was sitting up on the sand, with his elbows on his knees, and his
face buried in his hands. None of them spoke for a time; and he, looking
seaward, said idly, in a low voice--

      "'St. Agnes' Eve. Ah! bitter chill it was.
      The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
      The hare limped, trembling, through the frozen grass;
      And drowsy was the flock in woolly fold.'"

What was the poor lad thinking of? God knows. There are times when one
can't follow the train of a man's thoughts--only treasure up their
spoken words as priceless relics.

His beautiful face was turned towards the dying sun, and in that face
there was a look of such kindly, quiet peace, that they who watched it
were silent, and waited to hear what he would say.

The western headland was black before the afternoon sun, and, far to
sea, Lundy lay asleep in a golden haze. All before them the summer sea
heaved between the capes, and along the sand, and broke in short crisp
surf at their feet, gently moving the seaweed, the sand, and the shells.

"'St. Agnes' Eve,'" he said again. "Ah, yes! that is one of the poems
written by Protestants which help to make men Catholics. Nine-tenths of
their highest religious imagery is taken from Catholicism. The English
poets have nothing to supply the place of it. Milton felt it, and wrote
about it; yes, after ranging through all heathendom for images he comes
home, to us at last:--

      "'Let my due feet never fail
      To walk the studious cloisters pale,
      And love the high embowed roof,
      With antique pillars massy proof,
      And storied windows, richly dight,
      Casting a dim religious light.'"

"Yes; he could feel for that cloister life. The highest form of human
happiness! We have the poets with us, at all events. Why, what is the
most perfect bijou of a poem in the English language? Tennyson's 'St.
Agnes.' He had to come to us."

The poor fellow looked across the sea, which was breaking in crisp
ripples at his feet among the seaweed, the sand, and the shells; and as
they listened, they heard him say, almost passionately--

      "'Break up the heavens, oh, Lord! and far
        Through all yon starlight keen
      Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star
        In raiment white and clean.'

"They have taken our churches from us, and driven us into
Birmingham-built chapels. They sneer at us, but they forget that we
built their arches and stained their glass for them. Art has revenged
herself on them for their sacrilege by quitting earth in disgust. They
have robbed us of our churches and our revenues, and turned us out on
the world. Ay, but we are revenged. They don't know the use of them now
they have got them; and the only men who could teach them, the
Tractarians, are abused and persecuted by them for their superior
knowledge."

So he rambled on, looking seaward; at his feet the surf playing with the
sand, the seaweed, and the shells.

He made a very long pause, and then, when they thought that he was
thinking of something quite different, he suddenly said--

"I don't believe it matters whether a man is buried in the chancel or
out of it. But they are mad to discourage such a feeling as that, and
not make use of it. Am I the worse man because I fancy that, when I lay
there so quiet, I shall hear above my head the footfalls of those who go
to kneel around the altar? What is it one of them says--

      "'Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
      The chalice of the grapes of God.'"

He very seldom spoke so much as this. They were surprised to hear him
ramble on so; but it was an afternoon in which it was natural to sit
upon the shore and talk, saying straight on just what came uppermost--a
quiet, pleasant afternoon; an afternoon to lie upon the sand and conjure
up old memories.

"I have been rambling, haven't I," he said presently. "Have I been
talking aloud, or only thinking?"

"You have been talking," said Tiernay, wondering at such a question.

"Have I? I thought I had been only thinking. I will go and bathe, I
think, and clear my head from dreams. I must have been quoting poetry,
then," he added, smiling.

"Ay, and quoting it well, too," said Tiernay.

A young fisherman was waiting with a boat, and the lad had come with his
towels. He stepped lazily across the sand to the boat, and they shoved
off.

Besides the murmur of the surf upon the sand, playing with the shells
and seaweed; besides the shouting of the bathing boys; besides the
voices of the home-returning fishermen, carried sharp and distinct along
the water; besides the gentle chafing of the stream among the pebbles,
was there no other sound upon the beach that afternoon? Yes, a sound
different to all these. A loud-sounding alarm drum, beating more rapidly
and furiously each moment, but only heard by one man, and not heeded by
him.

The tide drawing eastward, and a gentle wind following it, hardly enough
to fill the sails of the lazy fishing-boats and keep them to their
course. Here and there among the leeward part of the fleet, you might
hear the sound of an oar working in the row-locks, sleepily coming over
the sea and mingling harmoniously with the rest.

The young man with Cuthbert rowed out a little distance, and then they
saw Cuthbert standing in the prow undressing himself. The fishing-boats
near him luffed and hurriedly put out oars, to keep away. The Squire was
going to bathe, and no Ravenshoe man was ill-mannered enough to come
near.

Those on the shore saw him standing stripped for one moment--a tall
majestic figure. Then they saw him plunge into the water and begin
swimming.

And then;--it is an easy task to tell it. They saw his head go under
water, and, though they started on their feet and waited till seconds
grew to minutes and hope was dead, it never rose again. Without one cry,
without one struggle, without even one last farewell wave of the hand,
as the familiar old landscape faded on his eyes for ever, poor Cuthbert
went down; to be seen no more until the sea gave up its dead. The poor
wild, passionate heart had fluttered itself to rest for ever.

The surf still gently playing with the sand, the sea changing from
purple to grey, and from grey to black, under the fading twilight. The
tide sweeping westward towards the tall black headland, towards the
slender-curved thread of the new moon, which grew more brilliant as the
sun dipped to his rest in the red Atlantic.

Groups of fishermen and sea boys and servants, that followed the ebbing
tide as it went westward, peering into the crisping surf to see
something they knew was there. One group that paused among the tumbled
boulders on the edge of the retreating surges, under the dark
promontory, and bent over something which lay at their feet.

The naked corpse of a young man, calm and beautiful in death, lying
quiet and still between two rocks, softly pillowed on a bed of green and
purple seaweed. And a priest that stood upon the shore, and cried wildly
to the four winds of heaven. "Oh, my God, I loved him! My God! my God! I
loved him!"



CHAPTER XLIX.

THE SECOND COLUMN OF "THE TIMES" OF THIS DATE, WITH OTHER MATTERS.


      "TOMATO. Slam the door!"

      "EDWARD. Come at once; poor Maria is in sad distress.
      Toodlekins stole!!!!"

      "J. B. can return to his deeply afflicted family if he
      likes, or remain away if he likes. The A F, one and all,
      will view either course with supreme indifference. Should
      he choose the former alternative, he is requested to be as
      quick as possible. If the latter, to send the key of the
      cellaret."

      "LOST. A little black and tan lady's lap dog. Its real name
      is Pussy, but it will answer to the name of Toodlekins
      best. If any gentleman living near Kensal Green, or Kentish
      Town, should happen, perfectly accidentally of course, to
      have it in his possession, and would be so good as to bring
      it to 997, Sloane Street, I would give him a sovereign and
      welcome, and not a single question asked, upon my honour."

It becomes evident to me that the dog Toodlekins mentioned in the second
advertisement, is the same dog alluded to in the fourth; unless you
resort to the theory that two dogs were stolen on the same day, and that
both were called Toodlekins. And you are hardly prepared to do that, I
fancy. Consequently, you arrive at this, that the "Maria" of the second
advertisement is the "little black and tan lady" of the fourth. And
that, in 1854, she lived at 997, Sloane Street. Who was she? Had she
made a fortune by exhibiting herself in a caravan, like Mrs. Gamp's
spotted negress, and taken a house in Sloane Street, for herself,
Toodlekins, and the person who advertised for Edward to come and comfort
her? Again, who was Edward? Was he her brother? Was he something nearer
and dearer? Was he enamoured of her person or her property? I fear the
latter. Who could truly love a little black and tan lady?

Again. The wording of her advertisement gives rise to this train of
thought. Two persons must always be concerned in stealing a dog--the
person who steals the dog, and the person who has the dog stolen;
because, if the dog did not belong to any one, it is evident that no one
could steal it. To put it more scientifically, there must be an active
and a passive agent. Now, I'll bet a dirty old dishcloth against the
_New York Herald_, which is pretty even betting, that our little black
and tan friend, Maria, had been passive agent in a dog-stealing case
more than once before this, or why does she mention these two
localities? But we must get on to the other advertisements.

      "LOST. A large white bull-dog, very red about the eyes:
      desperately savage. Answers to the name of 'Billy.' The
      advertiser begs that any person finding him will be very
      careful not to irritate him. The best way of securing him
      is to make him pin another dog, and then tie his four legs
      together and muzzle him. Any one bringing him to the Coach
      and Horses, St. Martin's Lane, will be rewarded."

He seems to have been found the same day, and by some one who was a bit
of a wag; for the very next advertisement runs thus:

      "FOUND. A large white bull-dog, very red about the eyes;
      desperately savage. The owner can have him at once, by
      applying to Queen's Mews, Belgrave Street, and paying the
      price of the advertisement and the cost of a new pad groom,
      aged 18, as the dog has bitten one so severely about the
      knee that it is necessary to sell him at once to drive a
      cab."

      "LOST. Somewhere between Mile-end Road and Putney Bridge,
      an old leathern purse, containing a counterfeit sixpence, a
      lock of hair in a paper, and a twenty-pound note. Any one
      bringing the note to 267, Tylney Street, Mayfair, may keep
      the purse and the rest of its contents for their trouble."

This was a very shabby advertisement. The next, though coming from an
attorney's office, is much more munificent. It quite makes one's mouth
water, and envy the lucky fellow who would answer it.

      "ONE HUNDRED GUINEAS REWARD. Register wanted. To parish
      clerks. Any person who can discover the register of
      marriage between Petre Ravenshoe, Esq. of Ravenshoe, in the
      county of Devon, and Maria Dawson, which is supposed to
      have been solemnised in or about the year 1778, will
      receive the above reward, on communicating with Messrs.
      Compton and Brogden, Solicitors, 2004, Lincoln's Inn
      Fields."

Tomato slammed the door as he was told. Edward dashed up to 997, Sloane
Street, in a hansom cab, just as the little black and tan lady paid one
sovereign to a gentleman in a velveteen shooting-coat from Kentish Town,
and hugged Toodlekins to her bosom. J. B. came home to his afflicted
family with the key of the cellaret. The white bull-dog was restored to
the prize-fighter, and the groom-lad received shin-plaster and was sent
home tipsy. Nay, even an honest man, finding that the note was stopped,
took it to Tylney Street, and got half-a-crown. But no one ever answered
the advertisement of Lord Saltire's solicitor about the marriage
register. The long summer dragged on. The square grew dry and dusty;
business grew slack, and the clerks grew idle; but no one came. As they
sat there drinking ginger-beer, and looking out at the parched lilacs
and laburnums, talking about the theatres, and the war, and the cholera,
it grew to be a joke with them. When any shabby man in black was seen
coming across the square, they would say to one another, "Here comes the
man to answer Lord Saltire's advertisement." Many men in black, shabby
and smart, came across the square and into the office; but none had a
word to say about the marriage of Petre Ravenshoe with Maria Dawson,
which took place in the year 1778.

Once, during that long sad summer, the little shoeblack thought he would
saunter up to the house in South Audley Street, before which he had
waited so long one night to meet Charles, who had never come. Not
perhaps with any hope. Only that he would like to see the place which
his friend had appointed. He might come back there some day; who could
tell?

Almost every house in South Audley Street had the shutters closed. When
he came opposite Lord Ascot's house, he saw the shutters were closed
there too. But more; at the second storey there was a great painted
board hung edgeways, all scarlet and gold. There was some writing on it,
too, on a scroll. He could spell a little now, thanks to the
ragged-school, and he spelt out "Christus Salvator meus." What could
that mean? he wondered.

There was an old woman in the area, holding two of the rails in her
hands, and resting her chin on the kerb-stone, looking along the hot
desolate street. Our friend went over and spoke to her.

"I say, missus," he said, "what's that thing up there?"

"That's the scutching, my man," said she.

"The scutching?"

"Ah! my lord's dead. Died last Friday week, and they've took him down to
the country house to bury him."

"My lord?" said the boy; "was he the one as used to wear top-boots, and
went for a soger?"

The old woman had never seen my lord wear top-boots. Had hearn tell,
though, as his father used to, and drive a coach and four in 'em. None
of 'em hadn't gone for soldiers, neither.

"But what's the scutching for?" asked the boy.

They put it for a year, like for a monument, she said. She couldn't say
what the writing on it meant. It was my lord's motter, that was all she
knowd. And, being a tender-hearted old woman, and not having the fear of
thieves before her eyes, she had taken him down into the kitchen and fed
him. When he returned to the upper regions, he was "collared" by a
policeman, on a charge of "area sneaking," but, after explanations, was
let go, to paddle home, barefooted, to the cholera-stricken court where
he lived, little dreaming, poor lad, what an important part he was
accidentally to play in this history hereafter.

They laid poor Lord Ascot to sleep in the chancel at Ranford, and Lady
Ascot stood over the grave like a grey, old storm-beaten tower. "It is
strange, James," she said to Lord Saltire that day, "you and I being
left like this, with the young ones going down around us like grass.
Surely our summons must come soon, James. It's weary, weary waiting."



CHAPTER L.

SHREDS AND PATCHES.


Lord Welter was now Lord Ascot. I was thinking at one time that I would
continue to call him by his old title, as being the one most familiar to
you. But, on second thoughts, I prefer to call him by his real name, as
I see plainly that to follow the other course would produce still worse
confusion. I only ask that you will bear his change of title in mind.
The new Lady Ascot I shall continue to call Adelaide, choosing rather to
incur the charge of undue familiarity with people so far above me in
social position, than to be answerable for the inevitable confusion
which would be caused by my speaking, so often as I shall have to speak,
of two Ladies Ascot, with such a vast difference between them of age and
character.

Colonel Whisker, a tenant of Lord Ascot's, had kindly placed his house
at the disposal of his lordship for his father's funeral. Never was
there a more opportune act of civility, for Ranford was dismantled; and
the doors of Casterton were as firmly closed to Adelaide as the gates of
the great mosque at Ispahan to a Christian.

Two or three days after Lord Ascot's death, it was arranged that he
should be buried at Ranford. That night the new Lord Ascot came to his
wife's dressing-room, as usual, to plot and conspire.

"Ascot," said she, "they are all asked to Casterton for the funeral. Do
you think she will ask me?"

"Oh dear no," said Lord Ascot.

"Why not?" said Adelaide. "She ought to. She is civil enough to me."

"I tell you I know she won't. He and I were speaking about it to-day."

He was looking over her shoulder into the glass, and saw her bite her
lip.

"Ah," said she. "And what did he say?"

"Oh, he came up in his infernal, cold, insolent way, and said that he
should be delighted to see me at Casterton during the funeral, but Lady
Hainault feared that she could hardly find rooms for Lady Ascot and her
maid."

"Did you knock him down? Did you kick him? Did you take him by the
throat and knock his hateful head against the wall?" said Adelaide, as
quietly as if she was saying "How d'ye do?"

"No, my dear, I didn't," said Lord Ascot. "Partly, you see, because I
did not know how Lord Saltire would take it. And remember, Adelaide, I
always told you that it would take years, years, before people of that
sort would receive you."

"What did you say to him?"

"Well, as much as you could expect me to say. I sneered as insolently,
but much more coarsely, than he could possibly sneer; and I said that I
declined staying at any house where my wife was not received. And so we
bowed and parted."

Adelaide turned round and said, "That was kind and manly of you, Welter.
I thank you for that, Welter."

And so they went down to Colonel Whisker's cottage for the funeral. The
colonel probably knew quite how the land lay, for he was a man of the
world, and so he had done a very good-natured action just at the right
time. She and Lord Ascot lived for a fortnight there, in the most
charming style; and Adelaide used to make him laugh, by describing what
it was possible the other party were doing up at the solemn old
Casterton. She used to put her nose in the air and imitate young Lady
Hainault to perfection. At another time she would imitate old Lady
Hainault and her disagreeable sayings equally well. She was very amusing
that fortnight, though never affectionate. She knew that was useless;
but she tried to keep Lord Ascot in good humour with her. She had a
reason. She wanted to get his ear. She wanted him to confide entirely to
her the exact state of affairs between Lord Saltire and himself. Here
was Lord Ascot dead, Charles Ravenshoe probably at Alyden in the middle
of the cholera, and Lord Saltire's vast fortune, so to speak, going
a-begging. If he were to be clumsy now--now that the link formed by his
father, Lord Ascot, between him and Lord Saltire was taken away--they
were ruined indeed. And he was so terribly outspoken!

And so she strained her wits, till her face grew sharp and thin, to keep
him in good humour. She had a hard task at times; for there was
something lying up in the deserted house at Ranford which made Lord
Ascot gloomy and savage now and then, when he thought of it. I believe
that the man, coarse and brutal as he was, loved his father, in his own
way, very deeply.

A night or so after the funeral, there was a dressing-room conference
between the two; and, as the conversation which ensued was very
important, I must transcribe it carefully.

When he came up to her, she was sitting with her hands folded on her
lap, looking so perfectly beautiful that Lord Ascot, astonished and
anxious as he was at that moment, remarked it, and felt pleased at, and
proud of, her beauty. A greater fool than she might probably have met
him with a look of love. She did not. She only raised her great eyes to
his, with a look of intelligent curiosity.

He drew a chair up close to her, and said--

"I am going to make your hair stand bolt up on end, Adelaide, in spite
of your bandoline."

"I don't think so," said she; but she looked startled, nevertheless.

"I am. What do you think of this?"

"This? I think that is the _Times_ newspaper. Is there anything in it?"

"Read," said he, and pointed to the list of deaths. She read.

"Drowned, while bathing in Ravenshoe Bay, Cuthbert Ravenshoe, Esq., of
Ravenshoe Hall. In the faith that his forefathers bled and died
for.--R.I.P."

"Poor fellow!" she said, quietly. "So _he's_ gone, and brother William,
the groom, reigns in his stead. That is a piece of nonsense of the
priests about their dying for the faith. I never heard that any of them
did that. Also, isn't there something wrong about the grammar?"

"I can't say," said Lord Ascot. "I was at Eton, and hadn't the advantage
that you had of learning English grammar. Did you ever play the game of
trying to read the _Times_ right across, from one column to another, and
see what funny nonsense it makes?"

"No. I should think it was good fun."

"Do it now."

She did. Exactly opposite the announcement of Cuthbert's death was the
advertisement we have seen before--Lord Saltire's advertisement for the
missing register.

She was attentive and eager enough now. After a time, she said, "Oho!"

Lord Ascot said, "Hey! what do you think of that, Lady Ascot?"

"I am all abroad."

"I'll see if I can fetch you home again. Petre Ravenshoe, in 1778,
married a milkmaid. She remembered the duties of her position so far as
to conveniently die before any of the family knew what a fool he had
made of himself; but so far forgot them as to give birth to a boy, who
lived to be one of the best shots, and one of the jolliest old cocks I
ever saw--Old James, the Ravenshoe keeper. Now, my dearly beloved
grandmother Ascot is, at this present speaking, no less than eighty-six
years old, and so, at the time of the occurrence, was a remarkably
shrewd girl of ten. It appears that Petre Ravenshoe, sneaking away here
and there with his pretty Protestant wife, out of the way of the
priests, and finding life unendurable, not having had a single chance to
confess his sins for two long years, came to the good-natured Sir Cingle
Headstall, grandmamma's papa, and opened his griefs, trying to persuade
him to break the matter to that fox-hunting old Turk of a father of his,
Howard. Sir Cingle was too cowardly to face the old man for a time; and
before the pair of them could summon courage to speak, the poor young
thing died at Manger Hall, where they had been staying with the
Headstalls some months. This solved the difficulty, and nothing was said
about the matter. Petre went home. They had heard reports about his
living with a woman and having had a baby born. They asked very few
questions about the child or his mother, and of course it was all
forgotten conveniently, long before his marriage with my grandaunt, Lady
Alicia Staunton, came on the tapis, which took place in 1782, when
grandma was fourteen years of age. Now grandma had, as a girl of ten,
heard this marriage of Petre Ravenshoe with Maria Dawson discussed in
her presence, from every point of view, by her father and Petre. Night
and morning, at bed-time, at meal-times, sober, and very frequently
drunk. She had heard every possible particular. When she heard of his
second marriage (my mouth is as dry as dust with this talking; ring the
bell, and send your maid down for some claret and water)--when she heard
of his second marriage, she never dreamt of saying anything, of
course--a chit of fourteen, with a great liability to having her ears
boxed. So she held her tongue. When, afterwards, my grandfather made
love to her, she held it the tighter, for my grandaunt's sake, of whom
she was fond. Petre, after a time, had the boy James home to Ravenshoe,
and kept him about his own person. He made him his gamekeeper, treated
him with marked favour, and so on; but the whole thing was a sort of
misprision of felony, and poor silly old grandma was a party to it."

"You are telling this very well, Ascot," said Adelaide. "I will, as a
reward, go so far out of my usual habits as to mix you some claret and
water. I am not going to be tender, you know; but I'll do so much. Now
that's a dear, good fellow; go on."

"Now comes something unimportant, but inexplicable. Old Lady Hainault
knew it, and held _her_ tongue. How or why is a mystery we cannot
fathom, and don't want to. Grandma says that she would have married
Petre herself, and that her hatred for grandma came from the belief that
grandma could have stopped the marriage with my grandaunt by speaking.
After it was over, she thinks that Lady Hainault had sufficient love
left for Petre to hold her tongue. But this is nothing to the purpose.
This James, the real heir of Ravenshoe, married an English girl, a
daughter of a steward on one of our Irish estates, who had been born in
Ireland, and was called Nora. She was, you see, Irish enough at heart;
for she committed the bull of changing her own child, poor dear Charles,
the real heir, for his youngest cousin, William, by way of bettering his
position, and then confessed the whole matter to the priest. Now this
new discovery would blow the honest priest's boat out of the water;
but----"

"Yes!"

"Why, grandma can't, for the life of her, remember where they were
married. She is certain that it was in the north of Hampshire, she says.
Why or wherefore, she can't say. She says they resided the necessary
time, and were married by license. She says she is sure of it, because
she heard him, more than once, say to her father that he had been so
careful of poor Maria's honour, that he sent her from Ravenshoe to the
house of the clergyman who married them, who was a friend of his;
farther than this she knows nothing."

"Hence the advertisement, then. But why was it not inserted before?"

"Why, it appears that, when the whole _esclandre_ took place, and when
you, my Lady Ascot, jilted the poor fellow for a man who is not worth
his little finger, she communicated with Lord Saltire at once, and the
result was, that she began advertising in so mysterious a manner that
the advertisement was wholly unintelligible. It appears that she and
Lord Saltire agreed not to disturb Cuthbert till they were perfectly
sure of everything. But, now he is dead, Lord Saltire has insisted on
instantly advertising in a sensible way. So you see his advertisement
appears actually in the same paper which contains Cuthbert's death, the
news of which William got the night before last by telegraph."

"William, eh? How does he like the cup being dashed from his lips like
this?"

Lord Ascot laughed. "That ex-groom is a born fool, Lady Ascot. He loves
his foster-brother better than nine thousand a year, Lady Ascot. He is
going to start to Varna, and hunt him through the army and bring him
back."

"It is incredible," said Adelaide.

"I don't know. I might have been such a fool myself once, who knows?"

"Who knows indeed," thought Adelaide, "who knows now?" "So," she said
aloud, "Charles is heir of Ravenshoe after all."

"Yes. You were foolish to jilt him."

"I was. Is Alyden healthy?"

"You know it is not. Our fellows are dying like dogs."

"Do they know what regiment he is in?"

"They think, from Lady Hainault's and Mary Corby's description, that it
is the 140th."

"Why did not William start on this expedition before?"

"I don't know. A new impulse. They have written to all sorts of
commanding officers, but he won't turn up till he chooses, if I know him
right."

"If William brings him back?"

"Why, then he'll come into nine, or more probably twelve thousand a
year. For those tin lodes have turned up trumps."

"And the whole of Lord Saltire's property?"

"I suppose so."

"And we remain beggars?"

"I suppose so," said Lord Ascot. "It is time to go to bed, Lady Ascot."

This is exactly the proper place to give the results of William's
expedition to Varna. He arrived there just after the army had gone
forward. Some men were left behind invalided, among whom were two or
three of the 140th. One of these William selected as being a likely man
from whom to make inquiries.

He was a young man, and, likely enough, a kind-hearted one; but when he
found himself inquired of by a handsome, well-dressed young gentleman,
obviously in search of a missing relative, a lying spirit entered into
him, and he lied horribly. It appeared that he had been the intimate and
cherished comrade of Charles Horton (of whom he had never heard in his
life). That they had ridden together, drunk together, and slept side by
side. That he had nursed him through the cholera, and then (seeing no
other way out of the maze of falsehood in which he had entangled
himself), that he assisted to bury him with his own hands. Lastly, lying
on through mere recklessness, into desperation, and so into a kind of
sublimity, he led William out of the town, and pointed out to him
Charles's untimely grave. When he saw William pick some dry grass from
the grave, when he saw him down on his knees, with his cheek on the
earth, then he was sorry for what he had done. And, when he was alone,
and saw William's shadow pass across the blazing white wall, for one
instant, before he went under the dark gateway of the town, then the
chinking gold pieces fell from his hand on the burning sandy ground, and
he felt that he would have given them, and ten times more, to have
spoken the truth.

So Charles was dead and buried, was he? Not quite yet, if you please.
Who is this riding, one of a gallant train, along the shores of the bay
of Eupatoria towards some dim blue mountains? Who is this that keeps
looking each minute to the right, at the noble fleet which is keeping
pace with the great scarlet and blue rainbow which men call the allied
armies? At the great cloud of smoke floating angrily seaward, and the
calm waters of the bay beaten into madness by three hundred throbbing
propellers?



CHAPTER LI.

IN WHICH CHARLES COMES TO LIFE AGAIN.


Ha! This was a life again. Better this than dawdling about at the heels
of a dandy, or sitting on a wheelbarrow in a mews! There is a scent here
sweeter than that of the dunghill, or the dandy's essences--what is it?
The smell of tar, and bilge water, and red herrings. There is a fresh
whiff of air up this narrow street, which moves your hair, and makes
your pulse quicken. It is the free wind of the sea. At the end of the
street are ships, from which comes the clinking of cranes; pleasanter
music sometimes than the song of nightingales.

Down the narrow street towards the wharf come the hussars. Charles is
among them. On the wharf, in the confusion, foremost, as far as he dare,
to assist. He was known as the best horseman in the troop, and, as such,
was put into dangerous places. He had attracted great attention among
the officers by his fearlessness and dexterity. The captain had openly
praised him; and, when the last horse had been slung in, and the last
cheer given, and the great ship was away down the river, on her message
of wrath, and woe, and glory, Charles was looking back at Southampton
spires, a new man with a new career before him.

The few months of degradation, of brooding misery, of listlessness and
helplessness he had gone through, made this short episode in his life
appear the most happy and most beautiful of all. The merest clod of a
recruit in the regiment felt in some way ennobled and exalted: but as
for Charles, with his intensely, sensitive, romantic nature, he was
quite, as the French say, _tête montée_. The lowest menial drudgery was
exalted and glorified. Groom his horse and help clean the deck? Why not?
That horse must carry him in the day of the merry meeting of heroes.
Hard living, hard work, bad weather, disease, death: what were they,
with his youth, health, strength, and nerve? Not to be thought of save
with a smile. Yes! this expedition of his to the Crimea was the noblest,
and possibly the happiest in his life. To use a borrowed simile, it was
like the mournful, beautiful autumn sunset, before the dark night closes
in. He felt like a boy at midsummer, exploring some wood, or distant
valley, watched from a distance long, and at last attained; or as one
feels when, a stranger in a new land, one first rides forth alone into
the forest on some distant expedition, and sees the new world, dreamt of
and longed for all one's life, realised in all its beauty and wonder at
last; and expanding leaf by leaf before one. In a romantic state of
mind. I can express it no better.

