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Title: "My Novel" — Complete
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""My Novel" — Complete" ***

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“MY NOVEL.”

By Edward Bulwer-Lytton



BOOK FIRST.



INITIAL CHAPTER

--SHOWING HOW MY NOVEL CAME TO BE WRITTEN.


Scene, the hall in UNCLE ROLAND’S tower; time, night; season, winter.


MR. CAXTON is seated before a great geographical globe, which he is
turning round leisurely, and “for his own recreation,” as, according to
Sir Thomas Browne, a philosopher should turn round the orb of which that
globe professes to be the representation and effigies. My mother having
just adorned a very small frock with a very smart braid, is holding
it out at arm’s length, the more to admire the effect. Blanche, though
leaning both hands on my mother’s shoulder, is not regarding the frock,
but glances towards PISISTRATUS, who, seated near the fire, leaning back
in the chair, and his head bent over his breast, seems in a very bad
humour. Uncle Roland, who has become a great novel-reader, is deep in
the mysteries of some fascinating Third Volume. Mr. Squills has brought
the “Times” in his pocket for his own special profit and delectation,
and is now bending his brows over “the state of the money market,” in
great doubt whether railway shares can possibly fall lower,--for Mr.
Squills, happy man! has large savings, and does not know what to do with
his money, or, to use his own phrase, “how to buy in at the cheapest in
order to sell out at the dearest.”

MR. CAXTON (musingly).--“It must have been a monstrous long journey. It
would be somewhere hereabouts, I take it, that they would split off.”

MY MOTHER (mechanically, and in order to show Austin that she paid him
the compliment of attending to his remarks).--“Who split off, my dear?”

“Bless me, Kitty,” said my father, in great admiration, “you ask
just the question which it is most difficult to answer. An ingenious
speculator on races contends that the Danes, whose descendants make the
chief part of our northern population (and indeed, if his hypothesis
could be correct, we must suppose all the ancient worshippers of Odin),
are of the same origin as the Etrurians. And why, Kitty,--I just ask
you, why?”

My mother shook her head thoughtfully, and turned the frock to the other
side of the light.

“Because, forsooth,” cried my father, exploding,--“because the Etrurians
called their gods the ‘AEsar,’ and the Scandinavians called theirs the
‘AEsir,’ or ‘Aser’! And where do you think this adventurous scholar puts
their cradle?”

“Cradle!” said my mother, dreamily, “it must be in the nursery.”

MR. CAXTON.--“Exactly,--in the nursery of the human race, just here,”
 and my father pointed to the globe; “bounded, you see, by the river
Halys, and in that region which, taking its name from Ees, or As (a
word designating light or fire), has been immemorially called Asia. Now,
Kitty, from Ees, or As, our ethnological speculator would derive not
only Asia, the land, but AEsar, or Aser, its primitive inhabitants.
Hence he supposes the origin of the Etrurians and the Scandinavians. But
if we give him so much, we must give him more, and deduce from the same
origin the Es of the Celt and the Ized of the Persian, and--what will
be of more use to him, I dare say, poor man, than all the rest put
together--the AEs of the Romans,--that is, the God of Copper-money--a
very powerful household god he is to this day!”

My mother looked musingly at her frock, as if she were taking my
father’s proposition into serious consideration.

“So perhaps,” resumed my father, “and not unconformably with sacred
records, from one great parent horde came all those various tribes,
carrying with them the name of their beloved Asia; and whether they
wandered north, south, or west, exalting their own emphatic designation
of ‘Children of the Land of Light’ into the title of gods. And to think”
 (added Mr. Caxton pathetically, gazing upon that speck on the globe on
which his forefinger rested),--“to think how little they changed for
the better when they got to the Don, or entangled their rafts amidst the
icebergs of the Baltic,--so comfortably off as they were here, if they
could but have stayed quiet.”

“And why the deuce could not they?” asked Mr. Squills. “Pressure of
population, and not enough to live upon, I suppose,” said my father.

PISISTRATUS (sulkily).--“More probably they did away with the Corn Laws,
sir.”

“Papae!” quoth my father, “that throws a new light on the subject.”

PISISTRATUS (full of his grievances, and not caring three straws about
the origin of the Scandinavians).--“I know that if we are to lose L500
every year on a farm which we hold rent-free, and which the best judges
allow to be a perfect model for the whole country, we had better make
haste and turn AEsir, or Aser, or whatever you call them, and fix a
settlement on the property of other nations, otherwise, I suspect, our
probable settlement will be on the parish.”

MR. SQUILLS (who, it must be remembered, is an enthusiastic
Free-trader). “You have only got to put more capital on the land.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Well, Mr. Squills, as you think so well of that
investment, put your capital on it. I promise that you shall have every
shilling of profit.”

MR. SQUILLS (hastily retreating behind the “Times”)--“I don’t think
the Great Western can fall any lower, though it is hazardous; I can but
venture a few hundreds--”

PISISTRATUS.--“On our land, Squills?--Thank you.”

MR. SQUILLS.--“No, no,--anything but that; on the Great Western.”

Pisistratus relaxes into gloom. Blanche steals up coaxingly, and gets
snubbed for her pains.

A pause.

MR. CAXTON.--“There are two golden rules of life; one relates to the
mind, and the other to the pockets. The first is, If our thoughts get
into a low, nervous, aguish condition, we should make them change the
air; the second is comprised in the proverb, ‘It is good to have two
strings to one’s bow.’ Therefore, Pisistratus, I tell you what you must
do,--Write a book!”

PISISTRATUS.--“Write a book! Against the abolition of the Corn Laws?
Faith, sir, the mischief’s done! It takes a much better pen than mine to
write down an act of parliament.”

MR. CAXTON.--“I only said, ‘Write a book.’ All the rest is the addition
of your own headlong imagination.”

PISISTRATUS (with the recollection of The Great Book rising before
him).--“Indeed, sir, I should think that that would just finish us!”

MR. CAXTON (not seeming to heed the interruption).--“A book that will
sell; a book that will prop up the fall of prices; a book that will
distract your mind from its dismal apprehensions, and restore your
affection to your species and your hopes in the ultimate triumph of
sound principles--by the sight of a favourable balance at the end of
the yearly accounts. It is astonishing what a difference that little
circumstance makes in our views of things in general. I remember
when the bank in which Squills had incautiously left L1000 broke, one
remarkably healthy year, that he became a great alarmist, and said that
the country was on the verge of ruin; whereas you see now, when, thanks
to a long succession of sickly seasons, he has a surplus capital to risk
in the Great Western, he is firmly persuaded that England was never in
so prosperous a condition.”

MR. SQUILLS (rather sullenly).--“Pooh, pooh.”

MR. CAXTON.--“Write a book, my son,--write a book. Need I tell you that
Money or Moneta, according to Hyginus, was the mother of the Muses?
Write a book.”

BLANCHE and my MOTHER (in full chorus).--“O yes, Sisty, a book! a book!
you must write a book.”

“I am sure,” quoth my Uncle Roland, slamming down the volume he had just
concluded, “he could write a devilish deal better book than this; and
how I come to read such trash night after night is more than I could
possibly explain to the satisfaction of any intelligent jury, if I were
put into a witness-box, and examined in the mildest manner by my own
counsel.”

MR. CAXTON.--“You see that Roland tells us exactly what sort of a book
it shall be.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Trash, sir?”

MR. CAXTON.--“No,--that is, not necessarily trash; but a book of that
class which, whether trash or not, people can’t help reading. Novels
have become a necessity of the age. You must write a novel.”

PISISTRATUS (flattered, but dubious).-“A novel! But every subject on
which novels can be written is preoccupied. There are novels of low
life, novels of high life, military novels, naval novels, novels
philosophical, novels religious, novels historical, novels descriptive
of India, the Colonies, Ancient Rome, and the Egyptian Pyramids. From
what bird, wild eagle, or barn-door fowl, can I

     “‘Pluck one unwearied plume from Fancy’s wing?’”

MR. CAXTON (after a little thought).--“You remember the story which
Trevanion (I beg his pardon, Lord Ulswater) told us the other night?
That gives you something of the romance of real life for your plot, puts
you chiefly among scenes with which you are familiar, and furnishes you
with characters which have been very sparingly dealt with since the time
of Fielding. You can give us the country Squire, as you remember him
in your youth; it is a specimen of a race worth preserving, the old
idiosyncrasies of which are rapidly dying off, as the railways bring
Norfolk and Yorkshire within easy reach of the manners of London. You
can give us the old-fashioned Parson, as in all essentials he may yet be
found--but before you had to drag him out of the great Tractarian bog;
and, for the rest, I really think that while, as I am told, many popular
writers are doing their best, especially in France, and perhaps a little
in England, to set class against class, and pick up every stone in the
kennel to shy at a gentleman with a good coat on his back, something
useful might be done by a few good-humoured sketches of those innocent
criminals a little better off than their neighbours, whom, however we
dislike them, I take it for granted we shall have to endure, in one
shape or another, as long as civilization exists; and they seem, on the
whole, as good in their present shape as we are likely to get, shake the
dice-box of society how we will.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Very well said, sir; but this rural country gentleman
life is not so new as you think. There’s Washington Irving--”

MR. CAXTON.--“Charming; but rather the manners of the last century than
this. You may as well cite Addison and Sir Roger de Coverley.”

PISISTRATUS.--“‘Tremaine’ and ‘De Vere.’”

MR. CAXTON.--“Nothing can be more graceful, nor more unlike what I mean.
The Pales and Terminus I wish you to put up in the fields are familiar
images, that you may cut out of an oak tree,--not beautiful marble
statues, on porphyry pedestals, twenty feet high.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Miss Austen; Mrs. Gore, in her masterpiece of ‘Mrs.
Armytage;’ Mrs. Marsh, too; and then (for Scottish manners) Miss
Ferrier!”

MR. CAXTON (growing cross).--“Oh, if you cannot treat on bucolics but
what you must hear some Virgil or other cry ‘Stop thief,’ you deserve
to be tossed by one of your own ‘short-horns.’” (Still more
contemptuously)--“I am sure I don’t know why we spend so much money
on sending our sons to school to learn Latin, when that Anachronism
of yours, Mrs. Caxton, can’t even construe a line and a half of
Phaedrus,--Phaedrus, Mrs. Caxton, a book which is in Latin what Goody
Two-Shoes is in the vernacular!”

MRS. CAXTON (alarmed and indignant).--“Fie! Austin I I am sure you can
construe Phaedrus, dear!”

Pisistratus prudently preserves silence.

MR. CAXTON.--“I’ll try him--

       “‘Sua cuique quum sit animi cogitatio
        Colurque proprius.’

“What does that mean?”

PISISTRATITS (smiling)--“That every man has some colouring matter within
him, to give his own tinge to--”

“His own novel,” interrupted my father. “Contentus peragis!”

During the latter part of this dialogue, Blanche had sewn together three
quires of the best Bath paper, and she now placed them on a little table
before me, with her own inkstand and steel pen.

My mother put her finger to her lip, and said, “Hush!” my father
returned to the cradle of the AEsas; Captain Roland leaned his cheek on
his hand, and gazed abstractedly on the fire; Mr. Squills fell into a
placid doze; and, after three sighs that would have melted a heart of
stone, I rushed into--MY NOVEL.



CHAPTER II.

“There has never been occasion to use them since I’ve been in the
parish,” said Parson Dale.

“What does that prove?” quoth the squire, sharply, and looking the
parson full in the face.

“Prove!” repeated Mr. Dale, with a smile of benign, yet too conscious
superiority, “what does experience prove?”

“That your forefathers were great blockheads, and that their descendant
is not a whit the wiser.”

“Squire,” replied the parson, “although that is a melancholy conclusion,
yet if you mean it to apply universally, and not to the family of the
Dales in particular; it is not one which my candour as a reasoner, and
my humility as a mortal, will permit me to challenge.”

“I defy you,” said Mr. Hazeldean, triumphantly. “But to stick to the
subject (which it is monstrous hard to do when one talks with a parson),
I only just ask you to look yonder, and tell me on your conscience--I
don’t even say as a parson, but as a parishioner--whether you ever saw a
more disreputable spectacle?”

While he spoke, the squire, leaning heavily on the parson’s left
shoulder, extended his cane in a line parallel with the right eye of
that disputatious ecclesiastic, so that he might guide the organ of
sight to the object he had thus unflatteringly described.

“I confess,” said the parson, “that, regarded by the eye of the senses,
it is a thing that in its best day had small pretensions to beauty, and
is not elevated into the picturesque even by neglect and decay. But, my
friend, regarded by the eye of the inner man,--of the rural philosopher
and parochial legislator,--I say it is by neglect and decay that it
is rendered a very pleasing feature in what I may call ‘the moral
topography of a parish.’”

The squire looked at the parson as if he could have beaten him; and,
indeed, regarding the object in dispute not only with the eye of the
outer man, but the eye of law and order, the eye of a country gentleman
and a justice of the peace, the spectacle was scandalously disreputable.
It was moss-grown; it was worm-eaten; it was broken right in the middle;
through its four socketless eyes, neighboured by the nettle, peered
the thistle,--the thistle! a forest of thistles!--and, to complete the
degradation of the whole, those thistles had attracted the donkey of
an itinerant tinker; and the irreverent animal was in the very act of
taking his luncheon out of the eyes and jaws of--THE PARISH STOCKS.

The squire looked as if he could have beaten the parson; but as he was
not without some slight command of temper, and a substitute was luckily
at hand, he gulped down his resentment, and made a rush--at the donkey!

Now the donkey was hampered by a rope to its fore-feet, to the which was
attached a billet of wood, called technically “a clog,” so that it had
no fair chance of escape from the assault its sacrilegious luncheon had
justly provoked. But the ass turning round with unusual nimbleness at
the first stroke of the cane, the squire caught his foot in the rope,
and went head over heels among the thistles. The donkey gravely bent
down, and thrice smelt or sniffed its prostrate foe; then, having
convinced itself that it had nothing further to apprehend for the
present, and very willing to make the best of the reprieve, according
to the poetical admonition, “Gather your rosebuds while you may,” it
cropped a thistle in full bloom, close to the ear of the squire,--so
close, indeed, that the parson thought the ear was gone; and with the
more probability, inasmuch as the squire, feeling the warm breath of the
creature, bellowed out with all the force of lungs accustomed to give a
View-hallo!

“Bless me, is it gone?” said the parson, thrusting his person between
the ass and the squire.

“Zounds and the devil!” cried the squire, rubbing himself, as he rose to
his feet.

“Hush!” said the parson, gently. “What a horrible oath!”

“Horrible oath! If you had my nankeens on,” said the squire, still
rubbing himself, “and had fallen into a thicket of thistles, with a
donkey’s teeth within an inch of your ear--”

“It is not gone, then?” interrupted the parson.

“No,--that is, I think not,” said the squire, dubiously; and he clapped
his hand to the organ in question. “No! it is not gone!”

“Thank Heaven!” said the good clergyman, kindly. “Hum,” growled the
squire, who was now once more engaged in rubbing himself. “Thank Heaven
indeed, when I am as full of thorns as a porcupine! I should just like
to know what use thistles are in the world.”

“For donkeys to eat, if you will let them, Squire,” answered the parson.

“Ugh, you beast!” cried Mr. Hazeldean, all his wrath reawakened, whether
by the reference to the donkey species, or his inability to reply to
the parson, or perhaps by some sudden prick too sharp for
humanity--especially humanity in nankeens--to endure without kicking.
“Ugh, you beast!” he exclaimed, shaking his cane at the donkey, which,
at the interposition of the parson, had respectfully recoiled a few
paces, and now stood switching its thin tail, and trying vainly to lift
one of its fore-legs--for the flies teased it.

“Poor thing!” said the parson, pityingly. “See, it has a raw place on
the shoulder, and the flies have found out the sore.”

“I am devilish glad to hear it,” said the squire, vindictively.

“Fie, fie!”

“It is very well to say ‘Fie, fie.’ It was not you who fell among the
thistles. What ‘s the man about now, I wonder?”

The parson had walked towards a chestnut-tree that stood on the village
green; he broke off a bough, returned to the donkey, whisked away the
flies, and then tenderly placed the broad leaves over the sore, as a
protection from the swarms. The donkey turned round its head, and looked
at him with mild wonder.

“I would bet a shilling,” said the parson, softly, “that this is the
first act of kindness thou hast met with this many a day. And slight
enough it is, Heaven knows.”

With that the parson put his hand into his pocket, and drew out an
apple. It was a fine large rose-cheeked apple, one of the last winter’s
store from the celebrated tree in the parsonage garden, and he was
taking it as a present to a little boy in the village who had notably
distinguished himself in the Sunday-school. “Nay, in common justice,
Lenny Fairfield should have the preference,” muttered the parson. The
ass pricked up one of its ears, and advanced its head timidly. “But
Lenny Fairfield would be as much pleased with twopence; and what could
twopence do to thee?” The ass’s nose now touched the apple. “Take it,
in the name of Charity,” quoth the parson; “Justice is accustomed to be
served last;” and the ass took the apple. “How had you the heart!” said
the parson, pointing to the squire’s cane.

The ass stopped munching, and looked askant at the squire. “Pooh! eat
on; he’ll not beat thee now.”

“No,” said the squire, apologetically. “But after all, he is not an
ass of the parish; he is a vagrant, and he ought to be pounded. But the
pound is in as bad a state as the stocks, thanks to your new-fashioned
doctrines.”

“New-fashioned!” cried the parson, almost indignantly, for he had a
great disdain of new fashions. “They are as old as Christianity; nay,
as old as Paradise, which you will observe is derived from a Greek,
or rather a Persian word, and means something more than ‘garden,’
corresponding” (pursued the parson, rather pedantically) “with the
Latin--vivarium,--namely, grove or park full of innocent dumb creatures.
Depend on it, donkeys were allowed to eat thistles there.”

“Very possibly,” said the squire, dryly. “But Hazeldeau, though a
very pretty village, is not Paradise. The stocks shall be mended
to-morrow,--ay, and the pound too, and the next donkey found trespassing
shall go into it, as sure as my name’s Hazeldean.”

“Then,” said the parson, gravely, “I can only hope that the next parish
may not follow your example; or that you and I may never be caught
straying.”



CHAPTER III.

Parson Dale and Squire Hazeldean parted company; the latter to inspect
his sheep, the former to visit some of his parishioners, including Lenny
Fairfield, whom the donkey had defrauded of his apple.

Lenny Fairfield was sure to be in the way, for his mother rented a
few acres of grass-land from the squire, and it was now hay-time. And
Leonard, commonly called Lenny, was an only son, and his mother a widow.
The cottage stood apart, and somewhat remote, in one of the many nooks
of the long, green village lane. And a thoroughly English cottage it
was, three centuries old at least; with walls of rubble let into oak
frames, and duly whitewashed every summer, a thatched roof, small panes
of glass, an old doorway raised from the ground by two steps. There was
about this little dwelling all the homely rustic elegance which
peasant life admits of; a honeysuckle was trained over the door; a few
flower-pots were placed on the window-sills; the small plot of ground
in front of the house was kept with great neatness, and even taste; some
large rough stones on either side the little path having been formed
into a sort of rockwork, with creepers that were now in flower; and the
potato-ground was screened from the eye by sweet peas and lupine. Simple
elegance, all this, it is true; but how well it speaks for peasant and
landlord, when you see that the peasant is fond of his home, and has
some spare time and heart to bestow upon mere embellishment! Such
a peasant is sure to be a bad customer to the alehouse, and a safe
neighbour to the squire’s preserves. All honour and praise to him,
except a small tax upon both, which is due to the landlord!

Such sights were as pleasant to the parson as the most beautiful
landscapes of Italy can be to the dilettante. He paused a moment at the
wicket to look around him, and distended his nostrils voluptuously to
inhale the smell of the sweet peas, mixed with that of the new-mown hay
in the fields behind, which a slight breeze bore to him. He then
moved on, carefully scraped his shoes, clean and well-polished as they
were,--for Mr. Dale was rather a beau in his own clerical way,--on the
scraper without the door, and lifted the latch.

Your virtuoso looks with artistical delight on the figure of some nymph
painted on an Etruscan vase, engaged in pouring out the juice of the
grape from her classic urn. And the parson felt as harmless, if not as
elegant a pleasure, in contemplating Widow Fairfield brimming high a
glittering can, which she designed for the refreshment of the thirsty
haymakers.

Mrs. Fairfield was a middle-aged, tidy woman, with that alert precision
of movement which seems to come from an active, orderly mind; and as she
now turned her head briskly at the sound of the parson’s footstep, she
showed a countenance prepossessing though not handsome,--a countenance
from which a pleasant, hearty smile, breaking forth at that moment,
effaced some lines that, in repose, spoke “of sorrows, but of sorrows
past;” and her cheek, paler than is common to the complexions even of
the fair sex, when born and bred amidst a rural population, might have
favoured the guess that the earlier part of her life had been spent in
the languid air and “within-doors” occupations of a town.

“Never mind me,” said the parson, as Mrs. Fairfield dropped her quick
courtesy, and smoothed her apron; “if you are going into the hayfield, I
will go with you; I have something to say to Lenny,--an excellent boy.”

WIDOW.--“Well, sir, and you are kind to say it,--but so he is.”

PARSON.--“He reads uncommonly well, he writes tolerably; he is the best
lad in the whole school at his Catechism and in the Bible lessons; and I
assure you, when I see his face at church, looking up so attentively, I
fancy that I shall read my sermon all the better for such a listener!”

WIDOW (wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron).--“‘Deed, sir, when
my poor Mark died, I never thought I could have lived on as I have done.
But that boy is so kind and good, that when I look at him sitting there
in dear Mark’s chair, and remember how Mark loved him, and all he used
to say to me about him, I feel somehow or other as if my good man smiled
on me, and would rather I was not with him yet, till the lad had grown
up, and did not want me any more.”

PARSON (looking away, and after a pause).--“You never hear anything of
the old folks at Lansmere?”

“‘Deed, sir, sin’ poor Mark died, they han’t noticed me nor the boy;
but,” added the widow, with all a peasant’s pride, “it isn’t that I
wants their money; only it’s hard to feel strange like to one’s own
father and mother!”

PARSON.--“You must excuse them. Your father, Mr. Avenel, was never quite
the same man after that sad event which--but you are weeping, my friend,
pardon me; your mother is a little proud; but so are you, though in
another way.”

WIDOW.--“I proud! Lord love ye, sir, I have not a bit o’ pride in me!
and that’s the reason they always looked down on me.”

PARSON.--“Your parents must be well off; and I shall apply to them in a
year or two on behalf of Lenny, for they promised me to provide for him
when he grew up, as they ought.”

WIDOW (with flashing eyes).--“I am sure, sir, I hope you will do no such
thing; for I would not have Lenny beholden to them as has never given
him a kind word sin’ he was born!”

The parson smiled gravely, and shook his head at poor Mrs. Fairfield’s
hasty confutation of her own self-acquittal from the charge of pride;
but he saw that it was not the time or moment for effectual peace-making
in the most irritable of all rancours,--namely, that nourished against
one’s nearest relations. He therefore dropped the subject, and said,
“Well, time enough to think of Lenny’s future prospects; meanwhile we
are forgetting the haymakers. Come.”

The widow opened the back door, which led across a little apple orchard
into the fields.

PARSON.--“You have a pleasant place here; and I see that my friend Lenny
should be in no want of apples. I had brought him one, but I have given
it away on the road.”

WIDOW.--“Oh, sir, it is not the deed,--it is the will; as I felt
when the squire, God bless him! took two pounds off the rent the year
he--that is, Mark--died.”

PARSON.--“If Lenny continues to be such a help to you, it will not be
long before the squire may put the two pounds on again.”

“Yes, sir,” said the widow, simply; “I hope he will.”

“Silly woman!” muttered the parson. “That’s not exactly what the
schoolmistress would have said. You don’t read nor write, Mrs.
Fairfield; yet you express yourself with great propriety.”

“You know Mark was a schollard, sir, like my poor, poor sister; and
though I was a sad stupid girl afore I married, I tried to take after
him when we came together.”



CHAPTER IV.

They were now in the hayfield, and a boy of about sixteen, but, like
most country lads, to appearance much younger than he was, looked up
from his rake, with lively blue eyes beaming forth under a profusion of
brown curly hair.

Leonard Fairfield was indeed a very handsome boy,--not so stout nor so
ruddy as one would choose for the ideal of rustic beauty, nor yet so
delicate in limb and keen in expression as are those children of cities,
in whom the mind is cultivated at the expense of the body; but still
he had the health of the country in his cheeks, and was not without the
grace of the city in his compact figure and easy movements. There was
in his physiognomy something interesting from its peculiar character of
innocence and simplicity. You could see that he had been brought up by
a woman, and much apart from familiar contact with other children; and
such intelligence as was yet developed in him was not ripened by the
jokes and cuffs of his coevals, but fostered by decorous lecturings from
his elders, and good-little-boy maxims in good-little-boy books.

PARSON.--“Come hither, Lenny. You know the benefit of school, I see: it
can teach you nothing better than to be a support to your mother.”

LENNY (looking down sheepishly, and with a heightened glow over his
face).--“Please, sir, that may come one of these days.”

PARSON.--“That’s right, Lenny. Let me see! why, you must be nearly a
man. How old are you?”

Lenny looks up inquiringly at his mother.

PARSON.--“You ought to know, Lenny: speak for yourself. Hold your
tongue, Mrs. Fairfield.”

LENNY (twirling his hat, and in great perplexity).--“Well, and there is
Flop, neighbour Dutton’s old sheep-dog. He be very old now.”

PARSON.--“I am not asking Flop’s age, but your own.”

LENNY.--“‘Deed, sir, I have heard say as how Flop and I were pups
together. That is, I--I--”

For the parson is laughing, and so is Mrs. Fairfield; and the haymakers,
who have stood still to listen, are laughing too. And poor Lenny has
quite lost his head, and looks as if he would like to cry.

PARSON (patting the curly locks, encouragingly).--“Never mind; it is not
so badly answered, after all. And how old is Flop?”

LENNY.--“Why, he must be fifteen year and more..”

PARSON.--“How old, then, are you?”

LENNY (looking up, with a beam of intelligence).--“Fifteen year and
more.”

Widow sighs and nods her head.

“That’s what we call putting two and two together,” said the parson.
“Or, in other words,” and here he raised his eyes majestically towards
the haymakers--“in other words, thanks to his love for his book,
simple as he stands here, Lenny Fairfield has shown himself capable of
INDUCTIVE RATIOCINATION.”

At those words, delivered ore rotundo, the haymakers ceased laughing;
for even in lay matters they held the parson to be an oracle, and words
so long must have a great deal in them. Lenny drew up his head proudly.

“You are very fond of Flop, I suppose?”

“‘Deed he is,” said the widow, “and of all poor dumb creatures.”

“Very good. Suppose, my lad, that you had a fine apple, and that you met
a friend who wanted it more than you, what would you do with it?”

“Please you, sir, I would give him half of it.”

The parson’s face fell. “Not the whole, Lenny?”

Lenny considered. “If he was a friend, sir, he would not like me to give
him all.”

“Upon my word, Master Leonard, you speak so well that I must e’en
tell the truth. I brought you an apple, as a prize for good conduct in
school. But I met by the way a poor donkey, and some one beat him for
eating a thistle, so I thought I would make it up by giving him the
apple. Ought I only to have given him the half?”

Lenny’s innocent face became all smile; his interest was aroused. “And
did the donkey like the apple?”

“Very much,” said the parson, fumbling in his pocket; but thinking of
Leonard Fairfield’s years and understanding, and moreover observing, in
the pride of his heart, that there were many spectators to his deed,
he thought the meditated twopence not sufficient, and he generously
produced a silver sixpence.

“There, my man, that will pay for the half apple which you would have
kept for yourself.” The parson again patted the curly locks, and after
a hearty word or two with the other haymakers, and a friendly “Good-day”
 to Mrs. Fairfield, struck into a path that led towards his own glebe.

He had just crossed the stile, when he heard hasty but timorous feet
behind him. He turned, and saw his friend Lenny.

LENNY (half-crying, and holding out the sixpence).--“Indeed, sir, I
would rather not. I would have given all to the Neddy.”

PARSON.--“Why, then, my man, you have a still greater right to the
sixpence.”

LENNY.--“No, sir; ‘cause you only gave it to make up for the half apple.
And if I had given the whole, as I ought to have done, why, I should
have had no right to the sixpence. Please, sir, don’t be offended; do
take it back, will you?”

The parson hesitated. And the boy thrust the sixpence into his hand, as
the ass had poked its nose there before in quest of the apple.

“I see,” said Parson Dale, soliloquizing, “that if one don’t give
Justice the first place at the table, all the other Virtues eat up her
share.”

Indeed, the case was perplexing. Charity, like a forward, impudent
baggage as she is, always thrusting herself in the way, and taking other
people’s apples to make her own little pie, had defrauded Lenny of his
due; and now Susceptibility, who looks like a shy, blush-faced, awkward
Virtue in her teens--but who, nevertheless, is always engaged in
picking the pockets of her sisters--tried to filch from him his lawful
recompense. The case was perplexing; for the parson held Susceptibility
in great honour, despite her hypocritical tricks, and did not like to
give her a slap in the face, which might frighten her away forever. So
Mr. Dale stood irresolute, glancing from the sixpence to Lenny, and from
Lenny to the sixpence.

“Buon giorno, Good-day to you,” said a voice behind, in an accent
slightly but unmistakably foreign, and a strange-looking figure
presented itself at the stile.

Imagine a tall and exceedingly meagre man, dressed in a rusty suit of
black,--the pantaloons tight at the calf and ankle, and there forming a
loose gaiter over thick shoes, buckled high at the instep; an old cloak,
lined with red, was thrown over one shoulder, though the day was sultry;
a quaint, red, outlandish umbrella, with a carved brass handle, was
thrust under one arm, though the sky was cloudless: a profusion of raven
hair, in waving curls that seemed as fine as silk, escaped from the
sides of a straw hat of prodigious brim; a complexion sallow and
swarthy, and features which, though not without considerable beauty
to the eye of the artist, were not only unlike what we fair, well-fed,
neat-faced Englishmen are wont to consider comely, but exceedingly like
what we are disposed to regard as awful and Satanic,--to wit, a long
hooked nose, sunken cheeks, black eyes, whose piercing brilliancy took
something wizard-like and mystical from the large spectacles through
which they shone; a mouth round which played an ironical smile, and in
which a physiognomist would have remarked singular shrewdness, and
some closeness, complete the picture. Imagine this figure, grotesque,
peregrinate, and to the eye of a peasant certainly diabolical; then
perch it on the stile in the midst of those green English fields, and
in sight of that primitive English village; there let it sit straddling,
its long legs dangling down, a short German pipe emitting clouds from
one corner of those sardonic lips, its dark eyes glaring through the
spectacles full upon the parson, yet askant upon Lenny Fairfield. Lenny
Fairfield looked exceedingly frightened.

“Upon my word, Dr. Riccabocca,” said Mr. Dale, smiling, “you come in
good time to solve a very nice question in casuistry;” and herewith the
parson explained the case, and put the question, “Ought Lenny Fairfield
to have the sixpence, or ought he not?”

“Cospetto!” said the doctor, “if the hen would but hold her tongue,
nobody would know that she had laid an egg.”



CHAPTER V.

“Granted,” said the parson; “but what follows? The saying is good, but I
don’t see the application.”

“A thousand pardons!” replied Dr. Riccabocca, with all the urbanity of
an Italian; “but it seems to me that if you had given the sixpence to
the fanciullo, that is, to this good little boy, without telling him the
story about the donkey, you would never have put him and yourself into
this awkward dilemma.”

“But, my dear sir,” whispered the parson, mildly, as he inclined his
lips to the doctor’s ear, “I should then have lost the opportunity of
inculcating a moral lesson--you understand?”

Dr. Riccabocca shrugged his shoulders, restored his pipe to his mouth,
and took a long whiff. It was a whiff eloquent, though cynical,--a whiff
peculiar to your philosophical smoker, a whiff that implied the most
absolute but the most placid incredulity as to the effect of the
parson’s moral lesson.

“Still you have not given us your decision,” said the parson, after a
pause.

The doctor withdrew the pipe. “Cospetto!” said he,--“he who scrubs the
head of an ass wastes his soap.”

“If you scrubbed mine fifty times over with those enigmatical proverbs
of yours,” said the parson, testily, “you would not make it any the
wiser.”

“My good sir,” said the doctor, bowing low from his perch on the stile,
“I never presumed to say that there were more asses than one in the
story; but I thought that I could not better explain my meaning, which
is simply this,--you scrubbed the ass’s head, and therefore you must
lose the soap. Let the fanciullo have the sixpence; and a great sum it
is, too, for a little boy, who may spend it all as pocketmoney!”

“There, Lenny, you hear?” said the parson, stretching out the sixpence.
But Lenny retreated, and cast on the umpire a look of great aversion and
disgust.

“Please, Master Dale,” said he, obstinately, “I’d rather not.

“It is a matter of feeling, you see,” said the parson, turning to the
umpire; “and I believe the boy is right.”

“If it be a matter of feeling,” replied Dr. Riccabocca, “there is no
more to be said on it. When Feeling comes in at the door, Reason has
nothing to do but to jump out of the window.”

“Go, my good boy,” said the parson, pocketing the coin; “but, stop! give
me your hand first. There--I understand you;--good-by!”

Lenny’s eyes glistened as the parson shook him by the hand, and, not
trusting himself to speak, he walked off sturdily. The parson wiped his
forehead, and sat himself down on the stile beside the Italian. The view
before them was lovely, and both enjoyed it (though not equally) enough
to be silent for some moments. On the other side the lane, seen between
gaps in the old oaks and chestnuts that hung over the mossgrown pales of
Hazeldean Park, rose gentle, verdant slopes, dotted with sheep and herds
of deer. A stately avenue stretched far away to the left, and ended at
the right hand within a few yards of a ha-ha that divided the park from
a level sward of tableland, gay with shrubs and flower-pots, relieved by
the shade of two mighty cedars. And on this platform, only seen in part,
stood the squire’s old-fashioned house, red-brick, with stone mullions,
gable-ends, and quaint chimney-pots. On this side the road, immediately
facing the two gentlemen, cottage after cottage whitely emerged from
the curves in the lane, while, beyond, the ground declining gave an
extensive prospect of woods and cornfields, spires and farms. Behind,
from a belt of lilacs and evergreens, you caught a peep of the
parsonage-house, backed by woodlands, and a little noisy rill running in
front. The birds were still in the hedgerows,--only (as if from the very
heart of the most distant woods), there came now and then the mellow
note of the cuckoo.

“Verily,” said Mr. Dale, softly, “my lot has fallen on a goodly
heritage.”

The Italian twitched his cloak over him, and sighed almost inaudibly.
Perhaps he thought of his own Summer Land, and felt that, amidst all
that fresh verdure of the North, there was no heritage for the stranger.

However, before the parson could notice the sigh or conjecture the
cause, Dr. Riccabocca’s thin lips took an expression almost malignant.

“Per Bacco!” said he; “in every country I observe that the rooks settle
where the trees are the finest. I am sure that, when Noah first landed
on Ararat, he must have found some gentleman in black already settled in
the pleasantest part of the mountain, and waiting for his tenth of the
cattle as they came out of the Ark.”

The parson fixed his meek eyes on the philosopher, and there was in them
something so deprecating rather than reproachful that Dr. Riccabocca
turned away his face, and refilled his pipe. Dr. Riccabocca abhorred
priests; but though Parson Dale was emphatically a parson, he seemed at
that moment so little of what Dr. Riccabocca understood by a priest
that the Italian’s heart smote him for his irreverent jest on the
cloth. Luckily at this moment there was a diversion to that untoward
commencement of conversation in the appearance of no less a personage
than the donkey himself--I mean the donkey who ate the apple.



CHAPTER VI.

The tinker was a stout, swarthy fellow, jovial and musical withal, for
he was singing a stave as he flourished his staff, and at the end of
each refrain down came the staff on the quarters of the donkey. The
tinker went behind and sang, the donkey went before and was thwacked.

“Yours is a droll country,” quoth Dr. Riccabocca; “in mine, it is not
the ass that walks first in the procession that gets the blows.”

The parson jumped from the stile, and looking over the hedge that
divided the field from the road--“Gently, gently,” said he; “the sound
of the stick spoils the singing! Oh, Mr. Sprott, Mr. Sprott! a good man
is merciful to his beast.”

The donkey seemed to recognize the voice of its friend, for it stopped
short, pricked one ear wistfully, and looked up. The tinker touched his
hat, and looked up too. “Lord bless your reverence! he does not mind
it,--he likes it. I vould not hurt thee; would I, Neddy?”

The donkey shook his head and shivered; perhaps a fly had settled on the
sore, which the chestnut leaves no longer protected.

“I am sure you did not mean to hurt him, Sprott,” said the parson,
more politely I fear than honestly,--for he had seen enough of that
cross-grained thing called the human heart, even in the little world of
a country parish, to know that it requires management and coaxing
and flattering, to interfere successfully between a man and his own
donkey,--“I am sure you did not mean to hurt him; but he has already got
a sore on his shoulder as big as my hand, poor thing!”

“Lord love ‘un! yes; that was done a playing with the manger the day I
gave ‘un oats!” said the tinker.

Dr. Riccabocca adjusted his spectacles, and surveyed the ass. The ass
pricked up his other ear, and surveyed Dr. Riccabocca. In that mutual
survey of physical qualifications, each being regarded according to the
average symmetry of its species, it may be doubted whether the advantage
was on the side of the philosopher.

The parson had a great notion of the wisdom of his friend in all matters
not purely ecclesiastical.

“Say a good word for the donkey!” whispered he.

“Sir,” said the doctor, addressing Mr. Sprott, with a respectful
salutation, “there’s a great kettle at my house--the Casino--which wants
soldering: can you recommend me a tinker?”

“Why, that’s all in my line,” said Sprott; “and there ben’t a tinker in
the county that I vould recommend like myself, tho’f I say it.”

“You jest, good sir,” said the doctor, smiling pleasantly. “A man who
can’t mend a hole in his own donkey can never demean himself by patching
up my great kettle.”

“Lord, sir!” said the tinker, archly, “if I had known that poor Neddy
had had two sitch friends in court, I’d have seen he vas a gintleman,
and treated him as sitch.”

“Corpo di Bacco!” quoth the doctor, “though that jest’s not new, I think
the tinker comes very well out of it.”

“True; but the donkey!” said the parson; “I’ve a great mind to buy it.”

“Permit me to tell you an anecdote in point,” said Dr. Riccabocca.

“Well?” said the parson, interrogatively.

“Once on a time,” pursued Riccabocca, “the Emperor Adrian, going to the
public baths, saw an old soldier, who had served under him, rubbing his
back against the marble wall. The emperor, who was a wise, and therefore
a curious, inquisitive man, sent for the soldier, and asked him why he
resorted to that sort of friction. ‘Because,’ answered the veteran, ‘I
am too poor to have slaves to rub me down.’ The emperor was touched, and
gave him slaves and money. The next day, when Adrian went to the baths,
all the old men in the city were to be seen rubbing themselves against
the marble as hard as they could. The emperor sent for them, and asked
them the same question which he had put to the soldier; the cunning old
rogues, of course, made the same answer. ‘Friends,’ said Adrian, ‘since
there are so many of you, you will just rub one another!’ Mr. Dale, if
you don’t want to have all the donkeys in the county with holes in their
shoulders, you had better not buy the tinker’s!”

“It is the hardest thing in the world to do the least bit of good,”
 groaned the parson, as he broke a twig off the hedge nervously, snapped
it in two, and flung away the fragments: one of them hit the donkey on
the nose. If the ass could have spoken Latin he would have said, “Et tu,
Brute!” As it was, he hung down his ears, and walked on.

“Gee hup,” said the tinker, and he followed the ass. Then stopping, he
looked over his shoulder, and seeing that the parson’s eyes were gazing
mournfully on his protege, “Never fear, your reverence,” cried the
tinker, kindly, “I’ll not spite ‘un.”



CHAPTER VII.

“Four, o’clock,” cried the parson, looking at his watch; “half an hour
after dinner-time, and Mrs. Dale particularly begged me to be punctual,
because of the fine trout the squire sent us. Will you venture on what
our homely language calls ‘pot-luck,’ Doctor?”

Now Riccabocca was a professed philosopher, and valued himself on his
penetration into the motives of human conduct. And when the parson thus
invited him to pot-luck, he smiled with a kind of lofty complacency; for
Mrs. Dale enjoyed the reputation of having what her friends styled
“her little tempers.” And, as well-bred ladies rarely indulge “little
tempers” in the presence of a third person not of the family, so Dr.
Riccabocca instantly concluded that he was invited to stand between the
pot and the luck! Nevertheless--as he was fond of trout, and a much
more good-natured man than he ought to have been according to his
principles--he accepted the hospitality; but he did so with a sly look
from over his spectacles, which brought a blush into the guilty cheeks
of the parson. Certainly Riccabocca had for once guessed right in his
estimate of human motives.

The two walked on, crossed a little bridge that spanned the rill, and
entered the parsonage lawn. Two dogs, that seemed to have sat on watch
for their master, sprang towards him, barking; and the sound drew the
notice of Mrs. Dale, who, with parasol in hand, sallied out from the
sash window which opened on the lawn. Now, O reader! I know that, in
thy secret heart, thou art chuckling over the want of knowledge in the
sacred arcana of the domestic hearth betrayed by the author; thou art
saying to thyself, “A pretty way to conciliate ‘little tempers’ indeed,
to add to the offence of spoiling the fish the crime of bringing an
unexpected friend to eat it. Pot-luck, quotha, when the pot ‘s boiled
over this half hour!”

But, to thy utter shame and confusion, O reader! learn that both the
author and Parson Dale knew very well what they were about.

Dr. Riccabocca was the special favourite of Mrs. Dale, and the only
person in the whole county who never put her out, by dropping in. In
fact, strange though it may seem at first glance, Dr. Riccabocca had
that mysterious something about him, which we of his own sex can so
little comprehend, but which always propitiates the other. He owed this,
in part, to his own profound but hypocritical policy; for he looked upon
woman as the natural enemy to man, against whom it was necessary to be
always on the guard; whom it was prudent to disarm by every species of
fawning servility and abject complaisance. He owed it also, in part, to
the compassionate and heavenly nature of the angels whom his thoughts
thus villanously traduced--for women like one whom they can pity without
despising; and there was something in Signor Riccabocca’s poverty,
in his loneliness, in his exile, whether voluntary or compelled, that
excited pity; while, despite his threadbare coat, the red umbrella, and
the wild hair, he had, especially when addressing ladies, that air
of gentleman and cavalier, which is or was more innate in an educated
Italian, of whatever rank, than perhaps in the highest aristocracy of
any other country in Europe. For, though I grant that nothing is more
exquisite than the politeness of your French marquis of the old regime,
nothing more frankly gracious than the cordial address of a high-bred
English gentleman, nothing more kindly prepossessing than the genial
good-nature of some patriarchal German, who will condescend to forget
his sixteen quarterings in the pleasure of doing you a favour,--yet
these specimens of the suavity of their several nations are rare;
whereas blandness and polish are common attributes with your Italian.
They seem to have been immemorially handed down to him, from ancestors
emulating the urbanity of Caesar, and refined by the grace of Horace.

“Dr. Riccabocca consents to dine with us,” cried the parson, hastily.

“If Madame permit?” said the Italian, bowing over the hand extended to
him, which, however, he forbore to take, seeing it was already full of
the watch.

“I am only sorry that the trout must be quite spoiled,” began Mrs. Dale,
plaintively.

“It is not the trout one thinks of when one dines with Mrs. Dale,” said
the infamous dissimulator.

“But I see James coming to say that dinner is ready,” observed the
parson.

“He said that three-quarters of an hour ago, Charles dear,” retorted
Mrs. Dale, taking the arm of Dr. Riccabocca.



CHAPTER VIII.

While the parson and his wife are entertaining their guest, I propose to
regale the reader with a small treatise a propos of that “Charles dear,”
 murmured by Mrs. Dale,--a treatise expressly written for the benefit of
The Domestic Circle.

It is an old jest that there is not a word in the language that conveys
so little endearment as the word “dear.” But though the saying itself,
like most truths, be trite and hackneyed, no little novelty remains
to the search of the inquirer into the varieties of inimical import
comprehended in that malign monosyllable. For instance, I submit to
the experienced that the degree of hostility it betrays is in much
proportioned to its collocation in the sentence. When, gliding
indirectly through the rest of the period, it takes its stand at the
close, as in that “Charles dear” of Mrs. Dale, it has spilled so much of
its natural bitterness by the way that it assumes even a smile, “amara
lento temperet risu.” Sometimes the smile is plaintive, sometimes arch.
For example:--

(Plaintive.) “I know very well that whatever I do is wrong, Charles
dear.”

“Nay, I am very glad you amused yourself so much without me, Charles
dear.”

“Not quite so loud! If you had but my poor head, Charles dear,” etc.

(Arch.) “If you could spill the ink anywhere but on the best tablecloth,
Charles dear!”

“But though you must always have your own way, you are not quite
faultless, own, Charles dear,” etc.

When the enemy stops in the middle of the sentence, its venom is
naturally less exhausted. For example:--

“Really, I must say, Charles dear, that you are the most fidgety
person,” etc.

“And if the house bills were so high last week, Charles dear, I should
just like to know whose fault it was--that’s all.”

“But you know, Charles dear, that you care no more for me and the
children than--” etc.

But if the fatal word spring up, in its primitive freshness, at the head
of the sentence, bow your head to the storm. It then assumes the majesty
of “my” before it; it is generally more than simple objurgation,--it
prefaces a sermon. My candour obliges me to confess that this is the
mode in which the hateful monosyllable is more usually employed by the
marital part of the one flesh; and has something about it of the
odious assumption of the Petruchian paterfamilias--the head of the
family--boding, not perhaps “peace and love, and quiet life,” but
certainly “awful rule and right supremacy.” For example:--

“My dear Jane, I wish you would just put by that everlasting crochet,
and listen to me for a few moments,” etc. “My dear Jane, I wish you
would understand me for once; don’t think I am angry,--no, but I am
hurt! You must consider,” etc.

“My dear Jane, I don’t know if it is your intention to ruin me; but I
only wish you would do as all other women do who care three straws for
their husband’s property,” etc.

“My dear Jane, I wish you to understand that I am the last person in
the world to be jealous; but I’ll be d---d if that puppy, Captain
Prettyman,” etc.

Now, few so carefully cultivate the connubial garden, as to feel much
surprise at the occasional sting of a homely nettle or two; but who
ever expected, before entering that garden, to find himself pricked and
lacerated by an insidious exotical “dear,” which he had been taught to
believe only lived in a hothouse, along with myrtles and other tender
and sensitive shrubs which poets appropriate to Venus? Nevertheless
Parson Dale, being a patient man, and a pattern to all husbands, would
have found no fault with his garden, though there had not been a single
specimen of “dear,”--whether the dear humilis or the dear superba; the
dear pallida, rubra, or nigra; the dear suavis or the dear horrida,--no,
not a single “dear” in the whole horticulture of matrimony, which Mrs.
Dale had not brought to perfection. But this was far from being the
case; Mrs. Dale, living much in retirement, was unaware of the modern
improvements, in variety of colour and sharpness of prickle, which have
rewarded the persevering skill of our female florists.



CHAPTER IX.

In the cool of the evening Dr. Riccabocca walked home across the fields.
Mr. and Mrs. Dale had accompanied him half-way, and as they now turned
back to the parsonage, they looked behind to catch a glimpse of the
tall, outlandish figure, winding slowly through the path amidst the
waves of the green corn.

“Poor man!” said Mrs. Dale, feelingly; “and the button was off his
wristband! What a pity he has nobody to take care of him! He seems very
domestic. Don’t you think, Charles, it would be a great blessing if we
could get him a good wife?”

“Um,” said the parson; “I doubt if he values the married state as he
ought.”

“What do you mean, Charles? I never saw a man more polite to ladies in
my life.”

“Yes, but--”

“But what? You are always so mysterious, Charles dear.”

“Mysterious! No, Carry; but if you could hear what the doctor says of
the ladies sometimes.”

“Ay, when you men get together, my dear. I know what that means--pretty
things you say of us! But you are all alike; you know you are, love!”

“I am sure,” said the parson, simply, “that I have good cause to speak
well of the sex--when I think of you and my poor mother.”

Mrs. Dale, who, with all her “tempers,” was an excellent woman, and
loved her husband with the whole of her quick little heart, was touched.
She pressed his hand, and did not call him dear all the way home.

Meanwhile the Italian passed the fields, and came upon the high road
about two miles from Hazeldean. On one side stood an old-fashioned
solitary inn, such as English inns used to be before they became
railway hotels,--square, solid, old-fashioned, looking so hospitable
and comfortable, with their great signs swinging from some elm-tree in
front, and the long row of stables standing a little back, with a chaise
or two in the yard, and the jolly landlord talking of the crops to some
stout farmer, whose rough pony halts of itself at the well-known door.
Opposite this inn, on the other side of the road, stood the habitation
of Dr. Riecabocca.

A few years before the date of these annals, the stage-coach on its way
to London from a seaport town stopped at the inn, as was its wont, for a
good hour, that its passengers might dine like Christian Englishmen--not
gulp down a basin of scalding soup, like everlasting heathen Yankees,
with that cursed railway-whistle shrieking like a fiend in their ears!
It was the best dining-place on the whole road, for the trout in the
neighbouring rill were famous, and so was the mutton which came from
Hazeldean Park.

From the outside of the coach had descended two passengers, who, alone
insensible to the attractions of mutton and trout, refused to dine,--two
melancholy-looking foreigners, of whom one was Signor Riccabocca,
much the same as we see him now, only that the black suit was less
threadbare, the tall form less meagre, and he did not then wear
spectacles; and the other was his servant. “They would walk about
while the coach stopped.” Now the Italian’s eye had been caught by
a mouldering, dismantled house on the other side the road, which
nevertheless was well situated; half-way up a green hill, with its
aspect due south, a little cascade falling down artificial rockwork, a
terrace with a balustrade, and a few broken urns and statues before
its Ionic portico, while on the roadside stood a board, with
characters already half effaced, implying that the house was “To be let
unfurnished, with or without land.”

The abode that looked so cheerless, and which had so evidently hung long
on hand, was the property of Squire Hazeldean. It had been built by his
grandfather on the female side,--a country gentleman who had actually
been in Italy (a journey rare enough to boast of in those days), and
who, on his return home, had attempted a miniature imitation of an
Italian villa. He left an only daughter and sole heiress, who married
Squire Hazeldean’s father; and since that time, the house, abandoned
by its proprietors for the larger residence of the Hazeldeans, had
been uninhabited and neglected. Several tenants, indeed, had offered
themselves; but your true country squire is slow in admitting upon his
own property a rival neighbour. Some wanted shooting. “That,” said the
Hazeldeans, who were great sportsmen and strict preservers, “was quite
out of the question.” Others were fine folks from London. “London
servants,” said the Hazeldeans, who were moral and prudent people,
“would corrupt their own, and bring London prices.” Others, again,
were retired manufacturers, at whom the Hazeldeans turned up their
agricultural noses. In short, some were too grand, and others too
vulgar. Some were refused because they were known so well: “Friends were
best at a distance,” said the Hazeldeans; others because they were not
known at all: “No good comes of strangers,” said the Hazeldeans. And
finally, as the house fell more and more into decay, no one would
take it unless it was put into thorough repair: “As if one was made of
money!” said the Hazeldeans. In short, there stood the house unoccupied
and ruinous; and there, on its terrace, stood the two forlorn Italians,
surveying it with a smile at each other, as for the first time since
they set foot in England, they recognized, in dilapidated pilasters and
broken statues, in a weed-grown terrace and the remains of an orangery,
something that reminded them of the land they had left behind.

On returning to the inn, Dr. Riccabocca took the occasion to learn from
the innkeeper (who was indeed a tenant of the squire) such particulars
as he could collect; and a few days afterwards Mr. Hazeldean received
a letter from a solicitor of repute in London, stating that a very
respectable foreign gentleman had commissioned him to treat for Clump
Lodge, otherwise called the “Casino;” that the said gentleman did not
shoot, lived in great seclusion, and, having no family, did not
care about the repairs of the place, provided only it were made
weather-proof,--if the omission of more expensive reparations could
render the rent suitable to his finances, which were very limited.
The offer came at a fortunate moment, when the steward had just been
representing to the squire the necessity of doing something to keep the
Casino from falling into positive ruin, and the squire was cursing the
fates which had put the Casino into an entail--so that he could not pull
it down for the building materials. Mr. Hazeldean therefore caught at
the proposal even as a fair lady, who has refused the best offers in the
kingdom, catches, at last, at some battered old captain on half-pay,
and replied that, as for rent, if the solicitor’s client was a quiet,
respectable man, he did not care for that, but that the gentleman might
have it for the first year rent-free, on condition of paying the taxes,
and putting the place a little in order. If they suited each other, they
could then come to terms. Ten days subsequently to this gracious reply,
Signor Riccabocca and his servant arrived; and, before the year’s end,
the squire was so contented with his tenant that he gave him a running
lease of seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years, at a rent merely nominal,
on condition that Signor Riccabocca would put and maintain the place in
repair, barring the roof and fences, which the squire generously renewed
at his own expense. It was astonishing, by little and little, what a
pretty place the Italian had made of it, and, what is more astonishing,
how little it had cost him. He had, indeed, painted the walls of the
hall, staircase, and the rooms appropriated to himself, with his own
hands. His servant had done the greater part of the upholstery. The two
between them had got the garden into order.

The Italians seemed to have taken a joint love to the place, and to deck
it as they would have done some favourite chapel to their Madonna.

It was long before the natives reconciled themselves to the odd ways
of the foreign settlers. The first thing that offended them was the
exceeding smallness of the household bills. Three days out of the seven,
indeed, both man and master dined on nothing else but the vegetables in
the garden, and the fishes in the neighbouring rill; when no trout
could be caught they fried the minnows (and certainly, even in the best
streams, minnows are more frequently caught than trout). The next thing
which angered the natives quite as much, especially the female part of
the neighbourhood, was the very sparing employment the two he creatures
gave to the sex usually deemed so indispensable in household matters. At
first, indeed, they had no woman-servant at all. But this created
such horror that Parson Dale ventured a hint upon the matter, which
Riccabocca took in very good part; and an old woman was forthwith
engaged after some bargaining--at three shillings a week--to wash and
scrub as much as she liked during the daytime. She always returned
to her own cottage to sleep. The man-servant, who was styled in the
neighbourhood “Jackeymo,” did all else for his master,--smoothed his
room, dusted his papers, prepared his coffee, cooked his dinner, brushed
his clothes, and cleaned his pipes, of which Riccabocca had a large
collection. But however close a man’s character, it generally creeps out
in driblets; and on many little occasions the Italian had shown acts of
kindness, and, on some more rare occasions, even of generosity,
which had served to silence his calumniators, and by degrees he had
established a very fair reputation,--suspected, it is true, of being a
little inclined to the Black Art, and of a strange inclination to starve
Jackeymo and himself, in other respects harmless enough.

Signor Riccabocca had become very intimate, as we have seen, at the
Parsonage. But not so at the Hall. For though the squire was inclined
to be very friendly to all his neighbours, he was, like most country
gentlemen, rather easily huffed. Riccabocca had, with great politeness,
still with great obstinacy, refused Mr. Hazeldean’s earlier invitations
to dinner; and when the squire found that the Italian rarely declined
to dine at the Parsonage, he was offended in one of his weak
points,--namely, his pride in the hospitality of Hazeldean Hall,--and he
ceased altogether invitations so churlishly rejected. Nevertheless, as
it was impossible for the squire, however huffed, to bear malice, he now
and then reminded Riccabocca of his existence by presents of game, and
would have called on him more often than he did, but that Riccabocca
received him with such excessive politeness that the blunt country
gentleman felt shy and put out, and used to say that “to call on
Rickeybockey was as bad as going to Court.”

But we have left Dr. Riccabocca on the high road. By this time he has
ascended a narrow path that winds by the side of the cascade, he has
passed a trellis-work covered with vines, from which Jackeymo has
positively succeeded in making what he calls wine,--a liquid, indeed,
that if the cholera had been popularly known in those days, would have
soured the mildest member of the Board of Health; for Squire Hazeldean,
though a robust man who daily carried off his bottle of port with
impunity, having once rashly tasted it, did not recover the effect till
he had had a bill from the apothecary as long as his own arm. Passing
this trellis, Dr. Riccabocca entered upon the terrace, with its stone
pavement as smoothed and trimmed as hands could make it. Here, on neat
stands, all his favourite flowers were arranged; here four orange trees
were in full blossom; here a kind of summer-house, or belvidere, built
by Jackeymo and himself, made his chosen morning room from May till
October; and from this belvidere there was as beautiful an expanse of
prospect as if our English Nature had hospitably spread on her green
board all that she had to offer as a banquet to the exile.

A man without his coat, which was thrown over the balustrade, was
employed in watering the flowers,--a man with movements so mechanical,
with a face so rigidly grave in its tawny hues, that he seemed like an
automaton made out of mahogany.

“Giacomo,” said Dr. Riccabocca, softly.

The automaton stopped its hand, and turned its head.

“Put by the watering-pot, and come hither,” continued Riccabocca, in
Italian; and, moving towards the balustrade, he leaned over it. Mr.
Mitford, the historian, calls Jean Jacques “John James.” Following that
illustrious example, Giacomo shall be Anglified into Jackeymo. Jackeymo
came to the balustrade also, and stood a little behind his master.
“Friend,” said Riccabocca, “enterprises have not always succeeded with
us. Don’t you think, after all, it is tempting our evil star to rent
those fields from the landlord?” Jackeymo crossed himself, and made some
strange movement with a little coral charm which he wore set in a ring
on his finger.

“If the Madonna send us luck, and we could hire a lad cheap?” said
Jackeymo, doubtfully.

“Piu vale un presente che dui futuri,”--[“A bird in the hand is worth
two in the bush.”]--said Riccabocca.

“Chi non fa quando pub, non pub, fare quando vuole,”--[“He who will not
when he may, when he wills it shall have nay.”]--answered Jackeymo, as
sententiously as his master. “And the Padrone should think in time that
he must lay by for the dower of the poor signorina.”

Riccabocca sighed, and made no reply.

“She must be that high now!” said Jackeymo, putting his hand on some
imaginary line a little above the balustrade. Riccabocca’s eyes, raised
over the spectacles, followed the hand.

“If the Padrone could but see her here--”

“I thought I did,” muttered the Italian.

“He would never let her go from his side till she went to a husband’s,”
 continued Jackeymo.

“But this climate,--she could never stand it,” said Riccabocca, drawing
his cloak round him, as a north wind took him in the rear.

“The orange trees blossom even here with care,” said Jackeymo, turning
back to draw down an awning where the orange trees faced the north.
“See!” he added, as he returned with a sprig in full bud.

Dr. Riccabocca bent over the blossom, and then placed it in his bosom.

“The other one should be there too,” said Jackeymo.

“To die--as this does already!” answered Riccabocca. “Say no more.”

Jackeymo shrugged his shoulders; and then, glancing at his master, drew
his hand over his eyes.

There was a pause. Jackeymo was the first to break it. “But, whether
here or there, beauty without money is the orange tree without shelter.
If a lad could be got cheap, I would hire the land, and trust for the
crop to the Madonna.”

“I think I know of such a lad,” said Riccabocca, recovering himself,
and with his sardonic smile once more lurking about the corners of his
mouth,--“a lad made for us.”

“Diavolo!”

“No, not the Diavolo! Friend, I have this day seen a boy who--refused
sixpence!”

“Cosa stupenda!” exclaimed Jackeymo, opening his eyes, and letting fall
the watering-pot.

“It is true, my friend.”

“Take him, Padrone, in Heaven’s name, and the fields will grow gold.”

“I will think of it, for it must require management to catch such a
boy,” said Riccabocca. “Meanwhile, light a candle in the parlour, and
bring from my bedroom that great folio of Machiavelli.”



CHAPTER X.

In my next chapter I shall present Squire Hazeldean in patriarchal
state,--not exactly under the fig-tree he has planted, but before the
stocks he has reconstructed,--Squire Hazeldean and his family on the
village green! The canvas is all ready for the colours.

But in this chapter I must so far afford a glimpse into antecedents as
to let the reader know that there is one member of the family whom he
is not likely to meet at present, if ever, on the village green at
Hazeldean.

Our squire lost his father two years after his birth; his mother
was very handsome--and so was her jointure; she married again at the
expiration of her year of mourning; the object of her second choice was
Colonel Egerton.

In every generation of Englishmen (at least since the lively reign of
Charles II.) there are a few whom some elegant Genius skims off from
the milk of human nature, and reserves for the cream of society. Colonel
Egerton was one of these terque quaterque beati, and dwelt apart on
a top shelf in that delicate porcelain dish--not bestowed upon vulgar
buttermilk--which persons of fashion call The Great World. Mighty was
the marvel of Pall Mall, and profound was the pity of Park Lane,
when this supereminent personage condescended to lower himself into a
husband. But Colonel Egerton was not a mere gaudy butterfly; he had the
provident instincts ascribed to the bee. Youth had passed from him, and
carried off much solid property in its flight; he saw that a time was
fast coming when a home, with a partner who could help to maintain it,
would be conducive to his comforts, and an occasional hum-drum evening
by the fireside beneficial to his health. In the midst of one season at
Brighton, to which gay place he had accompanied the Prince of Wales,
he saw a widow, who, though in the weeds of mourning, did not appear
inconsolable. Her person pleased his taste; the accounts of her jointure
satisfied his understanding; he contrived an introduction, and brought
a brief wooing to a happy close. The late Mr. Hazeldean had so far
anticipated the chance of the young widow’s second espousals, that, in
case of that event, he transferred, by his testamentary dispositions,
the guardianship of his infant heir from the mother to two squires whom
he had named his executors. This circumstance combined with her new ties
somewhat to alienate Mrs. Hazeldean from the pledge of her former loves;
and when she had borne a son to Colonel Egerton, it was upon that child
that her maternal affections gradually concentrated.

William Hazeldean was sent by his guardians to a large provincial
academy, at which his forefathers had received their education time out
of mind. At first he spent his holidays with Mrs. Egerton; but as she
now resided either in London, or followed her lord to Brighton, to
partake of the gayeties at the Pavilion, so as he grew older, William,
who had a hearty affection for country life, and of whose bluff manners
and rural breeding Mrs. Egerton (having grown exceedingly refined) was
openly ashamed, asked and obtained permission to spend his vacations
either with his guardians or at the old Hall. He went late to a small
college at Cambridge, endowed in the fifteenth century by some ancestral
Hazeldean; and left it, on coming of age, without taking a degree. A
few years afterwards he married a young lady, country born and bred like
himself.

Meanwhile his half-brother, Audley Egerton, may be said to have begun
his initiation into the beau monde before he had well cast aside his
coral and bells; he had been fondled in the lap of duchesses, and
had galloped across the room astride on the canes of ambassadors and
princes. For Colonel Egerton was not only very highly connected, not
only one of the Dii majores of fashion, but he had the still rarer good
fortune to be an exceedingly popular man with all who knew him,--so
popular, that even the fine ladies whom he had adored and abandoned
forgave him for marrying out of “the set,” and continued to be as
friendly as if he had not married at all. People who were commonly
called heartless were never weary of doing kind things to the Egertons.
When the time came for Audley to leave the preparatory school at which
his infancy budded forth amongst the stateliest of the little lilies
of the field, and go to Eton, half the fifth and sixth forms had been
canvassed to be exceedingly civil to young Egerton. The boy soon showed
that he inherited his father’s talent for acquiring popularity, and
that to this talent he added those which put popularity to use. Without
achieving any scholastic distinction, he yet contrived to establish at
Eton the most desirable reputation which a boy can obtain,--namely, that
among his own contemporaries, the reputation of a boy who was sure to
do something when he grew to be a man. As a gentleman-commoner at Christ
Church, Oxford, he continued to sustain this high expectation, though he
won no prizes, and took but an ordinary degree; and at Oxford the future
“something” became more defined,--it was “something in public life” that
this young man was to do.

While he was yet at the University, both his parents died, within a few
months of each other. And when Audley Egerton came of age, he succeeded
to a paternal property which was supposed to be large, and indeed had
once been so; but Colonel Egerton had been too lavish a man to enrich
his heir, and about L1500 a year was all that sales and mortgages left
of an estate that had formerly approached a rental of L10,000.

Still, Audley was considered to be opulent; and he did not dispel that
favourable notion by any imprudent exhibition of parsimony. On entering
the world of London, the Clubs flew open to receive him, and he woke
one morning to find himself, not indeed famous--but the fashion. To this
fashion he at once gave a certain gravity and value, he associated as
much as possible with public men and political ladies, he succeeded in
confirming the notion that he was “born to ruin or to rule the State.”

The dearest and most intimate friend of Audley Egerton was Lord
L’Estrange, from whom he had been inseparable at Eton, and who now, if
Audley Egerton was the fashion, was absolutely the rage in London.

Harley, Lord L’Estrange, was the only son of the Earl of Lansmere, a
nobleman of considerable wealth, and allied, by intermarriages, to
the loftiest and most powerful families in England. Lord Lansmere,
nevertheless, was but little known in the circles of London. He lived
chiefly on his estates, occupying himself with the various duties of a
great proprietor, and when he came to the metropolis, it was rather to
save than to spend; so that he could afford to give his son a very ample
allowance, when Harley, at the age of sixteen (having already attained
to the sixth form at Eton), left school for one of the regiments of the
Guards.

Few knew what to make of Harley L’Estrange,--and that was, perhaps,
the reason why he was so much thought of. He had been by far the
most brilliant boy of his time at Eton,--not only the boast of the
cricket-ground, but the marvel of the schoolroom; yet so full of whims
and oddities, and seeming to achieve his triumphs with so little aid
from steadfast application, that he had not left behind him the same
expectations of solid eminence which his friend and senior, Audley
Egerton, had excited. His eccentricities, his quaint sayings, and
out-of-the-way actions, became as notable in the great world as they had
been in the small one of a public school. That he was very clever there
was no doubt, and that the cleverness was of a high order might be
surmised, not only from the originality but the independence of his
character. He dazzled the world, without seeming to care for its praise
or its censure,--dazzled it, as it were, because he could not help
shining. He had some strange notions, whether political or social, which
rather frightened his father. According to Southey, “A man should be
no more ashamed of having been a republican than of having been young.”
 Youth and extravagant opinions naturally go together. I don’t know
whether Harley L’Estrange was a republican at the age of eighteen; but
there was no young man in London who seemed to care less for being heir
to an illustrious name and some forty or fifty thousand pounds a year.
It was a vulgar fashion in that day to play the exclusive, and cut
persons who wore bad neckcloths, and called themselves Smith or Johnson.
Lord L’Estrange never cut any one, and it was quite enough to slight
some worthy man because of his neckcloth or his birth to insure to
the offender the pointed civilities of this eccentric successor to the
Belforts and the Wildairs.

It was the wish of his father that Harley, as soon as he came of age,
should represent the borough of Lansmere (which said borough was the
single plague of the earl’s life). But this wish was never realized.
Suddenly, when the young idol of London still wanted some two or three
years of his majority, a new whim appeared to seize him. He
withdrew entirely from society; he left unanswered the most pressing
three-cornered notes of inquiry and invitation that ever strewed the
table of a young Guardsman; he was rarely seen anywhere in his former
haunts,--when seen, was either alone or with Egerton; and his gay
spirits seemed wholly to have left him. A profound melancholy was
written in his countenance, and breathed in the listless tones of
his voice. About this time a vacancy happening to occur for the
representation of Lansmere, Harley made it his special request to his
father that the family interest might be given to Audley Egerton,--a
request which was backed by all the influence of his lady mother,
who shared in the esteem which her son felt for his friend. The earl
yielded; and Egerton, accompanied by Harley, went down to Lansmere Park,
which adjoined the borough, in order to be introduced to the electors.
This visit made a notable epoch in the history of many personages who
figure in my narrative; but at present I content myself with saying
that circumstances arose which, just as the canvass for the new election
commenced, caused both L’Estrange and Audley to absent themselves from
the scene of action, and that the last even wrote to Lord Lansmere
expressing his intention of declining to contest the borough.

Fortunately for the parliamentary career of Audley Egerton, the election
had become to Lord Lansmere not only a matter of public importance, but
of personal feeling. He resolved that the battle should be fought out,
even in the absence of the candidate, and at his own expense. Hitherto
the contest for this distinguished borough had been, to use the language
of Lord Lansmere, “conducted in the spirit of gentlemen,”--that is to
say, the only opponents to the Lansmere interest had been found in one
or the other of the two rival families in the same county; and as the
earl was a hospitable, courteous man, much respected and liked by the
neighbouring gentry, so the hostile candidate had always interlarded his
speeches with profuse compliments to his Lordship’s high character,
and civil expressions as to his Lordship’s candidate. But, thanks to
successive elections, one of these two families had come to an end,
and its actual representative was now residing within the Rules of the
Bench; the head of the other family was the sitting member, and, by an
amicable agreement with the Lansinere interest, he remained as neutral
as it is in the power of any sitting member to be amidst the passions
of an intractable committee. Accordingly it had been hoped that Egerton
would come in without opposition, when, the very day on which he had
abruptly left the place, a handbill, signed “Haverill Dashmore, Captain
R. N., Baker Street, Portman Square,” announced, in very spirited
language, the intention of that gentleman “to emancipate the borough
from the unconstitutional domination of an oligarchical faction, not
with a view to his own political aggrandizement,--indeed at great
personal inconvenience,--but actuated solely by abhorrence to tyranny,
and patriotic passion for the purity of election.”

This announcement was followed, within two hours, by the arrival of
Captain Dashmore himself, in a carriage and four, covered with yellow
favours, and filled, inside and out, with harumscarum-looking friends,
who had come down with him to share the canvass and partake the fun.

Captain Dashmore was a thorough sailor, who had, however, conceived a
disgust to the profession from the date in which a minister’s nephew had
been appointed to the command of a ship to which the captain considered
himself unquestionably entitled. It is just to the minister to add that
Captain Dashmore had shown as little regard for orders from a distance
as had immortalized Nelson himself; but then the disobedience had not
achieved the same redeeming success as that of Nelson, and Captain
Dashmore ought to have thought himself fortunate in escaping a severer
treatment than the loss of promotion. But no man knows when he is
well off; and retiring on half pay, just as he came into unexpected
possession of some forty or fifty thousand pounds, bequeathed by a
distant relation, Captain Dashmore was seized with a vindictive
desire to enter parliament, and inflict oratorical chastisement on the
Administration.

A very few hours sufficed to show the sea-captain to be a most capital
electioneerer for a popular but not enlightened constituency. It is true
that he talked the saddest nonsense ever heard from an open window; but
then his jokes were so broad, his manner so hearty, his voice so big,
that in those dark days, before the schoolmaster was abroad, he would
have beaten your philosophical Radical and moralizing Democrat hollow.
Moreover, he kissed all the women, old and young, with the zest of a
sailor who has known what it is to be three years at sea without
sight of a beardless lip; he threw open all the public-houses, asked a
numerous committee every day to dinner, and, chucking his purse up in
the air, declared “he would stick to his guns while there was a shot in
the locker.” Till then, there had been but little political difference
between the candidate supported by Lord Lansmere’s interest and the
opposing parties; for country gentlemen, in those days, were pretty
much of the same way of thinking, and the question had been really
local,--namely, whether the Lansmere interest should or should not
prevail over that of the two squire-archical families who had alone,
hitherto, ventured to oppose it. But though Captain Dashmore was really
a very loyal man, and much too old a sailor to think that the State
(which, according to established metaphor, is a vessel par excellence)
should admit Jack upon quarterdeck, yet, what with talking against lords
and aristocracy, jobs and abuses, and searching through no very refined
vocabulary for the strongest epithets to apply to those irritating
nouns-substantive, his bile had got the better of his understanding,
and he became fuddled, as it were, by his own eloquence. Thus, though
as innocent of Jacobinical designs as he was incapable of setting the
Thames on fire, you would have guessed him, by his speeches, to be one
of the most determined incendiaries that ever applied a match to the
combustible materials of a contested election; while, being by no means
accustomed to respect his adversaries, he could not have treated
the Earl of Lansmere with less ceremony if his Lordship had been a
Frenchman. He usually designated that respectable nobleman, who was
still in the prime of life, by the title of “Old Pompous;” and the
mayor, who was never seen abroad but in top-boots, and the solicitor,
who was of a large build, received from his irreverent wit the joint
sobriquet of “Tops and Bottoms”! Hence the election had now become, as I
said before, a personal matter with my Lord, and, indeed, with the great
heads of the Lansmere interest. The earl seemed to consider his very
coronet at stake in the question. “The Man from Baker Street,” with his
preternatural audacity, appeared to him a being ominous and awful--not
so much to be regarded with resentment as with superstitious terror. He
felt as felt the dignified Montezuma, when that ruffianly Cortez, with
his handful of Spanish rapscallions, bearded him in his own capital,
and in the midst of his Mexican splendour. The gods were menaced if
man could be so insolent! wherefore, said my Lord tremulously,
“The Constitution is gone if the Man from Baker Street comes in for
Lansmere!”

But in the absence of Audley Egerton, the election looked extremely
ugly, and Captain Dashmore gained ground hourly, when the Lansmere
solicitor happily bethought him of a notable proxy for the missing
candidate. The Squire of Hazeldean, with his young wife, had been
invited by the earl in honour of Audley; and in the squire the solicitor
beheld the only mortal who could cope with the sea-captain,--a man with
a voice as burly and a face as bold; a man who, if permitted for the
nonce by Mrs. Hazeldean, would kiss all the women no less heartily than
the captain kissed them; and who was, moreover, a taller and a handsomer
and a younger man,--all three great recommendations in the kissing
department of a contested election. Yes, to canvass the borough, and
to speak from the window, Squire Hazeldean would be even more popularly
presentable than the London-bred and accomplished Audley Egerton
himself.

The squire, applied to and urged on all sides, at first said bluntly
that he would do anything in reason to serve his brother, but that he
did not like, for his own part, appearing, even in proxy, as a lord’s
nominee; and moreover, if he was to be sponsor for his brother, why,
he must promise and vow, in his name, to be stanch and true to the land
they lived by! And how could he tell that Audley, when once he got into
the House, would not forget the land, and then he, William Hazeldean,
would be made a liar, and look like a turncoat!

But these scruples being overruled by the arguments of the gentlemen
and the entreaties of the ladies, who took in the election that intense
interest which those gentle creatures usually do take in all matters of
strife and contest, the squire at length consented to confront the Man
from Baker Street, and went accordingly into the thing with that good
heart and old English spirit with which he went into everything whereon
he had once made up his mind.

The expectations formed of the squire’s capacities for popular
electioneering were fully realized. He talked quite as much nonsense as
Captain Dashmore on every subject except the landed interest; there he
was great, for he knew the subject well,--knew it by the instinct that
comes with practice, and compared to which all your showy theories are
mere cobwebs and moonshine.

The agricultural outvoters--many of whom, not living under Lord
Lansmere, but being small yeomen, had hitherto prided themselves on
their independence, and gone against my Lord--could not in their hearts
go against one who was every inch the farmer’s friend. They began to
share in the earl’s personal interest against the Man from Baker Street;
and big fellows, with legs bigger round than Captain Dashmore’s tight
little body, and huge whips in their hands, were soon seen entering
the shops, “intimidating the electors,” as Captain Dashmore indignantly
declared.

These new recruits made a great difference in the musterroll of the
Lansmere books; and when the day for polling arrived, the result was a
fair question for even betting. At the last hour, after a neck-and-neck
contest, Mr. Audley Egerton beat the captain by two votes; and the names
of these voters were John Avenel, resident freeman, and his son-in-law,
Mark Fairfield, an outvoter, who, though a Lansmere freeman, had settled
in Hazeldean, where he had obtained the situation of head carpenter on
the squire’s estate.

These votes were unexpected; for though Mark Fairfield had come to
Lansmere on purpose to support the squire’s brother, and though the
Avenels had been always stanch supporters of the Lansmere Blue interest,
yet a severe affliction (as to the nature of which, not desiring to
sadden the opening of my story, I am considerately silent) had befallen
both these persons, and they had left the town on the very day after
Lord L’Estrange and Mr. Egerton had quitted Lansmere Park.

Whatever might have been the gratification of the squire, as a canvasser
and a brother, at Mr. Egerton’s triumph, it was much damped when, on
leaving the dinner given in honour of the victory at the Lansmere Arms,
and about, with no steady step, to enter a carriage which was to convey
him to his Lordship’s house, a letter was put into his hands by one of
the gentlemen who had accompanied the captain to the scene of action;
and the perusal of that letter, and a few whispered words from the
bearer thereof, sent the squire back to Mrs. Hazeldean a much soberer
man than she had ventured to hope for. The fact was, that on the day of
nomination, the captain having honoured Mr. Hazeldean with many poetical
and figurative appellations,--such as “Prize Ox,” “Tony Lumpkin,”
 “Blood-sucking Vampire,” and “Brotherly Warming-Pan,”--the squire had
retorted by a joke about “Saltwater Jack;” and the captain, who like all
satirists was extremely susceptible and thin-skinned, could not consent
to be called “Salt-water Jack” by a “Prize Ox” and a “Bloodsucking
Vampire.”

The letter, therefore, now conveyed to Mr. Hazeldean by a gentleman,
who, being from the Sister Country, was deemed the most fitting
accomplice in the honourable destruction of a brother mortal, contained
nothing more nor less than an invitation to single combat; and the
bearer thereof, with the suave politeness enjoined by etiquette on such
well-bred homicidal occasions, suggested the expediency of appointing
the place of meeting in the neighbourhood of London, in order to prevent
interference from the suspicious authorities of Lansmere.

The natives of some countries--the warlike French in particular--think
little of that formal operation which goes by the name of DUELLING.
Indeed, they seem rather to like it than otherwise. But there is nothing
your thorough-paced Englishman--a Hazeldean of Hazeldean--considers with
more repugnance and aversion than that same cold-blooded ceremonial. It
is not within the range of an Englishman’s ordinary habits of thinking.
He prefers going to law,--a much more destructive proceeding of the two.
Nevertheless, if an Englishman must fight, why, he will fight. He says
“It is very foolish;” he is sure “it is most unchristianlike;” he agrees
with all that Philosophy, Preacher, and Press have laid down on the
subject; but he makes his will, says his prayers, and goes out--like a
heathen.

It never, therefore, occurred to the squire to show the white feather
upon this unpleasant occasion. The next day, feigning excuse to attend
the sale of a hunting stud at Tattersall’s, he ruefully went up to
London, after taking a peculiarly affectionate leave of his wife.
Indeed, the squire felt convinced that he should never return home
except in a coffin. “It stands to reason,” said he to himself, “that
a man who has been actually paid by the King’s Government for shooting
people ever since he was a little boy in a midshipman’s jacket, must
be a dead hand at the job. I should not mind if it was with
double-barrelled Mantons and small shot; but ball and pistol, they are
n’t human nor sportsmanlike!” However, the squire, after settling his
worldly affairs, and hunting up an old college friend who undertook to
be his second, proceeded to a sequestered corner of Wimbledon Common,
and planted himself, not sideways, as one ought to do in such encounters
(the which posture the squire swore was an unmanly way of shirking),
but full front to the mouth of his adversary’s pistol, with such sturdy
composure that Captain Dashmore, who, though an excellent shot, was at
bottom as good-natured a fellow as ever lived, testified his admiration
by letting off his gallant opponent with a ball in the fleshy part of
the shoulder, after which he declared himself perfectly satisfied.
The parties then shook hands, mutual apologies were exchanged, and
the squire, much to his astonishment to find himself still alive,
was conveyed to Limmer’s Hotel, where, after a considerable amount of
anguish, the ball was extracted and the wound healed. Now it was all
over, the squire felt very much raised in his own conceit; and when he
was in a humour more than ordinarily fierce, that perilous event became
a favourite allusion with him.

He considered, moreover, that his brother had incurred at his hand the
most lasting obligations; and that, having procured Audley’s return to
parliament, and defended his interests at risk of his own life, he had
an absolute right to dictate to that gentleman how to vote,--upon all
matters, at least, connected with the landed interest. And when, not
very long after Audley took his seat in parliament (which he did not
do for some months), he thought proper both to vote and to speak in a
manner wholly belying the promises the squire had made on his behalf,
Mr. Hazeldean wrote him such a trimmer that it could not but produce
an unconciliatory reply. Shortly afterwards the squire’s exasperation
reached the culminating point; for, having to pass through Lansmere on
a market-day, he was hooted by the very farmers whom he had induced to
vote for his brother; and, justly imputing the disgrace to Audley, he
never heard the name of that traitor to the land mentioned without a
heightened colour and an indignant expletive. M. de Ruqueville--who was
the greatest wit of his day--had, like the squire, a half-brother, with
whom he was not on the best of terms, and of whom he always spoke as
his “frere de loin!” Audley Egerton was thus Squire Hazeldean’s
“distant-brother”!

Enough of these explanatory antecedents,--let us return to the stocks.



CHAPTER XI.

The squire’s carpenters were taken from the park pales and set to
work at the parish stocks. Then came the painter and coloured them
a beautiful dark blue, with white border--and a white rim round the
holes--with an ornamental flourish in the middle. It was the gayest
public edifice in the whole village, though the village possessed
no less than three other monuments of the Vitruvian genius of the
Hazeldeans,--to wit, the almshouse, the school, and the parish pump.

A more elegant, enticing, coquettish pair of stocks never gladdened the
eye of a justice of the peace.

And Squire Hazeldean’s eye was gladdened. In the pride of his heart he
brought all the family down to look at the stocks. The squire’s family
(omitting the frere de loin) consisted of Mrs. Hazeldean, his wife;
next, of Miss Jemima Hazeldean, his first cousin; thirdly, of Mr.
Francis Hazeldean, his only son; and fourthly, of Captain Barnabas
Higginbotham, a distant relation,--who, indeed, strictly speaking,
was not of the family, but only a visitor ten months in the year. Mrs.
Hazeldean was every inch the lady,--the lady of the parish. In her
comely, florid, and somewhat sunburned countenance, there was an equal
expression of majesty and benevolence; she had a blue eye that invited
liking, and an aquiline nose that commanded respect. Mrs. Hazeldean had
no affectation of fine airs, no wish to be greater and handsomer and
cleverer than she was. She knew herself, and her station, and thanked
Heaven for it. There was about her speech and manner something of the
shortness and bluntness which often characterizes royalty; and if the
lady of a parish is not a queen in her own circle, it is never the fault
of a parish. Mrs. Hazeldean dressed her part to perfection. She wore
silks that seemed heirlooms,--so thick were they, so substantial and
imposing; and over these, when she was in her own domain, the whitest
of aprons; while at her waist was seen no fiddle-faddle chatelaine, with
breloques and trumpery, but a good honest gold watch to mark the
time, and a long pair of scissors to cut off the dead leaves from her
flowers,--for she was a great horticulturalist. When occasion needed,
Mrs. Hazeldean could, however, lay by her more sumptuous and imperial
raiment for a stout riding-habit, of blue Saxony, and canter by her
husband’s side to see the hounds throw off. Nay, on the days on which
Mr. Hazeldean drove his famous fast-trotting cob to the market town, it
was rarely that you did not see his wife on the left side of the gig.
She cared as little as her lord did for wind and weather, and in the
midst of some pelting shower her pleasant face peeped over the collar
and capes of a stout dreadnought, expanding into smiles and bloom as
some frank rose, that opens from its petals, and rejoices in the dews.
It was easy to see that the worthy couple had married for love; they
were as little apart as they could help it. And still, on the first
of September, if the house was not full of company which demanded her
cares, Mrs. Hazeldean “stepped out” over the stubbles by her husband’s
side, with as light a tread and as blithe an eye as when, in the first
bridal year, she had enchanted the squire by her genial sympathy with
his sports.

So there now stands Harriet Hazeldean, one hand leaning on the squire’s
broad shoulder, the other thrust into her apron, and trying her best to
share her husband’s enthusiasm for his own public-spirited patriotism,
in the renovation of the parish stocks. A little behind, with two
fingers resting on the thin arm of Captain Barnabas, stood Miss Jemima,
the orphan daughter of the squire’s uncle, by a runaway imprudent
marriage with a young lady who belonged to a family which had been at
war with the Hazeldeans since the reign of Charles the First respecting
a right of way to a small wood (or rather spring) of about an acre,
through a piece of furze land, which was let to a brickmaker at twelve
shillings a year. The wood belonged to the Hazeldeans, the furze land
to the Sticktorights (an old Saxon family, if ever there was one). Every
twelfth year, when the fagots and timber were felled, this feud broke
out afresh; for the Sticktorights refused to the Hazeldeans the right to
cart off the said fagots and timber through the only way by which a cart
could possibly pass. It is just to the Hazeldeans to say that they had
offered to buy the land at ten times its value. But the Sticktorights,
with equal magnanimity, had declared that they would not “alienate the
family property for the convenience of the best squire that ever stood
upon shoe leather.” Therefore, every twelfth year, there was always
a great breach of the peace on the part of both Hazeldeans and
Sticktorights, magistrates and deputy-lieutenants though they were.
The question was fairly fought out by their respective dependants,
and followed by various actions for assault and trespass. As the legal
question of right was extremely obscure, it never had been properly
decided; and, indeed, neither party wished it to be decided, each at
heart having some doubt of the propriety of its own claim. A marriage
between a younger son of the Hazeldeans and a younger daughter of the
Sticktorights was viewed with equal indignation by both families;
and the consequence had been that the runaway couple, unblessed and
unforgiven, had scrambled through life as they could, upon the scanty
pay of the husband, who was in a marching regiment, and the interest
of L1000, which was the wife’s fortune independent of her parents. They
died and left an only daughter (upon whom the maternal L1000 had been
settled), about the time that the squire came of age and into possession
of his estates. And though he inherited all the ancestral hostility
towards the Sticktorights, it was not in his nature to be unkind to a
poor orphan, who was, after all, the child of a Hazeldean. Therefore he
had educated and fostered Jemima with as much tenderness as if she had
been his sister; put out her L1000 at nurse, and devoted, from the ready
money which had accrued from the rents during his minority, as much as
made her fortune (with her own accumulated at compound interest) no less
than L4000, the ordinary marriage portion of the daughters of Hazeldean.
On her coming of age, he transferred this sum to her absolute disposal,
in order that she might feel herself independent, see a little more of
the world than she could at Hazeldean, have candidates to choose from
if she deigned to marry; or enough to live upon, if she chose to remain
single. Miss Jemima had somewhat availed herself of this liberty, by
occasional visits to Cheltenham and other watering-places. But her
grateful affection to the squire was such that she could never bear to
be long away from the Hall. And this was the more praise to her heart,
inasmuch as she was far from taking kindly to the prospect of being
an old maid; and there were so few bachelors in the neighbourhood of
Hazeldean, that she could not but have that prospect before her eyes
whenever she looked out of the Hall windows. Miss Jemima was indeed
one of the most kindly and affectionate of beings feminine; and if she
disliked the thought of single blessedness, it really was from those
innocent and womanly instincts towards the tender charities of hearth
and home, without which a lady, however otherwise estimable, is little
better than a Minerva in bronze. But, whether or not, despite her
fortune and her face, which last, though not strictly handsome, was
pleasing, and would have been positively pretty if she had laughed more
often (for when she laughed, there appeared three charming dimples,
invisible when she was grave),--whether or not, I say, it was the fault
of our insensibility or her own fastidiousness, Miss Jemima approached
her thirtieth year, and was still Miss Jemima. Now, therefore, that
beautifying laugh of hers was very rarely heard, and she had of late
become confirmed in two opinions, not at all conducive to laughter. One
was a conviction of the general and progressive wickedness of the male
sex, and the other was a decided and lugubrious belief that the world
was coming to an end. Miss Jemima was now accompanied by a small canine
favourite, true Blenheim, with a snub nose. It was advanced in life,
and somewhat obese. It sat on its haunches, with its tongue out of its
mouth, except when it snapped at the flies. There was a strong platonic
friendship between Miss Jemima and Captain Barnabas Higginbotham; for
he, too, was unmarried, and he had the same ill opinion of your sex, my
dear madam, that Miss Jemima had of, ours. The captain was a man of
a slim and elegant figure; the less said about the face the better, a
truth of which the captain himself was sensible, for it was a favourite
maxim of his, “that in a man, everything is a slight, gentlemanlike
figure.” Captain Barnabas did not absolutely deny that the world was
coming to an end, only he thought it would last his time.

Quite apart from all the rest, with the nonchalant survey of virgin
dandyism, Francis Hazeldean looked over one of the high starched
neckcloths which were then the fashion,--a handsome lad, fresh from Eton
for the summer holidays, but at that ambiguous age when one disdains the
sports of the boy, and has not yet arrived at the resources of the man.

“I should be glad, Frank,” said the squire, suddenly turning round to
his son, “to see you take a little more interest in duties which, one
day or other, you may be called upon to discharge. I can’t bear to think
that the property should fall into the hands of a fine gentleman, who
will let things go to rack and ruin, instead of keeping them up as I
do.”

And the squire pointed to the stocks.

Master Frank’s eye followed the direction of the cane, as well as his
cravat would permit; and he said dryly,--

“Yes, sir; but how came the stocks to be so long out of repair?”

“Because one can’t see to everything at once,” retorted the squire,
tartly. “When a man has got eight thousand acres to look after, he must
do a bit at a time.”

“Yes,” said Captain Barnabas. “I know that by experience.”

“The deuce you do!” cried the squire, bluntly. “Experience in eight
thousand acres!”

“No; in my apartments in the Albany,--No. 3 A. I have had them ten
years, and it was only last Christmas that I bought my Japan cat.”

“Dear me,” said Miss Jemima; “a Japan cat! that must be very curious.
What sort of a creature is it?”

“Don’t you know? Bless me, a thing with three legs, and holds toast! I
never thought of it, I assure you, till my friend Cosey said to me one
morning when he was breakfasting at my rooms, ‘Higginbotham, how is it
that you, who like to have things comfortable about you, don’t have
a cat?’ ‘Upon my life,’ said I, ‘one can’t think of everything at a
time,’--just like you, Squire.”

“Pshaw,” said Mr. Hazeldean, gruffly, “not at all like me. And I’ll
thank you another time, Cousin Higginbotham, not to put me out when I’m
speaking on matters of importance; poking your cat into my stocks! They
look something like now, my stocks, don’t they, Harry? I declare that
the whole village seems more respectable. It is astonishing how much a
little improvement adds to the--to the--”

“Charm of the landscape,” put in Miss Jemina, sentimentally.

The squire neither accepted nor rejected the suggested termination; but
leaving his sentence uncompleted, broke suddenly off with--

“And if I had listened to Parson Dale--”

“You would have done a very wise thing,” said a voice behind, as the
parson presented himself in the rear.

“Wise thing? Why, surely, Mr. Dale,” said Mrs. Hazeldean, with spirit,
for she always resented the least contradiction to her lord and
master--perhaps as an interference with her own special right and
prerogative!--“why, surely if it is necessary to have stocks, it is
necessary to repair them.”

“That’s right! go it, Harry!” cried the squire, chuckling, and
rubbing his hands as if he had been setting his terrier at the parson:
“St--St--at him! Well, Master Dale, what do you say to that?”

“My dear ma’am,” said the parson, replying in preference to the lady,
“there are many institutions in the country which are very old, look
very decayed, and don’t seem of much use; but I would not pull them down
for all that.”

“You would reform them, then,” said Mrs. Hazeldean, doubtfully, and
with a look at her husband, as much as to say, “He is on politics
now,--that’s your business.”

“No, I would not, ma’am,” said the parson, stoutly. “What on earth would
you do, then?” quoth the squire. “Just let ‘em alone,” said the parson.
“Master Frank, there’s a Latin maxim which was often put in the mouth of
Sir Robert Walpole, and which they ought to put into the Eton grammar,
‘Quieta non movere.’ If things are quiet, let them be quiet! I would not
destroy the stocks, because that might seem to the ill-disposed like a
license to offend; and I would not repair the stocks, because that puts
it into people’s heads to get into them.”

The squire was a stanch politician of the old school, and he did
not like to think that, in repairing the stocks, he had perhaps been
conniving at revolutionary principles.

“This constant desire of innovation,” said Miss Jemima, suddenly
mounting the more funereal of her two favourite hobbies, “is one of the
great symptoms of the approaching crash. We are altering and mending and
reforming, when in twenty years at the utmost the world itself may
be destroyed!” The fair speaker paused, and Captain Barnabas said
thoughtfully, “Twenty years!--the insurance officers rarely compute the
best life at more than fourteen.” He struck his hand on the stocks as he
spoke, and added, with his usual consolatory conclusion, “The odds are
that it will last our time, Squire.”

But whether Captain Barnabas meant the stocks or the world he did not
clearly explain, and no one took the trouble to inquire.

“Sir,” said Master Frank to his father, with that furtive spirit of
quizzing, which he had acquired amongst other polite accomplishments at
Eton,--“sir, it is no use now considering whether the stocks should or
should not have been repaired. The only question is, whom you will get
to put into them.”

“True,” said the squire, with much gravity.

“Yes, there it is!” said the parson, mournfully. “If you would but learn
‘non quieta movere’!”

“Don’t spout your Latin at me, Parson,” cried the squire, angrily; “I
can give you as good as you bring, any day.

    “‘Propria quae maribus tribuuntur mascula dicas.--
     As in praesenti, perfectum format in avi.’

“There,” added the squire, turning triumphantly towards his Harry, who
looked with great admiration at this unprecedented burst of learning on
the part of Mr. Hazeldean,--“there, two can play at that game! And now
that we have all seen the stocks, we may as well go home and drink tea.
Will you come up and play a rubber, Dale? No! hang it, man, I’ve not
offended you?--you know my ways.”

“That I do, and they are among the things I would not have altered,”
 cried the parson, holding out his hand cheerfully. The squire gave it a
hearty shake, and Mrs. Hazeldean hastened to do the same.

“Do come; I am afraid we’ve been very rude: we are sad blunt folks. Do
come; that’s a dear good man; and of course poor Mrs. Dale too.” Mrs.
Hazeldean’s favourite epithet for Mrs. Dale was poor, and that for
reasons to be explained hereafter.

“I fear my wife has got one of her bad headaches, but I will give her
your kind message, and at all events you may depend upon me.”

“That’s right,” said the squire; “in half an hour, eh? How d’ ye do, my
little man?” as Lenny Fairfield, on his way home from some errand in the
village, drew aside and pulled off his hat with both hands. “Stop; you
see those stocks, eh? Tell all the bad boys in the parish to take
care how they get into them--a sad disgrace--you’ll never be in such a
quandary?”

“That at least I will answer for,” said the parson.

“And I too,” added Mrs. Hazeldean, patting the boy’s curly head.
“Tell your mother I shall come and have a good chat with her to-morrow
evening.”

And so the party passed on, and Lenny stood still on the road, staring
hard at the stocks, which stared back at him from its four great eyes.

Put Lenny did not remain long alone. As soon as the great folks had
fairly disappeared, a large number of small folks emerged timorously
from the neighbouring cottages, and approached the site of the stocks
with much marvel, fear, and curiosity.

In fact, the renovated appearance of this monster a propos de bottes,
as one may say--had already excited considerable sensation among the
population of Hazeldean. And even as when an unexpected owl makes his
appearance in broad daylight all the little birds rise from tree and
hedgerow, and cluster round their ominous enemy, so now gathered all the
much-excited villagers round the intrusive and portentous phenomenon.

“D’ ye know what the diggins the squire did it for, Gaffer Solomons?”
 asked one many-childed matron, with a baby in arms, an urchin of three
years old clinging fast to her petticoat, and her hand maternally
holding back a more adventurous hero of six, who had a great desire to
thrust his head into one of the grisly apertures. All eyes turned to a
sage old man, the oracle of the village, who, leaning both hands on his
crutch, shook his head bodingly.

“Maw be,” said Gaffer Solomons, “some of the boys ha’ been robbing the
orchards.”

“Orchards!” cried a big lad, who seemed to think himself personally
appealed to; “why, the bud’s scarce off the trees yet!”

“No more it ain’t,” said the dame with many children, and she breathed
more freely.

“Maw be,” said Gaffer Solomons, “some o’ ye has been sitting snares.”

“What for?” said a stout, sullen-looking young fellow, whom conscience
possibly pricked to reply,--“what for, when it bean’t the season? And if
a poor man did find a hear in his pocket i’ the haytime, I should like
to know if ever a squire in the world would let ‘un off with the stocks,
eh?”

This last question seemed a settler, and the wisdom of Gaffer Solomons
went down fifty per cent in the public opinion of Hazeldean.

“Maw be,” said the gaffer--this time with a thrilling effect, which
restored his reputation,--“maw be some o’ ye ha’ been getting drunk, and
making beestises o’ yoursel’s!”

There was a dead pause, for this suggestion applied too generally to
be met with a solitary response. At last one of the women said, with a
meaning glance at her husband,

“God bless the squire; he’ll make some on us happy women if that’s all!”

There then arose an almost unanimous murmur of approbation among the
female part of the audience; and the men looked at each other, and then
at the phenomenon, with a very hang-dog expression of countenance.

“Or, maw be,” resumed Gaffer Solomons, encouraged to a fourth suggestion
by the success of its predecessor,--“maw be some o’ the misseses ha’
been making a rumpus, and scolding their good men. I heard say in
my granfeyther’s time, arter old Mother Bang nigh died o’ the
ducking-stool, them ‘ere stocks were first made for the women, out o’
compassion like! And every one knows the squire is a koind-hearted man,
God bless ‘un!”

“God bless ‘un!” cried the men, heartily; and they gathered lovingly
round the phenomenon, like heathens of old round a tutelary temple. But
then there rose one shrill clamour among the females as they retreated
with involuntary steps towards the verge of the green, whence they
glared at Solomons and the phenomenon with eyes so sparkling, and
pointed at both with gestures so menacing, that Heaven only knows if a
morsel of either would have remained much longer to offend the eyes of
the justly-enraged matronage of Hazeldean, if fortunately Master Stirn,
the squire’s right-hand man, had not come up in the nick of time.

Master Stirn was a formidable personage,--more formidable than the
squire himself,--as, indeed, a squire’s right hand is generally more
formidable than the head can pretend to be. He inspired the greater awe,
because, like the stocks of which he was deputed guardian, his powers
were undefined and obscure, and he had no particular place in the
out-of-door establishment. He was not the steward, yet he did much of
what ought to be the steward’s work; he was not the farm-bailiff,
for the squire called himself his own farm-bailiff; nevertheless, Mr.
Hazeldean sowed and ploughed, cropped and stocked, bought and sold, very
much as Mr. Stirn condescended to advise. He was not the park-keeper,
for he neither shot the deer nor superintended the preserves; but it was
he who always found out who had broken a park pale or snared a rabbit.
In short, what may be called all the harsher duties of a large landed
proprietor devolved, by custom and choice, upon Mr. Stirn. If a labourer
was to be discharged or a rent enforced, and the squire knew that he
should be talked over, and that the steward would be as soft as himself,
Mr. Stirn was sure to be the avenging messenger, to pronounce the words
of fate; so that he appeared to the inhabitants of Hazeldean like the
poet’s Saeva Necessitas, a vague incarnation of remorseless power, armed
with whips, nails, and wedges. The very brute creation stood in awe of
Mr. Stirn. The calves knew that it was he who singled out which should
be sold to the butcher, and huddled up into a corner with beating
hearts at his grim footstep; the sow grunted, the duck quacked, the hen
bristled her feathers and called to her chicks when Mr. Stirn drew near.
Nature had set her stamp upon him. Indeed, it may be questioned whether
the great M. de Chambray himself, surnamed the brave, had an aspect so
awe-inspiring as that of Mr. Stirn; albeit the face of that hero was so
terrible, that a man who had been his lackey, seeing his portrait after
he had been dead twenty years, fell a trembling all over like a leaf!

“And what the plague are you doing here?” said Mr. Stirn, as he waved
and smacked a great cart-whip which he held in his hand, “making such
a hullabaloo, you women, you! that I suspect the squire will be sending
out to know if the village is on fire. Go home, will ye? High time
indeed to have the stocks ready, when you get squalling and conspiring
under the very nose of a justice of the peace, just as the French
revolutioners did afore they cut off their king’s head! My hair stands
on end to look at ye.” But already, before half this address was
delivered, the crowd had dispersed in all directions,--the women still
keeping together, and the men sneaking off towards the ale-house. Such
was the beneficent effect of the fatal stocks on the first day of their
resuscitation. However, in the break up of every crowd there must always
be one who gets off the last; and it so happened that our friend Lenny
Fairfield, who had mechanically approached close to the stocks, the
better to hear the oracular opinions of Gaffer Solomons, had no less
mechanically, on the abrupt appearance of Mr. Stirn, crept, as he hoped,
out of sight behind the trunk of the elm-tree which partially shaded the
stocks; and there now, as if fascinated, he still cowered, not daring
to emerge in full view of Mr. Stirn, and in immediate reach of the
cartwhip, when the quick eye of the right-hand man detected his retreat.

“Hallo, sir--what the deuce, laying a mine to blow up the stocks! just
like Guy Fox and the Gunpowder Plot, I declares! What ha’ you got in
your willanous little fist there?”

“Nothing, sir,” said Lenny, opening his palm. “Nothing--um!” said Mr.
Stirn, much dissatisfied; and then, as he gazed more deliberately,
recognizing the pattern boy of the village, a cloud yet darker gathered
over his brow; for Mr. Stirn, who valued himself much on his learning,
and who, indeed, by dint of more knowledge as well as more wit than
his neighbours, had attained his present eminent station of life, was
extremely anxious that his only son should also be a scholar. That
wish--

        “The gods dispersed in empty air.”

Master Stirn was a notable dunce at the parson’s school, while Lenny
Fairfield was the pride and boast of it; therefore Mr. Stirn was
naturally, and almost justifiably, ill-disposed towards Lenny Fairfield,
who had appropriated to himself the praises which Mr. Stirn had designed
for his son.

“Um!” said the right-hand man, glowering on Lenny malignantly, “you
are the pattern boy of the village, are you? Very well, sir! then I put
these here stocks under your care, and you’ll keep off the other boys
from sitting on ‘em, and picking off the paint, and playing three-holes
and chuck-farthing, as I declare they’ve been a doing, just in front of
the elewation. Now, you knows your ‘sponsibilities, little boy,--and a
great honour they are too, for the like o’ you.

“If any damage be done, it is to you I shall look; d’ ye
understand?--and that’s what the squire says to me. So you sees what it
is to be a pattern boy, Master Lenny!” With that Mr. Stirn gave a loud
crack of the cart-whip, by way of military honours, over the head of
the vicegerent he had thus created, and strode off to pay a visit to two
young unsuspecting pups, whose ears and tails he had graciously promised
their proprietors to crop that evening. Nor, albeit few charges could
be more obnoxious than that of deputy-governor or charge-d’affaires
extraordinaires to the parish stocks, nor one more likely to render
Lenny Fairfield odious to his contemporaries, ought he to have been
insensible to the signal advantage of his condition over that of the two
sufferers, against whose ears and tails Mr. Stirn had no special motives
of resentment. To every bad there is a worse; and fortunately for
little boys, and even for grown men, whom the Stirns of the world regard
malignly, the majesty and law protect their ears, and the merciful
forethought of nature deprived their remote ancestors of the privilege
of entailing tails upon them. Had it been otherwise--considering what
handles tails would have given to the oppressor, how many traps envy
would have laid for them, how often they must have been scratched and
mutilated by the briars of life, how many good excuses would have been
found for lopping, docking, and trimming them--I fear that only the
lap-dogs of Fortune would have gone to the grave tail-whole.



CHAPTER XII.

The card-table was set out in the drawing-room at Hazeldean Hall; though
the little party were still lingering in the deep recess of the large
bay window, which (in itself of dimensions that would have swallowed up
a moderate-sized London parlour) held the great round tea-table, with
all appliances and means to boot,--for the beautiful summer moon shed on
the sward so silvery a lustre, and the trees cast so quiet a shadow,
and the flowers and new-mown hay sent up so grateful a perfume, that
to close the windows, draw the curtains, and call for other lights than
those of heaven would have been an abuse of the prose of life which even
Captain Barnabas, who regarded whist as the business of town and the
holiday of the country, shrank from suggesting. Without, the scene,
beheld by the clear moonlight, had the beauty peculiar to the
garden-ground round those old-fashioned country residences which, though
a little modernized, still preserve their original character,--the
velvet lawn, studded with large plots of flowers, shaded and scented,
here to the left by lilacs, laburnums, and rich syringas; there, to the
right, giving glimpses, over low clipped yews, of a green bowling-alley,
with the white columns of a summer-house built after the Dutch taste,
in the reign of William III.; and in front stealing away under covert
of those still cedars, into the wilder landscape of the well-wooded
undulating park. Within, viewed by the placid glimmer of the moon, the
scene was no less characteristic of the abodes of that race which has no
parallel in other lands, and which, alas! is somewhat losing its native
idiosyncrasies in this,--the stout country gentleman, not the fine
gentleman of the country; the country gentleman somewhat softened and
civilized from the mere sportsman or farmer, but still plain and homely;
relinquishing the old hall for the drawing-room, and with books not
three months old on his table, instead of Fox’s “Martyrs” and Baker’s
“Chronicle,” yet still retaining many a sacred old prejudice, that, like
the knots in his native oak, rather adds to the ornament of the grain
than takes from the strength of the tree. Opposite to the window, the
high chimneypiece rose to the heavy cornice of the ceiling, with dark
panels glistening against the moonlight. The broad and rather clumsy
chintz sofas and settees of the reign of George III. contrasted at
intervals with the tall-backed chairs of a far more distant generation,
when ladies in fardingales and gentlemen in trunk-hose seem never to
have indulged in horizontal positions. The walls, of shining wainscot,
were thickly covered, chiefly with family pictures; though now and then
some Dutch fair or battle-piece showed that a former proprietor had been
less exclusive in his taste for the arts. The pianoforte stood open
near the fireplace; a long dwarf bookcase at the far end added its sober
smile to the room. That bookcase contained what was called “The Lady’s
Library,”--a collection commenced by the squire’s grandmother, of pious
memory, and completed by his mother, who had more taste for the lighter
letters, with but little addition from the bibliomaniac tendencies
of the present Mrs. Hazeldean, who, being no great reader, contented
herself with subscribing to the Book Club. In this feminine Bodleian,
the sermons collected by Mrs. Hazeldean, the grandmother, stood
cheek-by-jowl beside the novels purchased by Mrs. Hazeldean, the
mother,--

        “Mixtaque ridenti colocasia fundet acantho!”

But, to be sure, the novels, in spite of very inflammatory titles, such
as “Fatal Sensibility,” “Errors of the Heart,” etc., were so harmless
that I doubt if the sermons could have had much to say against their
next-door neighbours,--and that is all that can be expected by the best
of us.

A parrot dozing on his perch; some goldfish fast asleep in their glass
bowl; two or three dogs on the rug, and Flimsey, Miss Jemima’s spaniel,
curled into a ball on the softest sofa; Mrs. Hazeldean’s work-table
rather in disorder, as if it had been lately used; the “St. James’s
Chronicle” dangling down from a little tripod near the squire’s
armchair; a high screen of gilt and stamped leather fencing off the
card-table,--all these, dispersed about a room large enough to hold them
all and not seem crowded, offered many a pleasant resting-place for the
eye, when it turned from the world of nature to the home of man.

But see, Captain Barnabas, fortified by his fourth cup of tea, has at
length summoned courage to whisper to Mrs. Hazeldean, “Don’t you think
the parson will be impatient for his rubber?” Mrs. Hazeldean glanced at
the parson and smiled; but she gave the signal to the captain, and the
bell was rung, lights were brought in, the curtains let down; in a few
moments more, the group had collected round the cardtable. The best of
us are but human--that is not a new truth, I confess, but yet people
forget it every day of their lives--and I dare say there are many who
are charitably thinking at this very moment that my parson ought not to
be playing at whist. All I can say to those rigid disciplinarians is,
“Every man has his favourite sin: whist was Parson Dale’s!--ladies and
gentlemen, what is yours?” In truth, I must not set up my poor parson,
nowadays, as a pattern parson,--it is enough to have one pattern in a
village no bigger than Hazeldean, and we all know that Lenny Fairfield
has bespoken that place, and got the patronage of the stocks for his
emoluments! Parson Dale was ordained, not indeed so very long ago, but
still at a time when Churchmen took it a great deal more easily than
they do now. The elderly parson of that day played his rubber as a
matter of course, the middle-aged parson was sometimes seen riding to
cover (I knew a schoolmaster, a doctor of divinity, and an excellent
man, whose pupils were chiefly taken from the highest families in
England, who hunted regularly three times a week during the season),
and the young parson would often sing a capital song--not composed by
David--and join in those rotatory dances, which certainly David never
danced before the ark.

Does it need so long an exordium to excuse thee, poor Parson Dale, for
turning up that ace of spades with so triumphant a smile at thy partner?
I must own that nothing which could well add to the parson’s offence was
wanting. In the first place, he did not play charitably, and merely to
oblige other people. He delighted in the game, he rejoiced in the game,
his whole heart was in the game,--neither was he indifferent to the
mammon of the thing, as a Christian pastor ought to have been. He looked
very sad when he took his shillings out of his purse, and exceedingly
pleased when he put the shillings that had just before belonged to
other people into it. Finally, by one of those arrangements common with
married people who play at the same table, ‘Mr. and--Mrs. Hazeldean were
invariably partners, and no two people could play worse; while Captain
Barnabas, who had played at Graham’s with honour and profit, necessarily
became partner to Parson Dale, who himself played a good steady parsonic
game. So that, in strict truth, it was hardly fair play; it was almost
swindling,--the combination of these two great dons against that
innocent married couple! Mr. Dale, it is true, was aware of this
disproportion of force, and had often proposed either to change partners
or to give odds,--propositions always scornfully scouted by the squire
and his lady, so that the parson was obliged to pocket his conscience,
together with the ten points which made his average winnings.

The strangest thing in the world is the different way in which whist
affects the temper. It is no test of temper, as some pretend,--not at
all! The best-tempered people in the world grow snappish at whist; and
I have seen the most testy and peevish in the ordinary affairs of life
bear their losses with the stoicism of Epictetus. This was notably
manifested in the contrast between the present adversaries of the Hall
and the Rectory. The squire, who was esteemed as choleric a gentleman as
most in the county, was the best-humoured fellow you could imagine when
you set him down to whist opposite the sunny face of his wife. You never
heard one of those incorrigible blunderers scold each other; on the
contrary, they only laughed when they threw away the game, with four
by honours in their hands. The utmost that was ever said was a “Well,
Harry, that was the oddest trump of yours. Ho, ho, ho!” or a “Bless me,
Hazeldean--why, they made three tricks in clubs, and you had the ace in
your hand all the time! Ha, ha, ha!”

Upon which occasions Captain Barnabas, with great goodhumour, always
echoed both the squire’s Ho, ho, ho! and Mrs. Hazeldean’s Ha, ha, ha!

Not so the parson. He had so keen and sportsmanlike an interest in the
game, that even his adversaries’ mistakes ruffled him. And you would
hear him, with elevated voice and agitated gestures, laying down
the law, quoting Hoyle, appealing to all the powers of memory and
common-sense against the very delinquencies by which he was enriched,--a
waste of eloquence that always heightened the hilarity of Mr. and Mrs.
Hazeldean. While these four were thus engaged, Mrs. Dale, who had come
with her husband despite her headache, sat on the sofa beside Miss
Jemima, or rather beside Miss Jemima’s Flimsey, which had already
secured the centre of the sofa, and snarled at the very idea of being
disturbed. And Master Frank--at a table by himself--was employed
sometimes in looking at his pumps and sometimes at Gilray’s Caricatures,
which his mother had provided for his intellectual requirements. Mrs.
Dale, in her heart, liked Miss Jemima better than Mrs. Hazeldean, of
whom she was rather in awe, notwithstanding they had been little girls
together, and occasionally still called each other Harry and Carry. But
those tender diminutives belonged to the “Dear” genus, and were rarely
employed by the ladies, except at times when, had they been little girls
still, and the governess out of the way, they would have slapped and
pinched each other. Mrs. Dale was still a very pretty woman, as
Mrs. Hazeldean was still a very fine woman. Mrs. Dale painted in
water-colours, and sang, and made card-racks and penholders, and was
called an “elegant, accomplished woman;” Mrs. Hazeldean cast up the
squire’s accounts, wrote the best part of his letters, kept a large
establishment in excellent order, and was called “a clever, sensible
woman.” Mrs. Dale had headaches and nerves; Mrs. Hazeldean had neither
nerves nor headaches. Mrs. Dale said, “Harry had no real harm in her,
but was certainly very masculine;” Mrs. Hazeldean said, “Carry would
be a good creature but for her airs and graces.” Mrs. Dale said Mrs.
Hazeldean was “just made to be a country squire’s lady;” Mrs. Hazeldean
said, “Mrs. Dale was the last person in the world who ought to have
been a parson’s wife.” Carry, when she spoke of Harry to a third person,
said, “Dear Mrs. Hazeldean;” Harry, when she referred incidentally
to Carry, said, “Poor Mrs. Dale.” And now the reader knows why Mrs.
Hazeldean called Mrs. Dale “poor,”--at least as well as I do. For, after
all, the word belonged to that class in the female vocabulary which may
be called “obscure significants,” resembling the Konx Ompax, which hath
so puzzled the inquirers into the Eleusinian Mysteries: the application
is rather to be illustrated than the meaning to be exactly explained.

“That’s really a sweet little dog of yours, Jemima,” said Mrs. Dale,
who was embroidering the word CAROLINE on the border of a cambric pocket
handkerchief; but edging a little farther off, as she added, “he’ll not
bite, will he?”

“Dear me, no!” said Miss Jemima; “but” (she added in a confidential
whisper) “don’t say he,--‘t is a lady dog!”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Dale, edging off still farther, as if that confession of
the creature’s sex did not serve to allay her apprehensions,--“oh, then,
you carry your aversion to the gentlemen even to lap-dogs,--that is
being consistent indeed, Jemima!”

MISS JEMIMA.--“I had a gentleman dog once,--a pug!--pugs are getting
very scarce now. I thought he was so fond of me--he snapped at every one
else; the battles I fought for him! Well, will you believe--I had been
staying with my friend Miss Smilecox at Cheltenham. Knowing that William
is so hasty, and his boots are so thick, I trembled to think what a kick
might do. So, on coming here I left Bluff--that was his name--with Miss
Smilecox.” (A pause.)

MRS. DALE (looking up languidly).--“Well, my love?”

MISS JEMIMA.--“Will you believe it, I say, when I returned to
Cheltenham, only three months afterwards, Miss Smilecox had seduced his
affections from me, and the ungrateful creature did not even know me
again? A pug, too--yet people say pugs are faithful! I am sure they
ought to be, nasty things! I have never had a gentleman dog since,--they
are all alike, believe me, heartless, selfish creatures.”

MRS. DALE.--“Pugs? I dare say they are!”

MISS JEMIMA (with spirit).-“MEN!--I told you it was a gentleman dog!”

MRS. DALE (apologetically).--“True, my love, but the whole thing was so
mixed up!”

MISS JEMIMA.--“You saw that cold-blooded case of Breach of Promise of
Marriage in the papers,--an old wretch, too, of sixty-four. No age makes
them a bit better. And when one thinks that the end of all flesh is
approaching, and that--”

MRS. DALE (quickly, for she prefers Miss Jemima’s other hobby to
that black one upon which she is preparing to precede the bier of the
universe).--“Yes, my love, we’ll avoid that subject, if you please. Mr.
Dale has his own opinions, and it becomes me, you know, as a parson’s
wife” (said smilingly: Mrs. Dale has as pretty a dimple as any of Miss
Jemima’s, and makes more of that one than Miss Jemima of three), “to
agree with him,--that is, in theology.”

MISS JEMIMA (earnestly).--“But the thing is so clear, if you will but
look into--”

MRS. DALE (putting her hand on Miss Jemima’s lips playfully).--“Not a
word more. Pray, what do you think of the squire’s tenant at the Casino,
Signor Riccabocca? An interesting creature, is he not?”

MISS JEMIMA.--“Interesting! not to me. Interesting? Why is he
interesting?”

Mrs. Dale is silent, and turns her handkerchief in her pretty little
white hands, appearing to contemplate the R in Caroline.

MISS JEMIMA (half pettishly, half coaxingly).--“Why is he interesting?
I scarcely ever looked at him; they say he smokes, and never eats. Ugly,
too!”

MRS. DALE.--“Ugly,--no. A fine bead,--very like Dante’s; but what is
beauty?”

MISS JEMIMA.--“Very true: what is it indeed? Yes, as you say, I think
there is something interesting about him; he looks melancholy, but that
may be because he is poor.”

MRS. DALE.--“It is astonishing how little one feels poverty when one
loves. Charles and I were very poor once,--before the squire--” Mrs.
Dale paused, looked towards the squire, and murmured a blessing, the
warmth of which brought tears into her eyes. “Yes,” she added, after a
pause, “we were very poor, but we were happy even then,--more thanks
to Charles than to me;” and tears from a new source again dimmed those
quick, lively eyes, as the little woman gazed fondly on her husband,
whose brows were knit into a black frown over a bad hand.

MISS JEMIMA.--“It is only those horrid men who think of money as a
source of happiness. I should be the last person to esteem a gentleman
less because he was poor.”

MRS. DALE.--“I wonder the squire does not ask Signor Riccabocca here
more often. Such an acquisition we find him!”

The squire’s voice from the card-table.--“Whom ought I to ask more
often, Mrs. Dale?”

Parson’s voice, impatiently.--“Come, come, come, squire: play to my
queen of diamonds,--do!”

SQUIRE.--“There, I trump it! pick up the trick, Mrs. H.”

PARSON.--“Stop! Stop! trump my diamond?”

THE CAPTAIN (solemnly).--“‘Trick turned; play on, Squire.”

SQUIRE.--“The king of diamonds.”

MRS. HAZELDEAN.--“Lord! Hazeldean, why, that’s the most barefaced
revoke,--ha, ha, ha! trump the queen of diamonds and play out the king!
well, I never! ha, ha, ha!”

CAPTAIN BARNABAS (in tenor).--“Ha, ha, ha!”

SQUIRE.--“Ho, ho, ho! bless my soul! ho, ho, ho!”

CAPTAIN BARNABAS (in bass).--“Ho, ho, ho!”

Parson’s voice raised, but drowned by the laughter of his adversaries
and the firm, clear tone of Captain Barnabas.--“Three to our
score!--game!”

SQUIRE (wiping his eyes).--“No help for it; Harry, deal for me. Whom
ought I to ask, Mrs. Dale?” (Waxing angry.) “First time I ever heard the
hospitality of Hazeldean called in question!”

MRS. DALE.--“My dear sir, I beg a thousand pardons, but listeners--you
know the proverb.”

SQUIRE (growling like a bear).--“I hear nothing but proverbs ever since
we had that Mounseer among us. Please to speak plainly, ma’am.”

Mrs. DALE (sliding into a little temper at being thus roughly
accosted).--“It was of Mounseer, as you call him, that I spoke, Mr.
Hazeldean.”

SQUIRE.--“What! Rickeybockey?”

MRS. DALE (attempting the pure Italian accentuation).--“Signor
Riccabocca.”

PARSON (slapping his cards on the table in despair).--“Are we playing at
whist, or are we not?”

The squire, who is fourth player, drops the king to Captain
Higginbotham’s lead of the ace of hearts. Now the captain has left
queen, knave, and two other hearts, four trumps to the queen, and
nothing to win a trick with in the two other suits. This hand is
therefore precisely one of those in which, especially after the fall
of that king of hearts in the adversary’s hand, it becomes a matter of
reasonable doubt whether to lead trumps or not. The captain hesitates,
and not liking to play out his good hearts with the certainty of their
being trumped by the squire, nor, on the other hand, liking to open the
other suits, in which he has not a card that can assist his partner,
resolves, as becomes a military man in such dilemma, to make a bold push
and lead out trumps in the chance of finding his partner strong and so
bringing in his long suit.

SQUIRE (taking advantage of the much meditating pause made by
the captain).--“Mrs. Dale, it is not my fault. I have asked
Rickeybockey,--time out of mind. But I suppose I am not fine enough for
those foreign chaps. He’ll not come,--that’s all I know.”

PARSON (aghast at seeing the captain play out trumps, of which he, Mr.
Dale, has only two, wherewith he expects to ruff the suit of spades, of
which he has only one, the cards all falling in suits, while he has not
a single other chance of a trick in his hand).--“Really, Squire, we had
better give up playing if you put out my partner in this extraordinary
way,--jabber, jabber, jabber!”

SQUIRE.--“Well, we must be good children, Harry. What!--trumps, Barney?
Thank ye for that!” And the squire might well be grateful, for the
unfortunate adversary has led up to ace king knave, with two other
trumps. Squire takes the parson’s ten with his knave, and plays out ace
king; then, having cleared all the trumps except the captain’s queen
and his own remaining two, leads off tierce major in that very suit of
spades of which the parson has only one,--and the captain, indeed, but
two,--forces out the captain’s queen, and wins the game in a canter.

PARSON (with a look at the captain which might have become the awful
brows of Jove, when about to thunder).--“That, I suppose, is the
new-fashioned London play! In my time the rule was, ‘First save the
game, then try to win it.’”

CAPTAIN.--“Could not save it, sir.”

PARSON (exploding)--“Not save it!--two ruffs in my own hand,--two tricks
certain till you took them out! Monstrous! The rashest trump.”--Seizes
the cards, spreads them on the table, lip quivering, hands trembling,
tries to show how five tricks could have been gained,--N.B. It is short
whist which Captain Barnabas had introduced at the Hall,--can’t make out
more than four; Captain smiles triumphantly; Parson in a passion, and
not at all convinced, mixes all the cards together again, and falling
back in his chair, groans, with tears in his voice.--“The cruellest
trump! the most wanton cruelty!”

The Hazeldeans in chorus.--“Ho, ho, ho! Ha, ha, ha!” The captain, who
does not laugh this time, and whose turn it is to deal, shuffles the
cards for the conquering game of the rubber with as much caution and
prolixity as Fabius might have employed in posting his men. The
squire gets up to stretch his legs, and, the insinuation against his
hospitality recurring to his thoughts, calls out to his wife, “Write to
Rickeybockey to-morrow yourself, Harry, and ask him to come and spend
two or three days here. There, Mrs. Dale, you hear me?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Dale, putting her hands to her ears in implied rebuke
at the loudness of the squire’s tone. “My dear sir, do remember that I’m
a sad nervous creature.”

“Beg pardon,” muttered Mr. Hazeldean, turning to his son, who having
got tired of the caricatures, had fished out for himself the great folio
County History, which was the only book in the library that the squire
much valued, and which he usually kept under lock and key, in his study,
together with the field-books and steward’s accounts, but which he had
reluctantly taken into the drawing-room that day, in order to oblige
Captain Higginbotham. For the Higginbothams--an old Saxon family, as the
name evidently denotes--had once possessed lands in that very county;
and the captain, during his visits to Hazeldean Hall, was regularly in
the habit of asking to look into the County History, for the purpose of
refreshing his eyes, and renovating his sense of ancestral dignity, with
the following paragraph therein:

   To the left of the village of Dunder, and pleasantly situated in a
   hollow, lies Botham Hall, the residence of the ancient family of
   Higginbotham, as it is now commonly called. Yet it appears by the
   county rolls, and sundry old deeds, that the family formerly styled
   itself Higges, till the Manor House lying in Botham, they gradually
   assumed the appellation of Higges-in-Botham, and in process of time,
   yielding to the corruptions of the vulgar, Higginbotham.”

“What, Frank! my County History!” cried the squire. “Mrs. H., he has got
my County History!”

“Well, Hazeldean, it is time he should know something about the county.”

“Ay, and history too,” said Mrs. Dale, malevolently, for the little
temper was by no means blown over.

FRANK.--“I’ll not hurt it, I assure you, sir. But I’m very much
interested just at present.”

THE CAPTAIN (putting down the cards to cut).--“You’ve got hold of that
passage about Botham Hall, page 706, eh?”

FRANK.--“No; I was trying to make out how far it is to Mr. Leslie’s
place, Rood Hall. Do you know, Mother?”

MRS. HAZELDEAN.--“I can’t say I do. The Leslies don’t mix with the
county; and Rood lies very much out of the way.”

FRANK.--“Why don’t they mix with the county?”

MRS. HAZELDEAN.--“I believe they are poor, and therefore I suppose they
are proud; they are an old family.”

PARSON (thrumming on the table with great impatience).--“Old
fiddle-dee!--talking of old families when the cards have been shuffled
this half-hour!”

CAPTAIN BARNABAS.--“Will you cut for your partner, ma’am?”

SQUIRE (who has been listening to Frank’s inquiries with a musing
air).--“Why do you want to know the distance to Rood Hall?”

FRANK (rather hesitatingly).--“Because Randal Leslie is there for the
holidays, sir.”

PARSON.--“Your wife has cut for you, Mr. Hazeldean. I don’t think it
was quite fair; and my partner has turned up a deuce,--deuce of hearts.
Please to come and play, if you mean to play.”

The squire returns to the table, and in a few minutes the game is
decided by a dexterous finesse of the captain against the Hazeldeans.
The clock strikes ten; the servants enter with a tray; the squire counts
up his own and his wife’s losings; and the captain and parson divide
sixteen shillings between them.

SQUIRE.--“There, Parson, I hope you’ll be in a better humour. You win
enough out of us to set up a coach-and-four.”

“Tut!” muttered the parson; “at the end of the year, I’m not a penny the
richer for it all.”

And, indeed, monstrous as that assertion seemed, it was perfectly true,
for the parson portioned out his gains into three divisions. One-third
he gave to Mrs. Dale, for her own special pocket-money; what became of
the second third he never owned even to his better half,--but certain
it was, that every time the parson won seven-and-sixpence, half-a-crown,
which nobody could account for, found its way to the poor-box; while the
remaining third, the parson, it is true, openly and avowedly retained;
but I have no manner of doubt that, at the year’s end, it got to the
poor quite as safely as if it had been put into the box.

The party had now gathered round the tray, and were helping themselves
to wine and water, or wine without water,--except Frank, who still
remained poring over the map in the County History, with his head
leaning on his hands, and his fingers plunged in his hair.

“Frank,” said Mrs. Hazeldean, “I never saw you so studious before.”

Frank started up and coloured, as if ashamed of being accused of too
much study in anything.

SQUIRE (with a little embarrassment in his voice).--“Pray, Frank, what
do you know of Randal Leslie?”

“Why, sir, he is at Eton.”

“What sort of a boy is he?” asked Mrs. Hazeldean.

Frank hesitated, as if reflecting, and then answered, “They say he is
the cleverest boy in the school. But then he saps.”

“In other words,” said Mr. Dale, with proper parsonic gravity, “he
understands that he was sent to school to learn his lessons, and he
learns them. You call that sapping? call it doing his duty. But pray,
who and what is this Randal Leslie, that you look so discomposed,
Squire?”

“Who and what is he?” repeated the squire, in a low growl. “Why, you
know Mr. Audley Egerton married Miss Leslie, the great heiress; and this
boy is a relation of hers. I may say,” added the squire, “that he is a
near relation of mine, for his grandmother was a Hazeldean; but all I
know about the Leslies is, that Mr. Egerton, as I am told, having no
children of his own, took up young Randal (when his wife died, poor
woman), pays for his schooling, and has, I suppose, adopted the boy
as his heir. Quite welcome. Frank and I want nothing from Mr. Audley
Egerton, thank Heaven!”

“I can well believe in your brother’s generosity to his wife’s kindred,”
 said the parson, sturdily, “for I am sure Mr. Egerton is a man of strong
feeling.”

“What the deuce do you know about Mr. Egerton? I don’t suppose you could
ever have even spoken to him.”

“Yes,” said the parson, colouring up, and looking confused. “I had some
conversation with him once;” and observing the squire’s surprise, he
added--“when I was curate at Lansmere, and about a painful business
connected with the family of one of my parishioners.”

“Oh, one of your parishioners at Lansmere,--one of the constituents Mr.
Audley Egerton threw over, after all the pains I had taken to get him
his seat. Rather odd you should never have mentioned this before, Mr.
Dale!”

“My dear sir,” said the parson, sinking his voice, and in a mild tone of
conciliatory expostulation, “you are so irritable whenever Mr. Egerton’s
name is mentioned at all.”

“Irritable!” exclaimed the squire, whose wrath had been long simmering,
and now fairly boiled over,--“irritable, sir! I should think so: a man
for whom I stood godfather at the hustings, Mr. Dale! a man for whose
sake I was called a ‘prize ox,’ Mr. Dale! a man for whom I was hissed in
a market-place, Mr. Dale! a man for whom I was shot at, in cold blood,
by an officer in His Majesty’s service, who lodged a ball in my right
shoulder, Mr. Dale! a man who had the ingratitude, after all this,
to turn his back on the landed interest,--to deny that there was any
agricultural distress in a year which broke three of the best farmers I
ever had, Mr. Dale!--a man, sir, who made a speech on the Currency which
was complimented by Ricardo, a Jew! Good heavens! a pretty parson you
are, to stand up for a fellow complimented by a Jew! Nice ideas you must
have of Christianity! Irritable, sir!” now fairly roared the squire,
adding to the thunder of his voice the cloud of a brow, which evinced
a menacing ferocity that might have done honour to Bussy d’Amboise or
Fighting Fitzgerald. “Sir, if that man had not been my own half-brother,
I’d have called him out. I have stood my ground before now. I have had a
ball in my right shoulder. Sir, I’d have called him out.”

“Mr. Hazeldean! Mr. Hazeldean! I’m shocked at you,” cried the parson;
and, putting his lips close to the squire’s ear, he went on in a
whisper, “What an example to your son! You’ll have him fighting duels
one of these days, and nobody to blame but yourself.”

This warning cooled Mr. Hazeldean; and muttering, “Why the deuce did you
set me off?” he fell back into his chair, and began to fan himself with
his pocket-handkerchief.

The parson skilfully and remorselessly pursued the advantage he had
gained. “And now that you may have it in your power to show civility and
kindness to a boy whom Mr. Egerton has taken up, out of respect to
his wife’s memory,--a kinsman, you say, of your own, and who has never
offended you,--a boy whose diligence in his studies proves him to be
an excellent companion to your son-Frank” (here the parson raised his
voice), “I suppose you would like to call on young Leslie, as you were
studying the county map so attentively.”

“Yes, yes,” answered Frank, rather timidly, “if my father does not
object to it. Leslie has been very kind tome, though he is in the sixth
form, and, indeed, almost the head of the school.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Hazeldean, “one studious boy has a fellow feeling for
another; and though you enjoy your holidays, Frank, I am sure you read
hard at school.”

Mrs. Dale opened her eyes very wide, and stared in astonishment.

Mrs. Hazeldean retorted that look, with great animation. “Yes, Carry,”
 said she, tossing her head, “though you may not think Frank clever,
his masters find him so. He got a prize last half. That beautiful book,
Frank--hold up your head, my love--what did you get it for?”

FRANK (reluctantly).--“Verses, ma’am.”

MRS. HAZELDEAN (with triumph).--“Verses!--there, Carry, verses!”

FRANK (in a hurried tone).--“Yes, but Leslie wrote them for me.”

MRS. HAZELDEAN (recoiling).--“O Frank! a prize for what another did for
you--that was mean.”

FRANK (ingenuously).--“You can’t be more ashamed, Mother, than I was
when they gave me the prize.”

MRS. DALE (though previously provoked at being snubbed by Harry, now
showing the triumph of generosity over temper).--“I beg your pardon,
Frank. Your mother must be as proud of that shame as she was of the
prize.”

Mrs. Hazeldean puts her arm round Frank’s neck, smiles beamingly on Mrs.
Dale, and converses with her son in a low tone about Randal Leslie.
Miss Jemima now approached Carry, and said in an “aside,” “But we are
forgetting poor Mr. Riccabocca. Mrs. Hazeldean, though the dearest
creature in the world, has such a blunt way of inviting people--don’t
you think if you were to say a word to him, Carry?”

MRS. DALE (kindly, as she wraps her shawl round her).--“Suppose you
write the note yourself? Meanwhile I shall see him, no doubt.”

PARSON (putting his hand on the squire’s shoulder).--“You forgive my
impertinence, my kind friend. We parsons, you know, are apt to take
strange liberties, when we honour and love folks as I do.”

“Fish,” said the squire; but his hearty smile came to his lips in spite
of himself. “You always get your own way, and I suppose Frank must ride
over and see this pet of my--”

“Brother’s,” quoth the parson, concluding the sentence in a tone which
gave to the sweet word so sweet a sound that the squire would not
correct the parson, as he had been about to correct himself.

Mr. Dale moved on; but as he passed Captain Barnabas, the benignant
character of his countenance changed sadly. “The cruellest trump,
Captain Higginbotham!” said he sternly, and stalked by-majestic.

The night was so fine that the parson and his wife, as they walked home,
made a little detour through the shrubbery.

MRS. DALE.--“I think I have done a good piece of work to-night.”

PARSON (rousing himself from a revery).--“Have you, Carry?--it will be a
very pretty handkerchief.”

MRS. DALE.--“Handkerchief?--nonsense, dear. Don’t you think it would
be a very happy thing for both if Jemima and Signor Riccabocca could be
brought together?”

PARSON.--“Brought together!”

MRS. DALE.--“You do snap up one so, my dear; I mean if I could make a
match of it.”

PARSON.--“I think Riccabocca is a match already, not only for Jemima,
but yourself into the bargain.”

MRS. DALE (smiling loftily).--“Well, we shall see. Was not Jemima’s
fortune about L4000?”

PARSON (dreamily, for he is relapsing fast into his interrupted
revery).--“Ay--ay--I dare say.”

MRS. DALE.--“And she must have saved! I dare say it is nearly L6000 by
this time; eh! Charles dear, you really are so--good gracious, what’s
that!”

As Mrs. Dale made this exclamation, they had just emerged from the
shrubbery into the village green.

PARSON.--“What’s what?”

MRS. DALE (pinching her husband’s arm very nippingly). “That
thing--there--there.”

PARSON.--“Only the new stocks, Carry; I don’t wonder they frighten you,
for you are a very sensible woman. I only wish they would frighten the
squire.”



CHAPTER XIII.

   [Supposed to be a letter from Mrs. Hazeldean to A. Riccabocca, Esq.,
   The Casino; but, edited, and indeed composed, by Miss Jemima
   Hazeldean.]
HAZELDEAN HALL.

DEAR SIR,--To a feeling heart it must always be painful to give pain
to another, and (though I am sure unconsciously) you have given the
greatest pain to poor Mr. Hazeldean and myself, indeed to all our little
circle, in so cruelly refusing our attempts to become better acquainted
with a gentleman we so highly ESTEEM. Do, pray, dear sir, make us the
amende honorable, and give us the pleasure of your company for a few
days at the Hall. May we expect you Saturday next?--our dinner hour is
six o’clock.

With the best compliments of Mr. and Miss Jemima Hazeldean, believe me,
my dear sir,

Yours truly, H. H.

Miss Jemima having carefully sealed this note, which Mrs. Hazeldean
had very willingly deputed her to write, took it herself into the
stable-yard, in order to give the groom proper instructions to wait for
an answer. But while she was speaking to the man, Frank, equipped for
riding, with more than his usual dandyism, came into the yard, calling
for his pony in a loud voice; and singling out the very groom whom Miss
Jemima was addressing--for, indeed, he was the smartest of all in the
squire’s stables--told him to saddle the gray pad and accompany the
pony.

“No, Frank,” said Miss Jemima, “you can’t have George; your father wants
him to go on a message,--you can take Mat.”

“Mat, indeed!” said Frank, grumbling with some reason; for Mat was a
surly old fellow, who tied a most indefensible neckcloth, and always
contrived to have a great patch on his boots,--besides, he called Frank
“Master,” and obstinately refused to trot down hill,--“Mat, indeed! let
Mat take the message, and George go with me.”

But Miss Jemima had also her reasons for rejecting Mat. Mat’s foible
was not servility, and he always showed true English independence in all
houses where he was not invited to take his ale in the servants’
hall. Mat might offend Signor Riccabocca, and spoil all. An animated
altercation ensued, in the midst of which the squire and his wife
entered the yard, with the intention of driving in the conjugal gig to
the market town. The matter was referred to the natural umpire by both
the contending parties.

The squire looked with great contempt on his son. “And what do you want
a groom at all for? Are you afraid of tumbling off the pony?”

FRANK.--“No, Sir; but I like to go as a gentleman, when I pay a visit to
a gentleman!”

SQUIRE (in high wrath).--“You precious puppy! I think I’m as good a
gentleman as you any day, and I should like to know when you ever saw
me ride to call on a neighbour with a fellow jingling at my heels, like
that upstart Ned Spankie, whose father kept a cotton mill. First time I
ever heard of a Hazeldean thinking a livery coat was necessary to prove
his gentility!”

MRS. HAZELDEAN (observing Frank colouring, and about to reply).--“Hush,
Frank, never answer your father,--and you are going to call on Mr.
Leslie?”

“Yes, ma’am, and I am very much obliged to my father for letting me,”
 said Frank, taking the squire’s hand.

“Well, but, Frank,” continued Mrs. Hazeldean, “I think you heard that
the Leslies were very poor.”

FRANK.--“Eh, Mother?”

MRS. HAZELDEAN.--“And would you run the chance of wounding the pride
of a gentleman as well born as yourself by affecting any show of being
richer than he is?”

SQUIRE (with great admiration).--“Harry, I’d give L10 to have said
that!”

FRANK (leaving the squire’s hand to take his mother’s).--“You’re quite
right, Mother; nothing could be more snobbish!”

SQUIRE. “Give us your fist, too, sir; you’ll be a chip of the old block,
after all.”

Frank smiled, and walked off to his pony.

MRS. HAZELDEAN (to Miss Jemima).--“Is that the note you were to write
for me?”

MISS JEMIMA.--“Yes; I supposed you did not care about seeing it, so I
have sealed it, and given it to George.”

MRS. HAZELDEAN.--“But Frank will pass close by the Casino on his way to
the Leslies’. It may be more civil if he leaves the note himself.”

MISS JEMIMA (hesitatingly).--“Do you think so?”

MRS. HAZELDEAN.--“Yes, certainly. Frank, Frank, as you pass by the
Casino, call on Mr. Riccabocca, give this note, and say we shall be
heartily glad if he will come.” Frank nods.

“Stop a bit,” cried the squire. “If Rickeybockey is at home, ‘t is ten
to one if he don’t ask you to take a glass of wine! If he does, mind,
‘t is worse than asking you to take a turn on the rack. Faugh! you
remember, Harry?--I thought it was all up with me.”

“Yes,” cried Mrs. Hazeldean; “for Heaven’s sake not a drop. Wine,
indeed!”

“Don’t talk of it,” cried the squire, making a wry face.

“I’ll take care, Sir!” said Frank, laughing as he disappeared within the
stable, followed by Miss Jemima, who now coaxingly makes it up with him,
and does not leave off her admonitions to be extremely polite to the
poor foreign gentleman till Frank gets his foot into the stirrup, and
the pony, who knows whom he has got to deal with, gives a preparatory
plunge or two, and then darts out of the yard.



BOOK SECOND.



INITIAL CHAPTER.

INFORMING THE READER HOW THIS WORK CAME TO HAVE INITIAL CHAPTERS.

“There can’t be a doubt,” said my father, “that to each of the main
divisions of your work--whether you call them Books or Parts--you should
prefix an Initial or Introductory Chapter.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Can’t be a doubt, sir? Why so?”

MR. CAXTON.--“Fielding lays it down as an indispensable rule, which he
supports by his example; and Fielding was an artistical writer, and knew
what he was about.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Do you remember any of his reasons, sir?”

MR. CAXTON.--“Why, indeed, Fielding says, very justly, that he is not
bound to assign any reason; but he does assign a good many, here and
there,--to find which I refer you to ‘Tom Jones.’ I will only observe,
that one of his reasons, which is unanswerable, runs to the effect that
thus, in every Part or Book, the reader has the advantage of beginning
at the fourth or fifth page instead of the first,--‘a matter by no means
of trivial consequence,’ saith Fielding, ‘to persons who read books with
no other view than to say they have read them,--a more general motive to
reading than is commonly imagined; and from which not only law books and
good books, but the pages of Homer and Virgil, Swift and Cervantes, have
been often turned Over.’ There,” cried my father, triumphantly, “I will
lay a shilling to twopence that I have quoted the very words.”

MRS. CANTON.--“Dear me, that only means skipping; I don’t see any great
advantage in writing a chapter, merely for people to skip it.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Neither do I!”

MR. CANTON (dogmatically).--“It is the repose in the picture,--Fielding
calls it ‘contrast.’--(Still more dogmatically.)--I say there can’t be a
doubt about it. Besides” added my father after a pause,--“besides, this
usage gives you opportunities to explain what has gone before, or to
prepare for what’s coming; or, since Fielding contends, with great
truth, that some learning is necessary for this kind of historical
composition, it allows you, naturally and easily, the introduction
of light and pleasant ornaments of that nature. At each flight in the
terrace you may give the eye the relief of an urn or a statue. Moreover,
when so inclined, you create proper pausing-places for reflection; and
complete by a separate, yet harmonious ethical department, the design of
a work, which is but a mere Mother Goose’s tale if it does not embrace a
general view of the thoughts and actions of mankind.”

PISISTRATUS.--“But then, in these initial chapters, the author thrusts
himself forward; and just when you want to get on with the dramatis
personae, you find yourself face to face with the poet himself.”

MR. CANTON.--“Pooh! you can contrive to prevent that! Imitate the chorus
of the Greek stage, who fill up the intervals between the action by
saying what the author would otherwise say in his own person.”

PISISTRATUS (slyly).--“That’s a good idea, sir,--and I have a chorus,
and a choregus too, already in my eye.”

MR. CANTON (unsuspectingly).--“Aha! you are not so dull a fellow as you
would make yourself out to be; and, even if an author did thrust himself
forward, what objection is there to that? It is a mere affectation to
suppose that a book can come into the world without an author. Every
child has a father,--one father at least,--as the great Conde says very
well in his poem.”

PISISTRATUS.--“The great Conde a poet! I never heard that before.”

MR. CANTON.--“I don’t say he was a poet, but he sent a poem to Madame de
Montansier. Envious critics think that he must have paid somebody else
to write it; but there is no reason why a great captain should not write
a poem,--I don’t say a good poem, but a poem. I wonder, Roland, if the
duke ever tried his hand at ‘Stanzas to Mary,’ or ‘Lines to a Sleeping
Babe.’”

CAPTAIN ROLAND.--“Austin, I’m ashamed of you. Of course the duke could
write poetry if he pleased,--something, I dare say, in the way of the
great Conde; that is, something warlike and heroic, I’ll be bound. Let’s
hear!”

MR. CAXTON (reciting).--

          “Telle est du Ciel la loi severe
          Qu’il faut qu’un enfant ait un pere;
          On dit meme quelquefois
          Tel enfant en a jusqu’a trois.”

          [“That each child has a father
          Is Nature’s decree;
          But, to judge by a rumour,
          Some children have three.”]

CAPTAIN ROLAND (greatly disgusted).--“Conde write such stuff!--I don’t
believe it.”

PISISTRATUS.--“I do, and accept the quotations; you and Roland shall be
joint fathers to my child as well as myself.

          “‘Tel enfant en a jusqu’a trois.’”

MR. CAXTON (solemnly).--“I refuse the proffered paternity; but so far
as administering a little wholesome castigation now and then, I have no
objection to join in the discharge of a father’s duty.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Agreed. Have you anything to say against the infant
hitherto?”

MR. CAXTON.--“He is in long clothes at present; let us wait till he can
walk.”

BLANCHE.--“But pray whom do you mean for a hero? And is Miss Jemima your
heroine?”

CAPTAIN ROLAND.--“There is some mystery about the--”

PISISTRATUS (hastily).-“Hush, Uncle: no letting the cat out of the
bag yet. Listen, all of you! I left Frank Hazeldean on his way to the
Casino.”



CHAPTER II.

“It is a sweet pretty place,” thought Frank, as he opened the gate which
led across the fields to the Casino, that smiled down upon him with
its plaster pilasters. “I wonder, though, that my father, who is so
particular in general, suffers the carriage-road to be so full of holes
and weeds. Mounseer does not receive many visits, I take it.”

But when Frank got into the ground immediately before the house, he saw
no cause of complaint as to want of order and repair. Nothing could be
kept more neatly. Frank was ashamed of the dint made by the pony’s hoofs
on the smooth gravel: he dismounted, tied the animal to the wicket, and
went on foot towards the glass door in front.

He rang the bell once, twice, but nobody came, for the old
woman-servant, who was hard of hearing, was far away in the yard,
searching for any eggs which the hen might have scandalously hidden for
culinary purposes; and Jackeymo was fishing for the sticklebacks and
minnows which were, when caught, to assist the eggs, when found, in
keeping together the bodies and souls of himself and his master. The old
woman had been lately put upon board wages. Lucky old woman! Frank rang
a third time, and with the impetuosity of his age. A face peeped from
the belvidere on the terrace. “Diavolo!” said Dr. Riccabocca to himself.
“Young cocks crow hard on their own dunghill; it must be a cock of a
high race to crow so loud at another’s.”

Therewith he shambled out of the summer-house, and appeared suddenly
before Frank, in a very wizard-like dressing-robe of black serge, a red
cap on his head, and a cloud of smoke coming rapidly from his lips, as a
final consolatory whiff, before he removed the pipe from them. Frank had
indeed seen the doctor before, but never in so scholastic a costume, and
he was a little startled by the apparition at his elbow, as he turned
round.

“Signorino,” said the Italian, taking off his cap with his usual
urbanity, “pardon the negligence of my people; I am too happy to receive
your commands in person.”

“Dr. Rickeybockey?” stammered Frank, much confused by this polite
address, and the low, yet stately, bow with which it was accompanied.
“I--I have a note from the Hall. Mamma--that is, my mother--and aunt
Jemima beg their best compliments, and hope you will come, sir.”

The doctor took the note with another bow, and, opening the glass door,
invited Frank to enter.

The young gentleman, with a schoolboy’s usual bluntness, was about to
say that he was in a hurry, and had rather not; but Dr. Riccabocca’s
grand manner awed him, while a glimpse of the hall excited his
curiosity, so he silently obeyed the invitation.

The hall, which was of an octagon shape, had been originally panelled
off into compartments, and in these the Italian had painted landscapes,
rich with the warm sunny light of his native climate. Frank was no
judge of the art displayed; but he was greatly struck with the scenes
depicted: they were all views of some lake, real or imaginary; in all,
dark-blue shining waters reflected dark-blue placid skies. In one, a
flight of steps ascended to the lake, and a gay group was seen feasting
on the margin; in another, sunset threw its rose-hues over a vast villa
or palace, backed by Alpine hills, and flanked by long arcades of vines,
while pleasure-boats skimmed over the waves below. In short, throughout
all the eight compartments, the scene, though it differed in details,
preserved the same general character, as if illustrating some favourite
locality. The Italian did not, however, evince any desire to do the
honours of his own art, but, preceding Frank across the hall, opened the
door of his usual sitting-room, and requested him to enter. Frank did so
rather reluctantly, and seated himself with unwonted bashfulness on the
edge of a chair. But here new specimens of the doctor’s handicraft soon
riveted attention. The room had been originally papered, but Riccabocca
had stretched canvas over the walls, and painted thereon sundry
satirical devices, each separated from the other by scroll-works of
fantastic arabesques. Here a Cupid was trundling a wheelbarrow full of
hearts, which he appeared to be selling to an ugly old fellow, with a
money-bag in his hand--probably Plutus. There Diogenes might be seen
walking through a market-place, with his lantern in his hand, in search
of an honest man, whilst the children jeered at him, and the curs
snapped at his heels. In another place a lion was seen half dressed in a
fox’s hide, while a wolf in a sheep’s mask was conversing very amicably
with a young lamb. Here again might be seen the geese stretching out
their necks from the Roman Capitol in full cackle, while the stout
invaders were beheld in the distance, running off as hard as they
could. In short, in all these quaint entablatures some pithy sarcasm was
symbolically conveyed; only over the mantel piece was the design graver
and more touching. It was the figure of a man in a pilgrim’s garb,
chained to the earth by small but innumerable ligaments, while a phantom
likeness of himself, his shadow, was seen hastening down what seemed an
interminable vista; and underneath were written the pathetic words of
Horace--

             “Patriae quis exul
             Se quoque fugit?”

     [“What exile from his country can also fly from himself?”]

The furniture of the room was extremely simple, and somewhat scanty;
yet it was arranged so as to impart an air of taste and elegance to the
room. Even a few plaster busts and statues, though bought but of some
humble itinerant, had their classical effect, glistening from out
stands of flowers that were grouped around them, or backed by
graceful screen-works formed from twisted osiers, which, by the simple
contrivance of trays at the bottom filled with earth, served for living
parasitical plants, with gay flowers contrasting thick ivy leaves,
and gave to the whole room the aspect of a bower. “May I ask your
permission?” said the Italian, with his finger on the seal of the
letter.

“Oh, yes,” said Frank, with naivete.

Riccabocca broke the seal, and a slight smile stole over his
countenance. Then he turned a little aside from Frank, shaded his face
with his hand, and seemed to muse. “Mrs. Hazeldean,” said he, at last,
“does me very great honour. I hardly recognize her handwriting, or I
should have been more impatient to open the letter.” The dark eyes were
lifted over the spectacles and went right into Frank’s unprotected
and undiplomatic heart. The doctor raised the note, and pointed to the
characters with his forefinger.

“Cousin Jemima’s hand,” said Frank, as directly as if the question had
been put to him.

The Italian smiled. “Mr. Hazeldean has company staying with him?”

“No; that is, only Barney,--the captain. There’s seldom much company
before the shooting season,” added Frank, with a slight sigh; “and then,
you know, the holidays are over. For my part, I think we ought to break
up a month later.”

The doctor seemed reassured by the first sentence in Frank’s reply,
and, seating himself at the table, wrote his answer,--not hastily, as we
English write, but with care and precision, like one accustomed to
weigh the nature of words,--in that stiff Italian hand, which allows
the writer so much time to think while he forms his letters. He did not,
therefore, reply at once to Frank’s remark about the holidays, but was
silent till he had concluded his note, read it three times over, sealed
it by the taper he slowly lighted, and then, giving it to Frank, he
said,

“For your sake, young gentleman, I regret that your holidays are so
early; for mine, I must rejoice, since I accept the kind invitation you
have rendered doubly gratifying by bringing it yourself.”

“Deuce take the fellow and his fine speeches! One don’t know which way
to look,” thought English Frank.

The Italian smiled again, as if this time he had read the boy’s heart,
without need of those piercing black eyes, and said, less ceremoniously
than before, “You don’t care much for compliments, young gentleman?”

“No, I don’t indeed,” said Frank, heartily.

“So much the better for you, since your way in the world is made: it
would be so much the worse if you had to make it!”

Frank looked puzzled: the thought was too deep for him, so he turned to
the pictures.

“Those are very funny,” said he; “they seem capitally done. Who did
‘em?”

“Signoriuo Hazeldean, you are giving me what you refused yourself.”

“Eh?” said Frank, inquiringly.

“Compliments!”

“Oh--I--no; but they are well done: are n’t they, sir?”--

“Not particularly: you speak to the artist.”

“What! you painted them?”

“Yes.”

“And the pictures in the hall?”

“Those too.”

“Taken from nature, eh?”

“Nature,” said the Italian, sententiously, perhaps evasively, “lets
nothing be taken from her.”

“Oh!” said Frank, puzzled again. “Well, I must wish you good morning,
sir; I am very glad you are coming.”

“Without compliment?”

“Without compliment.”

“A rivedersi--good-by for the present, my young signorino. This way,”
 observing Frank make a bolt towards the wrong door. “Can I offer you a
glass of wine?--it is pure, of our own making.”

“No, thank you, indeed, sir,” cried Frank, suddenly recollecting his
father’s admonition. “Good-by, don’t trouble yourself, sir; I know any
way now.”

But the bland Italian followed his guest to the wicket, where Frank
had left the pony. The young gentleman, afraid lest so courteous a host
should hold the stirrup for him, twitched off the bridle, and mounted in
haste, not even staying to ask if the Italian could put him in the way
to Rood Hall, of which way he was profoundly ignorant. The Italian’s eye
followed the boy as he rode up the ascent in the lane, and the doctor
sighed heavily. “The wiser we grow,” said he to himself, “the more we
regret the age of our follies: it is better to gallop with a light heart
up the stony hill than sit in the summer-house and cry ‘How true!’ to
the stony truths of Machiavelli!”

With that he turned back into the belvidere; but he could not resume
his studies. He remained some minutes gazing on the prospect, till
the prospect reminded him of the fields which Jackeymo was bent on his
hiring, and the fields reminded him of Lenny Fairfield. He returned to
the house, and in a few moments re-emerged in his out-of-door trim, with
cloak and umbrella, re-lighted his pipe, and strolled towards Hazeldean
village.

Meanwhile Frank, after cantering on for some distance, stopped at a
cottage, and there learned that there was a short cut across the fields
to Rood Hall, by which he could save nearly three miles. Frank,
however, missed the short cut, and came out into the high road; a
turnpike-keeper, after first taking his toll, put him back again into
the short cut; and finally, he got into some green lanes, where a
dilapidated finger-post directed him to Rood. Late at noon, having
ridden fifteen miles in the desire to reduce ten to seven, he came
suddenly upon a wild and primitive piece of ground, that seemed half
chase, half common, with crazy tumbledown cottages of villanous aspect
scattered about in odd nooks and corners. Idle, dirty children were
making mud-pies on the road; slovenly-looking women were plaiting straw
at the threshold; a large but forlorn and decayed church, that seemed
to say that the generation which saw it built was more pious than the
generation which now resorted to it, stood boldly and nakedly out by the
roadside.

“Is this the village of Rood?” asked Frank of a stout young man breaking
stones on the road--sad sign that no better labour could be found for
him!

The man sullenly nodded, and continued his work. “And where’s the
Hall--Mr. Leslie’s?”

The man looked up in stolid surprise, and this time touched his hat.

“Be you going there?”

“Yes, if I can find out where it is.”

“I’ll show your honour,” said the boor, alertly.

Frank reined in the pony, and the man walked by his side. Frank was
much of his father’s son, despite the difference of age, and that more
fastidious change of manner which characterizes each succeeding race
in the progress of civilization. Despite all his Eton finery, he was
familiar with peasants, and had the quick eye of one country-born as to
country matters.

“You don’t seem very well off in this village, my man?” said he,
knowingly.

“Noa; there be a deal of distress here in the winter time, and summer
too, for that matter; and the parish ben’t much help to a single man.”

“But surely the farmers want work here as well as elsewhere?”

“‘Deed, and there ben’t much farming work here,--most o’ the parish be
all wild ground loike.”

“The poor have a right of common, I suppose,” said Frank, surveying a
large assortment of vagabond birds and quadrupeds.

“Yes; neighbour Timmins keeps his geese on the common, and some has
a cow, and them be neighbour Jowlas’s pigs. I don’t know if there’s a
right, loike; but the folks at the Hall does all they can to help us,
and that ben’t much: they ben’t as rich as some folks; but,” added the
peasant, proudly, “they be as good blood as any in the shire.”

“I ‘m glad to see you like them, at all events.”

“Oh, yes, I likes them well eno’; mayhap you are at school with the
young gentleman?”

“Yes,” said Frank.

“Ah, I heard the clergyman say as how Master Randal was a mighty clever
lad, and would get rich some day. I ‘se sure I wish he would, for a poor
squire makes a poor parish. There’s the Hall, sir.”



CHAPTER III.

Frank looked right ahead, and saw a square house that, in spite of
modern sash windows, was evidently of remote antiquity. A high conical
roof; a stack of tall quaint chimney-pots of red-baked clay (like
those at Sutton Place in Surrey) dominating over isolated vulgar
smoke-conductors, of the ignoble fashion of present times; a dilapidated
groin-work, encasing within a Tudor arch a door of the comfortable date
of George III., and the peculiarly dingy and weather-stained appearance
of the small finely-finished bricks, of which the habitation was
built,--all showed the abode of former generations adapted with
tasteless irreverence to the habits of descendants unenlightened by
Pugin, or indifferent to the poetry of the past. The house had emerged
suddenly upon Frank out of the gloomy waste land, for it was placed in
a hollow, and sheltered from sight by a disorderly group of ragged,
dismal, valetudinarian fir-trees, until an abrupt turn of the
road cleared that screen, and left the desolate abode bare to the
discontented eye. Frank dismounted; the man held his pony; and after
smoothing his cravat, the smart Etonian sauntered up to the door, and
startled the solitude of the place with a loud peal from the modern
brass knocker,--a knock which instantly brought forth an astonished
starling who had built under the eaves of the gable roof, and called up
a cloud of sparrows, tomtits, and yellow-hammers, who had been regaling
themselves amongst the litter of a slovenly farmyard that lay in full
sight to the right of the house, fenced off by a primitive paintless
wooden rail. In process of time a sow, accompanied by a thriving and
inquisitive family, strolled up to the gate of the fence, and, leaning
her nose on the lower bar of the gate, contemplated the visitor with
much curiosity and some suspicion.

While Frank is still without, impatiently swingeing his white trousers
with his whip, we will steal a hurried glance towards the respective
members of the family within. Mr. Leslie, the paterfamilias, is in a
little room called his “study,” to which he regularly retires every
morning after breakfast, rarely reappearing till one o’clock, which is
his unfashionable hour for dinner. In what mysterious occupations
Mr. Leslie passes those hours no one ever formed a conjecture. At the
present moment he is seated before a little rickety bureau, one leg of
which being shorter than the other is propped up by sundry old letters
and scraps of newspapers; and the bureau is open, and reveals a great
number of pigeonholes and divisions, filled with various odds and ends,
the collection of many years. In some of these compartments are bundles
of letters, very yellow, and tied in packets with faded tape; in
another, all by itself, is a fragment of plum-pudding stone, which Mr.
Leslie has picked up in his walks, and considered a rare mineral. It
is neatly labelled, “Found in Hollow Lane, May 21st, 1804, by Maunder
Slugge Leslie, Esq.” The next division holds several bits of iron in
the shape of nails, fragments of horse-shoes, etc., which Mr. Leslie
has also met with in his rambles, and, according to a harmless popular
superstition, deemed it highly unlucky not to pick up, and, once picked
up, no less unlucky to throw away. Item, in the adjoining pigeon-hole, a
goodly collection of pebbles with holes in them, preserved for the same
reason, in company with a crooked sixpence; item, neatly arranged in
fanciful mosaics, several periwinkles, Blackamoor’s teeth (I mean the
shell so called), and other specimens of the conchiferous ingenuity of
Nature, partly inherited from some ancestral spinster, partly amassed
by Mr. Leslie himself in a youthful excursion to the seaside. There were
the farm-bailiff’s accounts, several files of bills, an old stirrup,
three sets of knee and shoe buckles which had belonged to Mr. Leslie’s
father, a few seals tied together by a shoe-string, a shagreen toothpick
case, a tortoise shell magnifying-glass to read with, his eldest son’s
first copybooks, his second son’s ditto, his daughter’s ditto, and a
lock of his wife’s hair arranged in a true lover’s knot, framed and
glazed. There were also a small mousetrap; a patent corkscrew too good
to be used in common; fragments of a silver teaspoon, that had, by
natural decay, arrived at a dissolution of its parts; a small brown
holland bag, containing halfpence of various dates, as far back as Queen
Anne, accompanied by two French sous and a German silber gros,--the
which miscellany Mr. Leslie magniloquently called “his coins,” and had
left in his will as a family heirloom. There were many other curiosities
of congenial nature and equal value--quae nunc describere longum est.
Mr. Leslie was engaged at this time in what is termed “putting things
to rights,”--an occupation he performed with exemplary care once a week.
This was his day; and he had just counted his coins, and was slowly
tying them up again in the brown holland bag, when Frank’s knock reached
his ears.

Mr. Maunder Slugge Leslie paused, shook his head as if incredulously,
and was about to resume his occupation, when he was seized with a fit of
yawning which prevented the bag being tied for full two minutes.

While such the employment of the study, let us turn to the recreations
in the drawing-room, or rather parlour. A drawing-room there was on the
first floor, with a charming look-out, not on the dreary fir-trees, but
on the romantic undulating forest-land; but the drawing-room had not
been used since the death of the last Mrs. Leslie. It was deemed
too good to sit in, except when there was company: there never being
company, it was never sat in. Indeed, now the paper was falling off
the walls with the damp, and the rats, mice, and moths--those “edaces
rerum”--had eaten, between them, most of the chair-bottoms and a
considerable part of the floor. Therefore, the parlour was the sole
general sitting-room; and being breakfasted in, dined, and supped in,
and, after supper, smoked in by Mr. Leslie to the accompaniment of
rum-and-water, it is impossible to deny that it had what is called “a
smell,”--a comfortable, wholesome family smell, speaking of numbers,
meals, and miscellaneous social habitation. There were two windows: one
looked full on the fir-trees; the other on the farmyard, with the pigsty
closing the view. Near the fir-tree window sat Mrs. Leslie; before her,
on a high stool, was a basket of the children’s clothes that wanted
mending. A work-table of rosewood inlaid with brass, which had been a
wedding-present, and was a costly thing originally, but in that peculiar
taste which is vulgarly called “Brummagem,” stood at hand: the brass
had started in several places, and occasionally made great havoc in
the children’s fingers and in Mrs. Leslie’s gown; in fact it was the
liveliest piece of furniture in the house, thanks to the petulant
brasswork, and could not have been more mischievous if it had been a
monkey. Upon the work-table lay a housewife and thimble, and scissors,
and skeins of worsted and thread, and little scraps of linen and
cloth for patches. But Mrs. Leslie was not actually working,--she was
preparing to work; she had been preparing to work for the last hour and
a half. Upon her lap she supported a novel, by a lady who wrote much for
a former generation, under the name of “Mrs. Bridget Blue Mantle.” She
had a small needle in her left hand, and a very thick piece of thread
in her right; occasionally she applied the end of the said thread to her
lips, and then--her eyes fixed on the novel--made a blind, vacillating
attack at the eye of the needle. But a camel would have gone through it
with quite as much ease. Nor did the novel alone engage Mrs. Leslie’s
attention, for ever and anon she interrupted herself to scold the
children, to inquire “what o’clock it was;” to observe that “Sarah
would never suit;” and to wonder “why Mr. Leslie would not see that the
work-table was mended.” Mrs. Leslie has been rather a pretty woman. In
spite of a dress at once slatternly and economical, she has still the
air of a lady,--rather too much so, the hard duties of her situation
considered. She is proud of the antiquity of her family on both sides;
her mother was of the venerable stock of the Daudlers of Daudle Place, a
race that existed before the Conquest. Indeed, one has only to read
our earliest chronicles, and to glance over some of those long-winded
moralizing poems which delighted the thanes and ealdermen of old, in
order to see that the Daudles must have been a very influential family
before William the First turned the country topsy-turvy. While the
mother’s race was thus indubitably Saxon, the father’s had not only
the name but the peculiar idiosyncrasy of the Normans, and went far to
establish that crotchet of the brilliant author of “Sybil; or, The Two
Nations,” as to the continued distinction between the conquering
and conquered populations. Mrs. Leslie’s father boasted the name of
Montfichet,--doubtless of the same kith and kin as those great barons of
Alontfichet, who once owned such broad lands and such turbulent castles.
A high-nosed, thin, nervous, excitable progeny, those same Montfydgets,
as the most troublesome Norman could pretend to be. This fusion of race
was notable to the most ordinary physiognomist in the physique and
in the morale of Mrs. Leslie. She had the speculative blue eye of the
Saxon, and the passionate high nose of the Norman; she had the musing
do-nothingness of the Daudlers, and the reckless have-at-every-thingness
of the Montfydgets. At Mrs. Leslie’s feet, a little girl with her hair
about her ears (and beautiful hair it was too) was amusing herself with
a broken-nosed doll. At the far end of the room, before a high desk,
sat Frank’s Eton schoolfellow, the eldest son. A minute or two before
Frank’s alarum had disturbed the tranquillity of the household, he had
raised his eyes from the books on the desk to glance at a very tattered
copy of the Greek Testament, in which his brother Oliver had found a
difficulty that he came to Randal to solve. As the young Etonian’s face
was turned to the light, your first impression on seeing it would have
been melancholy, but respectful, interest,--for the face had already
lost the joyous character of youth; there was a wrinkle between the
brows; and the lines that speak of fatigue were already visible under
the eyes and about the mouth; the complexion was sallow, the lips were
pale. Years of study had already sown in the delicate organization the
seeds of many an infirmity and many a pain; but if your look had rested
longer on that countenance, gradually your compassion might have given
place to some feeling uneasy and sinister,--a feeling akin to fear.
There was in the whole expression so much of cold calm force, that it
belied the debility of the frame. You saw there the evidence of a mind
that was cultivated, and you felt that in that cultivation there
was something formidable. A notable contrast to this countenance,
prematurely worn and eminently intelligent, was the round healthy face
of Oliver, with slow blue eyes fixed hard on the penetrating orbs of his
brother, as if trying with might and main to catch from them a gleam of
that knowledge with which they shone clear and frigid as a star.

At Frank’s knock, Oliver’s slow blue eyes sparkled into animation, and
he sprang from his brother’s side. The little girl flung back the hair
from her face, and stared at her mother with a look which spoke wonder
and fright.

The young student knit his brows, and then turned wearily back to the
books on his desk.

“Dear me,” cried Mrs. Leslie, “who can that possibly be? Oliver, come
from the window, sir, this instant: you will be seen! Juliet, run, ring
the bell; no, go to the head of the kitchen stairs, and call out to
Jenny ‘Not at home.’ Not at home, on any account,” repeated Mrs. Leslie,
nervously, for the Montfydget blood was now in full flow.

In another minute or so, Frank’s loud boyish voice was distinctly heard
at the outer door.

Randal slightly started.

“Frank Hazeldean’s voice,” said he; “I should like to see him, Mother.”

“See him,” repeated Mrs. Leslie, in amaze; “see him! and the room in
this state!”

Randal might have replied that the room was in no worse state than
usual; but he said nothing. A slight flush came and went over his pale
face; and then he leaned his check on his hand, and compressed his lips
firmly.

The outer door closed with a sullen, inhospitable jar, and a slip-shod
female servant entered with a card between her finger and thumb.

“Who is that for?--give it to me. Jenny,” cried Mrs. Leslie.

But Jenny shook her head, laid the card on the desk beside Randal, and
vanished without saying a word.

“Oh, look, Randal, look up,” cried Oliver, who had again rushed to the
window; “such a pretty gray pony!”

Randal did look up; nay, he went deliberately to the window, and gazed a
moment on the high-mettled pony and the well-dressed, spirited rider. In
that moment changes passed over Randal’s countenance more rapidly than
clouds over the sky in a gusty day. Now envy and discontent, with the
curled lip and the gloomy scowl; now hope and proud self-esteem, with
the clearing brow and the lofty smile; and then again all became
cold, firm, and close, as he walked back to his books, seated himself
resolutely, and said, half aloud,--“Well, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!”



CHAPTER IV.

Mrs. Leslie came up in fidget and in fuss; she leaned over Randal’s
shoulder and read the card. Written in pen and ink, with an attempt at
imitation of printed Roman character, there appeared first “MR. FRANK
HAZELDEAN;” but just over these letters, and scribbled hastily and less
legibly in pencil, was,--

“DEAR LESLIE,--Sorry you were out; come and see us,--do!”

“You will go, Randal?” said Mrs. Leslie, after a pause.

“I am not sure.”

“Yes, you can go; you have clothes like a gentleman; you can go
anywhere, not like those children;” and Mrs. Leslie glanced almost
spitefully at poor Oliver’s coarse threadbare jacket, and little
Juliet’s torn frock.

“What I have I owe at present to Mr. Egerton, and I should consult his
wishes; he is not on good terms with these Hazeldeans.” Then turning
towards his brother, who looked mortified, he added, with a strange sort
of haughty kindness, “What I may have hereafter, Oliver, I shall owe to
myself; and then if I rise, I will raise my family.”

“Dear Randal,” said Mrs. Leslie, fondly kissing him on the forehead,
“what a good heart you have!”

“No, Mother; my books don’t tell me that it is a good heart that gets
on in the world: it is a hard head,” replied Randal, with a rude and
scornful candour. “But I can read no more just now: come out, Oliver.”

So saying, he slid from his mother’s hand and left the room. When Oliver
joined him, Randal was already on the common; and, without seeming to
notice his brother, he continued to walk quickly, and with long strides,
in profound silence. At length he paused under the shade of an old oak,
that, too old to be of value save for firewood, had escaped the axe.
The tree stood on a knoll, and the spot commanded a view of the decayed
house, the dilapidated church, the dreary village.

“Oliver,” said Randal, between his teeth, so that his voice had the
sound of a hiss, “it was under this tree that I first resolved to--”

He paused.

“What, Randal?”

“Read hard: knowledge is power!”

“But you are so fond of reading.”

“I!” cried Randal. “Do you think, when Wolsey and Thomas-a-Becket became
priests, they were fond of telling their beads and pattering Aves? I
fond of reading!”

Oliver stared; the historical allusions were beyond his comprehension.

“You know,” continued Randal, “that we Leslies were not always the
beggarly poor gentlemen we are now. You know that there is a man who
lives in Grosvenor Square, and is very rich,--very. His riches come to
him from a Leslie; that man is my patron, Oliver, and he--is very good
to me.”

Randal’s smile was withering as he spoke. “Come on,” he said, after
a pause,--“come on.” Again the walk was quick, and the brothers were
silent.

They came at length to a little shallow brook, across which some large
stones had been placed at short intervals, so that the boys walked over
the ford dryshod. “Will you pull down that bough, Oliver?” said Randal,
abruptly, pointing to a tree. Oliver obeyed mechanically; and Randal,
stripping the leaves and snapping off the twigs, left a fork at the end;
with this he began to remove the stepping-stones.

“What are you about, Randal?” asked Oliver, wonderingly.

“We are on the other side of the brook now, and we shall not come back
this way. We don’t want the stepping-stones any more!--away with them!”



CHAPTER V.

The morning after this visit of Frank Hazeldean’s to Rood Hall, the
Right Honourable Audley Egerton, member of parliament, privy councillor,
and minister of a high department in the State,--just below the rank of
the cabinet,--was seated in his library, awaiting the delivery of the
post, before he walked down to his office. In the mean while he
sipped his tea, and glanced over the newspapers with that quick and
half-disdainful eye with which your practical man in public life is wont
to regard the abuse or the eulogium of the Fourth Estate.

There is very little likeness between Mr. Egerton and his half-brother;
none, indeed, except that they are both of tall stature, and strong,
sinewy, English build. But even in this last they do not resemble each
other; for the squire’s athletic shape is already beginning to expand
into that portly embonpoint which seems the natural development of
contented men as they approach middle life. Audley, on the contrary, is
inclined to be spare; and his figure, though the muscles are as firm
as iron, has enough of the slender to satisfy metropolitan ideas of
elegance. His dress, his look, his tout ensemble, are those of the
London man. In the first, there is more attention to fashion than is
usual amongst the busy members of the House of Commons; but then Audley
Egerton has always been something more than a mere busy member of
the House of Commons. He has always been a person of mark in the
best society; and one secret of his success in life has been his high
reputation as “a gentleman.”

As he now bends over the journals, there is an air of distinction in the
turn of the well-shaped head, with the dark brown hair,--dark in spite
of a reddish tinge,--cut close behind, and worn away a little towards
the crown, so as to give an additional height to a commanding forehead.
His profile is very handsome, and of that kind of beauty which imposes
on men if it pleases women; and is, therefore, unlike that of your mere
pretty fellows, a positive advantage in public life. It is a profile
with large features clearly cut, masculine, and somewhat severe. The
expression of his face is not open, like the squire’s, nor has it the
cold closeness which accompanies the intellectual character of
young Leslie’s; but it is reserved and dignified, and significant of
self-control, as should be the physiognomy of a man accustomed to think
before he speaks. When you look at him, you are not surprised to learn
that he is not a florid orator nor a smart debater,--he is a “weighty
speaker.” He is fairly read, but without any great range either of
ornamental scholarship or constitutional lore. He has not much humour;
but he has that kind of wit which is essential to grave and serious
irony. He has not much imagination, nor remarkable subtlety in
reasoning; but if he does not dazzle he does not bore,--he is too much
of the man of the world for that. He is considered to have sound sense
and accurate judgment. Withal, as he now lays aside the journals, and
his face relaxes its austerer lines, you will not be astonished to hear
that he is a man who is said to have been greatly beloved by women,
and still to exercise much influence in drawing-rooms and boudoirs. At
least, no one was surprised when the great heiress, Clementina Leslie,
kinswoman and ward to Lord Lansmere,--a young lady who had refused three
earls and the heir apparent to a dukedom,--was declared by her dearest
friends to be dying of love for Audley Egerton. It had been the natural
wish of the Lansmeres that this lady should marry their son, Lord
L’Estrange. But that young gentleman, whose opinions on matrimony
partook of the eccentricity of his general character, could never be
induced to propose, and had, according to the on-dits of town, been the
principal party to make up the match between Clementina and his friend
Audley; for the match required making-up, despite the predilections of
the young heiress. Mr. Egerton had had scruples of delicacy. He avowed,
for the first time, that his fortune was much less than had been
generally supposed, and he did not like the idea of owing all to a wife,
however highly be might esteem and admire her. Now, Lord L’Estrange (not
long after the election at Lansmere, which had given to Audley his first
seat in parliament) had suddenly exchanged from the battalion of the
Guards to which he belonged, and which was detained at home, into a
cavalry regiment on active service in the Peninsula. Nevertheless, even
abroad, and amidst the distractions of war, his interest in all that
could forward Egerton’s career was unabated; and by letters to his
father and to his cousin Clementina, he assisted in the negotiations for
the marriage between Miss Leslie and his friend; and before the year in
which Audley was returned for Lansmere had expired, the young senator
received the hand of the great heiress. The settlement of her fortune,
which was chiefly in the Funds, had been unusually advantageous to the
husband; for though the capital was tied up so long as both survived,
for the benefit of any children they might have, yet in the event of
one of the parties dying without issue by the marriage, the whole
passed without limitation to the survivor. Miss Leslie, in spite of all
remonstrance from her own legal adviser, had settled this clause with
Egerton’s confidential solicitor, one Mr. Levy, of whom we shall see
more hereafter; and Egerton was to be kept in ignorance of it till after
the marriage. If in this Miss Leslie showed a generous trust in Mr.
Egerton, she still inflicted no positive wrong on her relations, for
she had none sufficiently near to her to warrant their claim to the
succession. Her nearest kinsman, and therefore her natural heir, was
Harley L’Estrange; and if he was contented, no one had a right to
complain. The tie of blood between herself and the Leslies of Rood Hall
was, as we shall see presently, extremely distant.

It was not till after his marriage that Mr. Egerton took an active
part in the business of the House of Commons. He was then at the most
advantageous starting-point for the career of ambition. His words on the
state of the country took importance from his stake in it. His talents
found accessories in the opulence of Grosvenor Square, the dignity of
a princely establishment, the respectability of one firmly settled in
life, the reputation of a fortune in reality very large, and which
was magnified by popular report into the revenues of a Croesus. Audley
Egerton succeeded in parliament beyond the early expectations formed
of him. He took, from the first, that station in the House which it
requires tact to establish, and great knowledge of the world to free
from the charge of impracticability and crotchet, but which, once
established, is peculiarly imposing from the rarity of its independence;
that is to say, the station of the moderate man who belongs sufficiently
to a party to obtain its support, but is yet sufficiently disengaged
from a party to make his vote and word, on certain questions, matter of
anxiety and speculation.

Professing Toryism (the word Conservative, which would have suited
him better, was not then known), he separated himself from the country
party, and always avowed great respect for the opinions of the
large towns. The epithet given to the views of Audley Egerton was
“enlightened.” Never too much in advance of the passion of the day, yet
never behind its movement, he had that shrewd calculation of odds
which a consummate mastery of the world sometimes bestows upon
politicians,--perceived the chances for and against a certain question
being carried within a certain time, and nicked the question between
wind and water. He was so good a barometer of that changeful weather
called Public Opinion, that he might have had a hand in the “Times”
 newspaper. He soon quarrelled, and purposely, with his Lansmere
constituents; nor had he ever revisited that borough,--perhaps because
it was associated with unpleasant reminiscences in the shape of the
squire’s epistolary trimmer, and in that of his own effigies which
his agricultural constituents had burned in the corn-market. But the
speeches that produced such indignation at Lansmere had delighted one of
the greatest of our commercial towns, which at the next general election
honoured him with its representation. In those days, before the Reform
Bill, great commercial towns chose men of high mark for their member;
and a proud station it was for him who was delegated to speak the voice
of the princely merchants of England.

Mrs. Egerton survived her marriage but a few years. She left no
children; two had been born, but died in their first infancy. The
property of the wife, therefore, passed without control or limit to the
husband.

Whatever might have been the grief of the widower, he disdained to
betray it to the world. Indeed, Audley Egerton was a man who had early
taught himself to conceal emotion. He buried himself in the country,
none knew where, for some months. When he returned, there was a deep
wrinkle on his brow,--but no change in his habits and avocations, except
that, shortly afterwards, he accepted office, and thus became more busy
than ever.

Mr. Egerton had always been lavish and magnificent in money spatters.
A rich man in public life has many claims on his fortune, and no one
yielded to those claims with in air so regal as Audley Egerton. But
amongst his many liberal actions, there was none which seemed more
worthy of panegyric than the generous favour he extended to the son of
his wife’s poor and distant kinsfolk, the Leslies of Rood Hall.

Some four generations back, there had lived a certain Squire Leslie, a
man of large acres and active mind. He had cause to be displeased with
his elder son, and though he did not disinherit him, he left half his
property to a younger.

The younger had capacity and spirit, which justified the parental
provision. He increased his fortune; lifted himself into notice and
consideration by public services and a noble alliance. His descendants
followed his example, and took rank among the first commoners
in England, till the last male, dying, left his sole heiress and
representative in one daughter, Clementina, afterwards married to Mr.
Egerton.

Meanwhile the elder son of the fore-mentioned squire had muddled and
sotted away much of his share in the Leslie property; and, by low habits
and mean society, lowered in repute his representation of the name.

His successors imitated him, till nothing was left to Randal’s father,
Mr. Maunder Slugge Leslie, but the decayed house, which was what the
Germans call the stamm schloss, or “stem hall,” of the race, and the
wretched lands immediately around it.

Still, though all intercourse between the two branches of the family had
ceased, the younger had always felt a respect for the elder, as the head
of the House. And it was supposed that, on her death-bed, Mrs. Egerton
had recommended her impoverished namesakes and kindred to the care of
her husband; for when he returned to town, after Mrs. Egerton’s death,
Audley had sent to Mr. Maunder Slugge Leslie the sum of L5000, which
he said his wife, leaving no written will, had orally bequeathed as a
legacy to that gentleman; and he requested permission to charge himself
with the education of the eldest son.

Mr. Maunder Slugge Leslie might have done great things for his little
property with those L5000, or even kept in the three-per-cents the
interest would have afforded a material addition to his comforts. But
a neighbouring solicitor, having caught scent of the legacy, hunted
it down into his own hands, on pretence of having found a capital
investment in a canal; and when the solicitor had got possession of the
L5000, he went off with them to America.

Meanwhile Randal, placed by Mr. Egerton at an excellent preparatory
school, at first gave no signs of industry or talent; but just before
he left it, there came to the school, as classical tutor, an ambitious
young Oxford man; and his zeal--for he was a capital teacher--produced
a great effect generally on the pupils, and especially on Randal Leslie.
He talked to them much in private on the advantages of learning, and
shortly afterwards he exhibited those advantages in his own person; for,
having edited a Greek play with much subtle scholarship, his college,
which some slight irregularities of his had displeased, recalled him to
its venerable bosom by the presentation of a fellowship. After this he
took orders, became a college tutor, distinguished himself yet more by
a treatise on the Greek accent, got a capital living, and was considered
on the high road to a bishopric. This young man, then, communicated to
Randal the thirst for knowledge; and when the boy went afterwards to
Eton, he applied with such earnestness and resolve that his fame soon
reached the ears of Audley; and that person, who had the sympathy for
talent, and yet more for purpose, which often characterizes ambitious
men, went to Eton to see him. From that time Audley evinced great and
almost fatherly interest in the brilliant Etonian; and Randal always
spent with him some days in each vacation.

I have said that Egerton’s conduct with respect to this boy was more
praiseworthy than most of those generous actions for which he was
renowned, since to this the world gave no applause. What a man does
within the range of his family connections does not carry with it that
eclat which invests a munificence exhibited on public occasions. Either
people care nothing about it, or tacitly suppose it to be but his duty.
It was true, too, as the squire had observed, that Randal Leslie was
even less distantly related to the Hazeldeans than to Mrs. Egerton,
since Randal’s grandfather had actually married a Miss Hazeldean (the
highest worldly connection that branch of the family had formed since
the great split I have commemorated). But Audley Egerton never appeared
aware of that fact. As he was not himself descended from the Hazeldeans,
he did not trouble himself about their genealogy; and he took care to
impress it upon the Leslies that his generosity on their behalf was
solely to be ascribed to his respect for his wife’s memory and kindred.
Still the squire had felt as if his “distant brother” implied a rebuke
on his own neglect of these poor Leslies, by the liberality Audley
evinced towards them; and this had made him doubly sore when the name of
Randal Leslie was mentioned. But the fact really was, that the Leslies
of Rood had so shrunk out of all notice that the squire had actually
forgotten their existence, until Randal became thus indebted to his
brother; and then he felt a pang of remorse that any one save himself,
the head of the Hazeldeans, should lend a helping hand to the grandson
of a Hazeldean.

But having thus, somewhat too tediously, explained the position of
Audley Egerton, whether in the world or in relation to his young
protege, I may now permit him to receive and to read his letters.



CHAPTER VI.

Mr. Egerton glanced over the pile of letters placed beside him,
and first he tore up some, scarcely read, and threw them into the
waste-basket. Public men have such odd, out-of-the-way letters, that
their waste-baskets are never empty,--letters from amateur financiers
proposing new ways to pay off the National Debt; letters from America
(never free!) asking for autographs; letters from fond mothers in
country villages, recommending some miracle of a son for a place in
the king’s service; letters from free-thinkers in reproof of bigotry;
letters from bigots in reproof of free-thinking; letters signed Brutus
Redivivus, containing the agreeable information that the writer has a
dagger for tyrants, if the Danish claims are not forthwith adjusted;
letters signed Matilda or Caroline, stating that Caroline or Matilda
has seen the public man’s portrait at the Exhibition, and that a heart
sensible to its attractions may be found at No. -- Piccadilly; letters
from beggars, impostors, monomaniacs, speculators, jobbers,--all food
for the waste-basket.

From the correspondence thus winnowed, Mr. Egerton first selected those
on business, which he put methodically together in one division of
his pocket-book; and secondly, those of a private nature, which he as
carefully put into another. Of these last there were but three,--one
from his steward, one from Harley L’Estrange, one from Randal Leslie.
It was his custom to answer his correspondence at his office; and to
his office, a few minutes afterwards, he slowly took his way. Many a
passenger turned back to look again at the firm figure, which, despite
the hot summer day, was buttoned up to the throat; and the black
frock-coat thus worn well became the erect air and the deep, full chest
of the handsome senator. When he entered Parliament Street, Audley
Egerton was joined by one of his colleagues, also on his way to the
cares of office.

After a few observations on the last debate this gentleman said,--

“By the way, can you dine with me next Saturday, to meet Lansmere? He
comes up to town to vote for us on Monday.”

“I had asked some people to dine with me,” answered Egerton, “but I will
put them off. I see Lord Lansmere too seldom to miss any occasion to
meet a man whom I respect so much.”

“So seldom! True, he is very little in town; but why don’t you go and
see him in the country? Good shooting,--pleasant, old-fashioned house.”

“My dear Westbourne, his house is ‘nimium vicina Cremonae,’ close to a
borough in which I have been burned in effigy.”

“Ha! ha! yes, I remember you first came into parliament for that snug
little place; but Lansmere himself never found fault with your votes,
did he?”

“He behaved very handsomely, and said he had not presumed to consider me
his mouthpiece; and then, too, I am so intimate with L’Estrange.”

“Is that queer fellow ever coming back to England?”

“He comes, generally, every year, for a few days, just to see his father
and mother, and then returns to the Continent.”

“I never meet him.”

“He comes in September or October, when you, of course, are not in town,
and it is in town that the Lansmeres meet him.”

“Why does he not go to them?”

“A man in England but once a year, and for a few days, has so much to do
in London, I suppose.”

“Is he as amusing as ever?” Egerton nodded.

“So distinguished as he might be!” remarked Lord Westbourne.

“So distinguished as he is!” said Egerton, formally; “an officer
selected for praise, even in such fields as Quatre Bras and Waterloo;
a scholar, too, of the finest taste; and as an accomplished gentleman
matchless!”

“I like to hear one man praise another so warmly in these ill-natured
days,” answered Lord Westbourne. “But still, though L’Estrange is
doubtless all you say, don’t you think he rather wastes his life living
abroad?”

“And trying to be happy, Westbourne? Are you sure it is not we who waste
our lives? But I can’t stay to hear your answer. Here we are at the door
of my prison.”

“On Saturday, then?”

“On Saturday. Good day.”

For the next hour or more, Mr. Egerton was engaged on the affairs of the
State. He then snatched an interval of leisure (while awaiting a report,
which he had instructed a clerk to make him), in order to reply to his
letters. Those on public business were soon despatched; and throwing
his replies aside to be sealed by a subordinate hand, he drew out the
letters which he had put apart as private.

He attended first to that of his steward: the steward’s letter was long,
the reply was contained in three lines. Pitt himself was scarcely more
negligent of his private interests and concerns than Audley Egerton;
yet, withal, Audley Egerton was said by his enemies to be an egotist.

The next letter he wrote was to Randal, and that, though longer, was far
from prolix: it ran thus:--

   DEAR MR. LESLIE,--I appreciate your delicacy in consulting me
   whether you should accept Frank Hazeldean’s invitation to call at
   the Hall. Since you are asked, I can see no objection to it. I
   should be sorry if you appeared to force yourself there; and for the
   rest, as a general rule, I think a young man who has his own way to
   make in life had better avoid all intimacy with those of his own age
   who have no kindred objects nor congenial pursuits.

   As soon as this visit is paid, I wish you to come to London. The
   report I receive of your progress at Eton renders it unnecessary, in
   my judgment, that you should return there. If your father has no
   objection, I propose that you should go to Oxford at the ensuing
   term. Meanwhile, I have engaged a gentleman, who is a fellow of
   Balliol, to read with you. He is of opinion, judging only by your
   high repute at Eton, that you may at once obtain a scholarship in
   that college. If you do so, I shall look upon your career in life
   as assured.

   Your affectionate friend, and sincere well-wisher, A. E.

The reader will remark that in this letter there is a certain tone of
formality. Mr. Egerton does not call his protege “Dear Randal,” as would
seem natural, but coldly and stiffly, “Dear Mr. Leslie.” He hints, also,
that the boy has his own way to make in life. Is this meant to guard
against too sanguine notions of inheritance, which his generosity may
have excited? The letter to Lord L’Estrange was of a very different kind
from the others. It was long, and full of such little scraps of news and
gossip as may interest friends in a foreign land; it was written gayly,
and as with a wish to cheer his friend; you could see that it was a
reply to a melancholy letter; and in the whole tone and spirit there was
an affection, even to tenderness, of which those who most liked Audley
Egerton would have scarcely supposed him capable. Yet, notwithstanding,
there was a kind of constraint in the letter, which perhaps only the
fine tact of a woman would detect. It had not that abandon, that hearty
self-outpouring, which you might expect would characterize the letters
of two such friends, who had been boys at school together, and which
did breathe indeed in all the abrupt rambling sentences of his
correspondent. But where was the evidence of the constraint? Egerton is
off-hand enough where his pen runs glibly through paragraphs that relate
to others; it is simply that he says nothing about himself,--that he
avoids all reference to the inner world of sentiment and feeling! But
perhaps, after all, the man has no sentiment and feeling! How can you
expect that a steady personage in practical life, whose mornings are
spent in Downing Street, and whose nights are consumed in watching
Government bills through a committee, can write in the same style as an
idle dreamer amidst the pines of Ravenna, or on the banks of Como?

Audley had just finished this epistle, such as it was, when the
attendant in waiting announced the arrival of a deputation from
a provincial trading town, the members of which deputation he had
appointed to meet at two o’clock. There was no office in London at which
deputations were kept waiting less than at that over which Mr. Egerton
presided.

The deputation entered,--some score or so of middle-aged,
comfortable-looking persons, who, nevertheless, had their grievance, and
considered their own interest, and those of the country, menaced by a
certain clause in a bill brought in by Mr. Egerton.

The mayor of the town was the chief spokesman, and he spoke well,--but
in a style to which the dignified official was not accustomed. It was a
slap-dash style,--unceremonious, free and easy,--an American style. And,
indeed, there was something altogether in the appearance and bearing of
the mayor which savoured of residence in the Great Republic. He was a
very handsome man, but with a look sharp and domineering,--the look of
a man who did not care a straw for president or monarch, and who enjoyed
the liberty to speak his mind and “wallop his own nigger!”

His fellow-burghers evidently regarded him with great respect; and Mr.
Egerton had penetration enough to perceive that Mr. Mayor must be a rich
man, as well as an eloquent one, to have overcome those impressions
of soreness or jealousy which his tone was calculated to create in the
self-love of his equals.

Mr. Egerton was far too wise to be easily offended by mere manner;
and though he stared somewhat haughtily when he found his observations
actually pooh-poohed, he was not above being convinced. There was much
sense and much justice in Mr. Mayor’s arguments, and the statesman
civilly promised to take them into full consideration.

He then bowed out the deputation; but scarcely had the door closed
before it opened again, and Mr. Mayor presented himself alone, saying
aloud to his companions in the passage, “I forgot something I had to say
to Mr. Egerton; wait below for me.”

“Well, Mr. Mayor,” said Audley, pointing to a seat, “what else would you
suggest?”

The mayor looked round to see that the door was closed; and then,
drawing his chair close to Mr. Egerton’s, laid his forefinger on that
gentleman’s arm, and said, “I think I speak to a man of the world, sir?”

Mr. Egerton bowed, and made no reply by word, but he gently removed his
arm from the touch of the forefinger.

MR. MAYOR.--“You observe, sir, that I did not ask the members whom we
return to parliament to accompany us. Do better without ‘em. You know
they are both in Opposition,--out-and-outers.”

MR. EGERTON.--“It is a misfortune which the Government cannot remember
when the question is whether the trade of the town itself is to be
served or injured.”

MR. MAYOR.--“Well, I guess you speak handsome, sir. But you’d be glad to
have two members to support ministers after the next election.”

MR. EGERTON (smiling).--“Unquestionably, Mr. Mayor.”

MR. MAYOR.--“And I can do it, Mr. Egerton. I may say I have the town in
my pocket; so I ought,--I spend a great deal of money in it. Now,
you see, Mr. Egerton, I have passed a part of my life in a land of
liberty--the United States--and I come to the point when I speak to a
man of the world. I’m a man of the world myself, sir. And so, if the
Government will do something for me, why, I’ll do something for the
Government. Two votes for a free and independent town like ours,--that’s
something, isn’t it?”

MR. EGERTON (taken by surprise).--“Really, I--”

MR. MAYOR (advancing his chair still nearer, and interrupting the
official).--“No nonsense, you see, on one side or the other. The fact
is, that I’ve taken it into my head that I should like to be knighted.
You may well look surprised, Mr. Egerton,--trumpery thing enough, I
dare say; still, every man has his weakness, and I should like to be
Sir Richard. Well, if you can get me made Sir Richard, you may just name
your two members for the next election,--that is, if they belong to
your own set, enlightened men, up to the times. That’s speaking fair and
manful, is n’t it?”

MR. EGERTON (drawing himself up).--“I am at a loss to guess why you
should select me, sir, for this very extraordinary proposition.”

MR. MAYOR (nodding good-humouredly).--“Why, you see, I don’t go along
with the Government; you’re the best of the bunch. And may be you’d
like to strengthen your own party. This is quite between you and me, you
understand; honour’s a jewel!”

MR. EGERTON (with great gravity).--“Sir, I am obliged by your good
opinion; but I agree with my colleagues in all the great questions that
affect the government of the country, and--”

MR. MAYOR (interrupting him).--“Ah, of course, you must say so; very
right. But I guess things would go differently if you were Prime
Minister. However, I have another reason for speaking to you about my
little job. You see you were member for Lansmere once, and I think you
only came in by a majority of two, eh?”

MR. EGERTON.--“I know nothing of the particulars of that election; I was
not present.”

MR. MAYOR.--“No; but luckily for you, two relations of mine were, and
they voted for you. Two votes, and you came in by two. Since then, you
have got into very snug quarters here, and I think we have a claim on
you--”

MR. EGERTON.--“Sir, I acknowledge no such claim; I was and am a stranger
to Lansmere; and if the electors did me the honour to return me to
parliament, it was in compliment rather to--”

MR. MAYOR (again interrupting the official).--“Rather to Lord Lansmere,
you were going to say; unconstitutional doctrine that, I fancy. Peer of
the realm. But never mind, I know the world; and I’d ask Lord Lansmere
to do my affair for me, only he is a pompous sort of man; might be
qualmish: antiquated notions. Not up to snuff like you and me.”

MR. EGERTON (in great disgust, and settling his papers before
him).--“Sir, it is not in my department to recommend to his Majesty
candidates for the honour of knighthood, and it is still less in my
department to make bargains for seats in parliament.”

MR. MAYOR.--“Oh, if that’s the case, you’ll excuse me; I don’t know much
of the etiquette in these matters. But I thought that if I put two
seats in your hands for your own friends, you might contrive to take
the affair into your department, whatever it was. But since you say you
agree with your colleagues, perhaps it comes to the same thing. Now, you
must not suppose I want to sell the town, and that I can change and chop
my politics for my own purpose. No such thing! I don’t like the sitting
members; I’m all for progressing, but they go too much ahead for me;
and since the Government is disposed to move a little, why, I’d as
lief support them as not. But, in common gratitude, you see,” added the
mayor, coaxingly, “I ought to be knighted! I can keep up the dignity,
and do credit to his Majesty.”

MR. EGERTON (without looking up from his papers).--“I can only refer
you, sir, to the proper quarter.”

MR. MAYOR (impatiently).--“Proper quarter! Well, since there is so much
humbug in this old country of ours, that one must go through all the
forms and get at the job regularly, just tell me whom I ought to go to.”

MR. EGERTON (beginning to be amused as well as indignant).--“If you want
a knighthood, Mr. Mayor, you must ask the Prime Minister; if you want
to give the Government information relative to seats in parliament, you
must introduce yourself to Mr. ------, the Secretary of the Treasury.”

MR. MAYOR.--“And if I go to the last chap, what do you think he’ll say?”

MR. EGERTON (the amusement preponderating over the indignation).--“He
will say, I suppose, that you must not put the thing in the light in
which you have put it to me; that the Government will be very proud to
have the confidence of yourself and your brother electors; and that a
gentleman like you, in the proud position of mayor, may well hope to be
knighted on some fitting occasion; but that you must not talk about the
knighthood just at present, and must confine yourself to converting the
unfortunate political opinions of the town.”

MR. MAYOR.--“Well, I guess that chap there would want to do me! Not
quite so green, Mr. Egerton. Perhaps I’d better go at once to the
fountain-head. How d’ ye think the Premier would take it?”

MR. EGERTON (the indignation preponderating over the
amusement).--“Probably just as I am about to do.”

Mr. Egerton rang the bell; the attendant appeared. “Show Mr. Mayor the
way out,” said the minister.

The mayor turned round sharply, and his face was purple. He walked
straight to the door; but suffering the attendant to precede him along
the corridor, he came back with a rapid stride, and clenching his hands,
and with a voice thick with passion, cried, “Some day or other I will
make you smart for this, as sure as my name’s Dick Avenel!”

“Avenel!” repeated Egerton, recoiling,--“Avenel!” But the mayor was
gone.

Audley fell into a deep and musing revery, which seemed gloomy, and
lasted till the attendant announced that the horses were at the door.

He then looked up, still abstractedly, and saw his letter to Harley
L’Estrange open on the table. He drew it towards him, and wrote, “A man
has just left me, who calls himself Aven--” In the middle of the name
his pen stopped. “No, no,” muttered the writer, “what folly to reopen
the old wounds there!” and he carefully erased the words.

Audley Egerton did not ride in the Park that day, as was his wont, but
dismissed his groom; and, turning his horse’s head towards Westminster
Bridge, took his solitary way into the country. He rode at first slowly,
as if in thought; then fast, as if trying to escape from thought. He
was later than usual at the House that evening, and he looked pale and
fatigued. But he had to speak, and he spoke well.



CHAPTER VII.

In spite of all his Machiavellian wisdom, Dr. Riccabocca had been foiled
in his attempt to seduce Leonard Fairfield into his service, even though
he succeeded in partially winning over the widow to his views. For to
her he represented the worldly advantages of the thing. Lenny would
learn to be fit for more than a day-labourer; he would learn gardening,
in all its branches,--rise some day to be a head gardener. “And,”
 said Riccabocca, “I will take care of his book-learning, and teach him
whatever he has a head for.”

“He has a head for everything,” said the widow.

“Then,” said the wise man, “everything shall go into it.” The widow was
certainly dazzled; for, as we have seen, she highly prized scholarly
distinction, and she knew that the parson looked upon Riccabocca as a
wondrous learned man. But still Riccabocca was said to be a Papist,
and suspected to be a conjuror. Her scruples on both these points, the
Italian, who was an adept in the art of talking over the fair sex, would
no doubt have dissipated, if there had been any use in it; but Lenny
put a dead stop to all negotiations. He had taken a mortal dislike to
Riccabocca: he was very much frightened by him,--and the spectacles,
the pipe, the cloak, the long hair, and the red umbrella; and said so
sturdily, in reply to every overture, “Please, sir, I’d rather not; I’d
rather stay along with Mother,” that Riccabocca was forced to suspend
all further experiments in his Machiavellian diplomacy. He was not at
all cast down, however, by his first failure; on the contrary, he was
one of those men whom opposition stimulates; and what before had been
but a suggestion of prudence, became an object of desire. Plenty
of other lads might no doubt be had on as reasonable terms as Lenny
Fairfield; but the moment Lenny presumed to baffle the Italian’s
designs upon him, the special acquisition, of Lenny became of paramount
importance in the eyes of Signor Riccabocca.

Jackeymo, however, lost all his interest in the traps, snares, and gins
which his master proposed to lay for Leonard Fairfield, in the more
immediate surprise that awaited him on learning that Dr. Riccabocca had
accepted an invitation to pass a few days at the Hall.

“There will be no one there but the family,” said Riccabocca. “Poor
Giacomo, a little chat in the servants’ hall will do you good; and the
squire’s beef is more nourishing, after all, than the sticklebacks and
minnows. It will lengthen your life.”

“The padrone jests,” said Jackeymo, statelily; “as if any one could
starve in his service.”

“Um,” said Riccabocca. “At least, faithful friend, you have tried that
experiment as far as human nature will permit;” and he extended his hand
to his fellow-exile with that familiarity which exists between servant
and master in the usages of the Continent. Jackeymo bent low, and a tear
fell upon the hand he kissed.

“Cospetto!” said Dr. Riccabocca, “a thousand mock pearls do not make up
the cost of a single true one! The tears of women--we know their worth;
but the tears of an honest man--Fie, Giacomo!--at least I can never
repay you this! Go and see to our wardrobe.”

So far as his master’s wardrobe was concerned, that order was pleasing
to Jackeymo; for the doctor had in his drawers suits which Jackeymo
pronounced to be as good as new, though many a long year had passed
since they left the tailor’s hands. But when Jackeymo came to examine
the state of his own clothing department, his face grew considerably
longer. It was not that he was without other clothes than those on his
back,--quantity was there, but the quality! Mournfully he gazed on two
suits, complete in three separate members of which man’s raiments are
composed: the one suit extended at length upon his bed, like a veteran
stretched by pious hands after death; the other brought piecemeal to the
invidious light,--the torso placed upon a chair, the limbs dangling down
from Jackeymo’s melancholy arm. No bodies long exposed at the Morgue
could evince less sign of resuscitation than those respectable defuncts!
For, indeed, Jackeymo had been less thrifty of his apparel, more
profusus sui, than his master. In the earliest days of their exile, he
preserved the decorous habit of dressing for dinner,--it was a respect
due to the padrone,--and that habit had lasted till the two habits on
which it necessarily depended had evinced the first symptoms of decay;
then the evening clothes had been taken into morning wear, in which hard
service they had breathed their last.

The doctor, notwithstanding his general philosophical abstraction from
such household details, had more than once said, rather in pity to
Jackeymo than with an eye to that respectability which the costume
of the servant reflects on the dignity of the master, “Giacomo, thou
wantest clothes; fit thyself out of mine!”

And Jackeymo had bowed his gratitude, as if the donation had been
accepted; but the fact was that that same fitting out was easier said
than done. For though-thanks to an existence mainly upon sticklebacks
and minnows--both Jackeymo and Riccabocca had arrived at that state
which the longevity of misers proves to be most healthful to the human
frame,--namely, skin and bone,--yet the bones contained in the skin of
Riccabocca all took longitudinal directions; while those in the skin of
Jackeymo spread out latitudinally. And you might as well have made
the bark of a Lombardy poplar serve for the trunk of some dwarfed and
pollarded oak--in whose hollow the Babes of the Wood could have slept
at their ease--as have fitted out Jackeymo from the garb of Riccabocca.
Moreover, if the skill of the tailor could have accomplished that
undertaking, the faithful Jackeymo would never have had the heart
to avail himself of the generosity of his master. He had a sort of
religious sentiment, too, about those vestments of the padrone. The
ancients, we know, when escaping from shipwreck, suspended in the
votive temple the garments in which they had struggled through the wave.
Jackeymo looked on those relics of the past with a kindred superstition.
“This coat the padrone wore on such an occasion. I remember the
very evening the padrone last put on those pantaloons!” And coat and
pantaloons were tenderly dusted, and carefully restored to their sacred
rest.

But now, after all, what was to be done? Jackeymo was much too proud
to exhibit his person to the eyes of the squire’s butler in habiliments
discreditable to himself and the padrone. In the midst of his perplexity
the bell rang, and he went down into the parlour.

Riccabocca was standing on the hearth under his symbolical
representation of the “Patriae Exul.”

“Giacomo,” quoth he, “I have been thinking that thou hast never done
what I told thee, and fitted thyself out from my superfluities. But we
are going now into the great world: visiting once begun, Heaven knows
where it may stop. Go to the nearest town and get thyself clothes.
Things are dear in England. Will this suffice?” And Riccabocca extended
a five-pound note.

Jackeymo, we have seen, was more familiar with his master than we formal
English permit our domestics to be with us; but in his familiarity he
was usually respectful. This time, however, respect deserted him.

“The padrone is mad!” he exclaimed; “he would fling away his whole
fortune if I would let him. Five pounds English, or a hundred and
twenty-six pounds Milanese! Santa Maria! unnatural father! And what is
to become of the poor signorina? Is this the way you are to marry her in
the foreign land?”

“Giacomo,” said Riccabocca, bowing his head to the storm, “the
signorina to-morrow; to-day the honour of the House. Thy small-clothes,
Giacomo,--miserable man, thy small-clothes!”

“It is just,” said Jackeymo, recovering himself, and with humility; “and
the padrone does right to blame me, but not in so cruel a way. It is
just,--the padrone lodges and boards me, and gives me handsome wages,
and he has a right to expect that I should not go in this figure.”

“For the board and the lodgment, good,” said Riccabocca. “For the
handsome wages, they are the visions of thy fancy!”

“They are no such thing,” said Jackeymo, “they are only in arrear. As if
the padrone could not pay them some day or other; as if I was demeaning
myself by serving a master who did not intend to pay his servants! And
can’t I wait? Have I not my savings too? But be cheered, be cheered;
you shall be contented with me. I have two beautiful suits still. I was
arranging them when you rang for me. You shall see, you shall see.”

And Jackeymo hurried from the room, hurried back into his own chamber,
unlocked a little trunk which he kept at his bed-head, tossed out
a variety of small articles, and from the deepest depth extracted a
leathern purse. He emptied the contents on the bed. They were chiefly
Italian coins, some five-franc pieces, a silver medallion inclosing
a little image of his patron saint,--San Giacomo,--one solid English
guinea, and somewhat more than a pound’s worth in English silver.
Jackeymo put back the foreign coins, saying prudently, “One will lose on
them here;” he seized the English coins, and counted them out. “But are
you enough, you rascals?” quoth he, angrily, giving them a good shake.
His eye caught sight of the medallion,--he paused; and after eying the
tiny representation of the saint with great deliberation, he added, in
a sentence which he must have picked up from the proverbial aphorisms of
his master,--

“What’s the difference between the enemy who does not hurt me, and the
friend who does not serve me? Monsignore San Giacomo, my patron saint,
you are of very little use to me in the leathern bag; but if you help me
to get into a new pair of small-clothes on this important occasion,
you will be a friend indeed. Alla bisogna, Monsignore.” Then, gravely
kissing the medallion, he thrust it into one pocket, the coins into
the other, made up a bundle of the two defunct suits, and muttering
to himself, “Beast, miser, that I am, to disgrace the padrone with all
these savings in his service!” ran downstairs into his pantry, caught
up his hat and stick, and in a few moments more was seen trudging off to
the neighbouring town of L--------.

Apparently the poor Italian succeeded, for he came back that evening in
time to prepare the thin gruel which made his master’s supper, with a
suit of black,--a little threadbare, but still highly respectable,--two
shirt fronts, and two white cravats. But out of all this finery,
Jackeymo held the small-clothes in especial veneration; for as they had
cost exactly what the medallion had sold for, so it seemed to him that
San Giacomo had heard his prayer in that quarter to which he had more
exclusively directed the saint’s direction. The other habiliments came
to him in the merely human process of sale and barter; the small-clothes
were the personal gratuity of San Giacomo!



CHAPTER VIII.

Life has been subjected to many ingenious comparisons; and if we do
not understand it any better, it is not for want of what is called
“reasoning by illustration.” Amongst other resemblances, there are
moments when, to a quiet contemplator, it suggests the image of one of
those rotatory entertainments commonly seen in fairs, and known by the
name of “whirligigs,” or “roundabouts,” in which each participator of
the pastime, seated on his hobby, is always apparently in the act of
pursuing some one before him, while he is pursued by some one behind.
Man, and woman too, are naturally animals of chase; the greatest still
find something to follow, and there is no one too humble not to be an
object of prey to another. Thus, confining our view to the village of
Hazeldean, we behold in this whirligig Dr. Riccabocca spurring his hobby
after Lenny Fairfield; and Miss Jemima, on her decorous side-saddle,
whipping after Dr. Riccabocca. Why, with so long and intimate a
conviction of the villany of our sex, Miss Jemima should resolve upon
giving the male animal one more chance of redeeming itself in her eyes,
I leave to the explanation of those gentlemen who profess to find
“their only books in woman’s looks.” Perhaps it might be from the
over-tenderness and clemency of Miss Jemima’s nature; perhaps it might
be that as yet she had only experienced the villany of man born and
reared in these cold northern climates, and in the land of Petrarch and
Romeo, of the citron and myrtle, there was reason to expect that
the native monster would be more amenable to gentle influences, less
obstinately hardened in his iniquities. Without entering further into
these hypotheses, it is sufficient to say that, on Signor Riccabocca’s
appearance in the drawing-room at Hazeldean, Miss Jemima felt more than
ever rejoiced that she had relaxed in his favour her general hostility
to men. In truth, though Frank saw something quizzical in the
old-fashioned and outlandish cut of the Italian’s sober dress; in his
long hair, and the chapeau bras, over which he bowed so gracefully, and
then pressed it, as if to his heart, before tucking it under his arm,
after the fashion in which the gizzard reposes under the wing of a
roasted pullet,--yet it was impossible that even Frank could deny
to Riccabocca that praise which is due to the air and manner of an
unmistakable gentleman. And certainly as, after dinner, conversation
grew more familiar, and the parson and Mrs. Dale, who had been invited
to meet their friend, did their best to draw him out, his talk, though
sometimes a little too wise for his listeners, became eminently animated
and agreeable. It was the conversation of a man who, besides the
knowledge which is acquired from books and life, had studied the art
which becomes a gentleman,--that of pleasing in polite society.

The result was that all were charmed with him; and that even Captain
Barnabas postponed the whist-table for a full hour after the usual time.
The doctor did not play; he thus became the property of the two ladies,
Miss Jemima and Mrs. Dale.

Seated between the two, in the place rightfully appertaining to Flimsey,
who this time was fairly dislodged, to her great wonder and discontent,
the doctor was the emblem of true Domestic Felicity, placed between
Friendship and Love.

Friendship, as became her, worked quietly at the embroidered
pocket-handkerchief and left Love to more animated operations.

“You must be very lonely at the Casino,” said Love, in a sympathizing
tone.

“Madam,” replied Riccabocca, gallantly, “I shall think so when I leave
you.”

Friendship cast a sly glance at Love; Love blushed, or looked down
on the carpet,--which comes to the same thing. “Yet,” began Love
again,--“yet solitude to a feeling heart--”

Riccabocca thought of the note of invitation, and involuntarily buttoned
his coat, as if to protect the individual organ thus alarmingly referred
to.

“Solitude to a feeling heart has its charms. It is so hard even for us
poor ignorant women to find a congenial companion--but for YOU!” Love
stopped short, as if it had said too much, and smelt confusedly at its
bouquet.

Dr. Riccabocca cautiously lowered his spectacles, and darted one glance
which, with the rapidity and comprehensiveness of lightning, seemed to
envelop and take in, as it were, the whole inventory of Miss Jemima’s
personal attractions. Now Miss Jemima, as I have before observed, had
a mild and pensive expression of countenance; and she would have been
positively pretty had the mildness looked a little more alert, and the
pensiveness somewhat less lackadaisical. In fact, though Miss Jemima was
constitutionally mild, she was not de natura pensive; she had too much
of the Hazeldean blood in her veins for that sullen and viscid humour
called melancholy, and therefore this assumption of pensiveness really
spoiled her character of features, which only wanted to be lighted up
by a cheerful smile to be extremely prepossessing. The same remark might
apply to the figure, which--thanks to the same pensiveness--lost all
the undulating grace which movement and animation bestow on the fluent
curves of the feminine form. The figure was a good figure, examined in
detail,--a little thin, perhaps, but by no means emaciated, with just
and elegant proportions, and naturally light and flexible. But the same
unfortunate pensiveness gave to the whole a character of inertness and
languor; and when Miss Jemima reclined on the sofa, so complete seemed
the relaxation of nerve and muscle that you would have thought she had
lost the use of her limbs. Over her face and form, thus defrauded of
the charms Providence had bestowed on them, Dr. Riccabocca’s eye glanced
rapidly; and then moving nearer to Mrs. Dale--“Defend me” (he stopped
a moment, and added) “from the charge of not being able to appreciate
congenial companionship.”

“Oh, I did not say that!” cried Miss Jemima.

“Pardon me,” said the Italian, “if I am so dull as to misunderstand
you. One may well lose one’s head, at least, in such a neighbourhood as
this.” He rose as he spoke, and bent over Frank’s shoulder to examine
some views of Italy, which Miss Jemima (with what, if wholly unselfish,
would have been an attention truly delicate) had extracted from the
library in order to gratify the guest.

“Most interesting creature, indeed,” sighed Miss Jemima, “but too--too
flattering.”

“Tell me,” said Mrs. Dale, gravely, “do you think, love, that you could
put off the end of the world a little longer, or must we make haste in
order to be in time?”

“How wicked you are!” said Miss Jemima, turning aside. Some few minutes
afterwards, Mrs. Dale contrived it so that Dr. Riccabocca and herself
were in a farther corner of the room, looking at a picture said to be by
Wouvermans.

MRS. DALE.--“She is very amiable, Jemima, is she not?”

RICCABOCCA.--“Exceedingly so. Very fine battle-piece!”

MRS. DALE.--“So kind-hearted.”

RICCABOCCA.--“All ladies are. How naturally that warrior makes his
desperate cut at the runaway!”

MRS. DALE.--“She is not what is called regularly handsome, but she has
something very winning.”

RICCABOCCA (with a smile).--“So winning, that it is strange she is not
won. That gray mare in the foreground stands out very boldly!”

MRS. DALE (distrusting the smile of Riccabocca, and throwing in a more
effective grape-charge).--“Not won yet; and it is strange! she will have
a very pretty fortune.”

RICCABOCCA.--“Ah!”

MRS. DALE. “Six thousand pounds, I dare say,--certainly four.”

RICCABOCCA (suppressing a sigh, and with his wonted address).--“If Mrs.
Dale were still single, she would never need a friend to say what her
portion might be; but Miss Jemima is so good that I am quite sure it is
not Miss Jemima’s fault that she is still--Miss Jemima!”

The foreigner slipped away as he spoke, and sat himself down beside the
whist-players.

Mrs. Dale was disappointed, but certainly not offended. “It would be
such a good thing for both,” muttered she, almost inaudibly.

“Giacomo,” said Riccabocca, as he was undressing that night in the
large, comfortable, well-carpeted English bedroom, with that great
English four-posted bed in the recess which seems made to shame folks
out of single blessedness, “Giacomo, I have had this evening the offer
of probably L6000, certainly of four thousand.”

“Cosa meravigliosa!”--[“Miraculous thing.”]--exclaimed Jackeymo, and he
crossed himself with great fervour. “Six thousand pounds English!
why, that must be a hundred thousand--blockhead that I am!--more than
L150,000 Milanese!” And Jackeymo, who was considerably enlivened by the
squire’s ale, commenced a series of gesticulations and capers, in the
midst of which he stopped and cried, “But not for nothing?”

“Nothing! no!”

“These mercenary English! the Government wants to bribe you?”

“That’s not it.”

“The priests want you to turn heretic?”

“Worse than that!” said the philosopher.

“Worse than that! O Padrone! for shame!”

“Don’t be a fool, but pull off my pantaloons--they want me never to wear
THESE again!”

“Never to wear what?” exclaimed Jackeymo, staring outright at his
master’s long legs in their linen drawers,--“never to wear--”

“The breeches,” said Riccabocca, laconically.

“The barbarians!” faltered Jackeymo.

“My nightcap! and never to have any comfort in this,” said Riccabocca,
drawing on the cotton head-gear; “and never to have any sound sleep
in that,” pointing to the four-posted bed; “and to be a bondsman and
a slave,” continued Riccabocca, waxing wroth; “and to be wheedled and
purred at, and pawed and clawed, and scolded and fondled, and blinded
and deafened, and bridled and saddled--bedevilled and--married!”

“Married!” said Jackeymo, more dispassionately--“that’s very bad,
certainly; but more than a hundred and fifty thousand lire, and perhaps
a pretty young lady, and--”

“Pretty young lady!” growled Riccabocca, jumping into bed and drawing
the clothes fiercely over him. “Put out the candle, and get along with
you,--do, you villanous old incendiary!”