And really it is no wonder that a man, not sea-sick, should have been in
a state of wonder, eager curiosity, kindliness, and, above all, high
excitement--which four states of mind, I take it, make up together the
state of mind called romantic, quixotic, or chivalrous; which is a very
pleasant state of mind indeed. For curiosity, there was enough to make
the dullest man curious. Where were they going? Where would the blow be
struck? Where would the dogs of war first fix their teeth? Would it be a
campaign in the field, or a siege, or what? For kindliness: were not his
comrades a good set of brave, free-hearted lads, and was not he the
favourite among them? As for wonder and excitement, there was plenty of
that, and it promised to last. Why, the ship herself was a wonder. The
biggest in the world, carrying 500 men and horses; and every man in the
ship knew, before she had been five hours at sea, that that
quiet-looking commander of hers was going to race her out under steam
the whole way. Who could tire of wondering at the glimpse one got down
the iron-railed well into the machinery, at the busy cranks and leaping
pistons, or, when tired of that, at the strange dim vista of swinging
horses between decks? Wonder and excitement enough here to keep twenty
Don Quixotes going! Her very name too was romantic--HIMALAYA.

A north-east wind and a mountain of rustling white canvas over head.
Blue water that seethed and creamed, and roared past to leeward. A calm,
and the Lizard to the north, a dim grey cape. A south-west wind, and
above a mighty cobweb of sailless rigging. Top-gallant masts sent down
and yards close hauled. Still, through it all, the busy clack and rattle
of the untiring engine.

A dim wild sunset, and scudding prophet clouds that hurried from the
west across the crimson zenith, like witches towards a sabbath. A wind
that rose and grew as the sun went down, and hummed loud in the rigging
as the bows of the ship dipped into the trough of the waves, and failed
almost into silence as she raised them. A night of storm and terror: in
the morning, the tumbling broken seas of Biscay. A few fruit brigs
scudding wildly here and there; and a cape on a new land. A high round
down, showing a gleam of green among the flying mists.

Sail set again before a northerly wind, and the ship rolling before it
like a jolly drunkard. Then a dim cloud of smoke before them. Then the
great steamer _Bussorah_, thundering forward against the wind, tearing
furiously at the leaping seas with her iron teeth. A hurried glimpse of
fluttering signals, and bare wet empty decks; and, before you had time
to say what a noble ship she was, and what good weather she was making
of it, only a cloud of smoke miles astern.

Now, a dark line, too faint for landsmen's eyes, far ahead, which
changed into a loom of land, which changed into a cloud, which changed
into a dim peak towering above the sea mists, which changed into a tall
crag, with a town, and endless tiers of white fortification--Gibraltar.

Then a strong west wind for three days, carrying the ship flying before
it with all plain sail set. And each day, at noon, a great excitement on
the quarter-deck, among the officers. On the third day much cheering and
laughter, and shaking of hands with the commander. Charles, catching an
opportunity, took leave to ask his little friend the cornet, what it
meant. The _Himalaya_ had run a thousand miles in sixty-three hours.[8]

And now at sunrise an island is in sight, flat, bald, blazing yellow in
the morning sun, with a solitary, flat-topped mass of buildings just in
the centre, which the sailors say is Civita Vecchia; and, as they sweep
round the southern point of it, a smooth bay opens, and there is a
flat-roofed town rising in tiers from the green water--above heavier
fortifications than those of Gibralter, Charles thinks, but wrongly.
Right and left, two great forts, St. Elmo and St. Angelo, say the
sailors; and that flight of stone steps, winding up into the town, is
the Nix Mangare stairs. A flood of historical recollections comes over
Charles, and he recognises the place as one long known and very dear to
him. On those very stairs, Mr. Midshipman Easy stood and resolved that
he would take a boat and sail to Gozo. What followed on his resolution
is a matter of history. Other events have taken place at Malta, about
which Charles was as well informed as the majority, but Charles did not
think of them; not even of St. Paul and the viper, or the old windy
dispute, in Greek Testament lecture, at Oxford, between this Melita and
the other one off the coast of Illyricum. He thought of Midshipman Easy,
and felt as if he had seen the place before.

I suppose that, if I knew my business properly, I should at this point
represent Charles as falling down the companion-ladder and spraining his
ankle, or as having over-eaten himself, or something of that sort, and
so pass over the rest of the voyage by saying that he was confined to
his bunk, and saw no more of it. But I am going to do nothing of the
sort, for two reasons. In the first place, because he did not do
anything of the kind; and in the next, because he saw somebody at
Constantinople, of whom I am sure you will be glad to hear again.

Charles had seen Tenedos golden in the east, and Lemnos purple in the
west, as the sun went down; then, after having steamed at half-speed
through the Dardanelles, was looking the next evening at Constantinople,
and at the sun going down behind the minarets, and at all that sort of
thing, which is no doubt very beautiful, but of which one seems to have
heard once or twice before. The ship was lying at anchor, with fires
banked, and it was understood that they were waiting for a Queen's
messenger.

They could see their own boat, which they had sent to wait for him at
Seraglio Point. One of the sailors had lent Charles a telescope--a
regular old brute of a telescope, with a crack across the object-glass.
Charles was looking at the boat with it, and suddenly said, "There he
is."

He saw a small grey-headed man, with moustaches, come quickly down and
get into the boat, followed by some Turks with his luggage. This was
Colonel Oldhoss, the Queen's messenger; but there was another man with
him, whom Charles recognised at once. He handed the telescope to the man
next him, and walked up and down the deck rapidly.

"I _should_ like to speak to him," he thought, "if it were only one
word. Dear old fellow. But then he will betray me, and they will begin
persecuting me at home, dear souls. I suppose I had better not. No. If I
am wounded and dying I will send for him. I will not speak to him now."

The Queen's messenger and his companion came on board, and the ship got
under way and steamed through the Bosphorus out into the wild seething
waves of the "Fena Kara degniz," and Charles turned in without having
come near either of them. But in the chill morning, when the ship's head
was north-west, and the dawn was flushing up on the distant Thracian
sierra, Charles was on deck, and, while pausing for an instant in his
duties, to look westward, and try to remember what country and what
mountains lay to the north-west of Constantinople, a voice behind him
said quietly, "Go, find me Captain Croker, my man." He turned, and was
face to face with General Mainwaring.

It was only for an instant, but their eyes met; the general started, but
he did not recognise him. Charles's moustache had altered him so much
that it was no great wonder. He was afraid that the general would seek
him out again, but he did not. These were busy times. They were at Varna
that night.

Men were looking sourly at one another. The French expedition had just
come in from Kustendji in a lamentable state, and the army was rotting
in its inactivity. You know all about that as well as I can tell you;
what is of more importance to us is, that Lieutenant Hornby had been
down with typhus, and was recovering very slowly, so that Charles's
chances of meeting him were very small.

What am I to do with this three weeks or more at Varna to which I have
reduced Charles, you, and myself? Say as little about it as need be, I
should say. Charles and his company were, of course, moved up at once to
the cavalry camp at Devna, eighteen miles off, among the pleasant hills
and woodlands. Once, his little friend, the young cornet, who had taken
a fancy for him, made him come out shooting with him to carry his bag.
And they scrambled and clambered, and they tore themselves with thorns,
and they fell down steep places, and utterly forgot their social
positions towards one another. And they tried to carry home every object
which was new to them, including a live turtle and a basaltic column.
And they saw a green lizard, who arched his tail and galloped away like
a racehorse, and a grey lizard, who let down a bag under his chin and
barked at them like a dog. And the cornet shot a quail, and a hare, and
a long-tailed francolin, like a pheasant, and a wood-pigeon. And,
lastly, they found out that, if you turned over the stones, there were
scorpions under them, who tucked their claws under their armpits, as a
man folds his arms, and sparred at them with their tails, drawing their
sting in and out, as an experienced boxer moves his left hand when
waiting for an attack. Altogether, they had a glorious day in a new
country, and did not remember in what relation they were to one another
till they topped the hill above Devna by moonlight, and saw the two long
lakes, stretching towards the sea, broken here and there into silver
ripples by the oars of the commissariat boats. A happy innocent
schoolboy day--the sort of day which never comes if we prepare for it
and anticipate it, but which comes without warning, and is never
forgotten.

Another day the cornet had business in Varna, and he managed that
Charles should come with him as orderly; and with him, as another
orderly, went the young lad who spoke about his sister in the pot-house
of Windsor; for this lad was another favourite of the cornet's, being a
quiet, gentlemanly lad, in fact a favourite with everybody. A very
handsome lad, too. And the three went branking bravely down the
hill-side, through the woodlands, over the streaming plain, into the
white dirty town. And the cornet must stay and dine with the mess of the
42nd, and so Charles and the other lad might go where they would. And
they went and bathed, and then, when they had dressed, they stood
together under the burning white wall, looking over the wicked Black
Sea, smoking. And Charles told his comrade about Ravenshoe, about the
deer, and the pheasants, and the blackcock, and about the big trout that
lay nosing up into the swift places, in the cool clear water. And
suddenly the lad turned on him, with his handsome face livid with agony
and horror, and clutched him convulsively by both arms, and prayed him,
for God Almighty's sake----

There, that will do. We need not go on. The poor lad was dead in four
hours. The cholera was very prevalent at Varna that month, and those who
dawdled about in the hot sun, at the mouth of the filthy drains of that
accursed hole, found it unto their cost. We were fighting, you see, to
preserve the town to those worthless dirty Turks, against the valiant,
noble, but, I fear, equally dirty Russians. The provoking part of the
Russian war was, that all through we respected and liked our gallant
enemies far more than we did the useless rogues for whom we were
fighting. Moreover, our good friends the French seem to have been more
struck by this absurdity than ourselves.

I only mentioned this sad little incident to show that this Devna life
among the pleasant woodlands was not all sunshine; that now and then
Charles was reminded, by some tragedy like this, that vast masses of men
were being removed from ordinary occupations and duties into an unusual
and abnormal mode of life; and that Nature was revenging herself for the
violation of her laws.

You see that we have got through this three weeks more pleasantly than
they did at Varna. Charles was sorry when the time came for breaking up
the camp among the mountain woodlands. The more so, as it had got about
among the men that they were only to take Sebastopol by a sudden attack
in the rear, and spend the winter there. There would be no work for the
cavalry, every one said.

It is just worthy of notice how, when one once begins a vagabond life,
one gets attached to a place where one may chance to rest even for a
week. When one gets accustomed to a change of locality every day for a
long while, a week's pause gives one more familiarity with a place than
a month's residence in a strange house would give if one were habitually
stationary. This remark is almost a platitude, but just worth writing
down. Charles liked Devna, and had got used to it, and parted from it as
he would from a home.

This brings us up to the point where, after his death and burial, I have
described him as riding along the shore of the Bay of Eupatoria,
watching the fleet. The 140th had very little to do. They were on the
extreme left; on the seventeenth they thought they were going to have
some work, for they saw 150 of the lancers coming in, driving a lot of
cattle before them, and about 1,000 Cossacks hanging on their rear. But,
when some light dragoons rode leisurely out to support them, the
Cossacks rode off, and the 140th were still condemned to inactivity.

Hornby had recovered, and was with the regiment. He had not recognised
Charles, of course. Even if he had come face to face with him, it was
almost unlikely that he would have recognised him in his moustache. They
were not to meet as yet.

In the evening of the nineteenth there was a rumble of artillery over
the hill in front of them, which died away in half an hour. Most of the
rest of the cavalry were further to the front of the extreme left, and
were "at it," so it was understood, with the Cossacks. But the 140th
were still idle.

On the morning of the twentieth, Charles and the rest of them, sitting
in their saddles, heard the guns booming in front and on the right. It
became understood among the men that the fleet was attacking some
batteries. Also, it was whispered that the Russians were going to stand
and fight. Charles was sixth man from the right of the rear rank of the
third troop. He could see the tails of the horses immediately before
him, and could remark that his front-rank man had a great patch of oil
on the right shoulder of his uniform. He could also see Hornby in the
troop before him.

These guns went moaning on in the distance till half-past one; but still
they sat there idle. About that time there was a new sound in the air,
close on their right, which made them prick up their ears and look at
one another. Even the head of the column could have seen nothing, for
they were behind the hill. But all could hear, and guess. We all know
that sound well enough now. You hear it now, thank God, on every village
green in England when the cricket is over. Crack, crack! Crack, crack!
The noise of advancing skirmishers.

And so it grew from the right towards the front, towards the left, till
the air was filled with the shrill treble of musketry. Then, as the
French skirmished within reach of the artillery, the deep bass roared
up, and the men, who dared not whisper before, could shout at one
another without rebuke.

Louder again, as our artillery came into range. All the air was tortured
with concussion. Charles would have given ten years of his life to know
what was going on on the other side of the hill. But no. There they sat,
and he had to look at the back of the man before him; and at this time
he came to the conclusion that the patch of grease on his right shoulder
was of the same shape as the map of Sweden.

A long weary two hours or more was spent like this. Charles, by looking
forward and to the right, between the two right-hand men of the troop
before him, could see the ridge of the hill, and see the smoke rising
from beyond it, and drifting away to the left before the sea-breeze. He
saw an aide-de-camp come over that ridge and dismount beside the captain
of Hornby's troop, loosening his girths. They laughed together; then the
captain shouted to Hornby, and he laughed and waved his sword over his
head. After this, he was reduced to watching the back of the man before
him, and studying the map of Sweden. It was becoming evident that the
map of North America, if it existed, must be on his left shoulder, under
his hussar jacket, and that the Pacific Islands must be round in front,
about his left breast, when the word was given to go forward.

They advanced to the top of the hill, and wheeled. Charles, for one
instant, had a glimpse of the valley below, seething and roaring like a
volcano. Everywhere bright flashes of flame, single, or running along in
lines, or blazing out in volleys. The smoke, driven to the left by the
wind, hung across the valley like a curtain. On the opposite hill a ring
of smoke and fire, and in front of it a thin scarlet line disappearing.
That was all. The next moment they wheeled to the right, and Charles saw
only the back of the man before him, and the patch of grease on his
shoulder.

But that night was a night of spurs for them. Hard riding for them far
into the night. The field of the Alma had been won, and they were
ordered forward to harass the Cossacks, who were covering the rear of
the Russian army. They never got near them. But ever after, when the
battle of the Alma was mentioned before him, Charles at once used to
begin thinking of the map of Sweden.



CHAPTER LII.

WHAT LORD SALTIRE AND FATHER MACKWORTH SAID WHEN THEY LOOKED OUT OF THE
WINDOW.


"And how do you do, my dear sir?" said Lord Saltire.

"I enjoy the same perfect health as ever, I thank you, my lord," said
Father Mackworth. "And allow me to say, that I am glad to see your
lordship looking just the same as ever. You may have forgotten that you
were the greatest benefactor that I ever had. I have not."

"Nay, nay," said Lord Saltire. "Let bygones be bygones, my dear sir.
By-the-bye, Mr. Mackworth--Lord Hainault."

"I am delighted to see you at Casterton, Mr. Mackworth," said Lord
Hainault. "We are such rabid Protestants here, that the mere presence of
a Catholic ecclesiastic of any kind is a source of pleasurable
excitement to us. When, however, we get among us a man like you--a man
of whose talents we have heard so much, and a man personally endeared to
us, through the love he bore to one of us who is dead, we give him a
threefold welcome."

Lord Saltire used, in his _tête-à-têtes_ with Lady Ascot, to wish to Gad
that Hainault would cure himself of making speeches. He was one of the
best fellows in the world, but he would always talk as if he was in the
House of Lords. This was very true about Lord Hainault; but, although he
might be a little stilted in his speech, he meant every word he said,
and was an affectionate, good-hearted man, and withal, a clever one.

Father Mackworth bowed, and was pleased with the compliment. His nerve
was in perfect order, and he was glad to find that Lord Hainault was
well inclined towards him, though just at this time the Most Noble the
Marquis of Hainault was of less importance to him than one of the grooms
in the stable. What he required of himself just now was to act and look
in a particular way, and to do it naturally and without effort. His
genius rose to the situation. He puzzled Lord Saltire.

"This is a sad business," said Lord Saltire.

"A bitter business," said Mackworth. "I loved that man, my lord."

He looked suddenly up as he said it, and Lord Saltire saw that he was in
earnest. He waited for him to go on, watching him intently with his
eyelids half dropped over his grey eagle eyes.

"That is not of much consequence, though," said Father Mackworth.
"Speaking to a man of the world, what is more to the purpose is, to
hear what is the reason of your lordship's having sought this interview.
I am very anxious to know that, and so, if I appear rude, I must crave
forgiveness."

Lord Saltire looked at him minutely and steadily. How Mackworth looked
was of more importance to Lord Saltire than what he said. On the other
hand, Mackworth every now and then calmly and steadily raised his eyes
to Lord Saltire's, and kept them fixed there while he spoke to him.

"Not at all, my dear sir," said Lord Saltire. "If you will have business
first, however, which is possibly the best plan, we will have it, and
improve our acquaintance afterwards. I asked you to come to me to speak
of family matters. You have seen our advertisement?"

"I have, indeed," said Mackworth, looking up with a smile. "I was
utterly taken by surprise. Do you think that you can be right about this
marriage?"

"Oh! I am sure of it," said Lord Saltire.

"I cannot believe it," said Mackworth. "And I'll tell you why. If it
ever took place I _must_ have heard of it. Father Clifford, my
predecessor, was Petre Ravenshoe's confessor. I need not tell you that
he must have been in possession of the fact. Your knowledge of the world
will tell you how impossible it is that, in a house so utterly
priest-ridden as the House of Ravenshoe, an affair of such moment could
be kept from the knowledge of the father-confessor. Especially when the
delinquent, if I may so express myself, was the most foolishly bigoted,
and cowardly representative of that house which had appeared for many
generations. I assure you, upon my honour, that Clifford _must_ have
known it. And, if he had known of it, he must have communicated it to
me. No priest could possibly have died without leaving such a secret to
his successor; a secret which would make the owner of it--that is, the
priest--so completely the master of Ravenshoe and all in it. I confessed
that man on his death-bed, my lord," said Mackworth, looking quietly at
Lord Saltire, with a smile, "and I can only tell you, if you can bring
yourself to believe a priest, that there was not one word said about his
marriage."

"No?" said Lord Saltire, pensively looking out of the window. "And yet
Lady Ascot seems so positive."

"I sincerely hope," said Mackworth, "that she may be wrong. It would be
a sad thing for me. I am comfortable and happy at Ravenshoe. Poor dear
Cuthbert has secured my position there during my lifetime. The present
Mr. Ravenshoe is not so tractable as his brother, but I can get on well
enough with him. But in case of this story being true, and Mr. Charles
Horton coming back, my position would be untenable, and Ravenshoe would
be in Protestant hands for the first time in history. I should lose my
home, and the Church would lose one of its best houses in the west. The
best, in fact. I had sooner be at Ravenshoe than at Segur. I am very
much pleased at your lordship's having sought this conference. It shows
you have some trust in me, to consult me upon a matter in which my own
interests are all on one side."

Lord Saltire bowed. "There is another way to look at the matter, too, my
dear sir. If we prove our case, which is possible, and in case of our
poor dear Charles dying or getting killed, which is probable, why then
William comes in for the estate again. Suppose, now, such a possibility
as his dying without heirs; why, then, Miss Ravenshoe is the greatest
heiress in the West of England. Have you any idea where Miss Ravenshoe
is?"

Both Lord Saltire and Lord Hainault turned on him as the former said
this. For an instant Mackworth looked inquiringly from one to the other,
with his lips slightly parted, and said, "Miss Ravenshoe?" Then he gave
a half-smile of intelligence, and said, "Ah! yes; I was puzzled for a
moment. Yes, in that case poor Ellen would be Miss Ravenshoe. Yes, and
the estate would remain in Catholic hands. What a prospect for the
Church! A penitent heiress! The management of £12,000 a year! Forgive my
being carried away for a moment. You know I am an enthusiastic
Churchman. I have been bound, body and soul, to the Church from a child,
and such a prospect, even in such remote perspective, has dazzled me.
But I am afraid I shall see rather a large family of Ravenshoes between
me and such a consummation. William is going to marry."

"Then you do not know where poor Ellen is?" said Lord Saltire.

"I do not," said Mackworth; "but I certainly shall try to discover, and
most certainly I shall succeed. William might die on this very
expedition. You might prove your case. If anything were to happen to
William, I most certainly hope you may, and will give you every
assistance. For half a loaf is better than no bread. And besides,
Charles also might be killed, or die of cholera. As it is, I shall not
move in the matter. I shall not help you to bring a Protestant to
Ravenshoe. Now, don't think me a heartless man for talking like this; I
am nothing of the kind. But I am talking to two very shrewd men of the
world, and I talk as a man of the world; that is all."

At this point Lord Hainault said, "What is that?" and left the room.
Lord Saltire and Mackworth were alone together.

"Now, my dear sir," said Lord Saltire, "I am glad you have spoken merely
as a man of the world. It makes matters so much easier. You could help
us if you would."

Mackworth laughed. "Of course I could, my lord. I could bring the whole
force of the Catholic Church, at my back, to give assistance. With our
powers of organisation, we could discover all about the marriage in no
time (if it ever took place, which I don't choose to believe just now).
Why, it would pay us to search minutely every register in England, if it
were to keep such a house in the hands of the Church. But the Catholic
Church, in my poor person, politely declines to move all its vast
machinery, to give away one of its best houses to a Protestant."

"I never supposed that the dear old lady would do anything of the kind.
But, as for Mr. Mackworth, will nothing induce _him_ to move _his_ vast
machinery in our cause?"

"I am all attention, my lord."

"In case of our finding Charles, then?"

"Yes," said Mackworth, calmly.

"Twenty thousand?"

"No," said Mackworth. "It wouldn't do. Twenty million wouldn't do. You
see there is a difference between a soldier disguising himself, and
going into the enemy's camp, to lie, and it may be, murder, to gain
information for his own side, and the same soldier deserting to the
enemy, and giving information. The one is a hero, and the other a rogue.
I am a hero. You must forgive me for putting matters so coarsely, but
you distrust me so entirely that I am forced to do so."

"I do not think you have put it so coarsely," said Lord Saltire. "I have
to ask your forgiveness for this offer of money, which you have so nobly
refused. They say every man has his price. If this is the case, yours is
a very high one, and you should be valued accordingly."

"Now, my lord, before we conclude this interview, let me tell you two
things, which may be of advantage to you. The first is, that you cannot
buy a Jesuit."

"A Jesuit!"

"Ay. And the next thing is this. This marriage of Petre Ravenshoe is all
a fiction of Lady Ascot's brain. I wish you good morning, my lord."

There are two sides to every door. You grant that. A man cannot be in
two places at once. You grant that, without the exception made by the
Irish member. Very well then. I am going to describe what took place on
both sides of the library door at the conclusion of this interview.
Which side shall I describe first?

That is entirely as I choose, and I choose to describe the outside
first. The side where Father Mackworth was. This paragraph and the last
are written in imitation of the Shandean-Southey-Doctorian style. The
imitation is a bad one, I find, and approaches nearer to the lower style
known among critics as Swivellerism; which consists in saying the first
thing that comes into your head. Any style would be quite allowable,
merely as a rest to one's aching brain, after the dreadfully keen
encounter between Lord Saltire and Father Mackworth, recorded above.

When Mackworth had closed the library door behind him, he looked at it
for a moment, as if to see it was safe, and then his whole face
underwent a change. It grew haggard and anxious, and, as he parted his
lips to moisten them, the lower one trembled. His eyes seemed to grow
more prominent, and a leaden ring began to settle round them; he paused
in a window, and raised his hand towards his head. When he had raised it
half way he looked at it; it was shaking violently.

"I am not the man I was," he said. "These great field-days upset me. My
nerve is going, God help me. It is lucky that I was really puzzled by
his calling her Miss Ravenshoe. If I had not been all abroad, I could
never have done so well. I must be very careful. My nerve ought not to
go like this. I have lived a temperate life in every way. Possibly a
little too temperate. I won't go through another interview of this kind
without wine. It is not safe.

"The chances are ten to one in favour of one never hearing of Charles
again, Shot and steel and cholera. Then William only to think of. In
that case I am afraid I should like to bring in the elder branch of the
family, to that young gentleman's detriment. I wish my nerve was better;
this irritability increases on me in spite of all my care. I wish I
could stand wine.

"Ravenshoe, with Ellen for its mistress, and Mackworth living there as
her master! A penitential devotee, and a clever man for confessor! And
twelve thousand a year! If we Jesuits were such villains as the
Protestants try to make us out, Master William would be unwise to live
in the house with me.

"I wonder if Lord Saltire guesses that I hold the clue in my hand. I
can't remember the interview, or what I said. My memory begins to go.
They should put a younger man in such a place. But I would not yield to
another man. No. The stakes are too high. I wish I could remember what I
said.

"Does William dream that, in case of Charles's death, he is standing
between me and the light? At all events, Lord Saltire sees it. I wonder
if I committed myself. I remember I was very honest and
straightforward? What was it I said at last? I have an uneasy feeling
about that, but I can't remember.

"I hope that Butler will keep the girl well in hand. If I was to get
ill, it would all rest with him. God! I hope I shall not get ill."

Now we will go to the other side of the door. Lord Saltire sat quietly
upright in his chair until the door was safely closed. Then he took a
pinch of snuff. He did not speak aloud, but he looked cunningly at the
door, and said to himself--

"Odd!"

Another pinch of snuff. Then he said aloud, "Uncommon curious, by Ged."

"What is curious?" said Lord Hainault, who had come into the room.

"Why, that fellow. He took me in to the last moment. I thought he was
going to be simply honest; but he betrayed himself by over-eagerness at
the end. His look of frank honesty was assumed; the real man came out in
the last sentence. You should have seen how his face changed, when he
turned sharply on me, after fancying he had lulled suspicion to sleep,
and told me that the marriage was a fiction. He forgot his manners for
the first time, and laid his hand upon my knee."

Lord Hainault said, "Do you think that he knows about the marriage?"

"I am sure he does. And he knows where Ellen is."

"Why?"

"Because I am sure of it."

"That is hardly a reason, my dear Lord Saltire. Don't you think, eh?"

"Think what?"

"Think that you are--well," said Lord Hainault, in a sort of
desperation, "are not you, my dear lord, to put it very mildly,
generalising from an insufficient number of facts? I speak with all
humility before one of the shrewdest men in Europe; but don't you think
so?"

"No, I don't," said Lord Saltire.

"I bow," said Lord Hainault. "The chances are ten to one that you are
right, and I am wrong. Did you make the offer?"

"Yes."

"And did he accept it?"

"Of course he didn't. I told you he wouldn't."

"That is strange, is it not?"

"No," said Lord Saltire.

Lord Hainault laughed, and then Lord Saltire looked up and laughed too.
"I like being rude to you, Hainault. You are so solemn."

"Well," said Lord Hainault with another hearty laugh. "And what are we
to do now?"

"Why, wait till William comes back," said Lord Saltire. "We can do
nothing till then, my dear boy. God bless you, Hainault. You are a good
fellow."

When the old man was left alone, he rose and looked out of the window.
The bucks were feeding together close under the windows; and, farther
off, under the shadow of the mighty cedars, the does and fawns were
standing and lying about lazily, shaking their broad ears and stamping
their feet. Out from the great rhododendron thickets, right and left of
the house, the pheasants were coming to spend the pleasant evening-tide
in running to and fro, and scratching at the ant-hills. The rabbits,
too, were showing out among the grass, scuttling about busily. The
peacock had lit down from the stable roof, and was elegantly picking his
way and dragging his sweeping train among the pheasants and the rabbits;
and on the topmost, copper-red, cedar-boughs, some guinea fowl were
noisily preparing for roost. One hundred yards from the window the park
seemed to end, for it dropped suddenly down in a precipitous, almost
perpendicular slope of turf, three hundred and fifty feet high, towards
the river, which you could see winding on for miles through the richly
wooded valley; a broad riband of silver, far below. Beyond, wooded
hills: on the left, endless folds of pearl-coloured downs; to the right,
the town, a fantastic grey and red heap of buildings, lying along from
the river, which brimmed full up to its wharves and lane ends; and, over
it, a lazy cloud of smoke, from which came the gentle booming of
golden-toned bells.