CHAPTER IX.

It was not many days since the resurrection of those ill-omened stocks,
and it was evident already, to an ordinary observer, that something
wrong had got into the village. The peasants wore a sullen expression of
countenance; when the squire passed, they took off their hats with more
than ordinary formality, but they did not return the same broad smile to
his quick, hearty “Good-day, my man.” The women peered at him from the
threshold or the casement, but did not, as was their wont (as least the
wont of the prettiest), take occasion to come out to catch his passing
compliment on their own good looks, or their tidy cottages. And the
children, who used to play after work on the site of the old stocks, now
shunned the place, and, indeed, seemed to cease play altogether.

On the other hand, no man likes to build, or rebuild, a great public
work for nothing. Now that the squire had resuscitated the stocks, and
made them so exceedingly handsome, it was natural that he should wish
to put somebody into them. Moreover, his pride and self-esteem had been
wounded by the parson’s opposition; and it would be a justification to
his own forethought, and a triumph over the parson’s understanding,
if he could satisfactorily and practically establish a proof that the
stocks had not been repaired before they were wanted.

Therefore, unconsciously to himself, there was something about the
squire more burly and authoritative and menacing than heretofore. Old
Gaffer Solomons observed, “that they had better moind well what they
were about, for that the squire had a wicked look in the tail of his
eye,--just as the dun bull had afore it tossed neighbour Barnes’s little
boy.”

For two or three days these mute signs of something brewing in the
atmosphere had been rather noticeable than noticed, without any positive
overt act of tyranny on the one hand or rebellion on the other. But on
the very Saturday night in which Dr. Riccabocca was installed in
the four-posted bed in the chintz chamber, the threatened revolution
commenced. In the dead of that night personal outrage was committed on
the stocks. And on the Sunday morning, Mr. Stirn, who was the earliest
riser in the parish, perceived, in going to the farmyard, that the knob
of the column that flanked the board had been feloniously broken off;
that the four holes were bunged up with mud; and that some jacobinical
villain had carved, on the very centre of the flourish or scroll-work,
“Dam the stocks!” Mr. Stirn was much too vigilant a right-hand man, much
too zealous a friend of law and order, not to regard such proceedings
with horror and alarm. And when the squire came into his dressing-room
at half-past seven, his butler (who fulfilled also the duties of valet)
informed him, with a mysterious air, that Mr. Stirn had something “very
partikler to communicate about a most howdacious midnight ‘spiracy and
‘sault.”

The squire stared, and bade Mr. Stirn be admitted.

“Well?” cried the squire, suspending the operation of stropping his
razor.

Mr. Stirn groaned.

“Well, man, what now?”

“I never knowed such a thing in this here parish afore,” began Mr.
Stirn; “and I can only ‘count for it by s’posing that them foreign
Papishers have been semminating--”

“Been what?”

“Semminating--”

“Disseminating, you blockhead,--disseminating what?”

“Damn the stocks,” began Mr. Stirn, plunging right in medias res, and by
a fine use of one of the noblest figures in rhetoric.

“Mr. Stirn!” cried the squire, reddening, “did you say, ‘Damn the
stocks’?--damn my new handsome pair of stocks!”

“Lord forbid, sir; that’s what they say: that’s what they have digged on
it with knives and daggers, and they have stuffed mud in its four holes,
and broken the capital of the elewation.”

The squire took the napkin off his shoulder, laid down strop and razor;
he seated himself in his armchair majestically, crossed his legs, and,
in a voice that affected tranquillity, said,--

“Compose yourself, Stirn; you have a deposition to make, touching
an assault upon--can I trust my senses?--upon my new stocks. Compose
yourself; be calm. Now! What the devil is come to the parish?”

“Ah, sir, what indeed?” replied Mr. Stirn: and then laying the
forefinger of the right hand on the palm of the left he narrated the
case.

“And whom do you suspect? Be calm now; don’t speak in a passion. You are
a witness, sir,--a dispassionate, unprejudiced witness. Zounds and
fury! this is the most insolent, unprovoked, diabolical--but whom do you
suspect, I say?” Stirn twirled his hat, elevated his eyebrows, jerked
his thumb over his shoulder, and whispered, “I hear as how the two
Papishers slept at your honour’s last night.”

“What, dolt! do you suppose Dr. Rickeybockey got out of his warm bed to
bung up the holes in my new stocks?”

“Noa; he’s too cunning to do it himself, but he may have been
semminating. He’s mighty thick with Parson Dale, and your honour knows
as how the parson set his face agin the stocks. Wait a bit, sir,--don’t
fly at me yet. There be a boy in this here parish--”

“A boy! ah, fool, now you are nearer the mark. The parson write ‘Damn
the stocks,’ indeed! What boy do you mean?”

“And that boy be cockered up much by Mr. Dale; and the Papisher went and
sat with him and his mother a whole hour t’ other day; and that boy is
as deep as a well; and I seed him lurking about the place, and hiding
hisself under the tree the day the stocks was put up,--and that ‘ere boy
is Lenny Fairfield.”

“Whew,” said the squire, whistling, “you have not your usual senses
about you to-day, man. Lenny Fairfield,--pattern boy of the village.
Hold your tongue. I dare say it is not done by any one in the parish,
after all: some good-for-nothing vagrant--that cursed tinker, who
goes about with a very vicious donkey,--a donkey that I caught picking
thistles out of the very eyes of the old stocks! Shows how the tinker
brings up his donkeys! Well, keep a sharp look-out. To-day is Sunday;
worst day of the week, I’m sorry and ashamed to say, for rows and
depredations. Between the services, and after evening church, there are
always idle fellows from all the neighbouring country about, as you know
too well. Depend on it, the real culprits will be found gathering round
the stocks, and will betray themselves; have your eyes, ears, and wits
about you, and I’ve no doubt we shall come to the rights of the matter
before the day’s out. And if we do,” added the squire, “we’ll make an
example of the ruffian!”

“In course,” said Stirn: “and if we don’t find him we must make an
example all the same. That’s what it is, sir. That’s why the stocks
ben’t respected; they has not had an example yet,--we wants an example.”

“On my word I believe that’s very true; and we’ll clap in the first idle
fellow you catch in anything wrong, and keep him there for two hours at
least.”

“With the biggest pleasure, your honour,--that’s what it is.”

And Mr. Stirn having now got what he considered a complete and
unconditional authority over all the legs and wrists of Hazeldean
parish, quoad the stocks, took his departure.



CHAPTER X.

“Randal,” said Mrs. Leslie on this memorable Sunday,--“Randal, do you
think of going to Mr. Hazeldean’s?”

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Randal. “Mr. Egerton does not object to it; and
as I do not return to Eton, I may have no other opportunity of seeing
Frank for some time. I ought not to fail in respect to Mr. Egerton’s
natural heir.”

“Gracious me!” cried Mrs. Leslie, who, like many women of her cast and
kind, had a sort of worldliness in her notions, which she never evinced
in her conduct,--“gracious me! natural heir to the old Leslie property!”

“He is Mr. Egerton’s nephew, and,” added Randal, ingenuously letting out
his thoughts, “I am no relation to Mr. Egerton at all.”

“But,” said poor Mrs. Leslie, with tears in her eyes, “it would be a
shame in the man, after paying your schooling and sending you to Oxford,
and having you to stay with him in the holidays, if he did not mean
anything by it.”

“Anything, Mother, yes,--but not the thing you suppose. No matter. It
is enough that he has armed me for life, and I shall use the weapons as
seems to me best.”

Here the dialogue was suspended by the entrance of the other members of
the family, dressed for church.

“It can’t be time for church! No, it can’t,” exclaimed Mrs. Leslie. She
was never in time for anything,

“Last bell ringing,” said Mr. Leslie, who, though a slow man, was
methodical and punctual. Mrs. Leslie made a frantic rush at the door,
the Montfydget blood being now in a blaze, dashed up the stairs, burst
into her room, tore her best bonnet from the peg, snatched her newest
shawl from the drawers, crushed the bonnet on her head, flung the shawl
on her shoulders, thrust a desperate pin into its folds, in order to
conceal a buttonless yawn in the body of her gown, and then flew back
like a whirlwind. Meanwhile the family were already out of doors, in
waiting; and just as the bell ceased, the procession moved from the
shabby house to the dilapidated church.

The church was a large one, but the congregation was small, and so was
the income of the parson. It was a lay rectory, and the great tithes
had belonged to the Leslies, but they had been long since sold. The
vicarage, still in their gift, might be worth a little more than L100 a
year. The present incumbent had nothing else to live upon. He was a good
man, and not originally a stupid one; but penury and the anxious
cares for wife and family, combined with what may be called solitary
confinement for the cultivated mind, when, amidst the two-legged
creatures round, it sees no other cultivated mind with which it can
exchange one extra-parochial thought, had lulled him into a lazy
mournfulness, which at times was very like imbecility. His income
allowed him to do no good to the parish, whether in work, trade, or
charity; and thus he had no moral weight with the parishioners beyond
the example of his sinless life, and such negative effect as might be
produced by his slumberous exhortations. Therefore his parishioners
troubled him very little; and but for the influence which, in hours
of Montfydget activity, Mrs. Leslie exercised over the most
tractable,--that is, the children and the aged,--not half-a-dozen
persons would have known or cared whether he shut up his church or not.

But our family were seated in state in their old seignorial pew, and Mr.
Dumdrum, with a nasal twang, went lugubriously through the prayers; and
the old people who could sin no more, and the children who had not yet
learned to sin, croaked forth responses that might have come from the
choral frogs in Aristophanes; and there was a long sermon a propos to
nothing which could possibly interest the congregation,--being, in fact,
some controversial homily which Mr. Dumdrum had composed and preached
years before. And when this discourse was over, there was a loud
universal grunt, as if of relief and thanksgiving, and a great clatter
of shoes, and the old hobbled, and the young scrambled, to the church
door.

Immediately after church, the Leslie family dined; and as soon as dinner
was over, Randal set out on his foot journey to Hazeldean Hall.

Delicate and even feeble though his frame, he had the energy and
quickness of movement which belongs to nervous temperaments; and he
tasked the slow stride of a peasant, whom he took to serve him as
a guide for the first two or three miles. Though Randal had not the
gracious open manner with the poor which Frank inherited from his
father, he was still (despite many a secret hypocritical vice at war
with the character of a gentleman) gentleman enough to have no churlish
pride to his inferiors. He talked little, but he suffered his guide to
talk; and the boor, who was the same whom Frank had accosted, indulged
in eulogistic comments on that young gentleman’s pony, from which he
diverged into some compliments on the young gentleman himself. Randal
drew his hat over his brows. There is a wonderful tact and fine breeding
in your agricultural peasant; and though Tom Stowell was but a brutish
specimen of the class, he suddenly perceived that he was giving pain.
He paused, scratched his head, and, glancing affectionately towards his
companion, exclaimed,--

“But I shall live to see you on a handsomer beastis than that little
pony, Master Randal; and sure I ought, for you be as good a gentleman as
any in the land.”

“Thank you,” said Randal. “But I like walking better than riding,--I am
more used to it.”

“Well, and you walk bra’ly,--there ben’t a better walker in the county.
And very pleasant it is walking; and ‘t is a pretty country afore you,
all the way to the Hall.”

Randal strode on, as if impatient of these attempts to flatter or to
soothe; and coming at length into a broader lane, said, “I think I can
find my way now. Many thanks to you, Tom;” and he forced a shilling into
Tom’s horny palm. The man took it reluctantly, and a tear started to
his eye. He felt more grateful for that shilling than he had for Frank’s
liberal half-crown; and he thought of the poor fallen family, and forgot
his own dire wrestle with the wolf at his door.

He stayed lingering in the lane till the figure of Randal was out of
sight, and then returned slowly. Young Leslie continued to walk on at
a quick pace. With all his intellectual culture and his restless
aspirations, his breast afforded him no thought so generous, no
sentiment so poetic, as those with which the unlettered clown crept
slouchingly homeward.

As Randal gained a point where several lanes met on a broad piece of
waste land, he began to feel tired, and his step slackened. Just then
a gig emerged from one of these byroads, and took the same direction as
the pedestrian. The road was rough and hilly, and the driver proceeded
at a foot’s pace; so that the gig and the pedestrian went pretty well
abreast.

“You seem tired, sir,” said the driver, a stout young farmer of the
higher class of tenants, and he looked down compassionately on the boy’s
pale countenance and weary stride. “Perhaps we are going the same way,
and I can give you a lift?”

It was Randal’s habitual policy to make use of every advantage proffered
to him, and he accepted the proposal frankly enough to please the honest
farmer.

“A nice day, sir,” said the latter, as Randal sat by his side. “Have you
come far?”

“From Rood Hall.”

“Oh, you be young Squire Leslie,” said the farmer, more respectfully,
and lifting his hat.

“Yes, my name is Leslie. You know Rood, then?”

“I was brought up on your father’s land, sir. You may have heard of
Farmer Bruce?”

RANDAL.--“I remember, when I was a little boy, a Mr. Bruce who rented, I
believe, the best part of our land, and who used to bring us cakes when
he called to see my father. He is a relation of yours?”

FARMER BRUCE.--“He was my uncle. He is dead now, poor man.”

RANDAL.-“Dead! I am grieved to hear it. He was very kind to us children.
But it is long since he left my father’s farm.”

FARMER BRUCE (apologetically).--“I am sure he was very sorry to go. But,
you see, he had an unexpected legacy--”

RANDAL.--“And retired from business?”

FARMER BRUCE.--“No. But, having capital, he could afford to pay a good
rent for a real good farm.”

RANDAL (bitterly).--“All capital seems to fly from the lands of Rood.
And whose farm did he take?”

FARMER BRUCE.--“He took Hawleigh, under Squire Hazeldean. I rent it now.
We’ve laid out a power o’ money on it. But I don’t complain. It pays
well.”

RANDAL.--“Would the money have paid as well sunk on my father’s land?”

FARMER BRUCE.--“Perhaps it might, in the long run. But then, sir, we
wanted new premises,--barns and cattlesheds, and a deal more,--which
the landlord should do; but it is not every landlord as can afford that.
Squire Hazeldean’s a rich man.”

RANDAL.--“Ay!”

The road now became pretty good, and the farmer put his horse into a
brisk trot.

“But which way be you going, sir? I don’t care for a few miles more or
less, if I can be of service.”

“I am going to Hazeldean,” said Randal, rousing himself from a revery.
“Don’t let me take you out of your way.”

“O, Hawleigh Farm is on the other side of the village, so it be quite my
way, sir.”

The farmer, then, who was really a smart young fellow,--one of that race
which the application of capital to land has produced, and which,
in point of education and refinement, are at least on a par with the
squires of a former generation,--began to talk about his handsome horse,
about horses in general, about hunting and coursing: he handled all
these subjects with spirit, yet with modesty. Randal pulled his hat
still lower down over his brows, and did not interrupt him till they
passed the Casino, when, struck by the classic air of the place, and
catching a scent from the orange-trees, the boy asked abruptly, “Whose
house is that?”

“Oh, it belongs to Squire Hazeldean, but it is let or lent to a foreign
mounseer. They say he is quite the gentleman, but uncommonly poor.”

“Poor,” said Randal, turning back to gaze on the trim garden, the neat
terrace, the pretty belvidere, and (the door of the house being open)
catching a glimpse of the painted hall within,--“poor? The place seems
well kept. What do you call poor, Mr. Bruce?”

The farmer laughed. “Well, that’s a home question, sir. But I believe
the mounseer is as poor as a man can be who makes no debts and does not
actually starve.”

“As poor as my father?” asked Randal, openly and abruptly.

“Lord, sir! your father be a very rich man compared to him.” Randal
continued to gaze, and his mind’s eye conjured up the contrast of his
slovenly shabby home, with all its neglected appurtenances. No trim
garden at Rood Hall, no scent from odorous orange blossoms. Here poverty
at least was elegant,--there, how squalid! He did not comprehend at
how cheap a rate the luxury of the Beautiful can be effected. They now
approached the extremity of the squire’s park pales; and Randal, seeing
a little gate, bade the farmer stop his gig, and descended. The boy
plunged amidst the thick oak groves; the farmer went his way blithely,
and his mellow merry whistle came to Randal’s moody ear as he glided
quick under the shadow of the trees.

He arrived at the Hall to find that all the family were at church; and,
according to the patriarchal custom, the churchgoing family embraced
nearly all the servants. It was therefore an old invalid housemaid who
opened the door to him. She was rather deaf, and seemed so stupid
that Randal did not ask leave to enter and wait for Frank’s return. He
therefore said briefly that he would just stroll on the lawn, and call
again when church was over.

The old woman stared, and strove to hear him; meanwhile Randal turned
round abruptly, and sauntered towards the garden side of the handsome
old house.

There was enough to attract any eye in the smooth greensward of the
spacious lawn, in the numerous parterres of variegated flowers, in the
venerable grandeur of the two mighty cedars, which threw their still
shadows over the grass, and in the picturesque building, with its
projecting mullions and heavy gables; yet I fear that it was with no
poet’s nor painter’s eye that this young old man gazed on the scene
before him.

He beheld the evidence of wealth--and the envy of wealth jaundiced his
soul.

Folding his arms on his breast, he stood a while, looking all around
him, with closed lips and lowering brow; then he walked slowly on, his
eyes fixed on the ground, and muttered to himself,--

“The heir to this property is little better than a dunce; and they tell
me I have talents and learning, and I have taken to my heart the maxim,
‘Knowledge is power.’ And yet, with all my struggles, will knowledge
ever place me on the same level as that on which this dunce is born? I
don’t wonder that the poor should hate the rich. But of all the poor,
who should hate the rich like the pauper gentleman? I suppose Audley
Egerton means me to come into parliament, and be a Tory like himself?
What! keep things as they are! No; for me not even Democracy, unless
there first come Revolution. I understand the cry of a Marat,--‘More
blood!’ Marat had lived as a poor man, and cultivated science--in the
sight of a prince’s palace.”

He turned sharply round, and glared vindictively on the poor old Hall,
which, though a very comfortable habitation, was certainly no palace;
and, with his arms still folded on his breast, he walked backward, as if
not to lose the view, nor the chain of ideas it conjured up.

“But,” he continued to soliloquize,--“but of revolution there is no
chance. Yet the same wit and will that would thrive in revolutions
should thrive in this commonplace life. Knowledge is power. Well, then,
shall I have no power to oust this blockhead? Oust him--what from? His
father’s halls? Well, but if he were dead, who would be the heir of
Hazeldean? Have I not heard my mother say that I am as near in blood to
this squire as any one, if he had no children? Oh, but the boy’s life is
worth ten of mine! Oust him from what? At least from the thoughts of his
Uncle Egerton,--an uncle who has never even seen him! That, at least,
is more feasible. ‘Make my way in life,’ sayest thou, Audley Egerton?
Ay,--and to the fortune thou hast robbed from my ancestors. Simulation!
simulation! Lord Bacon allows simulation. Lord Bacon practised it,
and--”

Here the soliloquy came to a sudden end; for as, rapt in his thoughts,
the boy had continued to walk backwards, he had come to the verge where
the lawn slided off into the ditch of the ha-ha; and just as he was
fortifying himself by the precept and practice of my Lord Bacon, the
ground went from under him, and--slap into the ditch went Randal Leslie!

It so happened that the squire, whose active genius was always at some
repair or improvement, had been but a few days before widening and
sloping off the ditch just in that part, so that the earth was fresh
and damp, and not yet either turfed or flattened down. Thus when Randal,
recovering his first surprise and shock, rose to his feet, he found his
clothes covered with mud; while the rudeness of the fall was evinced by
the fantastic and extraordinary appearance of his hat, which, hollowed
here, bulging there, and crushed out of all recognition generally,
was as little like the hat of a decorous, hard-reading young
gentleman--protege of the dignified Mr. Audley Egerton--as any hat
picked out of a kennel after some drunken brawl possibly could be.

Randal was dizzy and stunned and bruised, and it was some moments before
he took heed of his raiment. When he did so his spleen was greatly
aggravated. He was still boy enough not to like the idea of presenting
himself to the unknown squire and the dandy Frank in such a trim: he
resolved incontinently to regain the lane and return home, without
accomplishing the object of his journey; and seeing the footpath right
before him, which led to a gate that he conceived would admit him into
the highway sooner than the path by which he had come, he took it at
once.

It is surprising how little we human creatures heed the warnings of our
good genius. I have no doubt that some benignant power had precipitated
Randal Leslie into the ditch, as a significant hint of the fate of all
who choose what is, nowadays; by no means an uncommon step in the march
of intellect,--namely, the walking backwards, in order to gratify a
vindictive view of one’s neighbour’s property! I suspect that, before
this century is out, many a fine fellow will thus have found his ha-ha,
and scrambled out of the ditch with a much shabbier coat than he had
on when he fell into it. But Randal did not thank his good genius for
giving him a premonitory tumble,--and I never yet knew a man who did!



CHAPTER, XI.

The squire was greatly ruffled at breakfast that morning. He was too
much of an Englishman to bear insult patiently, and he considered that
he had been personally insulted in the outrage offered to his recent
donation to the parish. His feelings, too, were hurt as well as his
pride. There was something so ungrateful in the whole thing, just
after he had taken so much pains, not only in the resuscitation but the
embellishment of the stocks. It was not, however, so rare an occurrence
for the squire to be ruffled as to create any remark. Riccabocca,
indeed, as a stranger, and Mrs. Hazeldean, as a wife, had the quick tact
to perceive that the host was glum and the husband snappish; but the
one was too discreet, and the other too sensible, to chafe the new sore,
whatever it might be, and shortly after breakfast the squire retired
into his study, and absented himself from morning service. In his
delightful “Life of Oliver Goldsmith,” Mr. Forster takes care to
touch our hearts by introducing his hero’s excuse for not entering
the priesthood. “He did not feel himself good enough.” Thy Vicar of
Wakefield, poor Goldsmith, was an excellent substitute for thee; and
Dr. Primrose, at least, will be good enough for the world until Miss
Jemima’s fears are realized. Now, Squire Hazeldean had a tenderness
of conscience much less reasonable than Goldsmith’s. There were
occasionally days in which he did not feel good enough--I don’t say for
a priest, but even for one of the congregation,--“days in which,” said
the squire in his own blunt way, “as I have never in my life met a worse
devil than a devil of a temper, I’ll not carry mine into the family
pew. He sha’n’t be growling out hypocritical responses from my poor
grandmother’s prayer-book.” So the squire and his demon stayed at home.
But the demon was generally cast out before the day was over: and on
this occasion, when the bell rang for afternoon service, it may be
presumed that the squire had reasoned or fretted himself into a proper
state of mind; for he was then seen sallying forth from the porch of his
hall, arm-in-arm with his wife, and at the head of his household. The
second service was (as is commonly the case in rural districts) more
numerously attended than the first one; and it was our parson’s wont to
devote to this service his most effective discourse.

Parson Dale, though a very fair scholar, had neither the deep theology
nor the archaeological learning that distinguish the rising generation
of the clergy. I much doubt if he could have passed what would now be
called a creditable examination in the Fathers; and as for all the nice
formalities in the rubric, he would never have been the man to divide a
congregation or puzzle a bishop. Neither was Parson Dale very erudite
in ecclesiastical architecture. He did not much care whether all the
details in the church were purely Gothic or not; crockets and finials,
round arch and pointed arch, were matters, I fear, on which he had never
troubled his head.

But one secret Parson Dale did possess, which is perhaps of equal
importance with those subtler mysteries,--he knew how to fill his
church! Even at morning service no pews were empty, and at evening
service the church overflowed.

Parson Dale, too, may be considered nowadays to hold but a mean idea
of the spiritual authority of the Church. He had never been known
to dispute on its exact bearing with the State,--whether it was
incorporated with the State or above the State, whether it was
antecedent to the Papacy or formed from the Papacy, etc. According to
his favourite maxim, “Quieta non movere,”--[“Not to disturb things that
are quiet.”]--I have no doubt that he would have thought that the less
discussion is provoked upon such matters the better for both Church and
laity. Nor had he ever been known to regret the disuse of the ancient
custom of excommunication, nor any other diminution of the powers of the
priesthood, whether minatory or militant; yet for all this, Parson
Dale had a great notion of the sacred privilege of a minister of the
gospel,--to advise, to deter, to persuade, to reprove. And it was for
the evening service that he prepared those sermons which may be called
“sermons that preach at you.” He preferred the evening for that salutary
discipline, not only because the congregation was more numerous, but
also because, being a shrewd man in his own innocent way, he knew that
people bear better to be preached at after dinner than before; that you
arrive more insinuatingly at the heart when the stomach is at peace.
There was a genial kindness in Parson Dale’s way of preaching at you.
It was done in so imperceptible, fatherly, a manner that you never felt
offended. He did it, too, with so much art that nobody but your own
guilty self knew that you were the sinner he was exhorting. Yet he did
not spare rich nor poor: he preached at the squire, and that great
fat farmer, Mr. Bullock, the churchwarden, as boldly as at Hodge the
ploughman and Scrub the hedger. As for Mr. Stirn, he had preached at him
more often than at any one in the parish; but Stirn, though he had the
sense to know it, never had the grace to reform. There was, too, in
Parson Dale’s sermons something of that boldness of illustration which
would have been scholarly if he had not made it familiar, and which
is found in the discourses of our elder divines. Like them, he did not
scruple now and then to introduce an anecdote from history, or borrow
an allusion from some non-scriptural author, in order to enliven the
attention of his audience, or render an argument more plain. And the
good man had an object in this, a little distinct from, though wholly
subordinate to, the main purpose of his discourse. He was a friend to
knowledge,--but to knowledge accompanied by religion; and sometimes
his references to sources not within the ordinary reading of his
congregation would spirit up some farmer’s son, with an evening’s
leisure on his hands, to ask the parson for further explanation, and so
to be lured on to a little solid or graceful instruction, under a safe
guide.

Now, on the present occasion, the parson, who had always his eye and
heart on his flock, and who had seen with great grief the realization of
his fears at the revival of the stocks; seen that a spirit of discontent
was already at work amongst the peasants, and that magisterial and
inquisitorial designs were darkening the natural benevolence of the
squire,--seen, in short, the signs of a breach between classes, and the
precursors of the ever inflammable feud between the rich and the poor,
meditated nothing less than a great Political Sermon,--a sermon that
should extract from the roots of social truths a healing virtue for
the wound that lay sore, but latent, in the breast of his parish of
Hazeldean.

And thus ran--

THE POLITICAL SERMON OF PARSON DALE.



CHAPTER XII.

   For every man shall bear his own burden.--Gal. vi. 5.

“BRETHREN! every man has his burden. If God designed our lives to end at
the grave, may we not believe that He would have freed an existence so
brief from the cares and sorrows to which, since the beginning of the
world, mankind has been subjected? Suppose that I am a kind father, and
have a child whom I dearly love, but I know by a divine revelation
that he will die at the age of eight years, surely I should not vex his
infancy by needless preparations for the duties of life? If I am a rich
man, I should not send him from the caresses of his mother to the stern
discipline of school. If I am a poor man, I should not take him with me
to hedge and dig, to scorch in the sun, to freeze in the winter’s cold:
why inflict hardships on his childhood for the purpose of fitting him
for manhood, when I know that he is doomed not to grow into man? But
if, on the other hand, I believe my child is reserved for a more durable
existence, then should I not, out of the very love I bear to him,
prepare his childhood for the struggle of life, according to that
station in which he is born, giving many a toil, many a pain, to the
infant, in order to rear and strengthen him for his duties as man? So it
is with our Father that is in heaven. Viewing this life as our infancy
and the next as our spiritual maturity, where ‘in the ages to come He
may show the exceeding riches of His grace,’ it is in His tenderness,
as in His wisdom; to permit the toil and the pain which, in tasking
the powers and developing the virtue of the soul, prepare it for ‘the
earnest of our inheritance.’ Hence it is that every man has his burden.
Brethren, if you believe that God is good, yea, but as tender as a human
father, you will know that your troubles in life are a proof that you
are reared for an eternity. But each man thinks his own burden the
hardest to bear: the poor-man groans under his poverty, the rich man
under the cares that multiply with wealth. For so far from wealth
freeing us from trouble, all the wise men who have written in all ages
have repeated, with one voice, the words of the wisest, ‘When goods
increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to
the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?’ And
this is literally true, my brethren: for, let a man be as rich as was
the great King Solomon himself, unless he lock up all his gold in a
chest, it must go abroad to be divided amongst others; yea, though,
like Solomon, he make him great works,--though he build houses and plant
vineyards, and make him gardens and orchards,--still the gold that he
spends feeds but the mouths he employs; and Solomon himself could not
eat with a better relish than the poorest mason who builded the house,
or the humblest labourer who planted the vineyard. Therefore ‘when goods
increase, they are increased that eat them.’ And this, my brethren, may
teach us toleration and compassion for the rich. We share their riches,
whether they will or not; we do not share their cares. The profane
history of our own country tells us that a princess, destined to be
the greatest queen that ever sat on this throne, envied the milk-maid
singing; and a profane poet, whose wisdom was only less than that of the
inspired writers, represents the man who, by force--and wit, had risen
to be a king sighing for the sleep vouchsafed to the meanest of his
subjects,--all bearing out the words of the son of David, ‘The sleep
of the labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much; but the
abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.’

“Amongst my brethren now present there is, doubtless, some one who has
been poor, and by honest industry has made himself comparatively rich.
Let his heart answer me while I speak: are not the chief cares that now
disturb him to be found in the goods he hath acquired? Has he not both
vexations to his spirit and trials to his virtue, which he knew not when
he went forth to his labour, and took no heed of the morrow? But it is
right, my brethren, that to every station there should be its care,
to every man his burden; for if the poor did not sometimes so far feel
poverty to be a burden as to desire to better their condition, and
(to use the language of the world) ‘seek to rise in life,’ their most
valuable energies would never be aroused; and we should not witness
that spectacle, which is so common in the land we live in,--namely, the
successful struggle of manly labour against adverse fortune,--a struggle
in which the triumph of one gives hope to thousands. It is said that
necessity is the mother of invention; and the social blessings which are
now as common to us as air and sunshine have come from that law of our
nature which makes us aspire towards indefinite improvement, enriches
each successive generation by the labours of the last, and in free
countries often lifts the child of the labourer to a place amongst
the rulers of the land. Nay, if necessity is the mother of invention,
poverty is the creator of the arts. If there had been no poverty, and no
sense of poverty, where would have been that which we call the wealth of
a country? Subtract from civilization all that has been produced by
the poor, and what remains?--the state of the savage. Where you now see
labourer and prince, you would see equality indeed,--the equality of
wild men. No; not even equality there! for there brute force becomes
lordship, and woe to the weak! Where you now see some in frieze, some in
purple, you would see nakedness in all. Where stands the palace and
the cot, you would behold but mud huts and caves. As far as the peasant
excels the king among savages, so far does the society exalted and
enriched by the struggles of labour excel the state in which Poverty
feels no disparity, and Toil sighs for no ease. On the other hand, if
the rich were perfectly contented with their wealth, their hearts
would become hardened in the sensual enjoyments it procures. It is that
feeling, by Divine Wisdom implanted in the soul, that there is vanity
and vexation of spirit in the things of Mammon, which still leaves the
rich man sensitive to the instincts of Heaven, and teaches him to seek
for happiness in those beneficent virtues which distribute his wealth to
the profit of others. If you could exclude the air from the rays of the
fire, the fire itself would soon languish and die in the midst of its
fuel; and so a man’s joy in his wealth is kept alive by the air which it
warms; and if pent within itself, is extinguished.

“And this, my brethren, leads me to another view of the vast subject
opened to us by the words of the apostle, ‘Every man shall bear his
own burden.’ The worldly conditions of life are unequal. Why are they
unequal? O my brethren, do you not perceive? Think you that, if it had
been better for our spiritual probation that there should be neither
great nor lowly, rich nor poor, Providence would not so have ordered
the dispensations of the world, and so, by its mysterious but merciful
agencies, have influenced the framework and foundations of society? But
if from the remotest period of human annals, and in all the numberless
experiments of government which the wit of man has devised, still this
inequality is ever found to exist, may we not suspect that there is
something in the very principles of our nature to which that inequality
is necessary and essential? Ask why this inequality? Why?--as well ask
why life is the sphere of duty and the nursery of virtues! For if all
men were equal, if there were no suffering and no ease, no poverty and
no wealth, would you not sweep with one blow the half, at least, of
human virtues from the world? If there were no penury and no pain, what
would become of fortitude; what of patience; what of resignation? If
there were no greatness and no wealth, what would become of benevolence,
of charity, of the blessed human pity, of temperance in the midst of
luxury, of justice in the exercise of power? Carry the question further;
grant all conditions the same,--no reverse, no rise, and no fall,
nothing to hope for, nothing to fear,--what a moral death you would at
once inflict upon all the energies of the soul, and what a link between
the Heart of Man and the Providence of God would be snapped asunder!
If we could annihilate evil, we should annihilate hope; and hope, my
brethren, is the avenue to faith. If there be ‘a time to weep and a time
to laugh,’ it is that he who mourns may turn to eternity for comfort,
and he who rejoices may bless God for the happy hour. Ah, my brethren,
were it possible to annihilate the inequalities of human life, it would
be the banishment of our worthiest virtues, the torpor of our spiritual
nature, the palsy of our mental faculties. The moral world, like the
world without us, derives its health and its beauty from diversity and
contrast.

“‘Every man shall bear his own burden.’ True; but now turn to an earlier
verse in the same chapter,--‘Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so
fulfil the law of Christ.’ Yes, while Heaven ordains to each his
peculiar suffering, it connects the family of man into one household, by
that feeling which, more perhaps than any other, distinguishes us from
the brute creation,--I mean the feeling to which we give the name of
sympathy,--the feeling for each other! The herd of deer shun the stag
that is marked by the gunner; the flock heedeth not the sheep that
creeps into the shade to die; but man has sorrow and joy not in himself
alone, but in the joy and sorrow of those around him. He who feels only
for himself abjures his very nature as man; for do we not say of one who
has no tenderness for mankind that he is inhuman; and do we not call him
who sorrows with the sorrowful humane?

“Now, brethren, that which especially marked the divine mission of our
Lord is the direct appeal to this sympathy which distinguishes us from
the brute. He seizes, not upon some faculty of genii given but to few,
but upon that ready impulse of heart which is given to us all; and in
saying, ‘Love one another,’ ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens,’ he elevates
the most delightful of our emotions into the most sacred of His laws.
The lawyer asks our Lord, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Our Lord replies by the
parable of the good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite saw the wounded
man that fell among the thieves and passed by on the other side. That
priest might have been austere in his doctrine, that Levite might have
been learned in the law; but neither to the learning of the Levite nor
to the doctrine of the priest does our Saviour even deign to allude. He
cites but the action of the Samaritan, and saith to the lawyer, ‘Which
now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell
among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy unto him. Then said
Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.’

“O shallowness of human judgments! It was enough to be born a Samaritan
in order to be rejected by the priest, and despised by the Levite. Yet
now, what to us the priest and the Levite, of God’s chosen race though
they were? They passed from the hearts of men when they passed the
sufferer by the wayside; while this loathed Samaritan, half thrust from
the pale of the Hebrew, becomes of our family, of our kindred; a brother
amongst the brotherhood of Love, so long as Mercy and Affliction shall
meet in the common thoroughfare of Life!

“‘Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.’ Think
not, O my brethren, that this applies only to almsgiving, to that relief
of distress which is commonly called charity, to the obvious duty of
devoting from our superfluities something that we scarcely miss to the
wants of a starving brother. No. I appeal to the poorest amongst ye,
if the worst burdens are those of the body,--if the kind word and the
tender thought have not often lightened your hearts more than bread
bestowed with a grudge, and charity that humbles you by a frown.
Sympathy is a beneficence at the command of us all,--yea, of the
pauper as of the king; and sympathy is Christ’s wealth. Sympathy is
brotherhood. The rich are told to have charity for the poor, and the
poor are enjoined to respect their superiors. Good: I say not to the
contrary. But I say also to the poor, ‘In your turn have charity for the
rich;’ and I say to the rich, ‘In your turn respect the poor.’

“‘Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.’
Thou, O poor man, envy not nor grudge thy brother his larger portion
of worldly goods. Believe that he hath his sorrows and crosses like
thyself, and perhaps, as more delicately nurtured, he feels them more;
nay, hath he not temptations so great that our Lord hath exclaimed, ‘How
hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven’?
And what are temptations but trials; what are trials but perils and
sorrows? Think not that you can bestow no charity on the rich man, even
while you take your sustenance from his hands. A heathen writer,
often cited by the earliest preachers of the gospel, hath truly said,
‘Wherever there is room for a man there is place for a benefit.’

“And I ask any rich brother amongst you, when he hath gone forth
to survey his barns and his granaries, his gardens and orchards, if
suddenly in the vain pride of his heart, he sees the scowl on the brow
of the labourer,--if he deems himself hated in the midst of his wealth,
if he feels that his least faults are treasured up against him with
the hardness of malice, and his plainest benefits received with the
ingratitude of envy,--I ask, I say, any rich man, whether straightway
all pleasure in his worldly possessions does not fade from his heart,
and whether he does not feel what a wealth of gladness it is in the
power of the poor man to bestow! For all these things of Mammon pass
away; but there is in the smile of him whom we have served a something
that we may take with us into heaven. If, then, ye bear one another’s
burdens, they who are poor will have mercy on the errors and compassion
for the griefs of the rich. To all men it was said--yes, to Lazarus as
to Dives--‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ But think not, O rich man,
that we preach only to the poor. If it be their duty not to grudge thee
thy substance, it is thine to do all that may sweeten their labour.
Remember that when our Lord said, ‘How hardly shall they that have
riches enter into the kingdom of heaven,’ He replied also to them who
asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ ‘The things which are impossible with
men are possible with God,’ that is, man left to his own temptations
would fail; but, strengthened by God, he shall be saved. If thy riches
are the tests of thy trial, so may they also be the instruments of thy
virtues. Prove by thy riches that thou art compassionate and tender,
temperate and benign, and thy riches themselves may become the evidence
at once of thy faith and of thy works.

“We have constantly on our lips the simple precept, ‘Do unto others as
you would be done by.’ Why do we fail so often in the practice? Because
we neglect to cultivate that SYMPATHY which nature implants as an
instinct, and the Saviour exalts as a command. If thou wouldst do unto
thy neighbour as thou wouldst be done by, ponder well how thy neighbour
will regard the action thou art about to do to him. Put thyself into his
place. If thou art strong and he is weak, descend from thy strength and
enter into his weakness; lay aside thy burden for the while, and buckle
on his own; let thy sight see as through his eyes, thy heart beat as
in his bosom. Do this, and thou wilt often confess that what had seemed
just to thy power will seem harsh to his weakness. For ‘as a zealous man
hath not done his duty when he calls his brother drunkard and beast,’
even so an administrator of the law mistakes his object if he writes
on the grand column of society only warnings that irritate the bold and
terrify the timid; and a man will be no more in love with law than with
virtue, ‘if he be forced to it with rudeness and incivilities.’ If,
then, ye would bear the burden of the lowly, O ye great, feel not only
for them, but with! Watch that your pride does not chafe them, your
power does not wantonly gall. Your worldly inferior is of the class
from which the Apostles were chosen, amidst which the Lord of Creation
descended from a throne above the seraphs.”

The parson here paused a moment, and his eye glanced towards the pew
near the pulpit, where sat the magnate of Hazeldean. The squire was
leaning his chin thoughtfully on his hand, his brow inclined downwards,
and the natural glow of his complexion much heightened.

“But,” resumed the parson, softly, without turning to his book, and
rather as if prompted by the suggestion of the moment--“but he who has
cultivated sympathy commits not these errors, or, if committing them,
hastens to retract. So natural is sympathy to the good man that he
obeys it mechanically when he suffers his heart to be the monitor of his
conscience. In this sympathy, behold the bond between rich and poor! By
this sympathy, whatever our varying worldly lots, they become what they
were meant to be,--exercises for the virtues more peculiar to each; and
thus, if in the body each man bear his own burden, yet in the fellowship
of the soul all have common relief in bearing the burdens of each other.
This is the law of Christ,--fulfil it, O my flock!”

Here the parson closed his sermon, and the congregation bowed their
heads.



BOOK THIRD.



INITIAL CHAPTER.

SHOWING HOW MY NOVEL CAME TO BE CALLED “MY NOVEL.”

“I am not displeased with your novel, so far as it has gone,” said my
father, graciously; “though as for the Sermon--” Here I trembled; but
the ladies, Heaven bless them! had taken Parson Dale under their special
protection; and observing that my father was puckering up his brows
critically, they rushed forward boldly in defence of The Sermon, and Mr.
Caxton was forced to beat a retreat. However, like a skilful general, he
renewed the assault upon outposts less gallantly guarded. But as it is
not my business to betray my weak points, I leave it to the ingenuity
of cavillers to discover the places at which the Author of “Human Error”
 directed his great guns.

“But,” said the captain, “you are a lad of too much spirit, Pisistratus,
to keep us always in the obscure country quarters of Hazeldean,--you
will march us out into open service before you have done with us?”

PISISTRATUS (magisterially, for he has been somewhat nettled by Mr.
Caxton’s remarks, and he puts on an air of dignity in order to awe away
minor assailants).--“Yes, Captain Roland; not yet a while, but all in
good time. I have not stinted myself in canvas, and behind my foreground
of the Hall and the Parsonage I propose hereafter to open some
lengthened perspective of the varieties of English life--”

MR. CAXTON.--“Hum!”

BLANCHE (putting her hand on my father’s lip).--“We shall know better
the design, perhaps, when we know the title. Pray, Mr. Author, what is
the title?”

MY MOTHER (with more animation than usual).--“Ay, Sisty, the title!”

PISISTRATUS (startled).--“The title! By the soul of Cervantes! I have
never yet thought of a title!”

CAPTAIN ROLAND (solemnly).--“There is a great deal in a good title. As a
novel reader, I know that by experience.”

MR. SQUILLS.--“Certainly; there is not a catchpenny in the world but
what goes down, if the title be apt and seductive. Witness ‘Old
Parr’s Life Pills.’ Sell by the thousand, Sir, when my ‘Pills for Weak
Stomachs,’ which I believe to be just the same compound, never paid for
the advertising.”

MR. CAXTON.--“Parr’s Life Pills! a fine stroke of genius. It is not
every one who has a weak stomach, or time to attend to it if he have.
But who would not swallow a pill to live to a hundred and fifty-two?”

PISISTRATUS (stirring the fire in great excitement).--“My title! my
title!--what shall be my title?”

MR. CAXTON (thrusting his hand into his waistcoat, and in his most
didactic of tones).--“From a remote period, the choice of a title has
perplexed the scribbling portion of mankind. We may guess how their
invention has been racked by the strange contortions it has produced.
To begin with the Hebrews. ‘The Lips of the Sleeping’ (Labia
Dormientium)--what book did you suppose that title to designate?--A
Catalogue of Rabbinical Writers! Again, imagine some young lady of
old captivated by the sentimental title of ‘The Pomegranate with its
Flower,’ and opening on a Treatise on the Jewish Ceremonials! Let us
turn to the Romans. Aulus Gellius commences his pleasant gossipping
‘Noctes’ with a list of the titles in fashion in his day. For instance,
‘The Muses’ and ‘The Veil,’ ‘The Cornucopia,’ ‘The Beehive,’ and ‘The
Meadow.’ Some titles, indeed, were more truculent, and promised food to
those who love to sup upon horrors,--such as ‘The Torch,’ ‘The Poniard,’
‘The Stiletto’--”

PISISTRATUS (impatiently).--“Yes, sir, but to come to My Novel.”

MR. CAXTON (unheeding the interruption).--“You see you have a fine
choice here, and of a nature pleasing, and not unfamiliar, to a
classical reader; or you may borrow a hint from the early dramatic
writers.”

PISISTRATUS (more hopefully).--“Ay, there is something in the Drama akin
to the Novel. Now, perhaps, I may catch an idea.”

MR. CAXTON.--“For instance, the author of the ‘Curiosities of
Literature’ (from whom, by the way, I am plagiarizing much of the
information I bestow upon you) tells us of a Spanish gentleman who
wrote a Comedy, by which he intended to serve what he took for Moral
Philosophy.”

PISISTRATUS (eagerly).--“Well, sir?”

MR. CAXTON.--“And called it ‘The Pain of the Sleep of the World.’”

PISISTRATUS.--“Very comic, indeed, sir.”

MR. CAXTON.--“Grave things were then called Comedies, as old things are
now called Novels. Then there are all the titles of early Romance itself
at your disposal,--‘Theagenes and Chariclea’ or ‘The Ass’ of Longus, or
‘The Golden Ass’ of Apuleius, or the titles of Gothic Romance, such as
‘The most elegant, delicious, mellifluous, and delightful History of
Perceforest, King of Great Britain.’” And therewith my father ran over a
list of names as long as the Directory, and about as amusing.

“Well, to my taste,” said my mother, “the novels I used to read when a
girl (for I have not read many since, I am ashamed to say)--”

MR. CAXTON.--“No, you need not be at all ashamed of it, Kitty.”

MY MOTHER (proceeding).--“Were much more inviting than any you mention,
Austin.”

THE CAPTAIN.--“True.”

MR. SQUILLS.--“Certainly. Nothing like them nowadays!”

MY MOTHER.--“‘Says she to her Neighbour, What?’”

THE CAPTAIN.--“‘The Unknown, or the Northern Gallery’--”

MR. SQUILLS.--“‘There is a Secret; Find it out!’”

PISISTRATUS (pushed to the verge of human endurance, and upsetting
tongs, poker, and fire-shovel).--“What nonsense you are talking, all of
you! For Heaven’s sake consider what an important matter we are called
upon to decide. It is not now the titles of those very respectable works
which issued from the Minerva Press that I ask you to remember,--it is
to invent a title for mine,--My Novel!”

MR. CAXTON (clapping his hands gently).--“Excellent! capital! Nothing
can be better; simple, natural, pertinent, concise--”

PISISTRATUS.--“What is it, sir, what is it? Have you really thought of a
title to My Novel?”

MR. CAXTON.--“You have hit it yourself,--‘My Novel.’ It is your Novel;
people will know it is your Novel. Turn and twist the English language
as you will, be as allegorical as Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Fabulist, or
Puritan, still, after all, it is your Novel, and nothing more nor less
than your Novel.”

PISISTRATUS (thoughtfully, and sounding the words various ways).--“‘My
Novel!’--um-um! ‘My Novel!’ rather bold--and curt, eh?”

MR. CAXTON.--“Add what you say you intend it to depict,--Varieties in
English Life.”

MY MOTHER.--“‘My Novel; or, Varieties in English Life’--I don’t think
it sounds amiss. What say you, Roland? Would it attract you in a
catalogue?”

My uncle hesitates, when Mr. Caxton exclaims imperiously.--“The thing is
settled! Don’t disturb Camarina.”

SQUILLS.--“If it be not too great a liberty, pray who or what is
Camarina?”

MR. CAXTON.--“Camarina, Mr. Squills, was a lake, apt to be low, and then
liable to be muddy; and ‘Don’t disturb Camarina’ was a Greek proverb
derived from an oracle of Apollo; and from that Greek proverb, no doubt,
comes the origin of the injunction, ‘Quieta non movere,’ which became
the favourite maxim of Sir Robert Walpole and Parson Dale. The Greek
line, Mr. Squills” (here my father’s memory began to warm), is preserved
by Stephanus Byzantinus, ‘De Urbibus,’

   [Greek proverb]

Zenobius explains it in his proverbs; Suidas repeats Zenobius; Lucian
alludes to it; so does Virgil in the Third Book of the AEneid; and
Silius Italicus imitates Virgil,--

        “‘Et cui non licitum fatis Camarina moveri.’

“Parson Dale, as a clergyman and a scholar, had, no doubt, these
authorities at his fingers’ end. And I wonder he did not quote them,”
 quoth my father; “but to be sure he is represented as a mild man, and
so might not wish to humble the squire over-much in the presence of his
family. Meanwhile, My Novel is My Novel; and now that, that matter is
settled, perhaps the tongs, poker, and shovel may be picked up, the
children may go to bed, Blanche and Kitty may speculate apart upon the
future dignities of the Neogilos,--taking care, nevertheless, to finish
the new pinbefores he requires for the present; Roland may cast up his
account book, Mr. Squills have his brandy and water, and all the world
be comfortable, each in his own way. Blanche, come away from the
screen, get me my slippers, and leave Pisistratus to himself. [Greek
line]--don’t disturb Camarina. You see, my dear,” added my father
kindly, as, after settling himself into his slippers, he detained
Blanche’s hand in his own,--“you see, my dear, every house has its
Camarina. Alan, who is a lazy animal, is quite content to let it alone;
but woman, being the more active, bustling, curious creature, is always
for giving it a sly stir.”

BLANCHE (with female dignity).--“I assure you, that if Pisistratus had
not called me, I should not have--”

MR. CAXTON (interrupting her, without lifting his eyes from the book he
had already taken).--“Certainly you would not. I am now in the midst of
the great Oxford Controversy. [The same Greek proverb]--don’t disturb
Camarina.”

A dead silence for half-an-hour, at the end of which--

PISISTRATUS (from behind the screen).--“Blanche, my dear, I want to
consult you.”

Blanche does not stir.

PISISTRATUS.--“Blanche, I say.” Blanche glances in triumph towards Mr.
Caxton.

MR. CAXTON (laying down his theological tract, and rubbing his
spectacles mournfully).--“I hear him, child; I hear him. I retract my
vindication of man. Oracles warn in vain: so long as there is a woman on
the other side of the screen, it is all up with Camarina.”



CHAPTER II.

It is greatly to be regretted that Mr. Stirn was not present at the
parson’s Discourse; but that valuable functionary was far otherwise
engaged,--indeed, during the summer months he was rarely seen at the
afternoon service. Not that he cared for being preached at,--not he; Mr.
Stirn would have snapped his fingers at the thunders of the Vatican.
But the fact was, that Mr. Stirn chose to do a great deal of gratuitous
business upon the day of rest. The squire allowed all persons who chose
to walk about the park on a Sunday; and many came from a distance to
stroll by the lake, or recline under the elms. These visitors were
objects of great suspicion, nay, of positive annoyance, to Mr.
Stirn--and, indeed, not altogether without reason, for we English have
a natural love of liberty, which we are even more apt to display in
the grounds of other people than in those which we cultivate ourselves.
Sometimes, to his inexpressible and fierce satisfaction, Mr. Stirn
fell upon a knot of boys pelting the swans; sometimes he missed a
young sapling, and found it in felonious hands, converted into a
walking-stick; sometimes he caught a hulking fellow scrambling up the
ha-ha to gather a nosegay for his sweetheart from one of poor Mrs.
Hazeldean’s pet parterres; not infrequently, indeed, when all the family
were fairly at church, some curious impertinents forced or sneaked their
way into the gardens, in order to peep in at the windows. For these,
and various other offences of like magnitude, Mr. Stirn had long,
but vainly, sought to induce the squire to withdraw a permission so
villanously abused. But though there were times when Mr. Hazeldean
grunted and growled, and swore “that he would shut up the park, and
fill it [illegally] with mantraps and spring-guns,” his anger always
evaporated in words. The park was still open to all the world on a
Sunday; and that blessed day was therefore converted into a day of
travail and wrath to Mr. Stirn. But it was from the last chime of the
afternoon-service bell until dusk that the spirit of this vigilant
functionary was most perturbed; for, amidst the flocks that gathered
from the little hamlets round to the voice of the pastor, there were
always some stray sheep, or rather climbing, desultory, vagabond goats,
who struck off in all perverse directions, as if for the special purpose
of distracting the energetic watchfulness of Mr. Stirn. As soon as
church was over, if the day were fine, the whole park became a scene
animated with red cloaks or lively shawls, Sunday waistcoats and hats
stuck full of wildflowers--which last Mr. Stirn often stoutly
maintained to be Mrs. Hazeldean’s newest geraniums. Now, on this Sunday,
especially, there was an imperative call upon an extra exertion of
vigilance on the part of the superintendent,--he had not only to detect
ordinary depredators and trespassers; but, first, to discover the
authors of the conspiracy against the stocks; and, secondly, to “make an
example.”

He had begun his rounds, therefore, from the early morning; and just
as the afternoon bell was sounding its final peal, he emerged upon the
village green from a hedgerow, behind which he had been at watch to
observe who had the most suspiciously gathered round the stocks. At that
moment the place was deserted. At a distance, the superintendent saw
the fast disappearing forms of some belated groups hastening towards the
church; in front, the stocks stood staring at him mournfully from its
four great eyes, which had been cleansed from the mud, but still looked
bleared and stained with the inarks of the recent outrage. Here Mr.
Stirn paused, took off his hat, and wiped his brows.

“If I had sum ‘un to watch here,” thought he, “while I takes a turn by
the water-side, p’r’aps summat might come out; p’r’aps them as did it
ben’t gone to church, but will come sneaking round to look on their
willany! as they says murderers are always led back to the place where
they ha’ left the body. But in this here willage there ben’t a man,
woman, or child as has any consarn for squire or parish, barring
myself.” It was just as he arrived at that misanthropical conclusion
that Mr. Stirn beheld Leonard Fairfield walking very fast from his own
home. The superintendent clapped on his hat, and stuck his right arm
akimbo. “Hollo, you, sir,” said he, as Lenny now came in hearing, “where
be you going at that rate?”

“Please, sir, I be going to church.”

“Stop, sir,--stop, Master Lenny. Going to church!--why, the bell’s
done; and you knows the parson is very angry at them as comes in late,
disturbing the congregation. You can’t go to church now!”

“Please, sir--”

“I says you can’t go to church now. You must learn to think a little
of others, lad. You sees how I sweats to serve the squire! and you must
serve him too. Why, your mother’s got the house and premishes almost
rent-free; you ought to have a grateful heart, Leonard Fairfield, and
feel for his honour! Poor man! his heart is well-nigh bruk, I am sure,
with the goings on.”

Leonard opened his innocent blue eyes, while Mr. Stirn dolorously wiped
his own.

“Look at that ‘ere dumb cretur,” said Stirn, suddenly, pointing to the
stocks,--“look at it. If it could speak, what would it say, Leonard
Fairfield? Answer me that! ‘Damn the stocks,’ indeed!”

“It was very bad in them to write such naughty words,” said Lenny,
gravely. “Mother was quite shocked when she heard of it this morning.”

MR. STIRN.--“I dare say she was, considering what she pays for the
premishes;” (insinuatingly) “you does not know who did it,--eh, Lenny?”

LENNY.--“No, sir; indeed I does not!”

MR. STIRN.--“Well, you see, you can’t go to church,--prayers half
over by this time. You recollex that I put them stocks under your
‘sponsibility,’ and see the way you’s done your duty by ‘em! I’ve half a
mind to--”

Mr. Stirn cast his eyes on the eyes of the stocks. “Please, sir,” began
Lenny again, rather frightened.

“No, I won’t please; it ben’t pleasing at all. But I forgives you this
time, only keep a sharp lookout, lad, in future. Now you must stay
here--no, there--under the hedge, and you watches if any persons comes
to loiter about, or looks at the stocks, or laughs to hisself, while I
go my rounds. I shall be back either afore church is over or just arter;
so you stay till I comes, and give me your report. Be sharp, boy, or it
will be worse for you and your mother; I can let the premishes for L4 a
year more to-morrow.”

Concluding with that somewhat menacing and very significant remark, and
not staying for an answer, Mr. Stirn waved his hand and walked off.

Poor Lenny remained by the stocks, very much dejected, and greatly
disliking the neighbourhood to which the was consigned. At length he
slowly crept off to the hedge, and sat himself down in the place of
espionage pointed out to him. Now, philosophers tell us that what is
called the point of honour is a barbarous feudal prejudice. Amongst
the higher classes, wherein those feudal prejudices may be supposed to
prevail, Lenny Fairfield’s occupation would not have been considered
peculiarly honourable; neither would it have seemed so to the more
turbulent spirits among the humbler orders, who have a point of honour
of their own, which consists in the adherence to each other in defiance
of all lawful authority. But to Lenny Fairfield, brought up much apart
from other boys, and with a profound and grateful reverence for the
squire instilled into all his habits of thought, notions of honour
bounded themselves to simple honesty and straightforward truth; and as
he cherished an unquestioning awe of order and constitutional authority,
so it did not appear to him that there was anything derogatory and
debasing in being thus set to watch for an offender. On the contrary, as
he began to reconcile himself to the loss of the church service, and
to enjoy the cool of the summer shade and the occasional chirp of the
birds, he got to look on the bright side of the commission to which he
was deputed. In youth, at least, everything has its bright side,--even
the appointment of Protector to the Parish Stocks. For the stocks itself
Leonard had no affection, it is true; but he had no sympathy with its
aggressors, and he could well conceive that the squire would be very
much hurt at the revolutionary event of the night. “So,” thought poor
Leonard in his simple heart,--“so, if I can serve his honour, by keeping
off mischievous boys, or letting him know who did the thing, I’m sure
it would be a proud day for Mother.” Then he began to consider that,
however ungraciously Mr. Stirn had bestowed on him the appointment,
still it was a compliment to him,--showed trust and confidence in him,
picked him out from his contemporaries as the sober, moral, pattern boy;
and Lenny had a great deal of pride in him, especially in matters of
repute and character.

All these things considered, I say, Leonard Fairfield reclined on his
lurking-place, if not with positive delight and intoxicating rapture, at
least with tolerable content and some complacency.

Mr. Stirn might have been gone a quarter of an hour, when a boy came
through a little gate in the park, just opposite to Lenny’s retreat in
the hedge, and, as if fatigued with walking, or oppressed by the heat of
the day, paused on the green for a moment or so, and then advanced under
the shade of the great tree which overhung the stocks.

Lenny pricked up his ears, and peeped out jealously.

He had never seen the boy before: it was a strange face to him.

Leonard Fairfield was not fond of strangers; moreover, he had a vague
belief that strangers were at the bottom of that desecration of the
stocks. The boy, then, was a stranger; but what was his rank? Was he
of that grade in society in which the natural offences are or are not
consonant to, or harmonious with, outrages upon stocks? On that Lenny
Fairfield did not feel quite assured. According to all the experience of
the villager, the boy was not dressed like a young gentleman. Leonard’s
notions of such aristocratic costume were naturally fashioned upon the
model of Frank Hazeldean. They represented to him a dazzling vision of
snow-white trousers and beautiful blue coats and incomparable cravats.
Now the dress of this stranger, though not that of a peasant or of a
farmer, did not in any way correspond with Lenny’s notion of the costume
of a young gentleman. It looked to him highly disreputable: the coat
was covered with mud, and the hat was all manner of shapes, with a gap
between the side and crown.

Lenny was puzzled, till it suddenly occurred to him that the gate
through which the boy had passed was in the direct path across the park
from a small town, the inhabitants of which were in very bad odour at
the Hall,--they had immemorially furnished the most daring poachers to
the preserves, the most troublesome trespassers on the park, the most
unprincipled orchard robbers, and the most disputatious asserters of
various problematical rights of way, which, according to the Town, were
public, and, according to the Hall, had been private since the Conquest.
It was true that the same path led also directly from the squire’s
house, but it was not probable that the wearer of attire so equivocal
had been visiting there. All things considered, Lenny had no doubt in
his mind but that the stranger was a shop-boy or ‘prentice from the town
of Thorndyke; and the notorious repute of that town, coupled with this
presumption, made it probable that Lenny now saw before him one of the
midnight desecrators of the stocks. As if to confirm the
suspicion, which passed through Lenny’s mind with a rapidity wholly
disproportionate to the number of lines it costs me to convey it, the
boy, now standing right before the stocks, bent down and read that pithy
anathema with which it was defaced. And having read it, he repeated it
aloud, and Lenny actually saw him smile,--such a smile! so disagreeable
and sinister! Lenny had never before seen the smile sardonic.

But what were Lenny’s pious horror and dismay when this ominous stranger
fairly seated himself on the stocks, rested his heels profanely on
the lids of two of the four round eyes, and taking out a pencil and a
pocket-book, began to write.

Was this audacious Unknown taking an inventory of the church and the
Hall for the purposes of conflagration? He looked at one and at the
other, with a strange fixed stare as he wrote,--not keeping his eyes
on the paper, as Lenny had been taught to do when he sat down to his
copy-book. The fact is, that Randal Leslie was tired and faint, and he
felt the shock of his fall the more, after the few paces he had walked,
so that he was glad to rest himself a few moments; and he took that
opportunity to write a line to Frank, to excuse himself for not
calling again, intending to tear the leaf on which he wrote out of
his pocket-book and leave it at the first cottage he passed, with
instructions to take it to the Hall.

While Randal was thus innocently engaged, Lenny came up to him, with the
firm and measured pace of one who has resolved, cost what it may, to do
his duty. And as Lenny, though brave, was not ferocious, so the anger he
felt and the suspicions he entertained only exhibited themselves in the
following solemn appeal to the offender’s sense of propriety,--“Ben’t
you ashamed of yourself? Sitting on the squire’s new stocks! Do get up,
and go along with you!”

Randal turned round sharply; and though, at any other moment, he would
have had sense enough to extricate himself very easily from his false
position, yet Nemo mortalium, etc. No one is always wise. And Randal was
in an exceedingly bad humour. The affability towards his inferiors,
for which I lately praised him, was entirely lost in the contempt for
impertinent snobs natural to an insulted Etonian.

Therefore, eying Lenny with great disdain, Randal answered briefly,--

“You are an insolent young blackguard.”

So curt a rejoinder made Lenny’s blood fly to his face. Persuaded before
that the intruder was some lawless apprentice or shop-lad, he was now
more confirmed in that judgment, not only by language so uncivil, but by
the truculent glance which accompanied it, and which certainly did
not derive any imposing dignity from the mutilated, rakish, hang-dog,
ruinous hat, under which it shot its sullen and menacing fire.

Of all the various articles of which our male attire is composed, there
is perhaps not one which has so much character and expression as the top
covering. A neat, well-brushed, short-napped, gentlemanlike hat, put on
with a certain air, gives a distinction and respectability to the whole
exterior; whereas, a broken, squashed, higgledy-piggledy sort of a hat,
such as Randal Leslie had on, would go far towards transforming the
stateliest gentleman who ever walked down St. James’s Street into the
ideal of a ruffianly scamp.

Now, it is well known that there is nothing more antipathetic to your
peasant-boy than a shop-boy. Even on grand political occasions, the
rural working-class can rarely be coaxed into sympathy with the trading
town class. Your true English peasant is always an aristocrat. Moreover,
and irrespectively of this immemorial grudge of class, there is
something peculiarly hostile in the relationship between boy and boy
when their backs are once up, and they are alone on a quiet bit of
green,--something of the game-cock feeling; something that tends to
keep alive, in the population of this island (otherwise so lamblike and
peaceful), the martial propensity to double the thumb tightly over the
four fingers, and make what is called “a fist of it.” Dangerous symptoms
of these mingled and aggressive sentiments were visible in Lenny
Fairfield at the words and the look of the unprepossessing stranger. And
the stranger seemed aware of them; for his pale face grew more pale, and
his sullen eye more fixed and more vigilant.

“You get off them stocks,” said Lenny, disdaining to reply to the coarse
expressions bestowed on him; and, suiting the action to the word, he
gave the intruder what he meant for a shove, but what Randal took for
a blow. The Etonian sprang up, and the quickness of his movement, aided
but by a slight touch of his hand, made Lenny lose his balance, and sent
him neck-and-crop over the stocks. Burning with rage, the young villager
rose alertly, and, flying at Randal, struck out right and left.



CHAPTER III.

Aid me, O ye Nine! whom the incomparable Persius satirized his
contemporaries for invoking, and then, all of a sudden, invoked on his
own behalf,--aid me to describe that famous battle by the stocks, and
in defence of the stocks, which was waged by the two representatives
of Saxon and Norman England. Here, sober support of law and duty
and delegated trust,--pro aris et focis; there, haughty invasion and
bellicose spirit of knighthood and that respect for name and person
which we call “honour.” Here, too, hardy physical force,--there, skilful
discipline. Here--The Nine are as deaf as a post, and as cold as a
stone! Plague take the jades! I can do better without them.

Randal was a year or two older than Lenny, but he was not so tall nor so
strong, nor even so active; and after the first blind rush, when the two
boys paused, and drew back to breathe, Lenny, eying the slight form and
hueless cheek of his opponent, and seeing blood trickling from Randal’s
lip, was seized with an instantaneous and generous remorse. “It was
not fair,” he thought, “to fight one whom he could beat so easily.” So,
retreating still farther, and letting his arms fall to his side, he said
mildly, “There, let’s have no more of it; but go home and be good.”

Randal Leslie had no remarkable degree of that constitutional quality
called physical courage; but he had some of those moral qualities
which supply its place. He was proud, he was vindictive, he had high
self-esteem, he had the destructive organ more than the combative,--what
had once provoked his wrath it became his instinct to sweep away.
Therefore, though all his nerves were quivering, and hot tears were in
his eyes, he approached Lenny with the sternness of a gladiator, and
said between his teeth, which he set hard, choking back the sob of rage
and pain,--

“You have struck me--and you shall not stir from this ground till I have
made you repent it. Put up your hands,--defend yourself.”

Lenny mechanically obeyed; and he had good need of the admonition; for
if before he had had the advantage, now that Randal had recovered the
surprise to his nerves, the battle was not to the strong.

Though Leslie had not been a fighting boy at Eton, still his temper had
involved him in some conflicts when he was in the lower forms, and
he had learned something of the art as well as the practice in
pugilism,--an excellent thing too, I am barbarous enough to believe, and
which I hope will never quite die out of our public schools. Ah, many a
young duke has been a better fellow for life from a fair set-to with a
trader’s son; and many a trader’s son has learned to look a lord more
manfully in the face on the hustings, from the recollection of the sound
thrashing he once gave to some little Lord Leopold Dawdle.

So Randal now brought his experience and art to bear; put aside
those heavy roundabout blows, and darted in his own, quick and sharp,
supplying to the natural feebleness of his arm the due momentum of
pugilistic mechanics. Ay, and the arm, too, was no longer so feeble; for
strange is the strength that comes from passion and pluck!

Poor Lenny, who had never fought before, was bewildered; his sensations
grew so entangled that he could never recall them distinctly; he had a
dim reminiscence of some breathless impotent rush, of a sudden blindness
followed by quick flashes of intolerable light, of a deadly faintness,
from which he was roused by sharp pangs--here--there--everywhere; and
then all he could remember was, that he was lying on the ground,
huddled up and panting hard, while his adversary bent over him with a
countenance as dark and livid as Lara himself might have bent over the
fallen Otho. For Randal Leslie was not one who, by impulse and nature,
subscribed to the noble English maxim, “Never hit a foe when he is
down;” and it cost him a strong, if brief, self-struggle not to set
his heel on that prostrate form. It was the mind, not the heart,
that subdued the savage within him, as muttering something
inwardly--certainly not Christian forgiveness--the victor turned
gloomily away.



CHAPTER IV.

Just at that precise moment, who should appear but Mr. Stirn! For, in
fact, being extremely anxious to get Lenny into disgrace, he had hoped
that he should have found the young villager had shirked the commission
intrusted to him; and the right-hand man had slily come back to see if
that amiable expectation were realized. He now beheld Lenny rising with
some difficulty, still panting hard, and with hysterical sounds akin
to what is vulgarly called blubbering, his fine new waistcoat sprinkled
with his own blood, which flowed from his nose,--nose that seemed
to Lenny Fairfield’s feelings to be a nose no more, but a swollen,
gigantic, mountainous Slawkenbergian excrescence; in fact, he felt all
nose! Turning aghast from this spectacle, Mr. Stirn surveyed, with no
more respect than Lenny had manifested, the stranger boy, who had again
seated himself on the stocks (whether to recover his breath, or whether
to show that his victory was consummated, and that he was in his rights
of possession). “Hollo,” said Mr. Stirn, “what is all this? What’s the
matter, Lenny, you blockhead?”

“He will sit there,” answered Lenny, in broken gasps, “and he has beat
me because I would not let him; but I doesn’t mind that,” added the
villager, trying hard to suppress his tears, “and I am ready again for
him--that I am.”

“And what do you do lollopoping there on them blessed stocks?”

“Looking at the landscape; out of my light, man!”

This tone instantly inspired Mr. Stirn with misgivings: it was a tone
so disrespectful to him that he was seized with involuntary respect; who
but a gentleman could speak so to Mr. Stirn?

“And may I ask who you be?” said Stirn, falteringly, and half inclined
to touch his hat. “What Is your name, pray? What’s your bizness?”

“My name is Randal Leslie, and my business was to visit your master’s
family,--that is, if you are, as I guess from your manner, Mr.
Hazeldean’s ploughman!”

So saying, Randal rose; and moving on a few paces, turned, and throwing
half-a-crown on the road, said to Lenny, “Let that pay you for your
bruises, and remember another time how you speak to a gentleman. As for
you, fellow,”--and he pointed his scornful hand towards Mr. Stirn, who,
with his mouth open, and his hat now fairly off, stood bowing to the
earth,--“as for you, give my compliments to Mr. Hazeldean, and say that
when he does us the honour to visit us at Rood Hall, I trust that the
manners of our villagers will make him ashamed of Hazeldean.”

Oh, my poor Squire! Rood Hall ashamed of Hazeldean! If that message had
been delivered to you, you would never have looked up again!

With those bitter words, Randal swung himself over the stile that led
into the parson’s glebe, and left Lenny Fairfield still feeling his
nose, and Mr. Stirn still bowing to the earth.



CHAPTER V.

Randal Leslie had a very long walk home; he was bruised and sore from
head to foot, and his mind was still more sore and more bruised than his
body. But if Randal Leslie had rested himself in the squire’s gardens,
without walking backwards and indulging in speculations suggested by
Marat, and warranted by my Lord Bacon, he would have passed a most
agreeable evening, and really availed himself of the squire’s wealth
by going home in the squire’s carriage. But because he chose to take
so intellectual a view of property, he tumbled into a ditch; because
he tumbled into a ditch, he spoiled his clothes; because he spoiled his
clothes, he gave up his visit; because he gave up his visit, he got into
the village green, and sat on the stocks with a hat that gave him the
air of a fugitive from the treadmill; because he sat on the stocks--with
that hat, and a cross face under it--he had been forced into the most
discreditable squabble with a clodhopper, and was now limping home,
at war with gods and men; ergo (this is a moral that will bear
repetition),--ergo, when you walk in a rich man’s grounds, be contented
to enjoy what is yours, namely, the prospect,--I dare say you will enjoy
it more than he does!



CHAPTER VI.

If, in the simplicity of his heart and the crudity of his experience,
Lenny Fairfield had conceived it probable that Mr. Stirn would address
to him some words in approbation of his gallantry and in sympathy for
his bruises, he soon found himself wofully mistaken. That truly
great man, worthy prime minister of Hazeldean, might perhaps pardon a
dereliction from his orders, if such dereliction proved advantageous to
the interests of the service, or redounded to the credit of the
chief; but he was inexorable to that worst of diplomatic offences,--an
ill-timed, stupid, over-zealous obedience to orders, which, if it
established the devotion of the employee, got the employer into what
is popularly called a scrape! And though, by those unversed in the
intricacies of the human heart, and unacquainted with the especial
hearts of prime ministers and right-hand men, it might have seemed
natural that Mr. Stirn, as he stood still, hat in hand, in the middle
of the road, stung, humbled, and exasperated by the mortification he had
received from the lips of Randal Leslie, would have felt that that young
gentleman was the proper object of his resentment, yet such a breach of
all the etiquette of diplomatic life as resentment towards a superior
power was the last idea that would have suggested itself to the profound
intellect of the premier of Hazeldean. Still, as rage, like steam, must
escape somewhere, Mr. Stirn, on feeling--as he afterwards expressed it
to his wife--that his “buzzom was a burstin’,” turned with the natural
instinct of self-preservation to the safety-valve provided for the
explosion; and the vapours within him rushed into vent upon Lenny
Fairfield. He clapped his hat on his head fiercely, and thus relieved
his “buzzom.”

“You young willain! you howdaeious wiper! and so all this blessed
Sabbath afternoon, when you ought to have been in church on your
marrow-bones, a praying for your betters, you has been a fitting with a
young gentleman, and a wisiter to your master, on the wery place of the
parridge hinstitution that you was to guard and pertect; and a bloodying
it all over, I declares, with your blaggard little nose!” Thus saying,
and as if to mend the matter, Mr. Stirn aimed an additional stroke at
the offending member; but Lenny mechanically putting up both arms to
defend his face, Mr. Stirn struck his knuckles against the large brass
buttons that adorned the cuff of the boy’s coat-sleeve,--an incident
which considerably aggravated his indignation. And Lenny, whose spirit
was fairly roused at what the narrowness of his education conceived to
be a signal injustice, placing the trunk of the tree between Mr. Stirn
and himself, began that task of self-justification which it was equally
impolitic to conceive and imprudent to execute, since, in such a case,
to justify was to recriminate.

“I wonder at you, Master Stirn,--if Mother could hear you! You know it
was you who would not let me go to church; it was you who told me to--”

“Fit a young gentleman, and break the Sabbath,” said Mr. Stirn,
interrupting him with a withering sneer. “Oh, yes! I told you to
disgrace his honour the squire, and me, and the parridge, and bring
us all into trouble. But the squire told me to make an example, and I
will!” With those words, quick as lightning flashed upon Mr. Stirn’s
mind the luminous idea of setting Lenny in the very stocks which he had
too faithfully guarded. Eureka! the “example” was before him! Here he
could gratify his long grudge against the pattern boy; here, by such
a selection of the very best lad in the parish, he could strike terror
into the worst; here he could appease the offended dignity of Randal
Leslie; here was a practical apology to the squire for the affront put
upon his young visitor; here, too, there was prompt obedience to the
squire’s own wish that the stocks should be provided as soon as possible
with a tenant. Suiting the action to the thought, Mr. Stirn made a rapid
plunge at his victim, caught him by the skirt of his jacket; and in a
few seconds more, the jaws of the stocks had opened, and Lenny Fairfield
was thrust therein,--a sad spectacle of the reverses of fortune.
This done, and while the boy was too astounded, too stupefied, by the
suddenness of the calamity, for the resistance he might otherwise have
made,--nay, for more than a few inaudible words,--Mr. Stirn hurried from
the spot, but not without first picking up and pocketing the half-crown
designed for Lenny, and which, so great had been his first emotions,
he had hitherto even almost forgotten. He then made his way towards the
church, with the intention to place himself close by the door, catch
the squire as he came out, whisper to him what had passed, and lead him,
with the whole congregation at his heels, to gaze upon the sacrifice
offered up to the joint powers of Nemesis and Themis.



CHAPTER VII.

Unaffectedly I say it--upon the honour of a gentleman, and the
reputation of an author,--unaffectedly I say it, no words of mine can
do justice to the sensations experienced by Lenny Fairfield, as he sat
alone in that place of penance. He felt no more the physical pain of
his bruises; the anguish of his mind stifled and overbore all corporeal
suffering,--an anguish as great as the childish breast is capable of
holding.

For first and deepest of all, and earliest felt, was the burning sense
of injustice. He had, it might be with erring judgment, but with all
honesty, earnestness, and zeal, executed the commission entrusted to
him; he had stood forth manfully in discharge of his duty; he had
fought for it, suffered for it, bled for it. This was his reward! Now
in Lenny’s mind there was pre-eminently that quality which distinguishes
the Anglo Saxon race,--the sense of justice. It was perhaps the
strongest principle in his moral constitution; and the principle had
never lost its virgin bloom and freshness by any of the minor acts of
oppression and iniquity which boys of higher birth often suffer from
harsh parents, or in tyrannical schools. So that it was for the
first time that that iron entered into his soul, and with it came its
attendant feeling,--the wrathful, galling sense of impotence. He had
been wronged, and he had no means to right himself. Then came another
sensation, if not so deep, yet more smarting and envenomed for the
time,--shame! He, the good boy of all good boys; he, the pattern of the
school, and the pride of the parson; he, whom the squire, in sight of
all his contemporaries, had often singled out to slap on the back, and
the grand squire’s lady to pat on the head, with a smiling gratulation
on his young and fair repute; he, who had already learned so dearly to
prize the sweets of an honourable name,--he to be made, as it were, in
the twinkling of an eye, a mark for opprobrium, a butt of scorn, a jeer,
and a byword! The streams of his life were poisoned at the fountain. And
then came a tenderer thought of his mother! of the shock this would be
to her,--she who had already begun to look up to him as her stay and
support; he bowed his head, and the tears, long suppressed, rolled down.

Then he wrestled and struggled, and strove to wrench his limbs from
that hateful bondage,--for he heard steps approaching. And he began to
picture to himself the arrival of all the villagers from church, the
sad gaze of the parson, the bent brow of the squire, the idle,
ill-suppressed titter of all the boys, jealous of his unspotted
character,--character of which the original whiteness could never, never
be restored!

He would always be the boy who had sat in the stocks! And the words
uttered by the squire came back on his soul, like the voice of
conscience in the ears of some doomed Macbeth: “A sad disgrace,
Lenny,--you’ll never be in such a quandary.” “Quandary”--the word was
unfamiliar to him; it must mean something awfully discreditable. The
poor boy could have prayed for the earth to swallow him.



CHAPTER VIII.

“Kettles and frying-pans! what has us here?” cried the tinker.

This time Mr. Sprott was without his donkey; for it being Sunday, it
is presumed that the donkey was enjoying his Sabbath on the common.
The tinker was in his Sunday’s best, clean and smart, about to take his
lounge in the park.

Lenny Fairfield made no answer to the appeal.

“You in the wood, my baby! Well, that’s the last sight I should
ha’ thought to see. But we all lives to larn,” added the tinker,
sententiously. “Who gave you them leggins? Can’t you speak, lad?”

“Nick Stirn.”

“Nick Stirn! Ay, I’d ha’ ta’en my davy on that: and cos vy?”

“‘Cause I did as he told me, and fought a boy as was trespassing on
these very stocks; and he beat me--but I don’t care for that; and that
boy was a young gentleman, and going to visit the squire; and so Nick
Stirn--” Lenny stopped short, choked by rage and humiliation.

“Augh,” said the tinker, starting, “you fit with a young gentleman, did
you? Sorry to hear you confess that, my lad! Sit there and be thankful
you ha’ got off so cheap. ‘T is salt and battery to fit with your
betters, and a Lunnon justice o’ peace would have given you two months
o’ the treadmill.

“But vy should you fit cos he trespassed on the stocks? It ben’t your
natural side for fitting, I takes it.”

Lenny murmured something not very distinguishable about serving the
squire, and doing as he was bid.

“Oh, I sees, Lenny,” interrupted the tinker, in a tone of great
contempt, “you be one of those who would rayther ‘unt with the ‘ounds
than run with the ‘are! You be’s the good pattern boy, and would peach
agin your own border to curry favour with the grand folks. Fie, lad! you
be sarved right; stick by your border, then you’ll be ‘spected when you
gets into trouble, and not be ‘varsally ‘spised,--as you’ll be arter
church-time! Vell, I can’t be seen ‘sorting with you, now you are in
this d’rogotary fix; it might hurt my c’r’acter, both with them as built
the stocks and them as wants to pull ‘em down. Old kettles to mend! Vy,
you makes me forgit the Sabbath! Sarvent, my lad, and wish you well
out of it; ‘specks to your mother, and say we can deal for the pan and
shovel all the same for your misfortin.”

The tinker went his way. Lenny’s eye followed him with the sullenness
of despair. The tinker, like all the tribe of human comforters, had only
watered the brambles to invigorate the prick of the horns. Yes, if Lenny
had been caught breaking the stocks, some at least would have pitied
him; but to be incarcerated for defending them! You might as well have
expected that the widows and orphans of the Reign of Terror would have
pitied Dr. Guillotin when he slid through the grooves of his own deadly
machine. And even the tinker, itinerant, ragamuffin vagabond as he was,
felt ashamed to be found with the pattern boy! Lenny’s head sank again
on his breast heavily, as if it had been of lead. Some few minutes
thus passed, when the unhappy prisoner became aware of the presence of
another spectator to his shame; he heard no step, but he saw a shadow
thrown over the sward. He held his breath, and would not look up, with
some vague idea that if he refused to see he might escape being seen.



CHAPTER IX.

“Per Bacco!” said Dr. Riccabocca, putting his hand on Lenny’s shoulder,
and bending down to look into his face,--“per Bacco! my young friend, do
you sit here from choice or necessity?”

Lenny slightly shuddered, and winced under the touch of one whom he had
hitherto regarded with a sort of superstitious abhorrence.

“I fear,” resumed Riccabocca, after waiting in vain for an answer to his
question, “that though the situation is charming, you did not select it
yourself. What is this?”--and the irony of the tone vanished--“what is
this, my poor boy? You have been bleeding, and I see that those tears
which you try to check come from a deep well. Tell me, povero fanciullo
mio” (the sweet Italian vowels, though Lenny did not understand them,
sounded softly and soothingly),--“tell me, my child, how all this
happened. Perhaps I can help you; we have all erred,--we should all help
each other.”

Lenny’s heart, that just before had seemed bound in brass, found itself
a way as the Italian spoke thus kindly, and the tears rushed down; but
he again stopped them, and gulped out sturdily,--

“I have not done no wrong; it ben’t my fault,--and ‘t is that which
kills me!” concluded Lenny, with a burst of energy.

“You have not done wrong? Then,” said the philosopher, drawing out
his pocket-handkerchief with great composure, and spreading it on the
ground,--“then I may sit beside you. I could only stoop pityingly over
sin, but I can lie down on equal terms with misfortune.”

Lenny Fairfield did not quite comprehend the words, but enough of their
general meaning was apparent to make him cast a grateful glance on the
Italian. Riccabocca resumed, as he adjusted the pocket-handkerchief, “I
have a right to your confidence, my child, for I have been afflicted
in my day; yet I too say with thee, ‘I have not done wrong.’ Cospetto!”
 (and here the doctor seated himself deliberately, resting one arm on
the side column of the stocks, in familiar contact with the
captive’s shoulder, while his eye wandered over the lovely scene
around)--“Cospetto! my prison, if they had caught me, would not have had
so fair a look-out as this. But, to be sure, it is all one; there are no
ugly loves, and no handsome prisons.”

With that sententious maxim, which, indeed, he uttered in his native
Italian, Riccabocca turned round and renewed his soothing invitations to
confidence. A friend in need is a friend indeed, even if he come in
the guise of a Papist and wizard. All Lenny’s ancient dislike to the
foreigner had gone, and he told him his little tale.

Dr. Riccabocca was much too shrewd a man not to see exactly the motives
which had induced Mr. Stirn to incarcerate his agent (barring only that
of personal grudge, to which Lenny’s account gave him no clew). That a
man high in office should make a scapegoat of his own watch-dog for an
unlucky snap, or even an indiscreet bark, was nothing strange to the
wisdom of the student of Machiavelli. However, he set himself to the
task of consolation with equal philosophy and tenderness. He began by
reminding, or rather informing, Leonard Fairfield of all the instances
of illustrious men afflicted by the injustice of others that occurred to
his own excellent memory. He told him how the great Epictetus, when in
slavery, had a master whose favourite amusement was pinching his leg,
which, as the amusement ended in breaking that limb, was worse than the
stocks. He also told him the anecdote of Lenny’s own gallant countryman,
Admiral Byng, whose execution gave rise to Voltaire’s celebrated
witticism, “En Angleterre on tue un admiral pour encourager les autres.”

   [“In England they execute one admiral in order to encourage the
   others.”]

Many other illustrations, still more pertinent to the case in point, his
erudition supplied from the stores of history. But on seeing that
Lenny did not seem in the slightest degree consoled by these memorable
examples, he shifted his ground, and reducing his logic to the strict
argumentum ad rem, began to prove, first, that there was no disgrace
at all in Lenny’s present position, that every equitable person
would recognize the tyranny of Stirn and the innocence of its victim;
secondly, that if even here he were mistaken, for public opinion was
not always righteous, what was public opinion after all?--“A breath, a
puff,” cried Dr. Riccabocca, “a thing without matter,--without length,
breadth, or substance,--a shadow, a goblin of our own creating. A man’s
own conscience is his sole tribunal, and he should care no more for that
phantom ‘opinion’ than he should fear meeting a ghost if he crossed the
churchyard at dark.”

Now, as Lenny did very much fear meeting a ghost if he crossed the
churchyard at dark, the simile spoiled the argument, and he shook his
head very mournfully. Dr. Riccabocca, was about to enter into a third
course of reasoning, which, had it come to an end, would doubtless have
settled the matter, and reconciled Lenny to sitting in the stocks till
doomsday, when the captive, with the quick ear and eye of terror and
calamity, became conscious that church was over, that the congregation
in a few seconds more would be flocking thitherwards. He saw visionary
hats and bonnets through the trees, which Riccabocca saw not, despite
all the excellence of his spectacles; heard phantasmal rustlings and
murmurings which Riccabocca heard not, despite all that theoretical
experience in plots, stratagems, and treasons, which should have made
the Italian’s ear as fine as a conspirator’s or a mole’s. And with
another violent but vain effort at escape, the prisoner exclaimed,--

“Oh, if I could but get out before they come! Let me out, let me out!
Oh, kind sir, have pity,--let me out!”

“Diavolo!” said the philosopher, startled, “I wonder that I never
thought of that before. After all, I believe he has hit the right nail
on the head,” and, looking close, he perceived that though the partition
of wood had hitched firmly into a sort of spring-clasp, which defied
Lenny’s unaided struggles, still it was not locked (for, indeed, the
padlock and key were snug in the justice-room of the squire, who never
dreamed that his orders would be executed so literally and summarily
as to dispense with all formal appeal to himself). As soon as Dr.
Riccabocca made that discovery, it occurred to him that all the wisdom
of all the schools that ever existed can’t reconcile man or boy to a bad
position--the moment there is a fair opportunity of letting him out of
it. Accordingly, without more ado, he lifted up the creaking board, and
Lenny Fairfield darted forth like a bird from a cage, halted a moment as
if for breath, or in joy; and then, taking at once to his heels, fled,
as a hare to its form, fast to his mother’s home.

Dr. Riccabocca dropped the yawning wood into its place, picked up
his handkerchief and restored it to his pocket; and then, with some
curiosity, began to examine the nature of that place of duress which
had caused so much painful emotion to its rescued victim. “Man is a
very irrational animal at best,” quoth the sage, soliloquizing, “and is
frightened by strange buggaboos! ‘T is but a piece of wood! how little
it really injures! And, after all, the holes are but rests to the legs,
and keep the feet out of the dirt. And this green bank to sit upon,
under the shade of the elm-tree-verily the position must be more
pleasant than otherwise! I’ve a great mind--” Here the doctor looked
around, and seeing the coast still clear, the oddest notion imaginable
took possession of him; yet, not indeed a notion so odd, considered
philosophically,--for all philosophy is based on practical
experiment,--and Dr. Riccabocca felt an irresistible desire practically
to experience what manner of thing that punishment of the stocks really
was. “I can but try! only for a moment,” said he apologetically to his
own expostulating sense of dignity. “I have time to do it, before any
one comes.” He lifted up the partition again: but stocks are built
on the true principle of English law, and don’t easily allow a man to
criminate himself,--it was hard to get into them without the help of
a friend. However, as we before noticed, obstacles only whetted Dr.
Riccabocca’s invention. He looked round, and saw a withered bit of stick
under the tree; this he inserted in the division of the stocks, somewhat
in the manner in which boys place a stick under a sieve for the purpose
of ensnaring sparrows; the fatal wood thus propped, Dr. Riceabocca sat
gravely down on the bank, and thrust his feet through the apertures.

“Nothing in it!” cried he, triumphantly, after a moment’s deliberation.
“The evil is only in idea. Such is the boasted reason of mortals!” With
that reflection, nevertheless, he was about to withdraw his feet from
their voluntary dilemma, when the crazy stick suddenly gave way and
the partition fell back into its clasp. Dr. Riceabocca was fairly
caught,--“Facilis descensus--sed revocare gradum!” True, his hands were
at liberty, but his legs were so long that, being thus fixed, they kept
the hands from the rescue; and as Dr. Riccabocca’s form was by no means
supple, and the twin parts of the wood stuck together with that firmness
of adhesion which things newly painted possess, so, after some vain
twists and contortions, in which he succeeded at length (not without a
stretch of the sinews that made them crack again) in finding the clasp
and breaking his nails thereon, the victim of his own rash experiment
resigned himself to his fate. Dr. Riceabocca was one of those men who
never do things by halves. When I say he resigned himself, I mean not
only Christian but philosophical resignation. The position was not quite
so pleasant as, theoretically, he had deemed it; but he resolved to
make himself as comfortable as he could. At first, as is natural in all
troubles to men who have grown familiar with that odoriferous comforter
which Sir Walter Raleigh is said first to have bestowed upon the
Caucasian races, the doctor made use of his hands to extract from his
pocket his pipe, match-box, and tobacco-pouch. After a few whiffs he
would have been quite reconciled to his situation, but for the discovery
that the sun had shifted its place in the heavens, and was no longer
shaded from his face by the elm-tree. The doctor again looked round, and
perceived that his red silk umbrella, which he had laid aside when he
had seated himself by Lenny, was within arm’s reach. Possessing himself
of this treasure, he soon expanded its friendly folds. And thus, doubly
fortified within and without, under shade of the umbrella, and his
pipe composedly between his lips, Dr. Riceabocca gazed on his own
incarcerated legs, even with complacency.

“‘He who can despise all things,’” said he, in one of his native
proverbs, “‘possesses all things!’--if one despises freedom, one is
free! This seat is as soft as a sofa! I am not sure,” he resumed,
soliloquizing, after a pause,--“I am not sure that there is not
something more witty than manly and philosophical in that national
proverb of mine which I quoted to the fanciullo, ‘that there are
no handsome prisons’! Did not the son of that celebrated Frenchman,
surnamed Bras de Fer, write a book not only to prove that adversities
are more necessary than prosperities, but that among all adversities a
prison is the most pleasant and profitable? But is not this condition of
mine, voluntarily and experimentally incurred, a type of my life? Is
it the first time that I have thrust myself into a hobble? And if in a
hobble of mine own choosing, why should I blame the gods?”

Upon this, Dr. Riceabocca fell into a train of musing so remote from
time and place, that in a few minutes he no more remembered that he was
in the parish stocks than a lover remembers that flesh is grass, a miser
that mammon is perishable, a philosopher that wisdom is vanity. Dr.
Riccabocca was in the clouds.



CHAPTER X.

The dullest dog that ever wrote a novel (and, entre nous, reader)--but
let it go no further,--we have a good many dogs among the fraternity
that are not Munitos might have seen with half an eye that the parson’s
discourse had produced a very genial and humanizing effect upon his
audience.

   [Munito was the name of a dog famous for his learning (a Porson of a
   dog) at the date of my childhood. There are no such dogs nowadays.]

When all was over, and the congregation stood up to let Mr. Hazeldean
and his family walk first down the aisle (for that was the custom at
Hazeldean), moistened eyes glanced at the squire’s sun-burned manly
face, with a kindness that bespoke revived memory of many a generous
benefit and ready service. The head might be wrong now and then,--the
heart was in the right place after all. And the lady leaning on his arm
came in for a large share of that gracious good feeling. True, she now
and then gave a little offence when the cottages were not so clean as
she fancied they ought to be,--and poor folks don’t like a liberty taken
with their houses any more than the rich do; true that she was not quite
so popular with the women as the squire was, for, if the husband went
too often to the ale-house, she always laid the fault on the wife,
and said, “No man would go out of doors for his comforts, if he had
a smiling face and a clean hearth at his home;” whereas the squire
maintained the more gallant opinion that “If Gill was a shrew, it was
because Jack did not, as in duty bound, stop her mouth with a kiss!”
 Still, notwithstanding these more obnoxious notions on her part, and a
certain awe inspired by the stiff silk gown and the handsome aquiline
nose, it was impossible, especially in the softened tempers of
that Sunday afternoon, not to associate the honest, comely, beaming
countenance of Mrs. Hazeldean with comfortable recollections of soups,
jellies, and wine in sickness, loaves and blankets in winter, cheering
words and ready visits in every little distress, and pretexts afforded
by improvement in the grounds and gardens (improvements which, as the
squire, who preferred productive labour, justly complained, “would never
finish”) for little timely jobs of work to some veteran grandsire, who
still liked to earn a penny, or some ruddy urchin in a family that “came
too fast.” Nor was Frank, as he walked a little behind, in the whitest
of trousers and the stiffest of neckcloths,--with a look of suppressed
roguery in his bright hazel eye, that contrasted his assumed stateliness
of mien,--without his portion of the silent blessing. Not that he had
done anything yet to deserve it; but we all give youth so large a credit
in the future. As for Miss Jemima, her trifling foibles only rose from
too soft and feminine a susceptibility, too ivy-like a yearning for some
masculine oak whereon to entwine her tendrils; and so little confined to
self was the natural lovingness of her disposition, that she had helped
many a village lass to find a husband, by the bribe of a marriage gift
from her own privy purse; notwithstanding the assurances with which she
accompanied the marriage gift,--namely, that “the bridegroom would turn
out like the rest of his ungrateful sex; but that it was a comfort to
think that it would be all one in the approaching crash!” So that she
had her warm partisans, especially amongst the young; while the
slim captain, on whose arm she rested her forefinger, was at least
a civil-spoken gentleman, who had never done any harm, and who would
doubtless do a deal of good if he belonged to the parish. Nay, even
the fat footman who came last, with the family Prayer-book, had his due
share in the general association of neighbourly kindness between hall
and hamlet. Few were there present to whom he had not extended the
right-hand of fellowship with a full horn of October in the clasp of
it; and he was a Hazeldean man, too, born and bred, as two-thirds of
the squire’s household (now letting themselves out from their large pew
under the gallery) were.

On his part, too, you could see that the squire “was moved withal,” and
a little humbled moreover. Instead of walking erect, and taking bow
and courtesy as a matter of course, and of no meaning, he hung his head
somewhat, and there was a slight blush on his cheek; and as he glanced
upward and round him--shyly, as it were--and his eye met those friendly
looks, it returned them with an earnestness that had in it something
touching as well as cordial,--an eye that said, as well as eye could
say, “I don’t quite deserve it, I fear, neighbours; but I thank you for
your good-will with my whole heart.” And so readily was that glance of
the eye understood, that I think, if that scene had taken place out of
doors instead of in the church, there would have been a hurrah as the
squire passed out of sight.

Scarcely had Mr. Hazeldean got clear of the churchyard, ere Mr. Stirn
was whispering in his ear. As Stirn whispered, the squire’s face grew
long, and his colour rose. The congregation, now flocking out of the
church, exchanged looks with each other; that ominous conjunction
between squire and man chilled back all the effects of the parson’s
sermon. The squire struck his cane violently into the ground. “I
would rather you had told me Black Bess had got the glanders. A young
gentleman, coming to visit my son, struck and insulted in Hazeldean;
a young gentleman,--‘s death, sir, a relation--his grandmother was a
Hazeldean. I do believe Jemima’s right, and the world’s coming to an
end! But Leonard Fairfield in the stocks! What will the parson say? and
after such a sermon! ‘Rich man, respect the poor!’ And the good widow
too; and poor Mark, who almost died in my arms! Stirn, you have a heart
of stone! You confounded, lawless, merciless miscreant, who the deuce
gave you the right to imprison man or boy in my parish of Hazeldean
without trial, sentence, or warrant? Run and let the boy out before any
one sees him: run, or I shall--”

The squire elevated the cane, and his eyes shot fire. Mr. Stirn did not
run, but he walked off very fast. The squire drew back a few paces, and
again took his wife’s arm. “Just wait a bit for the parson, while I talk
to the congregation. I want to stop ‘em all, if I can, from going into
the village; but how?”

Frank heard, and replied readily,--“Give ‘em some beer, sir.”

“Beer! on a Sunday! For shame, Frank!” cried Mrs. Hazeldean.

“Hold your tongue, Harry. Thank you, Frank,” said the squire, and his
brow grew as clear as the blue sky above him. I doubt if Riccabocca
could have got him out of his dilemma with the same ease as Frank had
done.

“Halt there, my men,--lads and lasses too,--there, halt a bit. Mrs.
Fairfield, do you hear?--halt. I think his reverence has given us a
capital sermon. Go up to the Great House all of you, and drink a glass
to his health. Frank, go with them, and tell Spruce to tap one of the
casks kept for the haymakers. Harry” (this in a whisper), “catch the
parson, and tell him to come to me instantly.”

“My dear Hazeldean, what has happened? You are mad.”

“Don’t bother; do what I tell you.”

“But where is the parson to find you?”

“Where? gadzooks, Mrs. H.,--at the stocks, to be sure!”



CHAPTER XI.

Dr. Riccabocca, awakened out of his revery by the sound of footsteps,
was still so little sensible of the indignity of his position, that he
enjoyed exceedingly, and with all the malice of his natural humour,
the astonishment and stupor manifested by Stirn, when that functionary
beheld the extraordinary substitute which fate and philosophy had found
for Lenny Fairfield. Instead of the weeping, crushed, broken-hearted
captive whom he had reluctantly come to deliver, he stared speechless
and aghast upon the grotesque but tranquil figure of the doctor enjoying
his pipe, and cooling himself under his umbrella, with a sangfroid
that was truly appalling and diabolical. Indeed, considering that Stirn
always suspected the Papisher of having had a hand in the whole of that
black and midnight business, in which the stocks had been broken, bunged
up, and consigned to perdition, and that the Papisher had the evil
reputation of dabbling in the Black Art, the hocus-pocus way in which
the Lenny he had incarcerated was transformed into the doctor he found,
conjoined with the peculiarly strange eldrich and Mephistophelean
physiognomy and person of Riccabocca, could not but strike a thrill of
superstitious dismay into the breast of the parochial tyrant; while
to his first confused and stammered exclamations and interrogatories,
Riccabocca replied with so tragic an air, such ominous shakes of the
head, such mysterious equivocating, long-worded sentences, that Stirn
every moment felt more and more convinced that the boy had sold himself
to the Powers of Darkness, and that he himself, prematurely and in the
flesh, stood face to face with the Arch-Enemy.

Mr. Stirn had not yet recovered his wonted intelligence, which, to do
him justice, was usually prompt enough, when the squire, followed hard
by the parson, arrived at the spot. Indeed, Mrs. Hazeldean’s report of
the squire’s urgent message, disturbed manner, and most unparalleled
invitation to the parishioners, had given wings to Parson Dale’s
ordinarily slow and sedate movements. And while the squire, sharing
Stirn’s amazement, beheld indeed a great pair of feet projecting from
the stocks, and saw behind them the grave face of Dr. Riccabocca under
the majestic shade of the umbrella, but not a vestige of the only
being his mind could identify with the tenancy of the stocks, Mr. Dale,
catching him by the arm, and panting hard, exclaimed with a petulance he
had never before been known to display,--except at the whist-table,--

“Mr. Hazeldean, Mr. Hazeldean, I am scandalized,--I am shocked at you.
I can bear a great deal from you, sir, as I ought to do; but to ask my
whole congregation, the moment after divine service, to go up and guzzle
ale at the Hall, and drink my health, as if a clergyman’s sermon had
been a speech at a cattle-fair! I am ashamed of you, and of the parish!
What on earth has come to you all?”

“That’s the very question I wish to Heaven I could answer,” groaned the
squire, quite mildly and pathetically,--“What on earth has come to us
all? Ask Stirn:” (then bursting out) “Stirn, you infernal rascal, don’t
you hear? What on earth has come to us all?”

“The Papisher is at the bottom of it, sir,” said Stirn, provoked out of
all temper. “I does my duty, but I is but a mortal man, arter all.”

“A mortal fiddlestick! Where’s Leonard Fairfield, I say?”

“Him knows best,” answered Stirn, retreating mechanically for safety’s
sake behind the parson, and pointing to Dr. Riccabocca. Hitherto, though
both the squire and parson had indeed recognized the Italian, they had
merely supposed him to be seated on the bank. It never entered into
their heads that so respectable and dignified a man could by any
possibility be an inmate, compelled or voluntary, of the parish stocks.
No, not even though, as I before said, the squire had seen, just under
his nose, a very long pair of soles inserted in the apertures, that
sight had only confused and bewildered him, unaccompanied, as it ought
to have been, with the trunk and face of Lenny Fairfield. Those soles
seemed to him optical delusions, phantoms of the overheated brain; but
now, catching hold of Stirn, while the parson in equal astonishment
caught hold of him, the squire faltered out, “Well, this beats
cock-fighting! The man’s as mad as a March hare, and has taken Dr.
Rickeybockey for Little Lenny!”

“Perhaps,” said the doctor, breaking silence with a bland smile, and
attempting an inclination of the head as courteous as his position would
permit,--“perhaps, if it be quite the same to you, before you proceed to
explanations, you will just help me out of the stocks.”

The parson, despite his perplexity and anger, could not repress a smile,
as he approached his learned friend, and bent down for the purpose of
extricating him.

“Lord love your reverence, you’d better not!” cried Mr. Stirn. “Don’t be
tempted,--he only wants to get you into is claws. I would not go a near
him for all the--”

The speech was interrupted by Dr. Riccabocca himself, who now, thanks to
the parson, had risen into his full height, and half a head taller than
all present--even than the tall squire--approached Mr. Stirn, with
a gracious wave of the hand. Mr. Stirn retreated rapidly towards the
hedge, amidst the brambles of which he plunged himself incontinently.

“I guess whom you take me for, Mr. Stirn,” said the Italian, lifting his
hat with his characteristic politeness. “It is certainly a great honour;
but you will know better one of these days, when the gentleman in
question admits you to a personal interview in another--and a hotter
world.”



CHAPTER XII.

“But how on earth did you get into my new stocks?” asked the squire,
scratching his head.

“My dear sir, Pliny the elder got into the crater of Mount Etna.”

“Did he, and what for?”

“To try what it was like, I suppose,” answered Riccabocca. The squire
burst out a laughing.

“And so you got into the stocks to try what it was like. Well, I can’t
wonder,--it is a very handsome pair of stocks,” continued the squire,
with a loving look at the object of his praise. “Nobody need be ashamed
of being seen in those stocks,--I’should not mind it myself.”

“We had better move on,” said the parson, dryly, “or we shall have the
whole village here presently, gazing on the lord of the manor in the
same predicament as that from which we have just extricated the doctor.
Now, pray, what is the matter with Lenny Fairfield? I can’t understand a
word of what has passed. You don’t mean to say that good Lenny Fairfield
(who was absent from church, by the by) can have done anything to get
into disgrace?”

“Yes, he has though,” cried the squire. “Stirn, I say, Stirn!” But Stirn
had forced his way through the hedge and vanished. Thus left to his own
powers of narrative at secondhand, Mr. Hazeldean now told all he had to
communicate,--the assault upon Randal Leslie, and the prompt punishment
inflicted by Stirn; his own indignation at the affront to his young
kinsman, and his good-natured merciful desire to save the culprit from
public humiliation.

The parson, mollified towards the rude and hasty invention of the
beer-drinking, took the squire by the hand. “Ah, Mr. Hazeldean, forgive
me,” he said repentantly; “I ought to have known at once that it was
only some ebullition of your heart that could stifle your sense of
decorum. But this is a sad story about Lenny brawling and fighting on
the Sabbath-day. So unlike him, too. I don’t know what to make of it.”

“Like or unlike,” said the squire, “it has been a gross insult to young
Leslie, and looks all the worse because I and Audley are not just the
best friends in the world. I can’t think what it is,” continued Mr.
Hazeldean, musingly; “but it seems that there must be always some
association of fighting connected with that prim half-brother of mine.
There was I, son of his own mother,--who might have been shot through
the lungs, only the ball lodged in the shoulder! and now his wife’s
kinsman--my kinsman, too--grandmother a Hazeldean,--a hard-reading,
sober lad, as I am given to understand, can’t set his foot into the
quietest parish in the three kingdoms, but what the mildest boy that
ever was seen makes a rush at him like a mad bull. It is FATALITY!”
 cried the squire, solemnly.

“Ancient legend records similar instances of fatality in certain
houses,” observed Riccabocca. “There was the House of Pelops, and
Polynices and Eteocles, the sons of OEdipus.”

“Pshaw!” said the parson; “but what’s to be done?”

“Done?” said the squire; “why, reparation must be made to young
Leslie. And though I wished to spare Lenny, the young ruffian, a public
disgrace--for your sake, Parson Dale, and Mrs. Fairfield’s--yet a good
caning in private--”

“Stop, sir!” said Riccabocca, mildly, “and hear me.” The Italian then,
with much feeling and considerable tact, pleaded the cause of his poor
protege, and explained how Lenny’s error arose only from mistaken zeal
for the squire’s service, and in the execution of the orders received
from Mr. Stirn.

“That alters the matter,” said the squire, softened; “and all that is
necessary now will be for him to make a proper apology to my kinsman.”

“Yes, that is just,” rejoined the parson; “but I still don’t learn how
he got out of the stocks.”

Riccabocca then resumed his tale; and, after confessing his own
principal share in Lenny’s escape, drew a moving picture of the boy’s
shame and honest mortification. “Let us march against Philip!” cried the
Athenians when they heard Demosthenes--

“Let us go at once and comfort the child!” cried the parson, before
Riccabocca could finish.

With that benevolent intention all three quickened their pace, and soon
arrived at the widow’s cottage. But Lenny had caught sight of their
approach through the window; and not doubting that, in spite of
Riccabocca’s intercession, the parson was come to upbraid and the squire
to re-imprison, he darted out by the back way, got amongst the woods,
and lay there perdu all the evening. Nay, it was not till after dark
that his mother--who sat wringing her hands in the little kitchen, and
trying in vain to listen to the parson and Mrs. Dale, who (after sending
in search of the fugitive) had kindly come to console the mother--heard
a timid knock at the door and a nervous fumble at the latch. She started
up, opened the door, and Lenny sprang to her bosom, and there buried his
face, sobbing aloud.

“No harm, my boy,” said the parson, tenderly; “you have nothing to
fear,--all is explained and forgiven.”

Lenny looked up, and the veins on his forehead were much swollen. “Sir,”
 said he, sturdily, “I don’t want to be forgiven,--I ain’t done no wrong.
And--I’ve been disgraced--and I won’t go to school, never no more.”

“Hush, Carry!” said the parson to his wife, who with the usual
liveliness of her little temper, was about to expostulate. “Good-night,
Mrs. Fairfield. I shall come and talk to you to-morrow, Lenny; by that
time you will think better of it.”

The parson then conducted his wife home, and went up to the Hall to
report Lenny’s safe return; for the squire was very uneasy about him,
and had even in person shared the search. As soon as he heard Lenny
was safe--“Well,” said the squire, “let him go the first thing in the
morning to Rood Hall, to ask Master Leslie’s pardon, and all will be
right and smooth again.”

“A young villain!” cried Frank, with his cheeks the colour of scarlet;
“to strike a gentleman and an Etonian, who had just been to call on me!
But I wonder Randal let him off so well,--any other boy in the sixth
form would have killed him!”

“Frank,” said the parson, sternly, “if we all had our deserts, what
should be done to him who not only lets the sun go down on his own
wrath, but strives with uncharitable breath to fan the dying embers of
another’s?”

The clergyman here turned away from Frank, who bit his lip, and seemed
abashed, while even his mother said not a word in his exculpation; for
when the parson did reprove in that stern tone, the majesty of the
Hall stood awed before the rebuke of the Church. Catching Riccabocca’s
inquisitive eye, Mr. Dale drew aside the philosopher, and whispered to
him his fears that it would be a very hard matter to induce Lenny to beg
Randal Leslie’s pardon, and that the proud stomach of the pattern-boy
would not digest the stocks with as much ease as a long regimen of
philosophy had enabled the sage to do. This conference Miss Jemima soon
interrupted by a direct appeal to the doctor respecting the number of
years (even without any previous and more violent incident) that the
world could possibly withstand its own wear and tear.