Casterton is not a show place. Lord Hainault has a whim about it. But
you may see just such a scene, with variations, of course, from
Park-place, or Hedsor, or Chiefden, or fifty other houses on the king of
rivers. I wonder when the tour of the Thames will become fashionable. I
have never seen anything like it, in its way. And I have seen a great
many things.

Lord Saltire looked out on all this which I have roughly described (for
a reason). And, as he looked, he spoke to himself, thus, or nearly so--

"And so I am the last of them all; and alone. Hardly one of them left.
Hardly one. And their sons are feeding their pheasants, and planting
their shrubberies still, as we did. And the things that were terrible
realities for us, are only printed words for them, which they try to
realise, but cannot. The thirty mad long years, through which we stood
with our backs to the wall, and ticketed as "the revolutionary wars,"
and put in a pigeon-hole. I wish they would do us justice. We _were_
right. Hainault's pheasants prove it. They must pay their twenty million
a year, and thank us that they have got off so easy.

"I wonder what _they_ would do, in such a pinch as we had. They seem to
be as brave as ever; but I am afraid of their getting too much
unbrutalised for another struggle like ours. I suppose I am wrong, for I
am getting too old to appreciate new ideas, but I am afraid of our
getting too soft. It is a bygone prejudice, I am afraid. One comfort is,
that such a struggle can never come again. If it did, they might have
the will to do all that we did, and more, but have they the power? This
extension of the suffrage has played the devil, and now they want to
extend it farther, the madmen! They'll end by having a House full of
Whigs. And then--why, then, I suppose, there'll be nothing but Whigs in
the House. That seems to me near about what will happen. Well! well! I
was a Whig myself once on a time.

"All gone. Every one of them. And I left on here, in perfect health and
preservation, as much an object of wonder to the young ones as a dodo
would be to a poultry-fancier. Before the effect of our deeds has been
fully felt, our persons have become strange, and out of date. But yet I,
strange to say, don't want to go yet. I want to see that Ravenshoe boy
again. Gad! how I love that boy. He has just Barkham's sweet, gentle,
foolish way with him. I determined to make him my heir from the first
time I saw him at Ranford, if he turned out well. If I had announced it,
everything would have gone right. What an endless series of unlucky
accidents that poor boy has had.

"Just like Barkham. The same idle, foolish, lovable creature, with anger
for nothing; only furious, blind indignation for injustice and wrong. I
wish he would come back. I am getting aweary of waiting.

"I wonder if I shall see Barkham again, just to sit with my arm on his
shoulder, as I used to on the terrace in old times. Only for one short
half-hour----"

I shall leave off here. I don't want to follow the kind old heathen
through his vague speculations about a future state. You see how he had
loved his son. You see why he loved Charles. That is all I wished to
show you.

"And if Charles don't come back? By Gad! I am very much afraid the
chances are against it. Well, I suppose, if the poor lad dies, I must
leave the money to Welter and his wife, if it is only for the sake of
poor Ascot, who was a good fellow. I wonder if we shall ever get at the
bottom of this matter about the marriage. I fancy not, unless Charles
dies, in which case Ellen will be re-instated by the priest.

"I hope William will make haste back with him. Old fellows like me are
apt to go off in a minute. And if he dies and I have not time to make a
will, the whole goes to the Crown, which will be a bore. I would sooner
Welter had it than that."

Lord Saltire stood looking out of the library window, until the river
looked like a chain of crimson pools, stretching westward towards the
sinking sun. The room behind him grew dark, and the marble pillars,
which divided it in unequal portions, stood like ghosts in the gloom. He
was hidden by the curtain, and presently he heard the door open, and a
light footstep stealthily approaching over the Turkey carpet. There was
a rustle of a woman's dress, and a moving of books on the centre table,
by some hand which evidently feared detection. Lord Saltire stepped from
behind his curtain, and confronted Mary Corby.



CHAPTER LIII.

CAPTAIN ARCHER TURNS UP.


"Do not betray me, my lord," said Mary, from out of the gloom.

"I will declare your malpractices to the four winds of heaven, Miss
Corby, as soon as I know what they are. Why, why do you come rustling
into the room, like a mouse in the dark? Tell me at once what this
hole-and-corner work means."

"I will not, unless you promise not to betray me, Lord Saltire."

"Now just think how foolish you are. How can I possibly make myself
particeps, of what is evidently a most dark and nefarious business,
without knowing beforehand what benefit I am to receive? You offer me no
share of booty; you offer me no advantage, direct or indirect, in
exchange for my silence, except that of being put into possession of
facts which it is probably dangerous to know anything about. How can you
expect to buy me on such terms as these?"

"Well, then, I will throw myself on your generosity. I want
_Blackwood_. If I can find _Blackwood_ now, I shall get a full hour at
it to myself while you are all at dinner. Do you know where it is?"

"Yes," said Lord Saltire.

"Do tell me, please. I do so want to finish a story in it. Please to
tell me where it is."

"I won't."

"Why not? How very unkind. We have been friends eight months now, and
you are just beginning to be cross to me. You see how familiarity breeds
contempt; you used to be so polite."

"I shan't tell you where _Blackwood_ is," said Lord Saltire, "because I
don't choose. I don't want you to have it. I want you to sit here in the
dark and talk to me, instead of reading it."

"I will sit and talk to you in the dark; only you must not tell ghost
stories."

"I want you to sit in the dark," said Lord Saltire, "because I want to
be '_vox et præterea nihil_.' You will see why, directly. My dear Mary
Corby, I want to have some very serious talk with you. Let us joke no
more."

Mary settled herself at once into the arm-chair opposite Lord Saltire,
and, resting her cheek on her hand, turned her face towards the empty
fireplace. "Now, my dear Lord Saltire," she said, "go on. I think I can
anticipate what you are going to say."

"You mean about Charles."

"Yes."

"Ah, that is only a part of what I have to say. I want to consult you
there, certainly; but that is but a small part of the business."

"Then I am curious."

"Do you know, then, I am between eighty and ninety years old?"

"I have heard so, my lord."

"Well then, I think that the voice to which you are now listening will
soon be silent for ever; and do not take offence; consider it as a dead
man's voice, if you will."

"I will listen to it as the voice of a kind living friend," said Mary.
"A friend who has always treated me as a reasonable being and an equal."

"That is true, Mary; you are so gentle and so clever, that is no wonder.
See here, you have no private fortune."

"I have my profession," said Mary, laughing.

"Yes, but your profession is one in which it is difficult to rise,"
said Lord Saltire, "and so I have thought it necessary to provide for
you in my will. For I must make a new one."

Poor Mary gave a start. The announcement was so utterly unexpected. She
did not know what to say or what to think. She had had long night
thoughts about poverty, old age, a life in a garret as a needlewoman,
and so on; and had many a good cry over them, and had never found any
remedy for them except saying her prayers, which she always found a
perfect specific. And here, all of a sudden, was the question solved!
She would have liked to thank Lord Saltire. She would have liked to kiss
his hand; but words were rather deficient. She tried to keep her tears
back, and she in a way succeeded; then in the honesty of her soul she
spoke.

"I will thank you more heartily, my lord, than if I went down on my
knees and kissed your feet. All my present has been darkened by a great
cloud of old age and poverty in the distance. You have swept that cloud
away. Can I say more?"

"On your life, not another word. I could have over-burdened you with
wealth, but I have chosen not to do so. Twenty thousand pounds will
enable you to live as you have been brought up. Believe an old man when
he says that more would be a plague to you."

"Twenty thousand pounds!"

"Yes. That will bring you in, you will find, about six hundred a year.
Take my word for it, it is quite enough. You will be able to keep your
brougham, and all that sort of thing. Believe me, you would not be happy
with more."

"More!" said Mary, quietly. "My lord, look here, and see what you have
done. When the children are going to sleep, I sit, and sew, and sing,
and, when they are gone to sleep, I still sit, and sew, and think. Then
I build my Spanish castles; but the highest tower of my castle has risen
to this--that in my old age I should have ten shillings a week left me
by some one, and be able to keep a canary bird, and have some old woman
as pensioner. And now--now--now. Oh! I'll be quiet in a moment. Don't
speak to me for a moment. God is very good."

I hope Lord Saltire enjoyed his snuff. I think that, if he did not, he
deserved to. After a pause Mary began again.

"Have I left on you the impression that I am selfish? I am almost afraid
I have. Is it not so? I have one favour to ask of you. Will you grant
it?"

"Certainly I will."

"On your honour, my lord."

"On my honour."

"Reduce the sum you have mentioned to one-fourth. I have bound you by
your honour. Oh, don't make me a great heiress; I am not fit for it."

Lord Saltire said, "Pish! If you say another word I will leave you ten
thousand more. To the deuce with my honour; don't talk nonsense."

"You said you were going to be quiet in a moment," he resumed presently.
"Are you quiet now?"

"Yes, my lord, quiet and happy."

"Are you glad I spoke to you in the dark?"

"Yes."

"You will be more glad that it was in the dark directly. Is Charles
Ravenshoe quite the same to you as other men?"

"No," said Mary; "that he most certainly is not. I could have answered
that question _to you_ in the brightest daylight."

"Humph!" said Lord Saltire. "I wish I could see him and you comfortably
married, do you know? I hope I speak plain enough. If I don't, perhaps
you will be so good as to mention it, and I'll try to speak a little
plainer."

"Nay; I quite understand you. I wonder if you will understand me, when I
say that such a thing is utterly and totally out of the question."

"I was afraid so. You are a pair of simpletons. My dear daughter (you
must let me call you so), you must contemplate the contingency I have
hinted at in the dark. I know that the best way to get a man rejected,
is to recommend him; I therefore, only say, that John Marston loves you
with his whole heart and soul, and that he is a _protégé_ of mine."

"I am speaking to you as I would to my own father. John Marston asked me
to be his wife last Christmas, and I refused him."

"Oh, yes. I knew all about that the same evening. It was the evening
after they were nearly drowned out fishing. Then there is no hope of a
reconsideration there?"

"Not the least," said Mary. "My lord, I will never marry."

"I have not distressed you?"

"Certainly not. You have a right to speak as you have. I am not a silly
hysterical girl either, that I cannot talk on such subjects without
affectation. But I will never marry; I will be an old maid. I will write
novels, or something of that sort. I will not even marry Captain Archer,
charm he never so wisely."

"Captain Archer! Who on earth is Captain Archer?"

"Don't you know Captain Archer, my lord?" replied Mary, laughing
heartily, but ending her laugh with a short sob. "Avast heaving! Bear a
hand, my hearties, and let us light this taper. I think you ought to
read his letter. He is the man who swam with me out of the cruel sea,
when the _Warren Hastings_ went down. That is who he is, Lord Saltire."
And at this point, little Mary, thoroughly unhinged by this strange
conversation, broke down, and began crying her eyes out, and putting a
letter into his hand, rose to leave the room.

He held the door open for her. "My dear Mary," he said, "if I have been
coarse or rude, you must try to forgive me."

"Your straightforward kindness," she said, "is less confusing than the
most delicate finesse." And so she went.

Captain Archer is one of the very best men I know. If you and I, reader,
continue our acquaintance, you will soon know more of him than you have
been able to gather from the pages of Ravenshoe. He was in person
perhaps the grandest and handsomest fellow you ever saw. He was gentle,
brave, and courteous. In short, the best example I have ever seen of the
best class of sailor. By birth he was a gentleman, and he had carefully
made himself a gentleman in manners. Neither from his dress, which was
always scrupulously neat and in good taste, nor from his conversation,
would you guess that he was a sailor, unless in a very select circle,
where he would, if he thought it pleased or amused, talk salt water by
the yard. The reason why he had written to Mary in the following style
was, that he knew she loved it, and he wished to make her laugh. Lord
Saltire set him down for a mad seaman, and nothing more. You will see
that he had so thoroughly obscured what he meant to say, that he left
Mary with the very natural impression that he was going to propose to
her.

He had done it, he said, from Port Philip Heads, in sixty-four days, at
last, in consequence of one of his young gentlemen (merchant midshipmen)
having stole a black cat in Flinder's-lane, and brought her aboard. He
had caught the westerly wind off the Leuwin and carried it down to 62°,
through the ice, and round the Horn, where he had met a cyclone, by
special appointment, and carried the outside edge of it past the
Auroras. That during this time it had blown so hard, that it was
necessary for three midshipmen to be on deck with him night and day, to
hold his hair on. That, getting too near the centre, he had found it
necessary to lay her to, which he had successfully done, by tying one of
his false collars in the fore weather-rigging. And so on. Giving an
absurd account of his whole voyage, evidently with the intention of
making her laugh.

He concluded thus: "And now, my dear Mary, I am going to surprise you. I
am getting rich, and I am thinking of getting married. Have you ever
thought of such a thing? Your present dependence must be irksome. Begin
to contemplate a change to a happier and freer mode of life. I will
explain more fully when I come to you. I shall have much to tell you
which will surprise you; but you know I love you, and only study your
happiness. When the first pang of breaking off old associations is over,
the new life, to such a quiet spirit as yours, becomes at first
bearable, then happy. A past is soon created. Think of what I have said,
before I come to you. Your future, my dear, is not a very bright one. It
is a source of great anxiety to me, who love you so dearly--you little
know how dearly."

I appeal to any young lady to say whether or no dear Mary was to blame
if she thought good, blundering Archer was going to propose to her. If
they give it against her, and declare that there is nothing in the above
letter leading to such a conclusion, I can only say that Lord Saltire
went with her and with me, and regarded the letter as written
preparatory to a proposal. Archer's dismay, when we afterwards let him
know this, was delightful to behold. His wife was put in possession of
the fact, by some one who shall be nameless, and I have heard that jolly
soul use her information against him in the most telling manner on
critical occasions.

But, before Captain Archer came, there came a letter from William, from
Varna, announcing Charles's death of cholera. There are melancholy
scenes, more than enough, in this book, and alas! one more to come: so I
may spare you the description of their woe at the intelligence, which we
know to be false. The letter was closely followed by William himself,
who showed them the grass from his grave. This helped to confirm their
impression of its truth, however unreasonable. Lord Saltire had a
correspondence with the Horse Guards, long and windy, which resulted,
after months, in discovering that no man had enlisted in the 140th under
the name of Horton. This proved nothing, for Charles might have enlisted
under a false name, and yet might have been known by his real name to an
intimate comrade.

Lord Saltire wrote to General Mainwaring. But, by the time his letter
reached him, that had happened which made it easy for a fool to count on
his fingers the number of men left in the 140th. Among the dead or among
the living, no signs of Charles Ravenshoe.

General Mainwaring was, as we all know, wounded on Cathcart's Hill, and
came home. The news which he brought about the doings of the 140th we
shall have from first hand. But he gave them no hope about Charles.

Lord Saltire and General Mainwaring had a long interview, and a long
consultation. Lord Hainault and the General witnessed his will. There
were some legacies to servants; twenty thousand pounds to Miss Corby;
ten thousand to John Marston; fifty thousand pounds to Lady Ascot; and
the rest, amounting in one way or another, to nearly five hundred
thousand pounds, was left to Lord Ascot (our old acquaintance, Lord
Welter) and his heirs for ever.

There was another clause in the will, carefully worded--carefully
guarded about by every legal fence which could be erected by law, and by
money to buy that law--to the effect that, if Charles should reappear,
he was to come into a fortune of eighty thousand pounds, funded
property.

Now please to mark this. Lord Ascot was informed by General Mainwaring
that, the death of Charles Ravenshoe being determined on as being a
fact, Lord Saltire had made his will in his (Lord Ascot's) favour. I
pray you to remember this. Lord Ascot knew no particulars, only that the
will was in his favour. If you do not keep this in mind, it would be
just as well if there had been no Lord Welter at all in the story.

Ravenshoe and its poor twelve thousand a year begin to sink into
insignificance, you see. But still we must attend to it. How did
Charles's death affect Mackworth? Rather favourably. The property could
not come into the hands of a Protestant now. William was a staunch
Catholic, though rebellious and disagreeable. If anything happened to
him, why, then there was Ellen to be produced. Things might have been
better, certainly, but they were certainly improved by that young cub's
death, and by the cessation of all search for the marriage register. And
so on. If you care to waste time on it, you may think it all through for
yourselves, as did not Father Mackworth.

And I'll tell you why. Father Mackworth had had a stroke of paralysis,
as men will have, who lead, as he did, a life of worry and excitement,
without taking proper nourishment; and he was lying, half idiotic, in
the priest's tower at Ravenshoe.



CHAPTER LIV.

CHARLES MEETS HORNBY AT LAST


Oh for the whispering woodlands of Devna! Oh for the quiet summer
evenings above the lakes, looking far away at the white-walled town on
the distant shore! No more hare-shooting, no more turtle-catching, for
you, my dear Charles. The allies had determined to take Sebastopol, and
winter in the town. It was a very dull place, every one said; but there
was a race-course, and there would be splendid boat-racing in the
harbour. The country about the town was reported to be romantic, and
there would be pleasant excursions in the winter to Simpheropol, a gayer
town than Sebastopol, and where there was more society. They were not
going to move till the spring, when they were to advance up the valley
of the Dnieper to Moscow, while a flying column was to be sent to follow
the course of the Don, cross to the Volga at Suratow, and so penetrate
into the Ural Mountains and seize the gold mines, or do something of
this sort; it was all laid out quite plain.

Now, don't call this _ex post facto_ wisdom, but just try to remember
what extravagant ideas every non-military man had that autumn about what
our army would do. The ministers of the King of Lernè never laid down a
more glorious campaign than we did. "I will," says poor Picrochole,
"give him fair quarter, and spare his life--I will rebuild Solomon's
Temple--I will give you Caramania, Syria, and all Palestine." "Ha!
sire," said they, "it is out of your goodness. Grammercy, we thank you."
We have had our little lesson about that kind of amusement. There has
been none of it in this American business; but our good friends the
other side of the Atlantic are worse than they were in the time of the
Pogram defiance. Either they don't file their newspapers, or else they
console themselves by saying that they could have done it all if they
had liked.

It now becomes my duty to use all the resources of my art to describe
Charles's emotions at the first sight of Sebastopol. Such an opportunity
for the display of beautiful language should not be let slip. I could do
it capitally by buying a copy of Mr. Russell's "War," or even by using
the correspondence I have on the table before me. But I think you will
agree with me that it is better left alone. One hardly likes to come
into the field in that line after Russell.

Balaclava was not such a pleasant place as Devna. It was bare and rocky,
and everything was in confusion, and the men were dying in heaps of
cholera. The nights were beginning to grow chill, too, and Charles began
to dream regularly that he was sleeping on the bare hill-side, in a
sharp frost, and that he was agonisingly cold about the small of his
back. And the most singular thing was, that he always woke and found his
dream come true. At first he only used to dream this dream towards
morning; but, as October began to creep on, he used to wake with it
several times in the night, and at last hardly used to go to sleep at
all for fear of dreaming it.

Were there no other dreams? No. No dreams, but one ever-present reality.
A dull aching regret for a past for ever gone. A heavy deadly grief,
lost for a time among the woods of Devna, but come back to him now
amidst the cold, and the squalor, and the sickness of Balaclava. A
brooding over missed opportunities, and the things that might have been.
Sometimes a tangled puzzled train of thought, as to how much of this
ghastly misery was his own fault, and how much accident. And above all,
a growing desire for death, unknown before.

And all this time, behind the hill, the great guns--which had begun a
fitful muttering when they first came there, often dying off into
silence--now day by day, as trench after trench was opened, grew louder
and more continuous, till hearing and thought were deadened, and the
soul was sick of their never-ceasing melancholy thunder.

And at six o'clock on the morning of the seventeenth, such an infernal
din began as no man there had ever heard before, which grew louder and
louder till nine, when it seemed impossible that the ear could bear the
accumulation of sound; and then suddenly doubled, as the _Agamemnon_ and
the _Montebello_, followed by the fleets, steamed in, and laid
broadside-to under the forts. Four thousand pieces of the heaviest
ordnance in the world were doing their work over that hill, and the
140th stood dismounted and listened.

At ten o'clock the earth shook, and a column of smoke towered up in the
air above the hill, and as it began to hang motionless, the sound of it
reached them. It was different from the noise of guns. It was something
new and terrible. An angry hissing roar. An hour after they heard that
twenty tons of powder were blown up in the French lines.

Soon after this, though, there was work to be done, and plenty of it.
The wounded were being carried to the rear. Some cavalry were
dismounted, and told off for the work. Charles was one of them.

The wind had not yet sprung up, and all that Charles saw for the moment
was a valley full of smoke, and fire, and sound. He caught the glimpse
of the spars and funnel of a great liner above the smoke to the left;
but directly after they were under fire, and the sickening day's work
began.

Death and horror in every form, of course. The wounded lying about in
heaps. Officers trying to compose their faces, and die like gentlemen.
Old Indian soldiers dying grimly as they had lived; and lads, fresh from
the plough last year, listed at the market-cross some unlucky Saturday,
sitting up staring before them with a look of terror and wonder: sadder
sight than either. But everywhere all the day, where the shot screamed
loudest, where the shell fell thickest, with his shako gone, with his
ambrosial curls tangled with blood, with his splendid gaudy fripperies
soiled with dust and sweat, was Hornby, the dandy, the fop, the dicer;
doing the work of ten, carrying out the wounded in his arms, encouraging
the dying, cheering on the living.

"I knew there was some stuff in him," said Charles, as he followed him
into the Crown battery; just at that time the worst place of all, for
the _The Twelve Apostles_ had begun dropping red-hot shot into it, and
exploded some ammunition, and killed some men. And they had met a naval
officer, known to Hornby, wounded, staggering to the rear, who said,
"that his brother was knocked over, and that they wanted to make out he
was dead, but he had only fainted." So they went back with him. The
officer's brother was dead enough, poor fellow; but as Charles and
Hornby bent suddenly over to look at him, their faces actually touched.

Hornby did not recognise him. He was in a state of excitement, and was
thinking of no one less than Charles, and Charles's moustaches had
altered him, as I said before. If their eyes had met, I believe Hornby
would have known him; but it was not to be till the 25th, and this was
only the 17th. If Hornby could only have known him, if they could only
have had ten minutes' talk together, Charles would have known all that
we know about the previous marriage of his grandfather: and, if that
conversation had taken place, he would have known more than any of them,
for Hornby knew something which he thought of no importance, which was
very important indeed. He knew where Ellen was.

But Charles turned his face away, and the recognition did not take
place. Poor Charles said afterwards that it was all a piece of
luck--that "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera." It is not
the case. He turned away his eyes, and avoided the recognition. What he
meant is this:--

As Hornby's face was touching his, and they were both bending over the
dead man, whom they could hardly believe to be dead, the men behind them
fired off the great Lancaster in the next one-gun battery. "Crack!" and
they heard the shell go piff, piff, piff, piff, and strike something.
And then one man close to them cried, "God Almighty!" and another cried,
"Christ!" as sailors will at such awful times; and they both leapt to
their feet. Above the smoke there hung, a hundred feet in the air, a
something like a vast black pine-tree; and before they had time to
realise what had happened, there was a horrible roar, and a concussion
which made them stagger on their legs. A shell from the Lancaster had
blown up the great redoubt in front of the Redan wall, and every Russian
gun ceased firing. And above the sound of the Allied guns rose the
cheering of our own men, sounding, amidst the awful bass, like the
shrill treble of school-children at play.

Charles said afterwards that this glorious accident prevented their
recognition. It is not true. He prevented it himself, and took the
consequences. But Hornby recognised him on the twenty-fifth in this
wise:--

The first thing in the morning, they saw, on the hills to the right,
Russian skirmishers creeping about towards them, apparently without an
object. They had breakfast, and took no notice of them till about eight
o'clock, when a great body of cavalry came slowly, regiment by regiment,
from behind a hill near the Turks. Then gleaming batteries of artillery;
and lastly, an endless column of grey infantry, which began to wheel
into line. And when Charles had seen some five or six grey batallions
come swinging out, the word was given to mount, and he saw no more, but
contemplated the tails of horses. And at the same moment the guns began
an irregular fire on their right.

Almost immediately the word was given to advance, which they did slowly.
Charles could see Hornby just before him, in his old place, for they
were in column. They crossed the plain, and went up the crest of the
hill, halting on the high road. Here they sat for some time, and the
more fortunate could see the battle raging below to the right. The
English seemed getting rather the worst of it.

They sat there about an hour and a half; and all in a moment, before any
one seemed to expect it, some guns opened on them from the right; so
close that it made their right ears tingle. A horse from the squadron in
front of Charles bolted from the ranks, and nearly knocked down Hornby.
The horse had need to bolt, for he carried a dead man, who in the last
spasm had pulled him on his haunches, and struck his spurs deep into his
sides.

Charles began to guess that they were "in for it" at last. He had no
idea, of course, whether it was a great battle or a little one; but he
saw that the 140th had work before them. I, of course, have only to
speak of what Charles saw with his own eyes, and what therefore bears
upon the story I am telling you. That was the only man he saw killed at
that time, though the whole brigade suffered rather heavily by the
Russian cannonade at that spot.

Very shortly after this they were told to form line. Of course, when
this manoeuvre was accomplished, Charles had lost sight of Hornby. He
was sorry for this. He would have liked to know where he was; to help
him if possible, should anything happen to him; but there was not much
time to think of it, for directly after they moved forward at a canter.
In the front line were the 11th Hussars and the 13th Light Dragoons, and
in the second where the 140th Hussars,[9] the 8th Hussars, and the 4th
Dragoons. Charles could see thus much, now they were in line.

They went down hill, straight towards the guns, and almost at once the
shot from them began to tell. The men of the 11th and 13th began to fall
terribly fast. The men in the second line, in which Charles was, were
falling nearly as fast, but this he could not remark. He missed the man
next him on the right, one of his favourite comrades, but it did not
strike him that the poor fellow was cut in two by a shot. He kept on
wishing that he could see Hornby. He judged that the affair was getting
serious. He little knew what was to come.

He had his wish of seeing Hornby, for they were riding up hill into a
narrowing valley, and it was impossible to keep line. They formed into
column again, though men and horses were rolling over and over at every
stride, and there was Hornby before him, sailing along as gallant and
gay as ever. A fine beacon to lead a man to a glorious death.

And, almost the next moment, the batteries right and left opened on
them. Those who were there engaged can give us very little idea of what
followed in the next quarter of an hour. They were soon among guns--the
very guns that had annoyed them from the first; and infantry beyond
opened fire on them. There seems to have been a degree of confusion at
this point. Charles, and two or three others known to him, were hunting
some Russian artillerymen round their guns, for a minute or so. Hornby
was among them. He saw also at this time his little friend the cornet,
on foot, and rode to his assistance. He caught a riderless horse, and
the cornet mounted. Then the word was given to get back again; I know
not how; I have nothing to do with it. But, as they turned their faces
to get out of this horrible hell, poor Charles gave a short, sharp
scream, and bent down in his saddle over his horse's neck.

It was nothing. It was only as if one were to have twenty teeth pulled
out at once. The pain was over in an instant. What a fool he was to cry
out! The pain was gone again, and they were still under fire, and Hornby
was before him.

How long? How many minutes, how many hours? His left arm was nearly
dead, but he could hold his reins in a way, and rode hard after Hornby,
from some wild instinct. The pain had stopped, but was coming on again
as if ten thousand red-hot devils were pulling at his flesh, and twenty
thousand were arriving each moment to help them.

His own friends were beside him again, and there was a rally and a
charge. At what? he thought for an instant. At guns? No. At men this
time, Russian hussars--right valiant fellows, too. He saw Hornby in the
thick of the _mêlée_, with his sword flickering about his head like
lightning. He could do but little himself; he rode at a Russian and
unhorsed him; he remembers seeing the man go down, though whether he
struck at him, or whether he went down by the mere superior weight of
his horse, he cannot say. This I can say, though, that, whatever he did,
he did his duty as a valiant gentleman; I will go bail for that much.

They beat them back, and then turned. Then they turned again and beat
them back once more. And then they turned and rode. For it was time.
Charles lost sight of Hornby till the last, when some one caught his
rein and turned his horse, and then he saw that they were getting into
order again, and that Hornby was before him, reeling in his saddle.

As the noise of the battle grew fainter behind them, he looked round to
see who was riding beside him, and holding him by the right arm. It was
the little cornet. Charles wondered why he did so. "You're hard hit,
Simpson," said the cornet. "Never mind. Keep your saddle a little
longer. We shall be all right directly."

His faculties were perfectly acute, and, having thanked the cornet he
looked down and noticed that he was riding between him and a trooper,
that his left arm was hanging numbed by his side, and that the trooper
was guiding his horse. He saw that they had saved him, and even in his
deadly agony he was so far his own old courteous self, that he turned
right and left to them, and thanked them for what they had done for him.

But he had kept his eyes fixed on Hornby, for he saw that he was
desperately hit, and he wanted to say one or two words to him before
either of them died. Soon they were among English faces, and English
cheers rang out in welcome to their return, but it was nothing to him;
he kept his eye, which was growing dim, on Hornby, and, when he saw him
fall off his saddle into the arms of a trooper, he dismounted too and
staggered towards him.

The world seemed to go round and round, and he felt about him like a
blind man. But he found Hornby somehow. A doctor, all scarlet and gold,
was bending over him, and Charles knelt down on the other side, and
looked into the dying man's face.

"Do you know me, lieutenant?" he said, speaking thick like a drunken
man, but determined to hold out. "You know your old servant, don't you?"

Hornby smiled as he recognised him, and said, "Ravenshoe." But then his
face grew anxious, and he said, "Why did you hide yourself from me? You
have ruined everything."

He could get no further for a minute, and then he said--

"Take this from round my neck and carry it to her. Tell her that you saw
me die, and that I was true to our compact. Tell her that my share of
our purification was complete, for I followed duty to death, as I
promised her. She has a long life of weary penance before her to fulfil
our bargain. Say I should wish her to be happy, only that I know she
cannot be. And also say that I see now, that there is something better
and more desirable than what we call happiness. I don't know what it is,
but I suspect it is what we call duty."

Here the doctor said, "They are at it again, and I must go with them. I
can do no good here for the poor dear fellow. Take what he tells you off
his neck, in my presence, and let me go."

The doctor did it himself. When the great heavy gold stock was
unbuttoned, Hornby seemed to breathe more freely. The doctor found round
his neck a gold chain, from which hung a photograph of Ellen, and a
black cross. He gave them to Charles, and departed.

Once more Charles spoke to Hornby. He said, "Where shall I find her?"

Hornby said, "Why, at Hackney, to be sure; did you not know she was
there?" And afterwards, at the very last, "Ravenshoe, I should have
loved you; you are like her, my boy. Don't forget."

But Charles never heard that. They found Hornby dead and cold, with his
head on Charles's lap, and Charles looked so like him that they said,
"This man is dead too; let us bury him." But a skilful doctor there
present said, "This man is not dead, and will not die;" and he was
right.

Oh, but the sabres bit deep that autumn afternoon! There were women in
Minsk, in Moglef, in Tchernigof, in Jitemir, in Polimva, whose husbands
were Hussars--and women in Taganrog, in Tcherkask, in Sanepta, which
lies under the pleasant slate mountains, whose husbands and sons were
Cossacks--who were made widows that day. For that day's work there was
weeping in reed-thatched hovels of the Don, and in the mud-built
shanties of the Dnieper. For the 17th Lancers, the Scots Greys, the 1st
Royals, and the 6th Enniskillens--"these terrible beef-fed islanders"
(to use the words of the _Northern Bee_)--were upon them; and Volhynia
and Hampshire, Renfrewshire and Grodno, Podolia and Fermanagh, were
mixed together in one common ruin.

Still, they say, the Princess Petrovitch, on certain days, leaves her
carriage, and walks a mile through the snow barefoot, into Alexandroski,
in memory of her light-haired handsome young son, whom Hornby slew at
Balaclava. And I myself know the place where Lady Allerton makes her
pilgrimage for those two merry boys of hers who lie out on the Crimean
hill. Alas! not side by side. Up and down, in all weathers, along a
certain gravel walk, where the chalk brook, having flooded the park with
its dammed-up waters, comes foaming and spouting over a cascade, and
hurries past between the smooth-mown lawns of the pleasance. In the very
place where she stood when the second letter came. And there, they say,
she will walk at times, until her beauty and her strength are gone, and
her limbs refuse to carry her.

Karlin Karlinoff was herding strange-looking goats on the Suratow
hill-side, which looks towards the melancholy Volga on one side, and the
reedy Ural on the other, when the Pulk came back, and her son was not
with them. Eliza Jones had got on her husband's smock-frock, and was
a-setting of beans, when the rector's wife came struggling over the
heavy lands and water-furrows, and broke the news gently, and with many
tears. Karlin Karlinoff drove her goats into the mud-walled yard that
night, though the bittern in the melancholy fen may have been startled
from his reeds by a cry more wild and doleful than his own; and Eliza
Jones went on setting her beans, though they were watered with her
tears.

What a strange, wild business it was! The extreme east of Europe against
the extreme west. Men without a word, an idea, a habit, or a hope in
common, thrown suddenly together to fight and slay; and then to part,
having learned to respect one another better, in one year of war, than
ever they had in a hundred years of peace. Since that year we have
understood Eylau and Borodino, which battles were a puzzle to some of us
before that time. The French did better than we, which was provoking,
because the curs began to bark--Spanish curs, for instance; American
curs; the lower sort of French cur; and the Irish curs, who have the
strange habit of barking the louder the more they are laughed at, and
who, now, being represented by about two hundred men among six million,
have rather a hard time of it. They barked louder, of course, at the
Indian mutiny. But they have all got their tails between their legs now,
and are likely to keep them there. We have had our lesson. We have
learnt that what our fathers told us was true--that we are the most
powerful nation on the face of the earth.

This, you will see, bears all upon the story I am telling you. Well, in
a sort of way. Though I do not exactly see how. I could find a reason,
if you gave me time. If you gave me time, I could find a reason for
anything. However, the result is this, that our poor Charles had been
struck by a ball in the bone of his arm, and that the splinters were
driven into the flesh, though the arm was not broken. It was a nasty
business, said the doctors. All sorts of things might happen to him.
Only one thing was certain, and that was that Charles Ravenshoe's career
in the army was over for ever.



CHAPTER LV.

ARCHER'S PROPOSAL.


Six weeks had passed since the date of Captain Archer's letter before he
presented himself in person at Casterton. They were weary weeks enough
to Mary, Lord Saltire, and Lady Ascot. Lady Ascot was staying on at
Casterton, as if permanently, at the earnest request of Lord and Lady
Hainault; and she stayed on the more willingly that she and Mary might
mingle their tears about Charles Ravenshoe, whom they were never to see
again. The "previous marriage affair" had apparently fallen through
utterly. All the advertisements, were they worded never so frantically,
failed to raise to the surface the particular parish-clerk required; and
Lady Ascot, after having propounded a grand scheme for personally
inspecting every register in the United Kingdom, which was pooh-poohed
by Lord Saltire, now gave up the matter as a bad job; and Lord Saltire
himself began to be puzzled and uneasy, and once more to wonder whether
or no Maria was not mistaken after all. Mackworth was still very ill,
though slowly recovering. The younger Tiernay, who was nursing him,
reported that his head seemed entirely gone, although he began to eat
voraciously, and, if encouraged, would take exercise. He would now walk
far and fast, in silence, with the kind priest toiling after him. But
his wilful feet always led him to the same spot. Whether they rambled in
the park, whether they climbed the granite tors of the moor, or whether
they followed the stream up through the woods, they always ended their
walk at the same place--at the pool among the tumbled boulders, under
the dark western headland, where Cuthbert's body had been found. And
here the priest would sit looking seaward, as if his life and his
intellect had come to a full stop here, and he was waiting patiently
till a gleam of light should come from beyond.

William was at Ravenshoe, in full possession of the property. He had
been born a gamekeeper's son, and brought up as a groom. He had now
£10,000 a year; and was going to marry the fisherman's daughter, his own
true love; as beautiful, as sweet-tempered a girl as any in the three
kingdoms. It was one of the most extraordinary rises in life that had
ever taken place. Youth, health, and wealth--they must produce
happiness. Why no, not exactly in this case. He believed Charles was
dead, and he knew, if that was the case, that the property was his; but
he was not happy. He could not help thinking about Charles. He knew he
was dead and buried, of course; but still he could not help wishing that
he would come back, and that things might be again as they had been
before. It is not very easy to analyse the processes of the mind of a
man brought up as William was. Let us suppose that, having been taught
to love and admire Charles above all earthly persons, his mind was not
strong enough to disabuse himself of the illusion. I suppose that your
African gets fond of his fetish. I take it that, if you stole his
miserable old wooden idol in the night, though it might be badly carved,
and split all up the back by the sun, and put in its place an Old
Chelsea shepherdess, he would lament his graven image, and probably
break the fifty guineas' worth of china with his club. I know this,
however, that William would have given up his ten thousand a year, and
have trusted to his brother's generosity, if he could have seen him back
again. In barbarous, out-of-the-way places, like the west of Devonshire,
the feudal feeling between foster-brothers is still absurdly strong. It
is very ridiculous, of course. Nothing can be more ridiculous or
unnecessary than the lightning coming down the dining-room chimney and
sending the fire-irons flying about the cat's ears. But there it is, and
you must make the best of it.

We are now posted up well enough in the six weeks which preceded the
arrival of the mysterious Archer. He deferred his arrival till his
honeymoon was completed. His mysterious letter to Mary partly alluded to
his approaching marriage with Jane Blockstrop--daughter of Lieutenant
Blockstrop of the coast guard, and niece of Rear-Admiral Blockstrop,
who, as Captain Blockstrop, had the _Tartar_ on the Australian
station--and partly to something else. We shall see what directly. For,
when Mary came down to see him in the drawing-room, there was with him,
besides his wife, whom he introduced at once, a very tall and handsome
young man, whom he presented to her as her cousin, George Corby.

Did Charles turn in his pallet at Scutari? Did he turn over and stare at
the man in the next bed, who lay so deadly still, and who was gone when
he woke on the weary morrow?

There was no mystery about George Corby's appearance. When Mary's
father, Captain Corby, had gone to India, his younger brother, George's
father, had gone to Australia. This younger brother was a somewhat
peevish, selfish man, and was not on the best of terms with Captain
Corby. He heard, of course, of the wreck of the _Warren Hastings_, and
the loss of his brother. He also informed himself that his niece was
saved, and was the protected favourite of the Ravenshoes. He had then
said to himself, "I am needy. I have a rising family. She is better off
than I can make her. Let her stay there." And so he let her stay there,
keeping himself, however, to do him justice, pretty well informed of her
position. He had made the acquaintance of Captain Archer, at Melbourne,
on his first voyage to that port, in the end of 1852; laid the whole
matter before him, and begged him not to break it to her at present.
Captain Archer had readily promised to say nothing, for he saw Mary the
lady of a great house, with every prospect, as he thought, of marrying
the heir. But when he saw Mary, after the break-up, in Grosvenor Square,
a nursery governess, he felt that he ought to speak, and set sail from
the port of London with a full determination of giving a piece of his
mind to her uncle, should he hesitate to acknowledge her. He had no need
to say much. Mr. Corby, though a selfish, was not an unkind man, by any
means. And, besides, he was now very wealthy, and perfectly able to
provide for his niece. So, when Archer had finished his story, he
merely said, "I suppose I had better send over George to see if he will
fall in love with her. That will be the best thing, I take it. She must
not be a governess to those swells. They might slight or insult her.
Take George over for me, will you, my dear soul, and see how it is
likely to go. At all events, bring her back to me. Possibly I may not
have done my duty by her."

George was called in from the rocking-chair in the verandah to receive
instructions. He was, so his father told him, to go to Europe with
Captain Archer, and, as Captain Archer was going to get married and miss
a voyage, he might stay till he came back. First and foremost, he was to
avail himself of his letters of introduction, and get into the good
society that his father was able to command for him. Under this head of
instruction he was to dance as much as possible, and to ride to the
fox-hounds, taking care not to get too near to the hounds, or to rush at
his fences like a madman, as all Australians did. Secondly, he was, if
possible, to fall in love with his cousin Mary Corby, marry her, bring
her back, and reside _pro tem._ at Toorallooralyballycoomefoozleah,
which station should be swept and garnished for his reception, until the
new house at the Juggerugahugjug crossing-place was finished. Thirdly,
he might run across to the Saxony ram sales, and, if he saw anything
reasonable, buy, but be careful of pink ears, for they wouldn't stand
the Grampian frosts. Fourthly, he was not to smoke without changing his
coat, or to eat the sugar when any one was looking. Fifthly, he was to
look out for a stud horse, and might go as far as five hundred. Such a
horse as Allow Me, Ask Mamma, or Pam's Mixture would do.[10] And so on,
like the directions of the Aulic Council to the Archduke. He was not to
go expressly to Durham; but, if he found himself in that part of the
world, he might get a short-horned bull. He need not go to Scotland
unless he liked; but, if he did, he might buy a couple of collies, &c.,
&c.

George attended the ram sales in Saxony, and just ran on to Vienna,
thinking, with the philosophy of an Australian, that, if he _did_ fall
in love with his cousin, he might not care to travel far from her, and
that therefore she might "keep." However, he came at last, when Archer
had finished his honeymoon; and there he was in the drawing-room at
Casterton.

Mary was not very much surprised when it was all put before her. She had
said to Charles, in old times, "I know I have relations somewhere; when
I am rich they will acknowledge me;" and, just for one instant, the
suspicion crossed her mind that her relations might have heard of the
fortune Lord Saltire had left her. It was unjust and impossible, and in
an instant she felt it to be so. Possibly the consciousness of her
injustice made her reception of her cousin somewhat warmer.

He was certainly very handsome and very charming. He had been brought up
by his father the most punctilious dandy in the southern hemisphere, and
thrown from a boy among the best society in the colony; so he was quite
able to make himself at home everywhere. If there was a fault in his
manner, it was that there was just a shade too much lazy ease in the
presence of ladies. One has seen that lately, however, in other young
gentlemen, not educated in the bush, to a greater extent: so we must not
be hard upon him. When Lady Hainault and Lady Ascot heard that a cousin
of Mary's had just turned up from the wilds of Australia, they looked at
one another in astonishment, and agreed that he must be a wild man. But,
when they had gone down and sat on him, as a committee of two, for an
hour, they both pronounced him charming. And so he was.

Lord Hainault, on receiving this report, could do no less than ask him
to stay a day or two. And so his luggage was sent for to Twyford, and
the good Archer left, leaving him in possession.

Lord Saltire had been travelling round to all his estates. He had taken
it into his head, about a month before this, that it was time that he
should get into one of his great houses, and die there. He told Lady
Ascot so, and advised her to come with him; but she still held on by
Lord Charles Herries' children, and Mary, and said she would wait. So he
had gone away, with no one but his confidential servant. He had gone to
Cottingdean first, which stands on the banks of the Wannet, at the foot
of the North Hampshire mountains.

Well, Cottingdean did seem at first sight a noble lair for an old lion
to crawl away to, and die in. There was a great mile-long elm avenue,
carried, utterly regardless of economy, over the flat valley, across the
innumerable branches of the river; and at the last the trees ran up over
the first great heave of the chalk hill: and above the topmost boughs of
those which stood in the valley, above the highest spire of the tallest
poplar in the water-meadow, the old grey house hung aloft, a long
irregular façade of stone. Behind were dark woods, and above all a
pearl-green line of down.

But Cottingdean wouldn't do. His lordship's man Simpson knew it wouldn't
do from the first. There were draughts in Cottingdean, and doors that
slammed in the night, and the armour in the great gallery used suddenly
to go "clank" at all hours, in a terrible way. And the lady ancestress
of the seventeenth century, who carried her head in a plate before her,
used to stump upstairs and downstairs, from twelve o'clock to one, when
she was punctually relieved from duty by the wicked old ancestor of the
sixteenth century, who opened the cellar door and came rattling his
sword against the banisters up all the staircase till he got to the
north-east tower, into which he went and slammed the door; and, when he
had transacted his business, came clanking down again: when he in turn
was relieved by an [Greek: oi polloi] of ghosts, who walked till
cockcrow. Simpson couldn't stand it. No more could Lord Saltire, though
possibly for different reasons than Simpson's.

The first night at Cottingdean Lord Saltire had his writing-desk
unpacked, and took therefrom a rusty key. He said to Simpson, "You know
where I am going. If I am not back in half an hour, come after me."
Simpson knew where he was going. Lord Barkham had been staying here at
Cottingdean just before he went up to town, and was killed in that
unhappy duel. The old servants remembered that, when Lord Barkham went
away that morning, he had taken the key of his room with him, and had
said, in his merry way, that no one was going in there till he came back
the next week, for he had left all his love-letters about. Lord Saltire
had got the key, and was going to open the room the first time for forty
years.

What did the poor old man find there? Probably nothing more than poor
Barkham had said--some love-letters lying about. When the room was
opened afterwards, by the new master of Cottingdean, we found only a
boy's room, with fishing-rods and guns lying about. In one corner were a
pair of muddy top-boots kicked off in a hurry, and an old groom
remembered that Lord Barkham had been riding out the very morning he
started for London. But, amidst the dust of forty years, we could
plainly trace that some one had, comparatively recently, moved a chair
up to the fireplace; and on the cold hearth there was a heap of the
ashes of burnt paper.

Lord Saltire came back to Simpson just as his half-hour was over, and
told him in confidence that the room he had been in was devilish
draughty, and that he had caught cold in his ear. Cottingdean would not
do after this. They departed next morning. They must try Marksworth.

Marksworth, Lord Saltire's north country place, is in Cumberland. If you
are on top of the coach, going northward, between Hiltonsbridge and
Copley Beck, you can see it all the way for three miles or more, over
the stone walls. The mountains are on your left; to the right are
endless unbroken level woodlands; and, rising out of them, two miles
off, is a great mass of grey building, from the centre of which rises a
square Norman keep, ninety feet high, a beacon for miles even in that
mountainous country. The Hilton and Copley Beck join in the park, which
is twelve miles in circumference, and nearly all thick woodland. Beyond
the great tower, between it and the further mountains, you catch a gleam
of water. This is Marksmere, in which there are charr.

The draughts at Marksworth were colder and keener than the draughts at
Cottingdean. Lord Saltire always hated the place: for the truth is this,
that although Marksworth looked as if it had stood for eight hundred
years, every stone in it had been set up by his father, when he, Lord
Saltire, was quite a big boy. It was beautifully done; it was splendidly
and solidly built--probably the best executed humbug in England; but it
was not comfortable to live in. A nobleman of the nineteenth century,
stricken in years, finds it difficult to accommodate himself in a house
the windows of which are calculated to resist arrows. At the time of the
Eglinton tournament, Lord Saltire challenged the whole Tory world in
arms, to attack Marksworth in the ante-gunpowder style of warfare; his
lordship to provide eatables and liquor to besiegers and besieged;
probably hoping that he might get it burnt down over his head, and have
a decent excuse for rebuilding it in a more sensible style. The
challenge was not accepted. "The trouble," said certain Tory noblemen,
"of getting up the old tactics correctly would be very great; and the
expense of having the old engines of war constructed would be enormous.
Besides, it might come on to rain again, and spoil the whole affair."

Marksworth wouldn't do. And then Simpson suggested his lordship's town
house in Curzon Street, and Lord Saltire said "Hey?" and Simpson
repeated his suggestion, and Lord Saltire said "Hah!" As Charles's luck
would have it, he liked the suggestion, and turned south, coming to
Casterton on his way to London. He arrived at Casterton a few days after
George Corby. When he alighted at the door, Lord Hainault ran down the
steps to greet him, for this pair were very fond of one another. Lord
Hainault, who was accused by some people of "priggishness," was
certainly not priggish before Lord Saltire. He was genial and hearty.
There was a slight crust on Lord Hainault. Because he had held his own
among the clever commoners at the University, he fancied himself a
little cleverer than he was. He in his heart thought more of his second,
than Marston did of his double first, and possibly showed it among his
equals. But before an acknowledged superior, like Lord Saltire, this
never showed. When Lord Saltire talked wisely and shrewdly (and who
could do so better than he?), he listened; when Lord Saltire was cross,
he laughed. On this occasion Lord Saltire was cross. He never was cross
to any one but Lady Ascot, Lord Hainault, and Marston. He knew they
liked it.

"Good Ged, Hainault," he began, "don't stand grinning there, and looking
so abominably healthy and happy, or I will drive away again and go on to
London. Nothing can be in worse taste than to look like that at a man
whom you see is tired, and cold, and peevish. You have been out
shooting, too. Don't deny it; you smell of gunpowder."

"Did you _never_ shoot?" said Lord Hainault, laughing.

"I shot as long as I could walk, and therefore I have a right to nourish
envy and all uncharitableness against those who can still do so. I wish
you would be cross, Hainault. It is wretched manners not to be cross
when you see a man is trying to put you out of temper."

"And how _are_ you, my dear lad?" continued Lord Saltire, when he had
got hold of his arm. "How is Lady Ascot? and whom have you got here?"

"We are all very well," said Lord Hainault; "and we have got nobody."

"Well done," said Lord Saltire. "I thought I should have found the house
smelling like a poulterer's shop on Guy Fawkes's day, in consequence of
your having got together all the hawbucks in the country for pheasant
shooting. I'll go upstairs, my dear boy, and change, and then come down
to the library fire."

And so he did. There was no one there, and he sank into a comfortable
chair, with a contented "humph!" in front of the fire, beside a big
round table. He had read the paper in the train; so he looked for a
book. There was a book on the table beside him--Ruskin's "Modern
Painters," which had pictures in it; so he took out his great gold
glasses, and began turning it over.

A man's card fell from it. He picked it up and read it. "Mr. Charles
Ravenshoe." Poor Charles! That spring, you remember, he had come over to
see Adelaide, and, while waiting to see old Lady Hainault, had held his
card in his hand. It had got into the book. Lord Saltire put the book
away, put up his glasses, and walked to the window.

And Charles lay in his bed at Scutari, and watched the flies upon the
wall.

"I'll send up for little Mary," said Lord Saltire. "I want to see the
little bird. Poor Charles!"

He looked out over the landscape. It was dull and foggy. He wandered
into the conservatory, and idly looked out of the glass door at the end.
Then, as he looked, he said, suddenly, "Gadzooks!" and then, still more
briskly, "The deuce!"

There was a splendid show of chrysanthemums in the flower-garden, but
they were not what his lordship exclaimed at. In the middle of the walk
was Mary Corby, leaning on the arm of a very handsome young man. He was
telling some very animated story, and she was looking up into his face
with sparkling eyes.

"Othello and Desdemona! Death and confusion!" said Lord Saltire. "Here's
a pretty kettle of fish! Maria must be mad!"

He went back into the library. Lord Hainault was there. "Hainault," said
he, quietly, "who is that young gentleman, walking with Mary Corby in
the garden?"

"Oh! her cousin. I have not had time to tell you about it." Which he
did.

"And what sort of fellow is he?" said Lord Saltire. "A Yahoo, I
suppose?"

"Not at all. He is a capital fellow--a perfect gentleman. There will be
a match, I believe, unless you put a stop to it. You know best. We will
talk it over. It seems to me to offer a good many advantages. I think it
will come off in time. It is best for the poor little thing to forget
poor Ravenshoe, if she can."

"Yes, it will be best for her to forget poor Ravenshoe, if she can,"
repeated Lord Saltire. "I wish her to do so. I must make the young
fellow's acquaintance. By-the-bye, what time does your post go out?"

"At five."

"Have you no morning post?"

"Yes. We can send to Henley before nine."

"Then I shall not plague myself with writing my letter now. I should
like to see this young fellow, Hainault."

George Corby was introduced. Lord Saltire seemed to take a great fancy
to him. He kept near him all the evening, and listened with great
pleasure to his Australian stories. George Corby was, of course, very
much flattered by such attention from such a famous man. Possibly he
might have preferred to be near Mary; but old men, he thought, are
exacting, and it is the duty of gentlemen to bear with them. So he
stayed by him with good grace. After a time, Lord Saltire seemed to see
that he had an intelligent listener. And then the others were astonished
to hear Lord Saltire do what he but seldom did for them--use his utmost
powers of conversation; use an art almost forgotten, that of _talking_.
To this young man, who was clever and well educated, and, like most
"squatters," perhaps a _trifle_ fond of hearing of great people, Lord
Saltire opened the storehouse of his memory, of a memory extending over
seventy years; and in a clear, well modulated voice, gave him his
recollection of his interviews with great people--conversations with
Sièyes, Talleyrand, with Madame de Staël, with Robespierre, with
Egalité, with Alexander, and a dozen others. George was intensely eager
to hear about Marat. Lord Saltire and his snuff-box had not penetrated
into the lair of that filthy wolf, but he had heard much of him from
many friends, and told it well. When the ladies rose to go to bed,
George Corby was astonished; he had forgotten Mary, had never been near
her the whole evening, and he had made an engagement to drive Lord
Saltire the next morning up to Wargrave in a pony-chaise, to look at
Barrymore House, and the place where the theatre stood, and where the
game of high jinks had been played so bravely fifty years before. And,
moreover, he and Lord Saltire were, the day after, to make an excursion
down the river and see Medmenham, where once Jack Wilkes and the devil
had held court. Mary would not see much of him at this rate for a day or
two.

It was a great shame of this veteran to make such a fool of the innocent
young bushman. There ought to be fair play in love or war. His
acquaintance, Talleyrand, could not have been more crafty. I am so angry
with him that I will give the letter he wrote that night _in extenso_,
and show the world what a wicked old man he was. When he went to his
room, he said to Simpson, "I have got to write a letter before I go to
bed. I want it to go to the post at Henley before nine. I don't want it
to lie in the letter-box in the hall. I don't want them to see the
direction. What an appetite you would have for your breakfast, Simpson,
if you were to walk to Henley." And Simpson said, "Very good, my lord."
And Lord Saltire wrote as follows:--

      "MY DEAR LAD,--I have been travelling to my places, looking
      for a place to die in. They are all cold and draughty, and
      won't do. I have come back to Casterton. I must stay here
      at present on your account, and I am in mortal fear of
      dying here. Nothing, remember, can be more unmannerly or
      rude than falling ill, and dying, in another man's house. I
      know that I should resent such a proceeding myself as a
      deliberate affront, and I therefore would not do it for the
      world.

      "You must come here to me _instantly_; do you hear? I am
      keeping the breach for you at all sacrifices. Until you
      come, I am to be trundled about this foggy valley in pony
      carriages through the day, and talk myself hoarse all the
      evening, all for your sake. A cousin of Mary Corby's has
      come from Australia. He is very handsome, clever, and
      gentlemanly, and I am afraid she is getting very fond of
      him.

      "This must not be, my dear boy. Now our dear Charles is
      gone, you must, if possible, marry her. It is insufferable
      that we should have another disappointment from an
      interloper. I don't blame you for not having come before.
      You were quite right, but don't lose a moment now. Leave
      those boys of yours. The dirty little rogues must get on
      for a time without you. Don't think that I sneer at the
      noble work that you and your uncle are doing; God Almighty
      forbid; but you must leave it for a time, and come here.