“Ma’am,” said the doctor, reluctantly summoned away to look at a passage
in some prophetic periodical upon that interesting subject,--“ma’am,
it is very hard that you should make one remember the end of the world,
since, in conversing with you, one’s natural temptation is to forget its
existence.”

Miss Jemima’s cheeks were suffused with a deeper scarlet than Frank’s
had been a few minutes before. Certainly that deceitful, heartless
compliment justified all her contempt for the male sex; and yet--such is
human blindness--it went far to redeem all mankind in her credulous and
too confiding soul.

“He is about to propose,” sighed Miss Jemima.

“Giacomo,” said Riccabocca, as he drew on his nightcap, and stepped
majestically into the four-posted bed, “I think we shall get that boy
for the garden now!”

Thus each spurred his hobby, or drove her car, round the Hazeldean
whirligig.



CHAPTER XIII.

Whatever, may be the ultimate success of Miss Jemima Hazeldean’s designs
upon Dr. Riccabocca, the Machiavellian sagacity with which the Italian
had counted upon securing the services of Lenny Fairfield was speedily
and triumphantly established by the result. No voice of the parson’s,
charmed he ever so wisely, could persuade the peasant-boy to go and ask
pardon of the young gentleman, to whom, because he had done as he was
bid, he owed an agonizing defeat and a shameful incarceration; and,
to Mrs. Dale’s vexation, the widow took the boy’s part. She was deeply
offended at the unjust disgrace Lenny had undergone in being put in the
stocks; she shared his pride, and openly approved his spirit. Nor was
it without great difficulty that Lenny could be induced to resume his
lessons at school,--nay, even to set foot beyond the precincts of his
mother’s holding. The point of the school at last he yielded, though
sullenly; and the parson thought it better to temporize as to the more
unpalatable demand. Unluckily, Lenny’s apprehensions of the mockery that
awaited him in the merciless world of his village were realized. Though
Stirn at first kept his own counsel the tinker blabbed the whole affair.
And after the search instituted for Lenny on the fatal night, all
attempt to hush up what had passed would have been impossible. So then
Stirn told his story, as the tinker had told his own; both tales were
very unfavourable to Leonard Fairfield. The pattern-boy had broken the
Sabbath, fought with his betters, and been well mauled into the bargain;
the village lad had sided with Stirn and the authorities in spying out
the misdemeanours of his equals therefore Leonard Fairfield, in both
capacities of degraded pattern-boy and baffled spy, could expect no
mercy,--he was ridiculed in the one, and hated in the other.

It is true that, in the presence of the schoolmaster and under the eye
of Mr. Dale, no one openly gave vent to malignant feelings; but the
moment those checks were removed, popular persecution began.

Some pointed and mowed at him, some cursed him for a sneak, and all
shunned his society; voices were heard in the hedgerows, as he passed
through the village at dusk, “Who was put into the stocks?--baa!” “Who
got a bloody nob for playing spy to Nick Stirn?--baa!” To resist this
species of aggression would have been a vain attempt for a wiser head
and a colder temper than our poor pattern-boy’s. He took his resolution
at once, and his mother approved it; and the second or third day after
Dr. Riccabocca’s return to the Casino, Lenny Fairfield presented himself
on the terrace with a little bundle in his hand. “Please, sir,” said he
to the doctor, who was sitting cross-legged on the balustrade, with his
red silk umbrella over his head,--“please, sir, if you’ll be good enough
to take me now, and give me any hole to sleep in, I’ll work for
your honour night and day; and as for wages, Mother says, ‘just suit
yourself, sir.’”

“My child,” said the doctor, taking Lenny by the hand, and looking at
him with the sagacious eye of a wizard, “I knew you would come! and
Giacomo is already prepared for you! As to wages, we’ll talk of them by
and by.”

Lenny being thus settled, his mother looked for some evenings on the
vacant chair, where he had so long sat in the place of her beloved
Mark; and the chair seemed so comfortless and desolate, thus left all to
itself, that she could bear it no longer.

Indeed the village had grown as distasteful to her as to Lenny,--perhaps
more so; and one morning she hailed the steward as he was trotting his
hog-maued cob beside the door, and bade him tell the squire that “she
would take it very kind if he would let her off the six months’ notice
for the land and premises she held; there were plenty to step into the
place at a much better rent.”

“You’re a fool,” said the good-natured steward; “and I’m very glad you
did not speak to that fellow Stirn instead of to me. You’ve been doing
extremely well here, and have the place, I may say, for nothing.”

“Nothin’ as to rent, sir, but a great deal as to feelin’,” said the
widow. “And now Lenny has gone to work with the foreign gentleman, I
should like to go and live near him.”

“Ah, yes, I heard Lenny had taken himself off to the Casino, more fool
he; but, bless your heart, ‘t is no distance,--two miles or so. Can’t he
come home every night after work?”

“No, sir,” exclaimed the widow, almost fiercely; “he sha’n’t come home
here, to be called bad names and jeered at!--he whom my dead good man
was so fond and proud of. No, sir; we poor folks have our feelings, as
I said to Mrs. Dale, and as I will say to the squire hisself. Not that
I don’t thank him for all favours,--he be a good gentleman if let alone;
but he says he won’t come near us till Lenny goes and axes pardin.
Pardin for what, I should like to know? Poor lamb! I wish you could ha’
seen his nose, sir,--as big as your two fists. Ax pardin! if the squire
had had such a nose as that, I don’t think it’s pardin he’d been ha’
axing. But I let the passion get the better of me,--I humbly beg you’ll
excuse it, sir. I’m no schollard, as poor Mark was, and Lenny would have
been, if the Lord had not visited us otherways. Therefore just get the
squire to let me go as soon as may be; and as for the bit o’ hay and
what’s on the grounds and orchard, the new comer will no doubt settle
that.”

The steward, finding no eloquence of his could induce the widow
to relinquish her resolution, took her message to the squire. Mr.
Hazeldean, who was indeed really offended at the boy’s obstinate refusal
to make the amende honorable to Randal Leslie, at first only bestowed a
hearty curse or two on the pride and ingratitude both of mother and son.
It may be supposed, however, that his second thoughts were more gentle,
since that evening, though he did not go himself to the widow, he sent
his “Harry.” Now, though Harry was sometimes austere and brusque
enough on her own account, and in such business as might especially be
transacted between herself and the cottagers, yet she never appeared as
the delegate of her lord except in the capacity of a herald of peace and
mediating angel. It was with good heart, too, that she undertook
this mission, since, as we have seen, both mother and son were great
favourites of hers. She entered the cottage with the friendliest beam
in her bright blue eye, and it was with the softest tone of her
frank cordial voice that she accosted the widow. But she was no more
successful than the steward had been. The truth is, that I don’t believe
the haughtiest duke in the three kingdoms is really so proud as your
plain English rural peasant, nor half so hard to propitiate and deal
with when his sense of dignity is ruffled. Nor are there many of my own
literary brethren (thin-skinned creatures though we are) so sensitively
alive to the Public Opinion, wisely despised by Dr. Riccabocca, as that
same peasant. He can endure a good deal of contumely sometimes, it is
true, from his superiors (though, thank Heaven! that he rarely meets
with unjustly); but to be looked down upon and mocked and pointed at by
his own equals--his own little world--cuts him to the soul. And if you
can succeed in breaking this pride and destroying this sensitiveness,
then he is a lost being. He can never recover his self-esteem, and
you have chucked him half-way--a stolid, inert, sullen victim--to the
perdition of the prison or the convict-ship.

Of this stuff was the nature both of the widow and her son. Had the
honey of Plato flowed from the tongue of Mrs. Hazeldean, it could not
have turned into sweetness the bitter spirit upon which it descended.
But Mrs. Hazeldean, though an excellent woman, was rather a bluff,
plain-spoken one; and after all she had some little feeling for the son
of a gentleman, and a decayed, fallen gentleman, who, even by Lenny’s
account, had been assailed without any intelligible provocation; nor
could she, with her strong common-sense, attach all the importance which
Mrs. Fairfield did to the unmannerly impertinence of a few young cubs,
which she said truly, “would soon die away if no notice was taken of
it.” The widow’s mind was made up, and Mrs. Hazeldean departed,--with
much chagrin and some displeasure.

Mrs. Fairfield, however, tacitly understood that the request she had
made was granted, and early one morning her door was found locked, the
key left at a neighbour’s to be given to the steward; and, on further
inquiry, it was ascertained that her furniture and effects had been
removed by the errand cart in the dead of the night. Lenny had succeeded
in finding a cottage on the road-side, not far from the Casino; and
there, with a joyous face, he waited to welcome his mother to breakfast,
and show how he had spent the night in arranging her furniture.

“Parson!” cried the squire, when all this news came upon him, as he was
walking arm in arm with Mr. Dale to inspect some proposed improvement in
the Almshouse, “this is all your fault. Why did you not go and talk to
that brute of a boy and that dolt of a woman? You’ve got ‘soft sawder
enough,’ as Frank calls it in his new-fashioned slang.”

“As if I had not talked myself hoarse to both!” said the parson, in a
tone of reproachful surprise at the accusation. “But it was in vain!
O Squire, if you had taken my advice about the stocks,--‘quieta non
movere’!”

“Bother!” said the squire. “I suppose I am to be held up as a tyrant,
a Nero, a Richard the Third, or a Grand Inquisitor, merely for having
things smart and tidy! Stocks indeed! Your friend Rickeybockey said he
was never more comfortable in his life,--quite enjoyed sitting there.
And what did not hurt Rickeybockey’s dignity (a very gentlemanlike
man he is, when he pleases) ought to be no such great matter to Master
Leonard Fairfield. But ‘t is no use talking! What’s to be done now? The
woman must not starve; and I’m sure she can’t live out of Rickeybockey’s
wages to Lenny,--by the way, I hope he don’t board the boy upon his
and Jackeymo’s leavings: I hear they dine upon newts and sticklebacks,
faugh! I’ll tell you what, Parson, now I think of it, at the back of the
cottage which she has taken there are some fields of capital land just
vacant. Rickeybockey wants to have ‘em, and sounded me as to the rent
when he was at the Hall. I only half promised him the refusal. And he
must give up four or five acres of the best land round the cottage to
the widow--just enough for her to manage--and she can keep a dairy.
If she want capital, I’ll lend her some in your name,--only don’t tell
Stirn; and as for the rent--we’ll talk of that when we see how she gets
on, thankless, obstinate jade that she is! You see,” added the squire,
as if he felt there was some apology due for this generosity to an
object whom he professed to consider so ungrateful, “her husband was a
faithful servant, and so--I wish you would not stand there staring me
out of countenance, but go down to the woman at once, or Stirn will
have let the land to Rickeybockey, as sure as a gun. And hark ye, Dale,
perhaps you can contrive, if the woman is so cursedly stiffbacked, not
to say the land is mine, or that it is any favour I want to do her--or,
in short, manage it as you can for the best.” Still even this charitable
message failed. The widow knew that the land was the squire’s, and worth
a good L3 an acre. “She thanked him humbly for that and all favours; but
she could not afford to buy cows, and she did not wish to be beholden
to any one for her living. And Lenny was well off at Mr. Rickeybockey’s,
and coming on wonderfully in the garden way, and she did not doubt she
could get some washing; at all events, her haystack would bring in a
good bit of money, and she should do nicely, thank their honours.”

Nothing further could be done in the direct way, but the remark about
the washing suggested some mode of indirectly benefiting the widow;
and a little time afterwards, the sole laundress in that immediate
neighbourhood happening to die, a hint from the squire obtained from
the landlady of the inn opposite the Casino such custom as she had to
bestow, which at times was not inconsiderable. And what with Lenny’s
wages (whatever that mysterious item might be), the mother and son
contrived to live without exhibiting any of those physical signs of fast
and abstinence which Riccabocca and his valet gratuitously afforded to
the student in animal anatomy.



CHAPTER XIV.

Of all the wares and commodities in exchange and barter, wherein so
mainly consists the civilization of our modern world, there is not one
which is so carefully weighed, so accurately measured, so plumbed and
gauged, so doled and scraped, so poured out in minima and balanced with
scruples,--as that necessary of social commerce called “an apology”! If
the chemists were half so careful in vending their poisons, there would
be a notable diminution in the yearly average of victims to arsenic and
oxalic acid. But, alas! in the matter of apology, it is not from the
excess of the dose, but the timid, niggardly, miserly manner in which
it is dispensed, that poor Humanity is hurried off to the Styx! How many
times does a life depend on the exact proportions of an apology! Is it
a hairbreadth too short to cover the scratch for which you want it? Make
your will,--you are a dead man! A life do I say?--a hecatomb of lives!
How many wars would have been prevented, how many thrones would be
standing, dynasties flourishing, commonwealths brawling round a bema,
or fitting out galleys for corn and cotton, if an inch or two more
of apology had been added to the proffered ell! But then that plaguy,
jealous, suspicious, old vinegar-faced Honour, and her partner Pride--as
penny-wise and pound-foolish a she-skinflint as herself--have the
monopoly of the article. And what with the time they lose in adjusting
their spectacles, hunting in the precise shelf for the precise quality
demanded, then (quality found) the haggling as to quantum,--considering
whether it should be Apothecary’s weight or Avoirdupois, or English
measure or Flemish,--and, finally, the hullabuloo they make if the
customer is not perfectly satisfied with the monstrous little he gets
for his money, I don’t wonder, for my part, how one loses temper
and patience, and sends Pride, Honour, and Apology all to the devil.
Aristophanes, in his comedy of “Peace,” insinuates a beautiful allegory
by only suffering that goddess, though in fact she is his heroine, to
appear as a mute. She takes care never to open her lips. The shrewd
Greek knew very well that she would cease to be Peace, if she once began
to chatter. Wherefore, O reader, if ever you find your pump under the
iron heel of another man’s boot, Heaven grant that you may hold your
tongue, and not make things past all endurance and forgiveness by
bawling out for an apology!



CHAPTER XV.

But the squire and his son, Frank, were large-hearted generous creatures
in the article of apology, as in all things less skimpingly dealt out.
And seeing that Leonard Fairfield would offer no plaster to Randal
Leslie, they made amends for his stinginess by their own prodigality.
The squire accompanied his son to Rood Hall, and none of the family
choosing to be at home, the squire in his own hand, and from his own
head, indited and composed an epistle which might have satisfied all the
wounds which the dignity of the Leslies had ever received.

This letter of apology ended with a hearty request that Randal would
come and spend a few days with his son. Frank’s epistle was to the same
purport, only more Etonian and less legible.

It was some days before Randal’s replies to these epistles were
received. The replies bore the address of a village near London; and
stated that the writer was now reading with a tutor preparatory to
entrance to Oxford, and could not, therefore, accept the invitation
extended to him.

For the rest, Randal expressed himself with good sense, though not with
much generosity. He excused his participation in the vulgarity of such a
conflict by a bitter, but short allusion to the obstinacy and ignorance
of the village boor; and did not do what you, my kind reader, certainly
would have done under similar circumstances,--namely, intercede in
behalf of a brave and unfortunate antagonist. Most of us like a foe
better after we have fought him,--that is, if we are the conquering
party; this was not the case with Randal Leslie. There, so far as the
Etonian was concerned, the matter rested. And the squire, irritated that
he could not repair whatever wrong that young gentleman had sustained,
no longer felt a pang of regret as he passed by Mrs. Fairfield’s
deserted cottage.



CHAPTER XVI.

Lenny Fairfield continued to give great satisfaction to his new
employers, and to profit in many respects by the familiar kindness with
which he was treated. Riccabocca, who valued himself on penetrating into
character, had from the first seen that much stuff of no common quality
and texture was to be found in the disposition and mind of the English
village boy. On further acquaintance, he perceived that, under a child’s
innocent simplicity, there were the workings of an acuteness that
required but development and direction. He ascertained that the
pattern-boy’s progress at the village school proceeded from something
more than mechanical docility and readiness of comprehension. Lenny had
a keen thirst for knowledge, and through all the disadvantages of birth
and circumstance, there were the indications of that natural genius
which converts disadvantages themselves into stimulants. Still, with
the germs of good qualities lay the embryos of those which, difficult to
separate, and hard to destroy, often mar the produce of the soil. With
a remarkable and generous pride in self-repute, there was some
stubbornness; with great sensibility to kindness, there was also strong
reluctance to forgive affront.

This mixed nature in an uncultivated peasant’s breast interested
Riccabocca, who, though long secluded from the commerce of mankind,
still looked upon man as the most various and entertaining volume which
philosophical research can explore. He soon accustomed the boy to the
tone of a conversation generally subtle and suggestive; and Lenny’s
language and ideas became insensibly less rustic and more refined.
Then Riccabocca selected from his library, small as it was, books that,
though elementary, were of a higher cast than Lenny could have found
within his reach at Hazeldean. Riccabocca knew the English language
well,--better in grammar, construction, and genius than many a not
ill-educated Englishman; for he had studied it with the minuteness with
which a scholar studies a dead language, and amidst his collection he
had many of the books which had formerly served him for that purpose.
These were the first works he lent to Lenny. Meanwhile Jackeymo imparted
to the boy many secrets in practical gardening and minute husbandry,
for at that day farming in England (some favoured counties and
estates excepted) was far below the nicety to which the art has been
immemorially carried in the north of Italy,--where, indeed, you may
travel for miles and miles as through a series of market-gardens; so
that, all these things considered, Leonard Fairfield might be said to
have made a change for the better. Yet, in truth, and looking below the
surface, that might be fair matter of doubt. For the same reason which
had induced the boy to fly his native village, he no longer repaired to
the church of Hazeldean. The old intimate intercourse between him and
the parson became necessarily suspended, or bounded to an occasional
kindly visit from the latter,--visits which grew more rare and less
familiar, as he found his former pupil in no want of his services, and
wholly deaf to his mild entreaties to forget and forgive the past, and
come at least to his old seat in the parish church. Lenny still went to
church,--a church a long way off in another parish,--but the sermons did
not do him the same good as Parson Dale’s had done; and the clergyman,
who had his own flock to attend to, did not condescend, as Parson Dale
would have done, to explain what seemed obscure, and enforce what was
profitable, in private talk, with that stray lamb from another’s fold.

Now I question much if all Dr. Riccabocca’s maxims, though they were
often very moral and generally very wise, served to expand the peasant
boy’s native good qualities, and correct his bad, half so well as the
few simple words, not at all indebted to Machiavelli, which Leonard had
once reverently listened to when he stood by Mark’s elbow-chair, yielded
up for the moment to the good parson, worthy to sit in it; for Mr. Dale
had a heart in which all the fatherless of the parish found their place.
Nor was this loss of tender, intimate, spiritual lore so counterbalanced
by the greater facilities for purely intellectual instruction as modern
enlightenment might presume. For, without disputing the advantage of
knowledge in a general way, knowledge, in itself, is not friendly
to content. Its tendency, of course, is to increase the desires, to
dissatisfy us with what is, in order to urge progress to what may be;
and in that progress, what unnoticed martyrs among the many must fall
baffled and crushed by the way! To how large a number will be given
desires they will never realize, dissatisfaction of the lot from which
they will never rise! Allons! one is viewing the dark side of the
question. It is all the fault of that confounded Riccabocca, who has
already caused Lenny Fairfield to lean gloomily on his spade, and, after
looking round and seeing no one near him, groan out querulously,--“And
am I born to dig a potato ground?”

Pardieu, my friend Lenny, if you live to be seventy, and ride in your
carriage, and by the help of a dinner-pill digest a spoonful of curry,
you may sigh to think what a relish there was in potatoes, roasted in
ashes after you had digged them out of that ground with your own stout
young hands. Dig on, Lenny Fairfield, dig on! Dr. Riccabocca will
tell you that there was once an illustrious personage--[The Emperor
Diocletian]--who made experience of two very different occupations,--one
was ruling men, the other was planting cabbages; he thought planting
cabbages much the pleasanter of the two!



CHAPTER XVIL

Dr. Riccabocca had secured Lenny Fairfield, and might therefore
be considered to have ridden his hobby in the great whirligig with
adroitness and success. But Miss Jemima was still driving round in her
car, handling the reins, and flourishing the whip, without apparently
having got an inch nearer to the flying form of Dr. Riccabocca.

Indeed, that excellent and only too susceptible spinster, with all her
experience of the villany of man, had never conceived the wretch to be
so thoroughly beyond the reach of redemption as when Dr. Riccabocca took
his leave, and once more interred himself amidst the solitudes of the
Casino, and without having made any formal renunciation of his criminal
celibacy. For some days she shut herself up in her own chamber, and
brooded with more than her usual gloomy satisfaction on the certainty
of the approaching crash. Indeed, many signs of that universal calamity,
which, while the visit of Riccabocca lasted, she had permitted herself
to consider ambiguous, now became luminously apparent. Even the
newspaper, which during that credulous and happy period had given half a
column to Births and Marriages, now bore an ominously long catalogue of
Deaths; so that it seemed as if the whole population had lost heart, and
had no chance of repairing its daily losses. The leading article spoke,
with the obscurity of a Pythian, of an impending CRISIS. Monstrous
turnips sprouted out from the paragraphs devoted to General News. Cows
bore calves with two heads, whales were stranded in the Humber, showers
of frogs descended in the High Street of Cheltenham.

All these symptoms of the world’s decrepitude and consummation, which by
the side of the fascinating Riccabocca might admit of some doubt as to
their origin and cause, now, conjoined with the worst of all, namely,
the frightfully progressive wickedness of man,--left to Miss Jemima
no ray of hope save that afforded by the reflection that she could
contemplate the wreck of matter without a single sentiment of regret.

Mrs. Dale, however, by no means shared the despondency of her fair
friend, and having gained access to Miss Jemima’s chamber, succeeded,
though not without difficulty, in her kindly attempts to cheer the
drooping spirits of that female misanthropist. Nor, in her benevolent
desire to speed the car of Miss Jemima to its hymeneal goal, was Mrs.
Dale so cruel towards her male friend, Dr. Riccabocca, as she seemed to
her husband. For Mrs. Dale was a woman of shrewdness and penetration, as
most quick-tempered women are; and she knew that Miss Jemima was one
of those excellent young ladies who are likely to value a husband in
proportion to the difficulty of obtaining him. In fact, my readers of
both sexes must often have met, in the course of their experience, with
that peculiar sort of feminine disposition, which requires the warmth of
the conjugal hearth to develop all its native good qualities; nor is
it to be blamed overmuch if, innocently aware of this tendency in
its nature, it turns towards what is best fitted for its growth and
improvement, by laws akin to those which make the sunflower turn to
the sun, or the willow to the stream. Ladies of this disposition,
permanently thwarted in their affectionate bias, gradually languish
away into intellectual inanition, or sprout out into those abnormal
eccentricities which are classed under the general name of “oddity” or
“character.” But once admitted to their proper soil, it is astonishing
what healthful improvement takes place,--how the poor heart, before
starved and stinted of nourishment, throws out its suckers, and bursts
into bloom and fruit. And thus many a belle from whom the beaux have
stood aloof, only because the puppies think she could be had for the
asking, they see afterwards settled down into true wife and fond mother,
with amaze at their former disparagement, and a sigh at their blind
hardness of heart.

In all probability Mrs. Dale took this view of the subject; and
certainly, in addition to all the hitherto dormant virtues which would
be awakened in Miss Jemima when fairly Mrs. Riccabocca, she counted
somewhat upon the mere worldly advantage which such a match would bestow
upon the exile. So respectable a connection with one of the oldest,
wealthiest, and most popular families in the shire would in itself give
him a position not to be despised by a poor stranger in the land; and
though the interest of Miss Jemima’s dowry might not be much, regarded
in the light of English pounds (not Milanese lire), still it would
suffice to prevent that gradual process of dematerialization which the
lengthened diet upon minnows and sticklebacks had already made apparent
in the fine and slow-evanishing form of the philosopher.

Like all persons convinced of the expediency of a thing, Mrs. Dale saw
nothing wanting but opportunities to insure its success. And that these
might be forthcoming she not only renewed with greater frequency, and
more urgent instance than ever, her friendly invitations to Riccabocca
to drink tea and spend the evening, but she so artfully chafed the
squire on his sore point of hospitality, that the doctor received weekly
a pressing solicitation to dine and sleep at the Hall.

At first the Italian pished and grunted, and said Cospetto, and
Per Bacco, and Diavolo, and tried to creep out of so much proffered
courtesy. But like all single gentlemen, he was a little under the
tyrannical influence of his faithful servant; and Jackeymo, though he
could bear starving as well as his master when necessary, still, when
he had the option, preferred roast beef and plum-pudding. Moreover, that
vain and incautious confidence of Riccabocca touching the vast sum at
his command, and with no heavier drawback than that of so amiable a
lady as Miss Jemima--who had already shown him (Jackeymo) many little
delicate attentions--had greatly whetted the cupidity which was in
the servant’s Italian nature,--a cupidity the more keen because, long
debarred its legitimate exercise on his own mercenary interests, he
carried it all to the account of his master’s!

Thus tempted by his enemy and betrayed by his servant, the unfortunate
Riccabocca fell, though with eyes not unblinded, into the hospitable
snares extended for the destruction of his--celibacy! He went often
to the Parsonage, often to the Hall, and by degrees the sweets of
the social domestic life, long denied him, began to exercise their
enervating charm upon the stoicism of our poor exile. Frank had now
returned to Eton. An unexpected invitation had carried off Captain
Higginbotham to pass a few weeks at Bath with a distant relation, who
had lately returned from India, and who, as rich as Creesus, felt
so estranged and solitary in his native isle that, when the captain
“claimed kindred there,” to his own amaze “he had his claims allowed;”
 while a very protracted sitting of parliament still delayed in London
the squire’s habitual visitors during the later summer; so that--a
chasm thus made in his society--Mr. Hazeldean welcomed with no hollow
cordiality the diversion or distraction he found in the foreigner’s
companionship. Thus, with pleasure to all parties, and strong hopes to
the two female conspirators, the intimacy between the Casino and Hall
rapidly thickened; but still not a word resembling a distinct proposal
did Dr. Riccabocca breathe. And still, if such an idea obtruded itself
on his mind, it was chased therefrom with so determined a Diavolo that
perhaps, if not the end of the world, at least the end of Miss Jemima’s
tenure in it, might have approached and seen her still Miss Jemima, but
for a certain letter with a foreign postmark that reached the doctor one
Tuesday morning.



CHAPTER XVIII.

The servant saw that something had gone wrong, and, under pretence of
syringing the orange-trees, he lingered near his master, and peered
through the sunny leaves upon Riccabocca’s melancholy brows.

The doctor sighed heavily. Nor did he, as was his wont after some such
sigh, mechanically take up that dear comforter the pipe. But though
the tobacco-pouch lay by his side on the balustrade, and the pipe stood
against the wall between his knees, childlike lifting up its lips to the
customary caress, he heeded neither the one nor the other, but laid the
letter silently on his lap, and fixed his eyes upon the ground.

“It must be bad news indeed!” thought Jackeymo, and desisted from his
work. Approaching his master, he took up the pipe and the tobacco-pouch,
and filled the bowl slowly, glancing all the while towards that dark
musing face on which, when abandoned by the expression of intellectual
vivacity or the exquisite smile of Italian courtesy, the deep downward
lines revealed the characters of sorrow. Jackeymo did not venture to
speak; but the continued silence of his master disturbed him much. He
laid that peculiar tinder which your smokers use upon the steel, and
struck the spark,--still not a word, nor did Riccabocca stretch forth
his hand.

“I never knew him in this taking before,” thought Jackeymo; and
delicately he insinuated the neck of the pipe into the nerveless fingers
of the band that lay supine on those quiet knees. The pipe fell to the
ground.

Jackeymo crossed himself, and began praying to his sainted namesake with
great fervour.

The doctor rose slowly, and as if with effort; he walked once or twice
to and fro the terrace; and then he halted abruptly and said,--

“Friend!”

“Blessed Monsignore San Giacomo, I knew thou wouldst hear me!” cried
the servant; and he raised his master’s hand to his lips, then abruptly
turned away and wiped his eyes.

“Friend,” repeated Riccabocca, and this time with a tremulous emphasis,
and in the softest tone of a voice never wholly without the music of the
sweet South, “I would talk to thee of my child.”



CHAPTER XIX.

“The letter, then, relates to the signorina. She is well?”

“Yes, she is well now. She is in our native Italy.” Jackeymo raised
his eyes involuntarily towards the orange-trees, and the morning breeze
swept by and bore to him the odour of their blossoms.

“Those are sweet even here, with care,” said he, pointing to the trees.
“I think I have said that before to the padrone.”

But Riccabocca was now looking again at the letter, and did not notice
either the gesture or the remark of his servant. “My aunt is no more!”
 said he, after a pause.

“We will pray for her soul!” answered Jackeymo, solemnly. “But she was
very old, and had been a long time ailing. Let it not grieve the padrone
too keenly: at that age, and with those infirmities, death comes as a
friend.”

“Peace be to her dust!” returned the Italian. “If she had her faults,
be they now forgotten forever; and in the hour of my danger and distress
she sheltered my infant! That shelter is destroyed. This letter is from
the priest, her confessor. And the home of which my child is bereaved
falls to the inheritance of my enemy.”

“Traitor!” muttered Jackeymo; and his right hand seemed to feel for
the weapon which the Italians of lower rank often openly wear in their
girdles.

“The priest,” resumed Riccabocca, calmly, “has rightly judged in
removing my child as a guest from the house in which that traitor enters
as lord.”

“And where is the signorina?”

“With the poor priest. See, Giacomo, here, here--this is her handwriting
at the end of the letter,--the first lines she ever yet traced to me.”

Jackeymo took off his hat, and looked reverently on the large characters
of a child’s writing. But large as they were, they seemed indistinct,
for the paper was blistered with the child’s tears; and on the place
where they had not fallen, there was a round fresh moist stain of the
tear that had dropped from the lids of the father. Riccabocca renewed,
“The priest recommends a convent.”

“To the devil with the priest!” cried the servant; then crossing
himself rapidly, he added, “I did not mean that, Monsignore San
Giacomo,--forgive me! But your Excellency does not think of making a nun
of his only child!”

   [The title of Excellency does not, in Italian, necessarily express
   any exalted rank, but is often given by servants to their masters.]

“And yet why not?” said Riccabocca, mournfully; “what can I give her in
the world? Is the land of the stranger a better refuge than the home of
peace in her native clime?”

“In the land of the stranger beats her father’s heart!”

“And if that beat were stilled, what then? Ill fares the life that a
single death can bereave of all. In a convent at least (and the priest’s
influence can obtain her that asylum amongst her equals and amidst her
sex) she is safe from trial and from penury--to her grave!”

“Penury! Just see how rich we shall be when we take those fields at
Michaelmas.”

“Pazzie!”--[Follies]--said Riccabocca, listlessly. “Are these suns more
serene than ours, or the soil more fertile? Yet in our own Italy, saith
the proverb, ‘He who sows land reaps more care than corn.’ It were
different,” continued the father, after a pause, and in a more resolute
tone, “if I had some independence, however small, to count on,--nay,
if among all my tribe of dainty relatives there were but one female who
would accompany Violante to the exile’s hearth,--Ishmael had his Hagar.
But how can we two rough-bearded men provide for all the nameless
wants and cares of a frail female child? And she has been so delicately
reared,--the woman-child needs the fostering hand and tender eye of a
woman.”

“And with a word,” said Jackeymo, resolutely, “the padrone might secure
to his child all that he needs to save her from the sepulchre of a
convent; and ere the autumn leaves fall, she might be sitting on his
knee. Padrone, do not think that you can conceal from me the truth, that
you love your child better than all things in the world,--now the Patria
is as dead to you as the dust of your fathers,--and your heart-strings
would crack with the effort to tear her from them, and consign her to a
convent. Padrone, never again to hear her voice, never again to see her
face! Those little arms that twined round your neck that dark night,
when we fled fast for life and freedom, and you said, as you felt their
clasp, ‘Friend, all is not yet lost.’”

“Giacomo!” exclaimed the father, reproachfully, and his voice seemed to
choke him. Riccabocca turned away, and walked restlessly to and fro
the terrace; then, lifting his arms with a wild gesture, as he still
continued his long irregular strides, he muttered, “Yes, Heaven is my
witness that I could have borne reverse and banishment without a murmur,
had I permitted myself that young partner in exile and privation. Heaven
is my witness that, if I hesitate now, it is because I would not listen
to my own selfish heart. Yet never, never to see her again,--my child!
And it was but as the infant that I beheld her! O friend, friend!” (and,
stopping short with a burst of uncontrollable emotion, he bowed his
head upon his servant’s shoulder), “thou knowest what I have endured
and suffered at my hearth, as in my country; the wrong, the perfidy,
the--the--” His voice again failed him; he clung to his servant’s
breast, and his whole frame shook.

“But your child, the innocent one--think now only of her!” faltered
Giacomo, struggling with his own sobs. “True, only of her,” replied
the exile, raising his face, “only of her. Put aside thy thoughts for
thyself, friend,--counsel me. If I were to send for Violante, and if,
transplanted to these keen airs, she drooped and died--Look, look,
the priest says that she needs such tender care; or if I myself were
summoned from the world, to leave her in it alone, friendless, homeless,
breadless perhaps, at the age of woman’s sharpest trial against
temptation, would she not live to mourn the cruel egotism that closed on
her infant innocence the gates of the House of God?”

Jackeymo was appalled by this appeal; and indeed Riccabocca had
never before thus reverently spoken of the cloister. In his hours of
philosophy, he was wont to sneer at monks and nuns, priesthood and
superstition. But now, in that hour of emotion, the Old Religion
reclaimed her empire; and the sceptical world-wise man, thinking only of
his child, spoke and felt with a child’s simple faith.



CHAPTER XX.

“But again I say,” murmured Jackeymo, scarce audibly, and after a long
silence, “if the padrone would make up his mind--to marry!”

He expected that his master would start up in his customary indignation
at such a suggestion,--nay, he might not have been sorry so to have
changed the current of feeling; but the poor Italian only winced
slightly, and mildly withdrawing himself from his servant’s supporting
arm, again paced the terrace, but this time quietly and in silence. A
quarter of an hour thus passed. “Give me the pipe,” said Dr. Riccabocca,
passing into the belvidere.

Jackeymo again struck the spark, and, wonderfully relieved at the
padrone’s return to the habitual adviser, mentally besought his sainted
namesake to bestow a double portion of soothing wisdom on the benignant
influences of the weed.



CHAPTER XXI.

Dr. Riccabocca had been some little time in the solitude of the
belvidere, when Lenny Fairfield, not knowing that his employer was
therein, entered to lay down a book which the doctor had lent him, with
injunctions to leave it on a certain table when done with. Riccabocca
looked up at the sound of the young peasant’s step.

“I beg your honour’s pardon, I did not know--”

“Never mind: lay the book there. I wish to speak with you. You look
well, my child: this air agrees with you as well as that of Hazeldean?”

“Oh, yes, Sir!”

“Yet it is higher ground,--more exposed?”

“That can hardly be, sir,” said Lenny; “there are many plants grow here
which don’t flourish at the squire’s. The hill yonder keeps off the east
wind, and the place lays to the south.”

“Lies, not lays, Lenny. What are the principal complaints in these
parts?”

“Eh, sir?”

“I mean what maladies, what diseases?”

“I never heard tell of any, sir, except the rheumatism.”

“No low fevers, no consumption?”

“Never heard of them, sir.”

Riccabocca drew a long breath, as if relieved. “That seems a very kind
family at the Hall.”

“I have nothing to say against it,” answered Lenny, bluntly. “I have not
been treated justly. But as that book says, sir, ‘It is not every one
who comes into the world with a silver spoon in his mouth.’”

Little thought the doctor that those wise maxims may leave sore thoughts
behind them! He was too occupied with the subject most at his own heart
to think then of what was in Lenny Fairfield’s.

“Yes; a kind, English domestic family. Did you see much of Miss
Hazeldean?”

“Not so much as of the Lady.”

“Is she liked in the village, think you?”

“Miss Jemima? Yes. She never did harm. Her little dog bit me once,--she
did not ask me to beg its pardon, she asked mine! She’s a very nice
young lady; the girls say she is very affable; and,” added Lenny, with a
smile, “there are always more weddings going on when she is down at the
Hall.”

“Oh!” said Riccabocca. Then, after a long whiff, “Did you ever see her
play with the little children? Is she fond of children, do you think?”

“Lord, sir, you guess everything! She’s never so pleased as when she’s
playing with the babies.”

“Humph!” grunted Riccabocca. “Babies! well, that’s woman-like. I don’t
mean exactly babies, but when they’re older,--little girls?”

“Indeed, Sir, I dare say; but,” said Lenny, primly, “I never as yet kept
company with the little girls.”

“Quite right, Lenny; be equally discreet all your life. Mrs. Dale is
very intimate with Miss Hazeldean,--more than with the squire’s lady.
Why is that, think you?”

“Well, sir,” said Leonard, shrewdly, “Mrs. Dale has her little tempers,
though she’s a very good lady; and Madame Hazeldean is rather high, and
has a spirit. But Miss Jemima is so soft: any one could live with Miss
Jemima, as Joe and the servants say at the Hall.”

“Indeed! get my hat out of the parlour, and--just bring a clothes-brush,
Lenny. A fine sunny day for a walk.”

After this most mean and dishonourable inquisition into the character
and popular repute of Miss Hazeldean, Signor Riccabocca seemed as much
cheered up and elated as if he had committed some very noble action;
and he walked forth in the direction of the Hall with a far lighter and
livelier step than that with which he had paced the terrace.

“Monsignore San Giacomo, by thy help and the pipe’s, the padrone shall
have his child!” muttered the servant, looking up from the garden.



CHAPTER XXII.

Yet Dr. Riccabocca was not rash. The man who wants his wedding-garment
to fit him must allow plenty of time for the measure. But from that day,
the Italian notably changed his manner towards Miss Hazeldean. He ceased
that profusion of compliment in which he had hitherto carried off
in safety all serious meaning. For indeed the doctor considered that
compliments to a single gentleman were what the inky liquid it dispenses
is to the cuttle-fish, that by obscuring the water sails away from its
enemy. Neither did he, as before, avoid prolonged conversations with
the young lady, and contrive to escape from all solitary rambles by
her side. On the contrary, he now sought every occasion to be in her
society; and entirely dropping the language of gallantry, he assumed
something of the earnest tone of friendship. He bent down his intellect
to examine and plumb her own. To use a very homely simile, he blew away
that froth which there is on the surface of mere acquaintanceships,
especially with the opposite sex; and which, while it lasts, scarce
allows you to distinguish between small beer and double X. Apparently
Dr. Riccabocca was satisfied with his scrutiny,--at all events under
that froth there was no taste of bitter. The Italian might not find
any great strength of intellect in Miss Jemima, but he found that,
disentangled from many little whims and foibles,--which he had himself
the sense to perceive were harmless enough if they lasted, and not so
absolutely constitutional but what they might be removed by a tender
hand,--Miss Hazeldean had quite enough sense to comprehend the plain
duties of married life; and if the sense could fail, it found a
substitute in good old homely English principles, and the instincts of
amiable, kindly feelings.

I know not how it is, but your very clever man never seems to care so
much as your less gifted mortals for cleverness in his helpmate. Your
scholars and poets and ministers of state are more often than not found
assorted with exceedingly humdrum, good sort of women, and apparently
like them all the better for their deficiencies. Just see how happily
Racine lived with his wife, and what an angel he thought her, and yet
she had never read his plays. Certainly Goethe never troubled the lady
who called him “Mr. Privy Councillor” with whims about “monads,” and
speculations on colour, nor those stiff metaphysical problems on which
one breaks one’s shins in the Second Past of the “Faust.” Probably
it may be that such great geniuses--knowing that, as compared with
themselves, there is little difference between your clever woman and
your humdrum woman--merge at once all minor distinctions, relinquish
all attempts at sympathy in hard intellectual pursuits, and are quite
satisfied to establish that tie which, after all, best resists wear
and tear,--namely, the tough household bond between one human heart and
another.

At all events, this, I suspect, was the reasoning of Dr. Riccabocca,
when one morning, after a long walk with Miss Hazeldean, he muttered to
himself,--

               “Duro con duro
          Non fete mai buon muro,”--

which may bear the paraphrase, “Bricks without mortar would make a very
bad wall.” There was quite enough in Miss Jemima’s disposition to make
excellent mortar: the doctor took the bricks to himself.

When his examination was concluded, our philosopher symbolically evinced
the result he had arrived at by a very simple proceeding on his
part, which would have puzzled you greatly if you had not paused, and
meditated thereon, till you saw all that it implied. Dr. Riccabocca,
took of his spectacles! He wiped them carefully, put them into their
shagreen case, and locked them in his bureau,--that is to say, he left
off wearing his spectacles.

You will observe that there was a wonderful depth of meaning in that
critical symptom, whether it be regarded as a sign outward, positive,
and explicit, or a sign metaphysical, mystical, and esoteric. For, as
to the last, it denoted that the task of the spectacles was over;
that, when a philosopher has made up his mind to marry, it is better
henceforth to be shortsighted--nay, even somewhat purblind--than to
be always scrutinizing the domestic felicity, to which he is about to
resign himself, through a pair of cold, unillusory barnacles. As for the
things beyond the hearth, if he cannot see without spectacles, is he
not about to ally to his own defective vision a good sharp pair of eyes,
never at fault where his interests are concerned? On the other hand,
regarded positively, categorically, and explicitly, Dr. Roccabocca, by
laying aside those spectacles, signified that he was about to commence
that happy initiation of courtship when every man, be he ever so much a
philosopher, wishes to look as young and as handsome as time and nature
will allow. Vain task to speed the soft language of the eyes through the
medium of those glassy interpreters! I remember, for my own part, that
once, on a visit to the town of Adelaide, I--Pisistratus Caxton--was in
great danger of falling in love,--with a young lady, too, who would have
brought me a very good fortune,--when she suddenly produced from her
reticule a very neat pair of No. 4, set in tortoiseshell, and fixing
upon me their Gorgon gaze, froze the astonished Cupid into stone! And
I hold it a great proof of the wisdom of Riccabocca, and of his vast
experience in mankind, that he was not above the consideration of what
your pseudo-sages would have regarded as foppish and ridiculous trifles.
It argued all the better for that happiness which is our being’s end
and aim that in condescending to play the lover, he put those unbecoming
petrifiers under lock and key.

And certainly, now the spectacles were abandoned, it was impossible to
deny that the Italian had remarkably handsome eyes. Even through the
spectacles, or lifted a little above them, they were always bright and
expressive; but without those adjuncts, the blaze was softer and more
tempered: they had that look which the French call veloute, or velvety;
and he appeared altogether ten years younger. If our Ulysses, thus
rejuvenated by his Minerva, has not fully made up his mind to make
a Penelope of Miss Jemima, all I can say is, that he is worse than
Polyphemus, who was only an Anthropophagos,--

He preys upon the weaker sex, and is a Gynopophagite!



CHAPTER XXIII.

“And you commission me, then, to speak to our dear Jemima?” said Mrs.
Dale, joyfully, and without any bitterness whatever in that “dear.”

DR. RICCABOCCA.--“Nay, before speaking to Miss Hazeldean, it would
surely be proper to know how far my addresses would be acceptable to the
family.”

MRS. DALE.--“Ah!”

DR. RICCAROCCA.--“The squire is of course the head of the family.”

MRS. DALE (absent and distraite).--“The squire--yes, very true--quite
proper.” (Then, looking up, and with naivete) “Can you believe me? I
never thought of the squire. And he is such an odd man, and has so many
English prejudices, that really--dear me, how vexatious that it should
never once have occurred to me that Mr. Hazeldean had a voice in the
matter! Indeed, the relationship is so distant, it is not like being her
father; and Jemima is of age, and can do as she pleases; and--but, as
you say, it is quite proper that he should be consulted as the head of
the family.”

DR. RICCASOCCA.--“And you think that the Squire of Hazeldean might
reject my alliance! Pshaw! that’s a grand word indeed,--I mean, that he
might object very reasonably to his cousin’s marriage with a foreigner,
of whom he can know nothing, except that which in all countries is
disreputable, and is said in this to be criminal,--poverty.”

MRS. DALE (kindly)--“You misjudge us poor English people, and you wrong
the squire, Heaven bless him! for we were poor enough when he singled
out my husband from a hundred for the minister of his parish, for his
neighbour and his friend. I will speak to him fearlessly--”

DR. RICCABOCCA.--“And frankly. And now I have used that word, let me
go on with the confession which your kindly readiness, my fair friend,
somewhat interrupted. I said that if I might presume to think my
addresses would be acceptable to Miss Hazeldean and her family, I was
too sensible of her amiable qualities not to--not to--”

MRS. DALE (with demure archness).--“Not to be the happiest of
men,--that’s the customary English phrase, Doctor.”

RICCABOCCA (gallantly).--“There cannot be a better. But,” continued he,
seriously, “I wish it first to be understood that I have--been married
before!”

MRS. DALE (astonished).--“Married before!”

RICCABOCCA.--“And that I have an only child, dear to me,--inexpressibly
dear. That child, a daughter, has hitherto lived abroad; circumstances
now render it desirable that she should make her home with me; and I own
fairly that nothing has so attached me to Miss Hazeldean, nor so induced
my desire for our matrimonial connection, as my belief that she has the
heart and the temper to become a kind mother to my little one.”

MRS. DALE (with feeling and warmth).--“You judge her rightly there.”

RICCABOCCA.--“Now, in pecuniary matters, as you may conjecture from my
mode of life, I have nothing to offer to Miss Hazeldean correspondent
with her own fortune, whatever that may be!”

MRS. DALE.--“That difficulty is obviated by settling Miss Hazeldean’s
fortune on herself, which is customary in such cases.”

Dr. Riccabocca’s face lengthened. “And my child, then?” said he,
feelingly. There was something in that appeal so alien from all sordid
and merely personal mercenary motives, that Mrs. Dale could not have had
the heart to make the very rational suggestion, “But that child is not
Jemima’s, and you may have children by her.”

She was touched, and replied hesitatingly, “But from what you and Jemima
may jointly possess you can save something annually,--you can insure
your life for your child. We did so when our poor child whom we lost was
born” (the tears rushed into Mrs. Dale’s eyes); “and I fear that Charles
still insures his life for my sake, though Heaven knows that--that--”

The tears burst out. That little heart, quick and petulant though
it was, had not a fibre of the elastic muscular tissues which are
mercifully bestowed on the hearts of predestined widows. Dr. Riccabocca
could not pursue the subject of life insurances further. But the
idea--which had never occurred to the foreigner before, though
so familiar with us English people when only possessed of a life
income--pleased him greatly. I will do him the justice to say that he
preferred it to the thought of actually appropriating to himself and to
his child a portion of Miss Hazeldean’s dower.

Shortly afterwards he took his leave, and Mrs. Dale hastened to seek
her husband in his study, inform him of the success of her matrimonial
scheme, and consult him as to the chance of the squire’s acquiescence
therein. “You see,” said she, hesitatingly, “though the squire might be
glad to see Jemima married to some Englishman, yet if he asks who and
what is this Dr. Riccabocca, how am I to answer him?”

“You should have thought of that before,” said Mr. Dale, with unwonted
asperity; “and, indeed, if I had ever believed anything serious could
come out of what seemed to me so absurd, I should long since have
requested you not to interfere in such matters. Good heavens!” continued
the parson, changing colour, “if we should have assisted, underhand as
it were, to introduce into the family of a man to whom we owe so much
a connection that he would dislike, how base we should be, how
ungrateful!”

Poor Mrs. Dale was frightened by this speech, and still more by her
husband’s consternation and displeasure. To do Mrs. Dale justice,
whenever her mild partner was really either grieved or offended, her
little temper vanished,--she became as meek as a lamb. As soon as she
recovered the first shock she experienced, she hastened to dissipate the
parson’s apprehensions. She assured him that she was convinced that, if
the squire disapproved of Riccabocca’s pretensions, the Italian would
withdraw them at once, and Miss Hazeldean would never know of his
proposals. Therefore, in that case, no harm would be done.

This assurance, coinciding with Mr. Dale’s convictions as to
Riccabocca’s scruples on the point of honour, tended much to compose
the good man; and if he did not, as my reader of the gentler sex would
expect from him, feel alarm lest Miss Jemima’s affections should have
been irretrievably engaged, and her happiness thus put in jeopardy by
the squire’s refusal, it was not that the parson wanted tenderness of
heart, but experience in womankind; and he believed, very erroneously,
that Miss Jemima Hazeldean was not one upon whom a disappointment of
that kind would produce a lasting impression. Therefore Mr. Dale, after
a pause of consideration, said kindly,--

“Well, don’t vex yourself,--and I was to blame quite as much as you.
But, indeed, I should have thought it easier for the squire to have
transplanted one of his tall cedars into his kitchen-garden than for you
to inveigle Dr. Riccabocca into matrimonial intentions. But a man who
could voluntarily put himself into the parish stocks for the sake of
experiment must be capable of anything! However, I think it better that
I, rather than yourself, should speak to the squire, and I will go at
once.”



CHAPTER XXIV.

The parson put on the shovel-hat, which--conjoined with other details in
his dress peculiarly clerical, and already, even then, beginning to be
out of fashion with Churchmen--had served to fix upon him emphatically
the dignified but antiquated style and cognomen of “Parson;” and took
his way towards the Home Farm, at which he expected to find the squire.
But he had scarcely entered upon the village green when he beheld Mr.
Hazeldean, leaning both hands on his stick, and gazing intently upon
the parish stocks. Now, sorry am I to say that, ever since the Hegira
of Lenny and his mother, the Anti-Stockian and Revolutionary spirit in
Hazeldean, which the memorable homily of our parson had a while averted
or suspended, had broken forth afresh. For though while Lenny was
present to be mowed and jeered at, there had been no pity for him,
yet no sooner was he removed from the scene of trial than a universal
compassion for the barbarous usage he had received produced what is
called “the reaction of public opinion.” Not that those who had mowed
and jeered repented them of their mockery, or considered themselves in
the slightest degree the cause of his expatriation. No; they, with the
rest of the villagers, laid all the blame upon the stocks. It was not to
be expected that a lad of such exemplary character could be thrust into
that place of ignominy, and not be sensible to the affront. And who, in
the whole village, was safe, if such goings-on and puttings-in were
to be tolerated in silence, and at the expense of the very best and
quietest lad the village had ever known? Thus, a few days after
the widow’s departure, the stocks was again the object of midnight
desecration: it was bedaubed and bescratched, it was hacked and hewed,
it was scrawled over with pithy lamentations for Lenny, and laconic
execrations on tyrants. Night after night new inscriptions appeared,
testifying the sarcastic wit and the vindictive sentiment of the parish.
And perhaps the stocks was only spared from axe and bonfire by the
convenience it afforded to the malice of the disaffected: it became the
Pasquin of Hazeldean.

As disaffection naturally produces a correspondent vigour in authority,
so affairs had been lately administered with greater severity than had
been hitherto wont in the easy rule of the squire and his predecessors.
Suspected persons were naturally marked out by Mr. Stirn, and reported
to his employer, who, too proud or too pained to charge them openly with
ingratitude, at first only passed them by in his walks with a silent and
stiff inclination of his head; and afterwards, gradually yielding to the
baleful influence of Stirn, the squire grumbled forth “that he did
not see why he should be always putting himself out of his way to show
kindness to those who made such a return. There ought to be a difference
between the good and the bad.” Encouraged by this admission, Stirn had
conducted himself towards the suspected parties, and their whole kith
and kin, with the iron-handed justice that belonged to his character.
For some, habitual donations of milk from the dairy and vegetables from
the gardens were surlily suspended; others were informed that their pigs
were always trespassing on the woods in search of acorns, or that they
were violating the Game Laws in keeping lurchers. A beer-house,
popular in the neighbourhood, but of late resorted to over-much by the
grievance-mongers (and no wonder, since they had become the popular
party), was threatened with an application to the magistrates for
the withdrawal of its license. Sundry old women, whose grandsons were
notoriously ill-disposed towards the stocks, were interdicted from
gathering dead sticks under the avenues, on pretence that they broke
down the live boughs; and, what was more obnoxious to the younger
members of the parish than most other retaliatory measures, three
chestnut-trees, one walnut, and two cherry-trees, standing at the bottom
of the Park, and which had, from time immemorial, been given up to the
youth of Hazeldean, were now solemnly placed under the general defence
of “private property.” And the crier had announced that, henceforth, all
depredators on the fruit trees in Copse Hollow would be punished with
the utmost rigour of the law. Stirn, indeed, recommended much more
stringent proceedings than all these indications of a change of policy,
which, he averred, would soon bring the parish to its senses,--such as
discontinuing many little jobs of unprofitable work that employed the
surplus labour of the village. But there the squire, falling into the
department and under the benigner influence of his Harry, was as yet not
properly hardened. When it came to a question that affected the absolute
quantity of loaves to be consumed by the graceless mouths that fed
upon him, the milk of human kindness--with which Providence has so
bountifully supplied that class of the mammalia called the “Bucolic,”
 and of which our squire had an extra “yield”--burst forth, and washed
away all the indignation of the harsher Adam.

Still your policy of half-measures, which irritates without crushing
its victims, which flaps an exasperated wasp-nest with a silk
pocket-handkerchief, instead of blowing it up with a match and train,
is rarely successful; and after three or four other and much guiltier
victims than Lenny had been incarcerated in the stocks, the parish
of Hazeldean was ripe for any enormity. Pestilent Jacobinical tracts,
conceived and composed in the sinks of manufacturing towns, found their
way into the popular beer-house,--Heaven knows how, though the tinker
was suspected of being the disseminator by all but Stirn, who still, in
a whisper, accused the Papishers. And, finally, there appeared amongst
the other graphic embellishments which the poor stocks had received,
the rude gravure of a gentleman in a broad-brimmed hat and top-boots,
suspended from a gibbet, with the inscription beneath, “A warnin to hall
tirans--mind your hi!--sighnde Captin sTraw.”

It was upon this significant and emblematic portraiture that the
squire was gazing when the parson joined him. “Well, Parson,” said Mr.
Hazeldean, with a smile which he meant to be pleasant and easy,
but which was exceedingly bitter and grim, “I wish you joy of your
flock,--you see they have just hanged me in effigy!”

The parson stared, and though greatly shocked, smothered his emotion;
and attempted, with the wisdom of the serpent and the mildness of the
dove, to find another original for the effigy.

“It is very bad,” quoth he, “but not so bad as all that, Squire; that’s
not the shape of your bat. It is evidently meant for Mr. Stirn.”

“Do you think so?” said the squire, softened. “Yet the top-boots--Stirn
never wears top-boots.”

“No more do you, except in the hunting-field. If you look again, those
are not tops, they are leggings,--Stirn wears leggings. Besides, that
flourish, which is meant for a nose, is a kind of hook, like Stirn’s;
whereas your nose--though by no means a snub--rather turns up than not,
as the Apollo’s does, according to the plaster cast in Riccabocca’s
parlour.”

“Poor Stirn!” said the squire, in a tone that evinced complacency, not
unmingled with compassion, “that’s what a man gets in this world by
being a faithful servant, and doing his duty with zeal for his employer.
But you see things have come to a strange pass, and the question now
is, what course to pursue. The miscreants hitherto have defied all
vigilance, and Stirn recommends the employment of a regular nightwatch,
with a lanthorn and bludgeon.”

“That may protect the stocks certainly; but will it keep those
detestable tracts out of the beer-house?”

“We shall shut the beer-house up the next sessions.”

“The tracts will break out elsewhere,--the humour’s in the blood!”

“I’ve half a mind to run off to Brighton or Leamingtongood hunting at
Leamington--for a year, just to let the rogues see how they can get on
without me!”

The squire’s lip trembled.

“My dear Mr. Hazeldean,” said the parson, taking his friend’s hand,
“I don’t want to parade my superior wisdom; but, if you had taken my
advice, ‘quieta non movere!’ Was there ever a parish so peaceable
as this, or a country gentleman so beloved as you were, before you
undertook the task which has dethroned kings and ruined States,--that
of wantonly meddling with antiquity, whether for the purpose of
uncalled-for repairs, or the revival of obsolete uses.”

At this rebuke, the squire did not manifest his constitutional
tendencies to choler; but he replied almost meekly, “If it were to do
again, faith, I would leave the parish to the enjoyment of the shabbiest
pair of stocks that ever disgraced a village. Certainly I meant it for
the best,--an ornament to the green; however, now the stocks is rebuilt,
the stocks must be supported. Will Hazeldean is not the man to give way
to a set of thankless rapscallions.”

“I think,” said the parson, “that you will allow that the House
of Tudor, whatever its faults, was a determined, resolute dynasty
enough,--high-hearted and strong-headed. A Tudor would never have fallen
into the same calamities as the poor Stuart did!”

“What the plague has the House of Tudor got to do with my stocks?”

“A great deal. Henry VIII. found a subsidy so unpopular that he gave it
up; and the people, in return, allowed him to cut off as many heads as
he pleased, besides those in his own family. Good Queen Bess, who, I
know, is your idol in history--”

“To be sure!--she knighted my ancestor at Tilbury Fort.”

“Good Queen Bess struggled hard to maintain a certain monopoly; she saw
it would not do, and she surrendered it with that frank heartiness which
becomes a sovereign, and makes surrender a grace.”

“Ha! and you would have me give up the stocks?”

“I would much rather the stocks had remained as it was before
you touched it; but, as it is, if you could find a good plausible
pretext--and there is an excellent one at hand,--the sternest kings open
prisons, and grant favours, upon joyful occasions. Now a marriage in the
royal family is of course a joyful occasion! and so it should be in
that of the King of Hazeldean.” Admire that artful turn in the parson’s
eloquence!--it was worthy of Riccabocca himself. Indeed, Mr. Dale had
profited much by his companionship with that Machiavellian intellect.

“A marriage,--yes; but Frank has only just got into coattails!”

“I did not allude to Frank, but to your cousin Jemima!”



CHAPTER XXV.

The squire staggered as if the breath had been knocked out of him, and,
for want of a better seat, sat down on the stocks. All the female heads
in the neighbouring cottages peered, themselves unseen, through the
casements. What could the squire be about? What new mischief did he
meditate? Did he mean to fortify the stocks? Old Gaffer Solomons, who
had an indefinite idea of the lawful power of squires, and who had been
for the last ten minutes at watch on his threshold, shook his head and
said, “Them as a cut out the mon a hanging, as a put it in the squire’s
head!”

“Put what?” asked his grand-daughter.

“The gallus!” answered Solomons,--“he be a going to have it hung from
the great elfin-tree. And the parson, good mon, is a quoting Scripter
agin it; you see he’s a taking off his gloves, and a putting his two
han’s together, as he do when he pray for the sick, Jeany.”

That description of the parson’s mien and manner, which with his usual
niceness of observation, Gaffer Solomons thus sketched off, will convey
to you some idea of the earnestness with which the parson pleaded the
cause he had undertaken to advocate. He dwelt much upon the sense of
propriety which the foreigner had evinced in requesting that the squire
might be consulted before any formal communication to his cousin; and
he repeated Mrs. Dale’s assurance, that such were Riccabocca’s high
standard of honour and belief in the sacred rights of hospitality, that,
if the squire withheld his consent to his proposals, the parson
was convinced that the Italian would instantly retract them. Now,
considering that Miss Hazeldean was, to say the least, come to years of
discretion, and the squire had long since placed her property entirely
at her own disposal, Mr. Hazeldean was forced to acquiesce in the
parson’s corollary remark, “That this was a delicacy which could not be
expected from every English pretender to the lady’s hand.” Seeing that
he had so far cleared the ground, the parson went on to intimate, though
with great tact, that since Miss Jemima would probably marry sooner or
later (and, indeed, that the squire could not wish to prevent her), it
might be better for all parties concerned that it should be with some
one who, though a foreigner, was settled in the neighbourhood, and of
whose character what was known was certainly favourable, rather than
run the hazard of her being married for her money by some adventurer, or
Irish fortune-hunter, at the watering-places she yearly visited. Then he
touched lightly on Riccabocca’s agreeable and companionable qualities;
and concluded with a skilful peroration upon the excellent occasion the
wedding would afford to reconcile Hall and parish, by making a voluntary
holocaust of the stocks.

As he concluded, the squire’s brow, before thoughtful, though not
sullen, cleared up benignly. To say truth, the squire was dying to get
rid of the stocks, if he could but do so handsomely and with dignity;
and had all the stars in the astrological horoscope conjoined together
to give Miss Jemima “assurance of a husband,” they could not so have
served her with the squire as that conjunction between the altar and the
stocks which the parson had effected!

Accordingly, when Mr. Dale had come to an end, the squire replied, with
great placidity and good sense, “That Mr. Rickeybockey had behaved very
much like a gentleman, and that he was very much obliged to him; that he
[the squire] had no right to interfere in the matter, further than with
his advice; that Jemima was old enough to choose for herself, and that,
as the parson had implied, after all she might go farther and fare
worse,--indeed, the farther she went (that is, the longer she waited)
the worse she was likely to fare. I own, for my part,” continued the
squire, “that though I like Rickeybockey very much, I never suspected
that Jemima was caught with his long face; but there’s no accounting for
tastes. My Harry, indeed, was more shrewd, and gave me many a hint, for
which I only laughed at her. Still I ought to have thought it looked
queer when Mounseer took to disguising himself by leaving off his
glasses, ha, ha! I wonder what Harry will say; let’s go and talk to
her.”

The parson, rejoiced at this easy way of taking the matter, hooked his
arm into the squire’s, and they walked amicably towards the Hall. But
on coming first into the gardens they found Mrs. Hazeldean herself,
clipping dead leaves or fading flowers from her rose-trees. The squire
stole slyly behind her, and startled her in her turn by putting his arm
round her waist, and saluting her smooth cheek with one of his hearty
kisses; which, by the way, from some association of ideas, was a
conjugal freedom that he usually indulged whenever a wedding was going
on in the village.

“Fie, William!” said Mrs. Hazeldean, coyly, and blushing as she saw the
parson. “Well, who’s going to be married now?”

“Lord! was there ever such a woman?--she’s guessed it!” cried the
squire, in great admiration. “Tell her all about it, Parson.”

The parson obeyed.

Mrs. Hazeldean, as the reader may suppose, showed much less surprise
than her husband had done; but she took the news graciously, and made
much the same answer as that which had occurred to the squire, only with
somewhat more qualification and reserve. “Signor Riccabocca had behaved
very handsomely; and though a daughter of the Hazeldeans of Hazeldean
might expect a much better marriage in a worldly point of view, yet
as the lady in question had deferred finding one so long, it would be
equally idle and impertinent now to quarrel with her choice,--if indeed
she should decide on accepting Signor Riccabocca. As for fortune, that
was a consideration for the two contracting parties. Still, it ought,
to be pointed out to Miss Jemima that the interest of her fortune would
afford but a very small income. That Dr. Riccabocca was a widower was
another matter for deliberation; and it seemed rather suspicious that he
should have been hitherto so close upon all matters connected with his
former life. Certainly his manners were in his favour, and as long as he
was merely an acquaintance, and at most a tenant, no one had a right to
institute inquiries of a strictly private nature; but that, when he was
about to marry a Hazeldean of Hazeldean, it became the squire at least
to know a little more about him,--who and what he was. Why did he leave
his own country? English people went abroad to save: no foreigner would
choose England as a country in which to save money! She supposed that
a foreign doctor was no very great things; probably he had been a
professor in some Italian university. At all events, if the squire
interfered at all, it was on such points that he should request
information.”

“My clear madam,” said the parson, “what you say is extremely just. As
to the causes which have induced our friend to expatriate himself, I
think we need not look far for them. He is evidently one of the many
Italian refugees whom political disturbances have driven to a land of
which it is the boast to receive all exiles of whatever party. For his
respectability of birth and family he certainly ought to obtain some
vouchers. And if that be the only objection, I trust we may soon
congratulate Miss Hazeldean on a marriage with a man who, though
certainly very poor, has borne privations without a murmur; has
preferred all hardship to debt; has scorned to attempt betraying the
young lady into any clandestine connection; who, in short, has shown
himself so upright and honest, that I hope my dear Mr. Hazeldean will
forgive him if he is only a doctor--probably of Laws--and not, as most
foreigners pretend to be, a marquis or a baron at least.”

“As to that,” cried the squire, “It is the best thing I know about
Rickeybockey that he don’t attempt to humbug us by any such foreign
trumpery. Thank Heaven, the Hazeldeans of Hazeldean were never
tuft-hunters and title-mongers; and if I never ran after an English
lord, I should certainly be devilishly ashamed of a brother-in-law
whom I was forced to call markee or count! I should feel sure he was
a courier, or runaway valley-de-sham. Turn up your nose at a doctor,
indeed, Harry!--pshaw, good English style that! Doctor! my aunt married
a Doctor of Divinity--excellent man--wore a wig and was made a dean! So
long as Rickeybockey is not a doctor of physic, I don’t care a button.
If he’s that, indeed, it would be suspicious; because, you see, those
foreign doctors of physic are quacks, and tell fortunes, and go about on
a stage with a Merry-Andrew.”

“Lord! Hazeldean, where on earth did you pick up that idea?” said Harry,
laughing.

“Pick it up!--why, I saw a fellow myself at the cattle fair last
year--when I was buying short-horns--with a red waistcoat and a
cocked hat, a little like the parson’s shovel. He called himself
Dr. Phoscophornio, and sold pills. The Merry-Andrew was the funniest
creature, in salmon-coloured tights, turned head over heels, and said he
came from Timbuctoo. No, no: if Rickeybockey’s a physic Doctor, we
shall have Jemima in a pink tinsel dress tramping about the country in a
caravan!”

At this notion both the squire and his wife laughed so heartily that the
parson felt the thing was settled, and slipped away, with the intention
of making his report to Riccabocca.



CHAPTER XXVI.

It was with a slight disturbance of his ordinary suave and well-bred
equanimity that the Italian received the information that he need
apprehend no obstacle to his suit from the insular prejudices or the
worldly views of the lady’s family. Not that he was mean and cowardly
enough to recoil from the near and unclouded prospect of that felicity
which he had left off his glasses to behold with unblinking, naked
eyes,--no, there his mind was made up; but he had met in life with much
that inclines a man towards misanthropy, and he was touched not only by
the interest in his welfare testified by a heretical priest, but by
the generosity with which he was admitted into a well-born and wealthy
family, despite his notorious poverty and his foreign descent. He
conceded the propriety of the only stipulation, which was conveyed
to him by the parson with all the delicacy that became one long
professionally habituated to deal with the subtler susceptibilities of
mankind,--namely, that, amongst Riccabocca’s friends or kindred, some
person should be found whose report would confirm the persuasion of his
respectability entertained by his neighbours,--he assented, I say,
to the propriety of this condition; but it was not with alacrity and
eagerness. His brow became clouded. The parson hastened to assure him
that the squire was not a man qui stupet in titulis,--[“Who was besotted
with titles.”]--that he neither expected nor desired to find an
origin and rank for his brother-in-law above that decent mediocrity
of condition to which it was evident from Riccabocca’s breeding and
accomplishments he could easily establish his claim. “And though,” said
he, smiling, “the squire is a warm politician in his own country, and
would never see his sister again, I fear, if she married some convicted
enemy of our happy constitution, yet for foreign politics he does not
care a straw; so that if, as I suspect, your exile arises from some
quarrel with your government,--which, being foreign, he takes for
granted must be insupportable,--he would but consider you as he would
a Saxon who fled from the iron hand of William the Conqueror, or a
Lancastrian expelled by the Yorkists in our Wars of the Roses.”

The Italian smiled. “Mr. Hazeldean shall be satisfied,” said he, simply.
“I see, by the squire’s newspaper, that an English gentleman who knew me
in my own country has just arrived in London. I will write to him for
a testimonial, at least to my probity and character. Probably he may
be known to you by name,--nay, he must be, for he was a distinguished
officer in the late war. I allude to Lord L’Estrange.”

The parson started.

“You know Lord L’Estrange?--profligate, bad man, I fear.”

“Profligate! bad!” exclaimed Riccabocca. “Well, calumnious as the world
is, I should never have thought that such expressions would be applied
to one who, though I knew him but little,--knew him chiefly by the
service he once rendered to me,--first taught me to love and revere the
English name!”

“He may be changed since--” the parson paused.

“Since when?” asked Riccabocca, with evident curiosity. Mr. Dale seemed
embarrassed. “Excuse me,” said he, “it is many years ago; and in short
the opinion I then formed of the nobleman you named was based upon
circumstances which I cannot communicate.”

The punctilious Italian bowed in silence, but he still looked as if he
should have liked to prosecute inquiry.

After a pause he said, “Whatever your impression respecting Lord
L’Estrange, there is nothing, I suppose, which would lead you to doubt
his honour, or reject his testimonial in my favour?”

“According to fashionable morality,” said Mr. Dale, rather precisely,
“I know of nothing that could induce me to suppose that Lord L’Estrange
would not, in this instance, speak the truth. And he has unquestionably
a high reputation as a soldier, and a considerable position in the
world.” Therewith the parson took his leave. A few days afterwards, Dr.
Riccabocca inclosed to the squire, in a blank envelope, a letter he
had received from Harley L’Estrange. It was evidently intended for
the squire’s eye, and to serve as a voucher for the Italian’s
respectability; but this object was fulfilled, not in the coarse form of
a direct testimonial, but with a tact and delicacy which seemed to show
more than the fine breeding to be expected from one in Lord L’Estrange’s
station. It evinced that most exquisite of all politeness which comes
from the heart; a certain tone of affectionate respect (which even the
homely sense of the squire felt, intuitively, proved far more in favour
of Riccabocca than the most elaborate certificate of his qualities and
antecedents) pervaded the whole, and would have sufficed in itself to
remove all scruples from a mind much more suspicious and exacting than
that of the Squire of Hazeldean. But, to and behold! an obstacle
now occurred to the parson, of which he ought to have thought long
before,--namely, the Papistical religion of the Italian. Dr. Riccabocca
was professedly a Roman Catholic. He so little obtruded that fact--and,
indeed, had assented so readily to any animadversions upon the
superstition and priestcraft which, according to Protestants, are the
essential characteristics of Papistical communities--that it was not
till the hymeneal torch, which brings all faults to light, was fairly
illumined for the altar, that the remembrance of a faith so cast into
the shade burst upon the conscience of the parson. The first idea that
then occurred to him was the proper and professional one,--namely, the
conversion of Dr. Riccabocca. He hastened to his study, took down from
his shelves long neglected volumes of controversial divinity, armed
himself with an arsenal of authorities, arguments, and texts; then,
seizing the shovel-hat, posted off to the Casino.



CHAPTER XXVII.

The parson burst upon the philosopher like an avalanche! He was so full
of his subject that he could not let it out in prudent driblets. No, he
went souse upon the astounded Riccabocca--

                  “Tremendo
          Jupiter ipse rueus tumultu.”

The sage--shrinking deeper into his armchair, and drawing his
dressing-robe more closely round him--suffered the parson to talk for
three quarters of an hour, till indeed he had thoroughly proved his
case; and, like Brutus, “paused for a reply.”

Then said Riccabocca mildly: “In much of what you have urged so ably,
and so suddenly, I am inclined to agree. But base is the man who
formally forswears the creed he has inherited from his fathers, and
professed since the cradle up to years of maturity, when the change
presents itself in the guise of a bribe; when, for such is human nature,
he can hardly distinguish or disentangle the appeal to his reason
from the lure to his interests,--here a text, and there a dowry!--here
Protestantism, there Jemima! Own, my friend, that the soberest casuist
would see double under the inebriating effects produced by so mixing
his polemical liquors. Appeal, my good Mr. Dale, from Philip drunken to
Philip sober!--from Riccabocca intoxicated with the assurance of
your excellent lady, that he is about to be ‘the happiest of men,’ to
Riccabocca accustomed to his happiness, and carrying it off with the
seasoned equability of one grown familiar with stimulants,--in a word,
appeal from Riccabocca the wooer to Riccabocca the spouse. I may be
convertible, but conversion is a slow progress; courtship should be a
quick one,--ask Miss Jemima. Finalmente, marry me first, and convert me
afterwards!”

“You take this too jestingly,” began the parson; “and I don’t see why,
with your excellent understanding, truths so plain and obvious should
not strike you at once.”

“Truths,” interrupted Riccabocca, profoundly, “are the slowest growing
things in the world! It took fifteen hundred years from the date of the
Christian era to produce your own Luther, and then he flung his Bible at
Satan (I have seen the mark made by the book on the wall of his prison
in Germany), besides running off with a nun, which no Protestant
clergyman would think it proper and right to do nowadays.” Then he
added, with seriousness, “Look you, my dear sir, I should lose my
own esteem if I were even to listen to you now with becoming
attention,--now, I say, when you hint that the creed I have professed
may be in the way of my advantage. If so, I must keep the creed and
resign the advantage. But if, as I trust not only as a Christian but a
man of honour, you will defer this discussion, I will promise to listen
to you hereafter; and though, to say truth, I believe that you will not
convert me, I will promise you faithfully never to interfere with my
wife’s religion.”

“And any children you may have?”

“Children!” said Dr. Riccabocca, recoiling; “you are not contented with
firing your pocket-pistol right in my face! you must also pepper me all
over with small shot. Children! well, if they are girls, let them follow
the faith of their mother; and if boys, while in childhood, let them be
contented with learning to be Christians; and when they grow into men,
let them choose for themselves which is the best form for the practice
of the great principles which all sects have in common.”

“But,” began Mr. Dale again, pulling a large book from his pocket.

Dr. Riccabocca flung open the window, and jumped out of it.

It was the rapidest and most dastardly flight you could possibly
conceive; but it was a great compliment to the argumentative powers of
the parson, and he felt it as such. Nevertheless, Mr. Dale thought it
right to have a long conversation, both with the squire and Miss
Jemima herself, upon the subject which his intended convert had so
ignominiously escaped.

The squire, though a great foe to Popery, politically considered, had
also quite as great a hatred to renegades and apostates. And in his
heart he would have despised Riccabocca if he could have thrown off
his religion as easily as he had done his spectacles. Therefore he said
simply, “Well, it is certainly a great pity that Rickeybockey is not of
the Church of England; though, I take it, that would be unreasonable to
expect in a man born and bred under the nose of the Inquisition” (the
squire firmly believed that the Inquisition was in full force in all
the Italian States, with whips, racks, and thumbscrews; and, indeed, his
chief information of Italy was gathered from a perusal he had given
in early youth to “The One-Handed Monk”); “but I think he speaks very
fairly, on the whole, as to his wife and children. And the thing’s
gone too far now to retract. It’s all your fault for not thinking of
it before; and I’ve now just made up my mind as to the course to pursue
respecting the d---d stocks!”

As for Miss Jemima, the parson left her with a pious thanksgiving that
Riccabocca at least was a Christian, and not a Pagan, Mahometan, or Jew!



CHAPTER XXVIII.

There is that in a wedding which appeals to a universal sympathy. No
other event in the lives of their superiors in rank creates an equal
sensation amongst the humbler classes.

From the moment the news that Miss Jemima was to be married had spread
throughout the village, all the old affection for the squire and his
House burst forth the stronger for its temporary suspension. Who could
think of the stocks in such a season? The stocks were swept out of
fashion,--hunted from remembrance as completely as the question of
Repeal or the thought of Rebellion from the warm Irish heart, when the
fair young face of the Royal Wife beamed on the sister isle.

Again cordial courtesies were dropped at the thresholds by which the
squire passed to his own farm; again the sunburned brows uncovered--no
more with sullen ceremony--were smoothed into cheerful gladness at
his nod. Nay, the little ones began again to assemble at their ancient
rendezvous by the stocks, as if either familiarized with the phenomenon,
or convinced that, in the general sentiment of good-will, its powers of
evil were annulled.

The squire tasted once more the sweets of the only popularity which is
much worth having, and the loss of which a wise man would reasonably
deplore,--namely, the popularity which arises from a persuasion of our
goodness, and a reluctance to recall our faults. Like all blessings, the
more sensibly felt from previous interruption, the squire enjoyed this
restored popularity with an exhilarated sense of existence; his stout
heart beat more vigorously; his stalwart step trod more lightly; his
comely English face looked comelier and more English than ever,--you
would have been a merrier man for a week to have come within hearing of
his jovial laugh.

He felt grateful to Jemima and to Riccabocca as the special agents of
Providence in this general integratio amoris. To have looked at him,
you would suppose that it was the squire who was going to be married a
second time to his Harry!

One may well conceive that such would have been an inauspicious moment
for Parson Dale’s theological scruples to have stopped that marriage,
chilled all the sunshine it diffused over the village, seen himself
surrounded again by long sulky visages,--I verily believe, though a
better friend of Church and State never stood on a hustings, that,
rather than court such a revulsion, the squire would have found
jesuitical excuses for the marriage if Riccabocca had been discovered to
be the Pope in disguise! As for the stocks, its fate was now irrevocably
sealed. In short, the marriage was concluded,--first privately,
according to the bridegrooms creed, by a Roman Catholic clergyman, who
lived in a town some miles off, and next publicly in the village church
of Hazeldean.

It was the heartiest rural wedding! Village girls strewed flowers on the
way; a booth was placed amidst the prettiest scenery of the Park on the
margin of the lake--for there was to be a dance later in the day. Even
Mr. Stirn--no, Mr. Stirn was not present; so much happiness would have
been the death of him! And the Papisher too, who had conjured Lenny
out of the stocks nay, who had himself sat in the stocks for the very
purpose of bringing them into contempt,--the Papisher! he had a lief
Miss Jemima had married the devil! Indeed he was persuaded that, in
point of fact, it was all one and the same. Therefore Mr. Stirn had
asked leave to go and attend his uncle the pawnbroker, about to undergo
a torturing operation for the stone! Frank was there, summoned from Eton
for the occasion--having grown two inches taller since he left--for the
one inch of which nature was to be thanked, for the other a new pair of
resplendent Wellingtons. But the boy’s joy was less apparent than that
of others. For Jemima, was a special favourite with him, as she would
have been with all boys,--for she was always kind and gentle, and made
him many pretty presents whenever she came from the watering-places;
and Frank knew that he should miss her sadly, and thought she had made a
very queer choice.

Captain Higginbotham had been invited; but to the astonishment of
Jemima, he had replied to the invitation by a letter to herself, marked
“private and confidential.”

“She must have long known,” said the letter, “of his devoted attachment
to her! motives of delicacy, arising from the narrowness of his income
and the magnanimity of his sentiments, had alone prevented his formal
proposals; but now that he was informed (he could scarcely believe his
senses or command his passions) that her relations wished to force
her into a BARBAROUS marriage with a foreigner of MOST FORBIDDING
APPEARANCE, and most abject circumstances, he lost not a moment in
laying at her feet his own hand and fortune. And he did this the more
confidently, inasmuch as he could not but be aware of Miss Jemima’s
SECRET feelings towards him, while he was proud and happy to say, that
his dear and distinguished cousin, Mr. Sharpe Currie, had honoured
him with a warmth of regard which justified the most brilliant
EXPECTATIONS,--likely to be soon realized, as his eminent relative had
contracted a very bad liver complaint in the service of his country, and
could not last long!”

In all the years they had known each other, Miss Jemima, strange as it
may appear, had never once suspected the captain of any other feelings
to her than those of a brother. To say that she was not gratified by
learning her mistake would be to say that she was more than woman.
Indeed, it must have been a source of no ignoble triumph to think that
she could prove her disinterested affection to her dear Riccabocca by
a prompt rejection of this more brilliant offer. She couched the
rejection, it is true, in the most soothing terms. But the captain
evidently considered himself ill used; he did not reply to the letter,
and did not come to the wedding.

To let the reader into a secret, never known to Miss Jemima, Captain
Higginbotham was much less influenced by Cupid than by Plutus in the
offer he had made. The captain was one of that class of gentlemen who
read their accounts by those corpse-lights, or will-o’-the-wisps, called
expectations. Ever since the squire’s grandfather had left him--then in
short clothes--a legacy of L500, the captain had peopled the future with
expectations! He talked of his expectations as a man talks of shares in
a Tontine; they might fluctuate a little,--be now up and now down,--but
it was morally impossible, if he lived on, but that he should be a
millionnaire one of these days. Now, though Miss Jemima was a good
fifteen years younger than himself, yet she always stood for a good
round sum in the ghostly books of the captain. She was an expectation to
the full amount of her L4000, seeing that Frank was an only child, and
it would be carrying coals to Newcastle to leave him anything.

Rather than see so considerable a cipher suddenly sponged out of his
visionary ledger, rather than so much money should vanish clean out
of the family, Captain Higginbotham had taken what he conceived, if
a desperate, at least a certain, step for the preservation of his
property. If the golden horn could not be had without the heifer, why,
he must take the heifer into the bargain. He had never formed to himself
an idea that a heifer so gentle would toss and fling him over. The blow
was stunning. But no one compassionates the misfortunes of the covetous,
though few perhaps are in greater need of compassion. And leaving poor
Captain Higginbotham to retrieve his illusory fortunes as he best may
among “the expectations” which gathered round the form of Mr. Sharpe
Currie, who was the crossest old tyrant imaginable, and never allowed
at his table any dishes not compounded with rice, which played Old Nick
with the captain’s constitutional functions, I return to the wedding
at Hazeldean, just in time to see the bridegroom--who looked singularly
well on the occasion--hand the bride (who, between sunshiny tears and
affectionate smiles, was really a very interesting and even a pretty
bride, as brides go) into a carriage which the squire had presented to
them, and depart on the orthodox nuptial excursion amidst the blessings
of the assembled crowd.

It may be thought strange by the unreflective that these rural
spectators should so have approved and blessed the marriage of a
Hazeldean of Hazeldean with a poor, outlandish, long-haired foreigner;
but besides that Riccabocca, after all, had become one of the
neighbourhood, and was proverbially “a civil-spoken gentleman,” it is
generally noticeable that on wedding occasions the bride so monopolizes
interest, curiosity, and admiration that the bridegroom himself goes for
little or nothing. He is merely the passive agent in the affair,--the
unregarded cause of the general satisfaction. It was not Riccabocca
himself that they approved and blessed,--it was the gentleman in the
white waistcoat who had made Miss Jemima Madam Rickeybockey!

Leaning on his wife’s arm (for it was a habit of the squire to lean on
his wife’s arm rather than she on his, when he was specially pleased;
and there was something touching in the sight of that strong sturdy
frame thus insensibly, in hours of happiness, seeking dependence on the
frail arm of woman),--leaning, I say, on his wife’s arm, the squire,
about the hour of sunset, walked down to the booth by the lake.

All the parish-young and old, man, woman, and child, were assembled
there, and their faces seemed to bear one family likeness, in the common
emotion which animated all, as they turned to his frank, fatherly smile.
Squire Hazeldean stood at the head of the long table: he filled a horn
with ale from the brimming tankard beside him. Then he looked round,
and lifted his hand to request silence; and ascending the chair, rose
in full view of all. Every one felt that the squire was about to make
a speech, and the earnestness of the attention was proportioned to the
rarity of the event; for (though he was not unpractised in the oratory
of the hustings) only thrice before had the squire made what could
fairly be called “a speech” to the villagers of Hazeldean,--once on a
kindred festive occasion, when he had presented to them his bride;
once in a contested election for the shire, in which he took more than
ordinary interest, and was not quite so sober as he ought to have
been; once in a time of great agricultural distress, when in spite of
reduction of rents, the farmers had been compelled to discard a large
number of their customary labourers, and when the squire had said, “I
have given up keeping the hounds because I want to make a fine piece of
water (that was the origin of the lake), and to drain all the low lands
round the Park. Let every man who wants work come to me!” And that sad
year the parish rates of Hazeldean were not a penny the heavier.

Now, for the fourth time, the squire rose, and thus he spoke,--at his
right hand, Harry; at his left, Frank; at the bottom of the table, as
vice-president, Parson Dale, his little wife behind him, only obscurely
seen. She cried readily, and her handkerchief was already before her
eyes.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE SQUIRE’S SPEECH.

“Friends and neighbours, I thank you kindly for coming round me this
day, and for showing so much interest in me and mine. My cousin was not
born amongst you as I was, but you have known her from a child. It is a
familiar face, and one that never frowned, which you will miss at your
cottage doors, as I and mine will miss it long in the old Hall--”

Here there was a sob from some of the women, and nothing was seen of
Mrs. Dale but the white handkerchief. The squire himself paused, and
brushed away a tear with the back of his hand. Then he resumed, with a
sudden change of voice that was electrical,--

“For we none of us prize a blessing till we have lost it! Now, friends
and neighbours, a little time ago, it seemed as if some ill-will had
crept into the village,--ill-will between you and me, neighbours!--why,
that is not like Hazeldean!”

The audience hung their heads! You never saw people look so thoroughly
ashamed of themselves. The squire proceeded,--

“I don’t say it was all your fault; perhaps it was mine.”

“Noa, noa, noa,” burst forth in a general chorus.

“Nay, friends,” continued the squire, humbly, and in one of those
illustrative aphorisms which, if less subtle than Riccabocca’s, were
more within reach of the popular comprehension,--“nay, we are all human,
and every man has his hobby; sometimes he breaks in the hobby, and
sometimes the hobby, if it is very hard in the mouth, breaks in him.
One man’s hobby has an ill habit of always stopping at the public house!
[Laughter.] Another man’s hobby refuses to stir a peg beyond the door
where some buxom lass patted its neck the week before,--a hobby I rode
pretty often when I went courting my good wife here! [Much laughter and
applause.] Others have a lazy hobby that there’s no getting on; others,
a runaway hobby that there’s no stopping: but to cut the matter short,
my favourite hobby, as you well know, is always trotted out to any place
on my property which seems to want the eye and hand of the master. I
hate,” cried the squire, warming, “to see things neglected and decayed,
and going to the dogs! This land we live in is a good mother to us, and
we can’t do too much for her. It is very true, neighbours, that I owe
her a good many acres, and ought to speak well of her; but what then? I
live amongst you, and what I take from the rent with one hand, I divide
amongst you with the other. [Low but assenting murmurs.] Now the more I
improve my property, the more mouths it feeds. My great-grandfather kept
a Field-book in which were entered not only the names of all the farmers
and the quantity of land they held, but the average number of the
labourers each employed. My grandfather and father followed his example:
I have done the same. I find, neighbours, that our rents have doubled
since my great-grandfather began to make the book. Ay,--but there are
more than four times the number of labourers employed on the estate, and
at much better wages too! Well, my men, that says a great deal in favour
of improving property, and not letting it go to the dogs. [Applause.]
And therefore, neighbours, you will kindly excuse my bobby: it carries
grist to your mill. [Reiterated applause.] Well, but you will say,
‘What’s the squire driving at?’ Why this, my friends: There was only one
worn-out, dilapidated, tumble-down thing in the parish of Hazeldean, and
it became an eyesore to me; so I saddled my hobby, and rode at it. Oh,
ho! you know what I mean now! Yes, but, neighbours, you need not have
taken it so to heart. That was a scurvy trick of some of you to hang me
in effigy, as they call it.”

“It warn’t you,” cried a voice in the crowd, “it war Nick Stirn.”

The squire recognized the voice of the tinker; but though he now guessed
at the ringleader, on that day of general amnesty he had the prudence
and magnanimity not to say, “Stand forth, Sprott: thou art the man.”
 Yet his gallant English spirit would not suffer him to come off at the
expense of his servant.

“If it was Nick Stirn you meant,” said he, gravely, “more shame for you.
It showed some pluck to hang the master; but to hang the poor servant,
who only thought to do his duty, careless of what ill-will it brought
upon him, was a shabby trick,--so little like the lads of Hazeldean,
that I suspect the man who taught it to them was never born in the
parish. But let bygones be bygones. One thing is clear,--you don’t take
kindly to my new pair of stocks! The stocks has been a stumbling-block
and a grievance, and there’s no denying that we went on very pleasantly
without it. I may also say that, in spite of it, we have been coming
together again lately. And I can’t tell you what good it did me to see
your children playing again on the green, and your honest faces, in
spite of the stocks, and those diabolical tracts you’ve been reading
lately, lighted up at the thought that something pleasant was going on
at the Hall. Do you know, neighbours, you put me in mind of an old story
which, besides applying to the parish, all who are married, and all who
intend to marry, will do well to recollect. A worthy couple, named John
and Joan, had lived happily together many a long year, till one unlucky
day they bought a new bolster. Joan said the bolster was too hard, and
John that it was too soft. So, of course, they quarrelled. After sulking
all day, they agreed to put the bolster between them at night.” (Roars
of laughter amongst the men; the women did not know which way to look,
except, indeed, Mrs. Hazeldean, who, though she was more than usually
rosy, maintained her innocent genial smile, as much as to say, “There
is no harm in the squire’s jests.”) The orator resumed, “After they had
thus lain apart for a little time, very silent and sullen, John sneezed.
‘God bless you!’ says Joan, over the bolster. ‘Did you say God bless
me?’ cries John, ‘then here goes the bolster!’”

Prolonged laughter and tumultuous applause.

“Friends and neighbours,” said the squire, when silence was restored,
and lifting the horn of ale, “I have the pleasure to inform you that I
have ordered the stocks to be taken down, and made into a bench for
the chimney-nook of our old friend Gaffer Solomons yonder. But mind me,
lads, if ever you make the parish regret the loss of the stocks, and
the overseers come to me with long faces, and say, ‘The stocks must
be rebuilded,’ why--” Here from all the youth of the village rose so
deprecating a clamour, that the squire would have been the most burgling
orator in the world, if he said a word further on the subject. He
elevated the horn over his head--“Why, that’s my old Hazeldean again!
Health and long life to you all!”

The tinker had sneaked out of the assembly, and did not show his face in
the village for the next six months. And as to those poisonous tracts,
in spite of their salubrious labels, “The Poor Man’s Friend,” or “The
Rights of Labour,” you could no more have found one of them lurking in
the drawers of the kitchen dressers in Hazeldean than you would have
found the deadly nightshade on the flower-stands in the drawing-room of
the Hall. As for the revolutionary beerhouse, there was no need to apply
to the magistrates to shut it up,--it shut itself up before the week was
out.

O young head of the great House of Hapsburg, what a Hazeldean you might
have made of Hungary! What a “Moriamur pro rege nostro!” would have rung
in your infant reign,--if you had made such a speech as the squire’s!



BOOK FOURTH.



INITIAL CHAPTER.

COMPRISING MR. CAXTON’S OPINIONS ON THE MATRIMONIAL STATE, SUPPORTED BY
LEARNED AUTHORITIES.

“It was no bad idea of yours, Pisistratus,” said my father, graciously,
“to depict the heightened affections and the serious intention of Signor
Riccabocca by a single stroke,--He left of his spectacles! Good.”

“Yet,” quoth my uncle, “I think Shakspeare represents a lover as falling
into slovenly habits, neglecting his person, and suffering his hose to
be ungartered, rather than paying that attention to his outer man which
induces Signor Riccabocca to leave off his spectacles, and look as
handsome as nature will permit him.”

“There are different degrees and many phases of the passion,” replied
my father. “Shakspeare is speaking of an ill-treated, pining, woe-begone
lover, much aggrieved by the cruelty of his mistress,--a lover who has
found it of no avail to smarten himself up, and has fallen despondently
into the opposite extreme. Whereas Signor Riccabocca has nothing to
complain of in the barbarity of Miss Jemima.”

“Indeed he has not!” cried Blanche, tossing her head,--“forward
creature!”

“Yes, my dear,” said my mother, trying her best to look stately, “I am
decidedly of opinion that, in that respect, Pisistratus has lowered the
dignity of the sex. Not intentionally,” added my mother, mildly, and
afraid she had said something too bitter; “but it is very hard for a man
to describe us women.”

The captain nodded approvingly; Mr. Squills smiled; my father quietly
resumed the thread of his discourse.

“To continue,” quoth he. “Riccabocca has no reason to despair of success
in his suit, nor any object in moving his mistress to compassion. He
may, therefore, very properly tie up his garters and leave off his
spectacles. What do you say, Mr. Squills?--for, after all, since
love-making cannot fail to be a great constitutional derangement, the
experience of a medical man must be the best to consult.”

“Mr. Caxton,” replied Squills, obviously flattered, “you are quite
right: when a man makes love, the organs of self-esteem and desire
of applause are greatly stimulated, and therefore, of course, he sets
himself off to the best advantage. It is only, as you observe, when,
like Shakspeare’s lover, he has given up making love as a bad job, and
has received that severe hit on the ganglions which the cruelty of a
mistress inflicts, that he neglects his personal appearance: he neglects
it, not because he is in love, but because his nervous system is
depressed. That was the cause, if you remember, with poor Major Prim.
He wore his wig all awry when Susan Smart jilted him; but I set it right
for him.”

“By shaming Miss Smart into repentance, or getting him a new
sweetheart?” asked my uncle.

“Pooh!” answered Squills, “by quinine and cold bathing.”

“We may therefore grant,” renewed my father, “that, as a general rule,
the process of courtship tends to the spruceness, and even foppery, of
the individual engaged in the experiment, as Voltaire has very prettily
proved somewhere. Nay, the Mexicans, indeed, were of opinion that the
lady at least ought to continue those cares of her person even after
marriage. There is extant, in Sahagun’s ‘History of New Spain,’ the
advice of an Aztec or Mexican mother to her daughter, in which she says,
‘That your husband may not take you in dislike, adorn yourself, wash
yourself, and let your garments be clean.’ It is true that the good lady
adds, ‘Do it in moderation; since if every day you are washing yourself
and your clothes, the world will say that you are over-delicate; and
particular people will call you--TAPETZON TINEMAXOCH!’ What those words
precisely mean,” added my father, modestly, “I cannot say, since I
never had the opportunity to acquire the ancient Aztec language,--but
something very opprobrious and horrible, no doubt.”

“I dare say a philosopher like Signor Riccabocca,” said my uncle, “was
not himself very tapetzon tine--what d’ ye call it?--and a good healthy
English wife, that poor affectionate Jemima, was thrown away upon him.”

“Roland,” said my father, “you don’t like foreigners; a respectable
prejudice, and quite natural in a man who has been trying his best to
hew them in pieces and blow them up into splinters. But you don’t like
philosophers either,--and for that dislike you have no equally good
reason.”

“I only implied that they are not much addicted to soap and water,” said
my uncle.

“A notable mistake. Many great philosophers have been very great beaux.
Aristotle was a notorious fop. Buffon put on his best laced ruffles
when he sat down to write, which implies that he washed his hands first.
Pythagoras insists greatly on the holiness of frequent ablutions; and
Horace--who, in his own way, was as good a philosopher as any the Romans
produced--takes care to let us know what a neat, well-dressed, dapper
little gentleman he was. But I don’t think you ever read the ‘Apology’
of Apuleius?”

“Not I; what is it about?” asked the captain.

“About a great many things. It is that Sage’s vindication from several
malignant charges,--amongst others, and principally indeed, that of
being much too refined and effeminate for a philosopher. Nothing
can exceed the rhetorical skill with which he excuses himself for
using--tooth-powder. ‘Ought a philosopher,’ he exclaims, ‘to allow
anything unclean about him, especially in the mouth,--the mouth, which
is the vestibule of the soul, the gate of discourse, the portico of
thought! Ah, but AEmilianus [the accuser of Apuleius] never opens
his mouth but for slander and calumny,--tooth-powder would indeed be
unbecoming to him! Or, if he use any, it will not be my good Arabian
tooth powder, but charcoal and cinders. Ay, his teeth should be as foul
as his language! And yet even the crocodile likes to have his teeth
cleaned; insects get into them, and, horrible reptile though he be,
he opens his jaws inoffensively to a faithful dentistical bird, who
volunteers his beak for a toothpick.’”

My father was now warm in the subject he had started, and soared
miles away from Riccabocca and “My Novel.” “And observe,” he
exclaimed,--“observe with what gravity this eminent Platonist pleads
guilty to the charge of having a mirror. ‘Why, what,’ he exclaims, ‘more
worthy of the regards of a human creature than his own image’ nihil
respectabilius homini quam formam suam! Is not that one of our children
the most dear to us who is called ‘the picture of his father’? But take
what pains you will with a picture, it can never be so like you as
the face in your mirror! Think it discreditable to look with proper
attention on one’s self in the glass! Did not Socrates recommend such
attention to his disciples,--did he not make a great moral agent of
the speculum? The handsome, in admiring their beauty therein, were
admonished that handsome is who handsome does; and the more the ugly
stared at themselves, the more they became naturally anxious to hide the
disgrace of their features in the loveliness of their merits. Was not
Demosthenes always at his speculum? Did he not rehearse his causes
before it as before a master in the art? He learned his eloquence from
Plato, his dialectics from Eubulides; but as for his delivery--there, he
came to the mirror!

“Therefore,” concluded Mr. Caxton, returning unexpectedly to the
subject,--“therefore, it is no reason to suppose that Dr. Riccabocca
is averse to cleanliness and decent care of the person because he is a
philosopher; and, all things considered, he never showed himself more a
philosopher than when he left off his spectacles and looked his best.”

“Well,” said my mother, kindly, “I only hope it may turn out happily.
But I should have been better pleased if Pisistratus had not made Dr.
Riccabocca so reluctant a wooer.”

“Very true,” said the captain; “the Italian does not shine as a lover.
Throw a little more fire into him, Pisistratus,--something gallant and
chivalrous.”

“Fire! gallantry! chivalry!” cried my father, who had taken Riccabocca
under his special protection; “why, don’t you see that the man
is described as a philosopher?--and I should like to know when a
philosopher ever plunged into matrimony without considerable misgivings
and cold shivers! Indeed, it seems that--perhaps before he was a
philosopher--Riccabocca had tried the experiment, and knew what it
was. Why, even that plain-speaking, sensible, practical man, Metellus
Numidicus, who was not even a philosopher, but only a Roman censor,
thus expressed himself in an exhortation to the people to perpetrate
matrimony: ‘If, O Quirites, we could do without wives, we should all
dispense with that subject of care _ea molestia careremus;_ but since
nature has so managed it that we cannot live with women comfortably, nor
without them at all, let us rather provide for the human race than our
own temporary felicity.’”

Here the ladies set up such a cry of indignation, that both Roland and
myself endeavoured to appease their wrath by hasty assurances that we
utterly repudiated the damnable doctrine of Metellus Numidicus.

My father, wholly unmoved, as soon as a sullen silence was established,
recommenced. “Do not think, ladies,” said he, “that you were without
advocates at that day: there were many Romans gallant enough to blame
the censor for a mode of expressing himself which they held to be
equally impolite and injudicious. ‘Surely,’ said they, with some
plausibility, if Numidicus wished men to marry, he need not have
referred so peremptorily to the disquietudes of the connection, and thus
have made them more inclined to turn away from matrimony than give them
a relish for it.’ But against these critics one honest man (whose name
of Titus Castricius should not be forgotten by posterity) maintained
that Metellus Numidicus could not have spoken more properly; ‘For
remark,’ said he, ‘that Metellus was a censor, not a rhetorician. It
becomes rhetoricians to adorn and disguise and make the best of things;
but Metellus, sanctus vir,--a holy and blameless man, grave and sincere
to wit, and addressing the Roman people in the solemn capacity of
Censor,--was bound to speak the plain truth, especially as he was
treating of a subject on which the observation of every day, and the
experience of every life, could not leave the least doubt upon the mind
of his audience.’ Still, Riccabocca, having decided to marry, has no
doubt prepared himself to bear all the concomitant evils--as becomes a
professed sage; and I own I admire the art with which Pisistratus has
drawn the kind of woman most likely to suit a philosopher--”

Pisistratus bows, and looks round complacently; but recoils from two
very peevish and discontented faces feminine.

MR. CAXTON (completing his sentence).--“Not only as regards mildness
of temper and other household qualifications, but as regards the
very person of the object of his choice. For you evidently remember,
Pisistratus, the reply of Bias, when asked his opinion on marriage:
[Long sentence in Greek]”

Pisistratus tries to look as if he had the opinion of Bias by heart, and
nods acquiescingly.

MR. CAXTON.--“That is, my dears, ‘The woman you would marry is either
handsome or ugly: if handsome, she is koine,--namely, you don’t have
her to yourself; if ugly, she is poine,--that is, a fury.’ But, as it
is observed in Aulus Gellius (whence I borrow this citation), there is a
wide interval between handsome and ugly. And thus Ennius, in his tragedy
of ‘Menalippus,’ uses an admirable expression to designate women of the
proper degree of matrimonial comeliness, such as a philosopher would
select. He calls this degree stata forma,--a rational, mediocre sort of
beauty, which is not liable to be either koine or poine. And Favorinus,
who was a remarkably sensible man, and came from Provence--the male
inhabitants of which district have always valued themselves on their
knowledge of love and ladies--calls this said stata forma the beauty of
wives,--the uxorial beauty. Ennius says that women of a stata forma are
almost always safe and modest. Now, Jemima, you observe, is described as
possessing this stata forma; and it is the nicety of your observation in
this respect, which I like the most in the whole of your description of
a philosopher’s matrimonial courtship, Pisistratus (excepting only the
stroke of the spectacles), for it shows that you had properly considered
the opinion of Bias, and mastered all the counter logic suggested in
Book v., chapter xi., of Aulus Gellius.”

“For all that,” said Blanche, half archly, half demurely, with a smile
in the eye and a pout of the lip, “I don’t remember that Pisistratus, in
the days when he wished to be most complimentary, ever assured me that I
had a stata forma,--a rational, mediocre sort of beauty.”

“And I think,” observed my uncle, “that when he comes to his real
heroine, whoever she may be, he will not trouble his head much about
either Bias or Aulus Gellius.”



CHAPTER II.

Matrimony is certainly a great change in life. One is astonished not to
find a notable alteration in one’s friend, even if he or she have been
only wedded a week. In the instance of Dr. and Mrs. Riccabocca the
change was peculiarly visible. To speak first of the lady, as in
chivalry bound, Mrs. Riccabocca had entirely renounced that melancholy
which had characterized Miss Jemima; she became even sprightly and gay,
and looked all the better and prettier for the alteration. She did not
scruple to confess honestly to Mrs. Dale that she was now of opinion
that the world was very far from approaching its end. But, in the
meanwhile, she did not neglect the duty which the belief she had
abandoned serves to inculcate,--“She set her house in order.” The cold
and penurious elegance that had characterized the Casino disappeared
like enchantment,--that is, the elegance remained, but the cold and
penury fled before the smile of woman. Like Puss-in-Boots, after
the nuptials of his master, Jackeymo only now caught minnows and
sticklebacks for his own amusement. Jackeymo looked much plumper, and
so did Riccabocca. In a word, the fair Jemima became an excellent wife.
Riccabocca secretly thought her extravagant, but, like a wise man,
declined to look at the house bills, and ate his joint in unreproachful
silence.

Indeed there was so much unaffected kindness in the nature of Mrs.
Riccabocca--beneath the quiet of her manner there beat so genially
the heart of the Hazeldeans--that she fairly justified the favourable
anticipations of Mrs. Dale. And though the doctor did not noisily
boast of his felicity, nor, as some new married folks do, thrust it
insultingly under the nimis unctis naribus,--the turned-up noses of
your surly old married folks,--nor force it gaudily and glaringly on
the envious eyes of the single, you might still see that he was a more
cheerful and light-hearted man than before. His smile was less
ironical, his politeness less distant. He did not study Machiavelli so
intensely,--and he did not return to the spectacles; which last was an
excellent sign. Moreover, the humanizing influence of the tidy English
wife might be seen in the improvement of his outward or artificial man.
His clothes seemed to fit him better; indeed, the clothes were new. Mrs.
Dale no longer remarked that the buttons were off the wristbands, which
was a great satisfaction to her. But the sage still remained faithful to
the pipe, the cloak, and the red silk umbrella. Mrs. Riccabocca had (to
her credit be it spoken) used all becoming and wife-like arts against
these three remnants of the old bachelor, Adam, but in vain. “Anima
mia,” [Soul of mine]--said the doctor, tenderly, “I hold the cloak, the
umbrella, and the pipe as the sole relics that remain to me of my native
country. Respect and spare them.”

Mrs. Riccabocca was touched, and had the good sense to perceive that
man, let him be ever so much married, retains certain signs of his
ancient independence,--certain tokens of his old identity, which a wife,
the most despotic, will do well to concede. She conceded the cloak,
she submitted to the umbrella, she overcame her abhorrence of the pipe.
After all, considering the natural villany of our sex, she confessed to
herself that she might have been worse off. But through all the calm
and cheerfulness of Riccabocca, a nervous perturbation was sufficiently
perceptible; it commenced after the second week of marriage; it went on
increasing, till one bright sunny afternoon, as he was standing on his
terrace, gazing down upon the road, at which Jackeymo was placed, lo, a
stage-coach stopped! The doctor made a bound, and put both hands to his
heart as if he had been shot; he then leaped over the balustrade, and
his wife from her window beheld him flying down the hill, with his long
hair streaming in the wind, till the trees hid him from her sight.

“Ah,” thought she, with a natural pang of conjugal jealousy, “henceforth
I am only second in his home. He has gone to welcome his child!” And at
that reflection Mrs. Riccabocca shed tears.

But so naturally amiable was she, that she hastened to curb her emotion,
and efface as well as she could the trace of a stepmother’s grief. When
this was done, and a silent, self-rebuking prayer murmured over, the
good woman descended the stairs with alacrity, and summoning up her best
smiles, emerged on the terrace.

She was repaid; for scarcely had she come into the open air, when two
little arms were thrown around her, and the sweetest voice that ever
came from a child’s lips sighed out in broken English, “Good mamma, love
me a little.”

“Love you? with my whole heart!” cried the stepmother, with all a
mother’s honest passion. And she clasped the child to her breast.

“God bless you, my wife!” said Riccabocca, in a husky tone.

“Please take this too,” added Jackeymo, in Italian, as well as his sobs
would let him, and he broke off a great bough full of blossoms from his
favourite orange-tree, and thrust it into his mistress’s hand. She had
not the slightest notion what he meant by it!



CHAPTER III.

Violante was indeed a bewitching child,--a child to whom I defy Mrs.
Caudle herself (immortal Mrs. Caudle!) to have been a harsh stepmother.

Look at her now, as released from those kindly arms, she stands, still
clinging with one hand to her new mamma, and holding out the other to
Riccabocca, with those large dark eyes swimming in happy tears. What a
lovely smile! what an ingenuous, candid brow! She looks delicate, she
evidently requires care, she wants the mother. And rare is the woman
who would not love her the better for that! Still, what an innocent,
infantine bloom in those clear, smooth cheeks! and in that slight frame,
what exquisite natural grace!

“And this, I suppose, is your nurse, darling?” said Mrs. Riccabocca,
observing a dark, foreign-looking woman, dressed very strangely,
without cap or bonnet, but a great silver arrow stuck in her hair, and a
filigree chain or necklace resting upon her kerchief.

“Ah, good Annetta,” said Violante, in Italian. “Papa, she says she is to
go back; but she is not to go back, is she?”

Riccabocca, who had scarcely before noticed the woman, started at that
question, exchanged a rapid glance with Jackeymo, and then, muttering
some inaudible excuse, approached the nurse, and, beckoning her to
follow him, went away into the grounds. He did not return for more than
an hour, nor did the woman then accompany him home. He said briefly to
his wife that the nurse was obliged to return at once to Italy, and that
she would stay in the village to catch the mail; that indeed she would
be of no use in their establishment, as she could not speak a word
of English; that he was sadly afraid Violante would pine for her. And
Violante did pine at first. But still, to a child it is so great a thing
to find a parent, to be at home, that, tender and grateful as Violante
was, she could not be inconsolable while her father was there to
comfort.

For the first few days, Riccabocca scarcely permitted any one to be with
his daughter but himself. He would not even leave her alone with
his Jemima. They walked out together,--sat together for hours in the
belvidere. Then by degrees he began to resign her more and more to
Jemima’s care and tuition, especially in English, of which language at
present she spoke only a few sentences (previously, perhaps, learned by
heart) so as to be clearly intelligible.



CHAPTER IV.

There was one person in the establishment of Dr. Riccabocca who was
satisfied neither with the marriage of his master nor the arrival of
Violante,--and that was our friend Lenny Fairfield. Previous to the
all-absorbing duties of courtship, the young peasant had secured a very
large share of Riccabocca’s attention. The sage had felt interest in the
growth of this rude intelligence struggling up to light. But what with
the wooing and what with the wedding, Lenny Fairfield had sunk very
much out of his artificial position as pupil into his natural station
of under-gardener. And on the arrival of Violante, he saw, with natural
bitterness, that he was clean forgotten, not only by Riccabocca, but
almost by Jackeymo. It was true that the master still lent him books,
and the servant still gave him lectures on horticulture. But Riccabocca
had no time nor inclination now to amuse himself with enlightening that
tumult of conjecture which the books created. And if Jackeymo had been
covetous of those mines of gold buried beneath the acres now fairly
taken from the squire (and good-naturedly added rent-free, as an aid to
Jemima’s dower), before the advent of the young lady whose future dowry
the produce was to swell, now that she was actually under the eyes of
the faithful servant, such a stimulus was given to his industry that he
could think of nothing else but the land, and the revolution he designed
to effect in its natural English crops. The garden, save only the
orangetrees, was abandoned entirely to Lenny, and additional labourers
were called in for the field work. Jackeymo had discovered that one part
of the soil was suited to lavender, that another would grow camomile. He
had in his heart apportioned a beautiful field of rich loam to flax;
but against the growth of flax the squire set his face obstinately.
That most lucrative, perhaps, of all crops when soil and skill suit, was
formerly attempted in England much more commonly than it is now, since
you will find few old leases do not contain a clause prohibitory of
flax as an impoverishment of the land. And though Jackeymo learnedly
endeavoured to prove to the squire that the flax itself contained
particles which, if returned to the soil, repaid all that the crop took
away, Mr. Hazeldean had his old-fashioned prejudices on the matter,
which were insuperable. “My forefathers,” quoth he, “did not put that
clause in their leases without good cause; and as the Casino lands are
entailed on Frank, I have no right to gratify your foreign whims at his
expense.”

To make up for the loss of the flax, Jackeymo resolved to convert a very
nice bit of pasture into orchard ground, which he calculated would bring
in L10 net per acre by the time Miss Violante was marriageable. At this
the squire pished a little; but as it was quite clear that the land
would be all the more valuable hereafter for the fruit-trees, he
consented to permit the “grass-land” to be thus partially broken up.

All these changes left poor Lenny Fairfield very much to himself,--at
a time when the new and strange devices which the initiation into
book knowledge creates made it most desirable that he should have the
constant guidance of a superior mind.

One evening after his work, as Lenny was returning to his mother’s
cottage, very sullen and very moody, he suddenly came in contact with
Sprott the tinker.



CHAPTER V.

The tinker was seated under a hedge, hammering away at an old kettle,
with a little fire burning in front of him, and the donkey hard by,
indulging in a placid doze. Mr. Sprott looked up as Lenny passed, nodded
kindly, and said,--

“Good evenin’, Lenny: glad to hear you be so ‘spectably sitivated with
Mounseer.”

“Ay,” answered Lenny, with a leaven of rancour in his recollections,
“you’re not ashamed to speak to me now that I am not in disgrace. But
it was in disgrace, when it wasn’t my fault, that the real gentleman was
most kind to me.”

“Ar-r, Lenny,” said the tinker, with a prolonged rattle in that said
Ar-r, which was not without great significance. “But you sees the real
gentleman, who han’t got his bread to get, can hafford to ‘spise his
c’racter in the world. A poor tinker must be timbersome and nice in his
‘sociations. But sit down here a bit, Lenny; I’ve summat to say to ye!”

“To me?”

“To ye. Give the neddy a shove out i’ the vay, and sit down, I say.”

Lenny rather reluctantly, and somewhat superciliously, accepted this
invitation.

“I hears,” said the tinker, in a voice made rather indistinct by a
couple of nails, which he had inserted between his teeth,--“I hears as
how you be unkimmon fond of reading. I ha’ sum nice cheap books in my
bag yonder,--sum as low as a penny.”

“I should like to see them,” said Lenny, his eyes sparkling.

The tinker rose, opened one of the panniers on the ass’s back, took out
a bag, which he placed before Lenny, and told him to suit himself. The
young peasant desired no better. He spread all the contents of the
bag on the sward, and a motley collection of food for the mind was
there,--food and poison, serpentes avibus good and evil. Here Milton’s
Paradise Lost, there “The Age of Reason;” here Methodist Tracts, there
“True Principles of Socialism,”--Treatises on Useful Knowledge by sound
learning actuated by pure benevolence, Appeals to Operatives by the
shallowest reasoners, instigated by the same ambition that had moved
Eratosthenes to the conflagration of a temple; works of fiction
admirable as “Robinson Crusoe,” or innocent as “The Old English Baron,”
 beside coarse translations of such garbage as had rotted away the youth
of France under Louis Quinze. This miscellany was an epitome, in short,
of the mixed World of Books, of that vast city of the Press, with its
palaces and hovels, its aqueducts and sewers, which opens all alike
to the naked eye and the curious mind of him to whom you say, in the
tinker’s careless phrase, “Suit yourself.”

But it is not the first impulse of a nature healthful and still pure
to settle in the hovel and lose itself amidst the sewers; and Lenny
Fairfield turned innocently over the bad books, and selecting two or
three of the best, brought them to the tinker, and asked the price.

“Why,” said Mr. Sprott, putting on his spectacles, “you has taken the
werry dearest: them ‘ere be much cheaper, and more hinterestin’.”

“But I don’t fancy them,” answered Lenny; “I don’t understand what they
are about, and this seems to tell one how the steam-engine is made, and
has nice plates; and this is ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ which Parson Dale once
said he would give me--I’d rather buy it out of my own money.”

“Well, please yourself,” quoth the tinker; “you shall have the books for
four bob, and you can pay me next month.”

“Four bobs, four shillings? it is a great sum,” said Lenny; “but I will
lay by, as you are kind enough to trust me: good-evening, Mr. Sprott.”

“Stay a bit,” said the tinker; “I’ll just throw you these two little
tracts into the bargain; they be only a shilling a dozen, so ‘t is
but tuppence,--and ven you has read those, vy, you’ll be a regular
customer.”

The tinker tossed to Lenny Nos. 1 and 2 of “Appeals to Operatives,” and
the peasant took them up gratefully.

The young knowledge-seeker went his way across the green fields, and
under the still autumn foliage of the hedgerows. He looked first at one
book, then at another; he did not know on which to settle.

The tinker rose, and made a fire with leaves and furze and sticks, some
dry and some green.

Lenny has now opened No. 1 of the tracts: they are the shortest to read,
and don’t require so much effort of the mind as the explanation of the
steam-engine.

The tinker has set on his grimy glue-pot, and the glue simmers.



CHAPTER VI.

As Violante became more familiar with her new home, and those around
her became more familiar with Violante, she was remarked for a certain
stateliness of manner and bearing, which, had it been less evidently
natural and inborn, would have seemed misplaced in the daughter of
a forlorn exile, and would have been rare at so early an age among
children of the loftiest pretensions. It was with the air of a little
princess that she presented her tiny hand to a friendly pressure, or
submitted her calm clear cheek to a presuming kiss. Yet withal she was
so graceful, and her very stateliness was so pretty and captivating,
that she was not the less loved for all her grand airs. And, indeed, she
deserved to be loved; for though she was certainly prouder than Mr. Dale
could approve of, her pride was devoid of egotism,--and that is a pride
by no means common. She had an intuitive forethought for others: you
could see that she was capable of that grand woman-heroism, abnegation
of self; and though she was an original child, and often grave and
musing, with a tinge of melancholy, sweet, but deep in her character,
still she was not above the happy genial merriment of childhood,--only
her silver laugh was more attuned, and her gestures more composed, than
those of children habituated to many play-fellows usually are. Mrs.
Hazeldean liked her best when she was grave, and said “she would become
a very sensible woman.” Mrs. Dale liked her best when she was gay, and
said “she was born to make many a heart ache;” for which Mrs. Dale was
properly reproved by the parson. Mrs. Hazeldean gave her a little set of
garden tools; Mrs. Dale a picture-book and a beautiful doll. For a long
time the book and the doll had the preference. But Mrs. Hazeldean having
observed to Riccabocca that the poor child looked pale, and ought to be
a good deal in the open air, the wise father ingeniously pretended
to Violante that Mrs. Riccabocca had taken a great fancy to the
picture-book, and that he should be very glad to have the doll, upon
which Violante hastened to give them both away, and was never so
happy as when Mamma (as she called Mrs. Riccabocca) was admiring the
picture-book, and Riccabocca with austere gravity dandled the doll.
Then Riccabocca assured her that she could be of great use to him in
the garden; and Violante instantly put into movement her spade, hoe, and
wheelbarrow.

This last occupation brought her into immediate contact with Mr. Leonard
Fairfield; and that personage one morning, to his great horror, found
Miss Violante had nearly exterminated a whole celery-bed, which she had
ignorantly conceived to be a crop of weeds.

Lenny was extremely angry. He snatched away the hoe, and said angrily,
“You must not do that, Miss. I’ll tell your papa if you--”

Violante drew herself up, and never having been so spoken to before,
at least since her arrival in England, there was something comic in the
surprise of her large eyes, as well as something tragic in the dignity
of her offended mien. “It is very naughty of you, Miss,” continued
Leonard, in a milder tone, for he was both softened by the eyes and awed
by the mien, “and I trust you will not do it again.”

“Non capisco,” murmured Violante, and the dark eyes filled with tears.
At that moment up came Jackeymo: and Violante, pointing to Leonard,
said, with an effort not to betray her emotion, “Il fanciullo e molto
grossolano.”--[“He is a very rude boy.”]

Jackeymo turned to Leonard with the look of an enraged tiger. “How you
dare, scum of de earth that you are,” cried he, “how you dare make cry
the signorina?” And his English not supplying familiar vituperatives
sufficiently, he poured out upon Lenny such a profusion of Italian
abuse, that the boy turned red and white, in a breath, with rage and
perplexity.

Violante took instant compassion upon the victim she had made, and with
true feminine caprice now began to scold Jackeymo for his anger, and,
finally approaching Leonard, laid her hand on his arm, and said with a
kindness at once childlike and queenly, and in the prettiest imaginable
mixture of imperfect English and soft Italian, to which I cannot pretend
to do justice, and shall therefore translate: “Don’t mind him. I dare
say it was all my fault, only I did not understand you: are not these
things weeds?”

“No, my darling signorina,” said Jackeymo in Italian, looking ruefully
at the celery-bed, “they are not weeds, and they sell very well at this
time of the year. But still, if it amuses you to pluck them up, I should
like to see who’s to prevent it.”

Lenny walked away. He had been called “the scum of the earth,”--by a
foreigner too! He had again been ill-treated for doing what he conceived
his duty. He was again feeling the distinction between rich and poor,
and he now fancied that that distinction involved deadly warfare, for
he had read from beginning to end those two damnable tracts which
the tinker had presented to him. But in the midst of all the angry
disturbance of his mind, he felt the soft touch of the infant’s hand,
the soothing influence of her conciliating words, and he was half
ashamed that he had spoken so roughly to a child.

Still, not trusting himself to speak, he walked away, and sat down at a
distance: “I don’t see,” thought he, “why there should be rich and poor,
master and servant.” Lenny, be it remembered, had not heard the Parson’s
Political Sermon.

An hour after, having composed himself, Lenny returned to his work.
Jackeymo was no longer in the garden: he had gone to the fields; but
Riccabocca was standing by the celerybed, and holding the red silk
umbrella over Violante as she sat on the ground, looking up at her
father with those eyes already so full of intelligence and love and
soul.

“Lenny,” said Riccabocca, “my young lady has been telling me that she
has been very naughty, and Giacomo very unjust to you. Forgive them
both.”

Lenny’s sullenness melted in an instant: the reminiscences of tracts
Nos. 1 and 2,--

          “Like the baseless fabric of a vision,
          Left not a wreck behind.”

He raised eyes swimming with all his native goodness towards the wise
man, and dropped them gratefully on the infant peace-maker. Then he
turned away his head and fairly wept. The parson was right: “O ye poor,
have charity for the rich; O ye rich, respect the poor.”



CHAPTER VII.

Now from that day the humble Lenny and the regal Violante became great
friends. With what pride he taught her to distinguish between celery and
weeds,--and how proud too was she when she learned that she was useful!
There is not a greater pleasure you can give children, especially female
children, than to make them feel they are already of value in the world,
and serviceable as well as protected. Weeks and months rolled away, and
Lenny still read, not only the books lent him by the doctor, but those
he bought of Mr. Sprott. As for the bombs and shells against religion
which the tinker carried in his bag, Lenny was not induced to blow
himself up with them. He had been reared from his cradle in simple love
and reverence for the Divine Father, and the tender Saviour, whose life
beyond all records of human goodness, whose death beyond all epics of
mortal heroism, no being whose infancy has been taught to supplicate
the Merciful and adore the Holy, yea, even though his later life may be
entangled amidst the thorns of some desolate pyrrhonism, can ever hear
reviled and scoffed without a shock to the conscience and a revolt of
the heart. As the deer recoils by instinct from the tiger, as the very
look of the scorpion deters you from handling it, though you never saw
a scorpion before, so the very first line in some ribald profanity on
which the tinker put his black finger made Lenny’s blood run cold. Safe,
too, was the peasant boy from any temptation in works of a gross and
licentious nature, not only because of the happy ignorance of his rural
life, but because of a more enduring safeguard,--genius! Genius,
that, manly, robust, healthful as it be, is long before it lose its
instinctive Dorian modesty; shamefaced, because so susceptible to
glory,--genius, that loves indeed to dream, but on the violet bank, not
the dunghill. Wherefore, even in the error of the senses, it seeks to
escape from the sensual into worlds of fancy, subtle and refined. But
apart from the passions, true genius is the most practical of all human
gifts. Like the Apollo, whom the Greek worshipped as its type, even
Arcady is its exile, not its home. Soon weary of the dalliance of Tempe,
it ascends to its mission,--the Archer of the silver bow, the guide of
the car of light. Speaking more plainly, genius is the enthusiasm for
self-improvement; it ceases or sleeps the moment it desists from seeking
some object which it believes of value, and by that object it insensibly
connects its self-improvement with the positive advance of the world.
At present Lenny’s genius had no bias that was not to the Positive
and Useful. It took the direction natural to its sphere, and the wants
therein,--namely, to the arts which we call mechanical. He wanted to
know about steam-engines and Artesian wells; and to know about them it
was necessary to know something of mechanics and hydrostatics; so he
bought popular elementary works on those mystic sciences, and set all
the powers of his mind at work on experiments.

Noble and generous spirits are ye, who, with small care for fame, and
little reward from pelf, have opened to the intellects of the poor the
portals of wisdom! I honour and revere ye; only do not think ye have
done all that is needful. Consider, I pray ye, whether so good a choice
from the tinker’s bag would have been made by a boy whom religion
had not scared from the Pestilent, and genius had not led to the
self-improving. And Lenny did not wholly escape from the mephitic
portions of the motley elements from which his awakening mind drew its
nurture. Think not it was all pure oxygen that the panting lip drew in.
No; there were still those inflammatory tracts. Political I do not like
to call them, for politics means the art of government, and the tracts I
speak of assailed all government which mankind has hitherto recognized.
Sad rubbish, perhaps, were such tracts to you, O sound thinker, in your
easy-chair! or to you, practised statesman, at your post on the Treasury
Bench; to you, calm dignitary of a learned Church; or to you, my lord
judge, who may often have sent from your bar to the dire Orcus
of Norfolk’s Isle the ghosts of men whom that rubbish, falling
simultaneously on the bumps of acquisitiveness and combativeness, hath
untimely slain! Sad rubbish to you! But seems it such rubbish to the
poor man, to whom it promises a paradise on the easy terms of upsetting
a world? For, ye see, those “Appeals to Operatives” represent that
same world-upsetting as the simplest thing imaginable,--a sort of
two-and-two-make-four proposition. The poor have only got to set
their strong hands to the axle, and heave-a-boy! and hurrah for
the topsy-turvy! Then just to put a little wholesome rage into the
heave-a-hoy! it is so facile to accompany the eloquence of “Appeals”
 with a kind of stir-the-bile-up statistics,--“Abuses of the
aristocracy,” “Jobs of the Priesthood,” “Expenses of the Army kept up
for Peers’ younger sons,” “Wars contracted for the villanous purpose of
raising the rents of the landowners,”--all arithmetically dished up,
and seasoned with tales of every gentleman who has committed a misdeed,
every clergyman who has dishonoured his cloth; as if such instances were
fair specimens of average gentlemen and ministers of religion! All this,
passionately advanced (and, observe, never answered, for that literature
admits no controversialists, and the writer has it all his own way),
may be rubbish; but it is out of such rubbish that operatives build
barricades for attack, and legislators prisons for defence.

Our poor friend Lenny drew plenty of this stuff from the tinker’s
bag. He thought it very clever and very eloquent; and he supposed the
statistics were as true as mathematical demonstrations.

A famous knowledge-diffuser is looking over my shoulder, and tells me,
“Increase education, and cheapen good books, and all this rubbish will
disappear!” Sir, I don’t believe a word of it. If you printed Ricardo
and Adam Smith at a farthing a volume, I still believe that they would
be as little read by the operatives as they are nowadays by a very large
proportion of highly-cultivated men. I still believe that, while the
press works, attacks on the rich and propositions for heave-a-hoys will
always form a popular portion of the Literature of Labour. There’s Lenny
Fairfield reading a treatise on hydraulics, and constructing a model for
a fountain into the bargain; but that does not prevent his acquiescence
in any proposition for getting rid of a National Debt, which he
certainly never agreed to pay, and which he is told makes sugar and tea
so shamefully dear. No. I tell you what does a little counteract those
eloquent incentives to break his own head against the strong walls of
the Social System,--it is, that he has two eyes in that head which
are not always employed in reading. And having been told in print that
masters are tyrants, parsons hypocrites or drones in the hive, and
landowners vampires and bloodsuckers, he looks out into the little world
around him, and, first, he is compelled to acknowledge that his master
is not a tyrant (perhaps because he is a foreigner and a philosopher,
and, for what I and Lenny know, a republican). But then Parson Dale,
though High Church to the marrow, is neither hypocrite nor drone. He
has a very good living, it is true,--much better than he ought to have,
according to the “political” opinions of those tracts! but Lenny is
obliged to confess that if Parson Dale were a penny the poorer, he would
do a pennyworth’s less good; and comparing one parish with another, such
as Rood Hall and Hazeldean, he is dimly aware that there is no greater
CIVILIZER than a parson tolerably well off. Then, too, Squire Hazeldean,
though as arrant a Tory as ever stood upon shoe-leather, is certainly
not a vampire nor blood sucker. He does not feed on the public; a
great many of the public feed upon him: and, therefore, his practical
experience a little staggers and perplexes Lenny Fairfield as to
the gospel accuracy of his theoretical dogmas. Masters, parsons, and
landowners! having, at the risk of all popularity, just given a coup de
patte to certain sages extremely the fashion at present, I am not going
to let you off without an admonitory flea in the ear. Don’t suppose that
any mere scribbling and typework will suffice to answer the scribbling
and typework set at work to demolish you,--write down that rubbish you
can’t; live it down you may. If you are rich, like Squire Hazeldean, do
good with your money; if you are poor, like Signor Riccabocca, do good
with your kindness.

See! there is Lenny now receiving his week’s wages; and though Lenny
knows that he can get higher wages in the very next parish, his blue
eyes are sparkling with gratitude, not at the chink of the money, but at
the poor exile’s friendly talk on things apart from all service; while
Violante is descending the steps from the terrace, charged by her
mother-in-law with a little basket of sago, and such-like delicacies,
for Mrs. Fairfield, who has been ailing the last few days.

Lenny will see the tinker as he goes home, and he will buy a most
Demosthenean “Appeal,”--a tract of tracts, upon the propriety of Strikes
and the Avarice of Masters. But, somehow or other, I think a few words
from Signor Riccabocca, that did not cost the signor a farthing, and the
sight of his mother’s smile at the contents of the basket, which cost
very little, will serve to neutralize the effects of that “Appeal” much
more efficaciously than the best article a Brougham or a Mill could
write on the subject.



CHAPTER VIII.

Spring had come again; and one beautiful May day, Leonard Fairfield sat
beside the little fountain which he had now actually constructed in the
garden. The butterflies were hovering over the belt of flowers which
he had placed around his fountain, and the birds were singing overhead.
Leonard Fairfield was resting from his day’s work, to enjoy his
abstemious dinner, beside the cool play of the sparkling waters, and,
with the yet keener appetite of knowledge, he devoured his book as he
munched his crusts.

A penny tract is the shoeing-horn of literature! it draws on a great
many books, and some too tight to be very useful in walking. The penny
tract quotes a celebrated writer--you long to read him; it props a
startling assertion by a grave authority--you long to refer to it.
During the nights of the past winter, Leonard’s intelligence had
made vast progress; he had taught himself more than the elements of
mechanics, and put to practice the principles he had acquired not only
in the hydraulical achievement of the fountain, nor in the still
more notable application of science, commenced on the stream in which
Jackeymo had fished for minnows, and which Lenny had diverted to the
purpose of irrigating two fields, but in various ingenious contrivances
for the facilitation or abridgment of labour, which had excited great
wonder and praise in the neighbourhood. On the other hand, those rabid
little tracts, which dealt so summarily with the destinies of the
human race, even when his growing reason and the perusal of works
more classical or more logical had led him to perceive that they were
illiterate, and to suspect that they jumped from premises to conclusions
with a celerity very different from the careful ratiocination of
mechanical science, had still, in the citations and references wherewith
they abounded, lured him on to philosophers more specious and more
perilous. Out of the tinker’s bag he had drawn a translation of
Condorcet’s “Progress of Man” and another of Rousseau’s “Social
Contract.” Works so eloquent had induced him to select from the tracts
in the tinker’s miscellany those which abounded most in professions of
philanthropy, and predictions of some coming Golden Age, to which old
Saturn’s was a joke,--tracts so mild and mother-like in their language,
that it required a much more practical experience than Lenny’s to
perceive that you would have to pass a river of blood before you had
the slightest chance of setting foot on the flowery banks on which they
invited you to repose; tracts which rouged poor Christianity on the
cheeks, clapped a crown of innocent daffodillies on her head, and
set her to dancing a pas de zephyr in the pastoral ballet in which
Saint-Simon pipes to the flock he shears; or having first laid it down
as a preliminary axiom that--

     “The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
     The solemn temples, the great globe itself,--
     Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,”

substituted in place thereof M. Fourier’s symmetrical phalanstere, or
Mr. Owen’s architectural parallelogram. It was with some such tract
that Lenny was seasoning his crusts and his radishes, when Riccabocca,
bending his long dark face over the student’s shoulder, said abruptly,--

“Diavolo, my friend! what on earth have you got there? Just let me look
at it, will you?”

Leonard rose respectfully, and coloured deeply as he surrendered the
tract to Riccabocca.

The wise man read the first page attentively, the second more cursorily,
and only ran his eye over the rest. He had gone through too vast a
range of problems political, not to have passed over that venerable
Pons Asinorum of Socialism, on which Fouriers and Saint-Simons sit
straddling, and cry aloud that they have arrived at the last boundary of
knowledge!

“All this is as old as the hills,” quoth Riccabocca, irreverently; “but
the hills stand still, and this--there it goes!” and the sage pointed to
a cloud emitted from his pipe. “Did you ever read Sir David Brewster on
Optical Delusions? No! Well, I’ll lend it to you. You will find therein
a story of a lady who always saw a black cat on her hearth-rug. The
black cat existed only in her fancy, but the hallucination was natural
and reasonable,--eh, what do you think?”

“Why, sir,” said Leonard, not catching the Italian’s meaning, “I don’t
exactly see that it was natural and reasonable.”

“Foolish boy, yes! because black cats are things possible and known.
But who ever saw upon earth a community of men such as sit on the
hearth-rugs of Messrs. Owen and Fourier? If the lady’s hallucination was
not reasonable, what is his who believes in such visions as these?”

Leonard bit his lip.

“My dear boy,” cried Riccabocca, kindly, “the only thing sure and
tangible to which these writers would lead you lies at the first step,
and that is what is commonly called a Revolution. Now, I know what that
is. I have gone, not indeed through a revolution, but an attempt at
one.”

Leonard raised his eyes towards his master with a look of profound
respect and great curiosity.

“Yes,” added Riccabocca, and the face on which the boy gazed exchanged
its usual grotesque and sardonic expression for one animated, noble, and
heroic. “Yes, not a revolution for chimeras, but for that cause which
the coldest allow to be good, and which, when successful, all time
approves as divine,--the redemption of our native soil from the rule
of the foreigner! I have shared in such an attempt. And,” continued the
Italian, mournfully, “recalling now all the evil passions it arouses,
all the ties it dissolves, all the blood that it commands to flow, all
the healthful industry it arrests, all the madmen that it arms, all the
victims that it dupes, I question whether one man really honest, pure,
and humane, who has once gone through such an ordeal, would ever hazard
it again, unless he was assured that the victory was certain,--ay, and
the object for which he fights not to be wrested from his hands amidst
the uproar of the elements that the battle has released.”

The Italian paused, shaded his brow with his hand, and remained long
silent. Then, gradually resuming his ordinary tone, he continued,--

“Revolutions that have no definite objects made clear by the positive
experience of history; revolutions, in a word, that aim less at
substituting one law or one dynasty for another, than at changing the
whole scheme of society, have been little attempted by real statesmen.
Even Lycurgus is proved to be a myth who never existed. Such organic
changes are but in the day-dreams of philosophers who lived apart from
the actual world, and whose opinions (though generally they were very
benevolent, good sort of men, and wrote in an elegant poetical style)
one would no more take on a plain matter of life, than one would look
upon Virgil’s Eclogues as a faithful picture of the ordinary pains and
pleasures of the peasants who tend our sheep. Read them as you would
read poets, and they are delightful. But attempt to shape the world
according to the poetry, and fit yourself for a madhouse. The farther
off the age is from the realization of such projects, the more these
poor philosophers have indulged them. Thus, it was amidst the saddest
corruption of court manners that it became the fashion in Paris to sit
for one’s picture with a crook in one’s hand, as Alexis or Daphne. Just
as liberty was fast dying out of Greece, and the successors of Alexander
were founding their monarchies, and Rome was growing up to crush in its
iron grasp all States save its own, Plato withdraws his eyes from the
world, to open them in his dreamy “Atlantis.” Just in the grimmest
period of English history, with the axe hanging over his head, Sir
Thomas More gives you his “Utopia.” Just when the world is to be the
theatre of a new Sesostris, the sages of France tell you that the age is
too enlightened for war, that man is henceforth to be governed by pure
reason, and live in a paradise. Very pretty reading all this to a man
like me, Lenny, who can admire and smile at it. But to you, to the man
who has to work for his living, to the man who thinks it would be so
much more pleasant to live at his ease in a phalanstere than to work
eight or ten hours a day; to the man of talent and action and industry,
whose future is invested in that tranquillity and order of a State
in which talent and action and industry are a certain capital,--why,
Messrs. Coutts, the great bankers, had better encourage a theory to
upset the system of banking! Whatever disturbs society, yea, even by a
causeless panic, much more by an actual struggle, falls first upon the
market of labour, and thence affects prejudicially every department
of intelligence. In such times the arts are arrested; literature is
neglected; people are too busy to read anything save appeals to their
passions. And capital, shaken in its sense of security, no longer
ventures boldly through the land, calling forth all the energies of toil
and enterprise, and extending to every workman his reward. Now, Lenny,
take this piece of advice. You are young, clever, and aspiring: men
rarely succeed in changing the world; but a man seldom fails of success
if he lets the world alone, and resolves to make the best of it. You
are in the midst of the great crisis of your life; it is the struggle
between the new desires knowledge excites, and that sense of poverty
which those desires convert either into hope and emulation, or into envy
and despair. I grant that it is an up-hill work that lies before you;
but don’t you think it is always easier to climb a mountain than it is
to level it? These books call on you to level the mountain; and that
mountain is the property of other people, subdivided amongst a great
many proprietors, and protected by law. At the first stroke of the
pickaxe, it is ten to one but what you are taken up for a trespass. But
the path up the mountain is a right of way uncontested. You may be safe
at the summit, before (even if the owners are fools enough to let you)
you could have levelled a yard. Cospetto!” quoth the doctor, “it is more
than two thousand years ago since poor Plato began to level it, and the
mountain is as high as ever!”

Thus saying, Riccabocca came to the end of his pipe, and stalking
thoughtfully away, he left Leonard Fairfield trying to extract light
from the smoke.



CHAPTER IX.

Shortly after this discourse of Riccabocca’s, an incident occurred to
Leonard that served to carry his mind into new directions. One evening,
when his mother was out, he was at work on a new mechanical contrivance,
and had the misfortune to break one of the instruments which he
employed. Now it will be remembered that his father had been the
squire’s head carpenter: the widow had carefully hoarded the tools
of his craft, which had belonged to her poor Mark; and though she
occasionally lent them to Leonard, she would not give them up to his
service. Amongst these Leonard knew that he should find the one that he
wanted; and being much interested in his contrivance, he could not wait
till his mother’s return. The tools, with other little relies of the
lost, were kept in a large trunk in Mrs. Fairfield’s sleepingroom;
the trunk was not locked, and Leonard went to it with out ceremony or
scruple. In rummaging for the instrument his eye fell upon a bundle of
manuscripts; and he suddenly recollected that when he was a mere child,
and before he much knew the difference between verse and prose, his
mother had pointed to these manuscripts, and said, “One day or other,
when you can read nicely, I’ll let you look at these, Lenny. My poor
Mark wrote such verses--ah, he was a schollard!” Leonard, reasonably
enough, thought that the time had now arrived when he was worthy the
privilege of reading the paternal effusions, and he took forth the
manuscripts with a keen but melancholy interest. He recognized his
father’s handwriting, which he had often seen before in account-books
and memoranda, and read eagerly some trifling poems, which did not show
much genius, nor much mastery of language and rhythm,--such poems, in
short, as a self-educated man, with poetic taste and feeling rather than
poetic inspiration or artistic culture, might compose with credit, but
not for fame. But suddenly, as he turned over these “Occasional
Pieces,” Leonard came to others in a different handwriting,--a woman’s
handwriting, small and fine and exquisitely formed. He had scarcely read
six lines of these last, before his attention was irresistibly chained.
They were of a different order of merit from poor Mark’s; they bore the
unmistakable stamp of genius. Like the poetry of women in general, they
were devoted to personal feeling,--they were not the mirror of a world,
but reflections of a solitary heart. Yet this is the kind of poetry most
pleasing to the young. And the verses in question had another attraction
for Leonard: they seemed to express some struggle akin to his own,--some
complaint against the actual condition of the writer’s life, some sweet
melodious murmurs at fortune. For the rest, they were characterized by a
vein of sentiment so elevated, that, if written by a man, it would have
run into exaggeration; written by a woman, the romance was carried off
by so many genuine revelations of sincere, deep, pathetic feeling, that
it was always natural, though true to a nature for which you would not
augur happiness.

Leonard was still absorbed in the perusal of these poems when Mrs.
Fairfield entered the room.

“What have you been about, Lenny,--searching in my box?”

“I came to look for my father’s bag of tools, Mother, and I found these
papers, which you said I might read some day.”

“I does n’t wonder you did not hear me when I came in,” said the widow,
sighing. “I used to sit still for the hour together, when my poor Mark
read his poems to me. There was such a pretty one about the ‘Peasant’s
Fireside,’ Lenny,--have you got hold of that?”

“Yes, dear mother; and I remarked the allusion to you: it brought tears
to my eyes. But these verses are not my father’s; whose are they? They
seem in a woman’s handwriting.”

Mrs. Fairfield looked, changed colour, grew faint and seated herself.

“Poor, poor Nora!” said she, falteringly. “I did not know as they were
there; Mark kep’ ‘em; they got among his--”

LEONARD.--“Who was Nora?”

MRS. FAIRFIELD.--“Who?--child--who? Nora was--was my own--own sister.”

LEONARD (in great amaze, contrasting his ideal of the writer of these
musical lines, in that graceful hand, with his homely uneducated mother,
who could neither read nor write).--“Your sister! is it possible! My
aunt, then. How comes it you never spoke of her before? Oh, you should
be so proud of her, Mother!”

MRS. FAIRFIELD (clasping her hands).--“We were proud of her, all of
us,--father, mother, all! She was so beautiful and so good, and not
proud she! though she looked like the first lady in the land. Oh, Nora,
Nora!”

LEONARD (after a pause).--“But she must have been highly educated?”

MRS. FAIRFIELD.--“‘Deed she was!”

LEONARD.--“How was that?”

MRS. FAIRFIELD (rocking herself to and fro in her chair).--“Oh, my Lady
was her godmother,--Lady Lansmere I mean,--and took a fancy to her when
she was that high, and had her to stay at the Park, and wait on her
Ladyship; and then she put her to school, and Nora was so clever that
nothing would do but she must go to London as a governess. But don’t
talk of it, boy! don’t talk of it!”

LEONARD.--“Why not, Mother? What has become of her; where is she?”

MRS. FAIRFIELD (bursting into a paroxysm of tears).--“In her grave,--in
her cold grave! Dead, dead!”

Leonard was inexpressibly grieved and shocked. It is the attribute of
the poet to seem always living, always a friend. Leonard felt as if some
one very dear had been suddenly torn from his heart. He tried to console
his mother; but her emotion was contagious, and he wept with her.

“And how long has she been dead?” he asked at last, in mournful accents.

“Many’s the long year, many; but,” added Mrs. Fairfield, rising, and
putting her tremulous hand on Leonard’s shoulder, “you’ll just never
talk to me about her; I can’t bear it, it breaks my heart. I can bear
better to talk of Mark; come downstairs,--come.”

“May I not keep these verses, Mother? Do let me.”

“Well, well, those bits o’ paper be all she left behind her,--yes, keep
them, but put back Mark’s. Are they all here,--sure?” And the widow,
though she could not read her husband’s verses, looked jealously at the
manuscripts written in his irregular, large scrawl, and, smoothing them
carefully, replaced them in the trunk, and resettled over them some
sprigs of lavender, which Leonard had unwittingly disturbed.

“But,” said Leonard, as his eye again rested on the beautiful
handwriting of his lost aunt,--“but you called her Nora--I see she signs
herself L.”

“Leonora was her name. I said she was my Lady’s god-child. We call her
Nora for short--”

“Leonora--and I am Leonard--is that how I came by the name?”

“Yes, yes; do hold your tongue, boy,” sobbed poor Mrs. Fairfield;
and she could not be soothed nor coaxed into continuing or renewing a
subject which was evidently associated with insupportable pain.



CHAPTER X.

It is difficult to exaggerate the effect that this discovery produced
on Leonard’s train of thought. Some one belonging to his own humble race
had, then, preceded him in his struggling flight towards the loftier
regions of Intelligence and Desire. It was like the mariner amidst
unknown seas, who finds carved upon some desert isle a familiar
household name.

And this creature of genius and of sorrow-whose existence he had only
learned by her song, and whose death created, in the simple heart of
her sister, so passionate a grief, after the lapse of so many
years--supplied to the romance awaking in his young heart the ideal
which it unconsciously sought. He was pleased to hear that she had been
beautiful and good. He paused from his books to muse on her, and picture
her image to his fancy. That there was some mystery in her fate was
evident to him; and while that conviction deepened his interest, the
mystery itself by degrees took a charm which he was not anxious to
dispel. He resigned himself to Mrs. Fairfield’s obstinate silence. He
was contented to rank the dead amongst those holy and ineffable images
which we do not seek to unveil. Youth and Fancy have many secret hoards
of idea which they do not desire to impart, even to those most in their
confidence. I doubt the depth of feeling in any man who has not certain
recesses in his soul into which none may enter.

Hitherto, as I have said, the talents of Leonard Fairfield had been
more turned to things positive than to the ideal,--to science and
investigation of fact than to poetry, and that airier truth in which
poetry has its element. He had read our greater poets, indeed, but
without thought of imitating; and rather from the general curiosity
to inspect all celebrated monuments of the human mind than from that
especial predilection for verse which is too common in childhood and
youth to be any sure sign of a poet. But now these melodies, unknown to
all the world beside, rang in his ear, mingled with his thoughts,--set,
as it were, his whole life to music. He read poetry with a different
sentiment,--it seemed to him that he had discovered its secret. And so
reading, the passion seized him, and “the numbers came.”

To many minds, at the commencement of our grave and earnest pilgrimage,
I am Vandal enough to think that the indulgence of poetic taste and
revery does great and lasting harm; that it serves to enervate the
character, give false ideas of life, impart the semblance of drudgery
to the noble toils and duties of the active man. All poetry would not do
this,--not, for instance, the Classical, in its diviner masters; not the
poetry of Homer, of Virgil, of Sophocles; not, perhaps, even that of
the indolent Horace. But the poetry which youth usually loves and
appreciates the best--the poetry of mere sentiment--does so in minds
already over-predisposed to the sentimental, and which require bracing
to grow into healthful manhood.

On the other hand, even this latter kind of poetry, which is peculiarly
modern, does suit many minds of another mould,--minds which our modern
life, with its hard positive forms, tends to produce. And as in certain
climates plants and herbs, peculiarly adapted as antidotes to those
diseases most prevalent in the atmosphere, are profusely sown, as it
were, by the benignant providence of Nature, so it may be that the
softer and more romantic species of poetry, which comes forth in
harsh, money-making, unromantic times, is intended as curatives and
counter-poisons. The world is so much with us, nowadays, that we need
have something that prates to us, albeit even in too fine a euphuism, of
the moon and stars.

Certes, to Leonard Fairfield, at that period of his intellectual life,
the softness of our Helicon descended as healing dews. In his turbulent
and unsettled ambition, in his vague grapple with the giant forms of
political truths, in his bias towards the application of science to
immediate practical purposes, this lovely vision of the Muse came in the
white robe of the Peacemaker; and with upraised hand pointing to serene
skies, she opened to him fair glimpses of the Beautiful, which is given
to Peasant as to Prince,--showed to him that on the surface of earth
there is something nobler than fortune, that he who can view the world
as a poet is always at soul a king; while to practical purpose itself,
that larger and more profound invention, which poetry stimulates,
supplied the grand design and the subtle view,--leading him beyond the
mere ingenuity of the mechanic, and habituating him to regard the inert
force of the matter at his command with the ambition of the Discoverer.
But, above all, the discontent that was within him finding a vent, not
in deliberate war upon this actual world, but through the purifying
channels of song, in the vent itself it evaporated, it was lost. By
accustoming ourselves to survey all things with the spirit that retains
and reproduces them only in their lovelier or grander aspects, a vast
philosophy of toleration for what we before gazed on with scorn or
hate insensibly grows upon us. Leonard looked into his heart after the
Enchantress had breathed upon it; and through the mists of the fleeting
and tender melancholy which betrayed where she had been, he beheld a new
sun of delight and joy dawning over the landscape of human life.

Thus, though she was dead and gone from his actual knowledge, this
mysterious kinswoman--“a voice, and nothing more”--had spoken to him,
soothed, elevated, cheered, attuned each discord into harmony; and if
now permitted from some serener sphere to behold the life that her soul
thus strangely influenced, verily with yet holier joy the saving and
lovely spirit might have glided onward in the Eternal Progress.

We call the large majority of human lives obscure. Presumptuous that we
are! How know we what lives a single thought retained from the dust of
nameless graves may have lighted to renown?



CHAPTER XI.

It was about a year after Leonard’s discovery of the family manuscripts
that Parson Dale borrowed the quietest pad-mare in the squire’s stables,
and set out on an equestrian excursion. He said that he was bound on
business connected with his old parishioners of Lansmere; for, as it has
been incidentally implied in a previous chapter, he had been connected
with that borough town (and, I may here add, in the capacity of curate)
before he had been inducted into the living of Hazeldean.

It was so rarely that the parson stirred from home, that this journey
to a town more than twenty miles off was regarded as a most daring
adventure, both at the Hall and at the Parsonage. Mrs. Dale could not
sleep the whole previous night with thinking of it; and though she had
naturally one of her worst nervous headaches on the eventful morn,
she yet suffered no hands less thoughtful than her own to pack up the
saddle-bags which the parson had borrowed along with the pad. Nay, so
distrustful was she of the possibility of the good man’s exerting the
slightest common-sense in her absence, that she kept him close at
her side while she was engaged in that same operation of
packing-up,--showing him the exact spot in which the clean shirt was
put; and how nicely the old slippers were packed up in one of his
own sermons. She implored him not to mistake the sandwiches for his
shaving-soap, and made him observe how carefully she had provided
against such confusion, by placing them as far apart from each other as
the nature of saddle-bags will admit. The poor parson--who was really
by no means an absent man, but as little likely to shave himself with
sandwiches and lunch upon soap as the most commonplace mortal may
be--listened with conjugal patience, and thought that man never had such
a wife before; nor was it without tears in his own eyes that he tore
himself from the farewell embrace of his weeping Carry.

I confess, however, that it was with some apprehension that he set
his foot in the stirrup, and trusted his person to the mercies of
an unfamiliar animal. For, whatever might be Mr. Dale’s minor
accomplishments as man and parson, horsemanship was not his forte.
Indeed, I doubt if he had taken the reins in his hand more than twice
since he had been married.

The squire’s surly old groom, Mat, was in attendance with the pad; and,
to the parson’s gentle inquiry whether Mat was quite sure that the pad
was quite safe, replied laconically, “Oi, oi; give her her head.”

“Give her her head!” repeated Mr. Dale, rather amazed, for he had not
the slightest intention of taking away that part of the beast’s frame,
so essential to its vital economy,--“give her her head!”

“Oi, oi; and don’t jerk her up like that, or she’ll fall a doincing on
her hind-legs.”

The parson instantly slackened the reins; and Mrs. Dale--who had tarried
behind to control her tears--now running to the door for “more last
words,” he waved his hand with courageous amenity, and ambled forth into
the lane.

Our equestrian was absorbed at first in studying the idiosyncrasies of
the pad-mare, and trying thereby to arrive at some notion of her general
character: guessing, for instance, why she raised one ear and laid down
the other; why she kept bearing so close to the left that she brushed
his leg against the hedge; and why, when she arrived at a little
side-gate in the fields, which led towards the home-farm, she came to a
full stop, and fell to rubbing her nose against the rail,--an occupation
from which the parson, finding all civil remonstrances in vain, at
length diverted her by a timorous application of the whip.

This crisis on the road fairly passed, the pad seemed to comprehend that
she had a journey before her, and giving a petulant whisk of her tail,
quickened her amble into a short trot, which soon brought the parson
into the high road, and nearly opposite the Casino.

Here, sitting on the gate which led to his abode, and shaded by his
umbrella, he beheld Dr. Riccabocca.

The Italian lifted his eyes from the book he was reading, and stared
hard at the parson; and he--not venturing to withdraw his whole
attention from the pad (who, indeed, set up both her ears at the
apparition of Riccabocca, and evinced symptoms of that surprise and
superstitious repugnance at unknown objects which goes by the name of
“shying”)--looked askance at Riccabocca.

“Don’t stir, please,” said the parson, “or I fear you’ll alarm the
creature; it seems a nervous, timid thing;--soho, gently, gently.”

And he fell to patting the mare with great unction.

The pad, thus encouraged, overcame her first natural astonishment at the
sight of Riccabocca and the red umbrella; and having before been at the
Casino on sundry occasions, and sagaciously preferring places within the
range of her experience to bourns neither cognate nor conjecturable, she
moved gravely up towards the gate on which the Italian sat; and,
after eying him a moment,--as much as to say, “I wish you would get
off,”--came to a deadlock.

“Well,” said Riccabocca, “since your horse seems more disposed to be
polite to me than yourself, Mr. Dale, I take the opportunity of your
present involuntary pause to congratulate you on your elevation in life,
and to breathe a friendly prayer that pride may not have a fall!”

“Tut,” said the parson, affecting an easy air, though still
contemplating the pad, who appeared to have fallen into a quiet doze,
“it is true that I have not ridden much of late years, and the squire’s
horses are very high-fed and spirited; but there is no more harm in them
than their master when one once knows their ways.”

            “‘Chi va piano va sano,
             E chi va sano va lontano,’”

said Riccabocca, pointing to the saddle-bags. “You go slowly, therefore
safely; and he who goes safely may go far. You seem prepared for a
journey?”

“I am,” said the parson; “and on a matter that concerns you a little.”

“Me!” exclaimed Riccabocca,--“concerns me!”

“Yes, so far as the chance of depriving you of a servant whom you like
and esteem affects you.”

“Oh,” said Riccabocca, “I understand: you have hinted to me very often
that I or Knowledge, or both together, have unfitted Leonard Fairfield
for service.”

“I did not say that exactly; I said that you have fitted him for
something higher than service. But do not repeat this to him. And I
cannot yet say more to you, for I am very doubtful as to the success
of my mission; and it will not do to unsettle poor Leonard until we are
sure that we can improve his condition.”

“Of that you can never be sure,” quoth the wise man, shaking his head;
“and I can’t say that I am unselfish enough not to bear you a grudge for
seeking to decoy away from me an invaluable servant,--faithful, steady,
intelligent, and” (added Riccabocca, warming as he approached the
climacteric adjective) “exceedingly cheap! Nevertheless go, and Heaven
speed you. I am not an Alexander, to stand between man and the sun.”

“You are a noble, great-hearted creature, Signor Riccabocca, in spite of
your cold-blooded proverbs and villanous books.” The parson, as he said
this, brought down the whiphand with so indiscreet an enthusiasm on the
pad’s shoulder, that the poor beast, startled out of her innocent doze,
made a bolt forward, which nearly precipitated Riccabocca from his seat
on the stile, and then turning round--as the parson tugged desperately
at the rein--caught the bit between her teeth, and set off at a canter.
The parson lost both his stirrups; and when he regained them (as the
pad slackened her pace), and had time to breathe and look about him,
Riccabocca and the Casino were both out of sight.

“Certainly,” quoth Parson Dale, as he resettled himself with great
complacency, and a conscious triumph that he was still on the pad’s
back,--“certainly it is true ‘that the noblest conquest ever made by
man was that of the horse:’ a fine creature it is,--a very fine
creature,--and uncommonly difficult to sit on, especially without
stirrups.” Firmly in his stirrups the parson planted his feet; and the
heart within him was very proud.



CHAPTER XII.

The borough town of Lansmere was situated in the county adjoining
that which contained the village of Hazeldean. Late at noon the parson
crossed the little stream which divided the two shires, and came to an
inn, which was placed at an angle, where the great main road branched
off into two directions, the one leading towards Lansmere, the other
going more direct to London. At this inn the pad stopped, and put down
both ears with the air of a pad who has made up her mind to bait. And
the parson himself, feeling very warm and somewhat sore, said to the
pad, benignly, “It is just,--thou shalt have corn and water!”

Dismounting, therefore, and finding himself very stiff as soon as he
reached terra firma, the parson consigned the pad to the hostler, and
walked into the sanded parlour of the inn, to repose himself on a very
hard Windsor chair.

He had been alone rather more than half-an-hour, reading a county
newspaper which smelled much of tobacco, and trying to keep off the
flies that gathered round him in swarms, as if they had never before
seen a parson, and were anxious to ascertain how the flesh of him
tasted,--when a stagecoach stopped at the inn. A traveller got out with
his carpetbag in his hand, and was shown into the sanded parlour.

The parson rose politely, and made a bow.

The traveller touched his hat, without taking it off, looked at Mr.
Dale from top to toe, then walked to the window, and whistled a lively,
impatient tune, then strode towards the fireplace and rang the bell;
then stared again at the parson; and that gentleman having courteously
laid down the newspaper, the traveller seized it, threw himself into a
chair, flung one of his legs over the table, tossed the other up on the
mantelpiece, and began reading the paper, while he tilted the chair on
its hind-legs with so daring a disregard to the ordinary position of
chairs and their occupants, that the shuddering parson expected every
moment to see him come down on the back of his skull.

Moved, therefore, to compassion, Mr. Dale said mildly,--“Those chairs
are very treacherous, sir. I’m afraid you’ll be down.”

“Eh,” said the traveller, looking up much astonished. “Eh, down?--oh,
you’re satirical, sir.”

“Satirical, sir? upon my word, no!” exclaimed the parson, earnestly.

“I think every freeborn man has a right to sit as he pleases in his
own house,” resumed the traveller, with warmth; “and an inn is his own
house, I guess, so long as he pays his score. Betty, my dear.”

For the chambermaid had now replied to the bell. “I han’t Betty, sir; do
you want she?”

“No, Sally; cold brandy and water--and a biscuit.”

“I han’t Sally, either,” muttered the chambermaid; but the traveller,
turning round, showed so smart a neckcloth and so comely a face, that
she smiled, coloured, and went her way.

The traveller now rose, and flung down the paper. He took out a
penknife, and began paring his nails. Suddenly desisting from this
elegant occupation, his eye caught sight of the parson’s shovel-hat,
which lay on a chair in the corner.

“You’re a clergyman, I reckon, sir,” said the traveller, with a slight
sneer.

Again Mr. Dale bowed,--bowed in part deprecatingly, in part with
dignity. It was a bow that said, “No offence, sir, but I am a clergyman,
and I’m not ashamed of it.”

“Going far?” asked the traveller.

PARSON.--“Not very.”

TRAVELLER.--“In a chaise or fly? If so, and we are going the same way,
halves.”

PARSON.--“Halves?”

TRAVELLER.--“Yes, I’ll pay half the damage, pikes inclusive.”

PARSON.--“You are very good, sir. But” (spoken with pride) “I am on
horseback.”

TRAVELLER.--“On horseback! Well, I should not have guessed that! You
don’t look like it. Where did you say you were going?”

“I did not say where I was going, sir,” said the parson, dryly, for he
was much offended at that vague and ungrammatical remark applicable to
his horsemanship, that “he did not look like it.”

“Close!” said the traveller, laughing; “an old traveller, I reckon.”

The parson made no reply, but he took up his shovel-hat, and, with a bow
more majestic than the previous one, walked out to see if his pad had
finished her corn.

The animal had indeed finished all the corn afforded to her, which was
not much, and in a few minutes more Mr. Dale resumed his journey. He had
performed about three miles, when the sound of wheels behind him made
him turn his head; and he perceived a chaise driven very fast, while out
of the windows thereof dangled strangely a pair of human legs. The pad
began to curvet as the post-horses rattled behind, and the parson had
only an indistinct vision of a human face supplanting those human legs.
The traveller peered out at him as he whirled by,--saw Mr. Dale tossed
up and down on the saddle, and cried out, “How’s the leather?”

“Leather!” soliloquized the parson, as the pad recomposed herself, “what
does he mean by that? Leather! a very vulgar man. But I got rid of him
cleverly.”

Mr. Dale arrived without further adventure at Lansmere. He put up at
the principal inn, refreshed himself by a general ablution, and sat down
with good appetite to his beefsteak and pint of port.

The parson was a better judge of the physiognomy of man than that of the
horse; and after a satisfactory glance at the civil smirking landlord,
who removed the cover and set on the wine, he ventured on an attempt at
conversation. “Is my Lord at the Park?”

LANDLORD (still more civilly than before).--“No, sir, his Lordship and
my Lady have gone to town to meet Lord L’Estrange!”

“Lord L’Estrange! He is in England, then?”

“Why, so I heard,” replied the landlord, “but we never see him here now.
I remember him a very pretty young man. Every one was fond of him and
proud of him. But what pranks be did play when he was a lad! We hoped
he would come in for our boro’ some of these days, but he has taken to
foren parts,--more ‘s the pity. I am a reg’lar Blue, sir, as I ought to
be. The Blue candidate always does me the honour to come to the Lansmere
Arms. ‘T is only the low party puts up with the Boar,” added the
landlord, with a look of ineffable disgust. “I hope you like the wine,
sir?”

“Very good, and seems old.”

“Bottled these eighteen years, sir. I had in the cask for the great
election of Dashmore and Egerton. I have little left of it, and I never
give it but to old friends like,--for, I think, Sir, though you be grown
stout, and look more grand, I may say that I’ve had the pleasure of
seeing you before.”

“That’s true, I dare say, though I fear I was never a very good
customer.”

“Ah, it is Mr. Dale, then! I thought so when you came into the hall. I
hope your lady is quite well, and the squire too; fine pleasant-spoken
gentleman; no fault of his if Mr. Egerton went wrong. Well, we have
never seen him--I mean Mr. Egerton--since that time. I don’t wonder he
stays away; but my Lord’s son, who was brought up here, it an’t nat’ral
like that he should turn his back on us!”

Mr. Dale made no reply, and the landlord was about to retire, when the
parson, pouring out another glass of the port, said, “There must be
great changes in the parish. Is Mr. Morgan, the medical man, still
here?”

“No, indeed! he took out his ‘ploma after you left, and became a real
doctor; and a pretty practice he had too, when he took, all of a
sudden, to some new-fangled way of physicking,--I think they calls it
homy-something.”

“Homoeopathy?”

“That’s it; something against all reason: and so he lost his practice
here and went up to Lunnun. I’ve not heard of him since.”

“Do the Avenels still reside in their old house?”

“Oh, yes!--and are pretty well off, I hear say. John is always poorly,
though he still goes now and then to the Odd Fellows, and takes his
glass; but his wife comes and fetches him away before he can do himself
any harm.”

“Mrs. Avenel is the same as ever?”

“She holds her head higher, I think,” said the landlord, smiling. “She
was always--not exactly proud like, but what I calls Bumptious.”

“I never heard that word before,” said the parson, laying down his
knife and fork. “Bumptious indeed, though I believe it is not in the
dictionary, has crept into familiar parlance, especially amongst young
folks at school and college.”

“Bumptious is bumptious, and gumptious is Bumptious,” said the landlord,
delighted to puzzle a parson. “Now the town beadle is bumptious, and
Mrs. Avenel is Bumptious.”

“She is a very respectable woman,” said Mr. Dale, somewhat rebukingly.

“In course, sir, all gumptious folks are; they value themselves on their
respectability, and looks down on their neighbours.”

PARSON (still philologically occupied).--“Gumptious--gumptious. I think
I remember the substantive at school,--not that my master taught it to
me. ‘Gumption’--it means cleverness.”

LANDLORD (doggedly).--“There’s gumption and Bumptious! Gumption is
knowing; but when I say that sum ‘un is gumptious, I mean--though that’s
more vulgar like--sum ‘un who does not think small beer of hisself. You
take me, sir?”

“I think I do,” said the parson, half smiling. “I believe the Avenels
have only two of their children alive still,--their daughter who married
Mark Fairfield, and a son who went off to America?”

“Ah, but he made his fortune there and has come back.”

“Indeed! I’m very glad to hear it. He has settled at Lansmere?”

“No, Sir. I hear as he’s bought a property a long way off. But he comes
to see his parents pretty often--so John tells me--but I can’t say
that I ever see him. I fancy Dick does n’t like to be seen by folks who
remember him playing in the kennel.”

“Not unnatural,” said the parson, indulgently; “but he visits his
parents; he is a good son at all events, then?”

“I’ve nothing to say against him. Dick was a wild chap before he took
himself off. I never thought he would make his fortune; but the Avenels
are a clever set. Do you remember poor Nora--the Rose of Lansmere, as
they called her? Ah, no, I think she went up to Lunnun afore your time,
sir.”

“Humph!” said the parson, dryly. “Well, I think you may take away now.
It will be dark soon, and I’ll just stroll out and look about me.”

“There’s a nice tart coming, sir.”

“Thank you, I’ve dined.”

The parson put on his hat and sallied forth into the streets. He eyed
the houses on either hand with that melancholy and wistful interest
with which, in middle life, men revisit scenes familiar to them in
youth,--surprised to find either so little change or so much, and
recalling, by fits and snatches, old associations and past emotions.
The long High Street which he threaded now began to change its bustling
character, and slide, as it were gradually, into the high road of a
suburb. On the left, the houses gave way to the moss-grown pales of
Lansmere Park; to the right, though houses still remained, they were
separated from each other by gardens, and took the pleasing appearance
of villas,--such villas as retired tradesmen or their widows, old maids,
and half-pay officers select for the evening of their days.

Mr. Dale looked at these villas with the deliberate attention of a man
awakening his power of memory, and at last stopped before one, almost
the last on the road, and which faced the broad patch of sward that lay
before the lodge of Lansmere Park. An old pollard-oak stood near it, and
from the oak there came a low discordant sound; it was the hungry cry of
young ravens, awaiting the belated return of the parent bird! Mr. Dale
put his hand to his brow, paused a moment, and then, with a hurried
step, passed through the little garden, and knocked at the door. A light
was burning in the parlour, and Mr. Dale’s eye caught through the window
a vague outline of three forms. There was an evident bustle within at
the sound of the knock. One of the forms rose and disappeared. A very
prim, neat, middle-aged maid-servant now appeared at the threshold, and
austerely inquired the visitor’s business.

“I want to see Mr. or Mrs. Avenel. Say that I have come many miles to
see them; and take in this card.”

The maid-servant took the card, and half closed the door. At least three
minutes elapsed before she reappeared.

“Missis says it’s late, sir; but walk in.”

The parson accepted the not very gracious invitation, stepped across the
little hall, and entered the parlour.

Old John Avenel, a mild-looking man, who seemed slightly paralytic,
rose slowly from his armchair. Mrs. Avenel, in an awfully stiff,
clean, Calvinistical cap, and a gray dress, every fold of which bespoke
respectability and staid repute, stood erect on the floor, and fixing on
the parson a cold and cautious eye, said,--

“You do the like of us great honour, Mr. Dale; take a chair. You call
upon business?”

“Of which I apprised Mr. Avenel by letter.”

“My husband is very poorly.”

“A poor creature!” said John, feebly, and as if in compassion of
himself. “I can’t get about as I used to do. But it ben’t near election
time, be it, sir?”

“No, John,” said Mrs. Avenel, placing her husband’s arm within her own.
“You must lie down a bit, while I talk to the gentleman.”

“I’m a real good Blue,” said poor John; “but I ain’t quite the man I
was;” and leaning heavily on his wife, he left the room, turning round
at the threshold, and saying, with great urbanity, “Anything to oblige,
sir!”

Mr. Dale was much touched. He had remembered John Avenel the comeliest,
the most active, and the most cheerful man in Lansmere; great at glee
club and cricket (though then somewhat stricken in years), greater in
vestries; reputed greatest in elections.

“Last scene of all,” murmured the parson; “and oh, well, turning from
the poet, may we cry with the disbelieving philosopher, ‘Poor, poor
humanity!’”

In a few minutes Mrs. Avenel returned. She took a chair at some distance
from the parson’s, and resting one hand on the elbow of the chair, while
with the other she stiffly smoothed the stiff gown, she said,--

“Now, sir.”

That “Now, sir,” had in its sound something sinister and warlike. This
the shrewd parson recognized with his usual tact. He edged his chair
nearer to Mrs. Avenel, and placing his hand on hers,--

“Yes, now then, and as friend to friend.”



CHAPTER XIII.

Mr. Dale had been more than a quarter of an hour conversing with Mrs.
Avenel, and had seemingly made little progress in the object of his
diplomatic mission, for now, slowly drawing on his gloves, he said,--

“I grieve to think, Mrs. Avenel, that you should have so hardened
your heart--yes, you must pardon me,--it is my vocation to speak stern
truths. You cannot say that I have not kept faith with you, but I must
now invite you to remember that I specially reserved to myself the
right of exercising a discretion to act as I judged best for the child’s
interest on any future occasion; and it was upon this understanding that
you gave me the promise, which you would now evade, of providing for him
when he came to manhood.”

“I say I will provide for him. I say that you may ‘prentice him in any
distant town, and by and by we will stock a shop for him. What would
you have more, sir, from folks like us, who have kept shop ourselves? It
ain’t reasonable what you ask, sir.”

“My dear friend,” said the parson, “what I ask of you at present is but
to see him, to receive him kindly, to listen to his conversation,
to judge for yourselves. We can have but a common object,--that your
grandson should succeed in life, and do you credit. Now, I doubt very
much whether we can effect this by making him a small shopkeeper.”

“And has Jane Fairfield, who married a common carpenter, brought him up
to despise small shopkeepers?” exclaimed Mrs. Avenel, angrily.

“Heaven forbid! Some of the first men in England have been the sons of
small shopkeepers. But is it a crime in them, or in their parents,
if their talents have lifted them into such rank or renown as the
haughtiest duke might envy? England were not England if a man must rest
where his father began.”

“Good!” said, or rather grunted, an approving voice, but neither Mrs.
Avenel nor the parson heard it.

“All very fine,” said Mrs. Avenel, bluntly. “But to send a boy like that
to the University--where’s the money to come from?”

“My dear Mrs. Avenel,” said the parson, coaxingly, “the cost need not
be great at a small college at Cambridge; and if you will pay half the
expense, I will pay the other half. I have no children of my own, and
can afford it.”

“That’s very handsome in you, sir,” said Mrs. Avenel, somewhat touched,
yet still not graciously. “But the money is not the only point.”

“Once at Cambridge,” continued Mr. Dale, speaking rapidly, “at
Cambridge, where the studies are mathematical,--that is, of a nature for
which he has shown so great an aptitude,--and I have no doubt he will
distinguish himself; if he does, he will obtain, on leaving, what is
called a fellowship,--that is, a collegiate dignity accompanied by an
income on which he could maintain himself until he made his way in life.
Come, Mrs. Avenel, you are well off; you have no relations nearer to you
in want of your aid. Your son, I hear, has been very fortunate.”

“Sir,” said--Mrs. Avenel, interrupting the parson, “it is not because
my son Richard is an honour to us, and is a good son, and has made his
fortin, that we are to rob him of what we have to leave, and give it
to a boy whom we know nothing about, and who, in spite of what you say,
can’t bring upon us any credit at all.”

“Why? I don’t see that.”

“Why!” exclaimed Mrs. Avenel, fiercely,--“why! you, know why. No, I
don’t want him to rise in life: I don’t want folks to be speiring and
asking about him. I think it is a very wicked thing to have put fine
notions in his head, and I am sure my daughter Fairfield could not have
done it herself. And now, to ask me to rob Richard, and bring out a
great boy--who’s been a gardener or ploughman, or suchlike--to disgrace
a gentleman who keeps his carriage, as my son Richard does--I would have
you to know, sir. No! I won’t do it, and there’s an end of the matter.”

During the last two or three minutes, and just before that approving
“good” had responded to the parson’s popular sentiment, a door
communicating with an inner room had been gently opened, and stood ajar;
but this incident neither party had even noticed. But now the door was
thrown boldly open, and the traveller whom the parson had met at the inn
walked up to Mr. Dale, and said, “No! that’s not the end of the matter.
You say the boy’s a ‘cute, clever lad?”

“Richard, have you been listening?” exclaimed Mrs. Avenel.

“Well, I guess, yes,--the last few minutes.”

“And what have you heard?”

“Why, that this reverend gentleman thinks so highly of my sister
Fairfield’s boy that he offers to pay half of his keep at college. Sir,
I’m very much obliged to you, and there’s my hand if you’ll take it.”

The parson jumped up, overjoyed, and, with a triumphant glance towards
Mrs. Avenel, shook hands heartily with Mr. Richard.

“Now,” said the latter, “just put on your hat, sir, and take a
stroll with me, and we’ll discuss the thing businesslike. Women don’t
understand business: never talk to women on business.”

With these words, Mr. Richard drew out a cigar-case, selected a cigar,
which he applied to the candle, and walked into the hall.

Mrs. Avenel caught hold of the parson. “Sir, you’ll be on your guard
with Richard. Remember your promise.”

“He does not know all, then?”

“He? No! And you see he did not overhear more than what he says. I’m
sure you’re a gentleman, and won’t go against your word.”

“My word was conditional; but I will promise you never to break the
silence without more reason than I think there is here for it. Indeed,
Mr. Richard Avenel seems to save all necessity for that.”

“Are you coming, sir?” cried Richard, as he opened the street-door.



CHAPTER XIV.

The parson joined Mr. Richard Avenel on the road. It was a fine night,
and the moon clear and shining.

“So, then,” said Mr. Richard, thoughtfully, “poor Jane, who was always
the drudge of the family, has contrived to bring up her son well; and
the boy is really what you say, eh,--could make a figure at college?”

“I am sure of it,” said the parson, hooking himself on to the arm which
Mr. Avenel proffered.

“I should like to see him,” said Richard. “Has he any manner? Is he
genteel, or a mere country lout?”

“Indeed, he speaks with so much propriety, and has so much modest
dignity about him, that there’s many a rich gentleman who would be proud
of such a son.”

“It is odd,” observed Richard, “what a difference there is in families.
There’s Jane, now, who can’t read nor write, and was just fit to be a
workman’s wife, had not a thought above her station; and when I think of
my poor sister Nora--you would not believe it, sir, but she was the
most elegant creature in the world,--yes, even as a child (she was but
a child when I went off to America). And often, as I was getting on in
life, often I used to say to myself, ‘My little Nora shall be a lady
after all.’ Poor thing--but she died young.” Richard’s voice grew husky.

The parson kindly pressed the arm on which he leaned, and said, after a
pause,--

“Nothing refines us like education, sir. I believe your sister Nora had
received much instruction, and had the talents to profit by it: it is
the same with your nephew.”

“I’ll see him,” said Richard, stamping his foot firmly on the ground,
“and if I like him, I’ll be as good as a father to him. Look you,
Mr.--what’s your name, sir?”

“Dale.”

“Mr. Dale, look you, I’m a single man. Perhaps I may marry some day;
perhaps I sha’ n’t. I’m not going to throw myself away. If I can get
a lady of quality, why--but that’s neither here nor there; meanwhile I
should be glad of a nephew whom I need not be ashamed of. You see, sir,
I am a new man, the builder of my own fortunes; and though I have picked
up a little education--I don’t well know how,--as I scramble on still,
now I come back to the old country, I’m well aware that I ‘m not
exactly a match for those d---d aristocrats; don’t show so well in a
drawing-room as I could wish. I could be a parliament man if I liked,
but I might make a goose of myself; so, all things considered, if I can
get a sort of junior partner to do the polite work, and show off
the goods, I think the house of Avenel & Co. might become a pretty
considerable honour to the Britishers. You understand me, sir?”

“Oh, very well,” answered Mr. Dale, smiling, though rather gravely.

“Now,” continued the New Man, “I’m not ashamed to have risen in life by
my own merits; and I don’t disguise what I’ve been. And, when I’m in my
own grand house, I’m fond of saying, ‘I landed at New York with L10 in
my purse, and here I am!’ But it would not do to have the old folks with
me. People take you with all your faults if you’re rich; but they won’t
swallow your family into the bargain. So if I don’t have at my house
my own father and mother, whom I love dearly, and should like to see
sitting at table, with my servants behind their chairs, I could still
less have sister Jane. I recollect her very well, but she can’t have got
genteeler as she’s grown older. Therefore I beg you’ll not set her on
coming after me! it would not do by any manner of means. Don’t say a
word about me to her. But send the boy down here to his grandfather, and
I’ll see him quietly, you understand.”

“Yes, but it will be hard to separate her from the boy.”

“Stuff! all boys are separated from their parents when they go into the
world. So that’s settled. Now, just tell me. I know the old folks always
snubbed Jane,--that is, Mother did. My poor dear father never snubbed
any of us. Perhaps Mother has not behaved altogether well to Jane. But
we must not blame her for that; you see this is how it happened. There
were a good many of us, while Father and Mother kept shop in the High
Street, so we were all to be provided for anyhow; and Jane, being very
useful and handy at work, got a place when she was a little girl, and
had no time for learning. Afterwards my father made a lucky hit, in
getting my Lord Lansmere’s custom after an election, in which he did
a great deal for the Blues (for he was a famous electioneerer, my poor
father). My Lady stood godmother to Nora; and then all my brothers, and
two of my sisters, died off, and Father retired from business; and when
he took Jane from service, she was so common-like that Mother could not
help contrasting her with Nora. You see Jane was their child when they
were poor little shop-people, with their heads scarce above water;
and Nora was their child when they were well off, and had retired from
trade, and lived genteel: so that makes a great difference. And Mother
did not quite look on her as on her own child. But it was Jane’s own
fault: for Mother would have made it up with her if she had married the
son of our neighbour the great linen-draper, as she might have done;
but she would take Mark Fairfield, a common carpenter. Parents like best
those of their children who succeed best in life. Natural. Why, they did
not care for me till I came back the man I am. But to return to Jane:
I’m afraid they’ve neglected her. How is she off?”

“She earns her livelihood, and is poor, but contented.”

“Ah, just be good enough to give her this” (and Richard took a bank-note
of L50 from his pocket-book).

“You can say the old folks sent it to her; or that it is a present from
Dick, without telling her he has come back from America.”

“My dear sir,” said the parson, “I am more and more thankful to have
made your acquaintance. This is a very liberal gift of yours; but your
best plan will be to send it through your mother. For, though I don’t
want to betray any confidence you place in me, I should not know what to
answer if Mrs. Fairfield began to question me about her brother. I never
had but one secret to keep, and I hope I shall never have another. A
secret is very like a lie!”

“You had a secret then?” said Richard, as he took back the bank-note. He
had learned, perhaps in America, to be a very inquisitive man. He added
point-blank, “Pray, what was it?”

“Why, what it would not be if I told you,” said the parson, with a
forced laugh,--“a secret!”

“Well, I guess we’re in a land of liberty. Do as you like. Now, I dare
say you think me a very odd fellow to come out of my shell to you in
this off-hand way; but I liked the look of you, even when we were at the
inn together. And just now I was uncommonly pleased to find that,
though you are a parson, you don’t want to keep a man’s nose down to
a shopboard, if he has anything in him. You’re not one of the
aristocrats--”

“Indeed,” said the parson, with imprudent warmth, “it is not the
character of the aristocracy of this country to keep people down. They
make way amongst themselves for any man, whatever his birth, who has the
talent and energy to aspire to their level. That’s the especial boast of
the British constitution, sir!”

“Oh, you think so, do you?” said Mr. Richard, looking sourly at the
parson. “I dare say those are the opinions in which you have brought
up the lad. Just keep him yourself and let the aristocracy provide for
him!”

The parson’s generous and patriotic warmth evaporated at once, at this
sudden inlet of cold air into the conversation. He perceived that he had
made a terrible blunder; and as it was not his business at that moment
to vindicate the British constitution, but to serve Leonard Fairfield,
he abandoned the cause of the aristocracy with the most poltroon
and scandalous abruptness. Catching at the arm which Mr. Avenel had
withdrawn from him, he exclaimed,--

“Indeed, sir, you are mistaken; I have never attempted to influence your
nephew’s political opinions. On the contrary, if, at his age, he can be
said to have formed any opinions, I am greatly afraid--that is, I think
his opinions are by no means sound--that is, constitutional. I mean,
I mean--” And the poor parson, anxious to select a word that would not
offend his listener, stopped short in lamentable confusion of idea.

Mr. Avenel enjoyed his distress for a moment, with a saturnine smile,
and then said,--

“Well, I calculate he’s a Radical. Natural enough, if he has not got a
sixpence to lose--all come right by and by. I’m not a Radical,--at least
not a Destructive--much too clever a man for that, I hope. But I wish
to see things very different from what they are. Don’t fancy that I want
the common people, who’ve got nothing, to pretend to dictate to their
betters, because I hate to see a parcel of fellows who are called lords
and squires trying to rule the roast. I think, sir, that it is men like
me who ought to be at the top of the tree! and that’s the long and the
short of it. What do you say?”

“I’ve not the least objection,” said the crestfallen parson, basely.
But, to do him justice, I must add that he did not the least know what
he was saying!



CHAPTER XV.

Unconscious of the change in his fate which the diplomacy of the parson
sought to effect, Leonard Fairfield was enjoying the first virgin
sweetness of fame; for the principal town in his neighbourhood had
followed the then growing fashion of the age, and set up a Mechanics’
Institute, and some worthy persons interested in the formation of that
provincial Athenaeum had offered a prize for the best Essay on the
Diffusion of Knowledge,--a very trite subject, on which persons seem to
think they can never say too much, and on which there is, nevertheless,
a great deal yet to be said. This prize Leonard Fairfield had recently
won. His Essay had been publicly complimented by a full meeting of the
Institute; it had been printed at the expense of the Society, and had
been rewarded by a silver medal,--delineative of Apollo crowning Merit
(poor Merit had not a rag to his back; but Merit, left only to the care
of Apollo, never is too good a customer to the tailor!) And the County
Gazette had declared that Britain had produced another prodigy in the
person of Dr. Riccabocca’s self-educated gardener.

Attention was now directed to Leonard’s mechanical contrivances. The
squire, ever eagerly bent on improvements, had brought an engineer
to inspect the lad’s system of irrigation, and the engineer had
been greatly struck by the simple means by which a very considerable
technical difficulty had been overcome. The neighbouring farmers now
called Leonard “Mr. Fairfield,” and invited him on equal terms to their
houses. Mr. Stirn had met him on the high road, touched his hat, and
hoped that “he bore no malice.” All this, I say, was the first sweetness
of fame; and if Leonard Fairfield comes to be a great man, he will
never find such sweets in the after fruit. It was this success which had
determined the parson on the step which he had just taken, and which he
had long before anxiously meditated. For, during the last year or so,
he had renewed his old intimacy with the widow and the boy; and he
had noticed, with great hope and great fear, the rapid growth of
an intellect, which now stood out from the lowly circumstances that
surrounded it in bold and unharmonizing relief.

It was the evening after his return home that the parson strolled up to
the Casino. He put Leonard Fairfield’s Prize Essay in his pocket; for he
felt that he could not let the young man go forth into the world without
a preparatory lecture, and he intended to scourge poor Merit with the
very laurel wreath which it had received from Apollo. But in this he
wanted Riccabocca’s assistance; or rather he feared that, if he did not
get the philosopher on his side, the philosopher might undo all the work
of the parson.



CHAPTER XVI.

A sweet sound came through the orange boughs, and floated to the ears
of the parson, as he wound slowly up the gentle ascent,--so sweet,
so silvery, he paused in delight--unaware, wretched man! that he was
thereby conniving at Papistical errors. Soft it came and sweet; softer
and sweeter,--“Ave Maria!” Violante was chanting the evening hymn to the
Virgin Mother. The parson at last distinguished the sense of the words,
and shook his head with the pious shake of an orthodox Protestant.
He broke from the spell resolutely, and walked on with a sturdy
step. Gaining the terrace, he found the little family seated under an
awning,--Mrs. Riccabocca knitting; the signor with his arms folded on
his breast: the book he had been reading a few moments before had fallen
on the ground, and his dark eyes were soft and dreamy. Violante had
finished her hymn, and seated herself on the ground between the two,
pillowing her head on her stepmother’s lap, but with her hand resting on
her father’s knee, and her gaze fixed fondly on his face.

“Good-evening,” said Mr. Dale. Violante stole up to him, and, pulling
him so as to bring his ear nearer to her lip, whispered, “Talk to Papa,
do,--and cheerfully; he is sad.”

She escaped from him as she said this, and appeared to busy herself with
watering the flowers arranged on stands round the awning. But she kept
her swimming lustrous eyes wistfully on her father.

“How fares it with you, my dear friend?” said the parson, kindly, as he
rested his hand on the Italian’s shoulder. “You must not let him get out
of spirits, Mrs. Riccabocca.”

“I am very ungrateful to her if I ever am so,” said the poor Italian,
with all his natural gallantry. Many a good wife, who thinks it is a
reproach to her if her husband is ever “out of spirits,” might have
turned peevishly from that speech, more elegant than sincere, and so
have made bad worse; but Mrs. Riccabocca took her husband’s proffered
hand affectionately, and said with great naivete,--

“You see I am so stupid, Mr. Dale; I never knew I was so stupid till I
married. But I am very glad you are come. You can get on some learned
subject together, and then he will not miss so much his--”

“His what?” asked Riccabocca, inquisitively.

“His country. Do you think that I cannot sometimes read your thoughts?”

“Very often. But you did not read them just then. The tongue touches
where the tooth aches, but the best dentist cannot guess at the tooth
unless one open one’s mouth.--Basta! Can we offer you some wine of our
own making, Mr. Dale?--it is pure.”

“I ‘d rather have some tea,” quoth the parson, hastily. Mrs. Riccabocca,
too pleased to be in her natural element of domestic use, hurried into
the house to prepare our national beverage. And the parson, sliding into
her chair, said,--

“But you are dejected then? Fie! If there’s a virtue in the world at
which we should always aim, it is cheerfulness.”

“I don’t dispute it,” said Riccabocca, with a heavy sigh. “But though it
is said by some Greek, who, I think, is quoted by your favourite Seneca,
that a wise man carries his country with him at the soles of his feet,
he can’t carry also the sunshine over his head.”

“I tell you what it is,” said the parson, bluntly; “you would have
a much keener sense of happiness if you had much less esteem for
philosophy.”

“Cospetto!” said the doctor, rousing himself. “Just explain, will you?”

“Does not the search after wisdom induce desires not satisfied in this
small circle to which your life is confined? It is not so much your
country for which you yearn, as it is for space to your intellect,
employment for your thoughts, career for your aspirations.”

“You have guessed at the tooth which aches,” said Riccabocca, with
admiration.

“Easy to do that,” answered the parson. “Our wisdom teeth come last and
give us the most pain; and if you would just starve the mind a little,
and nourish the heart more, you would be less of a philosopher and more
of a--” The parson had the word “Christian” at the tip of his tongue;
he suppressed a word that, so spoken, would have been exceedingly
irritating, and substituted, with elegant antithesis, “and more of a
happy man!”

“I do all I can with my heart,” quoth the doctor.

“Not you! For a man with such a heart as yours should never feel the
want of the sunshine. My friend, we live in an age of over mental
cultivation. We neglect too much the simple healthful outer life, in
which there is so much positive joy. In turning to the world within us,
we grow blind to this beautiful world without; in studying ourselves
as men, we almost forget to look up to heaven, and warm to the smile of
God.”

The philosopher mechanically shrugged his shoulders, as he always did
when another man moralized,--especially if the moralizer were a priest;
but there was no irony in his smile, as he answered thoughtfully,--

“There is some truth in what you say. I own that we live too much as if
we were all brain. Knowledge has its penalties and pains, as well as its
prizes.”

“That is just what I want you to say to Leonard.”

“How have you settled the object of your journey?”

“I will tell you as we walk down to him after tea. At present, I am
rather too much occupied with you.”

“Me? The tree is formed--try only to bend the young twig!”

“Trees are trees, and twigs twigs,” said the parson, dogmatically; “but
man is always growing till he falls into the grave. I think I have heard
you say that you once had a narrow escape of a prison?”

“Very narrow.”

“Just suppose that you were now in that prison, and that a fairy
conjured up the prospect of this quiet home in a safe land; that you
saw the orange-trees in flower, felt the evening breeze on your cheek;
beheld your child gay or sad, as you smiled or knit your brow; that
within this phantom home was a woman, not, indeed, all your young
romance might have dreamed of, but faithful and true, every beat of her
heart all your own,--would you not cry from the depth of your dungeon,
‘O fairy! such a change were a paradise!’ Ungrateful man! you want
interchange for your mind, and your heart should suffice for all!”

Riccabocca was touched and silent.

“Come hither, my child,” said Mr. Dale, turning round to Violante, who
stood still among the flowers, out of hearing, but with watchful eyes.
“Come hither,” he said, opening his arms.

Violante bounded forward, and nestled to the good man’s heart.

“Tell me, Violante, when you are alone in the fields or the garden, and
have left your father looking pleased and serene, so that you have
no care for him at your heart,--tell me, Violante, though you are all
alone, with the flowers below, and the birds singing overhead, do you
feel that life itself is happiness or sorrow?”

“Happiness!” answered Violante, half shutting her eyes, and in a
measured voice.

“Can you explain what kind of happiness it is?”

“Oh, no, impossible! and it is never the same. Sometimes it is so
still--so still, and sometimes so joyous, that I long for wings to fly
up to God, and thank Him!”

“O friend,” said the parson, “this is the true sympathy between life and
nature, and thus we should feel ever, did we take more care to preserve
the health and innocence of a child. We are told that we must become as
children to enter into the kingdom of Heaven; methinks we should also
become as children to know what delight there is in our heritage of
earth!”



CHAPTER XVII.

The maid-servant (for Jackeymo was in the fields) brought the table
under the awning, and with the English luxury of tea, there were other
drinks as cheap and as grateful on summer evenings,--drinks
which Jackeymo had retained and taught from the customs of the
South,--unebriate liquors, pressed from cooling fruits, sweetened with
honey, and deliciously iced: ice should cost nothing in a country in
which one is frozen up half the year! And Jackeymo, too, had added to
our good, solid, heavy English bread preparations of wheat much lighter,
and more propitious to digestion,--with those crisp grissins, which seem
to enjoy being eaten, they make so pleasant a noise between one’s teeth.

The parson esteemed it a little treat to drink tea with the Riccaboccas.
There was something of elegance and grace in that homely meal at the
poor exile’s table, which pleased the eye as well as taste. And the very
utensils, plain Wedgwood though they were, had a classical simplicity,
which made Mrs. Hazeldean’s old India delf, and Mrs. Dale’s best
Worcester china, look tawdry and barbarous in comparison. For it was
Flaxman who gave designs to Wedgwood, and the most truly refined of all
our manufactures in porcelain (if we do not look to the mere material)
is in the reach of the most thrifty.

The little banquet was at first rather a silent one; but Riccabocca
threw off his gloom, and became gay and animated. Then poor Mrs.
Riccabocca smiled, and pressed the grissins; and Violante, forgetting
all her stateliness, laughed and played tricks on the parson, stealing
away his cup of warm tea when his head was turned, and substituting
iced cherry-juice. Then the parson got up and ran after Violante, making
angry faces, and Violante dodged beautifully, till the parson,
fairly tired out, was too glad to cry “Peace,” and come back to the
cherry-juice. Thus time rolled on, till they heard afar the stroke of
the distant church-clock, and Mr. Dale started up and cried, “But we
shall be too late for Leonard. Come, naughty little girl, get your
father his hat.”

“And umbrella!” said Riccabocca, looking up at the cloudless, moonlit
sky.

“Umbrella against the stars?” asked the parson, laughing. “The stars
are no friends of mine,” said Riccabocca, “and one never knows what may
happen!”

The philosopher and the parson walked on amicably.

“You have done me good,” said Riccabocca, “but I hope I am not always
so unreasonably melancholic as you seem to suspect. The evenings will
sometimes appear long, and dull too, to a man whose thoughts on the past
are almost his sole companions.”

“Sole companions?--your child?”

“She is so young.”

“Your wife?”

“She is so--” the bland Italian appeared to check some disparaging
adjective, and mildly added, “so good, I allow; but you must own that
she and I cannot have much in common.”

“I own nothing of the sort. You have your house and your interests, your
happiness and your lives, in common. We men are so exacting, we expect
to find ideal nymphs and goddesses when we condescend to marry a mortal;
and if we did, our chickens would be boiled to rags, and our mutton come
up as cold as a stone.”

“Per Bacco, you are an oracle,” said Riccabocca, laughing. “But I am
not so sceptical as you are. I honour the fair sex too much. There are
a great many women who realize the ideal of men, to be found in--the
poets!”

“There’s my dear Mrs. Dale,” resumed the parson, not heeding the
sarcastic compliment to the sex, but sinking his voice into a whisper,
and looking round cautiously,--“there’s my dear Mrs. Dale, the best
woman in the world,--an angel I would say, if the word were not profane;
BUT--”

“What’s the BUT?” asked the doctor, demurely.

“BUT I too might say that ‘she and I have not much in common,’ if I were
only to compare mind to mind, and when my poor Carry says something less
profound than Madame de Stael might have said, smile on her in contempt
from the elevation of logic and Latin. Yet when I remember all the
little sorrows and joys that we have shared together, and feel how
solitary I should have been without her--oh, then, I am instantly aware
that there is between us in common something infinitely closer and
better than if the same course of study had given us the same equality
of ideas; and I was forced to brace myself for a combat of intellect, as
I am when I fall in with a tiresome sage like yourself. I don’t pretend
to say that Mrs. Riccabocca is a Mrs. Dale,” added the parson, with
lofty candour,--“there is but one Mrs. Dale in the world; but still, you
have drawn a prize in the wheel matrimonial! Think of Socrates, and yet
he was content even with his--Xantippe!”

Dr. Riccabocca called to mind Mrs. Dale’s “little tempers,” and inly
rejoiced that no second Mrs. Dale had existed to fall to his own lot.
His placid Jemima gained by the contrast. Nevertheless he had the ill
grace to reply, “Socrates was a man beyond all imitation!--Yet I believe
that even he spent very few of his evenings at home. But revenons a nos
moutons, we are nearly at Mrs. Fairfield’s cottage, and you have not yet
told me what you have settled as to Leonard.”

The parson halted, took Riccabocca by the button, and informed him, in
very few words, that Leonard was to go to Lansmere to see some relations
there, who had the fortune, if they had the will, to give full career to
his abilities.

“The great thing, in the mean while,” said the parson, “would be to
enlighten him a little as to what he calls--enlightenment.”

“Ah!” said Riccabocca, diverted, and rubbing his hands, “I shall listen
with interest to what you say on that subject.”

“And must aid me: for the first step in this modern march of
enlightenment is to leave the poor parson behind; and if one calls out
‘Hold! and look at the sign-post,’ the traveller hurries on the faster,
saying to himself, ‘Pooh, pooh!--that is only the cry of the parson!’
But my gentleman, when he doubts me, will listen to you,--you’re a
philosopher!”

“We philosophers are of some use now and then, even to parsons!”

“If you were not so conceited a set of deluded poor creatures already,
I would say ‘Yes,’” replied the parson, generously; and, taking hold of
Riccabocca’s umbrella, he applied the brass handle thereof, by way of a
knocker, to the cottage door.



CHAPTER XVIII.

Certainly it is a glorious fever,--that desire To Know! And there are
few sights in the moral world more sublime than that which many a garret
might afford, if Asmodeus would bare the roofs to our survey,--namely, a
brave, patient, earnest human being toiling his own arduous way, athwart
the iron walls of penury, into the magnificent Infinite, which is
luminous with starry souls.

So there sits Leonard the Self-taught in the little cottage alone: for,
though scarcely past the hour in which great folks dine, it is the hour
in which small folks go to bed, and Mrs. Fairfield has retired to rest,
while Leonard has settled to his books.

He had placed his table under the lattice, and from time to time he
looked up and enjoyed the stillness of the moon. Well for him that, in
reparation for those hours stolen from night, the hardy physical labour
commenced with dawn. Students would not be the sad dyspeptics they are,
if they worked as many hours in the open air as my scholar-peasant. But
even in him you could see that the mind had begun a little to affect the
frame. They who task the intellect must pay the penalty with the body.
Ill, believe me, would this work-day world get on if all within it were
hard-reading, studious animals, playing the deuce with the ganglionic
apparatus.

Leonard started as he heard the knock at the door; the parson’s
well-known voice reassured him. In some surprise he admitted his
visitors.

“We are come to talk to you, Leonard,” said Mr. Dale; “but I fear we
shall disturb Mrs. Fairfield.”

“Oh, no, sir! the door to the staircase is shut, and she sleeps
soundly.”

“Why, this is a French book! Do you read French, Leonard?” asked
Riccabocca.

“I have not found French difficult, sir. Once over the grammar, and the
language is so clear; it seems the very language for reasoning.”

“True. Voltaire said justly, ‘Whatever is obscure is not French,’”
 observed Riccabocca.

“I wish I could say the same of English,” muttered the parson.

“But what is this,--Latin too?--Virgil?”

“Yes, sir. But I find I make little way there without a master. I fear I
must give it up” (and Leonard sighed).

The two gentlemen exchanged looks, and seated themselves. The young
peasant remained standing modestly, and in his air and mien there was
something that touched the heart while it pleased the eye. He was no
longer the timid boy who had shrunk from the frown of Mr. Stirn,
nor that rude personation of simple physical strength, roused to
undisciplined bravery, which had received its downfall on the village
green of Hazeldean. The power of thought was on his brow,--somewhat
unquiet still, but mild and earnest. The features had attained that
refinement which is often attributed to race, but comes, in truth, from
elegance of idea, whether caught from our parents or learned from books.
In his rich brown hair, thrown carelessly from his temples, and curling
almost to the shoulders; in his large blue eye, which was deepened to
the hue of the violet by the long dark lash; in that firmness of lip,
which comes from the grapple with difficulties, there was considerable
beauty, but no longer the beauty of the mere peasant. And yet there was
still about the whole countenance that expression of goodness and purity
which a painter would give to his ideal of the peasant lover,--such as
Tasso would have placed in the “Aminta,” or Fletcher have admitted to
the side of the Faithful Shepherdess.

“You must draw a chair here, and sit down between us, Leonard,” said the
parson.

“If any one,” said Riccabocca, “has a right to sit, it is the one who is
to hear the sermon; and if any one ought to stand, it is the one who is
about to preach it.”

“Don’t be frightened, Leonard,” said the parson, graciously; “it is only
a criticism, not a sermon;” and he pulled out Leonard’s Prize Essay.



CHAPTER XIX.

PARSON.--“You take for your motto this aphorism, ‘Knowledge is
Power.’--BACON.”

RICCABOCCA.--“Bacon make such an aphorism! The last man in the world to
have said anything so pert and so shallow!”

LEONARD (astonished).--“Do you mean to say, sir, that that aphorism is
not in Lord Bacon? Why, I have seen it quoted as his in almost every
newspaper, and in almost every speech in favour of popular education.”

RICCABOCCA.--“Then that should be a warning to you never again to fall
into the error of the would-be scholar,--

   [This aphorism has been probably assigned to Lord Bacon upon the
   mere authority of the index to his works. It is the aphorism of the
   index-maker, certainly not of the great master of inductive
   philosophy. Bacon has, it is true, repeatedly dwelt on the power of
   knowledge, but with so many explanations and distinctions that
   nothing could be more unjust to his general meaning than the attempt
   to cramp into a sentence what it costs him a volume to define.
   Thus, if on one page he appears to confound knowledge with power, in
   another he sets them in the strongest antithesis to each other; as
   follows “Adeo signanter Deus opera potentix et sapientive
   discriminavit.” But it would be as unfair to Bacon to convert into
   an aphorism the sentence that discriminates between knowledge and
   power as it is to convert into an aphorism any sentence that
   confounds them.]

namely, quote second-hand. Lord Bacon wrote a great book to show in what
knowledge is power, how that power should be defined, in what it might
be mistaken. And, pray, do you think so sensible a man ever would have
taken the trouble to write a great book upon the subject, if he could
have packed up all he had to say into the portable dogma, ‘Knowledge is
power’? Pooh! no such aphorism is to be found in Bacon from the first
page of his writings to the last.”

PARSON (candidly).--“Well, I supposed it was Lord Bacon’s, and I am very
glad to hear that the aphorism has not the sanction of his authority.”

LEONARD (recovering his surprise).--“But why so?”

PARSON.--“Because it either says a great deal too much, or just--nothing
at all.”

LEONARD.--“At least, sir, it seems to me undeniable.”

PARSON.--“Well, grant that it is undeniable. Does it prove much in
favour of knowledge? Pray, is not ignorance power too?”

RICCABOCCA.--“And a power that has had much the best end of the
quarter-staff.”

PARSON.--“All evil is power, and does its power make it anything the
better?”

RICCABOCCA.--“Fanaticism is power,--and a power that has often swept
away knowledge like a whirlwind. The Mussulman burns the library of a
world, and forces the Koran and the sword from the schools of Byzantium
to the colleges of Hindostan.”

PARSON (bearing on with a new column of illustration).--“Hunger is
power. The barbarians, starved out of their forests by their own
swarming population, swept into Italy and annihilated letters. The
Romans, however degraded, had more knowledge at least than the Gaul and
the Visigoth.”

RICCABOCCA (bringing up the reserve).--“And even in Greece, when Greek
met Greek, the Athenians--our masters in all knowledge--were beat by the
Spartans, who held learning in contempt.”

PARSON.--“Wherefore you see, Leonard, that though knowledge be power, it
is only one of the powers of the world; that there are others as strong,
and often much stronger; and the assertion either means but a barren
truism, not worth so frequent a repetition, or it means something that
you would find it very difficult to prove.”

LEONARD.--“One nation may be beaten by another that has more physical
strength and more military discipline; which last, permit me to say,
sir, is a species of knowledge--”

RICCABOCCA.--“Yes; but your knowledge-mongers at present call upon us to
discard military discipline, and the qualities that produce it, from
the list of the useful arts. And in your own Essay, you insist upon
knowledge as the great disbander of armies, and the foe of all military
discipline!”

PARSON.--“Let the young man proceed. Nations, you say, may be beaten by
other nations less learned and civilized?”

LEONARD.--“But knowledge elevates a class. I invite the members of my
own humble order to knowledge, because knowledge will lift them into
power.”

RICCABOCCA.--“What do you say to that, Mr. Dale?”

PARSON.--“In the first place, is it true that the class which has the
most knowledge gets the most power? I suppose philosophers, like my
friend Dr. Riccabocca, think they have the most knowledge. And pray,
in what age have philosophers governed the world? Are they not always
grumbling that nobody attends to them?”

RICCABOCCA.--“Per Bacco, if people had attended to us, it would have
been a droll sort of world by this time!”

PARSON.--“Very likely. But, as a general rule, those have the most
knowledge who give themselves up to it the most. Let us put out of the
question philosophers (who are often but ingenious lunatics), and
speak only of erudite scholars, men of letters and practical science,
professors, tutors, and fellows of colleges. I fancy any member of
parliament would tell us that there is no class of men which has less
actual influence on public affairs. These scholars have more knowledge
than manufacturers and shipowners, squires and farmers; but do you find
that they have more power over the Government and the votes of the House
of Parliament?”

“They ought to have,” said Leonard.

“Ought they?” said the parson; “we’ll consider that later. Meanwhile,
you must not escape from your own proposition, which is, that knowledge
is power,--not that it ought to be. Now, even granting your corollary,
that the power of a class is therefore proportioned to its knowledge,
pray, do you suppose that while your order, the operatives, are
instructing themselves, all the rest of the community are to be at
a standstill? Diffuse knowledge as you may, you will never produce
equality of knowledge. Those who have most leisure, application, and
aptitude for learning will still know the most. Nay, by a very natural
law, the more general the appetite for knowledge, the more the increased
competition will favour those most adapted to excel by circumstance and
nature. At this day, there is a vast increase of knowledge spread over
all society, compared with that in the Middle Ages; but is there not a
still greater distinction between the highly educated gentleman and the
intelligent mechanic, than there was then between the baron who could
not sign his name and the churl at the plough; between the accomplished
statesman, versed in all historical lore, and the voter whose politics
are formed by his newspaper, than there was between the legislator who
passed laws against witches and the burgher who defended his guild from
some feudal aggression; between the enlightened scholar and the dunce of
to-day, than there was between the monkish alchemist and the blockhead
of yesterday? Peasant, voter, and dunce of this century are no doubt
wiser than the churl, burgher, and blockhead of the twelfth. But the
gentleman, statesman, and scholar of the present age are at least quite
as favourable a contrast to the alchemist, witch-burner, and baron of
old. As the progress of enlightenment has done hitherto, so will it ever
do.

“Knowledge is like capital: the more there is in a country, the greater
the disparities in wealth between one man and another. Therefore, if the
working class increase in knowledge, so do the other classes; and if the
working class rise peaceably and legitimately into power, it is not
in proportion to their own knowledge alone, but rather according as it
seems to the knowledge of the other orders of the community, that such
augmentation of proportional power is just and safe and wise.”

Placed between the parson and the philosopher, Leonard felt that his
position was not favourable to the display of his forces. Insensibly he
edged his chair somewhat away, and said mournfully,--

“Then, according to you, the reign of knowledge would be no great
advance in the aggregate freedom and welfare of man?”

PARSON.--“Let us define. By knowledge, do you mean intellectual
cultivation; by the reign of knowledge, the ascendency of the most
cultivated minds?”

LEONARD (after a pause).--“Yes.”

RICCABOCCA.--“Oh, indiscreet young man! that is an unfortunate
concession of yours; for the ascendency of the most cultivated minds
would be a terrible oligarchy!”

PARSON.--“Perfectly true; and we now reply to your assertion that men
who, by profession, have most learning, ought to have more influence
than squires and merchants, farmers and mechanics. Observe, all the
knowledge that we mortals can acquire is not knowledge positive and
perfect, but knowledge comparative, and subject to the errors and
passions of humanity. And suppose that you could establish, as the sole
regulators of affairs, those who had the most mental cultivation, do you
think they would not like that power well enough to take all means which
their superior intelligence could devise to keep it to themselves? The
experiment was tried of old by the priests of Egypt; and in the empire
of China, at this day, the aristocracy are elected from those who have
most distinguished themselves in learned colleges. If I may call myself
a member of that body, ‘the people,’ I would rather be an Englishman,
however much displeased with dull ministers and blundering parliaments,
than I would be a Chinese under the rule of the picked sages of the
Celestial Empire. Happily, therefore, my dear Leonard, nations are
governed by many things besides what is commonly called knowledge; and
the greatest practical ministers, who, like Themistocles, have made
small States great, and the most dominant races, who, like the Romans,
have stretched their rule from a village half over the universe, have
been distinguished by various qualities which a philosopher would sneer
at, and a knowledge-monger would call ‘sad prejudices’ and ‘lamentable
errors of reason.’”

LEONARD (bitterly).--“Sir, you make use of knowledge itself to argue
against knowledge.”

PARSON.--“I make use of the little I know to prove the foolishness
of idolatry. I do not argue against knowledge; I argue against
knowledge-worship. For here, I see in your Essay, that you are not
contented with raising human knowledge into something like divine
omnipotence,--you must also confound her with virtue. According to you,
it is but to diffuse the intelligence of the few among the many, and all
at which we preachers aim is accomplished. Nay, more; for, whereas we
humble preachers have never presumed to say, with the heathen Stoic,
that even virtue is sure of happiness below (though it be the best road
to it), you tell us plainly that this knowledge of yours gives not only
the virtue of a saint, but bestows the bliss of a god. Before the steps
of your idol, the evils of life disappear. To hear you, one has but ‘to
know,’ in order to be exempt from the sins and sorrows of the ignorant.
Has it ever been so? Grant that you diffuse amongst the many all the
knowledge ever attained by the few. Have the wise few been so unerring
and so happy? You supposed that your motto was accurately cited from
Bacon. What was Bacon himself? The poet tells you

     “‘The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind!’

“Can you hope to bestow upon the vast mass of your order the luminous
intelligence of this ‘Lord Chancellor of Nature’? Grant that you do so,
and what guarantee have you for the virtue and the happiness which you
assume as the concomitants of the gift? See Bacon himself: what black
ingratitude! what miserable self-seeking! what truckling servility! what
abject and pitiful spirit! So far from intellectual knowledge, in its
highest form and type, insuring virtue and bliss, it is by no means
uncommon to find great mental cultivation combined with great moral
corruption.” (Aside to Riccabocca.--“Push on, will you?”)

RICCASOCCA.--“A combination remarkable in eras as in individuals.
Petronius shows us a state of morals at which a commonplace devil would
blush, in the midst of a society more intellectually cultivated than
certainly was that which produced Regulus or the Horatii. And the most
learned eras in modern Italy were precisely those which brought the
vices into the most ghastly refinement.”

LEONARD (rising in great agitation, and clasping his hands).--“I cannot
contend with you, who produce against information so slender and crude
as mine the stores which have been locked from my reach; but I feel that
there must be another side to this shield,--a shield that you will not
even allow to be silver. And, oh, if you thus speak of knowledge, why
have you encouraged me to know?”



CHAPTER XX.

“Ah, my son!” said the parson, “if I wished to prove the value of
religion, would you think I served it much if I took as my motto,
‘Religion is power’? Would not that be a base and sordid view of its
advantages? And would you not say, He who regards religion as a power
intends to abuse it as a priestcraft?”

“Well put!” said Riccabocca.

“Wait a moment--let me think! Ah, I see, Sir!” said Leonard.

PARSON.--“If the cause be holy, do not weigh it in the scales of the
market; if its objects be peaceful, do not seek to arm it with the
weapons of strife; if it is to be the cement of society, do not vaunt it
as the triumph of class against class.”

LEONARD (ingenuously).--“You correct me nobly, sir. Knowledge is power,
but not in the sense in which I have interpreted the saying.”

PARSON.--“Knowledge is one of the powers in the moral world, but
one that, in its immediate result, is not always of the most worldly
advantage to the possessor. It is one of the slowest, because one of the
most durable, of agencies. It may take a thousand years for a thought
to come into power; and the thinker who originated it might have died in
rags or in chains.”

RICCABOCCA.--“Our Italian proverb saith that ‘the teacher is like the
candle, which lights others in consuming itself.’”

PARSON.--“Therefore he who has the true ambition of knowledge should
entertain it for the power of his idea, not for the power it may
bestow on himself: it should be lodged in the conscience, and, like the
conscience, look for no certain reward on this side the grave. And since
knowledge is compatible with good and with evil, would not it be better
to say, ‘Knowledge is a trust’?”

“You are right, sir,” said Leonard, cheerfully; “pray proceed.”

PARSON.--“You ask me why we encourage you to KNOW. First, because (as
you say yourself in your Essay) knowledge, irrespective of gain, is in
itself a delight, and ought to be something far more. Like liberty, like
religion, it may be abused; but I have no more right to say that the
poor shall be ignorant than I have to say that the rich only shall be
free, and that the clergy alone shall learn the truths of redemption.
You truly observe in your treatise that knowledge opens to us other
excitements than those of the senses, and another life than that of the
moment. The difference between us is this,--that you forget that the
same refinement which brings us new pleasures exposes us to new pains;
the horny hand of the peasant feels not the nettles which sting the fine
skin of the scholar. You forget also, that whatever widens the sphere
of the desires opens to them also new temptations. Vanity, the desire of
applause, pride, the sense of superiority, gnawing discontent where that
superiority is not recognized, morbid susceptibility, which comes with
all new feelings, the underrating of simple pleasures apart from the
intellectual, the chase of the imagination, often unduly stimulated,
for things unattainable below,--all these are surely amongst the first
temptations that beset the entrance into knowledge.” Leonard shaded his
face with his hand.

“Hence,” continued the parson, benignantly,--“hence, so far from
considering that we do all that is needful to accomplish ourselves as
men, when we cultivate only the intellect, we should remember that we
thereby continually increase the range of our desires, and therefore of
our temptations; and we should endeavour, simultaneously, to cultivate
both those affections of the heart which prove the ignorant to be God’s
children no less than the wise, and those moral qualities which have
made men great and good when reading and writing were scarcely known:
to wit,--patience and fortitude under poverty and distress; humility and
beneficence amidst grandeur and wealth, and, in counteraction to that
egotism which all superiority, mental or worldly, is apt to inspire,
Justice, the father of all the more solid virtues, softened by Charity,
which is their loving mother. Thus accompanied, knowledge indeed becomes
the magnificent crown of humanity,--not the imperious despot, but the
checked and tempered sovereign of the soul.”

The parson paused, and Leonard, coming near him, timidly took his hand,
with a child’s affectionate and grateful impulse.

RICCAROCCA.--“And if, Leonard, you are not satisfied with our parson’s
excellent definitions, you have only to read what Lord Bacon himself has
said upon the true ends of knowledge to comprehend at once how angry the
poor great man, whom Mr. Dale treats so harshly, would have been with
those who have stinted his elaborate distinctions and provident cautions
into that coxcombical little aphorism, and then misconstrued all
he designed to prove in favour of the commandment, and authority of
learning. For,” added the sage, looking up as a man does when he is
tasking his memory, “I think it is thus that after saying the greatest
error of all is the mistaking or misplacing the end of knowledge, and
denouncing the various objects for which it is vulgarly sought,--I think
it is thus that Lord Bacon proceeds: ‘Knowledge is not a shop for profit
or sale, but a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator, and the
relief of men’s estate.’”

   [“But the greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or
   misplacing of the last or farthest end of knowledge: for men have
   entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a
   natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain
   their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and
   reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and
   contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession”--[that is,
   for most of those objects which are meant by the ordinary titers of
   the saying, “Knowledge is power”]--“and seldom sincerely to give a
   true account of these gifts of reason to the benefit and use of men,
   as if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a
   searching and restless spirit; or a terrace for a wandering and
   variable mind to walk up and down, with a fair prospect; or a tower
   of state for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or
   commanding ground for strife and contention; or a shop for profit or
   sale,--and not a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator, and
   the relief of men’s estate.”--Advancement of Learning, Book I.]

PARSON (remorsefully).--“Are those Lord Bacon’s words? I am very sorry
I spoke so uncharitably of his life. I must examine it again. I may find
excuses for it now that I could not when I first formed my judgment.
I was then a raw lad at Oxford. But I see, Leonard, there is still
something on your mind.”

LEONARD.--“It is true, sir: I would but ask whether it is not by
knowledge that we arrive at the qualities and virtues you so well
describe, but which you seem to consider as coming to us through
channels apart from knowledge?”

PARSON.--“If you mean by the word ‘knowledge’ something very different
from what you express in your Essay--and which those contending for
mental instruction, irrespective of religion and ethics, appear also to
convey by the word--you are right; but, remember, we have already agreed
that by the word’ knowledge’ we mean culture purely intellectual.”

LEONARD.--“That is true,--we so understood it.”

PARSON.--“Thus, when this great Lord Bacon erred, you may say that
he erred from want of knowledge,--the knowledge which moralists and
preachers would convey. But Lord Bacon had read all that moralists and
preachers could say on such matters; and he certainly did not err from
want of intellectual cultivation. Let me here, my child, invite you
to observe, that He who knew most of our human hearts and our immortal
destinies did not insist on this intellectual culture as essential to
the virtues that form our well-being here, and conduce to our salvation
hereafter. Had it been essential, the All-wise One would not have
selected humble fishermen for the teachers of His doctrine, instead of
culling His disciples from Roman portico or Athenian academe. And this,
which distinguishes so remarkably the Gospel from the ethics of heathen
philosophy, wherein knowledge is declared to be necessary to virtue,
is a proof how slight was the heathen sage’s insight into the nature of
mankind, when compared with the Saviour’s; for hard indeed would it be
to men, whether high or low, rich or poor, if science and learning, or
contemplative philosophy, were the sole avenues to peace and redemption;
since, in this state of ordeal requiring active duties, very few in
any age, whether they be high or low, rich or poor, ever are or can be
devoted to pursuits merely mental. Christ does not represent Heaven as a
college for the learned. Therefore the rules of the Celestial Legislator
are rendered clear to the simplest understanding as to the deepest.”

RICCABOCCA.--“And that which Plato and Zeno, Pythagoras and Socrates
could not do, was done by men whose ignorance would have been a by-word
in the schools of the Greek. The gods of the vulgar were dethroned; the
face of the world was changed! This thought may make us allow, indeed,
that there are agencies more powerful than mere knowledge, and ask,
after all, what is the mission which knowledge should achieve?”