      "Don't argue or procrastinate, but come. I cannot go on
      being driven all over the country in November to keep him
      out of the way. Besides, if you don't come soon, I shall
      have finished all my true stories, and have to do what I
      have never done yet--to lie. So make haste, my dear boy.

               "Yours affectionately,

                     "SALTIRE."

On the second day from this Lord Saltire was driven to Medmenham by
George Corby, and prophesied to him about it. When they neared home,
Lord Saltire grew distraught for the first time, and looked eagerly
towards the terrace. As they drove up, John Marston ran down the steps
to meet them. Lord Saltire said, "Thank God!" and walked up to the
hall-door between the two young men.

"Are you staying in London?" said George Corby.

"Yes. I am living in London," said John Marston. "An uncle of mine, a
Moravian Missionary from Australia, is working at a large ragged school
in the Borough, and I am helping him."

"You don't surely mean James Smith?" said Corby.

"Indeed I do."

"Your uncle? Well, that is very strange. I know him very well. My father
fought his battle for him when he was at variance with the squatters
about.... He is one of the best fellows in the world. I am delighted to
make your acquaintance."

Lord Saltire said to Lord Hainault, when they were alone together--"You
see what a liberty I have taken, having my private secretary down in
this unceremonious way. Do ask him to stay."

"You know how welcome he is for his own sake. Do you think you are
right?"

"I think so."

"I am afraid you are a little too late," said Lord Hainault.

Alas! poor Charles.



CHAPTER LVI.

SCUTARI.


Alas! poor Charles. While they were all dividing the spoil at home,
thinking him dead, where was he?

At Scutari. What happened to him before he got there, no one knows or
ever will know. He does not remember, and there is no one else to tell.
He was passed from hand to hand and put on board ship. Here fever set
in, and he passed from a state of stupid agony into a state of delirium.
He may have lain on the pier in the pouring rain, moistening his parched
lips in the chilling shower; he may have been jolted from hospital to
hospital, and laid in draughty passages, till a bed was found for him;
as others were. But he happily knew nothing of it. Things were so bad
with him now that it did not much matter how he was treated. Read Lord
Sidney Osborne's "Scutari and its Hospitals," and see how he _might_
have been, and probably was. It is no part of our duty to dig up and
exhibit all that miserable mismanagement. I think we have learnt our
lesson. I think I will go bail it don't happen again. Before Charles
knew where he was, there was a great change for the better. The hospital
nurses arrived early in November.

He thinks that there were faint gleams of consciousness in his delirium.
In the first, he says he was lying on his back, and above him were the
masts and spars of a ship, and a sailor-boy was sitting out on a yard
in the clear blue, mending a rope or doing something. It may have been a
dream or not. Afterwards there were periods, distinctly remembered, when
he seemed conscious--conscious of pain and space, and time--to a certain
extent. At these times he began to understand, in a way, that he was
dead, and in hell. The delirium was better than this at ordinary times,
in spite of its headlong incongruities. It was not so unbearable, save
at times, when there came the feeling, too horrible for human brain to
bear, of being millions and millions of miles, or of centuries, away,
with no road back; at such times there was nothing to be done but to
leap out of bed, and cry aloud for help in God's name.

Then there came a time when he began, at intervals, to see a great
vaulted arch overhead, and to wonder whether or no it was the roof of
the pit. He began, after studying the matter many times, to find that
pain had ceased, and that the great vaulted arch was real. And he heard
low voices once at this time--blessed voices of his fellow-men. He was
content to wait.

At last, his soul and consciousness seemed to return to him in a strange
way. He seemed to pass out of some abnormal state into a natural one.
For he became aware that he was alive; nay, more, that he was asleep,
and dreaming a silly, pleasant dream, and that he could wake himself at
any time. He awoke, expecting to awake in his old room at Ravenshoe. But
he was not there, and looked round him in wonder.

The arch he remembered was overhead. That was real enough. Three people
were round his bed--a doctor in undress, a grey-haired gentleman who
peered into his face, and a lady.

"God bless me!" said the doctor. "We have fetched him through. Look at
his eyes, just look at his eyes. As sane an eye as yours or mine, and
the pulse as round as a button."

"Do you know us, my man?" said the gentleman.

It was possible enough that he did not, for he had never set eyes on him
before. The gentleman meant only, "Are you sane enough to know your
fellow-creatures when you see one?" Charles thought he must be some one
he had met in society in old times and ought to recognise. He framed a
polite reply, to the effect that he hoped he had been well since he met
him last, and that, if he found himself in the west, he would not pass
Ravenshoe without coming to see him.

The doctor laughed. "A little abroad, still, I daresay; I have pulled
you through. You have had a narrow escape."

Charles was recovered enough to take his hand and thank him fervently,
and whispered, "Would you tell me one thing, sir? How did Lady Hainault
come here?"

"Lady Hainault, my man?"

"Yes; she was standing at the foot of the bed."

"That is no Lady Hainault, my man; that is Miss Nightingale. Do you ever
say your prayers?"

"No."

"Say them to-night before you go to sleep, and remember her name in
them. Possibly they may get to heaven the quicker for it. Good-night."

Prayers forgotten, eh! How much of all this misery lay in that, I
wonder? How much of this dull, stupid, careless despair--earth a
hopeless, sunless wilderness, and heaven not thought of? Read on.

But, while you read, remember that poor Charles had had no domestic
religious education whatever. The vicar had taught him his catechism and
"his prayers." After that, Shrewsbury and Oxford. Read on, but don't
condemn; at least not yet.

That he thanked God with all the earnestness of his warm heart that
night, and remembered that name the doctor told him, you may be sure.
But, when the prayer was finished, he began to think whether or no it
was sincere, whether it would not be better that he should die, and that
it should be all over and done. His creed was, that, if he died in the
faith of Christ, bearing no ill will to any one, having repented of his
sins, it would not go ill with him. Would it not be better to die now
that he could fulfil those conditions, and not tempt the horrible black
future? Certainly.

In time he left watching the great arch overhead, and the creeping
shadows, and the patch of light on the wall, which shaped itself into a
faint rhomboid at noon, and crept on till it defined itself into a
perfect square at sundown, and then grew golden and died out. He began
to notice other things. But till the last there was one effect of light
and shadow which he always lay awake to see--a faint flickering on the
walls and roof, which came slowly nearer, till a light was in his eyes.
We all know what that was. It has been described twenty times. I can
believe that story of the dying man kissing the shadow on the wall. When
Miss Nightingale and her lamp are forgotten, it will be time to consider
whether one would prefer to turn Turk or Mormon.

He began to take notice that there were men in the beds beside him. One,
as we know, had been carried out dead; but there was another in his
place now. And one day there was a great event; when Charles woke, both
of them were up, sitting at the side of their beds, ghastly shadows, and
talking across him.

The maddest musician never listened to the "vox humana" stop at Haarlem,
with such delight as Charles did to these two voices. He lay for a time
hearing them make acquaintance, and then he tried to sit up and join. He
was on his left side, and tried to rise. His left arm would not support
him, and he fell back, but they crept to him and set him up, and sat on
his bed.

"Right again, eh, comrade?" said one. "I thought you was gone, my lad.
But I heard the doctor say you'd get through. You look bravely. Time was
when you used to jump out of bed, and cry on God A'mighty. Many a time
I've strove to help ye. The man in _his_ bed died while you was like
that: a Fusilier Guards man. What regiment?"

"I am of the 140th," said Charles. "We had a bit of a brush with the
enemy on the twenty-fifth. I was wounded there. It was a pretty little
rattle, I think, for a time, but not of very much importance, I fancy."

The man who had first spoken laughed; the other man, a lad who had a
round face once, perhaps, but which now was a pale death's head, with
two great staring eyes, speaking with a voice which Charles knew at once
to be a gentleman's, said, "Don't you know then that that charge of
yours is the talk of Europe? That charge will never be forgotten while
the world is round. Six hundred men against ten battalions. Good God!
And you might have died there, and not known it."

"Ah, is it so?" said Charles. "If some could only know it!"

"That is the worst of it," said the young man. "I have enlisted under a
false name, and will never go home any more. Never more. And she will
never know that I did my duty."

And after a time he got strong again in a way. A bullet, it appears, had
struck the bone of his arm, and driven the splinters into the flesh.
Fever had come on, and his splendid constitution, as yet untried, save
by severe training, had pulled him through. But his left arm was
useless. The doctor looked at it again and again, and shook his head.

The two men who were in the beds on each side of him were moved before
him. They were only there a fortnight after his coming to himself. The
oldest of the two went first, and two or three days after the younger.

The three made all sorts of plans for meeting in England. Alas, what
chance is there for three soldiers to meet again, unless by accident?
At home it would have taken three years to have made these three men
such hearty friends as they had become in a fortnight. Friendships are
made in the camp, in the bush, or on board ship, at a wonderful rate.
And, moreover, they last for an indefinite time. For ever, I fancy: for
these reasons. Time does not destroy friendship. Time has nothing
whatever to do with it. I have heard an old man of seventy-eight talking
of a man he had not seen for twelve years, and before that for
twenty-five, as if they were young men together. Craving for his
company, as if once more they were together on the deck of the
white-sailed yacht, flying before the easterly wind between Hurstcastle
and Sconce Point. Mere continual familiarity, again, does not hurt
friendship, unless interests clash. Diversity of interests is the
death-blow of friendship. One great sacrifice may be made--two, or even
three; but after the first, two men are not to one another as they were
before. Where men are thrown intimately together for a short time, and
part have only seen the best side of one another, or where men see one
another frequently, and have not very many causes of difference,
friendship will flourish for ever. In the case of love it is very
different, and for this obvious reason, which I will explain in a few
pages if----

I entered into my own recognisances, in an early chapter of this story,
not to preach. I fear they are escheated after this short essay on
friendship, coming, as it does, exactly in the wrong place. I must only
throw myself on the court, and purge myself of my contempt by promising
amendment.

Poor Charles after a time was sent home to Fort Pitt. But that mighty
left arm, which had done such noble work when it belonged to No. 3 in
the Oxford University eight, was useless, and Charles Simpson, trooper
in the 140th, was discharged from the army, and found himself on
Christmas Eve in the street in front of the Waterloo Station, with
eighteen shillings and ninepence in his pocket, wondering blindly what
the end of it all would be, but no more dreaming of begging from those
who had known him formerly than of leaping off Waterloo Bridge. Perhaps
not half so much.



CHAPTER LVII.

WHAT CHARLES DID WITH HIS LAST EIGHTEEN SHILLINGS.


Charles's luck seemed certainly to have deserted him at last. And that
is rather a serious matter, you see; for, as he had never trusted to
anything but luck, it now follows that he had nothing left to trust to,
except eighteen shillings and ninepence and his little friend the
cornet, who had come home invalided and was living with his mother in
Hyde Park Gardens. Let us hope, reader, that you and I may never be
reduced to the patronage of a cornet of Hussars, and eighteen shillings
in cash.

It was a fine frosty night, and the streets were gay and merry. It was a
sad Christmas for many thousands; but the general crowd seemed
determined not to think too deeply of these sad accounts which were
coming from the Crimea just now. They seemed inclined to make Christmas
Christmas, in spite of everything; and perhaps they were right. It is
good for a busy nation like the English to have two great festivals, and
two only, the object of which every man who is a Christian can
understand, and on these occasions to put in practice, to the best of
one's power, the lesson of goodwill towards men which our Lord taught
us. We English cannot stand too many saints' days. We decline to stop
business for St. Blaise or St. Swithin; but we can understand Christmas
and Easter. The foreign Catholics fiddle away so much time on saints'
days that they are obliged to work like the Israelites in bondage on
Sunday to get on at all. I have as good a right to prophesy as any other
freeborn Englishman who pays rates and taxes; and I prophesy that, in
this wonderful resurrection of Ireland, the attendance of the male
population at Church on week-days will get small by degrees and
beautifully less.

One man, Charles Ravenshoe, has got to spend his Christmas with eighteen
shillings and a crippled left arm. There is half a million of money or
so, and a sweet little wife, waiting for him if he would only behave
like a rational being; but he will not, and must take the consequences.

He went westward, through a kind of instinct, and he came to Belgrave
Square, where a certain duke lived. There were lights in the windows.
The duke was in office, and had been called up to town. Charles was glad
of this; not that he had any business to transact with the duke, but a
letter to deliver to the duke's coachman.

This simple circumstance saved him from being much nearer actual
destitution than I should have liked to see him. The coachman's son had
been wounded at Balaclava, and was still at Scutari, and Charles brought
a letter from him. He got an English welcome, I promise you. And, next
morning, going to Hyde Park Gardens, he found that his friend the cornet
was out of town, and would not be back for a week. At this time the
coachman became very useful. He offered him money, house-room,
employment, everything he could possibly get for him; and Charles
heartily and thankfully accepted house-room and board for a week.

At the end of a week he went back to Hyde Park Gardens. The cornet was
come back. He had to sit in the kitchen while his message was taken
upstairs. He merely sent up his name, said he was discharged, and asked
for an interview.

The servants found out that he had been at the war, in their young
master's regiment, and they crowded round him, full of sympathy and
kindness. He was telling them how he had last seen the cornet in the
thick of it on the terrible 25th, when they parted right and left, and
in dashed the cornet himself, who caught him by both hands.

"By gad, I'm so glad to see you. How you are altered without your
moustache! Look you here, you fellows and girls, this is the man that
charged up to my assistance when I was dismounted among the guns, and
kept by me, while I caught another horse. What a cropper I went down,
didn't I? What a terrible brush it was, eh? And poor Hornby, too! It is
the talk of Europe, you know. You remember old Devna, and the galloping
lizard, eh?"

And so on, till they got upstairs; and then he turned on him, and said,
"Now, what are you going to do?"

"I have got eighteen shillings."

"Will your family do nothing for you?"

"Did Hornby tell you anything about me, my dear sir?" said Charles,
eagerly.

"Not a word. I never knew that Hornby and you were acquainted, till I
saw you together when he was dying."

"Did you hear what we said to one another?"

"Not a word. The reason I spoke about your family is, that no one, who
had seen so much of you as I, could doubt that you were a gentleman.
That is all. I am very much afraid I shall offend you----"

"That would not be easy, sir."

"Well, then, here goes. If you are utterly hard up, take service with
me. There."

"I will do so with the deepest gratitude," said Charles. "But I cannot
ride, I fear. My left arm is gone."

"Pish! ride with your right. It's a bargain. Come up and see my mother.
I must show you to her, you know, because you will have to live here.
She is deaf. Now you know the reason why the major used to talk so
loud."

Charles smiled for an instant; he did remember that circumstance about
the cornet's respected and gallant father. He followed the cornet
upstairs, and was shown into the drawing-room, where sat a very handsome
lady, about fifty years of age, knitting.

She was not only stone deaf, but had a trick of talking aloud, like the
old lady in "Pickwick," under the impression that she was only thinking,
which was a very disconcerting habit indeed. When Charles and the cornet
entered the room, she said aloud, with amazing distinctness, looking
hard at Charles, "God bless me! Who has he got now? What a fine
gentlemanly-looking fellow. I wonder why he is dressed so shabbily."
After which she arranged her trumpet, and prepared to go into action.

"This, mother," bawled the cornet, "is the man who saved me in the
charge of Balaclava."

"Do you mean that that is trooper Simpson?" said she.

"Yes, mother."

"Then may the blessing of God Almighty rest upon your head!" she said to
Charles. "That time will come, trooper Simpson, when you will know the
value of a mother's gratitude. And when that time comes think of me. But
for you, trooper Simpson, I might have been tearing my grey hair this
day. What are we to do for him, James? He looks ill and worn. Words are
not worth much. What shall we do?"

The cornet put his mouth to his mother's trumpet, and in an apologetic
bellow, such as one gets from the skipper of a fruit brig, in the Bay of
Biscay, O! when he bears up to know if you will be so kind as to oblige
him with the longitude; roared out:

"He wants to take service with me. Have you any objection?"

"Of course not, you foolish boy," said she. "I wish we could do more for
him than that." And then she continued, in a tone slightly lowered, but
perfectly audible, evidently under the impression that she was thinking
to herself: "He is ugly, but he has a sweet face. I feel certain he is a
gentleman who has had a difference with his family. I wish I could hear
his voice. God bless him! he looks like a valiant soldier. I hope he
won't get drunk, or make love to the maids."

Charles had heard every word of this before he had time to bow himself
out.

And so he accepted his new position with dull carelessness. Life was
getting very worthless.

He walked across the park to see his friend the coachman. The frost had
given, and there was a dull dripping thaw. He leant against the railings
at the end of the Serpentine. There was still a great crowd all round
the water; but up the whole expanse there were only four skaters, for
the ice was very dangerous and rotten, and the people had been warned
off. One of the skaters came sweeping down to within a hundred yards of
where he was--a reckless, headlong skater, one who would chance drowning
to have his will. The ice cracked every moment and warned him, but he
would not heed, till it broke, and down he went; clutching wildly at the
pitiless, uptilted slabs which clanked about his head, to save himself;
and then with a wild cry disappeared. The icemen were on the spot in a
minute; and, when five were past, they had him out, and bore him off to
the receiving-house. A gentleman, a doctor apparently, who stood by
Charles, said to him, "Well, there is a reckless fool gone to his
account, God forgive him!"

"They will bring him round, won't they?" said Charles.

"Ten to one against it," said the doctor. "What right has he to
calculate on such a thing, either? Why, most likely there will be half a
dozen houses in mourning for that man to-morrow. He is evidently a man
of some mark. I can pity his relations in their bereavement, sir, but I
have precious little pity for a reckless fool."

And so Charles began to serve his friend the cornet, in a way--a very
poor way, I fear, for he was very weak and ill, and could do but little.
The deaf lady treated him like a son, God bless her! but Charles could
not recover the shock of his fever and delirium in the Crimea. He grew
very low-spirited and despondent by day, and worst of all, he began to
have sleepless nights--terrible nights. In the rough calculation he had
made of being able to live through his degradation, and get used to it,
he had calculated, unwittingly, on perfect health. He had thought that
in a few years he should forget the old life, and become just like one
of the grooms he had made his companions. This had now become
impossible, for his health and his nerve were gone.

He began to get afraid of his horses; that was the first symptom. He
tried to fight against the conviction, but it forced itself upon him.
When he was on horseback, he found that he was frightened when anything
went wrong; his knees gave way on emergency, and his hand was
irresolute. And, what is more, be sure of this, that, before he
confessed the fact to himself, the horses had found it out, and "taken
action on it," or else may I ride a donkey, with my face towards the
tail, for the rest of my life.

And he began to see another thing. Now, when he was nervous, in ill
health, and whimsical, the company of men among whom he was thrown as
fellow-servants became nearly unbearable. Little trifling acts of
coarseness, unnoticed when he was in good health and strong, at the time
he was with poor Hornby, now disgusted him. Most kind-hearted young
fellows, brought up as he had been, are apt to be familiar with, and
probably pet and spoil, the man whose duty it is to minister to their
favourite pleasures, be he gamekeeper, or groom, or cricketer, or
waterman. Nothing can be more natural, or, in proper bounds, harmless.
Charles had thought that, being used to these men, he could live with
them, and do as they did. For a month or two, while in rude coarse
health, he found it was possible; for had not Lord Welter and he done
the same thing for amusement? But now, with shattered nerves, he found
it intolerable. I have had great opportunities of seeing gentlemen
trying to do this sort of thing--I mean in Australia--and, as far as my
experience goes, it ends in one of two ways. Either they give it up as a
bad job, and assume the position that superior education gives them, or
else they take to drink, and go, not to mince matters, to the devil.

What Charles did, we shall see. Nobody could be more kind and
affectionate than the cornet and his deaf mother. They guessed that he
was "somebody," and that things were wrong with him; though, if he had
been a chimney-sweep's son, it would have made no difference to them,
for they were "good people." The cornet once or twice invited his
confidence; but he was too young, and Charles had not the energy to tell
him anything. His mother, too, asked him to tell her if anything was
wrong in his affairs, and whether she could help him; and possibly he
might have been more inclined to confide in her, than in her son. But
who could bellow such a sad tale of misery through an ear-trumpet? He
held his peace.

He kept Ellen's picture, which he had taken from Hornby. He determined
he would not go and seek her. She was safe somewhere, in some Catholic
asylum. Why should he re-open her grief?

But life was getting very, very weary business. By day, his old
favourite pleasure of riding had become a terror, and at night he got no
rest. Death forty good years away, by all calculation. A weary time.

He thought himself humbled, but he was not. He said to himself that he
was prevented from going back, because he had found out that Mary was in
love with him, and also because he was disgraced through his sister; and
both of these reasons were, truly, most powerful with him. But, in
addition to this, I fear there was a great deal of obstinate pride,
which thing is harder to beat out of a man than most things.

And, now, after all this half-moralising narrative, an important fact or
two. The duke was very busy, and stayed in town, and, as a consequence,
the duke's coachman. Moreover, the duke's coachman's son came home
invalided, and stayed with his father; and Charles, with the hearty
approval of the cornet, used to walk across the park every night to see
him, and talk over the campaign, and then look in at the Servants' Club,
of which he was still a member. And the door of the Servants' Club room
had glass windows to it. And I have noticed that anybody who looks
through a glass window (under favourable circumstances) can see who is
on the other side. I have done it myself more than once.



CHAPTER LVIII.

THE NORTH SIDE OF GROSVENOR SQUARE.


John Marston's first disappointment in life had been his refusal by
Mary. He was one of those men, brought up in a hard school, who get,
somehow, the opinion that everything which happens to a man is his own
fault. He used to say that every man who could play whist could get a
second if he chose. I have an idea that he is in some sort right. But he
used to carry this sort of thing to a rather absurd extent. He was apt
to be hard on men who failed, and to be always the first to say, "If he
had done this, or left that alone, it would not have been so," and he
himself, with a calm clear brain and perfect health, had succeeded in
everything he had ever tried at, even up to a double first. At one point
he was stopped. He had always given himself airs of superiority over
Charles, and had given him advice, good as it was, in a way which would
have ruined his influence with nine men out of ten; and suddenly he was
brought up. At the most important point in life, he found Charles his
superior. Charles had won a woman's love without knowing it, or caring
for it; and he had tried for it, and failed.

John Marston was an eminently noble and high-minded man. His faults were
only those of education, and his faults were very few. When he found
himself rejected, and found out why it was so--when he found that he was
no rival of Charles, and that Charles cared naught for poor Mary--he
humbly set his quick brain to work to find out in what way Charles, so
greatly his inferior in intellect, was superior to him in the most
important of all things. For he saw that Charles had not only won Mary's
love, but the love of every one who knew him; whereas he, John Marston,
had but very few friends.

And, when he once set to work at this task, he seemed to come rapidly to
the conclusion that Charles was superior to him in everything except
application. "And how much application should I have had," he concluded,
"if I had not been a needy man?"

So you see that his disappointment cured him of what was almost his only
vice--conceit. Everything works together for good, for those who are
really good.

Hitherto, John Marston has led only the life that so many young
Englishmen lead--a life of study, combined with violent, objectless,
physical exertion as a counterpoise. He had never known what enthusiasm
was, as yet. There was a vast deal of it somewhere about him; in his
elbows or his toes, or the calves of his legs, or somewhere, as events
prove. If I might hazard an opinion, I should say that it was stowed
away somewhere in that immensely high, but somewhat narrow, forehead of
his. Before he tried love-making, he might have written the calmest and
most exasperating article in the _Saturday Review_. But, shortly after
that, the tinder got a-fire; and the man who set it on fire was his
uncle Smith, the Moravian missionary.

For this fellow, Smith, had, as we know, come home from Australia with
the dying words of his beautiful wife ringing in his ears: "Go home from
here, my love, into the great towns, and see what is to be done there."
And he had found his nephew, John Marston. And, while Marston listened
to his strange, wild conversation, a light broke in upon him. And what
had been to him merely words before this, now became glorious,
tremendous realities.

And so those two had gone hand in hand down into the dirt and profligacy
of Southwark, to do together a work the reward of which comes after
death. There are thousands of men at such work now. We have no more to
do with it than to record the fact, that these two were at it heart and
hand.

John Marston's love for Mary had never waned for one instant. When he
had found that, or thought he had found that, she loved Charles, he had,
in a quiet, dignified way, retired from the contest. He had determined
that he would go away, and work at ragged schools, and so on, and try to
forget all about her. He had begun to fancy that his love was growing
cool, when Lord Saltire's letter reached him, and set it all a-blaze
again.

This was unendurable--that a savage from the southern wilds should step
in like this, without notice. He posted off to Casterton.

Mary was very glad to see him; but he had proposed to her once, and,
therefore, how could she be so familiar with him as of yore?
Notwithstanding this, John was not so very much disappointed at his
reception; he had thought that matters were even worse than they were.

After dinner, in the drawing-room, he watched them together. George
Corby was evidently in love. He went to Mary, who was sitting alone, the
moment they came from the dining-room. Mary looked up, and caught his
eyes as he approached; but her eyes wandered from him to the door, until
they settled on John himself. She seemed to wish that he would come and
talk to her. He had a special reason for not doing so: he wanted to
watch her and George together. So he stayed behind, and talked to Lord
Hainault.

Lord Saltire moved up beside Lady Ascot. Lady Hainault had the three
children--Archy in her lap, and Gus and Flora beside her. In her high
and mighty way she was amusing them, or rather trying to do so. Lady
Hainault was one of the best and noblest women in the world, as you have
seen already; but she was not an amusing person. And no one knew it
better than herself. Her intentions were excellent: she wanted to leave
Mary free from the children until their bed-time, so that she might talk
to her old acquaintance, John Marston; for, at the children's bed-time,
Mary would have to go with them. Even Lady Hainault, determined as she
was, never dared to contemplate putting those children to bed without
Mary's assistance. She was trying to tell them a story out of her own
head, but was making a dreadful mess of it; and she was quite conscious
that Gus and Flora were listening to her with contemptuous pity.

So they were disposed. Lord Saltire and Lady Ascot were comfortably out
of hearing. We had better attend to them first, and come round to the
others afterwards.

Lady Ascot began. "James," she said, "it is perfectly evident to me that
you sent for John Marston."

"Well, and suppose I did?" said Lord Saltire.

"Well, then, why did you do so?"

"Maria," said Lord Saltire, "do you know that sometimes you are
intolerably foolish? Cannot you answer that question for yourself?"

"Of course I can," said Lady Ascot.

"Then why the deuce did you ask me?"

That was a hard question to answer, but Lady Ascot said:

"I doubt if you are wise, James. I believe it would be better that she
should go to Australia. It is a very good match for her."

"It is not a good match for her," said Lord Saltire, testily. "To begin
with, first-cousin marriages are an invention of the devil. Third and
lastly, she sha'n't go to that infernal hole. Sixthly, I want her, now
our Charles is dead, to marry John Marston; and, in conclusion, I mean
to have my own way."

"Do you know," said Lady Ascot, "that he proposed to her before, and was
rejected?"

"He told me of it the same night," said Lord Saltire. "Now, don't talk
any more nonsense, but tell me this: Is she bitten with that young
fellow?"

"Not deeply, as yet, I think," said Lady Ascot.

"Which of them has the best chance?" said Lord Saltire.

"James," said Lady Ascot, repeating his own words, "do you know that
sometimes you are intolerably foolish? How can I tell?"

"Which would you bet on, Miss Headstall?" asked Lord Saltire.

"Well, well!" said Lady Ascot, "I suppose I should bet on John Marston."

"And how long are you going to give Sebastopol, Lord Hainault?" said
John Marston.

"What do you think about the Greek Kalends, my dear Marston?" said Lord
Hainault.

"Why, no. I suppose we shall get it at last. It won't do to have it said
that England and France----"

"Say France and England just now," said Lord Hainault.

"No, I will not. It must not be said that England and France could not
take a Black Sea fortress."

"We shall have to say it, I fear," said Lord Hainault. "I am not quite
sure that we English don't want a thrashing."

"I am sure we do," said Marston, "But we shall never get one. That is
the worst of it."

"My dear Marston," said Lord Hainault, "you have a clear head. Will you
tell me this: Do you believe that Charles Ravenshoe is dead?"

"God bless me, Lord Hainault, have you any doubts?"

"Yes."

"So have I," said Marston, turning eagerly towards him. "I thought you
had all made up your minds. If there is any doubt, ought we not to
mention it to Lord Saltire?"

"I think that he has doubts himself. I may tell you that he has secured
to him, in case of his return, eighty thousand pounds."

"He would have made him his heir, I suppose," said John Marston; "would
he not?"

"Yes: I think I am justified in saying Yes."

"And so all the estates go to Lord Ascot, in any case?"

"Unless in case of Charles's re-appearance before his death; in which
case I believe he will alter his will."

"Then if Charles be alive, he had better keep out of Lord Ascot's way on
dark nights, in narrow lanes," said John Marston.

"You are mistaken there," said Lord Hainault, thoughtfully. "Ascot is a
bad fellow. I told him so once in public, at the risk of getting an
awful thrashing. If it had not been for Mainwaring I should have had
sore bones for a twelvemonth. But--but--well, I was at Eton with Ascot,
and Ascot was and is a great blackguard. But, do you know, he is to some
a very affectionate fellow. You know he was adored at Eton."

"He was not liked at Oxford," said Marston. "I never knew any good of
him. He is a great rascal."

"Yes," said Lord Hainault, "I suppose he is what you would call a great
rascal. Yes; I told him so, you know. And I am not a fighting man, and
that proves that I was strongly convinced of the fact, or I should have
shirked my duty. A man in my position don't like to go down to the House
of Lords with a black eye. But I doubt if he is capable of any deep
villainy yet. If you were to say to me that Charles would be unwise to
allow Ascot's wife to make his gruel for him, I should say that I agreed
with you."

"There you are certainly right, my lord," said John Marston, smiling.
"But I never knew Lord Ascot spare either man or woman."

"That is very true," said Lord Hainault. "Do you notice that we have
been speaking as if Charles Ravenshoe were not dead?"

"I don't believe he is," said John Marston.

"Nor I, do you know," said Lord Hainault; "at least only half. What a
pair of ninnies we are! Only ninety men of the 140th came out of that
Balaclava charge. If he escaped the cholera, the chances are in favour
of his having been killed there."

"What evidence have we that he enlisted in that regiment at all?"

"Lady Hainault's and Mary's description of his uniform, which they never
distinctly saw for one moment," said Hainault. "_Violà tout._"

"And you would not speak to Lord Saltire?"

"Why, no. He sees all that we see. If he comes back, he gets eighty
thousand pounds. It would not do either for you or me to press him to
alter his will. Do you see?"

"I suppose you are right, Lord Hainault. Things cannot go very wrong
either way. I hope Mary will not fall in love with that cousin of hers,"
he added, with a laugh.

"Are you wise in persevering, do you think?" said Lord Hainault, kindly.

"I will tell you in a couple of days," said John Marston. "Is there any
chance of seeing that best of fellows, William Ravenshoe, here?"

"He may come tumbling up. He has put off his wedding, in consequence of
the death of his half-brother. I wonder if he was humbugged at Varna?"

"Nothing more likely," said Marston. "Where is Lord Welter?"

"In Paris--plucking geese."

Just about this time, all the various groups in the drawing-room
seemed to come to the conclusion that the time had arrived for
new combinations, to avoid remarks. So there was a regular
pass-in-the-corner business. John Marston went over to Mary; George
Corby came to Lord Hainault; Lord Saltire went to Lady Hainault, who had
Archy asleep in her lap; and Gus and Flora went to Lady Ascot.

"At last, old friend," said Mary to John Marston. "And I have been
watching for you so long. I was afraid that the time would come for the
children to go to bed, and that you would never come and speak to me."

"Lord Hainault and I were talking politics," said Marston. "That is why
I did not come."

"Men must talk politics, I suppose," said Mary. "But I wish you had come
while my cousin was here. He is so charming. You will like him."

"He seems to be a capital fellow," said Marston.

"Indeed he is," said Mary. "He is really the most lovable creature I
have met for a long time. If you would take him up, and be kind to him,
and show him life, from the side from which _you_ see it, you would be
doing a good work; and you would be obliging _me_. And I know, my dear
friend, that you like to oblige me."

"Miss Corby, you know that I would die for you."

"I know it. Who better? It puzzles me to know what I have done to earn
such kindness from you. But there it is. You will be kind to him."

Marston was partly pleased and partly disappointed by this conversation.
Would you like to guess why? Yes. Then I will leave you to do so, and
save myself half a page of writing.

Only saying this, for the benefit of inexperienced novel-readers, that
he was glad to hear her talk in that free and easy manner about her
cousin; but would have been glad if she had not talked in that free and
easy manner to himself. Nevertheless, there was evidently no harm done
as yet. That was a great cause of congratulation; there was time yet.

Gus and Flora went over to Lady Ascot. Lady Ascot said, "My dears, is it
not near bed-time?" just by way of opening the conversation--nothing
more.

"Lawks a mercy on me, no," said Flora. "Go along with you, do, you
foolish thing."

"My dear! my dear!" said Lady Ascot.

"She is imitating old Alwright," explained Gus. "She told me she was
going to. Lord Saltire says, 'Maria! Maria! Maria!--you are intolerably
foolish, Maria!'"

"Don't be naughty, Gus," said Lady Ascot.

"Well, so he did, for I heard him. Don't mind us; we don't mean any
harm. I say, Lady Ascot, has she any right to bite and scratch?"

"Who?" said Lady Ascot.

"Why, that Flora. She bit Alwright because she wouldn't lend her Mrs.
Moko."

"Oh, you dreadful fib!" said Flora. "Oh, you wicked boy! you know where
you'll go to if you tell such stories. Lady Ascot, I didn't bite her; I
only said she ought to be bit. She told me that she couldn't let me have
Mrs. Moko, because she was trying caps on her. And then she told nurse
that I should never have her again, because I squeezed her flat. And so
she told a story. And it was not I who squeezed her flat, but that boy,
who is worse than Ananias and Sapphira. And I made a bogey of her in the
nursery door, with a broom and a counterpane, just as he was coming in.
And he shut the door on her head, and squeezed a piece of paint off her
nose as big as half-a-crown."

Lady Ascot was relieved by being informed that the Mrs. Moko aforesaid
was only a pasteboard image, the size of life, used by the lady's maid
for fitting caps.

There were many evenings like this; a week or so was passed without any
change. At last there was a move towards London.

The first who took flight was George Corby. He was getting dissatisfied,
in his sleepy semi-tropical way, with the state of affairs. It was
evident that, since John Marston's arrival, he had been playing, with
regard to Mary, second fiddle (if you can possibly be induced to pardon
the extreme coarseness of the expression). One day, Lord Saltire asked
him to take him for a drive. They went over to dismantled Ranford, and
Lord Saltire was more amusing than ever. As they drove up through the
dense larch plantation, on the outskirt of the park, they saw Marston
and Mary side by side. George Corby bit his lip.

"I suppose there is something there, my lord?" said he.

"Oh dear, yes; I hope so," said Lord Saltire. "Oh, yes, that is a very
old affair."

So George Corby went first. He did not give up all hopes of being
successful, but he did not like the way things were going. His English
expedition was not quite so pleasant as he intended it to be. He, poor
fellow, was desperately in love, and his suit did not seem likely to
prosper. He was inclined to be angry with Lord Saltire. "He should not
have let things go so far," thought George, "without letting him know;"
quite forgetting that the mischief was done before Lord Saltire's
arrival.

Lord Saltire and John Marston moved next. Lord Saltire had thought it
best to take his man Simpson's advice, and move into his house in Curzon
Street. He had asked John to come with him.

"It is a very nice little house," he said; "deuced well aired, and that
sort of thing; but I know I shall have a creeping in my back when I go
back for the first week, and fancy there is a draught. This will make me
peevish. I don't like to be peevish to my servants, because it is
unfair; they can't answer one. I wish you would come and let me be
peevish to you. You may just as well. It will do you good. You have got
a fancy for disciplining yourself, and all that sort of thing; and you
will find me capital practice for a week or so in a fresh house. After
that I shall get amiable, and then you may go. You may have the use of
my carriage, to go and attend to your poor man's plaster business in
Southwark, if you like. I am not nervous about fever or vermin. Besides,
it may amuse me to hear all about it. And you can bring that cracked
uncle of yours to see me sometimes; his Scriptural talk is very
piquant."

Lord and Lady Hainault moved up into Grosvenor Square too, for
Parliament was going to meet rather early. They persuaded Lady Ascot to
come and stay with them.

After a few days, William made his appearance. "Well, my dear
Ravenshoe," said Lord Hainault, "and what brings you to town?"

"I don't know," said William. "I cannot stay down there. Lord Hainault,
do you know I think I am going cracked?"

"Why, my dear fellow, what do you mean?"

"I have got such a strange fancy in my head, I cannot rest."

"What is your fancy?" said Lord Hainault. "Stay; may I make a guess at
it?"

"You would never dream what it is. It is too mad."

"I will guess," said Lord Hainault. "Your fancy is this:--You believe
that Charles Ravenshoe is alive, and you have come up to London to take
your chance of finding him in the streets."

"But, good God!" said William, "how have you found this out? I have
never told it even to my own sweetheart."

"Because," said Lord Hainault, laying his hand on his shoulder, "I and
John Marston have exactly the same fancy. That is why."

And Charles so close to them all the time. Creeping every day across the
park to see the coachman and his son. Every day getting more hopeless.
All energy gone. Wit enough left to see that he was living on the
charity of the cornet. There were some splinters in his arm which would
not come away, and kept him restless. He never slept now. He hesitated
when he was spoken to. Any sudden noise made him start and look wild. I
will not go on with the symptoms. Things were much worse with him than
we have ever seen them before. He, poor lad, began to wonder whether it
would come to him to die in a hospital or----

Those cursed bridges! Why did they build such things? Who built them?
The devil. To tempt ruined, desperate men, with ten thousand fiends
gnawing and sawing in their deltoid muscles, night and day. Suppose he
had to cross one of these by night, would he ever get to the other side?
Or would angels from heaven come down and hold him back?

The cornet and his mother had a conversation about him. Bawled the
cornet into the ear-trumpet:

"My fellow Simpson is very bad, mother. He is getting low and nervous,
and I don't like the looks of him."

"I remarked it myself," said the lady. "We had better have Bright. It
would be cheaper to pay five guineas, and get a good opinion at once."

"I expect he wants a surgeon more than a doctor," said the cornet.

"Well, that is the doctor's business," said the old lady. "Drop a line
to Bright, and see what he says. It would be a burning shame, my
dear--enough to bring down the wrath of God upon us--if we were to let
him want for anything, as long as we have money. And we have plenty of
money. More than we want. And if it annoys him to go near the horses, we
must pension him. But I would rather let him believe that he was earning
his wages, because it might be a weight on his mind if he did not. See
to it the first thing in the morning. Remember Balaclava, James!
Remember Balaclava! If you forget Balaclava, and what trooper Simpson
did for you there, you are tempting God to forget you."

"I hope He may when I do, mother," shouted the cornet. "I remember
Balaclava--ay, and Devna before."

There are such people as these in the world, reader. I know some of
them. I know a great many of them. So many of them, in fact, that this
conclusion has been forced upon me--that the world is _not_ entirely
peopled by rogues and fools; nay, more, that the rogues and fools form a
contemptible minority. I may become unpopular, I may be sneered at by
men who think themselves wiser for coming to such a conclusion; but I
will not retract what I have said. The good people in the world
outnumber the bad, ten to one, and the ticket for this sort of belief is
"Optimist."

This conversation between the cornet and his mother took place at
half-past two. At that time Charles had crept across the park to the
Mews, near Belgrave Square, to see his friend the duke's coachman and
his son. May I be allowed, without being accused of writing a novel in
the "confidential style," to tell you that this is the most important
day in the whole story.

At half-past two, William Ravenshoe called at Lord Hainault's house in
Grosvenor Square. He saw Lady Ascot. Lady Ascot asked him what sort of
weather it was out of doors.

William said that there was a thick fog near the river, but that on the
north side of the square it was pleasant. So Lady Ascot said she would
like a walk, if it were only for ten minutes, if he would give her his
arm; and out they went.

Mary and the children came out too, but they went into the square. Lady
Ascot and William walked slowly up and down the pavement alone, for Lady
Ascot liked to see the people.

Up and down the north side, in front of the house. At the second turn,
when they were within twenty yards of the west end of the square, a tall
man with an umbrella over his shoulder came round the corner, and leant
against the lamp-post. They both knew him in an instant. It was Lord
Ascot. He had not seen them. He had turned to look at a great
long-legged chestnut that was coming down the street, from the right,
with a human being on his back. The horse was desperately vicious, but
very beautiful and valuable. The groom on his back was neither beautiful
nor valuable, and was losing his temper with the horse. The horse was
one of those horses vicious by nature--such a horse as Rarey (all honour
to him) can terrify into submission for a short time; and the groom was
a groom, not one of our country lads, every one of whose virtues and
vices have been discussed over and over again at the squire's
dinner-table, or about whom the rector had scratched his head, and had
had into his study for private exhortation or encouragement. Not one of
the minority. One of the majority, I fear very much. Reared, like a dog,
among the straw, without education, without religion, without
self-respect--worse broke than the horse he rode. When I think of all
that was said against grooms and stable-helpers during the Rarey fever,
I get very angry, I confess it. One man said to me, "When we have had a
groom or two killed, we shall have our horses treated properly." Look to
your grooms, gentlemen, and don't allow such a blot on the fair fame of
England as some racing stables much longer, or there will be a heavy
reckoning against you when the books are balanced.

But the poor groom lost his temper with the horse, and beat it over the
head. And Lord Ascot stayed to say, "D---- it all, man, you will never
do any good like that," though a greater fiend on horseback than Lord
Ascot I never saw.

This gave time for Lady Ascot to say, "Come on, my dear Ravenshoe, and
let us speak to him." So on they went. Lord Ascot was so busy looking at
the horse and groom, that they got close behind him before he saw them.
Nobody being near, Lady Ascot, with a sparkle of her old fun, poked him
in the back with her walking-stick. Lord Ascot turned sharply and
angrily round, with his umbrella raised for a blow.

When he saw who it was, he burst out into a pleasant laugh. "Now, you
grandma," he said, "you keep that old stick of yours quiet, or you'll
get into trouble. What do you mean by assaulting the head of the house
in the public streets? I am ashamed of you. You, Ravenshoe, you egged
her on to do it. I shall have to punch your head before I have done. How
are you both?"

"And where have you been, you naughty boy?" said Lady Ascot.

"At Paris," said that ingenuous nobleman, "dicing and brawling, as
usual. Nobody can accuse me of hiding _my_ talents in a napkin, grandma.
Those two things are all I am fit for, and I certainly do them with a
will. I have fought a duel, too. A Yankee Doodle got it into his head
that he might be impertinent to Adelaide; so I took him out and shot
him. Don't cry, now. He is not dead. He'll walk lame though, I fancy,
for a time. How jolly it is to catch you out here! I dread meeting that
insufferable prig Hainault, for fear I should kick him. Give me her arm,
my dear Ravenshoe."

"And where is Adelaide?" said Lady Ascot.

"Up at St. John's Wood," said he. "Do steal away, and come and see her.
Grandma, I was very sorry to hear of poor Charles's death--I was indeed.
You know what it has done for me; but, by Gad, I was very sorry."

"Dear Welter--dear Ascot," said Lady Ascot, "I am sure you were sorry.
Oh! if you would repent, my own dear. If you would think of the love
that Christ bore you when He died for you. Oh, Ascot, Ascot! will
nothing save you from the terrible hereafter?"

"I am afraid not, grandma," said Lord Ascot. "It is getting too cold for
you to stay out. Ravenshoe, my dear fellow, take her in."

And so, after a kind good-bye, Lord Ascot walked away towards the
south-west.

I am afraid that John Marston was right. I am afraid he spoke the truth
when he said that Lord Ascot was a savage, untameable blackguard.



CHAPTER LIX.

LORD ASCOT'S CROWNING ACT OF FOLLY.


Lord Ascot, with his umbrella over his shoulder, swung on down the
street, south-westward. The town was pleasant in the higher parts, and
so he felt inclined to prolong his walk. He turned to the right into
Park Lane.

He was a remarkable-looking man. So tall, so broad, with such a mighty
chest, and such a great, red, hairless, cruel face above it, that
people, when he paused to look about him, as he did at each street
corner, turned to look at him. He did not notice it; he was used it.
And, besides, as he walked there were two or three words ringing yet in
his ears which made him look less keenly than usual after the handsome
horses and pretty faces which he met in his walk.

"Oh, Ascot, Ascot! will nothing save you from the terrible hereafter?"

"Confound those old women, more particularly when they take to religion.
Always croaking. And grandma Ascot, too, as plucky and good an old soul
as any in England--as good a judge of a horse as William Day--taking to
that sort of thing. Hang it! it was unendurable. It was bad taste, you
know, putting such ideas into a fellow's head. London was dull enough
after Paris, without that."

So thought Lord Ascot, as he stood in front of Dudley House, and looked
southward. The winter sun was feebly shining where he was, but to the
south there was a sea of fog, out of which rose the Wellington statue,
looking more exasperating than ever, and the two great houses at the
Albert Gate.

"This London is a beastly hole," said he. "I have got to go down into
that cursed fog. I wish Tattersall's was anywhere else." But he
shouldered his umbrella again, and on he went.

Opposite St. George's Hospital there were a number of medical students.
Two of them, regardless of the order which should always be kept on Her
Majesty's highway, were wrestling. Lord Ascot paused for a moment to
look at them. He heard one of the students who were looking on say to
another, evidently about himself--

"By Gad! what preparations that fellow would cut up into."

"Ah!" said another, "and wouldn't he cuss and d---- under the operation
neither."

"I know who that is," said a third. "That's Lord Ascot; the most
infernal, headlong, gambling savage in the three kingdoms."

So Lord Ascot, in the odour of sanctity, passed down into Tattersall's
yard. There was no one in the rooms. He went out into the yard again.

"Hullo, you sir! Have you seen Mr. Sloane?"

"Mr. Sloane was here not ten minutes ago, my lord. He thought your
lordship was not coming. He is gone down to the Groom's Arms."

"Where the deuce is that?"

"In Chapel Street, at the corner of the mews, my lord. Fust turning on
the right, my lord."

Lord Ascot had business with our old acquaintance, Mr. Sloane, and went
on. When he came to the public-house mentioned (the very same one in
which the Servants' Club was held, to which Charles belonged), he went
into the bar, and asked of a feeble-minded girl, left accidentally in
charge of the bar--"Where was Mr. Sloane?" And she said, "Upstairs, in
the club-room."

Lord Ascot walked up to the club-room, and looked in at the glass door.
And there he saw Sloane. He was standing up, with his hand on a man's
shoulder, who had a map before him. Right and left of these two men were
two other men, an old one and a young one, and the four faces were close
together; and while he watched them, the man with the map before him
looked up, and Lord Ascot saw Charles Ravenshoe, pale and wan, looking
like death itself, but still Charles Ravenshoe in the body.

He did not open the door. He turned away, went down into the street, and
set his face northward.

So he was alive, and----There were more things to follow that "and" than
he had time to think of at first. He had a cunning brain, Lord Ascot,
but he could not get at his position at first. The whole business was
too unexpected--he had not time to realise it.

The afternoon was darkening as he turned his steps northwards, and began
to walk rapidly, with scowling face and compressed lips. One or two of
the students still lingered on the steps of the hospital. The one who
had mentioned him by name before said to his fellows, "Look at that Lord
Ascot. What a devil he looks! He has lost some money. Gad! there'll be
murder done to-night. They oughtn't to let such fellows go loose!"

Charles Ravenshoe alive. And Lord Saltire's will. Half a million of
money. And Charley Ravenshoe, the best old cock in the three kingdoms.
Of all his villainies--and, God forgive him, they were many--the one
that weighed heaviest on his heart was his treatment of Charles. And
now----

The people turned and looked after him as he hurled along. Why did his
wayward feet carry him to the corner of Curzon Street? That was not his
route to St. John's Wood. The people stared at the great red-faced
giant, who paused against the lamp-post irresolute, biting his upper lip
till the blood came.

How would they have stared if they had seen what I see.[11]

There were two angels in the street that wretched winter afternoon, who
had followed Lord Ascot in his headlong course, and paused here. He
could see them but dimly, or only guess at their existence, but I can
see them plainly enough.

One was a white angel, beautiful to look at, who stood a little way off,
beckoning to him, and pointing towards Lord Saltire's house; and the
other was black, with its face hid in a hood, who was close beside him,
and kept saying in his ear, "Half a million! half a million!"

A strange apparition in Curzon Street, at four o'clock on a January
afternoon! If you search the files of the papers at this period, you
will find no notice of any remarkable atmospheric phenomena in Curzon
Street that afternoon. But two angels were there, nevertheless, and Lord
Ascot had a dim suspicion of it.

A dim suspicion of it! How could it be otherwise, when he heard a voice
in one ear repeating Lady Ascot's last words, "What can save you from
the terrible hereafter?" and in the other the stealthy whisper of the
fiend, "Half a million! half a million!"

He paused, only for a moment, and then headed northward again. The black
angel was at his ear, but the white one was close to him--so close, that
when his own door opened, the three passed in together. Adelaide,
standing under the chandelier in the hall, saw nothing of the two
spirits; only her husband, scowling fiercely.

She was going upstairs to dress, but she paused. As soon as Lord Ascot's
"confidential scoundrel," before mentioned, had left the hall, she came
up to him, and in a whisper, for she knew the man was listening, said:

"What is the matter, Welter?"

He looked as if he would have pushed her out of the way. But he did not.
He said:

"I have seen Charles Ravenshoe."

"When?"

"To-night."

"Good God! Then it is almost a matter of time with us," said Adelaide.
"I had a dim suspicion of this, Ascot. It is horrible. We are ruined."

"Not yet," said Lord Ascot.

"There is time--time. He is obstinate and mad. Lord Saltire might
die----"

"Well?"

"Either of them," she hissed out. "Is there no----"

"No what?"

"There is half a million of money," said Adelaide.

"Well?"

"All sorts of things happen to people."

Lord Ascot looked at her for an instant, and snarled out a curse at her.

John Marston was perfectly right. He was a savage, untameable
blackguard. He went upstairs into his bedroom. The two angels were with
him. They are with all of us at such times as these. There is no
plagiarism here. The fact is too old for that.

Up and down, up and down. The bedroom was not long enough; so he opened
the door of the dressing-room; and that was not long enough; and so he
opened the door of what had been the nursery in a happier household than
his; and walked up and down through them all. And Adelaide sat below,
before a single candle, with pale face and clenched lips, listening to
his footfall on the floor above.

She knew as well as if an angel had told her what was passing in his
mind as he walked up and down. She had foreseen this crisis plainly--you
may laugh at me, but she had. She had seen that if, by any wild
conjunction of circumstances, Charles Ravenshoe were alive, and if he
were to come across him before Lord Saltire's death, events would
arrange themselves exactly as they were doing on this terrible evening.
There was something awfully strange in the realisation of her morbid
suspicions.

Yes, she had seen thus far, and had laughed at herself for entertaining
such mad fancies. But she had seen no further. What the upshot would be
was hidden from her like a dark veil, black and impenetrable as the fog
which was hanging over Waterloo Bridge at that moment, which made the
squalid figure of a young, desperate girl show like a pale, fluttering
ghost, leading a man whom we know well, a man who followed her, on the
road to--what?

The rest, though, seemed to be, in some sort, in her own hands. Wealth,
position in the world, the power of driving her chariot over the necks
of those who had scorned her--the only things for which her worthless
heart cared--were all at stake.

"He will murder me," she said, "_but he shall hear me_."

Still, up and down, over head, his heavy footfall went to and fro.

Seldom, in any man's life, comes such a trial as his this night. A good
man might have been hard tried in such circumstances. What hope can we
have of a desperate blackguard like Lord Ascot? He knew Lord Saltire
hated him; he knew that Lord Saltire had only left his property to him
because he thought Charles Ravenshoe was dead; and yet he hesitated
whether or no he should tell Lord Saltire that he had seen Charles, and
ruin himself utterly.

Was he such an utter rascal as John Marston made him out? Would such a
rascal have hesitated long? What could make a man without a character,
without principle, without a care about the world's opinion, hesitate at
such a time as this? I cannot tell you.

He was not used to think about things logically or calmly: and so, as he
paced up and down, it was some time before he actually arranged his
thoughts. Then he came to this conclusion, and put it fairly before
him--that, if he let Lord Saltire know that Charles Ravenshoe was alive,
he was ruined; and that, if he did not, he was a villain.

Let us give the poor profligate wretch credit for getting even so far as
this. There was no attempt to gloss over the facts, and deceive himself.
He put the whole matter honestly before him.

He would be a fool if he told Lord Saltire. He would be worse than a
fool, a madman--there was no doubt about that. It was not to be thought
about.

But Charles Ravenshoe!

How pale the dear old lad looked. What a kind, gentle old face it was.
How well he could remember the first time he ever saw him. At Twyford,
yes; and, that very same visit, how he ran across the billiard-room, and
asked him who Lord Saltire was. Yes. What jolly times there were down in
Devonshire, too. Those Claycomb hounds wanted pace, but they were full
fast enough for the country. And what a pottering old rascal Charley was
among the stone walls. Rode through. Yes. And how he'd mow over a
woodcock. Fire slap through a holly bush. Ha!

And suppose they proved this previous marriage. Why, then he would be
back at Ravenshoe, and all things would be as they were. But suppose
they couldn't----

Lord Ascot did not know that eighty thousand pounds were secured to
Charles.

By Gad! it was horrible to think of. That it should be thrown on him, of
all men, to stand between old Charley and his due. If it were any other
man but him----

Reader, if you do not know that a man will act from "sentiment" long,
long years after he has thrown "principle" to the winds, you had better
pack up your portmanteau, and go and live five years or more among
Australian convicts and American rowdies, as a friend of mine did. The
one long outlives the other. The incarnate devils who beat out poor
Price's brains with their shovels, when they had the gallows before
them, consistently perjured themselves in favour of the youngest of the
seven, the young fiend who had hounded them on.

Why there never was such a good fellow as that Charley. That Easter
vacation--hey! Among the bargees, hang it, what a game it was----I won't
follow out his recollections here any further. Skittle-playing and
fighting are all very well; but one may have too much of them.

"I might still do this," thought Lord Ascot: "I might----"

At this moment he was opposite the dressing-room door. It was opened,
and Adelaide stood before him.

Beautiful and terrible, with a look which her husband had, as yet, only
seen shadowed dimly--a look which he felt might come there some day, but
which he had never seen yet. The light of her solitary candle shone upon
her pale face, her gleaming eyes, and her clenched lip; and he saw what
was written there, and for one moment quailed.

("If you were to say to me," said Lord Hainault once, "that Charles
would be unwise to let Ascot's wife make his gruel for him, I should
agree with you.")

Only for one moment! Then he turned on her and cursed her.

"What, in the name of hell, do you want here at this moment?"

"You may murder me if you like, Ascot; but, before you have time to do
that, you shall hear what I have got to say. I have been listening to
your footsteps for a weary hour, and I heard irresolution in every one
of them. Ascot, don't be a madman!"

"I shall be soon, if you come at such a time as this, and look like
that. If my face were to take the same expression as yours has now, Lady
Ascot, these would be dangerous quarters for you."

"I know that," said she. "I knew all that before I came up here
to-night, Ascot. Ascot, half a million of money----"

"Why, all the devils in the pit have been singing that tune for an hour
past. Have you only endangered your life to add your little pipe to
theirs?"