PARSON.--“The Sacred Book tells us even that; for after establishing the
truth that, for the multitude, knowledge is not essential to happiness
and good, it accords still to knowledge its sublime part in the
revelation prepared and announced. When an instrument of more than
ordinary intelligence was required for a purpose divine; when the
Gospel, recorded by the simple, was to be explained by the acute,
enforced by the energetic, carried home to the doubts of the Gentile,
the Supreme Will joined to the zeal of the earlier apostles the learning
and genius of Saint Paul,--not holier than the others, calling himself
the least, yet labouring more abundantly than they all, making himself
all things unto all men, so that some might be saved. The ignorant may
be saved no less surely than the wise; but here comes the wise man who
helps to save. And how the fulness and animation of this grand Presence,
of this indomitable Energy, seem to vivify the toil, and to speed the
work! ‘In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers,
in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in
the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils
amongst false brethren.’ Behold, my son! does not Heaven here seem to
reveal the true type of Knowledge,--a sleepless activity, a pervading
agency, a dauntless heroism, an all-supporting faith?--a power, a power
indeed; a power apart from the aggrandizement of self; a power that
brings to him who owns and transmits it but ‘weariness and painfulness;
in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and
nakedness,’--but a power distinct from the mere circumstance of the
man, rushing from him as rays from the sun; borne through the air, and
clothing it with light, piercing under earth, and calling forth the
harvest. Worship not knowledge, worship not the sun, O my child! Let
the sun but proclaim the Creator; let the knowledge but illumine the
worship!”

The good man, overcome by his own earnestness, paused; his head drooped
on the young student’s breast, and all three were long silent.



CHAPTER XXI.

Whatever ridicule may be thrown upon Mr. Dale’s dissertations by the wit
of the enlightened, they had a considerable, and I think a beneficial,
effect upon Leonard Fairfield,--an effect which may perhaps create less
surprise, when the reader remembers that Leonard was unaccustomed to
argument, and still retained many of the prejudices natural to his
rustic breeding. Nay, he actually thought it possible that, as both
Riccabocca and Mr. Dale were more than double his age, and had had
opportunities not only of reading twice as many books, but of gathering
up experience in wider ranges of life,--he actually, I say, thought it
possible that they might be better acquainted with the properties and
distinctions of knowledge than himself. At all events, the parson’s
words were so far well-timed, that they produced in Leonard very much
of that state of mind which Mr. Dale desired to effect, before
communicating to him the startling intelligence that he was to visit
relations whom he had never seen, of whom he had heard but little, and
that it was at least possible that the result of that visit might be to
open to him greater facilities for instruction, and a higher degree in
life.

Without some such preparation, I fear that Leonard would have gone forth
into the world with an exaggerated notion of his own acquirements, and
with a notion yet more exaggerated as to the kind of power that such
knowledge as he possessed would obtain for itself. As it was, when
Mr. Dale broke to him the news of the experimental journey before
him, cautioning him against being over sanguine, Leonard received the
intelligence with a serious meekness, and thoughts that were nobly
solemn.

When the door closed on his visitors, he remained for some moments
motionless, and in deep meditation; then he unclosed the door and stole
forth. The night was already far advanced, the heavens were luminous
with all the host of stars. “I think,” said the student, referring, in
later life, to that crisis in his destiny,--“I think it was then, as I
stood alone, yet surrounded by worlds so numberless, that I first felt
the distinction between mind and soul.”

“Tell me,” said Riccabocca, as he parted company with Mr. Dale, “whether
you would have given to Frank Hazeldean, on entering life, the same
lecture on the limits and ends of knowledge which you have bestowed on
Leonard Fairfield?”

“My friend,” quoth the parson, with a touch of human conceit, “I have
ridden on horseback, and I know that some horses should be guided by the
bridle, and some should be urged by the spur.”

“Cospetto!” said Riccabocca, “you contrive to put every experience of
yours to some use,--even your journey on Mr. Hazeldean’s pad. And I
now see why, in this little world of a village, you have picked up so
general an acquaintance with life.”

“Did you ever read White’s’ Natural History of Selborne’?”

“No.”

“Do so, and you will find that you need not go far to learn the habits
of birds, and know the difference between a swallow and a swift. Learn
the difference in a village, and you know the difference wherever
swallows and swifts skim the air.”

“Swallows and swifts!--true; but men--”

“Are with us all the year round,--which is more than we can say of
swallows and swifts.”

“Mr. Dale,” said Riccabocca, taking off his hat with great formality,
“if ever again I find myself in a dilemma, I will come to you instead of
to Machiavelli.”

“Ah!” cried the parson, “if I could but have a calm hour’s talk with you
on the errors of the Papal relig--”

Riccabocca was off like a shot.



CHAPTER XXII.

The next day Mr. Dale had a long conversation with Mrs. Fairfield. At
first he found some difficulty in getting over her pride, and inducing
her to accept overtures from parents who had so long slighted both
Leonard and herself. And it would have been in vain to have put before
the good woman the worldly advantages which such overtures implied. But
when Mr. Dale said, almost sternly, “Your parents are old, your father
infirm; their least wish should be as binding to you as their command,”
 the widow bowed her head, and said,--

“God bless them, sir, I was very sinful ‘Honour your father and mother.’
I’m no schollard, but I know the Commandments. Let Lenny go. But he’ll
soon forget me, and mayhap he’ll learn to be ashamed of me.”

“There I will trust him,” said the parson; and he contrived easily to
reassure and soothe her.

It was not till all this was settled that Mr. Dale drew forth an
unsealed letter, which Mr. Richard Avenel, taking his hint, had given to
him, as from Leonard’s grandparents, and said, “This is for you, and it
contains an inclosure of some value.”

“Will you read it, sir? As I said before, I’m no schollard.”

“But Leonard is, and he will read it to you.”

When Leonard returned home that evening, Mrs. Fairfield showed him the
letter. It ran thus:--

   DEAR JANE,--Mr. Dale will tell you that we wish Leonard to come to
   us. We are glad to hear you are well. We forward, by Mr. Dale, a
   bank-note for L50, which comes from Richard, your brother. So no
   more at present from your affectionate parents,

   JOHN AND MARGARET AVENEL.

The letter was in a stiff female scrawl, and Leonard observed that two
or three mistakes in spelling had been corrected, either in another pen
or in a different hand.

“Dear brother Dick, how good in him!” cried the widow. “When I saw
there was money, I thought it must be him. How I should like to see Dick
again! But I s’pose he’s still in Amerikay. Well, well, this will buy
clothes for you.”

“No; you must keep it all, Mother, and put it in the Savings Bank.”

“I ‘m not quite so silly as that,” cried Mrs. Fairfield, with contempt;
and she put the L50 into a cracked teapot.

“It must not stay there when I ‘m gone. You may be robbed, Mother.”

“Dear me, dear me, that’s true. What shall I do with it? What do I want
with it, too? Dear me! I wish they hadn’t sent it. I sha’ n’t sleep in
peace. You must e’en put it in your own pouch, and button it up tight,
boy.”

Lenny smiled, and took the note; but he took it to Mr. Dale, and begged
him to put it into the Savings Bank for his mother.

The day following he went to take leave of his master, of Jackeymo, of
the fountain, the garden. But after he had gone through the first of
these adieus with Jackeymo--who, poor man, indulged in all the lively
gesticulations of grief which make half the eloquence of his countrymen,
and then, absolutely blubbering, hurried away--Leonard himself was
so affected that he could not proceed at once to the house, but stood
beside the fountain, trying hard to keep back his tears.

“You, Leonard--and you are going!” said a soft voice; and the tears fell
faster than ever, for he recognized the voice of Violante.

“Do not cry,” continued the child, with a kind of tender gravity. “You
are going, but Papa says it would be selfish in us to grieve, for it is
for your good; and we should be glad. But I am selfish, Leonard, and I
do grieve. I shall miss you sadly.”

“You, young lady,--you miss me?”

“Yes; but I do not cry, Leonard, for I envy you, and I wish I were a
boy: I wish I could do as you.”

The girl clasped her hands, and reared her slight form, with a kind of
passionate dignity.

“Do as me, and part from all those you love!”

“But to serve those you love. One day you will come back to your
mother’s cottage, and say, ‘I have conquered fortune.’ Oh that I could
go forth and return, as you will! But my father has no country, and his
only child is a useless girl.”

As Violante spoke, Leonard had dried his tears: her emotion distracted
him from his own.

“Oh,” continued Violante, again raising her head loftily, “what it is to
be a man! A woman sighs, ‘I wish,’ but a man should say, ‘I will.’”

Occasionally before Leonard had noted fitful flashes of a nature grand
and heroic in the Italian child, especially of late,--flashes the more
remarkable from the contrast to a form most exquisitely feminine, and
to a sweetness of temper which made even her pride gentle. But now it
seemed as if the child spoke with the command of a queen,--almost with
the inspiration of a Muse. A strange and new sense of courage entered
within him.

“May I remember these words!” he murmured, half audibly.

The girl turned and surveyed him with eyes brighter for their moisture.
She then extended her hand to him, with a quick movement, and as he bent
over it, with a grace taught to him by genuine emotion, she said, “And
if you do, then, girl and child as I am, I shall think I have aided a
brave heart in the great strife for honour!”

She lingered a moment, smiled as if to herself, and then, gliding away,
was lost amongst the trees.

After a long pause, in which Leonard recovered slowly from the surprise
and agitation into which Violante had thrown his spirits--previously
excited as they were--he went, murmuring to himself, towards the
house. But Riccabocca was from home. Leonard turned mechanically to
the terrace, and busied himself with the flowers; but the dark eyes of
Violante shone on his thoughts, and her voice rang in his ear.

At length Riccabocca appeared on the road, attended by a labourer, who
carried something indistinct under his arm. The Italian beckoned to
Leonard to follow him into the parlour, and after conversing with him
kindly, and at some length, and packing up, as it were, a considerable
provision of wisdom in the portable shape of aphorisms and proverbs, the
sage left him alone for a few moments. Riccabocca then returned with his
wife, and bearing a small knapsack:--

“It is not much we can do for you, Leonard, and money is the worst
gift in the world for a keepsake; but my wife and I have put our heads
together to furnish you with a little outfit. Giacomo, who was in our
secret, assures us that the clothes will fit; and stole, I fancy, a coat
of yours, to have the right measure. Put them on when you go to your
relations: it is astonishing what a difference it makes in the ideas
people form of us, according as our coats are cut one way or another. I
should not be presentable in London thus; and nothing is more true than
that a tailor is often the making of a man.”

“The shirts, too, are very good holland,” said Mrs. Riccabocca, about to
open the knapsack.

“Never mind details, my dear,” cried the wise man; “shirts are
comprehended in the general principle of clothes. And, Leonard, as a
remembrance somewhat more personal, accept this, which I have worn many
a year when time was a thing of importance to me, and nobler fates than
mine hung on a moment. We missed the moment, or abused it; and here I am
a waif on a foreign shore. Methinks I have done with Time.”

The exile, as he thus spoke, placed in Leonard’s reluctant hands a watch
that would have delighted an antiquary, and shocked a dandy. It was
exceedingly thick, having an outer case of enamel and an inner one of
gold. The hands and the figures of the hours had originally been formed
of brilliants; but the brilliants had long since vanished. Still, even
thus bereft, the watch was much more in character with the giver than
the receiver, and was as little suited to Leonard as would have been the
red silk umbrella.

“It is old-fashioned,” said Mrs. Riccabocca; “but it goes better than
any clock in the county. I really think it will last to the end of the
world.”

“Carissima mia!” cried the doctor, “I thought I had convinced you that
the world is by no means come to its last legs.”

“Oh, I did not mean anything, Alphonso,” said Mrs. Riccabocca,
colouring.

“And that is all we do mean when we talk about that of which we can know
nothing,” said the doctor, less gallantly than usual, for he resented
that epithet of “old-fashioned,” as applied to the watch.

Leonard, we see, had been silent all this time; he could not
speak,--literally and truly, he could not speak. How he got out of his
embarrassment and how he got out of the room, he never explained to my
satisfaction. But a few minutes afterwards, he was seen hurrying down
the road very briskly.

Riccabocca and his wife stood at the window gazing after him.

“There is a depth in that boy’s heart,” said the sage, “which might
float an argosy.”

“Poor dear boy! I think we have put everything into the knapsack that he
can possibly want,” said good Mrs. Riccabocca, musingly.

THE DOCTOR (continuing his soliloquy).--“They are strong, but they are
not immediately apparent.”

MRS. RICCABOCCA (resuming hers).--“They are at the bottom of the
knapsack.”

THE DOCTOR.--“They will stand long wear and tear.”

MRS. RICCABOCCA.--“A year, at least, with proper care at the wash.”

THE DOCTOR (startled).--“Care at the wash! What on earth are you talking
of, ma’am?”

MRS. RICCABOCCA (mildly).--“The shirts, to be sure, my love! And you?”

THE DOCTOR (with a heavy sigh).--“The feelings, ma’am!” Then, after a
pause, taking his wife’s hand affectionately, “But you did quite right
to think of the shirts: Mr. Dale said very truly--”

MRS. RICCABOCCA.--“What?”

THE DOCTOR.--“That there was a great deal in common between us--even
when I think of feelings, and you but of--shirts!”



CHAPTER XXIII.

Mr. and Mrs. Avenel sat within the parlour, Mr. Richard stood on the
hearthrug, whistling “Yankee Doodle.” “The parson writes word that
the lad will come to-day,” said Richard, suddenly; “let me see the
letter,--ay, to-day. If he took the coach as far as -------, he might
walk the rest of the way in two or three hours. He should be pretty
nearly here. I have a great mind to go and meet him: it will save his
asking questions, and hearing about me. I can clear the town by the back
way, and get out at the high road.”

“You’ll not know him from any one else,” said Mrs. Avenel.

“Well, that is a good one! Not know an Avenel! We’ve all the same cut of
the jib,--have we not, Father?”

Poor John laughed heartily, till the tears rolled down his cheeks.

“We were always a well-favoured fam’ly,” said John, recomposing himself.
“There was Luke, but he’s gone; and Harry, but he’s dead too; and Dick,
but he’s in Amerikay--no, he’s here; and my darling Nora, but--”

“Hush!” interrupted Mrs. Avenel; “hush, John!”

The old man stared at her, and then put his tremulous hand to his brow.
“And Nora’s gone too!” said he, in a voice of profound woe. Both hands
then fell on his knees, and his head drooped on his breast.

Mrs. Avenel rose, kissed her husband on the forehead, and walked away to
the window. Richard took up his hat and brushed the nap carefully with
his handkerchief; but his lips quivered.

“I ‘m going,” said he, abruptly. “Now mind, Mother, not a word about
uncle Richard yet; we must first see how we like each other, and--[in a
whisper] you’ll try and get that into my poor father’s head?”

“Ay, Richard,” said Mrs. Avenel, quietly. Richard put on his hat and
went out by the back way. He stole along the fields that skirted the
town, and had only once to cross the street before he got into the high
road.

He walked on till he came to the first milestone. There he seated
himself, lighted his cigar, and awaited his nephew. It was now nearly
the hour of sunset, and the road before him lay westward. Richard, from
time to time, looked along the road, shading his eyes with his hand; and
at length, just as the disk of the sun had half sunk down the horizon,
a solitary figure came up the way. It emerged suddenly from the turn
in the road; the reddening beams coloured all the atmosphere around it.
Solitary and silent it came as from a Land of Light.



CHAPTER XXIV.

“You have been walking far, young man?” said Richard Avenel.

“No, sir, not very. That is Lansmere before me, is it not?”

“Yes, it is Lansmere; you stop there, I guess?”

Leonard made a sign in the affirmative, and walked on a few paces; then,
seeing the stranger who had accosted him still by his side, he said,--

“If you know the town, sir, perhaps you will have the goodness to tell
me whereabouts Mr. Avenel lives?”

“I can put you into a straight cut across the fields, that will bring
you just behind the house.”

“You are very kind, but it will take you out of your way.”

“No, it is in my way. So you are going to Mr. Avenel’s?--a good old
gentleman.”

“I’ve always heard so; and Mrs. Avenel--”

“A particular superior woman,” said Richard. “Any one else to ask
after?--I know the family well.”

“No, thank you, sir.”

“They have a son, I believe; but he’s in America, is he not?”

“I believe he is, sir.”

“I see the parson has kept faith with me muttered Richard.”

“If you can tell me anything about HIM,” said Leonard, “I should be very
glad.”

“Why so, young man? Perhaps he is hanged by this time.”

“Hanged!”

“He was a sad dog, I am told.”

“Then you have been told very falsely,” said Leonard, colouring.

“A sad wild dog; his parents were so glad when he cut and run,--went
off to the States. They say he made money; but, if so, he neglected his
relations shamefully.”

“Sir,” said Leonard, “you are wholly misinformed. He has been most
generous to a relation who had little claim on him: and I never heard
his name mentioned but with love and praise.”

Richard instantly fell to whistling “Yankee Doodle,” and walked on
several paces without saying a word. He then made a slight apology for
his impertinence, hoped no offence, and, with his usual bold but astute
style of talk, contrived to bring out something of his companion’s mind.
He was evidently struck with the clearness and propriety with which
Leonard expressed himself, raised his eyebrows in surprise more than
once, and looked him full in the face with an attentive and pleased
survey. Leonard had put on the new clothes with which Riccabocca and his
wife had provided him. They were those appropriate to a young country
tradesman in good circumstances; but as Leonard did not think about the
clothes, so he had unconsciously something of the ease of the gentleman.

They now came into the fields. Leonard paused before a slip of ground
sown with rye.

“I should have thought grass-land would have answered better so near a
town,” said he.

“No doubt it would,” answered Richard; “but they are sadly behind-hand
in these parts. You see the great park yonder, on the other side of the
road? That would answer better for rye than grass; but then, what would
become of my Lord’s deer? The aristocracy eat us up, young man.”

“But the aristocracy did not sow this piece with rye, I suppose?” said
Leonard, smiling.

“And what do you conclude from that?”

“Let every man look to his own ground,” said Leonard, with a cleverness
of repartee caught from Dr. Riccabocca.

“‘Cute lad you are,” said Richard; “and we’ll talk more of these matters
another time.”

They now came within sight of Mr. Avenel’s house.

“You can get through the gap in the hedge, by the old pollard-oak,”
 said Richard; “and come round by the front of the house. Why, you’re not
afraid, are you?”

“I am a stranger.”

“Shall I introduce you? I told you that I knew the old couple.”

“Oh, no, sir! I would rather meet them alone.”

“Go; and--wait a bit-hark ye, young man, Mrs. Avenel is a cold-mannered
woman; but don’t be abashed by that.” Leonard thanked the good-natured
stranger, crossed the field, passed the gap, and paused a moment
under the stinted shade of the old hollow-hearted oak. The ravens were
returning to their nests. At the sight of a human form under the tree
they wheeled round and watched him afar. From the thick of the boughs,
the young ravens sent their hoarse low cry.



CHAPTER XXV.

The young man entered the neat, prim, formal parlour. “You are welcome!”
 said Mrs. Avenel, in a firm voice. “The gentleman is heartily welcome,”
 cried poor John.

“It is your grandson, Leonard Fairfield,” said Mrs. Avenel. But John,
who had risen with knocking knees, gazed hard at Leonard, and then fell
on his breast, sobbing aloud, “Nora’s eyes!--he has a blink in his eye
like Nora’s.”

Mrs. Avenel approached with a steady step, and drew away the old man
tenderly.

“He is a poor creature,” she whispered to Leonard; “you excite him. Come
away, I will show you your room.” Leonard followed her up the stairs,
and came into a room neatly and even prettily furnished. The carpet and
curtains were faded by the sun, and of old-fashioned pattern; there was
a look about the room as if it had been long disused. Mrs. Avenel sank
down on the first chair on entering. Leonard drew his arm round her
waist affectionately: “I fear that I have put you out sadly, my
dear grandmother.” Mrs. Avenel glided hastily from his arm, and her
countenance worked much, every nerve in it twitching, as it were; then,
placing her hand on his locks, she said with passion, “God bless you, my
grandson,” and left the room.

Leonard dropped his knapsack on the floor, and looked around him
wistfully. The room seemed as if it had once been occupied by a female.
There was a work-box on the chest of drawers, and over it hanging
shelves for books, suspended by ribbons that had once been blue, with
silk and fringe appended to each shelf, and knots and tassels here and
there,--the taste of a woman, or rather of a girl, who seeks to give a
grace to the commonest things around her. With the mechanical habit of
a student, Leonard took down one or two of the volumes still left on the
shelves. He found Spenser’s “Faerie Queene,” Racine in French, Tasso
in Italian; and on the fly-leaf of each volume, in the exquisite
handwriting familiar to his memory, the name “Leonora.” He kissed the
books, and replaced them with a feeling akin both to tenderness and awe.

He had not been alone in his room more than a quarter of an hour before
the maid-servant knocked at his door and summoned him to tea.

Poor John had recovered his spirits, and his wife sat by his side,
holding his hand in hers. Poor John was even gay. He asked many
questions about his daughter Jane, and did not wait for the answers.
Then he spoke about the squire, whom he confounded with Audley Egerton,
and talked of elections and the Blue party, and hoped Leonard would
always be a good Blue; and then he fell to his tea and toast, and said
no more.

Mrs. Avenel spoke little, but she eyed Leonard askant, as it were, from
time to time; and, after each glance, the nerves of the poor severe face
twitched again.

A little after nine o’clock, Mrs. Avenel lighted a candle, and placing
it in Leonard’s hand, said, “You must be tired,--you know your own room
now. Good-night.”

Leonard took the light, and, as was his wont with his mother, kissed
Mrs. Avenel on the cheek. Then he took John’s hand and kissed him too.
The old man was half asleep, and murmured dreamily, “That’s Nora.”

Leonard had retired to his room about half an hour, when Richard Avenel
entered the house softly, and joined his parents.

“Well, Mother?” said he.

“Well, Richard, you have seen him?”

“And like him. Do you know he has a great look of poor Nora?--more like
her than Jane.”

“Yes; he is handsomer than Jane ever was, but more like your father than
any one. John was so comely. You take to the boy, then?”

“Ay, that I do. Just tell him in the morning that he is to go with a
gentleman who will be his friend, and don’t say more. The chaise shall
be at the door after breakfast. Let him get into it: I shall wait for
him out of the town. What’s the room you gave him?”

“The room you would not take.”

“The room in which Nora slept? Oh, no! I could not have slept a wink
there. What a charm there was in that girl! how we all loved her! But
she was too beautiful and good for us,--too good to live!”

“None of us are too good,” said Mrs. Avenel, with great austerity, “and
I beg you will not talk in that way. Goodnight,--I must get your poor
father to bed.”

When Leonard opened his eyes the next morning, they rested on the face
of Mrs. Avenel, which was bending over his pillow. But it was long
before he could recognize that countenance, so changed was its
expression,--so tender, so mother-like. Nay, the face of his own mother
had never seemed to him so soft with a mother’s passion.

“Ah!” he murmured, half rising, and flinging his young arms round her
neck. Mrs. Avenel, this time taken by surprise, warmly returned the
embrace; she clasped him to her breast, she kissed him again and again.
At length, with a quick start, she escaped, and walked up and down the
room, pressing her hands tightly together. When she halted, her face had
recovered its usual severity and cold precision.

“It is time for you to rise, Leonard,” said she. “You will leave us
to-day. A gentleman has promised to take charge of you, and do for you
more than we can. A chaise will be at the door soon,--make haste.”

John was absent from the breakfast-table. His wife said that he never
rose till late, and must not be disturbed.

The meal was scarcely over before a chaise and pair came to the door.

“You must not keep the chaise waiting,--the gentleman is very punctual.”

“But he is not come.”

“No; he has walked on before, and will get in after you are out of the
town.”

“What is his name, and why should he care for me, Grandmother?”

“He will tell you himself. Be quick.”

“But you will bless me again, Grandmother? I love you already.”

“I do bless you,” said Mrs. Avenel, firmly. “Be honest and good, and
beware of the first false step.” She pressed his hand with a convulsive
grasp, and led him to the outer door.

The postboy clanked his whip, the chaise rattled off. Leonard put his
head out of the window to catch a last glimpse of the old woman; but the
boughs of the pollard-oak, and its gnarled decaying trunk, hid her from
his eye, and look as he would, till the road turned, he saw but the
melancholy tree.



BOOK FIFTH.



INITIAL CHAPTER.

CONTAINING MR. CAXTON’s UNAVAILING CAUTION NOT TO BE DULL.

“I hope, Pisistratus,” said my father, “that you do not intend to be
dull?”

“Heaven forbid, sir! What could make you ask such a question? Intend!
No! if I am dull it is from innocence.”

“A very long discourse upon knowledge!” said my father; “very long! I
should cut it out.”

I looked upon my father as a Byzantian sage might have looked on a
Vandal. “Cut it out!”

“Stops the action, sir!” said my father, dogmatically.

“Action! But a novel is not a drama.”

“No; it is a great deal longer,--twenty times as long, I dare say,”
 replied Mr. Caxton, with a sigh.

“Well, sir, well! I think my Discourse upon Knowledge has much to do
with the subject, is vitally essential to the subject; does not stop the
action,--only explains and elucidates the action. And I am astonished,
sir, that you, a scholar, and a cultivator of knowledge--”

“There, there!” cried my father, deprecatingly. “I yield, I yield! What
better could I expect when I set up for a critic? What author ever lived
that did not fly into a passion, even with his own father, if his father
presumed to say, ‘Cut out’!”

MRS. CAXTON.--“My dear Austin, I am sure Pisistratus did not mean to
offend you, and I have no doubt he will take your--”

PISISTRATUS (hastily).--“Advice for the future, certainly. I will
quicken the action, and--”

“Go on with the Novel,” whispered Roland, looking up from his eternal
account-book. “We have lost L200 by our barley!”

Therewith I plunged my pen into the ink, and my thoughts into the “Fair
Shadowland.”



CHAPTER II.

“HALT, cried a voice; and not a little surprised was Leonard when the
stranger who had accosted him the preceding evening got into the chaise.

“Well,” said Richard, “I am not the sort of man you expected, eh? Take
time to recover yourself.” And with these words Richard drew forth a
book from his pocket, threw himself back, and began to read. Leonard
stole many a glance at the acute, hardy, handsome face of his companion,
and gradually recognized a family likeness to poor John, in whom,
despite age and infirmity, the traces of no common share of physical
beauty were still evident. And, with that quick link in ideas which
mathematical aptitude bestows, the young student at once conjectured
that he saw before him his uncle Richard. He had the discretion,
however, to leave that gentleman free to choose his own time for
introducing himself, and silently revolved the new thoughts produced
by the novelty of his situation. Mr. Richard read with notable
quickness,--sometimes cutting the leaves of the book with his penknife,
sometimes tearing them open with his forefinger, sometimes skipping
whole pages altogether. Thus he galloped to the end of the volume, flung
it aside, lighted his cigar, and began to talk. He put many questions to
Leonard relative to his rearing, and especially to the mode by which he
had acquired his education; and Leonard, confirmed in the idea that he
was replying to a kinsman, answered frankly.

Richard did not think it strange that Leonard should have acquired so
much instruction with so little direct tuition. Richard Avenel himself
had been tutor to himself. He had lived too long with our go-ahead
brethren who stride the world on the other side the Atlantic with
the seven-leagued boots of the Giant-killer, not to have caught their
glorious fever for reading. But it was for a reading wholly different
from that which was familiar to Leonard. The books he read must be new;
to read old books would have seemed to him going back in the world.
He fancied that new books necessarily contained new ideas,--a common
mistake,--and our lucky adventurer was the man of his day.

Tired with talking, he at length chucked the book he had run through to
Leonard, and taking out a pocket-book and pencil, amused himself with
calculations on some detail of his business, after which he fell into an
absorbed train of thought, part pecuniary, part ambitious.

Leonard found the book interesting: it was one of the numerous works,
half-statistic, half-declamatory, relating to the condition of the
working classes, which peculiarly distinguish our century, and ought to
bind together rich and poor, by proving the grave attention which modern
society bestows upon all that can affect the welfare of the last.

“Dull stuff! theory! claptrap!” said Richard, rousing himself from his
revery at last; “it can’t interest you.”

“All books interest me, I think,” said Leonard, “and this especially;
for it relates to the working class, and I am one of them.”

“You were yesterday, but you mayn’t be to-morrow,” answered Richard,
good-humouredly, and patting him on the shoulder. “You see, my lad, that
it is the middle class which ought to govern the country. What the book
says about the ignorance of country magistrates is very good; but the
man writes pretty considerable trash when he wants to regulate the
number of hours a free-born boy should work at a factory,--only ten
hours a day--pooh! and so lose two hours to the nation! Labour is
wealth; and if we could get men to work twenty-four hours a day,
we should be just twice as rich. If the march of civilization is to
proceed,” continued Richard, loftily, “men, and boys too, must not lie
a bed doing nothing, all night, sir.” Then, with a complacent tone, “We
shall get to the twenty-four hours at last; and, by gad, we must, or we
sha’n’t flog the Europeans as we do now.”

On arriving at the inn at which Richard had first made acquaintance with
Mr. Dale, the coach by which he had intended to perform the rest of the
journey was found to be full. Richard continued to perform the journey
in postchaises, not without some grumbling at the expense, and incessant
orders to the post-boys to make the best of the way. “Slow country this
in spite of all its brag,” said he,--“very slow. Time is money--they
know that in the States; for why? they are all men of business there.
Always slow in a country where a parcel of lazy, idle lords and dukes
and baronets seem to think ‘time is pleasure.’”

Towards evening the chaise approached the confines of a very large town,
and Richard began to grow fidgety. His easy, cavalier air was abandoned.
He withdrew his legs from the window, out of which they had been
luxuriously dangling, pulled down his waistcoat, buckled more tightly
his stock; it was clear that he was resuming the decorous dignity that
belongs to state. He was like a monarch who, after travelling happy and
incognito, returns to his capital. Leonard divined at once that they
were nearing their journey’s end.

Humble foot-passengers now looked at the chaise, and touched their hats.
Richard returned the salutation with a nod,--a nod less gracious than
condescending. The chaise turned rapidly to the left, and stopped before
a small lodge, very new, very white, adorned with two Doric columns
in stucco, and flanked by a large pair of gates. “Hollo!” cried the
post-boy, and cracked his whip.

Two children were playing before the lodge, and some clothes were
hanging out to dry on the shrubs and pales round the neat little
building.

“Hang those brats! they are actually playing,” growled Dick. “As I live,
the jade has been washing again! Stop, boy!” During this soliloquy, a
good-looking young woman had rushed from the door, slapped the children
as, catching sight of the chaise, they ran towards the house, opened the
gates, and dropping a courtesy to the ground, seemed to wish that she
could drop into it altogether; so frightened and so trembling seemed
she to shrink from the wrathful face which the master now put out of the
window.

“Did I tell you, or did I not,” said Dick, “that I would not have those
horrid, disreputable cubs of yours playing just before my lodge gates?”

“Please, sir--”

“Don’t answer me. And did I tell you, or did I not, that the next time I
saw you making a drying-ground of my lilacs, you should go out, neck and
crop--”

“Oh, please, sir--”

“You leave my lodge next Saturday! drive on, boy. The ingratitude and
insolence of those common people are disgraceful to human nature,”
 muttered Richard, with an accent of the bitterest misanthropy.

The chaise wheeled along the smoothest and freshest of gravel roads, and
through fields of the finest land, in the highest state of cultivation.
Rapid as was Leonard’s survey, his rural eye detected the signs of a
master in the art agronomial. Hitherto he had considered the squire’s
model farm as the nearest approach to good husbandry he had seen; for
Jackeymo’s finer skill was developed rather on the minute scale of
market-gardening than what can fairly be called husbandry. But
the squire’s farm was degraded by many old-fashioned notions, and
concessions to the whim of the eye, which would not be found in model
farms nowadays,--large tangled hedgerows, which, though they constitute
one of the beauties most picturesque in old England, make sad deductions
from produce; great trees, overshadowing the corn and harbouring the
birds; little patches of rough sward left to waste; and angles of
woodland running into fields, exposing them to rabbits and blocking out
the sun. These and such like blots on a gentleman-farmer’s agriculture,
common-sense and Giacomo had made clear to the acute comprehension of
Leonard. No such faults were perceptible in Richard Avenel’s domain. The
fields lay in broad divisions, the hedges were clipped and narrowed
into their proper destination of mere boundaries. Not a blade of wheat
withered under the cold shade of a tree; not a yard of land lay waste;
not a weed was to be seen, not a thistle to waft its baleful seed
through the air: some young plantations were placed, not where the
artist would put them, but just where the farmer wanted a fence from
the wind. Was there no beauty in this? Yes, there was beauty of its
kind,--beauty at once recognizable to the initiated, beauty of use
and profit, beauty that could bear a monstrous high rent. And Leonard
uttered a cry of admiration which thrilled through the heart of Richard
Avenel.

“This IS farming!” said the villager.

“Well, I guess it is,” answered Richard, all his ill-humour vanishing.
“You should have seen the land when I bought it. But we new men, as they
call us (damn their impertinence!) are the new blood of this country.”

Richard Avenel never said anything more true. Long may the new blood
circulate through the veins of the mighty giantess; but let the grand
heart be the same as it has beat for proud ages.

The chaise now passed through a pretty shrubbery, and the house came
into gradual view,--a house with a portico, all the offices carefully
thrust out of sight.

The postboy dismounted and rang the bell.

“I almost think they are going to keep me waiting,” said Mr. Richard,
well-nigh in the very words of Louis XIV. But the fear was not
realized,--the door opened; a well-fed servant out of livery presented
himself. There was no hearty welcoming smile on his face, but he opened
the chaise-door with demure and taciturn respect.

“Where’s George? Why does he not come to the door?” asked Richard;
descending from the chaise slowly, and leaning on the servant’s
outstretched arm with as much precaution as if he had had the gout.

Fortunately, George here came into sight, settling himself hastily into
his livery coat.

“See to the things, both of you,” said Richard, as he paid the postboy.

Leonard stood on the gravel sweep, gazing at the square white house.

“Handsome elevation--classical, I take it, eh?” said Richard, joining
him. “But you should see the offices.” He then, with familiar kindness,
took Leonard by the arm, and drew him within. He showed him the hall,
with a carved mahogany stand for hats; he showed him the drawing-room,
and pointed out all its beauties; though it was summer, the drawing-room
looked cold, as will look rooms newly furnished, with walls newly
papered, in houses newly built. The furniture was handsome, and suited
to the rank of a rich trader. There was no pretence about it, and
therefore no vulgarity, which is more than can be said for the houses
of many an Honourable Mrs. Somebody in Mayfair, with rooms twelve feet
square, ebokeful of buhl, that would have had its proper place in
the Tuileries. Then Richard showed him the library, with mahogany
book-cases, and plate glass, and the fashionable authors handsomely
bound. Your new men are much better friends to living authors than
your old families who live in the country, and at most subscribe to
a book-club. Then Richard took him up-stairs, and led him through
the bedrooms,--all very clean and comfortable, and with every modern
convenience; and pausing in a very pretty single gentleman’s chamber,
said, “This is your den. And now, can you guess who I am?”

“No one but my uncle Richard could be so kind,” answered Leonard.

But the compliment did not flatter Richard. He was extremely
disconcerted and disappointed. He had hoped that he should be taken for
a lord at least, forgetful of all that he had said in disparagement of
lords.

“Fish!” said he at last, biting his lip, “so you don’t think that I look
like a gentleman? Come, now, speak honestly.”

Leonard, wonderingly, saw he had given pain, and with the good breeding
which comes instinctively from good nature, replied, “I judge you by
your heart, sir, and your likeness to my grandfather,--otherwise I
should never have presumed to fancy we could be relations.”

“Hum!” answered Richard. “You can just wash your hands, and then come
down to dinner; you will hear the gong in ten ininutes. There’s the
bell,--ring for what you want.” With that, he turned on his heel; and
descending the stairs, gave a look into the dining-room, and admired the
plated salver on the sideboard, and the king’s pattern spoons and silver
on the table. Then he walked to the looking-glass over the mantelpiece;
and, wishing to survey the whole effect of his form, mounted a chair.
He was just getting into an attitude which he thought imposing, when
the butler entered, and, being London bred, had the discretion to try to
escape unseen; but Richard caught sight of him in the looking-glass, and
coloured up to the temples.

“Jarvis,” said he, mildly, “Jarvis, put me in mind to have these
inexpressibles altered.”



CHAPTER III.

A propos of the inexpressibles, Mr. Richard did not forget to provide
his nephew with a much larger wardrobe than could have been thrust into
Dr. Riccabocca’s knapsack. There was a very good tailor in the town, and
the clothes were very well made. And, but for an air more ingenuous,
and a cheek that, despite study and night vigils, retained much of the
sunburned bloom of the rustic, Leonard Fairfield might now have almost
passed, without disparaging comment, by the bow-window at White’s.
Richard burst into an immoderate fit of laughter when he first saw the
watch which the poor Italian had bestowed upon Leonard; but to atone
for the laughter, he made him a present of a very pretty substitute, and
bade him “lock up his turnip.” Leonard was more hurt by the jeer at his
old patron’s gift than pleased by his uncle’s. But Richard Avenel had
no conception of sentiment. It was not for many days that Leonard could
reconcile himself to his uncle’s manner. Not that the peasant could
pretend to judge of its mere conventional defects; but there is an ill
breeding to which, whatever our rank and nurture, we are almost equally
sensitive,--the ill breeding that comes from want of consideration for
others. Now, the squire was as homely in his way as Richard Avenel, but
the squire’s bluntness rarely hurt the feelings; and when it did so, the
squire perceived and hastened to repair his blunder. But Mr. Richard,
whether kind or cross, was always wounding you in some little delicate
fibre,--not from malice, but from the absence of any little delicate
fibres of his own. He was really, in many respects, a most excellent
man, and certainly a very valuable citizen--; but his merits wanted the
fine tints and fluent curves that constitute beauty of character. He was
honest, but sharp in his practice, and with a keen eye to his interests.
He was just, but as a matter of business. He made no allowances, and did
not leave to his justice the large margin of tenderness and mercy. He
was generous, but rather from an idea of what was due to himself
than with much thought of the pleasure he gave to others; and he even
regarded generosity as a capital put out to interest. He expected
a great deal of gratitude in return, and, when he obliged a man,
considered that he had bought a slave. Every needy voter knew where to
come, if he wanted relief or a loan; but woe to him if he had ventured
to express hesitation when Mr. Avenel told him how he must vote.

In this town Richard had settled after his return from America, in which
country he had enriched himself,--first, by spirit and industry,
lastly, by bold speculation and good luck. He invested his fortune in
business,--became a partner in a large brewery, soon bought out his
associates, and then took a principal share in a flourishing corn-mill.
He prospered rapidly,--bought a property of some two or three hundred
acres, built a house, and resolved to enjoy himself, and make a figure.
He had now become the leading man of the town, and the boast to Audley
Egerton that he could return one of the members, perhaps both, was by
no means an exaggerated estimate of his power. Nor was his proposition,
according to his own views, so unprincipled as it appeared to the
statesman. He had taken a great dislike to both the sitting members,--a
dislike natural to a sensible man of moderate politics, who had
something to lose. For Mr. Slappe, the active member, who was
head-over-ears in debt, was one of the furious democrats--rare before
the Reform Bill,--and whose opinions were held dangerous even by the
mass of a Liberal constituency; while Mr. Sleekie, the gentleman member
who laid by L5000 every year from his dividends in the Funds, was one of
those men whom Richard justly pronounced to be “humbugs,”--men who curry
favour with the extreme party by voting for measures sure not to
be carried; while if there was the least probability of coming to a
decision that would lower the money market. Mr. Sleekie was seized with
a well-timed influenza. Those politicians are common enough now. Propose
to march to the Millennium, and they are your men. Ask them to march a
quarter of a mile, and they fall to feeling their pockets, and trembling
for fear of the footpads. They are never so joyful as when there is no
chance of a victory. Did they beat the minister, they would be carried
out of the House in a fit.

Richard Avenel--despising both these gentlemen, and not taking kindly
to the Whigs since the great Whig leaders were lords--had looked with
a friendly eye to the government as it then existed, and especially
to Audley Egerton, the enlightened representative of commerce. But in
giving Audley and his colleagues the benefit of his influence, through
conscience, he thought it all fair and right to have a quid pro quo,
and, as he had so frankly confessed, it was his whim to rise up “Sir
Richard.” For this worthy citizen abused the aristocracy much on the
same principle as the fair Olivia depreciated Squire Thornhill,--he had
a sneaking affection for what he abused. The society of Screwstown was,
like most provincial capitals, composed of two classes,--the commercial
and the exclusive. These last dwelt chiefly apart, around the ruins of
an old abbey; they affected its antiquity in their pedigrees, and
had much of its ruin in their finances. Widows of rural thanes in the
neighbourhood, genteel spinsters, officers retired on half-pay, younger
sons of rich squires, who had now become old bachelors,--in short,
a very respectable, proud, aristocratic set, who thought more of
themselves than do all the Gowers and Howards, Courtenays and Seymours,
put together. It had early been the ambition of Richard Avenel to
be admitted into this sublime coterie; and, strange to say, he had
partially succeeded. He was never more happy than when he was asked to
their card-parties, and never more unhappy than when he was actually
there. Various circumstances combined to raise Mr. Avenel into this
elevated society. First, he was unmarried, still very handsome, and in
that society there was a large proportion of unwedded females. Secondly,
he was the only rich trader in Screwstown who kept a good cook, and
professed to give dinners, and the half-pay captains and colonels
swallowed the host for the sake of the venison. Thirdly, and
principally, all these exclusives abhorred the two sitting members, and
“idem nolle idem velle de republica, ea firma amicitia est;” that is,
congeniality in politics pieces porcelain and crockery together better
than the best diamond cement. The sturdy Richard Avenel, who valued
himself on American independence, held these ladies and gentlemen in
an awe that was truly Brahminical. Whether it was that, in England,
all notions, even of liberty, are mixed up historically, traditionally,
socially, with that fine and subtle element of aristocracy which, like
the press, is the air we breathe; or whether Richard imagined that
he really became magnetically imbued with the virtues of these silver
pennies and gold seven-shilling pieces, distinct from the vulgar coinage
in popular use, it is hard to say. But the truth must be told,--Richard
Avenel was a notable tuft-hunter. He had a great longing to marry out of
this society; but he had not yet seen any one sufficiently high-born and
high-bred to satisfy his aspirations. In the meanwhile, he had convinced
himself that his way would be smooth could he offer to make his ultimate
choice “My Lady;” and he felt that it would be a proud hour in his life
when he could walk before stiff Colonel Pompley to the sound of “Sir
Richard.” Still, however disappointed at the ill-success of his
bluff diplomacy with Mr. Egerton, and however yet cherishing the most
vindictive resentment against that individual, he did not, as many would
have done, throw up his political convictions out of personal spite.
He reserved his private grudge for some special occasion, and continued
still to support the Administration, and to hate one of the ministers.

But, duly to appreciate the value of Richard Avenel, and in just
counterpoise to all his foibles, one ought to have seen what he had
effected for the town. Well might he boast of “new blood;” he had done
as much for the town as he had for his fields. His energy, his quick
comprehension of public utility, backed by his wealth and bold,
bullying, imperious character, had sped the work of civilization as if
with the celerity and force of a steam-engine.

If the town were so well paved and so well lighted, if half-a-dozen
squalid lanes had been transformed into a stately street, if half the
town no longer depended on tanks for their water, if the poor-rates were
reduced one-third, praise to the brisk new blood which Richard Avenel
had infused into vestry and corporation. And his example itself was so
contagious!

“There was not a plate-glass window in the town when I came into it,”
 said Richard Avenel; “and now look down the High Street!” He took the
credit to himself, and justly; for though his own business did not
require windows of plate-glass, he had awakened the spirit of enterprise
which adorns a whole city.

Mr. Avenel did not present Leonard to his friends for more than a
fortnight. He allowed him to wear off his rust. He then gave a grand
dinner, at which his nephew was formally introduced, and, to his great
wrath and disappointment, never opened his lips. How could he, poor
youth, when Miss Clarina Mowbray only talked upon high life, till
proud Colonel Pompley went in state through the history of the Siege of
Seringapatam?



CHAPTER IV.

While Leonard accustoms himself gradually to the splendours that
surround him, and often turns with a sigh to the remembrance of his
mother’s cottage and the sparkling fount in the Italian’s flowery
garden, we will make with thee, O reader, a rapid flight to the
metropolis, and drop ourselves amidst the gay groups that loiter along
the dusty ground or loll over the roadside palings of Hyde Park. The
season is still at its height; but the short day of fashionable London
life, which commences two hours after noon, is in its decline.

The crowd in Rotten Row begins to thin. Near the statue of Achilles, and
apart from all other loungers, a gentleman, with one hand thrust into
his waistcoat, and the other resting on his cane, gazed listlessly on
the horsemen and carriages in the brilliant ring. He was still in the
prime of life, at the age when man is usually the most social,--when the
acquaintances of youth have ripened into friendships, and a personage of
some rank and fortune has become a well-known feature in the mobile
face of society. But though, when his contemporaries were boys scarce
at college, this gentleman had blazed foremost amongst the princes of
fashion, and though he had all the qualities of nature and circumstance
which either retain fashion to the last, or exchange its false celebrity
for a graver repute, he stood as a stranger in that throng of his
countrymen. Beauties whirled by to the toilet, statesmen passed on to
the senate, dandies took flight to the clubs; and neither nods, nor
becks, nor wreathed smiles said to the solitary spectator, “Follow
us,--thou art one of our set.” Now and then some middle-aged beau,
nearing the post of the loiterer, turned round to look again; but the
second glance seemed to dissipate the recognition of the first, and the
beau silently continued his way.

“By the tomb of my fathers!” said the solitary to himself, “I know now
what a dead man might feel if he came to life again, and took a peep at
the living.”

Time passed on,--the evening shades descended fast. Our stranger in
London had well-nigh the Park to himself. He seemed to breathe more
freely as he saw that the space was so clear.

“There’s oxygen in the atmosphere now,” said he, half aloud; “and I can
walk without breathing in the gaseous fumes of the multitude. Oh, those
chemists--what dolts they are! They tell us that crowds taint the air,
but they never guess why! Pah, it is not the lungs that poison the
element,--it is the reek of bad hearts. When a periwigpated fellow
breathes on me, I swallow a mouthful of care. Allons! my friend Nero;
now for a stroll.” He touched with his cane a large Newfoundland dog,
who lay stretched near his feet, and dog and man went slow through the
growing twilight, and over the brown dry turf. At length our solitary
paused, and threw himself on a bench under a tree. “Half-past eight!”
 said he, looking at his watch, “one may smoke one’s cigar without
shocking the world.”

He took out his cigar-case, struck a light, and in another moment
reclined at length on the bench, seemed absorbed in regarding the smoke,
that scarce coloured ere it vanished into air.

“It is the most barefaced lie in the world, my Nero,” said he,
addressing his dog, “this boasted liberty of man! Now, here am I, a
free-born Englishman, a citizen of the world, caring--I often say to
myself--caring not a jot for Kaiser or Mob; and yet I no more dare smoke
this cigar in the Park at half-past six, when all the world is abroad,
than I dare pick my Lord Chancellor’s pocket, or hit the Archbishop
of Canterbury a thump on the nose. Yet no law in England forbids me my
cigar, Nero! What is law at half-past eight was not crime at six and
a half! Britannia says, ‘Man, thou art free, and she lies like a
commonplace woman. O Nero, Nero! you enviable dog! you serve but from
liking. No thought of the world costs you one wag of the tail. Your big
heart and true instinct suffice you for reason and law. You would want
nothing to your felicity, if in these moments of ennui you would but
smoke a cigar. Try it, Nero!--try it!” And, rising from his incumbent
posture, he sought to force the end of the weed between the teeth of the
dog.

While thus gravely engaged, two figures had approached the place.
The one was a man who seemed weak and sickly. His threadbare coat was
buttoned to the chin, but hung large on his shrunken breast. The other
was a girl, who might be from twelve to fourteen, on whose arm he leaned
heavily. Her cheek was wan, and there was a patient, sad look on her
face, which seemed so settled that you would think she could never have
known the mirthfulness of childhood.

“Pray rest here, Papa,” said the child, softly; and she pointed to
the bench, without taking heed of its pre-occupant, who now, indeed,
confined to one corner of the seat, was almost hidden by the shadow of
the tree.

The man sat down, with a feeble sigh, and then, observing the stranger,
raised his hat, and said, in that tone of voice which betrays the usages
of polished society, “Forgive me if I intrude on you, sir.”

The stranger looked up from his dog, and seeing that the girl was
standing, rose at once, as if to make room for her on the bench.

But still the girl did not heed him. She hung over her father, and wiped
his brow tenderly with a little kerchief which she took from her own
neck for the purpose.

Nero, delighted to escape the cigar, had taken to some unwieldy curvets
and gambols, to vent the excitement into which he had been thrown; and
now returning, approached the bench with a low growl of surprise, and
sniffed at the intruders of his master’s privacy.

“Come here, sir,” said the master. “You need not fear him,” he added,
addressing himself to the girl.

But the girl, without turning round to him, cried in a voice rather of
anguish than alarm, “He has fainted! Father! Father!”

The stranger kicked aside his dog, which was in the way, and loosened
the poor man’s stiff military stock. While thus charitably engaged, the
moon broke out, and the light fell full on the pale, careworn face of
the unconscious sufferer.

“This face seems not unfamiliar to me, though sadly changed,” said the
stranger to himself; and bending towards the girl, who had sunk on her
knees, and was chafing her father’s hand, he asked, “My child, what is
your father’s name?”

The child continued her task, too absorbed to answer.

The stranger put his hand on her shoulder, and repeated the question.

“Digby,” answered the child, almost unconsciously; and as she spoke the
man’s senses began to return. In a few minutes more he had sufficiently
recovered to falter forth his thanks to the stranger. But the last took
his hand, and said, in a voice at once tremulous and soothing, “Is it
possible that I see once more an old brother in arms? Algernon Digby, I
do not forget you; but it seems England has forgotten.”

A hectic flush spread over the soldier’s face, and he looked away from
the speaker as he answered,--

“My name is Digby, it is true, sir; but I do not think we have met
before. Come, Helen, I am well now,--we will go home.”

“Try and play with that great dog, my child,” said the stranger,--“I
want to talk with your father.”

The child bowed her submissive head, and moved away; but she did not
play with the dog.

“I must reintroduce myself formally, I see,” quoth the stranger. “You
were in the same regiment with myself, and my name is L’Estrange.”

“My Lord,” said the soldier, rising, “forgive me that--”

“I don’t think that it was the fashion to call me ‘my lord’ at the
mess-table. Come, what has happened to you?--on half-pay?”

Mr. Digby shook his head mournfully.

“Digby, old fellow, can you lend me L100?” said Lord L’Estrange,
clapping his ci-devant brother-officer on the shoulder, and in a tone of
voice that seemed like a boy’s, so impudent was it, and devil-me-Garish.
“No! Well, that’s lucky, for I can lend it to you.” Mr. Digby burst into
tears.

Lord L’Estrange did not seem to observe the emotion, but went on
carelessly,--

“Perhaps you don’t know that, besides being heir to a father who is not
only very rich, but very liberal, I inherited, on coming of age, from a
maternal relation, a fortune so large that it would bore me to death
if I were obliged to live up to it. But in the days of our old
acquaintance, I fear we were both sad extravagant fellows, and I dare
say I borrowed of you pretty freely.”

“Me! Oh, Lord L’Estrange!”

“You have married since then, and reformed, I suppose. Tell me, old
friend, all about it.”

Mr. Digby, who by this time had succeeded in restoring some calm to his
shattered nerves, now rose, and said in brief sentences, but clear, firm
tones,--

“My Lord, it is idle to talk of me,--useless to help me. I am fast
dying. But my child there, my only child” (he paused for an instant, and
went on rapidly). “I have relations in a distant county, if I could but
get to them; I think they would, at least, provide for her. This has
been for weeks my hope, my dream, my prayer. I cannot afford the journey
except by your help. I have begged without shame for myself; shall I be
ashamed, then, to beg for her?”

“Digby,” said L’Estrange, with some grave alteration of manner, “talk
neither of dying nor begging. You were nearer death when the balls
whistled round you at Waterloo. If soldier meets soldier and says
‘Friend, thy purse,’ it is not begging, but brotherhood. Ashamed! By the
soul of Belisarius! if I needed money, I would stand at a crossing with
my Waterloo medal over my breast, and say to each sleek citizen I had
helped to save from the sword of the Frenchman, ‘It is your shame if I
starve.’ Now, lean upon me; I see you should be at home: which way?”

The poor soldier pointed his hand towards Oxford Street, and reluctantly
accepted the proffered arm.

“And when you return from your relations, you will call on me?
What--hesitate? Come, promise.”

“I will.”

“On your honour.”

“If I live, on my honour.”

“I am staying at present at Knightsbridge, with my father; but you will
always hear of my address at No.--, Grosvenor Square, Mr. Egerton’s. So
you have a long journey before you?”

“Very long.”

“Do not fatigue yourself,--travel slowly. Ho, you foolish child! I see
you are jealous of me. Your father has another arm to spare you.”

Thus talking, and getting but short answers, Lord L’Estrange continued
to exhibit those whimsical peculiarities of character, which had
obtained for him the repute of heartlessness in the world. Perhaps the
reader may think the world was not in the right; but if ever the world
does judge rightly of the character of a man who does not live for
the world nor talk of the world nor feel with the world, it will be
centuries after the soul of Harley L’Estrange has done with this planet.



CHAPTER V.

Lord L’Estrange parted company with Mr. Digby at the entrance of Oxford
Street. The father and child there took a cabriolet. Mr. Digby directed
the driver to go down the Edgware Road. He refused to tell L’Estrange
his address, and this with such evident pain, from the sores of pride,
that L’Estrange could not press the point. Reminding the soldier of his
promise to call, Harley thrust a pocket-book into his hand, and walked
off hastily towards Grosvenor Square.

He reached Audley Egerton’s door just as that gentleman was getting out
of his carriage; and the two friends entered the house together.

“Does the nation take a nap to-night?” asked L’Estrange. “Poor old
lady! She hears so much of her affairs, that she may well boast of her
constitution: it must be of iron.”

“The House is still sitting,” answered Audley, seriously, and with small
heed of his friend’s witticism. “But it is not a Government motion, and
the division will be late, so I came home; and if I had not found you
here, I should have gone into the Park to look for you.”

“Yes; one always knows where to find me at this hour, nine o’clock
P.M., cigar, Hyde Park. There is not a man in England so regular in his
habits.”

Here the friends reached a drawing-room in which the member of
parliament seldom sat, for his private apartments were all on the
ground-floor.

“But it is the strangest whim of yours, Harley,” said he.

“What?”

“To affect detestation of ground-floors.”

“Affect! O sophisticated man, of the earth, earthy! Affect!--nothing
less natural to the human soul than a ground-floor. We are quite far
enough from Heaven, mount as many stairs as we will, without grovelling
by preference.”

“According to that symbolical view of the case,” said Audley, “you
should lodge in an attic.”

“So I would, but that I abhor new slippers. As for hairbrushes, I am
indifferent.”

“What have slippers and hair-brushes to do with attics?”

“Try! Make your bed in an attic, and the next morning you will have
neither slippers nor hair-brushes!”

“What shall I have done with them?”

“Shied them at the cats!”

“What odd things you say, Harley!”

“Odd! By Apollo and his nine spinsters! there is no human being who has
so little imagination as a distinguished member of parliament. Answer me
this, thou solemn Right Honourable,--Hast thou climbed to the heights of
august contemplation? Hast thou gazed on the stars with the rapt eye
of song? Hast thou dreamed of a love known to the angels, or sought to
seize in the Infinite the mystery of life?”

“Not I indeed, my poor Harley.”

“Then no wonder, poor Audley, that you cannot conjecture why he who
makes his bed in an attic, disturbed by base catterwauls, shies his
slippers at cats. Bring a chair into the balcony. Nero spoiled my cigar
to-night. I am going to smoke now. You never smoke. You can look on the
shrubs in the square.”

Audley slightly shrugged his shoulders, but he followed his friend’s
counsel and example, and brought his chair into the balcony. Nero came
too, but at sight and smell of the cigar prudently retreated, and took
refuge under the table.

“Audley Egerton, I want something from Government.”

“I am delighted to hear it.”

“There was a cornet in my regiment, who would have done better not to
have come into it. We were, for the most part of us, puppies and fops.”

“You all fought well, however.”

“Puppies and fops do fight well. Vanity and valour generally go
together. CAesar, who scratched his head with due care of his scanty
curls, and even in dying thought of the folds in his toga; Walter
Raleigh, who could not walk twenty yards because of the gems in his
shoes; Alcibiades, who lounged into the Agora with doves in his bosom,
and an apple in his hand; Murat, bedizened in gold lace and furs; and
Demetrius, the City-Taker, who made himself up like a French marquise,
were all pretty good fellows at fighting. A slovenly hero like Cromwell
is a paradox in nature, and a marvel in history. But to return to my
cornet. We were rich; he was poor. When the pot of clay swims down the
stream with the brass-pots, it is sure of a smash. Men said Digby was
stingy; I saw he was extravagant. But every one, I fear, would be rather
thought stingy than poor. Bref--I left the army, and saw him no more
till to-night. There was never shabby poor gentleman on the stage more
awfully shabby, more pathetically gentleman. But, look ye, this man has
fought for England. It was no child’s play at Waterloo, let me tell you,
Mr. Egerton; and, but for such men, you would be at best a sous prefet,
and your parliament a Provincial Assembly. You must do something for
Digby. What shall it be?”

“Why, really, my dear Harley, this man was no great friend of yours,
eh?”

“If he were, he would not want the Government to help him,--he would not
be ashamed of taking money from me.”

“That is all very fine, Harley; but there are so many poor officers,
and so little to give. It is the most difficult thing in the world
that which you ask me. Indeed, I know nothing can be done: he has his
half-pay?”

“I think not; or, if he has it, no doubt it all goes on his debts.
That’s nothing to us: the man and his child are starving.”

“But if it is his own fault,--if he has been imprudent?”

“Ah, well, well; where the devil is Nero?”

“I am so sorry I can’t oblige you. If it were anything else--”

“There is something else. My valet--I can’t turn him adrift-excellent
fellow, but gets drunk now and then. Will you find him a place in the
Stamp Office?”

“With pleasure.”

“No, now I think of it, the man knows my ways: I must keep him. But my
old wine-merchant--civil man, never dunned--is a bankrupt. I am under
great obligations to him, and he has a very pretty daughter. Do you
think you could thrust him into some small place in the Colonies, or
make him a King’s Messenger, or something of the sort?”

“If you very much wish it, no doubt I can.”

“My dear Audley, I am but feeling my way: the fact is, I want something
for myself.”

“Ah, that indeed gives me pleasure!” cried Egerton, with animation.

“The mission to Florence will soon be vacant,--I know it privately. The
place would quite suit me. Pleasant city; the best figs in Italy; very
little to do. You could sound Lord on the subject.”

“I will answer beforehand. Lord--would be enchanted to secure to the
public service a man so accomplished as yourself, and the son of a peer
like Lord Lansmere.”

Harley L’Estrange sprang to his feet, and flung his cigar in the face of
a stately policeman who was looking up at the balcony.

“Infamous and bloodless official!” cried Harley L’Estrange; “so you
could provide for a pimple-nosed lackey, for a wine-merchant who has
been poisoning the king’s subjects with white lead,--or sloe-juice,--for
an idle sybarite, who would complain of a crumpled rose-leaf; and
nothing, in all the vast patronage of England, for a broken-down
soldier, whose dauntless breast was her rampart?”

“Harley,” said the member of parliament, with his calm, sensible smile,
“this would be a very good claptrap at a small theatre; but there is
nothing in which parliament demands such rigid economy as the military
branch of the public service; and no man for whom it is so hard to
effect what we must plainly call a job as a subaltern officer who has
done nothing more than his duty,--and all military men do that. Still,
as you take it so earnestly, I will use what interest I can at the War
Office, and get him, perhaps, the mastership of a barrack.”

“You had better; for, if you do not, I swear I will turn Radical, and
come down to your own city to oppose you, with Hunt and Cobbett to
canvass for me.”

“I should be very glad to see you come into parliament, even as a
Radical, and at my expense,” said Audley, with great kindness; “but the
air is growing cold, and you are not accustomed to our climate. Nay, if
you are too poetic for catarrhs and rheums, I’m not,--come in.”



CHAPTER VI.

Lord L’Estrange threw himself on a sofa, and leaned his cheek on his
hand thoughtfully. Audley Egerton sat near him, with his arms folded,
and gazed on his friend’s face with a soft expression of aspect, which
was very unusual to the firm outline of his handsome features. The two
men were as dissimilar in person as the reader will have divined that
they were in character. All about Egerton was so rigid, all about
L’Estrange so easy. In every posture of Harley’s there was the
unconscious grace of a child. The very fashion of his garments showed
his abhorrence of restraint. His clothes were wide and loose; his
neckcloth, tied carelessly, left his throat half bare. You could see
that he had lived much in warm and southern lands, and contracted a
contempt for conventionalities; there was as little in his dress as
in his talk of the formal precision of the North. He was three or four
years younger than Audley, but he looked at least twelve years younger.
In fact, he was one of those men to whom old age seems impossible;
voice, look, figure, had all the charm of youth: and perhaps it was from
this gracious youthfulness--at all events, it was characteristic of the
kind of love he inspired--that neither his parents, nor the few
friends admitted into his intimacy, ever called him, in their habitual
intercourse, by the name of his title. He was not L’Estrange with them,
he was Harley; and by that familiar baptismal I will usually designate
him. He was not one of those men whom author or reader wish to view at a
distance, and remember as “my Lord”--it was so rarely that he remembered
it himself. For the rest, it had been said of him by a shrewd wit, “He
is so natural that every one calls him affected.” Harley L’Estrange was
not so critically handsome as Audley Egerton; to a commonplace observer,
he was only rather good-looking than otherwise. But women said that
he had “a beautiful countenance,” and they were not wrong. He wore
his hair, which was of a fair chestnut, long, and in loose curls;
and instead of the Englishman’s whiskers, indulged in the foreigner’s
mustache. His complexion was delicate, though not effeminate: it was
rather the delicacy of a student than of a woman. But in his clear
gray eye there was a wonderful vigour of life. A skilful physiologist,
looking only into that eye, would have recognized rare stamina of
constitution,--a nature so rich that, while easily disturbed, it would
require all the effects of time, or all the fell combinations of passion
and grief, to exhaust it. Even now, though so thoughtful, and even so
sad, the rays of that eye were as concentrated and steadfast as the
light of the diamond.

“You were only, then, in jest,” said Audley, after a long silence,
“when you spoke of this mission to Florence. You have still no idea of
entering into public life?”

“None.”

“I had hoped better things when I got your promise to pass one season in
London; but, indeed, you have kept your promise to the ear to break it
to the spirit. I could not presuppose that you would shun all society,
and be as much of a hermit here as under the vines of Como.”

“I have sat in the Strangers’ Gallery, and heard your great speakers;
I have been in the pit of the opera, and seen your fine ladies; I have
walked your streets; I have lounged in your parks, and I say that
I can’t fall in love with a faded dowager, because she fills up her
wrinkles with rouge.”

“Of what dowager do you speak?” asked the matter-of-fact Audley.

“She has a great many titles. Some people call her Fashion, you busy
men, Politics: it is all one,--tricked out and artificial. I mean London
Life. No, I can’t fall in love with her, fawning old harridan!”

“I wish you could fall in love with something.”

“I wish I could, with all my heart.”

“But you are so blaze.”

“On the contrary, I am so fresh. Look out of the window--what do you
see?”

“Nothing!”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing but houses and dusty lilacs, my coachman dozing on his box, and
two women in pattens crossing the kennel.”

“I see not those where I lie on the sofa. I see but the stars. And I
feel for them as I did when I was a schoolboy at Eton. It is you who
are blaze, not I. Enough of this. You do not forget my commission with
respect to the exile who has married into your brother’s family?”

“No; but here you set me a task more difficult than that of saddling
your cornet on the War Office.”

“I know it is difficult, for the counter influence is vigilant and
strong; but, on the other hand, the enemy is so damnable a traitor that
one must have the Fates and the household gods on one’s side.”

“Nevertheless,” said the practical Audley, bending over a book on the
table; “I think that the best plan would be to attempt a compromise with
the traitor.”

“To judge of others by myself,” answered Harley, with spirit, “it
were less bitter to put up with wrong than to palter with it for
compensation. And such wrong! Compromise with the open foe--that maybe
done with honour; but with the perjured friend--that were to forgive the
perjury!”

“You are too vindictive,” said Egerton; “there may be excuses for the
friend, which palliate even--”

“Hush! Audley, hush! or I shall think the world has indeed corrupted
you. Excuse for the friend who deceives, who betrays! No, such is the
true outlaw of Humanity; and the Furies surround him even while he
sleeps in the temple.”

The man of the world lifted his eyes slowly on the animated face of one
still natural enough for the passions. He then once more returned to his
book, and said, after a pause, “It is time you should marry, Harley.”

“No,” answered L’Estrange, with a smile at this sudden turn in the
conversation, “not time yet; for my chief objection to that change in
life is, that the women nowadays are too old for me, or I am too young
for them. A few, indeed, are so infantine that one is ashamed to be
their toy; but most are so knowing that one is afraid to be their dupe.
The first, if they condescend to love you, love you as the biggest doll
they have yet dandled, and for a doll’s good qualities,--your pretty
blue eyes and your exquisite millinery. The last, if they prudently
accept you, do so on algebraical principles; you are but the X or the
Y that represents a certain aggregate of goods matrimonial,--pedigree,
title, rent-roll, diamonds, pin-money, opera-box. They cast you up with
the help of mamma, and you wake some morning to find that plus wife
minus affection equals--the Devil!”

“Nonsense,” said Audley, with his quiet, grave laugh. “I grant that it
is often the misfortune of a man in your station to be married rather
for what he has than for what he is; but you are tolerably penetrating,
and not likely to be deceived in the character of the woman you court.”

“Of the woman I court?--No! But of the woman I marry, very likely
indeed! Woman is a changeable thing, as our Virgil informed us at
school; but her change par excellence is from the fairy you woo to the
brownie you wed. It is not that she has been a hypocrite,--it is that
she is a transmigration. You marry a girl for her accomplishments.
She paints charmingly, or plays like Saint Cecilia. Clap a ring on her
finger, and she never draws again,--except perhaps your caricature on
the back of a letter,--and never opens a piano after the honeymoon.
You marry her for her sweet temper; and next year, her nerves are so
shattered that you can’t contradict her but you are whirled into a storm
of hysterics. You marry her because she declares she hates balls
and likes quiet; and ten to one but what she becomes a patroness at
Almack’s, or a lady-in-waiting.”

“Yet most men marry, and most men survive the operation.”

“If it were only necessary to live, that would be a consolatory and
encouraging reflection. But to live with peace, to live with dignity, to
live with freedom, to live in harmony with your thoughts, your habits,
your aspirations--and this in the perpetual companionship of a person
to whom you have given the power to wound your peace, to assail your
dignity, to cripple your freedom, to jar on each thought and each habit,
and bring you down to the meanest details of earth, when you invite her,
poor soul, to soar to the spheres--that makes the To Be or Not To Be,
which is the question.”

“If I were you, Harley, I would do as I have heard the author of
‘Sandford and Merton’ did,--choose out a child and educate her yourself,
after your own heart.”

“You have hit it,” answered Harley, seriously. “That has long been my
idea,--a very vague one, I confess. But I fear I shall be an old man
before I find even the child.”

“Ah!” he continued, yet more earnestly, while the whole character of his
varying countenance changed again,--“ah, if indeed I could discover what
I seek,--one who, with the heart of a child, has the mind of a woman;
one who beholds in nature the variety, the charm, the never feverish,
ever healthful excitement that others vainly seek in the bastard
sentimentalities of a life false with artificial forms; one who can
comprehend, as by intuition, the rich poetry with which creation is
clothed,--poetry so clear to the child when enraptured with the flower,
or when wondering at the star! If on me such exquisite companionship
were bestowed--why, then--” He paused, sighed deeply, and, covering his
face with his hand, resumed, in faltering accents,--

“But once--but once only, did such vision of the Beautiful made Human
rise before me,--rise amidst ‘golden exhalations of the dawn.’ It
beggared my life in vanishing. You know only--you only--how--how--”

He bowed his head, and the tears forced themselves through his clenched
fingers.

“So long ago!” said Audley, sharing his friend’s emotion. “Years so long
and so weary, yet still thus tenacious of a mere boyish memory!”

“Away with it, then!” cried Harley, springing to his feet, and with
a laugh of strange merriment. “Your carriage still waits: set me home
before you go to the House.”

Then laying his hand lightly on his friend’s shoulder, he said, “Is it
for you, Audley Egerton, to speak sneeringly of boyish memories? What
else is it that binds us together? What else warms my heart when I meet
you? What else draws your thoughts from blue-books and beer-bills to
waste them on a vagrant like me? Shake hands. Oh, friend of my boyhood!
recollect the oars that we plied and the bats that we wielded in the old
time, or the murmured talk on the moss-grown bank, as we sat together,
building in the summer air castles mightier than Windsor. Ah, they are
strong ties, those boyish memories believe me! I remember, as if it
were yesterday, my translation of that lovely passage in Persius,
beginning--let me see--ah!

     “‘Quum primum pavido custos mihi purpura cernet,’--

that passage on friendship which gushes out so livingly from the stern
heart of the satirist. And when old--complimented me on my verses, my
eye sought yours. Verily, I now say as then,--

     “‘Nescio quod, certe est quod me tibi temperet astrum.’”

     [“What was the star I know not, but certainly some star
     it was that attuned me unto thee.”]

Audley turned away his head as he returned the grasp of his friend’s
hand; and while Harley, with his light elastic footstep, descended the
stairs, Egerton lingered behind, and there was no trace of the worldly
man upon his countenance when he took his place in the carriage by his
companion’s side.

Two hours afterwards, weary cries of “Question, question!” “Divide,
divide!” sank into reluctant silence as Audley Egerton rose to conclude
the debate,--the man of men to speak late at night, and to impatient
benches: a man who would be heard; whom a Bedlam broke loose would not
have roared down; with a voice clear and sound as a bell, and a form as
firmly set on the ground as a church-tower. And while, on the dullest
of dull questions, Audley Egerton thus, not too lively himself, enforced
attention, where was Harley L’Estrange? Standing alone by the river
at Richmond, and murmuring low fantastic thoughts as he gazed on the
moonlit tide.

When Audley left him at home he had joined his parents, made them gay
with his careless gayety, seen the old-fashioned folks retire to
rest, and then--while they, perhaps, deemed him once more the hero of
ball-rooms and the cynosure of clubs--he drove slowly through the soft
summer night, amidst the perfumes of many a garden and many a gleaming
chestnut grove, with no other aim before him than to reach the loveliest
margin of England’s loveliest river, at the hour when the moon was
fullest and the song of the nightingale most sweet. And so eccentric a
humourist was this man, that I believe, as he there loitered,--no one
near to cry “How affected!” or “How romantic!”--he enjoyed himself
more than if he had been exchanging the politest “how-d’ye-dos” in the
hottest of London drawing-rooms, or betting his hundreds on the odd
trick, with Lord de R------ for his partner.



CHAPTER VII.

Leonard had been about six weeks with his uncle, and those weeks
were well spent. Mr. Richard had taken him to his counting-house, and
initiated him into business and the mysteries of double entry; and in
return for the young man’s readiness and zeal in matters which the
acute trader instinctively felt were not exactly to his tastes, Richard
engaged the best master the town afforded to read with his nephew in the
evening. This gentleman was the head usher of a large school, who had
his hours to himself after eight o’clock, and was pleased to vary the
dull routine of enforced lessons by instructions to a pupil who took
delightedly even to the Latin grammar. Leonard made rapid strides, and
learned more in those six weeks than many a cleverish boy does in twice
as many months. These hours which Leonard devoted to study Richard
usually spent from home,--sometimes at the houses of his grand
acquaintances in the Abbey Gardens, sometimes in the Reading-Room
appropriated to those aristocrats. If he stayed at home, it was in
company with his head clerk, and for the purpose of checking his
account-books, or looking over the names of doubtful electors.

Leonard had naturally wished to communicate his altered prospects to his
old friends, that they, in turn, might rejoice his mother with such good
tidings. But he had not been two days in the house before Richard had
strictly forbidden all such correspondence.

“Look you,” said he, “at present we are on an experiment,--we must
see if we like each other. Suppose we don’t, you will only have raised
expectations in your mother which must end in bitter disappointment; and
suppose we do, it will be time enough to write when something definite
is settled.”

“But my mother will be so anxious--”

“Make your mind easy on that score. I will write regularly to Mr. Dale,
and he can tell her that you are well and thriving. No more words, my
man,--when I say a thing, I say it.” Then, observing that Leonard looked
blank and dissatisfied, Richard added, with a good-humoured smile, “I
have my reasons for all this--you shall know them later. And I tell you
what: if you do as I bid you, it is my intention to settle something
handsome on your mother; but if you don’t, devil a penny she’ll get from
me.”

With that Richard turned on his heel, and in a few moments his voice was
heard loud in objurgation with some of his people.

About the fourth week of Leonard’s residence at Mr. Avenel’s, his host
began to evince a certain change of manner. He was no longer quite so
cordial with Leonard, nor did he take the same interest in his progress.
About the same period he was frequently caught by the London butler
before the looking-glass. He had always been a smart man in his dress,
but he was now more particular. He would spoil three white cravats when
he went out of an evening, before he could satisfy himself as to the
tie. He also bought a ‘Peerage,’ and it became his favourite study at
odd quarters of an hour. All these symptoms proceeded from a cause, and
that cause was--woman.



CHAPTER VIII.

The first people at Screwstown were indisputably the Pompleys. Colonel
Pompley was grand, but Mrs. Pompley was grander. The colonel was stately
in right of his military rank and his services in India; Mrs. Pompley
was majestic in right of her connections. Indeed, Colonel Pompley
himself would have been crushed under the weight of the dignities
which his lady heaped upon him, if he had not been enabled to prop his
position with a “connection” of his own. He would never have held
his own, nor been permitted to have an independent opinion on matters
aristocratic, but for the well-sounding name of his relations, “the
Digbies.” Perhaps on the principle that obscurity increases the natural
size of objects and is an element of the sublime, the colonel did not
too accurately define his relations “the Digbies:” he let it be casually
understood that they were the Digbies to be found in Debrett. But if
some indiscreet Vulgarian (a favourite word with both the Pompleys)
asked point-blank if he meant “my Lord Digby,” the colonel, with a lofty
air, answered, “The elder branch, sir.” No one at Screwstown had ever
seen these Digbies: they lay amidst the Far, the Recondite,--even to the
wife of Colonel Pompley’s bosom. Now and then, when the colonel referred
to the lapse of years, and the uncertainty of human affections, he would
say, “When young Digby and I were boys together,” and then add with a
sigh, “but we shall never meet again in this world. His family interests
secured him a valuable appointment in a distant part of the British
dominions.” Mrs. Pompley was always rather cowed by the Digbies. She
could not be sceptical as to this connection, for the colonel’s mother
was certainly a Digby, and the colonel impaled the Digby arms. En
revanche, as the French say, for these marital connections, Mrs. Pompley
had her own favourite affinity, which she specially selected from all
others when she most desired to produce effect; nay, even upon ordinary
occasions the name rose spontaneously to her lips,--the name of the
Honourable Mrs. M’Catchley. Was the fashion of a gown or cap admired,
her cousin, Mrs. M’Catchley, had just sent to her the pattern from
Paris. Was it a question whether the Ministry would stand, Mrs.
M’Catchley was in the secret, but Mrs. Pompley had been requested not to
say. Did it freeze, “My cousin, Mrs. M’Catchley, had written word that
the icebergs at the Pole were supposed to be coming this way.” Did the
sun glow with more than usual fervour, Mrs. M’Catchley had informed her
“that it was Sir Henry Halford’s decided opinion that it was on account
of the cholera.” The good people knew all that was doing at London, at
court, in this world--nay, almost in the other--through the medium of
the Honourable Mrs. M’Catchley. Mrs. M’Catchley was, moreover, the most
elegant of women, the wittiest creature, the dearest. King George the
Fourth had presumed to admire Mrs. M’Catehley; but Mrs. M’Catchley,
though no prude, let him see that she was proof against the corruptions
of a throne. So long had the ears of Mrs. Pompley’s friends been filled
with the renown of Mrs. M’Catchley, that at last Mrs. M’Catchley was
secretly supposed to be a myth, a creature of the elements, a poetic
fiction of Mrs. Pompley’s. Richard Avenel, however, though by no means
a credulous man, was an implicit believer in Mrs. M’Catchley. He had
learned that she was a widow, and honourable by birth, and honourable by
marriage, living on her handsome jointure, and refusing offers every day
that she so lived. Somehow or other, whenever Richard Avenel thought
of a wife, he thought of the Honourable Mrs. M’Catchley. Perhaps that
romantic attachment to the fair invisible preserved him heart-whole
amongst the temptations of Screwstown. Suddenly, to the astonishment of
the Abbey Gardens, Mrs. M’Catchley proved her identity, and arrived at
Colonel Pompley’s in a handsome travelling-carriage, attended by her
maid and footman. She had come to stay some weeks; a tea-party was given
in her honour. Mr. Avenel and his nephew were invited. Colonel Pompley,
who kept his head clear in the midst of the greatest excitement, had
a desire to get from the Corporation a lease of a piece of ground
adjoining his garden, and he no sooner saw Richard Avenel enter than he
caught him by the button, and drew him into a quiet corner, in order
to secure his interest. Leonard, meanwhile, was borne on by the stream,
till his progress was arrested by a sofa-table at which sat Mrs.
M’Catchley herself, with Mrs. Pompley by her side. For on this great
occasion the hostess had abandoned her proper post at the entrance,
and, whether to show her respect to Mrs. M’Catchley, or to show Mrs.
M’Catchley her well-bred contempt for the people of Screwstown, remained
in state by her friend, honouring only the elite of the town with
introductions to the illustrious visitor.

Mrs. M’Catchley was a very fine woman,--a woman who justified Mrs.
Pompley’s pride in her. Her cheek-bones were rather high, it is true but
that proved the purity of her Caledonian descent; for the rest, she had
a brilliant complexion, heightened by a soupcon of rouge, good eyes and
teeth, a showy figure, and all the ladies of Screwstown pronounced her
dress to be perfect. She might have arrived at that age at which one
intends to stop for the next ten years, but even a Frenchman would not
have called her passee,--that is, for a widow. For a spinster it would
have been different.

Looking round her with a glass, which Mrs. Pompley was in the habit of
declaring that “Mrs. M’Catchley used like an angel,” this lady suddenly
perceived Leonard Fairfield; and his quiet, simple, thoughtful air and
look so contrasted with the stiff beaux to whom she had been presented,
that, experienced in fashion as so fine a personage must be supposed to
be, she was nevertheless deceived into whispering to Mrs. Pompley,

“That young man has really an air distingue; who is he?”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Pompley, in unaffected surprise, “that is the nephew of
the rich Vulgarian I was telling you of this morning.”

“Ah! and you say that he is Mr. Arundel’s heir?”

“Avenel--not Arundel--my sweet friend.”

“Avenel is not a bad name,” said Mrs. M’Catchley. “But is the uncle
really so rich?”

“The colonel was trying this very day to guess what he is worth; but he
says it is impossible to guess it.”

“And the young man is his heir?”

“It is thought so; and reading for College, I hear. They say he is
clever.”

“Present him, my love; I like clever people,” said Mrs. M’Catchley,
falling back languidly.

About ten minutes afterwards, Richard Avenel having effected his escape
from the colonel, and his gaze being attracted towards the sofa-table
by the buzz of the admiring crowd, beheld his nephew in animated
conversation with the long cherished idol of his dreams. A fierce pang
of jealousy shot through his breast. His nephew had never looked so
handsome and so intelligent; in fact, poor Leonard had never before been
drawn out by a woman of the world, who had learned how to make the most
of what little she knew. And as jealousy operates like a pair of bellows
on incipient flames, so, at first sight of the smile which the fair
widow bestowed upon Leonard, the heart of Mr. Avenel felt in a blaze.

He approached with a step less assured than usual, and, overhearing
Leonard’s talk, marvelled much at the boy’s audacity. Mrs. M’Catchley
had been speaking of Scotland and the Waverley Novels, about which
Leonard knew nothing. But he knew Burns, and on Burns he grew artlessly
eloquent. Burns the poet and peasant--Leonard might well be eloquent
on him. Mrs. M’Catchley was amused and pleased with his freshness and
naivete, so unlike anything she had ever heard or seen, and she drew
him on and on till Leonard fell to quoting. And Richard heard, with less
respect for the sentiment than might be supposed, that

          “Rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
          The man’s the gowd for a’ that.”

“Well!” exclaimed Mr. Avenel. “Pretty piece of politeness to tell that
to a lady like the Honourable Mrs. M’Catch ley! You’ll excuse him,
ma’am.”

“Sir!” said Mrs. M’Catchley, startled, and lifting her glass. Leonard,
rather confused, rose and offered his chair to Richard, who dropped into
it. The lady, without waiting for formal introduction, guessed that she
saw the rich uncle. “Such a sweet poet-Burns!” said she, dropping her
glass. “And it is so refreshing to find so much youthful enthusiasm,”
 she added, pointing her fan towards Leonard, who was receding fast among
the crowd.

“Well, he is youthful, my nephew,--rather green!”

“Don’t say green!” said Mrs. M’Catchley. Richard blushed scarlet. He was
afraid he had committed himself to some expression low and shocking. The
lady resumed, “Say unsophisticated.”

“A tarnation long word,” thought Richard; but he prudently bowed and
held his tongue.

“Young men nowadays,” continued Mrs. M’Catchley, resettling herself on
the sofa, “affect to be so old. They don’t dance, and they don’t read,
and they don’t talk much! and a great many of them wear toupets before
they are two-and-twenty!”

Richard mechanically passed his hand through his thick curls. But he
was still mute; he was still ruefully chewing the cud of the epithet
“green.” What occult horrid meaning did the word convey to ears polite?
Why should he not say “green”?

“A very fine young man your nephew, sir,” resumed Mrs. M’ Catchley.

Richard grunted.

“And seems full of talent. Not yet at the University? Will he go to
Oxford or Cambridge?”

“I have not made up my mind yet if I shall send him to the University at
all.”

“A young man of his expectations!” exclaimed Mrs. M’Catchley, artfully.

“Expectations!” repeated Richard, firing up. “Has he been talking to you
of his expectations?”

“No, indeed, sir. But the nephew of the rich Mr. Avenel! Ah, one hears
a great deal, you know, of rich people; it is the penalty of wealth, Mr.
Avenel!”

Richard was very much flattered. His crest rose.

“And they say,” continued Mrs. M’Catchley, dropping out her words very
slowly, as she adjusted her blonde scarf, “that Mr. Avenel has resolved
not to marry.”

“The devil they do, ma’am!” bolted out Richard, gruffly; and then,
ashamed of his lapsus linguae, screwed up his lips firmly, and glared on
the company with an eye of indignant fire.

Mrs. M’Catchley observed him over her fan. Richard turned abruptly, and
she withdrew her eyes modestly, and raised the fan.

“She’s a real beauty,” said Richard, between his teeth. The fan
fluttered.

Five minutes afterwards, the widow and the bachelor seemed so much at
their ease that Mrs. Pompley, who had been forced to leave her friend,
in order to receive the dean’s lady, could scarcely believe her eyes
when she returned to the sofa.

Now, it was from that evening that Mr. Richard Avenel exhibited
the change of mood which I have described; and from that evening he
abstained from taking Leonard with him to any of the parties in the
Abbey Gardens.



CHAPTER IX.

Some days after this memorable soiree, Colonel Pompley sat alone in his
study (which opened pleasantly on an old-fashioned garden), absorbed in
the house bills. For Colonel Pompley did not leave that domestic care
to his lady,--perhaps she was too grand for it. Colonel Pompley with
his own sonorous voice ordered the joints, and with his own heroic hands
dispensed the stores. In justice to the colonel, I must add--at
whatever risk of offence to the fair sex--that there was not a house at
Screwstown so well managed as the Pompleys’; none which so successfully
achieved the difficult art of uniting economy with show. I should
despair of conveying to you an idea of the extent to which Colonel
Pompley made his income go. It was but seven hundred a year; and many
a family contrived to do less upon three thousand. To be sure, the
Pompleys had no children to sponge upon them. What they had they spent
all on themselves. Neither, if the Pompleys never exceeded their income,
did they pretend to live much within it. The two ends of the year met at
Christmas,--just met, and no more.

Colonel Pompley sat at his desk. He was in his well-brushed blue coat,
buttoned across his breast, his gray trousers fitted tight to his limbs,
and fastened under his boots with a link chain. He saved a great deal
of money in straps. No one ever saw Colonel Pompley in dressing-gown and
slippers. He and his house were alike in order--always fit to be seen

        “From morn to noon, from noon to dewy eve.”

The colonel was a short compact man, inclined to be stout,--with a very
red face, that seemed not only shaved, but rasped. He wore his
hair cropped close, except just in front, where it formed what the
hairdresser called a feather, but it seemed a feather of iron, so stiff
and so strong was it. Firmness and precision were emphatically marked on
the colonel’s countenance. There was a resolute strain on his features,
as if he was always employed in making the two ends meet!

So he sat before his house-book, with his steel-pen in his hand, and
making crosses here and notes of interrogation there.

“Mrs. M’Catchley’s maid,” said the colonel to himself, “must be put upon
rations. The tea that she drinks! Good heavens!--tea again!”

There was a modest ring at the outer door. “Too early for a visitor!”
 thought the colonel. “Perhaps it is the water-rates.”

The neat man-servant--never seen beyond the offices, save in grande
tenue, plushed and powdered-entered and bowed. “A gentleman, sir, wishes
to see you.”

“A gentleman,” repeated the colonel, glancing towards the clock. “Are
you sure it is a gentleman?”

The man hesitated. “Why, sir, I ben’t exactly sure; but he speaks like a
gentleman. He do say he comes from London to see you, sir.”

A long and interesting correspondence was then being held between the
colonel and one of his wife’s trustees touching the investment of
Mrs. Pompley’s fortune. It might be the trustee,--nay, it must be. The
trustee had talked of running down to see him.

“Let him come in,” said the colonel, “and when I ring--sandwiches and
sherry.”

“Beef, sir?”

“Ham.”

The colonel put aside his house-book, and wiped his pen. In another
minute the door opened and the servant announced--

             “MR. DIGBY.”

The colonel’s face fell, and he staggered back.

The door closed, and Mr. Digby stood in the middle of the room, leaning
on the great writing-table for support. The poor soldier looked sicklier
and shabbier, and nearer the end of all things in life and fortune,
than when Lord L’Estrange had thrust the pocket-book into his hands.
But still the servant showed knowledge of the world in calling him
gentleman; there was no other word to apply to him.

“Sir,” began Colonel Pompley, recovering himself, and with great
solemnity, “I did not expect this pleasure.”

The poor visitor stared round him dizzily, and sank into a chair,
breathing hard. The colonel looked as a man only looks upon a poor
relation, and buttoned up first one trouser pocket and then the other.

“I thought you were in Canada,” said the colonel, at last. Mr. Digby
had now got breath to speak, and he said meekly, “The climate would have
killed my child, and it is two years since I returned.”

“You ought to have found a very good place in England to make it worth
your while to leave Canada.”

“She could not have lived through another winter in Canada,--the doctor
said so.”

“Pooh,” quoth the colonel.

Mr. Digby drew a long breath. “I would not come to you, Colonel Pompley,
while you could think that I came as a beggar for myself.”

The colonel’s brow relaxed. “A very honourable sentiment, Mr. Digby.”

“No: I have gone through a great deal; but you see, Colonel,” added the
poor relation, with a faint smile, “the campaign is well-nigh over, and
peace is at hand.”

The colonel seemed touched.

“Don’t talk so, Digby,--I don’t like it. You are younger than I
am--nothing more disagreeable than these gloomy views of things. You
have got enough to live upon, you say,--at least so I understand you.
I am very glad to hear it; and, indeed, I could not assist you--so many
claims on me. So it is all very well, Digby.”

“Oh, Colonel Pompley,” cried the soldier, clasping his hands, and with
feverish energy, “I am a suppliant, not for myself, but my child! I have
but one,--only one, a girl. She has been so good to me! She will cost
you little. Take her when I die; promise her a shelter, a home. I ask no
more. You are my nearest relative. I have no other to look to. You have
no children of your own. She will be a blessing to you, as she has been
all upon earth to me!”

If Colonel Pompley’s face was red in ordinary hours, no epithet
sufficiently rubicund or sanguineous can express its colour at this
appeal. “The man’s mad,” he said, at last, with a tone of astonishment
that almost concealed his wrath,--“stark mad! I take his child!--lodge
and board a great, positive, hungry child! Why, sir, many and many a
time have I said to Mrs. Pompley, ‘‘T is a mercy we have no children. We
could never live in this style if we had children,--never make both
ends meet.’ Child--the most expensive, ravenous, ruinous thing in the
world--a child.”

“She has been accustomed to starve,” said Mr. Digby, plaintively. “Oh,
Colonel, let me see your wife. Her heart I can touch,--she is a woman.”

Unlucky father! A more untoward, unseasonable request the Fates could
not have put into his lips.

Mrs. Pompley see the Digbies! Mrs. Pompley learn the condition of the
colonel’s grand connections! The colonel would never have been his own
man again. At the bare idea, he felt as if he could have sunk into the
earth with shame. In his alarm he made a stride to the door, with the
intention of locking it. Good heavens, if Mrs. Pompley should come in!
And the man, too, had been announced by name. Mrs. Pompley might
have learned already that a Digby was with her husband,--she might be
actually dressing to receive him worthily; there was not a moment to
lose.

The colonel exploded. “Sir, I wonder at your impudence. See Mrs.
Pompley! Hush, sir, hush!--hold your tongue. I have disowned your
connection. I will not have my wife--a woman, sir, of the first
family--disgraced by it. Yes; you need not fire up. John Pompley is not
a man to be bullied in his own house. I say disgraced. Did not you run
into debt, and spend your fortune? Did not you marry a low creature,--a
vulgarian, a tradesman’s daughter?--and your poor father such a
respectable man,--a benefited clergyman! Did not you sell your
commission? Heaven knows what became of the money! Did not you turn (I
shudder to say it) a common stage-player, sir? And then, when you were
on your last legs, did I not give you L200 out of my own purse to go
to Canada? And now here you are again,--and ask me, with a coolness
that--that takes away my breath--takes away-my breath, sir--to
provide for the child you have thought proper to have,--a child
whose connections on the mother’s side are of the most abject and
discreditable condition. Leave my house, leave it! good heavens, sir,
not that way!--this.” And the colonel opened the glass-door that led
into the garden. “I will let you out this way. If Mrs. Pompley should
see you!” And with that thought the colonel absolutely hooked his arm
into his poor relation’s, and hurried him into the garden.

Mr. Digby said not a word, but he struggled ineffectually to escape from
the colonel’s arm; and his colour went and came, came and went, with a
quickness that showed that in those shrunken veins there were still some
drops of a soldier’s blood.

But the colonel had now reached a little postern-door in the
garden-wall. He opened the latch, and thrust out his poor cousin. Then
looking down the lane, which was long, straight, and narrow, and seeing
it was quite solitary, his eye fell upon the forlorn man, and remorse
shot through his heart. For a moment the hardest of all kinds of
avarice, that of the genteel, relaxed its gripe. For a moment the
most intolerant of all forms of pride, that which is based upon false
pretences, hushed its voice, and the colonel hastily drew out his purse.
“There,” said he, “that is all I can do for you. Do leave the town as
quick as you can, and don’t mention your name to any one. Your father
was such a respectable man,--beneficed clergyman!”

“And paid for your commission, Mr. Pompley. My name! I am not ashamed of
it. But do not fear I shall claim your relationship. No; I am ashamed of
you!”

The poor cousin put aside the purse, still stretched towards him, with
a scornful hand, and walked firmly down the lane. Colonel Pompley stood
irresolute. At that moment a window in his house was thrown open. He
heard the noise, turned round, and saw his wife looking out.

Colonel Pompley sneaked back through the shrubbery, hiding himself
amongst the trees.



CHAPTER X.

“Ill-luck is a betise,” said the great Cardinal Richelieu; and in the
long run, I fear, his Eminence was right. If you could drop Dick Avenel
and Mr. Digby in the middle of Oxford Street,--Dick in a fustian jacket,
Digby in a suit of superfine; Dick with five shillings in his pocket,
Digby with L1000,--and if, at the end of ten years, you looked up your
two men, Dick would be on his road to a fortune, Digby--what we have
seen him! Yet Digby had no vice; he did not drink nor gamble. What was
he, then? Helpless. He had been an only son,--a spoiled child, brought
up as “a gentleman;” that is, as a man who was not expected to be
able to turn his hand to anything. He entered, as we have seen, a very
expensive regiment, wherein he found himself, at his father’s death,
with L4000 and the incapacity to say “No.” Not naturally extravagant,
but without an idea of the value of money,--the easiest, gentlest,
best-tempered man whom example ever led astray. This part of his career
comprised a very common history,--the poor man living on equal terms
with the rich. Debt; recourse to usurers; bills signed sometimes for
others, renewed at twenty per cent; the L4000 melted like snow; pathetic
appeal to relations; relations have children of their own; small help
given grudgingly, eked out by much advice, and coupled with
conditions. Amongst the conditions there was a very proper and prudent
one,--exchange into a less expensive regiment. Exchange effected; peace;
obscure country quarters; ennui, flute-playing, and idleness. Mr. Digby
had no resources on a rainy day--except flute-playing; pretty girl of
inferior rank; all the officers after her; Digby smitten; pretty girl
very virtuous; Digby forms honourable intentions; excellent sentiments;
imprudent marriage. Digby falls in life; colonel’s lady will not
associate with Mrs. Digby; Digby cut by his whole kith and kin; many
disagreeable circumstances in regimental life; Digby sells out; love
in a cottage; execution in ditto. Digby had been much applauded as an
amateur actor; thinks of the stage; genteel comedy,--a gentlemanlike
profession. Tries in a provincial town, under another name; unhappily
succeeds; life of an actor; hand-to-mouth life; illness; chest affected;
Digby’s voice becomes hoarse and feeble; not aware of it; attributes
failing success to ignorant provincial public; appears in London; is
hissed; returns to the provinces; sinks into very small parts; prison;
despair; wife dies; appeal again to relations; a subscription made
to get rid of him; send him out of the country; place in
Canada,--superintendent to an estate, L150 a year; pursued by ill-luck;
never before fit for business, not fit now; honest as the day, but keeps
slovenly accounts; child cannot bear the winter of Canada; Digby wrapped
up in the child; return home; mysterious life for two years; child
patient, thoughtful, loving; has learned to work; manages for father;
often supports him; constitution rapidly breaking; thought of what will
become of his child,--worst disease of all. Poor Digby! never did a
base, cruel, unkind thing in his life; and here he is, walking down
the lane from Colonel Pompley’s house! Now, if Digby had but learned a
little of the world’s cunning, I think he would have succeeded even with
Colonel Pompley. Had he spent the L100 received from Lord L’Estrange
with a view to effect; had he bestowed a fitting wardrobe on himself and
his pretty Helen; had he stopped at the last stage, taken thence a smart
chaise and pair, and presented himself at Colonel Pompley’s in a way
that would not have discredited the colonel’s connection, and then,
instead of praying for home and shelter, asked the colonel to become
guardian to his child in case of his death, I have a strong notion that
the colonel, in spite of his avarice, would have stretched both ends so
as to take in Helen Digby. But our poor friend had no such arts. Indeed,
of the L100 he had already very little left, for before leaving town
he had committed what Sheridan considered the extreme of
extravagance,--frittered away his money in paying his debts; and as for
dressing up Helen and himself--if that thought had ever occurred to him,
he would have rejected it as foolish. He would have thought that the
more he showed his poverty, the more he would be pitied,--the worst
mistake a poor cousin can commit. According to Theophrastus, the
partridge of Paphlagonia has two hearts: so have most men; it is the
common mistake of the unlucky to knock at the wrong one.



CHAPTER XI.

Mr. Digby entered the room of the inn in which he had left Helen.
She was seated by the window, and looking out wistfully on the narrow
street, perhaps at the children at play. There had never been a playtime
for Helen Digby.

She sprang forward as her father came in. His coming was her holiday.

“We must go back to London,” said Mr. Digby, sinking helplessly on the
chair. Then with his sort of sickly smile,--for he was bland even to his
child,--“Will you kindly inquire when the first coach leaves?”

All the active cares of their careful life devolved upon that quiet
child. She kissed her father, placed before him a cough mixture which
he had brought from London, and went out silently to make the necessary
inquiries, and prepare for the journey back.

At eight o’clock the father and child were seated in the night-coach,
with one other passenger,--a man muffled up to the chin. After the first
mile the man let down one of the windows. Though it was summer the air
was chill and raw. Digby shivered and coughed.

Helen placed her hand on the window, and, leaning towards the passenger,
whispered softly.

“Eh!” said the passenger, “draw up the window? You have got your own
window; this is mine. Oxygen, young lady,” he added solemnly, “oxygen is
the breath of life. Cott, child!” he continued with suppressed choler,
and a Welsh pronunciation, “Cott! let us breathe and live.”

Helen was frightened, and recoiled.

Her father, who had not heard, or had not heeded, this colloquy,
retreated into the corner, put up the collar of his coat, and coughed
again.

“It is cold, my dear,” said he, languidly, to Helen.

The passenger caught the word, and replied indignantly, but as if
soliloquizing,--

“Cold-ugh! I do believe the English are the stuffiest people! Look at
their four-post beds--all the curtains drawn, shutters closed, board
before the chimney--not a house with a ventilator! Cold-ugh!”

The window next Mr. Digby did not fit well into its frame. “There is a
sad draught,” said the invalid.

Helen instantly occupied herself in stopping up the chinks of the window
with her handkerchief. Mr. Digby glanced ruefully at the other window.
The look, which was very eloquent, aroused yet more the traveller’s
spleen.

“Pleasant!” said he. “Cott! I suppose you will ask me to go outside
next! But people who travel in a coach should know the law of a coach. I
don’t interfere with your window; you have no business to interfere with
mine.”

“Sir, I did not speak,” said Mr. Digby, meekly.

“But Miss here did.”

“Ah, sir!” said Helen, plaintively, “if you knew how Papa suffers!” And
her hand again moved towards the obnoxious window.

“No, my dear; the gentleman is in his right,” said Mr. Digby; and,
bowing with his wonted suavity, he added, “Excuse her, sir. She thinks a
great deal too much of me.”

The passenger said nothing, and Helen nestled closer to her father, and
strove to screen him from the air.

The passenger moved uneasily. “Well,” said he, with a sort of snort,
“air is air, and right is right: but here goes--” and he hastily drew up
the window.

Helen turned her face full towards the passenger with a grateful
expression, visible even in the dim light.

“You are very kind, sir,” said poor Mr. Digby; “I am ashamed to--”
 his cough choked the rest of the sentence. The passenger, who was a
plethoric, sanguineous man, felt as if he were stifling. But he took off
his wrappers, and resigned the oxygen like a hero.

Presently he drew nearer to the sufferer, and laid hand on his wrist.

“You are feverish, I fear. I am a medical man. St!--one--two. Cott! you
should not travel; you are not fit for it!”

Mr. Digby shook his head; he was too feeble to reply.

The passenger thrust his hand into his coat-pocket, and drew out what
seemed a cigar-case, but what, in fact, was a leathern repertory,
containing a variety of minute phials.

From one of these phials he extracted two tiny globules. “There,” said
he, “open your mouth, put those on the tip of your tongue. They will
lower the pulse, check the fever. Be better presently, but should not
travel, want rest; you should be in bed. Aconite! Henbane! hum! Your
papa is of fair complexion,--a timid character, I should say;--a horror
of work, perhaps. Eh, child?”

“Sir!” faltered Helen, astonished and alarmed. Was the man a conjuror?

“A case for phosphor!” cried the passenger: “that fool Browne would have
said arsenic. Don’t be persuaded to take arsenic!”

“Arsenic, sir!” echoed the mild Digby. “No: however unfortunate a man
may be, I think, sir, that suicide is--tempting, perhaps, but highly
criminal.”

“Suicide,” said the passenger, tranquilly,--“suicide is my hobby! You
have no symptom of that kind, you say?”

“Good heavens! No, sir.”

“If ever you feel violently impelled to drown yourself, take pulsatilla;
but if you feel a preference towards blowing out your brains,
accompanied with weight in the limbs, loss of appetite, dry cough, and
bad corns, sulphuret of antimony. Don’t forget.”

Though poor Mr. Digby confusedly thought that the gentleman was out of
his mind, yet he tried politely to say “that he was much obliged, and
would be sure to remember;” but his tongue failed him, and his own ideas
grew perplexed. His head fell back heavily, and he sank into a silence
which seemed that of sleep.

The traveller looked hard at Helen, as she gently drew her father’s head
on her shoulder, and there pillowed it with a tenderness which was more
that of a mother than child.

“Moral affections, soft, compassionate!--a good child and would go well
with--pulsatilla.”

Helen held up her finger, and glanced from her father to the traveller,
and then to her father again.

“Certainly,--pulsatilla!” muttered the homoeopathist, and ensconcing
himself in his own corner, he also sought to sleep. But after vain
efforts, accompanied by restless gestures and movements, he suddenly
started up, and again extracted his phial-book.

“What the deuce are they to me?” he muttered. “Morbid sensibility of
character--coffee? No!--accompanied by vivacity and violence--nux!” He
brought his book to the window, contrived to read the label on a pigmy
bottle. “Nux! that’s it,” he said,--and he swallowed a globule!

“Now,” quoth he, after a pause, “I don’t care a straw for the
misfortunes of other people; nay, I have half a mind to let down the
window.”

Helen looked up.

“But I’ll not,” he added resolutely; and this time he fell fairly
asleep.



CHAPTER XII.

The coach stopped at eleven o’clock to allow the passengers to sup. The
homoeopathist woke up, got out, gave himself a shake, and inhaled the
fresh air into his vigorous lungs with an evident sensation of delight.
He then turned and looked into the coach.

“Let your father get out, my dear,” said he, with a tone more gentle
than usual. “I should like to see him indoors,--perhaps I can do him
good.”

But what was Helen’s terror when she found that her father did not stir!
He was in a deep swoon, and still quite insensible when they lifted him
from the carriage. When he recovered his senses his cough returned, and
the effort brought up blood.

It was impossible for him to proceed farther. The homoeopathist assisted
to undress and put him into bed. And having administered another of his
mysterious globules, he inquired of the landlady how far it was to the
nearest doctor,--for the inn stood by itself in a small hamlet. There
was the parish apothecary three miles off. But on hearing that the
gentlefolks employed Dr. Dosewell, and it was a good seven miles to his
house, the homoeopathist fetched a deep breath. The coach only stopped a
quarter of an hour.

“Cott!” said he, angrily, to himself, “the nux was a failure. My
sensibility is chronic. I must go through a long course to get rid of
it. Hollo, guard! get out my carpet-bag. I sha’n’t go on to-night.”

And the good man after a very slight supper went upstairs again to the
sufferer.

“Shall I send for Dr. Dosewell, sir?” asked the landlady, stopping him
at the door.

“Hum! At what hour to-morrow does the next coach to London pass?”

“Not before eight, sir.”

“Well, send for the doctor to be here at seven. That leaves us at least
some hours free from allopathy and murder,” grunted the disciple of
Hahnemann, as he entered the room.

Whether it was the globule that the homoeopathist had administered,
or the effect of nature, aided by repose, that checked the effusion of
blood, and restored some temporary strength to the poor sufferer, is
more than it becomes one not of the Faculty to opine. But certainly Mr.
Digby seemed better, and he gradually fell into a profound sleep, but
not till the doctor had put his ear to his chest, tapped it with his
hand, and asked several questions; after which the homoeopathist retired
into a corner of the room, and leaning his face on his hand seemed to
meditate. From his thoughts he was disturbed by a gentle touch. Helen
was kneeling at his feet. “Is he very ill, very?” said she; and her fond
wistful eyes were fixed on the physician’s with all the earnestness of
despair.

“Your father is very ill,” replied the doctor, after a short pause. “He
cannot move hence for some days at least. I am going to London; shall I
call on your relations, and tell some of them to join you?”

“No, thank you, sir,” answered Helen, colouring. “But do not fear; I
can nurse Papa. I think he has been worse before,--that is, he has
complained more.”

The homeopathist rose, and took two strides across the room; then he
paused by the bed, and listened to the breathing of the sleeping man.

He stole back to the child, who was still kneeling, took her in his arms
and kissed her. “Tamn it,” said he, angrily, and putting her down, “go
to bed now,--you are not wanted any more.”

“Please, sir,” said Helen, “I cannot leave him so. If he wakes he would
miss me.”

The doctor’s hand trembled; he had recourse to his globules.

“Anxiety--grief suppressed,” muttered he. “Don’t you want to cry, my
dear? Cry,--do!”

“I can’t,” murmured Helen.

“Pulsatilla!” said the doctor, almost with triumph. “I said so from the
first. Open your mouth--here! Goodnight. My room is opposite,--No. 6;
call me if he wakes.”



CHAPTER XIII.

At seven o’clock Dr. Dosewell arrived, and was shown into the room of
the homoeopathist, who, already up and dressed, had visited his patient.

“My name is Morgan,” said the homoeopathist; “I am a physician. I leave
in your hands a patient whom, I fear, neither I nor you can restore.
Come and look at him.”

The two doctors went into the sick-room. Mr. Digby was very feeble, but
he had recovered his consciousness, and inclined his head courteously.

“I am sorry to cause so much trouble,” said he. The homoeopathist drew
away Helen; the allopathist seated himself by the bedside and put his
questions, felt the pulse, sounded the lungs, and looked at the tongue
of the patient. Helen’s eye was fixed on the strange doctor, and her
colour rose, and her eye sparkled when he got up cheerfully, and said in
a pleasant voice, “You may have a little tea.”

“Tea!” growled the homeopathist,--“barbarian!”

“He is better, then, sir?” said Helen, creeping to the allopathist.

“Oh, yes, my dear,--certainly; and we shall do very well, I hope.”

The two doctors then withdrew.

“Last about a week!” said Dr. Dosewell, smiling pleasantly, and showing
a very white set of teeth.

“I should have said a month; but our systems are different,” replied Dr.
Morgan, dryly.

DR. DOSEWELL (courteously).--“We country doctors bow to our metropolitan
superiors; what would you advise? You would venture, perhaps, the
experiment of bleeding.”

DR. MORGAN (spluttering and growling Welsh, which he never did but in
excitement).--“Pleed! Cott in heaven! do you think I am a putcher,--an
executioner? Pleed! Never.”

DR. DOSEWELL.--“I don’t find it answer, myself, when both lungs are
gone! But perhaps you are for inhaling?”

DR. MORGAN.--“Fiddledee!”

DR. DOSEWELL (with some displeasure).--“What would you advise, then, in
order to prolong our patient’s life for a month?”

DR. MORGAN.--“Give him Rhus!”

DR. DOSEWELL.--“Rhus, sir! Rhus! I don’t know that medicine. Rhus!”

Dr. MORGAN.--“Rhus Toxicodendron.”

The length of the last word excited Dr. Dosewell’s respect. A word of
five syllables,--that was something like! He bowed deferentially, but
still looked puzzled. At last he said, smiling frankly, “You great
London practitioners have so many new medicines: may I ask what Rhus
toxico--toxico--”

“Dendron.”

“Is?”

“The juice of the upas,--vulgarly called the poison-tree.” Dr. Dosewell
started.

“Upas--poison-tree--little birds that come under the shade fall down
dead! You give upas juice in these desperate cases: what’s the dose?”

Dr. Morgan grinned maliciously, and produced a globule the size of a
small pin’s head.

Dr. Dosewell recoiled in disgust.

“Oh!” said he, very coldly, and assuming at once an air of superb
superiority, “I see, a homoeopathist, sir!”

“A homoeopathist.”

“Um!”

“Um!”

“A strange system, Dr. Morgan,” said Dr. Dosewell, recovering his
cheerful smile, but with a curl of contempt in it, “and would soon do
for the druggists.”

“Serve ‘em right. The druggists soon do for the patients.”

“Sir!”

“Sir!”

DR. DOSEWELL (with dignity).--“You don’t know, perhaps, Dr. Morgan,
that I am an apothecary as well as a surgeon. In fact,” he added, with
a certain grand humility, “I have not yet taken a diploma, and am but
doctor by courtesy.”

DR. MORGAN.--“All one, sir! Doctor signs the death-warrant, ‘pothecary
does the deed!”

DR. DOSEWELL (with a withering sneer).--“Certainly we don’t profess to
keep a dying man alive upon the juice of the deadly upas-tree.”

DR. MORGAN (complacently).--“Of course you don’t. There are no poisons
with us. That’s just the difference between you and me, Dr. Dosewell.”

DR. DOSEWELL (pointing to the homeopathist’s travelling pharmacopoeia,
and with affected candour).--“Indeed, I have always said that if you can
do no good, you can do no harm, with your infinitesimals.”

DR. MORGAN, who had been obtuse to the insinuation of poisoning, fires
up violently at the charge of doing no harm. “You know nothing about
it! I could kill quite as many people as you, if I chose it; but I don’t
choose.”

DR. DOSEWELL (shrugging his shoulders).--“Sir Sir! It is no use arguing;
the thing’s against common-sense. In short, it is my firm belief that it
is--is a complete--”

DR. MORGAN.--“A complete what?”

DR. DOSEWELL (provoked to the utmost).--“Humbug!”

DR. MORGAN.--“Humbug! Cott in heaven! You old--”

DR. DOSEWELL.--“Old what, sir?”

DR. MORGAN (at home in a series of alliteral vowels, which none but
a Cymbrian could have uttered without gasping).--“Old allopathical
anthropophagite!”

DR. DOSEWELL (starting up, seizing by the back the chair on which he had
sat, and bringing it down violently on its four legs).--“Sir!”

DR. MORGAN (imitating the action with his own chair).--“Sir!”

DR. DOSEWELL.--“You’re abusive.”

DR. MORGAN.--“You’re impertinent.”

DR. DOSEWELL.--“Sir!”

DR. MORGAN.--“Sir!”

The two rivals confronted each other.

They were both athletic men, and fiery men. Dr. Dosewell was the taller,
but Dr. Morgan was the stouter. Dr. Dosewell on the mother’s side was
Irish; but Dr. Morgan on both sides was Welsh. All things considered, I
would have backed Dr. Morgan if it had come to blows. But, luckily for
the honour of science, here the chambermaid knocked at the door, and
said, “The coach is coming, sir.”

Dr. Morgan recovered his temper and his manners at that announcement.
“Dr. Dosewell,” said he, “I have been too hot,--I apologize.”

“Dr. Morgan,” answered the allopathist, “I forgot myself. Your hand,
sir.”

DR. MORGAN.--“We are both devoted to humanity, though with different
opinions. We should respect each other.”

DR. DOSEWELL.--“Where look for liberality, if men of science are
illiberal to their brethren?”

DR. MORGAN (aside).--“The old hypocrite! He would pound me in a mortar
if the law would let him.”

DR. DOSEWELL (aside).--“The wretched charlatan! I should like to pound
him in a mortar.”

DR. MORGAN.--“Good-by, my esteemed and worthy brother.”

DR. DOSEWELL.--“My excellent friend, good-by.”

DR. MORGAN (returning in haste).--“I forgot. I don’t think our poor
patient is very rich. I confide him to your disinterested benevolence.”
 (Hurries away.)

DR. DOSEWELL (in a rage).--“Seven miles at six o’clock in the morning,
and perhaps done out of my fee! Quack! Villain!”

Meanwhile, Dr. Morgan had returned to the sick-room.

“I must wish you farewell,” said he to poor Mr. Digby, who was languidly
sipping his tea. “But you are in the hands of a--of a--gentleman in the
profession.”

“You have been too kind,--I am shocked,” said Mr. Digby. “Helen, where’s
my purse?”

Dr. Morgan paused.

He paused, first, because it must be owned that his practice was
restricted, and a fee gratified the vanity natural to unappreciated
talent, and had the charm of novelty, which is sweet to human nature
itself. Secondly, he was a man--

     “Who knew his rights; and, knowing, dared maintain.”

He had resigned a coach fare, stayed a night, and thought he had
relieved his patient. He had a right to his fee.

On the other hand, he paused, because, though he had small practice,
he was tolerably well off, and did not care for money in itself, and he
suspected his patient to be no Croesus.

Meanwhile the purse was in Helen’s hand. He took it from her, and saw
but a few sovereigns within the well-worn network. He drew the child a
little aside.

“Answer me, my dear, frankly,--is your papa rich?--” And he glanced at
the shabby clothes strewed on the chair and Helen’s faded frock.

“Alas, no!” said Helen, hanging her head. “Is that all you have?”

“All.”

“I am ashamed to offer you two guineas,” said Mr. Digby’s hollow voice
from the bed.

“And I should be still more ashamed to take them. Good by, sir. Come
here, my child. Keep your money, and don’t waste it on the other doctor
more than you can help. His medicines can do your father no good. But I
suppose you must have some. He’s no physician, therefore there’s no fee.
He’ll send a bill,--it can’t be much. You understand. And now, God bless
you.”

Dr. Morgan was off. But, as he paid the landlady his bill, he said
considerately, “The poor people upstairs can pay you, but not that
doctor,--and he’s of no use. Be kind to the little girl, and get
the doctor to tell his patient (quietly of course) to write to his
friends--soon--you understand. Somebody must take charge of the poor
child. And stop--hold your hand; take care--these globules for the
little girl when her father dies,”--here the doctor muttered to himself,
“grief,--aconite, and if she cries too much afterwards, these--(don’t
mistake). Tears,--caustic!”

“Come, sir,” cried the coachman.

“Coming; tears,--caustic,” repeated the homoeopathist, pulling out his
handkerchief and his phial-book together as he got into the coach; and
he hastily swallowed his antilachrymal.



CHAPTER XIV.

Richard Avenel was in a state of great nervous excitement. He proposed
to give an entertainment of a kind wholly new to the experience of
Screwstown. Mrs. M’Catchley had described with much eloquence the
Dejeunes dansants of her fashionable friends residing in the elegant
suburbs of Wimbledon and Fulham. She declared that nothing was so
agreeable. She had even said point-blank to Mr. Avenel, “Why don’t you
give a Dejeune dansant?” And, therewith, a Dejeune dansant Mr. Avenel
resolved to give.

The day was fixed, and Mr. Avenel entered into all the requisite
preparations, with the energy of a man and the providence of a woman.

One morning as he stood musing on the lawn, irresolute as to the best
site for the tents, Leonard came up to him with an open letter in his
hand.

“My dear uncle,” said he, softly.

“Ha!” exclaimed Mr. Avenel, with a start. “Ha-well, what now?”

“I have just received a letter from Mr. Dale. He tells me that my poor
mother is very restless and uneasy, because he cannot assure her that
he has heard from me; and his letter requires an answer. Indeed I shall
seem very ungrateful to him--to all--if I do not write.”

Richard Avenel’s brows met. He uttered an impatient “Pish!” and turned
away. Then coming back, he fixed his clear hawk-like eye on Leonard’s
ingenuous countenance, linked his arm into his nephew’s, and drew him
into the shrubbery.

“Well, Leonard,” said he, after a pause, “it is time that I should give
you some idea of my plans with regard to you. You have seen my manner of
living--some difference from what you ever saw before, I calculate! Now
I have given you, what no one gave me, a lift in the world; and where I
place you, there you must help yourself.”

“Such is my duty and my desire,” said Leonard, heartily. “Good. You
are a clever lad, and a genteel lad, and will do me credit. I have had
doubts of what is best for you. At one time I thought of sending you to
college. That, I know; is Mr. Dale’s wish; perhaps it is your own. But
I have given up that idea; I have something better for you. You have
a clear head for business, and are a capital arithmetician. I think of
bringing you up to superintend my business; by and by I will admit you
into partnership; and before you are thirty you will be a rich man.
Come, does that suit you?”

“My dear uncle,” said Leonard, frankly, but much touched by this
generosity, “it is not for me to have a choice. I should have preferred
going to college, because there I might gain independence for myself and
cease to be a burden on you. Moreover, my heart moves me to studies
more congenial with the college than the counting-house. But all this is
nothing compared with my wish to be of use to you, and to prove in any
way, however feebly, my gratitude for all your kindness.”

“You’re a good, grateful, sensible lad,” exclaimed Richard, heartily;
“and believe me, though I’m a rough diamond, I have your true interest
at heart. You can be of use to me, and in being so you will best
serve yourself. To tell you the truth, I have some idea of changing
my condition. There’s a lady of fashion and quality who, I think, may
condescend to become Mrs. Avenel; and if so, I shall probably reside a
great part of the year in London. I don’t want to give up my business.
No other investment will yield the same interest. But you can soon learn
to superintend it for me, as some day or other I may retire, and then
you can step in. Once a member of our great commercial class, and with
your talents you may be anything,--member of parliament, and after that,
minister of State, for what I know. And my wife--hem! that is to be--has
great connections, and you shall marry well; and--oh, the Avenels will
hold their heads with the highest, after all! Damn the aristocracy! we
clever fellows will be the aristocrats, eh?” Richard rubbed his hands.

Certainly, as we have seen, Leonard, especially in his earlier steps
to knowledge, had repined at his position in the many degrees of life;
certainly he was still ambitious; certainly he could not now have
returned contentedly to the humble occupation he had left; and woe to
the young man who does not hear with a quickened pulse and brightening
eye words that promise independence, and flatter with the hope of
distinction. Still, it was with all the reaction of chill and mournful
disappointment that Leonard, a few hours after this dialogue with
his uncle, found himself alone in the fields, and pondering over
the prospects before him. He had set his heart upon completing his
intellectual education, upon developing those powers within him which
yearned for an arena of literature, and revolted from the routine of
trade.

But to his credit be it said, that he vigorously resisted this natural
disappointment, and by degrees schooled himself to look cheerfully on
the path imposed on his duty, and sanctioned by the manly sense that was
at the core of his character.

I believe that this self-conquest showed that the boy had true genius.
The false genius would have written sonnets and despaired.

But still, Richard Avenel left his nephew sadly perplexed as to
the knotty question from which their talk on the future had
diverged,--namely, should he write to the parson, and assure the fears
of his mother? How do so without Richard’s consent, when Richard had on
a former occasion so imperiously declared that, if he did, it would
lose his mother all that Richard intended to settle on her? While he was
debating this matter with his conscience, leaning against a stile that
interrupted a path to the town, Leonard Fairfield was startled by an
exclamation. He looked up, and beheld Mr. Sprott the tinker.



CHAPTER XV.

The tinker, blacker and grimmer than ever, stared hard at the altered
person of his old acquaintance, and extended his sable fingers, as if
inclined to convince himself by the sense of touch that it was Leonard
in the flesh that he beheld, under vestments so marvellously elegant and
preternaturally spruce.

Leonard shrank mechanically from the contact, while in great surprise he
faltered,--

“You here, Mr. Sprott! What could bring you so far from home?”

“‘Ome!” echoed the tinker, “I ‘as no ‘ome! or rather, d’ ye see, Muster
Fairfilt, I makes myself at ‘ome verever I goes! Lor’ love ye! I ben’t
settled on no parridge. I wanders here and I vanders there, and that’s
my ‘ome verever I can mend my kettles and sell my tracks!”

So saying, the tinker slid his panniers on the ground, gave a grunt of
release and satisfaction, and seated himself with great composure on the
stile from which Leonard had retreated.

“But, dash my wig,” resumed Mr. Sprott, as he once more surveyed
Leonard, “vy, you bees a rale gentleman, now, surely! Vot’s the dodge,
eh?”

“Dodge!” repeated Leonard, mechanically, “I don’t understand you.” Then,
thinking that it was neither necessary nor expedient to keep up his
acquaintance with Mr. Sprott, nor prudent to expose himself to the
battery of questions which he foresaw that further parley would bring
upon him, he extended a crown-piece to the tinker; and saying, with a
half-smile, “You must excuse me for leaving you--I have business in the
town; and do me the favour to accept this trifle,” he walked briskly
off.

The tinker looked long at the crown-piece, and then sliding it into his
pocket, said to himself,--

“Ho, ‘ush-money! No go, my swell cove.”

After venting that brief soliloquy he sat silent a little while, till
Leonard was nearly out of sight; then rose, resumed his fardel, and
creeping quick along the hedgerows, followed Leonard towards the town.
Just in the last field, as he looked over the hedge, he saw Leonard
accosted by a gentleman of comely mien and important swagger. That
gentleman soon left the young man, and came, whistling loud, up the
path, and straight towards the tinker. Mr. Sprott looked round, but the
hedge was too neat to allow of a good hiding-place, so he put a bold
front on it, and stepped forth like a man. But, alas for him! before he
got into the public path, the proprietor of the land, Mr. Richard
Avenel (for the gentleman was no less a personage), had spied out the
trespasser, and called to him with a “Hillo, fellow,” that bespoke all
the dignity of a man who owns acres, and all the wrath of a man who
beholds those acres impudently invaded.

The tinker stopped, and Mr. Avenel stalked up to him. “What the devil
are you doing on my property, lurking by my hedge? I suspect you are an
incendiary!”

“I be a tinker,” quoth Mr. Sprott, not louting low, for a sturdy
republican was Mr. Sprott, but, like a lord of human kind,--

        “Pride in his port, defiance in his eye.”

Mr. Avenel’s fingers itched to knock the tinker’s villanous hat off his
jacobinical head, but he repressed the undignified impulse by thrusting
both hands deep into his trousers’ pockets.

“A tinker!” he cried,--“that’s a vagrant; and I’m a magistrate, and I’ve
a great mind to send you to the treadmill,--that I have. What do you do
here, I say? You have not answered my question.”

“What does I do ‘ere?” said Mr. Sprott. “Vy, you had better ax my
crakter of the young gent I saw you talking with just now; he knows me.”

“What! my nephew knows you?”

“W-hew,” whistled the tinker, “your nephew is it, sir? I have a great
respek for your family. I ‘ve knowed Mrs. Fairfilt the vashervoman this
many a year. I ‘umbly ax your pardon.” And he took off his hat this
time.

Mr. Avenel turned red and white in a breath. He growled out something
inaudible, turned on his heel, and strode off. The tinker watched him as
he had watched Leonard, and then dogged the uncle as he had dogged the
nephew. I don’t presume to say that there was cause and effect in what
happened that night, but it was what is called “a curious coincidence”
 that that night one of Richard Avenel’s ricks was set on fire, and that
that day he had called Mr. Sprott an incendiary. Mr. Sprott was a man of
a very high spirit, and did not forgive an insult easily. His nature was
inflammatory, and so was that of the lucifers which he always carried
about him, with his tracts and glue-pots.

The next morning there was an inquiry made for the tinker, but he had
disappeared from the neighbourhood.



CHAPTER XVI.

It was a fortunate thing that the dejeune dansant so absorbed Mr.
Richard Avenel’s thoughts that even the conflagration of his rick
could not scare away the graceful and poetic images connected with that
pastoral festivity. He was even loose and careless in the questions he
put to Leonard about the tinker; nor did he send justice in pursuit
of that itinerant trader; for, to say truth, Richard Avenel was a man
accustomed to make enemies amongst the lower orders; and though he
suspected Mr. Sprott of destroying his rick, yet, when he once set about
suspecting, he found he had quite as good cause to suspect fifty other
persons. How on earth could a man puzzle himself about ricks and tinkers
when all his cares and energies were devoted to a dejeune dansant? It
was a maxim of Richard Avenel’s, as it ought to be of every clever
man, “to do one thing at a time;” and therefore he postponed all other
considerations till the dejeune dansant was fairly done with. Amongst
these considerations was the letter which Leonard wished to write to
the parson. “Wait a bit, and we will both write!” said Richard,
good-humouredly, “the moment the dijeune dansant is over!”

It must be owned that this fete was no ordinary provincial ceremonial.
Richard Avenel was a man to do a thing well when he set about it,--

     “He soused the cabbage with a bounteous heart.”

By little and little his first notions had expanded, till what had
been meant to be only neat and elegant now embraced the costly and
magnificent. Artificers accustomed to dejeunes dansants came all the
way from London to assist, to direct, to create. Hungarian singers and
Tyrolese singers and Swiss peasant-women, who were to chant the Ranz des
Vaches, and milk cows or make syllabubs, were engaged. The great marquee
was decorated as a Gothic banquet-hall; the breakfast itself was to
consist of “all the delicacies of the season.” In short, as Richard
Avenel said to himself, “It is a thing once in a way; a thing on which I
don’t object to spend money, provided that the thing is--the thing!”

It had been a matter of grave meditation how to make the society
worthy of the revel; for Richard Avenel was not contented with the mere
aristocracy of the town,--his ambition had grown with his expenses.
“Since it will cost so much,” said he, “I may as well come it strong,
and get in the county.”

True, that he was personally acquainted with very few of what are called
county families. But still, when a man makes himself a mark in a
large town, and can return one of the members whom that town sends to
parliament; and when, moreover, that man proposes to give some superb
and original entertainment, in which the old can eat and the young can
dance, there is no county in the island that has not families enow
who will be delighted by an invitation from THAT MAN. And so Richard,
finding that, as the thing got talked of, the dean’s lady, and Mrs.
Pompley, and various other great personages, took the liberty to suggest
that Squire this, and Sir somebody that, would be so pleased if they
were asked, fairly took the bull by the horns, and sent out his cards to
Park, Hall, and Rectory, within a circumference of twelve miles. He met
with but few refusals, and he now counted upon five hundred guests.

“In for a penny in for a pound,” said Mr. Richard Avenel. “I wonder
what Mrs. M’Catchley will say?” Indeed, if the whole truth must be
known,--Mr. Richard Avenel not only gave that dejeune dansant in honour
of Mrs. M’Catchley, but he had fixed in his heart of hearts upon that
occasion (when surrounded by all his splendour, and assisted by the
seductive arts of Terpsichore and Bacchus) to whisper to Mrs. M’Catchley
those soft words which--but why not here let Mr. Richard Avenel use his
own idiomatic and unsophisticated expression? “Please the pigs, then,”
 said Mr. Avenel to himself, “I shall pop the question!”



CHAPTER XVII.

The Great Day arrived at last; and Mr. Richard Avenel, from his
dressing-room window, looked on the scene below as Hannibal or Napoleon
looked from the Alps on Italy. It was a scene to gratify the thought
of conquest, and reward the labours of ambition. Placed on a little
eminence stood the singers from the mountains of the Tyrol, their
high-crowned hats and filigree buttons and gay sashes gleaming in the
sun. Just seen from his place of watch, though concealed from the casual
eye, the Hungarian musicians lay in ambush amidst a little belt of
laurels and American shrubs. Far to the right lay what had once been
called horresco referens the duckpond, where--“Dulce sonant tenui
gutture carmen aves.” But the ruthless ingenuity of the head-artificer
had converted the duck-pond into a Swiss lake, despite grievous wrong
and sorrow to the assuetum innocuumque genus,--the familiar and harmless
inhabitants, who had been all expatriated and banished from their native
waves. Large poles twisted with fir branches, stuck thickly around the
lake, gave to the waters the becoming Helvetian gloom. And here, beside
three cows all bedecked with ribbons, stood the Swiss maidens destined
to startle the shades with the Ranz des Vaches. To the left, full upon
the sward, which it almost entirely covered, stretched the great Gothic
marquee, divided into two grand sections,--one for the dancing, one for
the dejeune.

The day was propitious,--not a cloud in the sky. The musicians
were already tuning their instruments; figures of waiters hired
of Gunter--trim and decorous, in black trousers and white
waistcoats--passed to and fro the space between the house and marquee.
Richard looked and looked; and as he looked he drew mechanically his
razor across the strop; and when he had looked his fill, he turned
reluctantly to the glass and shaved! All that blessed morning he had
been too busy, till then, to think of shaving.

There is a vast deal of character in the way that a man performs that
operation of shaving! You should have seen Richard Avenel shave! You
could have judged at once how he would shave his neighbours, when you
saw the celerity, the completeness with which he shaved himself,--a
forestroke and a backstroke, and tondenti barba cadebat. Cheek and
chin were as smooth as glass. You would have buttoned up your pockets
instinctively if you had seen him.

But the rest of Mr. Avenel’s toilet was not completed with correspondent
despatch. On his bed, and on his chairs, and on his sofa, and on his
drawers, lay trousers and vests and cravats enough to distract the
choice of a Stoic. And first one pair of trousers was tried on, and
then another--and one waistcoat, and then a second, and then a third.
Gradually that chef-d’oeuvre of civilization--a man dressed--grew into
development and form; and, finally, Mr. Richard Avenel emerged into the
light of day. He had been lucky in his costume,--he felt it. It might
not suit every one in colour or cut, but it suited him.

And this was his garb. On such occasion, what epic poet would not
describe the robe and tunic of a hero?

His surtout--in modern phrase his frockcoat--was blue, a rich blue, a
blue that the royal brothers of George the Fourth were wont to favour.
And the surtout, single-breasted, was thrown open gallantly; and in the
second button-hole thereof was a moss-rose. The vest was white, and the
trousers a pearl gray, with what tailors style “a handsome fall over the
boot.” A blue and white silk cravat, tied loose and debonair; an ample
field of shirt front, with plain gold studs; a pair of lemon-coloured
kid gloves, and a white hat, placed somewhat too knowingly on one side,
complete the description, and “give the world assurance of the man.”
 And, with his light, firm, well-shaped figure, his clear complexion, his
keen, bright eye, and features that bespoke the courage, precision, and
alertness of his character,--that is to say, features bold, not large,
well-defined, and regular,--you might walk long through town or country
before you would see a handsomer specimen of humanity than our friend
Richard Avenel.

Handsome, and feeling that he was handsome; rich, and feeling that he
was rich; lord of the fete, and feeling that he was lord of the fete,
Richard Avenel stepped out upon his lawn.

And now the dust began to rise along the road, and carriages and gigs
and chaises and flies might be seen at near intervals and in quick
procession. People came pretty much about the same time-as they do in
the country--Heaven reward them for it!

Richard Avenel was not quite at his ease at first in receiving his
guests, especially those whom he did not know by sight. But when the
dancing began, and he had secured the fair hand of Mrs. M’Catchley for
the initiary quadrille, his courage and presence of mind returned to
him; and, seeing that many people whom he had not received at all seemed
to enjoy themselves very much, he gave up the attempt to receive those
who came after,--and that was a great relief to all parties.

Meanwhile Leonard looked on the animated scene with a silent melancholy,
which he in vain endeavoured to shake off,--a melancholy more common
amongst very young men in such scenes than we are apt to suppose.
Somehow or other, the pleasure was not congenial to him; he had no Mrs.
M’Catchley to endear it; he knew very few people, he was shy, he felt
his position with his uncle was equivocal, he had not the habit of
society, he heard, incidentally, many an ill-natured remark upon his
uncle and the entertainment, he felt indignant and mortified. He had
been a great deal happier eating his radishes and reading his book by
the little fountain in Riccabocca’s garden. He retired to a quiet part
of the grounds, seated himself under a tree, leaned his cheek on his
hand, and mused. He was soon far away;--happy age, when, whatever the
present, the future seems so fair and so infinite!

But now the dejeune had succeeded the earlier dances; and, as champagne
flowed royally, it is astonishing how the entertainment brightened.

The sun was beginning to slope towards the west, when, during a
temporary cessation of the dance, all the guests had assembled in
such space as the tent left on the lawn, or thickly filled the walks
immediately adjoining it. The gay dresses of the ladies, the joyous
laughter heard everywhere, and the brilliant sunlight over all, conveyed
even to Leonard the notion, not of mere hypocritical pleasure, but
actual healthful happiness. He was attracted from his revery, and
timidly mingled with the groups. But Richard Avenel, with the fair Mrs.
M’Catchley--her complexion more vivid, and her eyes more dazzling, and
her step more elastic than usual--had turned from the gayety just as
Leonard had turned towards it, and was now on the very spot (remote,
obscure, shaded by the few trees above five years old that Mr. Avenel’s
property boasted) which the young dreamer had deserted.

And then! Ah, then! moment so meet for the sweet question of questions,
place so appropriate for the delicate, bashful, murmured popping
thereof!--suddenly from the sward before, from the groups beyond, there
floated to the ears of Richard Avenel an indescribable, mingled, ominous
sound,--a sound as of a general titter, a horrid, malignant, but
low cachinnation. And Mrs. M’Catchley, stretching forth her parasol,
exclaimed, “Dear me, Mr. Avenel, what can they be all crowding there
for?”

There are certain sounds and certain sights--the one indistinct,
the other vaguely conjecturable--which, nevertheless, we know, by an
instinct, bode some diabolical agency at work in our affairs. And if any
man gives an entertainment, and hears afar a general, ill-suppressed,
derisive titter, and sees all his guests hurrying towards one spot, I
defy him to remain unmoved and uninquisitive. I defy him still more to
take that precise occasion (however much he may have before designed
it) to drop gracefully on his right knee before the handsomest Mrs.
M’Catchley in the universe, and--pop the question! Richard Avenel
blurted out something very like an oath; and, half guessing that
something must have happened that it would not be pleasing to bring
immediately under the notice of Mrs. M’Catchley, he said hastily,
“Excuse me. I’ll just go and see what is the matter; pray, stay till I
come back.” With that he sprang forward; in a minute he was in the midst
of the group, that parted aside with the most obliging complacency to
make way for him.

“But what’s the matter?” he asked impatiently, yet fearfully. Not a
voice answered. He strode on, and beheld his nephew in the arms of a
woman!

“God bless my soul!” said Richard Avenel.



CHAPTER XVIII.

And such a woman!

She had on a cotton gown,--very neat, I dare say, for an
under-housemaid; and such thick shoes! She had on a little black straw
bonnet; and a kerchief, that might have cost tenpence, pinned across
her waist instead of a shawl; and she looked altogether-respectable, no
doubt, but exceedingly dusty! And she was hanging upon Leonard’s neck,
and scolding, and caressing, and crying very loud. “God bless my soul!”
 said Mr. Richard Avenel.

And as he uttered that innocent self-benediction, the woman hastily
turned round, and darting from Leonard, threw herself right upon Richard
Avenel--burying under her embrace blue-coat, moss rose, white waistcoat
and all--with a vehement sob and a loud exclamation!

“Oh! brother Dick!--dear, dear brother Dick! And I lives to see thee
agin!” And then came two such kisses--you might have heard them a mile
off! The situation of brother Dick was appalling; and the crowd, that
had before only tittered politely, could not now resist the effect of
this sudden embrace. There was a general explosion! It was a roar! That
roar would have killed a weak man; but it sounded to the strong heart
of Richard Avenel like the defiance of a foe, and it plucked forth in an
instant from all conventional let and barrier the native spirit of the
Anglo-Saxon.

He lifted abruptly his handsome masculine head, and looked round
the ring of his ill-bred visitors with a haughty stare of rebuke and
surprise.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” then said he, very coolly, “I don’t see what
there is to laugh at! A brother and sister meet after many years’
separation, and the sister cries, poor thing. For my part I think it
very natural that she should cry; but not that you should laugh!”

In an instant the whole shame was removed from Richard Avenel, and
rested in full weight upon the bystanders. It is impossible to say how
foolish and sheepish they all looked, nor how slinkingly each tried to
creep off.

Richard Avenel seized his advantage with the promptitude of a man who
had got on in America, and was, therefore, accustomed to make the best
of things. He drew Mrs. Fairfield’s arm in his, and led her into the
house; but when he had got her safe into his parlour--Leonard following
all the time--and the door was closed upon those three, then Richard
Avenel’s ire burst forth.

“You impudent, ungrateful, audacious--drab!”

Yes, drab was the word. I am shocked to say it, but the duties of a
historian are stern: and the word was drab.

“Drab!” faltered poor Jane Fairfield; and she clutched hold of Leonard
to save herself from falling.

“Sir!” cried Leonard, fiercely.

You might as well have cried “sir” to a mountain torrent. Richard
hurried on, for he was furious.

“You nasty, dirty, dusty dowdy! How dare you come here to disgrace me
in my own house and premises, after my sending you L50! To take the very
time, too, when--when Richard gasped for breath; and the laugh of his
guests rang in his ears, and got into his chest, and choked him. Jane
Fairfield drew herself up, and her tears were dried.

“I did not come to disgrace you! I came to see my boy, and--”

“Ha!” interrupted Richard, “to see him.”

He turned to Leonard: “You have written to this woman, then?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“I believe you lie.”

“He does not lie; and he is as good as yourself, and better, Richard
Avenel,” exclaimed Mrs. Fairfield; “and I won’t stand here and hear
him insulted,--that’s what I won’t. And as for your L50, there are
forty-five of it; and I’ll work my fingers to the bone till I pay back
the other five. And don’t be afeard I shall disgrace you, for I’ll never
look on your face agin; and you’re a wicked, bad man,--that’s what you
are!”

The poor woman’s voice was so raised and so shrill, that any other and
more remorseful feeling which Richard might have conceived was drowned
in his apprehensions that she would be overheard by his servants or his
guests,--a masculine apprehension, with which females rarely sympathize;
which, on the contrary, they are inclined to consider a mean and
cowardly terror on the part of their male oppressors.

“Hush! hold your infernal squall,--do’.” said Mr. Avenel, in a tone that
he meant to be soothing. “There--sit down--and don’t stir till I come
back again, and can talk to you calmly. Leonard, follow me, and help to
explain things to our guests.”

Leonard stood still, but shook his head slightly.

“What do you mean, sir?” said Richard Avenel, in a very portentous
growl. “Shaking your head at me? Do you intend to disobey me? You had
better take care!”

Leonard’s front rose; he drew one arm round his mother, and thus he
spoke,

“Sir, you have been kind to me, and generous, and that thought alone
silenced my indignation when I heard you address such language to my
mother; for I felt that, if I spoke, I should say too much. Now I speak,
and it is to say, shortly, that--”

“Hush, boy,” said poor Mrs. Fairfield, frightened; “don’t mind me. I did
not come to make mischief, and ruin your prospex. I’ll go!”

“Will you ask her pardon, Mr. Avenel?” said Leonard, firmly; and he
advanced towards his uncle.

Richard, naturally hot and intolerant of contradiction, was then
excited, not only by the angry emotions, which, it must be owned, a man
so mortified, and in the very flush of triumph, might well experience,
but by much more wine than he was in the habit of drinking; and when
Leonard approached him, he misinterpreted the movement into one of
menace and aggression. He lifted his arm: “Come a step nearer,” said
he, between his teeth, “and I’ll knock you down.” Leonard advanced the
forbidden step; but as Richard caught his eye, there was something in
that eye--not defying, not threatening, but bold and dauntless--which
Richard recognized and respected, for that something spoke the Freeman.
The uncle’s arm mechanically fell to his side. “You cannot strike me,
Mr. Avenel,” said Leonard, “for you are aware that I could not strike
again my mother’s brother. As her son, I once more say to you,--ask her
pardon.”

“Ten thousand devils! Are you mad?--or do you want to drive me mad? You
insolent beggar, fed and clothed by my charity! Ask her pardon!--what
for? That she has made me the object of jeer and ridicule with that
d---d cotton gown and those double-d---d thick shoes--I vow and protest
they’ve got nails in them! Hark ye, sir, I’ve been insulted by her, but
I’m not to be bullied by you. Come with me instantly, or I discard
you; not a shilling of mine shall you have as long as I live. Take your
choice: be a peasant, a labourer, or--”

“A base renegade to natural affection, a degraded beggar indeed!” cried
Leonard, his breast heaving, and his cheeks in a glow. “Mother, Mother,
come away. Never fear,--I have strength and youth, and we will work
together as before.”

But poor Mrs. Fairfield, overcome by her excitement, had sunk down into
Richard’s own handsome morocco leather easy-chair, and could neither
speak nor stir.

“Confound you both!” muttered Richard. “You can’t be seen creeping out
of my house now. Keep her here, you young viper, you; keep her till I
come back; and then, if you choose to go, go and be--”

Not finishing his sentence, Mr. Avenel hurried out of the room, and
locked the door, putting the key into his pocket. He paused for a moment
in the hall, in order to collect his thoughts, drew three or four deep
breaths, gave himself a great shake, and, resolved to be faithful to
his principle of doing one thing at a time, shook off in that shake all
disturbing recollection of his mutinous captives. Stern as Achilles when
he appeared to the Trojans, Richard Avenel stalked back to his lawn.



CHAPTER XIX.

Brief as had been his absence, the host could see that, in the interval,
a great and notable change had come over the spirit of his company. Some
of those who lived in the town were evidently preparing to return home
on foot; those who lived at a distance, and whose carriages (having been
sent away, and ordered to return at a fixed hour) had not yet arrived,
were gathered together in small knots and groups; all looked sullen and
displeased, and all instinctively turned from their host as he passed
them by. They felt they had been lectured, and they were more put out
than Richard himself. They did not know if they might not be lectured
again. This vulgar man, of what might he not be capable? Richard’s
shrewd sense comprehended in an instant all the difficulties of his
position; but he walked on deliberately and directly towards Mrs.
M’Catchley, who was standing near the grand marquee with the Pompleys
and the dean’s lady. As those personages saw him make thus boldly
towards them, there was a flutter. “Hang the fellow!” said the
colonel, intrenching himself in his stock, “he is coming here. Low and
shocking--what shall we do? Let us stroll on.” But Richard threw himself
in the way of the retreat. “Mrs. M’Catchley,” said he, very gravely, and
offering her his arm, “allow me three words with you.”

The poor widow looked very much discomposed. Mrs. Pompley pulled her
by the sleeve. Richard still stood gazing into her face, with his arm
extended. She hesitated a minute, and then took the arm.

“Monstrous impudent!” cried the colonel.

“Let Mrs. M’Catchley alone, my dear,” responded Mrs. Pompley; “she will
know how to give him a lesson.”

“Madam,” said Richard, as soon as he and his companion were out of
hearing, “I rely on you to do me a favour.”

“On me?”

“On you, and you alone. You have influence with all those people, and
a word from you will effect what I desire. Mrs. M’Catchley,” added
Richard, with a solemnity that was actually imposing, “I flatter myself
that you have some friendship for me, which is more than I can say of
any other soul in these grounds; will you do me this favour, ay or no?”

“What is it, Mr. Avenel?” asked Mrs. M’Catchley, much disturbed, and
somewhat softened,--for she was by no means a woman without feeling;
indeed, she considered herself nervous.

“Get all your friends--all the company, in short-to come back into the
tent for refreshments, for anything. I want to say a few words to them.”

“Bless me! Mr. Avenel--a few words!” cried the widow, “but that’s just
what they’re all afraid of. You must pardon me, but you really can’t ask
people to a dejeune dansant, and then--scold ‘em!”

“I’m not going to scold them,” said Air. Avenel, very seriously,--“upon
my honour, I’m not. I’m going to make all right, and I even hope
afterwards that the dancing may go on--and that you will honour me again
with your hand. I leave you to your task; and believe me, I’m not an
ungrateful man.” He spoke, and bowed--not without some dignity--and
vanished within the breakfast division of the marquee. There he busied
himself in re-collecting the waiters, and directing them to re-arrange
the mangled remains of the table as they best could. Mrs. M’Catchley,
whose curiosity and interest were aroused, executed her commission with
all the ability and tact of a woman of the world, and in less than a
quarter of an hour the marquee was filled, the corks flew, the champagne
bounced and sparkled, people drank in silence, munched fruits and cakes,
kept up their courage with the conscious sense of numbers, and felt a
great desire to know what was coming. Mr. Avenel, at the head of the
table, suddenly rose.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said he, “I have taken the liberty to invite you
once more into this tent, in order to ask you to sympathize with me upon
an occasion which took us all a little by surprise to-day.

“Of course, you all know I am a new man,--the maker of my own fortunes.”

A great many heads bowed involuntarily. The words were said manfully,
and there was a general feeling of respect. “Probably, too,” resumed Mr.
Avenel, “you may know that I am the son of very honest tradespeople. I
say honest, and they are not ashamed of me; I say tradespeople, and I’m
not ashamed of them. My sister married and settled at a distance. I took
her son to educate and bring up. But I did not tell her where he was,
nor even that I had returned from America; I wished to choose my own
time for that, when I could give her the surprise, not only of a rich
brother, but of a son whom I intended to make a gentleman, so far as
manners and education can make one. Well, the poor dear woman has found
me out sooner than I expected, and turned the tables on me by giving me
a surprise of her own invention. Pray, forgive the confusion this little
family-scene has created; and though I own it was very laughable at the
moment, and I was wrong to say otherwise, yet I am sure I don’t judge
ill of your good hearts, when I ask you to think what brother and sister
must feel who parted from each other when they were boy and girl. To
me” (and Richard gave a great gulp, for he felt that a great gulp alone
could swallow the abominable lie he was about to utter)--“to me this has
been a very happy occasion! I’m a plain man: no one can take ill what
I’ve said. And wishing that you may be all as happy in your family as I
am in mine--humble though it be--I beg to drink your very good healths!”

There was a universal applause when Richard sat down; and so well in
his plain way had he looked the thing, and done the thing, that at least
half of those present--who till then had certainly disliked and half
despised him--suddenly felt that they were proud of his acquaintance.
For however aristocratic this country of ours may be, and however
especially aristocratic be the genteeler classes in provincial towns and
coteries, there is nothing which English folks, from the highest to the
lowest, in their hearts so respect as a man who has risen from nothing,
and owns it frankly. Sir Compton Delaval, an old baronet, with a
pedigree as long as a Welshman’s, who had been reluctantly decoyed to
the feast by his three unmarried daughters--not one of whom, however,
had hitherto condescended even to bow to the host--now rose. It was his
right,--he was the first person there in rank and station.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” quoth Sir Compton Delaval, “I am sure that I
express the feelings of all present when I say that we have heard with
great delight and admiration the words addressed to us by our excellent
host. [Applause.] And if any of us, in what--Mr. Avenel describes justly
as the surprise of the moment, were betrayed into an unseemly merriment
at--at--[the dean’s lady whispered some of the]--some of the--some of
the--” repeated Sir Compton, puzzled, and coming to a deadlock [“holiest
sentiments,” whispered the dean’s lady]--“ay, some of the holiest
sentiments in our nature, I beg him to accept our sincerest apologies.
I can only say, for my part, that I am proud to rank Mr. Avenel amongst
the gentlemen of the county” (here Sir Compton gave a sounding thump
on the table), “and to thank him for one of the most brilliant
entertainments it has ever been my lot to witness. If he won his fortune
honestly, he knows how to spend it nobly.”

Whiz went a fresh bottle of champagne.

“I am not accustomed to public speaking, but I could not repress my
sentiments. And I’ve now only to propose to you the health of our host.
Richard Avenel, Esquire; and to couple with that the health of his--very
interesting sister, and long life to them both.”

The sentence was half drowned in enthusiastic plaudits, and in three
cheers for Richard Avenel, Esquire, and his very interesting sister.

“I’m a cursed humbug,” thought Richard Avenel, as he wiped his
forehead; “but the world is such a humbug!” Then he glanced towards Mrs.
M’Catehley and, to his great satisfaction, saw Mrs. M’Catchley with her
handkerchief before her eyes.

Truth must be told; although the fair widow might certainly have
contemplated the probability of accepting Mr. Avenel as a husband, she
had never before felt the least bit in love with him; and now she did.
There is something in courage and candour--in a word, in manliness--that
all women, the most worldly, do admire in men; and Richard Avenel,
humbug though his conscience said he was, seemed to Mrs. M’Catchley like
a hero.

The host saw his triumph. “Now for another dance!” said he, gayly; and
he was about to offer his hand to Mrs. M’Catchley, when Sir Compton
Delaval seizing it, and giving it a hearty shake, cried, “You have not
yet danced with my eldest daughter; so if you’ll not ask her, why, I
must offer her to you as your partner. Here, Sarah.”

Miss Sarah Delaval, who was five feet eight, and as stately as she was
tall, bowed her head graciously; and Mr. Avenel, before he knew where
he was, found her leaning on his arm. But as he passed into the next
division of the tent, he had to run the gauntlet of all the gentlemen,
who thronged round to shake hands with him. Their warm English hearts
could not be satisfied till they had so repaired the sin of their
previous haughtiness and mockery. Richard Avenel might then have safely
introduced his sister--gown, kerchief, thick shoes, and all--to the
crowd; but he had no such thought. He thanked Heaven devoutly that she
was safely under lock and key.

It was not till the third dance that he could secure Mrs. M’Catchley’s
hand, and then it was twilight. The carriages were at the door, but no
one yet thought of going. People were really enjoying themselves.
Mr. Avenel had had time, in the interim, to mature all his plans for
completing and consummating that triumph which his tact and pluck had
drawn from his momentary disgrace. Excited as he was with wine, and
suppressed passion, he had yet the sense to feel that, when all the
halo that now surrounded him had evaporated, and Mrs. M’Catchley was
redelivered up to the Pompleys, whom he felt to be the last persons his
interest could desire for her advisers, the thought of his low relations
would return with calm reflection. Now was the time. The iron was hot,
now was the time to strike it, and forge the enduring chain. As he
led Mrs. M’Catchley after the dance, into the lawn, he therefore said
tenderly,--

“How shall I thank you for the favour you have done me?”

“Oh!” said Mrs. M’Catchley, warmly, “It was no favour, and I am so
glad--” She stopped.

“You’re not ashamed of me, then, in spite of what has happened?”

“Ashamed of you! Why, I should be so proud of you, if I were--”

“Finish the sentence and say--‘your wife!’--there, it is out. My dear
madam, I am rich, as you know; I love you very heartily. With your
help, I think I can make a figure in a larger world than this: and that,
whatever my father, my grandson at least will be--but it is time enough
to speak of him. What say you?--you--turn away. I’ll not tease you,--it
is not my way. I said before, ay or no; and your kindness so emboldens
me that I say it again, ay or no?”

“But you take me so unawares--so--so--Lord! my dear Mr. Avenel; you
are so hasty--I--I--” And the widow actually blushed, and was genuinely
bashful.

“Those horrid Pompleys!” thought Richard, as he saw the colonel bustling
up with Mrs. M’Catchley’s cloak on his arm. “I press for your answer,”
 continued the suitor, speaking very fast. “I shall leave this place
to-morrow, if you will not give it.”

“Leave this place--leave me?”

“Then you will be mine?”

“Ah, Mr. Avenel!” said the widow, languidly, and leaving her hand in
his, “who can resist you?”

Up came Colonel Pompley; Richard took the shawl: “No hurry for that now,
Colonel,--Mrs. M’Catchley feels already at home here.”

Ten minutes afterwards, Richard Avenel so contrived that it was known
by the whole company that their host was accepted by the Honourable Mrs.
M’Catchley. And every one said, “He is a very clever man and a very good
fellow,” except the Pompleys--and the Pompleys were frantic. Mr. Richard
Avenel had forced his way into the aristocracy of the country; the
husband of an Honourable, connected with peers!

“He will stand for our city--Vulgarian!” cried the colonel. “And his
wife will walk out before me,” cried the colonel’s lady,--“nasty woman!”
 And she burst into tears.

The guests were gone; and Richard had now leisure to consider what
course to pursue with regard to his sister and her son.

His victory over his guests had in much softened his heart towards his
relations; but he still felt bitterly aggrieved at Mrs. Fairfield’s
unseasonable intrusion, and his pride was greatly chafed by the boldness
of Leonard. He had no idea of any man whom he had served, or meant to
serve, having a will of his own, having a single thought in opposition
to his pleasure. He began, too, to feel that words had passed between
him and Leonard which could not be well forgotten by either, and would
render their close connection less pleasant than heretofore. He, the
great Richard Avenel, beg pardon of Mrs. Fairfield, the washerwoman!
No; she and Leonard must beg his. “That must be the first step,” said
Richard Avenel; “and I suppose they have come to their senses.” With
that expectation, he unlocked the door of his parlour, and found himself
in complete solitude. The moon, lately risen, shone full into the room,
and lit up every corner. He stared round bewildered,--the birds had
flown. “Did they go through the keyhole?” said Air. Avenel. “Ha! I see!
the window is open!” The window reached to the ground. Mr. Avenel, in
his excitement, had forgotten that easy mode of egress. “Well,” said he,
throwing himself into his easy-chair, “I suppose I shall soon hear from
them: they’ll be wanting my money fast enough, I fancy.” His eye caught
sight of a letter, unsealed, lying on the table. He opened it, and saw
bank-notes to the amount of L50,--the widow’s forty-five country notes,
and a new note, Bank of England, that he had lately given to Leonard.
With the money were these lines, written in Leonard’s bold, clear
writing, though a word or two here and there showed that the hand had
trembled,--

   I thank you for all you have done to one whom you regarded as the
   object of charity. My mother and I forgive what has passed. I
   depart with her. You bade me make my choice, and I have made it.

   LEONARD FAIRFIELD.

The paper dropped from Richard’s hand, and he remained mute and
remorseful for a moment. He soon felt, however, that he had no help for
it but working himself up into a rage. “Of all people in the world,”
 cried Richard, stamping his foot on the floor, “there are none so
disagreeable, insolent, and ungrateful as poor relations. I wash my
hands of them!”



BOOK SIXTH.



INITIAL CHAPTER.

WHEREIN MR. CAXTON IS PROFOUNDLY METAPHYSICAL.

“Life,” said my father, in his most dogmatical tone, “is a certain
quantity in time, which may be regarded in two ways,--First, as life
integral; Second, as life fractional. Life integral is that complete
whole expressive of a certain value, large or small, which each man
possesses in himself. Life fractional is that same whole seized upon
and invaded by other people, and subdivided amongst them. They who get a
large slice of it say, ‘A very valuable life this!’ Those who get but a
small handful say, ‘So, so; nothing very great!’ Those who get none of
it in the scramble exclaim, ‘Good for nothing!’”

“I don’t understand a word you are saying,” growled Captain Roland.

My father surveyed his brother with compassion: “I will make it all
clear, even to your understanding. When I sit down by myself in my
study, having carefully locked the door on all of you, alone with my
books and thoughts, I am in full possession of my integral life. I am
totus, teres, atque rotundus,--a whole human being, equivalent in value,
we will say, for the sake of illustration, to a fixed round sum, L100
for example. But when I go forth into the common apartment, each of
those to whom I am of any worth whatsoever puts his finger into the bag
that contains me, and takes out of me what he wants. Kitty requires me
to pay a bill; Pisistratus to save him the time and trouble of looking
into a score or two of books; the children to tell them stories, or
play at hide-and-seek; and so on throughout the circle to which I have
incautiously given myself up for plunder and subdivision. The L100 which
I represented in my study is now parcelled out; I am worth L40 or L50
to Kitty, L20 to Pisistratus, and perhaps 30s. to the children. This is
life fractional. And I cease to be an integral till once more returning
to my study, and again closing the door on all existence but my own.
Meanwhile, it is perfectly clear that to those who, whether I am in the
study or whether I am in the common sitting-room, get nothing at all
out of me, I am not worth a farthing. It must be wholly indifferent to a
native of Kamschatka whether Austin Caxton be or be not razed out of the
great account-book of human beings.

“Hence,” continued my father,--“hence it follows that the more
fractional a life be--that is, the greater the number of persons among
whom it can be subdivided--why, the more there are to say, ‘A very
valuable life that!’ Thus the leader of a political party, a conqueror,
a king, an author, who is amusing hundreds or thousands or millions, has
a greater number of persons whom his worth interests and affects than a
Saint Simeon Stylites could have when he perched himself at the top of
a column; although, regarded each in himself, Saint Simeon, in his grand
mortification of flesh, in the idea that he thereby pleased his Divine
Benefactor, might represent a larger sum of moral value per se than
Bonaparte or Voltaire.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Perfectly clear, sir; but I don’t see what it has to do
with ‘My Novel.’”

MR. CAXTON.--“Everything. Your novel, if it is to be a full and
comprehensive survey of the ‘Quicquid agunt homines’ (which it ought to
be, considering the length and breadth to which I foresee, from the slow
development of your story, you meditate extending and expanding
it), will embrace the two views of existence,--the integral and the
fractional. You have shown us the former in Leonard, when he is sitting
in his mother’s cottage, or resting from his work by the little fount in
Riccabocca’s garden. And in harmony with that view of his life, you have
surrounded him with comparative integrals, only subdivided by the tender
hands of their immediate families and neighbours,--your squires and
parsons, your Italian exile and his Jemima. With all these, life is,
more or less, the life natural, and this is always, more or less, the
life integral. Then comes the life artificial, which is always, more or
less, the life fractional. In the life natural, wherein we are swayed
but by our own native impulses and desires, subservient only to the
great silent law of Virtue (which has pervaded the universe since
it swung out of chaos), a man is of worth from what he is in
himself,--Newton was as worthy before the apple fell from the tree as
when all Europe applauded the discoverer of the Principle of Gravity.
But in the life artificial we are only of worth inasmuch as we affect
others; and, relative to that life, Newton rose in value more than a
million per cent when down fell the apple from which ultimately sprang
up his discovery. In order to keep civilization going and spread over
the world the light of human intellect, we have certain desires within
us, ever swelling beyond the ease and independence which belongs to us
as integrals. Cold man as Newton might be (he once took a lady’s hand in
his own, Kitty, and used her forefinger for his tobacco-stopper,--great
philosopher!), cold as he might be, he was yet moved into giving his
discoveries to the world, and that from motives very little differing
in their quality from the motives that make Dr. Squills communicate
articles to the ‘Phrenological Journal’ upon the skulls of Bushmen and
wombats. For it is the property of light to travel. When a man has
light in him, forth it must go. But the first passage of genius from its
integral state (in which it has been reposing on its own wealth) into
the fractional is usually through a hard and vulgar pathway. It leaves
behind it the reveries of solitude,--that self-contemplating rest which
may be called the Visionary,--and enters suddenly into the state that
may be called the Positive and Actual. There it sees the operations
of money on the outer life; sees all the ruder and commoner springs
of action; sees ambition without nobleness, love without romance; is
bustled about and ordered and trampled and cowed,--in short, it passes
an apprenticeship with some Richard Avenel, and does not detect what
good and what grandeur, what addition even to the true poetry of the
social universe, fractional existences like Richard Avenel’s bestow;
for the pillars that support society are like those of the Court of the
Hebrew Tabernacle,--they are of brass, it is true, but they are filleted
with silver. From such intermediate state Genius is expelled and driven
on its way, and would have been so in this case had Mrs. Fairfield (who
is but the representative of the homely natural affections, strongest
ever in true genius,--for light is warm) never crushed Mr. Avenel’s moss
rose on her sisterly bosom. Now, forth from this passage and defile of
transition into the larger world, must Genius go on, working out its
natural destiny amidst things and forms the most artificial. Passions
that move and influence the world are at work around it. Often lost
sight of itself, its very absence is a silent contrast to the agencies
present. Merged and vanished for a while amidst the Practical World, yet
we ourselves feel all the while that it is there; is at work amidst the
workings around it. This practical world that effaces it rose out of
some genius that has gone before; and so each man of genius, though we
never come across him, as his operations proceed in places remote from
our thoroughfares, is yet influencing the practical world that ignores
him, for ever and ever. That is GENIUS! We can’t describe it in books;
we can only hint and suggest it by the accessories which we artfully
heap about it. The entrance of a true Probationer into the terrible
ordeal of Practical Life is like that into the miraculous cavern, by
which, legend informs us, Saint Patrick converted Ireland.”

BLANCHE.--“What is that legend? I never heard of it.”

MR. CAXTON.--“My dear, you will find it in a thin folio at the right on
entering my study, written by Thomas Messingham, and called ‘Florilegium
Insulae Sanctorum,’ etc. The account therein is confirmed by the
relation of an honest soldier, one Louis Ennius, who had actually
entered the cavern. In short, the truth of the legend is undeniable,
unless you mean to say, which I can’t for a moment suppose, that Louis
Ennius was a liar. Thus it runs: Saint Patrick, finding that the Irish
pagans were incredulous as to his pathetic assurances of the pains and
torments destined to those who did not expiate their sins in this world,
prayed for a miracle to convince them. His prayer was heard; and a
certain cavern, so small that a man could not stand up therein at his
ease, was suddenly converted into a Purgatory, comprehending tortures
sufficient to convince the most incredulous. One unacquainted with
human nature might conjecture that few would be disposed to venture
voluntarily into such a place; on the contrary, pilgrims came in crowds.
Now, all who entered from vain curiosity or with souls unprepared
perished miserably; but those who entered with deep and earnest faith,
conscious of their faults, and if bold, yet humble, not only came out
safe and sound, but purified, as if from the waters of a second baptism.
See Savage and Johnson at night in Fleet Street,--and who shall doubt
the truth of Saint Patrick’s Purgatory!” Therewith my father sighed;
closed his Lucian, which had lain open on the table, and would read none
but “good books” for the rest of the evening.



CHAPTER II.

On their escape from the prison to which Mr. Avenel had condemned them,
Leonard and his mother found their way to a small public-house that lay
at a little distance from the town, and on the outskirts of the high
road. With his arm round his mother’s waist, Leonard supported her
steps, and soothed her excitement. In fact, the poor woman’s nerves
were greatly shaken, and she felt an uneasy remorse at the injury her
intrusion had inflicted on the young man’s worldly prospects. As the
shrewd reader has guessed already, that infamous tinker was the prime
agent of evil in this critical turn in the affairs of his quondam
customer; for, on his return to his haunts around Hazeldean and the
Casino, the tinker had hastened to apprise Mrs. Fairfield of his
interview with Leonard, and, on finding that she was not aware that the
boy was under the roof of his uncle, the pestilent vagabond (perhaps
from spite against Mr. Avenel, or perhaps from that pure love of
mischief by which metaphysical critics explain the character of Iago,
and which certainly formed a main element in the idiosyncrasy of Mr.
Sprott) had so impressed on the widow’s mind the haughty demeanour of
the uncle, and the refined costume of the nephew, that Mrs. Fairfield
had been seized with a bitter and insupportable jealousy. There was an
intention to rob her of her boy!--he was to be made too fine for her.
His silence was now accounted for. This sort of jealousy, always more or
less a feminine quality, is often very strong amongst the poor; and it
was the more strong in Mrs. Fairfield, because, lone woman that she was,
the boy was all in all to her. And though she was reconciled to the loss
of his presence, nothing could reconcile her to the thought that his
affections should be weaned from her. Moreover, there were in her mind
certain impressions, of the justice of which the reader may better
judge hereafter, as to the gratitude--more than ordinarily filial--which
Leonard owed to her. In short, she did not like, as she phrased it, “to
be shaken off;” and after a sleepless night she resolved to judge for
herself, much moved thereto by the malicious suggestions to that effect
made by Mr. Sprott, who mightily enjoyed the idea of mortifying the
gentlemen by whom he had been so disrespectfully threatened with
the treadmill. The widow felt angry with Parson Dale and with the
Riccaboccas: she thought they were in the plot against her; she
communicated therefore, her intentions to none, and off she set,
performing the journey partly on the top of the coach, partly on foot.
No wonder that she was dusty, poor woman!

“And, oh, boy!” said she, half sobbing, “when I got through the
lodge-gates, came on the lawn, and saw all that power o’ fine folk, I
said to myself, says I--for I felt fritted--I’ll just have a look at him
and go back. But ah, Lenny, when I saw thee, looking so handsome, and
when thee turned and cried ‘Mother,’ my heart was just ready to leap out
o’ my mouth, and so I could not help hugging thee, if I had died for
it. And thou wert so kind, that I forgot all Mr. Sprott had said about
Dick’s pride, or thought he had just told a fib about that, as he had
wanted me to believe a fib about thee. Then Dick came up--and I had not
seen him for so many years--and we come o’ the same father and mother;
and so--and so--” The widow’s sobs here fairly choked her. “Ah,” she
said, after giving vent to her passion, and throwing her arms round
Leonard’s neck, as they sat in the little sanded parlour of the
public-house,--“ah, and I’ve brought thee to this. Go back; go back,
boy, and never mind me.”

With some difficulty Leonard pacified poor Mrs. Fairfield, and got her
to retire to bed; for she was, indeed, thoroughly exhausted. He then
stepped forth into the road; musingly. All the stars were out; and
Youth, in its troubles, instinctively looks up to the stars. Folding his
arms, Leonard gazed on the heavens, and his lips murmured.

From this trance, for so it might be called, he was awakened by a
voice in a decidedly London accent; and, turning hastily round, saw Mr.
Avenel’s very gentlemanlike butler.

Leonard’s first idea was that his uncle had repented, and sent in search
of him. But the butler seemed as much surprised at the rencontre as
himself: that personage, indeed, the fatigues of the day being over, was
accompanying one of Mr. Gunter’s waiters to the public-house (at which
the latter had secured his lodging), having discovered an old friend
in the waiter, and proposing to regale himself with a cheerful glass,
and--THAT of course--abuse of his present situation.

“Mr. Fairfield!” exclaimed the butler, while the waiter walked
discreetly on.

Leonard looked, and said nothing. The butler began to think that some
apology was due for leaving his plate and his pantry, and that he might
as well secure Leonard’s propitiatory influence with his master.

“Please, sir,” said he, touching his hat, “I was just a showing Mr.
Giles the way to the Blue Bells, where he puts up for the night. I hope
my master will not be offended. If you are a going back, sir, would you
kindly mention it?”

“I am not going back, Jarvis,” answered Leonard, after a pause; “I am
leaving Mr. Avenel’s house, to accompany my mother,--rather suddenly.
I should be very much obliged to you if you would bring some things of
mine to me at the Blue Bells. I will give you the list, if you will step
with me to the inn.”

Without waiting for a reply, Leonard then turned towards the inn, and
made his humble inventory: item, the clothes he had brought with him
from the Casino; item, the knapsack that had contained them; item, a few
books, ditto; item, Dr. Riccabocca’s watch; item, sundry manuscripts,
on which the young student now built all his hopes of fame and fortune.
This list he put into Mr. Jarvis’s hand.

“Sir,” said the butler, twirling the paper between his finger and thumb,
“you’re not a going for long, I hope?” and he looked on the face of
the young man, who had always been “civil spoken to him,” with as
much curiosity and as much compassion as so apathetic and princely
a personage could experience in matters affecting a family less
aristocratic than he had hitherto condescended to serve.

“Yes,” said Leonard, simply and briefly; “and your master will no doubt
excuse you for rendering me this service.” Mr. Jarvis postponed for the
present his glass and chat with the waiter, and went back at once to Mr.
Avenel. That gentleman, still seated in his library, had not been aware
of the butler’s absence; and when Mr. Jarvis entered and told him that
he had met Mr. Fairfield, and communicating the commission with which
he was intrusted, asked leave to execute it, Mr. Avenel felt the man’s
inquisitive eye was on him, and conceived new wrath against Leonard for
a new humiliation to his pride. It was awkward to give no explanation
of his nephew’s departure, still more awkward to explain. After a short
pause, Mr. Avenel said sullenly, “My nephew is going away on business
for some time,--do what he tells you;” and then turned his back, and
lighted his cigar.

“That beast of a boy,” said he, soliloquizing, “either means this as an
affront, or an overture: if an affront, he is, indeed, well got rid
of; if an overture, he will soon make a more respectful and proper
one. After all, I can’t have too little of relations till I have fairly
secured Mrs. M’Catchley. An Honourable! I wonder if that makes me an
Honourable too? This cursed Debrett contains no practical information on
those points.”

The next morning the clothes and the watch with which Mr. Avenel
presented Leonard were returned, with a note meant to express gratitude,
but certainly written with very little knowledge of the world; and so
full of that somewhat over-resentful pride which had in earlier life
made Leonard fly from Hazeldean, and refuse all apology to Randal, that
it is not to be wondered at that Mr. Avenel’s last remorseful
feelings evaporated in ire. “I hope he will starve!” said the uncle,
vindictively.



CHAPTER III.

“Listen to me, my dear mother,” said Leonard the next morning, as, with
knapsack on his shoulder and Mrs. Fairfield on his arm, he walked along
the high road; “I do assure you from my heart that I do not regret the
loss of favours which I see plainly would have crushed out of me the
very sense of independence. But do not fear for me; I have education
and energy,--I shall do well for myself, trust me.--No, I cannot, it is
true, go back to our cottage; I cannot be a gardener again. Don’t ask
me,--I should be discontented, miserable. But I will go up to London!
That’s the place to make a fortune and a name: I will make both. Oh,
yes, trust me, I will. You shall soon be proud of your Leonard; and then
we will always live together,--always! Don’t cry.”

“But what can you do in Lunnon,--such a big place, Lenny?”

“What! Every year does not some lad leave our village, and go and seek
his fortune, taking with him but health and strong hands? I have these,
and I have more: I have brains and thoughts and hopes, that--again I
say, No, no; never fear for me!”

The boy threw back his head proudly; there was something sublime in his
young trust in the future.

“Well. But you will write to Mr. Dale or to me? I will get Mr. Dale
or the good mounseer (now I know they were not agin me) to read your
letters.”

“I will, indeed!”

“And, boy, you have nothing in your pockets. We have paid Dick; these,
at least, are my own, after paying the coach fare.” And she would thrust
a sovereign and some shillings into Leonard’s waistcoat pocket.

After some resistance, he was forced to consent.

“And there’s a sixpence with a hole in it. Don’t part with that, Lenny;
it will bring thee good luck.”

Thus talking, they gained the inn where the three roads met, and from
which a coach went direct to the Casino. And here, without entering the
inn, they sat on the greensward by the hedgerow, waiting the arrival
of the coach--Mrs. Fairfield was much subdued in spirits, and there
was evidently on her mind something uneasy,--some struggle with her
conscience. She not only upbraided herself for her rash visit, but she
kept talking of her dead Mark. And what would he say of her, if he could
see her in heaven?

“It was so selfish in me, Lenny.”

“Pooh, pooh! Has not a mother a right to her child?”

“Ay, ay, ay!” cried Mrs. Fairfield. “I do love you as a child,--my own
child. But if I was not your mother, after all, Lenny, and cost you all
this--oh, what would you say of me then?”

“Not my own mother!” said Leonard, laughing as he kissed her. “Well, I
don’t know what I should say then differently from what I say now,--that
you, who brought me up and nursed and cherished me, had a right to my
home and my heart, wherever I was.”

“Bless thee!” cried Mrs. Fairfield, as she pressed him to her heart.
“But it weighs here,--it weighs,” she said, starting up.

At that instant the coach appeared, and Leonard ran forward to inquire
if there was an outside place. Then there was a short bustle while the
horses were being changed; and Mrs. Fairfield was lifted up to the roof
of the vehicle, so all further private conversation between her and
Leonard ceased. But as the coach whirled away, and she waved her hand
to the boy, who stood on the road-side gazing after her, she still
murmured, “It weighs here,--it weighs!”



CHAPTER IV.

Leonard walked sturdily on in the high road to the Great City. The day
was calm and sunlit, but with a gentle breeze from gray hills at the
distance; and with each mile that he passed, his step seemed to grow
more firm, and his front more elate. Oh, it is such joy in youth to be
alone with one’s daydreams! And youth feels so glorious a vigour in the
sense of its own strength, though the world be before and--against it!
Removed from that chilling counting-house, from the imperious will of
a patron and master, all friendless, but all independent, the young
adventurer felt a new being, felt his grand nature as Man. And on the
Man rushed the genius long interdicted and thrust aside,--rushing back,
with the first breath of adversity, to console--no! the Man needed not
consolation,--to kindle, to animate, to rejoice! If there is a being in
the world worthy of our envy, after we have grown wise philosophers
of the fireside, it is not the palled voluptuary, nor the careworn
statesman, nor even the great prince of arts and letters, already
crowned with the laurel, whose leaves are as fit for poison as for
garlands; it is the young child of adventure and hope. Ay, and the
emptier his purse, ten to one but the richer his heart, and the wider
the domains which his fancy enjoys as he goes on with kingly step to the
Future.

Not till towards the evening did our adventurer slacken his pace and
think of rest and refreshment. There, then, lay before him on either
side the road those wide patches of uninclosed land which in England
often denote the entrance to a village. Presently one or two neat
cottages came in sight; then a small farmhouse, with its yard and barns.
And some way farther yet, he saw the sign swinging before an inn of some
pretensions,--the sort of inn often found on a long stage between two
great towns commonly called “The Halfway House.” But the inn stood back
from the road, having its own separate sward in front, whereon was a
great beech-tree (from which the sign extended) and a rustic arbour; so
that to gain the inn, the coaches that stopped there took a sweep from
the main thoroughfare. Between our pedestrian and the inn there stood,
naked and alone, on the common land, a church; our ancestors never would
have chosen that site for it; therefore it was a modern church,--modern
Gothic; handsome to an eye not versed in the attributes of
ecclesiastical architecture, very barbarous to an eye that was. Somehow
or other the church looked cold and raw and uninviting. It looked a
church for show,--much too big for the scattered hamlet, and void of
all the venerable associations which give their peculiar and unspeakable
atmosphere of piety to the churches in which succeeding generations have
knelt and worshipped. Leonard paused and surveyed the edifice with
an unlearned but poetical gaze; it dissatisfied him. And he was yet
pondering why, when a young girl passed slowly before him, her
eyes fixed on the ground, opened the little gate that led into the
churchyard, and vanished. He did not see the child’s face; but there was
something in her movements so utterly listless, forlorn, and sad that
his heart was touched. What did she there? He approached the low wall
with a noiseless step, and looked over it wistfully.

There by a grave, evidently quite recent, with no wooden tomb nor
tombstone like the rest, the little girl had thrown herself, and she was
sobbing loud and passionately. Leonard opened the gate, and approached
her with a soft step. Mingled with her sobs, he heard broken sentences,
wild and vain, as all human sorrowings over graves must be.

“Father! oh, Father, do you not really hear me? I am so lone, so lone!
Take me to you,--take me!” And she buried her face in the deep grass.

“Poor child!” said Leonard, in a half whisper,--“he is not there. Look
above!”

The girl did not heed him; he put his arm round her waist gently; she
made a gesture of impatience and anger, but she would not turn her face,
and she clung to the grave with her hands.

After clear, sunny days the dews fall more heavily; and now, as the sun
set, the herbage was bathed in a vaporous haze,--a dim mist rose around.
The young man seated himself beside her, and tried to draw the child to
his breast. Then she turned eagerly, indignantly, and pushed him aside
with jealous arms. He profaned the grave! He understood her with his
deep poet-heart, and rose. There was a pause. Leonard was the first to
break it.

“Come to your home with me, my child, and we will talk of him by the
way.”

“Him! Who are you? You did not know him!” said the girl, still with
anger. “Go away! Why do you disturb me? I do no one harm. Go! go!”

“You do yourself harm, and that will grieve him if he sees you yonder!
Come!”

The child looked at him through her blinding tears, and his face
softened and soothed her.

“Go!” she said, very plaintively, and in subdued accents. “I will but
stay a minute more. I--I have so much to say yet.”

Leonard left the churchyard, and waited without; and in a short time
the child came forth, waived him aside as he approached her, and hurried
away. He followed her at a distance, and saw her disappear within the
inn.



CHAPTER V.

“Hip-Hip-Hurrah!” Such was the sound that greeted our young traveller
as he reached the inn door,--a sound joyous in itself, but sadly out of
harmony with the feelings which the child sobbing on the tombless grave
had left at his heart. The sound came from within, and was followed by
thumps and stamps, and the jingle of glasses. A strong odour of
tobacco was wafted to his olfactory sense. He hesitated a moment at the
threshold.

Before him, on benches under the beech-tree and within the arbour, were
grouped sundry athletic forms with “pipes in the liberal air.”

The landlady, as she passed across the passage to the taproom, caught
sight of his form at the doorway, and came forward. Leonard still stood
irresolute. He would have gone on his way, but for the child: she had
interested him strongly.

“You seem full, ma’am,” said he. “Can I have accommodation for the
night?”

“Why, indeed, sir,” said the landlady, civilly, “I can give you a
bedroom, but I don’t know where to put you meanwhile. The two parlours
and the tap-room and the kitchen are all choke-full. There has been a
great cattle-fair in the neighbourhood, and I suppose we have as many as
fifty farmers and drovers stopping here.”

“As to that, ma’am, I can sit in the bedroom you are kind enough to give
me; and if it does not cause you much trouble to let me have some
tea there, I should be glad; but I can wait your leisure. Do not put
yourself out of the way for me.”

The landlady was touched by a consideration she was not much habituated
to receive from her bluff customers. “You speak very handsome, sir, and
we will do our best to serve you, if you will excuse all faults. This
way, sir.” Leonard lowered his knapsack, stepped into the passage,
with some difficulty forced his way through a knot of sturdy giants
in top-boots or leathern gaiters, who were swarining in and out the
tap-room, and followed his hostess upstairs to a little bedroom at the
top of the house.

“It is small, sir, and high,” said the hostess, apologetically. “But
there be four gentlemen farmers that have come a great distance, and all
the first floor is engaged; you will be more out of the noise here.”

“Nothing can suit me better. But, stay,--pardon me;” and Leonard,
glancing at the garb of the hostess, observed she was not in mourning.
“A little girl whom I saw in the churchyard yonder, weeping very
bitterly--is she a relation of yours? Poor child! she seems to have
deeper feelings than are common at her age.”

“Ah, sir,” said the landlady, putting the corner of her apron to her
eyes, “it is a very sad story. I don’t know what to do. Her father was
taken ill on his way to Lunnon, and stopped here, and has been buried
four days. And the poor little girl seems to have no relations--and
where is she to go? Laryer Jones says we must pass her to Marybone
parish, where her father lived last; and what’s to become of her then?
My heart bleeds to think on it.”

Here there rose such an uproar from below, that it was evident some
quarrel had broken out; and the hostess, recalled to her duties,
hastened to carry thither her propitiatory influences.

Leonard seated himself pensively by the little lattice. Here was some
one more alone in the world than he; and she, poor orphan, had no stout
man’s heart to grapple with fate, and no golden manuscripts that were
to be as the “Open-Sesame” to the treasures of Aladdin. By and by,
the hostess brought him up a tray with tea and other refreshments, and
Leonard resumed his inquiries. “No relatives?” said he; “surely the
child must have some kinsfolk in London? Did her father leave no
directions, or was he in possession of his faculties?”

“Yes, sir; he was quite reasonable like to the last. And I asked him
if he had not anything on his mind, and he said, ‘I have.’ And I said,
‘Your little girl, sir?’ And he answered me, ‘Yes, ma’am;’ and laying
his head on his pillow, he wept very quietly. I could not say more
myself, for it set me off to see him cry so meekly; but my husband is
harder nor I, and he said, ‘Cheer up, Mr. Digby; had not you better
write to your friends?’

“‘Friends!’ said the gentleman, in such a voice! ‘Friends I have but
one, and I am going to Him! I cannot take her there!’ Then he seemed
suddenly to recollect himself, and called for his clothes, and rummaged
in the pockets as if looking for some address, and could not find it.
He seemed a forgetful kind of gentleman, and his hands were what I call
helpless hands, sir! And then he gasped out, ‘Stop, stop! I never had
the address. Write to Lord Les--‘, something like Lord Lester, but we
could not make out the name. Indeed he did not finish it, for there
was a rush of blood to his lips; and though he seemed sensible when
he recovered (and knew us and his little girl too, till he went off
smiling), he never spoke word more.”

“Poor man,” said Leonard, wiping his eyes. “But his little girl surely
remembers the name that he did not finish?”

“No. She says he must have meant a gentleman whom they had met in
the Park not long ago, who was very kind to her father, and was Lord
something; but she don’t remember the name, for she never saw him before
or since, and her father talked very little about any one lately, but
thought he should find some kind friends at Screwstown, and travelled
down there with her from Lunnon. But she supposes he was disappointed,
for he went out, came back, and merely told her to put up the things, as
they must go back to Lunnon. And on his way there he--died. Hush, what’s
that? I hope she did not overhear us. No, we were talking low. She has
the next room to your’n, sir. I thought I heard her sobbing. Hush!”

“In the next room? I hear nothing. Well, with your leave, I will speak
to her before I quit you. And had her father no money with him?”

“Yes, a few sovereigns, sir; they paid for his funeral, and there is
a little left still,--enough to take her to town; for my husband said,
says he, ‘Hannah, the widow gave her mite, and we must not take the
orphan’s;’ and my husband is a hard man, too, sir--bless him!”

“Let me take your hand, ma’am. God reward you both.”

“La, sir! why, even Dr. Dosewell said, rather grumpily though, ‘Never
mind my bill; but don’t call me up at six o’clock in the morning again,
without knowing a little more about people.’ And I never afore knew Dr.
Dosewell go without his bill being paid. He said it was a trick o’ the
other doctor to spite him.”

“What other doctor?”

“Oh, a very good gentleman, who got out with Mr. Digby when he was taken
ill, and stayed till the next morning; and our doctor says his name is
Morgan, and he lives in Lunnou, and is a homy--something.”

“Homicide,” suggested Leonard, ignorantly.

“Ah, homicide; something like that, only a deal longer and worse. But
he left some of the tiniest little balls you ever see, sir, to give the
child; but, bless you, they did her no good,--how should they?”

“Tiny balls, oh--homoeopathist--I understand. And the doctor was kind to
her; perhaps he may help her. Have you written to him?”

“But we don’t know his address, and Lunnon is a vast place, sir.”

“I am going to London and will find it out.”

“Ah, sir, you seem very kind; and sin’ she must go to Lunnon (for what
can we do with her here?--she’s too genteel for service), I wish she was
going with you.”

“With me!” said Leonard, startled,--“with me! Well, why not?”

“I am sure she comes of good blood, sir. You would have known her father
was quite the gentleman, only to see him die, sir. He went off so kind
and civil like, as if he was ashamed to give so much trouble,--quite a
gentleman, if ever there was one. And so are you, sir, I’m sure,” said
the land lady, courtesying; “I know what gentlefolk be. I’ve been a
housekeeper in the first of families in this very shire, sir, though I
can’t say I’ve served in Lunnon; and so, as gentlefolks know each other,
I ‘ve no doubt you could find out her relations. Dear, dear! Coming,
coming!”

Here there were loud cries for the hostess, and she hurried away. The
farmers and drovers were beginning to depart, and their bills were to be
made out and paid. Leonard saw his hostess no more that night. The last
Hip-hip-hurrah was heard,--some toast, perhaps to the health of the
county members,--and the chamber of woe beside Leonard’s rattled with
the shout. By and by, silence gradually succeeded the various dissonant
sounds below. The carts and gigs rolled away; the clatter of hoofs on
the road ceased; there was then a dumb dull sound as of locking-up, and
low, humming voices below, and footsteps mounting the stairs to bed,
with now and then a drunken hiccough or maudlin laugh, as some conquered
votary of Bacchus was fairly carried up to his domicile.

All, then, at last was silent, just as the clock from the church sounded
the stroke of eleven.

Leonard, meanwhile, had been looking over his manuscripts. There was
first a project for an improvement on the steam-engine,--a project that
had long lain in his mind, begun with the first knowledge of mechanics
that he had gleaned from his purchases of the tinker. He put that
aside now,--it required too great an effort of the reasoning faculty to
re-examine.

He glanced less hastily over a collection of essays on various
subjects,--some that he thought indifferent, some that he thought good.
He then lingered over a collection of verses written in his best hand
with loving care,--verses first inspired by his perusal of Nora’s
melancholy memorials. These verses were as a diary of his heart and his
fancy,--those deep, unwitnessed struggles which the boyhood of all more
thoughtful natures has passed in its bright yet murky storm of the cloud
and the lightning-flash, though but few boys pause to record the crisis
from which slowly emerges Man. And these first desultory grapplings with
the fugitive airy images that flit through the dim chambers of the
brain had become with each effort more sustained and vigorous, till the
phantoms were spelled, the flying ones arrested, the Immaterial seized,
and clothed with Form. Gazing on his last effort, Leonard felt that
there at length spoke forth the poet. It was a work which though as yet
but half completed, came from a strong hand; not that shadow trembling
on unsteady waters, which is but the pale reflex and imitation of
some bright mind, sphered out of reach and afar, but an original
substance,--a life, a thing of the Creative Faculty,--breathing
back already the breath it had received. This work had paused during
Leonard’s residence with Mr. Avenel, or had only now and then, in
stealth, and at night, received a rare touch. Now, as with a fresh eye
he reperused it, and with that strange, innocent admiration, not of
self--for a man’s work is not, alas! himself,--it is the beautified
and idealized essence, extracted he knows not how from his own human
elements of clay; admiration known but to poets,--their purest delight,
often their sole reward. And then with a warmer and more earthly beat of
his full heart, he rushed in fancy to the Great City, where all rivers
of fame meet, but not to be merged and lost, sallying forth again,
individualized and separate, to flow through that one vast Thought of
God which we call THE WORLD.

He put up his papers; and opened his window, as was his ordinary custom,
before he retired to rest,--for he had many odd habits; and he loved to
look out into the night when he prayed. His soul seemed to escape from
the body--to mount on the air, to gain more rapid access to the far
Throne in the Infinite--when his breath went forth among the winds, and
his eyes rested fixed on the stars of heaven.

So the boy prayed silently; and after his prayer he was about,
lingeringly, to close the lattice, when he heard distinctly sobs close
at hand. He paused, and held his breath, then looked gently out; the
casement next his own was also open. Someone was also at watch by that
casement,--perhaps also praying. He listened yet more intently, and
caught, soft and low, the words, “Father, Father, do you hear me now?”



CHAPTER VI.

Leonard opened his door and stole towards that of the room adjoining;
for his first natural impulse had been to enter and console. But when
his touch was on the handle, he drew back. Child though the mourner was,
her sorrows were rendered yet more sacred from intrusion by her sex.
Something, he knew not what, in his young ignorance, withheld him
from the threshold. To have crossed it then would have seemed to him
profanation. So he returned, and for hours yet he occasionally heard the
sobs, till they died away, and childhood wept itself to sleep.

But the next morning, when he heard his neighbour astir, he knocked
gently at her door: there was no answer. He entered softly, and saw
her seated very listlessly in the centre of the room,--as if it had no
familiar nook or corner as the rooms of home have, her hands drooping on
her lap, and her eyes gazing desolately on the floor. Then he approached
and spoke to her.

Helen was very subdued, and very silent. Her tears seemed dried up;
and it was long before she gave sign or token that she heeded him. At
length, however, he gradually succeeded in rousing her interest; and
the first symptom of his success was in the quiver of her lip, and the
overflow of her downcast eyes.

By little and little he wormed himself into her confidence; and she told
him in broken whispers her simple story. But what moved him the most
was, that beyond her sense of loneliness she did not seem to feel her
own unprotected state. She mourned the object she had nursed and
heeded and cherished, for she had been rather the protectress than the
protected to the helpless dead. He could not gain from her any more
satisfactory information than the landlady had already imparted, as to
her friends and prospects; but she permitted him passively to look among
the effects her father had left, save only that, if his hand touched
something that seemed to her associations especially holy, she waved him
back, or drew it quickly away. There were many bills receipted in the
name of Captain Digby, old yellow faded music-scores for the flute,
extracts of Parts from Prompt Books, gay parts of lively comedies,
in which heroes have so noble a contempt for money,--fit heroes for
a Sheridan and a Farquhar; close by these were several pawnbroker’s
tickets; and, not arrayed smoothly, but crumpled up, as if with an
indignant nervous clutch of the helpless hands, some two or three
letters. He asked Helen’s permission to glance at these, for they might
afford a clew to friends. Helen gave the permission by a silent bend of
the head. The letters, however, were but short and freezing answers from
what appeared to be distant connections or former friends, or persons
to whom the deceased had applied for some situation. They were all very
disheartening in their tone. Leonard next endeavoured to refresh
Helen’s memory as to the name of the nobleman which had been last on her
father’s lips; but there he failed wholly. For it may be remembered that
Lord L’Estrange, when he pressed his loan on Mr. Digby, and subsequently
told that gentleman to address him at Mr. Egerton’s, had, from a natural
delicacy, sent the child on, that she might not witness the charity
bestowed on the father; and Helen said truly that Mr. Digby had sunk
latterly into an habitual silence on all his affairs. She might have
heard her father mention the name, but she had not treasured it up; all
she could say was, that she should know the stranger again if she met
him, and his dog too. Seeing that the child had grown calm, Leonard was
then going to leave the room, in order to confer with the hostess, when
she rose suddenly, though noiselessly, and put her little hand in his,
as if to detain him. She did not say a word; the action said all,--said,
“Do not desert me.” And Leonard’s heart rushed to his lips, and he
answered to the action, as he bent down, and kissed her cheek, “Orphan,
will you go with me? We have one Father yet to both of us, and He will
guide us on earth. I am fatherless like you.” She raised her eyes to
his, looked at him long, and then leaned her head confidingly on his
strong young shoulder.



CHAPTER VII.

At noon that same day the young man and the child were on their road to
London. The host had at first a little demurred at trusting Helen to so
young a companion; but Leonard, in his happy ignorance, had talked so
sanguinely of finding out this lord, or some adequate protectors for the
child; and in so grand a strain, though with all sincerity, had spoken
of his own great prospects in the metropolis (he did not say what they
were!) that had he been the craftiest impostor he could not more have
taken in the rustic host. And while the landlady still cherished the
illusive fancy that all gentlefolks must know each other in London, as
they did in a county, the landlord believed, at least, that a young man
so respectably dressed, although but a foot-traveller, who talked in
so confident a tone, and who was so willing to undertake what might
be rather a burdensome charge, unless he saw how to rid himself of it,
would be sure to have friends older and wiser than himself, who would
judge what could best be done for the orphan.

And what was the host to do with her? Better this volunteered escort,
at least, than vaguely passing her on from parish to parish, and leaving
her friendless at last in the streets of London. Helen, too, smiled
for the first time on being asked her wishes, and again put her hand in
Leonard’s. In short, so it was settled.

The little girl made up a bundle of the things she most prized or
needed. Leonard did not feel the additional load, as he slung it to his
knapsack; the rest of the luggage was to be sent to London as soon as
Leonard wrote (which he promised to do soon) and gave an address.

Helen paid her last visit to the churchyard; and she joined her
companion as he stood on the road, without the solemn precincts. And now
they had gone on some hours; and when he asked her if she were tired,
she still answered “No.” But Leonard was merciful, and made their day’s
journey short; and it took them some days to reach London. By the long
lonely way they grew so intimate, at the end of the second day, they
called each other brother and sister; and Leonard, to his delight, found
that as her grief, with the bodily movement and the change of scene,
subsided from its first intenseness and its insensibility to other
impressions, she developed a quickness of comprehension far beyond her
years. Poor child! that had been forced upon her by Necessity. And
she understood him in his spiritual consolations, half poetical, half
religious; and she listened to his own tale, and the story of his
self-education and solitary struggles,--those, too, she understood.
But when he burst out with his enthusiasm, his glorious hopes, his
confidence in the fate before them, then she would shake her head very
quietly and very sadly. Did she comprehend them! Alas! perhaps too well.
She knew more as to real life than he did. Leonard was at first their
joint treasurer; but before the second day was over, Helen seemed to
discover that he was too lavish; and she told him so, with a prudent
grave look, putting her hand on his arm as he was about to enter an
inn to dine; and the gravity would have been comic, but that the eyes
through their moisture were so meek and grateful. She felt he was about
to incur that ruinous extravagance on her account. Somehow or other, the
purse found its way into her keeping, and then she looked proud and in
her natural element.

Ah! what happy meals under her care were provided; so much more
enjoyable than in dull, sanded inn-parlours, swarming with flies, and
reeking with stale tobacco. She would leave him at the entrance of a
village, bound forward, and cater, and return with a little basket and a
pretty blue jug--which she had bought on the road,--the last filled with
new milk; the first with new bread, and some special dainty in radishes
or water-tresses. And she had such a talent for finding out the
prettiest spot whereon to halt and dine: sometimes in the heart of a
wood,--so still, it was like a forest in fairy tales, the hare stealing
through the alleys, or the squirrel peeping at them from the boughs;
sometimes by a little brawling stream, with the fishes seen under the
clear wave, and shooting round the crumbs thrown to them. They made an
Arcadia of the dull road up to their dread Thermopylae, the war against
the million that waited them on the other side of their pass through
Tempo.

“Shall we be as happy when we are great?” said Leonard, in his grand
simplicity.

Helen sighed, and the wise little head was shaken.



CHAPTER VIII.

At last they came within easy reach of London; but Leonard had resolved
not to enter the metropolis fatigued and exhausted, as a wanderer
needing refuge, but fresh and elate, as a conqueror coming in triumph
to take possession of the capital. Therefore they halted early in the
evening of the day preceding this imperial entry, about six miles from
the metropolis, in the neighbourhood of Ealing (for by that route lay
their way). They were not tired on arriving at their inn. The weather
was singularly lovely, with that combination of softness and brilliancy
which is only known to the rare true summer days of England; all below
so green, above so blue,--days of which we have about six in the year,
and recall vaguely when we read of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, of Damsel
and Knight in Spenser’s golden Summer Song, or of Jacques, dropped under
the oak-tree, watching the deer amidst the dells of Ardennes. So, after
a little pause at their inn, they strolled forth, not for travel but
pleasure, towards the cool of sunset, passing by the grounds that once
belonged to the Duke of Kent, and catching a glimpse of the shrubs
and lawns of that beautiful domain through the lodge-gates; then they
crossed into some fields, and came to a little rivulet called the
Brent. Helen had been more sad that day than on any during their
journey,--perhaps because, on approaching London, the memory of her
father became more vivid; perhaps from her precocious knowledge of life,
and her foreboding of what was to befall them, children that they both
were. But Leonard was selfish that day; he could not be influenced by
his companion’s sorrow; he was so full of his own sense of being, and
he already caught from the atmosphere the fever that belongs to anxious
capitals.

“Sit here, sister,” said he, imperiously, throwing himself under the
shade of a pollard-tree that overhung the winding brook, “sit here and
talk.”

He flung off his hat, tossed back his rich curls, and sprinkled his brow
from the stream that eddied round the roots of the tree that bulged out,
bald and gnarled, from the bank and delved into the waves below. Helen
quietly obeyed him, and nestled close to his side.

“And so this London is really very vast,--VERY?” he repeated
inquisitively.

“Very,” answered Helen, as, abstractedly, she plucked the cowslips near
her, and let them fall into the running waters. “See how the flowers
are carried down the stream! They are lost now. London is to us what the
river is to the flowers, very vast, very strong;” and she added, after a
pause, “very cruel!”

“Cruel! Ah, it has been so to you; but now--now I will take care of
you!” he smiled triumphantly; and his smile was beautiful both in its
pride and its kindness. It is astonishing how Leonard had altered since
he had left his uncle’s. He was both younger and older; for the sense of
genius, when it snaps its shackles, makes us both older and wiser as to
the world it soars to, younger and blinder as to the world it springs
from.

“And it is not a very handsome city, either, you say?”

“Very ugly indeed,” said Helen, with some fervour; “at least all I have
seen of it.”

“But there must be parts that are prettier than others? You say there
are parks: why should not we lodge near them and look upon the green
trees?”

“That would be nice,” said Helen, almost joyously; “but--” and here
the head was shaken--“there are no lodgings for us except in courts and
alleys.”

“Why?”

“Why?” echoed Helen, with a smile, and she held up the purse.

“Pooh! always that horrid purse; as if, too, we were not going to fill
it! Did not I tell you the story of Fortunio? Well, at all events, we
will go first to the neighbourhood where you last lived, and learn there
all we can; and then the day after to-morrow I will see this Dr. Morgan,
and find out the lord.”

The tears started to Helen’s soft eyes. “You want to get rid of me soon,
brother.”

“I! Ah, I feel so happy to have you with me it seems to me as if I had
pined for you all my life, and you had come at last; for I never had
brother nor sister nor any one to love, that was not older than myself,
except--”

“Except the young lady you told me of,” said Helen, turning away her
face; for children are very jealous.

“Yes, I loved her, love her still. But that was different,” said
Leonard. “I could never have talked to her as to you: to you I open my
whole heart; you are my little Muse, Helen: I confess to you my wild
whims and fancies as frankly as if I were writing poetry.” As he said
this, a step was heard, and a shadow fell over the stream. A belated
angler appeared on the margin, drawing his line impatiently across the
water, as if to worry some dozing fish into a bite before it finally
settled itself for the night. Absorbed in his occupation, the angler did
not observe the young persons on the sward under the tree, and he halted
there, close upon them.

“Curse that perch!” said he, aloud.

“Take care, sir,” cried Leonard; for the man, in stepping back, nearly
trod upon Helen.

The angler turned. “What ‘s the matter? Hist! you have frightened my
perch. Keep still, can’t you?”

Helen drew herself out of the way, and Leonard remained motionless. He
remembered Jackeymo, and felt a sympathy for the angler.

“It is the most extraordinary perch, that!” muttered the stranger,
soliloquizing. “It has the devil’s own luck. It must have been born
with a silver spoon in its mouth, that damned perch! I shall never
catch it,--never! Ha! no, only a weed. I give it up.” With this, he
indignantly jerked his rod from the water and began to disjoint it.
While leisurely engaged in this occupation, he turned to Leonard.

“Humph! are you intimately acquainted with this stream, sir?”

“No,” answered Leonard. “I never saw it before.”

ANGLER, (solemnly).--“Then, young man, take my advice, and do not give
way to its fascinations. Sir, I am a martyr to this stream; it has been
the Delilah of my existence.”

LEONARD (interested, the last sentence seemed to him poetical).--“The
Delilah! sir, the Delilah!”

ANGLER.--“The Delilah. Young man, listen, and be warned by example. When
I was about your age, I first came to this stream to fish. Sir, on that
fatal day, about three p.m., I hooked up a fish,--such a big one, it
must have weighed a pound and a half. Sir, it was that length;” and the
angler put finger to wrist. “And just when I had got it nearly ashore,
by the very place where you are sitting, on that shelving bank, young
man, the line broke, and the perch twisted himself among those roots,
and--cacodaemon that he was--ran off, hook and all. Well, that fish
haunted me; never before had I seen such a fish. Minnows I had caught in
the Thames and elsewhere, also gudgeons, and occasionally a dace. But
a fish like that--a PERCH, all his fins up, like the sails of a
man-of-war--a monster perch,--a whale of a perch! No, never till then
had I known what leviathans lie hid within the deeps. I could not sleep
till I had returned; and again, sir,--I caught that perch. And this time
I pulled him fairly out of the water. He escaped; and how did he escape?
Sir, he left his eye behind him on the hook. Years, long years, have
passed since then; but never shall I forget the agony of that moment.”

LEONARD.--“To the perch, sir?”

ANGLER.--“Perch! agony to him! He enjoyed it. Agony to me! I gazed on
that eye, and the eye looked as sly and as wicked as if it were laughing
in my face. Well, sir, I had heard that there is no better bait for a
perch than a perch’s eye. I adjusted that eye on the hook, and dropped
in the line gently. The water was unusually clear; in two minutes I
saw that perch return. He approached the hook; he recognized his eye,
frisked his tail, made a plunge, and, as I live, carried off the
eye, safe and sound; and I saw him digesting it by the side of that
water-lily. The mocking fiend! Seven times since that day, in the course
of a varied and eventful life, have I caught that perch, and seven times
has that perch escaped.”

LEONARD (astonished).--“It can’t be the same perch; perches are very
tender fish. A hook inside of it, and an eye hooked out of it--no perch
could withstand such havoc in its constitution.”

ANGLER (with an appearance of awe).--“It does seem supernatural. But it
is that perch; for hark ye, sir, there is ONLY ONE perch in the whole
brook! All the years I have fished here, I have never caught another
perch; and this solitary inmate of the watery element I know by sight
better than I knew my own lost father. For each time that I have raised
it out of the water, its profile has been turned to me, and I have seen
with a shudder that it has had only--One Eye! It is a most mysterious
and a most diabolical phenomenon, that perch! It has been the ruin of my
prospects in life. I was offered a situation in Jamaica: I could not
go with that perch left here in triumph. I might afterwards have had an
appointinent in India, but I could not put the ocean between myself
and that perch: thus have I frittered away my existence in the fatal
metropolis of my native land. And once a week from February to December
I come hither. Good heavens! if I should catch the perch at last, the
occupation of my existence will be gone.”

Leonard gazed curiously at the angler, as the last thus mournfully
concluded. The ornate turn of his periods did not suit with his costume.
He looked wofully threadbare and shabby,--a genteel sort of shabbiness
too,--shabbiness in black. There was humour in the corners of his
lip; and his hands, though they did not seem very clean--indeed his
occupation was not friendly to such niceties--were those of a man who
had not known manual labour. His face was pale and puffed, but the tip
of the nose was red. He did not seem as if the watery element was as
familiar to himself as to his Delilah, the perch.

“Such is Life!” recommenced the angler, in a moralizing tone, as he slid
his rod into its canvas case. “If a man knew what it was to fish all
one’s life in a stream that has only one perch, to catch that one perch
nine times in all, and nine times to see it fall back into the water,
plump,--if a man knew what it was, why, then “--here the angler looked
over his shoulder full at Leonard--“why then, young sir, he would know
what human life is to vain ambition. Good-evening.”

Away he went treading over the daisies and kingcups. Helen’s eyes
followed him wistfully.

“What a strange person!” said Leonard, laughing.

“I think he is a very wise one,” murmured Helen; and she came close up
to Leonard, and took his hand in both hers, as if she felt already that
he was in need of the Comforter,--the line broken, and the perch lost!



CHAPTER IX.

At noon the next day, London stole upon them through a gloomy, thick,
oppressive atmosphere; for where is it that we can say London bursts on
the sight? It stole on them through one of its fairest and most gracious
avenues of approach,--by the stately gardens of Kensington, along the
side of Hyde Park, and so on towards Cumberland Gate.

Leonard was not the least struck. And yet with a very little money, and
a very little taste, it would be easy to render this entrance to London
as grand and as imposing as that to Paris from the Champs Elysees. As
they came near the Edgware Road, Helen took her new brother by the
hand and guided him; for she knew all that neighbourhood, and she was
acquainted with a lodging near that occupied by her father (to that
lodging itself she could not have gone for the world), where they might
be housed cheaply.

But just then the sky, so dull and overcast since morning, seemed one
mass of black cloud. There suddenly came on a violent storm of rain. The
boy and girl took refuge in a covered mews, in a street running out
of the Edgware Road. This shelter soon became crowded; the two young
pilgrims crept close to the wall, apart from the rest, Leonard’s arm
round Helen’s waist, sheltering her from the rain that the strong
wind contending with it beat in through the passage. Presently a young
gentleman of better mien and dress than the other refugees entered, not
hastily, but rather with a slow and proud step, as if, though he deigned
to take shelter, he scorned to run to it. He glanced somewhat haughtily
at the assembled group, passed on through the midst of it, came near
Leonard, took off his hat, and shook the rain from its brim. His head
thus uncovered, left all his features exposed; and the village youth
recognized, at the first glance, his old victorious assailant on the
green at Hazeldean.



CHAPTER IX.

Yet Randal Leslie was altered. His dark cheek was as thin as in boyhood,
and even yet more wasted by intense study and night vigils; but the
expression of his face was at once more refined and manly, and there was
a steady concentrated light in his eye, like that of one who has been
in the habit of bringing all his thoughts to one point. He looked older
than he was. He was dressed simply in black, a colour which became
him; and altogether his aspect and figure were, not showy indeed, but
distinguished. He looked to the common eye a gentleman; and to the more
observant a scholar.

Helter-skelter! pell-mell! the group in the passage now pressed each
on each, now scattered on all sides, making way, rushing down the mews,
against the walls, as a fiery horse darted under shelter. The rider, a
young man with a very handsome face, and dressed with that peculiar care
which we commonly call dandyism, cried out, good-humouredly, “Don’t be
afraid; the horse sha’n’t hurt any of you. A thousand pardons--so ho! so
ho!” He patted the horse, and it stood as still as a statue, filling up
the centre of the passage. The groups resettled; Randal approached the
rider.

“Frank Hazeldean!”

“Ah, is it indeed Randal Leslie?”

Frank was off his horse in a moment, and the bridle was consigned to the
care of a slim ‘prentice-boy holding a bundle.

“My dear fellow, how glad I am to see you. How lucky it was that I
should turn in here. Not like me either, for I don’t much care for a
ducking. Staying in town, Randal?”

“Yes; at your uncle’s, Mr. Egerton. I have left Oxford.”

“For good?”

“For good.”

“But you have not taken your degree, I think? We Etonians all considered
you booked for a double-first. Oh, we have been so proud of your
fame,--you carried off all the prizes.”

“Not all; but some, certainly. Mr. Egerton offered me my choice,--to
stay for my degree, or to enter at once into the Foreign Office. I
preferred the end to the means. For, after all, what good are academical
honours but as the entrance to life? To enter now is to save a step in a
long way, Frank.”

“Ah, you were always ambitious, and you will make a great figure, I am
sure.”

“Perhaps so--if I work for it. Knowledge is power.” Leonard started.

“And you!” resumed Randal, looking with some curious attention at his
old schoolfellow. “You never came to Oxford. I did hear you were going
into the army.”

“I am in the Guards,” said Frank, trying hard not to look too conceited
as he made that acknowledgment. “The governor pished a little, and would
rather I had come to live with him in the old Hall, and take to farming.
Time enough for that, eh? By Jove, Randal, how pleasant a thing is life
in London! Do you go to Almack’s to-night?”

“No; Wednesday is a holiday in the House. There is a great parliamentary
dinner at Mr. Egerton’s. He is in the Cabinet now, you know; but you
don’t see much of your uncle, I think.”

“Our sets are different,” said the young gentleman, in a tone of voice
worthy of Brummel. “All those parliamentary fellows are devilish dull.
The rain’s over. I don’t know whether the governor would like me to call
at Grosvenor Square; but pray come and see me. Here’s my card to remind
you; you must dine at our mess. Such capital fellows! What day will you
fix?”

“I will call and let you know. Don’t you find it rather expensive in the
Guards? I remember that you thought the governor, as you call him, used
to chafe a little when you wrote for more pocket-money; and the only
time I ever saw you with tears in your eyes was when Mr. Hazeldean, in
sending you L5, reminded you that his estates were not entailed,--were
at his own disposal, and they should never go to an extravagant
spendthrift. It was not a pleasant threat that, Frank.”

“Oh!” cried the young man, colouring deeply. “It was not the threat that
pained me; it was that my father could think so meanly of me as to
fancy that--Well, well, but those were schoolboy days. And my father was
always more generous than I deserved. We must see a great deal of each
other, Randal. How good-natured you were at Eton, making my longs and
shorts for me; I shall never forget it. Do call soon.”

Frank swung himself into his saddle, and rewarded the slim youth with
half-a-crown,--a largess four times more ample than his father would
have deemed sufficient. A jerk of the reins and a touch of the heel, off
bounded the fiery horse and the gay young rider. Randal mused, and as
the rain had now ceased, the passengers under shelter dispersed and went
their way. Only Randal, Leonard, and Helen remained behind. Then, as
Randal, still musing, lifted his eyes, they fell full upon Leonard’s
face. He started, passed his hand quickly over his brow, looked again,
hard and piercingly; and the change in his pale cheek to a shade still
paler, a quick compression and nervous gnawing of his lip, showed that
he too recognized an old foe. Then his glance ran over Leonard’s dress,
which was somewhat dust-stained, but far above the class amongst which
the peasant was born. Randal raised his brows in surprise, and with a
smile slightly supercilious--the smile stung Leonard--and with a slow
step, Randal left the passage, and took his way towards Grosvenor
Square. The Entrance of Ambition was clear to him.

Then the little girl once more took Leonard by the hand, and led him
through rows of humble, obscure, dreary streets. It seemed almost like
an allegory personified, as the sad, silent child led on the penniless
and low-born adventurer of genius by the squalid shops and through
the winding lanes, which grew meaner and meaner, till both their forms
vanished from the view.



CHAPTER X.

“But do come; change your dress, return and dine with me; you will have
just time, Harley. You will meet the most eminent men of our party;
surely they are worth your study, philosopher that you affect to be.”

Thus said Audley Egerton to Lord L’Estrange, with whom he had been
riding (after the toils of his office). The two gentlemen were in
Audley’s library,--Mr. Egerton, as usual, buttoned up, seated in his
chair, in the erect posture of a man who scorns “inglorious ease;”
 Harley, as usual, thrown at length on the sofa., his long hair in
careless curls, his neckcloth loose, his habiliments flowing simplex
mundit is, indeed, his grace all his own; seemingly negligent, never
slovenly; at ease everywhere and with every one, even with Mr. Audley
Egerton, who chilled or awed the ease out of most people.

“Nay, my dear Audley, forgive me. But your eminent men are all men of
one idea, and that not a diverting one, politics! politics! politics!
The storm in the saucer.”

“But what is your life, Harley?--the saucer without the storm?”

“Do you know, that’s very well said, Audley? I did not think you had
so much liveliness of repartee. Life! life! it is insipid, it is
shallow,--no launching Argosies in the saucer. Audley, I have the oddest
fancy--”

“That of course,” said Audley, dryly; “you never had any other. What is
the new one?”

HARLEY (with great gravity).--“Do you believe in Mesmerism?”

AUDLEY.--“Certainly not.”

HARLEY.--“If it were in the power of an animal magnetizer to get me out
of my own skin into somebody’s else! That’s my fancy! I am so tired of
myself,--so tired! I have run through all my ideas,--know every one of
them by heart. When some pretentious impostor of an idea perks itself up
and says, ‘Look at me,--I ‘m a new acquaintance,’ I just give it a nod,
and say ‘Not at all, you have only got a new coat on; you are the same
old wretch that has bored me these last twenty years; get away.’ But
if one could be in a new skin, if I could be for half-an-hour your tall
porter, or one of your eminent matter-of-fact men, I should then really
travel into a new world.’ Every man’s brain must be a world in
itself, eh? If I could but make a parochial settlement even in yours,
Audley,--run over all your thoughts and sensations. Upon my life, I ‘ll
go and talk to that French mesmerizer about it.”

   [If, at the date in which Lord L’Estrange held this conversation
   with Mr. Egerton, Alfred de Musset had written his comedies, we
   should suspect that his lordship had plagiarized from one of them
   the whimsical idea that he here vents upon Audley. In repeating it,
   the author at least cannot escape from the charge of obligation to a
   writer whose humour is sufficiently opulent to justify the loan.]

AUDLEY (who does not seem to like the notion of having his thoughts
and sensations rummaged, even by his friend, and even in fancy)--“Pooh,
pooh, pooh! Do talk like a man of sense.”

HARLEY.--“Man of sense! Where shall I find a model? I don’t know a man
of sense!--never met such a creature. Don’t believe it ever existed. At
one time I thought Socrates must have been a man of sense: a delusion;
he would stand gazing into the air, and talking to his Genius from
sunrise to sunset. Is that like a man of sense? Poor Audley! how puzzled
he looks! Well, I’ll try and talk sense to oblige you. And first” (here
Harley raised himself on his elbow),--“first, is it true, as I have
heard vaguely, that you are paying court to the sister of that infamous
Italian traitor?”

“Madame di Negra? No: I am not paying court to her,” answered Audley,
with a cold smile. “But she is very handsome; she is very clever; she is
useful to me,--I need not say how or why; that belongs to my metier as a
politician. But I think, if you will take my advice, or get your friend
to take it, I could obtain from her brother, through my influence with
her, some liberal concessions to your exile. She is very anxious to know
where he is.”

“You have not told her?”

“No; I promised you I would keep that secret.”

“Be sure you do; it is only for some mischief, some snare, that she
could desire such information. Concessions! pooh! This is no question of
concessions, but of rights.”

“I think you should leave your friend to judge of that.”

“Well, I will write to him. Meanwhile, beware of this woman. I have
heard much of her abroad, and she has the character of her brother for
duplicity and--”

“Beauty,” interrupted Audley, turning the conversation with practised
adroitness. “I am told that the count is one of the handsomest men in
Europe, much handsomer than his sister still, though nearly twice her
age. Tut, tut, Harley; fear not for me. I am proof against all feminine
attractions. This heart is dead.”

“Nay, nay; it is not for you to speak thus,--leave that to me. But even
I will not say it. The heart never dies. And you; what have you lost?--a
wife; true: an excellent, noble-hearted woman. But was it love that you
felt for her? Enviable man, have you ever loved?”

“Perhaps not, Harley,” said Audley, with a sombre aspect and in dejected
accents; “very few men ever have loved, at least as you mean by the
word. But there are other passions than love that kill the heart, and
reduce us to mechanism.”

While Egerton spoke, Harley turned aside, and his breast heaved. There
was a short silence; Audley was the first to break it.

“Speaking of my lost wife, I am sorry that you do not approve what I
have done for her young kinsman, Randal Leslie.”

HARLEY (recovering himself with an effort).--“Is it true kindness to
bid him exchange manly independence for the protection of an official
patron?”

AUDLEV.--“I did not bid him. I gave him his choice. At his age, I should
have chosen as he has done.”

HARLEY.--“I trust not; I think better of you. But answer me one question
frankly, and then I will ask another. Do you mean to make this young man
your heir?”

AUDLEY (with a slight embarrassment).--“Heir, pooh! I am young still. I
may live as long as he--time enough to think of that.”

HARLEY.--“Then now to my second question. Have you told this youth
plainly that he may look to you for influence, but not for wealth?”

AUDLEY (firmly).--“I think I have; but I shall repeat it more
emphatically.”

HARLEY.--“Then I am satisfied as to your conduct, but not as to his.
For he has too acute an intellect not to know what it is to forfeit
independence; and, depend on it, he has made his calculations, and would
throw you into the bargain in any balance that he could strike in his
favour. You go by your experience in judging men; I by my instincts.
Nature warns us as it does the inferior animals,--only we are too
conceited, we bipeds, to heed her. My instincts of soldier and gentleman
recoil from that old young man. He has the soul of the Jesuit. I see
it in his eye, I hear it in the tread of his foot; volto sciolto he has
not; _i pensieri stretti_ he has. Hist! I hear now his step in the hall.
I should know it from a thousand. That’s his very touch on the handle of
the door.”

Randal Leslie entered. Harley--who, despite his disregard for forms, and
his dislike to Randal, was too high-bred not to be polite to his junior
in age or inferior in rank-rose and bowed. But his bright piercing eyes
did not soften as they caught and bore down the deeper and more latent
fire in Randal’s. Harley did not resume his seat, but moved to the
mantelpiece, and leaned against it.

RANDAL.--“I have fulfilled your commissions, Mr. Egerton. I went first
to Maida Hill, and saw Mr. Burley. I gave him the check, but he said it
was too much, and he should return half to the banker; he will write the
article as you suggested. I then--”

AUDLEY.--“Enough, Randal! we will not fatigue Lord L’Estrange with these
little details of a life that displeases him,--the life political.”

HARLEY.--“But these details do not displease me; they reconcile me to my
own life. Go on, pray, Mr. Leslie.”

Randal had too much tact to need the cautioning glance of Mr. Egerton.
He did not continue, but said with a soft voice, “Do you think, Lord
L’Estrange, that the contemplation of the mode of life pursued by others
can reconcile a man to his own, if he had before thought it needed a
reconciler?” Harley looked pleased, for the question was ironical; and
if there was a thing in the world be abhorred, it was flattery.

“Recollect your Lucretius, Mr. Leslie, the Suave mare, etc., ‘pleasant
from the cliff to see the mariners tossed on the ocean.’ Faith, I think
that sight reconciles one to the cliff, though, before, one might have
been teased by the splash from the spray, and deafened by the scream
of the sea-gulls. But I leave you, Audley. Strange that I have heard no
more of my soldier! Remember I have your promise when I come to claim
it. Good-by, Mr. Leslie, I hope that Burley’s article will be worth the
check.”