"I have. Won't you hear me?"

"No. Go away."

"Are you going to do it."

"Most likely not. You had better go away."

"You might give him a hundred thousand pounds, you know, Ascot. Four
thousand a year. The poor dear fellow would worship you for your
generosity. He is a very good fellow, Ascot."

"You had better go away," said he, quietly.

"Not without a promise, Ascot. Think----"

"Now go away. This is the last warning I give you. Madwoman!"

"But, Ascot----"

"Take care; it will be too late for both of us in another moment."

She caught his eye for the first time, and fled for her life. She ran
down into the drawing-room, and threw herself into a chair. "God
preserve me!" she said; "I have gone too far with him. Oh, this lonely
house!"

Every drop of blood in her body seemed to fly to her heart. There were
footsteps outside the door. Oh, God! have mercy on her; he was following
her.

Where were the two angels now, I wonder?

He opened the door, and came towards her slowly. If mortal agony can
atone for sin, she atoned for all her sins in that terrible half-minute.
She did not cry out; she dared not; she writhed down among the gaudy
cushions, with her face buried in her hands, and waited--for what?

She heard a voice speaking to her. It was not his voice, but the kind
voice of old Lord Ascot, his dead father. It said--

"Adelaide, my poor girl, you must not get frightened when I get in a
passion. My poor child, you have borne enough for me; I would not hurt a
hair of your head."

He kissed her cheek, and Adelaide burst into a passion of sobs. After a
few moments those sobs had ceased, and Lord Ascot left her. He did not
know that she had fainted away. She never told him that.

Where were the angels now? Angels!--there was but one of them left.
Which one was that, think you?

Hurrah! the good angel. The black fiend with the hood had sneaked away
to his torment. And, as Lord Ascot closed the door behind him, and sped
away down the foggy street, the good one vanished too; for the work was
done. Ten thousand fiends would not turn him from his purpose now.
Hurrah!

       *       *       *       *       *

"Simpson," said Lord Saltire, as he got into bed that evening, "it won't
last much longer."

"What will not last, my lord?" said Simpson.

"Why, me," said Lord Saltire, disregarding grammar. "Don't set up a
greengrocer's shop, Simpson, nor a butter and egg shop, in Berkeley
Street, if you can help it, Simpson. If you must keep a lodging-house, I
should say Jermyn Street; but don't let me influence you. I am not sure
that I wouldn't sooner see you in Brook Street, or Conduit Street. But
don't try Pall Mall, that's a good fellow; or you'll be getting fast
men, who will demoralise your establishment. A steady connection among
government clerks, and that sort of person, will pay best in the long
run."

"My dear lord--my good old friend, why should you talk like this
to-night?"

"Because I am very ill, Simpson, and it will all come at once; and it
may come any time. When they open Lord Barkham's room, at Cottingdean, I
should like you and Mr. Marston to go in first, for I may have left
something or another about."

An hour or two after, his bell rang, and Simpson, who was in the
dressing-room, came hurriedly in. He was sitting up in bed, looking just
the same as usual.

"My good fellow," he said, "go down and find out who rung and knocked at
the door like that. Did you hear it?"

"I did not notice it, my lord."

"Butchers, and bakers, and that sort of people, don't knock and ring
like that. The man at the door now brings news, Simpson. There is no
mistake about the ring of a man who comes with important intelligence.
Go down and see."

He was not long gone. When he came back again, he said--

"It is Lord Ascot, my lord. He insists on seeing you immediately."

"Up with him, Simpson--up with him, my good fellow. I told you so. This
gets interesting."

Lord Ascot was already in the doorway. Lord Saltire's brain was as acute
as ever; and as Lord Ascot approached him, he peered eagerly and
curiously at him, in the same way as one scrutinises the seal of an
unopened letter, and wonders what its contents may be. Lord Ascot sat
down by the bed, and whispered to the old man; and, when Simpson saw his
great coarse, red, hairless, ruffianly face actually touching that of
Lord Saltire, so delicate, so refined, so keen, Simpson began to have a
dim suspicion that he was looking on rather a remarkable sight. And so
he was.

"Lord Saltire," said Lord Ascot, "I have seen Charles Ravenshoe
to-night."

"You are quite sure?"

"I am quite sure."

"Ha! Ring the bell, Simpson." Before any one had spoken again, a footman
was in the room. "Bring the major-domo here instantly," said Lord
Saltire.

"You know what you have done, Ascot," said Lord Saltire. "You see what
you have done. I am going to send for my solicitor, and alter my will."

"Of course you are," said Lord Ascot. "Do you dream I did not know that
before I came here?"

"And yet you came?"

"Yes; with all the devils out of hell dragging me back."

"As a matter of curiosity, why?" said Lord Saltire.

"Oh, I couldn't do it, you know. I've done a good many dirty things; but
I couldn't do that, particularly to that man. There are some things a
fellow can't do, you know."

"Where did you see him?"

"At the Groom's Arms, Belgrave Mews; he was there not three hours ago.
Find a man called Sloane, a horse-dealer; he will tell you all about
him; for he was sitting with his hand on his shoulder. His address is
twenty-seven, New Road."

At this time the major-domo appeared. "Take a cab at once, and _fetch_
me--you understand when I say _fetch_--Mr. Brogden, my solicitor. Mr.
Compton lives out of town, but he lives over the office in Lincoln's
Inn. If you can get hold of the senior partner, he will do as well. Put
either of them in a cab, and pack them off here. Then go to Scotland
Yard; give my compliments to inspector Field; tell him a horrible murder
has been committed, accompanied by arson, forgery, and regrating, with a
strong suspicion of sorning, and that he must come at once."

That venerable gentleman disappeared, and then Lord Saltire said--

"Do you repent, Ascot?"

"No," said he. "D---- it all, you know, I could not do it when I came to
think of it. The money would never have stayed with me, I take it.
Good-night."

"Good-night," said Lord Saltire; "come the first thing in the morning."

And so they parted. Simpson said, "Are you going to alter your will
to-night, my lord? Won't it be a little too much for you?"

"It would be if I was going to do so, Simpson; but I am not going to
touch a line of it. I am not sure that half a million of money was ever,
in the history of the world, given up with better grace or with less
reason. He is a noble fellow; I never guessed it; he shall have it--by
Jove, he shall have it! I am going to sleep. Apologise to Brogden, and
give the information to Field; tell him I expect Charles Ravenshoe here
to-morrow morning. Good-night."

Simpson came in to open the shutters next morning; but those shutters
were not opened for ten days, for Lord Saltire was dead.

Dead. The delicate waxen right hand, covered with rings, was lying
outside on the snow-white sheet, which was unwrinkled by any death
agony; and on the pillow was a face, beautiful always, but now more
beautiful, more calm, more majestic than ever. If his first love, dead
so many years, had met him in the streets but yesterday, she would not
have known him; but if she could have looked one moment on the face
which lay on that pillow, she would have seen once more the gallant
young nobleman who came a-wooing under the lime-trees sixty years agone.

The inspector was rapid and dexterous in his work. He was on Charles
Ravenshoe's trail like a bloodhound, eager to redeem the credit which
his coadjutor, Yard, had lost over the same case. But his instructions
came to him three hours too late.



CHAPTER LX.

THE BRIDGE AT LAST.


The group which Lord Ascot had seen through the glass doors consisted of
Charles, the coachman's son, the coachman, and Mr. Sloane. Charles and
the coachman's son had got hold of a plan of the battle of Balaclava,
from the _Illustrated London News_, and were explaining the whole thing
to the two older men, to their great delight. The four got enthusiastic
and prolonged the talk for some time; and, when it began to flag, Sloane
said he must go home, and so they came down into the bar.

Here a discussion arose about the feeding of cavalry horses, in which
all four were perfectly competent to take part. The two young men were
opposed in argument to the two elder ones, and they were having a right
pleasant chatter about the corn or hay question in the bar, when the
swing doors were pushed open, and a girl entered and looked round with
that bold, insolent expression one only sees among a certain class.

A tawdry draggled-looking girl, finely-enough dressed, but with
everything awry and dirty. Her face was still almost beautiful; but the
cheekbones were terribly prominent, and the hectic patch of red on her
cheeks, and the parched cracked lips, told of pneumonia developing into
consumption.

Such a figure had probably never appeared in that decent aristocratic
public-house, called the Groom's Arms, since it had got its licence. The
four men ceased their argument and turned to look at her; and the
coachman, a family man with daughters, said, "Poor thing!"

With a brazen, defiant look she advanced to the bar. The barmaid, a very
beautiful, quiet-looking, London-bred girl, advanced towards her,
frightened at such a wild, tawdry apparition, and asked her mechanically
what she would please to take.

"I don't want nothing to drink, miss," said the girl; "least-ways, I've
got no money; but I want to ask a question. I say, miss, you couldn't
give a poor girl one of them sandwiches, could you? You would never miss
it, you know."

The barmaid's father, the jolly landlord, eighteen stone of good humour,
was behind his daughter now. "Give her a porkpie, Jane, and a glass of
ale, my girl."

"God Almighty bless you, sir, and keep her from the dark places where
the devil lies a-waiting. I didn't come here to beg--it was only when I
see them sandwiches that it came over me--I come here to ask a question.
I know it ain't no use. But you can't see him--can't see him--can't see
him," she continued, sobbing wildly, "rattling his poor soul away, and
not do as he asked you. I didn't come to get out for a walk. I sat there
patient three days, and would have sat there till the end, but he would
have me come. And so I came; and I must get back--get back."

The landlord's daughter brought her some food, and as her eyes gleamed
with wolfish hunger, she stopped speaking. It was a strange group. She
in the centre, tearing at her food in a way terrible to see. Behind, the
calm face of the landlord, looking on her with pity and wonder; and his
pretty daughter, with her arm round his waist, and her head on his
bosom, with tears in her eyes. Our four friends stood to the right,
silent and curious--a remarkable group enough; for neither the duke's
coachman, nor Mr. Sloane, who formed the background, were exactly
ordinary-looking men; and in front of them were Charles and the
coachman's son, who had put his hand on Charles's right shoulder, and
was peering over his left at the poor girl, so that the two faces were
close together--the one handsome and pale, with the mouth hidden by a
moustache; the other, Charles's, wan and wild, with the lips parted in
eager curiosity, and the chin thrust slightly forward.

In a few minutes the girl looked round on them. "I said I'd come here to
ask a question; and I must ask it and get back. There was a gentleman's
groom used to use this house, and I want him. His name was Charles
Horton. If you, sir, or if any of these gentlemen, know where I can find
him, in God Almighty's name tell me this miserable night."

Charles was pale before, but he grew more deadly pale now; his heart
told him something was coming. His comrade, the coachman's son, held his
hand tighter still on his shoulder, and looked in his face. Sloane and
the coachman made an exclamation.

Charles said quietly, "My poor girl, I am the man you are looking for.
What, in God's name, do you want with me?" and, while he waited for her
to answer, he felt all the blood in his body going towards his heart.

"Little enough," she said. "Do you mind a little shoeblack boy as used
to stand by St. Peter's Church?"

"Do I?" said Charles, coming towards her. "Yes, I do. My poor little
lad. You don't mean to say that you know anything about him?"

"I am his sister, sir; and he is dying; and he says he won't die not
till you come. And I come off to see if I could find you. Will you come
with me and see him?"

"Will I come?" said Charles. "Let us go at once. My poor little monkey.
Dying, too!"

"Poor little man," said the coachman. "A many times, I've heard you
speak of him. Let's all go."

Mr. Sloane and his son seconded this motion.

"You mustn't come," said the girl. "There's a awful row in the court
to-night; that's the truth. He's safe enough with me; but if you come,
they'll think a mob's being raised. Now, don't talk of coming."

"You had better let me go alone," said Charles. "I feel sure that it
would not be right for more of us to follow this poor girl than she
chooses. I am ready."

And so he followed the girl out into the darkness; and, as soon as they
were outside, she turned and said to him--

"You'd best follow me from a distance. I'll tell you why; I expect the
police wants me, and you might get into trouble from being with me.
Remember, if I am took, it's Marquis Court, Little Marjoram Street, and
it's the end house, exactly opposite you as you go in. If you stands at
the archway, and sings out for Miss Ophelia Flanigan, she'll come to
you. But if the row ain't over, you wait till they're quiet. Whatever
you do, don't venture in by yourself, however quiet it may look; sing
out for her."

And so she fluttered away through the fog, and he followed, walking fast
to keep her in sight.

It was a dreadful night. The fog had lifted, and a moaning wind had
arisen, with rain from the south-west. A wild, dripping, melancholy
night, without rain enough to make one think of physical discomfort, and
without wind enough to excite one.

The shoeblacks and the crossing-sweepers were shouldering their brooms
and their boxes, and were plodding homewards. The costermongers were
letting their barrows stand in front of the public-houses, while they
went in to get something to drink, and were discussing the price of
vegetables, and being fetched out by dripping policemen, for obstructing
her Majesty's highway. The beggars were gathering their rags together,
and posting homewards; let us charitably suppose, to their bit of fish,
with guinea-fowl and sea-kale afterwards, or possibly, for it was not
late in February, to their boiled pheasant and celery sauce. Every one
was bound for shelter but the policemen. And Charles--poor, silly,
obstinate Charles, with an earl's fortune waiting for him, dressed as a
groom, pale, wan, and desperate--was following a ruined girl, more
desperate even than he, towards the bridge.

Yes; this is the darkest part of my whole story. Since his misfortunes
he had let his mind dwell a little too much on these bridges. There are
very few men without a cobweb of some sort in their heads, more or less
innocent. Charles had a cobweb in his head now. The best of men might
have a cobweb in his head after such a terrible breakdown in his
affairs as he had suffered; more especially if he had three or four
splinters of bone in his deltoid muscle, which had prevented his
sleeping for three nights. But I would sooner that any friend of mine
should at such times take to any form of folly (such even as having
fifty French clocks in the room, and discharging the butler if they did
not all strike at once, as one good officer and brave fellow did) rather
than get to thinking about bridges after dark, with the foul water
lapping and swirling about the piers. I have hinted to you about this
crotchet of poor Charles for a long time; I was forced to do so. I think
the less we say about it the better. I call you to witness that I have
not said more about it than was necessary.

At the end of Arabella Row, the girl stopped, and looked back for him.
The mews' clock was overhead, a broad orb of light in the dark sky. Ten
minutes past ten. Lord Ascot was sitting beside Lord Saltire's bed, and
Lord Saltire had rung the bell to send for Inspector Field.

She went on, and he followed her along the Mall. She walked fast, and he
had hard work to keep her in sight. He saw her plainly enough whenever
she passed a lamp. Her shadow was suddenly thrown at his feet, and then
swept in a circle to the right, till it overtook her, and then passed
her, and grew dim till she came to another lamp, and then came back to
his feet, and passed on to her again, beckoning him on to follow her,
and leading her--whither?

How many lamps were there? One, two, three, four; and then a man lying
asleep on a bench in the rain, who said, with a wild, wan face, when the
policeman roused him, and told him to go home, "My home is in the
Thames, friend; but I shall not go there to-night, or perhaps
to-morrow."

"His home was in the Thames." The Thames, the dear old happy river. The
wonder and delight of his boyhood. That was the river that slept in
crystal green depths, under the tumbled boulders fallen from the chalk
cliff, where the ivy, the oak, and the holly grew; and then went
spouting, and raging, and roaring through the weirs at Casterton, where
he and Welter used to bathe, and where he lay and watched kind Lord
Ascot spinning patiently through one summer afternoon, till he killed
the eight-pound trout at sundown.

That was the dear old Thames. But that was fifty miles up the river, and
ages ago. Now, and here, the river had got foul, and lapped about
hungrily among piles, and barges, and the buttresses of bridges. And
lower down it ran among mud banks. And there was a picture of one of
them, by dear old H. K. Browne, and you didn't see at first what it was
that lay among the sedges, because the face was reversed, and the limbs
were----

They passed in the same order through Spring Gardens into the Strand.
And then Charles found it more troublesome than ever to follow the poor
girl in her rapid walk. There were so many like her there: but she
walked faster than any of them. Before he came to the street which leads
to Waterloo Bridge, he thought he had lost her; but when he turned the
corner; and as the dank wind smote upon his face, he came upon her,
waiting for him.

And so they went on across the bridge. They walked together now. Was she
frightened, too?

When they reached the other end of the bridge, she went on again to show
the way. A long way on past the Waterloo Station, she turned to the
left. They passed out of a broad, low, noisy street, into other streets,
some quiet, some turbulent, some blazing with the gas of miserable
shops, some dark and stealthy, with only one or two figures in them,
which disappeared round corners, or got into dark archways as they
passed. Charles saw that they were getting into "Queer Street."

How that poor gaudy figure fluttered on! How it paused at each turning
to look back for him, and then fluttered on once more! What innumerable
turnings there were! How should he ever find his way back--back to the
bridge?

At last she turned into a street of greengrocers, and marine-store
keepers, in which the people were all at their house doors looking out;
all looking in one direction, and talking so earnestly to one another,
that even his top-boots escaped notice: which struck him as being
remarkable, as nearly all the way from Waterloo Bridge a majority of the
populace had criticised them, either ironically; or openly, in an
unfavourable manner. He thought they were looking at a fire, and turned
his head in the same direction; he only saw the poor girl, standing at
the mouth of a narrow entry, watching for him.

He came up to her. A little way down a dark alley was an archway, and
beyond there were lights, and a noise of a great many people shouting,
and talking, and screaming. The girl stole on, followed by Charles a few
steps, and then drew suddenly back. The whole of the alley, and the dark
archway beyond, was lined with policemen. A brisk-looking, middle-sized
man, with intensely black scanty whiskers, stepped out, and stood before
them. Charles saw at once that it was the inspector of police.

"Now then, young woman," he said sharply, "what are you bringing that
young man here for, eh?"

She was obliged to come forward. She began wringing her hands.

"Mr. Inspector," she said, "sir, I wish I may be struck dead, sir, if I
don't tell the truth. It's my poor little brother, sir. He's a dying in
number eight, sir, and he sent for this young man for to see him, sir.
Oh! don't stop us, sir. S'elp me----"

"Pish!" said the inspector; "what the devil is the use of talking this
nonsense to me? As for you, young man, you march back home double quick.
You've no business here. It's seldom we see a gentleman's servant in
such company in this part of the town."

"Pooh! pooh! my good sir," said Charles; "stuff and nonsense. Don't
assume that tone with me, if you will have the goodness. What the young
woman says is perfectly correct. If you can assist me to get to that
house at the further end of the court, where the poor boy lies dying, I
shall be obliged to you. If you can't, don't express an opinion without
being in possession of circumstances. You may detain the girl, but I am
going on. You don't know who you are talking to."

How the old Oxford insolence flashed out even at the last.

The inspector drew back and bowed. "I must do my duty, sir. Dickson!"

Dickson, in whose beat the court was, as he knew by many a sore bone in
his body, came forward. He said, "Well, sir, I won't deny that the young
woman is Bess, and perhaps she may be on the cross, and I don't go to
say that what with flimping, and with cly-faking, and such like, she
mayn't be wanted some day like her brother the Nipper was; but she is a
good young woman, and a honest young woman in her way, and what she says
this night about her brother is gospel truth."

"Flimping" is a style of theft which I have never practised, and,
consequently, of which I know nothing. "Cly-faking" is stealing
pocket-handkerchiefs. I never practised this either, never having had
sufficient courage or dexterity. But, at all events, Police-constable
Dickson's notion of "an honest young woman in her way" seems to me to be
confused and unsatisfactory in the last degree.

The inspector said to Charles, "Sir, if gentlemen disguise themselves
they must expect the police to be somewhat at fault till they open their
mouths. Allow me to say, sir, that in putting on your servant's clothes
you have done the most foolish thing you possibly could. You are on an
errand of mercy, it appears, and I will do what I can for you. There's
a doctor and a Scripture reader somewhere in the court now, so our
people say. _They_ can't get out. I don't think you have much chance of
getting in."

"By Jove!" said Charles, "do you know that you are a deuced good fellow?
I am sorry that I was rude to you, but I am in trouble, and irritated. I
hope you'll forgive me."

"Not another word, sir," said the inspector. "Come and look here, sir.
You may never see such a sight again. _Our_ people daren't go in. This,
sir, is, I believe, about the worst court in London."

"I thought," said Charles, quite forgetting his top-boots, and speaking,
"_de haut en bas_" as in old times--"I thought that your Rosemary Lane
carried off the palm as being a lively neighbourhood."

"Lord bless you," said the inspector, "nothing to this;--look here."

They advanced to the end of the arch, and looked in. It was as still as
death, but it was as light as day, for there were candles burning in
every window.

"Why," said Charles, "the court is empty. I can run across. Let me go; I
am certain I can get across."

"Don't be a lunatic, sir;" said the inspector, holding him tight; "wait
till I give you the word, unless you want six months in Guy's Hospital."

Charles soon saw the inspector was right. There were three houses on
each side of the court. The centre one on the right was a very large
one, which was approached on each side by a flight of three steps,
guarded by iron railings, which, in meeting, formed a kind of platform
or rostrum. This was Mr. Malone's house, whose wife chose, for family
reasons, to call herself Miss Ophelia Flanigan.

The court was silent and hushed, when, from the door exactly opposite to
this one, there appeared a tall and rather handsome young man, with a
great frieze coat under one arm, and a fire-shovel over his shoulder.

This was Mr. Dennis Moriarty, junior. He advanced to the arch, so close
to Charles and the inspector that they could have touched him, and then
walked down the centre of the court, dragging the coat behind him,
lifting his heels defiantly high at every step, and dexterously beating
a "chune on the bare head of um wid the fire-shovel. Hurroo!"

He had advanced half-way down the court without a soul appearing, when
suddenly the enemy poured out on him in two columns, from behind two
doorways, and he was borne back, fighting like a hero with his
fire-shovel, into one of the doors on his own side of the court.

The two columns of the enemy, headed by Mr. Phelim O'Neill, uniting,
poured into the doorway after him, and from the interior of the house
arose a hubbub, exactly as though people were fighting on the stairs.

At this point there happened one of those mistakes which so often occur
in warfare, which are disastrous at the time, and inexplicable
afterwards. Can any one explain why Lord Lucan gave that order at
Balaclava? No. Can any one explain to me why, on this occasion, Mr.
Phelim O'Neill headed the attack on the staircase in person, leaving his
rear struggling in confusion in the court, by reason of their hearing
the fun going on inside, and not being able to get at it? I think not.
Such was the case, however, and, in the midst of it, Mr. Malone, howling
like a demon, and horribly drunk, followed by thirty or forty worse than
himself, dashed out of a doorway close by, and before they had time to
form line of battle, fell upon them hammer and tongs.

I need not say that after this surprise in the rear, Mr. Phelim
O'Neill's party had very much the worst of it. In about ten minutes,
however, the two parties were standing opposite one another once more,
inactive from sheer fatigue.

At this moment Miss Ophelia Flanigan appeared from the door of No.
8--the very house that poor Charles was so anxious to get to--and slowly
and majestically advanced towards the rostrum in front of her own door,
and ascending the steps, folded her arms and looked about her.

She was an uncommonly powerful, red-faced Irishwoman; her arms were
bare, and she had them akimbo, and was scratching her elbows.

Every schoolboy knows that the lion has a claw at the end of his tail
with which he lashes himself into fury. When the experienced hunter sees
him doing that, he, so to speak, "hooks it." When Miss Flanigan's
enemies saw her scratching her elbows, they generally did the same. She
was scratching her elbows now. There was a dead silence.

One woman in that court, and one only, ever offered battle to the
terrible Miss Ophelia: that was young Mrs. Phaylim O'Nale. On the
present occasion she began slowly walking up and down in front of the
expectant hosts. While Miss Flanigan looked on in contemptuous pity,
scratching her elbows, Mrs. O'Neill opened her fire.

"Pussey, pussey!" she began, "kitty, kitty, kitty! Miaow, miaow!" (Mr.
Malone had accumulated property in the cat's meat business.) "Morraow,
ye little tabby divvle, don't come anighst her, my Kitleen Avourneen, or
yill be convarted into sassidge mate, and sowld to keep a drunken
one-eyed old rapparee, from the county Cark, as had two months for
bowling his barrer sharp round the corner of Park Lane over a ould
gineral officer, in a white hat and a green silk umbereller; and as
married a red-haired woman from the county Waterford, as calls herself
by her maiden name, and never feels up to fighting but when the licker's
in her, which it most in general is, pussey; and let me see the one of
Malone's lot or Moriarty's lot ather, for that matter, as will deny it.
Miaow!"

Miss Ophelia Flanigan blew her nose contemptuously. Some of the low
characters in the court had picked her pocket.

Mrs. O'Neill quickened her pace and raised her voice. She was beginning
again, when the poor girl who was with Charles ran into the court and
cried out, "Miss Flanigan! I have brought him; Miss Flanigan!"

In a moment the contemptuous expression faded from Miss Flanigan's face.
She came down off the steps and advanced rapidly towards where Charles
stood. As she passed Mrs. O'Neill she said, "Whist now, Biddy O'Nale, me
darlin. I ain't up to a shindy to-night. Ye know the rayson."

And Mrs. O'Neill said, "Ye're a good woman, Ophelia. Sorra a one of me
would have loosed tongue on ye this night, only I thought it might cheer
ye up a bit after yer watching. Don't take notice of me, that's a dear."

Miss Flanigan went up to Charles, and, taking him by the arm, walked
with him across the court. It was whispered rapidly that this was the
young man who had been sent for to see little Billy Wilkins, who was
dying in No. 8. Charles was as safe as if he had been in the centre of a
square of the Guards. As he went into the door, they gave him a cheer;
and, when the door closed behind him, they went on with their fighting
again.

Charles found himself in a squalid room, about which there was nothing
remarkable but its meanness and dirt. There were four people there when
he came in--a woman asleep by the bed, two gentlemen who stood aloof in
the shadow, and the poor little wan and wasted boy in the bed.

Charles went up and sat by the bed; when the boy saw him he made an
effort, rose half up, and threw his arms round his neck. Charles put his
arm round him and supported him--as strange a pair, I fancy, as you
will meet in many long days' marches.

"If you would not mind, Miss Flanigan," said the doctor, "stepping
across the court with me, I shall be deeply obliged to you. You, sir,
are going to stay a little longer."

"Yes, sir," said the other gentleman, in a harsh, unpleasant voice; "I
shall stay till the end."

"You won't have to stay very long, my dear sir," said the doctor. "Now,
Miss Flanigan, I am ready. Please to call out that the doctor is coming
through the court, and that, if any man lays a finger on him, he will
exhibit croton and other drastics to him till he wishes he was dead, and
after that, throw in quinine till the top of his head comes off.
_Allons_, my dear madam."

With this dreadful threat the doctor departed. The other gentleman, the
Scripture reader, stayed behind, and sat in a chair in the further
corner. The poor mother was sleeping heavily. The poor girl who had
brought Charles, sat down in a chair and fell asleep with her head on a
table.

The dying child was gone too far for speech. He tried two or three
times, but he only made a rattle in his throat. After a few minutes he
took his arms from round Charles's neck, and, with a look of anxiety,
felt for something by his side. When he found it he smiled, and held it
towards Charles. Well, well; it was only the ball that Charles had given
him----

Charles sat on the bed, and put his left arm round the child, so that
the little death's head might lie upon his breast. He took the little
hand in his. So they remained. How long?

I know not. He only sat there with the hot head against his heart, and
thought that a little life, so strangely dear to him, now that all
friends were gone, was fast ebbing away, and that he must get home again
that night across the bridge.

The little hand that he held in his relaxed its grasp, and the boy was
dead. He knew it, but he did not move. He sat there still with the dead
child in his arms, with a dull terror on him when he thought of his
homeward journey across the bridge.