Lord L’Estrange mounted his horse, which was still at the door, and rode
through the Park. But he was no longer now unknown by sight. Bows and
nods saluted him on every side.

“Alas, I am found out, then,” said he to himself. “That terrible Duchess
of Knaresborough, too--I must fly my country.” He pushed his horse into
a canter, and was soon out of the Park. As he dismounted at his
father’s sequestered house, you would have hardly supposed him the same
whimsical, fantastic, but deep and subtle humourist that delighted in
perplexing the material Audley, for his expressive face was unutterably
serious. But the moment he came into the presence of his parents, the
countenance was again lighted and cheerful. It brightened the whole room
like sunshine.



CHAPTER XI.

“Mr. Leslie,” said Egerton, when Harley had left the library, “you did
not act with your usual discretion in touching upon matters connected
with politics in the presence of a third party.”

“I feel that already, sir; my excuse is, that I held Lord L’Estrange to
be your most intimate friend.”

“A public man, Mr. Leslie, would ill serve his country if he were not
especially reserved towards his private friends--when they do not belong
to his party.”

“But pardon me my ignorance. Lord Lansmere is so well known to be one of
your supporters, that I fancied his son must share his sentiments, and
be in your confidence.”

Egerton’s brows slightly contracted, and gave a stern expression to a
countenance always firm and decided. He however answered in a mild tone,

“At the entrance into political life, Mr. Leslie, there is nothing
in which a young man of your talents should be more on his guard than
thinking for himself; he will nearly always think wrong. And I believe
that is one reason why young men of talent disappoint their friends, and
remain so long out of office.”

A haughty flush passed over Randal’s brow, and faded away quickly; he
bowed in silence.

Egerton resumed, as if in explanation, and even in kindly apology,

“Look at Lord L’Estrange himself. What young man could come into life
with brighter auspices? Rank, wealth, high animal spirits (a great
advantage those same spirits, Mr. Leslie), courage, self-possession,
scholarship as brilliant perhaps as your own; and now see how his life
is wasted! Why? He always thought fit to think for himself. He could
never be broken into harness, and never will be. The state coach, Mr.
Leslie, requires that all the horses should pull together.”

“With submission, sir,” answered Randal, “I should think that there were
other reasons why Lord L’Estrange, whatever be his talents--and of these
you must be indeed an adequate judge--would never do anything in public
life.”

“Ay, and what?” said Egerton, quickly.

“First,” said Randal, shrewdly, “private life has done too much for him.
What could public life give to one who needs nothing? Born at the top
of the social ladder, why should he put himself voluntarily at the last
step, for the sake of climbing up again? And secondly, Lord L’Estrange
seems to me a man in whose organization sentiment usurps too large a
share for practical existence.”

“You have a keen eye,” said Audley, with some admiration,--“keen for one
so young. Poor Harley!”

Mr. Egerton’s last words were said to himself. He resumed quickly,

“There is something on my mind, my young friend. Let us be frank with
each other. I placed before you fairly the advantages and disadvantages
of the choice I gave you. To take your degree with such honours as no
doubt you would have won, to obtain your fellowship, to go to the Bar,
with those credentials in favour of your talents,--this was one career.
To come at once into public life, to profit by my experience, avail
yourself of my interest, to take the chances of rise or fall with a
party,--this was another. You chose the last. But in so doing, there
was a consideration which might weigh with you, and on which, in stating
your reasons for your option, you were silent.”

“What is that, sir?”

“You might have counted on my fortune, should the chances of party fail
you: speak, and without shame if so; it would be natural in a young man,
who comes from the elder branch of the House whose heiress was my wife.”

“You wound me, Mr. Egerton,” said Randal, turning away.

Mr. Egerton’s cold glance followed Randal’s movements; the face was hid
from the glance, and the statesman’s eye rested on the figure, which is
often as self-betraying as the countenance itself. Randal baffled Mr.
Egerton’s penetration,--the young man’s emotion might be honest pride
and pained and generous feeling, or it might be something else. Egerton
continued slowly,

“Once for all, then, distinctly and emphatically, I say, never count
upon that; count upon all else that I can do for you, and forgive me
when I advise harshly or censure coldly; ascribe this to my interest in
your career. Moreover, before decision becomes irrevocable, I wish you
to know practically all that is disagreeable or even humiliating in the
first subordinate steps of him who, without wealth or station, would
rise in public life. I will not consider your choice settled till the
end of a year at least,--your name will be kept on the college books
till then; if on experience you should prefer to return to Oxford, and
pursue the slower but surer path to independence and distinction, you
can. And now give me your hand, Mr. Leslie, in sign that you forgive my
bluntness: it is time to dress.”

Randal, with his face still averted, extended his hand. Mr. Egerton held
it a moment, then dropping it, left the room. Randal turned as the door
closed; and there was in his dark face a power of sinister passion, that
justified all Harley’s warnings. His lips moved, but not audibly; then
as if struck by a sudden thought, he followed Egerton into the hall.

“Sir,” said he, “I forgot to say, that on returning from Maida Hill,
I took shelter from the rain under a covered passage, and there I met
unexpectedly with your nephew, Frank Hazeldean.”

“Ah!” said Egerton, indifferently, “a fine young man; in the Guards.
It is a pity that my brother has such antiquated political notions; he
should put his son into parliament, and under my guidance; I could push
him. Well, and what said Frank?”

“He invited me to call on him. I remember that you once rather cautioned
me against too intimate an acquaintance with those who have not got
their fortunes to make.”

“Because they are idle, and idleness is contagious. Right,--better not
to be too intimate with a young Guardsman.”

“Then you would not have me call on him, sir? We were rather friends
at Eton; and if I wholly reject his overtures, might he not think that
you--”

“I!” interrupted Egerton. “Ah, true; my brother might think I bore him
a grudge; absurd. Call then, and ask the young man here. Yet still, I do
not advise intimacy.” Egerton turned into his dressing-room. “Sir,”
 said his valet, who was in waiting, “Mr. Levy is here,--he says by
appointment; and Mr. Grinders is also just come from the country.”

“Tell Mr. Grinders to come in first,” said Egerton, seating himself.
“You need not wait; I can dress without you. Tell Mr. Levy I will see
him in five minutes.”

Mr. Grinders was steward to Audley Egerton.

Mr. Levy was a handsome man, who wore a camellia in his button-hole;
drove, in his cabriolet, a high-stepping horse that had cost L200; was
well known to young men of fashion, and considered by their fathers a
very dangerous acquaintance.



CHAPTER XII.

As the company assembled in the drawing-rooms, Mr. Egerton introduced
Randal Leslie to his eminent friends in a way that greatly contrasted
the distant and admonitory manner which he had exhibited to him in
private. The presentation was made with that cordiality and that
gracious respect, by which those who are in station command notice for
those who have their station yet to win.

“My dear lord, let me introduce to you a kinsman of my late wife’s” (in
a whisper),--“the heir to the elder branch of her family. Stanmore, this
is Mr. Leslie, of whom I spoke to you. You, who were so distinguished
at Oxford, will not like him the worse for the prizes he gained there.
Duke, let me present to you Mr. Leslie. The duchess is angry with me for
deserting her balls; I shall hope to make my peace, by providing myself
with a younger and livelier substitute. Ah, Mr. Howard, here is a young
gentleman just fresh from Oxford, who will tell us all about the new
sect springing up there. He has not wasted his time on billiards and
horses.”

Leslie was received with all that charming courtesy which is the To
Kalon of an aristocracy.

After dinner, conversation settled on politics. Randal listened with
attention, and in silence, till Egerton drew him gently out; just
enough, and no more,--just enough to make his intelligence evident, and
without subjecting him to the charge of laying down the law. Egerton
knew how to draw out young men,--a difficult art. It was one reason why
he was so peculiarly popular with the more rising members of his party.

The party broke up early.

“We are in time for Almack’s,” said Egerton, glancing at the clock, “and
I have a voucher for you; come.”

Randal followed his patron into the carriage. By the way Egerton thus
addressed him,

“I shall introduce you to the principal leaders of society; know them
and study them: I do not advise you to attempt to do more,--that is, to
attempt to become the fashion. It is a very expensive ambition: some men
it helps, most men it ruins. On the whole, you have better cards in your
hands. Dance or not as it pleases you; don’t flirt. If you flirt people
will inquire into your fortune,--an inquiry that will do you little
good; and flirting entangles a young man into marrying. That would never
do. Here we are.”

In two minutes more they were in the great ballroom, and Randal’s eyes
were dazzled with the lights, the diamonds, the blaze of beauty.
Audley presented him in quick succession to some dozen ladies, and then
disappeared amidst the crowd. Randal was not at a loss: he was without
shyness; or if he had that disabling infirmity, he concealed it. He
answered the languid questions put to him with a certain spirit
that kept up talk, and left a favourable impression of his agreeable
qualities. But the lady with whom he got on the best was one who had no
daughters out, a handsome and witty woman of the world,--Lady Frederick
Coniers.

“It is your first ball at Almack’s then, Mr. Leslie?”

“My first.”

“And you have not secured a partner? Shall I find you one? What do you
think of that pretty girl in pink?”

“I see her--but I cannot think of her.”

“You are rather, perhaps, like a diplomatist in a new court, and your
first object is to know who is who.”

“I confess that on beginning to study the history of my own day I should
like to distinguish the portraits that illustrate the memoir.”

“Give me your arm, then, and we will come into the next room. We shall
see the different notabilites enter one by one, and observe without
being observed. This is the least I can do for a friend of Mr.
Egerton’s.”

“Mr. Egerton, then,” said Randal,--as they threaded their way through
the space without the rope that protected the dancers,--“Mr. Egerton has
had the good fortune to win your esteem even for his friends, however
obscure?”

“Why, to say truth, I think no one whom Mr. Egerton calls his friend
need long remain obscure, if he has the ambition to be otherwise; for
Mr. Egerton holds it a maxim never to forget a friend nor a service.”

“Ah, indeed!” said Randal, surprised.

“And therefore,” continued Lady Frederick, “as he passes through life,
friends gather round him. He will rise even higher yet. Gratitude, Mr.
Leslie, is a very good policy.”

“Hem,” muttered Mr. Leslie.

They had now gained the room where tea and bread and butter were the
homely refreshments to the habitues of what at that day was the most
exclusive assembly in London. They ensconced themselves in a corner by
a window, and Lady Frederick performed her task of cicerone with
lively ease, accompanying each notice of the various persons who
passed panoramically before them with sketch and anecdote, sometimes
good-natured, generally satirical, always graphic and amusing.

By and by Frank Hazeldean, having on his arm a young lady of haughty air
and with high though delicate features, came to the tea-table.

“The last new Guardsman,” said Lady Frederick; “very handsome, and not
yet quite spoiled. But he has got into a dangerous set.”

RANDAL.--“The young lady with him is handsome enough to be dangerous.”

LADY FREDERICK (laughing).--“No danger for him there,--as yet at least.
Lady Mary (the Duke of Knaresborough’s daughter) is only in her second
year. The first year, nothing under an earl; the second, nothing under
a baron. It will be full four years before she comes down to a commoner.
Mr. Hazeldean’s danger is of another kind. He lives much with men who
are not exactly mauvais ton, but certainly not of the best taste. Yet
he is very young; he may extricate himself,--leaving half his fortune
behind him. What, he nods to you! You know him?”

“Very well; he is nephew to Mr. Egerton.”

“Indeed! I did not know that. Hazeldean is a new name in London. I heard
his father was a plain country gentleman, of good fortune, but not that
he was related to Mr. Egerton.”

“Half-brother.”

“Will Mr. Egerton pay the young gentleman’s debts? He has no sons
himself.”

RANDAL.--“Mr. Egerton’s fortune comes from his wife, from my
family,--from a Leslie, not from a Hazeldean.” Lady Frederick turned
sharply, looked at Randal’s countenance with more attention than she had
yet vouchsafed to it, and tried to talk of the Leslies. Randal was very
short there.

An hour afterwards, Randal, who had not danced, was still in the
refreshment-room, but Lady Frederick had long quitted him. He was
talking with some old Etonians who had recognized him, when there
entered a lady of very remarkable appearance, and a murmur passed
through the room as she appeared.

She might be three or four and twenty. She was dressed in black velvet,
which contrasted with the alabaster whiteness of her throat and the
clear paleness of her complexion, while it set off the diamonds with
which she was profusely covered. Her hair was of the deepest jet,
and worn simply braided. Her eyes, too, were dark and brilliant, her
features regular and striking; but their expression, when in repose, was
not prepossessing to such as love modesty and softness in the looks
of woman. But when she spoke and smiled, there was so much spirit and
vivacity in the countenance, so much fascination in the smile, that all
which might before have marred the effect of her beauty strangely and
suddenly disappeared.

“Who is that very handsome woman?” asked Randal. “An Italian,--a
Marchesa something,” said one of the Etonians.

“Di Negra,” suggested another, who had been abroad: “she is a widow; her
husband was of the great Genoese family of Negra,--a younger branch of
it.”

Several men now gathered thickly around the fair Italian. A few ladies
of the highest rank spoke to her, but with a more distant courtesy than
ladies of high rank usually show to foreigners of such quality as Madame
di Negra. Ladies of rank less elevated seemed rather shy of her,--that
might be from jealousy. As Randal gazed at the marchesa with more
admiration than any woman, perhaps, had before excited in him, he heard
a voice near him say,

“Oh, Madame di Negra is resolved to settle amongst us, and marry an
Englishman.”

“If she can find one sufficiently courageous,” returned a female voice.

“Well, she’s trying hard for Egerton, and he has courage enough for
anything.”

The female voice replied, with a laugh, “Mr Egerton knows the world too
well, and has resisted too many temptations to be--”

“Hush! there he is.”

Egerton came into the room with his usual firm step and erect mien.
Randal observed that a quick glance was exchanged between him and the
marchesa; but the minister passed her by with a bow.

Still Randal watched, and, ten minutes afterwards, Egerton and the
marchesa were seated apart in the very same convenient nook that Randal
and Lady Frederick had occupied an hour or so before.

“Is this the reason why Mr. Egerton so insultingly warns me against
counting on his fortune?” muttered Randal. “Does he mean to marry
again?”

Unjust suspicion!--for, at that moment, these were the words that Audley
Egerton was dropping forth from his lips of bronze,

“Nay, dear madam, do not ascribe to my frank admiration more gallantry
than it merits. Your conversation charms me, your beauty delights me;
your society is as a holiday that I look forward to in the fatigues of
my life. But I have done with love, and I shall never marry again.”

“You almost pique me into trying to win, in order to reject you,” said
the Italian, with a flash from her bright eyes.

“I defy even you,” answered Audley, with his cold hard smile. “But to
return to the point. You have more influence, at least, over this subtle
ambassador; and the secret we speak of I rely on you to obtain me.
Ah, Madam, let us rest friends. You see I have conquered the unjust
prejudices against you; you are received and feted everywhere, as
becomes your birth and your attractions. Rely on me ever, as I on you.
But I shall excite too much envy if I stay here longer, and am vain
enough to think that I may injure you if I provoke the gossip of the
ill-natured. As the avowed friend, I can serve you; as the supposed
lover, No--” Audley rose as he said this, and, standing by the chair,
added carelessly, “--propos, the sum you do me the honour to borrow will
be paid to your bankers to-morrow.”

“A thousand thanks! my brother will hasten to repay you.”

Audley bowed. “Your brother, I hope, will repay me in person, not
before. When does he come?”

“Oh, he has again postponed his visit to London; he is so much needed in
Vienna. But while we are talking of him, allow me to ask if your friend,
Lord L’Estrange, is indeed still so bitter against that poor brother of
mine?”

“Still the same.”

“It is shameful!” cried the Italian, with warmth; “what has my brother
ever done to him that he should actually intrigue against the count in
his own court?”

“Intrigue! I think you wrong Lord L’Estrange; he but represented what he
believed to be the truth, in defence of a ruined exile.”

“And you will not tell me where that exile is, or if his daughter still
lives?”

“My dear marchesa, I have called you friend, therefore I will not aid
L’Estrange to injure you or yours. But I call L’Estrange a friend also;
and I cannot violate the trust that--” Audley stopped short, and bit
his lip. “You understand me,” he resumed, with a more genial smile than
usual; and he took his leave.

The Italian’s brows met as her eye followed him; then, as she too rose,
that eye encountered Randal’s.

“That young man has the eye of an Italian,” said the marchesa to
herself, as she passed by him into the ballroom.



CHAPTER XIII.

Leonard and Helen settled themselves in two little chambers in a small
lane. The neighbourhood was dull enough, the accommodation humble; but
their landlady had a smile. That was the reason, perhaps, why Helen
chose the lodgings: a smile is not always found on the face of a
landlady when the lodger is poor. And out of their windows they
caught sight of a green tree, an elm, that grew up fair and tall in a
carpenter’s yard at the rear. That tree was like another smile to the
place. They saw the birds come and go to its shelter; and they even
heard, when a breeze arose, the pleasant murmur of its boughs.

Leonard went the same evening to Captain Digby’s old lodgings, but he
could learn there no intelligence of friends or protectors for Helen.
The people were rude and surly, and said that the captain still owed
them L1 17s. The claim, however, seemed very disputable, and was stoutly
denied by Helen. The next morning Leonard set out in search of Dr.
Morgan. He thought his best plan was to inquire the address of the
doctor at the nearest chemist’s, and the chemist civilly looked into
the “Court Guide,” and referred him to a house in Bulstrode Street,
Manchester Square. To this street Leonard contrived to find his way,
much marvelling at the meanness of London: Screwstown seemed to him the
handsomer town of the two.

A shabby man-servant opened the door, and Leonard remarked that the
narrow passage was choked with boxes, trunks, and various articles of
furniture. He was shown into a small room containing a very large round
table, whereon were sundry works on homoeopathy, Parry’s “Cymbrian
Plutarch,” Davies’s “Celtic Researches,” and a Sunday news paper. An
engraved portrait of the illustrious Hahnemann occupied the place of
honour over the chimneypiece. In a few minutes the door to an inner room
opened, and Dr. Morgan appeared, and said politely, “Come in, sir.”

The doctor seated himself at a desk, looked hastily at Leonard, and then
at a great chronometer lying on the table. “My time’s short, sir,--going
abroad: and now that I am going, patients flock to me. Too late. London
will repent its apathy. Let it!”

The doctor paused majestically, and not remarking on Leonard’s face the
consternation he had anticipated, he repeated peevishly, “I am going
abroad, sir, but I will make a synopsis of your case, and leave it to my
successor. Hum!

“Hair chestnut; eyes--what colour? Look this way,--blue, dark blue. Hem!
Constitution nervous. What are the symptoms?”

“Sir,” began Leonard, “a little girl--”

DR. MORGAN (impatiently).--“Little girl; never mind the history of your
sufferings; stick to the symptoms,--stick to the symptoms.”

LEONARD.--“YOU mistake me, Doctor, I have nothing the matter with me. A
little girl--”

DR. MORGAN.--“Girl again! I understand! it is she who is ill. Shall I
go to her? She must describe her own symptoms,--I can’t judge from your
talk. You’ll be telling me she has consumption, or dyspepsia, or some
such disease that don’t exist: mere allopathic inventions,--symptoms,
sir, symptoms.”

LEONARD (forcing his way).--“You attended her poor father, Captain
Digby, when he was taken ill in the coach with you. He is dead, and his
child is an orphan.”

DR. MORGAN (fumbling in his medical pocket-book).--“Orphan! nothing for
orphans, especially if inconsolable, like aconite and chamomilla.”

   [It may be necessary to observe that homoeopathy professes to deal
   with our moral affections as well as with our physical maladies, and
   has a globule for every sorrow.]

With some difficulty Leonard succeeded in bringing Helen to the
recollection of the homoeopathist, stating how he came in charge of her,
and why he sought Dr. Morgan.

The doctor was much moved.

“But, really,” said he, after a pause, “I don’t see how I can help the
poor child. I know nothing of her relations. This Lord Les--whatever his
name is--I know of no lords in London. I knew lords, and physicked
them too, when I was a blundering allopathist. There was the Earl of
Lansmere,--has had many a blue pill from me, sinner that I was. His
son was wiser; never would take physic. Very clever boy was Lord
L’Estrange--”

“Lord L’Estrange! that name begins with Les--”

“Stuff! He’s always abroad,--shows his sense. I’m going abroad too. No
development for science in this horrid city,--full of prejudices,
sir, and given up to the most barbarous allopathical and phlebotomical
propensities. I am going to the land of Hahnemann, sir,--sold my
good-will, lease, and furniture, and have bought in on the Rhine.
Natural life there, sir,--homeeopathy needs nature: dine at one o’clock,
get up at four, tea little known, and science appreciated. But I forget.
Cott! what can I do for the orphan?”

“Well, sir,” said Leonard, rising, “Heaven will give me strength to
support her.”

The doctor looked at the young man attentively. “And yet,” said he, in a
gentler voice, “you, young man, are, by your account, a perfect stranger
to her, or were so when you undertook to bring her to London. You have a
good heart, always keep it. Very healthy thing, sir, a good heart,--that
is, when not carried to excess. But you have friends of your own in
town?”

LEONARD.--“Not yet, sir; I hope to make them.”

DOCTOR.--“Pless me, you do? How?--I can’t make any.”

Leonard coloured and hung his head. He longed to say, “Authors find
friends in their readers,--I am going to be an author.” But he felt that
the reply would savour of presumption, and held his tongue.

The doctor continued to examine him, and with friendly interest. “You
say you walked up to London: was that from choice or economy?”

LEONARD.--“Both, sir.”

DOCTOR.--“Sit down again, and let us talk. I can give you a quarter of
an hour, and I’ll see if I can help either of you, provided you tell me
all the symptoms,--I mean all the particulars.”

Then, with that peculiar adroitness which belongs to experience in the
medical profession, Dr. Morgan, who was really an acute and able man,
proceeded to put his questions, and soon extracted from Leonard the
boy’s history and hopes. But when the doctor, in admiration at a
simplicity which contrasted so evident an intelligence, finally asked
him his name and connections, and Leonard told them, the homoeopathist
actually started. “Leonard Fairfield, grandson of my old friend, John
Avenel of Lansmere! I must shake you by the hand. Brought up by Mrs.
Fairfield!--

“Ah, now I look, strong family likeness,--very strong”

The tears stood in the doctor’s eyes. “Poor Nora!” said he.

“Nora! Did you know my aunt?”

“Your aunt! Ah! ah! yes, yes! Poor Nora! she died almost in these
arms,--so young, so beautiful. I remember it as if yesterday.”

The doctor brushed his hand across his eyes, and swallowed a globule;
and before the boy knew what he was about, had, in his benevolence,
thrust another between Leonard’s quivering lips.

A knock was heard at the door.

“Ha! that ‘s my great patient,” cried the doctor, recovering
his self-possession,--“must see him. A chronic case, excellent
patient,--tic, sir, tic. Puzzling and interesting. If I could take
that tic with me, I should ask nothing more from Heaven. Call again on
Monday; I may have something to tell you then as to yourself. The little
girl can’t stay with you,--wrong and nonsensical! I will see after her.
Leave me your address,--write it here. I think I know a lady who will
take charge of her. Good-by. Monday next, ten o’clock.” With this, the
doctor thrust out Leonard, and ushered in his grand patient, whom he was
very anxious to take with him to the banks of the Rhine.

Leonard had now only to discover the nobleman whose name had been so
vaguely uttered by poor Captain Digby. He had again recourse to the
“Court Guide;” and finding the address of two or three lords the first
syllable of whose titles seemed similar to that repeated to him, and
all living pretty near to each other, in the regions of Mayfair, he
ascertained his way to that quarter, and, exercising his mother-wit,
inquired at the neighbouring shops as to the personal appearance of
these noblemen. Out of consideration for his rusticity, he got very
civil and clear answers; but none of the lords in question corresponded
with the description given by Helen. One was old, another was
exceedingly corpulent, a third was bedridden,--none of them was known to
keep a great dog. It is needless to say that the name of L’Estrange
(no habitant of London) was not in the “Court Guide.” And Dr. Morgan’s
assertion that that person was always abroad unluckily dismissed from
Leonard’s mind the name the homoeopathist had so casually mentioned. But
Helen was not disappointed when her young protector returned late in the
day, and told her of his ill-success. Poor child! she was so pleased
in her heart not to be separated from her new brother; and Leonard was
touched to see how she had contrived, in his absence, to give a certain
comfort and cheerful grace to the bare room devoted to himself. She had
arranged his few books and papers so neatly, near the window, in sight
of the one green elm. She had coaxed the smiling landlady out of one or
two extra articles of furniture, especially a walnut-tree bureau, and
some odds and ends of ribbon, with which last she had looped up the
curtains. Even the old rush-bottom chairs had a strange air of elegance,
from the mode in which they were placed. The fairies had given sweet
Helen the art that adorns a home, and brings out a smile from the
dingiest corner of hut and attic.

Leonard wondered and praised. He kissed his blushing ministrant
gratefully, and they sat down in joy to their abstemious meal;
when suddenly his face was overclouded,--there shot through him the
remembrance of Dr. Morgan’s words, “The little girl can’t stay with
you,--wrong and nonsensical. I think I know a lady who will take charge
of her.”

“Ah,” cried Leonard, sorrowfully, “how could I forget?” And he told
Helen what grieved him. Helen at first exclaimed that she would not go.
Leonard, rejoiced, then began to talk as usual of his great prospects;
and, hastily finishing his meal, as if there were no time to lose, sat
down at once to his papers. Then Helen contemplated him sadly, as he
bent over his delightful work. And when, lifting his radiant eyes from
his manuscripts, he exclaimed, “No, no, you shall not go. This must
succeed,--and we shall live together in some pretty cottage, where we
can see more than one tree,”--then Helen sighed, and did not answer this
time, “No, I will not go.”

Shortly after she stole from the room, and into her own; and there,
kneeling down, she prayed, and her prayer was somewhat this, “Guard me
against my own selfish heart; may I never be a burden to him who has
shielded me.”

Perhaps as the Creator looks down on this world, whose wondrous beauty
beams on us more and more, in proportion as our science would take it
from poetry into law,--perhaps He beholds nothing so beautiful as the
pure heart of a simple loving child.



CHAPTER XIV.

Leonard went out the next day with his precious manuscripts. He had
read sufficient of modern literature to know the names of the principal
London publishers; and to these he took his way with a bold step, though
a beating heart.

That day he was out longer than the last; and when he returned, and came
into the little room, Helen uttered a cry, for she scarcely recognized
him,--there was on his face so deep, so silent, and so concentrated a
despondency. He sat down listlessly, and did not kiss her this time, as
she stole towards him. He felt so humbled. He was a king deposed.

He take charge of another life! He!

She coaxed him at last into communicating his day’s chronicle. The
reader beforehand knows too well what it must be to need detailed
repetition. Most of the publishers had absolutely refused to look at
his manuscripts; one or two had good-naturedly glanced over and returned
them at once with a civil word or two of flat rejection. One publisher
alone--himself a man of letters, and who in youth had gone through
the same bitter process of disillusion that now awaited the village
genius--volunteered some kindly though stern explanation and counsel to
the unhappy boy. This gentleman read a portion of Leonard’s principal
poem with attention, and even with frank admiration. He could appreciate
the rare promise that it manifested. He sympathized with the boy’s
history, and even with his hopes; and then he said, in bidding him
farewell,

“If I publish this poem for you, speaking as a trader, I shall be a
considerable loser. Did I publish all I admire, out of sympathy with
the author, I should be a ruined man. But suppose that, impressed as
I really am with the evidence of no common poetic gifts in this
manuscript, I publish it, not as a trader, but a lover of literature,
I shall in reality, I fear, render you a great disservice, and perhaps
unfit your whole life for the exertions on which you must rely for
independence.”

“How, sir?” cried Leonard. “Not that I would ask you to injure yourself
for me,” he added, with proud tears in his eyes.

“How, my young friend? I will explain. There is enough talent in
these verses to induce very flattering reviews in some of the literary
journals. You will read these, find yourself proclaimed a poet, will cry
‘I am on the road to fame.’ You will come to me, ‘And my poem, how does
it sell?’ I shall point to some groaning shelf, and say, ‘Not twenty
copies! The journals may praise, but the public will not buy it.’
‘But you will have got a name,’ you say. Yes, a name as a poet just
sufficiently known to make every man in practical business disinclined
to give fair trial to your talents in a single department of positive
life; none like to employ poets;--a name that will not put a penny in
your purse,--worse still, that will operate as a barrier against every
escape into the ways whereby men get to fortune. But having once tasted
praise, you will continue to sigh for it: you will perhaps never again
get a publisher to bring forth a poem, but you will hanker round the
purlieus of the Muses, scribble for periodicals, fall at last into a
bookseller’s drudge. Profits will be so precarious and uncertain, that
to avoid debt may be impossible; then, you who now seem so ingenuous and
so proud, will sink deeper still into the literary mendicant, begging,
borrowing--”

“Never! never! never!” cried Leonard, veiling his face with his hands.

“Such would have been my career,” continued the publisher; “but I
luckily had a rich relative, a trader, whose calling I despised as a
boy, who kindly forgave my folly, bound me as an apprentice, and here I
am; and now I can afford to write books as well as sell them.

“Young man, you must have respectable relations,--go by their advice and
counsel; cling fast to some positive calling. Be anything in this city
rather than poet by profession.”

“And how, sir, have there ever been poets? Had they other callings?”

“Read their biography, and then--envy them!”

Leonard was silent a moment; but lifting his head, answered loud
and quickly, “I have read their biography. True, their lot was
poverty,--perhaps hunger. Sir, I--envy them!”

“Poverty and hunger are small evils,” answered the bookseller, with
a grave, kind smile. “There are worse,--debt and degradation,
and--despair.”

“No, sir, no, you exaggerate; these last are not the lot of all poets.”

“Right, for most of our greatest poets had some private means of their
own. And for others--why, all who have put into a lottery have not
drawn blanks. But who could advise another man to set his whole hope
of fortune on the chance of a prize in a lottery? And such a lottery!”
 groaned the publisher, glancing towards sheets and reams of dead
authors, lying, like lead, upon his shelves.

Leonard clutched his manuscripts to his heart, and hurried away.

“Yes,” he muttered, as Helen clung to him, and tried to console,--“yes,
you were right: London is very vast, very strong, and very cruel;” and
his head sank lower and lower yet upon his bosom.

The door was flung widely open, and in, unannounced, walked Dr. Morgan.

The child turned to him, and at the sight of his face she remembered
her father; and the tears that for Leonard’s sake she had been trying to
suppress found way.

The good doctor soon gained all the confidence of these two young
hearts; and after listening to Leonard’s story of his paradise lost in a
day, he patted him on the shoulder and said, “Well, you will call on
me on Monday, and we will see. Meanwhile, borrow these of me!”--and
he tried to slip three sovereigns into the boy’s hand. Leonard was
indignant. The bookseller’s warning flashed on him. Mendicancy! Oh,
no, he had not yet come to that! He was almost rude and savage in his
rejection; and the doctor did not like him the less for it.

“You are an obstinate mule,” said the homoeopathist, reluctantly putting
up his sovereigns. “Will you work at something practical and prosy, and
let the poetry rest a while?”

“Yes,” said Leonard, doggedly. “I will work.”

“Very well, then. I know an honest bookseller, and he shall give you
some employment; and meanwhile, at all events, you will be among books,
and that will be some comfort.”

Leonard’s eyes brightened. “A great comfort, sir.” He pressed the hand
he had before put aside to his grateful heart.

“But,” resumed the doctor, seriously, “you really feel a strong
predisposition to make verses?”

“I did, sir.”

“Very bad symptom indeed, and must be stopped before a relapse! Here, I
have cured three prophets and ten poets with this novel specific.”

While thus speaking he had got out his book and a globule. “Agaricus
muscarius dissolved in a tumbler of distilled water,--teaspoonful
whenever the fit comes on. Sir, it would have cured Milton himself.”

“And now for you, my child,” turning to Helen, “I have found a lady who
will be very kind to you. Not a menial situation. She wants some one to
read to her and tend on her; she is old and has no children. She wants
a companion, and prefers a girl of your age to one older. Will this suit
you?”

Leonard walked away.

Helen got close to the doctor’s ear, and whispered, “No, I cannot leave
him now,--he is so sad.”

“Cott!” grunted the doctor, “you two must have been reading ‘Paul and
Virginia.’ If I could but stay in England, I would try what ignatia
would do in this case,--interesting experiment! Listen to me, little
girl, and go out of the room, you, sir.”

Leonard, averting his face, obeyed. Helen made an involuntary step after
him; the doctor detained and drew her on his knee.

“What’s your Christian name?--I forget.”

“Helen.”

“Helen, listen. In a year or two you will be a young woman, and it would
be very wrong then to live alone with that young man. Meanwhile you have
no right to cripple all his energies. He must not have you leaning on
his right arm,--you would weigh it down. I am going away, and when I am
gone there will be no one to help you, if you reject the friend I offer
you. Do as I tell you, for a little girl so peculiarly susceptible (a
thorough pulsatilla constitution) cannot be obstinate and egotistical.”

“Let me see him cared for and happy, sir,” said she, firmly, “and I will
go where you wish.”

“He shall be so; and to-morrow, while he is out, I will come and fetch
you. Nothing so painful as leave-taking, shakes the nervous system, and
is a mere waste of the animal economy.”

Helen sobbed aloud; then, writhing from the doctor, she exclaimed, “But
he may know where I am? We may see each other sometimes? Ah, sir, it was
at my father’s grave that we first met, and I think Heaven sent him to
me. Do not part us forever.”

“I should have a heart of stone if I did,” cried the doctor, vehemently;
“and Miss Starke shall let him come and visit you once a week. I’ll give
her something to make her. She is naturally indifferent to others. I
will alter her whole constitution, and melt her into sympathy--with
rhododendron and arsenic!”



CHAPTER XV.

Before he went the doctor wrote a line to “Mr. Prickett, Bookseller,
Holborn,” and told Leonard to take it the next morning, as addressed. “I
will call on Prickett myself tonight and prepare him for your visit. But
I hope and trust you will only have to stay there a few days.”

He then turned the conversation, to communicate his plans for Helen.
Miss Starke lived at Highgate,--a worthy woman, stiff and prim, as old
maids sometimes are; but just the place for a little girl like Helen,
and Leonard should certainly be allowed to call and see her.

Leonard listened and made no opposition,--now that his day-dream was
dispelled, he had no right to pretend to be Helen’s protector. He could
have prayed her to share his wealth and his fame; his penury and his
drudgery--no.

It was a very sorrowful evening,--that between the adventurer and
the child. They sat up late, till their candle had burned down to the
socket; neither did they talk much; but his hand clasped hers all the
time, and her head pillowed it self on his shoulder. I fear when they
parted it was not for sleep.

And when Leonard went forth the next morning, Helen stood at the street
door watching him depart--slowly, slowly. No doubt, in that humble lane
there were many sad hearts; but no heart so heavy as that of the still,
quiet child, when the form she had watched was to be seen no more, and,
still standing on the desolate threshold, she gazed into space, and all
was vacant.



CHAPTER XVI.

Mr. Prickett was a believer in homeeopathy, and declared, to the
indignation of all the apothecaries round Holborn, that he had been
cured of a chronic rheumatism by Dr. Morgan. The good doctor had, as
he promised, seen Mr. Prickett when he left Leonard, and asked him as a
favour to find some light occupation for the boy, that would serve as an
excuse for a modest weekly salary. “It will not be for long,” said the
doctor: “his relations are respectable and well off. I will write to his
grandparents, and in a few days I hope to relieve you of the charge. Of
course, if you don’t want him, I will repay what he costs meanwhile.”

Mr. Prickett, thus prepared for Leonard, received him very graciously;
and, after a few questions, said Leonard was just the person he wanted
to assist him in cataloguing his books, and offered him most handsomely
L1 a week for the task.

Plunged at once into a world of books vaster than he had ever before won
admission to, that old divine dream of knowledge, out of which poetry
had sprung, returned to the village student at the very sight of the
venerable volumes. The collection of Mr. Prickett was, however, in
reality by no means large; but it comprised not only the ordinary
standard works, but several curious and rare ones. And Leonard paused
in making the catalogue, and took many a hasty snatch of the contents
of each tome, as it passed through his hands. The bookseller, who was
an enthusiast for old books, was pleased to see a kindred feeling (which
his shop-boy had never exhibited) in his new assistant; and he talked
about rare editions and scarce copies, and initiated Leonard into many
of the mysteries of the bibliographist.

Nothing could be more dark and dingy than the shop. There was a booth
outside, containing cheap books and odd volumes, round which there was
always an attentive group; within, a gas-lamp burned night and day.

But time passed quickly to Leonard. He missed not the green fields, he
forgot his disappointments, he ceased to remember even Helen. O strange
passion of knowledge! nothing like thee for strength and devotion!

Mr. Prickett was a bachelor, and asked Leonard to dine with him on a
cold shoulder of mutton. During dinner the shop-boy kept the shop,
and Mr. Prickett was really pleasant, as well as loquacious. He took
a liking to Leonard, and Leonard told him his adventures with the
publishers, at which Mr. Prickett rubbed his hands and laughed, as at a
capital joke. “Oh, give up poetry, and stick to a shop,” cried he; “and
to cure you forever of the mad whim to be author, I’ll just lend you the
‘Life and Works of Chatterton.’ You may take it home with you and read
before you go to bed. You’ll come back quite a new man to-morrow.”

Not till night, when the shop was closed, did Leonard return to his
lodging. And when he entered the room, he was struck to the soul by the
silence, by the void. Helen was gone!

There was a rose-tree in its pot on the table at which he wrote, and by
it a scrap of paper, on which was written,

   DEAR, dear brother Leonard, God bless you. I will let you know when
   we can meet again. Take care of this rose, Brother, and don’t
   forget poor

   HELEN.

Over the word “forget” there was a big round blistered spot that nearly
effaced the word.

Leonard leaned his face on his hands, and for the first time in his life
he felt what solitude really is. He could not stay long in the room.
He walked out again, and wandered objectless to and fro the streets. He
passed that stiller and humbler neighbourhood, he mixed with the throng
that swarmed in the more populous thoroughfares. Hundreds and thousands
passed him by, and still--still such solitude.

He came back, lighted his candle, and resolutely drew forth the
“Chatterton” which the bookseller had lent him. It was an old edition,
in one thick volume. It had evidently belonged to some contemporary
of the poet’s,--apparently an inhabitant of Bristol,--some one who
had gathered up many anecdotes respecting Chatterton’s habits, and who
appeared even to have seen him, nay, been in his company; for the book
was interleaved, and the leaves covered with notes and remarks, in
a stiff clear hand,--all evincing personal knowledge of the mournful
immortal dead. At first, Leonard read with an effort; then the strange
and fierce spell of that dread life seized upon him,--seized with pain
and gloom and terror,--this boy dying by his own hand, about the age
Leonard had attained himself. This wondrous boy, of a genius beyond all
comparison the greatest that ever yet was developed and extinguished
at the age of eighteen,--self-taught, self-struggling, self-immolated.
Nothing in literature like that life and that death!

With intense interest Leonard perused the tale of the brilliant
imposture, which had been so harshly and so absurdly construed into the
crime of a forgery, and which was (if not wholly innocent) so akin to
the literary devices always in other cases viewed with indulgence,
and exhibiting, in this, intellectual qualities in themselves so
amazing,--such patience, such forethought, such labour, such courage,
such ingenuity,--the qualities that, well directed, make men great,
not only in books, but action. And, turning from the history of the
imposture to the poems themselves, the young reader bent before their
beauty, literally awed and breathless. How this strange Bristol boy
tamed and mastered his rude and motley materials into a music that
comprehended every tune and key, from the simplest to the sublimest!
He turned back to the biography; he read on; he saw the proud, daring,
mournful spirit alone in the Great City, like himself. He followed its
dismal career, he saw it falling with bruised and soiled wings into
the mire. He turned again to the later works, wrung forth as tasks for
bread,--the satires without moral grandeur, the politics without honest
faith. He shuddered and sickened as he read. True, even here his poet
mind appreciated (what perhaps only poets can) the divine fire that
burned fitfully through that meaner and more sordid fuel,--he still
traced in those crude, hasty, bitter offerings to dire Necessity the
hand of the young giant who had built up the stately verse of Rowley.
But alas! how different from that “mighty line.” How all serenity
and joy had fled from these later exercises of art degraded into
journey-work! Then rapidly came on the catastrophe,--the closed doors,
the poison, the suicide, the manuscripts torn by the hands of despairing
wrath, and strewed round the corpse upon the funereal floors. It was
terrible! The spectre of the Titan boy (as described in the notes
written on the margin), with his haughty brow, his cynic smile, his
lustrous eyes, haunted all the night the baffled and solitary child of
song.



CHAPTER XVII.

It will often happen that what ought to turn the human mind from some
peculiar tendency produces the opposite effect. One would think that the
perusal in the newspaper of some crime and capital punishment would
warn away all who had ever meditated the crime, or dreaded the chance
of detection. Yet it is well known to us that many a criminal is made
by pondering over the fate of some predecessor in guilt. There is a
fascination in the Dark and Forbidden, which, strange to say, is only
lost in fiction. No man is more inclined to murder his nephews, or
stifle his wife, after reading “Richard the Third” or “Othello.” It is
the reality that is necessary to constitute the danger of contagion.
Now, it was this reality in the fate and life and crowning suicide of
Chatterton that forced itself upon Leonard’s thoughts, and sat there
like a visible evil thing, gathering evil like cloud around it. There
was much in the dead poet’s character, his trials, and his doom, that
stood out to Leonard like a bold and colossal shadow of himself and his
fate. Alas! the book seller, in one respect, had said truly. Leonard
came back to him the next day a new man; and it seemed even to himself
as if he had lost a good angel in losing Helen. “Oh, that she had been
by my side!” thought he. “Oh, that I could have felt the touch of her
confiding hand; that, looking up from the scathed and dreary ruin of
this life, that had sublimely lifted itself from the plain, and
sought to tower aloft from a deluge, her mild look had spoken to me
of innocent, humble, unaspiring childhood! Ah! If indeed I were still
necessary to her,--still the sole guardian and protector,--then could I
say to myself; ‘Thou must not despair and die! Thou hast her to live
and to strive for.’ But no, no! Only this vast and terrible London,--the
solitude of the dreary garret, and those lustrous eyes, glaring alike
through the throng and through the solitude.”



CHAPTER XVIII.

On the following Monday Dr. Morgan’s shabby man-servant opened the door
to a young man in whom he did not at first remember a former visitor.
A few days before, embrowned with healthful travel, serene light in his
eye, simple trust on his careless lip, Leonard Fairfield had stood at
that threshold. Now again he stood there, pale and haggard, with a cheek
already hollowed into those deep anxious lines that speak of working
thoughts and sleepless nights; and a settled sullen gloom resting
heavily on his whole aspect.

“I call by appointment,” said the boy, testily, as the servant stood
irresolute. The man gave way. “Master is just gone out to a patient:
please to wait, sir;” and he showed him into the little parlour. In a
few moments, two other patients were admitted. These were women,
and they began talking very loud. They disturbed Leonard’s unsocial
thoughts. He saw that the door into the doctor’s receiving-room was half
open, and, ignorant of the etiquette which holds such penetralia as
sacred, he walked in to escape from the gossips. He threw himself into
the doctor’s own wellworn chair, and muttered to himself, “Why did
he tell me to come? What new can he think of for me? And if a favour,
should I take it? He has given me the means of bread by work: that is
all I have a right to ask from him, from any man,--all I should accept.”

While thus soliloquizing, his eye fell on a letter lying open on the
table. He started. He recognized the handwriting,--the same as that of
the letter which had inclosed. L50 to his mother,--the letter of his
grandparents. He saw his own name: he saw something more,--words that
made his heart stand still, and his blood seem like ice in his veins. As
he thus stood aghast, a hand was laid on the letter, and a voice, in an
angry growl, muttered, “How dare you come into my room, and pe reading
my letters? Er-r-r!”

Leonard placed his own hand on the doctor’s firmly, and said, in a
fierce tone, “This letter relates to me, belongs to me, crushes me. I
have seen enough to know that. I demand to read all,--learn all.”

The doctor looked round, and seeing the door into the waiting-room still
open, kicked it to with his foot, and then said, under his breath, “What
have you read? Tell me the truth.”

“Two lines only, and I am called--I am called--” Leonard’s frame shook
from head to foot, and the veins on his forehead swelled like cords. He
could not complete the sentence. It seemed as if an ocean was rolling up
through his brain, and roaring in his ears. The doctor saw at a glance
that there was physical danger in his state, and hastily and soothingly
answered, “Sit down, sit down; calm yourself; you shall know all,--read
all; drink this water;” and he poured into a tumbler of the pure liquid
a drop or two from a tiny phial.

Leonard obeyed mechanically, for he was no longer able to stand. He
closed his eyes, and for a minute or two life seemed to pass from him;
then he recovered, and saw the good doctor’s gaze fixed on him with
great compassion. He silently stretched forth his hand towards the
letter. “Wait a few moments,” said the physician, judiciously, “and hear
me meanwhile. It is very unfortunate you should have seen a letter never
meant for your eye, and containing allusions to a secret you were never
to have known. But if I tell you more, will you promise me, on your word
of honour, that you will hold the confidence sacred from Mrs. Fairfield,
the Avenels,--from all? I myself am pledged to conceal a secret, which I
can only share with you on the same condition.”

“There is nothing,” announced Leonard, indistinctly, and with a bitter
smile on his lip,--“nothing, it seems, that I should be proud to boast
of. Yes, I promise; the letter, the letter!”

The doctor placed it in Leonard’s right hand, and quietly slipped to the
wrist of the left his forefinger and thumb, as physicians are said to do
when a victim is stretched on the rack. “Pulse decreasing,” he muttered;
“wonderful thing, aconite!” Meanwhile Leonard read as follows, faults in
spelling and all:--

   DR. MORGAN

   SIR,--I received your favur duly, and am glad to hear that the pore
   boy is safe and Well. But he has been behaving ill, and ungrateful
   to my good son Richard, who is a credit to the whole Famuly and has
   made himself a Gentleman and Was very kind and good to the boy, not
   knowing who and What he is--God forbid! I don’t want never to see
   him again--the boy. Pore John was ill and Restless for days
   afterwards. John is a pore cretur now, and has had paralyticks.
   And he Talked of nothing but Nora--the boy’s eyes were so like his
   Mother’s. I cannot, cannot see the Child of Shame. He can’t cum
   here--for our Lord’s sake, sir, don’t ask it--he can’t, so
   Respectable as we’ve always been!--and such disgrace! Base
   born! base born! Keep him where he is, bind him prentis, I’ll pay
   anything for That. You says, sir, he’s clever, and quick at
   learning; so did Parson Dale, and wanted him to go to Collidge and
   make a Figur,--then all would cum out. It would be my death, sir; I
   could not sleep in my grave, sir. Nora, that we were all so proud
   of. Sinful creturs that we are! Nora’s good name that we’ve saved,
   now gone, gone. And Richard, who is so grand, and who was so fond
   of pore, pore Nora! He would not hold up his Head again. Don’t let
   him make a Figur in the world; let him be a tradesman, as we were
   afore him,--any trade he takes to,--and not cross us no more while
   he lives. Then I shall pray for him, and wish him happy. And have
   not we had enuff of bringing up children to be above their birth?
   Nora, that I used to say was like the first lady o’ the land-oh, but
   we were rightly punished! So now, sir, I leave all to you, and will
   Pay all you want for the boy. And be sure that the secret’s kept.
   For we have never heard from the father, and, at leest, no one knows
   that Nora has a living son but I and my daughter Jane, and Parson
   Dale and you--and you Two are good Gentlemen--and Jane will keep her
   word, and I am old, and shall be in my grave Soon, but I hope it
   won’t be while pore John needs me. What could he do without me?
   And if that got wind, it would kill me straght, sir. Pore John is a
   helpless cretur, God bless him. So no more from your servant in all
   dooty,

               M. AVENEL.

Leonard laid down this letter very calmly, and, except by a slight
heaving at his breast, and a deathlike whiteness of his lips, the
emotions he felt were undetected. And it is a proof how much exquisite
goodness there was in his heart that the first words he spoke were,
“Thank Heaven!”

The doctor did not expect that thanksgiving, and he was so startled that
he exclaimed, “For what?”

“I have nothing to pity or excuse in the woman I knew and honoured as a
mother. I am not her son--her-” He stopped short.

“No: but don’t be hard on your true mother,--poor Nora!”

Leonard staggered, and then burst into a sudden paroxysm of tears.

“Oh, my own mother! my dead mother! Thou for whom I felt so mysterious a
love,--thou from whom I took this poet soul! pardon me, pardon me! Hard
on thee! Would that thou wert living yet, that I might comfort thee!
What thou must have suffered!”

These words were sobbed forth in broken gasps from the depth of his
heart. Then he caught up the letter again, and his thoughts were changed
as his eyes fell upon the writer’s shame and fear, as it were, of his
very existence. All his native haughtiness returned to him. His crest
rose, his tears dried. “Tell her,” he said, with astern, unfaltering
voice, “tell Mrs. Avenel that she is obeyed; that I will never seek her
roof, never cross her path, never disgrace her wealthy son. But tell
her, also, that I will choose my own way in life,--that I will not take
from her a bribe for concealment. Tell her that I am nameless, and will
yet make a name.”

A name! Was this but an idle boast, or was it one of those flashes of
conviction which are never belied, lighting up our future for one lurid
instant, and then fading into darkness?

“I do not doubt it, my prave poy,” said Dr. Morgan, growing exceedingly
Welsh in his excitement; “and perhaps you may find a father, who--”

“Father! who is he, what is he? He lives, then! But he has deserted
me,--he must have betrayed her! I need him not. The law gives me no
father.”

The last words were said with a return of bitter anguish: then, in a
calmer tone, he resumed, “But I should know who he is--as another one
whose path I may not cross.”

Dr. Morgan looked embarrassed, and paused in deliberation. “Nay,” said
he, at length, “as you know so much, it is surely best that you should
know all.”

The doctor then proceeded to detail, with some circumlocution, what we
will here repeat from his account more succinctly.

Nora Avenel, while yet very young, left her native village, or rather
the house of Lady Lansinere, by whom she had been educated and brought
up, in order to accept the place of companion to a lady in London. One
evening she suddenly presented herself at her father’s house, and at
the first sight of her mother’s face she fell down insensible. She was
carried to bed. Dr. Morgan (then the chief medical practitioner of the
town) was sent for. That night Leonard came into the world, and his
mother died. She never recovered her senses, never spoke intelligibly
from the time she entered the house. “And never, therefore, named your
father,” said Dr. Morgan. “We knew not who he was.”

“And how,” cried Leonard, fiercely,--“how have they dared to slander
this dead mother? How knew they that I--was--was--was not the child of
wedlock?”

“There was no wedding-ring on Nora’s finger, never any rumour of her
marriage; her strange and sudden appearance at her father’s house; her
emotions on entrance, so unlike those natural to a wife returning to a
parent’s home,--these are all the evidence against her. But Mrs. Avenel
deemed them strong, and so did I. You have a right to think we judged
too harshly,--perhaps we did.”

“And no inquiries were ever made?” said Leonard, mournfully, and after
a long silence,--“no inquiries to learn who was the father of the
motherless child?”

“Inquiries! Mrs. Avenel would have died first. Your grandmother’s nature
is very rigid. Had she come from princes, from Cadwallader himself,”
 said the Welshman, “she could not more have shrunk from the thought of
dishonour. Even over her dead child, the child she had loved the best,
she thought but how to save that child’s name and memory from suspicion.
There was luckily no servant in the house, only Mark Fairfield and his
wife (Nora’s sister): they had arrived the same day on a visit.

“Mrs. Fairfield was nursing her own infant two or three months old; she
took charge of you; Nora was buried and the secret kept. None out of the
family knew of it but myself and the curate of the town,--Mr. Dale. The
day after your birth, Mrs. Fairfield, to prevent discovery, moved to a
village at some distance. There her child died; and when she returned to
Hazeldean, where her husband was settled, you passed as the son she had
lost. Mark, I know, was as a father to you, for he had loved Nora: they
had been children together.”

“And she came to London,--London is strong and cruel,” muttered Leonard.
“She was friendless and deceived. I see all,--I desire to know no more.
This father--he must in deed have been like those whom I have read of in
books. To love, to wrong her,--that I can conceive; but then to leave,
to abandon; no visit to her grave, no remorse, no search for his own
child. Well, well; Mrs. Avenel was right. Let us think of him no more.”

The man-servant knocked at the door, and then put in his head. “Sir, the
ladies are getting very impatient, and say they’ll go.”

“Sir,” said Leonard, with a strange calm return to the things about him,
“I ask your pardon for taking up your time so long. I go now. I will
never mention to my moth--I mean to Mrs. Fairfield--what I have learned,
nor to any one. I will work my way somehow. If Mr. Prickett will keep
me, I will stay with him at present; but I repeat, I cannot take Mrs.
Avenel’s money and be bound apprentice. Sir, you have been good and
patient with me,--Heaven reward you.”

The doctor was too moved to answer. He wrung Leonard’s hand, and in
another minute the door closed upon the nameless boy. He stood alone
in the streets of London; and the sun flashed on him, red and menacing,
like the eye of a foe!



CHAPTER XIX.

Leonard did not appear at the shop of Mr. Prickett that day. Needless it
is to say where he wandered, what he suffered, what thought, what felt.
All within was storm. Late at night he returned to his solitary lodging.
On his table, neglected since the morning, was Helen’s rose-tree. It
looked parched and fading. His heart smote him: he watered the poor
plant,--perhaps with his tears.

Meanwhile Dr. Morgan, after some debate with himself whether or not
to apprise Mrs. Avenel of Leonard’s discovery and message, resolved to
spare her an uneasiness and alarm that might be dangerous to her health,
and unnecessary in itself. He replied shortly, that she need not fear
Leonard’s coming to her house; that he was disinclined to bind himself
an apprentice, but that he was provided for at present; and in a few
weeks, when Dr. Morgan heard more of him through the tradesman by whom
he was employed, the doctor would write to her from Germany. He then
went to Mr. Prickett’s, told the willing bookseller to keep the young
man for the present,--to be kind to him, watch over his habits and
conduct, and report to the doctor in his new home, on the Rhine, what
avocation he thought Leonard would be best suited for, and most inclined
to adopt. The charitable Welshman divided with the bookseller the salary
given to Leonard, and left a quarter of his moiety in advance. It is
true that he knew he should be repaid on applying to Mrs. Avenel;
but being a man of independent spirit himself, he so sympathized with
Leonard’s present feelings, that he felt as if he should degrade the boy
did he maintain him, even secretly, out of Mrs. Avenel’s money,--money
intended not to raise, but keep him down in life. At the worst, it was a
sum the doctor could afford, and he had brought the boy into the world.
Having thus, as he thought, safely provided for his two young charges,
Helen and Leonard, the doctor then gave himself up to his final
preparations for departure. He left a short note for Leonard with Mr.
Prickett, containing some brief advice, some kind cheering; a
postscript to the effect that he had not communicated to Mrs. Avenel the
information Leonard had acquired, and that it were best to leave her in
that ignorance; and six small powders to be dissolved in water, and
a teaspoonful every fourth hour,--“Sovereign against rage and sombre
thoughts,” wrote the doctor.

By the evening of the next day Dr. Morgan, accompanied by his pet
patient with the chronic tic, whom he had talked into exile, was on the
steamboat on his way to Ostend.

Leonard resumed his life at Mr. Prickett’s; but the change in him did
not escape the bookseller. All his ingenuous simplicity had deserted
him. He was very distant and very taciturn; he seemed to have grown much
older. I shall not attempt to analyze metaphysically this change. By
the help of such words as Leonard may himself occasionally let fall, the
reader will dive into the boy’s heart, and see how there the change had
worked, and is working still. The happy, dreamy peasant-genius gazing on
Glory with inebriate, undazzled eyes is no more. It is a man, suddenly
cut off from the old household holy ties,--conscious of great powers,
and confronted on all sides by barriers of iron, alone with hard Reality
and scornful London; and if he catches a glimpse of the lost Helicon, he
sees, where he saw the Muse, a pale melancholy spirit veiling its face
in shame,--the ghost of the mournful mother, whose child has no name,
not even the humblest, among the family of men.

On the second evening after Dr. Morgan’s departure, as Leonard was just
about to leave the shop, a customer stepped in with a book in his hand,
which he had snatched from the shop-boy, who was removing the volumes
for the night from the booth without.

“Mr. Prickett, Mr. Prickett!” said the customer, “I am ashamed of you.
You presume to put upon this work, in two volumes, the sum of eight
shillings.”

Mr. Prickett stepped forth from the Cimmerian gloom of some recess, and
cried, “What! Mr. Burley, is that you? But for your voice, I should not
have known you.”

“Man is like a book, Mr. Prickett; the commonalty only look to his
binding. I am better bound, it is very true.” Leonard glanced towards
the speaker, who now stood under the gas-lamp, and thought he recognized
his face. He looked again. Yes; it was the perch-fisher whom he had met
on the banks of the Brent, and who had warned him of the lost fish and
the broken line.

MR. BURLEY (continuing).--“But the ‘Art of Thinking’!--you charge eight
shillings for the ‘Art of Thinking.’”

MR. PRICKETT.--“Cheap enough, Mr. Burley. A very clean copy.”

MR. BURLEY.--“Usurer! I sold it to you for three shillings. It is more
than one hundred and fifty per cent you propose to gain from my ‘Art of
Thinking.’”

MR. PRICKETT (stuttering and taken aback).--“You sold it to me! Ah,
now I remember. But it was more than three shillings I gave. You
forget,--two glasses of brandy-and-water.”

MR. BURLEY.--“Hospitality, sir, is not to be priced. If you sell your
hospitality, you are not worthy to possess my ‘Art of Thinking.’ I
resume it. There are three shillings, and a shilling more for interest.
No; on second thoughts, instead of that shilling, I will return your
hospitality: and the first time you come my way you shall have two
glasses of brandy-and-water.”

Mr. Prickett did not look pleased, but he made no objection; and Mr.
Burley put the book into his pocket, and turned to examine the
shelves. He bought an old jest-book, a stray volume of the Comedies
of Destouches, paid for them, put them also into his pocket, and was
sauntering out, when he perceived Leonard, who was now standing at the
doorway.

“Hem! who is that?” he asked, whispering Mr. Prickett. “A young
assistant of mine, and very clever.”

Mr. Burley scanned Leonard from top to toe.

“We have met before, sir. But you look as if you had returned to the
Brent, and been fishing for my perch.”

“Possibly, sir,” answered Leonard. “But my line is tough, and is not yet
broken, though the fish drags it amongst the weeds, and buries itself in
the mud.”

He lifted his hat, bowed slightly, and walked on.

“He is clever,” said Mr. Burley to the bookseller: “he understands
allegory.”

MR. PRICKETT.--“Poor youth! He came to town with the idea of turning
author: you know what that is, Mr. Burley.”

MR. BURLEY (with an air of superb dignity).--“Bibliopole, yes! An author
is a being between gods and men, who ought to be lodged in a palace, and
entertained at the public charge upon ortolans and Tokay. He should be
kept lapped in down, and curtained with silken awnings from the cares
of life, have nothing to do but to write books upon tables of cedar, and
fish for perch from a gilded galley. And that ‘s what will come to
pass when the ages lose their barbarism and know their benefactors.
Meanwhile, sir, I invite you to my rooms, and will regale you upon
brandy-and-water as long as I can pay for it; and when I cannot--you
shall regale me.”

Mr. Prickett muttered, “A very bad bargain indeed,” as Mr. Burley, with
his chin in the air, stepped into the street.



CHAPTER XX.

At first Leonard had always returned home through the crowded
thoroughfares,--the contact of numbers had animated his spirits. But the
last two days, since the discovery of his birth, he had taken his way
down the comparatively unpeopled path of the New Road.

He had just gained that part of this outskirt in which the statuaries
and tomb-makers exhibit their gloomy wares, furniture alike for gardens
and for graves,--and, pausing, contemplated a column, on which was
placed an urn, half covered with a funeral mantle, when his shoulder was
lightly tapped, and, turning quickly, he saw Mr. Burley standing behind
him.

“Excuse me, sir, but you understand perch-fishing; and since we find
ourselves on the same road, I should like to be better acquainted with
you. I hear you once wished to be an author. I am one.”

Leonard had never before, to his knowledge, seen an author, and a
mournful smile passed his lips as he surveyed the perch-fisher.

Mr. Burley was indeed very differently attired since the first interview
by the brooklet. He looked much less like an author,--but more perhaps
like a perch-fisher. He had a new white hat, stuck on one side of his
head, a new green overcoat, new gray trousers, and new boots. In his
hand was a whalebone stick, with a silver handle. Nothing could be more
vagrant, devil-me-Garish, and, to use a slang word, tigerish, than
his whole air. Yet, vulgar as was his costume, he did not himself seem
vulgar, but rather eccentric, lawless,--something out of the pale of
convention. His face looked more pale and more puffed than before,
the tip of his nose redder; but the spark in his eye was of a livelier
light, and there was self-enjoyment in the corners of his sensual,
humorous lip.

“You are an author, sir,” repeated Leonard. “Well; and what is your
report of the calling? Yonder column props an urn. The column is tall,
and the urn is graceful. But it looks out of place by the roadside: what
say you?”

MR. BURLEY.--“It would look better in the churchyard.”

LEONARD.--“So I was thinking. And you are an author!”

MR. BURLEY.--“Ah, I said you had a quick sense of allegory. And so you
think an author looks better in a churchyard, when you see him but as a
muffled urn under the moonshine, than standing beneath the gas-lamp in a
white hat, and with a red tip to his nose. Abstractedly, you are right.
But, with your leave, the author would rather be where he is. Let us
walk on.” The two men felt an interest in each other, and they walked
some yards in silence.

“To return to the urn,” said Mr. Burley,--“you think of fame and
churchyards. Natural enough, before illusion dies; but I think of the
moment, of existence,--and I laugh at fame. Fame, sir--not worth a
glass of cold-without! And as for a glass of warm, with sugar--and five
shillings in one’s pocket to spend as one pleases--what is there in
Westminster Abbey to compare with it?”

“Talk on, sir,--I should like to hear you talk. Let me listen and hold
my tongue.” Leonard pulled his hat over his brows, and gave up his
moody, questioning, turbulent mind to his new acquaintance.

And John Burley talked on. A dangerous and fascinating talk it was,--the
talk of a great intellect fallen; a serpent trailing its length on the
ground, and showing bright, shifting, glorious hues, as it grovelled,--a
serpent, yet without the serpent’s guile. If John Burley deceived and
tempted, he meant it not,--he crawled and glittered alike honestly. No
dove could be more simple.

Laughing at fame, he yet dwelt with an eloquent enthusiasm on the joy
of composition. “What do I care what men without are to say and think
of the words that gush forth on my page?” cried he. “If you think of the
public, of urns, and laurels, while you write, you are no genius; you
are not fit to be an author. I write because it rejoices me, because it
is my nature. Written, I care no more what becomes of it than the lark
for the effect that the song has on the peasant it wakes to the plough.
The poet, like the lark, sings ‘from his watch-tower in the skies.’ Is
this true?”

“Yes, very true!”

“What can rob us of this joy? The bookseller will not buy; the
public will not read. Let them sleep at the foot of the ladder of the
angels,--we climb it all the same. And then one settles down into such
good-tempered Lucianic contempt for men. One wants so little from them,
when one knows what one’s self is worth, and what they are. They are
just worth the coin one can extract from them, in order to live.

“Our life--that is worth so much to us. And then their joys, so vulgar
to them, we can make them golden and kingly. Do you suppose Burns
drinking at the alehouse, with his boors around him, was drinking, like
them, only beer and whiskey? No, he was drinking nectar; he was imbibing
his own ambrosial thoughts,--shaking with the laughter of the gods.
The coarse human liquid was just needed to unlock his spirit from the
clay,--take it from jerkin and corduroys, and wrap it in the ‘singing
robes’ that floated wide in the skies: the beer or the whiskey needed
but for that, and then it changed at once into the drink of Hebe. But
come, you have not known this life,--you have not seen it. Come, give
me this night. I have moneys about me,--I will fling them abroad as
liberally as Alexander himself, when he left to his share but hope.
Come!”

“Whither?”

“To my throne. On that throne last sat Edmund Kean, mighty mime! I am
his successor. We will see whether in truth these wild sons of genius,
who are cited but ‘to point a moral and adorn a tale,’ were objects of
compassion. Sober-suited tits to lament over a Savage or a Morland, a
Porson and a Burns!”

“Or a Chatterton,” said Leonard, gloomily.

“Chatterton was an impostor in all things; he feigned excesses that he
never knew. He a bacchanalian, a royster! HE! No. We will talk of him.
Come!”

Leonard went.



CHAPTER XXI.

The Room! And the smoke-reek, and the gas glare of it! The whitewash of
the walls, and the prints thereon of the actors in their mime-robes, and
stage postures,--actors as far back as their own lost Augustan era, when
the stage was a real living influence on the manners and the age! There
was Betterton, in wig and gown,--as Cato, moralizing on the soul’s
eternity, and halting between Plato and the dagger. There was Woodward
as “The Fine Gentleman,” with the inimitable rake-hell in which the
heroes of Wycherly and Congreve and Farquhar live again. There was
jovial Quin as Falstaff, with round buckler and “fair round belly.”
 There was Colley Cibber in brocade, taking snuff as with “his Lord,”
 the thumb and forefinger raised in air, and looking at you for applause.
There was Macklin as Shylock, with knife in hand: and Kemble in the
solemn weeds of the Dane; and Kean in the place of honour over the
chimneypiece.

When we are suddenly taken from practical life, with its real workday
men, and presented to the portraits of those sole heroes of a world
Fantastic and Phantasmal, in the garments wherein they did “strut and
fret their hour upon the stage,” verily there is something in the sight
that moves an inner sense within ourselves,--for all of us have an inner
sense of some existence, apart from the one that wears away our days:
an existence that, afar from St. James’s and St. Giles’s, the Law Courts
and Exchange, goes its way in terror or mirth, in smiles or in tears,
through a vague magic-land of the poets. There, see those actors--they
are the men who lived it--to whom our world was the false one, to whom
the Imaginary was the Actual! And did Shakspeare himself, in his life,
ever hearken to such applause as thundered round the personators of his
airy images? Vague children of the most transient of the arts, fleet
shadows on running waters, though thrown down from the steadfast stars,
were ye not happier than we who live in the Real? How strange you
must feel in the great circuit that ye now take through eternity! No
prompt-books, no lamps, no acting Congreve and Shakspeare there! For
what parts in the skies have your studies on the earth fitted you? Your
ultimate destinies are very puzzling. Hail to your effigies, and pass we
on!

There, too, on the whitewashed walls, were admitted the portraits of
ruder rivals in the arena of fame,--yet they, too, had known an
applause warmer than his age gave to Shakspeare; the Champions of the
Ring,--Cribb and Molyneux and Dutch Sam. Interspersed with these was an
old print of Newmarket in the early part of the last century, and sundry
engravings from Hogarth. But poets, oh, they were there too! poets who
might be supposed to have been sufficiently good fellows to be at home
with such companions,--Shakspeare, of course, with his placid forehead;
Ben Jonson, with his heavy scowl; Burns and Byron cheek by jowl. But
the strangest of all these heterogeneous specimens of graphic art was
a full-length print of William Pitt!--William Pitt, the austere and
imperious. What the deuce did he do there amongst prize-fighters and
actors and poets? It seemed an insult to his grand memory. Nevertheless
there he was, very erect, and with a look of ineffable disgust in his
upturned nostrils. The portraits on the sordid walls were very like the
crambo in the minds of ordinary men,--very like the motley pictures
of the FAMOUS hung up in your parlour, O my Public! Actors and
prize-fighters, poets and statesmen, all without congruity and fitness,
all whom you have been to see or to hear for a moment, and whose names
have stared out in your newspapers, O my public!

And the company? Indescribable! Comedians, from small theatres, out of
employ; pale, haggard-looking boys, probably the sons of worthy traders,
trying their best to break their fathers’ hearts; here and there the
marked features of a Jew. Now and then you might see the curious puzzled
face of some greenhorn about town, or perhaps a Cantab; and men of grave
age, and grayhaired, were there, and amongst them a wondrous proportion
of carbuncled faces and bottle-noses. And when John Burley entered,
there was a shout that made William Pitt shake in his frame. Such
stamping and hallooing, and such hurrahs for “Burley John.” And the
gentleman who had filled the great high leathern chair in his absence
gave it up to John Burley; and Leonard, with his grave, observant eye,
and lip half sad and half scornful, placed himself by the side of his
introducer. There was a nameless, expectant stir through the assembly,
as there is in the pit of the opera when some great singer advances to
the lamps, and begins, “Di tanti palpiti.” Time flies. Look at the Dutch
clock over the door. Half-an-hour. John Burley begins to warm. A yet
quicker light begins to break from his Eye; his voice has a mellow
luscious roll in it.

“He will be grand to-night,” whispered a thin man, who looked like a
tailor, seated on the other side of Leonard. Time flies,--an hour. Look
again at the Dutch clock. John Burley is grand, he is in his zenith, at
his culminating point. What magnificent drollery! what luxuriant humour!
How the Rabelais shakes in his easy-chair! Under the rush and the roar
of this fun (what word else shall describe it?) the man’s intellect is
as clear as gold sand under a river. Such wit and such truth, and, at
times, such a flood of quick eloquence! All now are listeners,--silent,
save in applause.

And Leonard listened too. Not, as he would some nights ago, in innocent
unquestioning delight. No; his mind has passed through great sorrow,
great passion, and it comes out unsettled, inquiring, eager, brooding
over joy itself as over a problem. And the drink circulates, and faces
change; and there are gabbling and babbling; and Burley’s head sinks
in his bosom, and he is silent. And up starts a wild, dissolute,
bacchanalian glee for seven voices. And the smoke-reek grows denser
and thicker, and the gaslight looks dizzy through the haze. And John
Burley’s eyes reel.

Look again at the Dutch clock. Two hours have gone. John Burley has
broken out again from his silence, his voice thick and husky, and his
laugh cracked; and he talks, O ye gods! such rubbish and ribaldry; and
the listeners roar aloud, and think it finer than before. And Leonard,
who had hitherto been measuring himself in his mind against the giant,
and saying inly, “He soars out of my reach,” finds the giant shrink
smaller and smaller, and saith to himself, “He is but of man’s common
standard after all!”

Look again at the Dutch clock. Three hours have passed. Is John Burley
now of man’s common standard? Man himself seems to have vanished from
the scene,--his soul stolen from him, his form gone away with the fumes
of the smoke, and the nauseous steam from that fiery bowl. And Leonard
looked round, and saw but the swine of Circe,--some on the floor, some
staggering against the walls, some hugging each other on the tables,
some fighting, some bawling, some weeping. The divine spark had fled
from the human face; the Beast is everywhere growing more and more out
of the thing that had been Man. And John Burley, still unconquered, but
clean lost to his senses, fancies himself a preacher, and drawls forth
the most lugubrious sermon upon the brevity of life that mortal ever
beard, accompanied with unctuous sobs; and now and then in the midst of
balderdash gleams out a gorgeous sentence, that Jeremy Taylor might have
envied, drivelling away again into a cadence below the rhetoric of
a Muggletonian. And the waiters choked up the doorway, listening and
laughing, and prepared to call cabs and coaches; and suddenly some one
turned off the gaslight, and all was dark as pitch,--howls and laughter,
as of the damned, ringing through the Pandemonium. Out from the black
atmosphere stepped the boy-poet; and the still stars rushed on his
sight, as they looked over the grimy roof-tops.



CHAPTER XXII.

Well, Leonard, this is the first time thou hast shown that thou hast in
thee the iron out of which true manhood is forged and shaped. Thou hast
the power to resist. Forth, unebriate, unpolluted, he came from the
orgy, as yon star above him came from the cloud.

He had a latch-key to his lodgings. He let himself in and walked
noiselessly up the creaking wooden stair. It was dawn. He passed on to
his window and threw it open. The green elm-tree from the carpenter’s
yard looked as fresh and fair as if rooted in solitude, leagues away
from the smoke of Babylon.

“Nature, Nature!” murmured Leonard, “I hear thy voice now. This stills,
this strengthens. But the struggle is very dread. Here, despair of
life,--there, faith in life. Nature thinks of neither, and lives
serenely on.”

By and by a bird slid softly from the heart of the tree, and dropped on
the ground below out of sight. But Leonard heard its carol. It awoke its
companions; wings began to glance in the air, and the clouds grew red
towards the east.

Leonard sighed and left the window. On the table, near Helen’s
rose-tree, which he bent over wistfully, lay a letter. He had not
observed it before. It was in Helen’s hand. He took it to the light, and
read it by the pure, healthful gleams of morn:--

   IVY LODGE.

   Oh, my dear brother Leonard, will this find you well, and (more
   happy I dare not say, but) less sad than when we parted? I write
   kneeling, so that it seems to me as if I wrote and prayed at the
   same time. You may come and see me to-morrow evening, Leonard. Do
   come, do,--we shall walk together in this pretty garden; and there
   is an arbour all covered with jessamine and honeysuckle, from which
   we can look down on London. I have looked from it so many times,--
   so many--trying if I can guess the roofs in our poor little street,
   and fancying that I do see the dear elm-tree.

   Miss Starke is very kind to me; and I think after I have seen you,
   that I shall be happy here,--that is, if you are happy.

   Your own grateful sister,

   HELEN.

   P. S.--Any one will direct you to our house; it lies to the left
   near the top of the hill, a little way down a lane that is overhung
   on one side with chestnut-trees and lilacs. I shall be watching for
   you at the gate.

Leonard’s brow softened, he looked again like his former self. Up from
the dark sea at his heart smiled the meek face of a child, and the waves
lay still as at the charm of a spirit.



CHAPTER XXIII.

“And what is Mr. Burley, and what has he written?” asked Leonard of Mr.
Prickett, when he returned to the shop.

Let us reply to that question in our own words, for we know more about
Mr. Burley than Mr. Prickett does.

John Burley was the only son of a poor clergyman, in a village near
Ealing, who had scraped and saved and pinched, to send his son to an
excellent provincial school in a northern county, and thence to college.
At the latter, during his first year, young Burley was remarked by the
undergraduates for his thick shoes and coarse linen, and remarkable to
the authorities for his assiduity and learning. The highest hopes were
entertained of him by the tutors and examiners. At the beginning of the
second year his high animal spirits, before kept down by study, broke
out. Reading had become easy to him. He knocked off his tasks with a
facile stroke, as it were. He gave up his leisure hours to Symposia by
no means Socratical. He fell into an idle, hard-drinking set. He got
into all kinds of scrapes. The authorities were at first kind and
forbearing in their admonitions, for they respected his abilities, and
still hoped he might become an honour to the University. But at last
he went drunk into a formal examination, and sent in papers, after
the manner of Aristophanes, containing capital jokes upon the Dons and
Big-wigs themselves. The offence was the greater and seemed the more
premeditated for being clothed in Greek. John Burley was expelled. He
went home to his father’s a miserable man, for, with all his follies,
he had a good heart. Removed from ill example, his life for a year was
blameless. He got admitted as usher into the school in which he had
received instruction as a pupil. This school was in a large town. John
Burley became member of a club formed among the tradesmen, and
spent three evenings a week there. His astonishing convivial and
conversational powers began to declare themselves. He grew the oracle
of the club; and, from being the most sober, peaceful assembly in which
grave fathers of a family ever smoked a pipe or sipped a glass, it
grew under Mr. Burley’s auspices the parent of revels as frolicking and
frantic as those out of which the old Greek Goat Song ever tipsily rose.
This would not do. There was a great riot in the streets one night, and
the next morning the usher was dismissed. Fortunately for John Burley’s
conscience, his father had died before this happened,--died believing
in the reform of his son. During his ushership Mr. Burley had scraped
acquaintance with the editor of the county newspaper, and given him
some capital political articles; for Burley was, like Parr and Porson,
a notable politician. The editor furnished him with letters to the
journalists in London, and John came to the metropolis and got employed
on a very respectable newspaper. At college he had known Audley Egerton,
though but slightly: that gentleman was then just rising into repute in
parliament. Burley sympathized with some question on which Audley
had distinguished himself, and wrote a very good article thereon,--an
article so good that Egerton inquired into the authorship, found out
Burley, and resolved in his own mind to provide for him whenever he
himself came into office. But Burley was a man whom it was impossible to
provide for. He soon lost his connection with the news paper. First, he
was so irregular that he could never be depended upon. Secondly, he had
strange, honest, eccentric twists of thinking, that could coalesce
with the thoughts of no party in the long run. An article of his,
inadvertently admitted, had horrified all the proprietors, staff, and
readers of the paper. It was diametrically opposite to the principles
the paper advocated, and compared its pet politician to Catiline. Then
John Burley shut himself up and wrote books. He wrote two or three
books, very clever, but not at all to the popular taste,--abstract and
learned, full of whims that were caviare to the multitude, and larded
with Greek. Nevertheless they obtained for him a little money, and among
literary men some reputation. Now Audley Egerton came into power, and
got him, though with great difficulty,--for there were many prejudices
against this scampish, harum-scarum son of the Muses,--a place in a
public office. He kept it about a month, and then voluntarily resigned
it. “My crust of bread and liberty!” quoth John Burley, and he vanished
into a garret. From that time to the present he lived--Heaven knows how!
Literature is a business, like everything else; John Burley grew more
and more incapable of business. “He could not do task-work,” he said; he
wrote when the whim seized him, or when the last penny was in his pouch,
or when he was actually in the spunging-house or the Fleet,--migrations
which occurred to him, on an average, twice a year. He could generally
sell what he had actually written, but no one would engage him
beforehand. Editors of magazines and other periodicals were very glad
to have his articles, on the condition that they were anonymous; and
his style was not necessarily detected, for he could vary it with
the facility of a practised pen. Audley Egerton continued his best
supporter, for there were certain questions on which no one wrote with
such force as John Burley,--questions connected with the metaphysics of
politics, such as law reform and economical science. And Audley Egerton
was the only man John Burley put himself out of the way to serve, and
for whom he would give up a drinking bout and do task-work; for John
Burley was grateful by nature, and he felt that Egerton had really tried
to befriend him. Indeed, it was true, as he had stated to Leonard by the
Brent, that even after he had resigned his desk in the London office,
he had had the offer of an appointment in Jamaica, and a place in India,
from the minister. But probably there were other charms then than those
exercised by the one-eyed perch that kept him to the neighbourhood of
London. With all his grave faults of character and conduct, John Burley
was not without the fine qualities of a large nature. He was most
resolutely his own enemy, it is true, but he could hardly be said to be
any one else’s. Even when he criticised some more fortunate writer, he
was good-humoured in his very satire: he had no bile, no envy. And as
for freedom from malignant personalities, he might have been a model to
all critics. I must except politics, however, for in these he could
be rabid and savage. He had a passion for independence, which, though
pushed to excess, was not without grandeur. No lick-platter, no
parasite, no toad-eater, no literary beggar, no hunter after patronage
and subscriptions; even in his dealings with Audley Egerton, he insisted
on naming the price for his labours. He took a price, because, as the
papers required by Audley demanded much reading and detail, which
was not at all to his taste, he considered himself entitled fairly
to something more than the editor of the journal wherein the papers
appeared was in the habit of giving. But he assessed this extra price
himself, and as he would have done to a bookseller. And when in debt and
in prison, though he knew a line to Egerton would have extricated him,
he never wrote that line. He would depend alone on his pen,--dipped it
hastily in the ink, and scrawled himself free. The most debased point
about him was certainly the incorrigible vice of drinking, and with it
the usual concomitant of that vice,--the love of low company. To be King
of the Bohemians, to dazzle by his wild humour, and sometimes to exalt
by his fanciful eloquence, the rude, gross natures that gathered round
him,--this was a royalty that repaid him for all sacrifice of solid
dignity; a foolscap crown that he would not have changed for an
emperor’s diadem. Indeed, to appreciate rightly the talents of John
Burley, it was necessary to hear him talk on such occasions. As a
writer, after all, he was now only capable of unequal desultory efforts;
but as a talker, in his own wild way, he was original and matchless. And
the gift of talk is one of the most dangerous gifts a man can possess
for his own sake,--the applause is so immediate, and gained with so
little labour. Lower and lower and lower had sunk John Burley, not only
in the opinion of all who knew his name, but in the habitual exercise of
his talents. And this seemed wilfully--from choice. He would write for
some unstamped journal of the populace, out of the pale of the law, for
pence, when he could have got pounds from journals of high repute. He
was very fond of scribbling off penny ballads, and then standing in the
street to hear them sung. He actually once made himself the poet of an
advertising tailor, and enjoyed it excessively. But that did not last
long, for John Burley was a Pittite,--not a Tory, he used to say, but
a Pittite. And if you had heard him talk of Pitt, you would never have
known what to make of that great statesman. He treated him as the German
commentators do Shakspeare, and invested him with all imaginary meanings
and objects, that would have turned the grand practical man into a
sibyl. Well, he was a Pittite; the tailor a fanatic for Thelwall and
Cobbett. Mr. Burley wrote a poem wherein Britannia appeared to the
tailor, complimented him highly on the art he exhibited in adorning the
persons of her sons; and bestowing upon him a gigantic mantle, said that
he, and he alone, might be enabled to fit it to the shoulders of living
men. The rest of the poem was occupied in Mr. Snip’s unavailing attempts
to adjust this mantle to the eminent politicians of the day, when,
just as he had sunk down in despair, Britannia reappeared to him, and
consoled him with the information that he had done all mortal man could
do, and that she had only desired to convince pigmies that no human art
could adjust to THEIR proportions the mantle of William Pitt. Sic itur
ad astra,--she went back to the stars, mantle and all! Mr. Snip was
exceedingly indignant at this allegorical effusion, and with wrathful
shears cut the tie between himself and his poet.

Thus, then, the reader has, we trust, a pretty good idea of John
Burley,--a specimen of his genus not very common in any age, and now
happily almost extinct, since authors of all degrees share in the
general improvement in order, economy, and sober decorum, which has
obtained in the national manners. Mr. Prickett, though entering
into less historical detail than we have done, conveyed to Leonard a
tolerably accurate notion of the man, representing him as a person of
great powers and learning, who had thoroughly thrown himself away.

Leonard did not, however, see how much Mr. Burley himself was to be
blamed for his waste of life; he could not conceive a man of genius
voluntarily seating himself at the lowest step in the social ladder. He
rather supposed he had been thrust down there by Necessity.

And when Mr. Prickett, concluding, said, “Well, I should think Burley
would cure you of the desire to be an author even more than Chatterton,”
 the young man answered gloomily, “Perhaps,” and turned to the
book-shelves.

With Mr. Prickett’s consent, Leonard was released earlier than usual
from his task, and a little before sunset he took his way to Highgate.
He was fortunately directed to take the new road by the Regent’s Park,
and so on through a very green and smiling country. The walk, the
freshness of the air, the songs of the birds, and, above all, when he
had got half-way, the solitude of the road, served to rouse him from his
stern and sombre meditations. And when he came into the lane overhung
with chestnut-trees, and suddenly caught sight of Helen’s watchful and
then brightening face, as she stood by the wicket, and under the shadow
of cool, murmurous boughs, the blood rushed gayly through his veins, and
his heart beat loud and gratefully.



CHAPTER XXIV.

She drew him into the garden with such true childlike joy. Now behold
them seated in the arbour,--a perfect bower of sweets and blossoms;
the wilderness of roof-tops and spires stretching below, broad and far;
London seen dim and silent, as in a dream.

She took his hat from his brows gently, and looked him in the face with
tearful penetrating eyes.

She did not say, “You are changed.” She said, “Why, why did I leave
you?” and then turned away.

“Never mind me, Helen. I am man, and rudely born; speak of yourself.
This lady is kind to you, then?”

“Does she not let me see you? Oh, very kind,--and look here.”

Helen pointed to fruits and cakes set out on the table. “A feast,
brother.”

And she began to press her hospitality with pretty winning ways, more
playful than was usual to her, and talking very fast, and with forced,
but silvery, laughter.

By degrees she stole him from his gloom and reserve; and though he could
not reveal to her the cause of his bitterest sorrow, he owned that he
had suffered much. He would not have owned that to another living being.
And then, quickly turning from this brief confession, with assurances
that the worst was over, he sought to amuse her by speaking of his new
acquaintance with the perch-fisher. But when he spoke of this man with
a kind of reluctant admiration, mixed with compassionate yet gloomy
interest, and drew a grotesque, though subdued, sketch of the wild scene
in which he had been spectator, Helen grew alarmed and grave.

“Oh, brother, do not go there again,--do not see more of this bad man.”

“Bad!--no! Hopeless and unhappy, he has stooped to stimulants and
oblivion--but you cannot understand these things, my pretty preacher.”

“Yes, I do, Leonard. What is the difference between being good and bad?
The good do not yield to temptations, and the bad do.”

The definition was so simple and so wise that Leonard was more struck
with it than he might have been by the most elaborate sermon by Parson
Dale.

“I have often murmured to myself since I lost you, ‘Helen was my good
angel; ‘--say on. For my heart is dark to myself, and while you speak
light seems to dawn on it.”

This praise so confused Helen that she was long before she could obey
the command annexed to it. But, by little and little, words came to
both more frankly. And then he told her the sad tale of Chatterton, and
waited, anxious to hear her comments.

“Well,” he said, seeing that she remained silent, “how can I hope, when
this mighty genius laboured and despaired? What did he want, save birth
and fortune and friends and human justice?”

“Did he pray to God?” asked Helen, drying her tears. Again Leonard was
startled. In reading the life of Chatterton he had not much noted
the scepticism, assumed or real, of the ill-fated aspirer to earthly
immortality. At Helen’s question, that scepticism struck him forcibly.
“Why do you ask that, Helen?”

“Because, when we pray often, we grow so very, very patient,” answered
the child. “Perhaps, had he been patient a few months more, all would
have been won by him, as it will be by you, brother, for you pray, and
you will be patient.”

Leonard bowed his head in deep thought, and this time the thought was
not gloomy. Then out from that awful life there glowed another passage,
which before he had not heeded duly, but regarded rather as one of the
darkest mysteries in the fate of Chatterton.

At the very time the despairing poet had locked himself up in his
garret, to dismiss his soul from its earthly ordeal, his genius had just
found its way into the light of renown. Good and learned and powerful
men were preparing to serve and save him. Another year--nay, perchance
another month--and he might have stood acknowledged sublime in the
foremost ranks of his age.

“Oh, Helen!” cried Leonard, raising his brows, from which the cloud had
passed, “why, indeed, did you leave me?”

Helen started in her turn as he repeated this regret, and in her turn
grew thoughtful. At length she asked him if he had written for the box
which had belonged to her father and been left at the inn.

And Leonard, though a little chafed at what he thought a childish
interruption to themes of graver interest, owned, with self-reproach,
that he had forgotten to do so. Should he not write now to order the box
to be sent to her at Miss Starke’s?

“No; let it be sent to you. Take care of it. I should like to know that
something of mine is with you; and perhaps I may not stay here long.”

“Not stay here? That you must, my dear Helen,--at least as long as
Miss Starke will keep you, and is kind. By and by” (added Leonard, with
something of his former sanguine tone) “I may yet make my way, and we
shall have our cottage to ourselves. But--oh, Helen!--I forgot--you
wounded me; you left your money with me. I only found it in my drawers
the other day. Fie! I have brought it back.”

“It was not mine,--it is yours. We were to share together,--you paid
all; and how can I want it here, too?” But Leonard was obstinate; and
as Helen mournfully received back all that of fortune her father had
bequeathed to her, a tall female figure stood at the entrance of the
arbour, and said, in a voice that scattered all sentiment to the winds,
“Young man, it is time to go.”



CHAPTER XXV.

“Already?” said Helen, with faltering accents, as she crept to Miss
Starke’s side while Leonard rose and bowed. “I am very grateful to you,
madam,” said he, with the grace that comes from all refinement of idea,
“for allowing me to see Miss Helen. Do not let me abuse your kindness.”

Miss Starke seemed struck with his look and manner, and made a stiff
half courtesy.

A form more rigid than Miss Starke’s it was hard to conceive. She was
like the Grim White Woman in the nursery ballads. Yet, apparently, there
was a good-nature in allowing the stranger to enter her trim garden,
and providing for him and her little charge those fruits and cakes which
belied her aspect. “May I go with him to the gate?” whispered Helen, as
Leonard had already passed up the path.

“You may, child; but do not loiter. And then come back, and lock up the
cakes and cherries, or Patty will get at them.”

Helen ran after Leonard.

“Write to me, brother,--write to me; and do not, do not be friends with
this man, who took you to that wicked, wicked place.”

“Oh, Helen, I go from you strong enough to brave worse dangers than
that,” said Leonard, almost gayly.

They kissed each other at the little wicket gate, and parted.

Leonard walked home under the summer moonlight, and on entering his
chamber looked first at his rose-tree. The leaves of yesterday’s flowers
lay strewn around it; but the tree had put forth new buds.

“Nature ever restores,” said the young man. He paused a moment, and
added, “Is it that Nature is very patient?” His sleep that night was not
broken by the fearful dreams he had lately known. He rose refreshed,
and went his way to his day’s work,--not stealing along the less
crowded paths, but with a firm step, through the throng of men. Be bold,
adventurer,--thou hast more to suffer! Wilt thou sink? I look into thy
heart, and I cannot answer.



BOOK SEVENTH.



INITIAL CHAPTER.

MR. CAXTON UPON COURAGE AND PATIENCE.

“What is courage?” said my uncle Roland, rousing himself from a revery
into which he had fallen, after the Sixth Book in this history had been
read to our family circle.

“What is courage?” he repeated more earnestly. “Is it insensibility to
fear? That may be the mere accident of constitution; and if so, there is
no more merit in being courageous than in being this table.”

“I am very glad to hear you speak thus,” observed Mr. Caxton, “for I
should not like to consider myself a coward; yet I am very sensible to
fear in all dangers, bodily and moral.”

“La, Austin, how can you say so?” cried my mother, firing up; “was it
not only last week that you faced the great bull that was rushing after
Blanche and the children?”

Blanche at that recollection stole to my father’s chair, and, hanging
over his shoulder, kissed his forehead.

MR. CAXTON (sublimely unmoved by these flatteries).--“I don’t deny that
I faced the bull, but I assert that I was horribly frightened.”

ROLAND.--“The sense of honour which conquers fear is the true courage
of chivalry: you could not run away when others were looking on,--no
gentleman could.”

MR. CAXTON.--“Fiddledee! It was not on my gentility that I stood,
Captain. I should have run fast enough, if it had done any good. I stood
upon my understanding. As the bull could run faster than I could, the
only chance of escape was to make the brute as frightened as myself.”

BLANCHE.--“Ah, you did not think of that; your only thought was to save
me and the children.”

MR. CAXTON.--“Possibly, my dear, very possibly, I might have been afraid
for you too; but I was very much afraid for myself. However, luckily I
had the umbrella, and I sprang it up and spread it forth in the animal’s
stupid eyes, hurling at him simultaneously the biggest lines I could
think of in the First Chorus of the ‘Seven against Thebes.’ I began with
ELEDEMNAS PEDIOPLOKTUPOS; and when I came to the grand howl of [A line
in Greek], the beast stood appalled as at the roar of a lion. I shall
never forget his amazed snort at the Greek. Then he kicked up his hind
legs, and went bolt through the gap in the hedge. Thus, armed with
AEschylus and the umbrella, I remained master of the field; but”
 (continued Mr. Caxton ingenuously) “I should not like to go through that
half-minute again.”

“No man would,” said the captain, kindly. “I should be very sorry to
face a bull myself, even with a bigger umbrella than yours, and even
though I had AEschylus, and Homer to boot, at my fingers’ ends.”

MR. CAXTON.--“You would not have minded if it had been a Frenchman with
a sword in his hand?”

CAPTAIN.--“Of course not. Rather liked it than otherwise,” he added
grimly.

MR. CAXTON.--“Yet many a Spanish matador, who does n’t care a button
for a bull, would take to his heels at the first lunge en carte from a
Frenchman. Therefore, in fact, if courage be a matter of constitution,
it is also a matter of custom. We face calmly the dangers we are
habituated to, and recoil from those of which we have no familiar
experience. I doubt if Marshal Turenue himself would have been quite
at his ease on the tight-rope; and a rope-dancer, who seems disposed to
scale the heavens with Titanic temerity, might possibly object to charge
on a cannon.”

CAPTAIN ROLAND.--“Still, either this is not the courage I mean, or it is
another kind of it. I mean by courage that which is the especial force
and dignity of the human character, without which there is no reliance
on principle, no constancy in virtue,--a something,” continued my uncle,
gallantly, and with a half bow towards my mother, “which your sex shares
with our own. When the lover, for instance, clasps the hand of his
betrothed, and says, ‘Wilt thou be true to me, in spite of absence and
time, in spite of hazard and fortune, though my foes malign me, though
thy friends may dissuade thee, and our lot in life may be rough and
rude?’ and when the betrothed answers, ‘I will be true,’ does not the
lover trust to her courage as well as her love?”

“Admirably put, Roland,” said my father. “But a propos of what do you
puzzle us with these queries on courage?”

CAPTAIN ROLAND (with a slight blush).--“I was led to the inquiry (though
perhaps it may be frivolous to take so much thought of what, no doubt,
costs Pisistratus so little) by the last chapters in my nephew’s story.
I see this poor boy Leonard, alone with his fallen hopes (though very
irrational they were) and his sense of shame. And I read his heart, I
dare say, better than Pisistratus does, for I could feel like that
boy if I had been in the same position; and conjecturing what he and
thousands like him must go through, I asked myself, ‘What can save him
and them?’ I answered, as a soldier would answer, ‘Courage.’ Very well.
But pray; Austin, what is courage?”

MR. CAXTON (prudently backing out of a reply).--“Papae!’ Brother, since
you have just complimented the ladies on that quality, you had better
address your question to them.”

Blanche here leaned both hands on my father’s chair, and said, looking
down at first bashfully, but afterwards warming with the subject, “Do
you not think, sir, that little Helen has already suggested, if not
what is courage, what at least is the real essence of all courage that
endures and conquers, that ennobles and hallows and redeems? Is it not
PATIENCE, Father? And that is why we women have a courage of our own.
Patience does not affect to be superior to fear, but at least it never
admits despair.”

PISISTRATUS.--“Kiss me, my Blanche, for you have come near to the truth
which perplexed the soldier and puzzled the sage.”

MR. CAXTON (tartly).--“If you mean me by the sage, I was not puzzled at
all. Heaven knows you do right to inculcate patience,--it is a virtue
very much required--in your readers. Nevertheless,” added my father,
softening with the enjoyment of his joke,--“nevertheless Blanche and
Helen are quite right. Patience is the courage of the conqueror; it is
the virtue, par excellence, of Man against Destiny,--of the One against
the World, and of the Soul against Matter. Therefore this is the courage
of the Gospel; and its importance in a social view--its importance to
races and institutions--cannot be too earnestly inculcated. What is it
that distinguishes the Anglo-Saxon from all other branches of the human
family,--peoples deserts with his children and consigns to them the
heritage of rising worlds? What but his faculty to brave, to suffer, to
endure,--the patience that resists firmly and innovates slowly? Compare
him with the Frenchman. The Frenchman has plenty of valour,--that there
is no denying; but as for fortitude, he has not enough to cover the
point of a pin. He is ready to rush out of the world if he is bitten by
a flea.”

CAPTAIN ROLAND.--“There was a case in the papers the other day, Austin,
of a Frenchman who actually did destroy himself because he was so teased
by the little creatures you speak of. He left a paper on his table,
saying that ‘life was not worth having at the price of such torments.’”

MR. CAXTON (solemnly).--“Sir, their whole political history, since the
great meeting of the Tiers Etat, has been the history of men who would
rather go to the devil than be bitten by a flea. It is the record of
human impatience that seeks to force time, and expects to grow forests
from the spawn of a mushroom. Wherefore, running through all extremes of
constitutional experiment, when they are nearest to democracy they
are next door to a despot; and all they have really done is to destroy
whatever constitutes the foundation of every tolerable government.
A constitutional monarchy cannot exist without aristocracy, nor a
healthful republic endure with corruption of manners. The cry of
equality is incompatible with civilization, which, of necessity,
contrasts poverty with wealth; and, in short, whether it be an emperor
or a mob I that is to rule, Force is the sole hope of order, and the
government is but an army.”

   [Published more than a year before the date of the French empire
   under Louis Napoleon.]

“Impress, O Pisistratus! impress the value of patience as regards man
and men. You touch there on the kernel of the social system,--the secret
that fortifies the individual and disciplines the million. I care not,
for my part, if you are tedious so long as you are earnest. Be minute
and detailed. Let the real Human Life, in its war with Circumstance,
stand out. Never mind if one can read you but slowly,--better chance
of being less quickly forgotten. Patience, patience! By the soul of
Epictetus, your readers shall set you an example.”



CHAPTER II.

Leonard had written twice to Mrs. Fairfield, twice to Riccabocca, and
once to Mr. Dale; and the poor proud boy could not bear to betray
his humiliation. He wrote as with cheerful spirits,--as if perfectly
satisfied with his prospects. He said that he was well employed, in the
midst of books, and that he had found kind friends. Then he turned from
himself to write about those whom he addressed, and the affairs and
interests of the quiet world wherein they lived. He did not give his
own address, nor that of Mr. Prickett. He dated his letters from a small
coffee-house near the bookseller’s, to which he occasionally went for
his simple meals. He had a motive in this. He did not desire to be
found out. Mr. Dale replied for himself and for Mrs. Fairfield, to the
epistles addressed to these two. Riccabocca wrote also.

Nothing could be more kind than the replies of both. They came to
Leonard in a very dark period in his life, and they strengthened him in
the noiseless battle with despair.

If there be a good in the world that we do without knowing it, without
conjecturing the effect it may have upon a human soul; it is when we
show kindness to the young in the first barren footpath up the mountain
of life.

Leonard’s face resumed its serenity in his intercourse with his
employer; but he did not recover his boyish ingenuous frankness. The
under-currents flowed again pure from the turbid soil and the splintered
fragments uptorn from the deep; but they were still too strong and too
rapid to allow transparency to the surface. And now he stood in the
sublime world of books, still and earnest as a seer who invokes the
dead; and thus, face to face with knowledge, hourly he discovered how
little he knew. Mr. Prickett lent him such works as he selected and
asked to take home with him. He spent whole nights in reading, and no
longer desultorily. He read no more poetry, no more Lives of Poets. He
read what poets must read if they desire to be great--Sapere principium
et fons,--strict reasonings on the human mind; the relations between
motive and conduct, thought and action; the grave and solemn truths of
the past world; antiquities, history, philosophy. He was taken out of
himself; he was carried along the ocean of the universe. In that ocean,
O seeker, study the law of the tides; and seeing Chance nowhere,
Thought presiding over all, Fate, that dread phantom, shall vanish from
creation, and Providence alone be visible in heaven and on earth!



CHAPTER III.

There was to be a considerable book-sale at a country house one day’s
journey from London. Mr. Prickett meant to have attended it on his own
behalf, and that of several gentlemen who had given him commissions for
purchase; but on the morning fixed for his departure, he was seized with
a severe return of his old foe the rheumatism. He requested Leonard to
attend instead of himself. Leonard went, and was absent for the three
days during which the sale lasted. He returned late in the evening, and
went at once to Mr. Prickett’s house. The shop was closed; he knocked
at the private entrance; a strange person opened the door to him, and in
reply to his question if Mr. Prickett was at home, said, with a long and
funereal face, “Young man, Mr. Prickett senior is gone to his long home,
but Mr. Richard Prickett will see you.”

At this moment a very grave-looking man, with lank hair, looked forth
from the side-door communicating between the shop and the passage, and
then stepped forward. “Come in, sir; you are my late uncle’s assistant,
Mr. Fairfield, I suppose?”

“Your late uncle! Heavens, sir, do I understand aright, can Mr. Prickett
be dead since I left London?”

“Died, sir, suddenly, last night. It was an affection of the heart. The
doctor thinks the rheumatism attacked that organ. He had small time to
provide for his departure, and his account-books seem in sad disorder: I
am his nephew and executor.”

Leonard had now--followed the nephew into the shop. There still burned
the gas-lamp. The place seemed more dingy and cavernous than before.
Death always makes its presence felt in the house it visits.

Leonard was greatly affected,--and yet more, perhaps, by the utter want
of feeling which the nephew exhibited. In fact the deceased had not
been on friendly terms with this person, his nearest relative and
heir-at-law, who was also a bookseller.

“You were engaged but by the week, I find, young man, on reference to
my late uncle’s papers. He gave you L1 a week,--a monstrous sum! I shall
not require your services any further. I shall move these books to my
own house. You will be good enough to send me a list of those you bought
at the sale, and your account of travelling expenses, etc. What may be
due to you shall be sent to your address. Good-evening.”

Leonard went home, shocked and saddened at the sudden death of his kind
employer. He did not think much of himself that night; but when he rose
the next day, he suddenly felt that the world of London lay before him,
without a friend, without a calling, without an occupation for bread.

This time it was no fancied sorrow, no poetic dream disappointed.
Before him, gaunt and palpable, stood Famine. Escape!--yes. Back to the
village: his mother’s cottage; the exile’s garden; the radishes and the
fount. Why could he not escape? Ask why civilization cannot escape its
ills, and fly back to the wild and the wigwam.

Leonard could not have returned to the cottage, even if the Famine that
faced had already seized him with her skeleton hand. London releases not
so readily her fated step-sons.



CHAPTER IV.

One day three persons were standing before an old bookstall in a
passage leading from Oxford Street into Tottenham Court Road. Two were
gentlemen; the third, of the class and appearance of those who more
habitually halt at old bookstalls.

“Look,” said one of the gentlemen to the other, “I have discovered here
what I have searched for in vain the last ten years,--the Horace of
1580, the Horace of the Forty Commentators, a perfect treasury of
learning, and marked only fourteen shillings!”

“Hush, Norreys,” said the other, “and observe what is yet more worth
your study;” and he pointed to the third bystander, whose face, sharp
and attenuated, was bent with an absorbed, and, as it were, with a
hungering attention over an old worm-eaten volume.

“What is the book, my lord?” whispered Mr. Norreys. His companion
smiled, and replied by another question, “What is the man who reads the
book?”

Mr. Norreys moved a few paces, and looked over the student’s shoulder.
“Preston’s translation of Boethius’s ‘The Consolations of Philosophy,’”
 he said, coming back to his friend.

“He looks as if he wanted all the consolations Philosophy can give him,
poor boy.”

At this moment a fourth passenger paused at the bookstall, and,
recognizing the pale student, placed his hand on his shoulder, and said,
“Aha, young sir, we meet again. So poor Prickett is dead. But you are
still haunted by associations. Books, books,--magnets to which all iron
minds move insensibly. What is this? Boethius! Ah, a book written in
prison, but a little time before the advent of the only philosopher who
solves to the simplest understanding every mystery of life--”

“And that philosopher?”

“Is death!” said Mr. Burley. “How can you be dull enough to ask? Poor
Boethius, rich, nobly born, a consul, his sons consuls, the world one
smile to the Last Philosopher of Rome. Then suddenly, against this type
of the old world’s departing WISDOM stands frowning the new world’s
grim genius, FORCE,--Theodoric the Ostrogoth condemning Boethius the
schoolman; and Boethius in his Pavian dungeon holding a dialogue with
the shade of Athenian Philosophy. It is the finest picture upon which
lingers the glimmering of the Western golden day, before night rushes
over time.”

“And,” said Mr. Norreys, abruptly, “Boethius comes back to us with the
faint gleam of returning light, translated by Alfred the Great; and,
again, as the sun of knowledge bursts forth in all its splendour by
Queen Elizabeth. Boethius influences us as we stand in this passage;
and that is the best of all the Consolations of Philosophy,--eh, Mr.
Burley?”

Mr. Burley turned and bowed.

The two men looked at each other; you could not see a greater
contrast,--Mr. Burley, his gay green dress already shabby and soiled,
with a rent in the skirts and his face speaking of habitual night-cups;
Mr. Norreys, neat and somewhat precise in dress, with firm, lean figure,
and quiet, collected, vigorous energy in his eye and aspect.

“If,” replied Mr. Burley, “a poor devil like me may argue with a
gentleman who may command his own price with the booksellers, I should
say it is no consolation at all, Mr. Norreys. And I should like to see
any man of sense accept the condition of Boethius in his prison, with
some strangler or headsman waiting behind the door, upon the promised
proviso that he should be translated, centuries afterwards, by kings
and queens, and help indirectly to influence the minds of Northern
barbarians, babbling about him in an alley, jostled by passers-by
who never heard the name of Boethius, and who don’t care a fig for
philosophy. Your servant, sir, young man, come and talk.”

Burley hooked his arm within Leonard’s, and led the boy passively away.

“That is a clever man,” said Harley L’Estrange. “But I am sorry to see
yon young student, with his bright earnest eyes, and his lip that has
the quiver of passion and enthusiasm, leaning on the arm of a guide
who seems disenchanted of all that gives purpose to learning, and links
philosophy with use to the world. Who and what is this clever man whom
you call Burley?”

“A man who might have been famous, if he had condescended to be
respectable! The boy listening to us both so attentively interested
me too,--I should like to have the making of him. But I must buy this
Horace.”

The shopman, lurking within his hole like a spider for flies, was now
called out. And when Mr. Norreys had bought the Horace, and given an
address where to send it, Harley asked the shopman if he knew the young
man who had been reading Boethius.

“Only by sight. He has come here every day the last week, and spends
hours at the stall. When once he fastens on a book, he reads it
through.”

“And never buys?” said Mr. Norreys.

“Sir,” said the shopman, with a good-natured smile, “they who buy seldom
read. The poor boy pays me twopence a day to read as long as he pleases.
I would not take it, but he is proud.”

“I have known men amass great learning in that way,” said Mr. Norreys.
“Yes, I should like to have that boy in my hands. And now, my lord, I am
at your service, and we will go to the studio of your artist.”

The two gentlemen walked on towards one of the streets out of Fitzroy
Square.

In a few minutes more Harley L’Estrange was in his element, seated
carelessly on a deal table smoking his cigar, and discussing art with
the gusto of a man who honestly loved, and the taste of a man who
thoroughly understood it. The young artist, in his dressing robe, adding
slow touch upon touch, paused often to listen the better. And Henry
Norrey s, enjoying the brief respite from a life of great labour, was
gladly reminded of idle hours under rosy skies; for these three men
had formed their friendship in Italy, where the bands of friendship are
woven by the hands of the Graces.



CHAPTER V.

Leonard and Mr. Burley walked on into the suburbs round the north road
from London, and Mr. Burley offered to find literary employment for
Leonard,--an offer eagerly accepted.

Then they went into a public-house by the wayside. Burley demanded
a private room, called for pen, ink, and paper; and placing these
implements before Leonard, said, “Write what you please, in prose, five
sheets of letter-paper, twenty-two lines to a page,--neither more nor
less.”

“I cannot write so.”

“Tut, ‘t is for bread.”

The boy’s face crimsoned.

“I must forget that,” said he.

“There is an arbour in the garden, under a weeping-ash,” returned
Burley. “Go there, and fancy yourself in Arcadia.”

Leonard was too pleased to obey. He found out the little arbour at one
end of a deserted bowling-green. All was still,--the hedgerow shut
out the sight of the inn. The sun lay warm on the grass, and glinted
pleasantly through the leaves of the ash. And Leonard there wrote the
first essay from his hand as Author by profession. What was it that he
wrote? His dreamy impressions of London, an anathema on its streets and
its hearts of stone, murmurs against poverty, dark elegies on fate?

Oh, no! little knowest thou true genius, if thou askest such questions,
or thinkest that there under the weeping-ash the task-work for bread was
reme