Some one moved and came towards him. The mother and the girl were still
asleep--it was the Scripture reader. He came towards Charles, and laid
his hand upon his shoulder. And Charles turned from the dead child, and
looked up into his face--into the face of John Marston.



CHAPTER LXI.

SAVED.


With the wailing mother's voice in their ears, those two left the house.
The court was quiet enough now. The poor savages who would not stop
their riot lest they should disturb the dying, now talked in whispers
lest they should awaken the dead.

They passed on quickly together. Not one word had been uttered between
them--not one--but they pushed rapidly through the worst streets to a
better part of the town, Charles clinging tight to John Marston's arm,
but silent. When they got to Marston's lodgings, Charles sat down by the
fire, and spoke for the first time. He did not burst out crying, or
anything of that sort. He only said quietly--

"John, you have saved me. I should never have got home this night."

But John Marston, who, by finding Charles, had dashed his dearest hopes
to the ground, did not take things quite so quietly. Did he think of
Mary now? Did he see in a moment that his chance of her was gone? And
did he not see that he loved her more deeply than ever?

"Yes," I answer to all these three questions. How did he behave now?

Why, he put his hand on Charles's shoulder, and he said, "Charles,
Charles, my dear old boy, look up and speak to me in your dear old
voice. Don't look wild like that. Think of Mary, my boy. She has been
wooed by more than one, Charles; but I think that her heart is yours
yet."

"John," said Charles, "that is what has made me hide from you all like
this. I know that she loves me above all men. I dreamt of it the night I
left Ravenshoe. I knew it the night I saw her at Lord Hainault's. And
partly that she should forget a penniless and disgraced man like myself,
and partly (for I have been near the gates of hell to-night, John, and
can see many things) from a silly pride, I have spent all my cunning on
losing myself--hoping that you would believe me dead, thinking that you
would love my memory, and dreading lest you should cease to love Me."

"We loved your memory well enough, Charles. You will never know how
well, till you see how well we love yourself. We have hunted you hard,
Charles. How you have contrived to avoid us, I cannot guess. You do not
know, I suppose, that you are a rich man?"

"A rich man?"

"Yes. Even if Lord Saltire does not alter his will, you come into three
thousand a year. And, besides, you are undoubtedly heir to Ravenshoe,
though one link is still wanting to prove that."

"What do you mean?"

"There is no reasonable doubt, although we cannot prove it, that your
grandfather Petre was married previously to his marriage with Lady
Alicia Staunton, that your father James was the real Ravenshoe, and that
Ellen and yourself are the elder children, while poor Cuthbert and
William----"

"Cuthbert! Does he know of this? I will hide again; I will never
displace Cuthbert, mind you."

"Charles, Cuthbert will never know anything about it. Cuthbert is dead.
He was drowned bathing last August."

Hush! There is something, to me, dreadful in a man's tears. I dare say
that it was as well, that night, that the news of Cuthbert's death
should have made him break down and weep himself into quietness again
like a child. I am sure it was for the best. But it is the sort of thing
that good taste forbids one to dwell upon or handle too closely.

When he was quiet again, John went on:

"It seems incredible that you should have been able to elude us so long.
The first intelligence we had of you was from Lady Ascot, who saw you in
the Park."

"Lady Ascot? I never saw my aunt in the Park."

"I mean Adelaide. She is Lady Ascot now. Lord Ascot is dead."

"Another of them!" said Charles. "John, before you go on, tell me how
many more are gone."

"No more. Lady Ascot and Lord Saltire are alive and well. I was with
Lord Saltire to-day, and he was talking of you. He has left the
principal part of his property to Ascot. But, because none of us would
believe you dead, he has made a reservation in your favour of eighty
thousand pounds."

"I am all abroad," said Charles. "How is William?"

"He is very well, as he deserves to be. Noble fellow! He gave up
everything to hunt you through the world like a bloodhound and bring you
back. He never ceased his quest till he saw your grave at Varna."

"At Varna!" said Charles; "why, we were quartered at Devna."

"At Devna! Now, my dear old boy, I am but mortal; do satisfy my
curiosity. What regiment did you enlist in?"

"In the 140th."

"Then how, in the name of all confusion," cried John Marston, "did you
miss poor Hornby?"

"I did not miss Hornby," said Charles, quietly. "I had his head in my
lap when he died. But now tell me, how on earth did you come to know
anything about him?"

"Why, Ascot told us that you had been his servant. And he came to see
us, and joined in the chase with the best of us. How is it that he never
sent us any intelligence of you?"

"Because I never went near him till the film of death was on his eyes.
Then he knew me again, and said a few words which I can understand now.
Did he say anything to any of you about Ellen?"

"About Ellen?"

"Yes. Did Ascot ever say anything either?"

"He told Lord Saltire, what I suppose you know----"

"About what?"

"About Ellen."

"Yes, I know it all."

"And that he had met you. Now tell me what you have been doing."

"When I found that there was no chance of my remaining _perdu_ any
longer, and when I found that Ellen was gone, why, then I enlisted in
the 140th...."

He paused here, and hid his face in his hands for some time. When he
raised it again his eyes were wilder, and his speech more rapid.

"I went out with Tom Sparks and the Roman-nosed bay horse; and we ran a
thousand miles in sixty-three hours. And at Devna we got wood-pigeons;
and the cornet went down and dined with the 42nd at Varna; and I rode
the Roman-nosed bay, and he carried me through it capitally, I ask your
pardon, sir, but I am only a poor discharged trooper. I would not beg,
sir, if I could help it; but pain and hunger are hard things to bear,
sir."

"Charles, Charles, don't you know me?"

"That is my name, sir. That is what they used to call me. I am no common
beggar, sir. I was a gentleman once, sir, and rode a-horseback after a
blue greyhound, and we went near to kill a black hare. I have a
character from Lord Ascot, sir. I was in the light cavalry charge at
Balaclava. An angry business. They shouldn't get good fellows to fight
together like that. I killed one of them, sir. Hornby killed many, and
he is a man who wouldn't hurt a fly. A sad business!"

"Charles, old boy, be quiet."

"When you speak to me, sir, of the distinction between the upper and
lower classes, I answer you, that I have had some experience in that way
of late, and have come to the conclusion that, after all, the gentleman
and the cad are one and the same animal. Now that I am a ruined man,
begging my bread about the streets, I make bold to say to you, sir,
hoping that your alms may be none the less for it, that I am not sure
that I do not like your cad as well as your gentleman, in his way. If I
play on the one side such cards as my foster-brother William and Tom
Sparks, you, of course, trump me with John Marston and the cornet. You
are right; but they are all four good fellows. I have been to death's
gate to learn it. I will resume my narrative. At Devna the cornet,
besides wood-pigeons, shot a francolin----"

It is just as well that this sort of thing did not come on when Charles
was going home alone across the bridge; that is all I wished to call
your attention to. The next morning, Lord and Lady Hainault, old Lady
Ascot, William, Mary, and Father Tiernay, were round his bed, watching
the hot head rolling from side to side upon the pillow, and listening to
his half-uttered delirious babble, gazing with a feeling almost of
curiosity at the well-loved face which had eluded them so long.

"Oh, Hainault! Hainault!" said Lady Ascot, "to find him like this after
all! And Saltire dead without seeing him! and all my fault, my fault. I
am a wicked old woman; God forgive me!"

Lord Hainault got the greatest of the doctors into a corner, and said:--

"My dear Dr. B----, will he die?"

"Well, yes," said the doctor; "to you I would sooner say yes than no,
the chances are so heavy against him. The surgeons like the look of
things still less than the physicians. You must really prepare for the
worst."



CHAPTER LXII.

MR. JACKSON'S BIG TROUT.


Of course, he did not die; I need not tell you that. B---- and P. H----
pulled him through, and shook their honest hands over his bed. Poor
B---- is reported to have winked on this occasion; but such a proceeding
was so unlike him, that I believe the report must have come round to us
through one of the American papers--probably the same one which
represented the Prince of Wales hitting the Duke of Newcastle in the eye
with a champagne cork.

However, they pulled him through; and, in the pleasant spring-time, he
was carried down to Casterton. Things had gone so hard with him, that
the primroses were in blossom on the southern banks before he knew that
Lord Saltire was dead, and before he could be made to understand that he
was a rich man.

From this much of the story we may safely deduce this moral, "That, if a
young gentleman gets into difficulties, it is always as well for him to
leave his address with his friends." But, as young gentlemen in
difficulties generally take particularly good care to remind their
friends of their whereabouts, it follows that this story has been
written to little or no purpose. Unless, indeed, the reader can find for
himself another moral or two; and I am fool enough to fancy that he may
do that, if he cares to take the trouble.

Casterton is built on arches, with all sorts of offices and kitchens
under what would naturally be the ground floor. The reason why Casterton
was built on arches (that is to say, as far as you and I are concerned)
is this: that Charles, lying on the sofa in Lord Hainault's study, could
look over the valley and see the river; which, if it had been built on
the ground, he could not have done. From this window he could see the
great weirs spouting and foaming all day; and, when he was carried up to
bed, by William and Lord Hainault, he could hear the roar of them rising
and pinking, as the night-wind came and went, until they lulled him to
sleep.

He lay here one day, when the doctors came down from London. And one of
them put a handkerchief over his face, which smelt like chemical
experiments, and somehow reminded him of Dr. Daubeny. And he fell
asleep; and when he awoke, he was suffering pain in his left arm--not
the old dull grinding pain, but sharper; which gradually grew less as
he lay and watched the weirs at Casterton. They had removed the
splinters of bone from his arm.

He did not talk much in this happy quiet time. William and Lady Ascot
were with him all day. William, dear fellow, used to sit on a footstool,
between his sofa and the window, and read the _Times_ to him. William's
education was imperfect, and he read very badly. He would read Mr.
Russell's correspondence till he saw Charles's eye grow bright, and
heard his breath quicken, and then he would turn to the list of
bankrupts. If this was too sad he would go on to the share list, and
pound away at that, till Charles went to sleep, which he generally did
pretty quickly.

About this time--that is to say, well in the spring--Charles asked two
questions:--The first was, whether or no he might have the window open;
the next, whether Lord Hainault would lend him an opera-glass?

Both were answered in the affirmative. The window was opened, and Lord
Hainault and William came in, bearing, not an opera-glass, but a great
brass telescope, on a stand--a thing with an eight-inch object-glass,
which had belonged to old Lord Hainault, who was a Cambridge man, and
given to such vanities.

This was very delightful. He could turn it with a move of his hand on to
any part of the weirs, and see almost every snail which crawled on the
burdocks. The very first day he saw one of the men from the paper-mill
come to the fourth weir, and pull up the paddles to ease the water. The
man looked stealthily around, and then raised a wheel from below the
apron, full of spawning perch. And this was close time! Oho!

Then, a few days after, came a tall, grey-headed gentleman, spinning a
bleak for trout, who had with him a lad in top-boots, with a
landing-net. And this gentleman sent his bait flying out here and there
across the water, and rattled his line rapidly into the palm of his hand
in a ball, like a consummate master, as he was. (King among fishermen,
prince among gentlemen, you will read these lines, and you will be so
good as to understand that I am talking of you.) And this gentleman spun
all day and caught nothing.

But he came the next day to the same place, and spun again. The great
full south-westerly wind was roaring up the valley, singing among the
budding trees, and carrying the dark, low, rainless clouds swiftly
before it. At two, just as Lady Ascot and William had gone to lunch, and
after Charles had taken his soup and a glass of wine, he, lying there,
and watching this gentleman diligently, saw his rod bend, and his line
tighten. The lad in the top-boots and the landing-net leaped up from
where he lay; there was no doubt about it now. The old gentleman had got
hold of a fish, and a big one.

The next twenty minutes were terrible. The old gentleman gave him the
but, and moved slowly down along the camp-shuting, and Charles followed
him with the telescope, although his hand was shaking with excitement.
After a time, the old gentleman began to wind up his reel, and then the
lad, top-boots, and the landing-net, and all, slipped over the
camp-shooting (will anybody tell me how to spell that word?
_Camps-heading_ won't do, my dear sir, all things considered), and
lifted the fish (he was nine pound) up among the burdocks at the old
gentleman's feet.

Charles had the whole group in the telescope--the old gentleman, the
great trout, and the dripping lad, taking off his boots, and emptying
the water out of them. But the old gentleman was looking to his right at
somebody who was coming, and immediately there came into the field of
the telescope a tall man in a velvet coat, with knee-breeches and
gaiters, and directly afterwards, from the other side, three children
and a young lady. The gentleman in the knee-breeches bowed to the young
lady, and then they all stood looking at the trout.

Charles could see them quite plainly. The gentleman in velveteen and
small-clothes was Lord Ascot, and the young lady was Mary.

He did not look through the telescope any more; he lay back, and tried
to think. Presently afterwards old Lady Ascot came in, and settled
herself in the window, with her knitting.

"My dear," she said, "I wonder if I fidget you with my knitting-needles?
Tell me if I do, for I have plenty of other work."

"Not at all, dear aunt; I like it. You did nineteen rows this morning,
and you would have done twenty-two if you had not dropped a stitch. When
I get stronger I shall take to it myself. There would be too much
excitement and over-exertion in it for me to begin just now."

Lady Ascot laughed; she was glad to see him trying even such a feeble
joke. She said--

"My dear, Mr. Jackson has killed a trout in the weirs just now, nine
pounds."

"I know," said Charles; "I did not know the weight, but I saw the fish.
Aunt, where is Welter--I mean, Ascot?"

"Well, he is at Ranford. I suppose you know, my dear boy, that poor
James left him nearly all his fortune. Nearly five hundred thousand
pounds' worth, with Cottingdean and Marksworth together. All the Ranford
mortgages are paid off, and he is going on very well, my dear. I think
they ought to give him his marquisate. James might have had it ten times
over, of course, but he used to say, that he had made himself the most
notorious viscount in England, and that if he took an earldom, people
would forget who he was."

"I wish he would come to see me, aunt. I am very fond of Welter."

I can't help it; he said so. Remember how near death's door he had been.
Think what he had been through. How he had been degraded, and kicked
about from pillar to post, like an old shoe; and also remember the state
he was in when he said it. I firmly believe that he had at this time
forgotten everything, and that he only remembered Lord Ascot as his old
boy love, and his jolly college companion. You must make the best of it,
or the worst of it for him, as you are inclined. He said so. And in a
very short time Lady Ascot found that she wanted some more wool, and
hobbled away to get it.

After a time, Charles heard a man come into the room. He thought it was
William; but it was not. This man came round the end of the sofa, and
stood in the window before him. Lord Ascot.

He was dressed as we know, having looked through Charles's telescope, in
a velveteen coat, with knee breeches and leathern gaiters. There was not
much change in him since the old times; only his broad, hairless face
seemed redder, his lower jaw seemed coarser and more prominent, his
great eyebrows seemed more lowering, his vast chest seemed broader and
deeper, and altogether he looked rather more like a mighty, coarse,
turbulent blackguard than ever.

"Well, old cock," he said, "so you are on your back, hey?"

"Welter," said Charles, "I am so glad to see you again. If you would
help me up, I should like to look at you."

"Poor old boy," said Lord Ascot, putting his great arm round him, and
raising him. "So! there you are, my pippin. What a good old fellow you
are, by Gad! So you were one of the immortal six hundred, hey? I thought
you would turn up somewhere in Queer Street, with that infernal old hook
nose of yours. I wish I had taken to that sort of thing, for I am fond
of fighting. I think, now I am rich and respectable, I shall subsidise a
prize-fighter to pitch into me once a fortnight. I wish I had been
respectable enough for the army; but I should always have been in
trouble with the commander-in-chief for dicing and brawling, I suppose.
Well, old man, I am devilish glad to see you again. I am in possession
of money which should have been yours. I did all I could for you,
Charles; you will never know how much. I tried to repair the awful wrong
I did you unconsciously. I did a thing in your favour I tremble to think
of now, but which, God help me, I would do again. You don't know what I
mean. If old Saltire had not died so quick, you would have known."

He was referring to his having told Lord Saltire that he had seen
Charles. In doing that, remember, he had thought that he was throwing
half a million to the winds. I only tell you that he was referring to
this, for fear you should not gather it from his own brutal way of
speaking.

I wonder how the balance will stand against Lord Ascot at last? Who ever
could have dreamt that his strong animal affection for his old friend
could have led him to make a sacrifice which many a more highly
organised man would have evaded, glossing over his conscience by fifty
mental subterfuges?

"However, my dear fellow," he continued, "it comes to this: I have got
the money; I shall have no children; and I shall make no will; therefore
it all comes to you, if you outlive me. About the title I can't say. The
lawyers must decide about that. No one seems to know whether or not it
descends through the female branch. By-the-bye, you are not master of
Ravenshoe yet, though there seems no doubt that grandma is right, and
that the marriage took place. However, whether the estate goes to you or
to William, I offer the same advice to both of you: if you get my money,
don't spend it in getting the title. You can get into the House of
Commons easy enough, if you seem to care about that sort of fun; and
fellows I know tell me that you get much better amusement there for your
money than in the other place. I have never been to the House of Lords
since the night I took my seat. It struck me as being slow. The fellows
say that there is never any chaff, or personalities, or calling to
order, or that sort of thing there, which seem to me to be half the fun
of the fair. But, of course, you know more about this than I."

Charles, in a minute, when he had ineffectually tried to understand what
Lord Ascot had been saying, collected his senses sufficiently to say:

"Welter, old boy, look here, for I am very stupid. Why did you say that
you should have no children?"

"Of course I can't; have they told you nothing?"

"Is Adelaide dead, Welter?" asked Charles, plucking at the buttons of
his coat nervously.

"They ought to have told you, Charles," said Lord Ascot, turning to the
window. "Now tell me something. Have you any love left for her yet?"

"Not one spark," said Charles, still buttoning and unbuttoning his coat.
"If I ever am a man again, I shall ask Mary Corby to marry me. I ought
to have done so sooner, perhaps. But I love your wife, Welter, in a way;
and I should grieve at her death, for I loved her once. By Gad! yes; you
know it. When did she die?"

"She is not dead, Charles."

"Now, don't keep me like this, old man; I can't stand it. She is no more
to me than my sister--not so much. Tell me what is the matter at once;
it can't be worse than what I think."

"The truth is very horrible, Charles," said Lord Ascot, speaking slowly.
"She took a fancy that I should buy back her favourite old Irish mare,
'Molly Asthore,' and I bought it for her; and we went out hunting
together, and we were making a nick, and I was getting the gate open for
her, when the devil rushed it; and down they came on it together. And
she broke her back--Oh, God! oh, God!--and the doctor says she may live
till seventy, but that she will never move from where she lies--and just
as I was getting to love her so dearly----"

Charles said nothing; for with such a great brutal blackguard as Lord
Ascot sobbing passionately at the window, it was as well to say nothing;
but he thought, "Here's work to the fore, I fancy, after a life of
laziness. I have been the object of all these dear soul's anxiety for a
long time. She must take my place now."



CHAPTER LXIII.

IN WHICH GUS CUTS FLORA'S DOLL'S CORNS.


That afternoon Charles said nothing more, but lay and looked out of the
window at the rhododendrons just bursting into bloom, at the deer, at
the rabbits, at the pheasants; and beyond, where the park dipped down so
suddenly, at the river which spouted and foamed away as of old; and to
the right, at the good old town of Casterton, and at the blue smoke from
its chimneys, drifting rapidly away before the soft south-westerly wind;
and he lay and looked at these and thought.

And before sundown an arch arose in the west which grew and spread; an
arch of pale green sky, which grew till it met the sun, and then the wet
grass in the park shone out all golden, and the topmost cedar boughs
began to blaze like burnished copper.

And then he spoke. He said, "William, my dear old friend--loved more
deeply than any words can tell--come here, for I have something to say
to you."

And good William came and stood beside him. And William looked at him,
and saw that his face was animated, and that his eyes were sparkling.
And he stood and said not a word, but smiled and waited for him to go
on.

And Charles said, "Old boy, I have been looking through that glass
to-day, and I saw Mr. Jackson catch the trout, and I saw Welter, and I
saw Mary; and I want you to go and fetch Mary here."

And William straightway departed; and as he went up the staircase he met
the butler, and he looked so happy, so radiant, and so thoroughly
kind-hearted and merry, that the butler, a solemn man, found himself
smiling as he drew politely aside to let him pass.

I hope you like this fellow, William. He was, in reality, only a groom,
say you. Well, that is true enough. A fellow without education or
breeding, though highly born. But still, I hope you like him. I was
forgetting myself a little, though. At this time he is master of
Ravenshoe, with certainly nine, and probably twelve, thousand a year--a
most eminently respectable person. One year's income of his would
satisfy a man I know, very well, and yet I am talking of him
apologetically. But then we novel writers have an unlimited command of
money, if we could only realise it.

However, this great capitalist went upstairs towards the nursery; and
here I must break off, if you please, and take up the thread of my
narrative in another place (I don't mean the House of Lords).

In point of fact there had been a shindy (I use the word advisedly, and
will repeat it)--a shindy, in the nursery that evening. The duty of a
story-teller is to stick in a moral reflection wherever he can, and so
at this place I pitchfork in this caution to young governesses, that
nothing can be more incautious or reprehensible, than to give children
books to keep them quiet without first seeing what these books are
about.

Mary was very much to blame in this case (you see I tell the truth, and
spare nobody). Gus, Flora, and Archy had been out to walk with her, as
we know, and had come home in a very turbulent state of mind. They had
demanded books as the sole condition on which they would be good; and
Mary, being in a fidget about her meeting with Lord Ascot, over the
trout, and being not quite herself, had promptly supplied Gus with a
number of _Blackwood's Magazine_, and Flora with a "Shakspeare."

This happened early in the afternoon. Remember this; for if we are not
particular in our chronology, we are naught.

Gus turned to the advertisements. He read, among other things, a
testimonial to a great corn-cutter, from a potentate who keeps a very
small army, and don't mean any harm:--

"(TRANSLATION.)

      "Professor Homberg has cut my corns with a dexterity truly
      marvellous.

                (Signed) "NAPOLEON."

From a country baronet:--

      "I am satisfied with Professor Homberg.

                (Signed) "PITCHCROFT COCKPOLE, Bart."

From a bishop in the South Sea Islands:--

      "Professor Homberg has cut my corns in a manner which does
      equal honour to his head and his heart.

                (Signed) "RANGEHAIETA."

(His real name is Jones, but that is neither here nor there); and in the
mean time Flora had been studying a certain part of "King Lear."

Later in the afternoon, it occurred to Gus that he would like to be a
corn-cutter and have testimonials. He proposed to cut nurse's corns, but
she declined, assigning reasons. Failing here, he determined to cut
Flora's doll's corns, and, with this view, possessed himself of her
person during Flora's temporary absence.

He began by snicking the corner of her foot off with nurse's scissors.
Then he found that the sawdust dribbled out at the orifice. This was
very delightful. He shook her, and it dribbled faster. Then he cut the
other foot off and shook her again. And she, not having any stitches put
in about the knee (as all dolls should), lost, not only the sawdust
from her legs, but also from her stomach and body, leaving nothing but
collapsed calico and a bust, with an undisturbed countenance of wax
above all.

At this time Flora had rushed in to the rescue; she felt the doll's
body, and she saw the heap of sawdust; whereupon she, remembering her
"King Lear," turned on him and said scornfully:

"Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness." At this awful taunt, Gus
butted her in the stomach, and she got hold of him by the hair. Archy,
excited for the first time in his life, threw a box of ninepins at them,
which exploded. Mary rushed in to separate them, and at the same moment
in came William with a radiant face, and he quietly took Mary round the
waist (like his impudence), and he said, "My dear creature, go down to
Charles, and leave these Turks to me."

And she left these Turks to him. And he sat on a chair and administered
justice; and in a very few minutes, under the influence of that kind,
happy, sunny face of his, Flora had kissed Gus, and Archy had cuddled up
on his knee, and was sucking his thumb in peace.

And going down to the hall, he found Lady Ascot hobbling up and down,
taking her afternoon's exercise, and she said to him, "Ravenshoe, you
best and kindest of souls, she is there with him now. My dear, we had
better not move in this matter any more. I tried to dispossess you
before I knew your worth and goodness, but I will do nothing now. He is
rich, and perhaps it is better, my dear, that Ravenshoe should be in
Papist hands--at least, in such hands as yours."

He said, "My dear madam, I am not Ravenshoe. I feel sure that you are
right. We must find Ellen."

And Mary came out and came toward them; and she said, "Lady Ascot and
Mr. Ravenshoe, Charles and I are engaged to be married."



CHAPTER LXIV.

THE ALLIED ARMIES ADVANCE ON RAVENSHOE.


"How near the end we are getting, and yet so much to come! Never mind.
We will tell it all naturally and straightforwardly, and then there will
be nothing to offend you."

By-and-bye it became necessary that Charles should have air and
exercise. His arm was well. Every splinter had been taken out of it, and
he must lie on the sofa no longer.

So he was driven out through pleasant places, through the budding
spring, in one of Lord Hainault's carriages. All the meadows had been
bush-harrowed and rolled long ago, and now the orchises and fritillaries
were beginning to make the grass look purple. Lady Hainault had a low
carriage and a pair of small cobs, and this was given up to Charles;
Lady Hainault's first coachman declined to drive her ladyship out in the
daytime, for fear that the second coachman (a meritorious young man of
forty) should frighten Charles by a reckless and inexperienced way of
driving.

Consequently Lady Hainault went a buying flannel petticoats and that
sort of thing, for the poor people in Casterton and Henley, driven by
her second coachman; and Charles was trundled all over the country by
the first coachman, in a low carriage with a pair of cobs. But Lady
Hainault was as well pleased with the arrangement as the old coachman
himself, and so it is no business of ours. For the curious thing was,
that no one who ever knew Charles would have hesitated for an instant in
giving up to him his or her bed, or dinner, or carriage, or any other
thing in this world. For people are great fools, you know.

Perhaps the reason of it was, that every one who made Charles's
acquaintance, knew by instinct that he would have cut off his right hand
to serve them. I don't know why it was. But there is the fact.

Sometimes Lady Ascot would go with him and sometimes William. And one
day, when William was with him, they were bowling quietly along a
by-road on the opposite side of the water from Henley. And in a secret
place, they came on a wicked old gentleman, breaking the laws of his
country, and catching perch in close time, out of a punt, with a chair,
and a stone bottle, and a fisherman from Maidenhead, who shall be
nameless, but who must consider himself cautioned.

The Rajah of Ahmednuggur lives close by there; and he was reading the
_Times_, when Charles asked the coachman to pull up, that he might see
the sport. The Rajah's attention was caught by seeing the carriage
stopped; and he looked through a double-barrelled opera-glass, and not
only saw Charles and William in the carriage, but saw, through the
osiers, the hoary old profligate with his paternoster pulling the perch
out as fast as he could put his line in. Fired by a virtuous indignation
(I wish every gentleman on the Thames would do likewise), he ran in his
breeches and slippers down the lawn, and began blowing up like Old
Gooseberry.

The old gentleman who was fishing looked at the rajah's redbrick house,
and said, "If my face was as ugly as that house, I would wear a green
veil;" but he ordered the fisherman to take up the rypecks, and he
floated away down stream.

And as Charles and William drove along, Charles said, "My dear boy,
there could not be any harm in catching a few roach. I should so like to
go about among pleasant places in a punt once more."

When they got home the head keeper was sent for. Charles told him that
he would so much like to go fishing, and that a few roach would not make
much difference. The keeper scornfully declined arguing about the
matter, but only wanted to know what time Mr. Ravenshoe would like to
go, adding, that any one who made objections would be brought up
uncommon short.

So William and he went fishing in a punt, and one day Charles said, "I
don't care about this punt-fishing much. I wish--I wish I could get back
to the trout at Ravenshoe."

"Do you really mean that?" said William.

"Ah, Willy!" said Charl